South of Bikini 4: Episode 3- Chaos to Catch a Thief

From a technical and tactics briefing aboard Atlantis, Alex and company decide to randomize their approach to apprehend Clemson. Making another trip back to Colonial Philadelphia, Alex allows Jack to send the time thief an ‘explosive’ message. Will Clemson find an ally with clues to the Empress’ weaknesses and whereabouts? What will happen when two rats get into the hen house?

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Copyright: 2014, R.G. Beyer


 
 


Episode 3

“Chaos to Catch a Thief”


 
 

Atlantis Expeditionary Ship, Standard Year 257:06:28

“Alex? You decent?” Ricky Lynn’s voice called from out in my main living area.

“Be out in a minute, hun,” I said from my lavatory.

“Wow! Where off Earth did you get that little number, Alex?” Prof. Samuels exclaimed wide-eyed as I entered the room.

“This?” I looked down at my translucent pink nightie. “I thought this up a few weeks ago while we spent some time with Tish and her family in Honolulu. You like?”

“Um…what year was that, Alex?” Ricky Lynn asked while her eyes rescanned my body.

“2011, why?”

“You wore that ‘round them young kids, Alex? What’s gotten into you?”

“I didn’t wear this around them, chief!” I huffed in surprise. “Give me some credit. I waited until my bedroom door was shut and locked before I got comfortable.”

“Ya, if you say so.” Ricky Lynn replied in a placating tone.

“Is there a point to this visit, Professor?”

“Ya, I got the thruster banks tuned up and back on line…”

“Andie should be notified, hun, not me.”

“But,” Ricky Lynn continued, looking at me in concern then looked back at the door. “We both know that won’t be what gets them down safely, do we?”

I paused a moment while I appraised her. She had obviously done the math for Atlantis’ thrust to mass ratio. I shook my head in the negative sadly. “I knew as soon as we arrived that we would have to help land this spacecraft, Chief. Unfortunately for Atlantis, her fate does not change once she’s safely on the planet. She still sinks below the waves as recorded in Plato’s account.”

“Andie and the others, Skipper?”

“All long since departed by then, hun- we’re talkin’ quite a few hundred years in their future.”

Ricky Lynn looked relieved.

“What about my baby girl? What about Dixie?”

“You saw what was left of her before we left your place, hun.” I hinted.

“The Command Core!”

“Still intact in 2035, but under nine hundred feet of water and fifty feet of hardened silt.”

“Then she’s still…”

“Alive?” I smiled reassuringly. “Maybe you should talk to Randi when we get back, hun.”

“She knew, skipper?” Ricky Lynn asked with wide eyes.

“Everything but the ‘who’ and ‘where’, professor.” I giggled as I walked over to a small, wall-mounted control panel and touched the displayed screen. Touching a series of symbols that appeared, I turned back to my Chief Engineer.

“Dixie, any missed messages since I enabled privacy mode?”

“Yes, Empress, Commodore Celeste has scheduled a meeting in her bridge conference room at two bells. That is fifteen minutes from now. Mom,” the A.I. continued, referring to my Chief Engineer, “you are expected to provide our analysis of the QDA device logs. Shall I forward them to the display terminal there?”

“That would be wonderful, baby. Thank you.”

“My pleasure, mom. Empress, will there be anything else?” The A.I. asked.

“No, hun, I can’t think of anything else at the moment, thanks.”

“Thank you, Empress.”

I keyed up my blue, denim jeans, pink ‘T’, white britches and bra, and of course my pink footies and sneakers.

“Ready to go, chief?” I asked pleasantly as I put my diamond studs- the ones I had recently purchased in Honolulu- back in my ears.

Funny, how my nanos knew not to heal those four tiny holes.
 
 

“Empress, glad you got my message about this meeting. I wondered if you two would get it…considering you both enabled your privacy lockouts...at roughly the same time.” Andie greeted as Ricky Lynn and I entered and took our seats.

“We knew about the meeting before you did, hun.” I said as Allie and I exchanged smiles.

“Of that, I have no doubt, Empress.” Andie giggled. “Prof. Samuels, your presentation, if you please?”

“We’re up, Dixie.” Ricky Lynn said pleasantly as she got up and approached a display screen that had just flashed to life. Several complicated trend-line graphs appeared.

“Here we have the data collected from the Empresses’ encounter with my stolen QDA. The data indicate that, at the time of the sampling, nearly ninety-eight percent of the device’s power had been consumed. In other words, there wasn’t much left for any real jump to anywhere he’d consider safe.”

“So that’s why Clemson was so frantic trying to escape!” Jack said emphatically. “It didn’t have enough power to let him go where he wanted.”

“According to the destination logs, Darren’s been a busy boy.” Ricky Lynn continued with a blush as she nodded to Jack. “His first destination, which consumed seven percent, was Orleans, France, 30 May, 1431…”

“Joan!” Allie and I gasped at the same time. Ricky Lynn stopped and looked at us accusingly.

I looked around to see all our sister’s eyes on us.

“Alex, is it safe to assume Rachel goes on a mission with you? In the near future?”

“My Felicia, Jack.” Alex Reilly said. “Those ungrateful cowards inadvertently killed the original Joan De Arc that morning. That was the glitch. Felicia just stood in for the main event. Joan was too far gone for even our nanos to help.”

“I remember that!” Cami giggled. “As I recall, she wanted to scare the tunics off them by walking out of the pyre after the ropes burnt away. Instead, Alex just popped in with Miss De Ark’s body and out with a very unhappy Felicia to make it look official. I would have forfeited monetary fund’s to see their faces had she had her way. Alex, what if Clemson saved the original Joan?”

“Something for us to consider and act on later, Sweetheart.” Allie assured her and nodded to Prof. Samuels.

Ricky Lynn nodded and continued her presentation.

“The second entry was to Istanbul, 13 July, 6021BC. That consumed twenty percent. I believe that is the estimated time of the great flood, Alex?”

“Doesn’t account for the explosives used, Professor.” I stated disbelievingly. “Probably a reconnaissance mission.”

“That would make sense and explain the third trip: Philadelphia, 10 June, 1779, Skipper. Twenty-one percent.”

“It was the 16th when we arrived, hun.” I informed her.

“Maybe it took Arnold some time to gather what Clemson needed, Skip, because his next jump was back to Istanbul, 6021BC. Again it consumed twenty-one percent. Here’s where it gets complicated now, Alex.” Ricky Lynn winced visibly.

“The next logged trip took twenty-nine percent.”

“So he came back home, why, hun?” I asked.

“The destination for that trip was Hawaii- Pearl Harbor to be exact, Alex.” Ricky Lynn said slowly. “20 August, 1944, ma’am.”

Yuuka, Jack, Alex, and I gasped at once, but not all for the same reason.

“The day we leave for the Peleliu campaign.” I said, just above a whisper.

Jack and Yuuka looked at me- Yuuka because she recognized the island as one her homeland had held since the start of the war. Jack, because she now knew our next military assignment.

“Why that day- why Pearl?” I asked absentmindedly.

“As I recall, we stopped to resupply before shoving off on escort duty, Skipper.” Ricky Lynn said before she dropped her head in shame. “I think Darren saw my memoirs. I forgot to put them away before he arrived for a…a visit.”

“He’s going after Sand Dollar.” I growled.

“Or us, Alex.” Jack offered.

I thought about that a minute.

“Where to next, Chief?” I asked, comparing my new visions to memory.

“He took a one percent jump to Pearl Harbor, 10 December, 2011. That’s where the log ends. Cap, he only had two percent power left.”

I thought about it for a moment. Allie had been thinking about it too.

“Miss Samuels, how much power would it take for a trip back to 1863 from 2011.” Allie asked, out of the blue.

“Give me a minute, director.” She said as she produced her personal computing device.

“Three point four percent.” She said after another minute of computing. “There’s no way he could make that jump with what he had left, ma’am.

“He had to refuel.” I whispered. “That’s what he did. He went back to Pittsburgh! After we almost caught him at Pearl, he went back to CMU and stole more fuel.”

“That bastard! He took my new ZeroP core!”

“You made another one, Professor Samuels?” Andie said aghast. “You managed to confine not only one, but TWO of the most feared things in the universe?” Andie immediately looked at Cami and Jack’s displeased faces and rephrased her statement slightly. “Two of the next most feared things in the universe?”

“You make it sound so hard, Commodore. Reilly Research Station has twenty-five Zero Point Reactors that have been operating reliably for over fourteen hundred years. Not one of ‘em’s even hiccupped in that time.” Prof. Samuels declared defensively.

Our hostesses’ mouths dropped open.

“Tw…tw…tw…twenty-five?” Reggie stuttered.

“Well, they’re twice as big, but I managed to shrink the dimensions to fit my QDA design.” Ricky Lynn answered nonchalantly.

Andie audibly gulped as she heard the word ‘shrink’.

“To…to capture even one is well beyond our technical expertise, Ricky Lynn.” Reggie countered, still in awe.

“Hey! Can we get back on subject here? I’d like to be able to go home sometime soon!” Yuuka shouted as she flew up in front of Atlantis’ first officer.

Reggie looked on the verge of collapse.

“Pixie!” Alex Reilly said in a raised, but restrained voice. “Patience must be enabled in order that we refine and anticipate our adversary’s movements. Because Alexandra’s encounter with Clemson happened at the end of the QDA’s first power cell, we must consider his intentions focused solely on us after that.”

“Alex is right. Since he was pulled in three different directions that night his vendetta against us has grown considerably. The Empress already knows his endgame, but we have to work out his intermediate temporal incursions.” I agreed.

“Ya, and since the guy has three or four people running around inside his head now, figuring where he might go or do complicates things further- as if traveling the fourth dimension wasn’t chaotic enough!” Jack added.

Allie and I looked at each other as Jack’s comment apparently triggered the same thought.

“You don’t think?” I asked my sister as our eyes widened in horror.

“I’m afraid I’m thinking the same thing, Alex.” She confirmed.

“Director? Captain?” Cami asked, concern washing quickly over her face.

“When we were in Philadelphia, my tiara distinctly indicated three or four entities in extremely close proximity. If we were to assume Clemson was there early on in his travels, there should have been only a single indication- one person.” I told our small group.

“Yet, multiple entities indicate that the dimensional break and recombination had already taken place. Clemson had returned after he refueled the QDA.” My sister concluded.

“Where was he taking the explosives?” We both asked in unison.

“Chief, how detailed are your ‘memoirs’?” I asked after a minute of silence to process things.

“Um, well…”

“Do they contain enough information to find Sand Dollar?” I asked, my voice rising in volume and pitch.

Ricky Lynn looked at me in silence.

“Does he know about the grotto, chief?” I asked slowly, angrily.

Her head bowed slightly.

“Not exactly?” She said, uncertainly. “All I wrote was that it was on Ni’ihau.”

I glared at the redhead. “Well it certainly doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that under the highest point on the island there could be something the size of a submarine hidden! The Grotto IS big enough to hide a modern aircraft carrier, Ricky Lynn!”

Samuels’ face turned beet red.

“How the hell was I s’pose ta know the asshole was playin’ me? I thought he actually liked me, Alex! The one time I let down my guard and I’m played like a damn Steinway!” She cried before bursting into tears and running out of the room.

“I’ll go after her, Empress.” Reggie volunteered as she quickly stood and hurried out of the conference room.

“Sometimes foresight sucks.” Alex Reilly groused, beating me to the statement.

“Ya,” I grimaced, “I’ll be in my quarters,” I closed my eyes as I asked ‘how long’, “until tomorrow at three bells. My privacy mode will be enabled until then. Good day everyone.”

Once in my room, I entered a code to lock my door and another to isolate this room from Dixie then settled down on my bed. Closing my eyes, I asked the question I knew would take almost a whole day to answer: What do I have to do to thwart Clemson from destroying Sand Dollar, Atlantis-Minor, me and the crew, or all of the above?
 
 

“Hey, are you going to lie there all day?” My voice asked, barely catching my attention and pulling me back from my thoughts.

“I thought I locked that door.” I replied pointedly with my eyes still shut.

“Since when do we need doors, sis.” Alex Reilly laughed. I felt her lightly touch my forearm and of course, the familiar tingle, and opened my eyes.

Note to self: it’s better to always close eyes before running scenarios or complicated questions.

“I thought you might like something to drink.” She said, offering me a cup of what I called coffee, but what the Atlantians’ called ‘arabeca’. “It’s very frightening to see me lying there looking deleted or close to it.”

“Thanks, I think, Alex. How’s Ricky Lynn?” I asked, sitting up and taking a sip of the hot liquid.

“Reggie talked to her for a few hours last night. She’ll be okay. How’d the Empress make out?”

At first, it seemed I had things sorted out then I decided to change one detail and everything went awry, Alex. Every single time I’d get things figured out, one tiny change threw the whole game.” I complained.

“But you did eventually figure things out so they worked in every scenario, right? I mean, I’m recalling a viable plan in our shared memories.”

“Examine the proposed prospectus closer, director. You’ll see that, to repair the time stream, there is no plan. Nothing. I’m afraid the only way to proceed is to wing it- improvise at every destination.”

“What kind of plan is that, Alex?” My sister asked a little upset. As the director of Reilly Research Station, she swore by detailed plans and sometimes ‘elaborate’ alternative plans and rarely considered improvisation.

“I call it my shotgun plan.” I said as one side of my mouth formed a grin. “I’ll be using scatter-shot with no choke in this case.”

“Pa would like this plan, sis. It sounds like something he would come up with.”

“Well, when I couldn’t get any of my ideas to line up, I asked myself ‘what would Pa do.’”

“Alex, hit and runs like this will only make him angry.” Allie said as she closed her eyes and examined my ‘plan’.

“We already know he intends on taking out my boat, my crew, or me, so if we pester him like a troublesome fly, he’ll become so angry, he’ll more than likely make a mistake. That’s when I catch and incarcerate him.”

“Alex, I see here that we lose our temper. Do we even know what will happen if that actually occurs?”

“I have to take the chance, Alex. Our world is being turned inside out by this guy and I’m at the point of doing anything to stop him.”

“Maybe Momma Scott can see her way to help or clue us in on what we’re permitted to do?”

“Does the Admiral constantly check up on his commanders to make sure they follow his orders line by line, hun?” I questioned.

“You would know that better than I, sis. You’re military, not me.”

“We’re left to do things the way the situation demands, Alex. The end results determine the punishment.”

“So I take it you’ll be leaving soon?”

“As soon as Cami and Jack take control of my hand and make me unlock my door, sis.”

“Cami?”

“Search our shared memories for Camille Darough, sis. She came along with us this time.

Alex Reilly gasped as she did what I asked and found that her assistant had indeed been with us when we first arrived on Atlantis.

“Alex, this is starting to get out of hand. When I can’t remember my own assistant…”

My hand suddenly shot straight out and urgently pulled me to the touchpad by my quarter’s entry door. Typing in the security code to release my ‘privacy mode’, my door opened and revealed Jack standing alone, her face tear-streaked and angry.

“I…I…I can’t find Cami, Alex! I know she was here yesterday, but I haven’t been able to find or sense her today.” She cried. “Did he do this, Alex?”

“Jack, I need you to stay here and keep Atlantis in orbit until I get back.”

“Like that’s ever going to happen, Captain Steinert! I’m responsible for your protection and I won’t stand around idly waiting to either vanish, or lose you! In short, I’m going with my sister with or without her permission, Empress!”

I smiled as I mentally checked off the first item on my list of things that had to happen.

“Jack, glad to have you aboard.” I said, holding my smile. “This is going to be a very different mission in that there will be no specific course of action for us to abide by.”

“Cap? I’m not following.”

“What my sister means, Jacquelyn Cummins, is that the Empress will not be giving specific commands, and that you alone are to decide what you do in a particular situation.” Alex Reilly explained. “You do what you feel is right. Understand?”

“Are you ready to go, Pixie?” I asked, turning my head slightly to look at my right shoulder.

“How did you know…?” Yuuka asked in surprise.

“Godspeed, my sister. I await our sisters’ return.” Alex Reilly told me with a tense smile.

I nodded and opened the throttle for Jack’s energy to half. She groaned loudly in surprise and glared at me.
 
 

1413hrs, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Colony, June 17th, 1779
 
 

Our surroundings became darker and dust filled and we found ourselves looking at a large cache of small wooden barrels. Everything was still and unmoving, including Darren Clemson in the middle of the gunpowder cache. His finger was poised on the start button of the QDA. All around him, kegs of gunpowder fell over one at a time and began to awkwardly roll silently away from the gathering on their own.

“Why are we back here, Alex?” Jack asked curiously.

“What would you like to do, Jack?” I asked cryptically.

“Where is this place, Empress?” Yuuka asked. “And…and why isn’t anything but a few barrels moving?”

“Philadelphia, June 16th, 1779. This is where we found Clemson trying to abscond with General Washington’s gunpowder supplies. As soon as that me and her previous group over next to him releases time, he will disappear, traveling back to 6021BC in an attempt to halt the great flood again, honey.”

“How can we stop him from doing that?” The Pixie asked. She paused in thought for only a second before asking another good question. “Wouldn’t Mei Lee and Allie miss their chance of going to the Homeworld if we don’t do something?”

“You’re right, the Homeworld and the Empress wouldn’t get their necessary allotment of Pixies, hun.” I paused a second before voicing my hint at what should be done. “Something completely random has to be done- something totally off the wall that Clemson couldn’t anticipate.” I answered calmly.

“I’ve got it, Alex.” Jack declared as I noticed a small length of fuse insert itself into a keg just behind where Clemson crouched at the QDA.

“When I say now, you release time, Alex.” Jack said in a dead serious tone.

“But I’m not the one holding time, Jack. Not this time.” I replied as I nodded over to where the previous ‘me’ was standing- though just an unnatural bluish glow could be seen there now. “You’ll have to feel her strength give out because that’s what I remember happening.”

Jack nodded in understanding as she looked around us for a key of some kind.

“Now.”

The fuse sparked to life as Clemson’s hand depressed the start button and he and the diminished cache of gunpowder disappeared a split second later.

“Nice job, Commander.” I commended.

“You aren’t mad I did that?” Jack asked in surprise.

“We told you to do what you felt, Jack. Good job.”

“I caused the explosion in Istanbul, Alex?”

“It helped loosen the ground for you and Cami.” I stated flatly.

Jack’s face darkened.

“I’m responsible for killing all those people in the valley?”

“No, you’re responsible for returning the time stream back on its original course, Jack.”

“But it still didn’t bring Cami back from wherever.”

“No, but we’re working on that, hun.”

“Where to next, Alex?”

“Base,” I said as our surroundings changed.

“Why and when are we at Pearl, Alex?” Jack inquired cautiously. “More importantly, how can we be here if Clemson changed our history?” Jack paused as she looked around us. “Wait, this isn’t Pearl. Where are we, Alex?”

“Waimea, Kauai. We already realigned that segment, Jack. By assuring the Great Flood and stopping the surrender of West Point, the United States of America came into being as it rightly should.”

“Then why are we here, Sensei?” Yuuka asked from my shoulder.

“Time for you to grow up, Pixie.” I said offering my finger to the five-inch, winged, woman.

It was strange to feel her grip grow and take more space on my finger.

“Dress whites.” I ordered as her feet touched the ground in front of me. “Jack, send a message to Amy Reynolds. Tell her I need Ni’ihau socked in by a tropical depression for today.”

“Will do, Alex, but can she do that yet?”

I nodded. “She’s been experimenting the last few weeks as I recall.”

“One tropical depression in the works, Alex, though Amy didn’t sound so confident.”

“It’ll work, Jack. Just keep the faith.” I said as I turned us around and pointed to the already darkening sky across the straight over Ni’ihau.

Jack whistled in amazement.

“Remind me to never get on her bad side.” Yuuka gulped.

I smiled absentmindedly as a few streaks of lightning could be seen in the distance as the foreboding clouds began to spread toward our current location.

And they called me the show off!

“Alex, Randi wants me to remind you that Admiral Demmit needs to be back from the future by tomorrow 0900hrs to catch his ride back to Pearl.”

“Tell her I already have a reminder set, Jack.”

So, what do we do know?” Yuuka asked.

“What would you do, hun?” I returned the question.

“Sensei?”

“What would you do now, Yuuka.” I asked curiously.

“Well, I’d like to go back to base…back to Kili, naturally.”

“That’s a great suggestion, Ensign.” I said cheerfully. “Let’s go back to base.”

With that said I transported, rephased us, dropped their hands, and headed us off in the direction of CINCPAC headquarters.
 
 

“Lieutenants Steinert, Cummins, and Ens. Sukiro to see Admiral Demmit.” I announced as we approached Ens. Fischer’s desk. ‘Change your rank back to lieutenant, Jack.’ I thought to her.

“I’m sorry siiiirma’am,” Fischer stumbled a second, curiously eyeing my rank as I stood before him.

“Admiral Demmit isn’t in. I thought he was on Ni’ihau with you, ma’am?” Ens. Fischer replied in a quieter voice. His eyes bulged slightly as he noticed Yuuka.

“He is, Ensign…only not right now. Please follow my lead.” I said quietly as I spied two men walking down the hall in our direction. It was a good thing the door to this office was still open.

Recognizing one of the faces, I asked the clerk my intended question.

“Ensign, We need to get back to Ni’ihau. The Sand Dollar is due back tomorrow morning and my nurses need the supplies we’ve requisitioned?” I said with a wink.

“I’ll see if I can get a PBY from the sea plane base for you, ma’am.” Fischer said as he looked around me to the two men just arriving. He returned my wink with one of his own.

“Hi June, this is Ens. Fischer. I need the seaplane base immediately.” He said, after picking up the phone’s handset.

Both men entered the office behind us, they wore standard civilian clothing, though a little heavy for the weather. Both wore brown pants, a white cotton dress shirt, a thin brown tie, brown loafers, and each carried a brown, leather satchel.

The shorter of the two was unmistakably Darren Clemson though he looked very uncomfortable and even more, how did my future self describe him? Oh ya, ‘nerdy’.

‘Now is not the time to blow him to atoms, Jack.’ I thought to my Ex-O. ‘Tell Yuuka to hold it together too, please.’

‘If that’s a direct order we really need to follow, Empress.’

‘It is.’ I thought back.

“Hello, this is Ens. Fischer from Admiral Demmit’s office. I have three pretty nurses that would like to get back to their base and need a ride… Where are they heading? Oh, Ni’ihau…that’s right, Ni’ihau…thank you, I’ll be waiting.”

Fischer hung up the phone.

“They said they were going to check for an available flight crew, ma’am. Ladies, please have a seat, this shouldn’t take long.”

“Thank you, Ensign.” I said demurely and smiled at him and the two men waiting behind us.

“Can I help you gentlemen?”

“I believe we also need transportation to an island named Ny-hi-ha-ow.” The taller man said with a very bad pronunciation.

“I’m sorry, but Ni’ihau is off limits to all but military personnel, sirs.” Ens. Fischer explained politely.

“I’m James Spanker and am here on official Department of the Navy business and Mr. um…what did you say your name was again, sir?”

“Clemson, Mr. Spanker. Darren Clemson.”

“Yes…a perfect name for an accountant. Anyway, Mr. Clemson and I have been sent here by the Department of the Navy to audit the requisition records and effectiveness of the naval base located on Ny-hi-ha-ow. Here is the official request.”

Spanker placed his satchel on Fischer’s desk, reached into it, produced a neatly folded letter, unfolded it, and handed Ens. Fischer the typewritten paper with War Department letterhead.

“Mr. Spanker and Mr. Clemson, I’m trying to line up transportation over to that island as we speak.” Fischer replied after reading the order. “The Lieutenants and Ensign are on their way there now. I’m sure there will be plenty of room for all of you on the plane. I should be receiving word in just a few minutes.”
 

‘How are you holding up, Jack?’ I thought to her.

‘I was just talking to Randi. She just got a request from Ford Island on the radio for the weather around Atlantis-Minor, Alex.’
 

“Thank you, Ensign.” The taller man, Mr. Spanker, replied. Turning to us, he asked. “And what do you three ladies do on that base if I may be so bold?”

“We’re part of the emergency triage unit. Our submarine, the Sand Dollar is part of the Admiral’s rapid rescue and recovery project. We’re assigned to the base in case a downed pilot or shipwrecked sailor needs immediate medical attention, sir.” I answered for the three of us.

“Capt. Steinert’s crew has been very active since Admiral Demmit received approval from Washington. Ten rescue missions since the beginning of April when their unit became operational, sirs.” Ens. Fischer offered.

“And what would the average issues be, Lt…Fleming, is it?” Spanker asked in curiosity.

“Mostly lacerations, concussions, saltwater poisoning, and severe exposure, sir, although we have had a few broken femurs, clavicals, and ribs.” Jack answered.

Clemson kept sneaking glances at me while the two men stood before Fischer’s desk. I smiled pleasantly at him each time.

“Mr. Clemson, is there something I can do for you?” I finally asked pleasantly after catching him glance at me about a dozen times.

“Oh, sorry, you remind me of someone I saw back in Pittsburgh, Lieutenant.”

“I’m sorry, but I’ve never been to Kansas, Mr. Clemson. In fact, before the war, I’d never been outside of Long Beach.”

Would your name happen to be Alexandra?” He asked off-handedly after looking intently at me.

“Sorry, but I’m Allison…Allison Fleming.” I offered my hand. He nervously shook it. “That sure was a strange way to find out my name, Mr. Clemson.” I giggled.

Inside I was fuming!

“You could have just asked, you know.”

“My apologies, Lt. Fleming, as I said you look like someone I met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.”

“Oh, you meant that Pittsburgh! I’m really embarrassed now, Mr. Clemson.” I said holding my hand to my mouth in embarrassment.

“My mistake, lieutenant.” He replied.

‘You don’t know what a big mistake it was either, honey!’ I thought to myself.

‘Just think the word, Alex, and this guy gets atomized and no one here will remember a thing.’

‘Thanks, Jack, but I think I have him baffled enough for us not to have to do anything drastic.’

‘Drastic?’ Jack thought loudly. “I can show you drastic!’

‘Stand down, Commander.’

‘Aye, Cap.’

The phone rang and Fischer picked up quickly.

“Admiral Demmit’s office…yes, I now have five waiting to get to Ni’ihau…what? No, I understand…I’ll tell them, sir…thank…what? Oh maybe tomorrow? Okay, I’ll let them know…thank…thank you, sir. Goodbye.”

Hanging up the phone, Ens. Fischer looked at Jack, Yuuka, and I sadly. “I’m sorry, ladies, but all flights, reconnaissance or otherwise, have been restricted until further notice.”

“Why, are they under attack?” I asked with mock concern.

“No ma’am, Commander Smithson said that Ni’ihau was experiencing bad weather and he hopes it will clear by tomorrow sometime.”

“Oh.” I said in relief.

“It happens sometimes. The weather can be fantastic one minute then the next it’s pouring. I guess that’s the one down side about paradise, huh?”

“Bad weather is going to keep us here another night? I thought you could land a plane in bad weather?”

Ni’ihau doesn’t have an airstrip, Mr. Spanker. The only way in or out is either by boat or seaplane and you really can’t land one of those in high seas. The waves would swamp the plane as soon as the hatch was opened.”

“I see. I guess we should get back to Honolulu and reserve a room for the night.” Spanker said in defeat. Clemson looked like he was on a short fuse.

I giggled quietly.

“I’ll call a car to take you into town, sirs.” Fischer said as he picked up the phone and asked the operator for the motor pool.

“Ladies, we can share the car if you need a ride into the city.” Spanker offered kindly.

“Thank you, but we were staying in the Women’s Dormitory here on base, Mr. Spanker.” I said with a smile.

“We’ll see you tomorrow then, maybe. Good day ladies.”

“Good day to you also, sirs.” I replied cheerfully.

Ens. Fischer waited until the two had turned the far corner of the hall and disappeared.

“How…how did you do that?” He asked me.

“How did I do what, Ensign?”

“How did you change your rank and nameplate so fast? I didn’t see you do it. You are Capt. Steinert, right, ma’am?”

“I am, and I’m not at liberty to explain anything to you at this time, Ens. Fischer.”

“I understand, Captain, but…”

“But what, Ensign?”

“I was just going to say that things really got screwy around here when you first arrived.”

I smiled. “You have no idea, Ensign, though you will understand in a few years.”

“Ma’am?”

“Never mind, hun. We’ll be back tomorrow at 1315hrs.”

“Okay?” He answered in confusion as Jack, Yuuka, and I turned to leave the office.

We joined hands as we turned the corner of the hall and I advanced us in time.
 
 

1315hrs, CINCPAC Headquarters, July 24th, 1944
 
 

“Boy, you sure are prompt, Capt….er…Lieutenant St…Fleming.”

“As the Admiral likes us to be, Ensign.” I said raising an eyebrow daring him to say more.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I trust the weather has cleared and we can get back to Atlantis-Minor, Mr. Fischer?”

“Is that what you call your base, Ca…er…Lieutenant?”

“That is a need to know detail, Theodore- understand?” I said menacingly.

He nodded with a gulp. “Yes, ma’am.”

I continued. “Under no circumstances will that specific detail be mentioned around the two ‘men’ that want to audit my base. Now…about our transportation?”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll get a launch to take you over to Ford right away.” He answered then looked around the three of us into the hall.

“Ma’am,” he pause and swallowed audibly. “I may be way over my clearance level here, but…um…”

I looked down at the young man as he suddenly became very guarded. “They won’t be here for another five minutes, Theodore. Ask your questions.”

Well, Capt. Steinert, I…um…I thought I smelled your perfume in the Admiral’s office earlier today. I…I thought I heard…um…heard your voice too…ma’am.” He stammered timidly. “I’m beginning to wonder…” He looked up at me with more than a hint of fear.

‘Should I hit erase, Alex’

‘No, Jack, he can keep a secret.’

‘Oh ya, he’s Chief Fischer’s mother.’

I shook my head a few times. Ens. Theodore Fischer was staring at me apprehensively.

“There’s something very…um…special about you, Commander Cummins, and …um…Ens. Sukiro, isn’t there?”

“There’s something special about every one of us, Ted.” I said casually with a warm smile.

“But…but you’re…you’re really…really different, I mean…aren’t you?” He stuttered and swallowed hard.

“Jack, close the door and raise your shield.” I ordered aloud, again casually and without any emotion.

Fischer gulped again before his mouth dropped open.

Sh…sh…sh…sssssshield?” He stammered before jumping as the door quietly clicked shut on its own.

The poor man’s eyes popped out of his head!

“We’re good, Alex.” Jack acknowledged with a nod.

“Ens. Theodore Fischer, you are a very intuitive young man. Maybe a little too intuitive for your own good, though.” I told him with a dangerous smile as I leaned forward, palms down on his desk.

“We are indeed special- special in ways you are just starting to imagine.”

“God, here we go again.” Jack griped sarcastically.

“Jack, he needs to hear this…please!” I said, turning my head and glaring at my first officer.

Fischer again swallowed loudly. “Hhh…hear…hear what…ma’am?”

“Do you remember when we first met, Ted?” I asked with a pleasant smile.

That seemed to relax him a little. “It was about three months ago?”

“Almost, hun.” I smiled wider. “We actually met two weeks before that.”

“I’d remember meeting someone like you, ma’am! I mean, it’s not every day I meet someone as good looking as you or Commander Cummins here!”

“And you’re saying I’m not as good looking as Alexandra or Jacki?” Yuuka complained, suddenly flying up within inches of the poor man’s face.

“Aah, shit.” Jack exclaimed in defeat as she dramatically palmed her face.

“Can you stabilize his blood pressure, Jack? Yuuka…what possessed you to go Pixie on him?”

“I thought we were to do as we felt on this mission, Empress?”

“Yuuka!” Jack and I hissed.

“Eh…Eh…Empress?” Fischer stuttered.

Jack and I glared at the Pixie.

I pointed to the tiny woman still hovering in front of him. “You…normal size…now!” I ordered angrily through gritted teeth. “Stay that way until the primary mission resumes.”

Yuuka flew to our side of the Ensign’s desk and returned to full size beside Jack.

Fischer’s face lost all color again.

“You!” I reached to the man in front of me. Touching the side of his chin, I turned his head gently to look up at me. “You stay conscious!”

Again the young man gulped. “Yes, ma’am…er…er…your…your highness, I mean.”

“You’ll knock that ‘Highness’ manure off too, Ensign!” I ordered in anger.

“Yyyyyyes…ma’am.”

“Alex, we’ll have company in about two minutes.”

“I know, Jack. I need more time.” I replied holding out my hand.

Quickly both Jack and Yuuka joined hands with me as I held out my other hand to Ens. Fischer. “Take it, Ensign, that’s an order.”

As soon as he reluctantly stood and took my hand, I opened Jack’s throttle halfway again.

All noise- all talking- all sounds of typing from the other offices, stopped except for Jack’s groan and complaining.

“I wish you would’ve warned me, Alex.”

Fischer looked around in confusion.

“What…what just…what just happened…um…Captain Steinert?”

“You stopped time again, didn’t you, Alex?” Yuuka asked as she looked over at me.

“Stopped…ttttttime? As…aaaaas in time?” Fischer said as he paled once more and looked up at the wall clock.

It wasn’t moving.

“Well what do you think the ‘Empress of Time and Space can do, Ensign, milk cows?”

“Jack!” I cried. “For your information, Commander, I have milked a few cows in my time! Do I need to advance your throttle farther? We’re wasting time.” I continued in warning.

“But…but I thought you stopped time?” Fischer said innocently, but his face quickly showed he regretted it.

“It takes a toll on me, hun. Time really doesn’t like being held back.” I admitted.

“So…you’re not…not really the Admiral’s niece then?” Fischer asked shyly.

“So much for that secret.”

“Jack!” I shot back at her. “I am the Admiral’s niece by blood, Ted, and no, he’s not as special as we are- though he is still very special to us.”

“So…so you WERE in the Admiral’s office this morning?”

I nodded. “Jack, me, and Uncle Rick, Ted.”

“Alex, your nose.” Jack warned calmly.

“Captain, Your nose is bleeding!” Fischer said in alarm as he took Jack’s warning and looked at my face.

“Ya, next mah hair starts turnin’ gray.” I said with annoyance. “Look, Ted, the whole point of this little demonstration is to let you know who and what we are. First off, we mean you, the Admiral, the Navy, the world…even the universes, no harm. We’re here to keep time moving along smoothly- to even out the holes that sometime pop up. Secondly, the reason we’ve revealed ourselves to you is because you too, are important to us, hun. It’s not yet your time, but you will one day help me…help us, Theodora Fischer. Are there any other questions?”

Fischer looked at me curiously for a moment.

“I’m…I’m I’m not going to remember this…what you said here…just now?”

“Why wouldn’t you, hun?” I asked looking surprised he would even think something like that.

“Iiiit seems like you just took a big gamble telling me this, Captain. With everything I just saw, erasing it out of my memory wouldn’t be out of the question.”

“Another empath, Alex?” Jack asked, as she looked at me in surprise.

“In a few years, Jack. Right now its just pure, undeveloped talent.”

“What’s an ‘empath’?”

“You’ll find out in a few years, Teddy. For right now, I’m asking you to take care of Admiral Demmit and try your best to keep our little secret under your belt. Can you do that, Teddy?”

“I’ll do my best, Captain Steinert.”

“That’s all I needed to hear, hun, now I’m going to release time and those two men from yesterday will immediately come through that door. I need you to wipe that horrified, pasty look off your face and act like nothing out of the ordinary has just happened. Got it?”

“Aye, ma’am. Nothing happened.”

I nodded and let time resume. Immediately the place got noisy again as Fischer fished out a hanky from his pocket, held it out for me, and took his seat calmly while he looked up at me.

I winked in thanks and quickly wiped my nose as the door to the office opened. Spanker and Clemson walked in.

“Thank you, Ensign.” I said with a pleasant smile, returning the cloth.

“Gentlemen, I just confirmed that a plane is waiting over on Ford Island to take you all up to Ni’ihau. A motor launch should be waiting for you at the dock. The Lieutenants and Ensign can show you the way. Right, ma’am?” He said, quickly shoving his hanky back into his pocket.

“Of course Ens. Fischer, and thank you again for arranging our transportation. I’ll be sure to tell Capt. Steinert about your wonderful assistance once he gets back.”

“This way, Gentlemen. I said as I motioned to the door.

“After you, Lieutenants.” Spanker deferred as he stopped Clemson from walking out first.

“Thank you, kind sir.” I smiled brightly to him as we walked past both men.
 
 

Lt. Fleming, could you give me some details about your base?” Spanker asked as we walked down the hall.

“We’re really not at liberty to answer that kind of question here at Pearl Harbor, Mr. Spanker, but I’d be happy to answer all your questions once we get back to our base.”

“Very well, lieutenant, we’ll wait.”

‘You passed his trustworthiness criteria, Alex.’ Jack thought to me.

‘You might want to send word ahead for everyone to curtail their gifts while these two are inspecting us, Jack. That goes double for the Pixies, you, and the Mermaid!’

‘Aye, Cap.’

‘Jack?’

‘Ya?’

‘Clemson’s head is exempt from that last order.’

‘Now you’re talking!’
 
 

“Gentlemen, welcome to our base.” I said pleasantly with the PBY’s engines fading as it again took to the sky on its return home.

“Why were there two women here to take the lines? Where are the dock workers?” Spanker asked in confusion.

“The Admiral specified upfront that, because of the need for our men at the frontlines, we would have to take care of all land-born duties when not assigned to the Sand Dollar, Mr. Spanker. It’s something we all agreed to before being assigned to Capt. Steinert’s unit.”

“Interesting. A base run by women.” He said to himself, as if mentally making the note.

‘He just committed that one to memory, Alex, though he’s not too happy about the Admiral making women do ‘men’s’ work.’ Jack thought to me.

‘Don’t forget that women are working in steel mills, airplane factories- all sorts of traditionally male jobs stateside, Jack.’ I thought back.

‘I just didn’t appreciate his thoughts about what we should be doing back home, Alex.’

‘Try not to get upset over it, hun. He’s just thinking like a man.’

Jack looked over at me with a quirky smile.

“…So, I’d like to start examining your captain’s mission reports and I’d guess that Mr., Clemson would like to start auditing your requisition records.”

“Lt. Sheldon is our quartermaster, sir, Jacki, could you introduce Mr. Clemson to Carroll?”

“Will do, Allie. Right this way, Mr. Clemson.”

“You can call me Darren, Lieutenant Cummins.”

“Right this way, Mr. Clemson.” Jack repeated, emphasizing her disinterest.

‘Make sure Carroll knows to only give this guy our official records, nothing more, Jack.’ I thought to her as they walked over to Supply. ‘Bring her up to speed on him too.’

‘Am I allowed to mess with his head, Alex?’

‘Whatever you decide, Jack. Just go easy on him for right now…no ‘Terran Unauthorized Arrival’ security protocols. Just make Atlantis-Minor seem like any normal Navy base.’

‘Maybe just a little ‘Terran’ welcome, Alex?’

‘Jack!’

‘Aye, cap.’ She thought back, dejectedly.

“Lt. Fleming? I asked if I could possibly visit your munitions depot.” Spanker interrupted, ending my private, thought conversation.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Spanker, my mind sometimes wonders when I have the chance to look around this place. Don’t you find the scenery simply breathtaking?” I replied in a breathy voice.

Spanker glanced at me for a few moments then at my sisters as they went about their duties, while we walked.

“The scenery around here is definitely unique; I’ll give you that, lieutenant.”

Now that I knew where his mind was, I decided to hit him with some other unique things about Atlantis-Minor.

“Mr. Spanker, we don’t have a munitions deport or a fuel reserve here on the Island. When needed Capt. Steinert takes Sand Dollar to Pearl Harbor to resupply. I guess because we girls don’t have that sort of training.”

“So, what sort of training do you have, lieutenant?”

“Emergency Medical Triage, Anesthesiology, Pharmaceuticals, and a new form of resuscitation called CPR, sir.”

“CPR? I’ve never heard of it, lieutenant.”

“Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation, sir. By applying the technique, I can actually force a patient’s heart to pump blood if it has stopped temporarily. And, by using my lungs to re-inflate the patients’, I can re-oxygenate his blood! According to my instructor, if both are administered in a timely fashion and correctly, the heart will start beating on its own eight out of ten times. It’s nicknamed ‘the kiss of life’.”

“That’s amazing, Lt. Fleming! Things like that can certainly give our boys added hope for survival.”

“Yes, sir.”

“So, I’d like to see Capt. Steinert’s mission reports, lieutenant.”

“Of course sir, right this way.” I told him as I guided him to my office.

‘Jack, I need Spanker to see a very utopian office. As Spartan and manly as you think he can handle.’ I thought to her.

‘Aye, Cap, one ‘hole-in-the-wall’ office coming up.’

I noticed my guest’s eyes open wide when we entered the office.

‘You now have a milk crate for a desk chair, Cap. And mind the broken hinges on those cabinets.’ Jack thought to me

Great! I was going to have to pretend that I saw all these changes.

‘I could let you see them too, Alex. Tibius showed me how to affect your mind while we were on Terra.’

‘Go ahead, Jack, but don’t make me regret this.’ I thought back, dropping my protective wards- the ones Tibius had taught me. Immediately a ram-shackled office appeared before my eyes.

What a dump, I thought, feeling the need to do a thorough cleaning on the place instantly!

“I’ll have the reports for you in just a minute or so, sir.” I told him as I went to open one of the cabinets where I knew ‘Capt. Steinert’ kept ‘his’ mission reports.

The door swung off its upper hinge and twisted in my grasp as I fought to keep it from breaking completely. Grasping the relatively small pile of reports, I quickly tried to close the dilapidated cabinet door with one hand. The thing continued to jump off the hinge and twist open until I angrily slammed it shut.

“Sorry about that, Mr. Spanker. This was all the Navy could spare, I guess.” I set the reports down on the beaten and decaying desk.

There was a loud snap as one side of the desk legs gave way and my reports slid sideways and off the desk’s top along with everything else ‘Capt. Steinert’ left on it!

I blushed intensely.

This was turning into a tragic comedy!

“I’ll hold them on my lap after I sit down, lieutenant, thank you. My I use your typewriter to make notes?”

“Sure…I’ll bring it over.” I volunteered seeing a small typing stand near the back wall and dragging it over. Its wheels squeaked loudly as I fought to move it the few feet.

“Here, sir.” I offered with a cringe. I had a feeling this wasn’t the end of this comedy.

“Thank you, Lieutenant.” Spanker said kindly as I handed him a few sheets of blank paper.

He smiled to me as he accepted them then placed one sheet behind the platen, centered it, and advanced the page through, lifting and positioning the sheet under the platen holddown bar.

“Sir, I’d be careful with…”

Spanker hit the Return/paper advance lever and it flew off the machine and bounced a few times on the floor before stopping at my feet- the virgin piece of paper mutilated beyond use.

“Lever.” I continued with embarrassment in my voice. “I’m really sorry about that, Mr. Spanker. Let me get that for…”

“That’s quite alright, lieutenant. I expected something like this to happen when I first lay eyes on this office. I’ll just have to be careful from here on.” He said leaning off the chair to reach the faulty mechanism. His eyes were set more on my cleavage than the platen as I knelt down to help anyway.

Retrieving the platen, Spanker sat back on the chair and with a loud crack found himself flat on his back as the chair back failed. My reports flew everywhere.

“Mr. Spanker, are you okay? Did you hurt anything?” I cried in surprise as I rushed to his aid.

“Surprisingly, I am, Lt. Fleming.” He answered once I helped him back up. “How can anyone work in these conditions?”

“We make do with what we’ve been assigned, sir.” I admitted sadly. “I’ve asked Sand Dollar’s chief mechanic multiple times if he could fix that for me starting back in May. It might get fixed by the end of the war.”

“Speaking of the end of the war, lieutenant, I’ll come find you if I need anything else. You may return to your duties.”

‘I MAY return to my duties?’ I thought. ‘What a piece of work this guy was!’

‘Ya, no prejudice there, huh Alex?’

‘Just keep up the illusions, Jack. I’m re-establishing my mental defenses.’

‘Aye, Cap.’

“I’ll be in the Mess Hall’s Galley if you need me sir.” I told Spanker. He just waved me off with his hand and a slight nod.
 
 

“Alex? Alex, wait up.” Emily called as I arrived at the Mess Hall.

“Until Spanker and Clemson leave, I’m Lt. Allison Fleming, sis.”

“What kind of a last name is ‘Spanker’, Allie?”

“The fake kind, Em.”

“And what about the nerd…Clemson? Is he the one responsible for taking Ricky Lynn’s toy?”

I nodded.

“I thought as much. You do know he’s the poster child for schizophrenia, right? I detected at least three distinct personalities inside that socially underdeveloped skin of his and I wasn’t even looking hard!”

Keep your distance, sis, that one’s extremely dangerous. According to Prof. Samuels, he’s visited Pearl this year and 2011 once. We think he’s planning something against us.”

“So you invite him and his chauvinistic partner into our home? Nice tactic, sis.” Emily said sarcastically.

“Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.” I smiled evilly. She nodded.

“So, I take it that the sudden change of our base’s appearance is Jack’s doing?”

“I told her to make the base look as ‘Navy’ as possible, yes.”

“That would explain the stench coming from the two new ‘buildings’ over by the Yellow Brick Road.”

“Latrines? She really went all out, didn’t she?” I giggled while wrinkling my nose.

“I’ve already passed the word to the girls that we should still use our ‘modern facilities’. I’d hate for anyone to have to clean that site up after those two leave.”

“I already have Jack on cleanup duty after their departure, sis.”

‘I heard that.’ Jack’s voice said in my head.

‘Hey, it was your idea to get so detailed, hun.’ I thought back.

‘Aye.’ She thought back, though she sounded disappointed at the prospect.

I turned to see Emily laughing at me.

“What?”

“There will never be a dull moment around here, will there?” She said with a giggle.

“We’ll have plenty of those once things get back to normal, Em.”

“Speaking of things getting back to normal. How much has changed since leaving for 2011, sis? Yesterday, I had to distribute almost my entire inventory of aspirin to the base because everyone including myself experienced a series of very severe headaches. Ricky Lynn and Randi were especially affected as they worked on the new RADAR system above the grotto.”

“Clemson went back and changed some key waypoints in history, Em. We still have some to repair before things will be back the way they were.”

“Would one of those waypoints happen to be ‘Joan of Arc’?”

The question stopped me dead.

“How did you know, sis?”

“She was my favorite historical figure when I was a little girl, Alex. One part of me remembers it, but another part doesn’t know of anyone by that name. It’s very disconcerting, having two opposing memories.”

“You should try seeing two different realities at the same time, Em.” I mumbled.

“Now that didn’t make any sense whatsoever…even for you, Alex!”

“I’ll explain later.” I said as I poured myself a cup of coffee. “Yes, Josie, what’s wrong?” I said not even looking at the woman quickly approaching from behind us.

“Skipper, it’s Romney. She just had to go for a swim, despite Miss Cummins’ orders.”

“Wonderful! Did she give any reason for her sudden insubordination?”

“Nothing, but she was holding her head as if in pain, Captain.”

Pouring the untouched cup back into the urn, I turned and offered my hands. Emily and a skeptical Josie took them and our scenery changed to that of Ni’ihau’s southern beach, about a hundred yards east of the dock.

“Tell her I’m waiting, Miss Two-Eagles.” I commanded, looking around us for Clemson or Spanker and seeing the area clear.

“But I’ll have to get wet, Skipper.”

“You have your Reilly on. What’s the problem?”

“I didn’t want to get my hair wet.” Josie complained.

“So call up a bathing cap big enough to put your hair under.”

The athletic Navajo stared at me vacantly for a few seconds before her uniform became a dark blue one-piece swimsuit.

“Oh ya, right, but I’ll have to take it out of the braid first.”

“Does the word ‘beehive’ give you any ideas, Josie?” I asked politely.

“Oh.”

Wrapping her braid on top of her head, Josie pulled on a large bathing cap and waded into the surf to her waist. She bent over and put her head under water for half a minute then waded back to shore.

“She’ll be here in a few minutes, Skipper. She apologizes for disobeying a direct order, but she needed to get something for her headache.”

“All she had to do was come to me for some aspirin, Josie. She knows that.” Emily replied.

“I’m just passing alone the message, Lieutenant Scott.” Josie then looked to me curiously.

“Alex, is there a reason brassieres and panties are hung up in the Radio Shack? Randi and I usually keep it spotless in case Admiral Demmit arrives for a surprise inspection.”

“I asked Jack to make Atlantis look like a typical Navy base, hun. She kinda went overboard and made it look like a backwoods, Ozark, huntin’ shack.”

‘Actually I was thinking Appalachian hunting shack, but that works too, Alex.’

“Jack!” I exclaimed to the surprise of my two companions.

Emily began to laugh, as her uniform became a fashionable, period, one-piece swimsuit.

“Well, if we’re going to wait for Romney, we might as well take advantage, right sis?”

I couldn’t argue with that and keyed up my 1940’s style swimwear also.

“You know…this is going to ruin my nice, thin, tan lines, Em.”

“Like a tan sticks to us anyway, Alex.” Emily giggled as we both sat down on the warm sand.

“At least we can get a tan, sis.” I said nodding my head off to my left. “One of these days Scotti will learn that being transparent negates any tan at all.” I remained looking toward Emily and Josie.

“We went through this all before, Skipper. It’s a natural response.” Scotti’s disembodied voice answered tersely. “I’m off duty anyway.”

“Oh, well, that explains why you aren’t watching Clemson around Carroll. And heaven forbid that Spanker character would get nosey and stumble into my quarters.” I said with a smile that was unseen by her.

Scotti reappeared about ten feet away from where we sat. “Miss Cummins told me to take a break, Captain.”

“The skipper’s not serious. She’s got a huge smile on her face, so lighten up, Sarge!” Josie warned. “Just go back to avoiding the sunshine.”

“I can still feel the heat you know, and with my lighter complexion, I can’t take that much sun anyway.” Scotti replied as she began to fade away.

I sighed. “Oh, how things can change in just a few months.”

“Skipper, here comes Rommie now.” Josie informed me as she pointed out into the surf.

What appeared to be a dolphin breached the surface, heading toward us. Rommie pushed herself to standing in the waist deep water, her longer hair, dorsal fin, and the upper portion of her pectoral fins still visible. As she walked out of the water those features slowly disappeared until the old land-based Romney Marsh, also adorned in a 40’s style awimsuit, exited the ocean.

“I’m sorry for disobeying orders, Captain, but I had to do something about the excruciating pain in my head.” She said when close enough. I noticed something dark green hanging from her mouth- like dark green lettuce or something.

“Why didn’t you tell me you weren’t feeling good, lieutenant. I would have prescribed something for the pain.” Emily scolded.

“I felt I needed to find my own cure, doctor. I’m not sure why, but I needed to do this.”

“And would that be a piece of the something you had to find, Lieutenant Marsh?” I asked gently motioning to the object stuck at the corner of her mouth.

“Oh, sorry, captain, I didn’t realize I missed a piece.” Rommie said as she wiped it into her mouth in embarrassment.

“Is that seaweed, Rommie?” Emily asked, fascinated.

“Kelp, ma’am. I don’t know why, but I felt that this would help me feel better. A pod of Dolphins helped me find the right kind just off Kauai.”

“You swam all the way back from Kauai?” Scotti’s unseen voice asked.

“Well, the south end anyway, why, Lt. Williams?”

“Where were you when Josie contacted you, hun?” I asked as Scotti began to materialize again.

“I hadn’t finished the kelp I had picked yet, why?”

“Honey,” I began, “y’all had to be swimming at around seventy knots to get here that fast.”

“Seventy knots?” Rommie repeated, her eyes wide with amazement.

I nodded.

“And I wasn’t even swimming hard.” She mumbled to herself.

“Damn, how fast could you go if you really tried, Rommie?” Scotti asked in shock.

“For the record, Scotti, Rommie’s top speed will officially be listed as forty knots.” I said as I closed my eyes for a moment.

“You’ll be clocked at over one-twenty a few years from now though, hun.” I added with a wide smile.

My sisters’ mouths’ dropped wide open in awe.

‘TAKE THAT, ASSHOLE!’ Rang out in my skull and I jumped to my feet immediately.

“Alex? What’s wrong?” Emily cried in panic as Rommie and Josie looked up at me apprehensively.

“Clemson is getting into trouble.” I said, offering my hand to Emily.

Immediately after I felt her hand in mine, we were standing behind Jack, Carroll, and Clemson.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Clemson, I didn’t mean to slam the drawer on your hand, honest!” Carroll cried in embarrassment.

“HOW COULD YOU NOT SEE MY HAND THERE, YOU STUPID COW?” The man screamed as he clutched his right hand in pain.

“Mr. Clemson!” Jack shouted, almost laughing. “We don’t talk that way here- not even in jest! I expect an apology for that outburst.”

“But she should be apologizing to me, Lt. Cummins!”

“And she did, didn’t you hear her or were you too busy screaming at her at the top of your lungs?” Jack countered calmly.

“She saw me reaching into that drawer and purposely shoved it closed!” He declared loudly.

“So maybe it was because those wondering hands of yours attached themselves to her back side a moment before?” Jack suggested as Emily and I noticed Carroll blush. “You understand, Mr. Clemson, that I do have the authority to throw you off this base and into the brig at Pearl? I suggest you discontinue your obvious attempts to gain pleasure from our nursing staff and behave yourself.”

“I seriously doubt you have the authority or the strength to do that, Lt. Cummins, but you’re right, I was out of line and I apologize, Lt. Sheldon.”

The fact that every hair on my body was standing on end proved Clemson’s claim was very, very wrong.

“Please, Miss Cummins, there’s no need to pull rank. Mr. Clemson will behave himself from now on, won’t you, Mr. Clemson?” Carroll pleaded, though I believed Jack had set this up, somehow.

“Let’s go outside and come in for real, sis.”

Emily nodded as I guided us out through the wall into the compound.

‘Emily and I are coming in, Jack.’ I thought to her as a warning. ‘Dropping our wards now.’

Emily quickly covered her mouth to stifle a laugh as we came through the supply building’s door. I repeated her response as soon as I saw Carroll in Jack’s version of this base.

Lt. Carroll Sheldon was still in uniform…barely. Her blouse was tied at her midriff and its buttons were unfastened to show an extra amount of cleavage and the top half of her bra cups. The regulation skirt she wore was several inches too short and her hair was pulled back into a ‘messy’ ponytail. Carroll, whether she actually knew it or not, now had blonde hair and freckles. She also wore too much eye makeup and her deep red lipstick was applied heavier than needed. In short, she…

‘She looks like a farmer’s daughter-slash-prostitute.’ I thought.

‘You said I could mess with his head, Alex.’ Jack thought back.

“Jacki, what seems to be the problem? I heard someone screaming all the way across the compound.” I asked, eyeing up the only man in the room.

“Just a misunderstanding, nothing to worry about, Lieutenant.” Jack responded coolly.

“Well, if Mr. Clemson here is thinking he can take advantage of our nursing staff, I could have Josie make a call to Pearl. I’m sure Admiral Demmit would personally see to removing him and Mr. Spanker from Ni’ihau.”

“Aye, ma’am.” Jack responded. She and Carroll jumped to attention.

Did Carroll’s breasts bounce more than usual just now, I asked myself?

I noticed Jack’s face flush slightly.

“Mr. Clemson, I trust you are finding all our requisitions in order?” I asked, turning to eye the man up.

“So far, Lieutenant. Lt. Sheldon has been most helpful.”

“She is one of my best officers, Mr. Clemson. I would hesitate to think what would happen if she weren’t here with us.” I said, mostly as a hint that I knew who he really was.

He squinted an eye at me signifying the hint had been caught.

“I never thought it possible that so many beautiful women could be found in the war zone, Lt. Fleming. How did the Admiral manage to get approval for this from the Navy?”

“I wasn’t privy to the Admiral’s dealings with the Navy Department, Mr. Clemson. I expect that Admiral Demmit has significant pull with the brass, though.”

“That would explain a lot of what I see here, Lieutenant. All the stops were pulled to get this base up and running.”

“What we do here has saved many lives, Mr. Clemson- and in just the short time we’ve been operational as a unit!”

“I’m sure you girls have all done your part…one way or another, Lt. Fleming. I just question the sort of saving you do here.”

“Mr. Clemson, are you suggesting that we are nothing more than prostitutes? How dare you!”

‘Jack, hold your temper. He’s testing me.’ I thought to my Ex-O.

“Your words not mine, Sweetcheeks.” he answered quickly. There was an abrupt change in his demeanor.

“Mr. Clemson, this is a high security military base and I suggest you hold your cutesy retorts to yourself. We ARE officers in the Navy and deserve treatment as such.” I warned.

“My apologies, Lieutenant. I have to keep reminding myself of that fact. Please forgive me.” He said as his demeanor changed abruptly once more.

“Carroll, make sure Mr. Clemson has access to the requisition files he needs and nothing he doesn’t unless cleared by me, understood?”

“Aye, Lt. Fleming.” Carroll responded.

“Jacki, stay here to help Carroll out.”

‘Don’t have too much fun with him, Jack. Oh, and give Carroll a little more dignity, will ya?’ I thought to her.

Jack turned from Clemson and gave me a huge smile. “Aye, lieutenant.”

“Lt, Scott, don’t we have medical supplies to go over and shelve?” I said turning to Emily.

She nodded and we both turned around and exited Supply.

“That guy is nuttier than a fruit cake, Alex! I watched his personality change four times since we first entered. Jack and Carroll had better be extremely careful with that one!”

‘He should be very, very careful of me, Emily.’ Jack thought back to us. ‘And I’ll protect Carroll, don’t you worry about that.’

Emily and I stopped and exchanged glances for a moment before continuing to the infirmary.

“I’m not worried about what he’d do to Carroll and Jack, sis, but what they would do to him.” Emily said with a devious smile.

“Clemson shouldn’t be underestimated, Em. He’s got some surprises of his own.”

Emily stopped and looked deeply into my eyes.

“What do you know about him that would surprise us, Alex?”

“People from different dimensions have different characteristics…different abilities.” I replied, but paused.

“Different gifts.” I continued.

Emily stared at me for a few minutes.

“For one thing, sis, he’s stronger now than he appears.”

“And for another, Alex?”

“Well, one of him might be able to sense our gifts…or some of our gifts.”

“Does Jack know about this, Alex?”

‘I’ve been fully briefed on the ‘unique’ capabilities of Mr. Clemson as far as we know them, Emily.’ Jack thought back in response.

“Just be extra careful, Jack.” Emily said quietly to the ceiling.

‘Alex, Spanker is looking for you.’ Jack thought to me.

“Emily, I have to go. Mr. Spanker is looking for me.”

“Be careful, Alex, I don’t trust that pencil-pusher either.”

“I’ll be fine, sis. I can hold my own with that one.” I replied as I went to turn for the dilapidated wooden door. I had forgotten to reassert my protective wards.

“Um…Alex?” Emily called, quickly. She motioned to my blouse.

Looking down, I saw more of my girls than usual and quickly fastened two more buttons to hide the lacy, pink, deep plunge bra I hadn’t noticed I was wearing.

“Jack!”
 
 

2215hrs, Atlantis-Minor, July 24th, 1944
 
 

“Have our guests fallen asleep yet, Jack?” I asked, covering my own mouth to stifle a yawn. My many run-ins with Mr. Spanker and Clemson had taken their toll and I now felt the urge to drop over.

“I didn’t think Clemson would ever sleep, Alex! He just kept going and going…”

“Ya, a real first round candidate for the Energizer bunny commercial.” I said sarcastically.

Emily and Jack shook their heads at my comment, but Carroll stared at me in confusion.

“Never mind, Carroll, it’s a reference I picked up in the future.” I told her as we relaxed in my quarters, the four of us facing each other on my bed. It had been almost three months since Jack and I had last been here on base. “Are you sure you can keep up the simulation while you sleep. Jack?”

“No…but I can control how long our two guests CAN sleep, Alex.”

“I could do that myself, Jack.” Emily bragged, making the gesture of using an imaginary syringe with her right hand.

“Status on Clemson, Jack.” I said getting back to business as my Reilly changed into my favorite pink nightie.

“I wasn’t able to break the man’s fingers like I wanted too, Alex. He really had it coming after deliberately pinching Carroll’s behind.”

“Well, he had every reason to since you made me look like some sex-starved, blonde, bimbo, Jack!” Carroll interrupted angrily.

“Alex said to play with him a little, Carroll.”

“You didn’t have to bump me up two cup sizes while still wearing the same size bra and loosening my straps, Jack!” Carroll complained. “And do you know how hard it was for me to get that tight skirt off this evening? Why was I even wearing a waist-cincher, garter belt, and fishnet stockings without panties anyway?”

“If you’d have seen what Jack wears in the future, you would understand, hun.” I responded playfully, opening my nightstand drawer and fetching a bottle of polish to freshen my toenails.

“Very funny, Alex.” Jack replied. “It served to keep him off balance enough that he couldn’t defeat my simulation.”

“He can do that, Alex?” Emily looked at me in amazement.

“We’re still not sure, sis, but we’re not taking any chances. I left the decisions up to Jack and Yuuka on this mission to make things more chaotic- keep him guessing. I’m tired of being on the defensive with him.”

“So where has Yuuka been all day? I haven’t seen her except on the dock when you three arrived.”

“She’s been helping Sasha get the house ready up on the cliff.”

“The house?” Emily asked as Jack looked questioningly to me.

“The building that covers the new RADAR system. A building that Sasha will convert into her home after the war.” I paused for a second. “The home where her children will be born?”

Jack and Emily nodded, while Carroll stared at me.

“That freaks me out. I hope you know that, Alex Steinert.”

“Where on Earth did you hear that phrase, Carroll Sheldon?” Emily giggled as I capped and passed the bottle of enamel to her.

“Alex’s Cassandra…I think.”

My thoughts went immediately to my children- all four of them!

“Everything will work out, Alex.” Jack confided, reading either my mind or my sudden change of expression. “You’ve seen the restoration of the timeline. We just have to keep working to that end, that’s all.”

“She’s right, Alex. We have to let this all play out properly.” Emily added.

“But that’s the hardest part, sis! We’ve seen people disappear and reappear; only to disappear once more…I’ve about reached my limit with this guy. I’m ready to end this game and let the Empress cheat!” I declared. “And I’m about ready to lose my temper.”

“Lose your temper, Alex?” Emily and Jack gasped together.

I nodded.

“Aside from drastically changing the flow of time…and drawing the wrath of ‘Upper Management’, what else would ‘losing your temper’ entail, Alex?” Emily asked curiously. “I’ve never seen you do anything but raise your voice- especially since our Mahanilui.”

I looked to the duvet that I was sitting Indian style on and felt myself blush in embarrassment.

“Ah’ve been afraid to let mah temper take over, Emily, Ah…” I looked at Jack quickly, but returned my gaze to the bedcover. “Ah…Ah don’t know…Ah’m ‘fraid of what…of what Ah could possibly…do.”

Looking up at my sisters, I explained further.

“Ah can see how…how powerful y’all get…as time goes on, but…but Ah can’t get a feel for what all Ah can do. It’s like…it’s like Ah…well…there…there ain’t no definin’…no specified limit…no upper end to…to what Ah…to what the Empress can do. It scares the pants off me to think…even venture to think what Ah might be…am capable of…if Ah let mahself lose control.”

Suddenly, and without warning, the final few seconds of my adventure with Connie flashed into my mind. Jack’s head violently shot backwards as if punched forcefully by Joe Louis himself! She fell backwards, unconscious.

“Oh my God! Jack!” Emily exclaimed in panic as she quickly grabbed her arm to keep her from falling to the floor. “Alex? What just happened? What did you just do to Jack?” She demanded- her eyes wide in fear.

“Ah’m sorry.” I said, just above a whisper.

“What did you do?” Emily repeated, more like demanding. “Why did she suddenly lose consciousness? Her entire nervous system just suddenly overloaded!”

“Ah’m sorry.” I repeated. This time, just a little louder.

“You’re sorry? That’s your explanation?” Emily’s face was a mix of anger and pure fear. “Alex, your first officer just basically went into cerebral overload and all you can say is ‘Ah’m sorry’?”

Closing my eyes tightly to prepare myself, I felt tears squeeze out and run down my face.

“Connie and Ah was on a mission,” I began slowly. “Things went…,” I shook my head a few times in shame as much as to try chasing the memory away. More tears flowed from my tightly closed eyes. “Things, well…they went accordin’ ta plan.”

“Went according to plan? Alex, if everything went ‘according’ to plan why are you fighting the memories and appear under severe stress?” She began her interrogation.

“Almost killed us- mostly that is.”

“Whaaa…who? Who almost killed you and Connie, Alex?”

“She did…Connie done. She found her lineage weren’t quite what she’d expected.”

“But she’s half human, half Terran.” Emily stated professionly.

“No…she ain’t. She’s…she’s all human.”

“You mean Jack? Here? With whom?” Carroll gasped.

“The less y’all know ‘bout them facts the less Jack here’ll pry into yer minds.” I said shaking my head a few more times. “It’d be safer if y’all’d forget ya know’d anythin’ ‘bout this here issue.” I warned.

“Why, Alex?” Emily asked. “Why keep something like that from her, and why would she almost kill the two of you over it?”

“Ah cain’t tell y’all an’ risk changin’ the time stream, Em. Let’s jus’ say it hadda happen in order for me ta curse another Alexander Steinert, in another Universe.”

“Oh, Alex!” Emily gushed as she leaned over and wrapped her arms around me, giving me a sisterly hug. “Do you really still consider this a curse?”

“Ah do…’specially when it…when it shanghais a perfectly happy, married man.”

“That Alex Steinert was married? To who, Alex?”

“Emily Scott,” I mumbled.

“Me?” My sister leaned back in shock, so that she could look into my eyes for clarification. “That you was married to me?”

“Not anymore. Ah sa-cessf’ly fouled that up.” I paused a moment, very much aware of the two other conscious women in the room staring intently at me at the moment. “Look, kin we jus’ forget any a this ever happened and change the subject? Jacki’s waking up and Ah got ‘nough a her questions Ah cain’t answer coming.”

“We will eventually find out all the details, right Alex?” Emily inquired.

“In ‘bout nine-ee-three years.” I answered, my head sagging once more.

Emily and Carroll’s head’s just nodded sadly in vague understanding.

“Alex, she’s coming around.” Emily said officially. “Jack? Jack, are you okay? What happened?”

“Huh? What? What hit me?” The dazed woman asked as she slowly rejoined us. Emily helped her sit back up.

Jack’s eyes slowly fluttered opened and settled on me. They flew wide open.

“Alex? Alex, what the HELL was that?”

“What was what, Jack?” I asked innocently.

“That…that galaxy-shattering explosion that just erupted from your mind! What was that?” She asked in stunned wonderment.

“Ah’m sorry, Jacki. It was jus’ a bad memory of a mission Ah went on a while back. Didn’t end…end as Ah expected.”

“Didn’t end as you expected.” She repeated sarcastically. “That’s bull and you know it, Empress!”

Jack stared at me a minute more.

“Look, if you don’t want to…or even can’t…tell me…just tell me that, Alex. I won’t go searching any further.”

That was where she and Connie differed, I thought to myself.

I quickly disposed of that thought.

Jack’s eyes narrowed a second as she apparently caught a sliver of my internal slip.

“Ah cain’t talk ‘bout it, Jacki. Please, Ah jus’ cain’t.” I pleaded.

My first officer- my friend- nodded and the room was quiet for a few, long moments.

“Alex, how much longer do we have to put up with a thief in our house?” Emily asked, thankfully reverting our stalled conversation back to tonight’s original topic.

“They leave tomorra,” I paused, “one way or ‘nother.” I answered ominously.

At my sisters’ confusion, I explained.

“Wha’ever triggered this alleged audit come from someplace high up in the food chain. Ah’m thinkin’ even higher than the War Department. We only been in existence fer three months now in linear time, so why perform an audit on such a young unit?” I proposed.

“I see your logic, Alex,” Carroll agreed. “You think someone…in a secret agency maybe…knows about us?”

“That’s always a possibility, but Ah’m feelin’ it goes much farther back than even that.”

“‘Farther’ back, Alex- as in farther back in time?” Jack suggested.

I nodded. “Sis, y’all had a chance to do a full exam on ol’ Mr. James Spanker?”

“How in depth would you like to go?”

“How’s bout down ta a genetic level, doc?”

“I’d need a sample of Spanker’s DNA and access to Reilly’s Infirmary.”

“Jack, them two stays in dreamland ‘til 0700hr. Em and Ah’ll be back soon as.”

“Will Yuuka and I be safe here without you, Alex?” Jack asked with some doubt evident in her voice.

“Pixie, Ah have nothin’a interest under mah bed, so if y’all’d come up here an’ spend some time with the grownups, Ah’d like for y’all ta watch each other’s backs ‘til we get back.”

“I’m not even going to ask how you knew, Sensei, but Miss Cummins and I will be inseparable while you and Dr. Scott are away.” Yuuka pledged as she grew to full height at the foot of my bed.

Jack rolled her eyes in response to her reply.

“By the way, you need to sweep under there more often, ma’am.” She added as she pulled a stray cobweb out of her hair.

Two down-filled pillows accosted her.
 
 

Obtaining a sample of DNA from our sleeping visitor consisted of nothing more than swabbing the inside of his mouth as he loudly snored while lying on his back.

Arriving in Reilly, Emily and I were greeted by RVP.

“Welcome, Empress. It is 2200hr. July 24th, 1944. I was not expecting you for another ten days.”

“Spur’a the minute visit, hun. Emily needs ta run some DNA we suspect may be somethin’ other’n human.” I explained.

“Genetic testing equipment has been brought online in the Infirmary’s Lab, Dr. Scott. It will be ready when you arrive.” RVP said pleasantly.

“Thank You, RVP. I appreciate the efficiency.”

“You are most welcome Doctor. Empress, I have been monitoring drastic temporal shifts and sudden changes to Earth’s history in my archives- the checksums of which concern me. I presume you know about the conflicting enigma?”

“We’re workin’ on it as we speak. They causin’ much damage to yer systems, hun?” I asked the A.I.

“External Processor #3-Omega’s program ‘Asprin’ has alleviated most of the unexpected subsystem crashes, Empress, thank you.”

“Ah expect it’ll be a few more days ‘fore the timeline’s fully restored, RVP. Hang in there.”

“I will, Alex, thank you. Dr. Scott, the DNA sequencing equipment reports no startup errors and is ready for your use.”

“Thanks, RVP, you’re a dear.” Emily chirped as we walked in the direction of the Infirmary.

“Empress, if I may?” RVP added before we headed down to the Lab. “Vocal analysis and your ‘Reilly’ telemetry indicate severe fatigue and a dangerous amount of stress. With Doc Scott’s approval, I staunchly recommend you recline for the few hours it will take for the DNA analysis process.”

“I concur with your diagnosis, RVP.” Emily said in her professional voice. “Capt. Alexandra Frances Steinert. You are hereby relieved of duty pending three hours of rest and/or sleep. Reinstatement is conditional on my professional assessment of your physical and mental condition after the specified duration. Captain. You are hereby relieved.” Emily commanded as she pointed menacingly, in the direction of my quarters.

“Aye, ma’am.” I replied as I turned and began walking away. From the tone in her voice, this was one argument I wasn’t going to win.

Thinking about the unintentional, awful, thing I had done to Jack… Maybe I did need some sleep.
 
 

So our Mr. Spanker is a hybrid?” Jack repeated, shaking her head in amazement.

“He’s got Janelle Hathor’s mitochondrial genetic markers, Jack. He’s one of her descendents.”

“Are you sure he’s not one of Alusia’s?” She asked hopefully.

“It doesn’t matter if he didn’t get the memo, Jack.” I suggested.

“Memo, Alex?”

“If he didn’t take the stories Alusia passed on about the Empress to heart, he could possibly seek out his own answers as proof. That makes him dangerous to the Sisterhood of Kili. Add to that Darren Clemson’s luck in finding that one person also seeking our existence. Combined, the danger jumps off the scale.”

“Too bad we can’t isolate Spanker from Spankee, Alex. I mean, take Spanker on a little…maybe permanent…trip? Say to meet his ancient Grandmother?” Jack suggested, thinking out loud.

“Wake him up, Jack.” I said calmly as I offered her my hand.

“You two be careful, Alex.” Emily warned as she took a step away.

With our nightclothes replaced by our dress whites, I winked to my sister and our simulated, ramshackle guest barracks appeared around Jack and I.

How the two men could ever sleep on those deplorable, squeaky, sagging, steel, cots was a mystery…until I remembered it was all an illusion…and that Jack had control.

I nodded to Jack, who nodded back and James Spanker began to stir.

“Good morning, Mr. Spanker. Did you sleep well?” I asked in my nicest voice.

“Is…is it morning already?” He asked, not quite awake yet.

“No…it isn’t. This is a vivid dream you’re having involving Jacquelyn Cummins and Allison Fleming, James.” I answered back sarcastically. “Only I’m not really Allison Fleming, but instead, Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space and Jack here is my trusted Mind Warrior.”

“The Empress…” he began, trying to focus on us, “is but a myth- an old wives tale. Is this some sort of hazing?” The man said as he propped himself up on the cot.

“I assure you, Mr. Spanker, this is no hazing you’ve ever experienced…or wanted to experience.” I replied in a darker than normal tone.

“It’s still dark out, can’t this wait until dawn?”

“Jack, show him we mean business.”

Spanker’s sheet pulled down off him on its own and the semi-horizontal man rose off the cot to the groaning of springs.

Even in the darkness I could see the man turn white.

Moving Spanker to an upright position, Jack gently lowered him until his feet touched the floor. Boxers and undershirt was his manner of dress for slumber.

“Get dressed, James.” I ordered.

“How did you do that? Am I really dreaming?”

“No, James, you’re not dreaming. Now pull on some trousers and a decent shirt, some socks and shoes, and take my hand.”

“Why would I take your hand? What would that accomplish?”

“One, it would keep Jack here from ‘playing’ with you like a toy. Second, it would answer a question you’ve been looking for the answer to since you were a child. Third, it would prove what I stated previously beyond any doubt.” I answered by way of list.

“What of Mr. Clemson? Why not wake him also?”

“Darren Clemson is another issue altogether and you need not know my plans for him. Know this though,” I paused dramatically. “Clemson is more dangerous than you could ever imagine. I’d advise prudence in any future conversations with him.”

“How do you know so much about him?” He asked, reaching his trousers and pulling them up his legs.

“Do you remember or believe any of the stories passed down from your ancestors, James?” I asked.

“What stories?”

I thought so.

“The stories of the Empress. The stories told by your ancestors that lived in Egypt so many millennia ago.”

“How do you know about my family lineage?”

“Were you not listening to the Empress, Mr. Spanker?” Jack reiterated condescendingly.

“You claim to be this ‘Empress’? There can’t possibly be anyone alive that remembers that long ago…let alone be so omnipotent.”

“Finish dressing, take my hand and you shall see firsthand that I do exist.”

“I’m not afraid of you, Lt. Fleming…or whatever your real name is.” Spanker said as he tied one shoe then the other.

“Then you will have no qualms about taking a pretty girl’s hand now, will you?” I smiled, though I doubt he could see it in the faint light of the room.

“How can that man sleep through this conversation?” Spanker asked, intrigued, as he stood and looked over to his slumbering companion. I felt him take my hand. His feint, quaking, grasp spoke differently about his apparent confidence.

“He will wake up only when I want him to wake, Mr. Spanker.” Jack replied ominously. “Not one second before I allow it.”

The man quietly regarded what was said for a moment.

“So now what, Lt. Fleming?” He asked tentatively.

“Let’s go talk to your Granny about that unanswered question, James.” I suggested, as the dark around us became brilliant, but harsh sunlight.

“But my Grandmo…”

Around us was a bustling city with its citizens, dressed in varying shades and colors of linens, busily moving from place to place.

“Welcome to Memphis, Egypt, James.” I announced as I felt his grasp tighten significantly.

“How did you do this?” He gasped. “Have you poisoned me somehow…hypnotism?”

“I simply thought about where and when I wanted to go and went there, James. It was really no big deal, I assure you.”

Several citizens walked straight through us, much to Spankers astonishment.

“This…this is just an illusion?”

“No. No illusion. I just haven’t phased us into this reality yet, James. It’s been my experience to hold off a few moments before completely entering a reality. There is always a possibility of phasing in as someone walks through one of us. That wouldn’t be recommended for obvious reasons.” I said smiling deviously. “I also don’t like to terrorize the locals by suddenly appearing in their midst.”

Looking around and noticing a lull in the pedestrian traffic around us, I let our guest know what I was doing. “I’m going to rephase us now, James.”

The lull didn’t last long and within a minute people again approached, but began walking around us instead of through us, most looking at us as locals would tourists.

“Are we actually here?”

In answer I enabled my translator.

“Excuse me, but would you happen to know if the Supreme Administrator is accepting dignitaries today?” I asked an affluent looking man walking by. The man’s eyes bulged apparently recognizing Jack or me.

“I’m sorry, but I’ve heard he is attending a dedication ceremony in Saqqara today. Rumor has it that his spouse and heir are accepting audience though, Empress.”

“Thank you very much, sir, and good day to you.” I responded pleasantly.

“And to you, Empress.” He said, bowing kindly and continuing on his way.

“What did you say to him? I couldn’t understand a word of it?” Spanker asked innocently.

“She asked if Pharaoh was accepting visitors today.” Jack replied. “Think Anna Beth will see us today, Alex?”

“Who is ‘Anna Beth’?”

“Pharaoh’s wife.” Jack answered with a grin.

“Pharaoh’s wife.” Our guest repeated to himself in a mumble with no emotion. Suddenly his eyes grew wide. “We’re going to see the Queen of Egypt?” The man almost choked on his words.

“Don’t you want to?” I asked, giggling casually.

He nodded in reply.

“This street leads to Pharaoh’s residence.” I said tugging his hand gently.
 
 

1105hrs, Pharoah’s Residence, Memphis, Egypt, 2520BC
 
 

“Alex, Jacki, what a pleasant surprise! Welcome to Memphis my dear friends.” Anna Beth said excitedly as she slowly, gracefully approached us. Attached to her left hand- and gripping it very greedily- was a child, a small but healthy chunk of a boy, five years of age and no more. His head was shaved bald save for a long black ponytail growing from his crown.

Our hostess regally regarded our male companion for a moment.

“And this male would be…” she hinted for introduction?

“Mr. James Spanker, Queen Anna Beth”, I introduced as my fist gently came to my left breast and I bowed slightly. I made sure to speak Ancient Terran.

Anna Beth’s face became angry. “So help me, if you ever call me that again, Alexandra, I’ll emit a very un-queen-like scream!”

“It was for effect. Our friend here doesn’t possess a translator and I wanted to frighten him a bit.” I giggled and winked.

“What language does he speak, Alex.” Anna Beth asked in exasperated amusement after sighing audibly.

“American English.”

She nodded.

“James Spanker. Do you not know how to act when in the presence of royalty?” She questioned authoritatively- in English.

Spanker immediately dropped to one knee in response and waivered there, mouth agape, and wide-eyed.

“Very good, Mr. Spanker, now that the royalty thing has been addressed, I will ask that you simply call me Anna Beth and not ‘Queen’ or ‘Highness’ or anything denoting of regal class. Is that understood?”

Spanker gulped and nodded once.

“I’m sorry, James, I didn’t quite hear the response?” Anna Beth said with a wistful smile.

“Yes…madam…Anna Beth.”

“Better, but keep working at it, James.” She said, smiling, and patted his cheek gently with her free right hand.

“You may rise.” She added regally, and turned away from us.

Looking over her shoulder to me, she winked and a wry smile appeared. “Empress, please attend me as we walk.” She commanded.

“As you wish, oh mighty An’a B’th.” I replied, watching Spanker’s eyes bulge at my pronunciation.

“How was that, Alex? Did I impress him enough?” Anna Beth asked quietly in Terran, glaring at me first, but smiling as I joined her and we walked away from Jack and an awestruck Spanker.

“I’d be hard pressed to say he didn’t need to change his drawers.”

“I’m starting to see the fun you have with these novices, Alex.” Anna Beth giggled. “Is this one to join the sisterhood too?”

“Spanker?” I asked, surprised, as I wrinkled my nose in disgust and shook my head. “No, he’s definitely not our type.”

“No? So, what brings you to Memphis then?” She asked just before her expression suddenly took on a dark cast. “Oh! This isn’t THE time…” she gulped, “is it?”

“No, that visit is still a ways off. You’ll know months before my arrival that the time is at hand.” I then thumbed back to my guest companion. “James here is a distant descendent of either Janelle Hathor or Alusia. Being that they share mitochondrial DNA, Emily couldn’t say for certain and neither of the Randi’s was available to scan his revisionary code- not that he would’ve let them do that.” I thought about that for a moment. “Ew, or maybe he would have.”

“I trust you have a purpose in bringing him here, Alex?” Anna Beth giggled at my sudden change of tone.

“He inadvertently met up with a man,” I felt my pleasant demeanor fade as I thought about Clemson. “A man you might catch a glimpse or hear rumor of in the not so distant future.”

I tried to persuade a smile back to my lips and got back on track.

“James Spanker’s ancestral lines come back to either Hathor or Alusia as I said. He is definitely part Terran or Homeworlder- or ‘Gypsy’ as some call themselves in my time. Unfortunately, he has not heeded the stories of the Empress and seeks to prove her existence by any means possible. Somehow, he found out about a military unit comprised of men and women of the Navy. In my time, men and women serving alongside each other is still about sixty years away. It apparently piqued his interest as well as some other yet unknown parties enough to request, and receive permission to ‘audit’ my base.”

“This other man you briefly mentioned, you have no love of him?”

“Darren Clemson seduced and stole from my chief engineer, Anna Beth. He absconded with a time machine that Ricky Lynn had been perfecting.”

“A time machine? Why on Earth would she build such a device when she has you?”

“Ricky Lynn is constantly conceiving of and designing things that try my…that try to duplicate the varied gifts of her sisters. I guess you could say it’s one of her quirks.”

She shook her head several times with closed eyes and a slight grin.

“So this man, Darren Clemson. You think he will come here, to Egypt? For what purpose?”

“In all cases to this point he has tried to change the past to follow what he believes it should be- mostly what published historians theorized the past to be. In some cases, if he deems a favored historical figure has been given a ‘raw deal’, he changes it for a positive outcome. At least that seems to be our observation thus far.”

“Does he not realize the folly in that endeavor? Things happen for a reason! He could just as easily erase himself in the process. Billions of people, past, present, and future would die…or have never lived from such callous assumptions!”

“Hence the reason I’m here now- to try and keep critical information out of his reach; critical information about you, Egypt, us; information in the form of James Spanker. His handed-down stories of Alex Reilly, me, and Egypt could give Clemson the ammunition he needs to do serious harm to the Empress…possibly delete us…all of us entirely.”

Anna Beth stopped walking instantly and clapped her hands loudly at a nearby man servant.

“Have Lady Jacquelyn and the man called Spanker taken to my antechamber immediately. Also send word to my niece, Lady Alusia, that I require her presence there as well.” She ordered the man somewhat harshly and loudly.

At my expression toward her gruff command to the older gentleman, she replied, “Uhj is almost deaf, having lost most of his hearing during a raid on Hathor’s temple.” Anna Beth dropped her gaze to the granite floor. “I was to blame for his hearing loss. I simply could not fight that hell-spawned, malevolent suit.” She continued, looking back up into my eyes pleading for my forgiveness.

“I understand. I take it you felt so bad that you gave him a job here, at the residence?”

“The poor man can only hear the loudest, sharpest of commands I’m afraid. He is a constant reminder to me that life is cruel and can be changed drastically in an instant, Alex.”

“Try watching people that you know and love disappear instantly in front of you.” I mumbled as we continued walking down a wide, magnificently decorated hallway.

Anna Beth again stopped abruptly and turned to face me.

“By the Lords, is that what you…? Why, I can’t imagine what I would do given the situation!” She said, as she pulled free of the boy’s hand and wrapped her arms around me in compassion. “Alexandra, I’m here for you, you know that right?” She told me, leaning back slightly and shaking her head up and down several times to convince me of that heartfelt fact.

“Thanks. All I can tell you about it was that it hurt me, Anna Beth. It really, really hurt- like somebody kicked me in the stomach. It actually took me a few minutes to realize that…that I was the only one capable of doing anything about it- that I was the last line of defense. I never signed up for that much...”

“Djedefre, Alexandra needs some of my attention right now. Please!” She said to the small boy that started reaching for her hand tenaciously.

“Alex, as military officers, we’re trained to handle the unexpected…the unknown. A wise Commander once told me something to that effect.” My hostess comforted with a gentle smile as she squeezed harder for a moment then released me and reclaimed her child’s insistent hand. She slowly crouched down to the boy’s level.

“Djedefre, you must understand this one, very important, thing…your father may have the weight of all Egypt on his shoulders, but Empress Alexandra…she has the weight of all the known universes on her’s. My dear son, without her the Gods and Goddesses of this world would not exist, let alone get along with each other as little as they do.”

I gasped. “But that’s…” I started to argue, but Anna Beth raised a hand to cut me off.

“Now say you are sorry for interrupting my efforts to calm her, son. But please, never ever forget that Alexandra is very, very humble and never wishes to be worshiped…only befriended. Now what do you say to her, Djedefre?”

“I’m ssssorry, Empress.” The young boy mumbled timidly, looking up at me.

I too crouched down to his level.

“I accept your apology, Djedefre, son of Khufu, but I insist you call me by my given name, Alexandra- Alex if you wish. I don’t like to be called Empress by my friends, do you understand?”

“I do, Alexan…Alex.” The boy answered with a shy smile.

“Good.” I said as I offered my forearm to him. His small hand barely grasped the midpoint of my forearm in the gesture of friendship. “Want to see something amazing?” I asked, changing the subject.

The boy nodded and I glanced up to his mother. Anna Beth nodded her permission, but rolled her eyes in annoyance.

“If you and your mother would take my hand, I’ll take us to your mother’s antechamber.” I told him excitedly.

“We’re almost there, Alex.” He said, wrinkling his nose slightly in disappointment.

“We’ll see, my young Pharaoh.” I said with a wink and a devious grin. I offered mother and son my hands.

Once taking hold, Anna Beth’s large, private sitting room suddenly surrounded us.

“I think my way is much faster.” I stated, looking down at the youngster, whose eyes were now popping from his head. His mouth formed, but didn’t quite verbalize, the word ‘wow’ as he looked around us.

“Show off!” Anna Beth accused with a grin.

“How…how did you do that, Alex?” The boy asked innocently.

“It’s a gift I received a while back, hun.”

“A gift? From who?” He inquired.

“It was a gift from someone way out there.” I answered, pointing up into the sky after a minute of wondering how to tell the small child.

“Her father- in the very first universe- bestowed her the gift, Djedefre. Alex tries to use it to help people in extreme need and she never, ever abuses her gift- or the power that gift gives her for greed or personal gain.”

“Did you help momma, Alex? I heard Poppy talking with Momma one night, and that the Empress…you…had helped momma kill her demon side and bring her safely back home, and, and that I was the miracle they never ‘spected without the Empress’ kindness.”

“I did help your momma, hun, but to be completely honest she had that demon practically vanquished before I even got there.” I said with a big smile. “Your momma’s a very strong, very powerful, warrior and I’m sure, had I not arrived, she would have defeated that demon all by herself.”

I heard Anna Beth sniff back a tear or two and felt her hand squeeze mine a little tighter.

The boy’s eyes widened in renewed respect and admiration for his mother.

“As for your arrival…well, all my sisters and I did was heal your momma’s wounds from the battle. You’re Momma and Poppy did the rest, hun,” I added with a wink.

“Anna Beth. Lady Jacquelyn and James Spanker.” A different manservant announced from the partially opened, outer door. Jack and a very humbled James Spanker entered silently.

“Welcome to my chambers, James Spanker.” Anna Beth almost decreed. “Come, take a seat. Refreshments will be available shortly.”

She then looked up to the ceiling.

“Meridian, could you bring the nourishment station online in my situation room?” Anna Beth requested as she looked at me and winked. “And could you cue the American cuisine files that Empress Alexandra uploaded on her last visit?”

“Food Station Beta-four-alpha is now operational and readied for ‘American Cuisine’, Anna Beth.” The A.I. announced from unseen loudspeakers.

Spanker, though not understanding the language, looked around the room in confusion, not having experienced anything like a computer before.

“Help yourself, James.” Our hostess said in English, pointing to an opening wall panel to our left.

When he didn’t move, I walked past him to the station and, because we had left Atlantis-Minor at one in the morning, casually ordered my favorite breakfast.

“Meridian, I’d like a four-stack of buttermilk pancakes, butter between each, plenty of maple syrup, and a cup of Empress Blend coffee, black, please.”

“Welcome back, Alex. Did Randi come with you this time?” The A.I. asked eagerly in English.

“No, I’m sorry, hun, but both Randi’s were occupied and couldn’t come. Maybe one of them will come next time.”

“Oh, tell them that I look forward to their visit, Alex.”

“I’ll pass that along, hun.” I said with a smile as I took my tray from the food station and walked past Spanker with a pleasant smile. His expression was priceless as he covertly sniffed my selection in passing.

“Your turn, hun.” I said as I placed my tray down on a small table beside the chair that I picked. “Better get yours before Jack cleans out the station.” I giggled.

“Not funny, Alex,” Jack grumped, “For your information, I’m not that hungry at the moment!”

“By the Lords, the end of the world IS coming!” Anna Beth laughed.

Jack tilted her head to the side, scrunched up her face, and stuck out her tongue at our hostess.

Young Djedefre began laughing uncontrollably at her comical response.

“That is the hardest he’s laughed in a while, Jacki. You certainly are good with children…when are you going to have some of your own?” Anna Beth asked with a pleasant smile.

“I have a daughter, Constance, and a granddaughter- whom I have yet to meet, Anna Beth. I thought you already knew that.” Jack answered in slight confusion.

Spanker choked as his eyes bulged.

“I did, Jacki, but apparently James didn’t.” She laughed. Her attention centered on her male guest.

“Does the fact that a young woman- apparently in her earliest twenties- saying she has a granddaughter bother you, James?” She asked then looked at me. “Alex, care to tell James of your children?”

I smiled as fond memories filled my mind. “I have three daughters and one son. Cassandra and Samantha are seventy-six and seventy-three, respectively. Alexis was born in Citadel on the planet Terra, and is seventy-one. Alexander was born in San Diego and is seventeen. Alexis has three children; two girls, Samantha and Alexandra and a boy, Nathan. My youngest granddaughter Alexandra also has a girl of her own.”

“But neither of you looks older than twenty-one!” Spanker gasped again.

“I’m around forty-seven now, Mr. Spanker.” I said casually, noting Jack’s eyes bulge.

“Oh my God, Alex! Where have you been?” She gasped in astonishment.

“I’ve…I’ve been around, Jack.” I answered simply.

“Apparently.”

Anna Beth looked at the three of us for a while before saying anything.

“Meridian, has my niece arrived at the residence yet?” She finally asked the A.I.

“Lady Alusia is in the main hall and moving in your direction at a faster pace than usual.”

“Thank you. Lock the doors and acoustically seal the room after she enters, please.”

“As you wish, Anna Beth.”

Nodding to the ceiling, our hostess looked at Spanker.

“The room will be isolated from the outside world so that we can discuss more…sensitive topics, James.” She informed the man.

The sound of him swallowing hard echoed through the quiet room- a quiet that was only broken by my fork touching my empty plate. I gracefully stood and returned my dishes to the processor.

“You called for me, Anna Beth?” Alusia asked as she hurried into the antechamber. She stopped dead in her tracks as she saw Jack and I. “But…didn’t you…just…Empress?” She stumbled uncomprehendingly.

“Hello, Alusia. It’s been a long time.” I said pleasantly. “How are the children?”

“I…I haven’t had a chance to see…them…yet…Empress…I…”

“I want to thank you for helping my sister help me, Alusia. You did a fine job counseling me when I needed it most.”

“Thank…thank you…ma’am.” She stammered as I stopped in front of her and gave her a friendly hug.

There was a loud click of a lock being thrown and all outside noise ceased.

“What just happened?” Spanker asked in horror.

“I simply made sure that we were not disturbed, James. Weren’t you listening?” Anna Beth looked at him with an evil smile.

“Empress, who is this man? He reminds me of a cousin from back in the old country.” Alusia asked as she stared, unblinking at the frightened man.

“He claims his name is James Spanker, hun. We’re not sure if that’s his real name or what.” I said then set my translator to automatic.

“Are you gypsy?” Alusia asked in German. The man just looked at her in confusion.

“Are you gypsy?” She asked again in Polish.

“How did you know that?” He replied in the language.

“Jansk? Is it really you?” Alusia’s face grew excited.

“How do you know that name?”

“Jansk, I thought you dead! How did you ever make it out of the occupation? Did anyone else get away?” she continued in elation.

“I…I don’t know what you are talking about! I don’t know you, woman.”

Alusia’s face fell. “I…I guess you wouldn’t. I’ve…I’ve changed since…since we last met.”

“Did I mention that Jack and I found and rescued Alusia from a secret Nazi weapons research facility in the Wenceslaus region of Poland?” I told the perplexed man. “Maybe you know of a man named Lusius- an underutilized scientist of some sort?”

Alusia glared at me angrily.

“I knew a Lusius before I escaped the Nazis. I heard rumor that he was caught last year, according to a contact I still have in Warsaw.”

The raven-haired girl blushed profusely.

“Meet your great, many times removed, grandmother, James.” Anna Beth interrupted with an annoyed tone in her voice. “Now say hello and stabilize yourself so that Alex, Jacki and I can get on to the real reason she brought you here.”

“I’m Lusius, Jansk.” Alusia blurted out to our surprise. Anna Beth looked suddenly to her niece in shock.

“At least…at least I was until I met the Empress.” Alusia continued in a quieter voice.

“That’s impossible. The Lusius I knew was a strapping man of six feet.” James replied then looked around at us in guilt.

“Yes I was. And I was a lost soul in need of guidance, Jansk- proper guidance. I found that in the Empress of Time and Space.”

“You can’t be him! That would mean that she somehow…”

“Knowing how you got here…is that so impossible now?” Alusia countered brazenly.

Again, Anna Beth looked at her niece in amazement.

“Lusius, how could you agree to such a thing?”

“Jansk, the Empress…she gave me a choice…several actually.”

“And this was your choice?”

“I am glad that I made it, cousin! The other choices offered me provided for no practical life. Here, in this form, I have made a difference…both here in Egypt and with the Empress in her travels. My life has meaning again…I have a purpose… Jansk, I have found love.”

“Why? Why would you choose this…this life…as…as…as a woman?”

“Understand what I was going through, Jansk. While you escaped the Nazi rule, I was forced into a nightmare from which there seemed no escape. My life was finished after I created another weapon for them to use on the world. The Empress offered me a new life- a new start.”

“As I recall, you fought me tooth and nail, hun. You claimed that you would rather rot away in a crowded Turkish prison than be offered a second chance.” I argued.

“Had I realized what you told me of my future then, I would have chosen quickly and accepted the charity offered me.”

“Hindsight truly is twenty-twenty.” I agreed.

“So is your foresight, Empress.”

“Not lately it isn’t, hun. I’m afraid the Empress has been dropping in her stats since Mr. Clemson arrived.

“Who is Mr. Clemson? Neither you nor the Director said anything about this Mr. Clemson before we left Terra Nuevo earlier today.” Alusia asked in confusion.

“Terra Nuevo? Is that another planet? You’ve been to another planet, Lusiu…Alusia?” Spanker gasped.

“Several.” Alusia admitted calmly. “And several universes as well, though I prefer travel within this universe as the pain involved to leave it is worse than labor and delivery.”

“Labor and…and delivery? As in children?” James asked, dumbstruck.

“I have three children, yes. And I shall have three more if my husband is willing!” Alusia announced proudly.

“You see, Jansk, I have found my purpose. There is a new richness in this second life I’ve been given. I help the Empress in her mission to repair the time flow. I have a family and good friends that I can rely on, but most of all, Jansk,” Alusia sniffed and wiped at her eyes- careful to not smear the heavy eye shadow and mascara worn by the ‘fashionable’ women- and men- of Egypt.

“Most of all, I have found myself. Next to ‘Love’ that is the most important…for if one cannot know one’s self, no amount of love can compensate or heal.”

The antechamber was quiet for a few long moments- even young Djedefre stared at his cousin silently.

“Alusia, my niece. What has happened to you?” Anna Beth asked in wonder. “You have finally blossomed into the woman I knew you could be. The strength and commanding presence shown just now, I…I like it!”

“Thank you, my lady, but I must admit that the Empress is strictly to blame. If not for her previous predicament, the confidence just seen would be not.” Alusia looked over at me. “Alex, because of you…you made me realize…realize that other people’s…that my problems were miniscule compared to many others…I…I can help them…like I helped you…like you helped me…ma’am.”

“Empress,” Anna Beth said as she approached me excitedly, “You have done the impossible! You have given me the strong-minded, but fair woman, friend, and confidant you promised me those many years ago. I am forever grateful, my friend.”

Anna Beth wrapped her arms around me and kissed my forehead. She immediately released me and took Alusia into her embrace.

“I have been waiting this day for seven long years, my wonderful niece!”

“So…what am I here for…again?” James asked in a quiet, frightened voice.

“You are here because the Empress thinks you need to be here for some valid reason, Jansk. Must you be so thick-headed?” Alusia responded- to our surprise.

‘You know…they say it takes one to know…’

‘Jack! Don’t spoil the moment, hun.’

‘Aye, Cap.’

“Alusia is right, James. You can help us in our cause.” I said aloud as I gave Jack an angry frown.

“The man you arrived at my base with yesterday; Darren Clemson. He is not what he claims. The man has stolen a device from one of our sisters in the future. By using this device he has already compromised several of Earth’s historical waypoints…waypoints that, though small and somewhat insignificant, define your immediate present and the future of us all.

“It sounds like he stole a time machine. Is that even possible? What are these ‘waypoints’ you speak of, Empress?”

“Maybe, and yes, James.” I said answering the first two questions. “A waypoint is an event or action in Earth’s past, present, or future that helps steer our timeline and keep it on course. Waypoints are things that need to happen and should not be changed or catastrophic results could arise. For me, waypoints are fixed points in time that I can rely on like guideposts to tell me where I am when traveling- like a map.”

“And because of Clemson these waypoints…one or more have been compromised?”

“A lot of people…our sisters as well have simply disappeared- ceased to exist because of it. I cannot tell you how many more innocents have vanished because of one man’s ignorance, shortsightedness, and greed.”

“So where do I come into all of this?”

Anna Beth, Jack, Alusia, and I looked expectantly at the only adult male in the room.

“We expect you to understand the ramifications if you release information in the form of those ‘old wives tales’ you’ve heard and ignored while growing up, James.” I told him. “Clemson is a dangerous adversary. He is many different persons in one body and very unstable mentally.”

“”But how could hearing the old stories…”

“You’re here in Egypt, aren’t you?” I countered quickly.

“Well, yes, I think I’m here…”

“She’s right! A damn, hard-headed, fool!” I groused, ready to give up and just leave him here.

“Jansk!” Alusia shouted, surprising all of us in the room. “The Empress is asking for your help…help only you can provide! Because you are traveling with this man, you have the choice of either revealing everything that you know about Alex, her supposed powers, her means of travel, the places she’s said to have visited, things that he could possibly use to destroy her and everything she’s accomplished…or…” Alusia stopped abruptly and gazed up into the man’s eyes to intimidate him.

“Or you can hold your tongue and help us remove the threat to this universe! Keep this man from learning anything about the Empress of Time and Space.”

“Damn, girl!” Jack said absentmindedly, impressed by her speech.

“What if he were to suspect that I’m not being honest with him?”

“He’d probably try to kill you too, hun. But what would that matter if he so thoroughly changes the timeline that you cease to exist anyway?” I stated and asked logically.

You want me to risk my life for you and your ‘sisters’?”

“You coward!” Alusia shouted in almost uncontrolled rage, spittle flying from her mouth. Stomping back over to him, reaching up, and poking his shoulder, she continued. “You can only think of yourself when the Empress risks her life constantly to protect this whole universe from spiraling down into oblivion- your sorry, greedy soul included?”

Alusia looked over to me, her eyes ablaze with anger.

“Alex, do you have your flask on you? I should like to force some water down this man’s throat! Or might you possibly have a prepared dart as you administered the Mahanilui to me?”

“That was never in his future, hun. The person presently known as James Spanker will not be joining the Sisters of Kili.”

“Join the sisters of…” Spanker’s eyes opened wide as the realization hit. “You would have me transform into a woman, Lusius? This can’t be real!”

“My name is Alusia, loving mate of Khafre, nephew of pharaoh, and yes…a thousand times yes, if it would get you to think of someone other than yourself! How dare you assume this is all an elaborate hallucination! This is the real world slapping you hard in the face, Jansk! Time to man up and do your part!”

“By the Lords of Terra.” Anna Beth murmured dumbstruck by what she had just witnessed.

‘Alex? What exactly happened on this previous mission Alusia went on?’ Jack thought to me.

‘I told you I can’t talk about it, Jack.’

‘I just want to know if you brought the right Alusia back, that’s all. Where’d she get the stones?’

‘They were always there, Jack. She just needed the confidence.’ I thought back and physically smiled to her.

‘Wow!’

I nodded while my smile grew bigger.

Alusia was in front of me now. I was too busy thinking to Jack to see her approach.

“Empress,” She started- her voice serious and commanding. “Jansk will gladly comply with anything you can suggest he do that will help keep our sisterhood safe. Won’t you, Jansk?” Her voice growled as she turned back to the defeated-looking man.

He nodded wearily, looking quite stunned to have his butt so thoroughly reamed by the raven-haired firecracker of a woman.

“Empress, look to the future and see what this man would do to protect us from this Darren Clemson?” Alusia asked looking back to me intently.

Anna Beth, Jack, Djedefre, and Spanker looked to me expectantly.

‘Wow! No pressure there, Ale…’

‘Jack!’ I thought back before closing my eyes to run the possibilities.
 
 

“Pay up, Anna Beth! I told you this wouldn’t take her so long. Alex already had most of the options worked out before we left base,” I heard as my eyes opened to Jack holding out her hand with a huge smile on her face.

“Jack?”

“Yes, Alex.”

“Never bet with the Queen of Egypt. Wars have been started for less.” I advised as I blinked a few times. “How long.”

“Just an hour, Cap. I knew it wouldn’t…”

I held up my hand to stop her from saying anything more.

Little Djedefre ran over to me and wrapped his arms around my left leg. “Alex, are you alright? You had me so scared you had become a statue.”

“I’m sorry to have frightened you, hun, whenever I have some serious thinking to do I stiffen up and don’t move for a long time,” I told the boy. “Sometimes I even do it with my eyes open the whole time. I’m perfectly fine though, honest.”

The young, future Pharaoh squeezed my leg tighter. “I hope so. I like you, Alex.”

“And I like you too, Djedefre.”

“Well, Empress?” Alusia asked as she stood gracefully from her seat and approached me again.

Looking past her, I set my eyes on James Spanker.

“What do you think you should do, Mr. Spanker?” I asked.

Alusia huffed loudly as she turn toward him and dramatically put her hands on her hips. Spanker just looked at me dumbly.

“Answer her, you clueless fool!” Alusia growled impatiently.

“How am I to answer a question I have no understanding of? I would just assume leave your base and never look back, Lt. Flem…Empress.” Spanker replied.

Alusia turned away and growled in fury at his reply.

“Good answer, hun, and the name is Commander Alexandra Francis Steinert. Sand Dollar is my boat, Mr. Spanikurz”, I said evenly as a devious smile appeared on my face.

“What?” Alusia choked as she stopped and turned around to stare at me. She obviously knew the name of the man that turned Lusius in to the Gestopo to gain his own freedom.

“We’ll drop James off on Oahu and make Clemson think he was just imagining having a partner- simple as that.” I said as Alusia glared daggers at her ‘cousin’.

“So I get to mess with the little dweeb’s mind some more, Alex?” Jack asked excitedly.

I nodded.

“YEEEEESSSSSS!” Jack shouted, pumping her right arm up and down a few times in victory.

“It’s the simple things in a Mind Warrior’s life that make them the happiest.” Anna Beth chirped before laughing outright.

“Empress?” Alusia questioned in an angry tone. “I don’t understand. You have just revealed yourself to this man…a complete stranger, a coward, and a traitor as well. Yet you claim he is not to join the sisterhood? I find myself completely and utterly baffled by such an action.”

“My sister,” I began as I approached her this time and placed my hand on her shoulder. “This man is of your bloodline therefore he is family. I believe he can be true to his word and that he will keep our secret given the proper motivation. If you have another opinion, you are most definitely welcome to express it.”

“But what is to keep him from revealing anything of us? He has not given his word as yet- not that he can be trusted. And just because he is my descendent we cannot expect his word to mean anything or even last beyond these walls.”

“Alusia, sweetheart?”

“Empress?”

“A second chance does not have to be as radical as the Mahanilui.”

Alusia thought about that for a moment as she looked sternly between Spanikurz and I. Her head and gaze lowered.

“I understand, Empress, but I caution you all the same.”

I wrapped my arms around the raven-haired young woman. “You’ll do, hun, you’ll do.” I said softly as I winked to Anna Beth and received a smile from her in understanding.

“I really cannot understand what is going on here. I understand that you brought me back to meet my ancestor, Empress, but as to what else is going on here…it all seems chaotic and unstructured. Was the purpose to have my maternal ancestor scold me for not believing the stories of you? Or…or was it to prove you exist? Or was it to reveal to me that my cousin is somehow my grandmother many times removed?”

“Yes.” I answered.

“Yes what?” He countered.

“Yes to all questions, James. All of the above” I smiled and continued. “Yes, to prove that I exist. That is the question you have been asking yourself from an early age, is it not?”

I waited for him to answer. A shrug of his shoulders would suffice.

I continued.

“Yes, I wanted you to know that Lusius/Alusia is indeed your greatest grandmother. I wanted your lineage proven to you beyond a shadow of a doubt. Has it been?” I said as I waited. I could also see that Alusia was getting fed up with his nonverbal responses.

Another shrug sufficed.

“Yes, you needed to know the seriousness of the situation now affecting everyone on this and every other habitable planet in this universe. You have no comprehension as to how many different solar systems and galaxies are affected by Earth through its many periods of history- how many universes stand to destabilize if this Earth’s history is drastically changed!”

I didn’t wait for an answer and continued.

“And yes, Jansk Spanikurz, things must be chaotic so Darren Clemson hasn’t a clue about his impending capture, trial, and imprisonment. He must be forced into losing what little control he thinks to have as it affects history, only then can we restore things to what they were.”

“Many universes, galaxies, and solar systems, you claim?”

“The Empress has visited at least three universes, Jansk. I had just returned from one three levels out before being summoned here.” Alusia informed him.

“And I hail from a planet one hundred and eight light units away. My ship became caught in a temporal anomaly…”

“A wormhole, Mr. Spanikurz. A hole in the fabric of space.” I interrupted to define the unrecognized term.

“The anomaly transited us through time and space. We ended up here in what you call Ancient Egypt.” Anna Beth finished.

There have been other pioneers from the stars that called Earth home in her past, Jansk. There will be many more provided we remove Clemson from the equation.”

“Earth will be invaded…”

“Stop thinking ‘twentieth century’, man! Think about what you just said. Why would a more advanced civilization want to ‘invade’ Earth? Her resources? Maybe, but if they are capable of deep space travel, wouldn’t they also be capable of finding richer stockpiles?”

I paused, walked over to the small table, picked up, and finished my now cold, coffee.

“Anna Beth and her crew are explorers, hun, driven by the curiosity we all have within us- the curiosity to wonder…to ask…‘what is out there’- ‘are we alone in this vast universe?’”

“Others are simply looking for a home that hasn’t been depleted of natural resources- people looking for their own ‘second chances’. Only a rare few civilizations out of the many billions that are out there might think about invading Earth, but then again, the Empress and her sisters might have something to say about that.” I winked.

“But what if he comes after me…finds me? What then?”

“You simple fool, he won’t find you! Don’t you understand what family is? That the Empress protects her family…her extended family?” Alusia attacked fiercely.

“Listen to your Gram, hun, she’s very wise and knows me very well.” I giggled at her terse outburst.

“Grandmother,” Spanikurz bowed to Alusia, “I will do whatever I can to protect the sanctity of the Empress. Now that I have experienced her and her sisters, I have a better understanding of what the ‘real’ world is. I will not reveal her to anyone, I promise you.”

“So, Mr. Spanikurz, now that you’ve promised to hold safe the secret of the Empress of Time and Space…who do you work for and why are they so interested in finding me?” I asked as everyone in the acoustically sealed room gasped in stunned surprise.



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