South of Bikini 3: Episode 8- Promotions

Promotions and a party start off this episode, but an impending mission might cut the celebration short. Can Alex reunite one of her sister’s family and still maintain the original mission parameters?

 
 

Copyright 2012 R.G. Beyer


 
 

Episode 8

“Promotions”


 
 

1400hrs, Atlantis-Minor, July 14th, 1944
 
 

“Excuse me, Admiral Demmit, here’s our latest mission report along with the Empress’ report, sir.” I said after knocking on his quarter’s door.

“That was fast. Come in and have a seat, Alex.” Uncle Rick motioned me in.

“I took some time before our return to finish it, sir.”

“Oh?” He said in surprise. His expression dared me to be more specific.

I debated about telling him of our side trip to Reilly for additional medical treatment of the survivors. A few of those survivors, Shel’s Ma included, had extremities too frostbitten for doctors of the time to save, plus Shel’s Ma needed half a day’s time in Reilly’s hyperbaric chamber. Overall, our survivors’ treatment required several days.

Anchoring on the western side of Kili near the water treatment discharge port, aka the Mystical River, I had ordered the crew’s liberty be confined to inside Reilly. That hadn’t presented a problem except to one. Rommie wasn’t too happy about being confined, but made the most of it after finding that all but the tips of her tail fluke could be submerged in either spa tub.

“Emily had our patients’ treatment well in hand, sir, and Ens. Morris proved a very capable assistant to her, but their hypothermic treatment took most of a day. Ens. Simonetti’s Ma needed extra treatment for the bends.”

Demmit remained silent as he began to read through my reports, nodding and changing expressions several times during the two, four-page reads.

“Very admirable, Alex, I trust Ens. Marsh suffered no ill effects? No hallucinations?”

“Nothing of the sort, Admiral. Rommie has finally found her place in our society. Her self confidence has increased dramatically.” I praised.

“I see.” He answered and began rubbing his forehead slowly. “You list her operational depth at over three hundred and fifty fathoms? That’s over two thousand feet, Alex. How did she know her depth, and is diving to that depth even possible?”

“Given her estimate of the time she spent in the sinking stern section and some future scientists’ estimated descent rates for that section, it is only an approximation, sir. I had Carroll do the math to make sure.”

Uncle Rick rubbed his forehead even harder.

“Is something wrong with either report, Admiral?”

“No, Alex. I’m just at odds as to how I can get her a medal.” He said in frustration.

“Because of your unique situation, I find it impossible to officially show the navy’s appreciation by medal or by promotion.”

“Then do it verbally, sir.” I suggested.

“But that will only go so far, Alex. What I need is a way to get the honors to her parent’s state-side.”

“Sir, Rommie isn’t the only one deserving of a medal or commendation. Michelle deserves one for simply having the courage to bring the mission to your attention in the first place. Then there was the two-hour inquiry about the sinking she sat through while impersonating her mother. Oh…and let’s not forget that six hour immigration ‘experience’ to make sure her Ma wouldn’t get deported.”

“I realize it was a difficult thing for her to do, Alex. Her record to date speaks of a totally different person from the well-behaved young woman you brought to my office four days ago.”

“I wasn’t anywhere near Pearl four days ago, sir.”

The old man rubbed his face with both hands in frustration.

“You’re going to drive me into an early grave, Alex!” Demmit warned after staring at me for a moment.

“Don’t believe that for a second, Uncle.” I said mischievously.

The old man flashed me a confused glance.

“Still, the question remains- how do I reward either of them for their heroism in the line of duty?”

“Admiral…um…when did we start including the Empress’s missions in with naval operations?” I questioned.

“You used my boat to rescue those survivors, didn’t you?”

I nodded with a slight grin.

“Good, I’m glad we understand each other, Alex. Now, what do you foresee I do for these two, well-deserving young ladies?”

“Unless I miss my guess, sir, paper work recognizing their heroism will be enroute to the Department of the Navy by week’s end. Sir, you do realize that Sand Dollar’s crew is already the most posthumously decorated unit of any war?”

“Alex, that doesn’t even begin to convey the thanks of the people she’s helped…me included…and just in the last few months,” He said and chuckled.

“Thank you, sir, on behalf of the crew.” I said as I stood and went to attention.

“You all deserve it, Alexandra. Can I offer you a drink?” Uncle Rick said as he nodded then retrieved two glasses from his bar and poured both of us a shot of whiskey. Handing one to me, we clinked glasses and downed the liquor.

“So how have you been coping with everything…you know, the changes…that have happened? You seem very well adjusted for it only being four months.” The old man asked after an extended period of silence. He was fishing again.

“I’m sure you know that it’s been a little longer than that for me, Uncle Rick.” I said narrowing my eyes at him.

“I have a general idea of your new concept of time, Alex, but I’m very curious as to how much time has passed since March…for you that is. I don’t mean to pry or be rude…” He said as his eyes lowered to the floor. “I was just wondering how soon I would lose my new niece.” He continued sadly.

After a few minutes delay, I finally decided that his intent was genuine.

“Nine.” I answered quietly.

“Nine months?” He exclaimed in surprise. His mouth dropped open.

“Years,” I corrected his assumption, “more or less.”

The color quickly drained from his face at my admission.

“Honey, you have to slow down…”

“Emily and I have already had this conversation, Uncle Rick.” I interrupted as I held up my hand to stop anything further from him. “I’ll tell you the same thing I told her: I’ll do what I have to do…for as long as I can. That’s all I can guarantee, uncle. I’ve seen my supposed last days of this existence and can tell you they are a very, very long way off.

I placed my hand on my uncle’s. “Uncle Rick, you, Emily, and I will have many years together and many fabulous adventures. Don’t worry about losing either of us anytime soon though, I promise we’ll be here to give you many more headaches.”

We remained quiet for a few more minutes.

“Another shot, honey?” He finally asked.

I smiled brightly and held out my glass.
 
 

1400hrs, Atlantis-Minor, July 22nd, 1944
 
 

“Captain Steinert?” Admiral Demmit shouted as we watched his PBY taxi away. It had been a little over a week since his last visit.

“Sir!” I said as I stepped forward and saluted.

“Captain, Ensigns Marsh and Simonetti front and center!”

“Aye, sir. Marsh, Simonetti, front and center!” I shouted after I did an about face.

Two very worried young women hurried through our ranks and stopped in front of me, stood to attention, and saluted. Repeating my previous parade move, I turned and officially announced the two Ensigns.

“Admiral Demmit, Ensigns Marsh and Simonetti as requested, sir!” I said as I again saluted my superior.

“As you were, Captain.” He said returning my salute. I performed a left face, took two steps and then an about face to move to the side.

The old man stepped up to Michelle first.

“Ens. Simonetti it has been noted that your heroism and courage has been exemplary in the development and implementation of Sand Dollar’s latest rescue mission. I understand how difficult it is sometimes to do the right thing despite a history to the contrary, young lady.”

Michelle blushed profusely, but remained quiet.

“In appreciation, the Department of the Navy has authorized me…at my discretion, to promote you in rank. Congratulations, Lt. J. G. Simonetti.”

The old man offered his hand, but pulled Michelle into a hug as soon as she took it.

“I hope you’ve learned some valuable lessons in the time you’ve known the Empress, honey. Keep up the good work.” He said quietly into her ear before releasing the dazed, teary-eyed, girl. She slowly took a step back and he exchanged her brass bar for a silver one.

After the two saluted each other, Demmit sidestepped to stand in front of Romney Marsh.

“Ens. Marsh…” He glared at the frail looking young woman. Rommie visibly swallowed hard. She looked on the verge of passing out.

“Ens. Marsh, it has come to my attention through the very same mission report that you too showed exemplary courage and heroism in the rescue of nineteen victims of a catastrophic maritime disaster.”

Demmit paused a moment as the timid girl quickly reached up to rub her neck for a second. She would admit later that her gills had started to emerge from the tension and that a few strands of hair had quickly irritated them.

“It has also been noted that after single-handedly rescuing those nineteen souls, you returned to the scene and recovered one more victim…despite the eminent threat posed against your life.”

Rommie began to smile brightly. Demmit also smiled.

“It is my pleasure to inform you that the Navy Cross and the gratitude of the Navy has been sent state-side to your parents. My sincerest thanks to you, Lt. J. G. Marsh, your acts of heroism reflect the drive and dedication of this whole unit toward the successful resolution of this war.”

Uncle Rick didn’t even give Rommie the chance of a handshake; he just pulled her into a tight embrace- placing a kiss on her forehead for good measure. Our new lieutenant countered with a very passionate kiss to his cheek.

“Outstanding job, Rommie! You make Capt. Steinert and I very proud to be your commanding officers!” He said as he exchanged her bar.

My crew broke out in enthusiastic applause and whistles as Admiral Demmit finished pinning the silver bar to her collar, saluted, and joined the continuing applause.

“Capt. Steinert?” He barked after things quieted down.

“Sir.”

“Alex, you have a fine crew here and I hope to award many more commendations to this unit in the future. Keep up the good work.”

“Aye, sir!”

“That’s all I have, Captain. I’ll be in my quarters until my plane returns from Pearl in the morning.”

“Aye, sir. Jack, dismiss the crew.”

“Aye, ma’am. Crew, ah-ten-shun!” She shouted proudly. A devious grin appeared. “There will be a small celebration for Lieutenant’s Marsh and Simonetti in the Mess Hall in ten minutes. Moderation and modesty WILL be observed!” Jack shouted and paused a second. “Dismissed!”

“Admiral?” I asked before the old man could run off. “Sir, the invitation extends to you also, and we would be honored if you’d attend.”

“It would be a pleasure, my dear…” I automatically offered my arm to him. “But…I’d like the pleasure of escorting our two new Junior Grade Lieutenants…if you don’t mind?” He continued with a wide smile.

Walking over to where a mob had formed around Rommie and Michelle, Uncle Rick used his considerable rank to break through and offered his hands to the two popular women. Both smiled and blushed as he said something to them.

Jack, Mina, Emily and I hurried off to the Mess Hall to get things ready.
 
 

“About time you people got here!” Alex Covington growled as we walked into the large room. She was just finishing hanging a banner that said ‘Congrats, Rommie and Shel!’

“Nice to see you too, sis. Is everything as we’ve seen it?”

“Right down to the twenty year-old Scotch, hun.”

Ronnie Marsh, Rommie’s future self came out of the galley and smiled. “I can’t wait to see my face!”

“Senator “, I smiled, “Nice to see you again. How are things on the hill?”

“As screwed up as ever, Alex…thanks for asking.” She laughed as her eyes shot past me.

“Alex!” Admiral Demmit barked. “What is the meaning of this?”

“A social gathering for entertainment or pleasure; or to observe an event with ceremonies of respect, rejoicing, or festivity.” My future twin recited with a deliciously devious smile.

Uncle Rick’s mouth closed immediately and he glared at her.

“You asked, Uncle.” She laughed as a glass of caramel colored liquid hovered over to her. Taking it, she handed it to him.

“Have a drink, Uncle Rick. You look like you could use a good stiff one.” She said continuing to laugh.

“Rommie!” Ronnie Marsh screamed shrilly as she rushed her present twin. “Congratulations!” She said enthusiastically as the two embraced.

“Bet you never thought you would be hugging yourself…outside an asylum, that is?” Ronnie Marsh laughed.

“And the party is just warming up!” I said to myself.

“Oh ya, it’s going to be a hot one on the ol’ island tonight, Alex!” Allie giggled.

“Admiral Covington, I assume you were the one to bring Miss Simonetti and her situation to my office a week ago?” Uncle Rick growled.

“Sure was, Uncle. It had to be done before Michelle here just withered away to nothin’”

I heard a gasp behind me. Michelle had overheard.

“Give it a rest Simonetti! She had everything under control.” Shel’s voice shouted from behind Allie. Megan, that was the name she used on missions to the past like this, walked to her present self and hugged her tightly. “We were never in any real danger of vanishing. The Empress wouldn’t allow that to happen, girl!”

“Hey!” Dixie Peterson shouted from the galley doors. “Takashi and I spent all day slavin’ in the kitchen for this thing, so get your pretty behinds in here and get somethin’ to eat!”

The aforementioned bottle of Scotch silently floated above the merriment and stopped in front of Uncle Rick.

“Thanks, Jacki!” He said taking it, unscrewing the cap, and taking a long slug.
 
 

“Some party today, huh, sis?” Allie giggled as I finished brushing out her hair. The four of us were sitting in a circle on the Empress’ bed. Amelia was still fussing with mine, but Allie had already finished Emily’s. Emily on the other hand was still braiding Amelia’s. We were like four girls at a sleep over.

“I wouldn’t want to be in Uncle Rick’s shoes in the morning.” I giggled back.

“Thank goodness for our nanos.” Amelia too, giggled.

“Sometimes a good drunk is good for the soul though, Alex.” Emily giggled lastly.

“He’d drink even more if he saw us right now, I’d bet.” I added, all four of us giggling like schoolgirls.

After another minute or so of laughing, I asked the question that would trigger an all out pillow fight.

“So…who’s going to wake up with whom tomorrow morning?”
 
 

“We gotta stop doing that, hun; it’s getting way too predictable.”

“I know, Allie. I wonder if the same is true for Emily.”

“Morning you two.” Both Emily’s' chorused as they exited my quarters. I had stayed the night in the Empress’ quarters with Allie and let Emily use mine.

“So…sleep well, sis?” I asked. Allie giggled.

“Not really, Alex, that mattress of yours is too hard!” My Emily complained. “Neither of us got too much sleep.”

Amelia blushed ever so slightly.

“Sorry about that, sis.” I apologized instead of calling them on that last statement.

The four of us walked together into the mess hall to get some breakfast.

“Morning, Admiral, morning, Skipper. Morning, Commander and Lieutenant Scott.” Lynn Samuels greeted. “You’re usual, Alex?”

Allie and I nodded.

“Two plates of pancakes with butter and syrup, and two black coffees coming up. Doctor?” Lynn looked at Emily and Amelia.

“Tea and toast for me, thanks.” Amelia said in reply. Emily looked at her future self. Her gaze fell to Amelia’s belly, but only for a second.

“I’ll have my usual too, Lynn, thanks.” Emily replied a moment later and smiled.

“I owe you a dollar when we get back to my quarters, sis.” I whispered in defeat. “I thought she noticed last night in all honesty. Your Emily is getting better at hiding her personal condition, I see.”

“Tibius was working with her on that last time we visited New Citadel.” Allie whispered back.

I nodded. “Spencer or James know yet?”

“If James knows he hasn’t said anything, sis. We haven’t been home long enough for her to tell Spence, but I’m sure Liz and Sarah know.”

“I see that he should handle the news pretty well- even though she isn’t his, he’ll treat Alaina no differently.”

Allie smiled. “I think the others are right about us, sis.” She said and paused to look around the large room. “We are a buzz-kill.”

“Hey, there’s our newest Lieutenant!” Lynn shouted in excitement as Rommie and Ronnie Marsh entered. “What’ll it be, ladies?”

“Sushi, Ricky Lynn.”

One girl looked at the other in shock.

“What is ‘sushi’?” Rommie asked her twin with a sickening stare.

“Don’t worry, its good- you’ll see.” Ronnie smiled to her twin.

“I think Takashi anticipated that. She was working with some seaweed before I came out front.

“Seaweed?” Rommie gulped as she began to lose color.

Ronnie gently elbowed her twin’s side.

“We like it, so cut the theatrics. Geez, was I always this pathetic?”

“YES,” everyone within earshot chorused!

Both girls blushed profusely.

“Never a dull moment, sis.” I giggled as both Allie and I watched the temporal twins sit down and carry on a very dramatic dialog between each other.

“Ya, anywhere else and we’d all be locked up in rubber rooms for talking to our selves.” Allie giggled.

“Especially when we answer our selves.” I laughed.

“So how long have you hyenas known about my sister?” Emily asked after a minute. Her glare dared one of us to make light of the situation.

I went first.

“Almost nine and a half years, sis.”

“Ninety-one for me, sis.” Allie answered after she did the math.

“So you found out today or maybe last night then?” Emily glared at both of us.

“No,” I said shaking my head slowly, “I found out just after Mina told us about abusing our gifts, Emily…back in April.”

“And when did you ‘see’ you were going to tell me, Alex?” She demanded.

“Em, Alex and I had expected you to use your gift to find out, but the simplest answer to that question is…” Allie answered for us both and smiled deviously. “Now.”

Amelia began laughing hysterically!

“I’ve waited so long to see what I looked like at this moment!” She choked out as she continued laughing.

Emily’s face went bright red and she began to get up. Amelia’s hand shot over and grabbed her twin’s arm.

“Relax, sis, we wouldn’t want Alex to have to fix another tangent in the timeline, would we?”

Emily slowly sat back down and her anger was replaced with tears. Amelia gathered her twin into her arms.

“I forgot how sensitive I was during the war. I’m sorry, Emily, that was a mean thing to do. Please don’t cry.” Amelia said quietly, trying to comfort her twin.

“So…which one of you ordered the pancakes?” Ricky Lynn asked with a tense smile as she approached with one plate and a cup of steaming coffee in hand.
 
 

“Is Admiral Demmit in here?” Randi Van Pelt shouted from the mess hall doorway ten minutes later.

“He decided to stay in his quarters until…and I quote… ‘the temporal chaos has subsided and I can eat without threat of a monumental headache.’ Why, what’s up Randi?” I asked. As usual I already knew the answer.

“I just got a strange transmission from CINCPAC for him, skipper. It’s in that baseball code he and Dr. Scott communicate in.”

“Ya know, Alex, the girls and I should be leaving now.” Allie said suddenly as she, Amelia, Ronnie Marsh, Joss Cummins, and Megan Simonetti quickly stood from their seats. Lynn Samuels, Dixie Peterson, and Takashi Moritsu appeared out of the galley and joined them. Our other future sisters quickly crowded into the mess hall and all joined hands with the Empress.

“Um…did I say something wrong, Empress?” Randi asked awkwardly as she stood aside to avoid the influx of twin sisters.

“No, hun, we just have to go so we can return to give Alex her next assignment.” Allie told our comptroller cryptically.

“You’re going to love this one, sis.” Amelia chirped with a huge smile.

I nodded in response and grinned back. This would be an interesting mission, but a little cruel to the intended targets.

“Until another few minutes, Empress.” I giggled.

“Until another time, Empress.” Allie replied with a smile.

The room decreased in occupancy by almost half.

Tish walked through the galley doors holding two plates. She seemed oblivious as she placed the plates down before Rommie and bowed to her.

“I have prepared a variety for you that I hope you will like, Lt. Marsh.” Tish said with a smile before bowing again and returning to the galley.

Rommie stared at the food for a moment, her gaze moving quickly from one plate to the other.

“How am I going to eat all this?” She asked, poking at the rolled seaweed with the supplied chopsticks. “Is…is this fish?”

They probably heard the laughter all the way to Hilo!
 
 

0900hrs, Atlantis-Minor, July 23rd, 1944
 
 

“Are you sure about this message, Lt. Van Pelt?”

“Yes, sir, I authenticated it myself.” She answered respectfully.

The old man looked at me as if daring me to say something crazy.

“The Empress and our future sisters left five minute ago, sir.” I answered with a smile.

Admiral Demmit’s attention moved between me, the paper in his hand, and Randi.

“Lieutenant, contact Pearl and tell them to send a plane…”

“Admiral, why cut your stay short? I can have you there in the blink of an eye.” I offered with a wry smile as I interrupted.

“You already know what this is about.” He accused.

“I wouldn’t be a very good Empress if I didn’t, uncle.” I winked.

“Fine.” Demmit grumped. “Belay that last order, Lieutenant, I’ve found another means of transportation.”

“Aye, sir.” Randi stood to attention as she was handed back the message for destruction. She promptly left the Admiral’s quarters.

“So, do I have time to grab something to…?” The old man smacked his forehead and turned for the door. “What am I saying? ‘Do I have time to get something to eat?’ Richard these women are going to drive you nuts in...” He mumbled to himself on the way out the door.

It brought an immediate smile to my face, but only momentarily.

My uncle wouldn’t go crazy…he would just pass from this world not knowing any of us and in…

I quickly wiped the tears from my eyes and those future memories from my mind.
 
 

It was heading toward 1000hrs.

“Did you have enough to eat, Admiral?” I asked as I approached from the mess hall door.

“Yes, thank you, Alex.” He looked up at me for a second. “Could you give a hint as to the nature of this meeting we’re apparently both going to attend?”

“I believe you get to go on a mission with the Empress, sir.” I said cheerfully with a bright smile. “That is…if you want the opportunity.”

My face fell as I saw several scenarios in which he actually declined.

Uncle Rick apparently misunderstood my sudden change of expression and stood up.

“Oh, Alex…” He said quietly as he reached out and gently took my hand. “I would be honored to accompany the Empress on her next mission. Where are we going this time- Ancient Rome, Greece, the Byzantine Empire, Renaissance Italy? What do I need to pack? Are we going to meet any famous people?”

“Pearl Harbor, sir.” I said sadly. I hated to burst his bubble of exotic destinations and historic celebrities, but Pearl Harbor circa 2011 was our target for this mission.

“I know we have to go to Pearl first, Alex, where is our final destination though?”

“I told you, sir, Pearl Harbor is the place.”

“Oh.” Uncle Rick said, disappointed.

“We’ll be traveling to the year 2011 though, Uncle.”

“So what important event happens at Pearl Harbor in the year 2011, Alex?” He asked, a lot of disappointment tainting his voice.

“A television show, sir.”

“A television show? What’s a television?”

“It’s a movie theater in your living room, Uncle Rick. You saw one at Reilly earlier this year, remember?”

“Oh…right. I guess we should get going then?” He said with little enthusiasm.

“We’re waiting for our last member to join...”

“Hey, Alex…Oh sorry, Admiral. Lt. Cmdr. Jacquelyn Cummins by your request, Captain Steinert.” Jack said standing straight and looking at both of us with a tense grin.

“Relax, Jack. Uncle Rick is going with us this time.” I giggled.

“He is? I…I mean…Aye, Ma’am!”

Jack really looked cute when she’d been caught off guard.

“Let’s get going, Jack.” I giggled as I held out a hand to each of my travel companions.

Admiral Demmit’s office appeared around us.

“Jack, please close the Admiral’s door.” I asked, noticing that it was partially opened to his clerk and the outer office.

The door slowly and deliberately closed then quietly latched and locked itself.

“We can let go now.” I said as I rephased us with this reality.

“So now what, Alex?” My uncle asked just above a whisper. He nervously stared at the door to the outer office as if his clerk would come barging in at any moment.

“Let me know when I should drop my shield, Alex.” Jack said with a nervous smile.

“Will you relax, Jack? Uncle Rick is here by invitation of the Empress.”

“Yes, but he’s still an Admiral!”

“Jacquelyn?”

“Yes, sir?”

“I’m taking orders from the Empress on this mission, sweetheart. Lord knows she’s done enough for me already to deserve that right.”

“Thank you uncle, that means a lot to me.” I said with a nod to him.

“So, I’ll ask again, what do we do now?” Uncle Rick asked anxiously.

“Not even curious as to the current date, uncle?” I teased.

“Just tell me what we do now, Alex. I can tell that we’re still in 1944 just by the sound of my clerk’s typing!”

Wow, and I thought I was a…how did Allie put it? Oh, a ‘buzz-kill’.

“We wait for me to show up, with my companion, sir.”

“Alex!”

“I’m not trying to confuse you, uncle.” I told him seriously holding my hands out in self defense. “I should be appearing in three…” I pointed to Jack to drop her acoustic shield. “Two…one.”

“Hi everyone.” Allie greeted as she and Brie appeared in front of us.

“We’re safe again.” Jack announced.

“I swear you are going to make me crazy!” Uncle Rick growled and saw how Allie’s and my expression dropped. “Why is it you look so sad when I say that, Alex?”

“That’s not important right now, Uncle Rick.” Brie said as she wrapped her arms around our uncle. “I’m just glad to see you, Admiral.”

While Brianna was greeting our uncle, Jack and I dropped to one knee.

“Welcome, Empress. It is 0930, July 23rd, 1944.” I stated…for the record…with a giggle.

“I’m simply impossible!” Allie griped, throwing her hands up in the air in defeat.

“Brianna, I have aspirin in my top right drawer, honey. Could you be a dear and hand me the whole bottle, please?”

“Sure thing, Uncle Rick.” She laughed. “But these here’ll work better an’ last longer.”

My sister reached into her regulation shoulder bag and retrieved a small paper packet. Tearing it open, she dumped two tiny tablets into her hand.

“Here ya go,” she said, offering them to our uncle.

He accepted the pills, but looked at the four of us expectantly.

“Oh!” Brie said suddenly as she reached back into her purse and pulled out a one-liter metallic water bottle.

“Sorry, sir,” she said handing it to him after popping the spout open then looked at Jack and I.

“Ah keep stock in NSAIDs. They’s the only things that’ll help with the temporal headaches ah get when Alex changes things.” She explained with a tense smile.

After she replaced her bottle, we hugged. Brie repeated her welcome with Jack.

“So, Empress, how can the Empress be of service this time?” I asked Allie routinely.

“Actually, sis, Ah’m the one makin’ the request.” Brie answered and looked around the room, embarrassed. “Ricky Lynn asked me ta find somethin’ she…um… she lost.”

“Lost?” I asked, as one eyebrow shot up immediately.

My sister turned bright red as she timidly nodded.

“Doc Samuels was conductin’ an important experiment.” She began.

Jack and I sighed heavily.

“What’d she lose this time, Brie?” I asked in disgust. I noticed Uncle Rick stare at me in horror.

“She an’ one a her graduate students was workin’ in conjunction with the Theoretical Physics department on what she called a Quantum Dimensional Actuator.”

That name struck a nerve.

“Why does that girl insist on puttin’ me outta business?” I questioned. I noticed Alex Covington close her eyes and shake her head side to side a few times.

“Alex…for those of us that don’t have any clue or understanding of such things, what is that and how could it put you out of business?” Admiral Demmit asked.

“The QDA is a device capable of replicating the Empress’ gift…on a very limited scale though.” I answered, recalling Alex Reilly’s knowledge base. The Terrans use a variation of it to protect their spacecraft from galactic debris.

“Sis, Ricky Lynn claims it ‘got away’.” Brianna stated anxiously.

“Great…just great!” I snapped. “When is that girl gonna learn to leave time travel to the professionals- to those of us with the gift?” I asked, looking at my future self. Allie just closed her eyes again and shrugged with a smirk.

“I tried stoppin’ her, sis, but y’all know Ricky Lynn!” Allie added. “We think it materializes in one a the hangers at the old seaplane base on Ford.”

“Old? We just repaired those hangars two years ago.” Uncle Rick said setting the record straight.

“Sorry uncle, for me it’s not an active airfield, but a historical site, and museum for thirty some years.” Allie apologized. “Most of the island houses junior officers and some contracted corporations.”

“Sis, we think the thing appears there sometime in 2011.” Brie informed us.

“How can you be so sure?” I asked my sister.

“I was watching this TV show…Spirit Quest? And in this one episode they investigated Ford Island- specifically the Pacific Aviation Museum- Hangers 37 and 73.” Brie informed us, but paused. “Alex, one a the voices they recorded during that investigation sounded like you, Uncle Rick!”

The old man’s mouth dropped wide open.

“But I’m gone by tha…” He started to exclaim, but stopped short of finishing. He looked around at us, as would a child caught with a hand in the cookie jar.

“Relax, uncle, Allie, Brie, and I already know that you peeked while at Reilly.” I laughed and stared at the man with mock contempt. “I had Randi doctor your file as a precaution.”

“So, I’m not going to die in 1987?” He asked with a small glimmer of hope.

Four of us lowered our heads sadly.

“Not technically.” Allie whispered.

“Speak up, sweetie, I didn’t catch that.”

“I said no…technically.”

“So what the hell is that suppose to mean?” Demmit growled.

“It means no one should know too much about their future…SIR!” Allie growled back in anger as she wiped a few tears away. “And especially when they cross over.” She whispered again, sniffing a few more tears back.

“Okay…” I said quickly, hoping to stem the previous discussion. “Let’s get this briefing started. Where and when, Brie?”

“Y’all know the when and where at, Alex.” Brie giggled tensely.

“I mean for those of us that can’t see into the future.”

“Oh…right. Well, Ricky Lynn…she believed her QDA was set for a two-hour jump into the future, an she expected the thing to reappear during some symposium she was speakin’ at on quantum sing’larities.”

“Let me guess…it never rematerialized?” I said sarcastically.

“No, and boy was she pissed!” Brie said animatedly. “Ricky Lynn thinks her grad student assistant set the thing fer twenty years instead ‘a two hours.”

“Couldn’t it be set for twenty minutes or twenty months,” Jack paused a second in embarrassment, “Twenty centuries?”

We all looked at Jack for a moment in disbelief.

“I’ve already checked the close future instances then Brie watched her TV show an’ made that voice discovery, but I’m due to be…um…well…otherwise engaged in another day, and…” Allie blushed red with embarrassment.

“Got it.” I interrupted. “So, you’d like us to continue in 2011 and work our way back?”

“If y’all could…just the once, Alex?” Brie asked looking at me with her version of puppy dog eyes.

I thought about how very pathetic my sister looked right now…and how very corny.

“Fine.” I said, “But y’all’re gonna take her ‘rector set away from her after this, right?” I asked, glaring at Allie.

“Like that’ll ever happen, sis!” She snorted.

I shook my head in the negative a few times with a wry grin on my face as a response. Ya, I knew better.

“So, what do we need to do to ‘find’ this thing, Brianna?” Uncle Rick asked annoyed by his other ‘nieces’ banter.

“Sir, you’re looking for something about the size of a Semi’s disk brake rotor…maybe a little heavier.”

“What’s a…disk…brake…rotor?” He asked in confusion.

Brie narrowed one eye. “Oh. Well, it’s a disk…about…um…fourteen inches across…about five or six inches high…and weighs about…fifty pounds. Oh, and it looks like polished bare steel ‘cept fer the center ‘hub’…that’s painted ‘Ford blue’.”

Uncle Rick still looked confused.

“It looks like the flywheel from a 1915 White.” I translated even though I wasn’t sure myself.

“Oh!” Uncle Rick finally grasped the shape then looked at me with another confused stare.

“Look, just think a picture of the thing to Jack and she’ll pass it to us, Brie.” I suggested with some annoyance.

“Oh…ya, ah forgot ‘bout that.” Brie giggled.

I rolled my eyes a few times. “Is that all for the briefing, sis?”

“Oh, here, you’ll need this, Empress.” Allie said quickly as she reached into her shoulder bag and pulled our tiara out.

“Randi added a location finder. Its range isn’t real far, but she says if y’all get within a few hundred yards it’ll let ya know. I don’t rightly know if it works though or not, sis.” Allie told me as she handed the headpiece to me and bowed slightly. After glaring at her subtle taunt, I immediately placed it on my head and smiled. Why did I like this thing- this blatant reminder and obvious symbol of nobility- so much?

“Great, now she really does look like an ‘Empress’!” The old man groused and rubbed his face in frustration.

“Its not just jewelry, Uncle,” Allie argued. “Believe it or not this device has gotten me out of a few scrapes.”

My vision clouded for a second as I glanced quickly to Jack and thought about what that statement reminded me of. I noticed Allie wipe her eyes quickly, too.

Closing my eyes quickly, I selected and energized my favorite piece of jewelry. Its display indicated a full charge.

I also noticed two new items had been added to the main popup menu: ‘Artificial Temporal Field Detection’ and ‘QDA interface’.

“Sis, Randi recommends not leaving the ATFD enabled while transiting. She said that would be ‘bad’. She also said that if you had any questions to consult the ‘online help’- that she took the time to add it so y’all should take the time ta read it”.

I nodded. “Thanks for the info.”

Allie nodded and offered her hand to Brie. “Until another time, Empress.” She bid her leave with a nod and a grateful smile.

“Until another time, Empress.” I replied with a nod. “And good luck with number four, Alex.” I added with my own bright smile.

Alex returned my smile and added a wink before she and Brie disappeared.

“So…are we ready to start this mission?” I asked my uncle and Jack.

Both took an offered hand.

“Phasing in three…two…” I began.

Jack nodded to me that her field was down.

“Oh crap!” I exclaimed and immediately selected and turned off my tiara’s newest function, ATFD. “One! I said brightly, but didn’t transit to 2011 instantly; instead I felt we had to stay a moment longer.

The sound of a key in the door’s lock caught our attention. Admiral Demmit’s clerk, Ens. Theodore Fischer, opened the door suddenly and quickly glanced around the room.

“Funny, I thought I heard a woman’s voice in here.” He said aloud to himself. He began to sniff the air suddenly.

“Perfume?” He noted as he looked around the room again in confusion.

“How?”

Shaking his head, he began to reclose the door. “The strangest things have been happening around here these last three months.” He said to himself.

“Remind me to put that boy in for a commendation. He’s a good clerk…keeps his mouth shut, too.” Uncle Rick said shaking his own head.

I smiled to myself. ‘She’ would continue to serve the admiral well into the future.

We were suddenly standing in front of a large aircraft hangar. ‘Pacific Aviation Museum’ was painted high up on its exterior wall. Part of the large hanger’s door had been modified into a deeply sloped awning and now covered a glass storefront-type entrance. Off to our left, you could just see the top of a battleship’s superstructure- to our right the long abandoned runway.

“Shall we go in?” I asked, ignoring the four ‘minivans’, as Allie called them, and large box truck parked nearby. Nor did I pay attention to the four civilians milling around them.

Walking in, I noticed what looked like a souvenir shop to our left and a Ticket Counter directly ahead. We entered a curved hallway off to our right and walked the thirty odd feet to the main museum area.

“Sure looks like a museum to me, Alex,” Jack said as she looked around the large display floor.

That’s when I saw the people we would try to avoid, but inadvertently interact with later on tonight.

“Over by the ‘B-25’.” I said with a nod to a group of five, four men and a woman, attended by several other men and another, younger, woman. A few held what looked like microphones on long poles, a few held what I think were motion picture cameras. Two others held lights.

We walked over closer. Uncle Rick looked apprehensive for a moment, but I assured him we were still phased out.

“Are we ready?” A tall, blonde-haired man asked his collegues. One gave a nod. “OK, so what goes on here?” He asked the woman wearing the ‘Pacific Aviation Museum’ polo shirt.

The uncomfortable looking woman took a deep breath and began to give what all thought to be an answer.

“Welcome to Hangar 37. As you can see, this is our main display floor here at the Pacific Aviation Museum. This is our B-25 Mitchell Bomber. Planes just like this one participated in the Doolittle raid on the Japanese main island in 1942.”

“Anne? Anne. Take it easy! We won’t bite. Just relax and talk to us like we’re old friends. Now…what goes on at this exhibit?” The Blonde guy said with a reassuring smile.

“Visitors have claimed to have seen a pilot and co-pilot looking out of the cockpit windows.” The tour guide said- still nervous.

“Have either of these apparitions communicated or done anything to the visitors in some way, Anne,” asked a shorter, brown-haired, man standing next to the blonde guy?

“Not to my knowledge, no. I’ve been told that they just seem to be looking out at something.”

“Tony, let’s put a mini-DV camera on the cockpit- see if we can catch anything.”

“Got it, K.” A taller, slim man wearing a chauffer’s hat acknowledged. He quickly scribbled some notes on his clipboard.

“Sounds residual to me guys.” The shorter, heavy set man added.

“That’s probably the case, Rob. Where to next?” The blonde man, K or Keith replied to his cohort before looking to their guide.

“Right over here.” The woman indicated. “This is Kramer. Kramer is said to move when nobody is in the room. Sometimes his hand is holding the propeller, sometimes it’s down at his side, and sometimes he’s holding a piece of paper!”

“Really?” The thin man next to Keith asked, somewhat surprised.

“Yes,” the guide nodded. “Before we close each evening we go around and make sure things are secure…and sometimes when we open the next morning Kramer’s arm is in a different position.” The woman explained with a slight shudder.

“Brian, this one might not be so paranormal.”

“I have a few ideas on what this phenomenon might be, K. Okay.”

“Okay, where to next, Anne?” K asked. The guy with the hat, Tony, made some more notes on his clipboard.

“Let’s go into the theater.”

I felt Uncle Rick tug at my hand.

“I’m told Seaman Kowolesky’s brother was found right over there, shot four times straight through the chest.” He said pointing to a spot near the large, sliding hangar doors.

“So who are these guys, Alex?” Jack asked curiously.

“I’m betting they’re the ‘Spirit Quest’ guys Brianna talked about. So they actually make a living out of finding ghosts?”

“If that’s what you believe, Uncle.” I started to say. “Maybe you should talk to Momma Scott about that…see what she has to say on the matter of ghosts,” I nodded to Jack with a smile. “And other poltergeist.”

“I’m not a poltergeist, Alex. I…am a Mind Warrior.” She said ceremoniously.

“And I’m getting tired of just standing here listening to you girls debate the designations of purgatorial spirits! Can we please find this ‘Temporal what’s-it’ and go home? I have paperwork to finish before the war ends.”

“Fine.” I said, defeated, as I looked around for a safe place to rephase.”Let’s go over to the lavatories.”

As we made our way quickly through the rest of the museum past a yellow bi-plane and a bunch of tables and chairs, a janitor opened the ladies door and looked in to make sure it was empty. The men’s side was already blocked open.

“Great. Switching to plan ‘B’ then.” I groused.

“You didn’t seriously just think about rephasing us in the ladies room, did you Alex?” Uncle Rick asked in surprise.

“Why not, it looks just like the men’s room…minus the urinals.”

Uncle actually growled at me.

Had I come so far as to forget the taboo about men in the ladies head?

“Let’s just go outside and rephase behind a truck or something.” He suggested.

“Whatever.” I said, though questioned where that particular response originated. “We still need to be within two hundred yards to find Ricky Lynn’s toy.”

“Can we go over to the Arizona Memorial, Alex? I’d like to say hi to Jimmy.” Jack asked with semi-pleading eyes. I had almost forgotten that one of his cousins had perished below decks that accursed morning.

A darkened theater filled with people appeared around us. The majority appeared to be exiting double doors down front and just to the left of the screen. Moving us closer to a similar set of doors at the back of the tiered theater, I rephased us.

“We’re here.” I said quietly, placing my hand against the steel door as demonstration.

Exiting, we found ourselves at a dock where a large, white, Motor Launch marked ‘39-2’ was tied up and idling. We casually made our way down a set of steel stairs.

I smiled at an older gentleman at the bottom. He had unexpectedly turned back and stared at us…probably wondering where we had been hiding. Good thing I had quickly taken my tiara off before we left 1944.

I giggled as we took our place at the end of the boarding line.

The last person in that line- an Oriental woman- took an unsure step up onto the boarding ramp as we were saluted by a handsome, young…fit, Chief Petty. I’m sure she was wondering why until she turned around.

“I appreciate this, Cap.” Jack said quietly as we each returned salute before boarding.

Seeing us board, the pilot turned, snapped to attention, and saluted from the raised bridge. Uncle Rick growled under his breath as we all saluted back.

We suddenly found ourselves the center of attention.

“As you were, ladies and gentlemen, I’m just a tourist today.” Uncle Rick announced- loud enough to be heard over the throaty idling of the engines.

“You had somebody on her?” The Oriental woman in front of us turned and asked loudly as she gracefully took a seat. She looked to be in her late fifties.

“A cousin, ma’am.” Jack answered timidly as the woman slid over to make room for us on the bench.

“You don’t look old enough to have cousin on Arizona.” The woman said with a sad smile. “But it does seem like everyone a ‘cousin’ here.” She smiled politely.

“We recognize back to fifth cousins, ma’am.” Jack answered quickly. “It’s tradition to visit him when I’m in port.”

She nodded. “In that we are alike, Lt. Commander…Cummins.” The woman said as she paused to read Jack’s nameplate.

“Ma’am?” Jack asked.

“My father…” She paused. “He…cause…this. His bomb…he drop the bomb…” She sniffed and wiped at her forming tears as she fought to answer. “Bomb that…” She sniffed again. “Cause this.”

I looked over to Uncle Rick and saw the rage in his eyes. What happened that morning was not this woman’s fault though.

I shook my head gently at him a few times with sadness in my own eyes.

The woman continued. “I come here every year or when I can afford to beg forgiveness from victims for father’s…please forgive…ramblings.”

“Ma’am, I too have a tradition…” I began to say, “of traveling to Hiroshima. I have a friend who lost family there and I still feel personally responsible for those barbaric attacks. I too beg for forgiveness when visiting ground zero.” I told her through tears of my own. “I also had a relative on Arizona.”

“I’m sorry child, but you shouldn’t carry that burden. You weren’t even born yet, why hold yourself responsible for something that happened well before your time?” She asked as she gently rubbed my arm.

“I’m afraid I’ll always feel that way, ma’am.” I admitted.

“Alexandra’s great uncle was an advisor to President Truman, ma’am. He tried to discourage the bombings.” Jack told her. Although it was the truth, it was nowhere near the whole truth.

“Then I thank you for your uncle’s efforts, Commander. It takes great courage to defy one so powerful.” She sympathized.

“Did he make it out of the war?” I asked calmly. “Did your father make it home?”

“Mother and I were told that he was shot down over Midway, though we believed it penance for taking so many lives here.” She rationalized while still gently patting my arm. “I understand that during war, we all must make peace with what we’ve been ordered to do- what we’ve already done.”

Just then the two man crew dropped moorings, throttled up the engines, and we found ourselves on the way out to the floating Memorial commemorating the rusting steel gravesite. The Japanese woman seemed to become more distraught the closer we got. She just stared down onto the deck and every once in a while I’d see her wipe away tears.

“Ma’am,” I said gently, “You should take your own advice.”

“Sorry, Commander, I lost another during that war. I had a relative serving mostly against his will on a warship that was sunk by an American submarine that, strangely, was rumored to be manned by women- that is, if Tokyo Rose could be trusted or even believed”.

My jaw dropped as I stared at this woman. She looked over at my sudden silence and reaction.

“Have I said something disturbing, Commander?” She asked in concern.

“You are of the family Moritsu,” I gasped?

The woman’s eyes widened.

“How did you…?” The woman stared more intently at my nameplate for a moment.

“Steinert…I…I think I know that name.”

“I have a friend, Moritsu Takashi, who told me of a possible great uncle that was surprisingly named Takashi also. I thought Takashi to be a woman’s name.”

“There were many traditions begun in time of war, commander. My Aunt and Uncle requested shortly after the war that we honor the name Takashi and told us that my cousin Takashi had been very courageous and honorable even though conscripted near middle age by the Imperial Navy.”

“I may be mistaken, ma’am. The Takashi I know looks more Navajo Indian than Japanese.” I said trying to rescue the conversation.

The woman’s eyes grew larger. “My Aunt and Uncle also spoke of an American…” Her eyes grew even wider if that were possible! “An Alexandra Steinert! It was told that she had something to do with their decision to leave Hiroshima and open an eatery in Tokyo in the days before…” She paused and suddenly stared at me again in shock.

We were nearing the memorial by now- the motor launch made a wide sweeping turn to starboard to dock and would soon be disembarking the boat.

“Tell me, Cmdr. Steinert, has your friend ever told you of the angels clad in white that were rumored to have forewarned some of the people around those two Prefectures?”

I felt the blood drain from my face.

The observant woman’s eyes narrowed.

“You HAVE heard the tale!” She accused.

“I thought it only a story, ma’am.” I responded in a hushed voice attempting to cover my shock.

“I have relatives who swore on their death beds that angels in white urged them to leave- a few even told how they mysteriously found themselves in Meguro, Minato, Setagaya, even Nakano without any knowledge of how they got there.”

Our boat started to offload to the memorial’s dock and our conversation paused.

After returning salute to the Park Ranger stationed on the memorial- a Marine Reservist- we soon found ourselves on the opposite end of the large floating memorial facing a wall listing Arizona’s casualties.

Jack carefully scanned the list until she suddenly broke into quiet tears- her hand reaching out, but failing to even come close to touching her cousin’s name. Apparently this was a common practice, which necessitated theater stanchions and ropes to be placed a few feet out from the wall for protection.

I placed my hand on her shoulder and squeezed gently. Her pleading eyes met mine, but I could only close my eyes and shake my head ever so slightly.

I couldn’t interfere. There was some secretive reason I could only rescue Brian and even my gift was against giving me that answer.

At that moment, I felt so helpless.

“Maybe we should go, Alex, Jacki?” Uncle Rick said quietly as I felt his quivering hand on my shoulder.

My eyes hadn’t moved from my first officer…my friend…my sister. She nodded faintly and we relinquished our spot to other visitors.

We found ourselves near the middle of the Memorial that straddled the hulk, looking out and down into the clear water at the submerged galley- or what was left of it.

“I think that’s where he was stationed.” Jack said sadly as she nodded down. It dawned on me that he had been a few compartments aft of Brian.

I suddenly began remembering that morning- that single…terrifying…sound- the sound of a clock spring winding down and the sudden click that had doomed this ship and its crew! I thought about how close I had to have been to actually hear it that well. It had been in the next compartment!

The horrid memory of my ill-fated rescue attempt that morning- of nine terror-stricken faces on the beach, assaulted me brutally.

I…I couldn’t save them, I thought- my vision severely blurring from tears.

“Alex?” Uncle Rick’s voice asked in concern. “Alex, what’s wrong, honey?”

“It is as though she were actually reliving the horror of that day, Admiral.” The perceptive Japanese woman said with a troubled look from beside a horrified looking Jack.

I blinked quickly before looking over to see her sorrowful, yet understanding eyes looking back.

“Try as we might, Commander, history cannot be changed. It is as fixed as our destinies- forever cemented in time.”

“You’re wrong!” I whispered vehemently as I looked out over the water covering this hallowed place- at the white buoy marking Arizona’s bow. My hands squeezed at the handrail in anger- tears continued streaming from my eyes.

“Why couldn’t I save them?”

Had I really just said that aloud? Judging from Jack and Uncle Rick’s horrified expressions…probably.

“I’m sorry. I’ve already forgotten how connected you said you feel to this place, Commander.” The woman apologized with a slight bow.

“I’m the one who’s sorry, ma’am” I replied, quickly composing myself, and turning to face her again. “I shouldn’t allow myself to get so consumed, Miss Moritsu.”

“Please, my name is Mitsuru, Commander, Mitsuru Akane.”

My mouth suddenly went dry after hearing her name! Being so consumed by this hallowed place and my first-hand memories of what actually happened here, I failed to consult my foresight until now. Quickly doing so, I reached into my regulation shoulder bag and automatically removed my flask. Unscrewing the cap, I took a sip from it.

“I’m sorry, Akane. I’ve forgotten my manners. Would you care for a drink? It’s only water.” I said as I offered her my flask after wiping the top. I noticed Jack and Uncle Rick suddenly stare at me in horror.

“Jacki and I just returned from a trip to Japan. While there I visited my friend’s ancestral home in the hills above Hiroshima. I met a monk who, after hearing my and my uncle’s story showed me to a sacred spring. He claimed that it held restorative properties and urged me to fill this flask, but to only drink from it when I again felt the burden fall upon me.” I said but then smiled. “This is the first time I’ve taken a sip. Somehow though, it just tastes like water to me. I think he was just trying to make me feel better.” I paused. “Here, try some. You look like you carry a similar burden, Mitsuru Akane.”

‘What are you doing, Alex?’ Jack asked sharply in my mind.

‘Doing what the timeline has shown I should.’ I thought back.

‘She’s one of our sisters?’

“Almost.” I said aloud.

Akane looked to me then at my flask for a brief moment as she thought about what I had said then took a sip and returned it to me.

“Thank you, commander, it is indeed refreshing, though I think you are right about its claimed properties.”

“Well, at least its wet.” I said taking another sip then recapping and stowing it back in my bag. I returned to gazing back out at the water. Toward another Battleship- Missouri- moored facing us.

“Akane, have you been to the Aviation Museum yet?” I asked after a minute or two.

“I have yet to set foot in it, Commander.”

“Care to join us, then? I feel I owe you something more than an explanation for my emotional outburst.”

Uncle Rick looked like he would pass out!

“You do not have to do that, Commander.”

“I insist, Mitsuru Akane. It’ll be my treat.”

“Thank you, Commander, you are very kind.”

Our return trip to shore was reverse of our arrival to the floating shrine. Akane’s mood seemed to improve the closer we got to land. By the time we arrived back at the Visitor Center’s pier her spirits were again high and a smile appeared.

‘Um…how are we going to get there now that Mrs. Mitsuru is with us, Alex? You just can’t transport us there like normal now, can you?’ Jack asked in my mind as we exchanged quick glances.

“Chief?” Uncle Rick called out as we reached the welcoming area not far from the permanently moored USS Bowfin.

Jack and I turned our attention to the handsome SP standing near by. He immediately turned toward the old man’s voice. A look of confusion filled his face before he noticed the rank. Apparently, word had made it back to headquarters that an Admiral and two adjutants were at the ‘Valor in the Pacific’ complex.

“Aye, sir?” He stood to attention and saluted smartly. “Can I help you, Admiral?”

“We’d like to go over to the Airfield.” Admiral Demmit stated without hesitation.

“I can have a car here in five, Admiral Demmit!” The thirty-something Chief smiled as he held his salute. He glanced to Jack and I a second and winked.

“Wonderful, Chief…um…Fischer. Thank you.” Uncle Rick hesitated as he glanced back at the sailor’s nameplate. My uncle saluted then looked at me. I nodded imperceptibly with a smile.

“How’s your mother by the way, son? I haven’t seen her in a while.” Demmit asked with a raised eyebrow.

“She’s just as spry as ever, sir. Thanks for asking.” He said with a wink before reaching for his cell phone.
 
 

“You really shouldn’t have done that, Admiral Demmit. I would‘ve been quite content with just returning to my hotel instead of putting you out. I’m sure you have important matters awaiting your attention.” Mitsuru Akane said after a long silence as we sat in the back seat of the Lincoln staff car sent for us.

We were now crossing the bridge over to Ford Island. There was something to be said of modern convenience though I wondered when it had been built.

“Nonsense, Mrs. Mitsuru, I try to leave room in my schedule every time my nieces hit port. It’s the only time I get to see my family.” Uncle Rick answered from the front passenger seat- his head turning to look at the three of us. “Beside, I haven’t been over here in ages.” He winked.

Within a few minutes we were again standing in front of the entrance to the Pacific Aviation Museum.

This time though, we could be seen.

“Oh my, they seem to be filming something.” Mitsuru Akane said as she noticed the activity around four minivans parked nearby. Several people were busy moving video equipment into the building. “I’m sorry for having you bring me this far only to be turned away, Admiral.” She apologized.

“Maybe we can still get in, ma’am?” I said cheerfully.

“We might get in the way though, Commander.” She said as she stared at the blonde haired man, Keith, coming out the entrance. “I wonder what LAPS means, anyway?” She asked.

“Los Angeles Paranormal Society, ma’am.” The man, Keith, said overhearing her question. “We’re just setting up our command center for tonight’s investigation, you can still go in to see the exhibits if you want. We’re going to wait till after closing to finish.”

“Thank you.” I said smiling at him. “Mrs. Mitsuru has visited Pearl Harbor many times, but has never been here before. We thought she would be interested since her father participated in the raid.”

“Really? Wow, I’m sure he told you some good stories, ma’am.”

“He never made it back to Japan, young man.” Akane said sadly.

“Oh. Oh, I’m very sorry, ma’am.”

“Mrs. Mitsuru’s father, it seems, allegedly dropped the bomb that led to the Arizona’s demise. She comes here every year to ask forgiveness on his behalf.” I informed him.

“Oh my gosh! That’s…that’s incredible! I can’t begin to understand how you must feel, ma’am. Please…go on in. Tell the manager that Keith Fox said it was ok.”

“Thank you, Mr. Fox.” Uncle Rick said as he offered his hand.

“My pleasure Admiral, my pleasure.” He said as he opened the door for us.

“Can I help you?” A younger woman asked from behind the counter as we entered.

“Mr. Fox said we could still take a tour.” I replied.

“Of course. We’re still open for tours. Would you like the full guided tour with one of our Docents; the self-guided tour of Hangars 37 and 73; or would you just like to visit the museum in Hangar 37? We have one more guided tour scheduled to start in five minutes.” The young woman explained as I looked at the rates.

“We’d like the full tour for all four of us, please.” I said as I reached into my regulation shoulder bag.

“With your military discount that will be eighty dollars, please.” She said with no concern of how much the total actually was.

Had I not previously traveled further into the future, I would have choked! Instead, I produced my ‘credit card’ which she swiped through a slot built into the side of the register, waited, and then asked me to enter my ‘pin’ number using a small numeric keypad on the counter.

“Thank you. Your tour will start over there,” she pointed to her left, “in five minutes, Commander Steinert. Here’s your receipt. When called, please step over to the area on your right and you’ll all be given a wristband good for both hangers and the tour. I hope you enjoy your visit to the Pacific Aviation Museum here at Pearl Harbor.”

“Thank you.” I said with a bright smile.

“Please excuse me a moment.” Mitsuru Akane begged and hurried off to our left for the restrooms.

“Just where did you get a credit card, Alex?” Jack asked in curiosity as we stepped away from the front desk. “Did Randi get that for you when we visited the twenty-first century?”

“It’s my Empress Express card, Jack. I never leave base without it.” I giggled quietly, unable to keep a straight face.

Jack rolled her eyes in response while Uncle Rick tried desperately to figure out what a ‘credit card’ actually was.

“It’s like running a bar tab, but through a bank, Uncle Rick.” I said feeling bad for him. “And yes, Jack, Randi set up a special off-shore account administered by RVP from Kili Island.” I showed her the card with a dazzling, star-filled night sky on its face.

“Cute.” Jack deadpanned.

“Hey, it was either this or wash eighty bucks worth of dishes!” I replied with a wry smile. “This place is privately run so we wouldn’t be getting in free.”

Akane appeared out of the lavatory door and walked over to us.

“Commander, I believe that water you offered me went straight through.”

“It did?” I looked surprised and horrified. “I hope it was fit to drink, ma’am. I’d feel really bad if I made you sick.”

“No, Commander, this old body sometimes takes me by surprise. I doubt a monk from the homeland would intentionally give you bad water.” The older Japanese woman reassured me.

“Admiral, Commanders, ma’am, the tour is about to begin if you would follow me please?” The young woman that waited on us said as she walked past and motioned to us. Stepping behind a walled counter she produced, reached across the counter, and applied our wristbands then again motioned us to follow.

Entering the wide, curved hallway with airline memorabilia on its walls and a few self-standing display cases, the woman stopped and turned to us.

“Well…um…hi, and welcome to the Pacific Aviation Museum here at Pearl Harbor. My name is Susan and I’ll be your guide through Hangars 37 and 73 today. If you cannot hear what I’ve said, please feel free to ask me to repeat something. Of course, I don’t really have to tell most of you that, I guess.” Our hostess giggled uncomfortably.

As if on cue, a jet could be heard somewhere outside. Uncle Rick looked a bit concerned, but quickly covered with a stern frown.

“No respect for an Admiral around here!” He growled, shaking his head a few times in mock anger. We all laughed.

As we waited for Susan to finish telling us about the artifacts in the display cases, I brought up my HUD and enabled my tiara’s Artificial Temporal Field Detector. Hopefully the ATFD would find Ricky Lynn’s missing device. I was glad I had remembered to take it off and place it in my shoulder bag. It really couldn’t be called regulation- still- I preferred it to the high crowned, narrow brimmed cover the Navy issued women these days.

Immediately, the ATFD window popped up in my vision and indicated nothing within the sensor’s range.

“So, Admiral, I noticed that you three are submariners?” Our guide asked in curiosity.

Akane suddenly snapped around and stared at Jack and I!

“Why yes, we’re in the Silent Service, Susan.” Uncle Rick admitted.

“Silent Service? Wow, I haven’t heard it referred to in those terms since our last group of World War II vets came through.” She replied tensely, her smile somewhat guarded.

“I commanded a boat during the cold war, sweetheart…when we had to be silent.” Demmit growled. “The term never went away.”

Our guide looked at the Admiral with a little fear in her eyes.

“Commander Steinert here has her own boat now. Lt. Commander Cummins is her Ex-O. I’m proud to say that they are the very first female naval officers to command their own submarine, young lady.” He added.

Akane gasped in surprise hearing that piece of information.

“Oh my God, that is so amazing! I can’t imagine the stress you two must be under, Commanders!” Susan gasped, her hands going to her mouth in excitement. “Wait until the others hear that I had two real celebrities in my final tour of the day! Wow!”

As I felt my face warm, I looked over to Mitsuru Akane. She seemed to be shying away from both Jack and I, and the extra attention.

“Three.” I said looking back to our guide.

“Excuse me, Commander Steinert?”

“There are three celebrities in your tour today, Susan. Mrs. Mitsuru’s father was an Imperial pilot in 1941. It’s rumored that he dropped the ordinance that doomed Arizona.” I continued.

The younger woman, of obvious Asian descent stared at Akane a moment.

“I admire your courage, Mrs. Mitsuru.” Susan said as she bowed slightly to the older woman. “I have met many veterans visiting the island doing the exact same thing you are doing for your father. I take it he never returned?”

Akane shook her head sadly.

“Commanders, Admiral, I take it you all had relatives that served here?” Our guide asked carefully.

Uncle Rick, Jack, and I nodded.

Susan remained quiet for a moment as if debating something.

“My great-grandfather was found on the road to Schofield. From what my grandfather heard, he was killed by friendly fire after offering to drive a congressman and his son to that Army base that morning.

Jack and I gasped!

“I know!” She replied in excited agreement of our supposed reaction. “Grandfather also said that his father was suspected of espionage! Is that cool or what?”

Jack looked at me in horror. We’d had a hand in that man’s demise. Uncle Rick looked to us cautiously for a moment.

“From what I’ve studied about the attack, many civilians were killed or wounded that morning, Susan. It had to be total chaos around here.” Uncle Rick informed her. “It’s a wonder more people didn’t die.” He added, looking to Jack and I quickly. I saw pride in his eyes.

Akane began to wipe her eyes.

“I’m sorry. We’re supposed to keep our guests happy and interested here instead of depressed and sad. Let’s move into the main display area.” Our guide said cheerfully as she looked up from the floor.
 
 

“Are you sure you won’t join us for dinner, Mitsuru Akane?” I asked again as our car pulled up to Mrs. Mitsuru’s hotel in Honolulu.

“Although I would like to get to know you, Admiral Demmit, and Lt. Cmdr. Cummins better, Commander Steinert, I must decline. Today was much more taxing on me than I expected. I think I will just order room service and go to bed early tonight. I want to get some shopping in before I leave for Japan the day after tomorrow. Thank you for your hospitality though, Alexandra. Thank you all for the pleasant company and especially the tour. Good night.”

“Good night, Mrs. Mitsuru. Maybe we’ll meet again soon.” I replied with a pleasant smile.

“Maybe we will, Commander. Pleasant journeys.” The older woman said as she bowed, turned, and headed into the hotel slowly.

Chief Fischer closed the back door and walked around to the driver’s side. I noticed Akane look over her shoulder at us for a second before continuing into the open-air lobby.

“She suspects you and Cmdr. Cummins, Empress.” He said as soon as he closed his door.

“I know, Ted. We have to pay her a visit later tonight.” I sighed.

“So she’s one of us, I take it?” He asked, looking back at us in the rearview mirror.

I closed my eyes for a second.

“You gave her some water, ma’am?”

I closed my eyes a second time.

“I thought I noticed her hair starting to lose its gray. Will she be cute, ma’am?”

“Shouldn’t we be getting back to base, chief?” Uncle Rick growled.

“Yes sir, Admiral Demmit!” Fischer exclaimed as he put the car in gear to begin our journey back to base.

“Any luck finding Ricky Lynn’s invention, Alex?” Uncle Rick asked as we slowly crept past the airport turn off on Oahu’s ‘Interstate’ highway- H1.

“Nothing, Uncle Rick. Future Alex’s memories indicated that Ricky Lynn lost it around 1900hrs. If it was truly set to travel two hours into the future, but set instead for twenty years into the past, it should be here any minute.”

“Ricky Lynn is still going to school at Carnegie Mellon University right, Empress?”

“In 2011? Yes, why? She’s teaching there in 2035 though.”

“Alex, CMU is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. That’s East coast time. We’re six hours behind, if I remember right.”

“Oh.”

I had forgotten about that. Now I felt stupid! Imagine…the Empress of Time and Space…forgetting about time zones!

“You forgot about the time zones, Alex?” Jack gasped sarcastically.

“Note to self…” I said as if dictating a memo, “Jack to be dropped off in the late Cretaceous…”

What was left of our one hour trip back to Pearl was deafeningly silent. Where had all the automobiles come from?
 
 

“Thanks for the lift, Ted.” I said brightly as Jack and I walked around to the driver’s side door.

“My pleasure, Commander. Keep an eye on the Admiral for me will ya? Mom would be on my case if something happened to him on this mission.”

“Aside from the usual headache, he’ll be fine, Ted. I’m sure she knows that already.”

“Oh ya…right. I forgot about that.” Chief Fischer chuckled. “Travel safe, Ma’am. Commander, take good care of her, please?”

“Like I always do, Teddy.” Jack answered from beside me with a flirtatious smile.

“So now what, Alex?” Uncle Rick asked as the car drove off.

“We go into the OC and have dinner, sir.” I said with little emotion.

“When do we kick off this treasure hunt then?” He asked with an agitated growl.

“After we have dinner, and Jack and I return from the lady’s room, Uncle Rick.”

Admiral Demmit harrumphed as he held the door to the Officer’s Club open for us.
 
 

“Now that was a good steak!” Jack exclaimed with a satisfied smile as she wiped her mouth with the white linen napkin.

The way she had devoured it made me wonder if…nope, I was not gonna go there!

“Admiral, if you would excuse Jack and I, we need to check our faces…Jack?” I announced as I stood from the table. Uncle Rick was still savoring the last remaining morsels of his steak dinner, but stood to see us off on reflex.

“Do I have time for another beer, Alex?”

“Of course, sir. I’ll settle up when we get back, okay?”

“Travel safely, you two.” He said just above a whisper.

Jack and I nodded.

After washing our hands, Jack and I entered separate stalls. Something the attendant saw as normal. I quickly phased through the divider and joined Jack in her’s. I suddenly wondered how Superman could change clothes in such a confined area.

‘Ready to go get Akane, Jack,’ I thought?

She nodded and took my hand.
 
 

A young woman of maybe eighteen was curled up, sleeping soundly, still fully clothed on her bed in the hotel room we found ourselves in. As we watched for a few moments, she began to cry in her sleep. With a start, she woke up and looked around the room in confusion.

“She looks like Tish’s sister, Alex.” Jack said, stating the obvious.

“Well they have met, Jack.”

“And just how am I supposed to know that?”

“Jacki’s memories?”

“Oh…ya…right.”

I shook my head in disbelief of my companion.

“Acoustic shield, like we planned it earlier, Jack.”

We watched as the young woman got up gracefully and padded off to the lavatory in confusion, turning on its light, and closing the door automatically.

A shriek and barrage of Japanese…um…expletives…exploded from the small room. The lavatory door flew open and the much younger Mitsuru Akane ran out to search her purse. Finding her compact mirror, she began to touch her face while staring at her reflection. She ran back into the lavatory again.

“What has happened to me?” She cried over and over again in Japanese then ended her mantra suddenly. “Why do I look so young? Have I died?”

Jack pointed over to the empty room service cart. Among the dishes was an empty Saki bottle.

“That would certainly do it, Jack.” I grinned deviously.

“So now what?” she asked.

“Just like with our shore crew, Jack.” I replied in a neutral tone.

The room’s lighting blinked several times and Jack even turned on the TV for added effect.

Akane’s wrinkle-free, youthful face slowly peered out from the bathroom ever so cautiously. Her eyes were as big as saucers as she looked around the room in fright.

“Isssss…is someone there?” She asked timidly.

Quickly, Mrs. Mitsuru disappeared back into the safety of the bathroom.

“Hit the lights one more time and I’ll rephase us, Jack.”

She nodded and the room went dark for a couple seconds.

‘We’re here.’ I thought to Jack as the room lights came back on.

Jack pointed to the door and several knocks sounded from it.

“Whoooo…who is it?” The timid young voice called out from the lavatory.

Several more knocks sounded.

“Whooo issss it?” Akane asked again in fright as she slowly appeared from the bathroom. Both hands were gripping the doorframe as tightly as she could, her eyes glued to the entrance to the room. “Whaaaaa…what do you want?”

“We thought we’d answer those questions you had about us, Mitsuru Akane.” I said cheerfully.

The young woman’s pale face spun around to stare at Jack and I.

She fell to the floor in a twisting heap.

“Did you really have to frighten her like that, Alex?” Jack asked as I saw some movement under the young woman’s eyelids.

“It did its job, Jack. Just as it did with Michelle and her friends.”
 
 

“Commanders…how…how did you get in here? Whaaaa…what happened to me?” A very confused, very incoherent Mitsuru Akane asked as she started to come around.

“That is but one of the many questions we came here to answer.” I said gently. “We can wait until you’re more awake though.”

A bottle of water floated over to us.

I looked at Jack in frustration. “What is it with Mind Warriors and Mini-Fridges?” I asked as I quickly grabbed the bottle out of the air.

“Mind…Mind Warrior?” Akane whispered as she tried to focus on the two of us.

“Mind Warrior, Akane. Jack is my Mind Warrior. She helps protect me, the Empress of Time and Space, from harm when we travel.” I answered candidly.

The woman’s eyes flew open as she suddenly reached full consciousness. She stared at me wide-eyed and blinked only a few times.

“You…”

I nodded with a gentle smile.

“This is a dream?”

Jack and I shook our heads ‘no’ a few times.

“Then you are…were the Angels of Mercy I heard so much about?”

“Jack and I relocated as many people as would agree, ma’am. I’m sorry we couldn’t get more to safety.” I answered sadly.

Akane remained silent for several minutes as she processed what I had said.

“My Aunt and Uncle, you took them to Tokyo?”

I nodded. “The family Moritsu holds a special place in our society, Akane. You are welcome to join us if you desire.”

“How?”

“How do you join us?” I smiled. “You just say you will…”

“How can you be here and…and…there…then?”

A demonstration was in order. I phased out and quickly moved over by the door and rephased.

“Like this, hun.” I chirped happily, watching her head suddenly snap around to my voice.

“Show off!” Jack growled under her breath.

“Like you’ve never done anything like this, Jack? Miss ‘I’ll-just-float-a-bottle-of-water-over- to-y’all-as-if-it-were-nothin-special’!”

“How did you get over there?”Akane asked in a louder voice, thereby interrupting our little…disagreement.

“I have the gift of Time Travel, Akane. If you want more of a demonstration you must trust that I will not hurt you and take my hand.” I said gently, walking back over to the bed and offering my hand to her.

The frightened girl alternated between staring at me and my outstretched hand.

“Ma’am, Alex means you no harm. The Empress has vowed only to help humanity, not hurt it.” Jack said gently after a few minutes of silence as she took my other hand in hers.

“What will happen if I take your hand?”

“In order to travel with me you must be in contact with me, Akane. I ask that if you trust me and take my hand, do not let go until I say it is safe to do so as time travel does have its dangers.”

Still the girl stared at my hand.

“Have Jack or I shown any malicious intent toward you since we met, Akane?”

It took another full minute, but cautiously, she put her hand in mine.

“You need to stand up too, hun.” I added.

After another minute Mitsuru Akane stood, quivering, next to me. I immediately phased us out.

“In answer to your question as to how I got over to the door without being seen, please try to put your free hand on the bed, hun.”

Her eyes widened as her hand passed unimpeded through the duvet and mattress.

“My gift allows me to shift us slightly out of phase with reality, Akane.” I paused to let that sink in- more so to let the young woman pass her hand through the bed multiple times until satisfied.

“So where and when do you want to go, hun?” I asked, but added, “Keep in mind it wouldn’t be appropriate for a young woman to be seen on an airbase or aircraft carrier in the middle of World War II.”

“I would like to know the truth about my cousin Takashi.”

“I see,” I replied. “Then you don’t want to see another time just another place, is that it?” I asked just to make sure.

“Please take me to my cousin.” She asked- her eyes steady on me.

“This will be a lateral, Jack- Sunnyvale, California, 2011.” I informed her.

Jack nodded.

A modern, well-kept office with a wall of windows replaced the pleasant, city-side hotel room.

“What do you mean there is a small flaw in the process? I want you to find the cause and rectify it before we end up recalling the whole lot! Authorize double time pay until this is handled, do you understand me?” A woman’s, British accented, voice said from the chair facing away from us.

“Yes, I understand that we will be losing money and that the stock holders will be furious with me! I stand by my order though, Mr. Huang! Let me know when we are ready to continue production…yes, thank you…good-bye.”

The chair turned toward us and Tish closed her cell phone and unceremoniously tossed it on the desk now in front of her.

“Semiconductors, she said!” Tish mouthed in a childish singsong voice. “Y’all invest in Semiconductors, hun”, she continued mockingly. “You didn’t inform me as to how much stress this job would cause for me, Empress!”

“No, I didn’t, Tish, but I also said that I wasn’t going to tell you everything…that you needed to do things for yourself!” I responded.

Moritsu Takashi noticeably jumped.

“Alexandra Covington!” Tish shouted angrily.

“Steinert, hun. Cmdr. Alexandra Steinert, USN.”

“Empress!” Tish shouted in surprise as she shot from the chair and dropped to one knee. “Welcome to Sunnyvale, California, it is December 9th, 2011.”

“Will you knock that off and stand up, Tish? God, that gets old!”

Tish stood back up and giggled as she came around the desk and wrapped her arms around me. “What’s the occasion, sensei, and who is the new recruit? She looks familiar somehow.” She continued, releasing me and looking at the frightened young woman.

“Moritsu Takashi, meet Mitsuru…”

“Akane? Is that you, cousin?” Takashi screeched, finally seeing the resemblance.

“Takashi?”

“It’s me, Akane-kun!” Tish chirped in glee before turning toward me. “Is this the day, Alex-sensei?”

I nodded with a smile.

Both women stared at each other for a minute.

Cmdr. Steinert, who is this woman? My Takashi was a middle-aged man last time I saw him. And if this is still 2011, he has been dead for…”

Tish looked at me. “She doesn’t know yet, Sensei? You haven’t told her of the Mahanilui?”

“Not yet, Tish. We just left her hotel room in Honolulu.”

“Akane-kun, if you believe Alex-sensei really can travel through space and time then you must believe I am your cousin, Takashi.” Tish proposed.

“Capt. Steinert rescued me in late March of 1944 after she torpedoed the ship I was stationed on.” She looked over to me again, “How long has it been for you, Sensei?”

“About four months, Tish.” I replied.

She nodded as Akane stared at Jack and I in fear.

“The crazy bitch was right?” Akane announced in a rude dialect of Japanese.

“Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while, hun.” I giggled as I replied in her language.

“That was about the only thing that whore got right so far, Alex.” Jack laughed.

“Ladies, that form of our language is not suitable for public conversation.” Tish scolded in her formal British accent before she too started laughing.

My linguist embraced her cousin. “Akane-kun, I have waited so long for this day! Welcome to our sisterhood, Mitsuru Akane.” Tish smiled brightly as she hugged tighter.

Mitsuru Akane remained stiff at the distinctly feminine greeting and stared at Tish in silence.

“I…I haven’t decided to join any…any sisterhood…yet.” Akane stuttered defiantly. “How can you be my Takashi when you appear and act completely female?”

Tish released the girl and held her at arm’s length as she appraised the question.

“I’ve been a girl for sixty-seven years now. I should like to think that I am comfortable with who I am after all this time.”

There was that formal British accent again.

“Sixty-seven years? You don’t look a day over eighteen.”

“Thank you, cousin.” Tish beamed. “And you don’t look a day over twenty.”

“I don’t?” Akane blinked several times, glancing down at herself.

“Sensei, Randi gave me an envelope on my visit to Reilly last month. She told me to keep it safe until the time was right. Tell me, is this that time?”

“Only if Akane agrees, Tish. She has to make up her own mind, as do any of us.” I answered.

She nodded. “I understand, Sensei.”

“Why do you call her teacher?” Tish’s cousin asked in confusion.

“”Akane-kun, Alexandra is a teacher! She has taught me so very much about the world around us- not this world,” Tish motioned about the room, “but the world that people never notice or even suspect to be around them. The Empress of Time and Space has shown me that, despite discrimination, hatred, and war, there is still a multitude of goodness that fights diligently to counter those previously listed obstacles. Cousin, I have accompanied the Empress many times over the years as she strives to keep this reality moving smoothly into the future. She…we…have also helped many other worlds return to their former splendor in the time since the Empress arrived.” Tish paused as she looked down to the floor.

“But mostly Alexandra-sensei has taught me respect…respect for all manner of beings, human or otherwise- no matter where in the universes they happen to be, and it doesn’t matter which side, if any, they are on.” She paused again.

“I now know the wonderful feelings associated with being given a second chance- the rare opportunity to do something more than was possible my first go around, Akane-kun.”

“Because of the Empress, her wisdom, and her charity, I can now help her make a difference in this and other worlds. I can truly help others now!”

“I don’t understand. Capt. Steinert can obviously travel from one place to another, but what can you do from this office, miss?”

“Cousin, because of my Mahanilui, I now speak three hundred-seventy languages fluently. Eighty of those are not indigenous to this planet.” Tish gushed.

“This ‘Mahanilui’ you talk about, what is it?”

Tish held up a finger, reached for the desk phone, and pressed a button on it.

“Yes, Tish?” A familiar voice answered.

“Alice, Alex, Jacki, Akane, and I will be here for awhile to discuss new business opportunities. Please clear my schedule for the rest of the day and see that we are not disturbed.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

There was a noticeable click from the loudspeaker as it went silent. The air beside Tish began to shimmer as a shape took form. Alice Wesnuski slowly appeared, though she seemed semi-transparent and not really in the room.

“Empress.” She said in a hollow-like tone as she bowed to me. “Welcome to Silicon Valley. To what do you honor us with your presence this day?”

“Knock it off, hun, you’ll scare our guest,” I intoned flatly.

The ghost-like image giggled. “Will you require my help, Alex?”

“Maybe not, Alice. Tish just wants time to reacquaint herself with her cousin.” I said as I noticed her washed out face turn sad. “Mitsuru Akane, this is one of our sisters, Alice Wesnuski. Alice, Akane.”

“A pleasure to finally meet you, Miss Mitsuru.” Alice greeted as her image bowed slightly. “I hope Alex’ vision of our combined futures holds true.” The image of Alice turned to Takashi.

“I’ll take care of things here then, Tish. What do you want me to do if Huang shows up?”

“Tell him that his team had better take care of that manufacturing foul-up and that I went home to nurse the severe migraine I contracted while worrying about what to say to our board of directors should he fail!”

Alice’s ghost giggled.

“Process drawing number three-six-six-one-alpha-four-nine-Henry-zero-three; page ten; coordinates: bravo-five. The required temperature should be two-thirteen cee instead of the specified two-twenty cee, Ladies,” I proclaimed in monotone.

Tish quickly wrote down the information while Alice leaned closer to watch.

“Thanks, Sensei. You may have just saved Ricky Lynn’s collective butt. Without these new solar panels, her alternative energy graduate project would be doomed.”

“Not yet I haven’t.” I said under my breath as I quickly snapped out of my trance-like stare.

“What was that, ma’am?” Alice asked as she turned to me with a confused look.

“Nothing, hun, I was just thinking of another mission, that’s all. Don’t you have reports to prepare?” I asked, covering for my slip.

“Oh…okay…let me know if you need something. I get off at five today.” Alice said with a smile.

I thought for a minute. Tish must have noticed my expression.

“Ali, after passing this new information on, and clearing the schedule, alert the process manager of my departure and tell him I’m giving you the rest of the day off, too. I think the Empress may need you on her next mission after all.”

“ALL RIGHT!” The image’s voice as well as a similar muffled voice from just outside the office doors shouted. “I mean…I mean…thank you, Ms Moritsu.” Alice’s translucent image continued. “If you could wait just a few minutes, Empress, I can be ready to go?”

“It’ll take thirty-one minutes, Alice. We’ll be waiting.” I told her with a smile.

Alice’s ghost-form smiled and disappeared instantly. Jack offered her hand to Tish, but Tish instead went over to a picture on the wall and moved it to one side to reveal a safe. She entered a combination on the keypad, opened it, and removed a large, plain brown, interoffice office envelope. Walking back over, she took Jack’s hand while I gently took hold of Akane’s. Why hadn’t our guest reacted so intensely to Alice’s gift?

The sunshine falling through the window jumped a few degrees west as I advanced us thirty minutes into the future.

“What just happened, Cmdr. Steinert?” Akane asked curiously as she tilted her head to me.

“Okay…I’m ready.” Alice announced as she quickly entered the office and closed the door behind her, locking it in the process.

“Time travel, Akane-kun. Sometimes it can be very subtle.” I giggled.

“She cheated.” Jack announced flatly.

“Thanks for the invite, skipper.” Alice chirped as she totally ignored Jack’s accusation and took the mysterious brown package from Tish in one hand and her outstretched hand in the other.

“Tish, think of home. Jack?” I said and asked then nodded as our destination appeared in my mind.

A large living room decorated in a definite Asian style replaced Tish’s office.

“Don’t let go yet, I haven’t phased us in.” I announced as I looked around us. Our guest was standing in the middle of a glass-topped coffee table. “Akane, you might want to take a few steps back. I don’t think Takashi would want blood stains in her table.” I said as I nodded down to my right.

Our newest sister gasped loudly before practically jumping backwards a few feet.

“Is this what you meant by travel hazards, Commander?” She asked, still flustered.

“That would be one of the minor ones, yes.” I giggled.

Akane swallowed hard. “One of the…minor…ones?”

“You could solidify in solid rock; get hit by a car just after rephasing; end up in somebody else; appear in an active volcano…”

“Jack!”

“Sorry, Alex, I just wanted to give her a couple of examples.”

“Whose house is this?” Akane asked after staring at Jack and I for several seconds.

“This is my living room, cousin. Empress, can we go outside and remove our shoes, please?” Tish requested politely.

We were immediately in a small foyer. After pulling everyone closer together I rephased us and we proceeded to remove our shoes before again entering the living room- well, Tish and Akane removed their shoes. Jack, Alice, and I simply removed them from our Reilly suit ensemble selection.

Suddenly the house came alive as three young children came screaming down a set of steps nearby.

“Momma!” They all screamed. “You’re home early!”

“I am! And I’ve brought some friends.” Tish gushed happily.

“Aunt Alex! Aunt Jacki!” The children screamed looking toward Jack and I.

“How y’all doin’ today?” I asked as Jack and I got mugged and lost our hearing.

I noticed Akane staring at Tish in complete shock.

“They are you…yours?”

“Cuz,” Tish began in her thick southern drawl, “The Mahanilui didn’t just make us all look like women-folk, it went clean ta the bone!” She giggled.

“Mitsuru Akane, meet Alexandra, 8; Rebecca, 6; and Yoshi, 3.”

“Honey?” A man’s voice echoed down from upstairs somewhere. “Did I hear that Alex and Jacki are here?”

An Asian man in his late twenties walked carefully down the same staircase holding a baby.

“You heard right, honey. Empress, might I introduce my husband of almost nine years, Sam Hikawa and my youngest, Jacquelyn. She’s almost a year old.” Tish added proudly.

“Hi Alice! Oh, Josie, I didn’t know you were here too. Did you cut your h…?” Sam started to say, but stopped abruptly when Akane turned to look at him straight on.

“I’m sorry; I thought you were Takashi’s sister Josie. I’m Sam…Sam Hikawa…and you would be?” The man asked after handing young Jacki to Tish. He promptly took the young woman’s hand and bowed slightly as he introduced himself.

“Mitsuru…Akane.” She answered sheepishly.

“Nice to meet you, Mitsuru. Are you any relation to Takashi by chance?” He asked. “Because there is a striking resemblance.”

“Akane is my cousin, dear. She might be staying with us for a little while, isn’t that right, Alex-sensei?”

“If that’s her decision, Tish.”

“Mitsuru, you are welcome in our home for as long as you would like to stay.” Sam said happily. “Family will never be turned away.”

Akane blushed as she bowed in thanks. “I am honored, Hikawa-san, though it has not been proven that I am related as of yet.”

“Jack, I guess another side trip is in order.” I sighed as I looked to our guest. “Akane, take my hand and I shall prove…beyond any doubt, that this woman is who I say.” I said as I rudely shot my hand to her.
 
 

We were suddenly on Sand Dollar.

“Here is your proof, Mitsuru Akane, though do not let go.” I said as I pointed down at a male Moritsu Takashi. “Watch and learn.”
 

“Has he had anything to eat or drink since we rescued him?” Capt. Alex Steinert asked as she entered Emily’s quarters and makeshift hospital room.

“Just some water late last night, nothing this morning yet.” Emily answered.

“Lt. Smith, please introduce me and ask for his name.”

This time I understood, thanks to my translator, the dialect of our enemy’s reply. Akane gasped in surprise. His answer was short and heated and I really had no need to translate it.

“He will not tell ‘mere’ women anything, Captain. He says he would rather die.” Mina replied as she strongly censored the translation.

“Tell him that if he doesn’t show a little more respect to the Commanding officer of this vessel that I can and will honor his last wish. I will also make it a point to note in my report that he has dishonored the very people that showed him mercy- the very women that saved his lowly carcass- is that clear! Exact translation, Lieutenant!”

I was glad to hear that Mina’s translation was indeed correct. Takashi’s reply was longer than before and his tone much softer.

“He says that he is indeed thankful for his rescue, but he says you cannot possibly be the Captain, as women are forbidden to command naval vessels on both sides.”

“Explain to him that this was not our choice- that we were once… oh hell! Tell him it is a test by our military to show that even American women can beat the Imperial Navy. See how he reacts to that.”
 

“Why did you tell him a lie, Commander?” Akane asked me as Takashi became infuriated- so much so that spit flew from his mouth as he made his next statement. I still didn’t need a translator to understand that very derogatory, very filthy response!

Akane and I watched in surprise as Capt. Steinert quickly turned, grabbed Sasha Trent’s pistol, roughly pulled back its action and just as swiftly grabbed Takashi’s tattered shirt collar putting the muzzle to his temple. It happened so fast, I wondered if I had unknowingly affected time at such an early stage in the Empress’ development.
 

“Listen, you arrogant, Jap asshole! If I say I’m the Captain of this boat you damn well better believe me or I’ll blow that offensive, foul mouth off of your arrogant, slant-eyed face. No one talks to me or my officers like that! No one! Now, are you going to talk or do you take a trip out a torpedo tube!”

Akane gasped again as we watched the muzzle press a little harder into his temple. It twisted a little for effect.

Takashi was now sweating profusely and he swallowed hard. Apparently, he now realized that I was a woman to be reckoned with. I was in command!

“Well, well, you do understand some English! Look ladies he speaks Colt! Now, Lt. Smith, if you’ll please introduce us again? Inform him I know many of the ‘more colorful’ facets of his language.”
 

“If this is 1944, how would you know such fowl language, Commander?” Akane asked as she turned to stare at me.

“I knew a Japanese boy that immigrated to Missouri in high school, Akane.”

“Then he dishonored his family by teaching a young woman such trash!”
 

“He says his name is Takashi Moritsu, Ship’s Cook and he is sorry for offending us with his dishonorable language. He was not aware that Americans- especially American women knew such crude phrases! He will not dishonor us in the future.”
 

“I wasn’t a girl at the time, ma’am.” I said sadly, looking down to the deck.
 

“Lt. Smith, would he like some food and does he have any additional medical requirements?”
 

“Oh…forgive me, commander.” Akane apologized, remembering about the Mahanilui.
 

“He says he is hungry, but is reluctant because of what he has been told about the American’s treatment of prisoners. I have reassured him that those reports are erroneous and unfounded. He agreed to eat only after you assure its safety.”

“Tell him I like our cook, but I can’t vouch for anyone’s safety after eating it- not even my own!”

I laughed and shook my head while Akane just looked between us in puzzlement.

“He says you officers are all alike! You all expect exquisite meals from pig slop! Captain, I quite like the chief’s culinary skill. I am particularly fond of his apple pie!”

“Ap-prel pry? Ah… BraseBrawl! Brabe Root! Ahhg.” Takashi spouted, but quickly winced with pain from his ribs.
 

“Cousin always liked his American apple pie.” Akane giggled with a worried look.
 

“Tell him I think we’re out of pie, but I’ll try to find something edible in the galley.”
 

“Enough proof, Akane-kun?” I asked- though I knew what her reply would already be.

“This only proves that you rescued my cousin, Commander…” Akane began to say just before our surroundings changed again.
 

“See? I wasn’t lying, Skip, he’s changing. Look, he’s got a full head of hair already!” Jamie Hilf cried as Capt. Steinert hit the deck and turned around.
 

“That looks like my cousin, but I barely remember him with that much hair, Commander.”

“Keep watching, Akane. You’re witnessing the true power of the Mahanilui.” I said as I pointed to the visibly transforming person in Sand Dollar’s brig.
 

“Is that how it happened to us Skip?”

“Most certainly, Miss Hilf.” Lt. Smith said as she and Lt. Scott joined us in the already crowded hold that served as pump room, cargo and food storage, and brig. I moved Akane and I into the smaller Brig in order not to stand in one of them.

“I wish I had a camera to document this. Navy Medical would never believe this otherwise.”

“Emily, I don’t think anyone would believe this with pictures. Look, his clothes are starting to fit differently.”

“Permission to be excused, Captain? I’m starting to get nauseous, sir.”

“Very well, Hilf, but consider yourself on report! Don’t be surprised if you’re the next occupant of this brig, sailor. What is wrong with you? Drinking while on duty! On second thought, I want you to wait in the Wardroom until I arrive. Is that understood, sailor?”

“Yes, sir. I’m sorry sir! I just needed to dull this pain, sir. I…”

Akane and I watched the tears stream down Jamie Hilf’s lovely face before she turned for the ladder.

“And before either one of you accuses me of being too hard on her, may I remind you that the penalty for such an offense is incarceration and court-martial! I went easy on her.”

“Captain, this is quite strange. I have never seen the Mahanilui progress so rapidly! What we have witnessed in these last few minutes would normally take several hours! I can’t explain this conundrum.” Lt. Smith said in a quiet but concerned tone.

“I just can’t believe my eyes, Mina! This is so fantastic- like I’m actually watching Superman change clothes, only in reverse!”

“You mean Supergirl don’t you, Emily? I just can’t believe it’s happening again. We have to find out how this happened.”

“Emily, you and Lt. Smith stay with Moritsu. When he wakes up I want you here to make sure he doesn’t do anything foolish. Let him know he’s not alone in this. I’m going to ask Hilf, Richards, and Andrews what exactly they saw or did down here. I’ll send someone down on guard duty.”

Past me turned for the ladder to the main deck. “I can’t believe it happened again!”
 

“You don’t know what magic overtook everyone, Commander?” Akane asked in amazement.

“Like Tish told you earlier, the Mahanilui is a process designed by the ‘Past’ Empress to save her people from total annihilation. The little machines can completely rewrite a person’s genetic code if needed.” I sighed. “That includes gender.” I added sadly.

“I just can’t believe that is my Takashi.” Akane said as she looked on in wonder.

“It happened the same way for us…and for you, Akane-kun. Being female already, you didn’t change all that much. Your physical change of age is the most visible whereas I and the rest of my crew….” I told her, motioning down my body to illustrate.

“And Takashi is fine with this change?” She asked.

“Weeeelll, not at first. As with all of us, it took a little time to acclimate, but the Takashi of 2011 is quite comfortable with her body. I’m sure she could go on and on about her experiences. Mind you, all those experiences were not happy or pleasant- no one’s life can be all roses and happiness.”

“I wouldn’t expect that, Commander. I, for one, know that first hand.”

I remained silent for a moment. “So, have I achieved my proof, Akane-kun?”

The young woman holding my hand nodded ever so slightly.

Takashi’s pleasantly decorated home appeared around us.

“Before I release my hold, Akane-kun, I await your answer.” I said as I looked down to the floor.

“My answer for what…exactly?”

“Would you care to join our sisterhood, Mitsuru Akane…the women of Kili Island…?” Looking back up and into her eyes, I continued. “To agree to be my sister and join the Empress in helping the people of this world as well as others?” I asked and then paused.

“To be my friend?”

“Do I have to give you my answer now?”

“No, Akane-kun. It is your decision when you voice any preference. I would however suggest that you get to know your cousin. She has waited this day for so very long and I would hate to see her visions of this happy day ruined.”

“She did appear to be very excited by our arrival.”

“That is because she has struggled over the years to stay out of your life- fearing you would shun her as some teen-aged lunatic. I can tell you it wasn’t easy when you both worked at the same company…in the same department, for twenty-five years.

“She worked for IBM?” Akane’s eyes grew wide. “In Tokyo?”

I nodded.

The woman remained silent for a few moments as she desperately searched her memories for Takashi. She finally gasped as those memories surfaced.

“That was her? But she never seemed to age!”

“And now you know why, Akane-kun. You are welcome to join us if you wish; otherwise, Jack and I will take you back to your hotel in Honolulu.”

“You would just return me and allow me to live out another lifetime without any intervention?”

“All I ask is that you keep what you have learned…what you are now…to yourself. If the general population found out that the Empress and her sisters were to actually exist…”

My eyes dropped to the floor again.

“It would make our lives a living hell.” I concluded.

“Empress…” She started to say. “Commander Steinert, allow me a few days to meet Takashi before I make my decision. Whichever way I chose, your sisterhood shall never be at risk of exposure.”

“It is all I can ask of you. Thank you, Akane-kun.”

“Glad you came back in the same week, Alex!” Jack blurted out sarcastically as Tish’s three kids turned around.

“Aunt Akane! Aunt Alex!” Three children shouted in unison and rushed my companion.

We were back in this reality. Tish motioned to me with the interoffice envelope that she picked up from the coffee table.

I winked and noticed that Sam had turned on the TV. The news was just coming on.

“This evening we have sad breaking news at the top of our early broadcast! We have just learned that a Japan Airlines Boeing 757 has gone down approximately seventy miles east-southeast of Midway. Officials in Hawaii reported losing radar contact with flight 243…”

Akane’s head snapped around at the mention of the flight number.

“…At approximately 1:34PM local time. Air and sea rescue has been dispatched to the last known location. As of this newscast the plane’s wreckage has not been located. Flight 243 was enroute from Honolulu to Tokyo and reportedly carried two hundred and thirty passengers.”

Quickly Akane stared down at the television’s lower right corner.

“This is December 11th?” She asked as her head snapped back to me.

“It is Mitsuru, why?” Tish’s husband Sam answered in confusion.

The young woman’s face drained of all color as she mouthed the number 243 several times. She slowly fell backwards onto the floor landing hard on her behind.

Takashi’s three girls quickly retreated to their mother in fear. Tish looked at her cousin with a worried gaze.

Mitsuru Akane slowly turned her head my way. Her teary eyes slowly rose up my body finally reaching my face. She was visibly shaking as her right hand rose from her side; quivering, she began to point it up at me.

I remained silent and stood still- my eyes carefully regarding this terrified young woman. Final proof of the Empress had just been provided.

“You…” Akane gulped, wiped at her eyes, and rewet her lips a few times. “You…you knew.” She almost whispered. “You knew!” She accused a little louder.

Takashi and her husband began looking between Akane and I in concern.

“You knew…knew that…that I would be…” Tears continued flowing from her eyes. Wiping them back again she continued. “You knew that I would…would be on that plane!” She accused.

A small smile crept to my lips, as my right eyebrow rose. Still, I remained silent.

“You did this…did this…to…to keep me from…from boarding that plane!”

“Mrs. Mitsuru,” Jack said gently. “The Empress protects her friends and especially her family. That is one matter that Alex will never negotiate!” She reminded sternly.

“But…but…but…”

Takashi slowly peeled her children away from her sides and approached her cousin.

“You are my cousin, Akane-kun, and therefore my relative.” Tish said, taking the young woman’s hands in her’s. “Alex-sensei is my friend…my sister by way of the Mahanilui. Because of that process, and my relationship with her, you are also her family.”

“You hardly know anything about me.” Akane said as she continued to stare at me.

“Miss Mitsuru, the Empress knows more about you than you can ever imagine.” Jack said cryptically as she winked at me.

I closed my eyes and nodded once. She had no idea how true that statement was.

“Tish, would you give Akane her new identity?” I asked calmly.

“My new…identity?”

“Mitsuru Akane died in that plane crash- or did you just randomly lose your balance after hearing that flight number?” I asked.

“But I didn’t get on that plane. I’m right here with you…right now.”

“According to that plane’s passenger manifest, Akane Mitsuru officially checked in and took seat 34D for her flight back to Japan.” I informed her.

“But how is that possible?”

“We have our ways. Tell me, Mrs. Akane Mitsuru, would anyone recognize you as you look right now?” I asked seriously, scanning her from head to toe.

“Of course! My children and grandchildren would know.”

“Really? Because I see a young woman of about nineteen or twenty sitting before me…”

“I’m seventy-six years old, I’ll have you know!”

“Mitsuru, with all due respect…not from where I stand.” Tish’s Sam said in awe with a slight smile. Tish glared at her husband.

“It’s true honey, Akane looks a year…maybe two, older than you.” He argued. “In fact, you two could be sisters.”

Mitsuru Akane began crying- this time louder.

“I’ve lost them.” She choked out after a minute.

“Who did you lose, hun?” I asked in confusion.

“My family…my children…my grandchildren.” She cried out to me.

“Only if you wish that to be true.”

“But…”

“Tish?” I asked as I turned my full attention to my linguist. “What did your Ma and Pa have to say about your change?”

Akane’s head snapped around to her cousin.

“Aunt and Uncle knew?” Her crying stopped immediately as her jaw dropped.

“They’ve known since 1954, cousin.” Tish answered candidly.

“They’ve known? They died in 1960! You speak as if they were both alive today!”

Tish wrinkled her nose and squinted in response.

Akane’s mouth dropped open even farther, if that were possible.

“The sisters of Kili are very resilient and diverse, Akane-kun.” I giggled as I helped her stand. “Let’s see who you will be in this new life, shall we?”

Placing my hand gently on her shoulder, I guided Akane to the Davenport. Tish opened and began to tip the large envelope’s contents out onto the coffee table’s glass top.

Akane picked up various cards and documents to examine each in detail.

“This California driver’s license claims that I am Akane Moritsu and that I am twenty years old!”

“Y’all will get no argument to the contrary, Akane-kun.” I said with a smile.

“This card claims that I am a student at UCLA-Berkley, and this paper claims I have chosen and paid for classes starting…” Her eyes bulged as she read on. “January 9th, 2012!”

“You’re majoring in Business Management if I’m not mistaken.” I replied evenly, my smile growing larger as she stared at another sheet of paper with numbers printed in a column on one side of the page.

“This is a bank statement in the same name!” She gasped as her eyes scanned down the page. “It claims I have over one hundred-thousand American dollars in this account!”

“Sounds like y’all are set for the next couple year’s tuition, food, and lodging, you might even have a little left over for a new, more up to date, wardrobe, too.” I giggled. “Still, I’d think about finding at least a part time job until you graduate in two years- maybe longer if you decide to get your Master’s.”

“This…” Akane picked up an embossed parchment written entirely in Japanese, scanned it and immediately placed it back down gently- as if a delicate explosive. She gulped. “This…this is a…a birth certificate.”

“We all have them, hun, why do you act like its booby trapped?” I asked as I tried to hold back my laughter.

“It claims my birth date as August 4th, 1991!”

“Well, if this truly is 2011,” I reasoned, “and you are twenty years old…then that seems perfectly logical to me.” I laughed outright, not being able to contain myself any longer. Akane was very entertaining when totally perplexed.

“But I was born August 4th, 1935!”

“Maybe you’re thinking of your grandmother’s birthday, Akane Moritsu?” I asked as I continued to laugh.

“No! This is not right! Why are you doing this?” Akane shouted as tears again burst forth from her eyes.

“Let’s ask your two older sisters, shall we?” I laughed as I looked out into the next room where I- Alex Covington, stood with two slightly older looking women. Alex smiled, shook her head and nodded to them. All three entered the spacious living room.

“Little sister, why are you protesting so much? Why, I haven’t heard this much complaining since we left Tokyo ten years ago!” One of the women said as she approached.

“Aunt Yoko! Aunt Keiko!” Tish’s three girls chorused.

Akane spun around at the new voice. “Aunt Yoko?”

She continued to spin to the floor.

“Why do you take extreme pleasure in rendering the new ones unconscious, Alex?” Sam Hikawa asked me with a smile while shaking his head. Takashi was already kneeling beside her new sister trying to revive her.

“It all works out in the end, Sam, I promise.” I giggled.

“We are so bad, sis.” Alex Covington laughed.

“You saw what might have been if she wasn’t…nudged.” I replied.

Alex Covington nodded.

“Um…what would have happened, Alex?” Jack and Alice both asked, lacking comprehension as I saw Akane starting to come around.

“Moritsosuru-Hikawa Semiconductors won’t exist.” Tish said just above a whisper, her face looking up to me, pale from the devastating realization.

“And Ricky Lynn would never win those fourteen DARPA competitions.” I added, shaking my head. “Nor would she become a celebrated Professor of Robotics.”

“So this is what it’s like when a paradox closes?” Sam Hikawa mumbled to himself.

My attention went to him immediately. “Where one paradox closes, another will surely emerge,” I prophesized cryptically.

“Aunt Yoko, is it really you?” Akane asked as she carefully sat up. Tish tried to help, but Akane raised her hand to stop any assistance.

“You obviously aren’t well, little sister. I have always been your older sister, Yoko Moritsu.” Yoko smiled deviously at Akane. “And this isn’t your Uncle Shinji…this is your oldest sister, Keiko Moritsu. Are you suffering from some form of amnesia, Akane? Empress, what mission has she been on that would cause such confusion in our little sister?”

I raised my hands and shrugged my shoulders in answer. “She was perfectly fine when we left Honolulu three nights ago, girls.” I giggled.

Akane glared at me. “What is this game you all are playing?” She demanded!

I looked at the woman sitting angrily on the carpeted floor. My expression went dead serious as I knelt down before her. “The game, Miss Moritsu, is Life. More specifically- survival. Whether you realize it or not at this point in time, you are important to me…more so, you have always been important to Takashi. Hardly a day has gone by in the sixty-seven years that I have known Moritsu Takashi that she hasn’t thought about you, her parents, or the rest of the family, Akane. We’ve not only given you the rare opportunity of a second chance, but Takashi has received that which she has missed the most…her cousin Akane.” I paused to take a breath, and to let what I said sink in.

The Empress was now going to reveal information she normally never released.

“Akane Moritsu, you have been reunited with your three sisters: Keiko, Yoko, and Takashi, plus your nieces and brother-in-law. Your cousins back home in Japan will be very excited to meet you all. They will be very thankful that your visit next summer has lightened their heavy hearts- hearts so saddened by the loss of their matriarch in an airplane crash on December 11th, 2011. The joy and happiness of being reacquainted with the lost branch of their family will do much to heal that wound and renew their spirits. Honey, Mrs. Akane Mitsuru was always destined,” I cringed at that word, hating it even more now for having to use it, “to perish in that plane crash. Had I not interfered, this timeline…your lives…from now into the foreseeable future, would skew wildly out of control…into oblivion.”

I paused again and glared at the young woman still sitting on the floor, staring back at me through tear-filled eyes.

“Yes, Akane, you ARE that important! YOU provide the glue that reunites and continues the old Japanese name of Moritsu.”

“Sis, can I have a word with you please?” Alex Covington insisted as she walked over to me placing a hand to my right shoulder. Standing back up, she guided me into the far corner of the room.

“We went a little heavy on the drama just now, didn’t we?”

“You know what will happen if we didn’t.” I rationalized.

“She’s still going to be a handful, Alex.”

“I know…but maybe, just maybe she won’t be quite so hard-headed this time.”

“I forgot we saw that one obscure scenario. Sorry, sis.”

“You forgot? How far ahead are you from, Alex?” I asked in amazement.

“May 5th, 2041.”

“Wow, I get senile that soon?” I asked with an evil grin.

“You wish!” She said a little louder than expected. We both looked back at our sisters and their family.

“We better get back to Akane’s welcome home party, sis.” She continued with a wink.

“I agree, sis.” I said and nodded once. With a bright smile on my face, I turned to our sisters and family.

“Who wants to go to Hawaii for a few days?” I asked brightly.

Tish’s three young girls rushed toward me, screaming hysterically!



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