South of Bikini 3: Episode 4- Dreams, Realms, and New Beginnings

The changes continue for Alex and friends as their lives seem to be intertwining uncontrollably. Details of the Empress’ last mission begin to emerge. Terra’s new era finally and truly begins.

 
 


Episode 4

“Dreams, Realms, and New Beginnings”


 

Copyright 2011, R.G. Beyer

 
 

Waking from my slumber, I turned over and stretched, taking in the smooth, clean feel of the sheets. The light of the new day flooding into the room silhouetted my sleep companion. My arm automatically wrapped around the warm figure lying beside me as I turned. Slowly, cautiously, so as to not to disturb, I pressed myself closer. I was in heaven the last few days and right now I was content in sharing my bed with the one person that made that possible.

That person now began to stir.

“Good morning, did you sleep well?”

“Better than I have in months.” I replied and felt my smile brighten.

“I had a good time the past two nights, my love- it’s been such a long time.”

“You made it that much better.” I complimented. “So…what’s on tap for today?”

“I have two high-level meetings to attend today. I’m afraid I’ll be gone for most of the day, my love, I’m sorry.”

“Well…I guess it can’t be helped, we all have our jobs to do. What time should I expect you tonight?” I asked as I kissed the warm shoulder beside me.

“You tell me.”

Internally, I asked myself that very question.

“1800hrs.” I whispered as I kissed the shoulder again.

“I thought you said you’re not in the military anymore! Why can’t you just say six o’clock?”

“What fun would that be?” I giggled, quietly placing yet another kiss on that wonderful shoulder.

“You keep that up and I might just change my mind!”

“So what would be so wrong with that?” I purred.

“I have to get up and get ready, my love.”

“Oh, all right.” I pouted. “I guess I should get up too then.”

I begrudgingly pulled the covers back, rolled myself out of bed, and stood up slowly.

Boy did I feel sore! Everything from my lips down felt like I had just run a marathon.

“You really don’t have to get up just yet. Lie back down and try to get some more sleep, you need your rest.”

“Can’t I see you out at least?” I pleaded.

“Are you feeling alright? You seem different lately.”

“Aside from being sore all over, I’ve never felt better. What makes you think something is wrong?” I asked as I stretched again, glancing down at my body- everything looked the same to me.

“Something seems different.”

“Honest…I couldn’t feel better. I’m fine.”

No, Alex, you look shorter.”

“That’s crazy, Emily.” I said as my wife walked around the bed and stood before me.

“You were taller last night, Alex. I’d say you lost two inches. Before, I looked right at your Adams’ apple, now…now I’m almost even with your lower lip.”

“Get out of here. I thought only older people started to shrink.”

“The Empress said this would happen, Alex, or were you not listening?”

“I just didn’t think it would happen, Em. I mean…its impossible right?” I asked still not believing what I’d been told she proposed.

“Define ‘impossible’ since Alexandra Reilly suddenly appeared in your hospital room, Alex. Who would believe six young women appearing out of thin air? Especially two that claim you’re their mother!”

“I have no viable explanation for those women, Emily- or Connie Cummins, for that matter.” I replied, shaking my head a few times.

“Looks like you need a haircut too. You’re looking a bit shaggy in the back, dear.”

My hand automatically reached for the back of my head and combed the hair it found, out. It did feel longer- maybe a half an inch more than yesterday.

I stopped instantly as I thought about what I just felt. Could it really be true?

“You don’t think…” I paused to take a breath. “That I really am…changing…do you?” I gulped.

“From what I’m seeing this morning, Alex…possibly?” Emily said as she cringed slightly. Her hand went to the back of my head and I felt her fingers comb through my hair.

“It’s definitely longer, honey. It even feels smoother.”

My wife thought for a minute.

“Come over by the window, dear. I want to see something.” She said as she took my hand and began to pull me.

She stopped me a few feet from the window and opened the curtains a little to let more sunlight in. Moving between the window and me, she began her appraisal, paying close attention to my hair.

She grimaced once again.

“What? What’s wrong?” I asked as Emily’s expression turned sad.

“Your hair isn’t just longer, Alex, it’s lighter in color too.”

“You have got to be kidding me!” I grumbled in disbelief.

“Honey, there’s almost no gray left up there. It’s like the grays are changing to a dark blonde.”

“Like Alexandra’s?” I gasped.

Emily nodded slowly a few times. “Like the Empress’.”

“This is crazy!” I shouted and smacked my fist down on our dresser as I passed it. “Ouch!” I exclaimed as it came into contact with something sharp. “Great! That’s just great!” I groused, observing a new cut in the fleshy part of my right palm. Already blood was appearing from it.

“What did you do?” Emily asked as she hurried over and grabbed my arm. Looking at the injury quickly, she looked into my eyes. “That was very out of character for you, dear. Don’t worry though; I’ll take care of it.” She said as she quickly kissed my self-inflicted wound.

“There, kissed it all better, dear.”

“I’m not six years old, Emily.” I said flatly.

“No, but I fixed it for you just the same. See, it…it already stopped bleeding?”

We both stared at my hand and watched in astonishment as the wound started to slowly disappear!

“Wow! I wish I could do that, Alex!”

“It shouldn’t have done that, Emily! There is no way it should heal that fast! It isn’t normal!” I cried in fear.

“And your broken legs’ healing completely in only six days was, Alex?”

“I wish I could repair myself like that! Maybe we could have been parents if I could have…” Emily said sadly as a few tears ran down her cheeks.

“Honey, I’m sorry.” I started, looking into her wonderful green eyes. “I didn’t mean to stir things up again, it’s just that…well…I never expected for this to happen…I don’t want this to happen!” I pulled her to me. “I’d much rather it happened to you! At least you would finally be…um, feel whole again.”

We held each other for a few minutes before Emily broke our embrace.

“I have to get ready for work, dear. Why don’t you go back to bed for another hour or two?”

“I’d rather get up. I’ll fix us some breakfast and coffee then maybe I’ll go for a morning run. I haven’t done that since…”

“Okay. Fine, you fix breakfast while I get ready! I don’t want you pushing yourself too hard! Do you understand me, Alexander Fredrick Steinert?”

“Yes, ma’am! Don’t overdo it.” I laughed as I stood to attention.

She gave me a strange look before walking into our bathroom.
 
 

“It smells good down here, Alex. Are those pancakes I smell?” Emily asked as she entered our kitchen.

“I thought I’d do something special for my wonderful wife.”

“Are you sure you feel okay, Alex? I didn’t think you liked pancakes that much.” Emily asked as I placed a steaming stack in front of her along with a bottle of syrup. I spun around and fetched the margarine from the fridge and placed it next to the maple syrup.

“I told you I feel fine, Emily. Just because I made pancakes doesn’t mean I’ve suddenly become a different person!”

“Maybe not, but it seems strange that you would make something that we haven’t had in months.” My wife accused. “And just when did you start wearing an apron when you cook? I didn’t think you knew how to make anything other than pizza, hamburgers, or tacos.”

“I always knew how, Em! You just cook better than me.” I answered before turning my attention back to the hot skillet.

“These are good!” Emily commented upon taking her first bite.

“Thank you. I’m glad y’all like ‘em.” I responded.

“Are you going to eat, Alex?”

“After I’m done cooking; I don’t want you to be late.”

“I won’t be late, dear. I have plenty of time.

A funny feeling came over me as I worried she just might be anyway.

“I know. You’ll get there with four minute to spare. You might want to turn off at Stephens and take Boggs to get around the accident though.”

“What did you just say?” Emily was staring at me intently now. Her fork had somehow dropped and bounced on her plate.

“I said you’ll get there in plenty of time, just watch the accident on twelfth. What did you think I said?”

“How could you possibly know about some accident when neither of us has watched the news this morning, Alex?”

“I…”

I didn’t know! How did I know that? Looking down at the floor, I wondered. Was I really changing? That much?

“Maybe Alexandra Reilly will show up so we can get some answers, Alex. She told us about the changes, remember?”

“I’m not even sure she’s still here, Emily. We haven’t seen any evidence of her in almost two weeks. I mean…where is she staying? Why hasn’t she been in contact with us?” I told her.

“She did say she traveled through time, dear. Maybe she just jumped ahead in time.”

“I still don’t believe it!” I exclaimed.

Emily retrieved her purse. Digging through it, she produced her compact.

“Then maybe you’ll believe this.” She said as she held the mirror in front of me.

I was flabbergasted! “I look like I’m still in high school.” I muttered.

“Convinced yet, honey? Mirrors don’t lie! You look just like you did in our wedding pictures! Now do you believe, Alex Steinert?” Emily taunted.

“Stop it!” I shouted. “Stop this insanity, Emily! I am not becoming this Empress! I refuse to even talk anymore on the subject!” I ranted, slamming down my fist on the table.

It went right through it! I quickly caught my balance and stared at my still clinched fist.

“How…”

“How indeed, Alexander.” A woman’s voice said from behind us- over by the stove.

“Empress!” Emily gasped in surprise.

“Hello, sister. He’s still as stubborn as I remember?” She asked, greeting my wife. I found it strange she referred to Emily as her ‘sister’.

“Emily, Alex was indeed correct in his foresight. There will be a multi-vehicular involvement along your normal transit route. A detour is advised.”

“Thank you, Empress.” Emily bowed slightly to this woman that just…just…appeared in our kitchen. “I will be leaving for work now. Make sure Alex doesn’t go traveling to another world on his own, okay?”

“That will not happen until her gift has reached full maturity, sis.”

“Her? I’m not there yet, hun!” I growled. “I still got a good bit to go!”

“Not for long.” Reilly muttered quietly as she raised one eyebrow to me.

“Will it happen that quickly, Empress?” My wife asked, egging the woman on.

“You saw how fast his body repaired itself earlier. The Nanos have reached optimum concentration, sis. They’re just waiting for the proper trigger now.”

“There’s a trigger? What is it so I can keep my husband longer, Empress?” Emily asked sounding excited.

“Normally within eight hours of receiving the trigger the transformation is complete” The Empress lowered her head and her voice.

“Tell me what the trigger is, Empress, I beg you! Let me keep my husband a while longer…please?”

Reilly stayed motionless for a moment with her eyes closed.

“I’m afraid I’m mistaken, sis! The trigger has already been encountered! The nanos deposited by our sister, Alexandra’s, arrival have been activated prematurely. There is no stopping the Mahanilui.”

“But you said…”

“Look, ah had no design parameters to account for Gamma radiation bursts while immersed in a temporal stream!” Alexandra Reilly growled out in anger.

Emily and I both stared at her as we tried to make sense of what she had just said.

I suddenly felt lightheaded and closed my eyes for a second hoping it would pass.

Opening them back up, I stared into my wife’s sad face.

“What’s the matter?” I asked as she slowly shook her head.

“What do you mean ‘what’s the matter’? Don’t you remember what you just said?” Emily asked as she sniffed back a few tears. She wiped them from her face as she waited for me to answer.

“I didn’t say anything, honey! I felt a little lightheaded and closed my eyes for a second. How much could I possibly say in just a second?” I objected.

“Alex, we’ve been talking to you for five whole minutes!”

“Emily, we were talking to our sister, Alexandra, for five whole minutes.” Alex Reilly interrupted.

“What am I- possessed?” I asked in astonishment.

“Um…sort of…not really.” Reilly admitted with a tense sort of smile. “Remember how your science teacher claimed that two bodies can’t occupy the same space at the same time?” Alex Reilly waited for our answer- none came.

“Alexandra Steinert has again broken the laws of physics and found a way to do just that! I believe her mind and your mind, Alexander, now occupy the same space. It could be years before I would venture to hypothesize any viable theory on this phenomenon.” Reilly suddenly looked at my wife.

“Emily, if you are to arrive at work at the desired time, you must leave now. Today is a pivotal day in your career and you must attend both meetings in order to continue this time stream. I will take good care of our sister, I assure you.” She told her.

“I will now go retrieve our sisters from the hospital two weeks ago while you bid your husband goodbye.”

“You mean HE won’t be here when I return tonight?” Emily cried in despair.

“What? No. Is it not customary to kiss goodbye before leaving for employment?”

“Well…yes.”

“Then I’ll leave y’all some privacy so y’all kin kiss, hun! Or would y’all like me ta stay an’ watch?”

“We’ll take the few minutes, ma’am.” I answered as I took Emily into my arms.

I didn’t see the Empress disappear.

“Will you be okay, Alex? I’m worried that you just might be gone when I come home tonight.” Emily asked, as she looked deep into my eyes.

“I’ll do my best to wait for you, dear. What did the other Alex say before anyway?”

“She said she was sorry for causing all these problems. She said she never intended to hurt you or us. Alex, I know this sounds strange, but I feel sorry for her! She seems like such a nice woman.”

“Did you think to tell her I want my body back- that I don’t want to become a woman?”

“She claims she doesn’t know how she got here or why she can’t leave, honey. I suspect she holds herself responsible for everything that has happened- both here and in her own universe.”

“So you tell her it’s not her fault and to just go home!”

“It’s not so cut and dry, Alex!” Emily growled at me. “She holds herself personally responsible. She has to forgive herself! It’s not that easy!”

“Why not?”

“I guess you’ll have to figure that out too, Alex! I’ll see you tonight, dear.” Emily said cryptically as she kissed my cheek and turned for the door. Had I missed something?

I watched as Emily’s car backed out of our driveway. I waved from our front door as she drove out of sight.

It was only seven-thirty. I decided that another cup of coffee was needed and headed back to the kitchen.

“Good morning, Alexander.”

“Hi, mom.”

“Hello Empress.”

“Greetings, Mr. Steinert.”

It is good to see you again, director. Well, sort of, I guess…but you aren’t really the director are you…not yet, anywa…”

“Cami!” Five women chorused.

“What! It’s been a long day and we haven’t had anything to eat in a while. I’m not thinking correctly.”

“Six plates of hot cakes coming right up. It’s going to take a little time though, ladies.” I said as I placed my plate of four in front of the one called Camille. “Eat up, sweetheart.”

I spent the next half hour cooking for six strange women that just appeared in my kitchen. Another half hour was used to convince ‘Alexandra’ Steinert to return home. I remembered it all, so apparently she never made an appearance.
 
 

My doorbell rang at nine sharp.

Checking the peephole, I saw young Constance Cummins standing outside the front door. She had a sullen look on her face as if she really didn’t want to be here!

Why was she at my door? I didn’t think I had ever given Jack my home address.

Her face immediately went from sullen to cheery as I opened the door.

“Oh…um…hi,” She said in a very shy, but cheerful voice, “Is your dad home?”

“I’m Alexander Steinert, Constance. What brings you to my door?” I asked in annoyance.

“Oh…hi, Mr. Steinert, can I come in, please?” She responded looking suddenly dejected.

“Aren’t you supposed to be in counseling, Connie?” I asked as the young, formerly rebellious girl smiled at me nervously.

“I…I kinda felt like I needed to be here, sir- like it had something to do with my future!”

“Ah…Back to the Future 3. I get it.” I replied rolling my eyes.

“What’s that?” She asked innocently.

“Come on in, Constance Cummins, we’ve been expecting you.” Alex Reilly called from the kitchen, as I was about to explain.

I silently dropped my hand from the door, moved aside, and gestured for her to come in.
 
 

“I came as soon as I could, Empress.” Connie said as we walked into the room. She stared at the other women enjoying the fruits of my labor.

“Here,” I said as I handed her a plate with the three leftover hot cakes that I had just microwaved to warm back up.

Her smile was thanks enough as the one called Samantha stood and offered her a seat at the table.

“I guess your base character is the same in any universe, huh, mom?” Samantha said politely.

“Ma and Pa made sure Brian and I were taught never to turn anyone away hungry.”

“Mr. Steinert, you’ve changed a lot since I saw you last.” Connie said between forkfuls. “You look like you’re about my age now.”

“I’m still forty-eight, hun- despite my appearance- so no funny stuff.” I warned.

Thinking about that fact for a moment, I wondered if I should ask the supposed authority in the room.

“So how long do I have, ma’am?” I turned to Alex Reilly.

“That depends on Alexandra, Alex. If she stays locked inside that thick head you now share, a few days at most. If she comes to her senses, forgives herself, and leaves quickly, you will be the reigning Empress of this universe in under two weeks.”

“So I have no choice?” I asked, summing it up in one sentence.

“We always have choices, hun. What exactly we choose defines our future. From personal experience, being the Empress isn’t so bad though, Alex. The things we will see and do are simply mind-boggling!”

“Mom, the people that the Empress meets and helps number in the thousands. I have the pictures to prove it.” Samantha took a turn to respond.

“Mother, we meet our husbands because of you. None of that would happen if you hadn’t become her.” Cassandra continued.

“I wouldn’t have realized my gift had you not come to Reilly, Alex Steinert. I certainly wouldn’t have my precious daughter right now.” Camille said as she looked lovingly to Cassiopeia.

“The continuance of those residing on Terra stood no chance as a species if you hadn’t come, M’lady.” Cassiopeia added as she bowed her head.

“I certainly wouldn’t be here now, Empress. Because of you I have been given a second chance- a chance to atone for my former life- the chance to start anew- to have a real family.” The one called Alusia wiped a tear from her eye as she paused a second. “A chance to know love, friendship, and kindness.”

“You’re forgetting that I’m not Alexandra.” I reminded them. “Not yet, anyway.” I added in a whisper as I looked away from them and down at myself. Despite having just eaten, my pants felt looser than when I put them on this morning and my belt was already in the last hole.

“Y’all are such a hardhead, Alexandra Steinert! Jus forgive yerself an fig’er out how ta get you an’ Connie home so ah kin get some shut-eye! Damn yer stub’ern, woman!” Alex Reilly shouted out in annoyance.

“Aunt Alex, how long has it been since you slept?” Samantha asked after the outburst.

Reilly thought for a moment. “Near as ah kin tell, ‘bout thirty-six hours, Sam.”

“I can confirm that, Sam. She hasn’t reclined in well over thirty-six hours. The director shows signs of extreme fatigue and requires a rest cycle.” Camille said as she lifted Alex Reilly’s collar to reveal a small red indicator flashing at a very rapid rate.

“I ain’t gonna rest til mah sister’s safe at home!”

Why did I feel a tear run down my face? Was it from the loyalty these women were showing for their leader? Dedication? Friendship?

“Look, all of you can crash here if you’d like. I’m sure Emily would insist that you stay though we only have one spare bedroom and a home office with a futon. I’ll just text her and let her know you all will be here.” I suggested.

“You would open your home to six unknown women without a thought?” Alusia questioned.

“It’s called hospitality, sweetheart. Something you never learned in Poland the first time around.” I said and immediately looked around for the source of my last sentence!

The young woman’s face fell then perked up into a smile!

“Why did I say that?” I asked no one in particular.

“You didn’t, Alexander.” Alex Reilly smiled to me. “I would like to rest now, Mr. Steinert.”

“This way.” I said in confusion and led her upstairs to our spare bedroom.

“I’m sorry for the pastel pink on the walls, ma’am, I hope you don’t mind. We were hoping to fill this room before Emily found out she…” I paused to push that memory back.

“The bed isn’t the most comfortable- I prefer something harder, myself.” I told her. “I usually fix lunch around twelve-thirty when I work from home. Don’t feel obligated- I’d rather you get some rest. Dinner will be…” I thought about tonight’s meal and it’s time. “Baked salmon, rice pilaf, and Garlic roasted potatoes at six o’clock. Don’t worry, I’ll have plenty for everyone, ma’am.”

“Y’all are learnin’ ta use yer gift, Alex- ah’m impressed. Now all’s Alexandra needs to do is r’lize she needs ta go home.”

“Ma’am, you really should get some rest now. You’re starting to sound like someone from the eastern shore of the Mississippi.” I suggested gently.

“Oak Ridge, Missoura is west of the mighty miss, hun!”

“I know that. I was born there.”

“And I know almost everything you know, hun.” She said before a big yawn escaped her mouth.

I was taken by surprise when her white naval uniform suddenly changed into a pair of flannel pajamas! These people certainly had some fantastic technology!

“Sleep tight, Empress.” I told her quietly as I pulled down the covers and waited for the mysterious woman to lie down before pulling them back up.
 
 

“Your Empress fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.” I announced as I reached the first floor. “Why is she pushing herself so hard?”

“We’d all do it for you mom- every last one of us- without question.” Samantha answered.

“Could you not call me ‘Mom’ please? I already have a lot on my mind and that term crosses the line.” I advised. “We really don’t need to rush things.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t help see the similarities between you and our mom, Alexander. Because of the Empress, we’ve already met you. I guess some things could be called constants in any dimension or any of the known universes.”

I stared at her for a minute or two trying to comprehend her statement. I always had trouble with books and movies that employed the whole time travel, paradox thing.

“If anyone else would like to rest, I could pull out the futon up in the office.” I offered after I decided to step away from that subject.

“You’ll get the hang of it in time, Alex. You seem to be, as you define it, a fast learner. When your gift develops completely you’ll see.” Camille reassured me.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to be reassured just now!

“You’ll do fine and I’m just returning the favor, Alex.” She giggled.

“Did you just read my mind?” I asked in alarm realizing that I hadn’t said a word to the woman.

‘Of course I did, Alex.’ I heard as she smiled at me. Her mouth never formed a word.

“Do you always…um…invade her privacy, Camille?” I asked out of curiosity.

“I wouldn’t be a good assistant if I couldn’t anticipate what you asked of me, Alex.”

“Mr. Steinert, I’m sorry for whatever I did, sir.” Connie Cummins said suddenly out of the blue.

“It wasn’t you, hun, I shouldn’t have asked everyone to keep such important details from you.” I heard myself say. I had no idea why I said it though as I’d been thinking of asking her how she liked my pancakes!

“Empress?” She asked tilting her head at me.

“I’m sorry. I must be getting tired too. For the life of me, I can’t understand why I just said that, Constance.”

“Maybe we’re finally breaking through, mom.” Cassandra giggled.

I glared at the woman.

“Or not.” She added flatly as her smile deflated.

Cassandra then walked over to me and stared into my eyes. I felt that if I closed them or looked away she would somehow hurt me!

‘She’s not the one you have to worry about hurting you, Alex.’ I heard Camille say. I really wasn’t sure anyone else heard her though.

“Why do you have to be so damn stubborn, mom?” Cassandra said, bringing my attention back to those beautiful green eyes still staring deeply into my soul.

I gulped hard as I blinked!

“OOOOHH!” Cassandra growled in exasperation.

“How’s it feel to get it right back, big sis?” Samantha asked her sister.

“You really shouldn’t talk, little sister!”

“Perhaps I can reach the Empress.” Alusia suggested as she stepped up to me. The girl barely made it to my shoulders and so she had to look up at an uncomfortable angle.

“How about I sit down to make it easier on you, sweetheart?” I asked looking around to find a seat on the living room furniture.

“Thank you, Empress that is most kind of you.”

“So…what do you intend to do- Vulcan mind-meld, Jedi mind trick?” I reappraised her and suddenly noticed her Mediterranean traits. “Maybe Tarot cards or a Crystal ball?”

“Please do not make light of my Egyptian heritage, Empress. I happen to owe quite a bit to Pharaoh and his family. He values his grandnephew and nieces as would any other family patriarch.”

“Pharaoh?” I asked in surprise.

“Alusia is joined with the nephew of Pharaoh Khufu, Alex. She has two children waiting for her back home in Memphis.” Camille informed me with some attitude- as if having done it many times.

“Three, Camille. Little Lusius will be two this…” She paused as if thinking, “This January.”

“Memphis? As in Memphis, Egypt?”

“Duh! That’s why you’re called the Empress of Space and Time, mom!” Cassie clucked sarcastically.

I gave her a stern glare!

“Oh ya, I know that look!” She giggled.

I continued my glare for a minute more before looking back to the petite, black -haired, beauty standing in front of me.

“So…what are you going to do, honey?”

“I am going to try using the special communication link between us to contact Alexandra Steinert. By establishing and holding that link open we were successful in locating you in this universe. It just requires concentration on my part. You may just sit and relax.” She told me with a nervous smile.

“Okay, let ‘er rip!” I said, shrugging my shoulders.

Her eyes closed and her face began to flush as she concentrated on…whatever.

Suddenly images of places I had only seen in World War Two documentaries began flashing in my mind! Men dressed in Nazi uniforms, Old German Army trucks, and some mysterious looking cavern with what looked like a space capsule at its center!

More pictures flashed into my mind: What looked like refugees being herded into dreary looking buildings; more Nazis; the inside of some futuristic looking control room; a blonde man grabbing at his throat as if being choked around the neck!

An image of a full on nuclear explosion then filled my mind- complete with deafening surround sound!

Alusia seemed to stagger as that last image appeared!

“Empress, you do not play fair!” She said wagging her finger at me. “I am only trying to help. Please allow me to help you mistress- like you helped me so many years ago.”

“Honest, I didn’t do anything, ma’am! Where did all of that come from? Was she really back in 1940’s Poland?” I asked in confusion.

“That is where I was originally from, yes. The Empress and her companions arrived at the secret research base where I thought I was helping the Germans develop fantastic new weapons to defeat the Allies.”

“You’re a Nazi?” I said in alarm.

“No…I was forced to work for them.”

“From what I remember, you wanted to kill us, hun!” I blurted out as my hand instantly came up to cover my mouth.

Alusia stared at me on the verge of tears.

“I’m sorry for that outburst!” I apologized. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately.”

“May I try again, Empress?” Alusia asked politely.

“I’m not the one stoppin’ you, sweetheart. Try as much as y’all like- I won’t fight you.” I said smiling at her.

“Cami could you and Cassi assist me, please?” She asked her two sisters.

“Hey, if you want to bit-bang into that head of hers, you need everyone’s help, honey!” Cassandra said as she and Samantha joined hands with the string of three other women. “You’ll need all the power we got to get through that Steinert stubbornness!”

I noticed Constance join hands also.

Thank you, sisters! Empress, I will now try again. Do not be afraid.”

Images again filled my mind. Images of a building- a research building. The machinery housed there was fantastic! Women of every nationality and size walked along its halls! Camille and Alusia’s faces appeared. Alusia seemed to be floating and grasping at her throat as in the images I saw before!

Pain filled my mind! Intense, focused pain! Pain that radiated through my whole body! Twice I felt it! It felt like I had died!

Images of a desert faded in as the others faded out. All around me the desert was filled with people looking for something- waiting for something. Samantha and Cassandra appeared. I suddenly felt warmth fill me- a feeling of extreme pride and loving respect. Ma and Pa were suddenly there too! Another woman that could have been a younger sister of mine appeared with them! Brie. Brie was her name! I suddenly missed my sister!

A woman that looked similar to Constance appeared, dressed in an old naval uniform! She pointed to a submarine. It looked brand new. On the ship…boat, women waited on its deck watching me…watching me! Once again I felt filled with pride- pride in my crew!

Another woman entered my mind! This one looking like Samantha and Cassandra’s younger sister. She wore a long, tight, golden dress and had her hair pinned up with chopsticks in some exotic looking up do.

Again the feeling of pride overwhelmed me!

Connie appeared dressed in a similar looking, long silver dress. She had tears in her eyes and looked to have been crying for a while. She held her hands out to me as if calling me to her

She looked so distraught!

The scenery changed around the two of us, becoming barren and inhospitable.

Connie’s face became angry.

It felt as if the very air around us became filled with static electricity! Small sparks of light began to appear around us! The very earth we stood on began to vibrate then shake! Connie began to glow!

The small sparks began building and dancing around us faster and more furious as the ground shook harder! Connie began to glow brighter and more intense! I started to fear for this woman- her power, I felt, becoming unstable.

The sunlight from overhead began to dim until Connie was the sole light source now, yet she only became brighter! I could feel the heat- the pure energy building in her!

There was a flash of intense, blinding light and everything went dark for a second.

“Alex? Alex, honey can you hear me? It’s Emily, Alex. Come back to us dear, please come back?”

I opened my eyes to see our bedroom. Seven beautiful women stood around me looking very concerned. Was I in heaven?

“Welcome back, Alex. A strange but familiar voice greeted as I blinked my eyes a few times.

“How…” My throat felt dry. It cracked as I spoke. “How did I get here? Last thing I remember, I was sitting on the couch and this woman…um… was trying to…um…” I reached up and rubbed my forehead. “What was she doing again?” I asked drawing a complete blank.

“Great, she hit the reset button again!” A woman looking like Emily’s sister sighed and shook her head.

I didn’t understand what that meant and I think I stared at her for a minute.

“Alex, are you okay? I mean…can you move everything alright?” Emily asked from my close right.

“Ya, I can move everything. Why wouldn’t I?” Again my voice cracked as I spoke.

“What’s wrong with my voice? Why y’all lookin’ at me that way?” I asked seeing all the long faces.

“Alex, you’ve been out for two days.” My wife informed me.

“Two days? How…Why…” I again rubbed my head. “What?” I tried to sit up and suddenly felt strange. Things felt wrong. Without hesitation, I began looking at my hands.

They looked different.

“Alex, you’ve changed some more.” Emily told me sadly. She began to cry.

“Mirror!” I demanded as I fought to swing my legs out from under the sheets.

Emily and that strange woman- Alexandra Reilly I think was her name- helped me to my feet then walked me over to the full size mirror by our bedroom door. Even walking felt strange! Had I only been out for two days and not longer?

I was now almost the same height as Emily…and, I noted, the same exact height as Alexandra Reilly. My hair was almost down to my collar and now matched the strange woman standing beside me. I looked like a sophomore in high school!

My knees went slack and I felt two arms stiffen to hold me up.

“Let’s get her back on the bed, Emily.” Alex Reilly suggested.

“Her?” I shrieked. My hands immediately went south to investigate.

I sighed in triumph. It was still there.

Sort of.

I started to cry.
 
 

I don’t know how long I cried, but Constance Cummins suddenly appeared at the door.

“Excuse me, but can any of you tell me why or how I got here?”

Everyone turned to look.

“Oh, hi Mrs. Steinert. Is this your house?” Constance asked looking very confused.

“Um…how did I get here, ma’am?” She asked innocently again, rubbing her head several times.

“From what I’ve been told you arrived here two days ago, Constance. Your mom and dad have been informed and will be here after work. You’ve been unconscious in the spare room since then, sweetie.

Alexandra Reilly turned back to me looking very sad.

“Sis, this can’t go on much longer. Irreparable damage may result if the hosts continue to be forcibly reset internally. Look at the damage already done to this Alexander Steinert!” She pulled out her compact mirror and held it before me.

“Mr. Steinert, is that you?” Connie asked as she stared in my direction. “You look almost like Mrs. Steinert’s sister! Or like Alex Reilly’s twin!”

“Don’t remind me, hun.” I groused, unable to stop admiring myself in the small mirror.

“Your voice has changed too.” She added.

I shook my head a few times and for some reason started to cry again!

“Mrs. Steinert, did you color your hair or something? It looks nice.” I heard Connie ask of my wife.

“No sweetie, I haven’t done a thing but wash and brush it, why?”

“You look younger, ma’am.” I heard her say.

I immediately looked up at my wife- really looked at her.

“You did color your hair!” I exclaimed.

Alex Reilly closed her eyes momentarily and sighed.

“No I didn’t! I haven’t colored my hair in four years, Alex- you know that!” Emily protested.

Emily and I instantly glared at Alex Reilly.

Again she closed her eyes and sighed.

“Emily, if you could lend some clothes to Alex then we can talk down in the living room. Ladies, let’s give them some privacy.” She said as she stood up and motioned for everyone but Emily to follow.

“Why would you need to lend me some clothes? My pajamas seem to fit fine again.”

“Alex those are a pair of my sleep pants and its matching top you have on.” She said quietly.

“Empress, what are your sizes?” Emily asked before Alex Reilly left the room. I instinctively closed my eyes and hopefully my ears so as not to hear.

On opening them both women, my wife and Alex Reilly, were staring at me!

I gulped.

“Oh, Alex,” she sniffed, “you’re a perfect junior’s size eleven-twelve.”

“Okay…so? So what’s wrong with what I have on?”

“You need other things, Alex. You can’t walk around in my PJ’s all day.” My wife looked down at the floor. “Besides, you need underwear that fits: socks, panties, bra…”

“WHAT?” I shouted then quickly pulled the top of my shirt out and looked down.

“Shit.”

“It’s not that bad, dear. You’ll get use to them.”

I stared at my wife for some time as she opened a few drawers and placed some of her things beside me. I couldn’t believe I had changed so much!
 
 

With my wife’s help, patience, and perseverance, we finally arrived downstairs.

“You look nice, Alex.” Alex Reilly complimented as we reached the bottom of the stairs.

“I feel like a freak.” I grumbled. I dared not make eye contact with anyone in the room.

Emily guided me over to the loveseat and helped me sit down.

“So, I’ve been infected also?” She asked as I just stared at the floor in front of me.

“What makes you think this is an infection, Emily?” Alex Reilly asked my wife.

There was a long pause.

“I’m…I’m not sure. I just…just feel that it…it might become that.” Emily stuttered out her answer.

“Alex, I think you look cute. You should be proud to be the Empress.” Alusia, I think her name was, said as she walked over and touched my shoulder gently. “If it’s any consolation, I know exactly how you feel.”

“You feel it is an infection?” Alex Reilly prompted my wife. “Do you have any experience in medicine, sister?”

“I once wanted to be a nurse, Empress. I work at a medical equipment company. Does that count?”

“Emily Scott-Steinert, do you know the occupation of your counterpart in our universe?”

“According to that strange Sci-Fantasy, a doctor, Empress.”

“Can you guess her gift, hun?” Reilly pressed further.

Emily closed her eyes for a moment. “A medical forecaster?” She asked, unsure of her answer.

“Alexandra Steinert’s sister Emily is indeed a medical seer, sister- though she shares the family penchant for phasing- something she has not realized yet.”

“Aunt Emily can phase?” The one I think was called Cassandra choked out.

“Like we can?” Her sister, Samantha gasped.

“As can all members of the royal family- whether they realize it or not.” Reilly confessed.

“Billie Sangiere too, Aunt Alex?” Samantha asked excitedly.

“Yes, but no one here shall reveal anything they have heard to her! Our sisters must discover their hidden talents all on their own.” Alex Reilly answered at a lower volume.

“So I can disappear like you, Empress?” Emily asked with the excitement of a child!

“Once developed, yes.”

“I’d like to disappear right about now.” I grumbled to myself.

“Empress!” Alusia whispered conspiratorially as she stood next to me.

I looked up to her wondering why she was pointing to me.

“Oh my God, where did Alex go?” Emily cried in alarm!

“I’m still right here, dear.” I replied in annoyance. I wasn’t clear on what sort of game they had planned for me.

“Empress, where did my husband go? What did you do with him?” She continued to cry out in alarm.

“I said I’m right here, Em.” I said louder as I waved my hand vigorously.

No one flinched or even paid attention!

“I’m right here next to Alusia!” I shouted and waved my hand at her.

It went right through her!

I gasped in fright! What was going on? What was wrong with me?

“Alexander, before you lose consciousness, I suggest you think about rephasing back into this reality, hun.” Alex Reilly recommended calmly. She and her ‘sisters’ appeared totally unconcerned.

“He can do that, Empress?” Emily questioned.

“We’re lucky she only thought about disappearing and not going back to before this all happened.” Alex said casually.

“Why? What would happen then?” My wife asked.

“Nothing would change. Nothing at all. The Empress would still arrive in this universe and you would still become sisters, Emily. Alex, you can rephase now, hun, you’ve proven your gift has activated. Cami, be a dear and turn on the video entertainment display. Channel five point one, please.”

Did I really want to reappear- even if I really could control this? I decided to try and thought about reappearing.

“Ah, welcome back sister.” Alex Reilly said without even looking my way. “I trust you now believe what I have been saying?”

“How did I do that?”

“Every Empress must figure that out for herself, hun. We all do things just a little bit differently.”

“Breaking News this hour from University Memorial Hospital. Here with the story is Reporter Michelle Simonetti. Michelle?”

“Yes, Richard, I’m here in front of University Memorial Hospital where earlier today CDC officials presented a warrant with local police for the arrest and questioning of a Dr. Reilly Reilly. Dr. Reilly is wanted in connection with several disappearances here over the last few weeks and is suspected of conducting unapproved experimental procedures on some of her patients- some of whom are among the missing. Topping the list is seventeen year-old Constance Cummins, a senior at Martin Luther King High School. Ms. Cummins, a recent paraplegic due to a failed suicide attempt disappeared several days ago from her hospital room where she was to undergo psychological appraisal for the attempt.”

“A nurse working at this hospital, one Cynthia Riggby, has also gone missing as has Dr. Reilly herself and three assistants, Biophysics students Cassandra and Samantha Fleming, both relations to the doctor, and Randall Peltierre, a computer technologies student.”

“If anyone has seen Dr. Reilly or any of her associates please call local authorities immediately.”

“Michelle, has there been any sort of discussion about the kinds of experimental procedures Dr. Reilly has been developing?”

“Richard, as of this report the only thing the CDC would say is that potentially infectious organisms are suspected and if not properly disposed of, could be detrimental to the population. That’s all we’ve learned for now.”

“Okay, thanks for that report, Michelle. Keep us up to date.”

“I will. Back to you in the studio, Richard.”

“That was Michelle Simonetti at University Memorial Hospital. Moving along to other local news. FCC authorities are still mystified as to the origins of an underground Fantasy-Drama being broadcast on our sub channel five point four. The FCC is investigating the mysterious program that had blanked our normally broadcast programming for two weeks. Investigators could not comment on observations and theories that the program was recorded locally. Although not pornographic in content, the program conflicted with legally licensed programming scheduled for broadcast in the affected time slots.”

“Today the state house continued to debate the controv…”

The television suddenly turned itself off! And there was a commotion in the kitchen!

“Something sounded like it fell over out there!” I whispered.

Before I could get up, Alex Reilly raised her hand to stop any movement.

“Cami, please bring our intruder to us.” She said calmly.

“Put me down!” A woman’s voice screamed.

A disheveled Dr. Reilly floated into the living room about a foot off the floor. She was fighting and kicking at the air trying to get away.

“Let me go! I’m innocent! I didn’t kill anyone!” She continued to shout.

“Come join the party, Dr. Reilly.” Alex Reilly said with a devious smile.

The doctor continued to fight the unseen force holding her and suddenly went horizontal, rising another two feet in the air!

“Come now Reilly, we won’t hurt you. You entered this house uninvited and not the other way around. Refrain from your attempts at escape and tell us what has happened.”

“Mother!” Dr. Reilly hissed. “I should have known you were behind this! I demand you let me go from whatever is holding me here!” She screamed in anger.

“Child, as I have stated before, I am not your mother. I am Alexandra Reilly, Empress of Space and Time. My friends and I hail from three universes away. Now please curb that anger and let’s talk rationally before my two Mind Warriors decide to get playful.” Alex said, continuing to smile deviously. She winked at the stranded doctor.

“Mind Warrior? What is that?” She growled.

“Do you really wish to find out, hun? Really?”

“Dr. Reilly, you really should listen to her- after all, you did break into our house.” I tried to reason with the angry woman.

“Who are you? I thought this was Alexander and Emily Steinert’s house!”

“I am Alexander Steinert, doctor. I just look a little…um…different…thanks to your Gamma Exciter Experiment!” I said trying to sound upset and imposing.

It didn’t sound anything like I wanted it to.

“You’re just a girl! Where is Mr. Steinert? I will explain myself only to him!” She shouted.

“Dr. Reilly, you will treat my husband with the respect he deserves!” Emily stood and approached our hovering guest.

“Mrs. Steinert? But…I thought you weren’t part of this…”

“Apparently I am now, doctor! I’ve been infected as well!” My wife told her. Then she said something I didn’t expect.

“Dr. Reilly, you should slow your heartbeat down; it is now reaching one hundred-eighty beats per minute! The human heart cannot withstand that stress for very long. Cardiac arrest will follow shortly if that cadence is continued! Also your blood pressure has skyrocketed! A stroke is not out of the question if you insist on fighting Camille.” She said with her eyes closed tightly.

“Cassandra, would you be a dear and take Reilly’s hand? That way she will hang around with us long enough to explain what has happened to her.” Alex Reilly requested casually.

“If you think it would help, Aunt Alex.”

“You should be able to counter her gift with your own, hun.”

Dr. Reilly stopped fidgeting instantly.

“Counter what gift? What have you done to me?” She demanded.

“The explanation will arrive in the proper sequence, my dear. Right now, I ask for your patience and full attention.” Alex‘s smile still looked very ominous! “Cami, you can let her down now- gently.”

“I’ve established a restrictive acoustic shield around the room’s perimeter, Empress.” Cami said as Dr. Reilly slowly became upright and gently settled to the floor.

“What’s that?” Dr. Reilly asked, still partly terrified.

“An acoustic shield is one that restricts sound vibrations from escaping the confined area. The restrictive portion is so you don’t go anywhere, doctor.” Cami informed her.

“Alex, I believe you want to ask the first question?” Alexandra Reilly prompted.

I nodded, but held up a finger indicating I wanted a delay. I posed the question ‘what was Dr. Reilly doing in my house and how did she get in here unseen’, in my mind?

It was amazing how asking the right questions can make all the difference!

“Alex, we’re waiting, hun.” Alex Reilly coaxed.

“Why are you in our house, doctor?”

“I needed a place to go! The cops and the CDC are looking for me! I figured out of anyone, you two would understand. This seemed to be the safest place for me since I became a freak!”

“So how did you get in? All the doors and windows are locked.” Emily asked- a little upset.

Dr. Reilly Reilly turned bright red!

“I…I just passed right through the front door. I…I know that sounds crazy, I mean I had every intention of just knocking, but when I did my fist went right through the door…as…as if it weren’t there at all! I know…I should be committed.” She said shaking her head in shame.

I decided to try out my newfound ‘gift’ as Alex Reilly called it. I thought about disappearing.

My hand passed right through the arm of the couch. Cool!

“Can anyone hear me?” I shouted as I walked over beside Dr. Reilly.

“I don’t think you’re crazy, ma’am.” I said after I thought about reappearing.

Cassandra and Dr. Reilly both jumped!

“Mother, I wish you would stop doing that!” Cassandra hissed.

“Mother?” Reilly looked first at me then at Cassandra Fleming. “How did you do that?”

“The same way you did apparently, doctor.” I said, staring at her with a slight, satisfied smile.

“Dr. Reilly, can I ask where your three associates are and their status?” Alex Reilly asked interrupting the staring session Doc Reilly and I had going on.

She thought about the question for a while.

“I really don’t know, ma’am. One minute we were all arguing about what we should do, the next, my cousins and Randall had disappeared!”

“Is that all the information you have, hun?” Alex asked as she stood up and stared into the doctor’s eyes intensely.

“We ran blood tests on ourselves. We all had the same nanos, as you called them actively multiplying in our bodies.”

“And?” Alex Reilly pressed.

“Randall has already started to look younger.” She looked at me for a second. “Similar to the way you’ve changed, Mr. Steinert?” She still didn’t sound sure of my identity.

“Cami, drop your shield for a moment, would you, sweetheart?”

“Shield is off, Empress.”

“Sam and Cassie Fleming, the time for hiding is over girls. You and Randi can rematerialize now.” Alex Reilly called out as if knowing exactly where they were hiding.

“Aunt Alex should Sam and I be here too?” The Cassandra Fleming in front of me asked.

“Why not? You have to meet sometime.”

“The high today, in the mid sixties with only a slight chance of a shower further north. Tomorrow…”

“Oh Rodger, how can we expect to avoid the turmoil our relationship cause…”

“Spock, you green-blooded hobgoblin! Jim is out there somewhere dying and all you can say is…”

“Johnny, who’s the next contestant on ‘The Price is Right?’”

“Randall that is quite enough, hun. You and the Fleming sisters re-appear this instant.” Alex Reilly commanded.

Two women and a young androgynous looking man appeared by the stairs.

“Thank you. Please have a seat and we shall answer all your questions as best we can.” She motioned to the floor of the now crowded room.

“How did you know we were here?” One of them asked. She looked exactly like the Cassandra standing next to Dr. Reilly.

“That’s what I keep asking her, honey,” The other Cassie quipped!

“Empress, what are we all going to do now?” Connie asked from across the room. I had almost forgotten she was here.

“Empress, could we maybe move this convention down into the playroom? It’s a bigger space and there’s more seating down there.” I asked before anything else was said.

“Why didn’t I think of that?” Alex Reilly replied as she looked at me and smiled brightly.

What did that mean, I wondered?

“Everyone take hands, please.” She requested. Her companions quickly joined hands and Cassiopeia offered to take Emily’s. Emily offered to take mine and before long everyone was holding at least one other person’s hand.

“Please do not let go until told to do so for your own safety.”

My living room became the basement playroom!

“Everyone look around you! If you find yourself in a piece of furniture or wall move until clear. As long as one hand is still indirectly in contact with me you should be fine.

I stepped forward out of the bar and one of the stools. Emily also took a step forward out of a stool.

“Rephasing in three…two…one. You all may release your hands.” Alex Reilly announced.

Dr. Reilly and her three associates dropped to the floor!

“Weak newbies!” Cassandra Fleming cackled.

I wasn’t feeling so good either, but at least I stayed standing. Emily and I took the opportunity to take the seats closest to Alex Reilly.

“Alex, come here, hun.” Alexandra asked gently.

Emily and I nervously exchanged seats.

“Alex, within the half hour several members of the local social control agency will arrive with documents requesting your detention and allowing investigation of this residence and property. Now might be the time to leave this world and universe.” She suggested.

“Why, what did I do?” I asked.

“You are the carrier. You are patient number zero! In their eyes, you started this whole missing person’s fiasco!”

“How did I start this, Empress?”

“Not you, hun! Alexandra Steinert. My temporal sister is the carrier of the nano infection that has bestowed gifts on you, Emily, and at least these four innocent people.” Alex said as she turned to me and stared deeply into my eyes.

“My revision, you have to stop this now- before it results in these innocents being accused and sentenced to incarceration, or worse…experimentation. Do you really want to hurt them? Do you really intend on cursing them to an extended life of pain and anguish?” Alex asked as she nodded to someone behind me.

She took my hand in hers. I felt a slight tingle as our skin touched. Alex again looked into my eyes.

“You see? It has already gone too far, sister. The one called Alexander is almost gone- replaced by us! Her reign here will be a tempest of controversy and secrecy. Yes, she will protect this universe’s time stream and yes she will do great things, but she will not have the autonomy you or I have enjoyed.”

“You’re no good at bluffing, sister.” I replied without consciously thinking a word of it! “We both know that she will be free to work this time stream just as we do; only it may take a few years longer. I have seen this to be true, Alexandra Reilly.”

Oh God, did that really come out of my mouth?

“So, you stay imprisoned for a reason, Alex? I wasn’t aware that you had decided to develop the Empress in another Universe! If we are the same, why didn’t I foresee this and travel here in your place?”

“It fell to me to inform Constance of her true lineage! The mistake was mine and mine alone! It was for me to remedy!” My mouth continued, as I remained a helpless observer. This was really starting to freak me out!

“So this is all your fault is it, Alex?”

“It’s my cross to bear, Alex! I must pay the price for my miscalculation!”

“So it’s come down to simple mathematics now? Have you forgotten your humanity, sister? How about your compassion, huh? Is that nothing more than a calculation too? Are love, companionship, and friendship just complex algorithms in need of reduction to simpler terms?” She paused.

“Do you remember your misdirected dimensional sister and her spiral into evil despair? Are you satisfied to remake that here, on such fertile, virgin ground?”

“I am not like Bad Alex! Y’all know me better than that, Alex! I was the one that kept the secret! I was the one that bore the ferocity of Constance’s scorn and anger when she found out!”

My eyesight started getting blurry. “I am the one that needs to be held accountable for all the wrong choices I’ve made, and I’m the thief that stole a woman’s pride and confidence as if just another cheap trinket! I deserve everything I get, Empress!”

“That is not true, Alexandra. You once told me that there is good and bad in everyone- that there is no right or wrong side to take. You said it is the decisions we make that count the most. No one is perfect- so you’ve told everyone here at least a dozen times! It’s time for you to forgive yourself and allow the new Empress her very own reign, Alex. Allow her to make her own mistakes so she can learn from them as you and I have done! Please Empress Alexandra, protect this Empress as you have pledged to do over and over again. Pledge to protect her sisters as they initialize their very own sisterhood here, in this universe.” Cami declared before she stopped and took a deep breath.

“Please, Empress, we have outstayed our welcome on this world.”

“Mother, Empress, the law enforcement officials have arrived.” Cassi interrupted.

“What will we do?” I heard Dr. Reilly cry.

I looked around- surprised I had control of me again.

Everyone was staring at me!

“Everyone, join hands!” Alex Reilly commanded.

“Empress, Connie’s parents…they may have been affected also! What will become of them?” I interjected as a vision came into my mind.

“Hun, if this Jack is anything like our Jacquelyn, I pity anyone that shows up at that residence!”

Connie stared at Alex as she took Cassandra’s hand and offered her other to the other Cassandra.

“We’re going to take a short hop through time, ladies. Again hold tight until we’re clear of any objects.”

“Transiting time in three…two…one.” Alex announced.

Our surroundings didn’t change.

“Everyone still clear?” She asked. “Good. Okay, we’re here, y’all can let go now.”

“But we didn’t go anywhere, ma’am.” I informed her.

“Didn’t we?” She winked. “Alex, roughly what time was it when we left? I just happen to know you looked at the clock behind the bar before we joined hands.”

“A little after two, why?” I answered in confusion.

“What time does that clock behind the bar say now, hun?” She asked.

I looked back and read the time for the second time in under a minute. “Eight.” I said before it hit me. I gasped! “It’s eight o’clock already? We just instantly jumped six hours?” I exclaimed.

“That’s why they call it time travel, sis.” She giggled.

“But did you move us back or ahead?”

“Now why would I take us back?”

“And I can do that too?” I asked with a little too much excitement.

Emily, Dr. Reilly, and her three associates stared at me in bewilderment, though I think Emily was just surprised I got so excited.

“No reason you can’t hun.” Alex laughed.

“Cool!”

I remained quiet for a minute.

“So why six hours, ma’am?” I inquired.

“Go back and look for yourself, hun. Just think about the time you want to go back to, the location, and above all remember to stay phased out.”

“So it’s as simple as that? I thought I’d have to sacrifice a chicken or something first!”

“It’s as simple as that, hun. Go ahead and try it- you’ll like it.” Alex Reilly said as she winked- I wasn’t sure to me though.

I stood up and stepped away from everyone.

“Empress, you really should take your Mind Warrior along. There may be trouble if things don’t quite go as you want them to.”

Connie got up, stepped close to me, and took my hand carefully. Looking in my eyes, she gulped.

First I thought about disappearing. I guess I looked just as apprehensive as Connie.

“Very good, Alex.” Alex Reilly said proudly. Emily, the Doctor and her three assistants began looking around the room. “It is always prudent to phase out first. Good travels, Empress.” Alex Reilly smiled brightly.

I began thinking about ‘when’ I wanted to go. I was curious to see what we had bypassed here in those six hours. Going back three hours seemed satisfactory so I concentrated on our house at five o’clock.

The living room instantly appeared!

“Lieutenant, the house seems to be empty. Though it looks like both bedrooms were in use, sir.” A voice said from the stairway.

“Sir, the basement is secure- no one down there either.” Another officer said entering from the kitchen. “You think they kidnapped the Steinert’s, sir?”

“She’s a doctor, Smith. We can’t rule that out, but I find it unlikely. I’m thinking the three are in it together.”

A radio transmission interrupted their conversation.

“Officers need assistance at 1723 Lancaster Court. All available units respond.”

“Gantz to Fields, what’s going on out there?”

“Lt. Gantz, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you, sir!” The voice said over the radio.

“Two-oh-three enroute. ETA five minutes.” Another voice came over with a siren blaring in the background.

“Fields, I want to know what is goin’ on!”

“Lieutenant, all hell is breaking loose here! Things are flying around! Chairs, appliances, lamps…furniture! The whole house seems to be possessed! We need back up!”

“What about the persons of interest?”

“The wife and daughter are just standing there, sir. The Cummins’ daughter looks to be in some kind of red-faced trance. We can’t get near them without being attacked by flying debris!”

Connie tugged on my arm. “Mr. Steinert, I’m they’re daughter. What are they talking about? Who is with my mother?”

“If I were to guess, I’d say your father has been affected just like me.” I said motioning to my body.

“You mean he’s not my dad anymore?” She asked as I felt her grasp tighten.

I shrugged my shoulders. I really didn’t know. An image of a beautiful blonde woman came to mind. The woman looked like Connie’s slightly older sister.

“Hey, where did you two come from? How did you get past the officers at the doors?” The Lieutenant’s voice caught our attention.

“Shit!” Connie and I both gasped! We could be seen!

Two officers approached us from either side.

I quickly wished we were anywhere but here, but focused on Connie’s parents!

The scene instantly changed to one of outright chaos! All around us all types of household goods flew frantically through the air! To our left, three police cars, lights flashing, provided protection for several officers. To our right, a much younger looking Mina and another young woman matching the image in my mind stood wrapped in each other’s arms. The younger woman looked like she was concentrating intensely and had her eyes closed.

“That’s my mom and dad, Mr. Steinert! We have to help them!” Connie cried out.

“I’m not sure I can, Connie. I’d like to, but how can we help them?” I asked, amazed by the crazy scene. My mind instantly filled with images and videos that answered that very question.

“Keep holding on, Connie.” I told the girl, as I started moving toward her parents.

“What are you doing? Are you crazy? Those things will kill us, Alex!” She exclaimed.

A couch flew right through us. Connie’s eyes almost popped out of her head!

“Did…did you see that? How…?”

“We’re slightly out of phase with this reality- or so I’ve been told, Connie. Let’s get your parents out of here.” I nodded to the two standing at the center of the maelstrom.

I felt resistance as we got about five feet from the Cummins’s. It almost felt like some kind of wall.

‘Jack’s protective shield.’ A voice sounding very much like my new one said in my head.

“Connie, I’m going to rephase when we’re right beside them. I want you to grab any bare skin you can, as quickly as you can! I’ll do the same. On three, ready?” I told my companion.

“One second, Alex. I have to give us a little more time.” She said as her face flushed with concentration.

All three police cars flipped over towards us leaving them on their roofs…and the officers in the open. They quickly retreated or hit the pavement!

I was in awe of what I had just witnessed, but quickly recovered! “Three…two…one!”

Each of us reached out with our free hand and grabbed an arm.

The chaotic scene in front of the Cummins house became the tranquility of our local park. I quickly rephased us and released Jack’s arm. Connie released her mother’s arm at the same time.

“Honey, stop.” Mina told her partner. “Somehow we’ve changed locations!”

“What?” The younger woman asked as she suddenly opened her eyes.

“Mom? Daddy?” Connie cried as she quickly tried to draw their attention.

“Constance? How did you do this?” Mina asked as she immediately wrapped her arms around the teen.

“Mom, I didn’t do it, Mr. Steinert did.” She nodded toward me.

“Who did this, honey? I don’t see Alex anywhere.” Jack…I think she was still Jack, said as she looked directly at me.

I shyly waved. “Hi, Jack, Mina. I’m Alex…although I look a little different now.” I blushed. “Somehow I don’t think I’m the only one either.”

“You are Alex Steinert?” Mina asked as she eyed me carefully.

I nodded once. “Ya.” I answered quietly. “Look, we don’t have a lot of time before someone reports four women suddenly appearing in the park so we have to go someplace safe.” I looked around cautiously. “Please take my hands and we’ll go to my house. We should be safe there for a little while.”

“If you are Alex Steinert, why should we take your hand? What would that accomplish, miss?”

“Mina, you have to trust her. Alex is just trying to protect us. Please, do as she asks and take her hand.” Connie pleaded.

A siren in the distance caught our attention. We had been reported.

“Look, I’d rather not be arrested- not that any cell in the world could hold me now, but I promised Connie we would rescue her parents, so if you three want to remain together, you really should take my hands!” I told the Cummins’ sharply.

The siren was getting louder as Jack and Mina cautiously joined hands with us. I thought about what time it was when we left the playroom.

The peaceful park became my basement playroom. Everyone was still looking at two people standing near the center of the room. Connie and I! We were still here!

We suddenly disappeared!

“Very good, Alex.” Alex Reilly proudly repeated. As before, Emily, the Doctor and her three assistants began looking around the room. “It is always prudent to phase out first. Good travels, Empress.” Alex Reilly smiled brightly again staring right at me. It was like we were seeing ourselves from a different vantage point- as if we were also observers. The movie ’Groundhog Day’ immediately came to mind.

“Hi everyone, we’re back.” I said in relief as I thought about us rephasing.

Emily, Dr. Reilly, and her three associates jumped!

“Very good, Empress. Alex Reilly praised, as she seemed to be the only one that knew where we would rematerialize. You have taken your first time trip…and I see you have retrieved our newest sisters, too. Bravo, Alex.”

“You knew I would do that…and where we would return, ma’am?” I asked in disbelief.

“Do you really need to ask that, hun?”

“Where are we, and who are all of you?” My fellow worker asked in confusion as she looked around the room. Her eyes stopped on Dr. Reilly.

“You did this! I don’t know how, but I know you did this!” Jack accused. “Oh yes you did! Somehow you experimented on us as well as Connie!” Jack paused as if listening to something.

The air suddenly smelled sickeningly sweet- as if suddenly filled with ozone.

“I don’t care if you’ve changed too! Change the three of us back right now or I will show you what I am capable of now!” Jack continued the one-sided conversation.

“Mr. Cummins, please refrain from building your power in such tight surroundings, we are friendly and will not hurt you.” Alex Reilly advised. “Dr. Reilly isn’t the one that caused all this.”

“Jack Cummins? Is that you?” Emily asked as she looked at the young woman standing closest to her.

“Emily? Wow, you look younger! What’s happening to us?”

“I think you should listen to the Empress.” My wife nodded to Alex Reilly.

“Empress? She’s an Empress?” Mina questioned in amazement.

“I am Alexandra Reilly, Empress of Space and Time, Mina and John Cummins. I welcome you to our sisterhood and I’m sure the Empress of this universe also welcomes you.” She said nodding her head toward me.

“I’m no Empress ma’am- not by a long shot!” I protested, shaking my head.

“I disagree, hun. Right now you are twice the Empress I am.”

“How can I be twice you, ma’am?” I guffawed.

“Shall you tell him or shall I, Alexandra?” She asked me cryptically, staring deeply into my eyes.

My playroom became a dark, lonely feeling place lit by a small, unmoving sun. I didn’t like the look of this place at all!

Not only was this place giving me the creeps, but to top things off I started to feel very peculiar. I felt something stir deep inside me and half expected an alien to pop through my chest!

My chest…looking down at its new shape, I thought it looked just a little bigger- fuller, maybe? I felt my body shudder suddenly.

“I’m sorry for doing this to you, Alex.” A voice very similar to my new one said from somewhere in front of me.

“Who said that? What is this place?” I demanded.

“I’m very sorry for what is happening to you. I hadn’t seen these events until it was too late, Alex.” The voice apologized again.

A figure emerged from the shadows, slowly walking toward me.

“Alex? Alex Reilly? Why did you bring me here?” I asked, finally recognizing the woman and voice.

“I’m Alexandra Steinert, Alex. I’m the one that caused all of this. I’m…I’m very…very sorry.” She said as she began to cry.

“I’m not going to say that I understand, ma’am, but why? Why possess me? If that’s what you did?”

“I’m not sure why…or even how I’m here, Alex. I thought I was just going to die…or disintegrate, or something. I never thought I would jump into a male version of myself- and certainly not in a completely different universe! I was prepared to die for all the mistakes I’ve made- all the pain I’ve caused.”

“So am I really the Empress now, Alex?” I asked, as my curiosity demanded the answer, although I already felt I knew that.

“You are this universe’s Empress, Alex, yes.” She said as she wiped at the twin streams running down her face.

“So why am I the lucky one?” I asked.

“Because you are me, Alex. You alone have the genetic code that defines the Empress.”

“That’s not what I meant, Alex! Why did you do this to me?” I demanded, feeling that she was intentionally sidestepping me.

The beautiful image in front of me looked down sadly at the unseen floor of this place.

“’Cause I screwed up, Alex.” She replied quietly. I saw more tears fall from her eyes. “I only tried to protect her. That’s all I ever wanted to do and I couldn’t even do that right!”

“Protect who, Alex? What went wrong?” I asked, feeling her sorrow.

“To answer that question and to prepare you for what is to come, we must risk touching each other.”

“How is that going to explain anything?” I asked, doubt filling my voice.

“When you last touched Alex Reilly you felt a slight tingle?”

“Ya, I felt the static electricity…why?”

“That is how the Empress and all her sisters, and all their temporal twins share or ‘sync’, if you will, information- memories, experiences, secrets.”

“Temporal twins?”

“Because we can travel through time, we can come face to face with ourselves- the ones naturally living in the visited time period. We can ‘sync’ or share information with them. The process also refreshes the nanos in our bodies, resetting them to the younger of us. In this way we can extend our lives.”

“But what if I don’t want to live longer?”

“Traveling through time takes a heavy toll on us, Alex. When we travel, we live each and every day wherever and whenever we go. Even if we return to the same time as we left, which is usually the case, our age does not simply revert. We will continue to grow older- and at a much faster rate than those around us. By ‘syncing’, our body can at least last long enough to appear to be aging normally to the people living sequentially- those that don’t travel with the Empress.”

“You talk almost as strangely as Alex Reilly. Care to explain it clearly this time?” I complained.

The Alex before me shook her head several times. “I don’t even understand me!” She declared in a defeated mumble.

“Say you and Jack Cummins traveled back in time…or forward, it doesn’t really matter all that much, but say you and Jack traveled somewhere- to a different time.”

“Okay, like say I wanted to go back and meet my favorite president- Abe Lincoln…gotcha.” I proposed.

The woman before me visibly shuddered and her tears increased. She sniffed them back a few times before continuing.

“Fine.” She finally admitted. “Say you and Jack went back to Washington City, 1865.”

“Okay?” I responded a little concerned for what memories my statement had provoked.

“Now let’s say that you were invited to stay a few days…maybe a week.”

“Got it. I decide to stay a week.”

“Do you think you and Jack would be the same age if you returned to your own time just mere seconds after you left?”

“Ya, why wouldn’t we be the same age? I don’t get it.”

“Wouldn’t you be a week older? After all, you had just spent a week in old Washington.”

“Okay,” I paused to make sure I understood her right. “You’re saying that if I…we travel back and spend a week in the past that we’ll be a week older when we return?”

“Exactly, Alex. To those still in the time stream you would’ve been gone for only an instant, but you and your travel companion would be a week older. No matter which direction you go- forward or backward in time- the amount of time you spend in other places, time continues to add up. If you became trapped in the twenty-third century for six years, when you returned home you would be six years older. To those not accompanying you on the mission you would look six years older in an instant. Get it?”

“That sucks big time!”

“Ya, it does. That’s why we,” She motioned to herself then pointed at me, “You and me, and your new sisters live for roughly nine hundred years.”

I gasped and tried to keep from choking!

“Did you say that I’ll live for nine…nine hundred years?”

“More or less, but mostly more.”

“And Emily and the others affected by this change…they’ll live that long as well?”

She nodded sadly. “I’m so sorry, Alex. You have to understand that I didn’t mean for any of this to happ…”

I held up my hand to stop her from saying anything more. This was all too crazy! How could I…how could we all cope with living what equated to roughly ten, eleven, maybe twelve generations? Was this actually happening or was I still in painful convulsions in Dr. Reilly’s experimental operating theater? That was three weeks ago, so that would involve time travel, wouldn’t it?

If I were to believe everything that had happened from that point forward, then theoretically I could go back to witness my own initial change. I could go back to stop the experiment!

But… if I went back and successfully stopped it, would I be here now debating this very question? Would I be like this at all? Would I even be here?

Did I really want to go back to stop my…our changes from happening?

I would still be in traction, in the hospital, and Connie would still be paralyzed from the waist down, but then Jack Cummins would still be Jack and not, apparently, Jacquelyn. And the authorities surely wouldn’t be hunting for us!

“While you continue debating the pros and cons, I’m going to take us back home, Alex.” I heard in my mind, paying it little attention as I continued to weigh things.
 
 

Wow, did my eyes feel dry! I thought as I blinked several times.

“Welcome back to reality, dear. We’ve missed you these last few days.” Emily said from my side.

“A few days? What are you talking about, honey?” I replied finding myself laying flat on my back in a bed.

“Alex, you’ve been catatonic for three days now. We were beginning to think you slipped into a coma. You know you didn’t blink your eyes once the whole time? How can you do that?” My wife informed me. “If I didn’t know that you were still alive you’d be in a morgue right now!”

“You ‘knew’ that I was still alive, Emily?”

“While you’ve been in your little trance, the rest of us have been developing our gifts, Alex.”

“Gifts? What are you talking about? What Gifts?” I asked, still confused by the amount of time I had been thinking. It had seemed like mere minutes.

“The Empress, Alex Reilly, calls our new talents, ‘gifts’. They differ between each of us.” She explained. “Your gift allows you to see the future and travel through time, space, and dimension. Jack and Connie can do incredible things with their minds. Dr. Reilly can see the future and phase out of reality. Cassandra and Samantha Fleming can also see the future and phase out of this reality like their visiting twins. Randi Peltierre can talk with almost any computer equipment. Cynthia Riggby can diagnosis our bodies better than any doctor can, and Mina Cummins can also see the future.”

“I thought about what she had said for a moment. She forgot one very important person.

“So what is your gift, honey?”

“Me? Oh…well…I…I can also see the future and diagnosis patients, Alex. I’m what is called a Medical Seer.” She answered demurely, but suddenly stared at my midsection. “Oh! Oh, um…Alex? I don’t want you to freak out or anything, but I’m going to ask you to go into the bathroom, dear. Pull your panties down and sit on the toilet…and please don’t hyperventilate! I’ll be in after I get something.”

“Why would I hyperventilate? What’s wrong with me, honey?”

“Alex, you’ve been out for three days- more changes have occurred.” She blushed as her eyes shifted from side to side conspiratorially. “You’re one hundred percent female now.” She continued, but just above a whisper as a tear rolled down her cheek.

I gulped and closed my eyes for a minute and took a long, cleansing breath. It had finally happened. Alex Reilly’s prediction had come to pass. I guess I really was the Empress now. Opening my eyes, I looked around the bedroom.

“UM…why are we in a hotel room, Emily?”

“We’re in Honolulu, Alex. Alex Reilly transported us here to avoid the police, but right now you need to get into the bathroom.”
 
 

“So, let me get this straight…I’m the Empress for this universe.” I asked after I had again come too on the bed of our hotel room in Honolulu. Things had gone black after Emily entered the small bathroom and began instructing me in the use of a tampon. I cringed at the thought!

“One hundred percent correct, hun.” Alex Reilly said and gave me a ‘thumbs up’.

“Um…could we limit the use of ‘one hundred percent’, please?”

“Oh, all right! You men can be such sissies when confronted with standard bodily functions.” Alex Reilly complained with a wicked smile.

“And because I started my…” I gulped, “Started my period, I can’t travel through time or phase shift until it’s over? How screwed up is that?”

“It’s just the nature of the beast, hun. So, are you ready for your first download?” Alex winked at me as her smile softened.

“You mean Alex Steinert was telling the truth about that? We can actually ‘sync up’ just by touching?” I asked in amazement.

“Yup! It’s that simple. The tingle takes a bit of getting use to though.” She said as she placed her hand on my shoulder.

“Ouch! That smarts!” I cried.

“Now to test things out. Alusia, would you come in here, hun?” Alex Reilly called as she walked over to the door of the room.

The woman that appeared in the doorway elicited a treasure trove of unfamiliar memories, yet they all seemed to be mine.

“Why did you bring Janelle Hathor here!” I hissed in anger!

“This is Janelle’s distant revision, Alexandra. This is Alusia.

“She’s joined with Pharaoh’s nephew!” I said excitedly as another memory- this one involving what looked like Nazis- surfaced.

“Hello again, Empress.” The young woman greeted with a pleasant smile.

“This is absolutely amazing! I have all these memories- all these experiences in my head now.” I gleefully exclaimed.

“The combined memories and experiences of three separate Empresses, hun. Alex Reilly, my Alex Steinert, and our Granddaughter Alexandra of Terra.

Thoughts and images of an eight-year-old girl came to mind along with other similar memories. My nose suddenly stuffed and I felt tears pour from my eyes.

“Sometimes we have to watch and prepare for certain archival recalls, hun. Remember that not all recalls are pleasant.”

“So, we really are in Hawaii?” I asked testing my new memories- these were of our outcast group holding hands. Jack Cummins, or was it Jacquelyn now, and Connie each holding an arm of my limp body between them.

“Um…how are we paying for the rooms, Alex?” I asked innocently.

“Your Comptroller arranged things online. The rooms have been monetarily financed through next Friday since we’ll need a week before we can transit. In the meantime, take the opportunity to see the sights. Relax and unwind.”

“I don’t have a Comptroller. I’m just a mechanical engineer by trade. I’m not the CEO or anything important like that, Alex.” I complained.

“She means me, ma’am. I’m Randal…Randi Peltierre. I’m your Technology Comptroller.

“Randi? What are you doin’ here, hun? I thought I left you back at Reilly?” I said as I quickly blinked. This shared memory crap was going to be hard to get use to!

“Wrong archive, sis. This Randi is your comptroller and she has skillfully negotiated this President’s Suite for the Empress and her entourage’s stay here in Waikiki.”

“You’re the computer technician from the operating room?” I asked even as I was hit with the feeling of dej’vu.

“Yes, ma’am.” The petite, long black-haired, young woman responded as she lowered her eyes to the floor.

“So, what can a comptroller do, Randi?” I asked more to change the subject.

“Well, I booked this suite for us- we’re paid up until next Friday.” She started with a big smile.

“Anything else?”

“Well, I can do just about anything on the Internet, including change our histories and credit ratings! I also canceled and deleted our arrest warrants back home, gave us all new identities, and, oh yes, I gave each one of us a healthy offshore bank account!” She announced proudly.

“Fantastic, hun. You’ll do.” I said feeling my mouth form a bright smile. I had no idea though, why I had said what I did.

“Empress, I’d like to remind you both that we have reservations for dinner at six tonight. You both should start to get ready if we want to arrive on time.” Emily reminded. Why was she looking at me though, instead of Alex Reilly?
 
 

“So let me get this straight…I have a period now?” I asked, my shaking voice raising an octave.

“That’s right, sis, all us girls have ‘em.” Alex Reilly answered with a cautious smile.

“And…I can’t travel while that’s going on?”

She nodded.

“Who wrote these rules, Alex?” I demanded!

“Wait until you meet the higher-ups.” Alex said cryptically.

“Higher-ups? You mean we have a boss?” I asked curiously, my eyes widening as my imagination ran wild.

“You could say that, sis. Just try not to irritate them too much.”

“I take it you speak from experience, Alex?”

“Kind of…ya.”

I rolled my eyes at her cavalier response.

“Kind of, Alex? What did you do for that to happen?” I responded.

“It’s not what I have done as much as what one of us will do, Alex. This joint adventure, the rescue mission of our Alex Steinert by Alex Reilly and company, and the emergence of this universe’s Empress and sisterhood has yet to reach its apex. If foresight serves me correctly, there are still several chapters waiting to be written before we part ways or anger upper management. As you have probably guessed from our sudden popularity and our shared remembrances, our story in this universe has taken a different route completely.”

“Develop and master your foresight, Alexandra Steinert.” She said seriously. “Your path here will be nothing short of adventurous- even dangerous, but it will also be wondrous and amazing just the same. Rely on your new sisters and trust that they in turn, will rely on you. Alex, you all must act as a well trained team and not let one person have more importance than anyone else. I’m sure that if you think about it, you will see glimpses of what I hint at.”

“Once our Alex Steinert vacates her space in your head you will be the sole being capable of calling the shots to correct this time stream- this version of history. Allow your sisters to use their varied gifts to supplement your own.” Alex Reilly stared deeply into my eyes- into my very soul! “You are now the captain- the director- the foundation of this sisterhood. Make every effort to make it work. I don’t have to tell you what could or would happen should one or all of you fall prey to contempt, egotism, or greed.”

“Yessss! Use the force for good, you will!” Samantha Fleming interrupted sounding like an old crone before breaking out in fits of laughter. She turned and slowly walked out of the main living area of the suite as if elderly, crippled, and walking with a nonexistent cane.

I got the reference immediately and smiled!

Her sister Cassie walked quickly after her. “Really? Aunt Alex is trying to give the new Empress pointers and all you can come up with is Yoda? You really are a geek, Samantha Fleming!”

“I think I resemble that.” Samantha Fleming, I guess you could say my Samantha Fleming now, retorted, slightly annoyed.

“Ya, I wonder if she oversleeps as much as you do, sis?” ‘My’ Cassie asked her sister.

I looked to Alex Reilly, but refrained from asking my question.

“Ya, they do that in every universe I’ve visited, hun.” She assured me with a roll of her eyes.

A bottle of water floated past us at eye level.

“Cami, sweetheart, must you play with the mini-frige?” Alex Reilly asked rolling her eyes.

“That wasn’t me director. Jacquelyn is practicing again.”

“I guess that is the same in every universe too?” I asked.

“You have no idea!” She replied in exasperation.

“Honey, would you like to go down to the beach?” Emily asked as she entered from one of the bedrooms.

“That would be nice, dear, but I don’t think you brought any swim shorts for me.” I answered then looked down at the floor sadly. “Not that they would fit anymore.” I grumbled to myself.

“I’m game, sis.” Alex Reilly replied brightly. She now wore a skimpy black bikini that left nothing to the imagination. How did she change so fast?

“Alex and I went shopping while you were out of it, dear. I…I got you something to wear…it was Alex’s idea, really. Here, try it on.”

A hanger with a few scraps of bright pink material landed gently on the couch next to me.

“You actually expect me to wear this?” I cried as I looked at my wife then at Alex. “Outside?” I noticed Alex smile deviously. Emily just blushed. “You can’t be serious!” I lamented.

“Alex, do I look good in this?” Alex Reilly asked as her bikini suddenly changed from black to bright pink.

I stared at the woman. She did look very attractive, I admitted to myself.

“Yes.” I answered sheepishly.

“Then you’ll look just as enticing, sis. Don’t forget we’re twins now. What looks good on me looks equally well on you.” She winked. I saw Emily smile tentatively.

“But this is so…so small.” I cried as I picked up the three miniscule triangles of pink fabric. “And…and these are…they’re so huge!” I continued, cupping my newly acquired breasts in my hands.

“Oh, you’re only a cup-size bigger than me now, honey.” Emily said trying to calm me.

“But you’re a ‘C’, dear! That makes me…” I gulped hard, “…makes me huge!” I cried as I looked down to the floor. “I don’t think I’m ready to be embarrassed.” I said quietly as I closed my eyes.
 
 

“Alex? Alex, honey, we’re going to get something to eat for lunch. Are you coming or do you want to sunbathe a little longer?” Emily asked, gently shaking my shoulder as she tried to wake me.

“Sunbathe!” I cried as I shot straight up! I found myself on the beach- more specifically I was sitting up, legs straight out in front of me- on a blanket. I looked around. The ocean was in front of me and Diamondhead was to my left.

“I’m on Waikiki…” I said in alarm, as I looked down slowly, afraid of what I would see. I gulped. “In a bright pink bikini!”

“Really, Alex, why not announce it to the whole world? Do you really want to draw even more attention to the cute, dirty blonde, twins in the racy, bright pink bikinis?” Emily reprimanded as she looked down on me standing just to my right.

Behind her Alex Reilly smiled and lifted her sunglasses slightly to reveal her green eyes- a trait we now shared. “I think we’re both hungry, sis.” She said brightly to my wife. “Come on, Alex, wake up sleepyhead.” She said, as she stood up then provocatively bent back over to pick up her bathing towel. I noticed several young men stop abruptly and stare in appreciation!

“Cami, Alex, Allie, and I are going for lunch, you coming?” Emily asked the white bikini-clad woman to my left.

“No, Cassi and I are good, Emily. Maybe the Fleming twins want to go?”

“No, we’re good. You three go get something to eat. We’ll stay here with Jack, Mina, Connie, and Reilly.” Alex Reilly’s Cassandra responded as both Cassie’s turned over in unison.

I just stared at them wondering if that had been staged or if they really were that identical.

Emily gently touched my arm. “Alex, Allie and I are waiting for you, sis. Coming?” I detected a slight sadness in her tone despite the pleasant smile. My wife calling me ‘sister’ stung my ego worse than a whole nest of hornets!

I gulped. “I guess so.” I answered as I questioned how I even got here! Last thing I remembered was Emily placing what I now had on beside me on the couch this morning. There was only one possible answer.

I silently cursed the hitchhiker I carried inside! I could almost feel her smiling at my discomfort as I stood up and bent back down to retrieve my blanket. At first, the shifting of mass on my chest distracted me, but it didn’t affect me as much as I had anticipated. Why was that? How could I get use to these changes so fast?

Again I noticed several men stop and stare in my direction. I noticed that I had copied Alex Reilly’s motions to a tee!

What the hell was I doing?

“Don’t forget your wrap, Alex.” Emily reminded me as she placed a translucent pink nothing around my shoulders. It was just long enough to provide some modesty.

Some.

“We’ll see you back at the suite, girls.” Alex Reilly said as she grasped my hand and pulled me up the beach to the hotel. There was that tingle again. Emily took my other hand in hers and the three of us made our way across the hot sand.

“So…why the sudden name change, Empress?” I asked as we reached the shade of the many palm trees between the beach and our hotel.

Alex stopped abruptly, turned and raised her sunglasses again.

“In my universe the traveling Empress assumes an alternate name in order to avoid conflicts with the locals.” She told me as she looked around us quickly. “Since I’m the traveler, you are Alex and I’m Allie, Allison, or Alicia. If you were the traveling Empress you would assume the first of those unused, preselected names and any other traveling Empress’ would assume the others sequentially.” She turned and started walking again only to stop quickly once more.

“When out in the public eye there will be no mention of the ‘Empress’ is that understood? We are just Emily and her twin sisters, Allie and Alex Steinert, Reilly, or Scott.” She added before turning half way around and again turning back to me. “Oh, and we don’t use our gifts in public unless absolutely necessary!”

“Aye, aye, skipper!” I responded sarcastically as I blinked to set the information to memory.
 
 

“Yes, Allie, I think that blue nightie will look wonderful on you. Alex, for the life of me, I can’t figure out where that new fashion sense of yours came from. Really, for someone who was deathly afraid to go out in public wearing that bright pink bikini, you totally confused me by buying that little pink nightie. I have no idea what is going on in that head of yours!” Emily was talking- I think to me.

“Huh?” I said dumbly. I had no clue what the topic was or how I fit into it.

“Alex, were you even listening to me?” Emily looked at me in concern.

“Where am I?” I asked.

Allie stopped us again and stared into my eyes. Her glare made me feel really uncomfortable!

“Sister, you really should leave this one to acclimate to her new body. It has been six days of constant ‘resetting’. Constant interference will only confuse and hinder her acceptance.”

I had a feeling she wasn’t talking to me directly, but to my passenger. This was getting ridiculous and I was fed up with starting in one place and suddenly being in another with no clue as to how or why!

We were standing just outside of our suite by now so I decided that I would try confronting Alexandra Steinert.

As soon as we entered and the door had closed, I stopped. “If you two will excuse me I have to take care of something.” I said in a low, angry growl.

“Tell our sister I miss her, Alex.” Alex Reilly said evenly- as if expecting the coming confrontation. With our gifts that was a certainty. “Tell her to come home soon, please?”

I nodded.

Emily looked between us in confusion.

The hotel suite became the same black void, dimly lit by a small unmoving sun.

“We need to talk, Alex!” I commanded to no one and waited.

“I know you can hear me, Alex! We need to clear things up, now get yer ass out here!” I demanded.

Again I waited.

“Look,” I said becoming even angrier. “If you don’t come out and talk, I’ll personally take you back to your home universe and have Tibius drag your conscious out of me! I have enough of your memories that I can find Terra no problem! Now show yer self!”

“You’re bluffing, Alex.” My mouth answered on its own.

“Do I have to get mother involved, Alex?” I asked as I remembered someone that looked almost like me. It was Emily’s mother! Oh my God, I looked just like Emily’s mom- Ruth Scott!

“No, you are bustier than she is, Alex.” My mouth said again with a giggle.

“Momma Scott can you come and help me?” I shouted out into the ether.

“Nice try, Alex, but I don’t think Ma Scott is here in this universe.”

“Don’t I remember her once saying that heaven is a universe in and of itself, Alex? We can only call her essence to this place, not her physical…”

“Child, you should close your mouth before you say something to upset the management.” A voice said from somewhere far off. It sounded similar to mine.

“Momma Scott, you came.” I said in relief.

“How can you possibly be here, momma?” My voice sounded very surprised as my mouth again moved of its own accord.

“Alexandra, do as you’re told child! Come out so we can talk and stop this childish game of hide and seek!” The voice chided. A silhouette began to come into focus not far from where I stood.

“Greetings, Alexander. I hope my daughter hasn’t caused you too much grief?”

“Nothing but the loss of my male identity and its associated parts and pride, ma’am.” I answered as a woman that looked remarkably similar to me fully materialized a few feet away. I noticed with embarrassment that she wasn’t as ‘developed’ in the chest department as I now was.

“It is the only difference that separates us, child. Welcome, Empress of this realm. We have been patiently awaiting your arrival.” She said possibly anticipating my question- or could she read my mind? She embraced me and kissed my cheek.

“Alexandra, we’re waiting.” She said staring directly into my soul.

I suddenly felt nauseous. Slowly another figure began to form to our right.

“Oh, there you are! Alexandra, dear, you have to let go now. The new Empress has arrived and it is time for you to return and fulfill your own destiny.”

“You know I hate that word, mother!” Alex said as she came into full view- her face red with anger.

“You will not look at me in that tone, Alexandra! I may not be your real mother, but I am still your mother! Its time to get over yourself and leave this world- let Alex take things from here!” Ruth Scott chastised!

“But I can’t go back.” Alexandra said sadly.

“And why not, child?”

“Because I don’t deserve to be the Empress. I can’t do anything right.” She cried. “I can’t do the job.

“And what did you do that was so wrong?”

“I made everything go FUBAR, mother! I can’t do it anymore…I just can’t.”

“Um…excuse me, but I’m the one looking to talk to my sister, ma’am! Could I possibly butt in?” I asked seeing that this was going to take longer than I wanted.

Momma Scott turned to me with one raised eyebrow. “You, child, will hold your tongue until I am done correcting your sister!”

Her eyes burned deep into my soul!

I took a quick breath to stiffen my resolve- I wasn’t going to stand for this any longer! In the last four weeks my life had quickly spiraled downward into the toilet! Things had changed so drastically that I no longer knew who or what I was! Sure, I was now ‘the Empress’, but dammit, I didn’t want any part of that. I would have been happier just being Alex Steinert- Mechanical Engineer, and loving husband. I couldn’t even love my beautiful Emily as anything but a sister now!

I glared at my two quibbling guests.

“Then I guess I’ll go back to that cozy suite in Hawaii and let the two of you hash things out!” I responded with just as much vinegar as I glared back at this woman calling herself my mother!

“Don’t!” Alex shouted as she burst into tears. “If you leave I might be trapped here! I don’t want to be trapped, Alex! Please don’t go!” She pleaded, her face showing marked surprise.

“You would be that cold to your sister, Alexander? Have you not learned anything from your recent adventures?” Momma Scott asked stiffly- her glare hadn’t softened at all.

“She caused this whole thing to happen, ma’am!” I emphasized ‘ma’am’! “From my position, I shouldn’t owe her anything. Because of my ‘sister’, I’ve lost my wife, possibly my job, my family, and myself! Summing it all up, I’ve lost just about everything I value in this world! Why wouldn’t I feel obliged to leave her here, trapped in some desolate abyss?” I spat venomously as I looked, and motioned around the blackness of this domain. “Why the hell not!”

I started to think about Hawaii…about Emily!

“Alex! Please don’t leave me! You don’t understand what I’ve been though! Don’t go!” Alex pleaded, her arms raised to me in need! Tears were pouring down her face- a face filled with absolute terror!

I pictured the warm, inviting hotel suite- it was paid for through tomorrow. At least Emily and I could enjoy beautiful Honolulu…and each other’s company.

“ALEX, NO!” Alexandra Steinert screamed as she tried to grab my arms in an attempt to leave with me. I simply jerked back away from her. She fell to her knees, her hands covering her face, sobbing heavily.

“Please, I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to be left behind- to be forgotten- discarded.” She pleaded.

I thought of the good times Emily and I experienced as we grew together. I thought about how our relationship had changed just in the last two weeks. I felt myself shiver at those contrasting thoughts!

“You’ve made your point, Alexander Steinert. This is your dominion so state your terms.” Ruth Scott surrendered as she leaned down to comfort my distraught twin.

“I’d like some civility here. I came here to resolve the issue of Alex here interfering with my life.! Do you know how disturbing it is to suddenly be in some unknown place and not have a clue as to how you got there?” I complained in anger as I looked between the two near identical women before me.

Because of your fear, I feel like my head is full of Swiss cheese! Memories that I know I should have just recall as bits and pieces! People that I know I’ve met previously and should know appear as faceless shadows…images so pixilated I can barely identify them!” I paused to glare at each of them briefly. My anger finally peaked as I thought about how confusing- how embarrassing- everything was now!

“I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!” I screamed shaking my clinched fists at the floor as my rage overflowed like a dam breach!

“I just want my life back.” I added softly after holding my breath momentarily.

My two guests stared back at me in wide-eyed surprise.

“I…I just want my life back the way it was.” I whispered, shaking my head a few times. I felt tears run down my cheeks.

“We all know that can’t happen, child.” Momma Scott told me gently. I felt a hand touch my forearm. “What happened cannot be reversed…not now.” I heard her say as the hand slid gently across my smooth skin.

“Why can’t it?” I asked as more tears fell. “Why can’t we change things back? The power of three is still valid isn’t it?” I asked as a random memory appeared. “Three Empresses can even bring someone back from the dead…or is that just a fantasy?”

“That was no fantasy, Alexandra! That was a mistake- one that management allowed under the circumstances.”

I looked up at the woman gently stroking my arm. I noticed Alex look up at her also.

“We…They decided that William Sangiere’s life had terminated prematurely and allowed the three Empresses to,” she paused a moment looking for the right word, “to ‘reconstitute’ Miss Sangiere so that she could finish her…adventure.” Momma Scott informed us as she looked around nervously.

“We?” Alex asked before I had the chance.

“Shy of re-acquiring your male body Alexander, what do you require from this encounter?” Mother Scott abruptly changed the subject.

I thought about that for a moment. What did I want?

“I want to know what it will take to return Alex to her own universe- to the people that love and respect her?” I responded as Alex managed to compose herself enough to stand.

“Alexandra, you can answer that question for yourself, child.” Ruth Scott looked between Alex and I as she answered. “I suspect there is one question that needs addressed- that one of you refuses to face- am I right, my daughters?” She asked, wrapping an arm around each of us.

Why did that feel so warm and comforting?

I looked at my twin for a minute as I contemplated the consequences of my question. I didn’t want to forget everything that had happened here, as was the case last time- I think. Ruth Scott nodded to me

“Ask the question, child. Your sister will not affect a ‘reset’, as you and your sisters call it.”

I took another minute to steel myself.

“Alex,” I began, “what exactly are you so afraid of?” I took a quick breath and looked directly into her tear-filled, bloodshot eyes. “What exactly happened out there…with Constance? Show me.”

Momma Scott gently moved her hand down my arm and took my hand in hers. She repeated the action with Alex. Slowly, while glancing between the two of us, she brought our hands closer and finally placed our palms together and held them tight with hers.

I was immediately in a strange, alien looking wasteland! Constance was standing next to me holding my hand.

“Alex, where are we?” She asked.

“We need to talk, Connie.” I heard myself reply.

“Talk? Talk about what? I thought we were going on a mission, Empress?”

My view began to change as I apparently began to look around at the vast expanse of nothingness that surrounded us.

“Alex, what is wrong? Why do you look so conflicted?”

“I’m not sure I can do this.” I mumbled.

“What was that, Empress? What can’t you do?”

“This was a mistake. I can’t go through with this.”

“What can’t you go through with, Empress? You’re starting to scare me, Alex.”

“We shouldn’t be here. This isn’t the place or the time.”

“Why are we here then, Empress? I do not hear any living things, as if the planet- the whole galaxy is devoid of life. What mission could we possibly have in such a desolate place?”

“It can’t happen like this- there has to be some other way.” I said as my vision blurred.

“Alex, why are you crying? What are we doing here?” Connie looked at me in concern. I felt my emotions skyrocket!

“Empress, your mind is even more chaotic than usual. What is the matter? Why are you so upset? Empress, if we are not to be here then why stay? Shouldn’t we return home?”

My heart felt as if it were going to explode as I frantically searched my gift for alternatives.

“Empress, what is wrong? Why is your heart pounding loud enough that I can hear it standing next to you? Empress, I implore you, why are we here?”

My hands began to shake uncontrollably. My knees grew weak under me and my stomach became nauseated. I could hear my pulse in my ears.

“Empress, your silence is very disturbing; please answer my question- why…are we…here?”

I didn’t answer her.

“Empress, I demand to know why you have brought me here…to this forgotten landscape. Answer me, Alex.”

I drew in a large breath of the local, untainted air.

“We’re here for you, Connie.” I said sadly.

“Empress, I don’t understand?”

“I know you don’t, honey, and I’m very sorry about that.” I sniffed and wiped my eyes with the palm of my free hand.

“Your cryptic answers and strange temperament worry me. What have I done that warrants my exile?”

My heart shattered into tiny pieces hearing her ill-assumed conviction.

“It isn’t anything you’ve done, honey. It’s what I have done.”

“More mysterious answers, Empress? Why bring me to such an unforgiving place if I have not done something terribly wrong? What could you possibly have done that requires us to be in such a barren part of the universe?”

I remained silent again. Answering any more questions would only make things worse. I swallowed hard and prepared myself for what was to come.

“There is something I have been keeping from you, Constance Cummins. Something you now need to know.”

This was the moment I feared. I closed my eyes tightly and felt the tears pour down my face.

It was no use. Connie was now thoroughly angered by my stonewalling. Now she would employ her substantial gift.

“You have been withholding information from me? Why?” She asked as I saw her begin to concentrate on me. She was trying to break through the various walls, obstructions, detours, and blockades I had erected with Tibius’ help and guidance.

“To protect you, Constance. Your development required certain details of your life be kept from you, I’m afraid.” I rationalized.

“What details, Empress? What specifics?” She asked as I felt the pressure of her mind in mine. I wondered how long I could retain my privacy.

“It’s nothing real important, Connie, I assure you.” I told the flabbergasted young woman- my best friend’s daughter. I felt I had to delay this from happening for some reason.

I just had to…

“You are lying to me, Empress? Why do you withhold the truth?”

The air around us suddenly smelled sweeter.

I gulped as the pain in my skull increased in magnitude. God help me!

“You are lying to me! Empress? What could require such uncharacteristic defensive actions?”

“I said it isn’t that important. You have turned out the way I had foreseen all those years ago and both your mother and I are very proud of you.” I said in a last ditch effort to calm her. My eyes began to twitch as more tears fell from my cheeks.

Memories began to sort and sift themselves as Constance Cummins-Brackenridge breached the first of my defensive barriers. It wouldn’t be long now, I thought.

The image of an older Russell Brackenridge appeared to me. Jack crying on her Davenport wearing only her skimpy peignoir replaced it.

The air only grew sweeter!

“Empress, your ability to block my gift is faltering. There are several important things you have withheld- the first being my conception date.” Connie hissed as she angered even more.

I looked down to see that I was still holding her hand.

That was good. Good physical contact would assure our survival. This I had been able to see clearly.

“You will tell me what I must know or I will get it myself, Alexandra Steinert!” Connie’s expression grew dark- almost evil. An image of Jack on Meridian 12 suddenly burst into my mind.

The air around us started to spark and sizzle.

Connie, I…I’m…I’m not lying to you, hun. I just need to tell you a few things and I need you to please remain calm.” I pleaded with her, my voice now shaking with fear. I felt an emotional barrier crumble under her increasing pressure.

“You are afraid of me, Alexandra Steinert? Why would the Empress of Time and Space be afraid of one of her own sisters?”

I tried but failed to take a breath. I began to draw on my own reserve of courage and managed to partially slow the breach.

“I do not fear you, Constance. I fear what is about to happen. I fear what I must do next.” I cried and tried not to make eye contact.

I mentally wished I could stop time. If I could stop it, maybe- just maybe, I could avert this whole thing.

On a world totally devoid of life, it was hard to tell if I had succeeded.

Images of a man named Maximillian, an older Terran gentleman, were suddenly replaced by images of Russell Brackenridge at various ages, starting at twenty-one.

An image of Jack dressed in a beautiful white wedding gown and delicate lace veil alongside Russell in his white tuxedo, posing before a church’s alter, popped in.

Another obstruction disintegrated.

“I am not a daughter of Terra as I was told? Empress, why would you keep this information from me? Am I not fully trusted? Have I been spawned from some villain or criminal?”

“No, Connie, both of your parents love you very much.” I answered shaking my head. I continued not to make eye contact.

“Then why lie to me in the first place? What is wrong with me, Alex? What am I really?” She screamed to me!

“I had to make sure you developed your gift properly, honey.”

“Who are my parents, Empress? Why do you hesitate? TELL ME!” She shouted. Her voice thundered around us like a concussive shock wave!

“You are the daughter of Jacquelyn Cummins, Constance. That has always been true.”

Russell’s face again came to mind.

WHO…IS…MY…FATHER, EMPRESS?” Again her voice thundered across the desolate, open plain where we stood.

I physically jumped as another well-placed misdirection vanished.

The air crackled with such energy I thought it would suddenly start jumping between us!

“Russell Brackenridge. Russell Brackenridge is your true father, Constance. He is the reason I have hidden your true lineage from you. Your father had a problem with his temper.”

“So what does that matter- why the conspiracy?” She calmed slightly.

I knew this was only temporary, but paused to take a much-needed breath.

“Russell wanted so much to please your mother, Connie.” I began. “He waited as long as he could for your mother to decide she wanted a family.”

“So? She wasn’t ready and he waited. How does that equate to having a temper, Alex?”

“He couldn’t wait any longer, honey. He was into his fifties by that time and the desire to provide your mother with a child was escaping him. It angered him that he soon wouldn’t be able to give her what she truly wanted, but kept deferring because of her lack of confidence.”

The energy around us subsided only slightly as Connie waited for me to continue.

“The strain of your mother’s indecision and his desire to make her happy proved too much, but not before he made one last attempt. Jack would later confide to me that they were the greatest two days outside of their honeymoon she ever experienced!”

“That still doesn’t explain your initial statement, Empress. What has any of this to do with Russell Brackenridge’s temper?”

The following morning Russell and Jacquelyn Brackenridge started arguing after your mother misinterpreted his thoughts. She thought he was trying to rush her- for her sake. She read uncertainty in his mind where there was none. Jack claimed that if he were truthful then that shouldn’t have been there.”

“But that’s not always the case, Alex. We all know that.”

“Your father left in a rage after striking your mother in the face, Connie. Several times in fact, though Jack will never admit it. She loved him dearly.”

“Then he should be the one made to pay, Empress. Why has this all fallen to you, if my birth father attacked mother?”

“She accused him of lying to her, Constance. The implications of that must have thrown him over the edge.

“Jack became so outraged that she…she almost…” I told her, watching her eyes widen considerably.

“By the lords, she didn’t…”

“No, instead, she contacted Brianna, who contacted me. In order to cheer your mother up, I decided she needed time away from Russell. To make a long story shorter, we ended up on Terra ninety years prior to my intended target. By the time we arrived, Jack was displaying the typical signs of pregnancy. Just days after my arrival she developed morning sickness.”

“She must have been scared out of her mind!”

I nodded cautiously.

“When he came home that night- after we had returned from Terra- he apologized nine ways to heaven, but the damage had already been done. Jack felt she couldn’t, in good conscious, tell him of your birth. Your parents never shared a bed after that.”

“So they were both at fault then. Where is this leading, Alex? Why all the conspiracy?”

“In an attempt to repair the fracture between them I arranged for Russell to accompany us on a benign mission to 2035 to help my future twin. He met you there and recognized certain family characteristics. Jack ended up explaining about you and your birth on Terra. She left out the fact that Russell was your father.”

“Empress, I must remind you that most of your defenses have been removed, that I can see farther into your mind than ever before. Get to the point of all this.” She warned, as her softened expression again grew dark.

It was time to bring this mission to its destructive finale. I made sure our hands were still tightly clasped together.

“Russell wanted to come to Terra for you, Connie. He wanted to be there for your birth- he was so proud!” Again tears filled my eyes.

I paused to take a quick breath and prepare for what I knew would come.

“I brought him to Terra. Not me particularly, but Alex Covington brought him to Terra for your birth.”

“So what is it you are still holding from me, Alex? TELL ME!” She shouted again. The ground on which we stood on shook!

“Because of me your father was exposed to Solara’s severe radiation. He lasted long enough to see you born before he screamed out in agony and died. Because of me, he never got to hold his pride and joy again.”

YOU KILLED MY FATHER?!” The ground shook viciously this time! It groaned and crackled as it fractured deep below us. Things started to get worse!

I prayed that the end would come quickly and be mercifully painless!

"I HATE YOU, ALEX STEINERT!

Everything erupted in a bright, searing light. I screamed in the worst pain I had ever felt before everything went dark!
 
 

~o~O~o~

 
 

“Mommy, is S’mantha comin’ out soon?”

“Cassandra, what are you talking about, hun?”

“My sisser, S’mantha, Mommy! Is she comin’ out soon so we can play?”

“How do you know what the baby’s name will be, Cassie? Mommy and I haven’t decided on a name yet.”

“I dreamed S’mantha an’ I was playin’ house! Tha’s my sisser’s name, right mommy?”

“Samantha is a beautiful name, honey, but Daddy’s right, we haven’t picked her name yet. We still have a few weeks left to decide.”

“Hmmmmm.”

“Cassandra, why did you close your eyes just now?”

“Daddy, S’mantha’s gonna come out day after today.”

“Now how do you know that, honey?”

“I just saw it, Daddy. Mommy, tell Daddy that you saw wha I did!”

“Did she just get part of her gift, Alex?”

“I’m afraid so, Honey, and I’m also afraid she’s right about Samantha’s delivery tomorrow.”

“You know that is really a buzz kill! Any surprises involving this family are nonexistent! Will there ever come a time when any of us are pleasantly surprised?”

“There will be a time in the not so far off future, dear, so yes.”

“See? That’s what I mean! Nothing can surprise you! Alexandra Fleming you are impossible!”

“Yes I am, but you love me all the same, Sanford Fleming!”
 
 

The Empress Suite, Citadel, Terra, 06:00, Climax, Apogean 4th, 292 of the New Era
 
 

“Alex, I…I think it’s time!” A familiar voice said to me. It sounded very concerned for some reason.

“Hmmmm?” I mumbled hoping she would go away and allow me to sleep several more hours.

“Alex!” A hand shook my shoulder. “I think it’s time! Didn’t you hear me?”

“Hmmmm?” I responded again as I felt my stomach rumble.

“Alex!” The hand shook me harder. “I think Melanie is coming!”

“That’s alright,” I told the voice, “just let her in, the door is always open.”

“Alex!” The hand shook me even harder! “I think Melanie is about to be born! GET UP!” Tish screamed.

Something tried to kick its way out of my belly!

I tried to sit up but my body wouldn’t comply with the speed I was use to!

Tish stood beside my bed holding her severely swollen belly with both hands. I noticed my own beach ball-sized belly below my swollen breasts.

Taking a moment to re-orient myself, I tried to calm her.

“Tish you’re only eight months along, it’s just false labor.”

“I don’t think so, Alex. The contractions are an hour apart.”

“How many have you had so far, hun?”

“Two.”

“Its false labor, honey. Now, if they were ten or fifteen minutes apart- then you would be in labor.” I said, as I smiled at her.

“I think this is it, Alex. Shouldn’t we alert the doctor?” She disagreed.

Randi waddled into my bedroom.

“Director, I think it is time.” She began.

“Its just false labor, ladies.” I reassured them both as I rolled my eyes. “Go back to bed.”

“Alex, my monitoring subroutines indicate a seventy-three percent likelihood of my revision’s emergence within eighteen hours. The physicians should be notified.” Randi pressed further.

“How many kids have y’all had, honey?” I asked the twins as they stared anxiously awaiting my response.

“You are well aware that these are our first, Empress.” Tish said sounding upset that I wasn’t taking them seriously.

“And how many have I had so far?”

“Two, Empress.” Randi dropped her eyes to the floor. Tish followed her twin’s lead.

“Trust me, neither of you are having your babies today. And neither are you, Jacki Cummins.” I said as Jack waddled by my open door.

Again my own belly moved disturbingly. I felt a pain similar to a strong menstrual cramp hit me suddenly.

“Aw, son of a…!” I exclaimed in annoyance as I rubbed my pregnant belly.

“Alex, what’s wrong?” Tish asked as I slid my legs off the side of my mattress. I noticed cold, wet spots on my nightgown as my bosom shifted.

“Go ahead and alert the doctor, Randi.” I told her as I sighed heavily.

“You mean we actually are going into labor, Empress?” She asked excitedly!

Jack had stopped and stuck her head in the doorway.

“No, I’m afraid not, hun.” I answered calmly.

“Then why change your mind about the physician, Alex?”

“Jack, you might want to alert Tibius and Maximillian.” I said nodding to her.

“Doing it as we speak, Alex.”

“To answer your question ladies…uuhhhgg…” I grimaced. “Alexis is in a hurry.” I explained as the first really strong contraction hit. From experience, I noted the time on my nightstand clock.

My half Navajo sisters practically turned white!

Sandy would have been elated knowing that Alexis had indeed surprised me. I also wished he could be here to share in the pain of that surprise!

“Alex, Tibius and Maximillian are on their way- ETA, ten minutes. Jasen confirms his arrival in five minutes.”
 
 

The Empress Suite, Citadel, Terra, 08:03, Climax, Apogean 4th, 292 of the New Era
 
 

“Hello, Alexis!” I smiled as our doctor, Jasen, handed my new daughter to me. The infant wasted no time locating and latching onto my offered breast.

A collective ‘ahhhhh’ filled the bedroom suite as my sisters took in the miraculous event.

“Empress, it is truly a day that will be remembered forever in Terran history! You have saved our civilization!”

“It’s just the first of many, Tibius. There will be more in the matter of a few weeks.” I told him as I looked at each of my sisters in the order they would give birth. I wondered if they got my hint.

They all looked stunned- especially Jack. She would only be thirty hours behind me.

Jack gasped, having obviously read my mind.

“My compliments, Alexandra, the child is perfect!”

“Thank you, Maximillian. Have you decided to accept my offer?” I asked with a devious, but contented smile.

“It would be my solemn honor, Empress.” He replied winking back at me.

Tibius looked around the room a minute observing all the smiling faces. “Am I the only one out maneuvered and left out of the line of communication here?”

“Have you completed the request for temporary residency in the Consulate Building’s two hundred-and-ninth floor yet, Grand High Counsel?” I asked slyly.

“I have filed the motion, but it has not been fully considered as of this day, my love.”

“Then yes.” I giggled, but winced as Alexis clamped down a little harder.

“Already an opinion, hun?” I quietly asked the nursing bundle in my arms.

Tibius would be in good hands after our departure in two and a half years.



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