South of Bikini 4: Episode 10- Loose Ends

With the Time Machine Bandit, Clemson, now ‘incarcerated’. Alex and the crew of Meridian 12 must now find their Egyptian passengers a new home. What other surprises are in store from the Empress of Time and Space? And is this the last time we’ll see Andromeda, Regina and the crew of Atlantis?

 

Copyright 2014: R.G. Beyer

 
 

Episode 10
“Loose Ends”

 
 

“Alex? Where did you come from? Is mother all right? Did your attendance help lessen her charges? Will we ever see her again?” Emily asked rapid-fire as I once again found myself in our Atlantis quarters.

I just nodded, as I looked around- still stunned. Had I actually been in the presence of…?

I shook my head. No, there was no way that could be what happened. How would I ever rate audience with …‘her’? Looking to the floor, I began to wonder about my supposed significance in…what did they call it…existence.

Had I just represented, redirected, and then taken sole responsibility for not only my actions, but for other’s without blinking an eye or conscious thought? Why would I not be severely punished for what momma and I had done- for what we truthfully admitted to?

That woman…she was the first to speak from the gallery- the first to show disinterest in the inquiry as if it should have been some game. Was she expecting I would respond as I did? If that were the case, was I again being tested- manipulated- to observe my response?

“Alex? Sis, it’s almost three bells, and Andie asked us over for dinner. Are you feeling up to it? I can call and reschedule if you’d like to take it easy a while.” Emily said as she gently took my right hand in hers.
 
 

E.S. Atlantis, Standard Year 257:09:11
 
 

“Must you leave so soon, Anna Beth?” Andie asked as we stopped beside Meridian in the huge Diplomatic hangar. Our spacecraft seemed dwarfed more than ever in the huge bay.

“I’m afraid so, Andie. We’ve worn out our welcome and it’s time that we sought out a new home. Only the Lords know how long that will take.” Anna Beth looked to me accusingly.

“Meridian, Passenger status?”

“All passengers except one have boarded. Command crew is deficit two. Crewmember families are all accounted for, captain.”

“Acknowledged. Are we ready?” Anna Beth replied scanning the ceiling of the hangar.

Dixie’s…Atlantis A.I. hospitality link disabled. Meridian A.I. pre-flight complete and go.” Meridian answered excitedly as she reported her Comm link and preflight status. Still, I detected a tinge of sadness in her voice.

“Thank you, Meridian,” Anna Beth confirmed as she looked back to Andie, Reggie, and Ian then impatiently around the hangar again.

“We’ve really enjoyed having you these past few weeks. Hopefully, Alex will see fit to bring you all around for a visit every now and again.” Andie said as Reggie mechanically nodded her head.

“Ricky Lynn, I hope Alex brings you back when she visits. I’ve enjoyed talking ‘shop’ with you. It won’t be the same around here without you.” Reggie said, finally composing herself enough to speak.

“I’m sure ol’ Alex seen more visits in our futures, toots. Hopefully, we can get back fer the baby shower in a few months.” Prof. Samuels said with a guarded smile.

“Or we could come visit you…Empress willing.” Reggie replied with a tempered smile of her own.

“Exec, where are my Communications and Tactical Officers? Did they elect to stay behind?” Anna Beth growled impatiently to me.

“The Pixies said that they had to visit and say their farewells to all the children in all the schools and daycares around Atlantis, captain. They will arrive presently.” I answered.

Across the hangar, the passageway access door slid open and three small figures flew in slowly. As they got closer, Yuuka began to grow up and once her feet touched the ground, joined us. Sunni was next to exit Pixie mode and took her place next to Yuuka. She remained as Sunni though.

The third, a pixie with yellow-smudged, silvery wings, began to grow, but remained much smaller than her sister Pixies. She hurried over and stood next to Sunni, quickly taking her hand.

It was a good thing Ricky Lynn still had a spare Reilly. The first time Tath’ba had entered Pixie mode- she had been startled by a first year student twice her size at one of the elementary schools in Gamma Ring- her clothes ended up in a small pile on the floor. Tath’ba was hovering a cubit or so above; naked as the day she was born- in her adult form no less.

Anna Beth stared at our newest sister sternly. The young girl’s response was to tighten her grip on Sunni’s hand and hide slightly behind her.

Sunni pulled gently on the girl’s hand so that she came out from behind.

“What do you say to the captain, Tabatha?” She asked the girl using the English version of her name.

It would become her legal name very soon.

“Um…um…sor…sorry, captain, ma’am. I…IIIIII…I wanted to say goodbye to all the children. Do we really have to leave here?”

“I’m afraid we do, little one. Andie and her people are going to be landing Atlantis in the next few weeks and we’ll just be in the way. Besides, don’t you want to see the beautiful new world Alexandra has picked out for us?” Anna Beth asked the young, newly gifted, girl.

Tabatha had realized her gift quickly as she lay in the infirmary recuperating from the severe injuries she received during the Sun Temple procession. Since her release from Atlantis’ infirmary five days ago, she had stuck to Sunni like glue.

“I would like that very much, captain, but I would also like to see Sunni’s world too.” She replied shyly.

“Let’s see where the Empress takes us first, munchkin. Alex has her priorities you know.” Sunni told her.

“Col. Smithson, would you care to board Meridian. Meridian, enable another station next to tactical for Miss Tabatha.” Anna Beth said as she smiled slightly.

“Bridge modification complete. Bridge seating complement has reached maximum, captain.” Our A.I. acknowledged.

“Thank you Meridian. Col. Smithson, once your charge is seated and secured; please begin your tactical pre-flight. Young lady, the bridge will be a very busy place for awhile so you must be on your best behavior.”

“Aye, ma’am.” Sunni and young Tabatha said after snapping to attention. She and Tabatha turned and marched toward the outer hatch at Anna Beth’s nod.

“I’ve never seen a six year old act so mature.” Alusia commented quietly.

And I have never seen a sixteen year old act like such a brat, niece.” Anna Beth countered.

“We’ve had a long series of discussions about her behavior back in Memphis, captain. Alexis has seen the light, so to speak.” Alusia assured as she glanced to Allie, Andie, Emily, and I. She had tightly held the girl’s reigns since our arrival on Atlantis and still did so now.

“Just like her mother.” I said in whisper to Allie and Jack.

“Yes, Empress, just like me. Though I think she learned some of that from her father also.” Alusia said, having heard my comment.

“I told you I surrender, mother! I couldn’t go back to Memphis now anyway- I’d never live long enough.” Young Alexis cried in angst.

“I never said you couldn’t go back, hun. I just didn’t think you would want to marry your own cousin. We have laws against that sort of thing where I come from.” I admitted to the teen.

“Why would I marry Djedefre? Eewww!” The young woman exclaimed as she grimaced.

“Because Djedefre is Pharaoh now, and according to his newly reformed government, he is now a living God and can do pretty much what he wants- when he wants.” I looked at the teen sternly. “Including claiming anyone he wants…related or otherwise…as many times as he desires…with as many partners as he wants!”

Anna Beth looked at me as though she thought I was joking.

Alexis’ face drained of all color.

“He would do that?” She asked in disbelief.

“We got a sayin’ back home, hun: ‘It’s good to be the king’.”

Andie, Reggie, and Ian smiled and shook their heads.

“Remaining command crew to the bridge. Get below, Alexis.” Anna Beth commanded awkwardly.

The sixteen-year-old angrily stood to attention, quite dramatically performed an ‘about face’ then marched exaggeratedly the few steps to Meridian’s outer hatch.

“Wow! Now that wasn’t a statement, was it?” I said to no one in particular.

A round of hugs and handshakes ensued before we all turned and entered Meridian. Andie, Reggie, and Ian made their way over to the docking control room to observe our departure.
 
 

Welcome back to the bridge, counselor.” Anna Beth said as Alusia walked off the elevator. “Please have a seat.”

Alusia looked about as frightened as the last time she was on the bridge- when we left Poland.

This time all consoles around the bridge were manned except the one next to Emily at Environmental.

“What station have you assigned me, captain?” Alusia asked in confusion.

“Alexandra has assigned you to Ship-wide communications and information, dear. Your job is to monitor and route all intra-ship communications. Assist and answer questions about the intercom system, and help our passengers cope with interstellar travel, though I am at a loss for how long our travels might actually last.” Anna Beth explained as she looked over to me with a raised eyebrow.

“It sounds like I’m a glorified telephone operator-slash-shrink.” Alusia complained.

“Something like that, hun.” I laughed. “It’s that or you go back to your quarters for the duration.”

“No, this is fine, Cmdr. Steinert.” She conceded.

“Let’s get going, Exec.” Anna Beth ordered as she grinned

“Aye, captain! Bridge. Pre-flights.” I barked. “Engineering.”

“Go, Ex-O. Beta-wave APU online. Inertial generators to dynamic. Fuel cells one hundred percent and tending.” Ricky Lynn answered.

“Environment.”

“Cabin pressure equalized. Breathable gas mixture optimal. CO2 scrubbers online and operating at one hundred. Medical, stocked and ready, commander.” Emily answered.

“Helm.”

“Attitude gyros online and standing by. Thrusters in standby and primed. Awaiting start authorization from Atlantis Control, Commander.” Peyton responded with a smile.

“Navigation.” I asked.

“Nav sensors cal’d and sync’d to time augmented local star maps, Ex-O.” Natalia replied with an excited smile.

Again, Seph and her mother bumped fists. Our captain said nothing this time, but shook her head and smiled happily.

“Tactical.” I continued.

“Tactical sensors online and in standby. Tactical display parameters entered. Collision avoidance protocols disabled and locked pending docking control release, ma’am.” Sunni responded as Tabatha stared at her completely enamored.

“Weapons.”

“Partical and optical weapons disabled and safed until Meridian exceeds Atlantis Control’s safety border. All weapons batteries charged, but safed, Cmdr. Steinert.” Jack answered.

“Ship’s Security.”

“External sensors online and operational at minimum power levels. Navigational strobes in standby.”

“Ex-O. Docking Control confirms hangar is devoid of all personnel and awaits our request for decom.” Yuuka cut in.

“Understood, Comms. Sciences.”

“All scientific analysis equipment online, but in standby until outer Atlantian border exceeded.” Allie confirmed.

“Communications.”

“Normal transceivers online. Subspace transceiver shunted to virtual load and in standby until outer boundary exceeded. Meridian transponder online in Extremely Low Power mode. Emergency Comm transceiver in standby. Atlantis Control confirms receipt of Meridian transponder ID.” Yuuka reported

“Internal communications.”

Alusia didn’t answer. I looked over to see her puzzling over the console. Emily looked over from her station and pointed to a specific spot on the sleek, sloped console face.

“Thank you, doctor.” She said quietly.

“Internal communications.” I repeated and still got no response.

“Alusia! Internal Comms!”

“I’m sorry, the number you have dialed is currently not in service. Please call directory assistance and state your feelings on this matter.”

“You are directory assistance, hun. Now, are you done with your pre-flight?” I growled to the bridge smartass. I noticed Anna Beth fight a giggle.

Alusia reached to her console and touched it once.

“Internal Communications online, mein Sklaventreiber.”

I glared at her. I didn’t need my translator for that one.

“Thank you, Internal comms. Captain, all stations confirm pre-flight completion. We are go for launch.” I officially reported to Anna Beth.

“Confirmed, Ex-O. Alert Atlantis Control of our status.”

“Aye. Communications, contact Atlantis control. Confirm pre-flight completion and standing by for remote docking and Decom.” I said, authorizing Yuuka’s station.

“Atlantis Control, Meridian 12. All pre-flights go. Meridian 12 awaiting remote docking initialization and Decom; confirm.” Yuuka announced.

“Acknowledged, Meridian. Docking Control has been given authority.” Andie’s third in command responded over the loudspeaker.

“Confirmed, Atlantis Control. Commander, Atlantis Control is ready.” Yuuka relayed to me.

I looked to Anna Beth. She nodded her approval.

“Very well. Alert Docking Control we are ready for remote docking procedure.” I relayed back to Yuuka.

“Dock Control, Meridian 12. Atlantis Control confirmed for handoff. We’re ready when you are.”

“Acknowledged, Meridian. Commensing remote docking protocol.” Another voice answered.

“Captain. Remote docking program has come online. Meridian A.I. shows handshaking confirmation.” Ricky Lynn reported.

“Alert Docking control, Communications.” Anna Beth ordered.

“Aye. Docking control, Meridian. We confirm remote docking handshake. We’re in your capable hands.”

“Acknowledged, Meridian. Starting hangar decom.” The voice informed us.

“Exterior atmosphere deleting, captain. Decompression has started.” Allie reported.

“Meridian, Docking Control.”

“Go, Docking.” I answered.

“Meridian, at this time enable your navigational illumination, please.”

“Acknowledged.” I answered as I nodded to Cami, who nodded to Sunni.

She in turn nodded to her little helper seated between them and pointed to her console. The six year old grinned brightly as she touched the indicated spot.

“Nav strobes enabled, ma’am.” Sunni reported. She smiled at the young girl. “You did good, Tink.”

Cami smiled brightly to their helper.
 
 

“External atmosphere deletion complete.” Allie announced after several minutes.

“Internal atmosphere and pressurization nominal, Ex-O.” Emily announced.

“Docking control, Meridian 12. Hull integrity one hundred percent. We’re good to go.” I announced.

“Looks good, Meridian. H.D.A. initialization.” Docking control reported.

“What’s an H.D.A, Sunni?” Young Tabatha asked quietly.

“Hangar door activation, Tink.”

“Oh. Does that mean it’s going to open?”

“That’s right, munchkin, now let’s put the curiosity on hold before the captain changes her mind about you hangin’ with me on the bridge, ‘kay’?”

The young girl nodded animatedly.

“Meridian12, cutting hangar Grav generator in three, two, one.” Docking announced.

“Exec, thruster quads just came online in station-keeping.” Seph announced as we felt Meridian jostle slightly.

“Inertial generators active, Alex.” Ricky Lynn reported.

“Y-axis quads firing.” Seph reported.

The hangar ceiling began moving as Docking Control piloted us out of the hangar Meridian had occupied for two weeks. Soon we were outside of Atlantis’ Command Core hull.

“Attitude quads firing.” Seph reported as our view of Atlantis dropped down and out of view on our display. “X-axis quads firing. Forward momentum, captain.”

“Meridian, Docking Control. At this time we’d like you to start up your main thrusters. Acknowledge clean starts or misfires.”

“Acknowledged, Docking. You heard the man, Seph. Fire ‘em up, hun.” I told our helmsman.

“Main thrusters enabled. Starting main thrusters, Alex.”

The whine of Meridian’s main engines starting filled the bridge. Natalia and Persephone ‘high-fived’.

“Main thruster start confirmed, Alex.”

“Give her a little love tap, Helm.” I ordered.

“Aye, ma’am.” Seph responded as she quickly slid all thruster controls up and back down again. Anna Beth gave me a curious glance. ‘Goosing’ the thrusters wasn’t part of typical Terran launch protocol.

“Retro quads compensated, exec. We’re good to go.”

“Confirmed, Subcommander.” I acknowledged. “Docking Control, Meridian 12. Main engine start and thrust test confirmed. Meridian 12 requesting a departure vector.”

“Keep your pants on, Meridian 12. Follow the checksheet.” Andie’s voice ordered over the speaker.

“Rodger that, Docking. Meridian 12 tightening her belt.” I giggled in response.

“X-axis quads firing. Forward velocity has increased, captain.” Seph announced.
 
 

Over the next five minutes we ran through Atlantis’ own prelaunch checks. Apparently, Andie wanted to make sure everything was good for our trip.

“Meridian 12, Docking Control. That’s all we have for you. The Commodore used up almost four cubits of stationery. Hope you guys aren’t too bored. Standby for a full media comm from Atlantis Command.”

“Rodger that, Docking, standing by.” I acknowledged. “Alusia put it ship-wide.” I added.

“Ready for ship-wide, Alex.” Alusia responded personably.

Everyone on the bridge stared at her for several seconds in complete astonishment.

“Captain, we have an incoming media transmission from Atlantis Control.” Yuuka announced.

“All displays, Internal Comm.” Anna Beth ordered.

Andie and Reggie appeared on our main screen.

“Captain, you have our sincerest wishes for a safe and successful voyage. Reggie and I hope you find a suitable home, good health, and prosperity.” Andie said. She looked like she had been crying recently.

“Alex, you better take good care of those people! I swear, if I have to come after either of you…” She said before choking up.

“Pleasant journeys, Empress.” Reggie cut in. “Come back soon.”

“Goodbye…Pleasant journeys!” Everyone on Atlantis’ bridge chorused.

“Captain, Meridian has just crossed Atlantis’ outer safety boundary.” Allie said as she wiped her cheeks.

“Remote docking protocol has disengaged and self-deleted, captain.” Ricky Lynn announced.

“Docking control signals all clear and has transferred all communications to Atlantis Control.” Yuuka reported.

“Alex, you and Allie take them folks where they belong, you here?” Andie choked out with a forced smile.

“That’s been my intention from the very start, sis. We’ll see you in a few weeks.” I told her.

Ian’s face came on screen. “Meridian 12, Atlantis Control. You are go for extra-planetary departure. Everyone here on Atlantis wishes you a safe journey. Atlantis Control, out.”

The main screen went blank then displayed Atlantis in all her awe-inspiring majesty.

“Thank you, Atlantis Control. Meridian 12, out.” I said sadly.

“Exec. I need a course and heading.” Anna Beth requested.

“Navigation, make for safe passage through Sol’s asteroid belt and the outer planets. Deflectors forward.” I ordered.

“Course set and enabled, exec.” Natalia responded.

“Hit it, Seph!” Anna Beth ordered in a playful tone.

“Aye, ma’am.”

Meridian’s engines roared to life as the bridge filled with their trademark whine.

“Thrusters at full power, ma’am.” Seph repeated as we felt Meridian start to break Earth’s gravity.

“Weapons. I want those safeties off immediately!” Anna Beth commanded.

“All weapons online and live, captain.” Jack responded.

“Tactical.” Anna Beth continued.

Sunni whispered something to Tabatha.

“We’re in the clear, captain. Sensors report nothing unknown in all three-sixty around us.” The young girl reported calmly. There was a tiny bit of excitement in her young voice though.

“Excellent job, Ensign.” Anna Beth congratulated.

“Who is ‘Ensign’, captain?” the girl asked, confused by the word.

Anna Beth got up and walked the short distance to Sunni’s station.

“You are, ‘munchkin’.” Anna Beth said with a smile as she placed her hand on top of the girl’s head. “You’re doing such a good job I gave you a field promotion. Welcome to Meridian’s Command Crew, Ens. Tabatha.”

The new officer jumped from her seat and hugged Anna Beth around her hips.

“Oh, thank you, your majesty!” Tabatha cried in happiness, but suddenly released our captain and stood to attention. “I…I mean…thank you very much, captain. I’ll try to do my best for you and Meridian, ma’am.”

Applause and laughter filled the bridge.
 
 

“We’re clear of the Asteroid Belt, Captain.” Natalia announced about thirty minutes later. "ETA to Kuiper Belt, three hours."

“Now what, Alex?” Anna Beth asked.

“Now I take Meridian to warp.” I answered without looking at her.

“What do you mean ‘warp’?”

“I just do my thing, captain. With your approval?” I asked.

“Alusia, open a ship-wide announcement from my station.”

“And just how do I do that, captain?” Our Internal Comm officer asked innocently.

‘Ensign’ Tabatha slid off of her station’s seat and walked across the bridge to Alusia’s station.

“Touch this button then touch this button, ma’am.” The little girl said as she pointed to two places on the console.

“Oh, well thank you, child.” Alusia said sweetly, but blushed all the same. She touched the appropriate controls. “Ship-wide address open, captain.”

“All hands, prepare for Temporal Jump.” Anna Beth announced. “End announcement.”

Without waiting, Tabatha pointed to another location on Alusia’s console.

“Thank you, but I knew where that one was, Ensign.” Alusia groaned.

Tabatha smiled, turned, walked back across our bridge, and climbed back onto her station’s seat.

Anna Beth began laughing hysterically!

I took the opportunity to jump us to our next destination. As with previous jumps that involved space travel, everything seemed to collapse into me and I watched as the stars moved and changed for a few seconds before everything around me reappeared.

“By the Lords! What was that?” Anna Beth choked out. Only Tabatha, Natalia, and Peyton mirrored our captain’s frightened expression. Sunni was laughing hysterically while pumping her arm up and down as if having some kind of crazy seizure.

“Temporal Jump complete, captain.” I announced mechanically.

“All stop!” Anna Beth shouted in surprise. “Navigation, where are we?”

“Why ask me?” Natalia groaned. “Alex has a better idea than I do.”

“Alex?” Peyton asked. “Did we just do what I think we did?”

“What is it you think we did, Subcommander?” I asked back as I saw Jack, Sunni, Cami, Emily, Yuuka, Ricky Lynn, and even Alusia look toward her.

“I thought I saw stars! For the briefest of seconds I thought we were moving across the galaxy.”

“Let’s find out, shall we?” I said with a mischievous grin. “Subcommander, have you triangulated our position yet?” I asked gleefully.

“It would help if the Exec would give me some idea as to where we should be! A star year would help immensely!” Natalia growled menacingly.

“We’re a long, long way from Earth.” I hinted.

“And pray tell, how far from Earth, Miss Steinert?” Anna Beth coaxed.

“Around one hundred-thirty light-years…I mean units, captain.” I answered.

“And would you happen to know the direction and how many years have passed us by, Alex?”

“I do, captain, but I’ll defer that detail to a future…”

“Captain! We’re receiving a transmission.” Yuuka shouted as she put it on speaker.

“Repeat. Unknown spacecraft, you are entering restricted space. Please identify yourself.”

“Yuuka, is our transponder active?”

“Yes, captain, high power mode.” Yuuka answered quickly after tapping a spot on her panel to check.

“Alex, what did you just get us into?” Anna Beth hissed.

“Captain, I would suggest introducing ourselves.” Allie advised.

“Patch me through, Comm.”

“Go ahead, captain.”

“This is the Terran Interstellar Probe, Meridian 12. We have just arrived in this system and are peaceful…repeat, we are peaceful.” Anna Beth announced.

“Unknow spacecraft we do not recognize that identification. Please hold position until we can positively identify you.”

“Captain, we’re being targeted! They have a lock on us!” Sunni shouted excitedly.

“Alex?” Anna Beth hissed.

“Comm, send file ‘Comdrafs’ through our transponder.” I requested to Yuuka.

“Aye, commander.”

“Unknown spacecraft; please provide access pass code for ‘Comdrafs’ encryption and hold until decrypted and permitted.” The voice advised a few minutes later.

Anna Beth glared at me as if I had two heads.

“Yuuka, send this through the transponder: OakridgeEmpress8716+Ghctib@TNuevo.plnt.” I ordered.

Emily, Jack, and Cami shook their heads and tried to keep from giggling.

“Unknown spacecraft please re-identify.” The voice asked after a long pause.

I nodded to Anna Beth.

“This is the Terran Interstellar Probe, Meridian 12.” She restated. “We have just arrived in this system.”

Again there was a long pause.

“Meridian 12, you will proceed to the transmitted coordinates and hold pending further communication.”

“Captain, I’m receiving those coordinates now, ma’am.” Yuuka confirmed.

“Transfer to Navigation, Comm.”

“Aye, ma’am.”

“Coordinates received and entered into navigation console, captain.” Natalia reported. “Computing time to destination.”

“I hope you know what you are doing, Alexandra. Weapons, status!”

“All particle and optical weapons charged and ready, captain.” Jack responded.

“Engineering, shield status.”

“Shields in standard forward deflect mode and active.” Ricky Lynn answered.

“Captain, at half power we should reach the transmitted coordinates in under an hour.” Natalia advised.

“Nav, engage course. Helm, three-quarters power to the thrusters. Alexandra, both of you in my conference room…now! Nat, you have the bridge.” Anna Beth growled as she stood from her seat and walked back to her personal conference room. Allie and I followed.
 
 

“Care to tell me what you’re doing, Alexandra?” Anna Beth demanded as soon as the door closed. “Do you know exactly where we are and may I remind you that we have two hundred and eighty-one souls onboard?!”

“We merely brought you to your new home, captain.” Allie started. “We found you a world similar to your old home.”

“Apparently there’s someone living there already, Alex! I don’t need to remind you of the issues that could arise in the form of confrontations and border disputes!”

“There is more than enough room to share the planet with the current residents, captain. You’ll find them very obliging and helpful. I’m sure you’ll find them very friendly. Almost like old friends.” I continued to tell her.

“Let’s hope so, Alexandra! By the Lords, what has gotten into both of you lately?”

“Captain, our mission…” Allie began. “It’s taken so much of our time…”

“Almost six years, in fact, since we have been to our homes.” I continued, but stopped to let Allie continue.

“We feel you shouldn’t have that long to wait. At least you can take pleasure in knowing that everyone here will survive. We still don’t know if our homes exist or if Clemson succeeded in totally removing us from history.” Allie concluded.

A paging tone came over the loudspeaker.

“Yes?” Anna Beth barked.

“Please standby for an announcement from our ‘Navigatrix’, Subcommander Natalia.” Alusia snarked.

Anna Beth showed her annoyance by rolling her eyes.

“Thank you, Alusia.”

“Captain, you should get out here.” Natalia’s voice urged.

“Trouble, Nat?”

“No, captain, we’re here! Sister! You have got to see this!”

Anna Beth glared at me before turning and hurrying out of the conference room. Allie and I took a page out of Natalia and Seph’s book and bumped fists before we also exited to the bridge.

On the monitor was a blue and green planet with white clouds interspersed randomly around it.

Anna Beth gasped as she stopped short of her captain’s chair.

“By the Lords…it’s beautiful!” she exclaimed.

“Captain, receiving another transmission.” Yuuka announced.

“Terran Interstellar Probe, Meridian 12, identify the purpose of your arrival and duration of stay.” The voice requested.

“Meridian 12 seeks permanent residence for two hundred and seventy-three souls.” Anna Beth responded as she looked to Allie and I.

“Captain, we’re receiving a file. It looks like some multi-paged questionnaires of some kind.” Yuuka reported.

“Let’s see these…questionaires, Lieutenant.” Anna Beth ordered.

Four forms appeared on our large screen tiled two by two. The entire command crew began reading.

“Application for Proprietary Travel through Regulated Terra Nuevo Space?” Natalia read one aloud in confusion.

“General Landing Permit for Antiquated Space Vehicles?” Persephone Peyton read another with equal confusion.

“Application for Permanent Citizenship of Terra Nuevo?” Sunni giggled, reading yet another of the forms.

“Application for Colonization, Occupancy, and Development of Southwestern Continent of Terra Nuevo?” Anna Beth gasped as she read the last form.

“We have an incoming full-media communication from Terra Nuevo Planetary Command, captain. They would like to talk to Cmdr. Steinert.”

Anna Beth cautiously nodded to me.

“On screen, Yuuka. And send those forms to Khufu in the captain’s quarters.” I smiled as I said the last part.

“Alexandra. Welcome home, M’lady!” Tibius’ happy face appeared on our main display.

Anna Beth gasped recognizing my Terran mate’s face.

“Hello, Tibius. It’s been awhile…for me.” I giggled.

“I see you picked up something we lost a long time ago. I trust she is capable of landing under her own power?” He asked with a smile.

“Showroom condition, Tibius.”

“And her complement?”

“Two hundred-seventy-three. As many as we could save…counting progeny and, as an added bonus, her original Captain and Exec, sire.” I replied with a proud smile.

“My I speak with your captain, Alex?” Tibius requested.

I motioned a stunned Anna Beth closer to me.

“Captain, as Grand High Counsel of this planet, I formally welcome you and your crew to Terra Nuevo. I trust this planet brings back fond memories of your own home planet?”

“IIIIII…I believe it to be even more beautiful than our long lost Terra, Grand High Counsel.” Our captain answered as she sniffed back her tears.

“Well, we hope to protect this planet better than the last one, captain. We left a dying Terra ten years ago and thank the Lords every day that Alexandra and her sisters found us and helped save us from our own ignorance. Have you completed the required forms yet, captain?”

“My mate is analyzing them for legal content now, Grand High Counsel. It could be days before he confirms acceptance or submits acceptable annotations and another week at least before actual ratification of said documents.”

“Hmmmm. I trust you have enough provisions then?”

“We do, Grand High Counsel. We are provisioned for twelve Earth months.”

“That long, huh? Hmmmm. Well, we can’t have a ship full of homesick travelers orbiting such an enticing planet with fully charged weapons at their disposal. I’m going to use my ‘considerable’ authority to speed up the processes. What do you say to that, captain?” Tibius asked.

Just where did he learn to tease like that?

‘I wonder, Alex. I really wonder?’ Jack thought in my mind. Cami began giggling, but quickly stopped when Anna Beth glared at her.

“It seems that would be very acceptable, Grand High Counsel. Some of my crew has already started to show signs of Deep Space fatigue.”

“Well, in that case…” Tibius began to say before Yuuka cut in.

“Captain, we are receiving landing instruction, coordinates, and temporary permissions!”

“Welcome home, Meridian 12! We’ve missed you. I hope you don’t mind, but we’ve gone ahead and developed a site on your continent’s northern coast to serve as a spaceport and temporary capital city. Permission to land…granted, captain.” Tibius said with a proud smile before the transmission stopped.

“You sneaky Jackal! You had this planned all along!” Anna Beth accused as she wrapped her arms around me. Allie got up and walked over. Our captain repeated her embrace on my sister.

“Comm, pass that information over to Navigation.”

“With pleasure, ma’am.”

“Nat? Sephie? Take us…” Anna Beth paused to wipe both eyes. “Take us home.” Anna Beth commanded regally.

“Beginning Meridian Re-entry translation. De-orbiting retro thrusters in ten, nine, eight…” Peyton exclaimed after ‘high-fiving’ her mother.
 
 

Terra Nuevo, 1123hrs, Prefinal, Neptinian 12th, 424 of the New Era
 
 

“Wow, this place is Rad!” Sunni exclaimed as we exited Meridian’s outer hatch. She took in the newly constructed spaceport buildings and launch pad facility, as would a tourist.

“Tibius started designing this before we moved the Consulate building to New Citadel.” I informed her.

Looking back at Meridian, it seemed a waste to have her sitting on such a massive pad structure. Designed for more conventional, interplanetary spacecraft, the site measured well over four football fields in length and width.

Near the outer boundary, a small box slowly rose up from the expansive, level, carbon fiber composite, deck. A group of figures emerged and began walking our way, yet they were still too far away to identify.

“Looks like we got us a welcomin’ party, Alex.” Ricky Lynn observed.

“It’s more than just a welcoming party, professor.” I hinted.

What I observed as five people slowly focused into a dozen. I could clearly make out Tibius, my Alexis, Nathan, Timus, Heidi, Marcus, and my Granddaughter, Alexandra. Several others- people I had met at official Terran functions over the years, made up the rest of the group.

“Captain! Media drones overhead.” Peyton announced.

“Command crew, Presentation! Line-up!” Anna Beth shouted.

We quickly stood side by side in a single row, guided right, and went to attention in one flowing, choreographed move, even though never practicing together before. I guess precision drills were precision drills no matter what planet you’re on.

The welcoming party stayed back a few paces when Tibius waved for them to stop. He approached alone, and bowed respectfully.

“On behalf of all Terra Nuevo, I welcome the crew and complement of Meridian 12, Captain Anna Beth.”

“My, things sure have become lax since our departure, Grand High Counsel Tibius.” Anna Beth smiled pleasantly.

“It has been brought to my attention- numerous times in fact- that we Terrans are too stiff and formal, Captain.” Tibius nodded to me with a wink.

Anna Beth wasted no more time, taking a step forward and bowing slightly.

“Grand High Counsel, I wish to report the discovery of a new star system with sentient life similar to our own. It has been named ‘Earth’ and is located one hundred thirty-two units from here. We have succeeded in securing friendly relations with the inhabitants- some of which have voluntarily joined my crew.”

“Congratulations, Capt. Anna Beth. As legacy representative of Terra, I deem Meridian 12’s primary mission a superb and complete success.” Tibius announced officially and stepped forward to shake our captain’s arm. He moved a little closer.

“I’m sorry to inform you though that we have already formalized relations with the people of Earth- their diplomatic emissary is standing next to you.” Tibius whispered with a devious grin.

“Yes, I know, sir, but we arrived first- well before the Empress appeared on our shores.” Anna Beth rolled her eyes as she loudly whispered back.

“What year did we just come from, captain?” I asked quietly, leaning to close the distance to her ear while displaying my own devious smile.

“Sixty-five thousand years before we arrived in Egypt…yes, I know, Alexandra, but…Atlantis hadn’t landed yet.” Anna Beth grumbled in argument.

“Well Alex, it seems you have really extended your reach. What other surprises are in store for us at Meridian’s debriefing?” Tibius smiled.

I just smiled deviously at my Terran mate. His face immediately paled. Quickly composing himself though, Tibius set his attention back on Anna Beth.

“Captain, we can stand here all day or we can start offloading your passengers. I would request that you dismiss your command crew. I have several impatient individuals in my group that would like the opportunity to say hello to several of your officers.”

“Meridian, begin passenger debarkation procedures starting with level two. Command Crew! Dismissed!” Anna Beth shouted.

Immediately, my Alexis ran around her father and wrapped her arms around me.

“It is wonderful to see you again, mother! I trust your mission concluded satisfactorily?”

“Y’all can cry if ya want, hun. No one’ll think any less a ya.” I told her through tears of joy.

“Oh shut up, mother.” My daughter sniffled quietly as her arms tightened around me considerably.

I loved it when my daughters hugged me tight and nuzzled into my shoulder.

Alexis slowly yielded and moved on to greet her Aunt ‘Allie’. Tibius began to approach me again only to be cut off this time by our Granddaughter. My mate frowned, being sidestepped once again.

“Grandmother. Welcome back. Ah trust them migraines’ll stop now?” Alexandra asked as a few tears ran down her cheeks.

“Clemson has been stopped, yes.” I answered as my Granddaughter wrapped her arms around me and began crying recklessly. The intense tingle felt…it felt wonderful!

I noticed that Heidi had walked over to Alusia. The two were chatting away in German.

“Welcome back, sister. I trust the Empress found your assistance beneficial?” Heidi asked.

“That depends on which Empress you talk to, Counselor. I have been curtailed by my own responsibilities.” Alusia replied as she quickly glanced over to me.

“Responsibilities?” Heidi asked, intrigued.

Alusia turned and waved for her family to approach. They had just exited Meridian’s outer hatch and appeared for all intents, tourists.

“My family. They are my foremost responsibility, Counselor. My husband, Khefra; daughters Alexis, Ana, and my son, Lusius.” She said introducing them in order.

“You’ve been here too, mother?” Young Lusius asked in excitement.

“Not this planet, but our previous home, young sir. Your mother arrived on Terra with Alexandra Reilly about ten years ago. To help Alexandra Steinert and her Granddaughter Alexandra.” Heidi explained with a pleasant smile.

“What is it with the name, ‘Alexandra’?” Alusia’s oldest asked in mock annoyance.

“Grand High Counsel, may I see your daughter over here a moment? I have someone that wants to meet her.” Heidi inquired, turning to my mate, who was just ready to greet me…finally.

My daughter excused herself from Emily and stepped over.

“May I present Alexis of Alusia and Khefra, Counselor.”

“Hi, Alexis. Your mother talked highly of you on her last visit.” My Alexis smiled. “I am Alexis, daughter of Grand High Counsel, Tibius and Alexandra Steinert-Fleming of Earth, by the way.” She continued, offering her hand.

Young Alexis’ mouth dropped open. “No way! I’m named after the Empress’ daughter?”

“Seems like it, hun. Great name though, right?” My daughter giggled, smiling brightly.

“Finally, we meet, Alexandra.” Tibius said as he finally wrapped his arms around me. “I have missed you very much these last ten years.

Before I could respond, my mate planted his lips on mine with all the passion and love I yearned for! God, did it feel fantastic!

Whistles and clapping echoed in my ears. I blushed as I looked around to see everyone smiling at us.

“Emily. Nice to see you again, doctor. Cynthia sends her regards and hopes you’ll have time to visit her during your stay.” Tibius greeted as he wrapped his arms around her. He moved on to Allie.

“Alex, nice to see you here too. I’m afraid your mate could not make this memorable occasion. He is attending a trade conference on the Medici Homeworld at the present time, but should be back next week.”

“That shouldn’t be a problem, sire. I’ve accumulated a whole lot of shore leave from this mission. Y’all think he misses me?” Allie asked.

“As Terra missed the seasonal rains, Empress!” Tibius replied sentimentally. His attention turned to Jack.

“Nice to see you, Jacki. I hope Alex hasn’t been working you too hard.” Tibius said as they joined right arms in greeting.

“No, as a matter of fact, they have been the ones working to exhaustion.”

“Oh, they have, have they?” Tibius looked back over to me with a furrowed brow. “And how long has she been unconscious for this time, my dear?”

“Only three and a half days, sir. Not that long at all, considering.” Jack answered.

Tibius smiled as he looked back sternly to me then took a blind step to his right to welcome Cami.

“Where did she go?” He asked in confusion.

Jack nonchalantly pointed up with her left hand. Tibius followed her gesture. Cami and Timus were hovering several yards above us, wrapped in a loving- and oblivious- embrace. My mate just shook his head and moved on to Ricky Lynn.

“Professor Samuels, good to see you again. How are things at the University?”

“Ehh, not bad…considerin’.” Ricky Lynn replied indifferently.

“That is the second time today I’ve heard the word ‘considering’. Could you please explain?”

“Well, things there was goin’ good ‘til my boyfriend filched my time machine. We finally got it back, but I’m still not over what was done to me and why.”

“Time machine? I thought Alex was the only one capable of Temporal Relocation? Did it work well?”

“Too well, sir! We had one helluva time catchin’ that mook! Finally got the bastard though.”

“That’s good to hear, professor. Now who do we have here?” Tibius turned his attention to the young girl trying to become part of Sunni’s uniform.

“Grand High Counsel Tibius, Colonel James…err Sunni Smithson, USAF, sir.” Sunni said jumping back to attention and saluting.

“At ease Colonel. I was actually talking to your shy little friend here. Hello, my name is Tibius, what is your name, my dear?” Tibius asked sweetly.

Tabatha jumped out from behind Sunni, snapped to attention and saluted.

“Ensign Tabatha, Mr. Grand High Counsel Tibius.”

Tibius lowered himself so he was looking eye to eye with the young Ensign.

“Well, Ens. Tabatha, I must commend you and your fellow crew members on a mission well done. Welcome to Terra Nuevo.” Tibius said offering his hand.

“Thank you, sir.” Tabatha said as she cautiously shook the hand then took a step back and took Sunni’s hand.

“Colonel Smithson, I take it this is your first time traveling with Alexandra?” Tibius asked.

“No sir. I’ve joined her team twice before, but never this ‘far’ off-world.” Sunni answered.

“Hmmm,” Tibius started as he looked carefully at our tactical officer. “I seem to remember meeting someone that looked a lot like you when I visited Kili many years ago.”

“My mother is Tammy Richards, sir. Maybe you are remembering her from your visit?”

“Yes…that’s it. You look a lot like her, save the hair, colonel. Welcome to Terra Nuevo.”

“Thank you, Grand High Counsel.”

“Tibius will suffice, Sunni. I’m trying not to be so formal.” Tibius said, looking toward me again.

“Yuuka! How is my favorite Pixie? Keeping out of trouble?” My mate asked as he looked over to our daughter, Alexis.

“I have been trying my best, sir.” She replied after swallowing hard. “I have been protecting the Empress as you asked those many years ago.”

“Keep up the good work, little flower.” Tibius told her proudly, shaking her arm.

“Thank you, Sir Tibius.”

“Commander Anna Beth,” Tibius turned back to her. “In three days, there will be a Mission Debriefing. By that time you and your passengers should have had a chance to claim your new lodgings. Hospitality personnel are on-hand down in the port’s main lounge to help select residence options. We have constructed more than enough housing, both urban and suburban, to accommodate everyone. Also don’t forget to register with our planetary transport system.”

“You got it working?” Anna Beth asked in surprise.

“Over six hundred years ago.” Tibius smiled politely.
 
 

Terra Nuevo, 1600hrs, Prefinal, Neptinian 12th, 424 of the New Era
 
 

“No offense, hun, but I prefer my way of travel over having my body broken down into subatomic particles and transmitted around the planet.” I said to Tibius as Allie, Emily, Jack, Ricky Lynn, Yuuka, Sunni, Tabatha, and I rephased in the Empress’ suite in New Citadel. Tabatha had staunchly refused to leave Sunni’s side.

“Wow! This place is amazing!” the young girl swooned as she looked around.

“Go show her the view from one of the guest suites, Sunni. Back that hall, any door on the right.”

Sunni Smithson nodded silently and gently guided her young charge out of the large living room.

“Looks like Jimmy’s got himself a daughter.” I said casually after both girls disappeared down the hallway.

“Lil’ tike’s got it bad for her, skipper.” Ricky Lynn agreed.

“I thought Sunni was going to change back once the mission was over, Alex?” Yuuka asked, confused by her fellow Pixie’s apparent change of heart. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, James is a good looking man, but…but I like Sunni better. She’s easier to talk to, and…she doesn’t snore as much.”

“Whether Sunni will become James again depends on what she decides to do with Tabbie, hun. I see happiness for both of them in either form.” Allie predicted. “By the way, I think I’ll swing over to the Medici system and surprise Gaillan.”

“So you’ll be staying for three years again?” I asked seriously.

Allie smiled brightly at me, nodded once, and disappeared.

Tibius stood next to me with his mouth open for a minute or two.

“Alex…would you know…” He ticked his head to the right slightly with his eyes closed. “Would Cami also be staying for the requisite three years?”

“Why,” I smiled, “Aren’t y’all done with the new suppression generators yet?”

“They are completed, yes, I just didn’t know we would be testing them so soon, Empress.” He admitted reluctantly.

“They’ll hold this time,” I told him, but added, “Almost.”

I smiled deviously.

Tibius took in a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“How many blocks will we need to clear for the arrival?” He sighed dejectedly.

“Candice will require the same safety zone as Cassi. Remember, while you and your scientists improved the Psi dampening generators, Cami has developed and strengthened her gift. Combined with Candice’s own gift, Citadel will have another blowout childbirth celebration.”

“It seems a shame to crater such a beautiful landscape so soon.” Tibius said shaking his head in disappointment.

“Commander Steinert! You have got to see the view!” Tabatha screeched as she ran back into our living room.

“I know!” I exclaimed with just as much excitement. “Maybe Sunni can take you down to the beach to go swimming. Did you bring your bathing suit, honey?”

Sunni, who was just coming into the room stopped dead in her tracks with a stunned expression.

The six year old frowned. “No, I don’t have one. I don’t know how to swim.” Her frown suddenly turned very sad and tears began falling from her face. “Mommy wouldn’t let me go down to the river. She said it was too dangerous.”

“Well, we have a swimming pool here in the Consulate building. Did you know that? You can learn to swim there before going to the beach.” I told the girl.

“But I still don’t have a swim suit!” She complained.

“I think I might have one that fits around here somewhere. Let’s go check.” I said, taking her hand and guiding her back down the hallway.

“This is your room, Commander Steinert?”

“Allie and I share the room, yes, you like it?”

Tabatha nodded.

“Would you like to see where you are staying?”

She nodded again as I closed my closet having found no clothing in her size.

We left my private suite, walked back one door, and entered one of the guest suites. Unlike mine, this suite was slightly bigger, but had four queen-sized beds instead of my single King-sized bed. This room also lacked the hot tub. The view though, was identical to my suite.

Tabatha’s eyes opened wide!

Walking over to examine each of the four tall, matching, wardrobes, I finally found a bathing suit that might fit her.

“Here, try this on, honey. If it fits come back out into the living room and we’ll see if Sunni will take you up to the pool.”

“Alex?” Sunni interrupted from the doorway.

“You want to help her with this, hun? I think she wants to get up to two-twelve and hit the pool.”

“Alex, I…I don’t know…I’m not sure about…I don’t have a suit either.” Sunni babbled.

“You’re still wearing your Reilly, right?” I asked calmly.

“I am, but…but it only has…a limited selection of swimwear…in inventory.”

“So what is wrong with wearing a bikini? I think you’d look fantastic in the yellow one, hun. It’d go great with your hair.” I suggested.

“But I’m not…”

“You and Tabby go into the lavatory and change. I’ll wait out here.” I interrupted, immediately shoeing them into the bathroom- Sunni looking back at me in trepidation. Once the door closed, I walked back to the living room.

“Find one?” Emily asked as I returned. She winked at me.

“Yep. They’ll both have every eye on them the minute they enter the room, sis.” I giggled.

“Which one is Sunni going to wear?” Yuuka asked as she kept looking into the passageway.

“The yellow one.” I said nonchalantly.

Ricky Lynn whistled and shook her head once or twice. “Talk about jumpin’ inta the deep end!”

“They won’t be alone, professor. I was thinking of taking a dip, myself. Anyone else want to join us?” I asked, as my own Reilly became my favorite black, string bikini and translucent cover-up.

Tibius’ eyes about popped out of his head as his mouth dropped open!

“Stop it; you’re starting to drool, hun.” I told him.

Tabby came running out to the living room.

“It fits! It fits!” She shouted over and over again.

Sunni appeared with a robe wrapped tightly around her. She stopped suddenly and gawked at my sisters and me. We were all wearing bikinis of various colors.

“Well? Let’s see how y’all look, hun.” I motioned for her to remove the robe.

“It…it fits. Let’s…let’s just get to the pool, Tabatha.” She stuttered.

“Are you all coming with us, Commander Steinert?” The excited girl asked with a big smile.

“We were thinking about it, hun. Hey, why don’t you call me Alex from now on- save the ‘Commander’ stuff for Meridian?” I told her.

“Okay, Alex, let’s go! Come on, Sunni, or…can’t you swim either?”

“Alexandra?” Tibius began to ask.

“Still in your side of the dresser, hun. We’ll see you up there.” I smiled at him before Tabby and I took Sunni’s hands and headed for the elevator.
 
 

Terra Nuevo, 1130hrs, Climax, Neptinian 13th, 424 of the New Era
 
 

“Oh, come on!” I groaned, gently smacking Cami’s face. “It isn’t like you didn’t know this could happen, hun! What did you expect; the guy hasn’t seen you in ten years.”

Just like last time, she had passed out at the kitchen when I told her she was now expecting.

And just like last time, Allie walked by in the hallway and stopped abruptly.

“Let me guess.” Allie rolled her eyes. “You told her she’s pregnant?”

“Alex beat me to it, sis.” Emily answered- slightly disappointed as I took my seat and she helped a semi-conscious Cami back into hers. “So you two will be staying on for three more years?”

“Maybe a little longer this time, Em. This time,” Allie paused to think. “This time I’d like to see my kid grow up instead of being shocked by a young woman just out of puberty appearing on my doorstep calling me ‘Mother’.” Allie told her. Cami quickly turned and stared at her sister.

I just gave a quick snort and shook my head a few times, eyes closed.

Ricky Lynn walked into the kitchen. She didn’t look so good this morning.

“Not feeling so good today, Professor?” I asked innocently.

“I think I picked somethin’ up on Atlantis. My gut ain’t feelin’ so great this mornin’.”

“Have a seat, hun, I’ll get you something that’ll help.” I said as I stood and walked over to the food dispenser. I placed an order and placed the tray down in front of her.

“Here, hun. Granny’s tried and true remedy for morning sickness.” I said as I sat back down. Professor Samuels looked surprised, but immediately looked down to her plate of weak tea and plain toast.

“Shoulda’ know’d better.” She grumbled, picking up and taking a bite of her toast. “Can’t a girl keep anything private around you and Miss Busybody?”

Jack walked in the door.

“I didn’t tell Alex a thing, Ricky! She knew well before I did.” She said for the record.

Ricky Lynn fiercely took another bite of her toast, chewing silently while Jack placed her order at the food dispenser.

“So, Jack, how is Sunni handling all the attention from last night?” Emily asked. I almost choked on my coffee.

“She was sitting on her bed with her knees under her chin for a good long time, crying. Don’t you think playing ‘Chicken’ was a little too much for her this soon- I mean, Festus is a handsome, well-built man, but…” Jack said sadly. “But she has some issues to work through.”

“Sunni will be fine after she comes to terms with her gift.” Allie said as she sat down next to Cami. “Granted, there are several barriers she must dismantle before that will happen, but it won’t be too much longer.”

“In fact…” I continued, pointing to the hallway. James Smithson appeared in the doorway.

“Morning everybody.” He greeted halfheartedly as he trudged over to the food dispenser. “Expresso, Empress-blend, double-strength.”

“Are you okay, Jim?” Emily asked in surprise. From the look on her face she saw he was far from it.

“I’ll get over it, Aunt Emily.” He assured her with a tight smile. “As with all the other times I’ve traveled with Alex, things are wonderfully FUBAR- I’ve come to accept that.”

“We both know that isn’t so, Jim.” Emily said in her professional voice. “You have taken a giant leap in developing your gift and you have absolutely no reference point or understanding of what to do.”

“Oh, I understand, doc! I understand that I’m one seriously screwed up individual! What was I even thinking to come along on this mission?” He retorted.

“Jimmy, it really didn’t matter if you came on this mission…”

“Cut the shit, Alex!” Jim interrupted angrily. “I know that my gift would have come whether I was with you or not- that’s the only thing I really DO understand! What I can’t figure is why? Why me? Why was I the one chosen to play for both teams? Why, Alex?”

“Listen, hun, you play for whichever ‘team’ you like! I didn’t have anything to do with which gift was given you! I just know that, out of any of us, you…you, Jim, are most qualified to receive it.” I argued calmly.

“But why, Alex? What makes me so damn special? What did I ever do to the ‘powers that be’?”

“Do y’all think I ever wanted to be the Empress? Y’all think Jack or Cami wanted the power of the universe at their command? Or that Yuuka wanted to be a Pixie?”

“Well, actually, Alex, I really don’t min…”

“Can it, Yuuka. I’m trying to make a point here.” I said, staring angrily at Yuuka standing in the doorway with Tabatha.

“The facts are that you, and only you have been chosen to receive this gift, Jim. Whoever decided what gifts we got, decided that you were the one person that could handle this one- they alone must have decided which gifts we all got because I never ever considered ‘Time Travel’!”

“I beg to differ, sis.” Emily said placing her hand on mine. “How many times when we were dating, and then under way from California, did you mention how you would save Brian if you could just go back to December 7th? How many times, Alex, cause I lost count?”

“But I saved Brian and look how that turned out! Brianna’s a great sister, but I still miss my brother, Em.”

“Don’t be so thick, Alex! My point is that you really did wish you could travel time…if just to save your brother. Now, I’m no expert on dishing out gifts, but wouldn’t such a heartfelt wish like that draw attention?” Emily argued.

I decided to stay quiet and let Emily play psychologist.

“So you think that I wished this upon myself, Aunt Emily?” Jim asked- a little surprised.

“Think back to the first time you met Yuuka, Jim. Do you remember what you were thinking at the time?” Emily asked. I noticed Yuuka and Tabatha take an instant interest as they sat down at the other end of our table.

“I was ten years old, doc! I was just starting pub…um…to take an interest in girls. I’m sure Alex, Cami, Jack, Ricky Lynn, and Yuuka all know what I was thinking.” Jim declared as he looked uncomfortably at our youngest sister.

“I’m sure they do, Jim, but humor me?”

“Should we really be doing this in front of Tabby, Aunt Emily?”

“Why not? She’s mature enough to handle it, Jim. I’m sure she would like to know more about the person she has placed her trust in?”

Tabatha nodded slowly as she stared at Jim Smithson in silence.

“I…I…I thought she…that Yuuka…that she was the most beautiful creature on the planet! I wanted to know her when she returned to normal. I wanted, so badly to…” Jim started to say, but stopped abruptly and blushed profusely.

“You wanted to mate with her.” Cami finished his sentence with no embarrassment.

“I can’t do this.” Jim exclaimed as he stood suddenly from his chair. “If this is going to turn into a woman to woman talk,” Both Jim and his clothing began to change. “Then I should at least get into character. The embarrassment you’re putting me through is killing me!” Sunni finished.

“Hi, Sunni! I missed you!” Tabatha cried as she rushed to her and wrapped her arms around Smithson.

“Interesting. So…you thought our little talk would be easier if you were the same gender- is that the reason you changed, Jim?” Emily asked as she calmly took a sip of her tea.

“The other way felt too awkward, Aunt Emily.”

“And I feel awkward with you calling me ‘Aunt Emily’ all the time, Sunni. I’m going to take a page from Alex’ book and ask that you call me Emily. We’re both adults, right?” Emily smiled pleasantly.

Sunni looked down at the tabletop- her shoulders dropped.

“I’m sorry.” She sighed. “It’s an old habit.”

“So is your thinking, Sunni; old, I mean. Now that your gift has matured, you have to push aside the old and embrace the new. You aren’t just James Smithson now, you’re also Sunni Smithson. I know it sounds impossible, but you shouldn’t be embarrassed by gender specific conversations or situations. Over time what I’m telling you will make better sense- you’ll gain experience and relax as Sunni…like you already have for the last week. Changing back to Sunni to have this talk shows me that you’re already using the familiarity of the body and its experience, sweetie. But, no matter what form you take, there should be no concern of embarrassment. Have confidence in yourself, girl!”

“Ya know, toots, Corrine Masterson went through somethin’ like yous is goin’ through. She had trouble adjustin’ from her Mahanilui.” Ricky Lynn told Sunni.

“She did?” Sunni gasped in surprise. “Why would she have problems? She can look like anyone.”

“It took a few months for her to gain enough confidence in herself, Sunni.” I revealed. “Jack, show her Corrine’s true form, please.”

“But, Alex, I promised her…”

“Sunni won’t say anything, Jack.” I promised. Sunni nodded her head a few times in acknowledgement. Her face suddenly paled.

“That’s what…oh my God, how could she walk…in the sub…I mean…wow?”

“She was teased mercilessly. Just ask Prof. Samuels.” I said flatly.

“Had ta bring that up, didn’t ya, skipper?” Ricky Lynn sighed. “I told her I was sorry an’ she forgive me- ninety-one years ago, Alex.”

“I know that, hun. I just mentioned it for illustration. What we’re trying to tell y’all, Sunni, is that Jim is a handsome man and Sunni is a beautiful woman. The only thing you lack is self-confidence. If Corrine can do it, you have no excuse not to.”

“Sunni, I know you felt strange at the pool, but you really looked pretty…and you seemed to be having fun too! I’ll help you be a girl as much as I can.” Tabatha told her. “I’ll teach you everything I know so you won’t be so embarrassed, okay?”

“Come here, Tink.” Sunni sniffed as she pulled Tabatha toward her and hugged her tightly.

“Acts like a Sunni to me, sis.” Allie giggled.

“She probably doesn’t even realize it, sis.” I said quietly as we watched the tender scene.

“I hate to be the buzz kill, sis, but don’t you have some things to put back?” Allie replied quietly as she nodded to Ricky Lynn and Sunni. “I’m sure Peyton would like to get back to her family.”

“One thing at a time, Allie. I can’t leave before the welcome home ceremony tonight.” I reminded.

“I just wanted to make sure, sis. I’m officially grounded.”
 
 

Terra Nuevo, 1900hrs, Climax, Neptinian 13th, 424 of the New Era
 
 

“Lords and Ladies, may I have your attention?” Tibius said loudly after tapping on his fluted glass of delightful Terra Nuevo Rosé.

The giant reception hall quieted.

“Alexandra and I wish to officially welcome home the crew and passengers of Meridian 12. I cannot begin to say how amazing I find this reunion or how light my heart feels at this moment. I can only hope you find life on Terra Nuevo as equally fulfilling as the life you left back in Egypt. Without further ado, Alexandra would like to say a few words. Welcome and we hope you have a wonderful time tonight. Alex?”

“Thank you, Sir Tibius. Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to convey my appreciation for the trust y’all placed in my sisters and I. Without your support and understanding, we couldn’t have rescued as many of you as we did.” I said, as I looked out at all those seated comfortably.

“Over the next few weeks and possibly several years, more of your neighbors and friends will undoubtedly be appearing suddenly and unexplainably. That is my promise to you.” I sighed as some people began to clap. “Unfortunately, many loved ones will still refuse my offer of relocation. I want to say that I am sorry upfront, because I cannot ignore their wishes and subsequent decisions, though rest assured, the Empress will watch over those that choose to stay and do everything in our power to see that they always have options available to them.” I paused to take a breath.

“Wow, for once, I’m the long-winded one.” I smiled as I looked down to my right- at Tibius. Several people laughed politely. “I guess I have nothing more to say other than…Let the celebration begin!”

The room broke out in applause as my sisters appeared and began serving our guests. Among those serving were Khufu and Anna Beth. A quiet murmur rose from the gathering when some noticed.

As usual, Jack and Cami insisted on showing off by flying a whole table’s worth of plates to their destinations.

Still, most eyes were on the former Pharaoh and Queen of Egypt as they bussed several dinners then went back to the kitchen for more prepared plates.

“Administrator, why do you serve us? You and Queen Anna Beth should be at the head table- in a position of respect and honor!” One man said loudly as Khufu placed a plate before him.

“My friends,” Khufu said loud enough for the whole banquet hall to hear, “Should we not forget that my mate and I have been in your service since I became your Administrator. This is our way of thanking you for your trust and confidence over the years.”

The man- I recognized him as one of the neighborhood representatives- remained quiet for a moment then shouted, “Here, Here!”

Everyone raised his or her glass in a toast.

Tibius placed his hand on mine and gently squeezed it.

“My Empress, it is time we also served those who lost so much.”

I nodded as we stood. The busy kitchen appeared around us and I waited until we were in the clear to rephase.

The look on the faces as Tibius and I emerged from the kitchen carrying full plates was priceless. Many people took a second or third look between where we had been sitting at the head table and where we were now.

“I’ll get Khufu and Anna Beth.” I said to my mate after depositing our load of food to one of the tables. The royal couple appeared in front of me. They were patiently waiting for more plates to deliver. Phasing in, I gently placed a hand on each of their shoulders.

The head table appeared ahead of us and both Anna Beth and Khufu turned around to stare at me.

“Sorry, you two, but it’s our turn to serve you.” I simply said before popping back to the kitchen.

Within a minute or two we were placing plates before our royal friends at our previous table and motioning for them to sit down.

“Dear friends!” Tibius announced as he motioned to the stunned couple. “Khufu and Anna Beth!”

Everyone stood and began applauding loudly- the adults even offering up their glasses in toast once more.

Anna Beth broke down in tears. She looked up at me and mouthed the word ‘why’?

I just winked at her and headed back to the kitchen following Tibius.

Sunni and Tabatha passed us with newly opened bottles of Terran wine. They headed straight for Khufu and Anna Beth, bowed and filled their glasses. They then curtesied and started around the neighboring tables, refilling glasses.
 
 

Terra Nuevo, 2310hrs, Climax, Neptinian 13th, 424 of the New Era
 
 

“Alex?” A little girl’s voice asked as I heard small footsteps from the hallway.

“Come on over, Tabby.” I said looking up from the book I had been reading. Emily had suggested I read the one she had finished back on Atlantis. ‘Where Eagles Dare’ was the title. Though I knew it to be a work of fiction, the intrigue and misdirection reminded me of my own adventures in Poland next year- 1945.

My young sister walked over to the Davenport I was relaxing on and stood next to me in silence.

“If y’all are waiting for permission to speak, you should know that my door and my ears are always open, hun.” I said as I bookmarked and closed the novel.

“Um…”

I slid my legs off the furniture and motioned for her to sit next to me.

“Spill it, hun. What’s bothering you?” I asked with a gentle smile as the girl seated herself and turned to face me.

“Alex? Um…do…do I have to stay…um…here?” She asked in an unsure voice.

“Do you want to, hun?” I asked kindly.

“Um… Um…it’s really nice, but…um…no?”

“Why not?” I asked, curiously.

“Sunni…um…Col. Smithson isn’t going to stay, is she?”

“No, honey. Sunni has to go back to her own time. She has a job and responsibilities there. Sorry.”

“You mean Col. Jim has to go back to his Air Force thing, right?”

I nodded.

“Um…”

“Tell you what, hun.” I said with a bright smile. “You be here bright and early in the morning- say, 8 o’clock? We’ll see what we can do about your problem, okay?”

“8 o’clock?” Tabby repeated, unsure of herself.

“Eight, hun. Don’t be late, okay?” I answered.

“Okay, Alex. See you tomorrow.” The six year old said as she got off the sofa and hurried out of the room.

‘Cami?’ I thought.

‘Yes, Alex.’ She thought back.

‘Can you read my thoughts on Tabby?’ I thought them to her.

‘Not a problem, Alex. What languages?’ Cami thought outright.

‘English, Reilliese, and Modern Terran, for now…maybe throw in basic French as a bonus,’ I thought as a smile crossed my unmoving lips.

‘Transfer will take about an hour once she reaches REM sleep mode, Alex,’

‘Thanks, sweetheart.’ I thought back, ending our conversation.
 
 

“Bonjour, Alex.” Tabby said pleasantly, knocking on my doorframe. Her upbeat expression became confused realizing what she had just said.

I brought up my HUD- 0800hrs on the dot. While still looking at my HUD, I temporarily disabled my translator.

“Very good.” I told her and motioned for her to sit on the Davenport while I put my earrings in. “So…how did you sleep last night? Did you get some breakfast, yet?” I asked in English.

“Alright, I guess. I had this strange dream that Camille was talking to me- she was teaching me a new language- and I was up kind of early, so I had some French toast.” Tabby answered in perfect English.

“So, you theorize she was augmenting your known speech archives with several new files?” I asked in Reilliese.

“Affirmative, Alex.”

I smiled and re-enabled my translator.

“So…what you were saying last night…have you changed your mind about staying on Terra Nuevo?” I asked in Terran.

“Um…I’d…um…I’d still like to go with Lady Sunni if it’s acceptable with you, M’lady.”

“What do you think, Colonel?” I asked as I saw Sunni appear in my suite’s doorway.

“What do I think about what, Alex? There you are! Why are you in here, Tabatha? I told you that Alex has things to do today.” Sunni answered, chastising Tabby for intruding.

“I asked what you thought about Tabby’s request, hun.” I replied, ignoring her scolding of the girl.

“I asked Alex if I really had to stay here. I really, really don’t want to Colonel, but I understand if you are too busy with your Air Force thing.” Tabby reiterated.

“Alex…where did she learn to speak English?” Sunni looked at me suspiciously.

“The same place she learned Terran and Reilliese…”

“Cami.” Sunni interrupted as she suddenly looked up to the ceiling. Apparently Cami had been listening. “I see.” She said looking back at me- her eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“So, Camille did establish interface with my neural cortex and archive several new language files in the early hours of this morning.” Tabby said to me in Reilliese.

Sunni did a double take of the girl- amazed to hear such technical words come out of such a young mouth.

“Affirmative; reinitiate the query of your original hypothesis. Be succinct, young revision.” I responded.

Tabby blushed profusely as Sunni stared at her- mouth hanging open.

“Um…can…can I…um…” Tabby took a large breath before continuing, “can I come home with you, Col. Smithson? I promise I won’t be a bother and I’ll do my fair share of the household duties.”

Sunni remained silent- her mouth still open; tears quickly formed at the corners of her eyes.

I gently touched Tabby’s and Sunni’s hand. Both took hold.

Everything collapsed into me as the stars appeared and began moving. Within seconds we found ourselves back at the Wright-Pat Administration building- Jim’s office to be exact. I rephased us.

“That was fun!” Tabby giggled in excitement. “Can we do that again?”

I thought Sunni was going to lose her breakfast- her hand quickly moving to cover her mouth. Maybe I should have told her not to eat too much this morning, but I knew she had been on other missions and planets twice before.

“Welcome to James Smithson’s office, ladies.” I said to the girls then looked at Sunni. “Too bad Col. Smithson isn’t here at the moment, though.”

Sunni took the hint and she and her clothing began to change. In just a few seconds Jim Smithson stood next to me. Tabby smiled sheepishly at him. I laughed as Jim began fussing with the shoulders of his uniform shirt.

“Jim, you don’t have bra straps to adjust in this form.” I reminded with a giggle.

“It just feels strange to be back in this form, Alex. I think I spent too much time as Sunni.” He explained, reaching for and feeling his throat.

I quickly selected and triggered my dress blues- changing my rank in the process back to Admiral.

There was a knock at the outer office door.

“Door’s open, leave it that way.” Jim said loudly then coughed a few times reaching for his throat again. “Man. That feels so weird now.” He complained.

“Colonel Smithson, You wanted to see me, sir?” The sergeant from Hangar 18 announced as he opened the door and entered. He immediately snapped to attention, glancing uncomfortably in my direction. I noticed he had a sealed, manila envelope marked ‘Urgent’ in his left hand.

Tabatha was suddenly nowhere to be seen, though I knew she had gone to Pixie mode, startled by the sergeant’s entrance. She had immediately taken refuge behind Jim’s cover where it hung on his wooden coat rack to the right of the door.

“Actually, I wanted to commend you on your effectiveness at your post, sergeant. This facility has passed our impromptu test.” I said before Jim could stutter out something dumb.

“Test, sir?” The man asked in confusion as he looked between Jim and I. He quickly glanced to his right, to the coat rack then back to me.

“Yes, sergeant, a test. The joint chiefs wanted absolute proof that certain ‘assets’ remain properly controlled. Somehow rumor has surfaced that you gentlemen have been guarding an empty hangar…” I answered, noticing him glance toward the coat rack again. “Is something wrong over there, sergeant?” I added, nodding to that particular piece of furniture.

“I thought I…no, sir, nothing is wrong.”

I pointed down to the package still in his left hand. “Is that for me, sergeant?”

“Oh…” He stumbled, “no, sir, sorry. A courier caught me down in reception. Since there was no one on duty, I signed for it and brought it up. It’s addressed to Colonel Smithson, Admiral.”

“Thank you. Strange how that happens…I relieved my desk clerk early, thinking nothing would happen and just like that a package arrives.” Jim said sarcastically as he accepted the large envelope and placed it down on his desk. While the sergeant’s attention was drawn away, I saw Tabby fly out the office door.

“Colonel Smithson, what has become of your niece…Tabatha? I thought she only needed to use the restroom? We wouldn’t want a breach of security to taint this facility’s impressive record, would we?” I asked in my ‘Admiral’ voice. “After such a successful security check, that is.”

The door in the outer office closed loudly.

“Sorry I took so long, Uncle Ji…I mean Colonel Smithson. I hope I didn’t cause any problems for you with the Admiral, sir.” Tabby said as she looked cautiously at the imposing sergeant standing with us.

“No, Tabatha, but this is a military installation and not a daycare. I would expect you remind yourself of that while here.” I warned strongly.

“Yes, ma’am.” Tabby sighed as she dropped her eyes.

“Jim, are you sure you can take care of the girl and this facility at the same time,” I asked the colonel with a raised eyebrow? “How long did your sister say she would be out of the country?”

Jim paused noticeably as he thought about my question.

“Mom told me I’d be staying with Uncle Jim…the colonel…for a month or two, ma’am. She hopes she might be back earlier though.” Tabby hurriedly responded.

“Where is your mother, honey?” I inquired.

“I’m finally here, Jimmy…oh…sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt, Admiral Fleming.” Sunni’s voice said as she quickly hurried through the outer office door with a suitcase in either hand. She quickly put down both pieces of luggage.

“You aren’t interrupting anything important, Ms. Smithson.” I said with a pleasant smile. Both Tabby and Jim quickly stared at me in awe.

I quickly winked back and nudged Tabby gently so she wouldn’t keep staring.

“What’s the matter, Jimmy? Is my hair all mussed up?” Sunni asked as Jim continued to stare at her. “I didn’t think that the guards would be checking EVERYTHING in the car, including Tabby’s stuff. Thanks for escorting Tink to her uncle, though, Admiral Fleming.”

“No trouble at all, hun. She was no bother at all.” I answered with a smile.

“Are you sure you can handle her, Jimmy?” Sunni asked ‘her’ brother.

Jim Smithson silently nodded to his alter ego then quickly caught himself. “Ya…I mean…no, Tabatha won’t be a problem, sis. She’s in good hands.”

“Good, because I have to get over to the airport. My plane to JFK leaves in three hours- unless you can arrange for one of those handsome fighter jocks to give me flying lessons.”

“Mom!” Tabby whined in embarrassment. She pointed to me animatedly. “Not in front of the Admiral.”

“Sorry, ma’am.” Sunni blushed profusely.

“Its okay, hun. If I were twenty years younger, I’d ask the Colonel for the same favor.” I said with a predatory smile aimed at the uncomfortable sergeant standing not far away.

“Um…if that will be all, Admiral? Colonel?” He responded unsure if he were still needed here.

“We’re finished, Sergeant…unless Col. Smithson has something more?” I answered, looking to the still slightly confounded colonel. He had given in to curiosity, picked up the mysterious envelope, opened it, and was now looking in at its contents. His eyes suddenly rolled in realization. Jim Smithson looked over at me as Sunni smiled brightly, almost laughing.

“Well,” Sunni said before she actually did start laughing at herself, “If I’m going to catch my flight, I better get moving. Come here, Tink.”

Tabby wrapped her arms around her ‘mother’. “I’m going to miss you, mom. I love you! Hurry back, okay?”

“I love you too, Tink! I love you so much! I promise I’ll call every night if I can, okay?”

Tabby nodded and actually began to cry as she tightened her embrace. “Mom…don’t go…please?”

“I have to, baby, but I’ll be back soon. I promise!” Sunni said with tears streaming down her face. “I have to go now, baby. Behave for your uncle.” She kissed the top of Tabatha’s head.

Tabby nodded as Sunni pried herself free of the girl’s arms and smiled sadly to her ‘brother’.

“I have to go. I’ll keep in touch, Jimmy. You take good care of my baby girl!”

“She’ll be fine, sis. Go catch your plane.”

“I’ll check in on her when I can, Sunni.” I assured. “You just go do what you have to and Jim and I will take care of Tabby.”

“You mean I’ll take care of Uncle Jim, ma’am.” Tabby added maturely.

I laughed. Sunni shook her head a few times before she gave her ‘daughter’ another kiss on the top of her head then turned and hurried out the door of the outer office.

Things were awkwardly quiet for a few moments.

“Sir?” The sergeant interrupted gently.

“That will be all, sergeant. Dismissed.” Jim answered.

“Thank you, sir, and good luck.” The Sergeant looked down at Tabby. “Maybe I’ll see you around base again, sweetie.” He said, wiping at his eyes a few times. “Admiral.”

I nodded before the man turned and left the office.

The office went silent again for a few minutes.

“You set this all up, Alex?” Jim Smithson accused more than asked.

I looked at him for a moment. “Do you want to watch your ‘niece’ or not, Col. Smithson?” I asked officially. Tabby looked hopefully at him.

In response, he dumped the contents of the package onto his desk.

“Birth certificate, immunization records, school transcripts, notarized guardianship papers…Aunt Randi did her usual excellent job, didn’t she,” he said?

“Not yet she hasn’t, Jim. We still have to introduce your niece to her- that and some other things.” I answered.

“What other things, Alex?”

“Did you see Tabby with any suitcases, Jim?” I smiled.

“No.”

“And there is still the small matter of her mother making an appearance a few minutes ago, too.” I said before adding, “Then there is the matter of details, hun. She needs some modern clothes- other than the ones she’s wearing.”

“But her suitcases are right…” Jim paused then thought it through. “Right…I forgot.”

“Tabatha, I’d like to introduce you to something we call a ‘Mall’.” I said to the girl by my side. “Are you familiar with the term ‘Shopping’?”

Jim rolled his eyes as he started to shift form.

“I don’t know if it will make any difference in this form; I think I’ll still despise shopping, though.” Sunni said dispassionately.

I grinned knowingly as I noticed the telltale twinkle in her eyes.
 
 

Terra Nuevo, 1001hrs, Climax, Neptinian 14th, 424 of the New Era
 
 

“So how did it go in Dayton, sis?” Emily asked as I came into the kitchen and ordered a cup of coffee from the food processor.

“It turned out to be a bit enlightening.” I admitted. “Sunni seems to know a great deal about women’s fashions in the 1990’s. At first I thought Tabby was going to be the fashion diva, but Sunni really impressed us. I wonder if her gift has anything to do with it.”

“As long as they’re both happy, Alex, that’s all that counts.” Emily smiled.

“It’ll be a shame to lose Jim though. I wonder how Tammy will take his decision.”

“Oh, like you don’t know, Alex! Even I can see those two crying in joy when Sunni breaks the news. According to my future memories, Tammy always said she wanted another girl.” Emily giggled lightly.

I smiled deviously. Emily shook her head at me as she continued to giggle.

“So where to now, Empress?” She said after taking a breath and finishing her tea.

“I can either take you and Jack back to base, take Ricky Lynn back home to Pittsburgh 2035, or I head to Honolulu 2011 and close that mission arc. I’m sure Uncle Rick is chomping at the bit to get back to his own time…and command.”

“If it’s all the same, skipper, I’d like to get back home.” Prof. Samuels said as she stood in the doorway.

“Are you sure, Ricky Lynn?” Emily asked with a start.

“Ya…I’m sure yer gonna be takin’ real good care of me, doc. Besides, I got classes to teach an’ a nursery to prepare. I’ll be fine.” Ricky Lynn assured. She rubbed her chin for a moment. “Though, it’d be nice to see Akane, Tish, Sam, and their brood again.”

“Jack, are you and Yuuka ready.” I said into the air.

‘Be right there, Alex.’ Jack’s voice answered in my head.
 
 

“Just to bring you up to speed,” I started to brief Yuuka and Emily, “Jack and I left from a presidential suite in Waikiki. I took Tish, her husband and four girls, and Akane there just after Akane received her gift. Isabeau and my Granddaughter had just arrived with Akane’s new Reilly suit- however…” I paused, “Jack and I returned shortly after with James Spanker so we could release him into the wilds of Honolulu circa 2011.”

Emily began to giggle as she recalled the scene.

“Shall we go?” I asked, offering my hands.

As like earlier, everything collapsed into me and we traveled among the stars. A spacious hotel suite appeared around us. We watched as a previous instance of Jack and I disappeared. Young Alexandra, Isabeau, Tish, and Akane stood looking at each other. My granddaughter looked right at me and raised an eyebrow as we rephased.

“So, anymore headaches?” I asked nervously.

“No, Grandmother. Can we assume the threat has been effectively dealt with?”

I nodded.

Alexandra quickly stepped to me and wrapped her arms around me. The tingle between us was more of a mild shock. She quickly released me and stepped back, staring at me with a frightened expression.

“Grandmother?” She asked cautiously.

“You know what I know now, hun.” I said shrugging my shoulders.

“PIXIE!” Tish’s Rebecca screamed excitedly as she ran out into the living area and tried to wrap her arms around Yuuka. Having been startled, Yuuka instantly went to Pixie mode and shot to the top shelf on a nearby bookcase.

Emily, Jack, Ricky Lynn, and I all started to laugh. Yuuka sat on the edge of the shelf nervously swinging her crossed legs, looking none-too-happy.

“What did I tell you girls about approaching Pixies?” Tish chided.

“I’m sorry. I’m just so happy to see her, momma.” The young girl explained.

“Well, apologize to Yuuka, honey. I’m sure Alex needs to get going soon.” Tish told her daughter.

“I’m sorry, Miss Yuuka. Can you please come down and grow back up?” Young Rebecca said sweetly.

Yuuka flew back down and, within a second, towered over the child.

Rebecca slowly walked over to her and wrapped her arms around her waist.

“I just wanted to say ‘hi’, ma’am. I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry too, Becca. It’s been a rough couple of weeks. We’ve all been kind of on edge.” Yuuka replied, gently rubbing the girl’s back.

“Hey, everyone, I’m back and I survived modern day Honolul…” Uncle Rick said as he opened the door and walked into the suite wearing a somewhat tacky orange and purple flowered, Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts, and blue deck shoes. “Okaaaaay…which Alex are you?” He asked pointing to me.

“Alexandra Steinert, 1944, sir.” I answered as I stood to attention.

“And you?” he pointed to my Granddaughter.

“Come on, Uncle Rick; you don’t know your own great-grandniece?”

“Not when you look exactly like your grandmother, sweetie. Are we ready to go, Alex?”

“Clemson has been incarcerated, so yes. We have a few stops to make before we can go home, though.

“A few stops?” He asked, puzzled.

“I promised you could see your TV debut, Uncle Rick. After that Prof. Samuels needs to get back to 2035 then Yuuka wants a ride back to 2020BC. Last, but not least, Emily has her duties back on Ni’ihau in 1944.”

“But you just said you were from ’44, Alex.” Uncle Rick said in confusion.

“That’s where things get a little complicated, sir. I’m not sure which dimension Emily belongs in now that the timeline has been repaired.” I revealed.

There was a loud gasp as the adults in the room came to the same conclusion.

“I’m confident things will be alright, Uncle.” Emily declared bravely. “I’ve seen how things will go while I was back on Atlantis.”

“Atlantis?” Uncle Rick choked.

“It’s a long story, Uncle Rick. I’m sure we’ll talk about it next month…after we get back to base.” I told him.

Demmit harrumphed. “I’m not going to like this talk, am I, Alex?”

“Let’s just say it’ll be a surprise, uncle.”

“That’s what worries me!” He growled.

Emily began giggling.

“Let’s go see Brie.” I suggested.

“Wait! How am I going to get home, Empress?” Akane demanded.

“Y’all will be flyin’ Empress Airlines, hun.” I giggled.

“What? Empress…Airlines?” She repeated.

“My Granddaughter and Isabeau will be taking y’all home to California, Akane.” I explained. “You remember the date I left, right hun?” I asked, looking at my Alexandra.

“Yes, Grandma, I’m not as old and forgetful as you, remember?”

I smiled wryly.
 
 

After saying goodbye to everyone, Jack, Emily, Yuuka, Ricky Lynn, and Uncle Rick took my hands. Chuck and Brianna Mason’s living room appeared around us.

“Hey Brie, did Alex and the others get here yet?” Chuck Mason asked loudly as he came in the front door.

“Not yet, honey, but I’m expecting them any time now.” Brie’s voice said from the kitchen.

I waited until Chuck walked into the kitchen to greet Brie before rephasing us.

“Hello? Anybody home?” I shouted as we released hands.

“In the kitchen, Alex.” Brie replied.

I motioned for us to go in.

“Hey girls! Hi, Uncle Rick, like the shirt!” Brie exclaimed brightly as she greeted each of us with a hug. The kitchen was just big enough to hold all eight of us and still allow us to breathe.

“Uncle Rick.” Chuck greeted as he and Uncle Rick shook hands. “Nice to see you again, sir. Can I offer you a beer?”

Uncle Rick appraised us women for a moment. “Don’t mind if I do, Chuck. I’ve been hitting the hard stuff entirely too much lately. If you know what I mean.”

“I can certainly relate to that, sir. Brie hasn’t been feeling her best these last few days.” Chuck agreed. “I’ve been pulling my hair out trying to help her with the severe headaches.”

“Hey Yuuka. Y’all care for a snack?” Brie called. In her hand she held a squeeze bottle of honey. Yuuka wasted no time entering Pixie mode and hovering while Brie squeezed half the bottle into the small bowl on the table.

“Ladies, anyone else want a beer while I’m in here?” Chuck asked as he opened the refrigerator. Ricky Lynn, Jack, and I accepted.

“Tea water’ll be hot in two minutes, Em.” Brie said, placing a full two-cup, glass measuring cup in the microwave, typed in two minutes on the keypad, and pressed ‘start’. “Dinner’ll be ‘round six. Anyone else like a snack?”
 
 

“So…how have you been holding up, Chuck?” Uncle Rick asked after dinner and dishes were done. We were all sitting where we could in the living room.

“We’ve been managing, sir. Between Brie’s headaches n’ the really bizarre nightmares I was havin’ the past few nights…well, like I said…we’re getting along.” Chuck answered guardedly.

“Nightmares? Honey, y’all didn’t tell me about no nightmares!” Brie exclaimed in shock.

“You were finally sleepin’ soundly, dear. I didn’t want to wake you.”

“What were the dreams, Chuck? You remember any of them,” Emily asked- her professional tone seeping into her voice?

“I don’t remember too much ‘bout ‘em, but there was one thing that kept reappearing…like in every dream. I kept seein’ Brie disappearing- feelin’ really lonely when she was gone, but blissfully happy when she returned. I know it sounds impossible, but I got a sneakin’ suspicion that you gals really did disappear- that y’all never existed- like this was some fantasy and not real…That sounds stupid, don’t it?” Chuck related before blushing in embarrassment.

I looked around at my sisters for a moment.

“How many times did you have this recurring part of your nightmare, Chuck?” I asked seriously.

He looked to be counting the instances in his head. “Eight. Eight times, I think. Why, Alex?”

I felt my face flush as I looked to the floor. “That’s how many times Clemson tried to erase us from the timeline- and also how many times we had to repair things to get everyone back. I’m sorry for causing all the problems, guys. I’m glad Clemson will never challenge or destroy our lives again.”

“Personally, I’m glad you do exist, Alex. I can’t think of my life without my Brianna- without any of you, really!” Charles Mason told me.

“So when do we get to see Uncle Rick’s screen debut?” Emily asked, changing the subject.

“Any time you want. I’ll just put the DVD in and we’ll be ready.” Chuck answered as he got up and placed a small, silvery record in its player.

We watched the whole episode of ‘Spirit Quest’ from start to finish- paying particular attention to the ‘conclusions’ portion of the show.

“You could barely tell it was me.” Uncle Rick complained after he had Chuck replay the scene several times.

“Definitely not your best side, Admiral.” Jack advised. “I liked hearing how Alex lowered her voice. It almost sounds like a guy…almost.” She giggled.

“Well, I liked the flashlight schtick.” Brie giggled, “Somma yer best work, Jacki.”

“That wasn’t all me.” Jack argued. “Akane was fooling around with my gift. What you didn’t see was Kramer turning his head like that ‘Chuckie’ character from the movies.”

“Here say and speculation.” I declared, giggling.

“I’m confused, Alex. “ Chuck interrupted. “How did you manage the flash of light they claim to have seen in the rafters?”

“That was Ricky Lynn’s toy, Chuck. It seemed to be really unstable before it actually reached its destination.” I answered.

“Damn. And I thought I took care of the oscillation problem.” Ricky Lynn grumbled to herself.

“That was the only time I saw it happen, Professor,” I said as I tried to think of any other instances. “Clemson may have noticed the bug and changed some code later on.”

“I’ll check it when I get home. Hopefully, he didn’t change the password protection or throw in a worm or somethin’.”

“I have a better idea, Rick.” Uncle Rick interrupted, “How about you leave the time travel to Alex? Instead…maybe put your mind toward that transportation system Alex’ Tibius told me about- it seems right up your alley.”

“You want me to try an’ build a transporter, Admiral?” Prof. Samuels asked in surprise.

“Only don’t let your love interests have the keys, chief.” Jack added.

“And…and always boost your matter gain, Professor…add plenty of matter gain.” Chuck Mason added with a wry grin.

Five of us stared at him with no understanding whatsoever while Brie and Ricky Lynn just rolled their eyes at what I found out later to be an obscure reference to a Sci-fi movie from the late 1970’s or early 1980’s.
 
 

It felt wonderful to be sitting, talking with my family…my extended family. We spent several hours together, though it felt like mere minutes. We even met Brittany- Brie’s fourteen-month-old daughter. The infant took an instant liking to Ricky Lynn and I. Emily still couldn’t understand how I did it, though. All too soon, young Brittany was back in bed for the night- and now, with midnight mere seconds away, I stood and broke the bad news.

“Y’all know that I’d like nothin’ better than ta stay here an chat more, but I gotta get Ricky Lynn back ta 2035.”

“What y’all talkin’ ‘bout Alex? Y’all got all the time in the universe.” Brie questioned.

“Ricky Lynn’s got an appointment tomorrow. I don’t want her to miss it.” I revealed.

“Oh? What kind of appointment, Rick?” Uncle Rick asked in concern. He looked to the three of us sisters grinning from ear to ear.

“Now that’s up ta ol’ Ricky Lynn if’n she wanted that knowed, uncle.” Brie giggled. I had noticed, like Alex Reilly and I, her accent worsened with fatigue.

“I’m pregnant, sir.” Prof. Samuels blurted out pointedly. She closed her eyes and let out a light snort. “Yes, Rick Demmit, Ricky Samuels got herself knocked up, but I’m okay with that! I thought it was finally time I started a family.”

Admiral Demmit looked to me for confirmation.

I nodded.

“She’s forty-four days along, Uncle Rick.” Emily announced officially. “I see a perfectly normal pregnancy and delivery. Of course, I’ll officially know more when I see her tomorrow at my office in 2035.”

Demmit glared at my sister for a minute before closing his eyes and shaking his head a few times.

“Congratulations, Ricky Lynn. I wonder why you waited so long though? Even Carroll Sheldon took the leap before you…” Uncle Rick thought for a moment, “Origination time-wise, that is.” He added, looking at Brie, Emily and I for confirmation on that statement.

“I just hadn’t met the right one, Rick. This time, I thought I had…” Samuels began only to break out in tears.

Jack, being closest, took her into her arms. “At least you know who the father is, Ricky Lynn. I’m still wondering about Connie’s dad and Alex refuses to tell me.”

Prof. Samuels leaned back and looked into Jack’s eyes. She smiled mischievously.

“I figured you would know what’s going on…being from our future and all.” Jack grumbled.

“I told you, Jacki Cummins…You’ll know when the time is right, and not one second before!” I reminded gruffly. “Now…we need to shove off.”

It was well after one, local time, when we joined hands.

Brie’s living room became Reilly’s director’s office.
 
 

0835hrs, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, June 24rd, 2020BC
 
 

“Welcome back, Alex.” RVP greeted, “it is 0835hrs, June 24th, 2020BC.”

“Thanks, hun. I trust things haven’t been too crazy around here the last twenty-eight hours?” I asked- wincing as I realized it hadn’t been too long since Jack and I had left- relatively, that is. In fact, it had been almost six months for Jack, but almost six years for me.

“I trust our director will be arriving shortly, Empress?”

“Alex Reilly and Cami will be staying on Terra Nuevo for a while- fifteen Earth years to be exact.” I informed.

“You finally got her to take a…a vacation, Empress?” Randi’s voice asked instead of the A.I.

“Sort of…I personally wouldn’t call it a vacation.” I said rolling my eyes. “Reilly and Cassie are going to be big sisters, hun.”

“You’re kidding!” She exclaimed. It echoed through the room’s loudspeakers. “Should I alert Reilly and Cassi, Alex?”

“Cassi is back from Terra Nuevo?” I asked in surprise.

“Terra Nuevo? Cassi has resided here for almost ten years, Empress.” Randi sounded baffled.

“Randi, what’s the status on Janice Silvers.” I asked as Emily, Ricky Lynn, and Uncle Rick stared at me.

“Janice is still in her domic…quarters, Alex. Why, is there something wrong with her?”

“It’s a long story, hun, but the short of it is that just prior to our departure the timeline had changed. Cassi Darough and Janice Silvers were suddenly AWOL.” I told her, to Uncle Rick’s surprise.

“Alex? Who is Janice Silvers?” Emily asked curiously. Her mouth dropped as her own gift provided the answer.

I smiled at her. “I need some coffee.” I said and turned toward the door.
 
 

“Alex? What’s been going on? I’ve had some pretty monster headaches over the past couple days.” Jamie asked as we arrived in the Rec Room. Michelle Simonetti nodded her head to also acknowledge the question.

“We’ve been busy resetting the time line,” I answered.

“Resetting?” Shel exclaimed. “Why did it need reset?”

“Darren Clemson stole my latest project and made ex-ter work fer ol Alex here.” Ricky Lynn proclaimed.

“Clemson? Your TA?” Michelle repeated in surprise. “Didn’t the two of you…?” She asked, before Ricky Lynn glared at her. Shel blushed profusely. “Sorry.”

“OOOOOh, what happened to me last night?” Janice Silvers moaned as she staggered into the recreational room. She held tightly to the doorway and slowly moved along the room’s wall.

Even though she seemed to be in pain, I was very happy, relieved actually, to see her.

“This ought to be entertaining.” I mentioned quietly to the others around me.

Our newest sister stopped suddenly and felt her forehead then cheeks with both hands. She looked around for a moment then shook her head a few times.

“That sure is weird. I’ve never had a hangover that disappeared so quickly before.” She said in surprise then noticed us watching quietly.

“What did you do to me, Empress?” She asked on approach.

“I thought I asked you to call me Alex, hun?”

“What did you do to me…Alex?” She repeated.

“What do you think I did, Janice?” I asked back trying to keep my expression neutral.

“You gave me some sort of super powers?”

I looked up to the ceiling and nodded my head side to side a few times.

“Eh, not exactly ‘super powers’, hun. We prefer to call them ‘gifts’.” I said with a smile.

“I’m…I’m like you now?”

“Well, not exactly like me, hun. We…we all have our own specific gift,” I him-hawed. “What your gift will be is for you to find out.”

“So…you already know, but don’t want to spoil it for me?” Janice correctly deduced.

I smiled at the perceptive grad student.

“There you are Alex!” Cassi’s voice echoed through the quiet room. “Empress, I had the strangest feeling that I was in two or three places at once the last two days! At one point it felt like I didn’t even exist. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that would you?” She asked- more like insinuated.

“Your mother will be staying on Terra Nuevo for a little while, hun.” I said, evading her questioning.

“Hey, Aunt Alex!” Reilly greeted as she appeared beside me. Janice jumped a few inches, startled.

“Reilly, Alex just told me that mother has elected to stay on Terra Nuevo for a ‘while’.” Cassi told her best friend.

“Ya. My mom and your mom are each having a baby, Cassi; two more girls for the sisterhood.” Reilly responded indifferently.

Cassi’s mouth dropped open.

“Ya. So how long was mom gone for this time?” Reilly asked me, brazenly. “Oh, I guess long enough to get really horny again, huh?”

“REILLY!” Cassi shouted in surprise at her best friend’s cavalier attitude.

Uncle Rick began to laugh, putting his hands to his face and rubbing his eyes lightly. “Now I know she’s got Demmit in her.” He said to himself.

“I’ve spent about six years undoing all that Clemson’s done, Reilly. Your mom has spent an equal amount of time doing exactly the same thing. I think she deserves to unwind, don’t you?”

“Sure. No skin off my back. So when do we leave, Alex?” Reilly asked bluntly.

“When I’m good and ready, young lady. Could you ‘can’ the attitude before I decide to make a side trip to Terra Nuevo and leave you with Connie?” I threatened.

“Connie’s not there. She’s with…” Reilly stopped abruptly and stared at Jack in horror. “No. No, ma’am…Aunt…Empress! I’ll lose the attitude…right now.”

“Let me guess,” Jack said looking at me cynically. “I’m the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on with my daughter?”

“Oh, you know, Aunt Jacki.” Reilly piped up then immediately looked around at us in worry. “Just…just not now…not in your time period.”

Jack glared at her godchild.

“Leave it go, Jack. You’ll find out soon enough- I promise.” I assured her.

“So when do we leave, Aunt Alex?” Reilly inquired again.

I rolled my eyes at my niece. “I said…when I’m ready, Reilly!” I growled. “Cassi, isn’t there some chore or responsibility the director has assigned her daughter?”

“Fine! I already know when you’re leaving, Empress. I won’t be late.” Reilly whined like a spoiled brat before stomping out of the room and down the passageway.

“Mine ain’t gonna turn out like that is she, Alex?” Ricky Lynn questioned worriedly.

“No,” I started to say as I walked over and ordered my coffee from the dispenser. Taking the steaming cup out of the unit, I finished my sentence.

“Yours will be worse, hun. She’ll be every bit your daughter.” I laughed. “Right down to the ol’ Samuels’ charm.”

“I think Mina calls it karma, Rick.” Uncle Rick laughed heartily.

Janice Silvers looked on in silence until her eyes widened.

“That’s right, Janice. Your professor is taking on a lifetime teaching gig.” Jack answered the unheard question.

I turned back to the food dispenser and ordered a double chocolate latte with extra whip cream, double mini marshmallows, and a splash of almond milk then handed it to Janice, motioning for her to sit down. She stared at me in amazement.

“I told you I know more about you than you do, hun. Drink it while it’s hot. At least that’s what you always tell me.” I recommended.

“How do you know so much ab…” she asked but closed her mouth and looked to her steaming cup. “You get to know me pretty well in the future. That’s how you know what I like to drink…that I would agree to come with you in the first place.” She proposed.

I smiled. “RVP, how many files has Janice read from the facility’s technical archives since yesterday morning?”

“Eighty four technical documents covering Reilly’s shield generators, synthetic gravity inducers, food synthesizing stations, and the Protoverse Chamber, Alex.”

“And what was the average completion time of each document, RVP?”

“Approximately ten to twelve minutes, depending on size, Alex.” The A.I. replied.

I think I was the last of our group to turn my attention to our new sister.

“And on average what was the page count of each of the documents read, hun?” I asked to drive home a point.

“Two to four hundred pages, Alex, plus technical drawings and schematics.”

Janice’s eyes were bulging as she suddenly realized the magnitude of her reading ability.

“I never realized how much I read yesterday. How did I do that? How can I read so fast?” Silvers’ asked, astonished.

“So, if I were to engage the Protoverse Targeting System to locate a specific planet- within a given system, and am unable to get a tangible lock, what would I do?” I asked our new sister.

“Theoretically, you should invert the targeting system’s coordinate protocol and come at it from the inverse perspective, Alex. A simple one over ‘x’ algorithm would do.”

I nodded with a satisfied grin. “RVP, is Janice correct in her hypothesis?” Our young sister looked to the ceiling to hear the answer

“That is exactly what Assistant Director Hathor did, Alex. Of course, you already knew that.” RVP acknowledged. “That was… just before you transposed our two universes, Empress.” RVP added- her voice somewhat catty.

Janice Silvers’ head suddenly snapped back around to me as her mouth dropped in surprise.

“Before you…you…before you transssssposed universes? You switched our universes? How is that even possible? I mean…the power to do that has to be staggering! There is no way Reilly Station could provide even a fraction of the energy needed…” Janice gasped. Her expression turned to fright as she mentally computed what I was capable of- and of what she had just said.

“I was new to the whole ‘Empress’ thing at the time and wasn’t aware of what I did until I’d already done it, hun.”

“Our Empress was hemorrhaging from both ears and her nose after that uncalculated, ill-thought, endeavor.” Randi’s voice said over the loudspeakers.

“Processor Alpha-three is correct. I advised the Empress against her proposal due to lack of calculable probabilities and their unknown outcome.” RVP agreed, from the same speakers.

“But why put your life at risk, Alex?” Silvers asked- almost in tears.

“Because that is who she is, Janice.” Billie Sangiere answered as she appeared in the doorway. “Alexandra will always place herself in jeopardy if needed to save as many lives as she can. There is no stopping her in that undertaking. That stubborn, selflessness is part and parcel of what makes her the Empress of Time and Space.”

Billie glared at me as she gracefully strode over and stood over Janice and I. “She even deprived me of my eternal rest, claiming I was important to her! Apparently, even the dead cannot escape our Empress.”

“So…you walking in here at this particular time is just coincidence, my queen?” I smiled.

“Not at all, Alexandra. My gift told me that this is the time I should be here. I am of the royal bloodline- something you two have told me nonstop since my arrival back in the realm of the living.”

“So you really do use it? Huh, I thought you despised the very thought of using your gift, highness.” I stated somewhat sarcastically.

“I still dislike cheating, Alexandra, though the ability does have its advantages, as I’m sure you will agree. I take it Reilly will be accompanying you back to the future within the hour?” Billie stated more than asked.

“And I trust you have been exercising the other portion of your gift, highness?” I countered with a grin. “Just how long have you been standing there listening, Billie? I mean, I already know, but humor me.”

Janice Silvers remained silent as she observed our friendly altercation.

“A troubling side effect that Mina pointed out, Alexandra. I don’t use it often as the passing through solid matter still turns my stomach. It too, has a use, though I feel like a spy when I decide to use it. Have you told Janice of her importance yet, Empress?”

“Hun, you still have to hone your timing.” I grinned and shook my head at Jack’s temporal twin.

“I suggest you get to it and save the girl the anxiety, Alexandra. She deserves to know what her place in our society entails.”

“Excuse me, highness,” Jack interrupted as she casually pointed to me. “I think Alex has things well in hand. Why are you acting so high and mighty all of the sudden? Is it your time of the month? Cause if it is, I suggest you not lay a hand on me since I just finished up the other day. So why don’t you just chill out and take a seat, blondie?”

A chair slid silently from the next table and positioned itself behind the Queen of Kili Island. Billie sat down gracefully, looking nervously at her twin.

“Your majesty, I’m sure Alex was just about to inform me of my upcoming mission.” Janice finally spoke up.

“Upcoming mission,” Billie sputtered as she looked at her new sister. “Babysitter is not what I would term a ‘mission’, Janice, nor would ‘beau’ for that matter.”

“Babysitter? Beau? Empress, surely I have more potential and meaning to the sisterhood than just those two roles?” Janice asked, staring at me in surprise.

“Again, Billie, you could refine that sense of timing a bit.” I said glaring at Kili’s queen. “Janice…” I paused as I looked into her eyes, “first and foremost you will finish your education. You will go on vacation with your family to Monaco at the end of the semester and you will fall in love with the American as I told you back in 2035. What you will not be doing is telling friends or family of your induction into the sisters’ of Kili or using your gift in public when it develops,” I paused again, “or of meeting the Empress of Time and Space!”

“I wouldn’t worry about that, Alex. No one would believe something like that anyway…especially my parents! As far as my gift, I thought my ability to read superfast was it.” Janice replied with a wistful grin.

“I know,” I answered. “When the time comes, I’d like you to help Ricky Lynn take care of Regina. Even in 2035 a single mother still faces ‘challenges’ in everyday life. Now…as with everyone else in the sisterhood, you will be asked to assist me on a mission or two- maybe more if the missions require it. Like everyone else, you are completely free to decline if you choose- I won’t think any less of you.”

“But her majesty said something about a beau…”

“I’ve covered that already, hun. You meet the American…remember?” I reminded.

“Oh…ya…you did say that…okay. So…what is my gift and when?” Janice stumbled.

“I’d like to know what her gift is also, Alex.” Uncle Rick added before I could once again divert the topic. I noticed Emily smile deviously. Ricky Lynn was still shooting daggers at me for revealing her unborn child’s name and sex, and Jack was still shooting laser beams at Billie.

“Admiral, if Alex feels it is advantageous to withhold information; we should honor that and move on to another topic of conversation.” Cassi stressed politely. Jack nodded her agreement.

“Is she going to be another Pixie, Alex?” Yuuka blurted out excitedly- rubbing her hands together.

I rolled my eyes.

“First off…no, Janice will not be joining Kili’s Air Force or your squadron, hun.” I began then looked to the Admiral.

“Janice’s superfast reading ability is indeed a small part of her gift. The major part though, will present itself before we leave Reilly.” I turned and stared angrily at Billie. “And that is all that will be revealed…got that, your majesty?”

Billie Sangiere nodded bashfully.

“Next…” I frowned at Ricky Lynn. “You will stop knifing me with your glare, Professor! I’ve revealed the future of your child to you- so what. You should be glad that she will be borne healthy and look a lot like you instead of her father. Now get over it, Ricky Lynn. Lastly…”

An alarm sounded. I nodded ever so slightly.

“Alex, my sensors have detected an incoming projectile of approximately five hundred and eighty kilograms. Trajectory indicates that Reilly Research Station is its designated target. I have enabled Reilly’s protective shield.” RVP announced.

Janice Silvers jumped from her seat and immediately appeared at the nearest station access terminal.

“RVP, show me the preliminary scans of the object in question.” She ordered.

The terminal came alive with information scrolling slowly down the display.

“Faster, RVP. Adjust display rate to seventy-five times normal speed.” She demanded.

We noticed the screen flash five times before going dark.

“Alex, according to RVP’s scans this ‘projectile’ seems to be carrying a nuclear payload- scans show it somewhere in the one hundred-forty or fifty megaton range.” Janice announced with a very worried look. “Reilly’s shield is not strong enough to withstand that potential at point blank range.”

“What is the angle of decent, hun?” I asked. She was now standing right next to me.

“Azimuth is twenty-seven degrees, Alex.” She replied from back over at the terminal.

“Options?” I inquired calmly.

“Thought you already had that worked out, Empress.” She rattled out like an auctioneer from beside me again.

“Time till impact?” I requested. Uncle Rick looked at me in concern.

“Eighty-two seconds.” Janice replied quickly from back over at the terminal.

“RVP, disengage shield and standby. Jack, Cassi, alert all island personnel that Kili is going to change dimensions for a few moments and not to panic.”

“Aye, Cap.” Our two Mind Warriors chorused.

“Billie. Emily? I need your hands in mine now.” I ordered. They complied quickly. “Yuuka, Pixie mode now and take my ear.”

Within two seconds, Yuuka firmly grasped my right earlobe.

“What do you want me to do, Alex?” Janice requested from beside me again.

“Watch the panel, Janice. Don’t worry, Uncle, this won’t hurt a bit.” I said to the old man as I began to concentrate. Janice was back over at the station terminal- its display blinking spastically as her hands flew across the display faster than even I could see.

“Alex, you are starting to glow blue!” Billie Sangiere gasped in surprise.

“That’s what she does when she starts to control time, highness.” Jack informed her.

“All personnel have been notified, Empress.” Cassi announced.

“Impact in fifteen seconds.” Janice alerted- her voice strained.

I mentally threw the switch.

Off to the left of us, a phantasmal, bullet-like object about six feet in diameter streaked through the room from the ceiling ahead of us to the floor behind us. A few seconds later there was a bright flash from the area of the floor where the object had disappeared followed by the sound of a very muffled explosion.

“What the hell just happened, Alex?” Admiral Demmit exclaimed as he looked between me and the missile’s exit point.

“According to Reilly’s sensors, we entered into a pocket dimension for twenty-point-three-six seconds before returning!” How did you do that, Empress? I thought you had to be in contact with something or someone to affect it?” Janice said from beside me again.

I smiled at the perplexed woman. Had she even noticed that she was teleporting back and forth? I know our sisters and Uncle Rick had noticed because of the way they were staring at her.

“You can teleport?” Randi Peltierre asked over the loudspeaker. “Empress, I’m detecting a dimensional shockwave emanating from around the planet. What did you really do?”

Janice reappeared at the terminal to check Randi’s information and appeared by my side yet again.

“According to Reilly’s instruments, you moved the whole planet into a temporary dimension for twenty-point-three-six seconds.” Janice exclaimed animatedly.

“And according to my observations you weren’t paying attention at all, hun.” I countered with a giggle.

“What do you mean I wasn’t paying attention, Alex?” Janice asked, confounded and slightly upset.

“RVP, replay the security archive of this room for the past two minutes, please.” I replied not taking my eyes off our novice sister.

We watched as the large display came online and replayed Ms. Silvers’ antics. She had appeared five different times at the terminal and beside me. There was no evidence she physically moved between the two positions even when I asked RVP to stop each frame of the recorded file.

Silvers stood staring at the screen in complete disbelief- her eyes wide and mouth partially open.

“Wh…wh…w…what am I?” She stuttered, still afraid to move. I watched her shiver once or twice. “H…h…h…hhhow can I move like that? I can’t see me running between you…”

“I believe it’s called teleporting, Janice.” I told her serenely. “You like?”

“Telepo..? I can go to places like you, Empress?” She asked- her eyes opening wider- if that were possible.

“No, hun, not like me, but you can travel to places in the present…but only on the planet where you currently are.”

Janice rushed me, wrapping her arms around me and squeezing. “Oh thank you, Empress! I can’t believe I can do something so magical! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

“I had nothing to do with your gift, hun.” I said as I gently released myself from her arms. “That was all you. Like I said, each of our gifts is unique.”

“But…But I wished I could move around like you, Empress! I wished I could appear and disappear from different places like you could.” Janice insisted.

“Well…I guess you got your wish, Miss Silvers.” Yuuka said gently.

“At least someone’s wish was granted.” Billie Sangiere moaned.

“I swear Billie, any more bitching about being brought back from the dead and I’ll have Alex bring me back to sync with you just after I get pregnant!” Jack growled at her temporal twin. “Let’s see how bad you piss and moan with another life in your belly!”

Billie Sangiere’s mouth dropped open in horror, as did Uncle Rick’s and Janice Silvers’.

“She’ll do fine on her own, Jack. Billie’s maternal days are right around the corner,” I giggled- maybe a little too deviously.

“That is very personal, Alexandra! I will not have you looking into my near future so nonchalantly! Enjoy your gift, Miss Silvers. By the way, Reilly is standing over by the food processor.” Billie groused as she stood and marched out of the Rec Room.

“Wow, she really got a bug up her ass this mornin’!” Ricky Lynn commented.

“Oh, she’s just what Aunt Alex calls ‘in heat’, Ricky.” Reilly Reilly said as she reappeared by the station terminal. “And Billie needs to work on her location sensing. She was off by ten meters.”

“You hurried over to the terminal, hun, don’t blame your Aunt’s gift. She had y’all dead ta rights.” I corrected my niece without turning an eye to her.

“Still, Aunt Alex, Billie needs to get laid.” Reilly insisted soberly. “Badly!”

“Oh, wow! I love this place!” Janice Silvers exclaimed as she and Uncle Rick began laughing.

“So when do we leave, Empress?” Reilly insisted.

I rolled my eyes at my niece’s persistence.
 
 

Ricky Lynn’s house in the Shadyside section of Pittsburgh appeared around us. The lights came on as soon as we rephased.

“Welcome back, sisters, Admiral.” RVP greeted. “It is 0104hrs, April 11th, 2035. Professor, I have received several text messages from your students regarding your guest speakers yesterday afternoon. Do you wish to review them now? The results are very positive if not surprising.”

“Not right now, RVP, I’m sort of tired out. It’s been a very long day.” Ricky Lynn answered dramatically.

“How long did you have her out for this time, Alex?” The A.I. inquired.

“Three-and-a-half weeks, hun. Why?” I asked.

“My medical sensors have detected an anomaly in Prof. Samuels’ chemical makeup."

“That happens with pregnancy, RVP.” I answered candidly. Emily looked toward me with a raised eyebrow.

“That would certainly explain the detected imbalan…WHAT? Are you telling me she is…”

“That’s what I’m sayin’, hun! Congrats, y’all are gonna be an Aunt.” I laughed. Uncle Rick gave me a curious glare.

“I’ll have to create a website…draft designs for a nursery…plan, design, and send invitations for a shower…”

“RVP!” Ricky Lynn said, raising her voice.

“Yes, professor?”

“I’d like to be able to tell everyone myself- if it’s alright with you?”

“I’m sorry, professor. I may have gotten ahead of myself. Forgive me?”

Prof. Samuels looked around to us. Emily, Jack, Reilly, Jamie, Michelle, and I were smiling, while Janet and Uncle Rick seemed confused.

“Scan the right rear bedroom and begin design suggestions- paint, wallpaper, and furniture.” Ricky Lynn said, compromising with her A.I as she sighed.

“Do we know the sex yet, Dr. Scott?” RVP asked.

“Yes, but you both won’t find out until tomorrow afternoon at my office, RVP.” Emily giggled deviously. Janet looked at my sister intensely, now being completely confused.

“Understood. Would you like me to start compiling a list of applicable names, professor?”

“Um…sorry, I already had some picked out, RVP.” Ricky Lynn shied her eyes to the floor. Andromeda or Regina if it’s a girl; Richard or Ian if it’s…”

“Time to go.” I said quietly offering my hands as Uncle Rick looked like he was going to tear up any moment.

“Alex?” Janet Silvers started. “I think this is where I get off, ma’am. I need to finish out the semester…then there is my family trip to the Med next month…” She paused a minute.

“If it’s all the same to you, Empress, I’d rather stay and help Prof. Samuels out.”

“Remember Alex, there is that appointment Ricky Lynn has at my office in the morning.” Emily reminded as she looked beside her, to our newest sister. “She has a 1 o’clock appointment at my office, Janet. Could you see she gets there fifteen minutes early to fill out and upload the required paperwork?”

“I’ll try, Dr. Scott…”

“Emily.” My sister interrupted.

“...I’ll try, Emily. Where in town is your office, by the way?”

Emily smiled and pulled a business card from her regulation purse and silently handed it to the young woman.

“Oh, thank you…” Janet said before her eyes suddenly opened wide.

“Flagstaff Medical Center, Flagstaff, Arizona?” Janet screeched. She looked at Emily and I in complete astonishment.

“Just how am I going to get the professor there by tomorrow morning? Less than nine hours from now?”

“I thought you said she was intelligent, Aunt Alex?” Reilly giggled outright. Jamie and Michelle turned and stared angrily at her.

Janet glared at my niece in anger as well.

Jack, Emily, and I laughed quietly.

“Maybe she should just pop out there with Ricky Lynn around 1230hrs?” I suggested as Janet stared at me quizzically.

“You are capable of that now, aren’t you, hun?” I asked, raising an eyebrow to Janet- my smile never fading.

Miss Silvers blushed deeply.

“Oh ya…right. So…how do I do that, again, Empress?” She asked, still extremely embarrassed.

“You start out by calling me ‘Alex’, hun, the rest you can figure out on your own.” I said as Ricky Lynn stared at me in concern.

“Skipper, you think…um…maybe…she…um…she should …practice once or twice before…”

“Time to get us back to the war, Uncle Rick.” I said, offering my hands again.

“Alex, what about me? I have to be on Terra Nuevo to meet mother and Cami?” Reilly whined.

“Fine! Uncle Rick, would you like to spend a few days on Terra Nuevo?” I asked in defeat.

“I thought it was dangerous for ‘normal’ humans, Alex?” He responded.

“Terra, yes; Terra Nuevo, no, sir.”

“Then by all means, Empress, let’s!”
 
 


 
 

Author’s note: This concludes Season 4. I wish to thank the many readers of the series and hope you’ll return in the spring of 2017 when South of Bikini begins its 5th and final season.

Until then,

R.G.



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