South of Bikini 4: Episode 4- Pawn to Rook Three

Atlantis-Minor literally becomes a ‘House of Fun’ as Alex repeals the ‘no gifts’ order for her sisters as she hopes to draw out Clemson’s multiple personalities. The deadly cat and mouse game continues and Alex faces her worst nightmare as she and Andie experience, first-hand, the extinction of the sisters of Kili. Can the Empress of Time and Space succeed in convincing time to return what it has forgotten? If so, will it return more than she bargained for?

 

Copyright 2013, R. G. Beyer


 
 


Episode 4

“Pawn to Rook Three”


 
 

1305hrs, Pharaoh’s Residence, Memphis, Egypt, 2520BC
 
 

“What do you mean?” Jansk replied in confusion- his face only showing the shock of the question placed before him. “I was sent to your base by the Department of the Navy to audit your readiness and functionality?”

“Hun, I may be just a simple farm girl from Missoura, but I know bullshit when I smell it. You might as well own up to it because I already know the ‘who’ AND the ‘why’. Clairvoyant, remember?” I replied calmly as I pointed to my head a few times.

“I assure you I work for no one but the Department of the Navy, Empress.” Spanikurz defended.

“And just when did the ‘Department of the Navy’ become a part of the OSS?” I asked quizzically.

“I don’t know what you are talking about, Empress. I am just a simple appraisor.”

I smiled and nodded once before turning away from him.

“Jansk, have I told you about some of the things a Mind Warrior can do?” I waited patiently for a moment. When no answer came, I gracefully turned back toward him and continued.

“One thing a Mind Warrior is really good at doing is,” I paused for effect, “Digging deep into the innermost corners of the human brain.”

“It works equally well with Terrans and those of Homeland blood, Alex.” Jack added for Spanikurz’ benefit. Anna Beth’s eyes widened as she looked to my Ex-O.

“Jack here can dig so deep into your mind that she could find secrets you didn’t know you kept, hun.”

“No, Mr. Spanikurz, it is nowhere near painless.” Jack answered his unspoken question honestly.

“Yes, I read minds,” Jack said aloud, indignantly. “I’m not just another pretty face.”

“A Mind Warrior never bluffs, Jansk.” I told him before he said his next statement.

“I think you are bluffing…” He started, but stopped and looked at me baffled.

“I have no reason to bluff, Mr. Spanikurz.” Jack told him- a calm, but terrifying tone entering her voice. “I have no equal in the universe, except the universe itself, now can we get back to the question the Empress asked you?”

‘Now y’all’er bluffin’ Commander.’ I thought to my Ex-O.

‘Who’s going to tell him?’

I smiled.

“Empress, might the Queen of Egypt reason with this descendent?”

I looked at Anna Beth with as worried a look as I could. Our sisters caught on fast and stepped away from him.

“James, Jansk…whoever you wish to call yourself.” Anna Beth began, turning his face to meet hers. “Let me look into your eyes.” She said dramatically. “They say the eyes will reveal all truths.”

Alusia and Jack, already facing her, looked away quickly.

“What beautifully mysterious brown eyes you have.” She said as Spanikurz’ face went blank immediately. “Why don’t you tell the Empress the answer to her question- in fact, why don’t you answer all questions asked of you until told otherwise? You have nothing to fear from us IF you simply tell the true.”

Anna Beth turned the man’s head back to me and nodded. Nodding back, I asked my first question.

“Who do you work for and how do you know about me?”

“I work for a secret group attached to the OSS, Empress. You came to our attention after a radio broadcast from the Japanese mainland was intercepted. Tokyo Rose claimed that a U.S. submarine, operated solely by women, attacked and sank a Japanese Freighter- a freighter carrying medical and food supplies destined for the Solomon’s. Since the story seemed even farther off base than her usual trash, we decided to investigate. Shortly thereafter we intercepted communications informing the Navy Department that a special unit was to be formed- a unit whose main mission was to rescue and retrieve survivors of air and sea attacks when not escorting or patrolling with attack groups.”

Alusia listened intently but seemed completely stunned by the man’s admission.

“I thought you were my cousin, Jansk. Now I find out it might not be true?”

“Grandmother, I am…was your cousin. I have been informing on the Nazi movements in Poland ever since being recruited by the Americans in 1934. When the invasion took place it was deemed necessary for me and several others to leave or face exposure. While in the process, I was approached by the Gestopo and threatened with detention or reveal where you…Lusius, the scientist was. Once revealed, they allowed me to leave Poland.”

“So what is your interest in me?” I asked again, motioning for Alusia to hold her tongue.

“We were to investigate and find the legend, confirm it to be real and if proven factual, we would make you defeat Hitler, his allies, and any other entities that threatened the U.S. or our interests.”

To hear this spoken so nonchalantly …it angered me! My own government knew something about me and wanted to use me as a weapon…a tool! More so, I could tell that this man- even under Anna Beth’s influence, no less- was still lying! It was a revelation I had foreseen, but held out hope it wouldn’t occur. How naive I was!

Everything suddenly silenced in the Antechamber. All motion ceased around us and Spanikurz suddenly started looking around in confusion. My anger was now at an all time high. Unfortunately, I also knew that Anna Beth’s work had negated itself now that I had frozen time.

Thinking more on his last statement and growing angrier by the second, I suddenly thought of an experiment I had been planning to do for some time now, but had refrained from conducting it.

Its premise was simple and straightforward.

As far as I knew- all memories included- everything was measured against time- especially velocity. Since I had just recently been able to stop time, maybe I could slow it too? What if I could slow down something important -say the speed at which light travels? I theorized that I already traveled much faster, obviously covering light-years in a fraction of a second, if not stopping time altogether for the trip to other worlds. Since light has a fixed speed, measured by time, I wondered if I could somehow influence it.

The room began to take on a reddish tint and grew ominously darker. I felt myself tingle and noticed I begin to glow- to give off my own light.

“Be careful how confident you are in your perceived assumptions, Mr. Spanikurz. I do not anger easily, but you have just hit upon the one topic that does exactly that! Here is the stark reality. You set out to find the legend of the Empress of Time and Space. Well, y’all found the real McCoy, hun!”

I took a step toward him and poked accusingly. His face remained neutral.

“Know this.” I felt the tingling in my body increase slightly as my anger did likewise. “The Empress is owned by no nation, no planet, no faction or no other such entity! As such, I alone dictate what I do, where and when I do it. Yes, I have already taken a vow to protect the United States of America to the best of my ability. That is Cmdr. Alexandra Frances Steinert, but…Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space, answers to no one but the Almighty! I alone know of the upcoming events that guide this time line and I alone see the proper and true path it must follow through the many obstacles and pitfalls awaiting it. How dare you assume my complicity and possible subjugation to suit your small-minded needs? Yes, America has enemies! All nations and governments do. That’s why they employ diplomats and ambassadors.”

I waved my hand around while glaring harder into his eyes. The tingling grew stronger as the room grew darker.

“This is but a small aspect of my gift, Mr. Spanikurz. I guarantee there is much, much more to it that no one but I know of. Feel free to try my patience and push the boundaries of those powers if you dare. Do I make myself clear, Mr. Spanikurz?”

“I understand, Empress, but my superiors will not be satisfied if I fail in my mission.”

The sheer audacity of this man!

“Your mission was a failure from its very inception- nothing but a folly, Jansk!” I informed him angrily as the tingling and light from my body increased again. “You see, I have seen your plan and weighed all the outcomes. After I return you to Oahu there will never have been a mission to find me. In fact, there will never have existed the three-man ‘Section 13’ that you were once the head of.

“What will you do?” He dared ask without any emotion.

“Actually, I have an unlimited number of options in this case,” I told him with a very evil glare. “Ultimately, I travel back and stop your very conception. If you were never born, you wouldn’t pose a problem to us now. Although creating a paradox around you, I would have no problem with that in the least. Ethically though, I would be committing the most immoral, heinous crime to any sentient life form- preventing a life! Something, mind you, Mr. Clemson has no regard for as he has proceeded to extinguish life in many time periods to fit his own utopian idea of Earth’s history- repeatedly!”

“Some other options would be to return you to a time and place where your influence and position would be nullified, or, we could erase your memory of everything starting with Tokyo Rose’s broadcast. Several more options would involve the Mahanilui. If you were no longer the same person OR gender, your claims of finding me would be dismissed as fantasy or delusion and not believed at all.”

“Of course, Alusia might like a sister to share her thoughts with. I’m sure Pharaoh wouldn’t mind a mate for one of his other nephews. Am I making myself perfectly clear, Jansk, or would you like me to list other options available concerning a single, male born in 1830, and orphaned at age eight?”

The room brightened as I reached the conclusion of my experiment and my threat. Jansk looked around the room as my sisters gasping filled the air around us.

Immediately Anna Beth, Djedefre, and Alusia retreated in fright from me to a far corner while Jack stared at me curiously.

“What in heaven’s name did you just do, Alex?” My Ex-O asked in cautious wonder as she squinted, looking me up and down.

“I think we’ll find Mr. Spanikurz more receptive to our questions, won’t we, Jansk?” I said, still staring intensely at the quivering man.

“Alexandra? Ra has yet to run his course through the sky so we are not in need of additional illumination. However you are doing that, please, you are frightening Djedefre.” Anna Beth asked gently in a voice that sounded a little too humbled.

“Sorry, ma’am, I’ll disable that part of my gift now.” I replied as I felt the tingling in my body start to disappear. I reached up and wiped the single, warm trickle of blood from under my nose.

“What WAS that, Alex? I’ve never seen anything like it before?” Alusia gushed warily.

“Yes you have, sister,” I responded serenely. “In another place and another life- the life you must place behind you if you are to continue to be happy in this one.”

“Alexandra, is it safe to say that this man will faithfully honor his promise to the sisterhood? I know that my son now has new respect for you and them.” Anna Beth asked cautiously with one brow raised. She quickly glanced at Jack and her niece, Alusia.

“After he asks one last question of you, sister.” I said as I flourished my hand to the Queen of all Egypt- who gave a quick, tense smile and cautiously stuck her tongue out to me.

“Speak the question, though I believe I already know it.”

“You did something to get me to tell the truth- something with your eyes…didn’t you?”

“Yes, Mr. Spanikurz, it is my gift, though not given the way Alexandra’s was. My gift was set before my birth on my home planet- being passed to me by my parents. Meridian, please reestablish normal relations with our surrounding environment.”Anna Beth asked the AI, indicating that our time had concluded.

The sound of mechanisms actuating echoed through the antechamber. Noise from the busy metropolis outside flooded in.

“As always Alexandra, you are welcome to stay, but I understand your frustration and desire to neutralize this latest threat.” Anna Beth said as Spanikurz’ eyes shot to her in fear. “Alusia, go now and spend a blissful week with your mate and children. I will see you bright and early the next day. Be ready to debate with me then on several issues of state.”

“Thank you, Anna Beth.” Alusia said pleasantly with a slight bow as she turned to leave.

Stopping by the door, she suddenly turned, ran back to me, and embraced me. “I’m glad to see you again, Alex! Take good care of yourself.” She looked over to Jack. “See that she doesn’t over do, Lady Jacquelyn.”

Jack nodded once with a reassuring smile.

Alusia hurried out the antechamber’s door.

“Alexandra? A moment, if you please?” Anna Beth asked before I could take Jack’s hand.

The Queen of all Egypt momentarily turned to her still shocked son and motioned for him to stay put. Carefully- almost reverently- she approached.

“What you just did…” she began in Ancient Terran just above a whisper, but lowered her eyes a second, “I have never seen the like, Empress. It was as if time slowed…even the very light of the room became lethargic…I did not think you so powerful.”

“Anna Beth, I didn’t mean to…”

“Alex, I know that you have been under a great amount of stress lately…”

“I’m sorry. We never should have come here. It’s just that I wanted him to know…”

“I understand that, Alex. What I can’t…what I don’t understand are these new abilities you are manifesting. Alex…how long have you been able to slow time?” Anna Beth asked after swallowing hard. “And…and why do you appear to glow like Meridian’s protective shield? Even now there is still a residual glow about you.”

“I’m sorry that I started to loss my temper in your home, Anna Beth. We should be going. I’m sorry young Djedefre had to see that side of me…it was not my intention.”

“Alex. Alex, promise me you will try to keep your temper restricted? I…I wouldn’t want my friend and sister…” She couldn’t finish her request as both of us were now crying.

“I’ll try. I’ll try to keep things from getting out of control.” I sniffed.

Anna Beth stepped back from me slowly, keeping her eyes fixed on me until finally turning and returning to her son. She picked the child up ackwardly and turned to me once more.

“If anyone can make things right, it’s you, Empress Alexandra. Lady Jacquelyn, I beseech of you- keep her safe.”

Jack nodded her acknowledgement.

“Are we ready to get back to our time- to Honolulu, James?” I asked as I wiped away a tear.

“So, we’re going back to Hawaii?” He asked skeptically, yet evenly.

“We are.” I said as I took possession of his hand and offered my other to Jack.

“Will it…”

Our surroundings became a large hotel room with several people and several children staring at the previous Jack, Alice, Akane, and I.

“Hurt?” Spanikurz asked, a little too late.

Our previous versions suddenly disappeared… much to Spanikurz’ surprise.

“Well, now that they left…” My Granddaughter Alexandra began to say to Tish’s girls but stopped abruptly and looked directly at Jack, James and I.

“Grandmother, you’re late.” She said to the surprise of the others. Isabeau twisted her head so fast I thought it would break off. “Might as well rephase.”

“I didn’t want to cause problems, hun.” I said as I dropped Jack and James’ hands. “I didn’t want to worry myself needlessly.”

“Thaaaat… that was you!” Spanikurz stammered.

“I’m her too, James. Y’all got somethin’ against that?” Alexandra smiled deviously.

“Another candidate, Alex?” Sam Hikawa asked as he evaluated my guest companion. Tish raised her eyebrow as she also summed up the man.

“Not unless things change drastically, hun.” I answered and looked over to the still dumbfounded man.

“The elevator is out that door and right across the hall, James. Push the down arrow. When the car arrives, get in it and press ‘L’ for the lobby. And James?” I glared at him. “I know about that fleeting thought of contacting the Department of the Navy or the OSS. It will do you no good. Don’t try it unless you want to just…” I disappeared, waited a few seconds, and reappeared closer to him with a wicked grim. “Got it?”

The pale looking man tipped his imaginary hat brim and very quickly turned for the door. Gently closing the door behind him, James Spanker left the company of the Empress- never to come back- at least until he got outside and came to the conclusion that he needed our help to re-adjust.

Oh darn, I thought, I neglected to inform him that he needed a valid room key card to access any of the non-public floors of the hotel.

Jack grinned at me.

2011 Honolulu was a completely different place from its 1944 predecessor.

“What was that all about, Grandma?” Alexandra asked as she held back a giggle or two.

“Chaos theory at work, hun.” I said simply as I walked closer.

“Is syncing with you at this time wise, Empress?” She asked guardedly.

“Touch and learn, hun.” I replied as my hand made contact. The tingle between us felt stronger than I thought.

My Granddaughter’s eyes widened considerably.

“We can do that?” she asked in complete surprise.

I nodded. “We certainly can, hun, and possibly a whole lot more.”

“You aren’t just going to leave him go, are you, Alex?” Sam Hikawa asked in disbelief.

“He’s reinvented himself a few times over the last one hundred-eighty years, Sam.” I replied with a devious smile.

“He’s that old?” Tish’s husband whistled. “Wow! I would have never thought…”

“He doesn’t even deserve this, Sam,” I interrupted, “He wanted the Empress to work solely for the OSS…what you call the CIA today. He was the leader of a three man team that decided they would exploit me…if they could find me, that is.”

“Well, Grandmother, it seems like he found us.” Alexandra giggled.

“Has he, hun? Isabeau, what would you do if some stranger observed you using your gift and you suspected he could not be trusted?” I asked Alexandra’s travel companion.

“EW! EW! I know! I know! I know!” Jack shouted as she waved her hand excitedly in the air. Tish’s kids began laughing uncontrollably at her antics.

Isabeau stared at Jack with concern. Sam placed a hand to his forehead and shook his head side to side several times. He looked like he was trying hard not to laugh.

I glared at my first officer with one raised eyebrow. “Really, Jack?”

“What were my options according to the Empress, Alex?” Isabeau replied after a minute.

I put my fingers to my cheek. “Let’s see…” I began as I scanned the ceiling a moment. “I did say something about using the Mahanilui…”

“Out of the question, Alex! He’d make an ugly girl.” Sam interrupted, almost laughing.

“I told him I could take him to a time where he held no influence in the government, and…oh yes, I threatened to go back and make sure he was never conceived.”

The adults in the room suddenly stared at me in horror!

“You threatened to erase him? How did I miss that?” Jack asked in absolute shock.

I nodded, my face turning very, very serious.

“But I thought the Emp…”

“Tish, I’ve about had it with this guy, and especially Darren Clemson! These men have assaulted the two most solemn vows I’ve made- protecting my family and…using the Empress as a slave and weapon! I’m not going to stand for it any longer.” I declared.

“Is the Empress feeling alright, momma? I’ve never seen her this angry…ever.” Little Jacquelyn asked softly of Tish. She had a frightened look and appeared almost in tears.

“Why don’t you and your sisters go back into the bedroom and wait for me there. Your mommy and her sisters have some really serious things to talk about, sweetie.” Tish told her girls. Her eyes shifted to Sam and they motioned for him to attend the children. With a nod and carrying their youngest, he guided the three back into one of the suite’s bedrooms and closed the door.

“I’m sorry Tish, but this whole mission stinks. We’ve been running defense since the start. I can’t tell you how many times all or part of the sisterhood has simply ‘winked’ out of existence.”

The girls and I have experienced severe headaches about eight times today, Alex. Am I warm?”

I only remembered six. Damn! I thought!

Of course Jack being Jack, looked at me with her eyes popping out of her head and mouth dropping open.

“Yes Jack, it’ll happen two more times before we finally catch him!” I growled. Turning back to Alexandra’s Comptroller.

“So, hun,” I asked again, “what would you do knowing what you now do about the mission?”

“I believe you chose the only just and morally sound option you had, Empress.” She stopped to think things through some more.

“And I understand he deserves a lot worse. He should not have it ‘easy’. That wouldn’t teach any lessons at all. I would…” She nodded as if talking to herself. A devious smile appeared on her face. “I would leave him to wander the metropolis. As I suspect- once out of the hotel’s elevator doors- he will come face to face with this reality. From my experience in your time period it should be in stark contrast to when he left. And, since the elevators require registered guests to use their access cards to reach their room floors, he will have no other choice. ”

“You haven’t answered my question, hun.” I smiled watching her eyes close. Isabeau was still for only a minute. Her eyes opened back up.

“I have alerted the Honolulu police to be on the lookout for a man of James Spanker’s description whose private fishing boat was reported missing two weeks ago off the island of Lanai and reported being seen just this morning aimlessly wandering the beaches on the Waikiki side of the Marina. He may be severely disoriented due to exposure and is to be taken to a hospital for observation and/or treatment. I have created records to verify his identity and established banking and credit accounts. How much would you like to be in his bank account, Alex?”

I thought about that for a moment.

“Well he is going to need a new boat,” I thought out loud. I looked back at Isabeau. “How much debt is he in with all his credit cards, hun?”

“I established one hundred-ten thousand in outstanding credit debt along with a notice of foreclosure on his residence in Rhode Island. He has an average credit score of four hundred and two. Do you require more?”

I thought on her question a moment.

“Give him about fifty ‘G’s’ in an anonymus bank account in the Cayman Islands. I’d also like him listed as an avid antiques collector specializing in World War Two era paraphernalia. That will explain his carrying antique identification and currency.”

She nodded acknowledgement.

“I’ve also established his birth date as August 17th, 1964,” she continued, “and an aggressive financial investment history, Alex. Unfortunately, he has failed to file any United States Income Tax statements with your IRS in over twenty years.”

I smiled evilly and nodded once in agreement.

“Remind me never to get on your bad side, Bo.” Sam Hikawa suggested as he peeked out from the bedroom door.

“Well done, Lady Comptroller.” I said proudly as I closed my eyes to see how the man’s future would play out.

A giggle escaped my lips as I saw the confusion and the comedic scenes as doctors desparately tried to figure out how to cure the troubling ‘temporal’ amnesia as well as the far-fetched delusions he was experiencing. Then there was the IRS… Oh, and then there was a little detail Isabeau had left out…that of placing him on something called the ‘Homeland Security Terrorist Watch list’. Homeland Security…I had to ask myself what it was as it sounded like something we were fighting against in 1944. After seeing images and future memories, I still wasn’t sure if it was a good ‘agency’ or bad.

I noticed Jack shaking her head with an evil grin on her face.

“You’re good…real good!” She complimented Isabeau, who just smiled demurely.

“Thank you, Lady Comptroller; our secrets are safe once more.” I said then turned to Jack.

“We should be getting back to base.”

“Couldn’t we stay for a day or two, Alex? I could use more sunbathing and something to eat.”

“You can lie on the beach when we get back, Commander, and it should just about be breakfast when we arrive.”

“Ya, but Clemson is still there, Cap.”

“Your point?” I asked with slight confusion.

“Can I still play head games with him?”

“Did I tell you to stop yet?”

Jack’s expression became downright evil and I heard ominous theater organ music in my head. Apparently everyone else in the suite heard the music as well, judging by the stares of my sisters and brother.
 
 

0615hrs, Atlantis-Minor, July 25th, 1944
 
 

“So, I take it that Mr. Spanker has been…um…dealt with, Alex?” Emily asked as Jack and I entered the Mess Hall.

“You didn’t wait up for us all night, did you?” I asked in amazement noting her slightly disheveled appearance.

“No, I went to bed just after I lost vitals on him, you, and Jack. I figured you would take him somewhere…sometime else. It seemed like the only option available. Then I foresaw him at a hospital in 2011 Honolulu. Really, Alex? Exposure, delirium, AND something they’re calling Temporal Amnesia?”

“It was all Isabeau’s idea, sis, though I’m not sure who has immediate jurisdiction, Homeland Security or the IRS.” I laughed. Emily just shook her head and joined my laughter. “I’m glad you used your gift though.”

Carroll Sheldon stumbled into the building, yawning as she paused with the door slightly open. I noticed two bluish streaks fly in just over her head. She stopped yawning suddenly and looked up, brushing some hairs on the top of her head that had been tussled by the sudden, ‘unknown’ breeze.

“Ensigns’ Trent and Sukiro front and center!” I shouted. Emily looked at me in surprise. She, Carroll, and about half a dozen of our sisters seated at their tables began looking around the room for the two women.

The galley door opened and the two, normal-sized, Pixies walked back into the room.

“Yes, ma’am?” Sasha said as both stopped and stood to attention.

“What did I say about curtailment of gifts while Clemson is on base?” I asked rubbing my forehead in frustration.

Both girls’ lowered their heads.

“I guess we both sorta forgot. It’ll never happen again, Skipper.” Sasha again answered for the two. Yuuka bowed submissively.

“I’m rescinding that order immediately.” I announced. Jack got a huge grin on her face as did everyone within hearing in the Mess Hall and I assume she made sure everyone else knew a second later.

Chaos would now reign supreme at Atlantis-Minor- and rightly so if my foresight held true.

“Here’s the plan…” I said with a devious grin of my own.
 
 

“Good morning, Mr. Clemson.” Carroll said pleasantly as I escorted him into the supply building after Jack allowed him to wake up. It was now 0800 and Jack’s rendition of Carroll was dressed almost to regulation…that is, almost legal. This morning, instead of her regulation brassiere, she chose to tie her work blouse under her bust and do none of the buttons up. Her hair was in a comfortable, high ponytail and she must have borrowed a pair of shorts from either Ricky Lynn or Tish. Oh…my…gosh were they tight! All this slightly hidden under an unbuttoned, white, ‘lab’ coat!

She also looked a little taller today. Looking down, I noticed she had on a pair of non-regulation, four-inch, spiked, black heels instead of her preferred deck shoes. This illusionary Carroll had also gone heavy on her makeup this morning. I didn’t know she even owned any.

There she stood, looking like she had just stepped from a red-light district, street corner and into a University Chemistry classroom, in front of my borrowed situation board- chalk in hand. The board had been recently erased and now contained a good portion of what looked like a very long and complicated mathematical formula.

Clemson’s jaw was almost on the floor as he took in my navigation officer and then, after a few long minutes of outright staring at her, at the immaculately clean storeroom. Though this was the way it actually looked, sans Jack’s ‘suggestive’ influence, it was a completely different looking room from what he had seen yesterday. I changed my rank to commander.

“Lieutenant, how is the calculation coming?” I asked nonchalantly remembering the future movie I’d been watching back on Oahu sixty-seven years from now.

“Almost completed, but I’ve run into a small problem, Captain.” Carroll replied as she turned her attention to me. She adjusted the brown-framed glasses on her nose with a finger and thumb to the right lens. Jack must have been using my mind as reference because Carroll sounded and acted almost Vulcan.

Clemson’s head shot back around to stare at me in confusion.

“So what’s the problem, hun?” I asked, totally ignoring the pig beside me.

“I’ve factored in galactic mass, velocity, solar coronal field fluctuations, quantum particle stabilization offset factors, Sand Dollar’s loaded weight including: all stores, fuel, and crew- even added galactic drift variances, and gravimetric distortions around the encountered celestial bodies, but…” she said stopping suddenly and looking back at the board with her left eyebrow raised.

“But what, Lt. Sheldon?” I asked.

“Capt. Steinert, in this particular situation,” she circled a specific part of the equation without actually touching the board, “time stops being a constant and instead becomes a variable. I am at a loss as to what to do. Any suggestions, ma’am?” She explained evenly, quoting the movie’s line reasonably.

“You might try a guess, Miss Sheldon.” I advised.

“A guess, Captain? I don’t think you realize the delicacy of time travel back to the far future.”

“I trust your guesses over other peoples’ facts, Carroll.” I answered with a smile as I glanced over to Clemson. He was staring between the two of us- completely bewildered. I figured, being a first rate nerd, he would get the old- relative to him- movie reference.

“Thank you, ma’am, for the encouragement; I’ll try to give it my ‘best guess’. Mr. Clemson, where would you like to start this morning? I can finish this later.” Carroll asked as she sat the chalk carefully back on its ledge.

I noticed Clemson mouthing the equation as he focused on it. His eyes began to pop out as he realized it was actually familiar.

“Where do you wish to start, Mr. Clemson?” I repeated Carroll’s question

“I…” He stumbled, rubbing his eyes in disbelief, his full attention on the board.

“Mr. Clemson. I asked you a question.” I said before thinking to Jack.

Clemson looked back at me for a moment then back to Carroll. What met his eyes was the same cluttered room as yesterday. Carroll’s lab coat was gone as well as her glasses, but the rest of her clothing hadn’t changed. Now instead of standing before a chalkboard, she leaned back against a tarp-covered crate, hand on a hip waiting impatiently for an answer. She cracked the chewing gum she now had in her mouth loudly in annoyance. I changed my rank back to lieutenant.

“Whatcha waitin’ for stud?” she asked sensually while blatantly chewing her gum again. Carroll winked one eye provocatively.

“What is going on here?” he asked, his anger starting to show.

“Carroll and I just asked where you wanted to start today, Mr. Clemson.” I replied in a confused voice. Carroll just kept chewing away at her gum.

He did a double take of me as I followed his eyes down my blouse. My boobs were now on display more than I liked thanks to Jack’s perverted image of us girls and the base.

“What is going on?” Clemson asked himself quietly as he rubbed his face with his hands.

“Are you okay, Mr. Clemson?” I asked in concern. “Didn’t you get enough sleep last night?”

“I slept fine, Captain.” He replied harshly.

“Thank you for the promotion, Mr. Clemson, but I’m afraid you don’t have that authority.” I giggled. “Are you sure you’re feeling alright?”

“Take me to Mr. Spanker. I need to talk to him.” Clemson ordered.

Carroll and I looked at the man in puzzlement.

“Who’s Mr. Spanker,” I asked feigning ignorance?

“Spanker…the man I arrived with yesterday. We flew here in what passes as a plane together!”

I shook my head a few times while observing him in confusion. Carroll stopped chewing her gum and looked at me with surprise.

“There was another cute guy on the plane and you didn’t tell me, Allie?” Carroll asked in astonishment.

I glanced at Carroll sadly then turned my attention back to our ‘guest’.

“You were the only other person on the plane with us, Mr. Clemson.” I told him, sadly shaking my head. “Except for the pilots.”

“James Spanker was so on that plane! Never mind, I’ll find him myself!” Clemson declared as he stormed out of the building in the direction of my office.

‘Okay, Jack.’ I thought to her as I smiled and winked to Carroll before porting myself over there.

Darren Clemson vigorously yanked open my office door and entered. I remained seated at my desk. His eyes bulged as he looked around the pristine, well-organized room.

May Ah help you, Mr. Clemson?” I asked politely without even looking up at him.

“Where is he?” he demanded before I actually looked at him. I had again changed my rank.

“Where is who, Mr. Clemson? And why y’all addressin’ me in such a rude manner?”

“Spanker. James Spanker. I flew out here with him yesterday.”

“Ah got no idea what y’all are talkin’ ‘bout, Mr. Clemson. Ain’t no James Spanker on my base.” I said firmly as I stood and walked around my desk to stand next to him. “As commander Ah’d know if there was. Y’all feelin’ okay? Maybe we should go over to the infirmary and have Doc Scott take a look at you?” I suggested.

“What in hell is going on around here?” He shouted as a small, five-inch woman appeared hovering just inches from his face.

“Good morning, Mr. Clemson.” Yuuka greeted pleasantly as another Pixie appeared and hovered beside her.

“Good morning, Mr. Clemson.” Sasha greeted brightly.

Both Pixies flew over and hovered before me. Both straightened noticeably.

“Girls, I’d like you to go topside and check on Randi’s progress. I’ll expect her report on my desk by noon today.” I said before nodding back. Both winged women flew back past Clemson and disappeared out the window I had opened earlier this morning. The blackout curtains rustled wildly with the wind from their wings.

‘Go ahead and switch us back, Jack’, I thought just before I stopped time.

Darren was looking a little piqued as all sounds stopped. At the window, the curtains hung frozen in mid air from the Pixies recent exit.

“So you want to know what in hell is going on, Mr. Clemson,” I asked as I slowed down the speed of light. My office grew darker as did my expression.

Raising my hand, I swept it around us- around the now darkened, red-tinged office. As expected my arm…in fact, all of me glowed with a subtle bluish luminescence.

“Here is your answer. This it it! Welcome to hell, Darren Clemson. We’ve been expecting you for some time now. Did you really think you could possibly escape into history- use time to elude your fate?” I asked in an evil voice.

I added to that with an evil laugh.

“Who are you?” He demanded!

I continued to laugh evilly as I slowed light a little more. The office lighting seemed a darker red now…a ‘blood’ red.

“Such a smart little man,” I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm. “Can’t you figure this out, Darren?” I asked with a pout as I ran my finger down his upper arm teasingly.

“What…what the devil are you?” He demanded in frightened anger!

“Now you’re getting warmer, sweetie.” I giggled manically.

“What do you want? What is this about?”

“Oh come now Darren, you actually have to ask?” I questioned before continuing my demented laughter.

“Enough of this pathetic illusion,” he shouted- his voice changing subtly! Another personality, I thought. Finally, I had gotten one of the others to emerge. If we could just get the remaining ones to come out and play I could gauge what I was up against and plan accordingly.

I gave another demented laugh.

“We will talk again, Darren Clemson.” I said with a demonic grin.

“We talk now, you conniving bitch!” He shouted angrily.

“We WILL talk, but at MY convenience, Darren.” I said in as dastardly a tone as was possible before I stopped time for him too. I changed my rank and moved myself around to his opposite side before I released time.

The decrepit office around us lightened.

“We will talk now, you fucking whore!” Clemson shouted at the top of his lungs, smashing his fist down on the feeble desk then pointing an accusatory finger at where I had been. The desk groaned and lurched to the side as it fell off the manuals holding that corner up. Finding only air, he looked around quickly finding me on his other side.

I quickly thought of my mission with President Lincoln. Tears immediately burst from my eyes and streamed down my face.

“You don’t have to be so vulger! I didn’t do anything. I just got here!” I cried. Quickly putting my hands to my face, I ran from the dilapidated office leaving Clemson completely disoriented and wondering what happened.

“Wow, some performance, sis.” Emily complimented as I appeared back in the Mess Hall. Jack was seated next to her with a satisfied smirk.

“I take it the whole base was watching what they could?” I asked as I looked directly at my first officer.

Her smirk turned into a full-blown smile. “Everything except when you stopped time, Alex.”

I nodded. “Too bad I’ll never get an Oscar.”

“Aw…there will be other performances, Alex…” my sister reminded, sticking her lower lip out to pout in commiseration. “Wwww…wait…you stopped time?”

I nodded with a smile.

“Clemson’s heading this way, Alex.” Jack alerted.

“Cue Rachel and patch me in, Jack.”

In my mind, I saw our resident fire elemental leave her barracks and began walking toward my office.

“Good morning, Mr. Clemson.” She greeted politely.

“Morning.” He replied gruffly.

“Mr. Clemson,” she began as the man’s eyes looked up at her. “Do you think it’s unseasonably warm today?” She asked as her clothing began to smolder then burst immediately into flames around her.

The man’s eyes popped from his head! He immediately wiped his eyes in disbelief.

“Now, Jack.”

Rachel’s clothing changed, looking something like Carroll’s outfit from yesterday. She stood waiting for Clemson to either notice or reply while running her finger seductively up and down the cleavage formed by her tightly tied regulation blouse.

“So, Mr. Clemson,” she asked again. “Don’t you think it’s unseasonably ‘hot’ today?” Rachel closed her eyes and blew a kiss to the man.

Clemson shook his head vigorously to clear his mind as he hurried, silently, past our disappointed looking sister.

“Who’s next, Alex?” Jack asked as her telepathic feed stopped.

“Mina should just be getting into position.” I said as Clemson appeared again in my mind.

“Good day, Mr. Clemens.” She said pleasantly while mispronouncing his name.

“Hi.” The man responded in monotone not making eye contact.

“Lovely weather we are having, is it not?”

“Ya.”

“Is there something on your mind, luv? I’m considered the ‘mother’ figure of this rag-tag detachment and have a good ear.” Mina told him as she pushed her hair back to reveal a very elongated, pointed, ear. “Would you care to talk? I shall be happy to listen.”

“So that’s why she was looking for Corrine earlier.” Emily giggled as we watched Clemson look up from the ground and stare at her.

“Come now luv, with a pasty look like that there must be something vexing you?”

“You…yyyyyyou…you’re an elf!” He stuttered with a gasp.

“I am British, young man!” Mina replied defensively.

Clemson slowly pointed to her still uncovered, pointed ear.

“Oh, that. Yes, well, I inherited them from my Mum’s side of the family. Many a brilliant conversation has been started with them, Mr. Clemens.”

“My name is Clemson, not Clemens.” He growled.

“Oh.” Mina looked over the man intently for a moment.

“So your first name would not be Samuel? Funny, you look just like the man before he decided to grow that outlandish mustache! I said something to him about it the one day he met with me in London…he mentioned that he wanted to grow a full, bushy mustache so that he would look…”

“Listen, elf lady, your highness, whatever you call yourself, I’m not Samuel Clemens- I’m Darren Clemson! C, L, E, M, S, O, N, Clemson! Now out of my way you ditsy Witch!” He told her in a loud, angry tone.

“Such rude manners from the children these days! And how dare you call me a witch? Father was the only practicing mage in the family!” She shouted after the retreating man in an insulted tone.

Clemson turned to say something in response.

Mina disappeared.

“What just happened?” Emily asked as she blinked and stared at me.

“Looks like she phased out to me.” I replied.

“I didn’t know she could do that.”

“I guess she still has things to teach us, sis.”

“You just made it look like she was there, right Jacki?” Emily looked at her hoping that was the case.

“No ma’am, she did that all on her own.”

“Watch this,” I said as Jack’s live feed continued.

Clemson was almost to the Mess Hall now.

“Good morning, Mr. Clemson.” An unseen Scotty greeted.

The man just kept walking.

“I said good morning, Mr. Clemson.” Scotty’s voice replied- this time louder.

“Ya…” Clemson looked up to the voice only to see no one there.

“What in the hell…” Darren stopped in his tracks as he apparently remembered our conversation. He looked around in confusion and took a few more steps.

“So what’s on the agenda today, Mr. Clemson?” Scotty’s disembodied voice asked excitedly.

“How the fuck should I know?” He replied angrily, still looking for the voice’s owner. Immediately there was a loud slap and Clemson’s head jolted to the right on its own.

“How rude!” Scotty’s unseen voice shouted. Clemson stood looking around dumbfounded; rubbing his face trying to figure out what hit him.

“Don’t mind her, sweetie, she’s not all there today.” A semi-transparent Alice Wesnewski told the man as she nonchalantly walked across his path and faded into the base’s surrounding tropical foliage.

The man’s expression was priceless!

“I’m actually starting to feel sorry for the guy, sis.” Emily laughed as we continued to watch Clemson via Jack’s telepathic relay.

“Come on Yuuka!” Sasha shouted as she flew right in front of Clemson. “The captain’s waiting for us in the Mess Hall. If we’re late one more time she’ll have us peeling potatoes until the end of the war!”

“Aaaaaaaaw, but my wings are tired, Sasha! I was up all night thinking about our race tomorrow with the rabbit! Oh. Hi again, Mr. Clemson.” Yuuka answered as she flitted lazily across Clemson’s path.

The confused man stopped and stared at the two Pixies for a long moment as they flitted slowly away toward the Mess Hall.

“Get the hell out of my way, Asshole!” Scotty, fully visible, said as she pushed him back and out of her way while crossing his path again. “Or do you want another slap across that arrogant pie-hole you call a mouth?”

The confused look on his face became an outright angry sneer.

Scotty appeared beside me. “That’s not me Skipper! I came in through the kitchen over two minutes.” She protested.

“Corrine.” I said with a giggle.

“Oh.” Scotti acknowledged as my attention went back to Jack’s telepathic feed.
 
 

“Good morning, Mr. Clemson.” Jamie said pleasantly as she approached.

The man’s eyes never left the ground in front of him.

“Not having a good day, huh? Well maybe I can help you with that? Jamie added.

“Between you and me, I think you should be really angry. Scotty never had a real good attitude when it came to men. In fact, I think you should be infuriated that she slapped you!” Jamie said as she used her gift of suggestion to draw out another of Clemson’s personalities.

His face reddened as more anger infected him.

“Out of my way you ignorant bitch! Where’s Fleming?”

Jamie’s expression collapsed and she pointed to the Mess Hall as tears erupted from her eyes. “In the Mess Hall,” she choked out. “You should be ashamed of yourself, Mr. Clemson!” She shouted as our target neared.

“You ready for our grand finale, ladies?” I asked Emily and Jack as her mind feed followed Clemson to the double wooden doors of the Mess Hall.

“Good morning, Mr. Clemson.”

“Shut yer hole and get outta my way.” He threatened Abby Penne. We had asked her to stand guard and to make sure we weren’t disturbed until ready.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Clemson, but I can’t let you in. The captain’s holding a high-level meeting of senior staff and asked not to be interrupted.”

“Outta my way, I said,” he growled and tried to move Abby away from the doors.

He couldn’t budge her- not even a fraction of an inch. Abby smiled at his pathetic attempt.

Clemson decided to take stronger steps and tried to body check the lithe girl from her position.

“Don’t make me have to hurt you, sir,” Abby warned. “The captain does not wish to be disturbed.” She paused a second. “Not for anything other than a surprise attack. I’ll tell her you requested a meeting when she’s finished, sir.”

“Tell Fleming I want to see her NOW!”

Abby closed her eyes for a moment. “Message sent, awaiting reply, Mr. Clemson.”

“Jack, tell Abby to let him in. Are you ready for our ‘high-level’ meeting?” I said to my sisters.

“I’m sorry, I can’t…Message received. I’ll show you in now.”

Jack’s face lit up with a huge smile as the left door to the Mess Hall opened on its own.

Abby appeared in the opening. “Darren Clemson to see you, ma’am.” She announced.

“Send him in, Ensign.” I ordered.

“Fleming what the hell is going on around herrrr…?” The man roared as he stormed into an apparently empty room.

“State your business, Mr. Clemson. We’re in the middle of a high-level meeting!” I growled from overhead. “I call, doctor.” I added as I threw a poker chip on the table.

The man’s eyes opened wide and his mouth dropped open as he looked up to see Emily, Jack, and I hovering, in our seats, near the curved metal ceiling of the hall- the table hovering between the three of us.

“Queen-high flush, Captain.” Emily giggled excitedly as she placed her cards on the table. Jack groaned.

“Is this some kind of fun house?” Clemson barked out in rage.

“Why? Aren’t you having fun, Darren?” I asked in amusement. Emily and Jack laughed.

“Dammit! You’ll tell me what I want to know and right now, you cheap skank!”

“Come now, Darren, sticks and stones.” I giggled. “What could you possibly do to me?” I looked around to Jack and Emily. “Or to any of us for that matter? We’re out of your league.”

“Come down here and I’ll show you what I can do.” He threatened.

I appeared in front of him. “Okay, I’m here.” I grinned mischievously.

Clemson was stymied for a second, but tried to grab me in his arms- both of which passed right through me. Clemson fell through me and landed face-first on the floor.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you at our last meeting, I’m really hard to catch, hun.” I giggled. “But…you’re actually quite easy. I think I’ll play with you some more, though.”

“Don’t let him touch you, Cap; the slime will take a month to wash off!” Jack goaded with a laugh.

“Sure, you are all so tough up there. I wonder how tough you would be down here on my level?”

“We’d never stoop that low.” I giggled. “Ladies? Meeting adjourned.”

Jack slowly lowered and gracefully landed the wooden chair she was sitting on. She confidently stood and walked the few steps to Clemson and I. Clemson took the opportunity for another try at capturing me- this time with one arm instead of two. The results were still the same though.

I shook my head at him a few times and winked.

‘Alex. I can’t grab him. It’s like he’s countering my gift.’ Jack thought to me. Her voice sounded worried.

‘You can still affect his mind, right?” I thought back.

‘Maybe, but I’m not sure now, Alex.’

‘Make him think you’re doing what you want to do, Jack. Use illusion against him.’

Clemson immediately reached for his neck and began gasping for breath.

“How?”

“How can a weak, insignificant, and inferior woman bypass your defenses, Darren?” I asked in devilish curiosity.

He struggled to nod.

“Maybe she is more than she seems?” I proposed. “Sometimes a book is not a book, but something more, Mr. Clemson. Have you ever stopped to think about that?”

I nodded and Jack seemed to loosen her imaginary grip enough that he could talk.

“You can’t beat me, Fleming. I have real power, not your pathetic magic tricks! I command the ultimate power in the universe- the power to erase you and anyone that crosses me, from existence!” He threatened as I watched another personality emerge. “I’d rather not have to, but I will if you don’t tell your dog to back off!”

“And just how are you going to accomplish that, Darren? Unfortunately, you seem to have left this ‘ultimate’ power in your other trouser pocket.” I countered as I looked to his pants with an evil smile.

“Unless, of course, you have one of these pockets.” I added as I reached into my work trouser’s front pocket and slowly, carefully pulled my tiara from it.

Clemson’s eyes almost exploded from his skull as I placed the ruby bejeweled creation on my head and adjusted it. My uniform became my ‘Arian Empress’ outfit.

I had already turned it on and enabled its friend or foe display and selected, but not enabled, the protective shield just in case.

“You’re Arian.” He stated in surprise.

“She is THE Empress of Time and Space, you moron!” Jack growled as her virtual hold tightened slightly on Clemson’s neck. “You will make no demands of her if you know what is good for you!”

“Another wonderful trick, but you’re just making us mad.” Clemson declared with a slightly strange sounding accent.

His fourth personality had finally surfaced.

“Oh, I think you were plenty mad before you even met me, Darren.” I replied.

My tiara indicated the QDA was within one hundred yards of our position.

He brought the damn thing with him, I thought.

His briefcase!

“Don’t make this a one-way trip for me, Fleming.” He threatened.

I began running Randi’s interrogation program and smiled inwardly as the file transfer bar began to fill in green.

“There never was a way back after you began changing your own history, Darren.” I said as a startling image entered my mind. My tiara’s download window progress bar began to flash red and an ‘Error’ message appeared as well.

“A zero-point overload can’t hurt me, Darren. I’ve lived through a few of those already.” I countered, revealing I knew what he planned.

“That may be, but can the others here, or the rest of the world?”

“I’m confident that we will survive.”

“But would the Earth survive? It would be a shame to survive only to be marooned in the vacuum of space forever.” He called my hand producing a small device that looked like a remote control.

“This is now armed.” He said waving the device a few times. “I release this button even slightly and the planet implodes into its own black hole.”

“Black holes are just worm holes to another place or time, Darren. People can live through them without incident.” I informed him.

“But the black hole is only the result. Can the normal people of Earth survive an antimatter reaction? I’m willing to bet you can’t take that chance.”

Quickly running enough scenarios to see we were at a stalemate, my anger rose.

“Let him go, Jack.” I ordered.

“Empress, he’s bluffing.”

“I said, let him go, Commander.”

“Ma’am?”

“He’s right, Jack. The inhabitants of this planet would never survive the QDA’s power source going supercritical.”

“But Empress…”

“The time is not right for his capture, Commander therefore, we shall wait and continue playing his childish game.” I told my Ex-O calmly.

“I suggest you leave this island and time before one of our sisters decide to take matters into their own hands, Mr. Clemson.”

“See, that wasn’t so hard. I’m glad you see things my way.” Clemson laughed as he slowly backed out of the Mess Hall, thumb still on the remote’s trigger.

Jack and I walked after him hoping our presence would deter our sisters from doing anything impulsive.

‘Keep up the illusion of the base, Jack, just in case.’ I thought to her.

‘Aye. Emily’s back on the ground, Alex. So what do we do now?’

‘Thanks. We let the bad guy get away…again, Jack.’ I thought to her sadly. ‘It’s what I’ve seen has to happen.’

‘How many times are we going to let this guy get away?’

I looked over to my Ex-O grimly as we followed Clemson into the guest barracks.

‘This is THE last time, my sister.’

Pulling his case from under his cot, Clemson opened it. The QDA was the only thing it contained. He quickly touched several places on the screen and placed a hand on the green button.

Clemson smiled brightly at Jack and I.

“Hope to never see you again, Fleming or Empress…or maybe…sucker!”

The madman laughed as he tossed the remote device at us and depressed the start button.

Darren Clemson had escaped.

Jack looked down at the discarded plastic device lying at our feet.

I noticed a red light on it begin to blink.

Quickly taking Jack’s hand we were instantly on the other side of our base.

“Containment field around that build…!” I shouted just as an explosion rocked the area. Smoke and debris flew everywhere.

“Casualties.”

“Minor injuries, Alex.” Jack reported as we reappeared in front of the demolished barracks.

Several of our sisters were still picking themselves off the ground. Several others appeared hurrying our way with fire extinguishers in hand.

Amy Reynolds, who had just stood back up after being knocked down by the concussive wave, looked at the destruction.

“Damn! How did we miss that much explosive?” She asked.

“Future explosives are more compact.” I answered as I noticed her face blush profusely.

The darkening of the sky directly over us and an accompanying rumble of thunder indicated that Amy was on fire duty. Rain burst forth from the newly formed black cloud and onto the smoldering remains of our guest barracks.

“Base-wide meeting in the Mess Hall in three hours, Jack.” I ordered as I turned and walked away.
 
 

1330hrs, Atlantis-Minor, July 25th, 1944
 
 

“I’m glad to see that everyone is okay after the excitement this morning. I hate to say it, but I underestimated Clemson’s resourcefulness. I failed to consider the existence of an actual bomb among his assets. I’m sorry I brought injury to some of you.”

“For everyone that did not hear, Clemson escaped. Moreover, I let him escape.”

A murmur rose from those in attendance.

“I’m sorry I let y’all down,” I sighed as I dropped my eyes to the floor. “He threatened to destroy Earth and everyone on it. I couldn’t let that happen even if it was a well-played bluff.”

I looked back up and around at my sisters with renewed conviction. “I promise this will be the last time that happens. The next time Darren Clemson and I meet…” The large room seemed to dim. “He WILL face the Empress’s wrath and judgment. And he will wish he never met the Empress of Time and Space or the sisters of Kili!”

Everyone was looking around the dimmed room curiously and not at me as I finished.

The hall immediately brightened.

“In a few minutes Commander Cummins, Ensign Sukiro, and I will leave for our prehistory base to plan our next encounter with Darren Clemson. I will warn you now that there may be a couple more severe headaches ahead as we right the ‘corrections’ Clemson has made to reshape our timeline.”

“Unfortunately, and because of a miscommunication, our adversary possesses several individual entities from different dimensions. As we all have seen, via Cmdr. Cummins’ telepathy, these alternate personalities vary moderately. I thank each of you for helping Jack, Yuuka, and I draw those personalities out for examination.”

“It was fun just watching the expression on his face, Skipper. I never laughed so hard when Rachel spontaneously combusted right in front of him.” Michelle Simonetti laughed recalling her favorite moment.

“I thought Alice’s line was hysterical.” Jamie Hilf giggled. “She’s not all here today…” She repeated and broke into a breath-stealing laugh, as did most of us in the room. Even Scotti laughed.

“Well, I wish I coulda been here ta see the damn shenanigans instead o’ bein’ confined up at the RADAR hut with Randi.” Ricky Lynn complained adamantly.

“You know it would have been dangerous, chief- plus, seeing him would have influenced your future.”

“Maybe if I’d have seen him this future debacle wouldn’t have happened in the first place, Skipper!” She responded.

“He does help us in a small way, chief. Not everything he did in the past centered on him directly. But unfortunately, this had to happen, Ricky Lynn. I’m sorry.”

“So when’s it happen?” She asked bluntly.

“When does what happen, hun?”

“When’s my memory crash? I know this all happened, so in order to keep things on track, I need to forget, right?”

“I haven’t seen any action taken in that regard, chief, so no, not in the foreseeable future.”

Ricky Lynn stared at me, confused by my answer.

“Captain…this prehistory base you spoke of…when is it? I mean…how far back did you have to go to be safe?” Tammy Richards asked.

“Let me just say that Ni’ihau was still below sea level and leave it at that.”

“So what can we do to help, ma’am?” Ricky Peterson asked as I saw everyone’s head nod in agreement.

“We appreciate the offer, sisters, but Jack, Yuuka, and I started this mission. It’s our responsibility to complete it successfully. Again, thank you all for your participation and we’ll see you tonight. Ladies.” I said concluding the meeting and offering my hands to Jack and Yuuka.

Jack, Yuuka, and Emily got up and walked toward me.

“Sis, I can’t take you with us.” I said sadly.

“Yes, you can and will, Alex. I’ve already seen I win this one so there is no further deliberation.” Emily said with a determined fire in her eyes. She forcefully took my left hand in hers and offered Yuuka her left in kind.

“Travel safely, Skip,” Carroll said on behalf of our sisters.

“You have the Con, Carroll.” I told her before phasing.

Atlantis-Minor’s Mess Hall became Atlantis’ Conference room- the now familiar temporal anomaly warning alarm sounding before we rephased. Andie, Reggie, and Ricky Lynn looked around the room for us, but only Alex Reilly looked directly at me and smiled.

I rephased us.

“Welcome back, sisters. I trust there was minimal damage?” Allie asked in Atlantian as the others turned their attention back to her in surprise.

“Only the guest quarters and a few minor lacerations- nothing that can’t be repaired though. How are things back here?” I answered back in kind.

“Cami is still unaccounted for, Alex, but I think I may have found the reason.” Alex reported. I felt Jack’s grip tighten.

I noticed Emily looking around, completely confused by what she saw and heard.

“Commodore Andromeda Celeste,” I began as I lifted Emily’s hand, “this is my sister, Lt. Emily Scott.” I then repeated the introduction in English for my sister.

Andie’s eyes shifted slightly. “Welcome to Atlantis, Emily Scott. The sister of the Empress is most welcome to our ship.” She said in English.

Emily looked at me in surprise.

“She borrowed Ricky Lynn’s extra Reilly.” I explained. When she still stared at me, I wondered what the problem was.

“What’s wrong, sis?”

Emily was silent for a minute, still slowly looking around the large conference room and at Alex Reilly, our Future Ricky Lynn Samuels, Andie, and Regina. Gently, I placed my hand on her shoulder and began transferring the Atlantian language file to her. When done I used my override to enable it as default for the time being so Emily could understand those of us without Reilly’s… Oops, I forgot to introduce Reggie.

“Forgive me, Emily Scott. I have forgotten my manners. This is my first officer Regina Celeste. Reggie, Emily Scott.” Andie said, correcting my unintentional slight.

“Andie, you promised!” Reggie complained in embarrassment.

Emily’s attention shifted to Reggie. She closed her eyes for a few seconds then nodded in satisfaction.

“You’s two is sisters?” Ricky Lynn choked out in surprise.

“Sub-commander Celeste is my half-sister, Prof. Samuels. Will that be a problem?”

“None whats’ever, ma’am. You just threw me for a loop.”

My sister remained strangely quiet.

“Emily, what’s wrong?” I asked in concern. “Why are you looking around like that?”

“We’re on Atlantis?” she finally gasped out. “It’s a space ship?”

“Is that such a surprise, sis?” I asked, amazed by her dramatic response.

“Perhaps, Alex, a tour of our ship would satisfy her curiosity?” Andie suggested.

“I think that’s a wonderful idea.” I said as I looked to my sister. I had quickly asked myself what she saw when looking at Andie’s first officer. “Reggie, I’m curious as to that Bistro you and Prof. Samuels visited. If convenient, could you escort us there and maybe join us for a meal?”

The stunned woman appeared unsure as she looked for permission from her superior. I winked at Andie with a smile.

“As long as she is not late to her station, I see no harm in that request, Alex.”

“Thank you, Commodore. Jack, would you be so kind as to relay our mission briefing to everyone here?” I asked pleasantly as I motioned Reggie toward the conference room door.

“Emily and I will follow you, Sub-commander.”
 
 

“So what is your gift, Lt. Scott- if it’s not too personal?” Reggie asked my sister after we had received our order and taken seats at a table facing the ring’s outer windows. Earth moved into view, as Emily was about to answer. Of course she stopped to gaze at the beautiful sight.

“I’m a…I’m a medical forecaster, Sub-Commander. I’m…a doctor…um…by trade…but I am able to scan a person and see them…medically…for diagnostic purposes.”

“Oh…so you can basically look at someone and tell if…if something’s…um…wrong…with them?” Reggie said as her eyes quickly dropped to the tabletop. She began to pick at her fingernails nervously.

“That’s…that’s mostly right,” Emily replied as she tried to pry her eyes away from the planet passing slowly across the window’s expanse. “I can see other things beside sickness and disease though.”

“I see…” Reggie replied quietly, letting it drop.

Emily looked at me a moment, her eyes pleading for my advice. I nodded with a slight smile.

“You know…your pregnancy isn’t a bad thing, Miss Celeste. Your children will be borne healthy. You should be overjoyed.”

The girl’s face flushed immediately.

“You…you know about that? You can actually see that?”

“I don’t need my gift to see the glow about you, Miss Celeste, but yes, I can see that you have two healthy boys in there…about ten weeks if I’m not mistaken. Don’t worry though, you’ll have plenty of time with them and your grandchildren.”

“You saw all that?” Reggie gasped.

“Reggie, Emily is my sister and therefore shares my ability to see the future. I’m sorry if she has startled you by revealing their gender. Emily meant no harm by it.” I told the girl. “You really should let Ian know. You ARE still thinking of telling him today, right?” I asked, gently.

Reggie’s eyes flew open as she looked across the table at me in shock.

“You even know about Ian and…”

“Yes, but neither one of us will spoil the surprise, hun. This is your news to tell, not ours. Congratulations, Sub-commander.” I reassured her with a smile.

“But Andie…she’ll…I’ll be relieved of…”

“Andie will welcome the news with all the excitement a loving, older sister can give, hun. Ian…” I rolled my eyes. “Ian might take a day or two to grasp the idea. As for your commission, you have nothing to worry about.” I tried to calm the frightened girl.
 
 

“And just how long were you going to wait to tell me my little sister is going to have a baby?” Andie demanded as she stormed into the quarters I now shared with Emily.

“Twins…and it wasn’t my place to reveal that information, Commodore- nor was it my sister’s.” I replied without even a start at her sudden, dramatic entrance. Emily just sat up on the recliner she was curled up on and nonchalantly looked up from the book she had brought along. Something from the future by a man named ‘Steven King’.

“How long have you known, Empress,” she asked?

“Does it matter, Andie? Eventually the secret would come out.” I giggled at my sorry pun. Emily looked at me and rolled her eyes in silence.

“Ha…ha…didn’t think I’d catch that one, did you?” She countered as she took a seat on my Davenport and stared at me awaiting an answer.

“Well, if you aren’t on duty when the time comes, you just might be able to catch…”

“Now I see what your sisters mean about you being a tease,” she said as we all began to laugh. Emily closed her eyes and shook her head a couple times.

“Seriously,” Andie continued after a minute, “Reggie’s going to be okay, right? There aren’t any problems from cosmic radiation or anything like that?”

I closed my eyes briefly, after looking for Emily’s subtle nod, to make her think I was checking the future.

“Nope.”

“That’s all, just a ‘nope’?”

“If you’re asking me if the first two male children to be born on your new Homeworld will be healthy and perfect in every way new infants should be, nope, mother and sons will be fine, Andie.” I paused for a moment with a smile on my face. “Would you like to know their names, hun?”

My guest’s eyes opened a little wider as my question caught her off-guard and Emily sighed in annoyance.

“Um…no, it’s enough to know they will be born healthy, Empress.” Andie said looking between my sister and I a few times.

“Please stop with the ‘Empress’ routine, Andie. We’ve known each other for long enough.”

“We’ve known each other for all of two weeks, Alex. How does that qualify as long enough?” My guest asked with a confused expression.

“Never mind, I’m getting ahead of myself again.” I replied and blushed. Emily rolled her eyes again and went back to her book while Andie continued to stare at me in wonder.

“Getting ahead of yourself? I don’t…oh, I get it now,” She said looking sadly at me. “You’re going to be staying longer than you first thought.”

“I never said that, but we can leave now if we’re intruding.” I replied with a devious smile.

“Stop teasing, Alex! You know as well as I do that Andie’s going to be a basket case when we finally do leave- in fact, everyone that knows about us here will be wiping tears away as we transit home.” Emily chided. “Don’t let her do that to you, Commodore. You know she thrives on confusing people- even her sisters.”

“Sis, I’m surprised at you.” I pouted.

“I’m not buying it, Alex.” She said without even looking up from her book.

“I’m not selling anything, sis.”

“I’m still not buying whatever it is, Alex. I know you’re going to ride me about using my gift, so you can just let it drop now.” She continued, placing her bookmark before looking over at me and gently closing the fictional horror novel.

“I can see I’m getting in the way here.” Andie said as she went to get up.

“You’re not in the way, Commodore. Emily was inferring that I usually make fun of her because she refuses to use her gift more often.” I told our guest.

“I only use it when I feel it’s necessary, sis. I’m still not comfortable leaving it ‘turned on’ like you do. And anyway, I’m not as good with it as you are.”

“You don’t like to use such a marvelous gift? Why not…if I may be so bold?” Andie asked incredulously.

Emily looked down to the floor and paused a few seconds before saying anything.

“When we first found out about our gifts. Alex and I used them to see into each other’s future- specifically how many children each would have. Calling on my gift, I saw that my first-borne, my son James, would be born with an inoperable- at the time- heart condition.” She paused again as I saw her eyes start to moisten. “It devastated me.”

“But you were able to divine a cure, yes?” Andie asked in shock.

“Alex will bring my future self back to when I’m four months along and she will correct the defect. James will be born healthy and perfectly normal…for an offspring of Kili.”

“For an offspring of Kili?” Andie asked curiously.

Emily looked back up at our guest.

“Our children share the nanotechnology that made us who we are, Andie. They are shared since the time of conception until birth then through our milk via nursing. My James’ nanos are programmed for his genetic sequence- his DNA. James, as well as all our children, male or female, has gifts of his own. I’m sure Alex has told you of her granddaughter, Alexandra?”

“I believe she has, Aunt Emily.” My voice said from my bedroom.

Alexandra walked into the room wearing her dress whites. I immediately rolled off my end of the davenport to my knee as Andie gasped loudly.

“Welcome, future Empress. You are…”

“Grandmother, knock it off!”

“Seventy-two thousand years into the past. Don’t you have a time curfew, young lady?” I continued with a smile as she glared at me.

“How are things on Terra Nuevo, sweetie?” Emily asked as she got up from the recliner and hugged her niece. Both kissed each other on the cheek.

“Things would be better if Grandma would stop that jerk from changing history.” Alexandra complained with an impish grin.

“So is this a social call or did Darren do something I haven’t seen?” I asked as I stood and welcomed my Granddaughter.

“Sorry for the interruption, Alex, but there has been a temporal distortion detected in your quarters. Do you require assistance?” Dixie asked as her voice filled the room.

“No Dixie, my granddaughter has just arrived. I’ll vouch for her personally.” I said to the A.I.

“Disregard and reset the alarm, Dixie.” Andie added.

“As you wish, Commodore Celeste.”

“I see that Aunt Ricki has worked her usual magic with the equipment?” Alexandra asked with a sly smile.

There was a noticeable click heard throughout the room.

“I think you made her mad, honey.” I said looking up to the ceiling.

Alexandra rolled her eyes. “I’m sorry, Dixie, I meant no disrespect. It’s just that…well…you’ve met my Aunt Ricki Lynn.”

“Mom has helped me feel much better, Future Empress Alexandra.”

My granddaughter looked at me, one eyebrow raised. “Mom?”

“Prof. Samuels repaired her just before she had a critical failure, honey.” I told her. “Dixie thinks of her as her mother now.”

“OOOkay.” Alexandra looked to the ceiling unsure if she believed that. “Dixie, is my Aunt Alex Reilly on her way? I thought she would have seen my arrival.

“Empress Alexandra Reilly has just set off the Tempor…”

“I’m right here, honey.” Allie immediately fell to one knee. “Welcome to Atlantis, Empre…”

“Lords, I’m impossible!” Alexandra shouted out in frustration, raising her hands to the ceiling. “Please…get up.” She deadpanned.

“You say she is your granddaughter, Alex?” Andie asked in disbelief.

“Yes.” I replied.

“No.” Allie answered at the same time.

“I’m this ones granddaughter, Commodore Celeste.” She pointed to me. “Alexandra, third born of Nathan and Alexis of Terra; second granddaughter of Tibius of Terra and Alexandra Steinert-Fleming of Earth.” My granddaughter introduced herself. It was good that Andie was wearing her Reilly suit because Alexandra said it in Terran.

“Commodore Andromeda Celeste, commander of Atlantis. Please…call me Andie, Alexandra.” Andie returned the introduction.

“In that case, and in order to not create chaos around here, you can call me Lexi since we already have an Alex and an Allie.” Alexandra giggled while rolling her eyes at Alex and I.

“Empress’, I have Jacquelyn, Mom, and Yuuka approach…oh, never mind.” Dixie began as the door to my quarters began to groan then opened quickly.

“Aunt Jacki! Alexandra exclaimed as she ran over and wrapped her arms around my first officer. “Connie said to say hi.”

Jack’s eyes started to tear up as my granddaughter moved on.

“Aunt Ricki, how have you been? It’s been a while since you visited Terra Nuevo.” She said next as she greeted Prof. Samuels.

“Been busy here, toots.”

“Pixie! Have you been behaving yourself?” Alexandra asked deviously as she hugged Yuuka energetically.

“I have been watching myself, Empress.” Yuuka said looking somewhat shocked.

Had she meet her before? I blinked a few times. Of course, they had met at the conference at Reilly. Why did I think she hadn’t?

“Where is Aunt Cami? I thought she came…along… Oh, no.” Alexandra gasped as our shared memories sorted out.

“We’ll find the reason, honey, I promise.” I told her somberly.

“Yes we will, grandmother.” She replied with a confident smile, glancing over to Jack to reassure her.

Alexandra was quiet for a moment.

“Aunt Alex, your memories hold a theory as to Aunt Cami’s disappearance?”

“I was thinking that somehow one of Clemson’s next trips was back to our little visit to Istanbul. Somehow he did something to Cami…”

“Hello everyone! Grandmother, why didn’t you introduce me yet?” Alexandra suddenly said as her body seemed to flicker.

“Um…when did I get here anyway?” She asked in confusion.

“About ten minutes ago, hun. What’s going on?”

“Grandma…I suddenly…I don’t feel well…I…Grandma? Help me…”

My granddaughter…the future Empress of Time and Space suddenly began to fade out!

The image of my little Alex reaching out to me in frightened confusion…it was …it was the last thing I saw….before…before she…she vanished.

“Alex? What just happened?” Andie asked as she took my hand automatically.

“Alex!” Emily cried as she too started to look transparent!

“Emily!” I shouted as she too faded away, a look of terror on her face.

“No!” I screamed. “Jack, take my hand!”

Andromeda and Regina Celeste were the only people left standing with me in the conference room. When had the temporal anomaly alarm started sounding?

“Commodore! There is a woman! A woman glowing brilliantly next to you! Why do you hold her hand, ma’am? Where is the light coming from?” Reggie asked- terrified at what she now saw.

“What are you talking about, Reggie? I’m holding onto Alex’ hand? Empress, what have you done with the others?”

I couldn’t answer through my closed eyes and rushing tears.

“Who is Alex, Commodore? Is this woman ‘Alex’?”

“Empress? What is happening? Why does Reggie not recognize you? Where are your sisters?” Andie asked hysterically.

“Commodore, should I call Ian and his security detail? Are you in duress?”

I continued to cry as I felt my knees contact the deck. Andie continued to hold my hand- much tighter now.

“Empress, I don’t understand what is happening. First your granddaughter disappeared then your sister, Emily, then your other sisters have just vanished! I don’t understand.”

“Commodore, why do you call this woman ‘Empress’? We carry no royalty. Where has this woman come from?”

“”Reggie, this woman has spent the last two weeks with us. She is the Empress of Time and Space. Why can’t you remember?” Andie cried out to her sister. “What is going on here? Empress? Talk to me!”

“They’re gone.” I choked out. “They…” I choked back my tears in order to answer my frightened host. “They…they don’t ex…exist anymore.”

“Who doesn’t exist anymore? Commodore, who is this woman talking about? Who does she refer to?” Reggie pressed, concerned for her sister’s security.

“My sisters! They…they don’t exist…now. My sisters…my best friend…my chief engineer…my granddaughter…”

Andy gasped loudly.

“Reggie, we have to leave! I’m placing you in command. Under no circumstances are any test firings, thruster simulation, or orbit corrections to be made until my return…and get your techs down to the AI bay! I sense it will fail in the next four hours! If we lose the Computational Core no one will survive! Alex and I will return as soon as we can.”

“I don’t understand, Commodore. Where could you possibly go? We are high above the planet Sol 3.” Reggie asked in confusion.

“Empress, we must get to someplace safe.” Andie urged- her voice getting closer to my ear. I felt her shake my hand vigorously.

‘Need to get to a safe place.’ I muttered as I replayed it in my head a few times.

“Empress…” Andie’s frightened voice cried. “Where are we? This place…why is it so dark and foreboding? How can we be standing? There is no floor…no walls…no ceiling. There is nothing here except a small yellow sun!”

“Momma.” I managed to whisper. “Momma…help me.”

“What did you say, Alex? Did you just call for your mother?”

“Yes, Andromeda. That is exactly who she called for. After all, what young woman wouldn’t call for her mother in such dire times?” A familiar voice answered.

“Commodore Andromeda Cel…”

“Celeste…yes I know, Andromeda. I know who you are. I also know why you are here, child. Alex? Alex honey? Sweetheart, can you find the strength to stand, please?”

“Empress, who is this woman? She looks just like you! Alex! How can she be your mother if she looks no older than you?”

“You’ve traveled with our Empress and you still ask those questions, Andromeda? Have you not met her granddaughter Alexandra? She also looks as old as Alex here.”

“I’m sorry, madam, I am still a novice to temporal particulars.” Andie answered as I tried to pull myself together. Looking up, I saw Ruth Scott smile pleasantly. Her gentle smile immediately made me feel a little calmer.

“Andromeda Celeste, Ruth Scott. Emily’s and my mother.” I said through sniffles as I forced my legs to lift me. “Ma she’s gone! They’re all gone!”

My tears started back up, heavier this time.

“Come here, child.” Momma Scott said as she gently pulled me into her waiting arms.

I broke down.

“Can this be reversed, madam? Can her sisters be returned from…from the void?” I heard Andie ask.

“That is for our Empress to decide, Andromeda. Only she that controls time can retrieve that which time has forgotten.

“Your daughter has just lost everyone she holds dear and you, her mother, speaks in riddles?! Madam Scott, this is not the time! Alex came here to seek your help, not debate philosophy! Are you a Sphinx or her mother?!”

“Andromeda, you are out of line! I AM trying to help Alexandra!”

“Then help the woman, don’t confuse her further!”

SHUT UP, BOTH OF YOU!” I shouted, pushing myself free of Ma Scott. My voice echoed for a long time in the nothingness around us. I couldn’t help it. I had just lost everyone and these two were going at each other now. I just had to stop them.

“Why do you two have to do this?” I looked at both women.

“I was only trying to provide the requested assistance…”

“You were causing more confusion, mother! I’m sorry, but I have to side with Andromeda on this. I didn’t come here for riddles. I want answers.”

“Why would you tease Alex like that, Mada…”

“That’s enough, Andromeda! I understand your motivation, and I appreciate your concern. Like I said…I just want some answers. Mother Scott, can’t we just talk like we’re a normal mother and daughter?”

“Alexandra, we are in your private domain. What about talking to me here would be normal?” Ma Scott asked candidly.

“I don’t understand. What does she mean, Alex? Why would speaking to your mother not be normal?” Andie asked, completely baffled by the conversation to this point.

“There are several things, Andromeda. First, this place is only a construct…a null point in time where the Empress can come to consult and contemplate without the distractions of time itself.”

“So this place doesn’t really exist? Would it also be safe from the changes in this ‘time stream’ Alex speaks of- safe from what just happened?”

“It is and much more, Andromeda. This domain is also a place where our Empress can consult with her predecessors- a place where she can ask for help and advice from those that have the experience.”

“Predecessors? As in consult with those that have passed on? This is some sort of gateway to the afterlife?”

“More of a ‘middle ground’, Andromeda. The Empress can call us from our dimension as needed…for whatever is needed.”

“And I take it you are among the departed, Madam Scott? I think I understand a little better now. Still, speaking in riddles could do nothing more than befuddle our already overwhelmed Empress. The time is now for direct answers and straight talk. Why make her feel worse than she does at this moment? What ends could that serve?”

“It served to cause our little altercation and thereby caused Alexandra to disregard her darkness and concentrate on the only two loved ones she still has, Andromeda. Now, having reached understanding, can my daughters please restore the timeline and rescue all those floating in the ether?”

I started to laugh. As absurd and obtuse as it sounded, it had worked.

“Why are you laughing, Alex? There is no humor in losing everyone you hold dear.” Andie asked as she stared at me curiously.

“Thank you, momma. How is it you always seem to know how to distract me?”

“It’s what your grandmother did to me in such cases, my dear.”

“But you really aren’t my mother, ma.”

Andie rubbed her forehead in frustration.

“Wait. You really aren’t her mother? But she calls you mother…the two of you look almost identical…you sound the same even- yet you claim she is not your mother?”

“We’re related through my Mahanilui, Andie. Once I became Emily’s sister, via my change, she technically became my mother.”

“So…you have two women that claim you as their own?”

“Is that any stranger than being in an undefined void where your ancestors can be called to visit and talk, Andromeda?” Momma Scott asked in answer.

“I’m thinking you should have released my hand before we left Atlantis, Alex. Any sense of logic has escaped this place- if it existed here at all…or ever.” Andie claimed, as she looked me straight in the eyes.

“As I remember it, you took my hand, Andie…not the other way around.” I said with a slight grin.

“That’s what I wanted to see, Alexandra! As small as it is, I’ll take it. Your smile has always brought warmth to my heart.” Ma Scott said as she placed her hand to my cheek.

Enjoying the warm, soft hand on my face for a few moments, I decided to get down to business.

“Momma, how can I get them back?”

“How would you get your sisters back, Alexandra? How would YOU do it, child?”

“Again you answer questions with questions.” Andie complained.

I thought about her question. How WOULD I do things?

“Had I the power…I’d wish them back to me, momma. I would force time to spit them back out to where it swallowed them up! But…but no one is that powerful, momma! No one can stop time let alone reverse it.”

Andie’s mouth dropped as she stared at me in disbelief. I missed that while I continued to think things through.

“Child, I don’t think there are any flies in this domain, but should there be they would fly straight into that cavern you call a mouth. Please close it should something as just described actually happen.” I heard Momma say as I continued to think about what I would do.

“To restore my friends and family I would do anything…absolutely anything…whatever I had to…just to get them back to me!” I surmised.

“What’s wrong, Andie?” I asked just noticing her mouth still hanging wide open and Momma Scott smiling brightly.

“You…you’ve…you can, Alex.” Andie babbled out.

“I can what?”

“You’ve stopped time before, Alex! I watched you do it! You CAN stop time, Empress!”

“But…” I thought about it for a minute, “But I can’t reverse it.” I said sadly.

“And where, specifically, does it say that, Alexandra?”

“Momma, you of all people would know. Aren’t you the one that keeps telling me what I can and can’t do? It’s not like I got the manual yet.”

“There is a big difference between what can be done and what should be done, child. I had hoped by now you would know the subtleties.”

“The only way I know to accomplish that is to break the rules, momma, and you impressed upon me quite clearly at our last meeting how well that would be tolerated by upper management!”

“Someone once told a whole classroom that the end result justified the means…or have I misquoted you, child?”

“I was talking about a paradox, momma.”

“And what just happened doesn’t qualify…is that it?” Ruth Scott looked at me, still smiling brightly. “Did you not declare the Empress the ‘singular prototype’ of that word not long ago, Alexandra?”

“Madam Scott, theoretically…how much could this upper management you speak of tolerate before a limit would be crossed?” Andie asked.

“Your sister was wise to find and bring you along, Andromeda. It warms my heart to know that at least one of my daughters would catch that underlying detail.” Momma Scott’s smile turned mischievous as an eyebrow rose.

“Andie is also your daughter, momma? How?”

“Empress Alexandra does not have sole reign over time or space, Alex. You observed many times during our conversations that we are identical save one measurement. Do you think such a small difference would deny travel between the realms?”

“You aren’t dead, momma?” I gasped.

“In this and a few other universes I am, but in one realm in particular I’m still very much alive, Alex.”

“Which one, momma?”

“Why, the one I am alive in, of course! Alexandra, which one is not important right now. What is important is that we get the sisterhood of this universe restored and dispatch the thief to his foreseen prison...” Ma Scott’s smile became even more devious. “By any means at our disposal.”

“Even if it breaks the rules, momma?”

“Break, but not dispense with them, Alex. Proper time flow must be restored once the mission is achieved, child.”

“You have a question, Andromeda?” Momma Scott looked at my companion. She had been speechless for a while now.

“You claim to be my mother! How is that possible since she died over forty years ago?”

“Are you so sure, child? Did you actually see a body?”

“I was on a training mission to the fourth world when she passed on so no.”

“Artemus- your father- kept his word then.”

“Father is gone, Madam Scott. He was not chosen in the lottery.” Andie revealed, lowering her head in shame. “I was not successful in influencing the collections council.”

“Are you so sure he didn’t survive? Can you be so certain in your belief, Andromeda?”

“After what I’ve just heard, I am not ‘sure’ of anything, madam!”

“Andie,” Momma Scott giggled. “Child, what color is your hair…really?”

My companion stared at her for several minutes while trying to understand the relevance of the question.

“Before age began its slow decay it was two shades darker than Alexandra’s…why would you ask such a question…what is the relevance?”

“The same shade as Emily and Alexis…almost the same shade as Cassandra and Samantha.” I mumbled.

“So, do you see it now, Alexandra?” Momma Scott asked looking between Andie and I.

“How…why?” I stumbled.

“The how is self explanatory, child! As to the why? If you had met her father in his prime, you would understand.”

“So you were the Empress that Andie’s history speaks of, not me?”

“Disappointed, sweetie?”

“More like relieved, momma!” I sighed.

“So if you really are my mother as you say, come along and help Alex and I make things right.” Andie suggested.

“Unfortunately that one small difference between Alexandra and I is the one thing that keeps me from doing just that, I’m afraid. This realm…universe can only tolerate so many Empresses. Alexandra can tell you of her experiences when the balance tipped.”

I thought about what she said and began to evaluate it against what I had learned earlier. Sure she didn’t have my exact dimensions- could I change that? I had made her look younger already, right? This was my own private realm too…in this place I had full control of what happened? Could I ‘change’ more about ‘someone’? That would be ‘breaking the rules’ though. But didn’t Ma just insinuate that, circumstances being what they were, I could ‘break the rules’?

I might as well try.

“As you said, momma, the difference between you and I is slight.” I began to concentrate on the woman standing in front of me. “However, we are now in my private domain- one in which I have the last word.”

The subtle change one gene made was almost unnoticeable. I would have to thank Alex Reilly and her advanced knowledge of genetics after we restored this timeline and everyone in it.

“It would please me no end to have you join Andie and I on our quest to restore this timeline, mother. That is MY final word, and those are the rules in MY realm, Mother Empress!”

Grabbing momma’s hand, I thought about what needed to be done. Could we even do this?

“Alexandra! Unhand me, young lady! Upper management will not be lenient this time!”

“I’ll take that chance, Mother Empress!” I said as I thought about ‘where’ in time I needed to be. I continued to hold tightly to Ruth Scott’s hand as she fought for release.

Release for her wasn’t going to happen though! I was through playing by the rules. I now had ‘upper management’ in hand and I intended to keep her that way until satisfied things were back to normal!
 
 

1330hrs, Atlantis-Minor, July 25th, 1944
 
 

“I’m glad to see that everyone is okay after the excitement this morning. I hate to say it, but I underestimated Clemson’s resourcefulness. I failed to consider the existence of an actual bomb among his assets. I’m sorry I brought injury to some of you.”

“For everyone that did not hear, Clemson escaped. Moreover, I let him escape.”

“I’m sorry I let y’all down. He threatened to destroy Earth and everyone on it. I couldn’t let that happen even if it was a well-played bluff.”
 
 

“You didn’t let anyone down yet, Alex!” I said as Andie, Ruth Scott, and I listened- still out of phase- just inside the door of the Mess Hall.
 
 

“I promise this will be the last time that happens. The next time Darren Clemson and I meet, he WILL face the Empress’s wrath and judgment. And he will wish he never met the Empress of Time and Space or the sisters of Kili!”

Everyone, including Andie, Ruth Scott and I, looked around the dimmed room curiously and not at my previous instance as she finished.

The hall immediately brightened.
 
 

“How did you do that, Empress?” Andie asked as she turned her head back to me. Her eyes widened as soon as she noticed Momma on my other side.
 
 

“In a few minutes Commander Cummins, Ensign Sukiro, and I will leave for our prehistory base to plan our next encounter with Darren Clemson. I will warn you now that there may be a couple more severe headaches ahead as we right the ‘corrections’ Clemson has made to reshape our timeline.”

“Unfortunately, and because of a miscommunication, our adversary possesses several individual entities from different dimensions. As we all have seen, via Cmdr. Cummins’ telepathy, these alternate personalities vary moderately. I thank each of you for helping Jack, Yuuka, and I draw those personalities out for examination.”

“It was fun just watching the expression on his face, Skipper. I never laughed so hard when Rachel spontaneously combusted right in front of him.”
 
 

“Michelle Simonetti has a wonderful laugh, Alexandra.”

I looked at Momma with concern. “You aren’t mad at me for bringing you here?”

“You could have just asked me to come, Alexandra. I didn’t raise you to be rude.”

“You didn’t raise me at all, momma.” I reminded her. “Ma and Pa did that back in Oak Ridge.”

Momma just smiled at me while Andie shook her head in amazement.

I turned my attention back to my previous meeting and its conversations.
 
 

“You know it would have been dangerous, chief- plus, seeing him would have influenced your future.”

“Maybe if I’d have seen him this future debacle wouldn’t have happened in the first place, Skipper!”

“He does help us in a small way, chief. Not everything he did in the past centered on him directly. But unfortunately, this had to happen, Ricky Lynn. I’m sorry.”

“So when’s it happen?”

“When does what happen, hun?”

“When’s my memory crash? I know this all happened, so in order to keep things on track, I need to forget, right?”

“I haven’t seen any action taken in that regard, chief, so no, not in the foreseeable future.”

Ricky Lynn stared at that version of me, confused by the answer.

“Captain…this prehistory base you spoke of…when is it? I mean…how far back did you have to go to be safe?”

“Let me just say that Ni’ihau was still below sea level and leave it at that.”
 
 

“Seems it wasn’t safe enough.” I added sadly as the three of us remained out of phase.
 
 

“So what can we do to help, ma’am?” Ricky Peterson asked as I saw everyone’s head nod in agreement.

“We appreciate the offer, sisters, but Jack, Yuuka, and I started this mission. It’s our responsibility to complete it successfully. Again, thank you all for your participation and we’ll see you tonight. Ladies?” That ‘me’ said, offering her hands to Jack and Yuuka, and thereby concluding the meeting.

Jack, Yuuka, and Emily got up and walked toward that ‘me’.

“That will not be necessary, Capt. Alexandra Frances Steinert.” I said as I rephased us. “We will take it from here, sister.”

“Allie…Andie…” My past twin stared at my third companion intensely.

“Mother?” Emily cried out in shock!

The Mess Hall got eerily quiet. All eyes were now locked on the three of us ‘new arrivals’.

“Alex…how…?”

“Mrs. Scott, how can you be here? Alex, you didn’t…you know…bring her back?” Jack asked while trying to keep her lower jaw attached.

Emily ran to us and wrapped her arms around our mother.

“Momma! I’ve missed you so much…”

“Alex…this looks like mother…but…she doesn’t feel right.” My sister said after squeezing the woman once. “Who is she, Alex?”

“I assure you, I am Ruth Scott, Emily. Alex realized she had to make a modification or two to drag me along on this humanitarian mission of hers.” Momma told her.

Emily stared at Momma’s endowments for a moment.

“You made her breasts bigger just to bring her along, Alex?” Emily stared at me in disbelief. Some of our gathered crew began snickering quietly.

“She claimed she couldn’t pass through my domain because of our ‘slight difference’. I just…I just remedied that while I could…before we left my domain.” I informed my sister.

“I don’t care! Momma, I’m so glad to see you!” Emily cried and wrapped Ma in another tight embrace.

“Wait! Won’t ‘Upper Management’ be upset with you, Alex?” Emily asked suddenly breaking her death grip on Ruth Scott again.

“Why don’t you ask her, sis?”

“Huh? What do you mean, Alex? You don’t mean she…” Emily’s mouth dropped at the realization I hinted at.

“Upper Management is willing to overlook certain things due to the situation, my daughters.” Momma answered sternly. “Whether ‘kidnapping’ is to be pursued or even prosecuted…that is still being considered.”

Ignoring the angry looks from both momma and my sister, I told past Alex why we were here.

“Going back to Atlantis now would only seal our fate, Alex. When you, Emily, Jack, and Yuuka went back we had roughly twelve hours before our sisters disappeared one by one. I’m still not sure how Andie and I were spared.” I explained.

“Empress,” Andie began, “I believe contact with you saved my memory from reverting to a state prior to our meeting. My sister, Regina, related how you were giving off an eerie bright light before we departed for your domain. Could that be a defensive shield of some sort- could that be what protected us from the erasure?”

“She was glowing like that when we were in Egypt yesterday, Andie, and again just a little while ago when she stopped time and actually slowed the speed of light. No, I couldn’t read you while time was stopped, Alex. I saw it in your mind when you recalled it as we sat here in the Mess Hall. Everything tinted red except for her- she was shining bright- just like a star!” Jack related excitedly.

I noticed Momma’s mouth, as well as Mina’s drop open just the tiniest bit.

“You didn’t know I could do that, momma?” I asked, shocked by that.

“Perhap, we have grossly underestimated her potential, Mother Empress.”

“Desperate times and all, Philamina…still, she has only realized just a small portion of her total…” Momma replied cryptically.

“What do you and Mina mean by that, momma?” Emily cried in anger at the mysterious conversation. “And just when did you become ‘Mother Empress’?!”

Momma just smiled deviously.

“They mean I can do a whole lot more, sis…that…apparently, I haven’t even scratched the surface of what the Empress is capable of.” I said noticing Mina look to me and nod ever so slightly.

“Ready to go save the universe y’all?” I asked seriously, looking at Jack, Yuuka, Emily, and my previous twin individually.

“You mean you want us to come with you instead of to Atlantis? Wouldn’t that create a whopper of a paradox, Empress?” Jack asked in confusion as my twin took momma’s offered hand. The tingle between us was stronger than I had expected. Wait…why had I felt that with Momma between us?

“With the universe on the verge of collapse as we speak, what is one more- wouldn’t you agree Mina?”

“Mother Empress, I have also been guilty of creating needless paradoxes, and therefore, you already know my mind on the matter, mum.”

“Momma…in case Alex didn’t mention it…I’ve missed you too.” My twin said from her side.

“I know that Alexandra. I’ve been watching, remember?”

“Empress! Yer startin’ to give off light!” Ricky Lynn exclaimed just as Emily took Andie’s hand. Yuuka barely had the chance to land and grab my left earlobe.

“I’m afraid it’s time for us to go, ladies.” I said quickly, before our sisters started to fade out one by one. My heart wasn’t willing to watch that happen again!

“Where to first, Empress?” Jack asked as a wooded mountainside appeared around us.

Ahead and not far away stood Alex Steinert, Alex Reilly, Cami, Jack, and Yuuka. As before, Cami and Jack were standing several yards apart as they demolished the fragile, rock barrier between the Aegean and what would become the Black Sea.

“Jack, be ready to catch Cami.” I shouted above the noise.

“Why? What’s going to happen that didn’t happen the first time, Empress?”

Suddenly, Clemson appeared surrounded by over two-dozen kegs of gunpowder!

Clemson vanished a second before the first keg exploded into fire and smoke. The others followed an instant later.

Cami barely had time to produce a protective shield. Still, the blast sent her flying down the mountainside toward the rushing water and rubble.

Only this time, she didn’t join the headwaters of the apocalyptic flood. Instead, she hung suspended high above it, unconscious.

“Jack, bring her back and gently place her on the ground by your previous self.”

“Aye, ma’am.”

Once safe, I rephased us while our previous selves attended to their unconscious sister.

“Everyone, keep holding hands.” I said calmly as I began to concentrate. This version of our trip to the great flood had to be reversed…literally. Jack and both Alex’ began to turn their heads slightly in our direction.

“What are you going to do, Alex?” Jack and Emily asked at the same time.

“Reverse what has happened. This never happened the first time so it won’t happen this time either!” I explained as I pictured my imaginary valves that connected my companions. First on my list were Jack and Andie’s valves.

Both groaned out loudly as I opened them wide.

“I thought I asked you to warn me before you did that Alex!” Jack complained. Andie’s eyes were clamped shut tightly as she rode out the initial pain.

“Momma, would you care to help?” I asked softly.

“Go easy at first, child, I haven’t done this in a long time.”

I opened Momma’s valve up a quarter turn. I felt her grip of my hand tighten significantly.

“Yuuka, you’re next.” I said as I opened the valve I had designated for the pixie.

A huge amount of power surged into me from both earlobes! That could only mean one thing.

“Welcome Pixie. I didn’t realize you got to me before the extinction took you away from me”

“What are you talking about, Alex? I just made it to your shoulder before you started to glow.” Yuuka said from my left shoulder.

“I was talking to the Yuuka on my right shoulder, hun. Thank you, Yuuka.”

“I could not leave you alone, Empress.” Yuuka said from my right shoulder.

“Alex, you’re not making any…” Emily said as she leaned forward to look at me. “Oh…hello Yuuka. We didn’t see you there.”

“Emily, I’m going to open your valve a little now.” I told my sister. I couldn’t remember if she had been brought up to speed on power sharing or not.

“What valve, Alexuuuuugh! What did you just do?”

“Alex is now drawing power from you. In this way she can supplement and strengthen her own abilities to accomplish the required task.”

“Who are you?” Emily looked at the tall woman that was holding her hand, dressed in a default Reilly suit.

“Sorry. Emily, this is Commodore Andromeda Celeste, Captain of Atlantis. Commodore, our sister Emily Scott.” I said quickly.

“Our sister, Alex?”

“Long story, sis. Let’s get this segment repaired and I’ll tell you all about it after, okay?”

“We’re going to need a bigger base, aren’t we, Cap?” Jack wisecracked.

“Doing the impossible in three; two; one.” I announced as I concentrated on making time obey my will.

Cami began to rise into the air then floated back into the position where Jack had caught her. She paused there for several seconds before moving back to her original location prior to the explosion. Her movement increased in speed significantly as she neared her initial start point.

Fire, smoke, and debris collapsed back into each wooden cask as things continued in reverse of their original explosive sequence.

Darren Clemson and the QDA reappeared in the center of the now completely intact cache of gunpowder kegs.

Now I willed time to stop and released the hands of the people on either side of me.

“Alex! What are you doing!” Andie and Momma screamed in horror.

“What I have to do to make things right.” I answered mechanically as I continued to concentrate on holding time at bay.

Slowly, I walked through the powder kegs and located the fuse Jack had lit the second time around in Philadelphia. Smoke and sparks hung motionless on the crude black powder-cored, rolled cotton fuse. Reaching down, I pulled it from its hole in the keg with some effort.

Walking back to my companions, I released it. The fuse hung motionless in the air several feet from us.

I took Andie and Momma’s hands again.

“Before Tempus-Fugit, Alexandra, I’d like to correct something.” Momma Scott said gently. I felt her release my hand.

Now she walked over to the discarded casks, stood at the cache’s center next to that accursed QDA, and raised her arms. From the intense look on her face she was concentrating…hard.

“Please don’t release until I get back.” She told me with a tense, but devious grin.

She and the gunpowder cache disappeared. I felt my jaw drop as I stared at the now nearly empty location. A second later she was back and rejoined our group.

“We’re ready, Empress, thank you.” She said as she rejoined our group.

“I’m sorry, momma…I forgot…”

“It just provided the opportunity to knock the cobwebs off, child.” She said with a gentle smile.

More like she wanted to show off, I thought.

Time began moving forward as I phased us out again. Cami and the others would never know how close they came to losing a valued sister.

“How did you do that, momma?!” Emily asked, barely able through her open jaw.

“She created a localized time eddy before transporting the gunpowder somewhere else.” I answered. “So, where did you port them, momma?”

“Back where they belonged, but I still missed the little bastard.” She replied through clenched teeth.

“Momma!”

“What Emily.”

“Momma, that’s the first time I’ve heard you swear!”

“It won’t be the last, child…not on this mission anyway.”

“We…we won’t remember any of what just happened, will we, Empress?” Jack asked from Alex Steinert’s left.

“I’m sorry, Jack. By their perspective,” I nodded sadly to the previous versions of us a short distance away, “it never happened, so there will be nothing to remember…after we return y’all to Atlantis-Minor.”

“As long as we’re with you…here…now…we’ll remember?”

“That’s the way I figure it, my friends. Again, I’m sorry.”

“But Cami will be back with us on Atlantis…a few…um…a few days ago, right?” Jack asked- stopping midsentence to make sure she had everything in the proper tense.

“That’s right, Jack. She’ll be none the wiser.” I answered with a tight smile.

“Where to next, sister?” Andie asked- awed by what she had witnessed so far.

“Are you in a hurry, Andie?” I asked quickly. “Remember about what I said earlier about borrowing.”

I consciously turned my imagined valves an equal amount in the opposite direction. I was now repaying the energy I had just used.

The women around me moaned in pleasure- especially the two five-inch women on my shoulders.

Emily again leaned forward to look at me.

“Oh GOD, Alex! That was the most incredible…”

“Where did you learn that, Alexandra?” Momma asked in shock- her expression betraying her true feeling.

“I always repay my debits, Ma- no matter what the form of those debits may take.”

Momma snickered as she closed her eyes and shook her head sideways a few times.

“Empress?”

“Ya, Jack?”

“Empress, I don’t want to forget! I want to remember every incredible thing I’ve seen. What you both have done…its…its absolutely…unimaginable! I’d rethink that Goddess or Deity thing if I were you…you too, Mrs. Scott! On first meeting you I…I would’ve never imagined that you…”

“Stop right there, Jacquelyn,” Momma ordered gently. “Neither of us are Gods, let alone Deities of any level. The Empress…as well as you, Emily, Andie, Yuuka, or any of the sisters or brothers of Reilly, just do what we can, with what we were given. As long as our abilities are kept in control and are not abused, we retain our humanity.”

“It is when we forget or ignore our purpose in this life that we become the Gods and Goddesses of written or spoken myth- the arrogant, self-absorbed, frail tyrants of ancient times- the entities that gave the peoples of the universes those negative connotations in the first place.”

“Ladies…especially Constance, Cassieopia, Camille, and you, Jacquelyn…never forget who and what we are…what we can or could possibly do. Think of what could happen should our morality start to stray. I can honestly say that I’ve seen what happens should just one of us misuse our gifts.”

I noticed Momma’s hand tighten its grip on my hand. It started to shake ever so slightly. A stream of tears fell from her face as she went on.

“Always remember that, though endowed with what we consider ‘unimaginable’, ‘monumental’ gifts, we are far from the most powerful entities in the multitudes of universes. Strive to remain humble to your fellow travelers on the road called life, my sisters, because to lose that opportunity…to be denied our paramount reason for existing…there is practically no reprieve…for someone like that…from those higher above.”

Momma began to sniff and spasm lightly. Had she…I hated to even think it…had she been the one to anger what she called ‘Upper Management’? Had she been ‘forced’ to ‘retire’…literally?

“I’m sure that ‘Upper Management’ would be forgiving enough to allow such a person a second chance, momma. If not, they would be no better than the myths you just mentioned.” I said, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.

“Remember this, my young Empress…the penalties…they ultimately reflect the crime’s severity. Always consider that before rushing headlong into any given situation.”

Seeing the previous Yuuka run down the slope and take to the air broke the heavy silence surrounding my present group. Momma’s insights had us all thinking about our responsibilities.

“Alex?”

“Momma?” We both answered.

“Alex, promise me you’ll always think before you act.” She said, gently shaking our hands a few times.

“I’ll try, momma.” We chorused.

‘Wow, you would think your mother did something terrible and had been exiled to the afterlife, Alex.’ Jack thought to me, possibly to my twin too.

‘I’d rather not think about it, Jack. I couldn’t imagine being able to only see and not interact with y’all.’

‘Maybe this mission is that second chance, Empress?’

‘We have to believe it is, Jack. Let’s get this mission back on track.’

“So, Empress…where to next?” Jack asked out loud.

“Pearl Harbor.” I said, as our surroundings became the submarine docks at Pearl.

“When are we, Alex?” Emily asked as she looked around and at Sand Dollar tied up smartly to our left.

“August 20th, 1944.”

“This is the day we start our new campaign…um…Peleliu, right? Ricky Lynn mentioned this date at her briefing on the QDA data back on Atlantis.”

“That’s right, Jack. Can you sense Clemson around anywhere?” I asked as I enabled my tiara’s QDA surveillance and interrogation programs. I wanted to capture any and all information I could before that maniac jammed communications.

“Not yet, but the Admiral is just leaving headquarters, Empress.”

“Great! That’s all we need right now!” My twin exclaimed. “Allie, we weren’t going to rephrase, were we?”

“Um…sorry, already back in phase, Alex.” I said, dropping my gaze to the concrete. “Lt. Celeste, you better change into your regulars.” I looked at the woman beside me. “Momma, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have rephrased but I…um…I sort of thought you were Alex Covington.” I winced at my negligence.

The clothing on the women to either side of me changed to regulation officer’s uniforms.

“Momma? How?” I gasped as my jaw dropped.

“You don’t have the market cornered on technology, child.” She smiled deviously.

“Captain Steinert! There better be a good reason for your appearance on my dock. Especially after I just left you in my office!” Uncle Rick groused as he approached.

“Pixies, please remain hidden in my hair.” I said quietly to both Yuukas.

All seven of us turned around, stood to attention, and saluted.

“Admiral Demmit, I hadn’t figured on seeing you here, sir. The girls and I were just taking a walk to check on Sand Dollar.”

“Invoking the power of three, Alex? I thought you only did that when there was tr…” Demmit returned our salute, his attention quickly turned to Andie.

“Lt. Celeste? I haven’t seen you on my docks before. Are you one of Alex’ new recruits?”

“Andromeda Celeste, Admiral. Yes, I’m part of Captain Steinert’s crew this mission, sir.”

“The Navy’s mission or the Empress’, Lieutenant?”

“That is unclear at the moment, Admiral Demmit.” Andie answered with a little uncertainty.

“Emily, make sure you requisition plenty of aspirin and pain-killers. This one’s going to need it.” Uncle Rick pointed to Andie as he approached Emily and spoke softly. He shook hands with her, but stopped suddenly and stepped back over to me. He turned his head slightly to Ruth Scott. You aren’t Admiral Covington, are you?”

“No, Ri…Admiral Demmit, I am not.”

He looked back at me.

“When in the future do you cut your hair so short, Alex?” He asked, still regarding Momma carefully.

“We don’t as far as I know, Admiral. Alex answered before I had the chance.”

“Uncle Rick? Maybe we should board Sand Dollar before you reach any rash conclusions?” I suggested.

“Yes…I think that would be wise, Alexandra. Make it fast though; I have a staff meeting in thirty minutes. My time is very important and the last thing I need is a headache because of the ‘Empress’."
 
 

1030hrs, Pearl Harbor, August 20th, 1944
 
 

“Will somebody please tell me who this person is?!” Admiral Demmit growled angrily as his feet touched the Control Room’s deck. He pointed a staccato finger to Momma.

“I know you’re not any of the Alex’ I’ve met- past, present, or future! Yet I feel I know you somehow.”

“Oh, stop grousing, Ricky! You aren’t the only one that doesn’t want to be here, but I’ve been…‘asked’…to help my daughters complete this mission. So, I’m here at the Empress’s…request- besides, it’s not like I can do anything about it…this isn’t my universe to call the shots in.”

“How dare you refer to me…in…that…Ruthie?” Uncle Rick took Momma into his arms. “Ruthie! But how? My God, how can you be here? Am I just imagining this? Alex, I thought you couldn’t bring…that she couldn’t cross back…oh God, Ruthie, I’ve missed you so much!”

“I’ve missed you too, Ricky. Not a moment has gone by that I haven’t thought about you! I must warn you though, I won’t be staying any longer than it takes to right this time stream. I’m sorry.”

Uncle Rick moved back from his sister. Tears were streaming down his face- tears that he hurriedly tried to wipe away with the hanky he quickly pulled from his back pocket.

“It’s okay, Admiral.” I told him softly. “No one here saw any breach of masculinity. In fact, my quarters are available for the two of you to get reacquainted if you’d like.”

“I…I couldn’t, Alex.”

“We insist, Admiral.” Alex and I said together before giggling and winking to each other.

“Come along, Ricky. The girls can handle things here.” Momma said as she pulled Uncle Rick toward the forward hatch.

“Mother Empress, We’ll be topside on the dock keeping watch.” I said…maybe just to stir things up.

“Mother, I can understand, but Empress?” Uncle Rick asked in confusion.

“That is the least of things we need to discuss, Ricky.” Momma said as they cleared the forward hatch and closed it.
 
 

“Any sign of the QDA, yet, Empress?” Jack asked as we kept watch for any curious SP’s.

“I take it Clemson hasn’t materialized either, Jack.”

“JackDAR is quiet, Empress.”

“What is it with y’all callin’ me ‘Empress’ all the sudden, Commander? Normal protocol is enabled, so Allie will do since I’m the traveler.”

“But…what you’ve done since we left base…its…it’s…are you sure you’re still Alexandra Steinert, ma’am?”

“Last time I checked I’m still me, Jack. I’m still Commander Alexandra Francis Steinert- so call me Allie, hu...”

“Alex! At the end of the pier…just now.” Jack barked just as my HUD became active. We all turned to see the man look directly at us, and frantically type something on the unit’s touchpad. My tiara’s download bar began moving quickly and an instant later it displayed ‘Download complete.’

Clemson and the QDA disappeared again an instant later.

“No luck, Emp…Allie. I couldn’t get a grip on him- just like back at base.”

“That’s okay, Jack. My tiara finished downloading the QDA’s data so we’ll know where he’s been since repowering.”

“I’ve got the backup copy just in case, Allie”, my temporal twin acknowledged as she motioned to her trouser pocket.

“I’m more interested in where he’s going next.” Jack commented.

“Oh, we could tell you where he’s going, Jack.” My twin, Alex Steinert, quipped with a serious face.

“So, do we chance going back to Atlantis so that Prof. Samuels and Dixie can interpret the data, Ale…Allie?” Andie asked catching herself with my name protocol.

“Once mother and Uncle Rick get reacquainted, but let me try something. Randi may have incorporated a data interpreter into her software- let me check.”

Finding Randi’s ‘help’ screen I asked my question: ‘can I interpret QDA data logs?’

I rolled my eyes as a window popped up and data began scrolling down it with a smaller box saying: ‘Processing’. Next to that another window popped up and began filling with dates, locations and power usage for each entry. At the bottom of that window a bar graph displayed ‘QDA power reserve’. It was yellow and indicated 21% remaining.

“Girl, you are amazing.” I said aloud.

“What was that Allie?” Emily asked, confused by my sudden undirected outburst.

“Randi,” I said as I pointed to the top of my head, only to notice that I didn’t have my tiara on for once. “My tiara. She included a program to decode the QDA’s information afterall.”

“So…where all did he go, Allie?” Jack queried.

Mentally, I scanned through the list of destinations. A third trip back to the great flood was first followed by his trip to August 1944. I noted that the power usage for both trips didn’t consume the same amount of energy this time- in fact, the power consumed going from Istanbul to Pearl only took twenty percent instead of twenty-nine.

“Aw crap.” I exclaimed.

“What, Allie?”

Ricky Lynn’s new power supply is much more powerful than the original, Jack.”

“Marvelous.” She deadpanned. “So he can go more places with this one?”

I nodded then closed my eyes to read the other destinations on my new list. Not unexpectedly today’s date was the last entry.

“On the brighter side…he’s only got enough juice left for a round trip back to Egypt.” I told my friends with a tense grin.

Alex Steinert nodded in understanding.

“So is that where we’re headed, sis?”

“Only some of us, Emily. Some of us have to go back to base, I’m afraid.”



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