South of Bikini 3: Episode 3- New Arrivals, New Era

Alex, Jack, Randi, and Tish continue their visit to Terra, ninety years before their very first visit.


Episode 3

“New Arrivals, New Era”


 
 

Citadel Community Park, Citadel, Terra, 17:00, Climax, Saturian 30th, 292 of the New Era
 
 

“Alex, they’re going to rush us! I’m afraid their intentions are…” Jack warned as her head whipped back to the main grouping of men!

“Stun only, Jack- we don’t want to hurt them.”

“Aye, phasers set to stun, Captain!” She replied in a rather convincing Scottish accent as the crowd inched closer.

Even I knew where that quote had come from and rolled my eyes before taking another serious look around at the advancing mob.

“Jack?”

“Ya, Alex?”

“Better make it a heavy stun!”

“Aye!”

“Maybe some theatrics too, for good measure?”

“Aye!” Jack looked over at me with a look that was part devious grin and part heavy concentration.

“Alex?”

“Ya, Jack?”

“Disengage your tiara’s shielding, please?”

“Sorry, it came on when we hit that bump in transit.” I apologized as I mentally unselected my shielding.

“On three, release my hands.” Jack advised Tish, Randi, and I. “Then hit the dirt if you know what’s good for you.” She told the three of us. Only once had I heard her voice sound so focused and dead serious! An image of our escape from the Nazis with Meridian came to mind.

“Three…” Jack announced suddenly. Tish and I released Jack’s hands. Her arms immediately reached high above her head with her palms together. Raising her face to the heavens, she looked like she was saying a prayer to the almighty! All around us the air sparked and sputtered as she built up her power! Every last hair on my body was straining to fly to her- even my hair was drawn to her and felt like it was being pulled from my scalp!

“Two…”

Randi, Tish, and I hit the sidewalk and tried to become one with the paving stones!

Despite the inherent danger, my curiosity got the better of me and I looked up. Jack’s long blonde mane was now twisting clockwise like a small tornado!

A white glow began to emanate from her up-stretched, praying hands. She continued to build yet more power! In my many years with her I had never seen any display like this before! The white glow became brighter- more intense- like a welder’s arc- as it built and formed an expanding ball of intense light. It was reminiscent of Meridian’s protective shield activating and our mission to Poland eight years ago!

The mob started to slow its advance and some even moved back several paces. Somehow I didn’t think that would help. I noticed that Tibius had assumed his own prone position about fifteen feet from us. He had obviously been paying attention- thinking with his head instead of his…

“ONE!” Jack’s voice echoed menacingly.

A wind I’d only felt once before on Ni’ihau raised dust, our collars, flower petals, leaves, loose branches, and those people unlucky enough to still be standing!

YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” Jack shouted from all around us, though I hoped Randi had lent her some help by commandeering the public announcement system!

Jack dropped her hands quickly, as if throwing a large ball or possibly a Halloween pumpkin to the ground!

The intense, white light that now tried to blind the four of us burst forth as it hit the ground similar to the way her concussive wave had traveled earlier. This time though, even the trees shook as the great force ventured outward with mind numbing thunder and speed!
 

Jack was the only one left standing. As I gazed around us from my location on the park’s pathway, not a person was moving! Had she gone too far, I thought? Were these men more fragile than they let on?

I then noticed Tibius move ever so slightly. His head turned slowly as he tried to shake off the effect.

His eyes met mine. What they conveyed was extreme terror and fright of my sisters and me.

That wasn’t the way I intended our relationship to start out, yet that is exactly the way I remembered it happening from our initial visit some forty years from now- almost ten years ago for Randi, Tish, and I- sixty-six years ago for Jack.

Without a second thought I got up and walked over to Tibius. I offered my hand in friendship and also to help him up. When he didn’t take it, I repeated the action- this time emphasizing the offer by jerking my hand at him. Still he resisted.

“Hun, on my planet when someone offers their hand, the correct protocol would be to take it.” I said giving him my best smile.

Still he persisted.

“Sir Tibius of Citadel, Terra, I will only offer my hand in friendship once, and for a very limited time, take it or we will be on our way and rescind any and all relief from your dire predicament.”

Tibius reluctantly reached up and took my hand. The strength, warmth, and texture of it in mine brought back many fond memories of previous…well, future…visits, yet there was something different this time.

“How do you know of our plight?”

“We know a great many things about Terra, sir. For instance, our very appearance here has just set off riots in every major city on this planet.” I told him frankly. “Apparently you haven’t done away with covetous greed or jealousy!”

Two other men, only now, cautiously approached us. I felt Jack start her power up again. Recognizing Tibius’ two closest friends, I waved for Jack to wind down. She would not need to protect us again for a few days.

“Tibius, are you harmed in any way?” The one I knew to be Janis asked with concern.

“Sir, who are these beings?” The other, Samuel, inquired. I had not seen either of them previously in the crowd.

“Gentlemen, I am Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space.” I introduced myself with a bow, thereby totally breaking any and all protocols for this planet!

Jack, Randi, and Tish rejoined me and stood beside me.

“To my left is my Mind Warrior, Jacquelyn Cummins-Brackenridge.” I motioned to her. “To my right, Takashi Moritsu and Random Valerian Peltierre. Takashi is my Interpreter and Randi is my Technology Comptroller. We hail from Earth, a planet in the Sol system located some one hundred-eight units from here.” I pointed in the general direction.

“If you come from such a vast distance, where is your conveyance?” Janis asked in confusion. “We neither detected nor received any permissions or landing requests from anyone entering Solara’s boundaries!”

I know it was showing off a bit, but I phased out and rephased behind Tibius’ two friends.

“The Empress of Time and Space and her companions need no special craft to travel the universes or various dimensions they contain!” I decried royally.

All three men jumped noticeably and I giggled.

“Alex-sensei, must you tease them? Tish asked in exasperation. Janis composed himself quickly and stared at Tish in curiosity as she outright spoke their language sans suit translator. There was still a noticeable British accent to her words.

My interpreter blushed at his attention.

“Hello, Janis.” She replied shyly. “I have missed you these ten years.

“M’lady, you have me at a disadvantage. I have no recollection of you prior to today.”

Tish looked at me in confusion.

“Tish, remember what the date is here. Because we have somehow backtracked in time, we have arrived forty years before our initial visit in 1944. Gentlemen, because I can transcend Time and Space, we,” I motioned to my sisters and me, “will not meet YOU for another forty years even though YOU are just meeting us now. I know that sounds very confusing, but from our perspective our two cultures have been familiar and beneficial to each other for…” I tried to quickly figure out the exact number. Why couldn’t I have picked up Carroll this time? “A long time.” I finished.

“The female Earther surpasses herself at wreaking mental anguish, Tibius. I find myself in need of a healer.” Samuel confessed.

“Aye, the same goes for me, sir.” Janis added as he continued to gaze at Tish.

“Now that we’re back on speaking terms, could we go to the Consulate Building and get something to eat? I’m starving!” Jack protested sarcastically.

“Really, Jack?” I replied, turning to her in amazement. “Pardon my sister, gentlemen, she has expended a significant amount of energy in protection of her Empress. Doing so requires replenishment of nutrients.”

“You already know of the Consulate?” Tibius seemed surprised, even after I had tried to explain things.

“Like I said, Tibius, we know a lot about you and Terra. I should think the 209th floor should be adequate for our needs. It would give us quick access to the gymnasium on the 212th.” I told him using the tone Mina had taught me. “Shall we go there now?” I offered my hands.

Randi, Jack, and Tish quickly joined hands with me and offered their empty hand to our three Terran ‘hosts’.

“Did you say the 209th floor?” Samuel gasped, as did Tibius and Janis.

“Is there a problem with that request, gentlemen?” I asked raising an eyebrow.

“The legends, my friends,” Samuel exclaimed with a gasp as he quickly looked at the other two men, “The legends of the Empress!” He said in a forceful whisper to them. “Could it indeed be fact instead of childhood fantasy as we believed?”

“Excuse me gentlemen, if y’all have questions as to my identity, please ask.” I interrupted. “I think I’d be the authority on the Empress.” I smiled to them putting my hand to my chest.

Tibius quickly reached into his pocket and produced Terra’s version of a personal planning device. Sam and Cassie would call them I-pods or something like that in the future.

After a minute and some questioning looks, a holographic display appeared in front of him.

He began reading from the Terran text suspended in the air before him.

“And so exclaimed the Empress as she began to enlighten those gathered around- children of all ages and positions, all whose smiling faces she loved and admired.”

“Always do the most for your friends and acquaintances, but most of all respect your society. A global community flourishes more successfully with minimum secrets between each other! Question not what you should do, decisively ascertain that by inquiring! Secrets distributed freely can only harm those that internally withhold them initially!”

“As for myself, never place me on the pedestal, yell treat me like any other. Instead of positioning me number one, list me near the end- at two hundred-nine for I am the one honored by yell.”

I read the text as Tibius finished the selected quotes.

Whoever recorded or translated this had absolutely no idea of what I had said! Even if I had been to Terra way back when, I really didn’t think I spoke nearly that confusing! How on Earth would kids understand…?

We weren’t on Earth; I had to remind myself again!

“Tibius, hun, that translation leaves much to be desired. Allow me?” I asked as I took his arm in mine.

“It really says: And so quoted the Empress as she began to review for those gathered around her- people of all ages- all occupations- all of which she loved and regarded as friends.” I quoted from the text with a smile. Taking a breath and shaking my head, I continued to translate.

“The next paragraph is a selection of old Earth quotes: Be excellent to each other- Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure; Respect thy mother and father- one of the Ten Commandments; Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country- United States President John F. Kennedy; The only thing we have to fear is fear itself- U. S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

After rolling my eyes at the three men, I translated the last line. “The last statement is from a motivational speech I did in 2010 for a relief group in Haiti. We were there to help after an Earthquake destroyed almost that whole side of the Island. I was telling a group of two hundred and eight people that I did not want them to put themselves ahead of the needy and impoverished, but to instead place themselves last- that I would count myself two hundred and ninth.

I decided to recite the real quote- as I would say it later in January of 2010. “As for myself…” I paused dramatically shaking my head, “we should never place ourselves on the pedestal; y’all treat me like any other. We all need to remember just one thing. Instead of counting myself number one,” I pointed to my chest with my thumb, “list me at the end- say two hundred-ninth” I pointed out into the imagined gathering, “for I am the one honored by y’all.” I bowed my head momentarily, “Thank y’all for coming! Now let’s go help these people!”

“Who interpreted this?” I asked Tibius as I finished the incomplete quote.

Our three hosts looked at each other and repeatedly at me in disbelief that I could read the old Terran text. I really hadn’t read it; I was going from future memory.

After waiting a short period of time with only more stares from the three men, I again made the offer official.

“Gentlemen, as I said before, we offer our hands for a limited time only. My way of travel is not detrimental to your health or well-being.”

Tibius was the first to reluctantly take my outstretched hand. Samuel then joined hands with him as Randi forcefully took his other hand. Samuel looked frightened at first, but quickly and gently smiled at his ‘near-future’ mate. Janis cautiously approached Tish and gently took her hand. Her face lit up with a bright smile!

“Thank you for your trust.” I said as a big smile appeared on my face. Tibius’ hand felt firm and warm- inviting, as always. “Gentlemen, the trip is instantaneous so closed eyes are not required nor permitted!” I giggled a little. “I do recommend you not release your hold until told to do so.”

Citadel Community Park became a large, barren, unfinished area with a great view of the surrounding city. All around us ventilation ducts and all sorts of cabling hung in coils waiting for purpose.

“Gentleman, we can release our hands now.” I said after making sure none of us were standing in anything.

“That was amazing! I have never experienced anything like that before! Empress, why must we retain our hold?” Tibius asked with childish excitement very evident in his voice.

“Perhaps a demonstration would be better?” I asked our three hosts while nodding to my sisters. Jack, Randi, and Tish moved away and I again offered my hands to the men.

“Please do not release hands for any reason until told it is okay to do so.” I instructed as they cautiously joined hands again.

“We will be phasing out in three…two…one.” I announced.

“What did you do? We are still here. Nothing has changed.” Tibius questioned as he looked around us then back at me.

“Are we?” I giggled. “Let's walk over here. I want to have a look at the view.” I suggested, pulling my new companions toward the plate glass or whatever material made up the windows. My three sisters just happened to be standing in the way.

“Please excuse us ladies.” Janis said politely as we closed on them. Jack, Tish, and Randi didn’t move.

“M’ladies, please step to the side.” Tibius also asked politely. Still my sisters didn’t move. “Empress, please, we do not want to walk into them!”

“They cannot hear you, I’m afraid. To them we just vanished, gentlemen. Don’t be afraid though.” I continued to pull the men closer to my sisters.

Despite the resistance I felt from them in both arms, we walked right through them. I heard three separate gasps as we passed smoothly through the girls.

“Empress, what has just happened? Why are we not tangible?” Tibius asked. I noticed his face had lost all color and he looked near fainting. The other two men had similar expressions.

“Right now we are slightly out of phase with this reality, gentlemen. We can still see and hear everything, but they,” I nodded back to my three sisters, “they cannot hear or see us, nor can Jacquelyn sense or hear our thoughts. Because we exist a fraction of an instant out of time, we can pass through any objects…even windows. I said as we reached them.

I phased the four of us back in. “We’re back in phase so you can release the death grips, gentlemen.” I announced. My sisters turned around quickly at the sound of my voice.

“Alex, quit fooling around. I’m hungry!” Jack griped.

“Gentlemen, since our quarters haven’t been prepared yet, maybe we should go down to the canteen before my sister, Jacquelyn, dies of starvation.” I suggested as I took Tibius’ arm in mine. “I believe it is still on the hundredth floor?”

All three men looked at me in confusion.

“We’ll use your method of travel this time, gentlemen.” I giggled as Randi, Jack, and Tish fell in behind us. Tish automatically took Janis’ hand in hers. Randi cautiously closed the gap on Samuel, finally joining hands also.
 
 

Citadel Consulate Building, 18:30, Climax, Saturian 30th, 292 of the New Era
 
 

“I’ve never seen any man let alone any women eat as you do, Lady Jacquelyn.” Tibius said in outright amazement as Jack practically licked her plate clean of all remaining microscopic food particles.

“I have no idea what has come over me. I’ve just been soo hungry these last few days, Sir Tibius.”

Tibius raised his hand to touch her forehead.

A spark noticeably and audibly jumped between the two!

“Sir Tibius, you shall refrain from any Terran mind tricks or scans.” Jack warned as Tibius jumped, retreated, and cradled his injured hand.

“Forgive me M’lady, but I was just curious as to your insatiable hunger. I meant you no harm.”

“It’s okay hun, I already know what ails her.” I said calmly. “By the way, do you have a lavatory around here somewhere?” I asked off-handedly with a grin.

“Never mind, Alex, I know where it is.” Jack interrupted looking a little pale all of a sudden. She quickly stood and ran off in the direction we knew it to be located.

“Is she alright, Alex?” Both Randi and Tish asked.

“She’ll be fine.” I giggled. “Contrary to long held beliefs, Morning Sickness can hit at other times of the day, not just mornings.”

“Oh…” Randi nodded.

“Morning Sickness?” They both chorused.

“You mean she’s…” Tish asked first, but I cut her off.

“Been that way since we left 2015, hun.” I admitted with a giggle.

“You knew?” Randi gasped. “But I thought we couldn’t travel with you if we were…”

“The Empress can’t travel if we’re pregnant, Randi. Neither of us said anything about the rest of you traveling.” I admitted.

“So what happens now, Empress?” Tish asked.

Through all this Tibius had remained strangely quiet.

“Constance Cummins-…Brackenridge will be born on the planet most accepting of her gift.” I replied calmly. I felt a tear roll down my cheek as the darkest of memories flooded back.

“You mean she is to be born here? On Terra? In Citadel?” Tibius said sounding quite thunderstruck!

“Connie will not be the only first-born female of Terra in the new era, Tibius.” I said holding my smile as best I could. “So,” I continued as if what I had just said mattered little, “How soon can you have our quarters prepared, Sir Tibius?”

“All…” He started to say before stopping in amazement of my attentive smile. “Um…all the builders need are the designs for the floor, Empress. Production will complete in…”

“In about two months, right?” I asked with my best smile, my hands joined by interlaced fingers holding my chin, my elbows resting on the table.

“Yes…two months. Are you positive you do not possess…telekinesis?”

“No, Tibius, I don’t have telepathy. I CAN see your future response to me though. That’s just as good sometimes.” I giggled. “With our help, and your cooperation, the ‘Empress’ suite’ will complete in a little over two weeks.”

“Are you sure it can be done in that short a period?” He looked stunned.

“I know it to be fact, hun.” I pledged with a loving smile.

Tibius reached over and gently touched my forehead. I didn’t resist as I had on our future visit- I knew what was coming this time.

A familiar feeling began to come over me as Tibius tried to scan my mind for memories of us as a couple. I released only bits of the upcoming eighteen Terran months. After a minute he nodded his amazed understanding.

“The Gianese Ambassador is not scheduled to return until Terra completes half its journey around Solara. I shall see that it is readied and comfortable.”

“That residence has multiple hot tubs does it not?” I grinned devilishly. Just this man’s touch had aroused me again! The thoughts shared between us only intensified those feelings!

“It does indeed, Empress.” He looked at me with a boyish grin.

“I’ve been here in the future, remember?”

“Do you always communicate in such contradictory phrasing, Empress?”

“Just to confuse you, Sir Tibius.” I giggled knowing that even ninety to one hundred years from now he still wouldn’t understand completely.

Jack exited the lavatory holding her belly. Chairs and tables screeched out of her way- some actually taking flight as if picked up and thrown- as she slowly shuffled across the room to where we sat. It was a good thing Tibius, Janis, and Samuel had cleared out the canteen of their fellow Terrans prior to our arrival.

Samuel was the first to overcome his fear and speak.

“M’lady, Are you well? Your pallor is appalling!”

“Good way to compliment a lady, sir.” Randi protested. “I’ll have to instruct you on the finer points!”

“M’lady, I meant no disrespect. I merely voiced my concern and observation.” He apologized.

“Alex, I think I’m coming down with something.” Jack said wiping her mouth for the fourth time in succession. My sisters tried to stifle their giggles.

“Maybe there was something back at Reilly?” She continued, ignoring them. I could see the sweat glistening on her forehead.

“Reilly’s environmental system was germ and particulate free, I’ll have you know, Jacquelyn Cummins!” Randi protested angrily.

“Randi, I didn’t mean to say…”

“Reilly has feelings too, Jacquelyn!” Randi continued.

“M’lady, you sound as if able to talk with a building?” Janis responded curiously.

“Of course I can converse with my own design.” Randi replied proudly. She returned her attention to Jack. “Reilly is smart, intelligent, and quite able to handle herself in my absence!”

“So you talk with an A.I. then,” Janis asked, still amazed, “As you would us?”

“Of course I do. I could talk to Citadel too- if I could get past that rolling, long-winded, security protocol you Terrans call a firewall! It’s a wonder anything can get done on this planet the way you appropriate precious processor time!” Randi glared at him.

“With Maximillian’s approval I shall see what can be done about access to the system, M’lady Random.” Janis cautiously assured her.

“Alex am I going to get even sicker or was that it?” Jack asked calling our attention back to her.

“Oh, you’ll be doing this almost every morning for about a month and a half, Jack.” I said flatly, having gone through the experience twice now- soon to be thrice.

“What kind of a bug lasts that long?”

Jack looked so beautiful when she was totally clueless!

Tish and Randi both held their hand over their mouths to hide their smiles.

“I’m sorry Jack,” I started in as serious an expression and tone as I could manage, “but you have contracted the gravest of all terminal diseases. Your stomach upset is but the mildest of symptoms. It is closely followed by bloating, insatiable urges and mood swings then closely followed by excessive weight gain, moderate physical deformity, and finally severe constipation!” I stopped and looked at her as seriously as possible.

“The disease does not stop there I’m afraid. Breast soreness, uncontrollable nipple discharge, more mood swings, and sleep deprivation follow quickly thereafter. Many, many years of worry, anger, financial instability, and considerable second-guessing follow, thus assuring no viable cure can ever be formulated!” I said, holding my laughter back as best I could while I explained the course of this ‘deadly disease’ and lack of any known cure.

“In short, Jacquelyn Cummins-Brackenridge, there is no cure for motherhood.” I concluded gravely, shaking my head slowly. Randi and Tish were laughing now, but we were all destined to contract ‘it’ later this month.

“Alex, you gotta find a cure! Tibius…” She cried hysterically, quickly taking a breath. “He helped find a cure when you got poisoned! You guys have to find a cure for this mother…” Jack stopped suddenly and stared at me.

“Motherhood,” She whispered quietly?

“Tish! Randi! Don’t just sit there laughing like fools! Help me get our new mother up to the Gianese suite! Tibius, you may want to unlock the place before I transfer us there! As I recall that floor has a Gianese security protocol enforcing access.” I suggested as I tried to keep my unconscious friend from falling out of her chair.
 
 

Citadel Consulate Building, 08:30, Initial, Saturian 31st, 292 of the New Era
 
 

“Wow, where am I?” Jack asked as she finally came to.

“We’re on Terra, Jack…in the Gianese suite.” I informed her from her bedside.

“Is that the one with the huge hot tubs?” She asked perking up instantly.

“The very same one, hun…feeling any better?”

“I don’t know. I’m not really sure if I was dreaming or not. Did…did it…really happen, Alex?” Jack asked as she sat up in bed.

“I’m not following, hun. What aren’t you sure of?” I asked.

“I’m not sure if you told me that I was pregnant.” She asked as I saw her color fade. “Okay…I’m sure now…” Her hand immediately went to cover her mouth. “Excuse me.”

Jack ran into the en-suite bathroom. After having gone through this sort of thing twice, the sound of her stomach’s contents escaping didn’t bother me that much. I was surprised though, to hear so much coming out when I knew she hadn’t eaten anything in the last sixteen hours since she had thrown up last night and passed out in the Canteen.

My mind immediately began to think of something else in order to mask the horrible retching sounds from the next room. Last night’s escapade just outside this very suite emerged.

Just as I had remembered from my last visit- forty years from now, it took Janis and Samuel almost an hour before announcing defeat by the Gianese security before granting Randi access to Citadel’s citywide A.I. system. She had us into the two-floor suite in under ten seconds- much to the embarrassment of our suave gentlemen hosts. Randi tried to explain that while the Gians were extremely paranoid, they hated remembering passwords or pass codes. Apparently they hadn’t changed the suite’s security code in well over forty years.

As I fondly remembered that little event from early last night, my ragged sister exited and fell on her back across the bed.

“Is this what it was like for you, Alex?” She asked wiping her mouth a few times and rubbing her flat belly slowly.

“More or less, hun. It varies from person to person…or so I’ve been told.”

“Who told you that? Brie?”

“Mina. When I was having Cassandra, Alex Reilly brought her for a visit. I’m still not sure how she was able to break the barrier between her operational time period and mine, though.”

“Probably the same way you brought us here…to Terra, Alex.” She replied with some contempt evident in her voice.

“Okay, I’ll bite. How much do you think you know about my bringing us to Terra, Jack? I’m really curious to hear the theory.” I asked narrowing my eyes at her, calling what I thought was a bluff.

“Well, first off…I know we just don’t cross the galaxy to get here, ‘Empress’.” She started, emphasizing my title.

“Please continue, Mrs. Brackenridge.” I said calmly, motioning with my hand for her to go on.

“This last time…when we supposedly jumped back in time…when things went out of focus for a split second…well, it seemed familiar. I remembered that it happens every time we travel to Terra…and Terra Nuevo too- those jumps just aren’t so detectible. We jump through time as well as space when we come here, don’t we?” She accused cautiously.

Jack can be so beautiful when she thinks she has me figured out!

“Yep, you caught me, Jack. As a matter of fact, we do travel through time a little bit.” I admitted with a devious smile.

“It’s not just a little bit though, is it, Alex? Last evening…down in the canteen…you knew exactly what that ‘ancient’ text said. You knew it word for word! You claimed part of it was from that speech you gave in Porte-a-Prince that January- I remember that. For me it just happened five years ago.” Jack stated ardently. “And then there was the fact that that tiara of yours activated. Randi only put that feature in as a personal defense mechanism, Alex. How far into the past or future do we go- two hundred…five hundred…a thousand?”

“I’d get up and start heading for the bathroom again if I were you, hun. In three…two…”

“Um…excuse me.”

That’s the way things went pretty much for the next hour. Jack would alternate between regurgitating and interogating me.

I never did get around to answering her initial questions though. Hunger eventually won out and we met Randi and Tish in the suite’s kitchen.

“Feeling better, Jacquelyn?” Randi asked sincerely. She and Tish had found and made something that resembled a garden salad.

“Would you like some, Commander?” Tish asked of Jack.

“Jack is going to try my ma’s old home remedy, hun.” I informed all three women.

I immediately went in search of bread, a cup, and a teabag.
 
 

How’s that keeping in your stomach, hun?” I asked an hour or so later. We were now sitting in the large, beautifully decorated ‘lounge room’, as the Gianese delegation called it.

“Seems to be keeping, Alex. I always said Delores is smarter than she lets on- even before she and Freddi joined the sisterhood.”

“Ma does have five doctorates, Jack.” I reminded her.

“She only has three in 2015, Alex.” Jack said, raising an eyebrow at me.

“Hey, she’ll get a total of twelve before she has her fill of college, Jack.” I revealed. That itself was really out of character for me. Tish couldn’t resist making a comment.

“What’s going to happen here, Alex? You never directly reveal the future to us unless something ominous will happen.”

“Honey, everyone here has seen what happens on this trip.” I admitted to my three sisters. “We all remember the outcome quite well.”

The room was silent for almost twenty minutes as we all thought about that statement.

A beautiful chorus of exotic chimes broke our unusual silence to alert us of visitors. The Gianese didn’t believe in personal secretaries.

I knew who it was all the same.

“We’ve been expecting you, Sir.” I answered and opened the door with a brilliant smile.

“Empress, may I announce and thusly introduce High Counsel Maximillian, leader of our city and member of Terra’s Global Counsel. High Counsel, may I introduce…for our first time…Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space.” Tibius announced as an older gentleman slowly walked into the Gianese suite. By Earth estimates he was a man in his mid seventies with white hair and enough wrinkles to look wise and distinguished. I noticed that Tibius had used the abbreviated welcoming protocol. Was it for my benefit?

“High Counsel, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Y’all come in and make yerselves at home.” I said motioning them into our temporary residence.

“I thought you said she knew of me already, Tibius?” The older man’s thoughts said in my head. I looked back into the lounge room and saw Jack smiling.

I nodded my appreciation, though I already knew what would be said.

“Indeed, I do know who you are, High Counsel. I also know why you have decided to pay us a visit. Do have a seat.”

I waited for our esteemed guest to sit down before I started my introductions.

“High Counsel Maximillian may I present my travel companions: Random Valerian Peltierre, my Technology Comptroller; Takashi Moritsu, my Linguist and Translator; Jacquelyn Cummins-Brackenridge, my Mind Warrior. On behalf of Earth, thank you for your kind generosity, sir.”

“Alexandra, if what Tibius tells me is factual; it is I and our people that should be thanking you, M’lady!” The gentleman said solemnly. The commanding nature of his voice, soft-spoken as it was, demanded respect.

“Sir, it is not in my nature to lie. In my position as Empress, I sometimes intentionally leave out…details…wishing to not adversely influence what will or should be. In do time, when you step down from your position on the Terran counsel, you will realize everything Tibius has communicated to you will indeed have come to pass. My sisters and I have come to offer assistance to the Terran plight. We seek no stipend or other compensation. We only wish to help.”

Maximillian remained quiet for a few minutes as he thought about my answer and his yet unannounced retirement.

“As for you, Jacquelyn…such a show of force at the onset of our cultures’ meeting…the general populace would assume ulterior motives divergent from those of your Empress. Were this to become realized, Terra might be at risk. Can you guarantee no such reprisals greater than that which you have already demonstrated?”

“Sir Maximillian, Alex is first and foremost my friend. The initial reception given us by the residents of Citadel was unexpected and appalling. Having visited Terra many times, I found this greeting bohemian and less than positive! On our arrival, we had no knowledge of our backtracking through time. We expected casual, but sincere greetings from our mates and daughters. As for any retaliation on my part, as long as we are treated with the proper respect, none shall ever come again.” Jack said quite eloquently.

“M’lady, there are no women on this planet. The mother of Tibius was the last and she has been gone for well over three hundred years now. These mates and daughters you speak of…they do not exist here.” The older gentleman told Jack in his calm reserved voice.

“Apparently that is why we are here, Sir.” Tish spoke up. “Ma’am, could you relay my memories to the High Counsel?” She requested of Jack.

“And mine also, Jacquelyn?” Randi added.

“Please relay these memories to counsel too, Jack.” I also added. I thought of all the women that would offer help in the way of children so that this society could not only continue, but also flourish once again.

At the end of her transmission, Jack’s mouth dropped open in awe of the sheer number of people that would ultimately volunteer for the Terran cause.

I was also glad that Terra Nuevo had three times the habitable surface area of Terra!

I nodded as I saw tears form in my sisters’ eyes.

“You see, High Counsel? The expected extinction of your society has been halted and reversed. In fact, our two peoples interact and complement each other from this initial meeting on. The survival of the Terran race is assured for at least several dozen more millennia.”

“These images…they are unbelievable! How is this possible, Alexandra? Would it be against protocol to petition for a demonstration?” Maximillian asked. His eyes sparkled with a younger man’s energy!

“Tibius, would you mind if High Counsel and I go on a little trip?” I asked my future mate. He bowed to me in acknowledgement.

“Jack, we’ll be back in two minutes. Sir, if you would take my hand?” I said offering it to him.

Where as Tibius and his friends were cautious, Maximillian wasted no time!

“Sir, as you have been informed, the trip is instantaneous and painless, though I ask that you continue to hold my hand until I say it is okay to release it.” I recommended.

The lounge room of the Gianese suite became my residence on the 209th floor.

My newest companion looked around, but held fast to my hand.

“Where are we, Empress Alexandra?” He asked in wide-eyed wonder.

Where and when would be better questions to ask, High Counsel. We are currently fifty-five years in the future. This is my residence here on Terra and that is my daughter just about to come through the door.”

“Mother, you should keep this door locked. Secure building or not, someone could enter and do you harm.” We heard Alexis’ voice warn as she opened the suite’s door. I suddenly missed her more than anything!

I remembered this event well and knew she was not alone. This period’s Empress was sitting on the Davenport as Alexis walked over and kissed her on the cheek. Maximillian and I watched the event unfold.

“That is you, Empress! But how is this possible when you hold my hand?” My companion asked.

Alexis noticed Alexandra Steinert’s expression toggle and raised an eyebrow. I remembered it very well.

Standing still, Alexis rolled her eyes once and started scanning the room.

“Alright you little pixies, I thought I told you to stay home? Show your selves!”

“Grandma!” A child’s voice shouted as a girl of about eleven appeared on the couch to the right of Alex.

Maximillian and I noticed she jumped slightly. The little girl’s hair was two shades darker than mine.

“Granma!” A second child’s voice echoed the first’s greeting as she materialized on my twin’s left side. The eight-year-old’s hair was much lighter than her older sister’s- the same color as mine, in fact.

“Hi, Grandmother.”

A third child’s voice sounded much different. Again we noticed Alex Steinert jump in surprise as a young boy appeared between Alex and us. The boy of about ten had medium brown hair and looked on with large, blue eyes. He still reminded me of Brian at that age.

“I’m sorry, mother, but they have been so anxious to meet you. When they heard you had arrived, it took everything I had to keep them away until you recovered. I’ll take them home if you wish.

We could see the shock on Alex’s face as she found out she was a grandmother.

“I remember that moment fondly, High Counsel.” I smiled at the man.

“So this is you from earlier in your life?”

Alexis started to gather her children and direct them to the door.

“My…life, sir, is structured much differently than yours, or anyone else’s for that matter.” I advised him.

“Think of the most complex paradox you can imagine. Now compound that paradox a thousand fold. That still would not come near the complexity that would define my life.” I explained as I returned my attention back to the scene before us.

“How long were you going to keep this quiet, my daughter? Didn’t you know I had foreseen them before my previous departure? Come here, kids. Let Grandma have a proper look at you.”

All three children broke from their mother and ran back to Alex as she stood from the couch. Maximillian and I watched as the three-way mugging ensued. I smiled as my grandchildren again wrapped their arms around Alex like tentacles as she fell back onto the Davenport.

“I should have known you had seen my future, mother. In some ways you remind me of Aunt Cami. She can never mind her own business.” Alexis laughed as she sat opposite Alex on the matching loveseat.

She had passed right through the High Counsel and I.

“What just happened, Empress?” He asked- his eyes and mouth opening wide.

“We remain slightly out of phase with this reality, Sir. They can neither see nor hear us.” I informed him as I nodded for us to listen.

“Never, ever be afraid to use your gift, Alexis. Camille saved my life a few times by eavesdropping. Oh, and always look into your family’s future, honey- you may end up saving one of them.”

I laughed at the active chaos moving and swirling around my twin.

“I’m surprised you didn’t know their names already, mother!” Alexis winked at Alex.

“And I’m surprised you don’t practice what you preach, honey.”

Alexis rolled her eyes at my twin’s trapping retort.

“Children, could you introduce yourselves to Grandma?”

“Me first! I’m Nathan, Grandma. I’m nine.”

“I’m Samantha, Grandma. I’m ten.”

“I’m eight!”

Despite knowing what little Alexandra was going to say, I felt proud of my granddaughter.

“That’s a good age to be sweetie, but what is your name?” Even now I still laughed at the child’s behavior.

“She doesn’t listen real well.” The boy- Nathan, tattled.

“Nathan! That is not nice!” Alexis warned her son.

“I’m eight!” Alexandra repeated with a frown.

“Honey, tell Grandma your name.”

“I’m eight!” She said again.

We watched as Alex phased herself out and re-phased beside the precocious eight-year old.

“Hi, I’m Alexandra! What’s your name, honey?” The girl jumped a few inches and started to laugh.

“Alexandra.” She said shyly before she quickly disappeared.

Maximillian and I watched as the girl reappeared behind my twin and stuck her finger into her side. She shouted ‘BOO’ and began to laugh uncontrollably.

We watched as Alex turned around and grabbed little Alexandra.

They both suddenly disappeared!

“What happened? Where did they go?”

“Even at this early age, my granddaughter, Alexandra, displayed her gift of time travel, Sir.” She had taken me thirty minutes into the future.”

“This daughter you have…who may I ask is the father?”

“That requires another trip through time, Sir Maximillian.”

My Terran residence became Citadel’s Community Park.
 

“Where did everyone go?” Alex asked as she blinked her eyes and looked around.

Only Tibius remained. I remembered this day quite well. He had patiently waited for me to come back to reality on the bench just a few feet ahead of me, patiently awaiting my return from my internal struggle.

“What were you just doing, Empress?” Maximillian asked.

“Where did everyone go, Tibius?” Alex interrupted.

“Sometimes, when I’m asked a question thought to be simple, I must consider every aspect that question might bring. My mind becomes preoccupied finding the most amicable solution or answer. In essence, I lose track of time.”

“From just one simple question, Empress? Lords of Terra forbid that you should ponder a more complex question!”

“I’ve been known to ‘think’ for several days, High Counsel.” I giggled.

“What could you possibly be thinking about all that time?” He asked in amazement.

“When I’m on Terra, I must think of the results not only here, but of its impact throughout this universe, Sir. Lords forbid I’d change something way out here.” I explained as we missed some of Tibius’ reason for staying with me that night.

“…I thought it wise to stay behind so you would not return
to an empty reality.”
Tibius raised his other hand to quell any response from Alex.

“And before you assume anything, I did not impinge on that raging internal tempest you call your mind. I stand no chance of differentiating any individual thoughts in there, so why try? That is what attracted me to you at our first meeting. You intrigue me, Empress Alexandra.”

“He loves you dearly, Empress. Even an old man such as I can see that plainly!” Maximillian laughed, as he looked my way.

I blushed.

We continued to watch.

“I’m sorry for going off into the netherworld like that Tibius, seeing the future can cause extremely confusing conflicts, the answers to which sometimes require a little more concentration than usual.”

“Standing completely motionless while staring directly ahead for two straight hours is hardly a little more concentration, M’lady! Glancing over my shoulder momentarily would be considered a little more concentration.”

I smiled as Tibius’ smile again filled me with heartfelt warmth.

“It was that long? I’m truly sorry to have kept you here that long, Tibius. You must have other things you could be doing instead of waiting for some flighty Missouri farm girl to come out of her stupor.” Alex replied as I moved my lips, repeating my words.

“Nothing could be more important than watching such pure beauty contemplate her impact on life.”

“I quite agree with him. Empress. You are breathtakingly stunning!” My companion complimented.

Again I blushed.

I nodded that we should continue to observe.

“I thought you couldn’t discern my thoughts, Tibius?”

“I can’t, but there is someone who can. Alexis, you can come out now, my dear.” Tibius looked around as he called out quietly.

A younger Alexis appeared behind the park bench.

“Father, I’m old enough to know when to appear. I was going to do just that in another second!”

Alex jumped slightly as she spoke.

“You didn’t tell her, father?” She pouted.

“So you and Tibius, Empress?” Maximillian said with a quirky smile.

I nodded as I blushed again.

“I was just getting around to it, Alexis. You know how I fluster around beauty- your mother’s, especially.” Tibius tried to explain apologetically as this timeline continued to replay.

“Welcome back, mother Alexandra. I have been eagerly waiting this day for some time now.” My daughter approached Alex and embraced her, placing a gentle kiss on her cheek.

I could almost feel her lips on my cheek!

“At first I did not understand why you went away, but after receiving my ability, I understood. I was quite shocked to learn you are not of Citadel.”

“No more shocked then I am right now, honey!” Alex looked back to Tibius for some explanation with a raised eyebrow.

“I’m sorry, Empress Alexandra. We wiped her birth from your memory so that your relationship with your Earth spouse would not become complicated. I will now restore those memories…if you wish.”

We watched as he started to reach for her temples with both hands. My twin’s hands moved quickly to stop him. From this vantage point, almost too fast to see.

“You had him erase such a blessed miracle, Empress? Why?”

“Not really, High Counsel. The Terran memory deletion is not effective on me, Sir, as is also true for most forms of mind control. Referencing the future, I merely acted the part. I let him access what he thought was my concealed memories. I actually carry the complete, archived memories of my three sisters up here.” I explained, pointing to my head.

“Seeing the future must spoil your life experiences somewhat.” He said softly.

I nodded sadly deciding he didn’t need to hear about the many surprises I’d actually experienced.

We looked on as Alex granted Tibius ‘access’ to her mind.

“Father! You made her cry! You said the restoration would not hurt her!” Alexis cried out in alarm.

Tibius stood in shock as his hands quickly dropped to his sides. His face again saddened.

“I’m sorry, honey, I’m afraid the tears are my fault. I wasn’t ready for everything to rush back in. Your father didn’t hurt me.” Alex quickly explained.

“I know that, mother. Father is just so gullible! You know he’s never stopped thinking of you since you left. How long are you thinking of staying with us this time, mother Empress?”

“She is just like you, Empress.”

“Thank you, High Counsel.” I giggled as this reality proceeded.

“I’m not sure exactly. Let me consult my gift, honey. With what your father has just given me, I have to recalculate.”

This time I witnessed the result of the maelstrom in my brain when it kicked into high gear. Alex seemed to freeze in place like I had seen both Randi’s do numerous times!

“She’s doing it again, isn’t she, father?” My daughter asked in confusion.

“In reality, Tibius’ touch felt wonderful, High Counsel. As for ‘re-calculating’…I needed to find the answer to my own personal question.” I admitted to the man.

“What question was that, Empress?” He asked in curiosity, looking between my twin and me a few times.

“I was seriously thinking of staying on Terra permanently, Sir.” I said knowing the actual debates now raging through my twin’s head.

“Time to go, Sir.” I said sadly. This was all I could show him- everything I was required to do to successfully ensure the future.

One more paradox had come full circle.

Citadel Park became the Gian’s lounge room.

“So, High Counsel, has that been a proper demonstration?” I asked as I tried releasing his hand. He continued to grip it.

“Hey, welcome back, Empress.” Tish gushed. “We was just talkin’ ‘bout y’all!” She continued sarcastically in her perfect southern drawl.

“Yes, I kin see by the way y’all er grinnin’ like house cats that all et can’aries!” I replied while rolling my eyes.

“What language do you speak, Empress? I recognized nothing said since our return.” Maximillian asked, confused by our friendly banter. I realized Tish and I had been speaking American instead of Terran. He still held my hand tightly.

“It is my native language, High Counsel. We call it English- American English specifically.”

“Could you teach some of us this English during your stay, Empress?”

“We would be happy to, High Counsel.” Tish replied happily.

Maximillian stared at her for a moment.

“Sir, we hold each other to the same status. Just because I am the Empress of Time and Space, it does not place me higher than anyone else. Tish, Randi, Jack, or any other person for that matter, are encouraged to speak their mind. No one should be denied they’re opinion.” I told him.

High Counsel Maximillian remained silent for a minute or so, still holding my hand, before speaking.

“Tibius, I will receive you as well as the other counsels in my chamber first thing tomorrow. We have many issues to discuss.”

He then looked at my sisters and me.

“Empress Alexandra, I presume you can provide detailed plans for your residence here in the consulate?”

“Randi can upload the blueprints to Citadel’s system within minutes of your approval, High Counsel.”

“Tibius, the residence is approved. You can mobilize the contractors as soon as the plans are transferred.

“Done, Sir Maximillian.” Randi interrupted with a big, bright smile.

“How could you do such a thing so quickly, M’lady? I see no computing device in your possession.”

“Sir, I need no archival device as the files are stored here.” She proudly pointed to her head. “I have established a fully operational, fully compatible communications link to Citadel. Upload took approximately six point three milliseconds.”

Maximillian shook his head. “Such amazing talent AND beauty!”

He looked down at our hands- still joined tightly.

“Is there something else, High Counsel?” I asked following his gaze.

He said nothing.

“Ladies, we’ll be right back.” I said just before my private domain replaced the Gianese lounge room.

“Where is this place, Empress? I can no longer hear the song of my people.”

“First off, my name is Alexandra, Maximillian. I suggest you call me that from now on.” I said forcefully, smiling.

“Lady Alexandra, where is this place- if it is a place at all?”

“This is a place where I sometimes come when I want to be alone and think, Sir. I have no idea where or when it is. It does have some wondrous properties though.” I giggled.

“Properties?”

“Alexandra? What are you doing here, child?” Mother Scott’s voice emerged from the darkness.

“High Counsel Maximillian still has a few questions, momma.” I answered.

“Max, you aren’t scheduled to be here yet, hun. What questions haunt you, dear?” Momma Scott replied as she came into the light near our location.

Maximillian’s hand noticeably tensed in mine!

“High Counsel, this is my mother, Ruth Scott. Momma, obviously you know our esteemed High Counsel already.”

She nodded with a pleasant smile.

“What is meant by ‘I am not scheduled to be…here…yet, M’lady?” He asked just above a whisper.

“Have I gone and skipped ahead, Alexandra? I’m sorry, child, I didn’t mean to impose.” She apologized.

“M’lady, I assure you I have no aspirations to come here. I have only just been introduced to this…place.”

“Nonsense, Max! This is merely a neutral zone between our respective realms. My daughter uses it as she has said, and also for consultations, hun, now please ask your question and we’ll do our best to answer it.” Momma Scott smiled brightly.

Maximillian paused for a minute or so.

“Empress, when we visited the future…was I…did…I” He gulped. “Did I ever visit?” He asked as his head lowered.

“Oh, come on hun, Alexandra is giving you a once in a lifetime chance here. Ask the question you really want to ask.” Momma goaded as I glared at her.

Again he paused, looking at momma and I- apparently debating if it was really a good idea.

“Do I still exist forty years into the future, Empress?’ He finally sighed heavily in defeat.

Now it was my turn to delay.

“No.” I answered softly. “You pass on a year after appointing Tibius to Grand High Counsel, Sir. A position brought about by our arrival- to quell the unrest we also caused. It is one, if not the saddest memories I have, Sir.”

“Everything you do has specific purpose, is that not so, Empress?” He asked sadly.

“I take no pleasure in any of this, Sir, I assure you.” I said tearing up and wiping my eyes.

“Max, sometimes Alexandra has little or no recourse in these matters, I’m afraid.” Momma Scott tried to explain.

“I hate this part of the job, momma!” I cried out as my tears now ran freely down my cheeks.

“I know, child. Yet it is still part of the Empress’s responsibilities.” She said as she collected me in her embrace.

After a moment she released me and stared at my companion with a stern expression.

“Maximillian, High Counsel of Citadel, Terra, understand by example of my daughter’s miraculous gift, the deliverance of your people has come! Rest peacefully knowing you will witness a new dawn on Terra as four females are born to your world. The first females to be born in over three hundred of your years! Finally those nights of lost sleep- all their mental anguish- can find respite. The salvation of Terra is at hand, M’lord!” Momma Scott preached as she motioned to me.

“The legendary Empress of Time and Space has arrived as prophesized so long ago!” She shouted regally. It seemed to echo forever in this domain!

I felt myself blush profusely! Why was Ruth Scott doing this? I thought this sort of thing was against the ‘higher-up’s’ policy!

“You have done well, Maximillian. Be proud of the achievements in your long life.” She added at a lower volume. “Alexandra, High Counsel’s question has been answered and an understanding has been reached. Compose yourself, my sensitive Empress as there is still more work to be done- work most pleasurable and fulfilling.” Momma told me as she winked and again wrapped her loving arms around me. My head immediately went to her shoulder.

“It had to be done, child. You of all people know that to be true.” She whispered into my ear as she brushed my hair with one hand. “Once again you have saved this universe, child.” She paused a moment. “I love you, Alexandra.”

“I love you too, momma.” I replied trying to sniff back more tears.

I stayed in her arms for a few more minutes before lifting my head and taking a few steps back. I felt Maximillian seek out and gently take my hand.

The blackness of my domain lightened into the Gianese lounge room again.

My sisters and Tibius silenced immediately upon seeing us. High Counsel slowly released my hand.

“We will take our leave now, Empress. Ladies of Earth, I bid you good day.” He said calmly, bowing, turning away from us, and walking toward the door. Tibius followed quietly, but looked back at me, worry evident on his handsome face. I had little idea of what High Counsel was thinking right know, but knew Tibius could sense his conflict.

The room was quiet until we heard the door close.

“What just happened, Alex?” Jack asked as she stared over at the door.

“I had to tell him, Jack.” I replied flatly- emotionless. “Without him knowing, the future would change.” I added as I felt more tears come to my eyes.

I really did hate this part of the job!

Three pairs of arms vied for access around my back and shoulders as my sisters attempted to comfort me.
 
 

Citadel Consulate Building, 18:33, Preclimax, Neptine 16th, 292 of the New Era
 
 

The exotic chimes we had grown accustom to over the last two Terran weeks announced someone at the suite’s entrance.

“Come in, Tibius, we’ve been expecting you.” I called out from the Davenport.

“Are you positive you are deficit any telepathic talent, Empress Alexandra?” He inquired as he approached followed by Maximillian.

Jack and I stood from the couch and bowed to them both.

“The future is more precise than any form of mind reading, Grand High Counsel. Welcome to you both.” I greeted, smiling.

“Hello, Sir Maximillian.” Jack greeted.

Maximillian had taken a liking to Jack from a fatherly perspective. I think the adoptive relationship was good for both of them.

“Jacquelyn, how are you feeling today, M’lady?” He asked as the two embraced and kissed each other’s cheek.

“About the same as yesterday, father.” Jack said contentedly with a bright smile. She had taken to calling him ‘father’ of late- neither seemed to mind.

“So what brings you here this evening, gentlemen?” I asked kindly.

“Where are Ladies Takashi and Random?” Tibius asked in concern.

“They have dates for the evening, Sir- Janis and Samuel respectively. I believe the gentlemen said something about the Opera and Counsel’s private viewing box.” I giggled knowingly.

The two men before us looked at each other in confusion.

There was no such thing as a private box in any arena or theater on Terra.

“Well,” Tibius paused as he looked around the room mortified. “I have been informed that the residential inspector has certified your suite acceptable for habitation, Empress. High Counsel and I thought you would like to tour it and decide your approval.” He paused. “The Inspector is curious as to the intended use of the ten meter square unfinished room, though.”

Tibius looked nonplussed by my smile.

“Of course you have already seen our arrival and…”

“Of course I have, Grand High Counsel. Maximillian, does it look acceptable to you?” I asked after interrupting Tibius.

“M’lady, it looks exactly as I have seen, save one important aspect.” The former High Counsel said with a smile. It was fun to watch Tibius react when others had been let in on the future!

“She took you to the future, High Counsel?”

“Yes, I did, Sir Tibius. Is that a problem?” I asked with a devious grin.

“Whatever your wish, Empress.” He replied reluctantly.

“Good boy.” I said, as my grin became a bright smile. “Shall we tour our new residence here on Terra, Lady Jacquelyn?”

“Only with proper escort, my Empress.” She smiled and took Maximillian’s arm.

Tibius offered his arm to me and we proceeded out the door to the elevator.

“Two hundred-ninth floor please.” I stated to the elevator’s controller once inside and the doors had closed.

For some reason the trip seemed to take longer from the one hundred-fiftieth to the two hundred-ninth than it did from ground level to our floor. After what seemed like a whole minute the doors opened on a very familiar lobby.

Tibius walked me past the empty receptionist’s desk and over to the suite’s double door and opened it for us.

The place looked exactly as I knew it would.

“Home.” I said, just above a whisper. “It’s wonderful, Tibius!” I exclaimed happily.

Stepping in front of my escort, I kissed him! It was the first time this trip that I had allowed myself the pleasure of his lips. A familiar feeling spread throughout my body as our kiss ended.

The look in his eyes spoke volumes as to his thoughts! There was one other indicator too.

“Perhaps you would like a tour of your private chamber, M’lady?” Tibius asked with a smile that I had seen many times before.

“If it would be acceptable with Jack.” I replied demurely as I winked at her.

“Father, could we tour the kitchen? I’m feeling a little hungry at the moment.” Jack asked as she guided the Former High Counsel into the hallway on the opposite side of the living room from my private suite. She looked over her shoulder and winked back at me.
 
 

Citadel Consulate Building, 09:13, Climax, Neptine 17th, 292 of the New Era
 
 

“Good morning, sleepyhead. How was your night?” Jack giggled as she looked up from her tea and toast. Her face showed obvious signs of morning sickness.

“That obvious, huh?” I yawned.

“I knew it was going to happen, Alex.” She paused to take another bite of toast. “I think I’m starting to understand how it is for you…how boring it must be to see things before they actually happen, I mean. I hope knowing what would happen didn’t make it any less special.” She said with a sympathetic face.

“In these cases the memory is devoid of any actual feeling, Jack.” I tried to explain as I felt my face blush. “It always surprises me how good it feels.” I admitted sheepishly and walked over to our brand new automated food dispenser.

“Coffee, Empress blend, black.” I said to it.

Jack remained strangely quiet as I took the steaming cup from the machine.

“Buttermilk pancakes, four stacked, butter between each layer, Vermont maple syrup to cover.” I ordered before setting my coffee on the table and returning for my breakfast.

Jack waited until I had taken the first bite of my meal.

“So…” She started to ask, “Are you…?” She finished by glancing to my stomach.

“I think we both know the answer to that, hun.” I giggled. “If the Mahanilui did one thing better than anything else, it made us fertile.” I continued to giggle.

“But you just finished your period three days ago, Alex. How could you be…”

“I’m not, Jack…not yet anyway.” I smiled at her. “Remember, these guys have modified their bodies just like Alex did at Reilly. These little torpedoes, as Mina calls them, hang around for a long time.” I reminded her.

“How long of a half-life do they have exactly, Alex?” She asked through narrowed eyes.

“About a week or two.” I said flatly.

Jack whistled in amazement. “Wow, energetic little suckers!”

“Ya.” I paused. “So, did Tish and Randi ever make it back?”

“Ya, they rolled in around 2600hrs- each of them smiling about the same as you are right now.”

“You mean like you were smiling when I popped in on you and Russell the morning after your wedding?” I asked with a devious grin.

Jack looks so pretty when she’s blushing profusely!

“Good morning.” Randi greeted as she walked into the kitchen and placed her order for a hot, iced, cinnamon bun and hot tea.

“So…how was the Opera last night, hun?” I asked as she sat down next to Jack.

“It was wonderful!” Randi beamed, dreamy eyed.

“I hear the lead singer could really hit some high notes?” Jack inquired sarcastically.

“Yes, it was wonderfu…wait what are you implying, Jacquelyn Cummins?”

“Nothing, Random Pelteirre. Just that the song of this planet added two sopranos last night around ten-ish.” Jack laughed evilly.

“Well, I’m not afraid to admit I had a good time!” Randi huffed. “It’s been such a long time since I last experienced anything close to legitimate bonding. Samuel is a wonderful partner.” She added with an even wider smile.

Randi took a sip of her tea.

“So, Empress…was Tibius as good as he looks?” She asked before taking a nibble from her cinnamon bun.

I thought seriously about her question. There were only subtle differences in technique between Sandy and Tibius, I realized as I found myself comparing the two. Both were confident and capable lovers in their own right.

“Never mind, ma’am, I got the answer- loud and clear.” Randi giggled. Jack rolled her eyes and joined in. I also had to roll my eyes and joined the three-way giggle-fest.

“Ohayōgozaimasu. (Good morning)” Tish greeted pleasantly as she appeared in the kitchen’s doorway. “What is so amusing?” She asked curiously.

“We were just comparing notes on guys, Tish.” Jack managed to sputter. “Sit down and spill, girl!”

“What happened between Janis and I will remain just that, Commander.” Tish responded in very proper British.

“Oh give it a rest, Tish! We’re all adults here. So…how was he?” Jack pressed forward.

A wide grin spread across my interpreter’s face.

“And that makes the Hat-Trick, folks!” Jack cackled maniacally.

“Jack. You’re getting way too much entertainment out of this!” I groused.

“Iyana ya…” Tish said something in Japanese to her sister I’d rather not repeat! I was glad I wasn’t wearing my Reilly suite at the moment- I really didn’t want to hear the translation!

“You might as well humor her, hun.” I suggested, looking to Takashi and nodding to Jack.

She got the same dreamy-eyed look as Randi.

“I never thought it could be that…” She paused as Randi, Jack and I waited on the edge of our chairs for her to continue. ”That…fulfilling.” She finished with a sinister smile.

“And y’all call me the tease!” I complained as all four of us broke into laughter.

“Pardon me, M’ladies, I hope not to interrupt anything.” Tibius interrupted our laughter a minute later as he walked into the kitchen wearing my new, fluffy, pink bathrobe.

“Come on in, hun, we were just swapping war stories.” I waved him into the room. “Have some breakfast- you must be famished after last night, Sir.” I said with a wicked grin. I winked to my three sisters.

Another round of feminine laughter filled our suite’s larger kitchen.

“May I inquire as to the name of that delicious pastry before you, Lady Randi?” Tibius asked with some trepidation as our mysterious laughter subsided.

“It’s called a cinnamon bun, Sir Tibius.” She answered quickly although I couldn’t help noticing the knowing smile barely showing at the corners of her mouth.

“How did the culinary station know to make such a confection?”

“I took the liberty of uploading Reilly’s past, present, and future menus along with their accompanying formulae into our suite’s system.” She replied nonchalantly. Getting up from her chair, Randi padded gracefully over to the food dispenser. “Do you require one, two, or maybe three, Sir? There are, additionally, optional fruit flavors of apple, peach, strawberry, and also almond-cream cheese available. Would you like to try one of those, perhaps?”

“I will defer to your culinary expertise, M’lady.” Tibius answered, nodding his head slightly. He blushed profusely as he looked to see my reaction.

I just closed my eyes slowly and nodded once.

Randi eyed him up for a moment then turned to the wall unit.

“Two large, hot, cinnamon buns with cream cheese icing, and a cup of peppermint herbal tea, please.”

“Try this, Sir.” She suggested with a smile, placing the plate and cup in front of him.

“They certainly smell wonderfully sweet, Lady Randi. My sincere thanks.” Tibius said as I noticed Jack start to wince.

“Excuse me!” She shouted abruptly rushing from the room while holding her hand in front of her mouth.

Tibius looked toward the doorway in confusion.

“Morning sickness, hun. Sometimes, just smelling something really sweet can bring it on.” I informed him while shaking my head. “She’ll be alright in a few minutes.”

“I had no intention of bringing on such stomach upset, Empress. Please extend my apology to Lady Jacquelyn.”

“She’ll be fine, hun, now, eat your breakfast before it gets cold.” I pointed to his plate. Immediately he picked up his knife and fork.

Randi cleared her throat and took her roll in hand. “This is the only way to really enjoy such baked goods, Sir Tibius. No utensils are required other than a good set of mandibles.” She giggled as she took a bite.

My mate sheepishly followed her example.

“This confection makes my fingers adhere to each other!” He commented placing the roll back on his plate.

“That’s the fun part, Sir!” Randi giggled as she placed her finger and thumb into her mouth separately in a very suggestive manner to clean the icing off them. She winked as she did so.

I just had to roll my eyes! Where did she learn to flirt like that? And with Tibius no less!

“So, Randi…you were starting to tell us about your evening with Samuel.” I said more to break her eye contact with him.

“What? Oh, we had a wonderful time at the Opera. Afterwards, Samuel invited me to his residence.”

“Oh?” Tibius gasped, almost choking.

“Why such a reaction, hun?” I asked. “Did Samuel break some secret protocol?”

“What? No, I am just surprised by his forwardness! I have always thought my friend shy and somewhat private.” Tibius answered shaking his head in disbelief. “Are you sure you didn’t place some mystical incantation on him, Lady Random?”

“A pox, Sire? Come now, someone so enlightened as yourself shouldn’t hold belief in the old stories, hun.” I guffawed.

Tibius looked directly into my eyes and stared for a moment. “So I shouldn’t believe that which sits before me, Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space? Is the legend of the Empress not recorded in the ‘old stories’?”

“I assure you, we do not possess nor practice any form of magic, Grand High Counsel.”

“Neigh, you practice the deepest, darkest…the most powerful enchantments that could possibly exist, Empress- the magic of breathtaking feminine beauty and graceful character! To merely set one’s gaze upon you or your sisters is enough to entrance even the staunchest of men.”

I blushed in response, as did Tish and Randi.

“So what did I miss?” Jack asked with a giggle as she rejoined our group and sat down. “Did he accuse us of witchcraft yet?”

I nodded.

“Rats! Missed it again!” She grumbled.

“Jack, the idea here is to NOT change the timeline?” I groused.

“Would it have made that much difference, Alex?”

“Yes, now go let Maximillian in. He’ll be ringing the door chimes in one minute.”

“By your command, Empress.” Jack said in a deep, mechanical monotone as she got back up and walked out of the kitchen.

“The choice of morning fashion leaves something to the imagination, Grand High Counsel. Don’t make me regret my choice of successors!” Maximillian said as he and Jack walked in.

“The Empress suggested I ‘relax’ before readying myself for the day, my friend. She insisted I wear this robe. It is very comfortable and exceptionally warm.”

“But what of the written request for temperary occupancy of another’s private lodgings, Grand High Counsel?” Maximillian glared at Tibius with an evil smirk. “Or has the elevation of Tibius further nourished his vanity?”

Tibius remained strangely quiet as he stared at his paramour.

“May I submit that bedding the Empress is an extremely rare honor? One offered by personal invitation only, father?”

“JACK!” I shouted.

My sisters all started laughing while Tibius and I turned beet red!

“I would also expect that you would require completed ‘Request for Procreation’ forms from Assistant Counsel Janis and Samuel as well, Grand High Counsel?” Maximillian advised before he finally lost his resolve and started laughing heartily. He approached Tibius from behind. “Well done, my friend.” Maximillian congratulated as he patted my mate’s shoulders.

“Alexandra, the remnants of your meal look very enticing. May I inquire as to what you call it?”

“I’ll do you one better. They’re called pancakes, how many y’all want?”

“I defer to you, Empress.”

“Buttermilk pancakes, four stacked, butter between each layer, Vermont maple syrup to cover, please.” I said to our food dispenser. “Would y’all like a cup of coffee, High Counsel?”

“Do I?” He asked.

“Coffee, Empress blend, black.” I added.

“Here ya go, hun. Enjoy.” I said with a smile as I placed the cup and plate down at the remaining spot at our table.

“Simply marvelous! I have never tasted anything like this in my eight hundred twenty- three years! Such an exotic meal can only be reserved for royalty on Earth, Alexandra!”

“No, not at all. The recipe is very simple and only requires a skillful eye on the skillet’s temperature, High Counsel. Most Americans prepare pancakes for breakfast, lunch, or even dinner- sometimes several times per week. They are as common as water on our planet.”

“Alas, we do not have the luxury here on Terra, Empress. Our water resource must be continually monitored and isolated from Solara’s intensely thieving rays. Reclamation is our highest priority.”

“Not to worry, High Counsel, this suite is entirely self-contained. Randi patterned it after Reilly Research Station. Everything here is recycled- Water, waste…even the air we are breathing right now.”

“Amazing! I did not know we had such advanced technology?”

“A less sophisticated version was implemented on your deep-space exploration program, hun. Consider it a sharing of technology from Earth and a gift from the sisters of Kili.”

Both men gasped; either about our knowing of they’re space program, or such advanced technology being a gift between our two planets.

“But we hardly know your civilization, Empress!”

“Ah, but we know you, Maximillian.” I giggled as I smiled at Tibius. “Very well, in fact.”

“I no longer have any doubt, Alexandra. May I have a word with you in private after I finish this delicious entrée?”

“If Grand High Counsel permits it…and y’all’ve completed the necessary forms, submitted them properly, and received final approval.” I giggled. “Or is High Counsel afforded the same courtesies as Grand High Counsel, Sir Maximillian?”

“Empress, you never informed me that you engaged in Multilevel Tactics! Are you a serious competitor on Earth?”

“We simply call it Chess at home, Sir, and I have played a few times. I also commanded my own warship during one of our world’s conflicts.” I informed him in a pleasant tone.

“Be careful, Tibius, my friend! Beauty and intelligence combined with wisdom would make our Empress a formidable opponent! May I suggest extending invitation to the Earthers to join the Terran Counsel? We cannot possibly call it universal law if but one system is not properly represented!”

“I will draw up and make the formal invitation myself, High Counsel.” Tibius responded with excitement. His enthusiasm was short lived though as he turned to see my reaction- or lack thereof.

“You knew this would happen, Alexandra?” He asked somewhat guarded. “You have foreseen this entire episode!”

I answered by closing my eyes and giving him a devilish grin.

“High Counsel, it simply isn’t fair! She has out maneuvered us once again! How many more times will this occur, my love?” Tibius said animatedly.

“More times than you would care to think about, hun.” I winked. “More times than you can imagine, but y’all keep tryin’ just the same.”
 

Maximillian, you reqested an audience?” I asked a few minutes later, seeing the former High Counsel finishing his coffee.

“Oh…um, yes, Alexandra.” He replied wiping his mouth with the provided fabric napkin. “I wish to converse in private, please?”

I motioned for him to follow me into the living room. Halfway down the hall I took his hand.

“So, how can I help you, Sir? You can speak freely as we are out of phase with this reality.” I said squeezing his hand.

“Are you not with child, Empress? I thought your gift was unresponsive at this time?”

“It’ll take another couple days for that to happen, hun, now what’s the problem.” I replied calmly. We now stood in the living room.

“I know my time runs short, Empress…” He started. “Will I at least see the birth of the first female Terran of the new age?” His eyes as well as his volume lowered.

“You will be Alexis’ godfather, hun. I’m extending you the offer this instant.” I smiled as I looked into his sad eyes.

“Alexis? But Jacquelyn is already several weeks ahead of you! How is this possible, Alexandra?” He gasped in astonishment.

“What can I say, hun, little Alexis is in a hurry to arrive. She’ll beat Jack’s Constance by almost a full day.”

But that is only eight of your months. I thought you said Earther gestation took nine Earth months?”

“Usually, but sometimes it happens faster than that. I have already had two children to my husband, Sanford, back in California, as you know. Both my girls, Cassandra and Samantha, were a little early.”

“But what of Jacquelyn’s child, will I see her arrive?”

“You’ll see Connie shortly after her birth, hun. I’ll be the only one in the medical building with her during the delivery, though.”

“I don’t understand, Alexandra, why?”

“For everyone’s protection, hun, that’s why! Jack is going to be in severe pain and discomfort during her labor. It will not be safe within a thirty block radius during that time, I’m afraid.”

Maximillian looked like he wanted to understand, but he required more specifics.

“While in labor, Jack will not be entirely in control of her gift, Sir. What was witnessed upon our arrival pales in comparison to what will occur on Connie’s birth day. She will literally blow the roof off the building!”

“But how will you survive, Empress? Such violence is sure to…”

“I have my own protection, Maximillian, so don’t worry about my safety.” I leaned up and kissed his cheek.

“I still don’t understand how one person…one woman can harbor so much power!”

“Don’t forget that Jack is twice as powerful as she normally is right now. Connie’s power reserve increases daily as she grows in Jack’s womb. Jack has had access to that reserve since the child’s conception.” I explained.

“So, the daughter will share her talents?” He asked- astounded by what I told him.

My head sunk as well as my mood.

“No.” I answered shaking my head to the negative. “Constance Cummins will exceed her mother’s ‘talent’, Sir. Terra shall harbor the known universes’ strongest Mind Warrior of all time.” I revealed as I felt my tears start. The nightmare of nine years ago fought its way into my consciousness. Gallantly, I fought to beat the hideous monster back to its well-isolated cage! It had to be effectively locked up before I rephased us or Jack would make a decision that might adversely change not only the futures, but also the histories of Terra and Earth!

“This memory of apocalypse I briefly sensed from you, Empress- has it something to do with the child Mind Warrior?”

“It is the reason Constance must be born and educated on this world, High Counsel. If allowed to grow up on Earth, the influence of her father could prove detrimental to her development. She would misuse her gift and it could possibly degrade into an unspeakable evil.” I informed him as the memories again escaped their prison.

“But the apocalyse? How many lives…how many worlds pay the price?”

“There were only two casualties, High Counsel.” I said quietly. More tears fell from my eyes.

“Were, Alexandra? You speak as if it has already happened.”

I tried in vain to sniff back my tears. “It happens ninety years from now, but reverberates through four universes and eight thousand years, Sir.”

“And the two casualties you mentioned?”

“I took Connie on a mission…just the two of us.” I paused to wipe my eyes with my free hand. “I found an uninhabited galaxy in the far corner of this universe. It was at the absolute limit of my extended temporal operating range. It…it didn’t go so well.”

“Yet, you…”

“Yet here I am…yes, Maximillian, we both survived. Four years of recovery here on Terra- two years of that time in stasis while our bodies repaired themselves. I learned a great deal about the ‘Empress’ during that time, sir. I learned a lot about myself…and who I am- who I’m expected to be.”

His shoulder proved a good place for me to fall apart- but not before our surroundings blacked out quickly and suddenly changed just as quickly.

“What has happened to my sister?” My voice cried out in anger!

“You…you can see us?” Maximillian asked as I continued to cry.

“Of course we can see you, Maximillian of Terra! What has happened to Alexandra?”

“Where are we? Can I assume you are the Empress also?”

“I am Alexandra Reilly, High Counsel, and welcome to Reilly Research Station! Now, what has happened to my sister, Alexandra?”

“We had…um…phased…out? I only wanted to ask if I would exist for the births. An image of immeasurable destruction suddenly flashed in her mind- the very thought sickens me still! She told me of Constance and a special mission, Empress.”

“Cami we need you, hun! Bring Cassi as well, please.” I heard myself say.

“Mother, I was just walking past and saw the Empress’ arrival.” I heard Reilly’s voice increasing in volume. “By the Lords of Terra! Aunt Alex what is wrong? What have you done to my aunt? Wait, I sense you are Terran. Tell me what has happened to my aunt, Sir!” She demanded.

“Reilly, Maximillian travels with the Empress and has done nothing but what has been foreseen. Cassi and her mother have been called.” I heard as Alex reassured her daughter. “High Counsel, if you would let me attend to my sister?”

“My sincere apologies, High Counsel Maximillian of Citadel. I humbly request forgiveness from my premature and unauthorized outburst. Also forgive my abbreviation of proper Terran protocol.”

I felt the tingle as Alex placed her hand on my shoulder and gently guided me from the strong shoulder.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have let it out. Sometimes it can be so difficult.” I sobbed as I sought out my sister’s shoulder.

“You are Terran, M’lady?” I heard my companion ask in amazement.

“I am M’lord. I am Reilly, daughter of the Empress Alexandra Reilly and Gaillan of Terra.” Reilly responded.

“Gaillan? Gaillan is your father, M’lady?”

“Yes, sir. Is that a problem?” Her voice sounded angry suddenly.

Maximillian began to laugh. “No M’lady! No problem at all, in fact it is quite fitting!”

“M’lord?”

“Gaillan’s mother was a close friend of my mate, Ariel. You have her spirit and demeanor, M’lady. In fact Gaillan and his friend Timus had a…a talent…for disregarding any and all protocols!”

“Did I hear someone talking about my father in here?”

I lifted my head at the sound of Cassi’s voice.

“By the Lords of Terra!” Maximillian gasped. “Collandra? How can you be here?”

“My name is Cassiopeia, Sir Maximillian; daughter of Camille Darough and Timus of Terra. It is an honor to meet you, High Counsel.”

“You look remarkably like your grandmother, M’lady.”

“Thank you, M’lord.” Cassi said as she curtsied.

“No need to pay me homage, M’lady. It is I who should pay you respect.”

“Why, is that worth more than homage, High Counsel?”

A giggle escaped my lips and helped me regain my composure. Cami and Cassi always found a way to help me feel better!

Maximillian again let out a hearty laugh.

I felt another hand touch my back and noticed Cami standing beside me.

“Alex, are you okay? I saw the barrage of past memories and wondered why, but I understand the reason behind them now. May I offer you some liquor or cordial from our growing spirit inventory?”

“Thanks Sweetheart, but that might not be such a good idea right now. We won’t be staying long.” I replied as I finished wiping my eyes and cheeks dry. “I’m due to be grounded in two days and I need to be back on Terra before that happens.”

“I understand perfectly, sis. Now what is it you need from our sisters?” Alex Reilly reassured me.

“My travel companion needs to…to forget…certain things…that he has just learned.” I looked at Maximillian, my face sad. “I’m sorry, sir, but you know things that Jack will pry out of you without your knowledge. If allowed, the future of both our planets- all the universes in existence- could collapse. I won’t let that happen.”

“You have my full permission to continue, Empress.” He replied without a second’s delay. “Delete those harmful memories necessary to protect all life, but spare me the memories of Terra’s renewal and rebirth. Those images I would like to savor as I go forth to the next dimension.” He replied courageously.

“You have our word, High Counsel.” I nodded with a tense smile. “Cami, we need memories removed from High Counsel. Being Terran, I’m afraid it will require Cassi’s help and multiple passes. Reference my recalled mental archives of the specific incident but please do not archive them yourselves. This procedure should be strictly a pass-thru operation for you and Cassi.” I specified calmly.

“Acknowledged, Empress. High Counsel, we shall begin the process. Please lower you’re natural defenses as well as those erected in their support.
 

“High Counsel, are you well?” Cami asked after a few minutes.

“I am still waiting for you to begin, M’ladies. What takes so long to prepare?”

“Hun, the process is over.” Alex Reilly stated matter-of-factly. “You’ve been out of it for ten whole minutes.”

Maximillian looked to me for conformation. I nodded once.

“I felt nothing. How could a procedure I know so well be so imperceptible? It was as if no time had passed.” He shook his head at the Daroughs’ smiling faces. “Remarkable!”

“High Counsel, we must be on our way if I am to return you to Terra before my wings are clipped.” I reminded him.

“I see no wings to be clipped, Alexandra- though you are the image of the legendary guardian angel.”

“Thanks for the compliment, Sir.” Alex Reilly replied first. “My sister means that the Empress cannot travel after impregnation and conception.” She informed him as she embraced me.

“Congratulations, Alexandra. Maybe I’ll pop in for a visit. 292 of the New Age, is it?”

I nodded. “Apogean 4th.”

“Got it. May the temporal winds blow favorably, Empress.” She said as I gently took Maximillian’s hand in mine. Reilly’s Recreation Room became Citadel’s Community Park after a very familiar transit through Space.

“Why have we arrived here, Empress? I distinctly remember leaving from your residence.”

“High Counsel, you do remember your accusation that I do everything for a reason, right?”

“Indeed, Empress. I remember quite well in fact. Why?”

“Watch your step, High Counsel.” I said as I released his hand.

He stumbled a few steps before regaining his balance.

“There you are, my friend!” Tibius shouted out from further down the path. “Where have you been for the last six months? We have scoured all of Terra for you and just about given up hope of finding you!”

“I was with Empress Alexandra, Grand High Counsel. We have only been gone mere moments, not six months!”

“My friend, this is Saturian 3rd. You have been gone for just over six months!”

“Alexandra, tell…” My former companion turned around and stopped. His mouth dropped open. “Where did she go?”

“High Counsel, Alexandra has been in residence this whole time. She is incapable of time travel while expecting. In her condition, she must rely on Terra’s transportation system the same as you or I.”

“But she was just here I tell you!”

Citadel Community Park became my residence in the Consulate building.

“So, where is Maximillian? You’ve been gone for fifteen minutes, Alex.” Randi asked as she and Tish placed their cups of tea on the coffee table and stood.

Jack emerged from her bedroom hallway.

“Welcome back, Alex. Did he get to meet Reilly and Cassi?”

“He claimed Cassi looked just like her grandmother.” I answered nodding my head.

“Coincidence, Empress?” Jack raised an eyebrow.

“I thought she looked like Mariah Banes…never met her Grandma, Jack.”

“Ya…right!”

“Honestly, Jack…I have never met the woman. I swear on my own grandmother’s grave!”

“Which one, Alex?”

“What?”

“Which one? Amelia is one of us so that leaves just your two real Grammy’s.”

“I never met Pa’s mother, Jack. She died before I was born- Steamboat explosion. Ma’s ma an’ pa died when I was four- train derailment just outside St. Louie.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know, Alex.” She apologized.

All four of us were silent for a while.

“He’s in place and waiting for us to catch up, right, Alex?” Jack finally asked.

I nodded. “Maximillian will see the four saviors of the Terran race arrive as foreseen, Jack. He will enjoy his adopted granddaughter’s first year of life then be at peace.” I looked down to the floor as I finished that statement.

Jack touched my right forearm gently. “Thanks, Alex.” She said quietly. “Thanks for allowing him his happiness.”
 

“M’lady, where is High Counsel? Did he not leave with you earlier?” Tibius asked as he hurried into our living room from my suite’s hallway, still drying his hair as he approached. He looked very concerned.

“We got back about five minutes after we left, Grand High Counsel.” I answered.

“Then where has he gotten too?”

“I’m sure he’s fine, Sir Tibius. I know he attends all four births later this year. Maybe he took a vacation? You do have those here, right?”

“What did you do with him, Alexandra?” Tibius eyed me skeptically.

“Tibius, I dropped him off in Citadel Park. That I can assure you.”

“The Empress tells the truth, Sir. I spoke with him on their arrival.” Jack assured the Grand High Counsel.

“Sir, if it helps, High Counsel spoke of doing the things he had always wanted to do while we traveled. I believe it was in response to our visiting several places heretofore impossible to reach in a single lifetime.” I told him.

“She took him back to Reilly BC.” Randi giggled.

“Yes, he met the Reillys and the Daroughs, hun. Alex says hi and extends her congratulations to everyone.” I said with a smile.

Tibius looked exasperated!

“You can truthfully assure me that High Counsel Maximillian is safe, comfortable, and on this planet, Empress?” He asked accusingly.

“Yes, Grand High Counsel Tibius, Maximillian is safe, comfortable, and enjoying himself here on Terra.” I quickly responded in my royal tone. “I would never do anything to harm a living soul, my love!” I added with a hurt pout.

Tibius continued to stare at me while deciding whether I was really being truthful.

I decided to reassure him again.

“Hun, High Counsel will turn up safe and sound- I’m sure of it.” I smiled.

‘Eventually!’ Jack thought to me with a smile.

I rolled my eyes at her.

”Now, what is on tap for Grand High Counsel and his expecting mate?” I asked, changing subjects.

“You are with child also, Empress?” Tibius’ eyes began to pop from his head in surprise.

“As are Randi and Takashi.” I replied, watching both women’s expressions change.

“But…I thought the Empress could not time travel while in such a condition? Are you truly pregnant?” Tibius continued in confusion.

“Not yet, but in three…two…one.” I pointed down to my abdomen and smiled.

Like I had done twice previously, I tried passing my hand through the back of our Davenport. It stopped dead against the fabric.

“Ladies and gentleman, the Empress is officially grounded for at least twenty-two Earth months!” I announced with a huge smile.

I noticed Jack cringe.

“What’s the matter, hun?” I asked meeting her sad eyes.

“Alex…I’m scared.” She admitted in a tiny voice.

“Jack, there is almost nothing to it. I’ve done it myself twice- Samantha, just over twenty-three months ago.” I assured her. Tish and Randi cheered up a little as I said it.

“If you think I’ll be all right, Alex.” She said with a raised eyebrow.

“Trust me, Jack, everyone will get a bang out of it!” I laughed.

“That’s what I’m afraid of, Alex.”

“I’ll be right there with you, hun.” I smiled. “I won’t let go of your hand the whole time and you’ll do great.”

“I take it you’ll still be wearing that?” She pointed to my head.

I reached up in curiosity only to touch my tiara! Why did I always have it on? What was my fixation with it?

“It’ll protect us, hun.”

Jack grimaced.

“That reminds me…” Tibius suddenly cut in. I had forgotten he was still here. “The healers expressed their wishes that you, M’lady Jacquelyn, start scheduled visits as soon as possible. They want to ensure that maturation progresses smoothly through to delivery. I believe they will be even more excited about multiple arrivals than even I.”

“They do know that Earth physiology is slightly different from Terrans?” I asked as a reminder.

“Lady Random has provided all archived literature on the subject to Citadel’s medical library, M’lady Empress.”

“Good, cause I’d hate for them to be out of practice.” I giggled.

Jack glared at me in worry.

“Lady Takashi, you show little concern compared to Lady Jacquelyn. Is this not your first also?”

“It is, Grand High Counsel. I just choose to remember the outcome of my labor, not the labor itself. The Empress has already provided the proof of our success. Melanie will be perfect in every way, Sir.”

“So you have already chosen a name, Lady Takashi? Have you reviewed it with Janis?”

“Nope! My daughter, my choosing, Sir Tibius!”

“But according to Terran proto…” Tibius began to complain.

“Grand High Counsel, do you count a Mind Warrior as close friend and confidant?” Tish responded- her ire up. I could definitely see the combination of Japanese and Navajo stubbornness now. It had been eight years ago that I first experienced it.

“My love, sound retreat while you still can. I have seen this staunch resolve once before and even the Empress surrendered.” I laughed.

“And you, Lady Random, you have chosen your child’s name as well?” Tibius asked carefully.

“Isabeau will also arrive fabricated to exacting specifications and standards, Counsel. I could never be more satisfied with a revision!”

Tibius‘ mouth dropped as he fought to understand my borrowed Comptroller. He looked to me for translation.

“What Tish said, hun,” I giggled and shook my head. I paused.

“So as to our plans for tonight, my love? Should we not inform Counsel of the ‘developments’?”

“M’lady, all of Terra will bestow their gratitude upon you and your sisters for being the shining beacon of light to end of our otherwise dismal decent into oblivion!”

“There will be a few that would argue that prophesy, hun.” I warned.
 
 

As I rolled over in my huge comfortable bed, my arm automatically sought safe haven around the warm figure lying next to me. Tibius lay still gently snoring after a second night of physical exertion. The wonderful feeling was still pulsing throughout my body and soul, as I pressed tighter against his warm, firm back.

There were still many nights like this in our future- many more wonderful experiences.

True, tonight’s outing to Terra’s High Council chambers hadn’t gone exactly as planned, but Tibius more than made up for the jealous chaos that broke out when my pregnancy was revealed. There would be holdouts for the next month or so that thought they should have had the privilege of the Empress and not my Tibius! They would eventually find an Earther woman of their own though. Harmony and balance would return to Terra within the next ninety years…

…As would marital strife!

I snuggled up even tighter to my very own Terran and sunk back into my peaceful slumber once again.



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