South of Bikini 3: Episode 10- Proving Ground

Now that another Time Traveler is loose upon Earth’s fragile timeline, what will he change and could the Empress and her sisters be the first casualties? Can the wondrous Empress of Time and Space return history to the way it should be or will she need to ‘step back’ to re-evaluate her historic options here and in other universes?

 

Copyright 2012, R.G. Beyer

  


Episode 10

“Proving Ground”


 
 

0811hrs, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, June 22nd, 2020BC
 
 

“Oooww, my head.” I said as my eyes opened on the obnoxiously bright sunshine streaming into my room. I closed them immediately.

“Must you always wake up the same way? My head hurts too, Alex!” My voice complained from beside me.

“Not so loud. Give the nanos time to regroup.” I whispered to the warm, silky body lying next to me as I ran my hand over the back that was facing me.

I paused a moment, holding my hand still on the warm, smooth, flesh.

“Alex? Why aren’t you wearing any clothes?” I asked in alarm.

In response, her hand reached back and began to explore my flat belly and points farther south. Predictably, the hand stopped and retracted sharply when it encountered a slight wiry resistance.

“Um…” I gulped. “Why don’t I have any clothes on? What exactly did we do last night, Alex?”

“Y’all are askin’ me, Alexandra Steinert? If y’all got no clue, what makes ya think I do?”

“Guess we’ll have to watch the video.” I sighed as I slowly opened my eyes while turning and lowering my legs to the floor.

I thought about what I had just said.

“RVP?”

“Yes, Director?”

“What’s the status on your Psionic shields, hun?”

“Main Shield Array power status is recovering and presently at forty-three percent. Reserve power status stands at fifteen percent and holding. Backup reactor is currently offline with overload safeties engaged. Auxiliary distribution busses require manual reset, director.”

“Thank you, hun, I’ll have Tabby go check them as soon as she’s able.” My sister replied as she rubbed her eyes gently.

“So that’s what I look like right now.” I muttered to myself as my temporal sister stood from the bed and stretched enticingly.

“Haven’t you come to terms with that yet?” Alex Reilly asked as she closed her eyes for a second. “Oh, so you have!” She grinned deviously. “You should try a Phoenician, hun; they really know what to do.” She winked.

Ignoring the advice, I bent over to pick up my pink nightie.

Or what I thought was my nightie. Bringing up the HUD I scanned the clothing selection and found a whole inventory of ‘Ancient’ fashions.

“This is yours, sis, sorry. Who would‘ve thought the Sumerian’s had such diverse tastes in fashion?” I asked as I pulled the skimpy garment back over my head and handed it to her.

“Not just diverse fashion, sis…diverse technique.” She said with an even more devious smile and another wink. Gently taking the lingerie from me, she dropped it over her head.

“So how are things going since the ‘big bang’?” She asked as she smoothed the silky fabric out over her body.

“It’s tough keeping Jack’s mind out of mine. I’m surprised by the number of times those memories try to escape, though.” I admitted.

“I’m lucky I was so fatigued on that one. I can barely remember half of what happened, and what I do recall seemed very out of character for you, Alex.”

“I’m sorry, Alex. The stress of knowing that mission was actually approaching became intolerable.”

“I remember the doubt and your loss of self-confidence, hun. It had to be several magnitudes greater than Mr. Lincoln’s mission.”

“It was. Oh Alex, why are we given those missions? Why us? Why…me?” I asked as I hurried around the bed and wrapped my arms around my sister.

“Who else would…could…possibly complete them, sis? I mean it’s not like that Darren guy has any care about protecting the timeline, right?”

“Ya, you’re right. I wish Ricky Lynn had never invented that infernal thing! You know it’s going to affect all three of us before we actually catch that vermin.” I growled as I lifted my head from her shoulder.

“I’ve seen most of the trouble he causes. I’m thinking I’ll have to take a trip back to Yellowstone to see the prehistoric stuff, though.”

“I’m not sure how far back he went,” I admitted.

“Just far enough back, sis, not to become a tasty morsel, I’m afraid.”

“Oh darn, and I had such high hopes that one of Rexy’s cousins in this universe might ‘greet’ him,” I half-heartedly giggled.

“Clemson will get what’s coming to him, Alex; we’ve both seen that conclusion.” She said, brushing my hair with her hand.

“It still doesn’t make anything easier.”

“No…”

The door chime to my…to Alex Reilly’s quarters sounded.

“Enter, Miss Cummins.” Alex called out to the door.

Jack staggered in wearing a surprisingly revealing, very short, very low-cut black um…’nightgown’.

“Alex…” She paused to rub her forehead, “Alex, can you please tell me what you think happened last night? My head is pounding so bad that I think I might have dropped a Triton class submarine on it!”

“What do you remember doing, Jack?” I asked quietly…carefully.

“I woke up in Cami and Cassie’s room, Alex. I’ve got no clue, no memory, and one sore…” She complained before looking down her torso. “What did I do last night, Empress?”

“You think they archived the footage yet, director?” I asked as I gave Jack a feigned smile.

“Oh that’s just wonderful! I’m in another porn film? Just wonderful,” Jack exclaimed as her hands went up into the air! She turned around and walked out of the room in a huff.

“That went well.” I commented.

“I think Billie should handle this one, sis; you up for some sunbathing?” My temporal sister asked with a grin.

I took her offered hand.
 
 

“And just where have you two been all morning?” Jack’s voice called out from behind us. We had just gotten back from an area fifty miles west-southwest of what would someday be called Clearwater, Florida. Turning around Alex and I saw Billie Sangiere storming toward us.

“I’m sure you two are aware that our Mind Warriors put on a very provocative fashion show last night, followed by the biggest all-female orgy Reilly has ever been witness to in her nine hundred and eighty year history!”

“So how was it?” Alex Reilly asked, beating me to the question. I noticed Billie absentmindedly and gently rubbing the lowest part of her abdomen.

“Noooone, none of your business! Why did you leave me to handle the aftermath, Alex?”

“Well, we just thought you needed to clean up…”

“Why do I even put up with…?”

“You mean put out, right, Billie dear?”

“Just shut up, Alex! Why does it always have to go there?”

“Maybe because you’ve been the only girl at base not to have a boyfriend actually…?”

Billie Sangiere let out a loud growl of aggravation as she turned and stormed off down the hall muttering something about the whole impossibility of her life since returning from the dead.

“You do know that she saw this coming, right, Alex?” I asked casually.

“The whole point of the exercise, sis. For some reason Billie just won’t accept her gift, nor does she care to use it.”

She’ll come around in a few more years.

“I know, but in the mean time…” She replied waggling her eyebrow a few times.

“Good afternoon, Empress,” a cheery Yuuka greeted as she flew close to my ear. I noticed her rub her eyes a few times- as if just waking up.

“Sleep late, hun?” I asked.

“No…I was up early this morning to take a shower, though I’m still not sure why I’m so tired and sore now.” She said but paused a moment. “Say, you wouldn’t have any idea why I’d wake up in my Pixie form covered in some fishy smelling, half-dried, sticky goo, would you?”

“I have absolutely no idea about that, Yuuka. Alex and I are having difficulty accessing archived files from the previous night also.”

“Oh, okay, I just thought I’d ask…you two being the Empress and all. See you both later.” The hovering five-inch woman bowed slightly and flew off.

My temporal twin broke out in a fit of laughter!

“Oh, by the Goddess! That was one HELLAVUH party! Wooohooo!”

“Alex?” I asked in confusion.

“Oh come on! Do I have to spell it out for you, sis? The Romans’ got nothin’ on last night’s fun!”
 
 

1534hrs, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, June 22nd, 2020BC
 
 

“Are you sure you don’t know what this ‘Pixie Stick’ game is that Alex Reilly was talking about, Alex? I mean, don’t you two share memories?” Jack asked in confusion as we walked into the Rec Room for dinner.

“Only the ones she wants to share, Jack, you know that.”

“Sometimes I wonder.” She said skeptically.

“Look,” I said, “I still don’t know what went on between Alex Reilly and I last night, Jack! I mean…it’s not like either of us could get the other pregnant, right?”

“We are talking about Alex Reilly, Cap. Out of anyone here, she could probably do it.”

“But she wouldn’t, Jack.”

“I’m just sayin’.”

“Enough conspiracies, Jack, let’s get something to eat.”

Jack nodded and a commotion was heard across the room. A tray of food flew slowly from the direction of the commotion and stopped just above Jack’s outstretched arms.

It began to vibrate.

“Jacki Cummins, it is rude to steal someone else’s meal tray!” Camille’s angry voice claimed as she walked over to us. “Maybe that is acceptable on some other planet, but on this one AND on the Homeworld it is a criminal offence.”

“Sorry!” Jack growled, “I thought that after what happened last night, you owed me!”

“I owed you? What about all that I did for you?”

“What do you mean? What did you do for me?”

Jack’s mouth dropped open as she was apparently shown some of the ‘what’.

“I…we…we did that?”

The hovering, vibrating tray immediately reversed direction and Cami carefully snatched it out of the air.

“Excuse me, Captain, but I suddenly don’t feels so good.” Jack gasped as she quickly headed for the passageway.

“Geez, you’d think she never had sex before!” Cami complained, watching her sister Mind Warrior exit- post-haste.

“She hasn’t, Cami.” I said flatly.

“She hasn’t?” She looked at me, puzzled.

I shook my head ‘no’.

Camille Darough quickly placed her tray on the nearest table and ran after my Ex-O.

“What got into those two?” Alex Reilly asked as she walked over to me.

I just raised an eyebrow to her question.

“Oh. I guess Jack finally saw the file playback?”

I nodded.

“She’s going to find Yuuka and apologize?”

I nodded.

“Damn that Roman influence!”

“Just them?” I asked.

“Well…them and the Greeks, and the Phoenicians, and the Sumerians, and the Egyptians, and the Maya…”

“I got it, hun! Welcome to the ‘Ancient’ world, Alex.” I groaned.

“The world…” she started to say then paused, “it’s starting to change around us.” My temporal sister said suddenly. “How are we going to fix this one, sis?”

“First I have to figure out just where that ‘whack-a-do’ went and how far back, Alex.”

“Just you, sis? I was under the impression the Past Empress had a subdivision to perform?”

I looked at my temporal sister and rolled my eyes.

“That’s…’part to play’, Empress. How many years have you been on this planet, and you still haven’t assimilated our verbal mannerisms?” I frowned. “Look, y’all got me doin’ it now! Jack, Cami, and Cassi, I need y’all here right now.”

“Cassi is off-world to Terra Nueva, Empress, to visit her Father.” Cassandra said as she walked up beside Alex Reilly.

That’s not what I remembered. Alex was right- time had started to shift.

“Fine, we’ll make do with two Mind Warriors…if they can behave themselves.” I looked around the room for a moment.

“RVP, can you tell me where Janice Silvers is, please?” I asked into the air.

“There is no Janice Silvers in the Facility, Empress.”

My face suddenly felt cold as the blood drained from it.

“RVP, I distinctly remember having Miss Silvers with me when Jack and I arrived yesterday. Is she maybe out for a walk around Kili?”

“According to Empress Arrival archives only you and Jacquelyn Cummins arrived yesterday, Empress. Should I begin running sensor diagnostics?”

Alex and I looked at one another. She looked as pale as I felt. Closing my eyes, I asked where Jack and Cami were located and reached out for Alex Reilly’s hand.

“So, what you are saying is that you, Cami, and Cassi used me as a…as a…” I heard Yuuka shout.

Good, Yuuka still remembered Cassi being here.

“Cassi is on Terra, Yuuka.” Cami said in disbelief. “You know that! Why do you and the Empress think otherwise?”

“Cami, Jack, we need to get going…NOW!” I exclaimed as soon as Alex and I rephased. “Yuuka, you too, hun.”

“Where are we going, Empress?” Cami asked in confusion as Jack and Yuuka stared between each other and me.

“Back,” was all I said as I snatched Jack’s hand.

“You mind telling me what is going on, Alex?” Jack asked as a vast, snow blanketed, conifer forest appeared around us.

“It’s Darren, he’s changed things already.” I said as I looked around us. “Stay in contact, ladies, I’m not sure how safe it is around here.”

“Where are we, Empress?” Cami asked as she too looked around us. “These trees don’t look like anything I’ve seen before.”

“Arizona, about seventy thousand years ago.”

“Is that from our time or yours, Empress?” Cami asked.

“Does it really matter, sweetheart? We should be far enough back that we,” I nodded to my temporal twin, “should be able to see what that psychotic time thief has done to our futures.

“Why back this far, Alex?” Jack asked.

“Because our time has begun to change also, Jack.” Alex Reilly answered.

“It has?” Cami asked in surprise. Jack also looked confused.

“Tell me, Camille Darough of Reilly, where is your daughter, Cassiopeia?”

“Cassi?” Cami became somewhat upset to be answering the same question multiple times. “She’s still on Terra Nueva, Director.”

“Not according to my memory, hun.” Alex Reilly motioned to both of us.

“But Alex, Cami and I, and Yuuka…” Jack started to say in confusion.

“That’s right, Alex! The four of us shared something…something special…um…last night.” The Pixie on Alex Reilly’s shoulder said loud enough for all of us to hear.

“Alex and I are well aware of what went on in Camille’s quarters, Yuuka. The fact remains that time is changing, and if we don’t do something about it, loved ones and their memories will start to disappear.” I said, almost cutting her off.

“So…so that didn’t really happen…then?” Jack asked hopefully.

“Oh, it happened, honey! It’s just that your memories have lost one person. Cassi, Jack. Cassi was with you last night…” I paused as a sad look fell across my face, “Jack, we also lost Janice.”

“Who, Alex?” She asked in confusion.

I immediately started to remember our newest sister.

“How can you remember when I can’t…Oh! Oh, this is bad!”

“So Cassi is not on Terra Nuevo, Director?” Cami asked Alex Reilly while Jack and I spoke.

I nodded. Alex Reilly shrugged her shoulders sadly.

“So why come back this far, Alex?”

“Who would want to visit Earth right in the middle of the last Ice Age, Jack?”

“What if he went back farther, though?”

“As soon as Alex and I think its safe, we’ll figure that out, Jack. Do you or Cami hear ‘anything’ in the area?”

Jack and Cami were quiet for a few moments as they glanced around us.

“Plenty of life forms around, Cap, but no humans.” Jack reported.

“It isn’t the humans we’re worried about, hun. I was thinking more about the things with big teeth…big…long…teeth.”

“Oh.”

“Empress, I can’t sense any large aggressive types in our immediate area.”

“Thanks, Cami. Alex, I’m going to rephase us in three, two,,,”

“Wow, is it cold here!”

“Really, Jack? I thought the snow would be an indicator.” I said sarcastically as I commanded my Reilly into my cold weather gear. From the coat’s pocket, I first produced Anna Beth’s broach. Returning that, I found and placed my tiara on my head.

“I thought you said he wouldn’t come back this far, Alex?”

“When tracking a psychotic criminal its best not to take chances, Jack, besides, its friend/foe display will let me know if anything wants us for lunch- just in case yours and Cami’s RADAR is glitching today. Alex, we’ll take the first watch while you search for Mr. Clemson’s handiwork.” I said as Alex Reilly nodded and her eyes became glazed.

So that’s what it looked like.

Yuuka took to the air.

“Pixie!” I shouted as she flew fast and true, “Yuuka, I want you to stay grown up unless in danger. There are things here that pray on small things…things you won’t see until too late.”

She was immediately by my side and growing.

“I forgot about that, Empress, sorry.”

“Alex, something big is heading this way.” Jack warned. I immediately consulted my HUD.

“Slow heartbeat and large heat signature, three hundred yards and closing slowly.” I announced as I pointed in the proper direction.

“Mammoth?” Jack asked.

“With any luck.” I replied as I felt the hair on my arms stiffen.

Jack and Cami quickly took up defensive positions in front and behind Alex Reilly, Yuuka, and I. We instinctively joined hands to phase out if necessary.

“Got ya!” Alex Reilly chimed out.

“Where to, sis?” I asked.

“Black Sea region, 6123BC. He’s going to stop the flood.”

“What?” All four of us shouted in surprise.

The trumpeting of an extremely large elephant was replaced by the calm bird-song filled air of a mountainside overlooking a vast forested valley. Several light plumes of smoke wafted into the air from the distant trees farther up the huge valley.

An explosion and a huge rockslide echoed through the valley from a few miles off our port side.

The scene around us instantly changed and we observed the aftermath of a large explosion not a quarter mile away. Several rocks were still settling as a large cloud of dust and debris rose from the site.

“Um…so how does this change our history, Empress?” Cami inquired as we took in the destruction.

“According to Alex Steinert’s archived files, without the Aegean and Marmara Seas spilling forth into this valley, many biblical stories will not be recorded. This land,” she motioned out across the huge, deep expanse. “This land would not have flooded to become the Black Sea and the biblical flood would not have happened.

“So what do we do, Empress?”

“Sweetheart, its time you and Jack had some exercise.” I said sadly.

“You want us to purposely cause a flood that wipes out most of this world’s population, Alex?” Jack exclaimed, her mouth agape.

“In order for the timeline to return to its proper course…yes.” Alex Reilly said quietly.

"But Sensei!” Yuuka cried. “How many people will die? I thought you vowed to save as many as possible?”

“Jack…please?”

“Aye, Cap. Cami, you take the far side and I’ll clear the near shore.”

As both women concentrated, rocks of enormous size started to fly from the slope. The sound equaled the blast we had just heard moments before.

“How deep should we make the channel, Empress?” Jack asked as her eyes stayed fixed to her objective.

“Eighty feet.” Alex Reilly answered- her eyes glazed over again.

“Aye, ma’am.”

Rocks suddenly exploded from the mountainside in a thunderous eruption. Water began cascading wildly down into the valley. The roar of the water drowned out any verbal communication in the vicinity.

Both Mind Warriors relaxed and promptly held their hands to their ears as the rest of us had been doing since the Cummins and Darough Demolition Co. had started this project.

“Where to next, sis?” I asked and noticed Alex’ eyes once again become fixed.

“Aren’t we going to try to save at least some of the people down there?” Yuuka shouted over the noise.

I shook my head ‘no’ slowly- deliberately.

Yuuka suddenly sprinted down the slope as she shrank and took to the air. Within seconds she was out of sight.

Impetuous Pixie! I couldn’t fault her for her courage though.

The ground below us began to shake. Trees started to shudder then topple between the rushing torrent and our position.

‘Ladies, it’s time for us to leave.’ I thought to our Mind Warriors. They both nodded and rejoined hands.

‘Where to, Alex?’

‘We have to get Yuuka back, Jack.’

‘Cami and I are ready, Empress. Will Alex Reilly be okay if we move her like this?’

‘We’ll find out in a second, Jack’ I answered as I asked where the pixie might be found.

“Oh, that’s just GREAT!” I shouted out. I doubt anyone heard it though.

A small village- six or seven stick and grass huts actually- appeared before us. About one hundred yards away, a group of twenty or so people in simple, ragged, animal skin-type clothing pointed toward the thunderous noise echoing up the valley. I noticed Yuuka hadn’t arrived yet.

“Rephasing now.” I thought and said aloud.

“Y’all need to head for the hills!” I shouted to the small crowd as I pointed uphill.

One, maybe two people turned around to briefly regard us.

I repeated my order, frantically pointing to the highlands behind us.

The same two men seemed surprised this time and began pointing their flint-tipped, wooden spears toward us. They looked angry.

“Ladies, show them what’s coming.”

The entire group reached for their heads simultaneously.

Now everyone looked around at us in anger.

Yuuka arrived at that moment and began swooping into the crowd at a high rate of speed.

People began to swat at the five-inch dive-bomber assuming some large insect pest was attacking.

Not a bad assumption really, I thought.

Over the increasingly thunderous rumble, I heard the sound of a child crying from further down the gentle slope- nearer to the soon to be rising water.

Since Alex was still in her ‘trance’, I changed into my dress whites and asked myself where I could find my target.

The trip was instantaneous and I snatched up the crying little girl as fast as I could. We reappeared in my original location with her screaming and instantly pointing to the distant crowd.

A younger woman took notice and began screaming excitedly, pointing back toward me.

“I’ve got our next location, Alex…by the Goddess, where are we? Why are you detaining that auditory-piercing, young revision?”

“RUN!” I shouted and clumsily pointed uphill.

Jack and Cami looked back toward us and wasted no time in catching up.

The wind started to howl as we ran higher up the gradually steepening slope. Looking back quickly, I noticed that the villagers were following- even starting to gain a little ground. I didn’t need a translator to know they were not happy at all.

A spear lazily flew past my right side.

“Oh, so they want to play rough…?”

“Jack, they think I stole one of their kids and they don’t understand what is going to happen to them if they stay. Keep running!”

The little girl that I had rescued- the one screaming at the top of her lungs for her mother- seemed to calm down a little; her fussing and squirming subsiding also. This made the job of running while holding a thirty-pound child only slightly easier.

“How much farther, Alex?” Cami asked, in between gasps for air.

“Another hundred yards maybe?” I answered huffing and puffing for my own air supply. I wondered if I could make it, but one look back at our angry pursuers encouraged me to keep moving.

We were now close enough to the ridge that the trees were starting to get thinner. I stopped and released the girl after placing her gently on the ground. She immediately took off running for her mother.

The angry crowd seemed to get confused by that action and slowed to a stop. The men aggressively surrounded us though- spears at the ready.

“Alex?” Cami asked excitedly, hoping I had some plan to get us out of here alive. “What now?” I felt her hand try to grasp mine several times, but I gently batted it away.

Alex Reilly began talking in a language I had no reference for in my translator.

Those surrounding us looked at her then amongst themselves in confusion. Some of the men even let their spears drop, momentarily confounded.

“I think I told them that we mean them no harm, Sis.” She told me quietly.

“You think? What language was that anyway?” I asked glancing over to her for a second before returning my eyes to the nearest pointy spear tips.

“An early dialect of Sumerian. I thought it might be a good idea.”

The man apparently in charge of the group shouted something guttural that didn’t have any chance to translate and raised his spear again.

“Well that worked well, Empress!” Jack quipped.

“I’ll try another variation.” She said before something sounding like chimpanzee came out her mouth.

This time our attackers abruptly turned around and looked down into the valley. They began to point at the onrush of water now quickly flooding the lowlands several hundred yards below. The small village disappeared in the huge wave as we watched.

Alex said something else to them.

One by one the group quieted and began to turn around then kneel before us, the men dropping their weapons to the ground as they did so.

“Alex…what did you just say to them?” I asked in wonder as I turned and raised an eyebrow to my twin.

“I just told them that we saved them from the flood.” Alex Reilly grimaced. “I think. Their exact dialect is not in my translator.”

“Where’s Tish when you need her?” Jack quipped again, shaking her head.

“Director, we need to leave.” I insisted. “Pixie!” I shouted. “Time to travel with the big girls, hun.”

Yuuka flew over to us and began to grow.

A hushed gasp escaped some of our guests as she took Cami’s outstretched hand.

The little girl I had rescued bravely approached us- one hand outstretched, the other occasionally rubbing her runny nose. She said something that sounded like a question.

Alex Reilly slowly crouched down and took the girl’s hand, shook it gently and said something to her in a consoling tone.

‘She wants to come with us.’ Cami thought the translation to Jack and I.

The child quickly turned to her mother and said something to her. She turned back to Alex and said something else.

‘She asked her mother to come too, before asking the Director if it was okay.’

My twin’s reply didn’t need translated, the sad tone saying everything.

“Ask her name, Alex.” I asked quietly.

The girl answered with one word.

‘She claims her name is A’hee, Empress’ Cami thought to me as I began running the name.

“Ask her where her father is.” I suggested, to confirm what I had just learned.

Again the young girl answered, dropping her eyes to the ground.

‘She has no father anymore. He was taken by a…’ Cami failed to translate the girl’s last word, but I got the idea.

Alex motioned for the girl’s mother to come closer. With extreme hesitation, she complied.

“She’s your responsibility, Alex.” I said, “But this really isn’t the time for any new recruits.”

“But this IS the time, sis.” She replied, motioning for both to take her extended hand. Once we were all linked together, Alex said something to our new companions.

“What do you mean we’re going to a far off place, and that there will be some pain involved, Director?” Cami cried out in surprise.

The world around us closed in and became darker than pitch. An intense pain that I knew all too well pierced my very soul. I heard screams of pain cry out all around me. Unfamiliar, large blurs formed into lights- stars- and began to move away from us, rapidly growing smaller. The stars then began to coalesce and form into clouds- galaxies. These too grew smaller as we moved farther away. The whole of the universe became one big dust cloud and grew smaller. Another cloud appeared and began to grow in size. Before long we were entering a somewhat familiar star system. A familiar bluish-green planet grew larger in my sight.

Were we really where I thought we were?

The blackness overtook me again before bright sunlight momentarily blinded me and the sound of birds singing filled my ears. Every hair on my body immediately stood to attention.

“Oh God, is it really you- after all these years?” A familiar voice cried out from several yards away.

“Welcome, Empresses! Welcome sisters, we’ve missed you all so much!” Jack cried, tears streaming down her face as she hurried across the grassy field toward us.

“That…that’s me.” Jack gasped from my right. I felt her squeeze my hand tighter.

“Oh Alex, I’ve missed you and Earth so much! Jacquelyn Cummins cried as she embraced me tightly then repeated her emotional greeting on a flabbergasted Alex Reilly.

“Oh.” Jacki said, stopping as she suddenly remembered something. “Empress, welcome to the Homeworld. It is 1014hrs, Wednesday, June 13th, 264AE.” She announced, quickly, but gracefully dropping to both knees. I rolled my eyes at her in annoyance.

My temporal twin gasped- her hand released our two new companions and she quickly covered her mouth in shock.

“264…A…E…after the arrival…” Alex muttered before suddenly staring at me eye to eye.

I could only wonder what was going through her mind at the moment as I noticed tears form and begin to fall.

“So…it…it was you. It really was you,” she exclaimed- her voice echoing off the nearby tree line!

“Alex?” My Jack asked in confusion.

“Captain Steinert?” The other Jacki asked. I nodded. “Permission to sync-up with my temporal sister, Cap?”

I smiled tensely and timidly nodded my approval. I didn’t miss my Ex-O’s expression change…or her suddenly glare at me.

“I’m sorry, Jack.” I said quietly. “It was my…their decision.”

Jacki released my hand and took a tentative step to her twin. She embraced her twin aggressively as tears began flowing from both women’s eyes.

“Did I miss something, Empress?” Cami asked awkwardly.

“After I stopped at Reilly to have that computer virus analyzed…” I paused. “The patch you, Randi, Cassie, and Sam created…after it healed RVP, there…there were two of me…two of Jack, Peyton, and I…” I stopped as my Jack pulled back from her twin to stare at me again.

“The Protoverse Chamber became unstable. Both Alex’ rushed into Chamber Control and desperately tried to stabilize the cloud. They ran scenario after scenario…nothing seemed to work. Alex,” Jacki nodded to me as she continued the explanation, “came to the conclusion that our universe had one too many Empresses in it for far too long a time, and that, she theorized, was causing the imbalance.”

“You singularly hypothesized, postulated, extrapolated, evaluated, and confirmed that theory, Alexandra?” Alex Reilly asked in amazement.

“All within about fifteen minutes, Empress. I had never seen her mind operate that fast before. There has only been one other person I have ever seen process at anywhere near that speed- Delores Steinert!” Jacki continued.

“Ma?” Both Alex and I gasped together.

“You don’t remember, Alex?”

“Oh, I remember, Jack.” Alex Reilly replied, beating me to my reply.

“I’ve just never been compared to Ma is all- I never thought we were that much alike now.” I explained.

This world’s Jacquelyn Cummins shook her head with a disbelieving smirk.

“So who’re the new recruits, Empress?” Jacki asked, nodding over beside Alex.

“Alex picked them up from the flood.” I answered nonchalantly.

“Oh? What flood?” Jacki asked, looking intently at my twin.

“THE flood, Jacquelyn.” I responded.

“Oh, THE flood.” She said without recognition, but stopped as it hit her. “You mean THE flood…the Biblical one?”

“Biblical only to the inhabitants, but yes Jack, that flood.” I smiled.

“Then you got to see the ark? What did Noah actually look like?”

“We never got far enough up the valley to find out, Jack.”

“Valley?”

“Back home we call it the Black Sea now?” I informed her casually.

Jacki tenderly patted the hand she still held a few times and stepped over to our two new companions. To this point they had been silent and standing stiff as statues. Their eyes though, were big as saucers.

“And who do we have here?” She said to them, crouching down demurely so as not to stress the pastel yellow, gold piped, muslin gown she wore. I had to admit that it did compliment her complexion, but I failed to understand how she could wear the brown, stiffly boned and delicately embroidered corset- especially knowing how much she complained about them the last time.

I had to remind myself that this Jacquelyn had not experienced the tight bindings prior to her hasty departure from Earth.

“We’re not really sure they understand us completely, Jack. They use some variant of the very earliest Sumerian dialect.” Alex Reilly informed her.

“Oh? I think I know that one. We ran across a very, very old language a few decades back. Peyton spent a few months deciphering it and entered it into our translators. Let me see if it works.”

This world’s Jacquelyn Cummins said a few words and surprisingly got quick single word answers from the little girl’s ma.

Jacki then began with longer sentences before she apparently began to introduce us individually- at least I assumed that was what she was doing as she gestured to each of us and pronounced our names slowly.

The little girl giggled and ran over to Yuuka, pointed to her a few times then pointed up into the air; her gibberish mixed with laughter.

“A’hee wants you to become a bird again, Yuuka.” Jacki told her with a pleasant smile. “She wants to know if she can fly too.”

She suddenly looked back across the field from where she had originally come.

“Alex is on her way, Empress.”

“You can sense me traveling now?” Alex and I asked in shared surprise.

“Nooo. Our Empress just started her…”

“Wonderful!” I exclaimed as I looked past my former Ex-O. “I hope y’all don’t mind stayin’ for a week or so, ‘cause there ain’t a force in this universe that’ll stop what happens next, ladies.

The sound of hooves on dirt grew louder to our ears as two figures atop horses appeared over the field’s distant ridge. The two riders, one in a flowing, pink gown, the other in a similar light green gown came into focus as they neared.

Stopping abruptly a few yards away from us, Alex Steinert quickly rolled from her saddle and ran headlong into me at flank speed! I tried desperately to stay standing.

“You finally came to visit! Oh God sis, I’ve missed y’all so very, very much! Welcome…welcome to the Homeworld, y’all!” She cried excitedly, looking up at everyone else from where we lay on the ground.

The tingle we exchanged felt more like touching Sand Dollar’s main battery busses! The massive information exchange was almost perceptible this time and I realized that it had been two hundred and sixty-four years for her since that day in the Protoverse Control room.

“God Alex, has it really been that long since…” I asked.

“I told you to mind the time differential, Alex. Did you forget?”

“I wasn’t the one doin’ the driving, Alex. Allie here decided we should visit y’all all by herself. What’s with all the medieval-style fashions and such, sis?” I asked, standing back up then helping her to stand.

“Alexandra Steinert! This is the preferred manner of dress in this time period on Earth…the Homeworld.”

“M’lady, thy husband duth approach.” Peyton called from atop her horse. She had been strangely silent since arriving.

“Nice to see you too, Sephie.” I giggled, receiving an angry glare.

“Don’t mind her, Cap, she’s expecting in December.” Jacki said pointing to our still mounted sister.

“Morning sickness?” I asked in understanding compassion.

“Nearing the end, Empress, though I fail to see the true meaning of the ‘morning’ part. Could you not have seen fit to bring Ladys’ Emily or Cynthia along? The physicians here are even more backward than before Meridian enlightened the Lands of Pharaoh!” Peyton complained.

“Empress, could I ask that a change of clothing be in order. We were labeled Pariahs for many months after our initial arrival. The people of this world do not accept change so easily.”

“Gee, I wonder where we’ve seen that before.” I asked sarcastically looking over to Alex Reilly.

“Empress, please, since you will be staying a few weeks…” Alex pleaded as she looked back to the field’s ridge. She then embraced Alex Reilly. Both again jumped as the violent tingle crossed between them.

I quickly selected the earliest period clothing I could find in my Reilly’s inventory. Surprisingly, what I found would look regal enough to match my sister’s stately dressings.

Exhaling deeply, I triggered the change, not forgetting to stand on my tiptoes. The crushing of my ribs reminded me why I hated corsets!

Alex smiled appreciatively at my selection.

“I see you’ve been to a few more periods since I left. I am sorry that Jacki had to knock you out, Alex, but I figured it was the only…it was the right thing to do.” She said sadly looking to the ground momentarily.

“I understand. Besides, Admiral Demmit would never get over the headache of me inciting my own mutiny.” I said as we exchanged a forced giggle.

Six horsemen and an exquisite-looking, empty, open-air carriage pulled by a team of four chestnut geldings appeared over the ridge. I quickly looked around to my companions. Alex had changed into clothing very similar to mine, but Cami and my Jack seemed to have chosen some type of Amazonian warrior get-up. For some strange reason the name ‘Xena’ and the term ‘bad-ass’ came to mind. Yuuka, in contrast, had choosen a vibrant red, silken, feudal-period, ceremonial gown from her homeland’s distant past. Everyone looked sufficiently medieval except for A’hee and her mother, M’lee, who had resumed statue-mode again, complete with wide eyes and open mouths.

“M’lady Alexandra, you fled the Keep with such haste! What hath happened and who be these look-alikes?” A very handsome man asked from atop his mount. He was similar in appearance to Brandon Covington- if he shaved the full beard and trimmed his hair, that is.

“M’lord Byron, I’d like y’all to meet my twin sisters, Alexandra Steinert-Reilly and Alexandra Steinert-Covington.” Alexandra pointed to Allie then me. “Meet also our lifelong friends, Jocelyn Cummins, Camille Darough and Yuuka Sukiro. They accompany my sisters from the old country.”

“And the heathen woman and child? What relation be they- slave or servant?”

“Neither, M’lord,” I answered, hoping it was now proper to do so after formal introduction, “We found them upon the road on our journey between realms. They had seen some form of mishap and grasped what clothing they could to stay warm. This is M’lee and her child, A’hee, sire. At least that is what we think are their names. They speak a difficult tongue we do not recognize.”

“I see. Dost thou consider them friend or servant, Alexandra of Covington?”

“Honored companions, M’lord Byron.” I stated bowing courteously.

“Then they shall be treated likely, M’lady. I leave it to you, my betrothed to see to their cleansing and proper attirement.”

“Aye, M’lord. I shall task my ladies-in-wait and the millenaries on our return to the Keep.”

‘Lord’ Byron nodded his approval. “Ladies Alexandra, Sir Garrett thought it obliging to beckon a carriage. Nay, I could never fathom his foresight on such brief alarm.”

“The Lady Jacquelyn can be very influential, M’lord- even from afar.” A young man to his right replied with a quirky smile.

Oh ya, he was sweet on her, I thought.

“I suspect the ladies before us also convene such influences, my friend.” Lord Byron said with a large smile as he dismounted and approached our group- his chainmail, sword, and spurs rattling rhythmically as he walked.

M’ladies, if I may be so bold as to escort thee to yonder conveyance?” He asked offering each of his gauntleted hands.

“Of course and many thanks, M’lord.” Alex Reilly answered politely for us.

Three other young, armor-clad men dismounted and offered their hands to our companions. As expected, M’lee quickly picked up A’hee and began to shiver, noticeably clutching her daughter tighter.

“I assure you, M’lady, I mean you and the child no harm. I only offer you escort to the carriage.” The third young knight tried to reassure her.

“Sir, she does not speak our tongue, please allow me.” Alexandra said as she laid a hand on M’lee’s shoulder. She conversed calmly with the young woman for several moments, at times glancing back to the horses or to the strangely clothed men standing around us.

Cautiously, M’lee extended her arm and took the still-offered hand. The knight smiled pleasantly as he guided mother and child toward the four-wheeled, lavishly upholstered, carriage.

“Me thinks they met with foul play of a sort, M’ladies.” Lord Byron said quietly to Alex and I as he helped each of us mount the few steps into our seats.

“That was our initial observation too, M’lord. Where and how they acquired the skins, I know not. They are pleasant travel companions though, saying very little as we traveled.”

“Ah, the best kind of travel companions’ then- those that converse little!” He laughed.

“Some would think that less conversing would make the journey longer, M’lord?” I giggled.

“Agreed M’lady, but only in certain company, you and your companions be not included, Lady Alexandra of Covington.”

“I stand delighted, M’lord.” I smiled demurely. God, did I hate this medieval speak! It was bad enough having to use it during official Terran gatherings!

Once we were comfortably seated, he helped Alexandra back onto her horse.

“Empress, why do they talk so funny?” Yuuka asked as she sat on the plush leather bench opposite Alex, Cami, Jacki, and I, with her head cocked to the side.

“Alexandra of Covington, you too are regarded as Empress of your realm?” Lord Byron asked as he returned to his horse.

“As am I, M’lord.” Alex Reilly spoke up. “Upon Lady Alexandra’s departure, I ascended the crown of Kili. My sister also peacefully rules her land of Ni’ihau- several hundred leagues to the north of Oahu. Have you ever been there?”

“Strange sounding places, all- though Alexandra has spoken fondly of them since our meeting. One day I should wish to gaze upon this land you call Hawaii.”

“M’lord, Kili is not within sight of Ni’ihau or Hawaii, but several hundred more leagues to the Northwest across the great Pacific. It is more hamlet than realm in the vast scheme of things.”

“Then I pledge to visit both at my wife’s leisure, Alexandra of Reilly. Let us retreat to the Keep for it is time to partake of the mid-day meal. I trust you are all wanting of sustenance?”

“That we are, M’lord. M’lee and A’hee even more so, I should think, though they have limited our attempted charity.”

“Agreed, there should be bountiful enough settings on our arrival. The harvest has been kind so far this year and last.”

“Your generosity is too kind, M’lord. On behalf of my companions, I thank thee.” I said politely. He seemed a pleasant enough fellow, and if I accepted him he couldn’t be too bad, I reasoned.

‘He reminds her of Brandon, cap.’ Jacki thought to me.

“Alex…why do they talk so funny,” Yuuka pressed, expecting her question to be answered.

“Have you been to the middle ages yet, hun,” I asked the insistent Pixie?

“No, Empress, I have not, and I am unsure of the director’s travels to that period.”

I felt a twinge in my abdomen. “Could we please not talk about periods right now, hun?” I asked as a stronger than usual cramp surged through my gut. I noticed Alex cringe too.

“That would be my suggestion also, Pixie-kun.” Alex agreed as she joined me in rubbing our respective bellies.

Topping the ridge after turning the team and carriage, my eyes, as well as my companions’, widened in amazement.

The ‘Keep’ turned out to be a full-blown, honest-to-goodness, castle- a walled city actually- complete with towering stone ramparts and deeply rutted earthworks. Flags and pennants flew from the numerous towers spaced evenly around the bastion’s walls, and the whitewashed stone shone brightly in the early afternoon sun.

“Wow!” I exclaimed, in awe of the place. I actually lived in a real-life castle in this universe- not to mention dressing like a fairytale princess! As I thought about my reaction it seemed silly to be impressed so easily since I now had this Alexandra’s memories.

“Alexandra rode up beside the carriage just then.

“I know what you’re going to say about the Keep, Alex, but given the era we’re in, it only made sense. Plus, how was I to know that Byron would be a wealthy landowner?”

“Really, Alex? You didn’t just say that, right?” I said, flabbergasted by the response.

Alexandra rolled her eyes at me and nudged her horse faster to catch up to her husband.

“Oh, the trappings of nobility,” I tisked audibly.

“And that crown on your head is any different, sis?” Alex Reilly chortled.

“What? Oh, I forgot I even had that thing on.” I said feeling the top of my head and finding my headpiece there.

“You know, from what I know of Earth’s history, royalty seldom traveled wearing any symbol of status. The roads between lands were ripe with thieves and cutthroats. The higher the known status, the higher the bounty demanded.” Alex Reilly explained softly.

“I forgot I had the blasted thing on, all right?” I grumbled, rubbing my belly some more.

“It doesn’t matter to me if you want to wear that thing. In a couple of days it’ll just be an innocuous piece of jewelry anyway, sis.” She responded.

“And why is that, Empress?” I asked with a disgusted growl.

“Do you see any power conduits in the vicinity? Without a source with which to recharge from, our suits and your tiara will cease functioning. Or had you forgotten?”

“May I remind you, dear sister, that Randi Van Pelt is a top-notch designer, and that she believes in worst-case conditions when engineering new pieces of equipment?”

“Go on.”

“The huge ruby in my headpiece also converts solar radiation into energy and stores it in the crystalline structure itself. Then there is this.” I touched the large broach prominently displayed on the upper swell of my now overly emphasized boobs.

“Is that Ancient Terran?” Alex asked in surprise as she reached for it, gently picked it up, and scanned the writing on both sides.

“A gift from Anna-Beth and Khufu thanking us for retrieving her spacecraft.” I boasted quietly.

“Y’all are lucky. Cami and I helped him get his kingdom back and all we got was a state dinner and his personal thanks.”

“Perhaps, Lady Alexandra of Reilly, you did not befriend the niece of Co-administrator Anna-Beth nor promise her safe keeping and subsequent safe return to the Combined Kingdom.” Peyton said as she slowed her horse to come alongside us.

“Who are you again, sister?” Cami asked, looking a bit concerned that she had not met all the sisters of Kili.

“Persephone Peyton Tribsche, Lady Camille of Darough, first niece to the Pharaoh’s mate.” She answered majestically.

“Sephie, what has gotten into you?” I asked with my own concern.

“Empress, I miss the Land of Pharaoh. For almost three hundred years we three have survived- at first in squallier while these primitives advanced sufficiently to embrace civilized behavior.” She proclaimed quietly. “To these heathens we are mere properties, traded as payment for brutish exchanges between arrogant landlords! Over two hundred and sixty years, Empress! Two hundred-sixty years of hoping, waiting, desperately watching the fields for your visit and any news of home…of whether Earth even still existed.” She sniffed and wiped her wet face a few times.

“I miss Momma and Poppa, Empress.” She admitted as more tears rolled down her cheeks.

“So why not move to a more suitable time? It’s not like you can’t travel forward a few hundred years, hun.”

“M’lady Alexandra claims this is our base time of operation, M’lady. I took an oath to her prior to transiting the portal.”

“Sister?” I called to the riders ahead. “Sister, might we have words?”

Alexandra slowed her horse and was soon riding next to our carriage.

“Ya, hun?”

“Alex, we need to talk in private. How long until we are safely within your chambers?”

My twin looked across the carriage at Peyton. “That didn’t take long. Alex, know this: We all miss home very much and each of us has done remarkably well at adjusting to this world. Certain factors though cause us, at times, to pine for our lost families and friends. I’m sure you understand how two hundred and sixty-four years of isolation from everyone you held dear can mount up.”

“I understand completely, Alex.” Alex Reilly replied quietly, wiping her face of tears. “I do indeed.”

“So why didn’t you come back for a visit like you said in the message?” I asked.

“I’m still not sure the Protoverse would stand for it, Alex. It might go out of balance again.”

“If it’s even there at all.” Alex Reilly mumbled.

“What was that, sister? If what is there at all?”

“We were on the trail of a very disturbed man who took something from Ricky Lynn, Alex.”

“This Darren feller y’all got blazin’ in yer heads?”

I looked around to see a few of the escorting knights looking back at us intently.

“We’ll talk in your chambers, sister. I’m sure the men folk would rather share stories of valor and conquest upon their return to the Keep rather than relate feminine rumors.”

Alexandra nodded and sped up to rejoin her husband.
 
 

From far off, the Keep looked impressive, but its true size and scale overwhelmed us once we got closer.

“This place has to be almost as big as Kili.” I observed aloud as we leveled out onto a huge, rolling meadow that went off in all directions around the Keep. Ahead, we approached the earthen works surrounding the sizable fortress. The road we traveled was the only smooth surface from here on.

What a fortress! Its fluted walls seemed to ungulate off into the distance on all four sides. From this distance it seemed there wasn’t a single blind spot in the Keep’s substantial defenses.

“Who built it?” I asked.

“Alex, Peyton, and I designed it.” Jacki told us as she rode closer on her blonde-maned, mare.

“Must have taken a King’s ransom.” I observed.

“Actually it only took some ‘mental grease’ on my part. We had it finished in about two years. Our quarters took another six months to outfit with the equipment we borrowed from Reilly.”

You borrowed equipment from Reilly?” Alex Reilly repeated indignantly.

“RVP gave us permission to take some of the older, unused equipment Ricky Lynn had put into storage.” Jacki continued. “Just some old manufacturing gear and RVP’s decommissioned processing center. Oh, and one of the old reactors to power everything.” She answered offhandedly. “Don’t let Alex know I blabbed. She’d have you think we had no conveniences at all here.”

As we rode under the massive arched gates of the outer, defensive wall, I thought it prudent to engage my tiara’s mapping application. One thing immediately caught my attention- Byron’s heartbeat was slightly slower than the rest of us- his indicated body temperature was also slightly higher than normal.

I also quickly noted the thickness of the solid oak doors that closed and secured this entrance.

“Problems with the locals or just the traveling salesfolk, sister? Possibly the Jehovah’s?” I asked loudly. I noticed her head drop forward slightly and shake side to side a few times at my question.

Inside the massively thick, stone, walls, the Keep became a moderately sized town with cobblestone-paved streets. As we made our way along one of them, people cautiously parted and clear the way. Many, I noticed, stared between Alexandra, Alex Reilly, and I as if never seeing triplets or in the case of Jack, twins before.

‘Of course, it could be those get-ups Cami and Jack have on, Alex.’ Jacki thought to me…to us.

“What is wrong with our coverings, Jacquelyn Cummins?” Cami asked in a somewhat loud, angry tone. “Are we not here to protect the Empresses from harm? Jacquelyn and I ARE their warriors, after all.”

A gasp came from some people on the street nearer us. Whispers began racing up one side of the street and down the other. Before the quarter hour was up I expected every citizen in town to know that there were now three Empresses staying in the Keep.

“You two are better than a church bell, you know that, right?” I growled, just above a whisper.

Ahead of us a huge, square-cut, stone building came into view. The five-story structure reminded me of Reilly Research Station in design and scale. I could even make out the fourth level observation patio that both apparently shared.

“By the Goddess, it’s Reilly.” Alex Reilly gasped.

“Only with no cantankerous airlock to give us trouble though, I’d guess.” I added.

Our carriage stopped in front of the large, double wooden entry doors and our mounted escorts formed a protective semicircle between the rest of the town and us. Lord Byron dismounted and helped Alex, Jacki, and Peyton from their mares. Once the women were safely standing on the ground, he opened the carriage door and motioned us individually to take his hand to help each of us down.

“Welcome to Avalon, M’ladies.” He announced happily, his left arm swinging up toward the slowly opening, darkly stained doors.

“Avalon?” Alex Reilly squeaked in surprise, her hand again went to her mouth.

“You don’t care for the name, M’lady?” Byron asked in bewilderment.

“This is Avalon.” Allie mumbled quietly, apparently ignoring our host completely. “By the Goddess, I’m really here. I’d only seen conceptual depictions of this place when I was a boy.”

“Nonsense, M’lady!” Our host objected. “A creature as lovely as you or your sisters couldn’t possibly be confused as ‘boy’…at any age, Lady Alexandra of Reilly.”

Alex was noticeably shaken and looked on the verge of tears as we entered the building of Homeworld legend. The hall that we entered extended at least eighty feet in both directions and raised above us three stories in height. Two levels of balconies with carved wooden railings encircled us on three sides- brilliant, colorful banners- three with a brilliant white sand dollar, hung smartly from them. Hand-woven tapestries decorated the first floor walls and made the space feel warm and inviting.

I felt Alex Reilly’s hand gently take my right hand. It was shaking noticeably.

“I never believed…” She choked out as she stared at me. Her face was tearstained- her eyes red.

“Empress,” I started, “You always had the power to visit this place. Why haven’t you done so before this?”

I squeezed her hand gently. “In over nine hundred years you never once thought strongly enough to even wish yourself here?”

“I didn’t know I could even be the Empress until I met you, Alex.” She whispered while looking to the delicately inlayed mosaic floor. “And now here I am…Avalon. Never in my most uncontrolled, illogical, REM-derived, theoretical, archives could I have postulated…”

“Ya, it’s beyond my wildest dreams too, sis.” I laughed as my sister reverted to her technical jargon.

“Is M’lady casting some sort of ward? For what purpose would you do this, Lady Alexandra of Reilly?” Lord Byron asked in concern.

“It is an old family tradition to ask the Almighty’s favor for a benefactor’s good fortune upon arrival into their home, M’lord. Alex is very old fashioned. Some would actually say ‘behind the times’.” Alexandra said with a wink toward us.

“My humblest thanks, Lady Alexandra of Reilly. May good fortune follow you as well,” Byron said while bowing courteously to both of us. “My love, I’m sure Lady’s M’lee and A’hee would like to wash the distress of the road away as soon as possible. Could you ask them to follow Lady’s Cassandra, Samantha, and Alexis to your private bathing chambers?”

My eyes immediately locked on the three women approaching us.

Despite knowing they’re presence here, my vision blurred as tears escaped unhindered.

“Empresses,” all three courtsied in unision.

“So nice to finally meet both of you!” Alexis pleasantly greeted us for the three. “Mother has told us so much of you.”

“Perhaps my sisters would like to see their chambers?” Alexandra winked at me as she gently took my other hand. “Jacki, I trust you will show your sister and Lady’s Camille and Yuuka to their chambers as well?” She then said something to our newest companions. M’lee and A’hee tentatively, cautiously, took Cassandra and Samantha’s outstretched hands. The five walked away to our right and disappeared into the third of four archways along that wall.

‘Cassie, Sam, and Alexis are all wearing earlier versions of our Reillys’. Jacquelyn assures me A’hee’s language is on file.’ Cami reassured both Alex and I.

I noticed Peyton hurry through one of the archways in the wall to our left.

“She’s hungry, sis.” Alexandra answered my unspoken question with a smirk. “You know how that is, right?”

“Oh, I’ve seen my share, sister.”

“You have children, Lady Alexandra of Covington? Why have they not joined you on this pilgrimage?”

“Ladys’ Cassandra, Samantha, and young Lord Alexander elected to stay home and manage our realm while Lady Alexis is visiting a neighboring land.”

“You and your sister share common choices in names, M’lady. You three really are of like mind.”

“M’lord, you have no idea.” I giggled.

“But, are you not concerned for your young Lady Alexis? Visiting a nearby realm would be treacherous, me thinks.”

“Alexis has the men of that land wrapped around her finger, M’lord. She is betrothed to the son of the realm’s Prime Minister. She is in no peril whatsoever, M’lord.”

“Ah, that we may have such peace and honor here.” Byron sighed as he shook his head several times. “Alas, neighboring lords find our Keep calling to them and desire its contents.” He admitted and looked to Alexandra as example.

“Sisters, do you not want to freshen thyselves?” Alexandra insisted, tugging on my hand softly.

“We really should take our leave of thee, M’lord. The road weighs heavy on us and shouts to be removed.” Alex Reilly replied for us both.

“I shall have the midday meal held if you wish, M’ladies?”

“We shall stop by the kitchen as we tour the premises, my husband, and I should think that my sisters will want to check in on M’lee and her child.” Alexandra decreed before pulling Alex and I away from the hall and up an unseen, but beautiful staircase.

After ascending two more levels, Alexandra came to a stop in a hallway barren of doors of any kind. A single window at the hall’s end provided enough light to see by.

“RVP, access requested, OakridgeEmpress8716, engage.” She announced quietly, yet calmly.

The wall before us shuddered, moved away from us about a foot then slid silently to the right revealing a large, dimly lit room beyond.

“RVP, illumination level eighty-five percent.”

The brighter lighting revealed a perfect replica of my quarters back at Reilly. Alex and I began to look around this ‘diamond in the rough’ so to speak. It was while I scanned the perfectly made up bed that I saw it.

“My Tiara!” I gasped.

“Not quite, hun. This one’s mine! If y’all remember, you still had yours on when you appeared in front of us that day at Reilly. I still have no idea why we love this thing so much though.”

“Incredible! I’m the only one here without my own crown!” Alex Reilly exclaimed, raising her hands in defeat.

“Oh, give it a rest, director!” Alexandra complained. “Ah’m sure if y’all asked Randi, she’d make one fer ya.”

“I take it by the sound of your voice you don’t let the drawl out very often, Alex.”

“Darn tootin’, hun! Ah kin only take that thee an’ thou manure fer so long ‘fore ah have ta come in here an’…”

“Express yerself, sis?”

Alexandra nodded and quickly pulled both Alex and I into a very tight, very needy hug. She immediately broke into tears.

“Ah missed y’all so much. How’s Cassie, Sammi, Alexis, an’ young Alex doin’? Ah miss ‘em all ta death, ya know?” She cried.

“I’m sure they miss you too, sis.” I told her.

“If they knew you were here, that is.”

“Alex, knock it off! You know they’ll find out in time.” I glared at my twin in anger.

“I understand the reason, Alex. I may live in the stone-age, but I do understand the concept by which I’m here.” Alexandra said through slowing tears.

“Alex, where on the Homeworld did you find a Terran?” I asked, remembering my tiara’s display.

“Empress, Byron is requesting access.” A mechanical sounding, feminine voice interrupted.

“Let him in, we’re still dressed, RVP.

“Acknowledged, Empress.”

“You alright, Alex?” Byron asked as he entered the secret chamber.

“Ya, hun, the formalities just got to be a little too much, with the Empresses’ arrival an’ all,” she explained.

“Welcome to the Homeworld, Empress. As you no doubt already know, I am Terran by birth.” The man said in welcome.

“Had ya the moment I turned this thing on, hun.” I said pointing to my headpiece.

“A marvelous piece of engineering work if I must say, Alex. I’d love to meet Miss Van Pelt one of these days.”

Y’all are welcome to drop by any time, hun- any time at all.”

“If you can find Earth, that is.” Alex Reilly droned sadly.

“I don’t understand. Has something happened to your ancestral world, my love?” Byron looked to Alexandra, stunned.

“We’re not sure, sire. When we left earth we had just assured that the Biblical flood had occurred, as it should have. We were supposed to be enroute to our next encounter with the psychotic madman that stole a temporal device from Prof. Samuels when Alex decided that we should come here instead.”

“Why would you do that anyway, director?” Alexandra asked.

“After Yuuka flew off into the valley and Alex stole the adolescent revision, I ran the probabilities and postulated our next move, hoping to intercept Clemson before he could modify the timeline. Instead, I felt that I needed to bring M’lee and A’hee here, to you, dear Empress. It never occurred to me that you were THE Empress and that we would be visiting my home planet.”

“Knock it off with the ‘dear Empress’ stuff right now, Alexandra Reilly, y’all know ah hate that regal bull.”

“Yet here we are in your castle, dear Empress.” I giggled.

Alexandra rolled her eyes at me.

“Not one man in the realm would agree that you three were the same person, Alex.” Byron laughed, shaking his head with a grin.

“We aren’t exactly the same, hun.” I informed him.

“Yes, Alex has told me that the varied experiences make the difference…slight as they may be.”

“So…how did a Terran transit between universes and arrive here, Empress?” I asked as my eyebrow rose.

“Byron was originally part of the Future Empress’ entourage for the conference, Alex. When Janelle took over Reilly, she immediately headed for the Protoverse Control room with visions of destroying it, leaving her minions to secure the rest of the facility.”

“But that would have torn the universe to shreds!” Alex and I shouted in unison.

“That’s right.” Byron said, continuing the story from our sister. “Alexandra, your Granddaughter, dropped me off to act as the forward liaison to prepare for Grand High Counsel Tibius’ arrival. I sensed that things weren’t right just after the Empress had taken her leave. As I walked the hall trying to find Camille or Cassi Darough, I stumbled upon the Protoverse room. The woman known as Janelle Hathor was angrily cursing and abusing the control board, complaining that all she could get was a lock on something she called the ‘Homeworld’. As I listened from the doorway, I learned that she meant to start a chain reaction that would not only destroy the facility, but also this world. Without warning she threw up her hands and briskly exited the room shouting ‘why won’t that alien ever die’.”

“I can only assume she meant you, Empress. I barely had the chance to avoid her and once clear entered the Control Chamber. Curious as to what she planned to destroy, I ventured too near the observation window and the concealed dimensional portal that she had inadvertently opened.”

“I found myself on this world, this land. I wandered aimlessly for fifteen of this world’s days before stumbling across this beautiful woman and her two companions.”

“That was thirty years ago, sisters. He reminded me so much of Brandon Covington. As with most Terrans falling into this situation, it took a while for him to acclimate. With Peyton’s help the townsfolk learned of their long lost Lord’s return from some useless crusade and accepted him. We married the following year.”

“What about Cassi and Sam?” I asked.

“They too are from my first husband, Sandoval. They aren’t the same on this world, Alex.”

“Let me guess, they act and sound like each other instead of their Earth counterparts?”

“Counterparts is exactly it, Alex. In fact, just like your Cassi and Sam, director.” Alexandra pointed to Alex Reilly.

“It must be this universe…it twists things around.” I pointed out needlessly.

“That would be a good assumption. Peyton inserted them into local memory as close relatives- Gentry of the Keep and cousins of ‘Lady Alexandra’.” Alexandra continued.

“And what about Alexis?” I asked noticing that Alexandra had neglected to include her so far.

“Alexis…” my sister paused, looking to the floor. Byron put his arm around her for support. “Alexis was…”, again my sister stopped.

“Alex, I was raped. Ninety years ago I was walking the very field where you appeared today when four men on horseback charged me from the tree line. Alex, it was almost seventeen months after Sam was born. Had I weaned her a little earlier…”

I felt like I just got kicked in the stomach as those shared memories erupted in my mind! Something seemed off though.

“Oh, Alex.” I said motioning for Byron to step away and wrapping my own arms around her in support. “I’m sorr…”

“Alex, the girl’s the spittin’ image of our Terran princess in every way- quiet, collected, smart…”

“Same gifts,” I asked as she pushed herself away gently.

Alexandra laughed at the question. “Best spy in the realm, sis- all three of them are, actually.”

“There is nothing unknown to them in this Keep- business or otherwise, M’ladies.” Byron added with a chuckle.

“I can understand that,” I replied. “Have y’all heard enough, girls? I thought you three were attending to our new sisters?”

“I have no idea how she knew we were here, Sam! Maybe you don’t phase shift as much as you think you do.” Cassie complained, as they appeared several feet to our right.

“What is that suppose to mean? You know mom can always tell when we’re close. What makes you think our Aunts are any different?” Sam argued.

“Theoretically, the Empress is one entity; therefore all three share exactly the same traits.” Alexis monologued.

“Yep, just the same, sis, but I know how to get her to loosen up.” I said, smiling deviously.

“No, Alex, the Pixie is off limits unless absolutely necessary.” Alexandra warned.

“What does that mean, mother?” Alexis inquired.

“Never mind, honey, your aunt was just funnin’ y’all.” Alexandra reassured her youngest daughter.

Possessing excellent timing, Yuuka flew in front of me and landed on Alex Reilly’s shoulder.

“Did somebody call my name?” She asked as loud as she was able in Pixie mode.

Alexandra’s daughters’ jaws fell open. As expected Byron’s expression remained unchanged.

“Oh, come on, girls! You didn’t see this coming? All three of you saw the arrival of the twin Empresses, why is it none of y’all saw the Pixie?” Alexandra exclaimed in amazement.

“Hi.” Yuuka waved with one hand then flew over to a clear area and began to grow.

My three nieces’ eyes followed her intently.

“What? Don’t they have Pixies here?” Yuuka asked seriously as the three women continued to gawk.

“Yuuka-kun, where are M’lee and A’hee?” Alex Reilly asked flatly.

They’re right behind me, Alex, right…now where did they go?” She questioned, after looking around for them.

“You didn’t,” I indicated with my right thumb and forefinger apart slightly, “you know, did you, hun?”

“Was I to do that, Empress? Neither one of you told me of such activities”

“Yuuka, in case the director hasn’t told you yet, your trick will only work on those that carry the nanos. Those that don’t could possibly be stuck that way for life. M’lee and A’hee have not joined the sisterhood yet.” I informed her.

“Mom, what are they talking about? What could the Pixie do to us that may harm the commoners?” Cassandra asked, looking to her mother.

“Use your gifts, girls.” I advised sternly.

Alexis was the first to receive the answer as I saw her eyes widen in surprise. Cassie and Sam quickly followed with similar expressions.

Alexandra, Alex, Byron, and I all started laughing.

“You wouldn’t!” Alexis demanded as all three glared at Alex Reilly and I.

“Relax, hun, you almost didn’t want to return to normal, you were having so much fun.” I giggled.

“But that hasn’t happened to me yet!”

“Not in this universe, no, but it will, my dear.” I cackled with a devious grin as out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Yuuka start to shrink.

Alexandra glared at me.

“Hey, you’ve seen it too, sis.” I added as I continued to laugh manically.

“You’re just like her!” Sam accused childishly as the three sisters aggressively joined hands. “We’re leaving.” She declared before disappearing.

“Mind the Pixie, nieces.” I said with a slight laugh.

Yuuka seemed to appear out of nowhere and started to fall before stabilizing herself and flying back over to Alex Reilly’s shoulder.

“How rude!” She exclaimed. “I have never been swatted off anyone’s shoulder like a pesky insect before!”

“I wouldn’t mind them, hun.” Alex Reilly said raising her eyebrow several times as she quickly glanced over to where our nieces once stood. “They’re just reacting to their base time period and acting like spoiled princesses.”

Alexandra placed her hand to her mouth as she covered the devious smile that had come to it.

I felt the occupancy of the room decrease by three.

“Some things never change, sis.” Alex said, as she looked first at me then at Alexandra.

“We better go check on our Prehistoric guests, ladies, but first I think we should download the proper language files to your Reilly’s.”
 
 

1554hrs, Avalon, Homeworld, June 13th, 264AE
 
 

“I’m not sure who ate more, Peyton or M’lee and A’hee, Alex.” I said to Alexandra as we walked the vast hallways of her castle. “Are you sure it was wise to cast those beautifully crafted wooden cups into the fire, sis? I’m not really sure the nanos would be destroyed.”

“The heat may not kill the little suckers, but the lack of moisture will cause them to shutdown. With no moisture, they are susceptible and will begin to break down- similar to how they die once out of our bloodstream when we bleed.”

“And just how did you arrive at that simple diagnosis, Dr. Steinert?” Alex Reilly asked skeptically.

“Byron informed me of Tibius’ scientists’ discoveries. Alex, I take it you still have the flask?”

I nodded, placing my hand on my linen ‘purse bag’ resting against my right hip.

“How much did you give each of them anyway?” Alexandra asked in concern.

“Just enough to start things, sis. I’m still wondering what kind of liquor they have in their time- that M’Lee can drink with the best of us!”

“You know, I was kinda’ hoping they would be more like Sasha, Alex.”

“It’ll work out. The youngin’ will take longer to settle, but the legend has to be established.”

“I know…I know, but must they cause so much discord?”

“Pixies? Really, Alex, do you really have to ask?”

“It isn’t so bad after they realize their place, sis.” Alex Reilly confirmed but stopped dead in her tracks.

“By the Goddess, Yuuka Sukiro, if you don’t stop flying about the castle, alarming the help and startling me half to deletion!”

“I’m sorry, director, but A’hee asked me to…”

“You’re going to spoil the girl, hun.” I told the Pixie as she grew, her silk slipper encased feet finally touching the floor.

“Will we be here long enough to teach her the things she’ll need, Empress?” Yuuka asked with concern.

We all stopped walking.

“You, M’lee, and A’hee will be able to spread your wings around the countryside a few times, don’t worry, hun.” Alexandra guaranteed. “But don’t force those two into anything they’re not ready for, Yuuka. A storm is brewing on the northern, eastern, and southern limits of this land and the sisters of Kili must be at the ready.”

“How soon, Lady Alexandra?” Yuuka asked.

“Seven days from now, I’m afraid. Seven days until the Keep’s sorceresses’ shall demonstrate their awesome power. From then on the barbaric societies of this planet will be forever changed and the name ‘Avalon’ will be known throughout the universes.”

“Quite a prophecy, sis, you sure this is that time?” I asked just to make sure, but I saw that Alexandra’s eyes were glazed and motionless.

“The power of three becomes legend and the pure, true, intentions of ‘The Empress’ spread through the countryside, neigh…the world. Countries at war or dispute begin to unite and develop trade with one another. Free exchange of literature, language, and invention flows between them without mishap. The Empress begins her teachings in earnest until her time here comes to an end. The new Empress though, never meets her paramour before awakening, but ironically continues the crusade in her own style, not recognizing her true potential until escaping the violence of the world she had only just met. The paradox thus completes.”

Alex Reilly gasped and swallowed hard. Alexandra’s eyes blinked a few times before she looked at us.

“I was doing it again, wasn’t I?” she asked, blinking some more.

“Alex, was she talking about…about…” my sister gulped loudly again, “about me? Am I the Empress that does not recognize her potential before awakening?”

“Sounds an awful lot like any of us, sis.” I answered. “What was the original Homeworld date when things went south?”

Alex Reilly searched her memories for a good two minutes.

“Eighteen hundred-something, AE, I think. Its hard to recall archives from my initial revision, Alex.”

“If that is a true recollection of the year, almost two lifetimes would have passed between Alex, here, and your first revision, Alex.”

“Advance the postulation, sister.”

“So,” I translated, “if I have a third daughter that gave birth to three children, the third in that litter being the next Empress…my Granddaughter…” I proposed. “Then…”

I let the statement hang, hoping she would get the connection.

“Are you saying that you,” Alex Reilly pointed to Alexandra, “That you…you are my grandmother?”

Alexandra and I smiled at our intuitive sister.

“But I was born male! How could I be your granddaughter? How, Alex?”

“Look in the mirror lately, sis?” I giggled. “Honey, we have a sayin’ back home: if the shoe fits…” I began giggling harder and couldn’t finish.

“But doesn’t that make us a paradox?”

“Oh, gee, there’s a word we haven’t been called lately.” I stated sarcastically.

Alexandra rolled her eyes at me then looked to our sister with compassion.

“By definition isn’t the Empress of Time and Space a paradox wrapped in an enigma whose very existence is a conundrum?”

That pretty much summed up who or what we were all right, I thought.

“But…”

“Exactly, Alexandra Reilly! That is the simplest explanation of the Empress…’But’” Alexandra giggled. “I’m surprised it took you this long to figure that out, hun.”

“I haven’t figured anything out, Alex! I don’t think I will ever figure the Empress out!”

“Whoever said you should, hun? Alex or I certainly didn’t. Mina sure didn’t.” Alexandra sighed heavily. “The Empress isn’t here to be classified, characterized, or even figured out, Alex. We’re here to protect the timeline in our respective universes,” she paused a moment, “no matter what the end result.” She added sounding very sad suddenly.

“Sis, it might not end that way this time, remember I reset the whole universe when I exchanged them. This should be rev two, right?”

Alexandra looked me straight in the eyes. “Can you really be sure that this is the first, second, third, or even tenth time this universe has been reborn, Alex? We being the paradox, does it really matter?”

“So much for me being sure of anything, Alex, thanks a bunch.” I answered snidely.

“I’ll do what I can in this universe, hun, but I have to make sure that my granddaughter emerges from this planet to fulfill the circle we’ve apparently started.”

“So what’s going to happen in seven days, Lady Alexandra?” Yuuka asked. I had forgotten she was even with us.

“I agree, Pixie, a change of conversation is warranted.” Our sister of this world smiled.

“In seven days, after two long days of our men deliberating ineffective strategies and defensive plans, The Empress’ three, will take matters into her hands to peacefully end any and all conflicts to this land. And no, Alex, we don’t get to blow anything up.”

“Rats.” I exclaimed, snapping my fingers in mock disappointment.

“So how can the three Empresses combined bring about peace on a war-like planet that bears no resemblance whatsoever to my ancestral home?” Alex Reilly asked. She apparently had forgotten to consult her gift.

Alexandra stared at her for a second.

“Never mind.” Alex Reilly replied softly as she rubbed her head.

“Hey, how about those of us without foresight?” Yuuka complained.

“My sister, the power of three is not limited to the Empress; that multiple applies to all sisters of Kili”, Alexandra giggled, “as well as everyone else in the universes- though in different ratios.”

“You mean the humans?”

“We ARE still human, sister! Never forget that- for if we do, we become mere tyrants- like the vindictive Gods and Goddesses of Greek, Roman, Norse, and other myth.” Alexandra scolded.

“Forgive me, Empress. I still don’t understand about this power of three. How does it pertain to me?”

“You surprise me, Pixie.” Alexandra chirped. “You of all our sisters have witnessed, firsthand, the power of three…well six, actually.”

Yuuka showed no grasp of what our sister said. I on the other hand had felt the occupancy of our current location increase. Time to give the girls a lesson in courage, I thought.

“Yuuka, please relate the story, if you will, of our mission to liberate Kili Island from Janelle Hathor’s invasion.”

“But you both were there, Alex.”

“Humor us, Miss Sukiro.” I rolled my eyes and gestured with my left eyebrow. I noticed one side of Alexandra’s lips twitch slightly.

“When the director brought us to the Empresses’ convention on present day Kili, Janelle Hathor had somehow breached security and was in the midst of taking over the island. I don’t know why, but I was able to see through the hallucination set up by one of her soldiers. Another began attacking me with her gift. After finding her talent’s range, I decided to fly high over the island thinking I could indicate the limit of their power and also escape my attacker.”

“When Alex Steinert arrived offshore, she first shelled the Island with extreme precision, temporarily disabling the mind mage responsible for the illusion. Then she and some of the Sand Dollar’s crew made landfall to secure the island.”

“In order to retake Reilly, Alex called upon her Pixie Squadron, Sasha Trent and her four girls. I joined them to sneak past Hathor’s guard into Reilly. The Empress’ daughter, Alexis, volunteered to undergo something the six of us Pixies…had…never…” Yuuka stopped and looked at us. “Is that the power you speak of, Empress? The six of us transformed Alexis into a Pixie. She retained her gift and phased us out so we could fly into Reilly unseen and start searching for our sisters that were held captive.”

Movement caught my eye off to our left.

“You can shrink us down to become Pixies…like you? You weren’t just influencing our immediate future?” Alexandra’s Alexis cried as she and her two older sisters appeared.

“Just you, little sis.” Sam cackled. Cassi remained strangely silent.

“All the sisters of Kili can experience the Pixie’s gift, girls- anyone with nanos running throughout their bloodstream.”

“But Empress, Alexis had a difficult time returning to normal, if I remember right.”

Cassi, Sam, and Alexis gasped as one.

“Still, my daughter showed her courage and dedication to our cause, Yuuka, even knowing that she might remain a pixie for the rest of her days.” I nodded to our nieces. “You three should re-evaluate your allegiances in this world.” I said as I looked at each of them. “Gone is the time for childish eavesdropping on the unsuspecting townsfolk and gentry. From this point forward you all must do the right thing…for the right reason. The three of you have been blessed with the gift of foresight and stealth. Use them properly to help the Empress protect the time stream of this universe, for there will come a time when you three shall stand alone.”

“Gods, that didn’t sound forbidding at all,” Samantha mocked. As I watched Alexandra’s face sadden.

“See for yourselves, the scenes of seven days hence.” I added, my face showing no emotion at all.

I began walking away toward my chambers. Alex Reilly followed close behind.

“What did she mean by that, mom?” I heard Cassie ask Alexandra as Alex Reilly and I distanced our selves.
 
 

Weren’t you a little hard on them, Alex? Alex Reilly asked as she closed the door to our guest chambers.

“Do you think I was, sis? They need to grow up, if not now- before the skirmish, then when?”

“They’ll do what is asked of them and more, sis. The sisters of Kili will win the day and set a new precedent for Homeworld civilization.”

“I know, but sometimes you just have to smack them in the head to make them understand the seriousness of the upcoming confrontation, Alex.” I responded.

“You did what was required, sis. What we are here to do…to help with.”

‘Lord Byron requests your attendance at the evening meal, M’ladies Alexandra- 1800hrs in the main dining room. This is a formal affair of state, proper dress is expected.’ Jacki Cummins’ voice echoed in my…our heads.

‘Jack, where are M’lee and A’hee?’ I thought back to either one.

‘Our new sisters are taking a nap in their chambers, Empress.’

‘Keep an eye on M’lee, Jack, things will happen fast so make sure the doors and windows are secure. We don’t want the legend to start too soon.’

‘Aye, Cap. Jacki and I will make sure to shield them physically and audibly.’

‘Good, the director and I will arrive outside their chamber door in two hours.’

‘Two hours, aye, Cap.’

“So, Director Reilly, how do you propose we tell our newest sisters about their gifts when the closest words they have in their language are magic and bird?” I asked my twin.

“As you say, Cmdr. Steinert- we shoot from the hip.”
 
 

1814hrs, Avalon, Homeworld, June 13th, 264AE
 
 

“Dearest Alexandra, the child seems more famished than at the mid-day meal. Can you account for this?” Byron asked as we and others watched A’hee grab handfuls of food and shove them, unobstructed into her open mouth. It was sad, but funny as well.

“M’lord, as near as my skill of their language can tell, they have been in the wilds for quite some time.” Alexandra answered truthfully.

“How, by the grace of the Gods did they survive without stumbling upon other unsavory persons?”

“It is quite befuddling, M’lord. The mother seems right at home with a knife though.” Alexandra giggled as we watched M’lee stab and expertly fillet her fish.

“Perhaps she was a follower of her land’s army? It is frightening how effective she is with a keen blade.” Byron chuckled as he looked on.

When her hands weren’t full of food, A’hee kept looking across the table and forming her hands as if making a shadow puppet of a bird hoping she could get Yuuka to fly.

Yuuka, hoping to keep A’hee’s gift from manifesting in such a public setting, would grimace and shake her head ‘no’ until the little girl would give up and go back to shoveling food into her mouth.

It was difficult for those of us that knew her real intent to keep a straight face.

“Director?” Cami asked quietly. “Should I try to upload my archives of our language to our new sisters as I have our sister’s revisions over the past centuries?”

“Affirmative. As they recline this coming rest period.” Alex agreed. “Also append writing skills to the requested file exchange, Sweetheart.”

“She still talks that way, sis? I thought she’d be over that by now.” Alexandra said from my right.

“Y’all should hear her when she’s tuckered, Alex.” I smiled deviously as we used English instead of Medieval Homeworld or what I dubbed as ‘Ancient Reilly’.

I noticed several of the ‘invited’ gentry looking quizzically at us.

“Forgive me my Ladies and Lords, I sometimes forget my manners and revert to my native language.”

“I find it fascinating, Lady Alexandra of Covington. What is the language called and where do you Ladies originally hail from, if I may be so bold?” An older woman in a flowing royal blue gown asked with polite interest.

“It is called English, Lady Greta. We three were born in a land called Missouri, in a little hamlet called Oak Ridge.”

“I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of that land, Alexandra, is it far from Avalon?” She inquired.

“Oh, quite the distance, M’lady.”

“So your journey here took many days?”

“Yes, but our transit seemed to go by in the blink of an eye, Lady Greta.”

Lord Byron choked on his cup of mead and immediately covered his mouth.

“One would think that such a journey, uneventful as you say, would bore one to tears.”

“Because of the company, Lady Greta, travel was most pleasant. We talked, gossiped, sang, cried, and screamed in intense pain…” I told her casually, leaving the statement hang.

Again Byron choked on his drink. Awkward silence filled the hall for a few minutes.

Lady Greta began to giggle. “Your wit, Lady Alexandra, is most subtle, though still humorous. You had me thinking there to be actual pain involved in the journey.”

This time Byron let slip his cup. It clanked to the table noisily, some mead splashing onto the table’s surface.

“Forgive me, my fellow Lords and Ladies; I simply cannot function with so much beauty contained to one room. I find my fingers to have a mind of their own this eve.”

Greta raised an eyebrow to our host.

“Alexandra of Covington, do you speak any other languages? Rumor has it that you rule over a land called” she paused to think a moment, “I believe it to be called Nee-Ee-how?”

“It is indeed called Ni’ihua, Lady Greta. I commend you on your pronunciation.” I answered her in Hawaiian.

“Extraordinary! What did you just say?”

I told her and she blushed gracefully. “So what is the language called?”

“I am articulate in thirty languages, each having three or four different dialects, Lady Greta. That language is called Hawaiian and is used on the string of islands forming Hawaii. Ni’ihua, the island I govern, is but one of those in the chain.”

“So you come from a land surrounded by water? No wonder it is such a peaceful place. I wish to visit sometime, Getrick,” The woman said to her husband, “how many leagues and what time estimate do you leave for such a journey, Lady Alexandra of Covington?”

“Alexandra’s monarchy is many hundred leagues from here, Greta. The journey just to our nearest shoreline takes her well over a month.” Alexandra replied.

“So leave three months for travel then? I can see why your visits here are rare, Ladies.”

“Alexandra of Covington,” Greta’s husband asked, “I find it curious that all three of thee share the same name? How is this true?”

“Father liked the name, M’lord.” I answered with a giggle.

The older man nodded then his eyes twinkled deviously. “If I may, what be his name, M’lady?”

“Fredrick.”

The older gentleman started to laugh as he anticipated another name, but frowned at my reply instead.

The rest of the table erupted in laughter at his perplexed response.
 
 

1604hrs, Avalon, Homeworld, June 15th, 264AE
 
 

“Gentlemen, disturbing word has arrived that threatens our lands. Warlords from the North, East, and South have arrived on our borders and, as we speak, prepare to advance on Avalon.” Byron said in as calm a voice as he could muster.

Although already briefed on what would happen by our sister, he had to act like the news had just been received.

“M’lord, we have not the resources to repel an attack of such magnitude. How can we possibly defend Avalon against such forces?”

“Aye, Byron, our army stands little chance of victory. What of our allies to the West? Has word been sent to them for assistance?”

“A rider was dispatched the moment I received our scouts’ reports. With the Gods help he may arrive on morrow’s dawn.”

“M’lord, what of the Ladies Alexandra and other ladies of the Keep? Might we hasten their safety to the West in preparation?”

“Alexandra refuses to leave my side, M’lords. She and her Ladies wish to do their part to keep morale paramount. Ladies Alexandra of Covington and Alexandra of Reilly are just as iron-minded!”

“Do the courageous lasses know what they’re in for, Byron? Battle, close-handed as this be, be not safe for such delicate flowers.”

“Lord Getrick, Alexandra may be many things, but delicate she is not.”

“I assure you, M’lord that I have seen and taken part in far worse.” Alexandra told the man squarely as we three approached the large table.

“All three of us have participated in battle, M’lord. The siege three days hence will be mild compared to the impact it will have on our world in the future.” I added, backing up her statement.

“But how could such lovely creatures know what war be? And how can ye know the day and dimension of such a battle?”

“M’lord Getrick, there are a great many things you will find out about me and my sisters on the morrow.” I answered with a wink.

The older man stared at me, wondering about our sudden boldness.

Lord Getrick, we do not mean disrespect to this council, but my sisters and I are far older…and experienced than we appear. Please trust me on that.”

“But how old can the three of ye be? I’d say twenty-three seasons at best.”

“For me that would be shy by twenty-two seasons, M’lord.” I answered as I quickly calculated in my recent travel time.

“For this revision, sire…I have seen almost two hundred seasons.” Alex Reilly admitted.

“And I, my liege,” My temporal sister paused abruptly, “I have endured three hundred and seven seasons,” Alexandra said sadly. “So, believe what you will. Speaking for my twin sisters, we have seen our share of war; of barbarism; of acts so unspeakable even you would bow down and cower before the Gods!”

“M’lady has confused this old man. How can ye be twins if ye say thy ages don’t match? Be this your idea of fun?”

Alexandra was suddenly standing next to Getrick. I blinked in surprise knowing we were all still grounded for another day.

“M’lord, as with any adversary- it is wise to never underestimate what she is capable of.”

The old knight’s eyes flew open, his mouth dropping wide. “But how?” He exclaimed as he pointed between where she had been and her present location.

Quickly, I tried to pass my hand through the seatback in front of me. Had I finished early as well?

“Ouch.” I whispered. Alex Reilly looked over to see what I had done.

As Alex Reilly tried the same thing, I began to understand the ever so slight feeling I’d had the minute before my sister’s bold move. Alex Reilly looked over to me, a look of surprise- tinged with a minute glint of fear- it told me she had come to the same conclusion.

“You felt it too, sis?” I asked quietly for confirmation.

She nodded slowly and looked back to our sister, who was again standing right next to me.

“Alex?” I asked quietly as the men gathered around the table continued to stare at us.

“Don’t either one a’ y’all dare touch me, Alex.” She ordered menacingly.

“Empress?” I whispered.

“Ya sis, y’all got a problem with it?” She answered daringly.

It was then that I took a real good look at my sister. Slight streaks of silver hair highlighted the dark blonde- very subtle, but noticeable upon close inspection.

I mentally asked the two questions I really didn’t want to know. Where was she from? How old was she?

I gasped as I got my answer. Alexandra winked at me as I stared back in astonishment. I felt Alex Reilly take and squeeze my hand. Undoubtedly, she had asked herself the same questions.

“Empress?” Byron asked in amazement, jumping to his feet. It was the first male voice to fill the hall in several minutes.

“At your service, my love.” Alexandra said as she wrapped her arms around him and planted a whooper of a kiss on his lips. “I’ve missed you so much!”

“M’lady, please, not in front of the other Lords.” Byron reminded as he looked around the table to the other men still staring at us in bewilderment.

“Empress?” Lord Getrick asked, finally finding his voice. “Lady Alexandra, we have no ‘Empress’ in this realm.” He stopped to take a deep breath. “What manner of Sorceress are you to perform such tricks at this convening table of war?”

Alexandra was once again standing beside the older knight. “Tis no trick, M’lord, and the Empress has ruled these lands for well over two hundred and fifty years. Well before you,” my twin was now standing beside Lord Reginold, a younger man in his twenties, “or you Lord Reginold.” She said changing locations again.

“I have watched over these lands since before any of your ancestors decided to play nice, and I’m not about to let my work…our work,” Alexandra pointed to Alex and I, “ go up in smoke. “I assure you that Avalon will not fall to invaders while the Empress still draws breath.”

“But how can simple illusions help in defending the realm?” Lord Getrick asked, unimpressed. So far he seemed the only one capable of speech.

Alexandra was again standing beside him and placed her hand on his shoulder. They seemed to flicker for an instant. Getrick’s expression had dramatically changed instantly.

“So, Lord Getrick, have any questions?” Alexandra asked, taking her hand off the man’s shoulder.

“M’lady, after seeing such amazing things, I stand speechless.”

“What dost thou babble about, Getrick,” Lord Reginold asked, “Thee haven’t moved from the chamber?”

“Thou shall watch thy tongue, young Lord! The Ladies, each one, be much, much more than thoust could ever imagine!”

“I can imagine much more than thoust thinks, old man.”

“Care to find that out for certain, Lord Reginold?”

“I beseech thee, Empress, the young fool is only goading you. Spare him the visions shown to me.”

“As you wish, M’lord.” Alexandra said as she appeared next to me again. She wore a satisfied smile.

“Show off!” I whispered.

“Necessity.” She whispered back.

“How far?”

“Eight hundred.”

I whistled quietly, and noticed Getrick staring nervously at the three of us again- probably hearing us.

Young Lord Reginold glared at Alexandra then to Alex and I. Of course we triple-teamed him with our patented Demmit stare until he relented.

“Husband, my sisters and I will retire to my chambers to make our own war preparations and brief our Ladies-in-wait. Continue with your planning, but”, she paused, “but do not forget to factor in the Sisters of Kili, for we will fight for this land and its people we hold so close to our hearts. Gentlemen, we take our leave!” Alexandra warned royally as she turned and headed from the hall. Alex and I followed close behind.
 
 

“How are the Pixies, Yuuka?” Alexandra asked as we arrived in Yuuka’s suite. She seemed more on edge now since leaving the ‘War Committee’.

“They’re trying on their Reilly’s as we speak, Alexandra.”

“I want them out here now. They need to be brought up to speed before all hell breaks.”

“Aye, ma’am.” Yuuka straightened momentarily and hurried into the next room.

“Hey, Alex. What’s got Alexandra in a huff?” Cami asked as she knocked then entered the room.

“Yes, Ma’am, I’ll shut up.” Cami quickly replied. She walked up next to Alex and I tapping each of us on a shoulder. “Um, in case you two didn’t know…this isn’t the same Alexandra. This one is way older.” She whispered conspiratorially.

“Negated fecises, fictional inquistor!” Alex Reilly growled sharply.

Yuuka, returning from the other room, cocked her head and stared at my sister.

“She said ‘no shit, Sherlock’.” I translated. Yuuka nodded then called M’lee and A’hee into the room. As with Akane, both swam in the clothing. A’hee looked darling despite that fact.

“Lady Camille will now show you how the clothing works.” Yuuka told them in Reilliese.

“What’re you waiting for? Get that information into them, Cami!” Alexandra growled and glared at our two newest sisters.

Both mother and daughter immediately began to shrink right out of their new clothing. This was the very first time that A’hee had used her gift.

“I knew it was too soon.” Yuuka added.

“Mei-Lee and Allie, you get yer butts back here this instant! Y’all have to learn this!” Alexandra groused as the two naked girls took flight from their respective pile of clothes- both landing on my left shoulder.

In Reilliese the little girl’s name was pronounced ‘Allie’ and M’Lee pronounced ‘Mei-Lee’

“She won’t hurt you, girls. We want to help you and to do that you have to remain our size.” I told them softly in Reilliese. “My sister gets grouchy this time every cycle of the moon.”

Alexandra sneered in my direction. Of course I stuck my tongue out at her in defiance.

“Girls, please go back into your clothing and return to our size? For me?” I asked with a smile- still speaking Alex Reilly’s language. Neither seemed to realize we weren’t using their simple tongue. Both took flight from my shoulder and slowly flew back to their respective piles of clothes.

Yuuka and Cami helped adjust the oversized garments as both grew into them.

“Thank you, girls. Camille will now tell you how these things work. Listen here,” I told them pointing to my forehead.
 
 

“I can understand you. How is that possible?” Mei-Lee said several minutes after her Reilly resized itself to fit her shape perfectly. Allie nodded to her question also. The little girl looked comfortable in her Reilly also, though both seemed to dislike the fit in certain places. We sisters had been talking amongst ourselves quietly in English as Cami continued to instruct our newest sisters.

“I take it Cami showed you how to use the translator function?” I asked in answer. “The translator helps us understand and converse with those around us.”

“Why is it that I understand the meaning of ‘translator’ or ‘converse’ for that matter?”

Cami blushed as she looked at Mei-Lee. “That would be because I transferred my knowledge of language and science to you and Allie while you rested last night. My gift makes it possible to install that information into your mind, thereby making it easier for us to communicate, Mei-Lee.”

“Gift?”

“Each of us has a gift, Mei-Lee. Your gift allows you to shrink to Pixie-size and fly. Alex’s gift allows her…sorry…them to travel through time and space.”

“So then we are magic users?”

“No, not really. Only for those that do not know the science behind our gifts would it appear as magic. I’m sure you and Allie thought exactly that when you first saw us appear in the valley.”

“What happened to my clan? Did they get swept away in the angry waters?”

“The Empress should be able to answer that, Mei-Lee. Part of her gift allows her to see the future. That is how we found you in the first place.” Cami nodded to the three of us.

“And there I thought I took the initiative to go and rescue anyone caught in the flood.” Yuuka sniped.

“Against my orders not to, Pixie!” Alex Reilly growled.

“You would seriously allow innocent lives to be lost, Empress?” Yuuka looked at Alex and batted her eyes.

“That’s not the point, Pixie! The point is that you disobeyed direct orders to stay with us and set off on your own quest to find potential victims. With a catastrophe of that magnitude looming over that valley it was a very illogical thing to do! It was irresponsible and impetuous, Yuuka-kun.” Alex said, chastising our sister.

“But is my clan safe, Empress?” Mei-Lee pushed.

“Your clan followed us to higher ground, so yes, they are safe, hun.” I answered.

“Then when can we rejoin them?”

All heads save two lowered with a harmonious sigh.

“Why?” Mei-Lee asked defensively.

“We damaged you.” I began. “You and Allie are not the same beings you were before we met.”

“I…I don’t understand.”

“Before we met, could you and your daughter shrink and fly like birds?” I asked sadly.

“No.” Mei-Lee’s mouth dropped open.

“We’re deleted?”

“Nooo, nowhere near. You are just as alive as we are. In fact, you and Allie will live far longer now- almost nine hundred seasons.”

Mei-Lee and her daughter’s mouths dropped open this time.

“What do you think would happen if we took you back to your clan now knowing this?” Alex Reilly asked.

“Can we please get on with their training?” Alexandra protested.

“Patience, Alex!” Alex Reilly and I shouted to our sister.

“Mei-Lee, what would your people do if you went back?” I asked again.

“They would welcome us back happily.”

“Really?” I eyed the young woman skeptically. “Have you ever found a baby bird fluttering on the ground and lifted it back into the nest? Doing so, you helped the thing to survive. If you watched from a safe distance, what would the mother bird do? Would she accept it back into the nest, you think?

Mei-Lee thought a while on the situation. ”No, the youngling would be forced out of the nest when the mother caught the scent of human on it. The baby would be no better off than before.” She answered shaking her head sadly.

“By taking our offered hand, Allie made it impossible for either of you to return. I’m afraid you’re part of our family now, hun. It isn’t so bad though; Alexandra here, Peyton, and Jacki are usually very understanding and nurturing- especially to new sisters.” I told her before glaring at Alexandra.

Our sister sighed deeply having taken my gentle hint. “I can offer three meals a day, maybe a few snacks on the side, a room of your own with a warm bed, and…and all the love and nurturing you and Allie can stand, Mei-Lee. Welcome to the family…if you’ll have us, that is.”

Alexandra looked at me with a defeated glance. “Now…can we please get on with it?”

Mei-Lee nodded to her daughter and both began to shrink. This time, however, their clothing followed suit. Both landed on Alexandra’s shoulder.

For the first time, I noticed that Mei-Lee had beautiful silvery-blue tinged wings and Allie had silvery-violet tinged wings. Both Pixies seemed roughly the same size though. I wondered why that was until Allie’s hands started exploring her chest- her breasts actually. The two five-inch women looked like sisters.

“Instant puberty?” I asked in amazement. Alex Reilly took a step closer to get a better look.

“Fascinating. It appears your observed hypothesis is absolutely correct about the premature onset of secondary female traits, sis.”

“Sounds like someone needs a nap, sis.” Alexandra teased.

“No sis, if she were tired, she’d sound like Ma er Pa er even Aunt Pearl over ‘cross the river.”

“I know that, Alex. Alex and I synchronized right before I knocked her out.” Alexandra said as she let a little too much slip.

“Mutiny is getting to be a habit with you, isn’t it, Alex?” I laughed deviously.

“So who’s here to bring me up on charges, huh, Alex?” She responded with an angry glare.

“Well…there’s always Ma Scott.” I giggled.

“Oh…right…forgot about her.”

“Like I believe that, sis.” I said rolling my eyes once before turning my attention to Yuuka.

“Care to show them the ropes, hun? I think Allie is gnawing at the bit for some flight time. Take them for a recon sortie out to the west, but watch out for a young man on a fast horse. That would be Lord Byron’s messenger bringing word that reinforcements will arrive from the west just as the show starts.”

I thought for a moment. “Speaking of reinforcements, where is Peyton? I haven’t seen her since just after we arrived.”

“The last hundred years or so she’s kept to herself, Empress.” Jacki said as she and my Jack entered the room. “She’s turned into quite the hermit.”

“Can you read her, Jack?” I asked to confirm something that I had foreseen.

“Not since her Mahanilui, Alex. If anything her gift got stronger after that.” Jacki answered.

“When did that happen, hun,” I asked?

“About the same time, why?”

“How’d she take that, Jack?”

“What, the change? She fumed for a few months, but settled down after that, Alex.” Jacki paused as she looked down to the floor. A sad look appeared on her face. “Alex, we were going to lose her. A normal ‘Old Era’Terran lifespan is only about three hundred years and Peyton was halfway through her second century when we arrived here. We all hoped that we could visit home or that you at least would visit us in that time, ma’am.”

“I might yet, Jack. Like I told you when we arrived, I wasn’t driving. You should know by now that for me the Protoverse destabilization took place about two weeks ago. Unfortunately I’ve had other issues of my own to deal with in that time.”

“About that…sister tells me that you and Connie had a difficult mission. What happened? Is she alright?” Jacki asked as innocently as she could without seeming too pushy.

“Things got a little dicey for a time, but we both survived.” I said as Alex Reilly let out a single light cough.

“With a little help from my sister here.” I said as I pointed.

“But she’s okay, right? I mean, you wouldn’t lie to me, would you Empress?” Jacki asked as Jack looked on intently.

“Constance is on Earth spending some time with you as we speak, Jacquelyn- unless you do something to change that. I think she said something about spending a few months…maybe even a year on Earth before returning to Terra Nueva and her family.” Alex Reilly told them.

Jack- both of them- seemed satisfied with the answer.

“So…what happened, Alex?” Jacki inquired.

“Connie had to use a little more force than she was used to, Jack. She kind of surprised me.”

“Did she kill…” Both Jacks gulped. “Did she kill anyone?”

“No, but it sure hurt like hell, Jack.” I shook my head side to side a few times as I tried to only remember the pain I felt at the time.

“So how long did you recoup on Terra this time, Cap?” Jack asked.

“About the same amount of time, Jacquelyn, now can we get our squadron in the air?” Alexandra replied brusquely.

“Okay! Geez!”

“Alexandra, may I fly now? The silvery-violet winged Pixie asked as she flew over to me and hovered inches from my face.

“I guess, but what do you call this, Allie?” I asked the hovering beauty while moving my hand through the air under her several times.

She looked down at what was happening below her and smiled back at me.

“Oh!” She giggled and began laughing hysterically.

Yuuka clapped her hands a few times. “Attention! Pixie flight school is hereby convened. Students will assume normal mode and will not engage Pixie mode until instructed to do so. Girls, front and center.”

Neither Pixie moved, but stared at their teacher in confusion.

Yuuka rolled her eyes. “Girls, return to normal height so we can go through some of the basics then I promise, we’ll have some fun.” Mei-Lee and Allie returned to their normal human size- Allie returning to her seven-year old form.

“I prefer you this way, Allie. When we fly, you make me feel too old. Don’t grow up too soon, little one.” Mei-Lee said to her daughter.

“Um, wouldn’t it be better for you to teach the basics out on the ramparts…or at least this building’s roof, hun?” Alex Reilly smiled at Yuuka.

“Oh…ya…right.” She replied. “Let’s go to the roof, girls.”

I held out my hand to stop them from leaving. “Appropriate dress is required in the main halls of Avalon, ladies.”

After selecting and changing their Reilly suits, the three left.

“Now that the adults are all here, let’s start planning the Empress’ big outing.” Alexandra said a short while later as she looked at the far side of the room with a smile.

“She always knows, Sam! How stupid are you two anyway?” Cassie cried as my three ‘nieces’ appeared.
 
 

07010hrs, Avalon, Homeworld, June 20th, 264AE
 
 

“Empress, the northern Army seems to be waiting. Some sort of signal for a unified attack, I believe.”

“Thanks Yuuka,” Alex Reilly said as she produced a set of binoculars from her medieval-style purse and scanned the horizon.

“Alex, there are two villages in the direct path of the advance. We should evacuate them to save lives.”

“Cassie, Sam, and Alexis,” I called, “it’s time.”

“We’re here, Empress.” Alexis said as all three appeared behind Alexandra, Alex Reilly, and I.

“Cassie, go with yer Ma; Sammi, yer with me, and Alexis, you go with your Aunt Alex. You girls throw your phasing around the whole village and we’ll do the heavy lifting just like we talked about, got it?”

All three nodded.

“Mind Warriors, we need to make room just outside the walls for our new guests. Could y’all indulge me?” I asked with a devious smile.

“How should we do that, Empress?” Cami asked. I kind of figured she wasn’t listening four nights ago.

“I was too listening, Alex! I just forgot which option we selected.”

“We only talked about one option, sweetheart.” I reminded sweetly.

“Oh…right.”

“Just flatten the Earthworks out so we have a place to land the villages.”

Cami began to concentrate.

“Sweetheart, you need to take your position first?”

“Oh, sorry, Alex.” She apologized as she offered her hand to me.

“Your not my Mind Warrior, hun.” I said in annoyance as I nodded to Alex Reilly. “Commander you’re with me.” I said as I offered my hands to Samantha and Jack. We were now on the southern facing battlements.

A gasp filled the air around us as we appeared. Men in chainmail and helmets stepped away from us in fright.

Lord Reginold pushed through his men and knelt before me.

“Lady Alexandra, we are ready on the south fortifications.”

“Understood, M’lord.” I smiled. “Please have your men step to the sides and allow my Sorceress, Lady Jacquelyn to exercise her gift for a moment.”

Reginold began waving his hands in the airas he shouted. “Back! All of you back away and give the Sorceress room!”

Men began moving away quickly and a minute later a forty-foot wide, clearing appeared straight through to the battlement.

“Jack, if Jacki and Cami are ready, let’s show ‘em how it’s done, Commander.”

“Aye, Cap.” Jack smiled brightly as she stepped forward and raised her arms dramatically. A bright ball of plasma developed in her partially closed palms as her hands reached above her head.

Show-off!

A low rumble rose up from below us. Several frightened cries echoed through the air around us to look down at the miracle happening to the ground outside the wall.

Lord Reginold approached the edge and gasped as he watched the Earth lift and smooth itself magically.

“M’ladies how is this possible? He gasped heavily. “Such power…I have never seen the like before!”

“As I told Lord Getrick several days ago, never underestimate your opponent. Looks can be, and usually are, very deceiving, M’lord.”

“My deepest apologies, M’lady! I never expected…”

The murmur of the soldiers caused the young Lord to stop talking and watch the proceedings.

“Alex says that should be enough, Cap.” Jack informed me as she closed her palms- the ball of plasma vanishing.

“Okay, now it’s our turn, honey. Ready?”

“Aye, Aunt Alex.” Samantha said grabbing my hand.

“First stop, Benning’s Ford.” I said as I phased us out. I giggled as Reginold looked around in confusion.

“Benning’s Ford is almost a day’s journey on horse. How can they possibly reach it before the enemy overruns the village?” The young Lord asked Jack.

“Keep watching as the true power of the Empress of Time and Space is revealed, M’lord.” Jack responded without emotion. “If I know Alex, this will be a real show.”

A small, quiet village appeared around us. Rephasing, I shouted to all within earshot.

“Everyone! Join me in the village square. I have something of importance to convey.”

Slowly people entered the small square- really just a bare patch of earth surrounding a well in the center of the small settlement.

Whispers filled the air around Sam and I as more people arrived to see what the ruckus was about.

“I am called Alexandra and have been sent to warn y’all that the enemy is about to march on this village. I’m here to take y’all back to the Keep for protection.” I announced loudly. Immediately the slight whispers grew in volume.

“Yer Lord Byron’s Lady.” An older gentleman needlessly announced.

“That would be my twin sister, sir.”

“What could ye possibly do to protect us, Lady Alexandra?”

“Quickly, gather as many people from the outlying areas of this village and bring them back to this square, we haven’t much time.”

Ten minutes passed then ten more. In total Sam and I waited thirty minutes before all agreed that everyone was present.

“Everyone,” I shouted as I took my left foot out of my silken slipper, placed the slipper in my purse bag, and dug my foot firmly into the ground as best I could. “Everyone join hands. The closest to Lady Samantha and I take our offered hands. Sam, I need you to phase as much of the village as you can, hun. It’ll take all the concentration you can muster. Just nod when you think we’re ready.

A minute later Sam nodded once, her face bright red with concentration. Those gathered around, holding hands looked confused.

Off to our left the tall, whitewashed, Southern fortifications of Avalon appeared over the small thatched roofs of Benning’s Ford.

“Good job, Sam.” I told my niece noting that she was sweating profusely. I retrieved my slipper and placed it back on my bare foot.

“Avalon! But how…how can we be here?” Someone shouted. The villagers all turned and gasped, pointing to the bright white wall.

“Lady Alexandra, how can this be? The Keep is a day on horse.”

“Alexandra, the Empress of Time and Space, will answer any and all questions after the danger has been abated, sir. For right now, we beg you all, head directly into the Keep. Alexandra’s gifts are required in another village.” Sam told the crowd before she again took my hand.

Another village appeared around us and we repeated the process. This time it took less sweat on Sam’s part to phase out the village. Again the villagers gasped in amazement as Avalon’s walls appeared behind them.

We repeated the task eight more times. I had separated each village’s arrival by two minutes. To the soldiers and inhabitants of the Keep, ten villages appeared outside the walls in twenty minutes. Sam and I returned to our position on the ramparts. My niece looked like she could easily sleep for a week.

“Jack,” I asked as Reginold stared at Sam and I in astonishment. “Extend your shield out past the villages when my sisters are ready. Inform everyone that we can expect small infiltrations from the villages as spies are already among us.”

“Aye, Cap, all stations report ready.”

I nodded my acknowledgement.

“Aye, raising protective shield now, Empress.”

The hair on my arms began to stand straight up. All around us the soldiers started examining themselves and looking around, baffled.

“M’ladies, what just happened? A most uncomfortable feeling has arisen on my person.”

“Lady Jacquelyn has just produced a protective barrier around the Keep and surrounding villages. A sixteen-inch shell couldn’t penetrate it.

“Your words are strange, M’lady. Why would a monstrous sea creature need to attack us?”

I sighed. “Let’s just say that anything the enemy throws at us cannot penetrate. Everyone within the shield will be protected.

“If I may be so bold, M’lady, why dost Lady Jacquelyn call you Empress?”

“Reginold,” Samantha said, “Lady Alexandra, all three, are what we call the Empress of Time and Space, M’lord. The Empress and only the Empress has the power to break time’s rigid grip and visit any place at any given time, here or any other world.”

“That cannot be! There is no one that powerful, save the almighty!”

“Care to explain how THEY got here then, M’lord?” Sam giggled as she gestured down to the villages just outside the walls. “It took roughly thirty minutes to gather the villagers together before Aunt Alex and I could transport each individual village here.”

“Impossible! The villages appeared every few minutes like clockwork!”

“I’ll take that as a compliment, hun.” I said with a bright smile as I pinched his cheek gently.

Reginold’s face went pale.

“Empress, the enemy has started to move.” A voice said from my shoulder. I noted the color of the Pixie’s wings- Silver-blue.

“Thank you, Mei-Lee. Jack, pass the word after the other two scouts have reported in, move to phase three.”

“Aye, Cap, move to phase three.” Jack repeated; her expression turned stone serious. “We’re waiting for Pixie One to report in, ma’am.”

“Understood.”

I noticed Reginold hadn’t broken his stare, but looked much paler now. “M’lord, having seen many strange sights since the start of this campaign, is seeing a five-inch tall woman with silver-blue tinged wings any stranger or less miraculous? Please, the Pixie is still sensitive as to her appearance around humans.”

“You call it a ‘Pixie’?”

Mei-Lee flew down from my shoulder and began to grow, her clothing changing in step.

“Lord Reginold,” She said in an angry tone, “I am every bit as human as you or any of the others on this parapet! And, I am a Sister of Kili and therefore a noble. Neither I, nor my daughter is to be refered to as ‘It’. Is that clear, M’lord?”

“It is, M’lady, but how…”

“This is Mei-Lee’s gift, M’lord. She has the ability to shrink herself, grow wings, and fly. She, her daughter Allie, and Lady Yuuka make excellent scouts, them being able to fly over enemy lines and report troop movements. Being small and fast, they easily avoid detection.” I explained as Mei-Lee began to shrink again, but remaining at eye level with us.

“What other surprises await these eyes, Lady Alexandra?” Reginold asked quietly.

“All stations acknowledge advancement to phase three, Captain.” Jack informed me. “All scouts report that our borders have been breached and estimates place the enemy’s forward cavalry to be within sight in two hours.”

“M’lady, how many monikers do you carry? First, Lady of the Realm then Empress, and now you recognize ‘Captain’. I can only assume you command your own army?”

“First off hun, I will never be, nor was I ever- royalty. My name is Alexandra Francis Steinert and I was born on a planet called Earth just outside a small town called Oak Ridge in the state of Missouri. I am currently a Commander in the navy of the United States of America and command my own submarine, a craft that travels below the waves in the ocean. When I realized my gift, I became the “Empress of Time and Space’. Are there any more questions, M’lord?”

“Are you otherwise engaged, M’lady?”

“I have three grown children waiting for me back home, hun. Anymore questions?”

The young Lord looked over to Jack.

“She’s kinda busy at the moment, hun, but Jack also has a grown daughter and several grandchildren of her own. I believe my niece, Samantha, is unattached though.”

“Aunt Alex!” Samantha cried in surprised embarrassment.

“What...he’s young, handsome, impetuous, and…he now knows our secret. Those ARE your requested parameters, are they not?”

“I can find my own mate, Aunt Alex!”

“You sound just like your cousin Samantha, and my own Cassandra.” I laughed.

“Alex, Jacki reports that Alexandra is getting impatient. She wants to know when you intend on continuing this campaign.” Jack interrupted.

“Tell my sister that she’s waited nine-hundred and sixty years for this day, she can be patient for a little while longer!”

“Nine-hundred…?”

“Send it, Miss Cummins.”

“Aye, Cap.”

“Jack?”

“Alex?”

“Jack, modulate your Psionic shield into the main shield- just enough to block outside intervention.”

“Aye, passing that on…”

“Negative, Commander! Your shield only, I want a communications black out from this station unless informed otherwise by me” I ordered.

“Captain?”

“I want to see if any hexes have been placed on us, Commander.” I explained as I glanced over to our young lord. “Certain persons are not to be informed.”

“Modulating shield components.” Jack acknowledged dutifully.

Our view of the southern lands around Avalon shimmered slightly but didn’t change.

“What was that?” Reginold gasped. “Was it some trick of the eyes?”

“Hun, I’m not going to explain everything we do, because you simply will not understand…not for another millennium. Now, order your men to shoulder their weapons and join hands to form a chain, please.”

“Men, stow all weapons and join hands single file!” Reginold shouted. His lieutenants passed the word.

After many strange looks and much stalling, Reginold’s forces were ready. I offered my hand to Samantha and gestured her to take our young lord’s hand. She resisted at first.

“Mei-Lee, take flight and we will meet you on the perimeter. Jack, you have the Con.”

“Aye, Cap, be careful.” Jack said as I watched our Pixie shoot skyward.

“M’lord, tell your men not to release their neighbor’s hand until I pass word that it is okay to do so. It will become clear to them after we arrive at our destination.”

“Hold your grips until my order!” He again shouted, looking quite worried “Destina…?”

Our location changed from atop the battlements to the newly flattened land outside the Keep. To Sam’s right, half of the young lord was inside the corner of a ramshackle village hut.

“M’lord, pass the word to not panic, but for anyone standing in something to step into the clear. I will not rephase us until all are safe. Under no circumstances should they let go of their neighbor.”

“I understand now, mighty Empress.” He said in a shaken voice before passing the word to his lieutenants, who were quite pale and looked on the verge of collapse.

Several minutes later the word came back that all troops save two were safely in the clear. Those two had panicked.

I nodded sadly to Reginold as I rephased us.

“Release grips, but hold your place!”

“Now what, Mighty Empress?”

“First, y’all stop that ‘Mighty Empress’ horseshit, hun, and then we wait for the show to really start.” I said glaring at him.

Mei-Lee flew in slowly from our left, just over and ahead of our soldiers. Gasps again echoed through the line as more than a few noticed.

“The defensive line is ready, Empress.” She said as she landed on my shoulder again.

“Good. Rest for a while, hun.” I said quietly as I took a small container from my linen pouch. Reginold gasped as he realized that the shallow, wide mouthed jar I was now uncapping couldn’t possibly have been in there. “Mei-Lee, I think you might like a snack- you certainly deserve it, hun.”

The Pixie dove headfirst into the shallow jar of honey I held in the palm of my hand- her hands shoveling its contents greedily into her mouth.

“M’lord, for the sake of future conversation, Pixies absolutely love honey. Being so small and flying so fast uses up a lot of energy. Honey seems to satisfy the hunger generated.”

“Duly noted, Empress Alexandra.” He answered, nodding his head slowly.

Mei-Lee finished her snack in five minutes flat.

“My thanks, Empress. It is just what I needed.”

“Pixie. Do you feel up to flying another sortie to spot the enemy’s progress?” I asked as I recapped the container and placed it back into my sack. Mei-Lee nodded and darted from my shoulder.

‘Jack,’ I thought to my Ex-O, ‘how are you holding up? Do you need backup power yet?’

‘Actually it seems to be getting easier to hold at this level, Alex.’

‘Increase your Psi shield a little more. I’m still not convinced someone isn’t lurking around out here.’

Again the landscape shimmered slightly and all remained the same.

‘Still comfortable, Jack?’ I thought to her.

‘Everything’s in the green, Alex.’

‘Rodger that, let me know if you feel anyone. Steinert, out.’

‘Empress, a column of cavalry and infantry is approaching from the West.’

‘That would be our reinforcements, Jack. Still, scan them for any thoughts out of the ordinary. Have Lord Byron’s aid direct them to their positions, but have him tell them to stay as close to the village buildings as possible. You and Cami open your shield to grant them entry.’

‘Aye, Cap. And if I should find any…discrepancies?’

‘You shouldn’t, but we can’t be too careful. I have a feeling our spy is among us already.’

‘Just say the word and the advancing armies are toast, Alex.’

‘There will only be moderate losses today, Commander.’

‘Understood.’
 
 

‘Alex, we have incoming. At least two hundred riders, advancing fast’, Jack thought to me. It had been two long hours of waiting. In that time, Sam and Reginold had begun conversing and my niece’s demeanor towards him seemed to be waning.

“Empress, the advance forces are just off the horizon. The rest are at least another hour behind.” Mei-Lee informed me as she began to grow. She had kept up regular reconnaissance sorties for the last two hours. Some of the soldiers closer to us began to whisper amongst themselves.

“You’ve done enough for right now, hun.” I said as I noticed her sway slightly.

“Lean on me, hun, I’ll help support y’all for a while.”

“Many thanks, Empress.” She said as she leaned in and I wrapped an arm around her.

“They’re here!” a man’s voice shouted from down the defensive line apiece.

“Hold your place!” Reginold shouted back.

The rumble of hooves pounding the ground grew louder as the minutes passed by.

“Lord Reginold, at your command.” One of his lieutenants said in an even voice.

“Make ready your arms!” The young Lord shouted.

The word worked down the line. Loud metal clanking could be heard as each soldier made ready his weapon.

“M’ladies, you should hurry back to the Keep now.” Reginold said as he turned.

“What, and miss the show? Hun, I’ve always wanted to watch a medieval battle. Why would I want to leave?”

“Empress, it is too dangerous for you to be here, you have no armor to protect you…not that that would save you from these vile heathens!”

Reginold, swing your sword and strike me…if you can.”

“Empress I will not intentionally hurt you! Do not make such a reckless request of me.”

Samantha gripped his sword, pulled it from his scabbard, and quickly swung it around at me. The young lord was caught entirely off guard and could only watch as the sword passed straight through me with no effect.

“You see? The Empress has her own protection and does not fear the coming onslaught.” I said with a smile as Samantha twirled then handed back his weapon. Reginold just stared at us in bewilderment.

‘Alex, all stations report enemy approaching.’ Jack’s voice rang through my head.

‘Cami and Jacki, maintain your shields.’ I thought to them.

‘Acknowledged, Alex.’

‘Aye, Alex.’

‘Captain Steinert?’ Cami asked in my mind. “I’d like to modulate my Psionic shield into my defense system if that is agreeable.’

‘Proceed, Camille Darough. Good thinking, Sweetheart.’ I thought back. ‘Jack give her your ratio.’

‘Aye, Cap.’

“Empress, I’d like to go out again.”

“Only if you feel rested enough to do that, Mei-Lee.” I answered.

“We need to know where they are.”

“I already know where they are, hun. I even know when they’ll attack. If you want, find Allie and Yuuka. We can handle whatever comes our way.”

“Do you mean that Empress?”

“If we need more recon sorties, one of us will call, otherwise, I’d like you to keep Allie somewhat isolated from the battle. She is still a young child and may not understand the carnage such things bring. Let her have her childhood, my sister.”

“I understand, Empress. Good luck.” Mei-Lee said as she again went into Pixie mode and took to the sky, this time heading back to Avalon.
 
 

“High noon.“ I said to myself, looking to the sky.

Over the last hour we had watched silently as the number of pennants and flags increased in number along the horizon. So too did the dust cloud raised by the immense foot traffic behind them.

“It’s starting!” Someone shouted and the soldiers around us all went on high alert.

“Empress, are you certain that you and Lady Samantha will be safe?” Reginold asked in worry. He wasn’t looking at me, but at my niece.

“Mind your defenses, M’lord.” I replied gesturing ahead.

“M’lord Reginold, the horsemen are charging our line, your orders?” His lieutenant reported.

“Patience be the better part of valor, M’lord.” I said to him with a wink.

“Stand ready!” He shouted. The lieutenant nodded cautiously and passed the order along.

“How long should I wait, Empress?”

“Let’s just see how far they get, shall we?” I recommended with a pleasant smile.

“As you wish, Empress.”

He didn’t sound convinced.

The thundering of hooves grew louder as the approaching horsemen neared our line. Reginold and his men began to look very uncomfortable. I held my hand up to indicate that he should hold and wait for my signal. As one, the advancing horsemen readied their lances or drew their swords for battle. They were almost upon the defensive shield.

“They should just be hitting the shield…now.” I said and watched as horse and rider slammed headlong into the impenetrable, invisible wall.

Lances buckled and shattered as well as armor and bone. Man and beast collapsed to the ground in large heaps- broken and bloodied by the unseen force. More than a few men and horses would never walk, stand, or breathe ever again. Groans and beastly screams replaced the previously terrifying war cries of our attackers. Those lucky enough to have stopped in time looked on in frustration and bewilderment- some even found the courage to probe the invisible defense with their lances or swords.

A cheer rose up from our defenses as the soldiers realized they had been saved from the onslaught.

“Unbelievable! Never in my life have I seen anything so miraculous!” Reginold exclaimed as he looked back to Sam and I.

‘Alex, just so you know…that hurt a little.’ Jack informed me.

‘Do you need an extra power source, Commander?’

‘My reserves are nominal, Cap. I’m good.’

‘And our sisters?’

‘Cami and Jacki report no noticeable decrease in shield strength, Alex.’

‘Alex, Jacki wants to know when I incorporated my Psionic shielding.’

‘Give her the ratio, Jack, but tell her to increase her mix and not say a word about it to anyone.’

‘Aye, Cap’

‘Jack, ask Cami if Yuuka is within communication range.’

‘She says that Yuuka just flew by and she will try to get her back. Do you want Yuuka at your location?’

‘Just ask her to find Peyton. I want to know where that girl is and why she wants to miss all the fun.’

‘Aye, Cap.’

‘Alex, Yuuka said she thought she saw Peyton in one of the villages in Alexandra’s sector.’

‘All right, she should be safe. Thank Yuuka for me.’

‘Doing it as we speak, Cap.’

‘Seems like everyone’s here, Alex. All stations report that Avalon is completely surrounded. I’m picking up ‘chatter thought’ about our magical shield. Some think a curse has been placed on the Keep. Others wonder how all the outlying villages were so quickly moved here. It’s all really confusing out there.’

‘Mind Warriors,” I thought to Jack, Jacki, and Cami, “find the location of the men in charge of this siege and prepare for phase four. Have Alex and Alexandra take their places on the walls where we agreed.’

“Sam, it’s time for the Empress’ debut. Stay next to Reginold, he may need your gift.”

I was now standing next to Jack gazing out at the gathered forces of the enemy.

“Looks even more menacing in real life, Jack.” I commented.

“We can handle them…no problem, Empress.” She declared confidently.

“Enough have died already, sister.” I said sadly, placing my hand on her shoulder as I walked to the wall’s edge.

“So…what aren’t you telling me, Alex? Is there some way that we’re not going to win?”

“Oh, we win, Jack, but we lose also.” I turned my head to the side slightly and answered just above a whisper.

“What kind of crazy answer is that?” She shouted, glaring at me.

“The right and true answer, my sister.” I said as my eyes lowered to scan the sea of villages below me.

“Jack, have we located the chieftains yet?”

“Each of us found one, Alex, just like you three predicted- one in each of the three sectors.”

“If Alex and Alexandra are ready, let’s introduce ourselves.” I said as I reselected my period clothing- this time all in white. My tiara indicated thousands of people around me- far too many to quickly sort for an infiltrator.

“Cami, Jacki, and I are ready for the planet-wide, telepathic broadcast- audio AND video, Empress.”

I nodded and carefully stepped up onto the highest stones in the outer wall. I raised my hands above my head.

“Hear me, people of the world. Welcome to Avalon, home of the Empress of Time and Space. I am here today to ask that you lay down your weapons and enter into peaceful negotiations. As you have already realized, the force surrounding the Keep and collected surrounding villages is impervious to your primitive weaponry and armor.” I said as I scanned over the scene before me.

“You will not succeed in breaking through no matter how hard or long you try. Again, I request that you lay down all weapons of war and prepare your leaders to meet with me for an armistice.”

“End transmission, Jack.”

“Wow, that was straight and to the point. Why so blunt?”

“Because I need them to think I’m bluffing. At no time in the near history of this planet has a woman been allowed to speak terms of surrender.”

“But you didn’t say anything about surrender, Alex.”

“To them it sounded like we’re going to, hun.” I smiled wickedly. “Tell Alex and Alexandra to meet me with their ‘guests’ in Willowglenn.”

“Message sent, Alex. Be careful.”

I smiled and winked.

The dirty, angry man sitting atop his horse scowled as he rubbed his forehead and scanned for any weakness in Jack’s shield. All around him his men looked up in hope and respect. All held or cradled their own heads in some way.

“What trickery has the wench used to enter my head? She shall pay dearly for that!” He growled, rubbing his forehead once more.

Placing myself in front of his horse, I began to think about my feelings as I gazed upon President Lincoln’s casket that April night. Tears began to stream from my eyes as memory after hurtful memory played through my mind. I felt my body begin to tingle. Trying to hold that feeling, I dried my eyes and prepared myself, changing into my Arian Empress costume.

Around me, men started to gasp and cower in fear of what they were seeing- namely, I hoped a brilliantly glowing figure of a woman. The warlord’s horse began to spook, protesting and pawing at the ground nervously. Gradually, a space opened up large enough that I could rephase without incident.

“You there, on the horse!” I exclaimed loudly. “You will come with me or face my wrath!”

“From whence hast thou come, Wanton Whore?” He exclaimed in surprise!

“I’m here for you, Lord Hathor! I believe you have been invited to a summit.”

The middle-aged man laughed heartily.

“And what makes you believe I will accept?” He shouted and quickly pulled his sword, swinging it down against me.

As with Reginold’s sword, it arced through me with no effect.

“Can you really kill that which may or may not be here, M’lord?” I asked calmly.

I heard someone grunt and lunge behind me. Foresight, in this case, was wonderful!

Again, a spear appeared to go right through me, but to no avail.

“Your primitive weapons cannot harm me, Lord Hathor, it would be best for you to come with me.” I said calmly.

“I should rather die a thousand deaths than attend you, Witch!”

I laughed wickedly.

“I’m not the one y’all have to watch out for, M’lord! There’s another, many times stronger than even I. And as a matter of introduction,” Another soldier lunged from behind me- again, to no affect. “I am Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space. I requested the peaceful dialog.”

“And I request you shut thy insolent mouth, Foul Witch!” The man laughed in anger.

“Have it your way, M’lord.” I sighed and began to concentrate- hard.

All laughter, shouting, speaking, and motion stopped. A bird flying overhead hung motionless above me; the flies attending Hathor’s beard and his horse hung in mid flight, wings still and easily seen. Even the wind fell silent as I looked around. I could feel the substantial drain on my body’s energy reserve and promptly mounted the stiff, unnatural feeling black stallion my reluctant guest sat atop. It was a surreal feeling that scared me half to death. Had my twin of several minutes ahead experienced this feeling when she stopped time to convince me to do my job that day in Norfolk? Chances were that this was exactly how she felt. Knowing the consequences of holding time for too long, I quickly placed my hands just above his shoulders and allowed time to flow once more.

“We’re doing this my way then!” I purred as our location instantly changed.

My guest immediately fell backwards with a metallic ‘thunk’. If I remembered my medieval history right, he would almost need a crane to get back up.

To my surprise, the warlord rolled over and awkwardly pushed himself to standing.

“Where am I, Demoness?” He growled and began to lean down to retrieve his sword. I quickly nudged the heavy weapon out of the way.

“Welcome to Willowglenn, Lord Hathor.” Alexandra said with extreme distaste, as if the words tasted foul in her mouth.

“There are two of you?

“Actually there are three, Photoplanktonic, archival revision!” Alex Reilly barked just as she and another, older, man in chainmail and polished metal appeared.

Our three guests looked at her in confusion.

“I believe she just called you, ‘a pond scum ancestor’, Lord Hathor.” I giggled.

“Why have you brought us here?” My guest demanded.

“Lord Hathor, we brought y’all here today to talk some sense into you three. The fightin’ among us has got to stop.” Alexandra answered- her words seemed pained though.

“Why do you suddenly speak for Byron? Where is your master, witch?”

“M’lord, I would think your demeanor to have changed after what you just witnessed? Do you not finally understand that I only answer to a higher power and not to any warlord alive on this world?”

“What are you?” The second man asked.

“Lord Darough, I am Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space. I thought I made that abundantly clear when we met a few minutes ago.” Alexandra giggled.

“But YOU claimed to be this Empress of Time and Space, Witch!” Hathor shouted, pointing his finger to me accusingly.

“She is, Lord Hathor, and so is my other twin! This Alexandra is the Empress of this world’s creation.” Alexandra gestured to me with a nod.

“I am the Empress of this world’s past, present, and future, and this Alexandra is the Empress of this world’s destruction.” She added as she motioned to Alex Reilly.

“This world’s destruction? You are not from this world?” Lord Darough quickly looked at each of us stopping at Alex Reilly, in astonishment.

“I and only I was born to this world, M’lord. I watched my beloved home become a raging fireball and successfully survived the aftermath. Because of warlords like you, my home…my ‘Homeworld’, became a blazing sun!” Alex Reilly accused angrily.

“Sheer ignorance! These three cannot possibly be this fictitious Empress! This is a bluff that Byron has invented with the help of a crafty Sorceress!”

“Lord Sangiere, you have remained silent for too long. Have you no doubts about this well played ruse?” Lord Darough asked ignoring his hotheaded comrade.

“Sirs, with all due respect, I believe what my eyes have just seen and I believe what my mind heard before. I say we hear these women out, but I would like to look Byron in the eyes for myself!”

“A well thought reply, M’lord. It is a shame your future child does not share your open-mindedness.”

“You know of my Samuel?” The oldest man of the three suddenly stared in confusion at Alex Reilly.

“No, M’lord, but your grandson fourteen times removed looked like you.”

“Looked?”

“He died in his bed from a sickness as a result of this world’s destruction, sire. His stubborn trait refused my help.” Alex told the man, her head bowed low.

“This is a trick!” Hathor exclaimed as he dared to move away from us. “I will show you how powerful these wenches are. I dare thee try to stop my retreat, demonic witches!”

Lord Hathor screamed out in pain suddenly as he began to rise off the ground several inches.

“Camille Darough, do not harm this man.” Alex Reilly called out. “I know of his name and relation, but allow the process time for fruition.”

“Why, Empress? This man represents all that has gone astray on our Homeworld, Reilly Station, and beyond. To alleviate that now would signify a complete rewrite of our history and theoretically save our home and loved ones. Why shouldn’t I just end this man’s chances of revision by deletion?” Cami argued as she walked into view around a building. Her face was only slightly flush.

“You are my relation, child? The future offspring of Clan Darough?”

“I am, M’lord. I am Camille Darough, daughter of Clive, granddaughter of Joseph, great-granddaughter of Clarence, Great-great-granddaughter of Joseph the younger…”

“M’lady, thy lineage hath impressed upon me the urgency of this meeting.” The elder Darough looked to Alexandra. “Speak thy terms, Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space.”

“You would surrender so quickly, Joseph of Darough? Such a coward thou art!” Lord Hathor shouted.

“You have no right to label any of my ancestors ‘coward’, Hathor!” Cami ordered as the headstrong lord suddenly reached for his throat in fear and rose several feet higher into the air again.

“’Lord’ Hathor, the one that barks loudest is usually first to turn tail and run! I beg thee try now, M’lord ‘Coward’!” Cami added in a dour tone, her face now bright red in a combination of concentration and rage. Her eyes burned into the sequestered man.

‘Alex, Cami’s power output just jumped way up. I’m beginning to read a slight destabilization in her portion of Avalon’s shield.’ Jack announced in my mind.

“Camille Darough, no. Please don’t fall to his level. Respect your ancestral revision and disengage the fool.” Alex Reilly pleaded as she approached and placed her hand on our sister’s shoulder. “Sister, this Hathor, insolent and rude as he is, helps unite the planet and becomes a world statesman. In short, sweetheart, he is a positive influence on our history. Please put him down?”

Hathor dropped like a box of rocks.

“Are you sure, Empress? Can your precognition absolutely acknowledge this man’s resolution?”

Lord Hathor timidly looked up at our attending Mind Warrior in terrified confusion.

“She wants my sister to vouch for your participation, M’lord. May I suggest you stow the tough-guy routine and behave like the honorable gentleman your title implies? A Mind Warrior is NOT someone to be trifled with…as you have just found out.” I translated and warned in a neutral tone.

“A Mind Warrior? Empresses, aside from what I have seen hither, what is a ‘Mind Warrior’?”

“Lord Sangiere, first and foremost Camille is my friend and sister. Her gift requires considerable restraint for it is vast and all encompassing.” Alex Reilly told them.

“A Mind Warrior is an ally and a confidant- a person loving enough to courageously place herself at the forefront of most any confrontation- to fight and protect those she loves and cares deeply for from any and all harm.” Alexandra added sadly.

“A Mind Warrior carries the power of the universe itself, M’lords. She is able to shift the mountains and rivers, displace the oceans, cause planetary discord of such magnitude that no person could possibly survive,” I paused to calm myself as I continued the definition, “to make an entire galaxy or cluster of stars erupt into a massive explosion that causes shockwaves to ripple throughout the rest of this and many other universes. Yet she is the one person that will always be there to lend a hand and comfort you should you need it.”

I wiped the tears from my face as I looked around to see Cami and Alex Reilly crying as well. Alexandra stared intently at us, as did our three guests. Her eyes also showed signs of understanding, though I wondered if it was for the same reason. Both Jacks stared at me with open mouths.

“Yes…well, if you gentlemen promise to behave yourselves, I’ll go fetch my husband and we can start these negotiations properly.”

“I stand by my right to talk face to face, Empress. Will it take long…” Lord Sangiere began to say, but Byron was already standing next to and holding hands with Alexandra.

“Welcome to Avalon, my fellow lords. I trust you are ready to forgive past actions, aggressions, and misunderstandings in order to move our world into a new age of peace and enlightenment?” Byron asked diplomatically.

“Will the Empresses attend these proceedings as equals, Lord Byron?” Lord Darough asked. “Their ladies also?” He asked looking over to Cami with a proud smile.

“I would insist on the condition, but if it would cause possible problems…”

“Neigh, M’lord, I would insist on their enlightened council also.”

“Thank you, Lord Sangiere. Lord Hathor, how say you?” Byron asked.

“I say we have no choice in the matter, but I accept the condition.” Hathor grumbled.

“Good, let us proceed then.”

It was obvious that Alexandra seemed none to happy that these men now stood close to each other to talk peace. Instead she looked on edge- as if expecting something to happen any moment. I noticed a small figure flitting directly over Alexandra’s head. Yuuka was trying to signal us.

“Jacki,” I said quickly, “Psionic shield mix to maximum, now!”

The world around us shimmered and another person appeared, mostly hidden behind Alexandra.

In a flash of light, a knife appeared at my sister’s throat!

“You will take me home now, Empress!” Peyton hissed from behind our sister. She wiggled the blade slightly to draw blood. “I’m warning you, Alex, both of you stay in phase with this reality or I will dispatch this Empress of Time and Space! That goes for your Mind Warriors!”

Three tiny women swooped down and began flying about hoping to distract the attacker.

“Call off the Pixies, Alex! I swear I’ll kill her!” Peyton threatened angrily.

“Yuuka, call off the attack and come join us. Mei-Lee, please take Allie and go back to the Keep. This is no place for a child of her short years.” I ordered. Two Pixies flew off for Avalon while Yuuka grew to normal size beside Cami. Three faces reflected the overwhelming surprise of seeing Pixies for the first time.

“Do you really want to do this, Peyton?” I asked calmly. “You know that to go home for good would destroy two universes. Why risk that just to ultimately lose everything.”

“You can’t possibly say with any certainty the worlds will end, Alex. Even you can’t see that far into the future.” She accused.

“You’re right, hun, I can’t. I couldn’t possibly see the end of all time, but can you…or anyone even define the end of time? Could the end for this universe actually be the failure of Reilly’s Protoverse containment fields? Would one person’s entry into our home universe cause one or both to collapse and form a temporal-spatial anomaly? Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if you dropped the knife and stepped away from our sister?” I reasoned.

“Stop trying to confuse me, Alex Steinert! Your scientific rabble cannot sway my feelings of this place. I have lived and suffered on this planet far too long- far longer than any normal Terran should ever wish to.”

“Persephone, Alex had your best interests in mind when she brought the Mahanilui on you. Both she and Jack wished to share your pleasant company until their ends arrived. Your change was precipitated by love and companionship, not torture or malice.” I argued.

“Lady Peyton, did we not have pleasant relations in past years, M’lady? Is not a child reason enough to desist from this folly?” Lord Nelson Hathor argued with passion.

Alex Reilly, Cami, Yuuka and I stared at the woman in awe.

“You had a child with Hathor? Why?” Alexandra asked as she strained her eyes to look back at our wayward sister.

“I did not want your gift of longevity, ‘Empress’! Nor did I ask for the increase in my natural abilities it brought about! I never wanted that responsibility! I never asked for it! Now take me back to Egypt!”

“She cannot honor that request, Persephone. This Alexandra made her last inter-universe transit several years ago, hun. I’m afraid you picked the wrong Empress to hold hostage.” I said shaking my head sadly. Alexandra glared at my admission.

“You are lying, Alexandra Steinert! She is quite able to take me home to my beloved Memphis!”

“Empress?” I asked. “Please verify your transit origin date and prove what I say to be valid.”

Alexandra continued to glare at me as if I were some kind of traitor.

“Empress,” I implored, “I know and understand the reason for being here and will not try to affect the timeline. It is something I would do in your place as well.”

“I AM you in this situation, Alex Steinert.” Alexandra growled until Peyton wiggled her blade again.

“Alex, just tell the woman your origin date and get it over with. All three of us know that the mission MUST be completed, Commander! We too have seen what will be if modified.”

Peyton jerked suddenly and turned Alexandra a little to their left.

“Jacquelyn Cummins, stay back or the Captain dies!”

Jack and Jacki settled gently to the ground off to my right. Except for the slight levitation at KV 70 in 1973 this was the first time I’d ever seen them actually fly- apparently it was the first time any of us saw them fly.

“You’ll never make it out of here alive, Persephone. Think about it before you take a life not your own.” Jacki warned. There were tears streaming from both Jacks’ eyes.

“Empress Alexandra, this mission has now moved past its point of no return. Please state your origin date.” I implored.

Alexandra sighed heavily and closed her eyes tightly. More tears squeezed out and ran down her cheeks.

“October 5th, 1359AE.”

“No!” Peyton shouted, quickly taking the knife from Alex’ throat and plunging it into her back several times- each time shouting ‘NO’ at the top of her lungs.

“Noooo!” Alex Reilly screamed and immediately appeared behind a still screaming Peyton grabbing her arms.

The knife suddenly flew past my head, barely missing me and buried itself to the hilt in a wooden building’s wall.

“Why Peyton? Why?” Alex Reilly screamed as I hurried to Alexandra’s aid.

“I’m here, sis. It’ll be okay…everything will be okay.” I said turning her over, placing my hand under her head, and tilting it up a little. There was no tingle at all from our contact. I tried to keep calm. I knew that this had to happen, but it didn’t make losing my sister- me- any easier.

“Mission complete, Empress.” She said with a smile as a trickle of bright red blood appeared at the corner of her mouth- her eyes locked on mine.

“Good job, Commander.” I said with a faint, sad smile.

“The timeline…” She coughed, “fixed?”

I quickly asked the question and smiled.

Alexandra smiled back and coughed again. “It had…had to happen this way, Alex.”

I couldn’t hold back my sorrow any longer and hugged my sister tightly, kissing her forehead. I know I had foreseen most of this but to experience it in person…

“I know.” I replied quietly as I wondered how my end would come…if I would be tasked with a suicide mission.

This had to be the ultimate torture; watching myself die in front of me! If I had thought Mr. Lincoln’s death was difficult to handle, this ranked many magnitudes higher.

“Momma Scott and Grampa are here.” She said suddenly as her eyes strayed away from me briefly. She coughed a few more times. More blood appeared from her mouth. There was now an audible gurgle to her breathing.

“Where, Alex? I don’t see them.” I asked as I quickly looked around.

“Alex, they say they’re proud of us all.” She said as her eyes strayed again.

“I’m proud of you too, Alex. We’re all proud of you.”

Alexandra coughed several more times. More blood spilled from her mouth.

“Alex, its time to go, hun. It’s been a pleasure,” she coughed up still more blood, “to serve with y’all.” She coughed even more. “Ma says to…continue the…good…work, Empressssss.”

My temporal twin’s eyes lost all life, but remained open and locked on me.

“ALEX!” I cried at the top of my lungs and hugged her for everything I was worth. I had felt a familiar tingle start moving through my body as I cradled my dying sister’s head, now the tingle began to increase significantly. The colors of the world around me started to wash out.

“Alex! Get back!” Alex Reilly cried. I felt a pair of hands pull me up and back from my deceased sister, but not before I gently laid her head down. The tingling sensation in me subsided and I could now see a building white light enveloping Alexandra’s lifeless body. The light grew even more intense and caused us to shield our eyes.

Alex Reilly and I took each other’s hand. Out of respect, I stood to attention- eyes closed, and saluted my fallen sister until I sensed the light begin to fade.

As the light disappeared, I noticed that nothing at all remained of our sister, clothing, jewelry, identification, ash- nothing- as if she had never been here at all.

I ended my salute and wondered…wondered if I were really here, or, was this all some complex illusion or nightmare. Was I still sleeping in my rack on Sand Dollar? Had we even arrived at Kili Island yet? Had I really become Empress of Time and Space at all? Was any of this real?

A woman’s blood-curdling scream brought both Alex and I back to reality.

Peyton was raising higher and higher into the air- her arms and legs frantically thrashing out for any way to stop her ascent.

Jack, Jacki, and Cami flew along in silent formation, spaced equally around their disgraced sister. Each Mind Warrior’s face looked sad, yet serious.

Yuuka started to shrink, but I waved my hand and shook my head ‘no’.

“It’s the only way she’ll get to go home, I’m afraid.” I informed her.

We all followed the four figures until they were well out of sight.

A sudden explosion big enough to remind me of a Fourth of July skyrocket filled the sky high above us. Being the middle of the afternoon and sunny, it was still very bright.

We had lost another sister.

“And lo, from the heavens, blood rained down upon the fertile grounds of Willowglenn as the first incarnation of the Empress came to an end. In her stead, peace and prosperity reigned for the foreseeable future. All that witnessed the breathtaking event vowed from then on to resolve all disagreements through dialog or debate. A new age had arrived; a new ‘Homeworld’ had appeared.” My remaining sister, Alexandra Reilly recited placidly, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“The First Tome of the Empress.” I said as my tear-filled eyes tried to focus on her.

She nodded sadly.

“Alex! Up there, our sisters are returning,” Yuuka, cried, pointing skyward.

Jacki, Jack, and Cami slowly grew bigger in our sight and finally touched down gently to the ground. All three were sobbing uncontrollably, arms tightly wrapped around the other in support.

A fine, red, rain began to fall.

“Empress,” a tiny voice called as I looked to its location.

“The armies surrounding the Keep, they have laid down their weapons!” Mei-Lee announced as she began to grow before Alex and I. “Why is the rain red?” she stuck her tongue out to taste the minute droplets and gasped.

“Life blood! Empress, what has happened?”

I stared past her for a moment as I asked myself the same question over and over again.

“Nothing that wasn’t foretold to happen, my new sister- all is as it should be.” I answered with a sad, deep sigh, wiping my eyes dry.

“Alex?” Jack asked as she dropped her arms. All three Mind Warriors turned to face Alex and I.

“Alex, she planned this…this whole…thing.” Cami wept as she spoke. “All she wanted was to go home. She always understood that it couldn’t happen.”

“Cap, it… it drove her mad…not being able to see her family ever again. This was her only option.” Jack continued while Cami tried to compose herself again. “Her only way out.”

“Alex, she…she asked us to grant her wish.” Jacki concluded as all three women broke down and cried again.

Cami looked back over to Alex and I again.

“Empress, how could anyone fall so deeply into depression that they would loathe and gladly sacrifice their life?”

“My lady. Would I have known the true feelings you had for our lands and our people…” Lord Hathor sniffed tears back. “What should I tell our son…that his mother was the sole conspirator in a successful plot to kill the Empress? How can I do that? The family will be cursed forever more.” Nelson Hathor turned his eyes skyward. “Oh my dearest Persephone, why- why even dare incite the wrath of such powerful women? Would it have been so hard as to ask for help, comfort, and understanding, instead of concentrate the despair into hate, desperation, and violence?”

“Lord Hathor, Lady Persephone should be remembered as an important part of today’s peace negotiations, for she successfully illustrated the importance of peace for all the lands of this world. She felt trapped and at wits end here and was willing to do something about it.

“She should not be remembered for this one failing, but for her devotion to the Empress both here and on our Earth, for on this day, she has obliged the Empress the dignity of dying on an important mission- of dying in battle, a battle to save this planet. She should be remembered as a hero that gave her life in pursuit of a better future.”

“A noble idea, Empress Alexandra, but what of the truth? Sooner or later all history is scrutinized and corrected.” Lord Byron argued.

“No more than it has today, M’lord, as my sister will attest.” I replied.

Alex nodded once.

“M’lords, if I may? We have a saying back on our Earth. It goes something like this: ‘History is recorded by the victors’.” I paused a moment to let it sink in. “All of us here today…the people of this planet…we are all the victors in the fight for peace and civility. We”, I motioned to everyone around me, “will record who did what…why, and for what reason. I, Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space, declare Lady Persephone a true hero in that fight!”

“But your sister, Empress? What of her?” Lord Sangiere asked. “What of Lord Byron’s wife?”

“What about me? What did I do now?” My voice asked from behind Alex and I.

“Alex! Jacki screamed as she rushed past Alex and I- to the sound of my voice. Byron actually beat the Mind Warrior to my returned sister’s embrace.

Our guests appeared dumbstruck and ready to pass out.

“Empress?” Cami asked in disbelief. “But I thought…”

I raised my hand to cut her off.

“You knew of this, Alex?” She whispered as she glared at me in anger. Jack was also shooting daggers at me. Yuuka and Mei-Lee didn’t look very pleased either.

“That Alexandra was dying, Sweetheart. This was her last mission: bring peace to the Homeworld at all costs. It was what we call a ‘one-way’ mission…a mission she could not fail.” I told them quietly as I looked to the ground and shook my head slowly. Tears again escaped my eyes.

“But she looked strong to me, Alex.” Cami argued.

“Oh that I should look so good when I’m fourteen hundred and seven years old!” I laughed half-heartedly.

My sisters gasped in surprise.

“Empress, from my welcome back I assume our timeline has been righted?” Alexandra asked, as she looked our way.

“It has M’lady Alexandra of Avalon. Welcome to the new Era, Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space.” I laughed tensely. “What took you so long?”

“I had a very long talk with Momma Scott, Grandpa, and Mr. Lincoln about the upcoming centuries and my part in them.” She said with a slight grimace.

My sister’s face became serious. “Mind Warriors, I have an urgent message to deliver.”

Jack, Jacki, and Cami all lowered their heads in shame as Alexandra gently pushed free of her husband and approached them.

“Persephone asks for your forgiveness and hopes that you all find it in your hearts to visit her in my domain. She seemed happier than I’ve ever seen her these last two hundred and sixty-four years.” Alexandra turned to face Nelson Hathor. “She also told me that she is watching you, Lord Hathor, and that you and the child be on your best behaviors. ‘Stop being such a jerk’, she said.”

Tears escaped the man’s eyes, but he quickly wiped them away.

Empresses, would it be too much to ask that we be allowed to return to our forces and order them to disperse. After which, we will graciously accompany you back here where we can come to a mutual resolution.” Lord Darough asked as Lords’ Sangiere and Hathor nodded their approval.

“Gentlemen, we will not be returning to this location, instead Lord Byron and I invite you to Avalon for negotiation, meal, and entertainment.” Alexandra informed them cheerfully. “Sisters, take a hand, we have work to do.”
 
 
 
 

Author’s Note: This concludes Season 3. Hope you all enjoyed it. My thanks and appreciation to all for taking the time to read and especially comment. Please, feel free to join Alexandra and company for Season 4 when it returns next spring (2016). Until then, here’s wishing everyone a safe and happy holidays.



If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
up
52 users have voted.

And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks. 
This story is 28623 words long.