Resuming their original mission- that of finding Prof. Samuel’s missing Time Machine- Alex and company participate in a ghost hunt, where they provide most of the paranormal activity. How much will the Empress allow her fellow ‘poltergeists’ to enjoy the ‘witching hour’? How much will their newest sister, Akane, influence the mission? Later, Alex and Jack attend Prof. Samuels’ theoretical science lecture masquerading as her keynote speakers.
“Things that go bump…”
“Things that go bump…”
0800hrs, Honolulu, Hawaii, December 15th, 2011
“Are you going to go down to the beach for more sunbathing this morning, Alex?” Jack asked as she appeared from one of the three bathrooms in our hotel suite.
The President’s Suite in this hotel, it turns out, had a standing reservation for the ‘Empress’. We had found that out shortly after arriving in Honolulu three days ago. Although different universes, this suite was exactly as I had remembered, but it conjured other memories as well- memories I fought furiously to shield from Jack.
“Penny for your thoughts, Alex?” Jack asked as she was suddenly staring at me with a worried look.
“I still can’t help thinking I’ve been in this suite before, Jack.” I said as I fought another resurgence of those memories.
“Maybe Alex Covington reserved it, but still…why would you have a standing reservation here in the first place?”
“Excu…me, Alex, but we’ll be…our way back t…ho..l…room now.” Alice’s semi-transparent image informed us from just inside the suite’s main door.
“It’s okay, hun, we’re decent.” I told the image with a smile as I noticed it fading in and out several times.
“I just want...o give you g…s a heads up…lex.” The image replied.
“That’s fine, hun, see y’all soon.” I replied to the image.
Alice’s smiling image wavered then disappeared entirely.
“She must be near her projection limit. Where did they go for breakfast this morning anyway?” Jack asked.
“Akane said something about a restaurant near the airport that served great omelets and sausage.” I responded.
“Oh, so what’s on the agenda if we aren’t going to the beach?”
“We do have that little issue of finding Ricky Lynn’s toy over at Pearl, Jack.”
“I had almost forgotten about that. Is it that important we find it immediately?”
I paused a moment. “A device from 2035- one capable of allowing the general public to travel through time arrives here in 2011?” I stated as I looked at her seriously. “You can fill in the list of reasons why that would be very bad, Jack.”
“But if it really does appear in the hangar…”
“Rest assured, it will be found, Jack. Then use your imagination as to how busy we’ll be. Remember, whoever finds that thing wouldn’t be as careful about changing things as we are; let alone not being able to see the repercussions in that new future.”
Jack glanced down to the floor. “That would be pretty bad, huh? When do we leave?” She asked, looking back up at me.
“As soon as Alice gets back. We really do need her on this one.”
“I take it you intend on scaring the pants off those Spirit Quest guys?” Jack asked with a slight, devious grin.
“That’s not even a consideration, Jack. We’re just going to provide the necessary ‘paranormal’ activity their investigation must capture to maintain the timeline.”
“But Alex Covington said this was going to be a fun one.” My first officer complained.
“Oh ya, it’ll be a real riot, hun, you’ll see.” I said rolling my eyes once.
“No one is going to have a heart attack or die are they?”
“No, Jack, not unless my foresight has failed me.”
“Just checking.” She paused. “But, we’re still going to have a little fun with this one, right?”
I waggled my head several times as I retrieved my tiara from my regulation shoulder bag.
“You’re not going to put that on now are you? Remember, Alex, we left from the OC that night.”
“I’m well aware of that, Jack. I’m just making sure it’s charged up.” I growled as I placed it on my head.
“Oh.” She said as a big smile appeared. “That’s good, Alex. Because some people might start thinking the ‘Empress’ has finally succumbed to her title.”
I stuck my tongue out at her.
While we waited for the others to return, I took the opportunity to browse through the on-line manual for my T.I.A.R.A.
“That thing sure has the toys, Alex.” Jack said as I finished reading and mentally closed the file. Apparently Jack was being Jack and reading ‘over my shoulder’.
Our suite’s door clicked and opened quickly. Young Alexandra Hikawa ran into the room. She and her two sisters made a beeline straight for us.
“Aunt Alex! Aunt Jacki! We saw a whole bunches of air-planes! You think we could ride in one sometime? Not that we don’t like travelin with you, but can we…just once, Aunt Alex?”
“I wanna ride a air-plane, Aunt Alex,” her younger sister, Rebecca, demanded!
“I’ll see what I can do, but it won’t be for a few years; your aunt is very busy right now.” I told them with a big smile. Tish’s kids were adorable. I thought of my own girls at that age.
“Look mommy, Aunt Alex has her crown on!” Rebecca shouted with an excited laugh as she pointed to my head.
I noticed Akane’s eyes snap to, lock on me, and widen!
Tish, Sam, Alice, Keiko, Yoko, Alexandra, Rebecca…even little Yoshi dropped to one knee before me!
“Empress!” They all chorused and began laughing.
I felt my cheeks ignite from the embarrassment!
“That is enough of that!” I growled before shutting down my headpiece and putting it back in my purse.
Akane was still staring at me, her mouth still wide open.
“Alice, are you ready to go?” I asked as she continued laughing. I resisted asking Akane what she found so mesmerizing about me this time. Instead, I held out both hands and waited for my companions to join me.
“You ARE wearing your Reilly, right?” I asked as she wiped her eyes dry and took my offered hand. Alice’s shorts, one-piece blue and white-striped swimsuit, and heeled sandals transformed into her modern Navy dress whites in answer to the question.
My own blue demin shorts, pink ‘T’-shirt, and pink sneakers became my own modern uniform, as did Jack’s shorts, bikini top, and sandals.
Akane widened her stare to the three of us. This was the first time she had seen our technology.
“We call them Reilly suits, hun,” I told the mesmerized woman. “They can transform into any clothing we need for any given mission. I take it y’all would like one?”
Akane’s head nodded slowly, her eyes continuing to stare at us.
The suite’s doorbell rang.
It had a doorbell?
“Room service.” A familiar voice announced.
Sam, being closest, opened the door to reveal my Alexandra and Isabeau- the later woman was holding a garment bag.
“Did someone here call for a Reilly suit?” My granddaughter chortled as she and Isabeau entered. The children ran to them immediately.
“Alex. I was wondering when you would arrive.” I said as I approached and wrapped my arms around her after the girls parted. Next, I welcomed Isabeau in a similar fashion, though without the familiar tingle.
I looked back to our newest sister.
“Akane Moritsu, I wish to formally introduce to you my Granddaughter, Alexandra, third child of Nathan and Alexis of Terra, Third Grandchild to Grand High Counselor Tibius of Terra and Alexandra Steinert-Fleming of Earth. To her right, I would also be pleased to present to you, Isabeau, daughter of Samuel of Terra and Random Valerian Peltierre of Reilly. Ladies, this is Takashi’s sister, Akane Moritsu. Akane-kun, Random Peltierre is Takashi’s temporal twin…if we hadn’t told you yet.”
I quickly took a deep breath having expelled the entire contents of my lungs for the formal Terran introduction protocol.
“Nice try, Grandmother, but you still abbreviated the formal protocol.” Alexandra said in a snobbish tone, but with a wry smile as she wrapped her arms around me again. A slight tingle, as usual, passed between us.
“By the way Grandma, thanks, I needed that first one.” Alexandra said as she pulled back slightly and smiled.
“It’s been a long time, Empress?” I asked with a sly grin. I couldn’t help but notice the intensity of the tingle at our first embrace.
She nodded and smiled devilishly.
I noticed Akane Moritsu staring between the two of us. That had gotten old three days ago!
“Yes, Akane-kun, this is my granddaughter. Yes, she is the future Empress of Time and Space. Yes, we look identical, and yes, we share the same memories, so…” I said, but stopped abruptly.
“Yes, you’re staring at us all the time has gotten very old. And yes…I was born on a different planet.” Alexandra took over, completing my response.
“Now put this garment on, Akane-kun, and don’t worry about the fit. We’ll take care of that as soon as you come back out with it on.” Alexandra ordered as she took and pushed the bag into Akane’s arms and pushed her toward the nearest bedroom.
I smiled when Akane almost hit the doorframe as she continued to stare back at us instead of looking where she was heading.
“So, Isabeau, what’s the occasion?” I asked Randi’s daughter after we finally stopped laughing at our sister’s reaction.
“I thought your suits could use a small upgrade, Empress. We recently found some bugs in the firmware and have completed a patch to take care of it. I shouldn’t be longer than five minutes per unit, M’lady.”
“Go for it, hun.” I offered with a bright smile.
Immediately, my HUD displayed a blue window with white scrolling text. The window suddenly froze and began flashing red for some reason.
“What?” Isabeau exclaimed in surprise. “Your suit is three revisions higher than I expected? Empress, you have obviously traveled much farther than I have anticipated. I have detected that External Processor # 3 Omega made the last update in Earth year 2039. Is it permissible to recall the update history for my archives?” Isabeau looked very surprised, and very confused.
“If Randi has given permission via valid certificate, then by all means, Lady Comptroller.” I responded as I bowed my head slightly.
‘Permissions granted’ flashed momentarily in a new, smaller window. The background of the original window turned blue as the white text began scrolling again. After a few minutes the text stopped and both windows disappeared.
“Thank you, M’lady. It will take a few minutes to decrypt the archived change list…WHAT…IS…THAT?” She started to say, but shouted the last out suddenly in shock.
“What’s what, hun?” I asked in curiosity.
“There is a significantly sized patch here closing several loopholes for something called ‘Phrack-EU’.” She gasped in horror. “In fact, there is reference to six individual strains of this so-called virus!”
Isabeau looked at me in confusion. “Empress, the patch build date is 2025BC, but the initialization date is 2030. What have you been up to, M’lady?”
“Oh, just my usual, hun.” I said, downplaying and hopefully averting Jack’s curiosity. “A while back I ran into a little Polish hacking algorithm. Your Aunts and mother helped immunize us against the little varmint.”
“Empress, do you realize that this particular virus had the potential of taking over RVP’s core processors and causing considerable damage to her peripheral systems?”
“Really? I replied, as I played innocent. “Then it’s a good thing your mother and aunts sent that thing a’packing, isn’t it?”
“I’ve had better fittings from my eight-year-old great-granddaughter, Commander!” Akane complained as she reentered the large living room. I was glad for the diversion from the current topic.
“It has to be turned on first, Akane-kun.” I smiled, watching the small woman try to pull up the sleeves, waist, and pant legs as she stumbled out of the bedroom. She was absolutely swimming in the thing. Akane’s attention quickly turned to my Ex-O as Jack began to mentally guide her through the suit’s initialization process. Within minutes, our newest sister looked smart in her very own set of regulation dress whites.
“Well now, Ens. Moritsu, that looks much better.” I praised as I placed my hand on her shoulder and used my HUD to assign her a rank.
“But I have no military experience, Commander.” She objected.
“I started you out at the bottom of the food chain, hun. Just salute any officer or salute back to any enlisted we happen to run into and you’ll be fine, Akane.” I reassured her. “Other than that, just follow our lead.”
“But…” She started to complain.
“So…are we finally ready to continue our mission?” I asked as I again offered my hands to my companions, ignoring Akane’s protest entirely.
Akane glared at me but took a hand anyway.
“Until another time then, Grandmother. May the winds of time be in your favor,” Alexandra said as she placed a kiss on my cheek. Isabeau did likewise before stepping away.
“You both are welcome to stay in our place, hun; we’re paid up until Wednesday.” I said as I looked around the large living room with a smile.
Alexandra and Isabeau looked at each other for only a second.
“Our sincere thanks to you, M’lady!” Isabeau gushed. Both women smiled happily.
“Momma! Aunt Alex and Aunt Bo are going to stay with us! Isn’t that great?” Young Rebecca cried excitedly.
Alexandra bent down so that she was eye to eye with the small girl. “So what are we going to do while the Empress is away on her mission?” She looked at all three children for a response.
The three shouted almost simultaneously.
“All good answers.” My granddaughter chirped as she hugged little Rebecca.
“See y’all later.” I said before making sure Jack, Alice, and Akane were ready.
Our hotel suite became the Women’s’ Lavatory in the OC.
“Why are we in here?” Akane complained more than asked.
“Here’s the plan. Akane, you let go of Jack’s hand and position yourself in the last stall. It should be empty, but check. When y’all are ready, let go of Alice’s hand. You’ll feel a little light headed for a moment, but you’ll be fine.”
“Why will I become light headed?”
“Because that’s what happens when you re-enter reality without my help, Akane. Please, just trust me?”
Our newest sister nodded cautiously, let go of Jack’s hand, and disappeared through the next stall’s wall. Alice followed and disappeared as well.
“I’m releasing now.” Akane said thinking she was only being heard by the three of us.
“That’s nice, sweetie, I hope it all comes out alright for ya!” Another voice, one not in our group, but in the Lavatory, answered in reply.
‘Alice just let go,’ I thought to Jack as I felt my hand free up.
Jack moved through the other stall’s wall and I felt her release my other hand.
I rephased, flushed the toilet, and exited. Jack and Alice flushed and joined me.
Then…we waited for Akane.
The three of us began to look at each other, concerned about our sister.
‘You don’t think…’ Jack thought to us.
“Y’all fall in, or what, hun?” I asked as I knocked at the stall’s door.
“I’ll be right out, Commander.” Her frantic voice answered.
A minute later the toilet flushed and Akane joined us at the sinks. The attendant’s eyes grew bigger for a moment before she smiled. Accepting the towel she offered, I dried my hands and took a twenty from my shoulder bag.
“Here y’all go.” I said as I placed it in her tip basket.
“Thanks, Empress. You really should watch that one though.” She advised as she motioned to Akane. “She looks like trouble to me, Alex. Here Jacki, on the house.”
“Thanks Kaylee, I think I’ll be able to handle her.” I laughed as Jack took the towel and did a double take.
“Wow!” Jack exclaimed. “Corrine did a real number on you! I almost didn’t recognize you.”
“Thanks, Commander, how very flattering of you,” the attendant deadpanned.
“Can’t you see she’s getting ready to retire, Jack? You can’t do that looking like your nineteen, you know!” Alice scolded our Ex-O.
As was becoming common practice, Akane’s mouth dropped open and she began to stare at us.
“Yes, Akane, she is one of us. Kaylee Andrews, meet Akane Moritsu. Kaylee is one of my crew,” I told her, as I looked her straight in the eyes. “Because we live so long, every so often we must appear to ‘retire’.” I paused, but decided to explain further when she still didn’t look like she was getting it.
“As time goes by, we must make ourselves look older, as if actually aging normally, but there comes a point where makeup and Corrine Masterson’s handy work can no longer be effective. That is the time when we ‘retire’ from one life and re-enter society as our true youthful selves to begin a new life. A new life, Akane, can be as ‘new’ as you’d like but, I can tell you that is the most depressing part of our long life, though.” I let out another heavy sigh as I thought about my future husband, Sandy.
“Losing or leaving a mate is the worst part of this whole thing. It isn’t so upsetting when they choose the Mahanilui, at least you get to keep the friendship, but if they refuse and pass away…”
As hard as I tried, I couldn’t halt my tears.
“Oh Alex, you’re going to ruin your makeup. Here.” Kaylee said in a motherly tone as she handed me a tissue.
I forced a smile. “Thanks.”
“In this time period, Alex has already lost one husband to old age and just married her second.” I heard Jack telling Akane, who apparently was staring again.
A minute went by as I composed myself.
“Let’s get this mission back on track.” I declared as I first leaned down to hug Kaylee then reached into my purse and dropped another twenty in the tips basket.
“Thank you much, ma’am.” She replied as we quickly exited the women’s lavatory.
2010hrs, Honolulu, Hawaii, December 9th, 2011
“I see you two found some friends, Alex.” Admiral Demmit said looking just a little surprised.
“Admiral. It’s so good to see you again, sir.” Alice bubbled. She leaned over and placed a very non-regulation-like kiss on the old man’s cheek.
Uncle Rick turned a deep shade of crimson at the unexpected greeting.
“It’s…it’s nice to see you too, Lt. Wesnuski.” Demmit stuttered.
Realizing her mistake, Alice stepped back and went to attention. “Sorry, sir, I forgot where I was for a moment.
“At ease, Lieutenant.” Uncle Rick smiled. “Have you and Ensign…” He squinted slightly to read Akane’s nameplate. “Moritsu had something to eat?”
“We both just ate breakfast, Admiral Demmit.” Akane told him shyly then looked around at us in embarrassment.
“What? You haven’t eaten since breakfast?” He said loud enough for those around us to hear. “That’s intolerable!” He declared, covering for the girl’s foul-up. “I insist you two sit down at once and at least have some desert.”
Uncle Rick motioned for our waiter as he stood and borrowed two more chairs from the neighboring, unoccupied table. We all took our seats.
“The ladies and I will have some desert. Commanders’, what suits your fancy?” He said looking to Jack and I.
“Um…I’ll just have a single scoop of chocolate ice cream with a little whipped cream and a cherry.” I said with a smile.
“I think I’ll have the same, if you don’t mind.” Jack requested.
“Lt. Wesnuski? What’ll it be?” Uncle Rick smiled at Alice.
Our waiter looked at Alice attentively.
“I’d um…I’d like a small strawberry sundae, please?”
The waiter moved his attention to Akane and patiently waited.
“Ensign, will you be having desert today?” He asked politely after a few long seconds.
Akane cautiously looked around the table. Uncle Rick smiled deviously as he rested his chin on his interlocked fingers, elbows resting on the table.
“Um…would it be okay if I…” Akane blushed. “If I…um…ordered a rice pudding and large glass of sake?” She asked the Admiral in a timid voice.
Uncle Rick began to chuckle and nodded to the waiter. “I’ll have another draft.” He added.
“I’ll have those out in just a few minutes, thank you, sirs.” The waiter said politely and hurried off.
Admiral Demmit continued to chuckle, wiping his eyes a few times.
“Akane, ease up a little.” He told the girl, wiping his eyes once more. “We’re all grown-ups here and while in that uniform you’re an officer in the United States Navy. You’re allowed to order anything you want.”
Uncle Rick paused a moment and looked toward me.
“Provided, of course, Admiral Covington is paying.” He continued with a wink.
It was my turn to blush now. I quickly brought up my HUD and changed my nameplate, but left my rank stand at Commander.
Uncle Rick did a double take, noticing the subtle change. His attention moved back to his newest Ensign.
“Ens. Moritsu, although quite endearing, being so shy and submissive will not communicate your rank or its authority to the enlisted under your command. I recommend that you cut the frightened little girl act and show some pride in being an officer in this country’s military!” He growled.
“Yes, Admiral.” She replied in a small voice.
“How’s that again, Ens. Moritsu?”
“Ay…aye, sir…Admiral Demmit.”
“That’s better, Ensign. Maybe Lt. Wesnuski can help you with your command voice when you return to your boat?” He said looking at Alice.
“Aye, sir. Lt. Cmdr. Moritsu and I will make it our standing priority, Admiral.” Alice responded as her eyes quickly targeted our waiter approaching.
“Now…who had the rice pudding and sake?” The waiter asked with a smile.
“That would be me, young man.” Akane announced with more authority than I’d heard since her Mahanilui. She could have done without the ‘young man’ portion, though. The waiter was well into his thirties I estimated.
“Aye, ma’am. Let me know if you need a refill.” He said with the same smile and proceeded to serve the rest of us.
“Will there be anything else, sirs?” Our waiter asked as he began to clear off our table.
“I’ll take the check over here.” I said with a wave of my finger. I pulled my military ID and credit card from my shoulder bag and handed it to him.
“I’ll take care of this right away, Comm…” He stared at my ID and stopped suddenly. “Admiral? Admiral Covington?” His eyes quickly shot to my collar. “But your rank…”
“Have you ever heard of a surprise inspection, sailor?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Y…eesss….yes, ma’am…er Admiral!”
“Well, is there some problem with my credit or credentials on this base then?”
“No, Admiral. None whatsoever.”
“Good! I think a twenty-two percent gratuity should suffice for your excellent service, don’t you?” I asked with a bright smile.
“Aye, ma’am. Thank you, Admiral. I’ll take care of this immediately and be right back, Admiral.” Our flustered waiter said as he scurried off.
“I hope you were taking notes, Ens. Moritsu.” Uncle Rick asked Akane. “Well done, Alex. Keep that up and one day you WILL make Admiral.” He laughed.
Jack choked while sipping her glass of water.
Only a couple of minutes later I was handed my card and ID and thanked profusely for our patronage.
“So, what’s the plan for the rest of the night, Alex?” Uncle Rick asked as he helped me then the others from our chairs.
“We find a safe place to phase out, Uncle Rick, then we jump over to the Museum.” I told him as he held one of the OC’s entrance doors open for us.
“Just jump, Alex?” Jack asked innocently.
“And ahead a few hours. Is that okay with you, Akane-kun?” I asked, answering Jack’s question and seeing Akane’s now perpetual stare.
“And we brought her along for…what exactly?” Jack asked me in confusion.
“So we can keep an eye on her, of course.” I giggled.
“Why? What is to happen to me, Commander?” Akane asked in terrified alarm.
I couldn’t help but quote an author from Alex Covington’s memory- Arthur C. Clark.
“If that isn’t cryptic!” Uncle Rick growled as he shook his head. “Alex, just once I’d like to hear a straight answer from you. Will that ever happen?”
“Yes.” I replied, watching his expression for a minute. He still looked annoyed.
“You missed it, sir.”
“The straight answer.” I giggled.
‘He just called you a ‘smart ass’, Alex.’ Jack thought to me.
‘It was all in good fun anyway, Jack.’ I thought back as I giggled some more.
‘So what is going to happen to Akane, Alex?’
‘She receives her gift.’ I thought back to her.
‘So soon? And that would be what…precisely?’
‘It comes in two parts, Jack.’
“Got it, Cap, I won’t ask anymore.” She said out loud in frustration.
Our companions stopped and looked at the two of us in confusion- well, everyone but Akane. She just continued staring at us.
Finding a nice, quiet alcove, we joined hands. The inside of the Pacific Aviation Museum- Hangar 37- appeared around us.
“Remain holding hands, please. This mission is about to really start.” I announced as I glanced casually at ‘Kramer’ standing a few paces away.
As much as I wanted ‘Kramer’ to animate tonight, I knew that couldn’t happen. “The dummy stays as such tonight, Jack.” I said sternly.
“Aw, come on!”
“No, Jack, hands off Kramer! I have something even more spooky in store for my Mind Warrior.” I said as I guided our party around the Mitchell bomber.
“Alice, have you ever sat in the pilot’s seat of one of these?” I asked.
“Actually, yes. I’ve been in the cockpit of a B25 at an air show once with a boyfriend, Alex. Why?” She replied.
“It’s co-pilot might appear to be looking out at his surroundings tonight.” I stated cryptically before turning us around and moving us further back into the museum.
“So where is this toy of Ricky Lynn’s going to appear, Alex?” Uncle Rick asked impatiently.
“Oh, that will be on the second floor in Hangar 79.” I answered.
“So why are we in here?”
We have to give proof that ghosts might really exist, Uncle.” I giggled.
“And just how do we do that?”
“Ya, won’t Mrs. Scott get upset with us?”
Uncle Rick’s mouth opened in response to Jack’s question.
“Jack, see that bench over there?” I asked my first officer.
“When we return to this hangar later tonight, there will be three flashlights set up on it.”
“So, Miss Cummins, I’d like you to play with them for the camera.” I told her before tugging gently on the two hands holding mine and walking our group to another location within the smaller of the two buildings.
“Akane, see that hanger door over there?”
She took time out from staring at me to nod her head.
“I want you to bang on it later on when I tell you, okay?”
“How am I going to do that if we are…um…phased out, Commander?” She asked in doubt.
“I guess you’ll just have to make use of your gift, hun.” I replied flatly.
“The one brewin’ inside just waitin’ to split y’all apart, hun.” I answered in a slightly sarcastic tone.
“I’m sorry I asked, Commander!” She groused.
“Akane-kun?” I asked nicely.
“What did I do now?” Her tone hadn’t changed.
“I would appreciate it if y’all called me ‘Alex’, hun.”
My newest sister scowled at me. At least it was a change from her continual staring or jaw dropping!
“Akane-kun?” I asked again.
“What now?” She snapped.
“I’m not kidding, hun.” I said seriously. “That was your hint…the only one you’ll get. You figure the rest out for yourself.”
Akane’s expression lightened as she thought about what I’d just said.
“So…am I to split into a good half and a bad half? Is that it?” She asked sarcastically.
“Let’s try for two halves of the same good, hun,” I said with a smile as I nodded a few times. Uncle Rick, Alice, and Jack all looked at me like I was crazy.
“What? Like that should really surprise any of you?” I asked them in amazement.
“Gemini.” Uncle Rick mumbled to himself.
I now knew how much of Reilly’s archives the old man had scanned through- not that I hadn’t already known.
“Let’s move on to the next location.” I announced, indicating the topic closed.
Hangar 79 appeared around us. The absence of any light through the huge, multi-paned windows confirmed that it was dark outside. All lights in the place suddenly extinguished save for the red emergency exit signs at the doors.
“Why did the lights just go out?” Akane asked in surprise.
“All the better to hunt ghosts, Akane-kun.” I said with a grin. “Didn’t you know that paranormals, poltergeists, and the lot only come out at night?” I continued with a giggle.
“So how are we going to see anything around here, Alex?” Uncle Rick grumbled.
“Our Reilly’s should start to compensate in a few seconds, sir. We’ll be able to see as if a drab, colorless day.” I reassured my uncle…and Akane.
True to my word, after a moment we could once again see our surroundings, albeit slightly washed out and gray-tinged. Like a faded, black and white movie, I thought to myself.
2200hrs, Honolulu, Hawaii, December 9th, 2011
“In three, two, one. This is Keith, Brian, and Rob starting our investigation here in hangar 79.” Keith Fox said, speaking into a small device of some sort as the three men and accompanying camera crew entered the huge hanger.
We had just ported over from hangar 37 several minutes ago to explain what I needed done here and were walking up the steps to the storage area on the second floor. Our Reilly suits were functioning perfectly allowing us to see the many obstructions and aircraft in the darkness of the very large space.
“We’ll stand here and allow them to go past.” I informed my group. The paranormal investigators were starting up the stairs we had just topped.
“Hey…anyone in here?” The heavier man, Brian, asked, as he appeared first on the second floor.
I motioned us off to the side some more so they wouldn’t walk through any of us.
The three men walked the length of the floor making comments about all the miscellaneous parts and items that had been stored here over the years. All three took up position at the window-sized openings in the wall that looked out over the main hangar floor.
“Hey, its December 9th, 2011. Does someone remember what happened here on December 7th, 1941?” The blonde-haired guy, Keith Fox, asked loudly as he, Rob, and Brian looked around then approached a waist-high wall. They all leaned on it and looked down onto the main hangar floor.
“Son, we all remember what happened that morning! None of us could ever forget!” Uncle Rick groused loudly.
Akane stared at him with eyes as round as saucers!
“They can’t hear you, sir.” I reminded… more for her benefit.
“Sorry- an automatic response, Alex.” He apologized.
“Jack, we need them somewhere else so we can look around up here.”
“Aye, Cap.” She responded as I felt two of her fingers loosen their grip and extend to walk in the air.
“Wait! What’s going on down there? Did you hear that, guys?” Rob asked from where the three men stood a short distance away.
“It sounded like somebody running away from us.” Keith confirmed.
“What? Up here with us? Where is there to run” Brian asked.
“No, it sounded like someone running away from us down there.” Keith answered, pointing down to the main floor.
“Yo, guys, this K2 device just went crazy. It’s been quiet since we came in here and it just went crazy as we heard the footsteps!”
“Holy shit, Keith!” Brian replied in astonishment.
Jack did her little finger walking thing again.
“There it is again!” Keith said suddenly as he pointed down.
“This thing just went crazy again, guys.” Rob said as the cameraman pointed the unit’s lens at the small device the short, heavy-set man was holding.
“Rob, you and Brian stay up here. I’m going down there to see what’s going on here.”
“Be careful and watch the steps, Keith.”
“Good job, Jack.” I praised. “Great improvisation, Alice.” I added.
“But I didn’t do anything, Alex.” Alice informed me.
“They’re just imagining a shadow or two, Cap.” Jack explained, almost with a giggle.
“It just doesn’t seem right to be teasing these guys, Alex. I mean, they really take the paranormal seriously and treat each investigation professionally and scientifically. I’ve watched their show on occasion and they’ve never jumped to assumptions or faked anything for publicity like some of the other ‘investigative’ shows.” Alice argued.
“I don’t think we should be here either, Commander.” Akane whispered conspiratorially. “I’d rather be someplace else.”
Jack suddenly giggled quietly to herself.
“Keith! What was that in the window over there! I saw a shadow of a man’s head! It totally filled one whole pane on the bottom row.” The young man named Rob called out suddenly.
“Which one,” Keith asked from down on the main floor?
“Over in those windows. The shadow filled the entire pane on the bottom-most row.” Rob repeated, shining his flashlight beam toward the mentioned window.
“Don’t do that. You’ll scare whoever away or at the least alert them.” Brian warned.
“Sorry, I forgot. I just got so excited.” Rob apologized.
Both he and Brian hurried down the metal stairs and rejoined Keith.
“Good job, Jack. Let’s look around up here.” I said as I tried to turn the group around.
“From what I’ve foreseen, Ricky Lynn’s toy should appear over here somewhere.” I continued once we were all facing the right direction. “Something’s different though.” I paused, looking around us to make sure we were indeed in the right spot. “It doesn’t look cluttered enough…like only half of the stuff I saw is here.”
“Maybe this is the wrong day or year?” Jack asked cautiously.
“No Jack, I’m quite certain its tonight.”
“Sorry, it was just a thought, Cap.”
“Commander, I…IIII don’t feel so good.” Akane said quietly. Her grip on my hand tightened significantly.
“You’ll be fine, hun. Alice, I need you to take the Admiral’s hand so that Akane is on the end. She’s going to need some room.” I told them calmly as four pairs of eyes suddenly targeted on me. “Jack, where are the boys?”
“Ma’am, I REALLY don’t feel right!” Akane complained weakly. I felt her hand start to shake as she tightened her grip even more.
“They just went outside to check out the shadow in the window, Alex. Why?” She asked as Alice and Uncle Rick completed rearranging themselves.
“Arrrrgh!” Akane screamed out in extreme pain as she double over, become fuzzy and out of focus for a moment then double in width.
“What in blazes?” Uncle Rick gasped out in disbelief.
“What just happened to me?” Akane asked in stereo. She turned to the sound of her own voice- to the Akane suddenly standing right next to her.
“Who are you,” they both asked at exactly the same time?
“Hey…Why are you copying me?”
“I’m not copying you; you’re copying me.”
“No I’m not, you started this!”
“No I didn’t, you started it.”
“I did not!”
“Yes, you did.”
“No, you stop it.”
The bickering went on like that for another minute- still much too long, if you ask me- neither girl gaining an edge or word otherwise.
“Both of you stop it!” I shouted, shaking my head to clear out the migraine I knew to be building. “This is your gift, Akane. You can be in two places at one time…without my help, hun.”
“I can?” both Akane’s asked in unison as both stared at me slack-jawed.
“Yes you can, hun, and more…provided you two aren’t too far apart.” I told them both.
“But how is this possible, Commander?” They both asked. “What if we can’t get back to normal?”
“Just pull yourself together, hun,” I stated evenly.
“I am far from hysterical, Commander Steinert!” Both answered.
“No, hun, you just pull yourself back together. That’s how you return to a single entity. Try it.”
“It’s just that easy? Just pull myself together and I become one again? Real…”
Both Akane’s blurred a second and when she refocused her doppelganger was nowhere to be found.
“I’m warnin’ ya now, hun, stop starin’ at me like I have two heads!” I warned as my newest sister stared incredulously up at me. A smile came to my face as I thought about that. Akane now fit the bill better than any of us in that respect.
Akane’s eyes lowered to the floor. “Did I…did I just…just kill her?”
I rolled my eyes. “No, hun, she’s here whenever you want her to be. You never have to be alone again, Akane-kun.”
“Can I have her back, please, Empress?”
Her manner of address made her sound about eight years old. I glared at her.
“Just think of splitting yourself up, hun.”
Again the woman’s form blurred and two Akane’s again stood side by side, holding each other’s hand.
Akane, both of them, looked relieved as they stared at each other.
“So now what do we do- stand here and hold hands, Commander?” They both asked together.
“Akane-kun…the Akane on the end…let go of your sister’s hand, please.” I requested calmly.
“Why should I release my hand? They’ll see me when I phase back in. You, yourself, claim that will happen.” The outermost Akane complained.
“Trust me, hun, just let go of your twin and trust me.” I told them with just a hint of annoyance. I had already given them more information about their gift than I did any other member of my crew to date.
With trepidation, the two Akane’s parted and continued to stare at each other. Neither did it for too long before nervously looking away from the other.
“Now you both know how I feel about the constant staring.” I growled in triumph, but continued. “Akune, try to hold onto the stair railing, please.”
“Who is Akune?” They both asked in unison.
“You,” I nodded to the freestanding woman. When separate, you are Akune and the one holding my hand, the original Akane, is Akane. Please try to grab the railing and the concept, Akune.” I asked again.
The twin passed her hand through the steel railing cleanly and began marveling at her hand.
“She’s like me!” Alice Wesnuski announced proudly.
“Not quite, hun. While one of you, Akane, is phased, the other also remains phased, whereas Alice can only project her image phased or not. Akune will be tangible when Akane is tangible.”
“So what use is this?” Akane asked rudely as Akune just looked over to me in amazement.
“Akune, come over and take the Admiral’s hand.” I asked.
Uncle Rick gently extended his hand and took the twin’s. He quietly observed the woman’s hand with interest.
“Alice, release the Admiral’s hand please.” I requested. She complied cautiously.
“Uncle, could you try to grab the rail too?”
“It went right through. Alex, this is amazing.” He exclaimed.
“So, what this means, Akane, is that we can split our group in two and cover twice the ground as before.” I said happily as I glared at the girl still holding my hand.
Before she had a chance to gripe anymore, I gave my orders.
“Admiral, you, Alice, and Akune stay with the three gentlemen. They will be heading over to Hangar 37. Jack will keep in constant communication with you. Jack? You and I will stay here to watch for the CDA’s arrival. Alice, you can do your thing in the Mitchell’s cockpit, but don’t overdo it.”
The old man nodded as he and Akune came back and took Alice’s hand. Alice seemed reluctant to release Jack’s hand.
“You’ll be fine, hun. As long as Akane holds my hand y’all’ll stay phased out.”
Jack, Akane, and I watched as the threesome disappeared down the stairs.
“You never told me about all the things my gift would let me do, Alex.” Jack said in a somewhat catty tone.
“I still don’t know what our limits are, Miss Cummins.” I admitted quietly. “Any of us.”
We continued to look around the second level for a few minutes…despite Akane’s continuous staring, before we were rejoined in the huge building.
“Alright, let’s get this started. This is Angela and Neil investigating Hangar 79.” A female voice announced from the far end of the main hangar floor. A young man and young woman, again with an accompanying film crew, walked toward the center of the hangar using only their two flashlights to avoid the equipment. The entourage stopped about thirty yards away from us down on the main floor.
I instinctively moved us back a step.
“Hey, who’s up there? Did you hear that, Ang?” Neil asked excitedly.
“Sorry, Alex, I accidently bumped something on the floor.” Jack apologized.
“I heard, what was that?” Angela replied as she looked around.
“And just how did you do that, Jack, we’re still phased out?” I asked with contempt.
“I was just seeing if I could move something like this…”
“We’re the only ones in here, so what was that?” The young woman asked again.
“I’m not sure, but it sounded like it came from up there.” Neil replied as he pointed his flashlight up past us into the rafters.
I felt Akane’s grip tighten.
“Am I going to have to take you home, Jack?” I growled.
“Sorry.” She whispered as down below, the young woman, Angela began to speak.
“Keith suggested I try to inform…them…what year it really is. I’m not sure that’s needed in this case though. You would think whoever remains knows full well what happened.” Angela debated with her partner.
“Wouldn’t hurt to try, Ang. Maybe, since it was a surprise attack, whoever is here with us was surprised also and telling the current date or reminding them of what happened might release them?” Neil suggested.
There was no reply from below us for a moment.
“If you didn’t know, the year is now 2011,” she paused, “It’s been seventy years since the surprise attack; a lot of time has passed,” she paused again, “but we…our country still remembers what happened here. A lot of good men died here…many never realized what was going on before they died. We beat the attackers and we thank you for everything you did for us…and sacrificed for us.”
In the dim illumination of their flashlights, I could see the two turning around, looking intently about the large hangar for some indication or reason for the noises they heard. I glared at Jack.
A flash of light went off somewhere to our left. Had the CDA made its appearance? We turned back in time to see the man, Neil, turned toward us, but pointing off to our left. Angela followed his arm and pointed too.
“Did you see that? That’s the first time I’ve seen anything like that, Ang!” Neil asked.
“Ya. It was like a flash of light from somewhere.” Angela replied as both stood looking perplexed for a moment.
“What the hell is go…” Angela said, but stopped as they both started to walk toward us and out of our line of sight.
“Angela for Driscoll and Baker.” We heard from below us.
“Go for Tony…and Driscoll.” A man’s voice responded from the radio she carried.
“Hey, are you guys out in the trailer right now?”
“Ya, whatcha need?”
“Can you guys shine a flashlight, out one of the windows toward the hangar from the trailer?”
“We’d have to go outside, Ang, there’s no windows on the hangar side of this trailer,” came the response.
“Huh?” Neil asked in alarm.
“Are they serious?” He asked again quickly, visibly excited.
“How long ago did you guys go out there?”
“Twenty minutes or so…why.”
“You shittin’ me?” Neil asked yet again with even more excitement. “What did we just see?”
“Exactly twenty-three minutes ago. That’s according to our digital recorder.”
“Daaaamn.” Angela replied slowly.
“Its incredible!” Neil exclaimed, now barely able to contain his excitement.
“What the hell did we just see?” Angela asked.
“No idea, Angela.” Neil admitted.
“What could be up there? Maybe a smoke detector or some other flashing device?” Angela asked, her volume increasing slightly.
“I’ve been looking up there, and I haven’t seen any other flashes since, Angela! This is sick!” Neil added.
“Tony’s going to go outside and shine his flashlight around.” The radio announced.
“Great idea, Drisk. Have him shine it at the hangar windows and we’ll watch.” Angela said to the radio as Neil nodded excitedly.
“Okay, we’re pointing both our flashlights but we can’t see any windows on this side of the building.”
“That’s what we’re seeing in here, there’s no windows! We have no idea how there could be a flash of light up there.” Angela replied back.
“We’ll shine our lights up there but increase our sweep. Maybe there’s a little hole that is aligned just right to the airport’s flight path. We’re doing it now, do you see anything?” The voice on the radio asked.
“Looks like you got a good one, Ang.” The radio responded.
“I don’t ‘F-in’ believe it. What the hell is up there?” Angela groused. The two investigators continued to look around the hangar for several minutes.
“Baker for Angela and Neil.” The radio called out.
“You got us, Tony.”
“Angela, Driscoll and I are going to go get the new Full Spectrum camera and bring it in. Hopefully we’ll be able to catch what you saw if it happens again. Give us a few minutes to get that and a clamshell and we’ll be right in to set it up.”
“Okay, sounds like a good idea. We’ll be waiting.”
“Don’t just wait, keep looking around.”
“So why did you do that, Alex?” Jack asked.
“I didn’t do a thing, hun,” I admitted.
“Then who did it? There’s not that many people in here, so if not you or them,” Jack pointed down to the man and woman standing fifty feet in front and twenty below us, “…then who?”
“Could it have been the CDA?” Jack submitted after a slight pause.
“It probably was, Jack.” I confirmed. “Apparently Ricky Lynn’s toy is slightly unstable. I think it just blinked in for a split-second…undoubtedly it will make its true appearance in a few minutes.” I told her as I nudged us back over to the suspected location for its appearance.
“I knew this was the spot.” I announced as Jack, Akane, and I stopped and looked to the floor. A circular, ‘clean’ spot about ten feet across revealed the true shades of colors, washed out as they were by our night vision, of the debris before us. “That’s why I wasn’t sure about the location earlier.”
Jack and Akane looked at me expecting me to continue.
“Remember when I said the place didn’t look cluttered enough?” I paused. Jack nodded.
“It’s because the CDA hadn’t picked up the other debris yet. Apparently, Ricky Lynn’s toy is part packrat.”
“Packrat, Alex?” Jack asked raising an eyebrow to my declaration.
“When it appeared it takes things with it…like it has flypaper on its bottom, but left everything here. It’s dimensionally dirty as well, Jack!”
“I take it that picking up dimensional dust isn’t a good thing, right?”
“It wasn’t just dust, Jack, it copied some things, and does the phrase ‘contaminating the timeline’ make any sense?”
“You mean like if it picked something important up from this time or another dimension and dropped it in say…the dark ages or something?”
“Astute as usual, hun.” I winced at that thought. Imagine a fifty cal. machine gun or a plasma rifle showing up in some ancient village somewhere in Europe!
“You are talking about possibly changing history, Alex?” Akane asked incredulously.
“Or the future, hun. Things aren’t always going to get more technical, you know. Civilizations tend to devolve into simpler societies after they fall apart.”
“And just how would we know that, Empress?”
“You’ll just have to trust me on that, Akane-kun.”
“Alex, the Admiral, Alice, and Akune are on their way back. Alice reports two of the three investigators are returning.”
0035hrs, Honolulu, Hawaii, December 10th, 2011
“Jack, make it sound like some kind of animal is trying to get in the hangar door. Hopefully that will draw them away long enough for the rest of our group to join up with us.”
Immediately it sounded like something was scratching or digging at the huge door. Keith and Brian’s group moved away from the stairs.
“Thanks, Miss Cummins, but if we’re still phased out that really wasn’t necessary.” Alice said as they rejoined us on the second floor.
“I’m not sure if that device they’re holding can see us or not, hun. Best not to take chances.” I told her, still not sure if their ‘K-2’ meter had actually picked up on Jack’s gift at close range.
There was a loud commotion at the huge hangar door again.
“Going a bit overboard aren’t we, Commander?” I asked off-handedly.
“If I had done that, Cap, but I didn’t.” Jack replied.
Akane’s head drooped as if caught at something.
“I think I did it, Commander.” She admitted timidly.
“Akane Moritsu, as you are well aware, I’m the only one here that can affect things with her mind.”
“That isn’t…quite…the case, Jack.” I said slowly as I winced. Akane was ahead of schedule, I realized. “Akane’s secondary gift is that of mimicry, meaning she can emulate whomever she is in contact with; my gift of phasing…your gift of telekinesis…”
I felt a temporal shift and quickly compensated. The others apparently noticed too. I continued.
“My gift of temporal relocation.”
Akane’s mouth dropped open.
“Did I just do what it felt like I did, Empress?” She asked in awe, as she slowly looked up at me in sheer fright.
“You tell me, hun, what did it feel like to you?”
She remained quiet for a few moments as she considered her new talents.
“Please take me back to the hotel suite, Empress. I do not wish to jeopardize your mission. I do not deserve the gifts given me.”
Immediately there was only one of her.
“Please take me home, I beg you, mighty Empress!”
“Since when am I ‘The Mighty Empress’, hun?” I asked in amusement. “I don’t recall ever introducing myself in that most regal of context.”
I noticed Uncle Rick staring at the hand now holding Akane’s and not Akune’s. He looked somewhat pale after he and Alice were forcibly pulled closer to the right by one person.
“Empress, this…this power I have just felt, even for such a brief instant…it’s…it is much more dangerous than any normal woman can ever hope to control…or comprehend! How do you contain it all?” Akane asked- her voice shaking terribly.
I was at a loss for words. I had, on occasion, wondered just that myself.
Images of a not too distant mission surged up from the padlocked depths of my mind.
“Cap? Who’s Andora and what relation is she to you?” Jack asked in confusion. “The image I just saw looks like you to a tee.”
“Who, Jack?” I asked, caught off guard by the strange name, only vaguely recalling it.
I quickly pushed the memories of that mission back into the super-fortified, maximum security, prison from whence they escaped!
“It was such a peaceful looking place, Empress. Was it another planet?” Akane asked, not quite sure she was actually seeing the visions.
Keith and Brian interrupted us as they came up the stairs to the second level.
“If there’s some kind of animal up here we’ll flush it out.” Brian whispered.
“I’m not getting anything at all on the thermal camera up here.” Keith whispered in disappointment to his partner a minute or two later.
“Now that we’ve came up here there’s…” Brian began, still whispering.
“Nothing! No sound or anything!” Keith interrupted, still looking around.
“I think we should probably head back down to the main floor and see if its just playing games with us- taunting us.” He continued.
“Ya…got it…see if it happens again.”
Let’s go back over to Hangar 37. I think its time Jack had some fun.” I suggested and our location changed around us. Two men were now with the young woman, Angela, standing in front of a wooden bench. The second man I recognized as Rob, from Keith and Brian’s group earlier. They must switch their team members around, I thought.
“So…I don’t know if you’ve seen us do this flashlight thing…um…technique, we like to use multiple flashlights instead of just one. It tends to validate that something or someone is actually trying to communicate with us. Also, we can be more specific in our requests and say ‘if yes, turn on the one on the left; if no, turn on the one on the right.” Angela said, apparently to Rob. He must have been the newest member of the crew.
Jack’s face broke out in a huge, evil smile.
“Don’t go overboard, Commander.” I warned with an equally evil grin.
Angela’s group stepped back and began staring intently at the three flashlights. She then unknowingly, personally, invited Jack to play.
“Um…If there’s someone in here with us, we have an easy way for you to talk to us? We brought some flashlights here…maybe you call them torches? The way you turn them on is by twisting the top ever so slightly? Can you try to do that for us?”
The flashlight on their left immediately came on. The three jumped with a start!
“Oh…my…God! That was crazy! I’ve never seen that happen so quick before.” One of the men, Rob, exclaimed.
“Okay. I think we got someone’s attention.” Angela said.
“That’s textbook.” One of the men said quietly.
Angela laughed slightly. “That WAS pretty fast.”
“Can you turn it off now? Just turn it the opposite way.” The same man asked.
“Is that all they want?” Jack scoffed.
“Jack, humor them, please?” I begged her.
“Can you turn the flashlight back off for us? Just twist it the other direction.”
Jack scoffed again. “Impatient, aren’t they? These are parlor tricks, Cap.” She complained.
The flashlight turned off.
“Yes!” Angela said calmly rubbing another flashlight in her hands excitedly.
“That’s…wow…that’s pretty wild…You really think someone’s doing that? “Rob commented.
“Ya…I think they are.” Angela giggled gleefully.
“Now that we know you can turn these on, we can start asking you questions. Would you be willing to answer some questions for us?”
The flashlight on the left lit momentarily.
“Who are you? Are you one of the men who died here?”
“This is silly, Alex.” Jack protested.
“Are you the one people say they see sitting on this ben…”Angela continued but stopped abruptly as the left flashlight began to roll toward the middle one.
The flashlight audibly clicked against its neighbor.
“Holy shit, it just moved!”
“Jack!” I barked.
“Akane! The Captain said not to go overboard!” Jack growled.
“I just wanted to see if…”
“That’s not the point, Akane! The Empress sees and tells us to do things for a specific reason…reasons that protect the time line and our futures.”
“Its okay, Jack. That was one of those specifics that could have gone either way. Akane, please refrain from anymore ‘urges’.”
“As you wish, Commander, but it was fun.”
“I’m sure it was, but may I remind you that it’s not polite to upstage the reigning Mind Warrior.” I giggled slightly as Jack glared first at me then back at Akane.
The man, whom we found out was named Driscoll, went to the bench and reset the flashlight to its original position.
This time Jack giggled evilly.
“Hey! It just did it again!” Angela laughed excitedly as she moved her flashlight beam to the bench.
“It moved again?” Rob interrupted.
“Okaaayyy? Are you playing games…with us?” Driscoll asked.
“Sir…you have no idea what fun we could have!” Jack answered with an evil laugh.
“It did it twice in a row.” Angela said sounding a bit awed. “Was there just a mild earthquake or something? Something we didn’t feel…unless.” She paused. “Unless there really is someone playing games here. Let me try something that seemed to work over in the other hangar, guys.”
“You know we’re aware of what happened here…and we want you to know we’re very respectful of everything that’s in this room…everything it represents…everything you’ve done.”
“Jack…Akane, don’t do it!” I warned the two seeing the challenge coming.
“Don’t do what, Alex?” Jack asked.
“I wonder if he…they can move this mannequin?” Rob asked as he turned around toward Kramer, who was posed with both hands holding one of the B-25’s starboard propeller blades.
“That, Jack. Don’t do it- no matter how much you’re tempted.” I warned again.
Angela and Driscoll turned around and all three waited for a moment.
I could feel Jack and Akane’s hands tighten as they both fought the urge.
All three paranormal investigators waited a moment before turning back toward the bench.
To my dismay, the mannequin’s head started to turn toward the investigators.
“Jack!” I hissed.
The head reached its original position just as Rob looked back. I hoped against all hope that the camera crew hadn’t caught it in frame.
Jack huffed her disapproval. I rolled my eyes.
“Kramer…dude, so help me God, if you walk up behind me…turn your head around in full circles…or even smile at me…” Rob warned.
“I’m warning you Jack!” I growled. “That goes double for you, Akane!”
The three investigators turned around to look at Kramer again
Angela laughed. “You…you really don’t like that thing standing back there.”
“Are you crazy? No! I don’t…I do not like standing here in the dark with a haunted mannequin behind me! I mean…who would like that?” Rob replied looking a little shaken.
0335hrs, Honolulu, Hawaii, December 10th, 2011
“This is Keith, Brian, Rob…Pacific Aviation Museum…This is thirty-seven, right?”
“Yep, Hangar 37. Are you getting tired already, K?” Brian confirmed as they walked. His partner jerked his head to the side quickly as if shaking off some fatigue.
“It’s the six hour time difference. Its like early morning back home in Florida. Hey, we’re already getting a lot of K-2 fluctuation, just so you know. So I think we’re not alone in here.” Keith said
“Ya, if I remember right this is where they say that soldier walks through- this lobby.” Rob informed the other two.
“Let me get behind the desk over there for a better vantage point…oh, wow…the first thing I notice is that huge glass wall there.” Brian pointed across the briefing table.
Oh ya.” Rob agreed.
“With that much glass, it could…it could be reflections making them see apparition in the gift shop, but Anne said he was specifically seen in this area, right?”
“Ya, according to her, he was seen walking right through this lobby.” Rob replied.
“I couldn’t…I can’t see how you could mistake that. Wait! Did you hear that?”
Alice, I know we’re out of phase, but try not to walk partially in the wall?” I asked as we left the three investigators in the lobby and proceeded out and past the display of a crashed Zero. I was trying to pinpoint the temporal disruption my tiara had been picking up for the last minute or so.
“Shhh!” Keith interrupted from the lobby just as Akane, I think, moved a palm frond out of Alice’s way. It brushed back against another frond making a sound similar to petticoats brushing together.
“It just sounded like somebody walked…like clothes rubbing together, fffff, fffff.” He said, his voice getting slightly louder as he appeared checking the hallway to this part of the museum. “Anybody here?”
“Let’s walk around the exhibit one more time.” Brian suggested and we waited and followed along at a comfortable distance.
“Are these the actual remains of a Zero?” Rob asked as their flashlights illuminated the display.
“That’s what the plaque says…it’s actually debris from a crashed Japanese Zero.” Brian acknowledged.
I decided we should skirt the investigators and stopped our group by the display of a restored Zero fronted by a low bamboo fence. We waited while our Spirit hunting friends checked out the Zero wreckage.
“Commander, do you think that might be my father’s over there?”
“I can’t tell you, because I don’t know, hun. As miraculous as it is, my gift doesn’t allow me to walk on water. The battle of Midway, where your father supposedly got shot down, was an air battle fought mostly over the open ocean. Anything shot down most likely sank and was not recovered.
“Oh…so you really don’t know if father really died there?” She asked sadly.
“I’m sorry, hun, but there are limits to my precognitive ability. I wouldn’t hesitate to let you know…or even nudge things a little…”
“Please, Empress…let the dead rest. I have accepted father’s disappearance and moved on a long time ago.”
I nodded my understanding.
“Akane, time to split up again, hun.” I told her after a few moments. She nodded.
Immediately, Akane shimmered and Akune sprung from her left side, bumping Uncle Rick and Alice over one person.
“Whoa!” Brian exclaimed from not far off. “It looked like somethin’ just moved over there.
“Where?” Keith asked.
“Right…right in front of that bamboo fence.”
My entire group turned slightly to see the mentioned bamboo railing behind us.
“Woops, gotta move, people!” I ordered as I pulled and pushed my entourage smartly to port.
“What…like an animal?” We heard Rob ask.
“No, taller than it! Humaniod…I think.” Brian answered as they hurried over to the display we now quickly moved away from.
“Right here…looked like it just went wooop, at about that high.” Brian indicated to the spot where Akane was previously standing, motioning at the height of our newest sister.
“They saw us, Commander!” Akane and Akune cried together.
“Your split must partially disrupt my phasing.” I theorized. “You three best get over to Hangar 79. Jack, Akane and I will be over in a few minutes.” I suggested then added.
“Watch out for the QDA. I’ve seen that it will disrupt our phasing a few times before it actually arrives, Akune. When that happens, all or a portion of each of you will become visible. Uncle Rick, Alice, halt any conversation if Akune says she feels the slightest twinge of a phase shift. Your voices might be recorded on that sensitive equipment these people use. Remember, right now Akune shares Jack’s telepathic ability- so use your minds to keep in communication. And you, young lady,” I glared and pointed to the Moritsu twins, “try to fight the urge to move things! That just might present unwanted evidence.”
“Aye, Alex. Maintain silence unless necessary.” Uncle Rick repeated before either girl could argue…or even stare back in defiance.
Akune looked at me for a moment or two after cautiously releasing her twin’s hand.
“Um, Empress?” She began. “Um, could I port us over to the other hangar just this once? I…I promise I won’t ever ask to do it again.”
I rolled my eyes. “Just minutes ago you almost went into a panic when you found out you could borrow my gift, now you want to try it?” I asked in amazement.
“Yes, ma’am…just this once.” She answered sheepishly.
“Just don’t jump universes, hun. I can’t guarantee the borrowing effect goes that far.”
I watched as her mouth dropped open. She quickly recovered though.
“Thank you, Empress.” She said quietly as a smile came to her face and immediately fell. Nothing happened.
“Well? I thought you were so eager to use my gift?”
“Um,” She started, looking to the floor, “I’m…I’m not quite sure how, sensei.”
Again I rolled my eyes, but then really thought about it. Did I really know how I did it? As far as I knew, I just thought about going someplace and pulled the trigger. Simple…right? Would she accept that explanation as viable? A memory of Alex Reilly explaining the process to me surfaced. I dispatched that immediately.
“Think of the place and time you want to go then think of pushing a button to activate it, Akune.” I told her, not quite believing my own words and hoping Jack wasn’t paying attention.
“Oh.” She said before she, Alice, and Uncle Rick disappeared.
“Why would Alex Reilly need to explain to you how to transit time and space, Alex?”
I cringed slightly. “Long story for another time, Commander Cummins.”
“Aye, ma’am. So…what do we do now?”
“You instruct Akane about your shields and how to use them when we get back by the hangar door, Jack.”
“Here? With those three in the same building?” She exclaimed as she turned to look at me- her mouth hanging wide open. “I thought we were going to keep the Empress secret?”
“I also said certain things had to happen to provide them proof of the paranormal, Jack.”
‘But if Akane mistakenly pushes too much power into her shield, they might…!’ Jack though to me.
‘They might hear us, Jack?’ I thought back as I smiled deviously. I felt Akane’s grip tighten as we remained silent.
Jack squinted at me a moment.
“Aye, cap.” She responded, finally understanding. A similar devious grin washed over her face.
“So, Akane, I want you to think about shielding our conversation from the rest of the world.” Jack began as we arrived at the huge door made for aircraft.
“You can do that?” She asked in surprise.
“Yes…we can…as long as we’re connected.” Jack smiled. “Just as Alex told Akune, think about what you want to do…” Jack began, but paused and grimaced. “Think…” she emphasized the word, “really THINK about what you want to do then reconsider what you want to do and cautiously evaluate all the possible results that action will cause…good and especially…bad.” Jack gave our newest sister a stern glare before continuing.
“Once you have reconciled the actions versus results…that they will not harm anyone or anything…innocents…in any way, shape or form, think about the action again. Think about the minimum amount of energy needed to safely cause the needed result and adjust the energy you’ll use accordingly. Only after doing that do you hit the ‘button’.”
“It seems too complicated, Commander. Why is it so much easier to use the Empress’ power?” Akane asked in confusion.
“Alex can move through space and time, Akane. A Mind Warrior…especially a novice Mind Warrior…we can destroy both in an instant.” Jack explained calmly.
Jack’s daughter, Constance, appeared in my mind instantly. Just as quickly I pushed the associated memory back down to its dark, high security cell.
A giant gasp of air rang out on my right. The hand in mine began shaking violently.
“Um…cap…did Connie do…something? Something she wasn’t ready for?” Jack asked cautiously.
“Connie’s fine, Jack. We did have a little scrape, but everything worked out.” I responded.
“Oh, okay…” She replied, but left it hanging as she eyed me very carefully.
I motioned over to my right with my eyes…to Akane.
“Oh…right. You try it, Akane. Think of keeping our conversation from the outside world. Think of containing it to a hemisphere that is just big enough for the three of us to fit comfortably. Adjust the power needed to do just that and nothing more. Okay?”
The young woman to my right nodded attentively and closed her eyes.
Akane’s hand jerked slightly in mine as, I assume, she pushed the imaginary button to activate the requested shield.
Jack began looking around us and smiled. “Good, Akane! That’s very good for a first try.” She cheered. “But you might think about making the sphere just a little higher next time. Alex doesn’t like it when she has to ask Corrine or Julia Masterson to repair the hair on top of her head. Always consider the height of those around you and adjust accordingly.”
Akane seemed to concentrate a little harder as Jack continued to look around us.
“That’s better! Now can you hold it for a few minutes?” She asked. In the darkness our washed out night vision provided no indication of how hard she was concentrating. I cautiously reached up and felt the top of my head, making sure all of my hair was still intact.
I sighed in relief. It was.
“Okay, sweetheart, you can turn it off. That was actually pretty good.” Jack praised. “Now I want you to project a defensive shield around us. The shield must be strong enough to prevent any and all projectiles from reaching us. I don’t want you to use so much energy that whatever hits will vaporize. Use only enough to deflect.”
Again the young woman to my right closed her eyes. A minute later she began to really concentrate.
“I don’t see why you would need protection like this, Commander.” She said in a strained voice.
This was it. Jack looked at me awaiting my response. I waited until I felt her hand jerk again.
“So I won’t have to say ‘EVERYONE GET OUT OF HERE!’” I shouted in as low a register as my voice could go. I still only managed a slightly higher tenor. Akane’s eyes immediately shot open in surprised horror!
“Her shield is down, Empress.” Jack said evenly with another evil grin.
“Thank you, Akane-kun.” I said with a slight laugh.
“For what, Commander?”
I couldn’t help laughing harder at her confused expression.
“For helping the Empress of Time and Space provide evidence that ghosts might really exist, of course!”
I nodded. “Just now.”
“Alex!” Jack shouted suddenly. “The Admiral has found Ricky Lynn’s device.”
“Finally.” I sighed.
“Alex, It didn’t come alone!”
“I want a protective shield around our other group, Commander! Tell Akune to stay clear until we get there.”
Our location changed immediately.
“Why didn’t you wait, Alex?” Jack asked as we both looked around us.
“Because I wasn’t the one that transported us, Jack.” I growled, glaring at Akane.
“Akune said they were in trouble, ma’am.” She replied worriedly.
“Did you learn anything from Jack’s instructions on using her gift, Akane?” I continued to glare at her. “You have to be careful when you borrow anyone’s gift, hun!”
“Alex, that thing disappeared as fast as it appeared!” Uncle Rick said as he, Alice, and Akune began to approach Jack, Akane, and I. They suddenly vanished for a few seconds.
When the three reappeared, they were several seconds closer to us in distance.
“Alex, what just happened to them?” Jack asked in astonishment.
“The CDA destabilized Akune’s phasing for a few seconds.” I surmised.
“This is bad, Cap! What happened to them when that happened?”
“The Admiral established undeniable proof that ghostly apparitions do exist, Jack.” I answered.
“Um…how’d he do that, Alex?”
“What the devil did you just do, Commander?” Admiral Demmit asked worriedly. “You three disappeared for a few seconds as we walked over to you.”
“We didn’t disappear, Admiral. You three just vanished as we watched.” Jack accused.
“Is she saying we were visible to the others for that brief time, Alex?” Uncle Rick asked skeptically.
I nodded. “I’ll show you how it looked through the eyes of the camera,” I paused as I looked back to the newly arrived temporal device and its frantic passenger a few yards away. “After we try to recover Ricky Lynn’s stolen property.”
“Jack, care to ask young Mr. Clemson to step away from the CDA, please” I asked my Ex-O calmly. In my HUD I observed my Tiara was receiving telemetry from the newly arrived device.
“Ask who, Ale…Oh shit, Alex, there’s someone messing with…”
The young man, Ricky Lynn’s trusted assistant, Darren Clemson, knelt next to Ricky Lynn’s device and appeared to be frantically typing on its control panel while periodically looking around.
“Have to get out of here before someone sees me…before Professor Samuels knows I’m gone!” He mumbled to himself in panic. “Who said that?” He added as Jack sent my message. “Great! Someone’s seen me! I hafta get outta here!”
“Hey, buddy!” Alice’s voice said as her image appeared behind the frenzied young man. “Prof. Samuels wants her stuff back!”
The kneeling figure’s face went completely white- we could even see it with our night vision- as he wheeled around at the voice
“OH SHIT!” He exclaimed before turning back quickly to input something else on the control panel.
“Alex, should I pull him away from…?” Jack asked just as man and machine shimmered a few times then vanished.
“I’m sorry, Alex, I wasn’t fast enough.” She said dejectedly. Akane and Akune stared in terror at my Ex-O’s apology.
Jack immediately glared at the twins. “What did you just do, Akane?” She demanded.
“I started to pull him away from the machine, Commander. I wasn’t fast enough though.”
“But I started to push him away from the machine, Commander.” Akune added as she looked to her twin in horror.
“Great! Three of us tried to grab him three different ways! Alex, this can’t be good.” Jack growled in anger as she continued to glare at both girls. “Please tell me you saw this happening, Empress.”
I nodded sadly as Uncle Rick and Alice looked on, dumbfounded.
“You knew, Alex?” Both my uncle and Alice asked in harmony.
“Why didn’t you let us know this was going to happen? We could have taken measures to stop…” Uncle Rick went on, but stopped abruptly.
“Unless this was one of those fixed points you’re always talking about!”
“Um…sort of?” I winced as I realized that this was THE one time I chose the wrong scenario. “At least we know who stole the CDA now, Jack.” I comforted.
“I thought, Brie said that Ricky Lynn LOST the thing, Alex?”
“Well, apparently her assistant, Darren, lied, Jack. At least I have a name to go by now.”
“So now what, Alex?” Uncle Rick asked as he continued to look at the clean spot on the floor. What little debris that had been in the localized area was now gone- courtesy of the CDA.
“Darren Clemson has just become a fugitive…” I paused to shake my head a few times, my eyes closed. “Unfortunately.”
“We’re going to go after him right, Cap?” Alice asked.
“He’ll be dealt with, Lieutenant. Rest assured he will wish he never laid hand to that thing.”
“He looked more scared than dangerous, Empress.”
“That’s what makes him so dangerous, Akune.” I sighed. “A wanted man…on the run…able to go anywhere…anytime… The panic soon turns to paranoia then madness as the inevitable fear of getting caught builds.” I told them then added. “Of course, being pulled in three different directions while in a state of temporal flux didn’t do him any favors either.”
“Empress?” Alice asked, not understanding my statement.
“Mr. Clemson has just been quite literally pulled into three different dimensions…all at the same time. Once the CDA successfully initiated its temporal phasing, the effects of our three Mind Warriors subsided and he effectively came back together.”
“So that’s good…right?” Alice asked, seeming very unsure of herself.
I paused a moment to verbally describe my newest vision of what was to be.
“Darren Clemson is no longer the clinically stable organism he was.” I stated as I paused again. This was where it got complicated. “Because he was basically pulled apart on a sub-molecular level while immersed in a fluctuating temporal field, the distortion caused by that specific, artificial singularity resulted in different dimensional parts of the same entity being reconstituted. Detailed analysis of archived, relevant files expose postulations that, in different dimensions, the corresponding entity’s personalities may not be in exact synchronization to the reference dimension.”
“Are we in the presence of Alexandra Steinert or Alex Reilly, Empress?” Admiral Demmit asked. His tone was none too happy.
“I’m Alex Steinert, Uncle…why?” I responded.
“Because that explanation sounded just like something your sister would spout, Alex! Care to explain what you just said in ‘plain’ English?”
“Oh, I thought I had explained it better.” I blushed and paused to rethink my words. “The person that was Darren Clemson now consists of three…maybe more, different personalities, but all melted together. He is at least three times as dangerous, completely unstable, and psychotically unpredictable.”
Our group remained silent for a few minutes.
“We’ll catch him though, right?” Jack asked optimistically.
“Yes, Jack, I’ll catch him, but not before he tries to change our world forever.” I answered grimly. An image of a middle-aged man in a beaten, torn, and thrashed Union uniform, moaning and babbling incomprehensibly in a cot came to mind.
“You’ve met him already, Alex?” Jack’s mouth dropped wide open.
I nodded. “But not before a lot of damage has been done- damage that Alex Reilly, you, and I will have to repair.
“I take it you know where he’s going next, Alex?” Uncle Rick asked casually.
I took a moment to review the information my tiara had gathered in the brief time the device had been here.
“Apparently Mr. Clemson was unsure of his next destination, but at one point chose West Point, New York, 1780.
“Great, even tighter corsets!” Jack exclaimed, raising her arms in defeat. “Why couldn’t he choose a more modern time period, Alex?”
“Gee, why didn’t you think to ask him, Jack?” I asked her sarcastically.
“West Point, 1780? Why would anyone want to go there, Alex?” Alice questioned.
“I guess we’ll find out. After that, we’ll see Admiral Richard Demmit’s TV debut.”
“Benedict Arnold.” Uncle Rick said absently. “Wait, I make a TV debut?”
“Thank you, Uncle.” I said with a smile.
“For giving me the answer, of course.”
“I’m not following, Alex.”
“What would happen if a known traitor remained a patriot?” I replied.
“Would it make such a difference?”
“Remember what I said about small changes?” I asked. “Sometimes the smallest changes do the most damage, sir.” I added after seeing the confused faces.
“The Butterfly Effect!” Alice blurted out.
“Exactly.” I responded. “Let’s get back to the hotel and get some rest. I’m going to have to think about my game plan now that the timeline has changed.” I added, nodding to Akane and Akune.
Jack again glared at the twins; her expression left no question about her thoughts toward my statement about changing the timeline. “If it still exists.” She growled flatly.
“You want me to take us back to the hotel, Empress?” Akune gulped in surprise.
“No, I want Akane to pull you two back together after you take her hand, hun.”
With a look of sadness, Akune merged back into Akane, again pulling Uncle Rick and Alice one person closer.
“I’m sorry we disrupted the timeline, Empress.” Akane said, not losing eye contact with the floor. “It will never happen again.”
“Of course it will happen again, Akane-kun. Learning how to use your gift ensures that it will happen many more times, though not in such a way as to change the timeline like we just did.”
I noticed a few tears fall from my new sister’s face.
“Let’s get back so you can visit with your nieces, hun.”
The dirty, dark, second floor of the Pacific Aviation Museum became our hotel suite in Honolulu’s Waikiki area.
“Welcome back, Empress. It’s 8 o’clock. Tuesday, December 13th, 2011.” A pleasant little voice greeted as I rephased our group.
“Why thank you, sweetheart.” I said cheerfully as I turned and saw Tish’s Alexandra, and Rebecca kneeling behind us.
I rolled my eyes as I shook my head a few times.
The two girls giggled before standing and trying to tackle me.
Rebecca suddenly broke her stranglehold on my left leg and moved over to Akane.
“Auntie Akane, hi!” She exclaimed with a wide smile before wrapping her arms around the woman’s thighs. “I missed you!”
Akane broke into tears.
“Rebecca, what is going on…oh! Welcome back, Sensei, Alice, Jacki. Welcome, sir!” Tish greeted as she entered the large room. She immediately snapped to attention seeing Uncle Rick.
“At ease, Tish. I’m just one of the Empress’ companions on this trip.” He said with a smile.
“Sorry, sir, force of habit.” She apologized.
“And who are these two, well-behaved, young ladies, Tish?” He asked.
“My oldest, Alexandra, and her sister, Rebecca, sir.” Tish responded, pointing to them in order.
“Honey, did I hear the kids say that Alex was back?” Tish’s husband, Sam asked as he appeared in the doorway from their bedroom suite carrying a couple rather heavy looking shopping bags. “Oh!” He exclaimed, seeing the Admiral and dropping the bags gently.
“Admiral Demmit, I presume?” He asked, approaching my uncle, offering his hand in friendship. “Sam Hikawa, Tish’s husband. Glad to finally meet you, sir.”
“Sam.” Uncle Rick repeated, shaking his hand. “Nice family you have here, son.”
“Thank you, sir.” He said before looking toward me. “How’d it go over at the base, Empress?”
“All according to plan…more or less.” I answered.
“I ruined the timeline!” Akane cried out before sniffing back some tears. She gently freed herself from her niece and immediately ran into her bedroom suite, slamming the door behind her.
“Should I even ask, Alex,” Sam inquired in confusion?
“Your new sister-in-law screwed the pooch, Sam.”
“Well, she did, Cap! No two ways about it. She blew it, big-time.”
“Like you never make mistakes, Jack?”
“You should be, Jacki Cummins!” Alice growled as she angrily stepped in front of my Ex-O. “You, of all people, should throw the first stone!” Her right pointer finger aggressively poked at Jack’s chest just above her left breast.
The hairs on my arm closest to Jack started to stand.
“Honey, please take Alexandra and Rebecca into our room while we sort this out.” Tish asked calmly. She waited for the bedroom door to close.
“Ladies! Please, not in front of my children!” Tish said angrily in her most proper British accent. “Take it to another planet…or at least to another part of the world, if you must, Jacquelyn Cummins!”
“I agree with Tish! Cut the arguing and end the hostilities, girls!” The Admiral ordered.
“No buts, Commander! That’s an order! You ARE still under my command, Lt. Cmdr. Cummins, aren’t you?”
“Aye sir.” Jack answered in defeat.
Alice glared at my Ex-O. “This isn’t over by any stretch, Jacki Cummins! How dare you belittle our new sister?”
Alice turned and stormed off into another bedroom slamming the door.
My Ex-O turned to my voice, her mouth hanging open in bewilderment as to what had just happened.
“We’re going.” I growled as I shot out my hand at her.
“Where to…” she started to ask as our surroundings suddenly changed.
A young-looking, redheaded woman was busy tapping away angrily at what looked like a piece of glass. We were in what looked like an office in an older looking building.
“If I ever catch that dumbass, son-of-a-bitch! Darren you’ll rue the day you ever crossed me!” She mumbled to herself in disgust.
“Harsh words for someone who just let their life’s work fall into a love interest’s hands, don’t y’all think, Ricky Lynn Samuels?” I asked and watched as the startled redhead jumped a few feet off her seat.
“What the hell, Alex?”
“I should ask the same thing, Prof. Samuels! Because of your infatuation and fixation with replacing me, I now have a hundred times the work ahead of me!” I accused in an even tone.
“Empress!” Ricky Lynn sprang to attention, her chair shooting backwards and crashing to the floor behind her. “Welcome to Carnegie Mellon University. It is 12:30PM, April 10th, 2035.”
“Stow it, sailor!” I growled angrily. “I want a full briefing on this CDA and its known weaknesses- I want it yesterday, Lt Commander!”
“Admiral?” My former Chief looked at me strangely. “I just gave them to you two days ago. Jacki, you watched me do it.” She said looking to my companion.
“I’m not Admiral Covington, honey, but I do want to hear everything there is about your new play toy.”
“But I thought you two…that you and Alex…that you and the Admiral shared memories?”
“Official documentation of the CDA seems to have slipped my future twin’s memory, professor.” I replied flatly.
“You can do that?”
“Apparently so, Ricky Lynn. So how about that briefing? Jack? Your acoustic field please?”
“Can it wait until after my next class, Empress? It starts in fifteen minutes.” Prof. Samuels pleaded.
I rolled my eyes as I contemplated the request.
“It looks like we’re going to sit in on one of Prof. Samuels’ lectures, Jack. We’ll need suitable attire.” I said selecting my HUD’s clothing list.
A pair of dress denim jeans and a plain pink, scoop-necked, blouse, my pink cross-trainers, and pink socks replaced my dress whites. My regulation handbag became a cloth backpack and my cover became a flowery pink scarf that I immediately used to tie my hair into a high ponytail. Jack followed suit in a slightly low-cut, short, yellow sundress with matching flats, a beige baseball cap, and we both appeared for all intents, college students.
“No offence sisters, but this era’s college kids don’t dress that way. If it’s not askin’ too much, I’d like for ya both to conduct today’s lecture instead, so a smart business-type suit might be a better choice?”
I immediately looked to Jack in wonderment. I had come here to chast…thank our chief for creating much more work for me and she expected us to help her teach?
“Dare I ask the topic of today’s lesson, professor?” I asked sarcastically.
“Temporal paradoxes as they might relate to historic events, Alex.” Ricky Lynn informed me as she blushed and looked to the floor. “Alex Covington told me you might pay me a visit today.”
“Oh she did, did she?” I stared incredulously at the shying woman. “Fine, but this is going to be business formal, but quirky, got it?”
“Aye, Skipper?” Ricky Lynn relented, her eyes squinting at me in confusion.
“Jack, we need to look like a couple well dressed academic types, yet individualistic. Follow my lead.” I said as my clothing began to change.
Gone were my comfortable jeans, my comfy cotton blouse, and my sneakers. Rising on my tiptoes, my 1860’s granny boots immediately added three inches to my height. I exhaled. A light gray, above-the-knee skirt and open blazer now covered a dusty rose, finely-embroidered corset. My backpack became a gray, leather attaché. Reaching into my jacket’s inner pocket, I produced and put on a pair of silver, wire-rimmed glasses. My scarf had become a matching gray, spring clip holding my ponytail.
I noticed Ricky Lynn immediately scan my legs where a pair of black rose-patterned stockings provided some provocative cover.
“I thought we hated corsets, Alex?” Jack asked critically as she too appraised my selection.
“This was in Admiral Covington’s wardrobe, Jack. I don’t recall doing a stint as an 1870’s saloon girl though. Anyway, I thought that if we were going to lecture on historical paradoxes…well, I’d dress the part.” I smiled brightly at both women. “Actually…this one doesn’t feel so bad.” I added as I regarded my first officer.
“Ya think you might be overdoin’ a tad, Alex?”
“Professor Samuels, I AM the leading authority on paradoxical phenomena as they pertain to Earth history…am I not?”
“Aye, ma’am.” She sighed in resignation.
Jack had selected a more business oriented light gray jacket and pants set, a white blouse with the top three buttons unfastened to display a gold, star-shaped locket, gray two-inch, open-toed pumps, and suntan stockings. Her cover had become a basic matching plastic headband. I also noticed the two-inch gold hoops in each ear.
I’d forgotten about jewelry entirely.
My quarters in Reilly appeared around me and I quickly walked over to my closet, opened the top drawer and retrieved Anna Beth’s commemorative broach. Attaching it around my neck, I appraised myself in the mirror. I noted that my HUD immediately came online and displayed not only another power status bar, but another menu option as well! I’d have to check that out later.
Changing my silver wire-rimmed glasses to gold ones, I added a pair of medium-sized ruby teardrops to my ears. Deciding that a ponytail wasn’t as sophisticated as I liked, I carefully gathered my dirty blonde tresses into a loose bun and changed my hairclip into an oriental style leather strap with two chopsticks.
Ricky Lynn’s office reappeared around me.
Professor Samuels blinked in amazement at my sudden change.
“Empress, I wish you wouldn’t do that! It’s very unnerving.” She admitted while shaking her head a few times before staring at my cleavage.
“Where on Earth did you get that?” She asked, but paused for a moment. “Or is it even from this planet? It kind of looks Egyptian, Alex, but that definitely looks like a spacecraft.”
“What…this? It’s just a little gift from Anna Beth and Khufu, thanking us for recovering Meridian. I’ve had it for years.” I told her off-handedly with a broad smile.
Jack rolled her eyes as I downplayed the unique, priceless artifact.
“Yer kiddin’…a mission broach? That thing has got to be over six thousand years old, Alex! I remember yer tellin me about some archeological dig back in ’73, but ya never said nothin’ about findin’ somethin’ from Pharaoh!” Ricky Lynn exclaimed excitedly as she lifted the jeweled broach to carefully examine its detailed surfaces.
“You do know that this is beyond priceless and belongs in a museum, right?”
“This gift will remain in my possession and will never see the inside of any museum unless worn around my neck, Miss Samuels! Are we clear on that?” I decried sharply
“Good, now shouldn’t we be getting to your classroom, professor?”
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.” Ricky Lynn said loudly in greeting. Her ‘classroom’ turned out to be a small lecture hall in the original science building on campus. About thirty-five of the eighty seats were filled.
I noticed two familiar faces in the group.
“Today’s lecture will be on the topic of paradoxes and their possible relational impact on historic events.” Ricky Lynn paused a moment.
A defeated moan filled the hall.
“Joining us today are two of the leading experts in the theoretical field of historical paradoxes, Dr. Allison Steinert and Dr. Jocelynn Cummins. Let’s welcome Doctor’s Steinert and Cummins.” She said and started off the clapping.
Moderate applause echoed through the hall as Jack and I bowed slightly.
“Allie and Joss have been friends of mine for a number of years now and are well versed in the concepts of temporal paradox. Together, they have logically and theoretically placed before the scientific community the ultimate and frightening question: “What if?”
I rolled my eyes quickly and hoped our audience hadn’t seen it.
Scanning the group, I noticed our two sisters grin knowingly to my response.
“Without further ado, I’d like to turn this lecture over to Doctor’s Steinert and Cummins. Allie, Joss?” Ricky Lynn started to clap again, along with about a third of the class- mostly guys.
“Thank you SO much, Professor Samuels.” I said not even trying to hide the sarcasm in my voice.
The audience lightly giggled and laughed as I took my place behind the old, abused wooden podium.
“Can anyone here tell me what a paradox really is?” I asked as I looked around the sparse gathering.
“Before you answer though, think about that question carefully.” I recommended, planting my elbows on the lectern’s sloped surface while propping up my chin with my right hand. I set my gaze on one man in particular. The young man, a raven-haired, well-built- athletic type- had been staring intensely at my boobs ever since his tardy entrance to the hall. He had been so absorbed in undressing me that he had almost missed his seat and fallen to the floor.
I smiled. “Now, here is the real question to be answered: Had I not asked the first question and not clarified it further, would you have actually thought very carefully about the original question at all?”
The young man’s lusty gaze dropped immediately as he and everyone else became confused.
“That is the conundrum of trying to quantify a paradox.” I declared, only pausing for a second. “Most would argue that a paradox is a set of actions and reactions that, unless initiated by something somewhere along its line, cannot or would not have happened otherwise. Others insist that a paradox is nothing more than a circle whose start point follows its end point”
“Joss and I try to think of it differently,” I said after a very short pause. “What if the beginning simply justified the means?”
This drew many more looks of confusion from the students. Only two showed any comprehension at all. Apparently my admirer had completely detached himself from the lecture already and reset his gaze on my chest!
“Doctor Steinert?” A thin, brown-haired, young woman in jeans and a blue polo raised her hand. “Doctor, I don’t think I understand. How COULD the beginning justify the means if you don’t know what the end actually should be?”
‘Jack, what is that girl’s name?’ I thought to my Ex-O.
‘Ricky Lynn says her name is Janice…Janice Silvers, Cap.’
“How indeed could I possibly know that you would ask that question, Miss Silvers?” I answered with a cryptic question.
A quiet gasp escaped the hall as the girl’s mouth dropped open in disbelief.
“Janice, by simply assessing the people in this room, I have deduced that the end result would be confusion on the topic and therefore I had designed the preceding question to obtain the desired result. Tell me Miss Silvers, do you still hope to acquire prompt employment after graduating this May, or will you take your father’s advice and travel abroad with them upon your return to Toronto this summer?” I asked with a smile as the young woman turned five shades of red.
“That…that is an example of a paradox, ladies and gentlemen. It can be as logically thought out as a scripted newscast or…chaotic beyond all reason…both..or neither.”
My smile subsided and I walked toward the thoroughly embarrassed woman in the front row. “I’m sorry, Miss Silvers. I arranged this with Ricky Lynn before class. I needed to illustrate the concept and, being as she knew a lot about you, I thought it perfect.” I consoled her quietly, gently taking her hand in mine. A devious smile crept onto my face as I added, “Do have fun in Monaco, but don’t sleep with the first stud to catch your eye, hun, he’ll just cause heartache and complicate your life. The second one, the American, though he will not be your soul mate, he will be a source of happiness for a few years.”
The young woman stared up at me in amazement- that I would possibly know her just released itinerary…
“But how could you possibly know we were going to Monaco? Father just called me an hour ago…” She whispered, looking unbelievingly up into my eyes. I noted her eyes quickly shifted momentarily to my mission broach. Did she grasp the significance?
“It’s a talent of mine, hun. Just heed my warning and you’ll be more or less happy for the rest of your life.” I smiled genuinely as I released her hand and walked back to the podium.
“And Mr. Patel, my tits are not a paradox! They’ve been a part of me for way longer than you’ve even existed.” I exclaimed to the man again staring at me from the second row. “They arrived way before you did, hun.”
The women in the group giggled, along with several young men in the group. Two women, in particular giggled louder than the rest.
“Miss Hilf? What appears to be so comedic about my endowments and their focus of masculine attention?” I asked one of them.
The room hushed as everyone looked back to the mousy brunette with the black-framed glasses and messy ponytail.
Her face flushed slightly before she adjusted her glasses and placed her pencil onto her notebook.
“It just seemed funny that you noticed at all ma’am. I mean…dressed the way you are, I would assume you’re used to the attention.” She answered frankly.
“Initially, the wanton eyes scan appreciatively over Joss and I, Miss Hilf, but as the topic of discussion develops, those eyes become more impressed with our intellectual image instead. It is not my job to inspire young men’s desires, but to inspire their intellect. Mr. Yung, you have a comment to make?” I asked, pointing to the now wide-eyed young man at the far right end of the fourth row.
“What are qualifications, Doctor? What make you expert on Temporal Paradox?”
Jamie Hilf and her neighbor, Michelle Simonetti, cringed noticeably at the question.
“I hold separate doctorates in Bio-mechanical Engineering, Nano-technology Engineering, Astrophysics, Theoretical Temporal Mechanics, and World History. I also have written several papers on Chaos Theory and Boson-Higgs Particles. Will that be sufficient for our discussion today?” I said regally.
“Wow, what a bitch!” He declared in Cantonese.
Keying up my translator to the detected language, I answered. “Should I also mention that both Dr. Cummings and I are fluent in twenty-five different languages…Cantonese, Teochew, Tio San, and Mandarin being among them, Mr. Yung? You would be wise to hold your opinion and your tongue until you better know your adversary.”
Only Jamie and Michelle giggled in response. They apparently were wearing their Reilly’s. The rest of the group just stared at me.
“Dr. Steinert, could you and Dr. Cummins elaborate on the idea of a paradox in regard to some historic event? I think it would better illustrate what your field of work entails.” Ricky Lynn asked, seeing that this lecture was already deteriorating. Was she too wearing her Reilly?
“Okay.” I answered pleasantly. “Someone give me a ‘what if’ from somewhere in history. A popular, well known example would make things much easier for everyone to relate to.”
Foresight can be so disappointingly predictable sometimes.
“Dr. Steinert, what would happen if Lincoln hadn’t gone to Ford’s theater?” Michelle Simonetti asked innocently. “Would that be a good example for the paradox?”
My face fell instantly as I watched Jamie punch her neighbor on the side of her leg and stare menacingly at her.
“Allie and I have recently discussed a parallel topic and we received some very disconcerting results.” Jack replied. “Although that could definitely be a paradox. Let’s look into it with a more specific set of parameters, shall we?”
“First off, let’s start off this paradox properly- in the middle.” She went on looking at me a few times as she continued. “Let’s go with what we already know- that Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln had received invitation to attend the theater that night.”
Ricky Lynn tapped a few places on her touch pad thing and a color image of Abraham and Mary Lincoln appeared on a screen behind us followed by another color image of Ford’s Presidential box.
Some of the students seemed confused by the seemingly genuine color photograph of the couple. Jamie nodded slightly to Michelle- as if acknowledging it to be authentic.
Jack nodded to Ricky Lynn and continued.
“Now what could possibly sway the President from accepting or declining the invitation? Anyone?” Jack asked the group.
“An attack on Washington, DC.” Someone offered.
“Maybe, but understand that Washington City, as it was called back then, was insulated on the west by the Potomac and well guarded on her eastern flank by checkpoints and garrisons of troops. Also remember that the Confederacy had surrendered days before at Appomattox and that the county courthouse is almost a day’s ride from Washington by horse…but let’s not forget the train and telegraph. Good thought though. Anyone else have other plausible reasons?”
“The First Lady getting sick?”
“Very possible,” Jack said to the man’s voice, “but history records that Mrs. Lincoln already suffered from severe headaches due to a carriage accident a few years before. One would think that by now, the Lincolns would be dealing with them. Oh, by the way, the term ‘First Lady’ wasn’t coined until Eleanor Roosevelt.”
“There is one simple action that could have swayed the president either way. Does anybody have an idea what that would be?”
“Someone could have told him?” Jamie blurted out.
The class laughed.
“Yes! Exactly, Miss Hilf, thank you! What if someone told him?” I finally answered. “What if somebody caught wind of the planned assassination and warned the President not to go?”
“But, Doctor, how would someone find out about such a plan in the first place? Wouldn’t they be involved somehow?” Another woman asked.
“Maybe they were…or maybe they could see the future…a clairvoyant…someone that could see what was to be and maybe tried to rectify it…strictly for humanitarian reasons?”
“Would someone like that have had a chance to get close to Lincoln, Ma’am?” Another guy asked. “Moreover, how would they prove it without exposing themselves as either a loony or conspirator?”
“Spirituality, séances, and belief in the occult were popular at the time. Mary Lincoln herself employed a medium on several occasions to channel her dead husband and her two deceased children in the years after.” Jack told the group.
“Let’s think even deeper and more chaotic. We can really have some fun if we throw this example into the realm of Science Fiction- let’s really set a proper paradox into motion, shall we?” I suggested with a devious smile.
Thirty-five people looked back in silent curiosity. I noticed Jamie and Michelle’s mouth’s drop open with worry.
“Let’s imagine a traveler,” I suggested to begin, “not your ordinary traveler though- rather, someone that could somehow travel through time.” I paused to look around the hall and saw only two stunned expressions in a crowd of mixed confusion. Looking back to Ricky Lynn, I noticed a still from the movie ‘The Time Machine’ was displayed on the large screen. I rolled my eyes.
“Come on! Over the years there have been numerous films on that very subject! Let’s see all you nerds show your stuff!” I said as I thumbed back at the screen.
Several people laughed or giggled.
“Time travel? Doctor Steinert, time travel isn’t really possible…is it?” Mr. Patel asked, fighting a disapproving expression.
“Let’s bend the laws of physics for a few minutes and say that it is for this exercise. Let’s also say that this traveler was from the future and that she…he maybe, worshipped President Abraham Lincoln since first learning about him in grade school. Would that person NOT want to try and save their idol?” I stopped to look around at the various faces as each thought about the scenario just proposed.
“Now I’m going to up the stakes a level or two so that we can have an even deeper discussion.” I paused and looked around the audience. “Let’s say…” I paused as if thinking something through. “That this time traveler somehow found out that Mr. Lincoln would decline the invitation to attend ‘Our American Cousin’ that night.”
“You mean what if this traveler had to convince Lincoln to go to the play, ma’am? How screwed up would that have to be!” Janice Silvers asked in exasperation as the rest of the group erupted in opinionated conversation.
“The theory falls well within the parameters of the exercise and is one Allie and I have already analyzed.” Joss admitted to the class as she raised her hands to quiet the room.
“What kind of person could actually do something that heinous- I mean, asking a man to go to his death willingly?” Another young woman asked incredulously.
“You might be surprised by what we are sometimes asked to do in life, Monica.” The woman gasped at my knowing her name.
“Said person would have to be courageous, yet confident as to what he or she was doing. I agree that it goes against every moral and ethical standard the human race has, but for this discussion let’s say it has to be done.”
“What would be the ramifications to her…the traveler…if history hadn’t played out favorably the first time?”
“Or,” I paused, “did it play out favorably the first time at all? What would have happened if the traveler hadn’t succeeded in her attempted mission to right the wrongs of the past?”
“Let me get this straight,” a young man from off to the left, said. “You expect us to believe that the President’s assassination was the result of a supposed time traveler going back to 1865 to make him GO to the theater?”
“Not to make him go, Alexander. Said person would most likely urge him to go- to provide him the undeniable facts and proof that it was the right thing to do- that it was the only way…the only clear path…to ensure that the United States remained strong and unified.” I explained as I felt my eyes start to moisten.
“It almost sounds to me like you were this time traveler, Dr. Steinert. Why get so consumed by a mere thesis?” Janice Silvers asked, raising her hand a little too late. Jamie and Michelle’s mouths fell open.
“Because I was there.” I answered quietly, lowering my head.
“You were there, doctor?” A young middle-eastern man from the third row repeated.
Jack gasped as she quickly glanced to me.
“Mr. Saleem, the nature of our study is to get into the heart and soul of the subject. Unless we both delve headlong into placing ourselves in the specific time and place- ‘virtually’ traveling to Washington City of 1865, in this case- we cannot completely evaluate the disruptions and changes the paradox would create. It can become so real in fact, that both Allie and I feel like we’ve actually been there- experienced the federal period in all its glory and despair- to have actually met Mr. Lincoln!” Jack continued eloquently, covering for my slip of grief.
“So, since you have run the scenario already, what did you determine was the result of President Lincoln’s lack of attendance at Ford’s theater, Ma’am?” Michelle Simonetti asked innocently. Jamie glared at her neighbor!
“We determined that…” Jack started to answer.
I raised my hand to indicate that I would answer the question as I set my eyes on Michelle.
“If Lincoln had escaped a bullet that night,” I began. “According to discovered information indicating several more planned attempts, he and half the occupants, staff, and guests assembled for a diplomatic dinner three weeks later would have met with another assassination attempt, this one successful! Andrew Johnson wouldn’t have assumed the presidency, and most of the experienced members from Lincoln’s cabinet would have perished also. Chaos would have run rampant through political Washington allowing all manner of laws, rules, and political protocols to pass through an uncaring, uncontrolled Congress. Control of the western states and territories would have collapsed into lawlessness and resulted in local politicians assuming power and becoming dictators. Foreign powers would conveniently seize any and all opportunities to gain footholds in America, eventually taking control and sectioning off vast regions of the country for themselves. Poverty, despair, and famine would wash over the continent in less than thirty years. America as we know it today would not exist.”
The only sounds heard throughout the lecture hall were a few women crying. I felt Ricky Lynn’s hand gently rest then rub my back. I took a moment to compose myself. It still hadn’t gotten any easier to relate those memories.
“Getting back to our original discussion, what would be the outcome had our time traveler failed in her attempt to right the stream of history?” Jack asked as she took charge while I regained my composure.
“I thought you just told us what would happen if he failed, Doctor?” Another student asked.
“Whatever the result it is only a small part of the paradox we set forth, Clark. Here’s where the deep thinking…the thought provoking part comes in.” I said then waited until all eyes were on me.
“Would the time traveler even exist if she failed? Would she be around at all to initialize the mission? Moreover, would she be who she is?” I stopped to look around the hall.
“That…” I paused. “That is the conundrum that is a paradox. If the person or action that causes a paradox isn’t around to cause it in the first place, how can it actually happen?”
“It seems like a vicious circle with no clear end or beginning, Dr. Steinert. How could anyone close a paradox?”
“One answer,” Jack answered, “is to try very hard not to start one in the first place, but if unavoidable: Research the specific area, date, and time, as it pertains to the historic event as thoroughly as humanly possible first. Exhaustively debate the topic or topics of concern with sources known to be knowledgeable in the subject over and over again until you feel all facets have been covered completely. Thirdly…” Jack paused.
“Thirdly, rethink the options and possibilities a second and possibly third, fourth, and fifth time. Lastly, initiate the decided action and hope you didn’t miss one miniscule item. A theory called the ‘butterfly effect’ states that the smallest, most insignificant variances sometimes create the largest, most drastic changes. But by all means, hope the mission completes amicably. The only way to end a paradox is to successfully satisfy a paradox.”
A murmur rose from the group as they quietly discussed what was said amongst themselves. I noticed Michelle and Jamie casually looking around to their constituents in amazement.
“Does anyone have any questions for Dr. Steinert or Dr. Cummins?” Ricky Lynn asked.
“Dr. Steinert…um…can time travel really be possible? I mean, Prof. Samuels claims it is- Einstein too, but…in your opinion…is it…is it really feasible and wouldn’t it inevitably cause a paradox?”
“Miss Silvers, time travel is indeed possible. In fact, time travel in one direction- forward- is so easy we do it every day of our lives without realizing it. Each second that passes us by is a step forward in time- into the future.”
“But what I mean is…is travel back through time…through history, possible? Is travel to the far future…possible?”
“That’s a good question, hun! Why don’t y’all come into the next classroom and join Joss, Prof. Samuels and I in a little experiment.” I suggested with a broad smile as I motioned to the door off to my left.
“Please don’t be afraid, ladies and gentlemen, my little experiment is only another thought exercise. It will be what you make of it, nothing more.”
‘Alex, is this wise?’ Jack thought to me as people began to leave their seats and come closer.
‘Think of it as a way to give them more time to think things over, Jack.’ I thought back.
After a few minutes, only two young men remained in the larger lecture hall. The rest now waited patiently for me to continue.
“This will only work if everyone participates, gentlemen.” I shouted from the much smaller room to the two. “I believe Prof. Samuels will be considering participation as part of your grade this semester.”
Begrudgingly, the two holdouts came in and joined our group.
“Now here’s the plan.” I began as I gently closed the connecting door. “What is the most precious thing busy college students like y’all could use?”
After waiting a moment, I looked around the silent group. Not seeing anything but confused faces- and several people staring…at my broach, I decided to answer my own question.
“Come on! I’m sure each and every one of you wished y’all had more time in the day, right?” I paused again to look around me. “Or is it some of you just wanted this lecture to be over before it began? That, theoretically, would be a paradox, right?”
Several people laughed or giggled while a few others just rolled their eyes.
“Joss and I would like everyone in this room to close their eyes and wish or think about having just a little bit more time today. Imagine that you had,” I paused as if to think, “that y’all had an extra thirty minutes to do with as you pleased- whether it was for extra study, grabbing something to eat, or just to spend a little extra quality time with your significant other. But,” Again I paused, “but before we actually begin the experiment, think about what that would actually entail.” I paused again, this time to look around.
“Think about the paradox that we could initiate by simply going back in time thirty minutes. After leaving this room at the completion of this exercise,” I asked, “would you just leave the building and go on your merry way without a care about the success or failure of the experiment, or,” I paused, “or would you daringly walk to the lecture hall doors and look in to see if it worked? Remember that if this experiment bore any fruit at all, y’all would still be seated in that classroom and Dr. Cummins and I would still be speaking about paradoxes.” I smiled as I paused one last time.
“Maybe a more prudent proof of success would be to observe the time on any personal devices you carry on your person versus any wall clocks or devices in any room other than this one. Doing that would not damage the time stream or trigger the dread, theorized, catastrophic matter recombination.” I said and raised my right eyebrow a few times. “Think about it.”
I waited a few moments, watching the expressions change throughout those around me.
‘Jack, when I reach the end of my countdown turn the wall clock over there ahead thirty minutes.’ I thought to her.
She nodded slightly in silence.
“So, are we ready to begin?” I asked.
“I’d like everyone to hold hands with the person next to you. When combined, the power of human thought can be colossal and also terrifying, but is necessary today to source our experiment, so concentrate on turning local time back thirty minutes, everyone. Guys, you might also take this opportunity to enjoy the touch of the female hand…just as a hint, maybe?” I laughed.
The members of the class began taking each other’s hands while a quite murmur filled the room. Once I saw that everyone held another’s hand, Ricky Lynn, Jack and I inserted ourselves into the group. I was lucky enough to have Mr. Patel next to me. He smiled with what Pa would’ve called a ‘shit eatin’ grin’.
“Here we go…” I said looking to make sure at least a few eyes were closed. “Everyone concentrate on traveling back in time thirty minutes. Remember, the success of this experiment is directly proportional to the effort you put into it. On three, I want everyone to think about pushing an imagined button to initiate our thirty-minute travel. Ready? One…two…three.”
After a few seconds I asked the big question. “Well let’s see if it worked. Mr. Patel, could you tell me the time?”
“And what does our wall clock say?”
“Oh? Well, I guess traveling back in time is a little more complicated than we thought. Isn’t that right, Prof Samuels?” I asked glaring at Ricky Lynn with one eyebrow up.
“We’re making strides everyday into that science, Dr. Steinert.” She replied with a less than amused expression.
“Well, it’s been our experience,” I pointed between Jack and I, “that time travel should be left to those that understand the dangers. There again,” I smiled as I looked around at the students, “maybe we should just leave time travel to the writers…to the H.G. Wells of literature. As Dr. Cummins stated earlier, small changes could bring about catastrophic results. Only someone capable and gifted in the art of foresight might…might be able to travel time and leave it pristine.”
“I want to thank y’all for participating in our little thought experiment today, everyone. Always remember the warnings Joss and I have given about temporal paradoxes and think twice before entering into one. Always try to find the most beneficial way out whether that be action…or no action at all. Thank you all for listening. Prof. Samuels would you like to add anything?”
Ricky Lynn shook her head a few times. “No, I think we all have a better understanding of a paradox as it relates to history, Dr. Steinert. Let’s all thank Dr. Allison Steinert and Dr. Jocelyn Cummins for joining us today.
Light applause filled the room.
“Thank you all and see you next week.” Ricky Lynn said as she dismissed the class, motioning to a different door than we came in.
Jack, Ricky Lynn, and I waited for everyone to file out into the hallway. Michelle and Jamie came back into the room.
“Alex, I should have thought more about your trip back to DC, I’m really sorry I brought back those memories.”
“You couldn’t have known just from my half-hearted account after we returned from patrol, Shel.”
“I know, but I sensed the full extent of your grief today, Alex, and Jamie…um…she impressed that fact on me very well.” She said rubbing her thigh gently.
“Shel, Jamie knows firsthand about my feelings on that one. I’m sure she found it hard to sleep that night.”
Jamie nodded her agreement. “Your emotions were very overpowering that night, Alex.”
“I understand that now…” Michelle began.
“Oh good, you’re still here!” A familiar female voice chimed quietly from the hallway door. “Dr. Steinert, your experiment…it worked!” She bubbled excitedly.
“The experiment was a thought exercise, Miss Silvers, it wasn’t meant to ‘work’. It was just devised to make you think.” I replied nonchalantly.
“But it worked, Doctor! Come see for yourself!” The woman cried excitedly.
Ricky Lynn glared up at me in anger.
“Calm down Janice, no use disturbing other classes on this floor.” I said as Jack and I followed her out into the corridor.
“See? Exactly thirty minutes earlier than my watch.” The young woman said while excitedly pointing to the nearest wall clock. “How…how did you do that, Dr. Steinert?”
“Um…” I began, “Maybe I had Prof. Samuels turn the clock back thirty minutes? How observant were you before class started, Janice?”
“Dr. Steinert, I know that clock had the same time as my watch! It has never varied more than ten minutes in the four years I’ve had classes in this building.”
“Aw, shit.” Ricky Lynn protested quietly.
Janice Silvers cocked her head slightly as she heard her instructor curse.
“You…you really did turn back time somehow, didn’t you, Dr. Steinert? How?” She asked looking back at me. I noticed her eyes quickly dart to my chest. “That broach…it…its real isn’t it? It really is an authentic Egyptian broach!”
“Ricky Lynn, let’s all go back to your office. Shel or Jamie, do either of you have any other classes today?” I asked.
“You already know the answer to that, Allie, why ask?” Jamie replied.
“Force of habit. Ladies, we can go to Prof. Samuels’ office the easy way or the hard way. Shall I let Miss Silvers choose?” I asked as I looked between the six of us.
“Before three more people walk through that door in forty-five seconds.” Jack added, pointing up the hallway.
The young lady wasted no time in making her decision.
“If I’d have to guess, I’d say the easy way, ma’am.”
I offered my hands.
The classroom became Ricky Lynn’s office.
“Mind the furniture before letting go of Michelle’s hand Janice- wouldn’t want to explain why one of Ricky Lynn’s grad students became part of the chair.” I said seeing that the young woman was partially standing in one of the old wooden chairs in front of Prof. Samuel’s desk.
The girl shrieked in surprise and quickly jumped back a foot or so before staring at me in absolute horror!
“Okay, everyone, we’re back in phase. You can let go now, Miss Silvers.” I said with a smile.
“You really can’t help yourself can you, Alex?” Jack asked incredulously.
I just shrugged my shoulders and tilted my head to the side once in response.
“Hoooo…how did you do that? Who…what are you, Dr. Steinert?”
“Well, go ahead an tell the poor girl, Empress!” Ricky Lynn pushed rudely. “She must mean something to the sisterhood or ya wouldn’t’ve gone this far so quickly!”
“Empress? Prof. Samuel’s, I couldn’t have heard you right, did you just call Dr. Steinert, Empress?”
“Aye, toots, and you must be really important for the Empress of Time and Space to so easily reveal herself.”
“Empress of Time…” The gawking girl turned from Ricky Lynn to me and stared for a moment. “Time and…and Space?” Her mouth dropped wide open.
“It’s just a title, hun, I’m really not royalty.” I said calmly. “Alexandra Frances Steinert, but you can just call me Alex, Janice.” I offered my hand in friendship.
“Wow, you really must be important for Alex to actually introduce herself on the first meeting!” Michelle commented. “She didn’t even do that with me when we first met back in 1944!”
Silvers’ head snapped around to Michelle. “1944? You two know her- from back then? That makes you…”
“Older than I’d care to admit to, kid!” Shel giggled. “Skipper, what’s the significance, if I can be so bold as to ask?”
I smiled. “Care for a sip, Miss Silvers?” I asked politely as I sat my attaché down on a somewhat clear corner of Ricky Lynn’s desk and produced my flask from inside.
Four horrified expressions met my eyes.
“Sure, I could use a good hit right now!”
Janice Silvers took a long tug on the offered flask before frowning and looking at the container.
“Hey, this is just water!”
“What did you expect, honey?” I asked with a giggle as I took the container back, took a sip, and capped it again.
“Something…something a lot stronger.”
“Hope you know what yer doin’, skipper!”
“When don’t I, Prof. Samuels?”
“Skipper? You girls in the Navy or something?”
“Let’s go for a walk, shall we?” I said offering my hands again.
My five companions quickly got the idea and Kili’s southern beach appeared around us.
“Oh fuck! Is this real? Are we really…?”
“Welcome to Kili Island, Miss Silvers.”
“Why…why am I here? What did I do…what will I do?”
“You were right about this one, Chief. She’s sharp…and already asking the proper questions too!”
“Chief?” Prof. Samuels, what’s going on?”
“Sweetie, only the Empress knows fer sure. I suggest ya ask her directly.”
“Oh, there you are, Alex! The director said you would be arriving on the southern beach around this time. We’re all waiting for you at Reilly.” A small voice said from right beside my ear.
“Is that?” Janice’s eyes grew wide in shock as the five-inch, flying woman wearing a pastel green tank and matching miniskirt hovered beside me.
“Oh dear, is there a small mythological creature flying next to my ear again?” I asked as my hand came up to cover my mouth. “Pixie’s can be so very annoying at certain times of year. Pray tell, Yuuka, what would the date be today?”
“It’s June 21st, 2020BC, Empress.”
“Oh, Yuuka, please grow up so that all of us can hear you, hun.”
I watched as Janice Silvers’ eyes followed Yuuka’s growing figure.
“I said it is June 21st, 2020BC, Empress.” Yuuka restated as she scanned my new companion.
“Yuuka, this is Janice Silvers, Janice, meet Yuuka Sukiro.”
“An honor to meet you, ma’am.” Yuuka bowed slightly.
“Alex, Alex Reilly is waiting for you. She is waiting to start the solstice celebration, Empress.”
“Oh, then we better not keep her waiting.” I said and we began walking into the tree line towards Reilly with Janice Silvers’ limp body floating along behind us.
1335hrs, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, June 21st, 2020BC
“Am I really seeing this?” Janice asked as we stood before Reilly’s finicky airlock.
“I hope so. If not, I brought us to the wrong dimension.”
“Wrong dimension? You can do that, Empress?”
“And more, Miss Silvers! The Empress can travel almost everywhere one could imagine.” Jack answered on my behalf. “Yes that’s awesome but you really should watch out for me and the Daroughs.”
“Who are the Daroughs and what can you all do?”
“Glad you asked.” Jack said with a devious smile as our new sister lifted several feet off the ground again- this time, still conscious.
“OH, FUCK ME!” She cursed in horror.
“Sorry Jan, I don’t swing that way.” Jack giggled before gently setting the girl down.
Jack nodded and simply pointed to her head, answering the woman’s unspoken question.
“Empress, nice of you to finally show up!” Alex Reilly greeted as she approached. We embraced each other and received the usual tingle.
“She…sh…she looks like you!” Janice gasped.
“We should, we’re the same person, hun.” Alex Reilly laughed. “Welcome to Reilly Research Station, Miss Silvers. Enjoy yourself and have a great time. Alex, can I speak with you in private, please?”
Alex Reilly took my hand and we were suddenly in my…her private domain.
“Spill it, sis, what’s up with the new girl?”
“Vernon Reynolds’ new love interest.”
“Oh? Does he know that yet?”
“Not unless James or Alexander told him.”
Alex Reilly nodded. “Does she know it yet?”
I shook my head ‘no’.
She’s going to sleep good tonight though, right?”
“Good. Wouldn’t want Vern to get in trouble with the wrong sort of girl now, would we?”
“No, but he still favors Julia Masterson.”
“Ya, I saw that one from way back here.”
“I figured as much, but they have to work it out themselves, sis.”
“I know. I wish they’d just get on with it already.”
“All in due time, sis, all in due time.”
“What does that even mean to us anymore, Alex?”
“It means that we have to wait for things to progress just like everyone else, director.” I told her. Alex Reilly nodded.
“Hey…you still going to need my help with Meridian like I’ve foreseen?”
“Should be a real party, sis! ‘The departure of the great Pharaoh, Khufu! I wonder who they’ll find to put in his tomb?”
“My guess would be one of those three bozos that you and Jack stopped on your last visit. They all had basically the same bone structure as Pharaoh.”
“But they were still alive and on the prison construction gang, right?”
“Last time I was there, but stupid people do stupid things, sis.”
“Ya,” I laughed, “and those three had that abundantly in stock.
My temporal sister laughed hard. I had no choice but to laugh along.
“So,” Alex asked after we had both settled down. “You think she’ll help Ricky Lynn see the error of her ways and talk her into dismantling that CDA of hers?”
“She’ll do it…eventually. Ricky Lynn can be very stubborn.”
“Don’t we know it! She’s still our sister and close friend though, Alex.”
I know, but sometimes…” I sighed in frustration, “Sometimes she can be really…”
“She’s not the only one, sis! Think of what I’ve had to put up with ever since Yuuka joined the sisterhood.”
“Somehow I think your ‘fun’ predates that by almost a millennium, Alex!’
My sister started laughing again then raised her hand suddenly. “Y’all got me there, hun! Let’s go back and get plastered in honor of our fallen brothers and sisters.”
Why?” I asked seriously. “Who did we lose?”
“What? No one! No one, Alex, I thought the solstice celebration was initiated to honor those we lost to the Homeworld?”
“Don’t scare me like that, Alex! I thought I had missed something when I first arrived earlier!”
“Sorry, hun, didn’t mean to spook ya. Let’s go home.”
Reilly’s Recreation room appeared around us. Apparently the party had started without us.
“Alex, Empress, we didn’t know how long you two would be so we just decided…”
“You just couldn’t wait to hit the mead, Yuuka. Own up, hun.”
The guilt-ridden Pixie flew away slowly, her shoulders slouching heavily.
“Ladies of Reilly, please join me in welcoming, Alexandra Steinert, Empress of Time and Space…and Alexandra Reilly, Empress of Time and Space!” Randi Peltierre’s voice announced throughout the complex. “Let the festivities begin!”
“Really?” I screeched in amazement.
Applause filled the large room.
Two beer steins, filled to capacity floated over to Alex and I. We each carefully took a large glass.
“Thanks, Sweetheart!” I said into the air.
Taking a sip, I looked to my temporal sister.
“Pa’s favorite recipe?”
“Made it a point to get it the last time I saw him and Ma. Great tastin’ draft isn’t it?”
I didn’t answer as I was savoring the taste of Pa’s all-time favorite summer beer recipe.
“Now that hit the spot,” I exclaimed as I wiped away the wonderful froth from my upper lip and released a loud, satisfied belch! Alex Reilly repeated my actions five seconds later.
“I guess it’s been a hard couple weeks?” She asked as all the eyes in the room lost focus on the two of us.
“You could say that.”
“You’re gonna wake up in my bed again tomorrow mornin’?”
“I thought as much.”
“Jack’s gonna have a fun time tonight, too.”
“Yep, I hope Reilly’s suppression fields are up to the task.”
“Random brought one of the backup reactors online this morning.”
“It’s gonna be soooome party!” I shouted as I raised my empty glass into the air and released it when I felt Cami’s mind take hold. Alex followed suit. Within a minute, two more full steins floated over and hovered, waiting for each of us to take one.
Author’s Note: Hope you all enjoyed this ‘Halloween’ episode. I actually hadn’t planned or even thought about scheduling this episode so close to Halloween when I started posting this season of South of Bikini. Odd how things sometimes work out.
Thanks for reading and I appreciate any and all comments.
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