South of Bikini 4: Episode 5- Departures

With Clemson slipping away once again, Alex and company decide some ‘R and R’ might be good for morale, but is 1944 Bridgeport ready for the Empress and her entourage? How could a young girl, killed in 1942 Burma, possibly make one of Emily’s hometown neighbor’s life complete?

 
 

Copyright: 2014, R.G. Beyer

 
 

Episode 5


 

“Departures”


 
 

1050hrs, Pearl Harbor, August 20th, 1944

“Cap, Admiral Demmit and Mrs. Scott just appeared on the bridge.” Jack informed us.

All conversation stopped until our superior got closer.
 
 

“Girls, have you seen your missing toy yet?” Momma asked quietly as she cleared the gangplank a few minutes later.

“Clemson made a very short appearance this time, momma. I did, however, get a copy of the QDA’s log file.”

“Excellent. Then we should be going to Egypt next?”

“Not without a side trip to Dayton, Ohio, Ma.” I said with a grimace.

“Dayton? What’s in Dayton, Al…Allie?”

“Meridian 12, Admiral.” Alex Steinert answered.

“An just what would a ‘Meridian 12 be, sweetheart?” Uncle Rick asked a little too sweetly. “For those of us that haven’t been on as many of your travels.”

“An Intergalactic Spacecraft of Terran design, sir.” Jack answered officially. “Alex, I thought Anna Beth had to be the one to awaken Meridian?”

“Anna Beth? The woman we saved in Reilly a couple months ago?” Uncle Rick seemed to shiver slightly. “She’s the commander of her own spaceship?”

“Yep.” I replied with grin.

“Ruthie…you see what I have to put up with? I’m supposed to be their commanding officer…not the other way around.”

“But you’re just such a lovable, cuddly Teddy Bear, Uncle Ricky.” Momma schmoozed as she suddenly took Uncle Rick’s arm.

‘SP at six o’clock, sir.’ Jack said quietly in our minds.

“So that is the inside of one of our submarines, girls.” Demmit said, catching on.

HEY…YOU GIRLS! You shouldn’t be out here! The submarine docks are off limits to all unauthorized personnel!”

Our group parted to reveal Admiral Demmit.

“And I’m not authorized…is that it, Chief?” Admiral Demmit growled as he confronted the SP.

“Admiral!” The SP stopped, jumped to attention, and saluted. “Sorry sir, I didn’t know you were…”

“At ease, chief, I was just showing the girls around. These are my nieces. Alexandra and Emily you already know. These two are Alexandra’s sisters, Allison and Ruth. They complete the triple wammy my sister and brother-in-law never deserved.” Ma looked at him in contempt. “They just shipped in yesterday along with a family friend, Andromeda Celeste. I believe you’ve met Lt. Cmdr. Jacquelyn Cummins too?”

“Ladies.” The sailor smiled and nodded to us. “Sorry to have interrupted, sir. I’m still not used to seeing women out on these docks. I’ll just resume my patrol. Good day, Admiral, Ladies.” He said saluting once more. We all saluted back and he turned to leave.

“I like him, uncle. He’s cute.” Momma giggled to her brother. We all looked around at her and a blushing Uncle Rick.

The sailor stopped and turned around. “Thanks, my wife thinks I’m ‘cute’ too, ma’am. Have a nice day, ladies…Admiral.”

We waited for the SP to get out of voice range.

“Mother! What has gotten into you?” Emily asked, surprised by her mother’s behavior. “What if Daddy heard you? What would he say…or think?”

“I’m sorry, honey. I forgot which universe I’m in at the moment.”

“What universe? Wait…is daddy…” Emily began to ask. Momma just lowered her eyes to the concrete.

“Thank you for covering, Admiral.” I said as I stopped and saluted. In fact, all us women were saluting.

“You are quite welcome, Alex, but next time the Pixies remain full size on my base.” He said as he pointed to my shoulders. “Yuuka…both of you…you can be twins too in cases like this.”

“There was no time when we arrived, sir. They would have been seen.” I responded in Yuuka’s defense.

“Understood, Commander.” The old man paused a moment. “Would it be possible for Ruth to stay for a visit or does she perform some vital service for the Empress in the hours to come?”

“You do understand she is Empress as well, Uncle Rick?” I asked as I stepped back and nudged Jack and Emily’s hand slightly.

‘We’re ready, Empress.’ Jack confirmed in my mind.

Ruth Scott turned suddenly as she released Uncle Rick’s hand. “Don’t think you’re getting away with anything, Alexandra. I saw what you two were planning…just as you did. Empress, remember?” She said as she pointed to her chest with a wink and smile.

Taking my freed hands, Momma Scott looked as though she were going to cry. “Thank you, Empress. I’ll be waiting here for your return…tomorrow. Travel well, and…good hunting, girls.”

Momma kissed each of us on the cheek before taking Uncle Rick’s hand again. The two reunited siblings walked along the concrete pier hand in hand.

“So where to now, Allie?”

“Now we return you, Jack, Yuuka, and Emily to Atlantis-Minor, Alex.”

Our base on Ni’ihui appeared around us.

“Welcome back, Empress.” Mina greeted after a minute of rubbing her temples. “I trust sister and brother are reunited and sharing some overdue company?”

Alex and I nodded.

“Then it was worth the severe migraine.” Mina nodded purposely before she turned and began walking away. She then stopped and turned again.

“Well, Captain Steinert, are you, Emily, Jack, and this instance of Yuuka coming? The Empress has many things to do and would like to get on with her mission.”

“I take it we still head back to Atlantis as before, Allie?” Alex asked, though not quite sure.

“Andie, Yuuka, and I will be along shortly.” I said before the Conference room on Atlantis appeared. I kept us phased out.

Those whom I’d previously watched fade away one by one…my sisters…they were still here! My Granddaughter though, was not to be found.

“Alex, should we even come back here? I mean… won’t there be two of each of us now?”

“Let me take care of that, Commodore.” I smiled deviously knowing what I had to do. This had better work, I thought as I once again stopped time.

“That’s what I’m afraid of, madam.” She replied with an audible gulp.

Her hand gripped mine tighter as I walked us to and into our previous selves. We were now standing in the exact positions we were before we left. Even Yuuka was in the proper location.

Concentrating on our previous selves, I rephased us and released time. A VERY cold shiver passed through my body.

Alex Reilly, Emily, Jack, Reggie, Ricky Lynn, and…and Camille Darough stood looking at us strangely. All of them began rubbing their heads in some form or another.

“Wow! That was way easier than a Sake hangover!” Yuuka observed lightly from my shoulder.

“What the HELL just happened?” Professor Samuels demanded dramatically in surprise.

“Did we just fix the timeline, sis?” Alex Reilly asked as she looked to be debating whether to sync with me or not.

“Part of it. Why, did you miss me?”

“Alex, I just got this really strange feeling…like a memory, maybe? Did we go to Pearl with Mrs. Scott?” Jack asked in bewilderment as she rubbed her eyes.

“I’m not sure, Jack. Can you remember who we went with?”

My Ex-O closed her eyes and turned her head slightly to the left as she concentrated on my question.

“Mrs. Scott…Emily…Andie…” She paused as I noticed her concentrate harder. “Me…two Yuukas, and…and another you, Cap.”

Jack looked back to me shaking her head a couple times. “Admiral Demmit and Mrs. Scott…you let her stay behind to visit with the Admiral?”

Emily looked my way as tears began streaming down her cheeks. She stepped toward me and wrapped her arms around me tightly. “Oh my God, Alex! Did you bring her back from…?”

“I…I lost you, Emily! I lost every one of my sisters here. Andie and I had to go someplace where we wouldn’t be erased ourselves. I…I asked for momma’s help.”

“But did you…you know…resurrect…”

“I needed to know what Upper Management would do…or could do because of what happened. I needed Upper Management’s advice, so I…so I modified her and brought her along.”

“You modified…you…” Emily stared at me for a minute. “You made momma look exactly like you! You made momma’s boobs bigger, Alex? Wait…our mother IS Upper Management?”

“We also found out from her that I am somehow your half-sister, Emily.” Andie informed our sister. “Somehow, Mother Empress found the time to visit my world and…and conjugally visit Pappa.”

“WHAT?!” Emily shrieked.

“Andromeda, could you please pull up the back of your blouse?” Alex Reilly asked suddenly. “I’d like to look at your back a moment.”

Andie looked at my twin in horror.

“Oh, you want to see Andie’s weird birthmarks. Why? Is it important, Empress?” Reggie asked in surprise.

There it was. The mark of the royal bloodline- the Homeworld symbol for the Reilly clan. Above it, also plain as day, was the symbol of a tactical seer.

I closed my eyes and shook my head to the side twice.

Just above that was an unfamiliar symbol- circular in shape with a tiny sideways ‘S’ in its middle. A family ranch brand maybe? Circle-lazy-‘S’?

“Alex, do you recognize this symbol? I’ve never seen it before.” I asked my twin as I pointed to it.

“It’s not Reilliese or Homeworld, sis- that much I know.”

“It’s a draftsman’s mark.” Reggie said and continued to explain. “I didn’t know what it meant until I got into finishing school. When I started learning about computers and control systems, I was amazed to find it on a control circuit diagrams. It means ‘source of power’- a power supply. I teased Andie after that…that she would be in a place of power- in control or command of something.”

“Yep. That’s what it is all right. Use it all the time in my project plans, Director.” Ricky Lynn confirmed as she took a quick look.

“Alex…if these are actually Homeworld runes…can she…” Emily began then swallowed loudly and continued. “Can she possibly share our gifts…foresight and…and…”

I immediately knew what Emily was implying. When had she discovered that part of her gift, I wondered, or…or had she always known but kept it to herself?

“I would imagine, sis, yes. I’m surprised you asked that though.” I said before pausing a few seconds. “When did you find out about your…”

“We share the gift of foresight, Alex. Need I say more?”

I smiled.

“Nope. You ARE my sister after all.”

“It looks like there are a few more than we thought. Welcome to the family, Andromeda and Regina Celeste.” Emily said with a big smile.

“But Emily…I’m not…I mean…but I don’t have any symbols on my back.” Reggie admitted- sadness evident in her voice.

“Y’all are Andie’s sister, right?” I asked, smiling, as I thought, ‘none that have appeared yet.’

“We have father in common, yes.” She answered.

“Welcome to the family, hun. You two are related by blood. Welcome, sister.”

“Alex, why can’t I remember you leaving like Jacki can?” Cami inquired in a frightened tone. “What happened to me? Did something bad happen?”

“Several bad things happened, Sweetheart. You suddenly disappeared from Atlantis. Jack was hysterical when she noticed you weren’t here.”

“What…what happened to me?”

“It’s complicated, Sweetheart. Let’s just say that Jack did everything she could in righting the tangent and we call it even.” I said, not wanting to confuse her with the convoluted truth.

Despite not wanting to remember what had happened, I began to recall exactly that.

Cami and Jack’s eyes went wide.

“We…we really just began to fade…disappear?” Jack asked in amazement.

“I actually got blown up by that psychologically challenged equine?” Cami burst out.

Andie and I looked to the deck.

“Like I said…I…I lost ALL my sisters.”

I noticed Alex Reilly looking at me with uncertainty. “Yes, even you, Alex.” I told her sadly. Noticing Andie I modified my last statement.

“Ever’one ‘cept Andie and the people of Atlantis.”

Stepping closer, I reached out and quickly snatched Alex Reilly’s hand.

“Y’all need to know this stuff too, Alex.” I said as the extra strong tingle passed between us.

“Know what, Alex…oh…OH! We can do that? She says we kin do even more? Mina knew?” Alex Reilly said after she jumped at our touch. “So, when we leave for Egypt?”

“Tomorrow. After Ah get some rest.” I said as Alex, Andie, and I began to yawn.

“Will we…will we be okay in the mean time, Alex?” Cami asked, a quiver in her voice.

“Yes,” I told her truthfully. “Even if Ah have to turn back time again to make sure.”

Emily’s mouth dropped open- her eyes opened wide.

“You turned…back time, Alex? Y…yyyy…yyyyyou actually made time run backwards?”

“Ma claims Ah can do even more too. Apparently, Ah’ve only realized a fraction of mah potential. See y’all in the morning.” I said as Alex and I turned for the door.

“You have control Reggie. See you tomorrow.” Andie said as she too followed Alex and I out the door of the conference room.
 
 

“Alex, we need to talk.” Emily said just after locking the door and enabling ‘privacy mode’ from the touchpad. She sat down on the chase recliner across from me.

“Yes, Ah changed her genetic code to match mine. Apparently, Ah kin do that in mah private domain.” I answered her unasked question.

“That isn’t what I was going to ask…well, it was…but I wasn’t going to ask it just yet.”

“Yes, Ah believe her to be part’a ‘Upper Management’. Why wouldn’t a close relative be considered for the position? Who knows us best, after all?”

“Will you stop that and let me ask MY first question, Alex?”

I motioned to her with a flourish of my right hand.

“Was she really unfaithful to daddy? Is she really our mother in this universe, Alex?”

“Is what Ah do on Terra considered cheatin’, sis? Ah mean, Ah’ll feel guilty for a year or so after returnin’ to Earth, but…but Ah really can’t consider it cheating. Ah’ll still be faithful to Sandy.”

“I understand that, Alex. What I guess I really want to ask is…is she really momma? Or is our momma still on the other side…dead?”

“Truthfully? Ah’d have to say that the Ruth Scott that Ah brought back to August of 1944 is definitely our mother, so yes…but…but Ah’m not sure if she belongs to this universe, sis, so no.”

“Thanks for that decisive clarification, Alex.” Emily said sarcastically.

“Ah’m sorry, sis, that’s the best Ah can do. Ah wasn’t exactly paying much attention when Andie and Ah got to my domain. Ah’m lucky Ah even got us there in the first place. It ain’t easy holdin’ it together after seein’ ever’one ya love and hold dear just vanish sequentially before yer eyes! Y’all don’t know what it’s like to experience that, Em.” I told her, wiping away the tears forming again.

“I can’t imagine what you felt, Alex. It must have been horrible.”

“Em,” I said, my face suddenly turning somber. “Momma did somethin’,” I paused. “Somethin’ that got her banished to the…Ah guess, the afterlife. She was trying to warn me. She said that there are ‘people’ that are even more powerful than us…with our gifts, I mean. Sis, she told me they based punishment on severity. Ah can only wonder what she done in her universe to warrant such punishment.”

“Whatever she did, do you think she can atone? I mean…even you have given people second chances. Surely those with that amount of power are understanding and forgiving…right?”

“Ah’d like to think so. If Ah kin show mercy, Ah’d hope our superiors would do likewise. She did mention ‘the rare second chance’.”

“Alex, did you give momma a choice to come along or did you just…”

“Ah changed her subtly as she tried to comfort me and grabbed her hand before Andie and Ah left mah domain. No, Ah didn’t give her no choice. Ah felt she needed to come along…to help us. Ah did ask her what the ‘rules’ was though. She seemed to take too long to make something up, sis. That’s when Ah got suspicious.”

“So momma is with Uncle Rick as we speak. Do you think she’ll behave and not get him in trouble?”

“Momma’s a smart gal, Em. Ah got to believe she wouldn’t do anything to attract her ‘Upper Management’s’ attention again.”

My sister nodded in agreement.

“Ah wonder…”

“What, Alex? Oh, I know that look. What are you thinking about, sis?”

“Ah wonder who would show up in mah domain if Ah called for Ma?”

“I thought you were tired, Alex.”

“Mah curiosity just give me a second wind. Care to join me, sis?”

Emily stood from the recliner and took my hand.

My domain appeared.

“Momma? Mother Scott, would y’all come here please?” I called as I thought about Ruth Scott.

I tried again.

“Ruth Scott! Emily and Ah need your council. Please…kin ya show yerself?”

“I’m afraid your mother is somewhat unavailable, Empress.” A familiar voice replied as three figures began to materialize from the darkness.

“And I believe you know why that is.” Mr. Lincoln continued as he, Maximillian, and Grandpa came into full view.

“Hello, mein Granddaughters. What is all zee shouting about?” Grandpa asked pleasantly.

“Where’s Momma Scott, Grandpa? Mr. President? Sir Maximillian?” I asked each individually. I noticed Emily staring.

“Vhy ask zee question you already know zee answer too, Alex?”

“To satisfy mah curiousity, Grandpa. Have Ah deduced properly that when Ah changed momma to look like me and took her with me, Ah somehow took all instances of her along…livin’ or deceased?”

“That is very good, my dear Alexandra.” Lincoln answered. “The Empress is the only one capable of such a miracle on your level. I am amazed at the rate to which you grasp concepts.”

“The rate to which Ah grasp…” I paused to look Mr. Lincoln in the eyes. “Thank you…Ah think. So Ah’m right about Momma being a part of mah ‘Upper Management’ then?”

“I told you, Abe, mein Granddaughters iz schmart.”

“Having met her earlier in her career, I agree whole-heartedly. That is why I volunteered to help guide her.”

“Guide me?” I repeated. Emily and I looked at each other in confusion. Something then dawned on me.

“Y’all are part’a ‘mah’ ‘Upper Management’?”

“We are, Alexandra. You see, who would watch and care for you more than those you have impressed so thoroughly?” Maximillian admitted. “From the very first time we met, I knew you were trustworthy, kind, and caring. Your very character was well founded, even, and yet, enigmatic. Those traits, and your ability to lead, made me believe that you were indeed the savior from Terra’s documented history. After my passing, I too volunteered to watch and guide you in your many endeavors.”

“But, momma…she’s not here. Has Alex somehow broken the rules by granting her passage to our Earth?” Emily cried out in worry.

“My dear Emily,” Lincoln said with a pleasant smile as he came over and took my sister’s hands in his, “bestowing charity will never be a punishable offence. Worry not my beautiful, young doctor. Your sister, with her large and caring heart, has once again shown that the greater powers have chosen wisely. She has again granted a lost soul the rare ‘second chance’. Your mother, Ruth Scott, has been given the chance to once again prove herself worthy of being Empress in her universe.”

“Mr. President, Ah don’ understand. In ever’ universe Ah visited, Ah’m the Empress. It’s always me…not Ma, me.”

“Alex. In the ones you’ve visited, has the timing, relationals, OR the distribution always been consistent?” Maximillian asked.

“Well…um…no…not really.”

“Then how can you assume that the Empress will always be Alexandra Steinert and not Ruth Scott? Wasn’t it you that rationalized that time is now a variable for you?” He continued. “If a constant is no longer a constant, wouldn’t it follow that a constant is nothing but a regional construct?”

I really hadn’t thought about that concept in such depth before, but now…now it began to make sense…at least to me. Emily still looked completely baffled.

“That would certainly explain how Ah been able to do some of the things Ah done lately.” I admitted. “But what’d Ruth Scott do that earned her a spot on mah management team?”

“Let’s just say, Alexandra, that she forgot ‘herself’.” Mr. Lincoln said, his eyes sadly falling to the darkness that was the floor of my domain.

“Ah think Ah understand. She forgot she was the Empress and did somethin’ outta avarice or spite?”

“I told you she vas quick, Abe. Zat iz more or less vhat happened, Liebchen. Zough Ruth knew it vas wrong, she didzit anyvay, und vound up in our universe, but now…now you have come to her rescue, Empress. It iz up to her to redeem herzelf. Acht, I am zo proud, Alexandra!”

“So Ah…Ah give momma a second chance…a chance to prove she kin still be the Empress? What if she fails to redeem herself?”

“I believe that will not happen, Lady Alexandra. Ruth is as intelligent as you, M’lady and will not make the same mistake twice.”

“So that means she’ll be able tah go home? Tah her universe, Maximillian?” I asked with renewed hope.

“If she follows as instructed…and proves an asset to the reigning Empress of your universe.”

“Alex?” Emily seemed to snap out of her confusion. “Did I hear right? Will momma be allowed to go home? What of Ruth Scott in our universe? Will she suddenly come back to life? How is daddy going to handle that?”

“You have deduced correctly, Lady Physician. All instances of Ruth Scott, be it in your realm or others should return.” Maximillian answered, though he rubbed his forehead in consternation, “We think…”

“You don’t know?”

“Something like this has never before happened, M’lady. At least not that we have been informed.” Maximillian motioned between himself, Grandpa, and Mr. Lincoln.

“Sounds like they never got the rule book either, sis.” I deadpanned.

“No, Alex, we never got the manual, as you call it. Nor did we receive instruction on our responsibilities as your mentors,” Mr. Lincoln confessed, “As you have so succinctly inferred. Questionably, I would be surprised if there were any rules at all save the one I know as fact. I suspect you already know that foremost rule though.”

“Ah do…we …do, Mr. President.”

“Zen vhy delay, Liebchen? You und Emmie have zee criminal to catch, do you not?”

I looked down to the non-existent floor of this place. “Ah’m…Ah’m jus’ not sure Ah kin do that without breakin’ the rules, Grandpa. Ah seen the result…Ah’m not entirely sure Clemson deserves the punishment though. Ah mean…Ah…shouldn’t he deserve a second chance also?”

“Alex! What are you talking about? My God, you just got done telling me that he changed things so completely he made us all cease to exist. Isn’t that genocide?” Emily cried.

Grandpa took my sister into his arms. “Mein liebchen, zis is vhat zets Alex apart from your mother. Your sister…she follows her heart. Zhat vill lead to zee right course most of zee time. You too muzt follow your heart, but trust your sister as you trust yourself. Zee two of you should work together- only zen can you complete zis mission. Now dry za tears, mein beautiful Granddaughter und take your sister’s hand. It iz time to return to zee living.”

Emily wrapped her arms around Grandpa a moment, slowly stepped away, nodded, and gently took my hand.

“Alexandra,” Mr. Lincoln spoke up, “Thank you, Empress.”

He bowed.

“For what?”

“For what, M’lady? Why, for re-asserting the original ideals defining the ‘Empress of Time and Space’, of course!” Maximillian noted.

“But Ah ain’t really done nothin’…not yet.”

“I’m sure Ruth would disagree with you, Alex. Travel well, Empress and Dr. Scott.” Lincoln argued before he bowed to us again, straightened, and tipped his tall hat.

My three mentors silently faded away with contented smiles on their faces.
 
 

Emily and I had arrived back in our quarters almost thirty minutes ago. The silence between us hadn’t been broken since then and I was about to fall asleep.

“Empress?” Emily said quietly.

I immediately glared at her, raising one eyebrow as I did so. She quickly looked back down to the book she had been reading.

I brought my palm to my mouth as a yawn escaped.

“Sis, if y’all wanna ask me somethin’- use mah name. Wha’d Ah do now tah deserve such formal approach from mah own sister ena’way?”

“If momma is really back…if she earns amnesty, that is…” She began and stopped abruptly.

“She’ll probably go back tah her own universe tah resume her work as Empress.” I said stifling another yawn.

“But our momma…MY mother…how do we explain to daddy?”

“Don’t even know’d what Ruth Scott’s re’mergence as Empress’ll do, Em. Maybe it’ll reset the whole damn timeline. Maybe Ah’ll wake up in mah quarters as Alexander an’ think this whole crazy life’s been one drunken halluc’nation.”

“That would mean…we wouldn’t be sisters then, Alex!”

“Exactly. It’d mean we could continue on with our relationship the way it was b’fore Kili…b’fore the Mahanilui…b’fore…this.” I said as I motioned my hand down my body.

“You don’t like being my sister?”

“Ah didn’t say that. Ah’m just sayin’ things might change drastically.”

“But Mr. Lincoln, Grandpa Steinert, that Maximillian fella… By the way, is he Terran?”

I rolled my tired eyes and nodded. “He was High Council before Tibius.”

“Oh…anyway, they all seemed to think that you would stay the Empress, sis. So if you are still the Empress, what will this universe’s Ruth Scott do? Would she even remain alive or would she…you know…”

“Look sis, Ah’m tired. Ah slept maybe four hours in the last seventy-two trying tah keep Clemson from destroyin’ mah sisters and this here universe. Ah ain’t thought ‘bout what momma’ll do now she’s been ‘per-rolled’.” I said before covering my mouth to yawn again.

Emily glared at me now. “That out of someone who swore to protect their family! Alex Steinert, you hypocrit!”

“Ah am trying to protect the family, Emily Scott! In order tah protect ‘em they’s first gotta exist- or didn’t y’all think ‘bout that aspect?!” I fired back. “Ah’m sorry Ah ain’t put no thought into wah Ma’ll do now’s she’s…if…if she gets forgiv’ness from them ‘higher ups’.” I let out a huge, tired, sigh.

“Look. This Clemson debacle’s got me so tangled and aggervated! Ah’m ‘fraid ah cain’t think’ a nothin’ else at the moment. An’…need Ah remind y’all…Ah ain’t the only one in this here room that kin devine Ruth Scott’s future, sis!”

“Yes…you’re right…I’ll look ahead some seventy thousand years so that I can see momma’s future…Right….like I could do that, Alex!”

“If Ah can do it, why cain’t mah sister?” I replied calmly as I rubbed my eyes once more.

“But I can only…”

“There’s a lotta things we both kin do but haven’t yet, Em…simply ‘cause we ain’t needed ta or ain’t imagined ‘em yet. Both Ma and Mina thinks Ah only just tapped mah potential…why wouldn’t it apply ta all mah sisters-‘pecially you, Brie…an…an Andie.” I told her before another yawn escaped my mouth.

“Listen sis, Ah’m sorry how Ah said somma them things Ah did, but Ah’m ready to pass out. Ah just need some sleep…just…a…little…”

“Alex. Alex, wake up.”

“Huh? What…what happened…where…where am I?” I asked as I opened my eyes slightly to the person calling my name. Had I fallen asleep?

“Alex, I think that something is wrong with Emily. She seems catatonic. I don’t think she’s moved since I left yesterday.”

“Commodore? Andie?”

“Yes, Alex, it’s me, Andie- your newest sister? Don’t you remember?”

“What time is it? How did I get in bed?” I asked as I rubbed the sand from my eyes.

“This is how you were when I had Dixie override your security lock. You were here in your bed and Emily was, is, sitting motionless in the recliner staring at the far wall resisting all attempts at revival.” Andie replied with worry.

“How long?” I asked.

“You or Emily?”

“Me. How long has it been since you left?”

“Two days, Alex. We haven’t seen you or our sister in two days. We were beginning to wonder because Jacquelyn and Cami said they could still hear both of you…with the exception of a ten hour span when they said you probably traveled somewhere.” Andie answered as I got up from my bed and stretched.

“Wow, can I copy that little nothing? If you let me keep the Reilly, that is.”

“What little nothing?” I asked before looking down at myself. “Oh…um.. ya…if Ricky Lynn doesn’t want it back…I guess.” I blushed.

Why did I like this pink nightie so much? Better yet, why did I keep keying it up in my sleep?

“So Alex…what is going on with our sister?” Andie asked again as we both walked into the main living area of our shared quarters.

Emily sat- still as a statue- right where I remembered her to be before I dozed off- her horror novel held stiffly in her hands. Was this how I looked while in one of my trances? I thought about that for a minute.

“Apparently she took my advice and decided to use her gift to find the answer to her question, Andie.” I said before turning to walk into the bathroom to retrieve a cool, water-soaked washcloth. She would need it in about three minutes.

“What question, Alex?”

“Emily wanted to know how our mother coming back to this universe would complicate things…for us as well as her father.”

“How long has Mother Empress been gone?”

“From this universe? She died before the war started so…1938 or 39- about five years.”

“I see. That would pose unwanted emotional trauma for her mate.”

“He still doesn’t know about me or the sisterhood yet.” I added.

“Oh? So, when have you seen her coming out of her trance?”

“Any minute now.” I said as I saw Emily’s eyes blink.

“Here sis, this will help them feel better.” I said as I took her right hand away from the book and placed the damp towel in it instead. “At least I think it helps when I’ve been away for so long.

“Why are my eyes so…? What happened, Alex?”

“Did you find the answer to your question, sis?” I asked instead.

“I think I did…Alex…is this what it’s like for you? How long was I away?”

“Away, Em? Do you think you went somewhere?” I asked with a knowing grin.

“I…IIIII’m not sure. It all seemed so real.” She said quietly in confusion.

“So…when did you think you traveled to, sis?”

“It wasn’t when, Alex, it was where. I traveled to Bridgeport…I went back home. Daddy was there and we talked…talked about momma. I told him that I thought she wasn’t dead…that she had just gone away for a while. He…he wouldn’t believe me. I tried to reason with him, but he just wouldn’t listen.” Emily then looked at me in terror.

“Alex, I think I told him about you! About how we all went through the Mahanilui and how it gave us all gifts… About how you look exactly like momma…”

“And he didn’t believe that either, right?”

“No! He seemed to reassess what I had already said! Alex, I think Daddy knows more than I thought. I think he knows exactly who momma was…is…I mean, what we are.”

“Could it have been a dream of how you wanted him to respond?”

“Alex, it felt…I think…I was…I was there for two days. I slept in my own bed for the first time in four years!” She went on. “No, Alex, I was really there…home! I just know I was.”

“Okay, so…do you want to find out for certain, sis? I mean I don’t want you accusing me of neglecting my family again.”

Emily’s pleading eyes said everything.

“Andie, 1940’s Navy dress whites if you’re coming.” I said as I motioned to the interface panel by the door with my eyes.

“Dixie, where is subcommander Celeste?”

“She is currently in her quarters, Commodore.”

“Patch me through, please.”

“Yes, Commodore?” Reggie’s voice answered a moment later.

“Reggie, Alex has asked me to travel with her again. Could you take command again?”

“As you wish, Commodore. How long will you be away this time?” Reggie’s voice sounded disappointed.

“Ask if Ian is on duty, Andie.” I suggested quietly.

“Reggie, is Ian scheduled to be on the bridge right now?”

“He is, Commodore. I wasn’t scheduled until three bells.”

“Thank you, Reggie, I’ll contact him then.”

“Okay, have fun, Andie.”

Commodore Celeste ended the conversation.

“Alex, why did you have me ask about Ian? Reggie is the next senior officer.”

“How can she be on the bridge when she’s in Bridgeport, Connecticut seventy-two thousand years into the future, hun?” I asked with a big smile on my face. “Cami, can you ask Alex if Reggie could borrow her Reilly for a short trip into the future.”

‘Ask her yourself, Alex, she just disappeared from our quarters.’ Cami’s voice replied in my mind.

“Sorry it took me so long, sis, but I took a chance and went forward to Reilly.” Alex Reilly said as she appeared next to me carrying a freshly made Reilly suit over her arm.

“So how were things on Kili, sis?”

“Everyone was complaining of headaches. Billie was complaining about that and how she was retaining water…you know…the usual.” Alex nodded with a devious smile. “Here, Reggie can keep it for when she and I travel together.”

I nodded my thanks and offered my hands to Emily and Andie.

“Don’t forget to tell him about your twin sister, Alex.” Alex Reilly said before Reggie’s quarters appeared around us. As usual the temporal anomaly alarm sounded.

“Dixie, please disable that alarm.”

“As you wish Commodore.” The AI replied as the noise ceased.

“Reggie, we brought you a little something to wear.” I said presenting her with her very own Reilly suit.

“What am I going to do with this, Empress?”

“Um…I don’t know…wear it maybe?” I giggled.

“Why? What is going to happen, Empress?”

“Reggie, put the suit on as quick as you can or we are going to leave without you.” Andie urged strongly.

“Going? Where?” she asked before it finally hit her. “You…you want me to go along with you, Empress?” Her eyes tripled in size as her mouth dropped open.

“Only if y’all call me Alex, got it hun?”

I never thought anyone could get so excited about going on a trip with me! Reggie shrieked in excitement as she ran into her bedroom to change.

Five minutes later she reimerged looking very disappointed.

“Empre…Alex, it doesn’t fit.”

Subcommander Regina Celeste suddenly froze in place for a minute or two before she began going through the motions of initializing her suit. Another two minutes, and she looked very smart in her dress whites.

‘Thanks, Jack and Cami.’ I thought to them.

‘Are you sure you don’t need me on this one, Alex?’

‘We’ll be fine, hun. We’ll be back in a minute.’ I thought back as I offered my hands.

“Reggie, keep holding hands until I say to release them. The trip is instantaneous and completely painless.

As Reggie nodded our surroundings changed.

We now stood on a sidewalk in a pleasant looking section of Bridgeport. Though older, the homes on either side of the street looked well cared for. Most of the cars parked sparsely along both curbs were five to ten years old, but still looked nice.

“We’re still out of phase so keep holding hands until we’re in the clear.” I ordered as I looked up and down both sides of the street.

Satisfied that we wouldn’t be seen, I rephased us and released Emily’s hand. She immediately turned to her right, took my hand again and pulled.

“Alex, everything looks exactly as it did in my temporal projection. Is this the same day?”

“Let’s go to the front door and find out, sis.” I said as I caught up to walk beside her.

Knocking on the front door, we heard a man’s voice talking to someone farther back in the house.

“Well, I’m so glad you could get enough leave to come and visit me, Sweetie. Let me see who’s at the door. How soon before you have to catch your train back?” The door opened and the voice got louder. “Hello, can I help yo-“

Louis Scott gasped as he opened the door. He immediately looked back into the house for someone. Thoroughly confused, he began to waiver on his crutches.

“Daddy, what’s the matter?” Emily asked as we both reached in to steady him. “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”

“Emily? But you were just there…” He said pointing back into the house. “How…? He asked as his eyes met mine.

The six foot-three man’s jaw dropped and all color drained from his face.

“Daddy, remember what I said earlier…about my having a sister now? Well Daddy, meet Alexandra.”

“Maybe I should’ve brought Jack along after all.” I said flatly as Emily and I fought to hold ‘Daddy’ up- a difficult task given his crutches had fallen away and he outweighed us by an easy one hundred pounds.

“Quick, let’s get him into the living room and onto the sofa, Alex.”

Looking around quickly, I determined that the coast was clear enough. Emily’s living room appeared around the three of us and we lowered him onto the Davenport.

“Was it really necessary to show off, Alex?” Andie asked as she and Reggie walked into the room.

“Well he isn’t exactly light, Commodore!”

Emily gently tapped her Pa’s cheek. “Daddy? Daddy! Daddy, wake up. It’s me Emily. We have guests, Daddy.”

It took several minutes, but Emily finally succeeded in reviving him.

“Emily…what’s going on? I was just talking to you in the kitchen then suddenly you, your deceased mother, and two other women are standing at the front door!”

“Daddy, do you remember what I told you earlier?” She asked from his left.

“You were telling me how you and the rest of the crew of that submarine…that you all went through some kind of change…that you are different than before.”

“Hello, Louis.” I said from his right. “Sorry we frightened you.”

“Ruth? How can you be here?”

“Daddy, this is Alex…Alexandra Steinert…Captain of the Sand Dollar, not momma.”

“You certainly look like my late wife, Captain.” He blinked, shook his head, and swallowed loudly.

“I get that a lot these days, sir. Nice to meet you…” I said, but added “again” as I looked away.

“Alex!” Emily growled at me from across her Pa.

“Wait. We’ve met before, Captain? Where?”

Emily rolled her eyes.

“We met at a wedding a few years back, Mr. Scott.” I answered frankly.

Emily again shot death rays at me.

“Daddy, these are two of our friends. Commodore Andromeda Celeste and her sister, Subcommander Regina Celeste.”

“Commodore and Subcommander? But you’re in U.S. Navy uniforms.”

“They’re on loan to us from Atlantis, sir.”

“Alex!” Emily glared at me. “Stop kidding around with Daddy!”

“I thought you told him about us, sis- about me?!”

“I never said he actually believed me, Alex!” My sister answered through clinched teeth as she looked over at me in embarrassment.

“HUH? Sis…as in ‘sister’? You mean this is what you were trying to tell me, Emily?”

“If you would have listened to me instead of just agreeing with me!” Emily replied crossly to her Pa.

“I’ve never known Emily to lie to anyone, Louis.” I said before I phased out and rephased beside her.

“Alex, stop that this instant! You’ll cause him to pass out again.” Emily hissed through gritted teeth again.

“Hhhhhhhh…hhhhhow…” Louis Scott blinked and pointed to me then my previous location a few times. “How did you do that?”

“Why…have you seen someone do that before, Louis?” I asked with a devious grin.

“Um…no…not ever. I never saw anyone do that before…no.”

“Daddy, I could always tell when you were lying. I’ll tell you right now that Alex, Andie, and I can tell when someone is lying to us…it’s part of our gift. Please don’t make me use another part of my gift if I don’t have to. I don’t like to use that part.”

Now who’s lying, I thought…to myself for a change. I quickly glanced around the room waiting to hear a comment from Jack.

Louis Scott remained silent for a few more minutes as he stared at the four of us individually.

“So help me, Daddy, if you don’t tell the truth, I’m going to leave. I’m sure Alex can be more persuasive…if not her then I’m sure Andie or Reggie know some techniques to loosen your tongue.”

Still he remained silent, as if daring her.

“Fine! Have it your way, father!”

Emily disappeared.

“NO! Emily, come back! No! Don’t leave me alone with them! I’ll tell you what I know…please…please come back.”

“Sis, Pa’s gonna behave now. You’ve proven your point so please rephase.” I said to where I knew she still stood.

Emily reappeared and Louis Scott stared at her in shock. I noticed Andie and Reggie’s mouths’ open in surprise.

“Oh, for the love of…Will y’all close yer mouths? She’s of the royal bloodline. Y’all can probably do it too, Andromeda an’ Regina Celeste.” I griped in annoyance. I looked down to Emily’s Pa.

“And you better own up before Emily is forced to use more than just her temporal offset. Her medical foresight can instantly detect any change in blood pressure, breathing, or heartbeat, Louis.” I warned.

“Temporal what?”

“Temporal offset, hun. We can shift ourselves slightly out of time with this reality and effectively disappear from sight. It comes in real handy when we travel to places we aren’t sure are safe. Now, could y’all answer mah sister?”

Louis Scott again looked between Emily and I for a few moments.

“One…once I thought my wife…your mother…I thought she was acting a little strange this one night after I returned from work.” He stopped and thought about something a minute.

“Emily and her mother were supposed to be visiting in Hartford. You can imagine my surprise when I opened the door and found Ruth here waiting for me. I asked why she had returned. She told me that she missed me- that she needed me…”

“Okay. We really don’t need to hear about that part, Daddy. Please move on.” Emily quickly cut him off before the best part.

“She seemed like a completely different woman that night. In the morning, I opened my eyes just in time to see her disappear. I couldn’t believe it…she just vanished… just like you two did just now.”

“Two days later Ruth and Emily returned from Hartford. I never told you or your mother what had happened, sweetie. I couldn’t believe it myself.”

Emily nodded to me. He was telling the truth.

“Now…” Her Pa continued, “Emily suddenly appears on my doorstep yesterday morning- no baggage to speak of. Today at breakfast, she tells me some crazy story that she now has a sister and that she can do amazing things because of something called a Mahanilui- then disappears into thin air while I go to answer the door and ‘POW’ there she is on the front porch with my dead wife standing beside her. She even changed clothes! Are you people witches or something?”

“Daddy, Alex has been my C.O. since I got transferred to the Sand Dollar. A year earlier he and I dated for two weeks in Hawaii while he was on shore leave…”

“He? Sweetie, Alex doesn’t look like a he. I thought we taught you the differences.”

“Daaaaddy!” Emily rolled her eyes. “Alex didn’t always look like this. That Mahanilui that I told you about this morning…it changed him…it changed everyone on board the Sand Dollar.”

“She’s telling you the truth, Louis. Here, look at my credentials.” I said reaching into my purse and pulling out my wallet. I handed him my driver’s license.

“This says Alexander F. Steinert.”

“That was my name before my Mahanilui, Louis. Commander Alexander Frederich Steinert.”

“But this military ID says you’re a Lt. Commander.”

“Admiral Demmit promoted me just before assigning me to Sand Dollar.” I said proudly. “I never had the chance to get it revised before everything changed.”

“Your uncle knows about all this?” He asked staring at Emily in surprise.

“Yes, Louis, Uncle Rick knows everything.”

“Alex will you stop calling Daddy by his first name? He’s our father now so pay him the proper respect.” Emily chided.

“Wait…what?”

“Daddy, the Mahanilui changed her DNA…her…the genetic building blocks that make her who she is. Physically she is now my sister. I’ve run tests that prove it conclusively. Alex is also nearly identical to momma.”

Louis Scott’s eyes drifted down to my chest.

“Yes, Louis, that’s the only difference between momma and I.” I answered his unasked question with a smirk. “I got the bigger boobs, now can we at least move past the introductions?”

Pa’s eyes quickly snapped back to Emily. “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to stare, Captain.” He regarded all of us for a moment. “So why are you here?”

“That was straight and to the point. I like him, sis.” I said with a smile.

“Daddy, is it okay if Alex calls you ‘Daddy’?” Emily asked, sounding like a little child. I cringed at the thought of calling anybody ‘Daddy’.

“It’s not okay by me, sis, I’d rather call him father or just ‘Pa’ if it’s all the same.”

“Is that okay with you, Daddy? Can Alex call you ‘Pa’?”

It obviously meant a lot to my sister that her Pa accept me- I just wished she didn’t sound so childish. Her tone was completely out of character. I decided to answer his initial question.

“Pa, the reason we’re here is to prove to Emily that she did indeed project herself forward in time to this date and location. Up until this point in our continuing development she has never been able to use that part of her gift.”

“What’s she mean ‘project yourself forward in time?” Pa looked perplexed.

“Daddy, Alex can travel through time. Together we’ve been to 2026AD, 2026BC, 1865, and 1917.”

He laughed and shook his head. “I just knew you girls were kidding around. No one can move through time like that…it’s impossible.”

“Would you care to place money on that, Pa?” I asked with a devious grin.

“Mr. Scott, I can certainly vouch for Alexandra’s gift of time travel. She and I have been to 2035…to a place called Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I am still not completely understanding of why the civilizations of Earth haven’t advanced farther in the seventy-two thousand years since our arrival.” Andie told Pa with an intensely serious face.

Pa again began shaking his head and laughing. “Seventy…seventy thousand…oh that’s rich…seventy thousand years! You girls are a real hoot.”

“Andie?” I asked, “Could you please remind Emily’s Pa what the name of your ship is?”

“It is Atlantis, Mr. Scott.”

“I’ve never heard her uncle talk of a USS Atlantis, girls.” Pa laughed as he looked to Emily momentarily.

“Not USS Atlantis, sir, Planetary Expeditionary Ship, Atlantis, launched in the Standard Year 235:01:14. We had been traveling between solar systems for ten Standard Years before reaching this beautiful planet.”

Louis Scott’s mouth fell open.

“Would you like to see it, Pa? It is larger than Bridgeport and its suburbs combined.” I asked.

“Is that wise, Alex? Daddy’s not as mobile as he was a few years ago.”

“Commodore? What do you think?” I asked Andie.

“I defer to you, Empress, You have obviously seen the proper course.”

“Empress? Why did she just call you ‘Empress’?”

“That’s Alex’ title, daddy, She’s known throughout the known universes as the Empress of Time and Space.” Emily informed him regally before giggling.

I rolled my eyes in annoyance. “And just when I thought he was starting to believe us, sis.”

“I didn’t get a chance to tell him before, Alex. The two of us disappeared and reappeared before his eyes a little while ago. Why wouldn’t he believe what I just told him?”

“Louis Scott,” I addressed him formally, “Please stand up and take my hand. I will provide transport back to Atlantis.”

“Why do I have to hold your hand, Captain…or Empress…as it were?”

“Because that’s just what y’all need to do, hun, humor the silly blonde.”

“Daddy, just stand up and take Alex’ hand! It won’t kill you.”

Pa immediately stared at Emily in terror.

I reached for, and took his hand. Emily grabbed his crutches and took his other hand in hers. Reggie, and Andie lined up on my other side.

Our quarters on Atlantis appeared around us. Immediately the temporal alarm sounded.

“It’s just us, Dixie. Reset the alarm, hun.” I said in Atlantian as I rephased us.

Pa looked at me strangely. “How did you do that? Where are we, Captain?”

“You are aboard my ship, Mr. Scott. Welcome to Atlantis.” Andie greeted pleasantly in English.

“Dixie, has Prof. Samuels completed her upload of the English language?” I asked the A.I.

“Mom has uploaded a full library of languages and dialects, Empress.” The A.I. answered in good old, American English.

“Good. Could you please state our current location for our father, hun?”

“We are currently orbiting the planet ‘Sol 3’, recently re-designated ‘Earth’ at two hundred and seventy-five miles. Orbital velocity is steady at fifteen thousand feet per second. Next orbital adjustment thruster burn will occur in three hours, twelve minutes, thirty seconds.”

“Thank you, Dixie.”

“You are welcome, Empress.”

“Where is that voice coming from?” Pa asked as he continued to look around the room.

“That is our computational control system, ‘Dixie’. Without her, our journey to this planet would not have been possible, Mr. Scott.” Reggie responded. I was beginning to wonder if she had gone mute on our little trip.

“She’s a machine…a robot?”

“Only in the narrowest of terms, Mr. Scott.”

“Captain, how did you do all this? We can’t really be ON Atlantis…I mean THE Atlantis, right? Atlantis was a mythical city that supposedly sank into the ocean thousands of…years.”

Walking over to the door, I disabled privacy mode and opened the door.

“Come on in girls.” I said to Jack, Ricky Lynn, Cami, and Yuuka. Turning around, I noticed Alex Reilly standing behind Emily.

“So how did you get in here without setting off the detectors, sis?”

“Actually…I think I popped in at the same exact time you popped out, Alex. I may even have fallen asleep on your bed…for an hour…or …two.” Alex Reilly replied, blushing a little.

“How…how can there…there be…two of you?”

“Louis Scott, meet Alexandra Reilly. She’s what I call my temporal twin.” I introduced, though I wasn’t so sure of how much would get through.

“Pa,” I said as I tugged him around, “This is my first officer Lt. Cmdr. Jacquelyn Cummins; Senior Chief Petty Ricky Lynn Samuels; Camille Darough, and Yuuka Sukiro. Cami and Yuuka are part of Alex Reilly’s chapter of our sisterhood from 2026BC.”

“Chapter? Of your…‘sisterhood’? But you two look i…?” Louis Scott began to ask before his attention snapped to Jack.

“How are you doing that?” He gasped.

“Jack is a telepath, Pa. She can do things just by thinking them- that includes mind reading. We call her and Cami our ‘Mind Warriors’.”

“Empress, will you be staying here for a time or will you be heading off in search of Clemson shortly?” Andie asked. I saw Reggie’s face turn sad.

“Actually, I had planned on spending a few days in Bridgeport, Commodore. I just wanted to prove to Pa, here, that we really are who we say- that we can do what we say.”

“You mean that Alex?” Emily gushed. “Can we really stay with Daddy for a few days?”

“Yes…but only if you stop with the ‘Daddy’ all the time. You sound so childish when you say that, sis. Couldn’t you just refer to him as ‘father’ like Alexis does to Tibius?”

“Who is Alexis, Captain?” Pa asked in confusion.

“My youngest daughter, Pa. She was born on a planet called Terra…about a hundred and eight lightyears from here.”

“You have a daughter?”

“Three actually. Cassandra and Samantha are her older sisters. I also have a son, Alexander, three grandchildren and a great grandchild.”

“But you’re so…”

“So young? Thank you, kind sir, but looks can be and usually are deceiving.” I said with a devious smile. “Who wants to go to Bridgeport for some shore leave?”

Nine people joined hands with me.
 
 

1400hrs, L. Scott home, Bridgeport, Conn, August 20th, 1944
 
 

“It’s a good thing I have a big house.” Pa said just after we reappeared in the living room.

“Regina and I can share a bed, sir. We have done that before.” Andie volunteered with Reggie nodding her approval.

“Nonsense. We have eleven rooms in this house- five of them bedrooms- and plenty of blankets- why, I’ve slept on that sofa for many a night. It’s not that uncomfortable. You girls are welcome to the bedrooms.”

“Daddddd…” Emily started, but stopped as I began to glare at her. “Alex and I have slept together many times in the past. We even shared a bed at Grandmother Demmit’s for a whole week.”

Pa’s mouth opened as Emily said that, but he quickly started to frown. “Was this before or after that Mahanilui thing, girls?”

“Listen, Pa…before our change, I was the perfect gentleman! Emily and I were in agreement that we would wait til after…” I countered, but stopped abruptly to wipe away tears.

“So you were going to be part of this family either way, eh, Alex?” He asked, eyeing me carefully.

“Daddy!” Emily gasped. “How can you be so cold? Can’t you see that she still has a hard time with that?”

“It’s okay, sis.” I said as I touched Emily’s shoulder lightly. “I understand what he meant. It just could’ve been phrased a little differently. Yes, Pa, I loved Emily from the moment I first saw her in Honolulu. My intent was to ask for her hand, but then came my court marshal.”

“Alex, don’t.” Emily whispered as she turned to me in surprise.

“Court marshal? What in the world did you do, Alexandra?” He asked me in shock.

“Another male acquaintance of Emily’s wasn’t through with her, sir. He was intent on using her to get an unsavory story that would blacken the Navy’s eye. I…objected.”

“You…you didn’t kill…?”

“NO! I merely corrected him on his etiquette. He decided to make a scene at the restaurant I had taken Emily to that night.”

“Da…d…I talked to Uncle Rick…told him what really happened. All charges were dismissed. Alex got her own boat instead.” Emily continued quickly in an uncomfortable tone.

“This was…was before…?” Pa motioned to me cautiously.

“Way before, Pa.” I answered instead. “About a year earlier.”

He nodded. “I’ll need to walk down to the corner market and get more grub, it’s not my day to get gas in the car.”

Looking to Alex Reilly and Emily, I said, “leave the meals to us, Pa.”

I offered my two sisters my hands. There was no way a man on crutches could ever manage enough supplies for nine more people by himself!

“Alex, maybe I should come along?” Ricky Lynn suggested as she gently motioned to her regulation handbag.

“Good idea, Chief. Pa, we’ll be back in a few minutes. Jack, why don’t you and Cami tell Pa about some of Sand Dollar’s adventures…keep it general though- he’s Army.” I suggested.

“Aye, Cap, keep it general.”

A thought occurred to me just before I was going to phase out.

“Yuuka, stay among the grown-ups.”

“Awwwww!”

“I’m serious, hun.”

“Oookay.” She said dejectedly.

Pa took notice. Boy was he going to be sorry he pushed Yuuka for an explanation!

“We’ll be back in about an hour, ladies.” I said pausing a moment. “Pa, unless you want to see what Jack and Cami can do, don’t make them angry.” I warned.

A busy city sidewalk appeared. People walked through us at a good pace intent on getting somewhere in a hurry. Twenty-first century cars tooled along on the newer looking concrete street to our left.

“Where are we, Alex?” Emily asked, looking around and up at the multistoried buildings.

“Kansas City. My future twin’s memories say there is a great market district here. We should be able to get everything we need and eat like royalty. Plus, I can charge everything to my Kili account.”

“Ah yes,” Alex Reilly nodded. “The famed ‘Empress Express’ card. I will have to ask Randi to enroll me.”

“Um…where would you use it in your time, Alex?” I asked with my head cocked slightly.

“Weeeeell…there’s the Egyptian ExchangePhoenician FinancialSumerian Savings and Loan” Alex Reilly paused with a broad grin. “And let’s not forget about the Hebrews! But not so much the Romans- their interest rates are usually too high and they want excessive collateral.”

I rolled my eyes at my sister and shook my head to the side several times.

“And I thought you were the incorrigible one, sis!” Emily laughed.

“Maybe I shoulda stayed in Bridgeport.” Prof. Samuels said quietly.

Alex Reilly, Emily and I looked at her with varying degrees of amusement.

“So when are we, Alex?”

“I was shooting for September 12th, 2006, Em.” I said as I looked up into the sky. “About 0900hrs. I suggest we change into something a little more comfortable and ‘timely’.”

I selected and triggered my clothes to change. My dress whites became a pink button-down blouse, a pair of form-fitting, blue denim jeans, and a pair of black, low-heeled boots with knee-high stockings. A blue denim handbag finished out my ensemble.

Alex Reilly chose exactly the same outfit but substituted a peach colored blouse and a peach, cloth handbag instead.

Emily elected to go with a yellow sundress, low cork-heeled sandals, and beige, canvas bag.

Ricky Lynn must have been feeling rebellious. She decided on a skin-tight, lace-topped, black leotard with a black, leather miniskirt, black tights and knee-high, black leather, chunk-heeled, platform boots with chrome buckles. In her hair she had two barrettes, one bat-shaped and the other a skull. She also carried a denim knapsack with something called a ‘Hello Kitty’ appliqué on it.

“Feeling a little ‘Goth’, professor?” I asked in amusement.

“Ya, yer one ta talk, Alex!”

“Moi?” I responded.

“This ain’t no worse then the getup ya wore when I ask’d ya to teach that class at the University up in 2035, Skipper.”

I thought about reaching into my cloth handbag, but realized we hadn’t rephased yet. “I still have the mission broach, Chief. I can bring up that ‘getup’ now if you’d like.”

“Whatever ya wanna wear, Skipper, it’s all fine with me.”

I stood silent for a minute. “Let’s cross the street. The entrance to the shopping district is right over there.”

Finding a small nook where we could rephase, I did just that. The shopping district was teaming with shoppers already. Many an eye focused on the four young women entering from the narrow alleyway- twins, their obvious sister, and the redheaded, Goth chick.

We made our way deeper into the shopping district as we collected everything we would need. Memory told me that Kansas City was reknowned for their stockyards, slaughterhouses, butcheries, and meatpackers second only to Chicago. Memory also told me that this was exactly the right place to stock up on the best cuts of beef and pork… chicken, too.

When all was said and done the ‘Bank of Kili’ had taken a substantial hit and we stopped for lunch- yet we carried only two visible bags of groceries. It amazed me how much Ricky Lynn could fit into her knapsack. There had to be over a hundred and fifty pounds of steaks and chops in there alone, not to mention the six, whole fryers!

“I hope yer dad got plenty of room in the fridge and freezer, Doc. I’d hate fer all this meat ta go bad.” Ricky Lynn said as we ate at one of the eateries in the huge shopping district.

“We’ll use a good bit of it during our stay, professor.” I assured her.

“I really didn’t think you would buy so much Alex. I mean…it’s not like we eat that much anymore.” Emily countered as she looked around the table- at four empty salad plates.

“I was basing the quantity on Jack’s appetite, sis.”

“Oh God Alex, she ain’t…” Ricky Lynn gasped out suddenly.

“No, she’s not, hun, but Reggie is and, based on what I know of Atlantis’ food processing systems, Reggie and Andie are going to go overboard when they taste the ‘real thing’.

I noticed Emily’s mouth drop open a second before she closed her eyes and began to nod to herself calmly.

She swatted me on my shoulder.

“Oww. What was that for?” I asked as I rubbed the possible new bruise.

“For not telling me about Russell and Jack,” She glared at me in anger!

“Time to go freshen up, Emily.” I hurried to say as I quickly took her hand in mine. Pulling her sternly from her seat, we headed back to the restrooms. On the way, I surreptitiously phased us out when I saw the chance.

“Are you crazy, sis?” I asked as I stopped and turned to her- still holding hands.

“What? For finding out that Connie isn’t a Terran?”

“For even thinking that information when you know that ‘Ears’ Cummins might be on Earth and possibly listening!” I hissed in a raised voice. “She is not to find out about Connie until 2030! Until after I tell Connie that I lied to her…that we all lied to her.”

“Lied? Alex, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Why would you lie to Connie about her lineage? She has the right to know who her rightful parents are. Why keep that from her?”

“Look…it has to happen…it has to! I can’t go into it with you at the moment because we need to get back to Connecticut.” I bulged my eyes as a hint.

“Emily, I know it may be difficult, but I need you to think of a place in a different time and deposit what you have just learned from your gift there. I know the memories of how to do it are in there.” I said pointing to her forehead.

“If Jack finds out about what I have done, she will never trust me again! Promise me, sis! Promise me that you’ll hide this from Jack…please?”

Emily eyed me carefully for several minutes. The whole time people walked through us in the busy establishment.

“You almost got yourself killed again, didn’t you? Alex…you have to stop going on all these suicide missions! I want my sister to stay around awhile!” She said as a tear formed in her eye. “I’ll bury your little secret for however long you want, Alex, but don’t think I won’t recall it if you go and do something stupid again! I’m warning you Alexandra Frances Steinert!”

I pulled my sister to me and hugged her tightly.

“Thanks, Emily. And...and I’ll try not to do anything more than I need to do on any given mission.”

“That was your way of promising me you’d be careful? Alex, where, when, or from whom did you take diplomacy lessons?”

“You know as well as I do that I can’t guarantee I’ll be safe on any given mission, Emily. The Empress has to do what she can to right the time stream…dangerous or otherwise.” I replied sadly.

“Like scaring the bejesus out of me when you suddenly let go of us while we were rescuing Cami?”

“So…you remember that. You were just playing along?”

“Yes, Alex! For some unknown reason, I can remember everything that went on- including mother doing just about the same thing only making a whole cache of gunpowder disappear too! Alex, what are you becoming? What are WE becoming? Are we even human anymore?”

“According to mother, we’ll always be human unless we forget who and what we should be.”

“I remember that too, Alex! I remember her telling us not to make the same mistakes she did, and that we need to work together so that won’t happen. So when will you let me work with you, Alex? Really work WITH you?”

Sis, we really need to get back to Connecticut…unless you want to be stuck for a week in Kansas City. I’m sure Ricky Lynn would appreciate all that meat going bad in her pack.”

“This conversation isn’t over, Alexandra. We will be talking about this and many more subjects once we get home!”

“I know we will, sis. Rephasing in three…” Emily backed up to stand next to me as we faced away from the restrooms and toward our table. “Two…one.”

“Youse two have a good chat, Alex?” Ricky Lynn asked as we arrived back at the table and took our seats. The waitress arrived with our check.

“I’ll take this when you all are ready, honey.”

“Y’all are cutting it rather close, aren’t you, sis?” Alex Reilly asked after the girl walked away.

“Just couldn’t be helped. Everyone ready to go?” I asked as I reached into my purse for the money to settle up. I made sure I left a good tip.

“Did Tibius install a currency printer in that thing, Alex?” Ricky Lynn asked in curiosity. “I ain’t never seen ya without the proper bills for a given time period, ever.”

“Like I told y’all before…I never go anywhere without my ‘Empress Express’ card.” I giggled. “I especially like the ‘Debit Card’ feature.”

Once settled up, we found a nice quiet place to phase out.

Pa Scott’s kitchen appeared around us.

“Hey, everyone, we’re back.” I shouted toward the front of the house as we began to unpack. Before long, the kitchen table was filled to capacity with shopping bags. Ricky Lynn was still pulling miniaturized wrapped cuts of meat out of her knapsack and placing them up in the freezer section of the refrigerator.

“Where did all this come from?” I heard Pa ask from the doorway. I looked around just in time to watch him staring at Prof. Samuels as she put the last few wrapped packages of meat away.

“What in the world are those little things, and why put them in my freezer?”

“We thought ya could use a good steak or two, Mr. Scott.” She answered.

“But they’re so small.”

“Not a problem, I just shunk ‘em so’s they wouldn’t take up much space…see?”

The package containing ten Porterhouse steaks began to enlarge in the professor’s hands.

Pa’s mouth fell open and he began to waiver on his crutches.

“Louis…relax, it’s her gift.” I told the man nonchalantly.

“What the…” Pa cried, as he got a little taller. “Put me down…whoever is doing that!”

Jack, Cami, Reggie, and Andie appeared as Pa floated into the kitchen a little farther to clear the doorway.

“Hey, Cap, need help stowing the supplies?”

“This bag can go up to the lavatory, Jack.”

Looking into the bag, she looked at me in relief.

“I was hoping you would get some necessities. I thought I heard that you and Alex would start. So, we’ll be here for a week, huh?”

“That’s the plan, if Pa can stand the company, that is.” I said looking past Jack to see Yuuka fly in and hover a foot in front of me.

“Did you happen to get any honey, Empress? I haven’t had real honey since the Empresses conference.”

Apparently Pa had already gotten over his shock of a five-inch, flying woman in his house.

“Honey?” He asked in confusion.

“Yuuka likes honey, Pa. As a matter of fact, all Pixies like honey- but mostly when in Pixie mode.” I laughed as I looked at the impatient little woman now hovering, but wavering excitedly in altitude, just inches from my face. “Yes, hun, we got you a few bottles of honey. But, since y’all are gonna be a good girl and stay grown-up, they should last all week…right?”

“Point taken, ma’am. I’ll stay out of Pixie mode for the duration.”

“Captain, if the girl needs to…um…stretch her wings during her stay, I see no problem with it.” Pa said as he looked at our small, purple-winged sister.

“I see several reasons why that would be a bad idea.” Alex Reilly said as she turned to face Pa. “One would be the close proximity of the neighboring residences. Yuuka, in passing a window, may be spotted…um…’doing her thing’. I’m sure y’all would have a problem explaining that to an observant passer-by. Secondly, it’s the end of August. Yuuka isn’t going to be happy just flying around indoors. At some point she will venture out into the yard. Again, there is the problem of being seen. Lastly, Louis, I seriously doubt you would appreciate looking into the mirror while shaving in the morning only to see a pixie hovering beside you. Yuuka, the time has come to exit pixie mode and help put away the groceries.”

“Yes, ma’am.” The woman’s dejected voice answered, growing louder as she returned to full size.

“I’m sorry, Yuuka, but the director is right. How could I explain if one of my neighbors saw you? Some of them already think that I’m cursed- losing my wife a few years ago then my foot at the beginning of this war…I can only imagine what the folks around here would say about my having to explain you. They might try to have me committed. Why…to this day, many people believe that I am nothing but an invalid…that I am incapable of doing or holding a normal job. Some even think that I am a coward…that I should still be fighting the Japanese no matter what my handicap.”

“Welcome to the club, Louis. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been leered at, sniped at…looked down upon simply because I’m a woman in uniform. We too are looked at as useless to the military…and, to a certain extent, by our society- except as housewives or entertainment for the troops! Those kinds of people could never see us for what we really are…for what we can do…for our actual worth.” I told him as I looked around to my sisters. “And,” I added, “y’all seem to get around very well on them crutches.”

“Perhaps Mr. Scott can spend a week or so on Atlantis, Empress. Though not advanced to the technical level of your clothing or Reilly Research Facility, we have the technology available to allow Mr. Scott to ‘retro-generate’ the lost appendage.” Andie said after exchanging looks with Reggie.

“Thank you, but no, Sweetie. I can’t allow you to do…whatever it was that you just hinted at. I’ve become accustomed to my ‘limitations’ and made peace with the fact that I will never be normal again.”

“Define ‘normal’, Louis.” I challenged. “Do you think that anything you’ve seen us do today is ‘normal’?” I smiled. “Normal is a relative term, Pa. It’s overused and greatly misunderstood. Take that as fact from the people that truly know.”

“Aye…Skipper’s right, Mr. Scott. Since our change, ain’t nothin’ been ‘normal’ ‘cept maybe the continued development of our gifts. So ya, normal IS overrated.” Ricky Lynn added.

“Still…I’m not a charity case, ladies. I have no problem living my life as I am now. That withstanding, I am not an invalid, and in no way will I ever allow anyone to think otherwise! You girls have already done far too much for me!” Pa said as he abruptly turned and quickly hobbled out into the hallway toward the front of the house.

I quickly placed the bag of flour I had onto the pantry shelf and phased out.

“Look, Pa, we weren’t saying y’all cain’t fend for yourself.” I said as I phased into the foyer a few paces in front of him.

He immediately stopped with a shocked look on his face.

“I’m sorry for our overzealous shopping, but you needed supplies. What you had on-hand couldn’t even satisfy your needs for the week let alone nine others for the same period.

“Out of my way, Captain!”

“She can’t do that father, and neither will I.” Emily said angrily as she materialized by my side. “This is my house too, and I’m the one that determined we needed more food in the house. It was a necessity, not charity to the crippled, old man that just happens to be our father. Is this how you’ve been since being sent stateside? Self-loathing? What would mother think of you?”

“Why don’t you snap your fingers or wave your magic wand to call her and find out?” He challenged angrily.

“It doesn’t work that way, father! This isn’t some science-fiction/fantasy movie…this is the way it is! As crazy as it is, this is real life, father! Now get over yourself and sit down. Dinner will be ready in an hour.” Emily said, pointing into the living room just before phasing out again.

‘Wow, Emily let him have it with both barrels.’ Jack thought to me as I stood off to the side to allow Pa into the living room. He had a stunned look on his face as he awkwardly dropped into his favored chair.

‘How’s Emily doing out there?’ I thought back.

‘She just appeared upstairs crying, Alex.’

‘I’ll go up after I have a talk with Pa. Could y’all put together hamburgers for dinner? Pa likes them with salt, pepper, some grated onion and a little garlic mixed in.’

‘Aye, Cap. Hamburgers for dinner.’

I sat down opposite him on the Davenport.

“I can see how you would perceive our efforts as charity, Pa. We didn’t mean it that way. Emily was right about your pantry being threadbare though. How can you justify starving? You have a decent job and therefore no reason to waste away. Why do that to yourself?” I asked quietly as I looked out the large, living room window.

Pa just stared, away from me, out the same open-draped, window across the room for several long minutes.

“I know how to take care of myself.” He grumbled just above a whisper.

“We never assumed otherwise, Pa. Just so you know, we are just as independent. We never rely on others when we have the means to take care of ourselves, and we always pay our debts. What we bought today? It’s what had to be done if we are to stay with you for the week. Everything you saw has been paid for, but whatever is not used will remain here for you in compensation of lodging expences. As I said…we always pay our debts, sir. In the future some would call it ‘paying it forward’.

“Why a week? Why not three days…or nine days…why exactly a week?”

“Because I am unable to move through time or space when I am menstrating. Before you ask and cringe, that’s just the way it is. I’m sure you now understand the seven day duration.”

Louis Scott nodded, but cringed involuntarily nevertheless when I looked over at him.

“Pa, I know it must be hard for you…” I said as I stopped to look back out the living room window for a moment. “I…I’m sorry that I look like ma, but you must understand that I had no say in the matter. I can’t imagine what went through your mind on first seeing me earlier…”

“Ruth…Alexandra…you say my Ruth is alive? How can that be? I kissed her cold lips goodbye at the funeral…I…I buried her! How did she…? Where has she been all this time? Can I see her?” Pa rattled off quickly. I saw the tell-tale wetness in his eyes.

“Ma…Ruth Scott is alive, Pa. She’s at Pearl visiting with Uncle Rick for the week, or so I’ve foreseen. Where she has been for the last five and a half years is a bit difficult to explain so that you would understand. Let’s just say that Ma did something our sponsors didn’t approve of and they took steps to punish her.”

“She was in jail?”

“Something like that, but it was unlike any jail you would ever want confined to- trust me! Ma was only allowed to watch and listen as life went on without her. She wasn’t able to interact in any way whatsoever… until I became the Empress, that is. I’m sure it was horrible for her.”

“But she’s okay now? You found her and will bring her back to me?”

I sat and looked back out the window a few moments as I decided how to answer that question.

“Alexandra? Will you bring her back to me?” Pa persisted.

“I’m not even sure I was allowed to spring her in the first place, Pa. For all I know I might be taking her place when our current mission is over.” I muttered to myself.

“I don’t understand. Why would you take her place? Aren’t you this ‘Empress of Time and Space’?”

“Apparently, I’m also low man on the Totem Pole. I’ve never seen or spoken to the hierarchy since becoming ‘the Empress’, Pa. I assume Ma has, but she refuses to speak of them to anyone.”

Pa suddenly turned his head toward me and stared, flabbergasted by what he just heard. For a minute or two we remained silent- staring, on and off at each other in contemplation.

“Could she actually have met God?” He whispered to himself. Had I not had my enhanced hearing, I mightn’t have heard.

“I’m not sure she has, Pa. Who knows how high the chain really goes, and I don’t believe for a minute that ‘the Empress’ is that close to the top- not that I’d want to find out, mind you.”

“You don’t even know who you work for? Alexandra, why wouldn’t you ask?”

“First…who would I ask? Secondly, do I really want to know, Pa? Believe me…I’m nowhere near good enough to be an angel or any other god-like entity.”

“Are you kidding me? With what you can do…what any of you can do…and the way you all look? Anyone would be hard-pressed NOT to think of you girls as angels!”

“Thank you for the compliment, Pa, but I’m not talking about looks. I’m takin’ the real deal here. In my travels over the last twelve or so years, I met many people…many cultures, that consider me…as well as my sisters…goddesses. The very thought of being worshipped…uh! It makes me cringe!”

“Twelve years? I thought you said you went through this change of yours back in March? That doesn’t add up.”

“Pa, time doesn’t stop when I travel through it. As with anyone it keeps moving. Because of my military responsibilities I usually return no more than a day or two after I left, so by everyone else’s perspective I’ve only been in this form for about four months. Of course when you spend a few months here, three years there, three years on another planet…”

“I think I understand, captain. Even though you can travel through time, you are still subject to it.”

I nodded.

“So…getting back to your perceived receipt of charity by the Sisters of Kili…we are just trying to help you, Pa. Andie’s offer of medical assistance relating to your foot is a kind gesture. I’m sure she considers that offer as help and not charity too.”

“But how would I explain my suddenly retrogen…re-growing a foot? I can’t imagine the pressure people would put on me to re-enlist…”

“You’ve served our country, Louis! Though not paying the ultimate price, you still paid heavily. You’ve given a part of yourself for your country…that’s more than I can say for those that haven’t lifted a finger to assure it’s freedom!”

“But would they…?”

“You’ve paid your dues, Louis. As long as you have your current discharge papers you can’t be recalled. As for the reacquisition of your missing foot…” I smiled. “You could tell people that you got a prosthesis or…well, I know someone that can be very persuasive.”

“Prosthesis?”

“A wooden foot?” I hinted with a smile and pointed to his missing appendage.

“Oh, but someone persuasive? I don’t understand.”

‘Alex is taking about Cami and I, Mr. Scott. Part of our gift allows us to…suggest…implant specific memories’ Jack thought to both of us. Pa scanned the room and hall carefully for the voice’s owner.

“Jacquelyn Cummins, Pa.” I giggled as I motioned out into the kitchen.

He nodded a few times while looking completely awestruck.

“Ya, you get sorta’ use to it after awhile, Pa.” I smiled, closing my eyes and shaking my head a few times.

I suddenly ‘felt’ someone enter the room.

“Pa, you know you hurt Emily with that comment about charity. She loves you very much and not a day goes by that she doesn’t think or worry about you. She only wants what is best for you and to protect you. She has sisters and friends that can help her do that now. She has Ma’s determination too, as you’ve just seen.”

“She doesn’t have to do that, Alexandra. I’m quite capable of taking care of myself. As you can imagine, I’m so very proud of my little girl. To think…my daughter…Emily… a doctor?”

“She’s very special to me too, Pa. I don’t know what I would have done if she hadn’t been there that morning. Emily helped us all cope that day. I’m also honored she has accepted me as her sister.”

“If I wasn’t looking straight at you, I wouldn’t have believed it, Alexandra. I’m also afraid it’ll take some time to warm to the idea that I have another daughter…of sorts.”

“Um…technically, you have three new daughters, Pa.”

“Three?”

“Me,” I said, “and Alex Reilly,” Alex stuck her head into the doorway, smiled, and waved, “are genetically identical. Andromeda Celeste is actually our half sister.”

“Genetically? Half sister?”

Emily appeared standing in front of the reclining chair in the front right corner of the living room. It was obvious that she had been crying.

“Genetic, as in the information stored inside every cell of our bodies. Our genes tell the body what to do…what it should look like…everything that makes us who we are.” She explained before pausing. She had a sad expression on her face as tears began rolling down her face again. I continued the explanation.

“Andromeda Celeste is the product of a union between the former Empress of Time and Space and her mate on Andie’s home world, Pa. At least that is what I have been told.”

“How is your sister, Alex’s child my daughter?” He questioned.

“She means mother, Daddy. Mother is the former Empress of Time and Space.”

I glared at my sister for her slip in addressing Pa. “Ruth Scott…in another universe…is the Empress, Pa. I know it doesn’t make much sense. You see…we’ve found that there are an infinite number of universes out there,” I said as I tried to explain. “In this and many others, I, Alexandra Francis Steinert, or Alexandra Francis Reilly, am the Empress, but…in some others, Ruth Demmit or Scott assumed the position instead. She received the same gifts as me. Understand?”

“I…I think so.”

“Because of what she may have done, Ruth Scott was imprisoned. After some discussion, we believe that all universal instances of her were also detained as a precaution.”

“So my Ruth suffered because her twin in another universe went afoul? Where is the justice in that?”

“We’re not even sure that theory is correct, Pa. Though there is the saying ‘God works in mysterious ways’. Who knows, I may be asked to fix that ‘glitch’ sometime in the future.” I said raising my upturned hands to shoulder level and shrugging.

Emily stared at me accusingly.

“What?”

“You don’t know? I thought you saw pretty much everything these days, sis?”

“Can you see that particular mission? I mean…if you can, I’d gladly let you take point, Em.”

“I haven’t looked, Alex. I’ve been too busy worrying about you and that Clemson jerk.”

“You haven’t bothered to look into our parent’s futures? Why not?”

“I did look into Pa’s immediate future, Alex! That’s why we’re here. He needed to meet us…needed to meet you…officially this time.”

“Officially? Sweetie, what do you mean, ‘officially’?” Pa gasped out in confusion.

“You and Alex met in 1917, father…in fact, we both met you in 1917.” Emily cried in exasperation.

Louis Scott remained quiet and looked between both of us for several minutes. You could see how deeply he was searching his memories.

Emily decided to help.

“One of our crew can change outward characteristics…physical characteristics, father. Alex had blue eyes for that mission. We stayed at Grandmother’s house for the wedding?”

Pa’s eyes widened immediately!

“That was you? But I almost fell…”

“I’m sorry, Louis, I’m still spoken for, but I’m glad you met and tied the knot with my ‘cousin’, Ruth.” I said to confirm.

Pa sat back heavily into the cushion of his chair. The well-worn chair gave a single high-pitched creak.

“Then I actually danced with…with…my future daughter?” He gulped.

“I’d never been so terrified in my life, Daddy! I thought that you would recognize me any minute while we danced!” Emily admitted as she sat down gracefully in the reclining chair.

“I was so mad at Alex for making me dance with you!”

“Sweetie, how would I have recognized you if I had just met your mother?” Pa said as he looked lovingly to Emily.

“That’s what Alex told me after I calmed down… I understand now.”

Pa looked back at me. “But you danced with Rick. You two looked perfect together…almost like you were a couple.”

“Uncle Rick does have a certain…appeal, but I already knew him, Pa. He’s our commanding officer. Only, not then.”

“As I recall…Rick fell hard for his cousin Allison. He was so depressed when he learned you and…Andrea…,” Pa looked to Emily momentarily, “had shipped off to Europe. Amelia would never talk about Ruth’s cousins…I mean you two. Father Demmit shuddered every time the names Allison and Andrea were mentioned. What did you really do to them?”

“Amy knows all about the sisterhood, Pa. I kinda put the fear of God into Grandfather Roland though.” I admitted, recalling that sad night and the circumstances behind our strange departure.

“Wait…you said ‘Amy knows’, not ‘Amy knew’. Is she…part…?”

“You two will meet at some point, Pa. One revelation at a time though, okay?” I confirmed with a slight nod.

“And I thought I had this life all figured out.”

“You would be amazed at how complicated things really are, Pa. Sometimes I can’t even keep things straight.”

The smell of meat cooking with onions and garlic wafted into the room.

“Burgers are almost ready- how about everyone go get cleaned up?” Jack interrupted from the hallway.

Pa sniffed the air and looked between Emily and I. “How did you know?”

“Come on! You do remember that I still live here, right? I also know what you like, father.” Emily smiled brightly.

“We also have Jack and Cami…just in case.” I added with a giggle.

“Let’s eat.” I said as the first twinge hit me.

“Alex, I really wish you wouldn’t cut things so close.” Emily glared at me suddenly. “What if you started when we were still in Kansas City?”

“Then I would’ve booked us into a hotel suite with a refrigerator.” I said flatly as I rubbed my abdomen gently. “Excuse me for a moment.”

Pa’s face lost some color as I stood up and headed upstairs to take care of things.
 
 

1000hrs, L. Scott home, Bridgeport, Conn, August 21th, 1944
 
  

“I’ll get it!” I shouted to the back of the house as I walked to the front door.

I took a few seconds to prepare myself for the confusion and questions I knew would be coming from the person on the other side.

“Hi there. Can I help you?” I said, opening the door.

The middle-aged women’s pleasant expression changed drastically.

“Ruth? But I thought you…”

“Alex? Who’s at the door, sis?”

“Emily? But I thought you were…” The woman glanced at Emily for a moment then immediately back at me, “you were in…um…Norfolk?”

“Mrs. Sullivan? Hi! No, Alex, Allie, and I, and some of our crewmates had some leave and we decided to come back east to visit Daddy. Come on in.” Emily smiled cheerfully as she motioned the woman in.

I stood aside to allow our guest to enter. Her eyes never left me.

“So you’re Mrs. Sullivan? Emily told us that Daddy met someone! I’m sorry I haven’t been home to meet you before.” I said offering my hand. “We’ve been pretty busy the last six years.

Doris Sullivan slowly took my offered hand and shook it limply. “You look so much like her.”

“So we’re reminded every time we come back home, ma’am. Even Daddy has a hard time with the similarities these days.” I said as I cringed inside. ‘Daddy’ indeed, I thought!

“I’m told that Emily is the spitting image of Grandmother Demmit, though we haven’t found any photographs to prove it.”

“Mrs. Sullivan, this is one of my older twin sisters, Alexandra. Alex, Doris Sullivan.” Emily formally introduced us.

“I’m sorry, Alexandra, I just can’t get over the resemblance.” Sullivan apologized.

“Call me Alex, ma’am.”

Emily suddenly looked over to me in surprise. Looking back at my sister, I surreptitiously shook my head side to side a few times.

“Is Louis home?” The brown-haired woman in the dark blue, knee-length dress asked as she regarded Emily and I with confusion.

“He’s out back with Allison and the others.” Emily informed her, still holding her smile.

“Yes, we noticed the yard needed some attention, so we decided to give Daddy some help.” I said as I fought the urge to vomit. I turned to lead the way through the house.

“Daddy? Mrs. Sullivan’s here.” I said, cringing again internally as I announced his visitor. I really wished Emily called her Pa something more dignified, but since everyone knew that she referred to him as ‘Daddy’, I was obliged to comply.

‘I already let Allison and… ‘Daddy’ know, Alex.’ Jack thought to me with noticeable humor.

Great! I wondered how long they would tease me about this?

“Doris! I’d fogotten you would be over to check up on me today. I see you’ve met Alexandra…”

“Alex.” I deadpanned.

“Alex.” He restated. “This is her twin sister, Allison. Allison, meet Mrs. Doris Sullivan.” Pa introduced.

“Ma’am. Nice to meet you, Emily’s told Alex and I all about you. I feel like we’ve already met.” ‘Allison’ said pleasantly as she walked over and offered her hand.

“I never knew you had twins, Louis- you never said anything…”

“Both girls have been away serving in the Navy, Doris…when Ruth died…I…well…I guess it slipped my mind. Can you two forgive me?” Pa asked as he looked shyly at ‘Allison’ and I.

“I understand, Louis. Losing the one you love can be…all-encompassing.” Doris Sullivan comforted as she touched his forearm lightly.

“Don’t worry about it, Daddy. Alex and I understand too. We try not to remind you of Momma, but…well, we really can’t help it.” Alex Reilly- ‘Allison’- said sadly. I noticed her cringe slightly as she said that word too. “That’s kind of why we don’t visit that often.”

“So where are you stationed, dears?” Sullivan asked curiously.

“We’re all stationed in the Pacific, ma’am.” Emily answered first.

“Oh…Pearl Harbor?”

“No/Yes/Yes.” Allison, Emily, and I answered at the same time.

“I’m sorry?”

“We are stationed at Pearl, ma’am, but we could be assigned anywhere in the Pacific…wherever we’re needed…at whichever forward hospital we’re needed.” I told her.

“Oh my! I thought women didn’t serve on the front lines?”

“”Oh no…we’re sent to the forward hospitals, ma’am, not the front lines! The hospitals are usually on islands well behind the lines, but close enough for us to get the wounded quickly,” I specified.

“Mr. Scott, we’re just about done out here. What else needs doing?” Jack asked as she casually walked over to us. “Good morning, Mrs. Sullivan. I’m Jacquelyn Cummins…Lt. Jacquelyn Cummins.”

“Oh, my…how did you know my name, dear?”

“Yes, Jack…how did you know her name?” I asked my Ex-O through pursed lips.

“I couldn’t help overhearing, Alex. This yard isn’t that big.”

“I think we’ll take a break, Jacki. You, Cami, Yuuka, and Ricky Lynn should go in and have something to drink. Andie and Reggie? Could you come here please?” Pa called out.

“Doris, I’d like you to meet my nieces, Andromeda and Regina Celeste from the Demmit’s side of the family. Girls, this is my neighbor, Doris Sullivan. Doris lost her husband in China, 1941. He was with the volunteer ‘Flying Tigers’.”

“We’re sorry for your loss, Mrs. Sullivan. Our condolenses.” Andie said taking the woman’s hand.

“Thank you, ladies.” Doris said politely as she looked up at them. Andie easily had nine inches on her- Reggie almost ten.

“Uncle Lou, we’ll be in the kitchen.” Andie said as she and Reggie opened the door and entered the house.

Mrs. Sullivan turned to the kitchen door after they disappeared inside.

“Yuuka…that is a strange name. I don’t think I’ve heard of it before.”

“Yuuka’s mother was Japanese-American, Mrs. Sullivan. She was one of the civilian casualties in the attack on Pearl. Yuuka is really squeamish about telling people though. She doesn’t get treated too well once people learn her name means ‘Little Flower’ in Japanese.” I told her sadly. “I mean…she’s just as American as the rest of us.”

“Little Flower…Japanese you say? Why…I don’t see any Oriental in her at all. Why would people draw such conclusions from just a name? That is simply absurd.”

“You wouldn’t believe the names we’ve been called in our travels, ma’am. Women in the military aren’t exactly welcomed with open arms either.”

“Well, I for one wouldn’t assume that at all, Alexandra. My husband Ralph- God rest his soul- wrote several times about a young Chinese girl that stayed on their base in Burma. He wrote that she constantly tried to help our boys. She helped load bombs…refill the machine guns…helped to pump gasoline into their planes… He wrote that nothing seemed out of her capability- that she did it to help her country regain its freedom. I believe Ralph would have adapted her and sent her back here to Bridgeport if he were still…” Doris said as she started to wipe tears from her eyes.

Memories of our recent trip to the Homeworld came crashing back to me.

“I’ve met several women with that degree of commitment, ma’am- willing to give their lives for what they believed in. I felt very honored to be in their presence- even if that time was short.”

I felt a stray tear roll down my left cheek.

Pa, Emily, ‘Allison’, and Mrs. Sullivan’s faces suddenly dropped.

“Oh…OH, you poor dears! How could I be so oblivious? Of course you’ve seen your share…being that close to the war. I’m so sorry, Alexandra…Emily…Allison…please forgive me?”

“It’s okay, ma’am. We’ve made peace with what happened. I’m sorry.” I replied as I lifted my head back up to look at her, Pa, and Emily. I hadn’t noticed my gaze had even sunk to the ground. Allie looked at me as she too wiped her face dry.

“She did what she had to do, Alex…no matter what…they both did what they felt had to be done.”

The memories reasserted themselves!

“I need some air.” I said quickly as I felt my nose fill and my lungs constrict. I hurried through the door and through the house to the front porch. Leaning hard on the side railing, I let my tears flow. I vividly remembered my own assassination that day and every part up to that point!

If only I could be that courageous!

I had lost a part of myself that day…a big part. More importantly, I had lost a sister and valued friend too. Peyton was just as courageous for sticking to her twisted conviction to find a way back home. I couldn’t fault her for that.

“Alex, what was that all about? Mrs. Sullivan is completely beside herself for causing you to relive some horrific memory. Both you and Allie ran off to separate corners of the property. Care to talk about it, sis?”

“You wouldn’t understand even if I explained, Emily.” I said while sniffing and forcibly wiping my face.

“Try me, Alex. Sisters can tell each other things they can’t talk about to others, remember?” She paused a second. “Okay, Jack, I have the captain. Give them a little time, I’m sure both will be alright in a few minutes.”

I remained silent hoping she would give up.

“Is the Skipper going to be okay, Doc?” Ricky Lynn asked quietly from behind us.

“Just a recurrence of PTSD, Ricky Lynn, she’ll be right in a few minutes. Tell Daddy and Mrs. Sullivan they’ll both be okay in a few. Alex and I are going over to the park for a while. Jack might want to suggest the same for her, Cami, and Allie.”

“Aye, will do, Doc. Ain’t never seen the skipper lose it like that before- not both o’ them. Musta’ been something wicked horrible to affect both ‘em- and Jack an’ Cami to a lesser extent!”

“She’ll talk about it when she’s ready, Professor.” Emily told her quietly.

“Roger that, I’ll go talk with Jacki and Camille now.”

“Come on, Alex, let’s walk.” Emily said while gently taking my hand and guiding me off the porch. We walked to the next block and across the street into the small park.

“Sisters share secrets…remember, Alex?” She pushed.

“I…” I started, paused to take another breath, and started over.

“I…I saw myself murdered.” I said very quietly. “On the Homeworld…I saw me of the Homeworld…get murdered…by…by her Peyton.”

Emily gasped loud enough the whole block could hear.

Her arms immediately enveloped me. “Alex…I can’t even begin…um…to begin to imagine…”

“I’m sorry, Emily. I should have buried it deeper.”

“No you shouldn’t have, Alexandra! You should have told me right after your return! We could have talked it through then, instead of letting it fester this long. When will you learn that we are here for each other, sis? Stop trying to handle everything by yourself!”

“I don’t want you to worry…”

“Worry! What do think I’m doing now, cheering for you? Honestly, Alex, I constantly worry about you! Every time you go on one of your missions without me…every time I feel a migraine coming on…every…every time I feel the world change the slightest bit…every time I worry that you may not be coming back! You’re my sister, Alex!”

Emily squeezed me tighter.

“I don’t want to lose you.”
 
 

On our way back, we met up with Allie and Yuuka. Allie seemed to have recovered as both were talking normally to each other.

“So…I take it Yuuka knows?” Emily asked me. Allie and I nodded.

“Jack and Cami too.” I added.

“You know…if either one of you ever feels you need an ear…” Emily stopped short as she looked toward a bench occupied by Jack and Cami. Ricky Lynn was standing in front of them with a hand on her hip. It appeared Jack and Cami, both, were getting a good talking to.

“Seriously? The next time you two need someone ta talk to, I’d like ya both to consider me! An’ why on Earth would youse just assume the Skipper’s okay with something just ‘cause she ain’t shown it? You both know she’s not the type to want to worry anybody else.” Samuels said before changing hips.

“Honestly, I got no clue how she does it…how she done it so long, an’ not completely freaked. The girl’s got major issues and conflicts swirlin’ round that head o’ hers and never…never does she ask for even the kindest ear- not even Doc can get through to her most times! Alex has to get it through that thick head o’ her’s that we’re here for her…them- she…they needs to give the rest of us a chance to be her sisters for real an’ not just virtually.” Prof. Samuels paused as she apparently noticed Jack and Cami’s attention shift.

“An’ she’s right behind me, ain’t she? Hope you heard the whole conversation, Skipper, cause I meant ever last word and I ain’t about to recant a syllable of it. Take it or leave it…that’s the way I feel, Alex!”

“As a matter of fact, Yuuka and I were saying pretty much the same thing, Professor. And, I’ve told Captain Steinert about her stubborn streak many times. What escapes me is how two people with the ability to read minds disable it when most needed!”

“And you’ve used your gift to its full ability, Emily?” Cami asked, glaring up at my sister. “How long have you known that you could phase like Alex?”

“Ever since I saw Mina do it at base the other day.” Emily paused a moment and sighed. “I guess deep down I’ve always felt it was possible…God, how I wished it were possible! Every day since that day she passed out in the Con, I’ve wished I could do even half the things Alex can! I’ll be the first to admit that I envy you, Alexandra Steinert.”

I lowered my eyes to the ground. I sensed Allie did too.

“You have no idea what you’re saying, Emily. I wouldn’t wish this ability on anyone…not in a hundred million years.” I said just above a whisper.

“And why not? So you wouldn’t have to worry about me, Alex?”

“No, sis,” Allie answered at the same low volume level I had, “the things we see…the things we know…dates, times…losses…casualities…it is the burden of the Empress and her alone. No one else should have that information constantly barraging them day after day…”

“Ricky Lynn, you say we should talk about things more…that we should share our concerns or problems…what we’ve seen or experienced?” I said a little louder as I looked at Jack, Cami, and her. “How can we convey that we’ve seen our sisters’ futures through hundreds of permutations and expect unbiased conversation?”

I took a deep breath and let it out as I looked around the deserted park.

“Look…Alex and I…as well as Jack, Cami, and Yuuka went to the Homeworld. When we arrived we were met by Jacquelyn Cummins…”

Ricky Lynn gasped and turned to Jack, who nodded.

“Jack, Peyton, and I had mutinied to save this universe from certain destruction after our mission to 1945 Poland. Alex, Jack, and Peyton arrived on the Homeworld approximately twenty-seven hundred years before it’s demise. The three had it very tough at first as they were treated as outcasts or…I believe the future term would be ‘freaks’? When Alex, Jack, Cami, Yuuka, and I arrived, that Jack, Alex, and Peyton took us to Avalon…”

“Avalon! Alex that was supposed to be the mythical city in the King Author legends! You mean to tell us it actually existed?” Prof. Samuels interrupted excitedly, but quickly hushed, as a woman with a small child appeared on the street not far off.

I waited until I knew they were out of earshot.

“The place was huge…all whitewashed with high buttresses and pennants, drawbridge, and two-foot thick doors… Anyway, it turned out that we had arrived just as enemy forces were forming up to siege the castle. Alex, Jack, and Peyton hadn’t revealed themselves or their gifts to that point.”

I took another deep breath.

“Let me, sister.” Allie said as she placed her hand lightly on my forearm. “We were still at our monthly disadvantage when something miraculous happened. Alexandra…the Alex of the Homeworld…phased out and reappeared next to one of the allied warlords. There was no possible way she could’ve done that if we’d all synced up…which we had. Nevertheless, Alexandra showed the man what we could do. After that the three of us began strategizing for the emergence…the ‘grand debut’ of the Empress on the Homeworld. What we choose to ignore was the treachery…and the successful outcome it would initiate.”

I tapped Allie gently on the arm to indicate I could continue.

“What followed was the mysterious relocation of all outlying villages around the vacinity of Avalon to just outside its walls. As the attackers approached, an impossible shield enveloped Avalon and her new suburbs. The enemy forces found it impenetrable.”

“Can we guess where that came from?” Emily shook her head a few times while staring at Cami and Jack.

“The three Empress’ divined the locations of the three key warlords conducting the siege and transported them to one of the secured villages to talk peace.”

I could feel myself start to tremble at this point in our narrative. Emily squeezed my hand a little tighter.

“While we were trying to convince all parties that we were serious about peace, Peyton appeared behind Alexandra and took her at knifepoint. She demanded Alexandra take her home to Eygpt.”

“OH, SHIT!” Ricky Lynn exclaimed with a gasp.

“We had no choice but to reveal to Peyton that her hostage, Alexandra, was over a thousand years old- that she had come back on a one-way mission…her last.”

I squeezed Emily’s hand tighter, hoping to draw the strength I needed to get this out.

“Allie and I tried to talk Peyton out of it. Yuuka and two new pixies, Mei Lee, and Ally even tried an aerial attack. In the end, we had to let our shared vision manifest.”

Jack, Cami, and Yuuka began wiping their eyes.

“All it took was a few quick plunges of Peyton’s dagger. Alexandra fell to the ground…she didn’t even struggle!

I paused to wipe my eyes in vain.

“As she lay there dying, she asked if she had succeeded in solidifying the planet’s future peace.”

I wiped, unsuccessfully, at my tears again.

“She passed in my arms and began to dissolve into a bright, bluish-white light.”

Emily again wrapped her arms around me. She was crying as much, if not more.

Cami had stood up and wrapped her arms around Allie. Yuuka stood between the two of us and tenderly held both our arms.

Jack now took over to tell the last portion of the tragedy.

“Allie pulled Alex away from Alexandra’s body fearing Alex would start to disappear too. Meanwhile, Cami, Jacquelyn, and I had restrained Peyton. She was desperately pleading with us to end her suffering- all the while begging for forgiveness. Knowing that she could never return to this universe permanently, the three of us decided to honor her first request…to…to end…her suffering…”

Jack and Cami both began crying harder and Jack didn’t continue for a long minute.

“Jacquelyn, in response to what we should do, recounted something she had read from the so-called ‘Book’ or ‘Tome of the Empress’; she had reviewed it while on one of their trips forward in time. The passage she quoted told of the very day we were living. It described how blood rained down from the heavens that day…the day the Empress gave her life for her Homeworld. Even Peyton thought it fitting in a brief moment of clarity…right…right before our triad of Mind Warriors took her life at fifteen thousand feet.”

“Oh my God! Jack…Cami…you didn’t?” Emily cried.

“I’m afraid we did. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do…the hardest thing either of us had ever done, Doctor Scott.” Cami admitted between sniffs.

“Traitor or not, we lost two sisters that day.” I said solemnly. “The worst part of the whole mission was knowing what had to happen, but not being able to tell anyone for fear it might change things. Can you imagine how the conversation would go if Allie and I were to share all our premonitions?”

“I think it’s time we got back to the house, ladies.” Jack said suddenly.

Allie and Yuuka slowly turned and started home. Ricky Lynn looked conflicted, but finally followed my sister and the Pixie.

“Andie and Reggie started making lunch. I suggest we get back before we are served the ‘Atlantis’ special.” Jack explained further. Her face now displayed a neutral expression instead of sadness.

“What in the world is that?” Emily asked.

“I really don’t want to find out, do you?” Jack said with a tense smile.

“You’re just as bad as Alex, Jacki Cummins!” Emily declared after she realized Jack had purposely changed the subject. “How can you lock away all those memories like they never happened? Doesn’t it bother you?”

“It bothers me a great deal, Emily, but we all have things we hide from each other, don’t we- things we don’t want our sisters to worry about?”

“That’s enough, Jack. This only illustrates why I withhold things- it causes disagreements and arguing. Let’s catch up with Allie, Yuuka, and the professor.”
 
 

“Are you two going to be okay, Alex?” Pa asked with much concern as Allie and I entered the large kitchen. Andie and Reggie were busy over at the stove. The aroma didn’t smell half bad.

Without answering Pa, Allie and I turned to Mrs. Sullivan.

“Please, ma’am, forgive us for that emotional display.” I started with my head lowered slightly.

“Recently we both went through a traumatic experience and it still haunts us from time to time.” Allie continued. “We lost two of our dearest friends…”

“We try to push it out of our minds…not dwell on it…but…it’s difficult.” I concluded.

“Its okay, girls. Though I don’t know the specifics, I do know the feeling of losing someone close. While you’re on leave, if you ever need to talk to somebody…”

“My sisters have standing offers from both me and our crewmates, Mrs. Sullivan, but thank you.” Emily told the kind neighbor. She smiled. “Would you care to stay for lunch?”

“It does smell enticing. I think I might. What do you call it, girls?” Sullivan asked the Celestes.

“Rap-saur-olay.” Andie replied. It was more of a pronunciation than a real word since there was no formal translation- her suit simply defaulted temporarily to Atlantian.

“I’ve never heard of it. What is in it?” She asked in curiosity.

I rolled my eyes, anticipating the response.

“Fresh onions, garlic, cabbage, carrots, starchroot, sodium chloride, ground peppercorn, feathered raptor, and feathered raptor reduction.” Reggie recited with a big smile.

It was obvious that some of her native words didn’t translate.

Mrs. Sullivan’s mouth dropped open as she stared at the two. She mouthed the phrase ‘Feathered Raptor’ several times in confusion.

“Will you two stop fooling around? Just say that you’re making chicken goulash. We don’t need to sicken any doctors’ stomachs, Reggie! We’re on leave.” Emily growled in annoyance. “Honestly…feathered raptor? Sheesh!”

Mrs. Sullivan’s expression showed understanding.”Well, you certainly had me guessing. I’ve never heard chicken called ‘feathered raptor’ before, but what is sodium chloride?”

“Table salt, Mrs. Sullivan.” Ricky Lynn said. “Sodium chloride-NaCl- is the chemical designation for common salt.”

“And feathered raptor reduction?”

“Chicken broth.” Allie and I chorused and began giggling as we turned to exit the room and set the dining room table.
 
 

“So how did we do, Alex? Reggie asked as Allie and I washed the lunch dishes.

“It tasted fine, but next time use some flour to thicken it up, hun.” I answered. “Where did you get that recipe if I might ask?”

“We made it up. Neither of us could remember the exact formula so we adjusted it by tasting the ingredients before we put them in. I think it tasted amazing for a first try.”

Why did I suddenly imagine one of those two biting into the onion like an apple and then sticking their fingers into the concoction as they slowly assembled it?
 
 

Dinner consisted of stuffed pork chops, mashed starchroo…potatoes, and green bean almandine…or clorostrings and slivered nutmeat as Reggie called them. Emily had pulled the recipe from her future self’s memories. Pa, for his part declared he had never tasted anything like it before. Andie and Reggie had moaned in satisfaction all through dinner as they savored each and every bite.
 
 

“So where did you really get that recipe from, sis?” I asked as I sat on my side of the bed after commanding my clothes to transform into a short-sleeved, pink, silk, pajama shorts set.

“Grandmother Demmit…Amy, gave it to my future self…” She paused as she thought about something. “Twenty years from now. What did you really think of it?”

“It was amazing! What kind of cheese did you use?” I asked as I smiled brightly in interest.

“Asiago. I think it’s some kind of Italian cheese. One of those…um…cheesemongers asked if I wanted to sample it when we were in Kansas City the other day. I couldn’t believe how good it tasted. It reminded me of the dish then and there. So, do you think Andie and Reggie liked it?”

“Are you kidding? I thought both of them were going to…um…embarrass themselves, they were moaning so much!”

“It WAS getting a little hot at the table, wasn’t it?” Emily giggled as she moved her legs onto the bed under the sheet.

I shook my head, recalling the scene. “I wonder what Pa thought?”

“I’m not sure, but he looked really uncomfortable.” Emily laughed. She suddenly quieted down and the look on her face told me that we were going to have a serious conversation.

“Alex?” She started and paused.

“Alex, what will happen to mother? I mean now that you brought her back?” She paused a moment.

“Just let me know if you can’t answer. I’ll understand and let it drop.”

“Ruth Scott is now free from her incarceration. She has received her second chance and will never again let greed influence her actions.” I revealed.

Tears of joy appeared in my sister’s eyes as she leaned over and hugged me tightly.

“Will she and Daddy…” she started to ask as she sat straight. I glared at her. “Will she and father get back together?”

“That is her decision, Emily. Remember that the Ruth Scott you met might not be from this universe. For her to remain might invite imbalance to this or another universe. If you mean will her twin in this universe possibly re-emerge, I’m not sure. If she did, there would be a major rewrite of the timeline.” I answered as best I could.

“Oh…so that probably is a no, right?”

“Use your own gift, sis. You might have better luck since you have stronger ties toward her. Don’t forget to consider all the small details in your simulations though. That’s how I got into trouble the first time with Rogue Alex. I neglected to consider her decision to stay.”

Emily nodded silently as she looked into my eyes. I looked back into hers for a moment before lying down, turning to face away from her, and pulling the sheet over me.

“Why don’t you sleep on it, sis?” I said. “Good night.”
 
 

0800hrs, L. Scott home, Bridgeport, Conn, August 24th, 1944
 
 

“Morning, Allie. Sleep well?” Pa asked as he entered the kitchen. I had just finished making a full batch of pancakes and had sat down at the smaller kitchen table with my usual four-stack.

“Not bad, and I’m Alex by the way. There’s plenty of hotcakes if you want some; help yourself, Pa. Butter an’ syrup’s on the counter.”

“These smell good. Did you make them yourself, sweetie?”

“Coffee too- hope you like it a little stronger.”

“You know…you girls are going to spoil me. I won’t know what to do when you leave in a few days.”

I stopped eating a moment and closed my eyes to think on that.

“You’ll eat good for two more weeks before you have to go shopping for groceries. By that time things will be back to normal again. Emily and I will try to visit more often once the war is over, Pa.”

“I take it you already know when that will be?”

I gave him a tense smile before re-engaging my breakfast.

“Does it ever get mundane…I mean…do you ever wish you couldn’t see the future, Alexandra?”

“There have been times,” I admitted. “I just have to stiffen my chin and plow on…no matter how I feel about what I’m required to do.” I said soberly.

“How do you do it? How do you keep going? There can’t be any of the regular ‘thrill’ of heading into the ‘unknown’ for you.”

“Time isn’t as straight forward as you would think, Louis. It still throws little clinkers and caveats. Take, for instance, our ongoing problem. Darren Clemson.” I said after swallowing a forkful of pancake.

“So what did this guy do…what could he do to the Empress of Time and Space, Sweetie?”

“To keep it simple, the guy stole a time machine from Ricky Lynn, Louis. He was a grad student that wooed his way into her heart then made off with the machine to change what he felt were inexcusable ‘errors’ in Earth’s history.”

“That was simple alright. So how does that affect you?”

“Louis, he’s completely erased our existence four times, and partially erased us three time now.”

Louis Scott sat down, abruptly, next to me with a dumbfounded look.

I continued to explain.

“Pa, even the Empress had a beginning- a place where she started- a point in time where she became the Empress. Think if someone somehow stopped that from happening.”

“Then you wouldn’t have become the Empress?”

“Correct. Now think about the twelve or so years I’ve already been realigning the time line- how many people I’ve interacted with…saved in some way.”

He paused for a moment to consider my question.

“None of it would have happened.” He replied quietly.

“Louis, I haven’t just visited Earth’s history, I’ve visited other planets, visited two different universes, and even visited different dimensions in our own universe. Those visits weren’t just social calls. Pa, Clemson’s tried to stop the Great Flood, save Joan of Arc, revise the American Revolution, sabotage my submarine, and even dismantle my crew among other things.” I explained, slamming my fork onto my plate, as I got angrier.

Louis Scott’s eyes opened wide as he stared at me. From the reflection in his eyes, I noticed the bluish glow I was giving off.

“His ‘trying to remake Earth’s history so it fits the history books’ snowballs to the rest of this universe and even rolls over to all the universes where the Empress exists. In essence, he’s dooming everyone and everything. Period!”

“Is our Earth so important, Alexandra?”

“Since it’s the one place where the Empress of Time and Space began- yes! Look, if the Empress doesn’t exist, who’s going to fix all the hiccups…save all the lives they would destroy? Who would travel to the different universes to begin the Empress there?”

“You started the Empress in these other universes?”

If I hadn’t gone to Alex Reilly’s universe and rescued her whole research station from getting eaten by their sun, I would’ve never become Empress. And, if I hadn’t traveled to another universe, the Empress there…” I paused as I fought hard to push away that memory, “she would still be a he and her branch of the sisterhood would’ve never existed. “I’m sorry,” I admitted, “my existence is nothing but a complex, twisted, confusingly infinite, paradox.”

Pa nodded and stared into his coffee cup. I felt what I said did nothing to make him understand how important it was to have the Empress around so decided I needed to tell him one more thing.

“Pa…if I hadn’t become the Empress, Emily, the entire crew of the Sand Dollar, and the indigenous people of Kili Island would have died last spring. If we hadn’t gone through the Mahanilui, we would have been attacked and sent to the bottom of the Pacific. You would have received a letter from the War Department instead of a visit from your daughters and their friends.”

“Hey, why didn’t you wake me up, Alex?” Emily said as she entered the kitchen. “Pancakes, huh? Gee, I wouldn’t have expected those for breakfast.” She said sarcastically as she walked over to the cabinet and took out a plate.

“Alexandra and I were talking- a little ‘getting to know you’ talk, sweetie.”

“Really? I could have sworn you two were talking about my sister’s gift and all the ramifications thereof.”

“How could you see all that if we stopped that conversation before you came down?” Pa asked in astonishment.

“I could hear you two out in the hallway. I’ve been standing out there for about ten minutes listening.” Emily giggled.

“Alex, Mrs. Sullivan is going to be here at ten minutes to eleven. Are you ready for the confrontation?” Emily asked nonchalantly as she sat down across from me with her breakfast plate.

“Confrontation? What do you mean, Sweetie?” Pa asked, being caught off guard.

“With your help, sis, things will go alright. Are you willing to use your gift a little more?”

“Unless you’ve seen another way…”

“Hey everybody! Empress, where did you put the honey?” A bright and energetic Yuuka greeted us as she rushed into the kitchen.

“Pancakes are on the stove and the honey is up in the right cabinet on the shelf above the spices. You should be able to reach it in your grown-up form, hun.” I answered, though obviously not in the manner the Pixie expected as she glared back at me with an angry scowl.

“Scowl all you want, pixie, but Mrs. Sullivan is coming over in less than an hour and a half. You’ll have to wait until Emily and I leave with her before you can have some flight time.”

“Hey, sis. Doris still going to try and ‘out ‘ us this morning?” Allie asked, as she appeared in the doorway with Cami, Jack, and Ricky Lynn, close behind.

I nodded. “Yup. The neighborhood conspiracy theorist is due just before eleven.” I sighed.

“Sure you don’t need my help?” She asked with a hopeful look.

“It’ll be fine, sis. Emily will be there to liven things up, and Jack or Cami will be listening in. If you want, you can fill Andie and Reggie in on what is going to happen once we’re cleared for travel. Where are those two?”

“They went for a walk just after dawn this morning, Alex. They were saying something about taking advantage of natural gravity to get some exercise. I think it was more ‘cabin fever’ than anything else.” Jack replied as she placed three hotcakes on her plate.

“There is a difference in feel, Alex,” Cami went on, reaching into the cabinet for her own plate. “Artificial gravity doesn’t affect the body equally like natural gravity. I noticed it right away when we first landed on Earth.”

It was odd not to see plates floating around the kitchen like they normally did when not at sea- it almost felt…wrong. Still, after an hour we had all finished breakfast and cleaned up the kitchen. Andie and Reggie of course were the last to eat and now we all decided to go out and find a seat on the front porch. As expected, Yuuka paced the width of the porch, back and forth. It was blatantly obvious that she was going through ‘pixie withdrawal’.

“I think I’m going back in the house if you don’t mind.”

“Feeling agitated, hun?” I asked with a giggle as the other girls joined me. “Honestly, hun, you’ve been flitting around as if you were already in pixie mode the whole time.”

“I…I can’t help it. I’m feeling anxious, my head hurts, and my skin is soooo itchy!”

“Then your path is clear, Yuuka,” Andie said with a smile. “You must scratch the itch and indulge in that which relieves the stress.”

Yuuka shook her head and looked at her. “Huh?”

Reggie rolled her eyes, sighed heavily, and walked over to the confused, full-grown pixie. She passed her and gently pulled open the screen door. “Take flight, Pixie, but be mindful of the windows and prying eyes.” She said as she motioned the already diminishing girl into the house. Yuuka had lost at least ten inches as she disappeared inside.

“She reminds me of this old drinking buddy of mine. He acted the same way when he tried to sober up after a few days.” Pa told us as he looked at the closed screen door. “So you can get addicted to being a pixie…huh.”

“Think of how you would feel if you could fly…go anywhere you wanted on your very own set of wings. Think of how liberating that would be, Dad.” Emily said in her professional voice.

“I’m thinking it isn’t just Yuuka, girls. I’ve noticed how you, Emily, have changed ever so slightly. You seem to be more outgoing…like your mother- not like when I left you at the train station four years ago. Then, you were more reserved and a little unsure of yourself.”

“Daddddd.”

“And you two, Alexandra. I’m sure the freedom of being able to go anywhere or anytime you want is very exciting? To be able to leave when you want…”

“You’re absolutely right, Pa,” Allie agreed. “The same can be true of Jack and Cami. They can do almost anything they want…just by thinking it.”

“Almost,” Cami said as her face saddened along with Jack’s. “Of all of us, we by far, must remain calm and be extremely careful with our gifts, Mr. Scott. One wrong thought and people could die.”

“Alex, Mrs. Sullivan is coming. She just closed her door and is four houses away.” Jack informed us.

“Well, that’s my cue to request that Andie, Reggie, Cami, Jack, and especially you, professor join me out back for a few minutes.” Allie said as she stood and headed for the front door.
 
 

“Hi, Louis. Girls, are you enjoying your leave?”

“It’s hard to get used to, ma’am. I feel like I’m somehow not doing my job- especially right now.” I answered for Emily and I.

“And I’m still feeling overwhelmed by all the pretty girls suddenly showing me so much attention. How are you today, Doris?”

“Oh, me? Well, I haven’t been sleeping too well the last few nights, Louis.”

“Oh? Is the heat getting to you?”

Doris Sullivan looked at Emily and I a few seconds longer than would be considered polite.

“I’ve…I’ve had some things on my mind. Girls, would it bother you if I asked some questions…about things that have been nagging at me?”

“I’m sure Alex and Emily would be happy to answer any questions you may have, Doris- wouldn’t you girls?” Pa answered politely then motioned to our guest. “Have a seat.”

“Of course, Daddy, anything she wants to know…except top secret stuff.” I said with a smile as I closed my eyes.

Easy there stomach.

“Girls, I’ve lived down the street for five years now and not once have I seen you twins in all that time. I understand that you two have been serving in the navy and all, but why…”

“Why haven’t you seen us before?” I finished her question.

She nodded.

“We’d been stationed on the West Coast. Although officers, junior grade still doesn’t pay much, ma’am.” I replied.

“I get that, but…”

“But why do Allie and I look like copies of mother?” I finished for her again.

“Yes. That’s what I was going to ask, how did you know?”

“Lucky guess. Look, Mrs. Sullivan, I can’t help the way Allie and I look. We just inherited it from mom. There is a small difference if you look really, really close.” I said as I leaned forward on the glider and let her look into my eyes.

“Oh my.” She gasped quietly after staring into my green eyes for a time.

“See something interesting in there, ma’am?” I asked with a slight grin.

Doris Sullivan blinked a few times and shook her head. “No…I’m sorry. That was rude of me.”

Pa looked at me in confusion then to our guest.

“What exactly did you see there, Doris? What held you so captivated for over a minute and a half?”

“Well…you know…I’m not exactly sure what I saw in those beautiful green eyes. I will say that they are the most interesting eyes, Alexandra. I felt like I was looking into a never-ending pool of green- a pool so deep and vast there was no end. I guess I got lost in your eyes, my dear. Strange, that I would be so easily distracted…silly, really.”

“So…anymore questions, Mrs. Sullivan?” Emily pushed as the woman continued to stare into my eyes in wonder.

“Allie’s out in the back yard.” I said calmly. Emily looked at me with some trepidation.

“So, where is your twin, Alexa…?” Mrs. Sullivan asked but stopped suddenly as she realized that I had answered before she posed the question.

“How did I know what you were going to ask?” I asked her.

“How did you know what I…was…?”

Doris Sullivan stared at me, flabbergasted.

“I know what you’re going to say because I’ve seen you saying it already, Mrs. Sullivan. Let me ask you a question now. Do you like tea?”

“Do…I…like… What? Tea?”

“Yes, do you like tea?”

“Why would you ask that, Alexandra? Of…”

“Of course you like tea, but you prefer to drink coffee with Daddy, don’t you?”

“I do, but your father told you that.”

“He may have. Now, let me ask another question if you would indulge me, Mrs. Sullivan. Did your husband ever tell you the name of this Chinese girl that he felt like adopting?” I asked as I smiled and waited patiently. Emily and Pa were eyeing me curiously as we awaited an answer.

Our guest stared at me for a minute before answering.

“Lu something…Lu See, I think. Why would you ask such a strange question, Alexandra?”

Doris stared into my eyes again.

“Who are you? Why would you ask about a girl I’ve never met, and…and how could you possibly know what questions I would ask before I knew them myself?”

“Now we’re getting to the important questions.” I said cheerfully. “The questions you really came here to ask.”

Before Mrs. Sullivan could once more stare at me, I thought a change of venue would serve us better.

“Mrs. Sullivan, would you care to take a walk to the park? There are some things we should talk about that might help you with your insomnia. Pa, we’ll be over in the park for thirty-five minutes. Emily, are you coming?” I asked with a faint smile.

“I think I’ll stay here, Alex. I’m sure you’ll intimidate her enough on your own.”

I stood, shrugged, and offered Doris my hand to help her from her seat.
 
 

On the way to the nearby park, my companion continuously stared at me. I waited a few steps into the park’s cobbled walkway before confronting her about it.

“You know…it’s rude to keep staring, and in many places that I’ve traveled over the years, you could be killed or rendered blind for such things. In places like New Guinea, caucasion eyeballs are a delicacy.”

“I’m sorry, Alexandra, but you…you are different…somehow.”

“Then instead of staring, ask me the questions you seek answers to.” I suggested.

Doris was quiet for a moment.

“Who are you? I mean really…who are you?”

“My name is Alexandra, Doris. I wasn’t lying to you.”

“Are you really Emily’s sister?”

“Yes.”

“You and Allison are her twin sisters?”

“Yes…sort of.”

“Sort of? I don’t understand. If she is your twin, how can she not be?”

“Allie is me, Doris, only from another time.”

Sullivan stopped dead in her tracks and stared.

“Didn’t I ask you to stop staring, Doris? You’ll draw unwanted attention to us.”

I began walking again.

“What…what are you?” She asked quietly from a few paces behind me.

“Ah, finally. The number one, most asked, question.” I said after turning around and exhaling heavily. I walked back to where she stood in shock. A tense smile came to my face.

“I’m just one of a handful of people that can make you happy for the rest of your life, Doris.”

“Should I just scream for the police right here and now, Alexandra?”

“You do what you feel is necessary, ma’am, but I’ve seen that you are more intrigued than terrified by me. Let’s have a seat and I’ll tell you a little back story before I make my proposal or reveal anything else about me.”

All right…fine. How could you make me happy for the rest of my life then?” Mrs. Sullivan conceded in an angered tone as we both sat on a nearby wooden park bench.

“Let’s say, for now, that three years ago there was a supposed fourteen year-old girl…Chinese by birth, but living, or more specifically, hiding from the Japanese in Burma. One day a group of strange speaking men with heavy equipment rolled noisily past her crudely, hand-carved, hollow in a nearby, but hidden hillside just off an equally crude, dirt road. Not seeing any markings, but noticing that the men’s facial features and dress differed from those ravaging her native countryside, she followed until she came across a magnificent sight. Large, metal birds- more specifically, airplanes! Twenty of them to be exact- all lined up and waiting.”

“More men appeared from several large, wooden dwellings nearby as she squatted low in the brush and observed. The buildings reminded her of her own home- the one she had been lucky enough to escape before the soldiers had stormed in, shot her mother, two brothers, and her older sister- before they set her whole village on fire.”

“Quietly wiping tears of that traumatic memory from her eyes, she watched as these foreign-looking men hurried across the long clearing and each climbed aboard an aircraft. Soon, after starting the motors, they taxied to the far edge of the clearing and gunned the engines. To the girl’s excitement, the planes took to the air, circled overhead once and disappeared over the jungle canopy!”

“Waiting in the dense brush for several hours, the girl finally heard the familiar roar of the planes as they returned from where ever. The men jumped from their planes after shutting them off and ran to each other in celebration of something- many slapping the backs of two pilots in particular.”

“Later in the evening, she observed two other men approach the two pilots’ planes with several small, bright metal cans. Producing a small brush and a small piece of thick paper, the two men brushed paint over the paper as they held it up to the fuselage just under where the pilot sat. To her amazement, they had painted one small Japanese flag on one of the planes and two on the other. It was then that she noticed other planes had a varied number of the enemy flags painted on them.”

“Could they be fighting to help her country, she wondered? Could they rid her land of the beasts that had violently destroyed her home and village- her parent, and her siblings? Could these men help her? She decided then and there to find out and so, the very next day, she walked cautiously into the men’s camp and began doing things for them- small things at first until she could trust them and they, her. Several of the men began to teach her their language, English they called it. They even built her a dwelling- smaller than the rest, yet a thousand times better than her muddy, hand dug, hollow; one she could call ‘home’.”

“She continued to help around base; to learn from and about her quirky new family until one day the nicest and kindest of the men didn’t return from a mission. She looked all over base hoping he had stayed- that someone else might have flown in his place, but she could not find him. Asking several of the man’s friends, she got no answer. The whole base seemed severely depressed and remained quiet; no one seemed able to answer her. Some even walked past as if she weren’t there at all. She finally had to admit that the man had been shot down or worse, killed.”

“Set on working through her deep sorrow, she decided to double her efforts to help these men. Several weeks passed without anyone else failing to come back, until one day she awoke from a late morning nap to the sound of shouting and screaming. They were under attack, she realized. All she heard was a strange whistling sound before everything burst into flames then went black.”

“Who was the girl? How do you know all this, Alexandra?”

“That girl, Doris, could be your happiness.” I told her as I stood and turned back to her.

“But if she was killed several years ago, how could she be my happiness?”

“That is where we come in, ma’am.” I said as I moved to my right one step. Doris Sullivan looked puzzled by my action.

“How can you do anything about what has happened in the past? Why not leave the poor girl to rest in peace, Alexandra?”

“Because,” I paused to look to my left a moment. “It wasn’t supposed to happen like that, Doris. That girl…those men…they shouldn’t have died that day. Time burped because someone stole the power to change history, and he did so without first considering anything but his own twisted plan for revenge.”

“Alexandra? You speak as if you have first-hand knowledge about what should have been- about how history should have happened. How can you possibly know that time is in error?” Doris thought a moment. “Does this tie into my question earlier?”

“The question about what I am, Doris? Of course it does. So you just sit there and allow Emily to explain.”

“Emily? But she stayed home. I don’t see her anywhere, Alexandra.”

“Doris, what you are about to see will probably frighten the tar out of you! I would ask that you try to remember that we mean you no harm- that we are here to help right a wrong.”

“What are you talking about, Alexandra? We are the only two people in this park at the moment.”

“Are we? Coast is clear, sis.”

The older woman’s eyes bulged from her head and her mouth instantly dropped open. All blood drained from her face as well.

“So this happens to you all the time, Alex?” Emily asked from my right.

“Pretty much, yep.”

“Mrs. Sullivan, forgive me for frightening you, but from what Alex has told you, and from what I’ve foreseen, history has indeed been corrupted. We’d like a chance to repair what went wrong.” Emily told her softly in her professional voice.

Sullivan just sat there and shivered, her eyes switching between Emily and I at an alarmingly quick rate.

“Alex, her vitals are tanking. This obviously wasn’t the right approach.”

“Jack, I need you to emulate Jamie’s gift and calm Doris’ nerves, please.” I said to myself.

Doris Sullivan’s eyes opened wider just before her expression changed drastically to an unnatural calm.

“Thank you, Jack.” I said with a smile.

“Mrs. Sullivan, the Empress of Time and Space is not here to harm you. She just wants to return what was unjustly taken from you.” Emily told her.

“Empress? Of Time and Space,” she asked as she stared at me in amazement?

“It’s a title others have given me, ma’am.” I explained to confirm she had heard right.

“Mrs. Sullivan, Alex knows what has happened to time because she can move through it…in both directions. She can sense when it changes- where it deviated. My sister is the only one capable of returning things to their intended sequence.” Emily said sounding more like she was pleading our case.

“You can actually,” she swallowed hard, “travel back in time?”

I nodded with a pleasant smile. “And forward into the future too, Doris.”

“And space? You can travel among the stars too?”

I nodded once more.

Our companion remained quiet as she thought over what she had learned. A light finally came on in her mind as she apparently figured out what we had been trying to tell her. Her smile appeared cautiously.

“So,” I paused to look at my sister, Emily, for a moment, “would you like us to try and return your houseguest and possible daughter, Doris Sullivan?”

She remained quiet for several more moments contemplating my latest question.

“And just what will it cost me, Alexandra? Do I forfeit my soul for this supposed happiness or would she be taken from me once we get comfortable with each other? What repayment must be made for this to happen?”

“Alex isn’t the devil or any form of demon, Mrs. Sullivan.” Emily argued in disgust.

“Then what?” Sullivan countered.

“I am Commander Alexandra Frances Steinert. Captain of the Navy submarine, Sand Dollar SS353, Doris! And on my oath as a United States naval officer, I pledge that there is no ulterior motive other than righting this errant timeline back to its true and natural course. I do not expect payment of any kind, nor do I require your first-born child! Would you be interested in our offer, yes or no? If yes, then four days from now you may accompany us to the Burma of 1941. There we will ask Lu Sei if she would like to travel with us back here to Bridgeport. Her decision, though, is the final say. I will not move someone against their will,” Emily looked at me strangely for a second, “unless they are being unreasonable and placing themselves in harm’s way unnecessarily.”

“And if I say no?”

“Then you will not remember any of this. Not our conversations; not my sisters and friends. Only that Emily came home on shore leave to visit her father for a week. I’m sorry, but that is the way it has to be to protect our anonymity.”

“Anonymity? From what or who?”

“Don’t tell me that you didn’t just think- for the tiniest of moments- that I could fix it so Ralph would come back- that he didn’t die in that dogfight over Northern Burma? Think if thousands more people knew about me and decided to seek me out to ‘fix’ what they considered wrong in history whether it had to be or not. Think about how my gift could be abused by one government or another. I am not a weapon, Doris, but inevitably someone would try to use me as such. I cannot let that happen to me or any of my sisters.”

“So if you do see the future, you already know what my answer will be, right?”

“I do, but there is always a chance to change your mind- right up to the point of our departure, Doris. That is not exclusive to the Empress, but mutual to every living thing. Only I have the gift- the ability- to do things over if the result negatively impacts the timeline.”

“So I am to tell you what I want to happen with the rest of my life, Alexandra?”

“No. The only thing you have to decide is whether you want to accept a lonely, deprived, orphaned girl into your home to possibly gain a daughter- someone you can love and nurture as your own- someone who will one day make you proud and possibly a Grandmother. Can you accept those terms, Doris Sullivan?”

“I suppose returning my husband to me would be considered taking advantage, wouldn’t it, Alexandra?”

“I’m not in the habit of appearing in a single seat fighter in mid flight to rescue its pilot. That is way too dangerous for even me to consider, ma’am. Time travel can sometimes be…unpredictable.” I said knowing that even as it left my mouth, Emily would open hers.

“We’ll try to save him too, Mrs. Sullivan, but just so you know, we’ve found that certain things…certain events are fixed- temporal waypoints, Alex calls them. If Ralph is the focus of such a ‘waypoint’ there may not be anything we can do. That’s why she didn’t mention it. She didn’t want to cause you further grief and pain in case that was the situation.”

“I see,” Sullivan said sadly, “Then I will instead request that you save everyone that can be saved, Alexandra, and I will accept that which you have seen fair, happily.” Doris Sullivan said with determination while looking me directly in the eyes.

“Then we agree, ma’am. Now I think we should be getting back.” Emily said cheerfully as she offered Doris her hand. “Here, let me help you up.”

They both vanished.

“Sis, I’ll be along in a few minutes. I have something I need to do first.” I said as I looked to where I knew they stopped, just a few yards away.

Waiting a few minutes for my sister to get out of earshot, I sat back down on the bench and looked around for any other patrons of the pleasant neighborhood park.

“Whenever you want to rephase, momma.” I said, apparently to myself.

“You really have developed certain parts of your gift, child. I still have to rely on my foresight in such cases.” Ruth Scott said, as she appeared sitting beside me.

“So how was your reunion with Uncle Rick?” I asked.

Momma unexpectedly leaned over and wrapped her arms around me. Why didn’t I feel the tingle?

“Thank you, Alexandra. With all my heart, thank you, my wise, wonderful daughter!” She said as she squeezed me tightly. I could hear her sniffing back tears.

“I take it our mission is completed from your perspective?”

“It has, but I can see now that you are the one.” Momma answered sadly, cryptically.

“The one, momma? Why would I be ‘the one’?”

“Because, Alexandra, you did what I wouldn’t- what I couldn’t- therefore you are the one.”

“I’ve got no clue what y’all are talkin’ ‘bout, Ruth Scott.” I replied in confusion.

“The man…this Clemson. He greedily changed history to fit his imagined reality, thereby almost destroying two different universes. He deserved to lose everything and then some- yet you spared him and showed mercy where I wouldn’t have. I see now that they were right. You are the wisest, most caring Empress among us. You are the one, Alexandra.”

“Look, momma, ah got no idea where this is coming from, but y’all are frightening me. I mean…I’m nowhere near bein’ anything like an angel. I’ve done bad…terrible things.”

“Not as bad as me, Alexandra. Though both sinners, you are more the saint, I’m afraid. You have the proper attitude for the Empress. Promise me you will never lose that character trait.”

“You’re leaving!” I gasped as it hit me, “And you’re not coming back, are you? What about Pa? Don’t you want to reconnect with him especially?”

“We’ve…reacquainted…ourselves, honey.” Momma snickered in embarrassment.

“So don’t be a stranger. Our universe can stand a few extra Empresses for a short time. Come visit when you can.”

“Alexandra, I’ve so enjoyed our conversations in the realm between realms. I think I’ll miss those the most.”

“We’ll still have those talks, won’t we, momma?”

“You’ve grown so much in the time we’ve had together, Alexandra, but you know enough to take care of yourself now, child. You know how you must conduct yourself.”

I closed my eyes for a moment.

“Momma, you’re just returning to your home universe. Stop making it sound like yer goin’ ‘way fer good! God, y’all are a tease!”

Momma’s smile grew wide and wonderful- though had a slight devious undertone.

“Like I said, child, wise beyond your years. Mina has certainly done an outstanding job with you, Alexandra.” Momma said as she stood from her seat and turned to me. I stood too and looked directly into her eyes. They seemed to still be hiding something…actually a whole universe of something.

“Take care of your sisters, Alexandra. I wish I could’ve had someone like Emily there for me; sisters would have been a really nice thing.” She said before pausing a moment. Apprehension showed on her face briefly before she smiled brightly at me.

“Good bye for now, my Empress, and thank you again for your kindness. I promise that I will take the second chance so humbly granted me and make you proud.”

Momma hugged me one final time, kissed my cheek, took a step back, and phased out.

I stood there a few minutes longer sorting out what had just been said before I started down the walkway leading out of the park and back to my newly adopted Bridgeport home.



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