South of Bikini 5: Episode 3- Home is Where the Heart Is

Alex Reilly and company find themselves on their beloved Homeworld. While helping celebrate a local holiday, many blanks in the team’s memories are filled in, but that only leaves a bigger mystery…

 

Copyright 2015, R.G. Beyer

 
 


South of Bikini

Season 5


Episode 3

 

“Home is where the heart is”


 
 

“You are among friends, ladies. Alexandra, rephase and greet your mother properly.”
 
 

Billie, Freya, Cassie, Sam, Cassi, Randi, and Hoshi looked at me in shocked surprise. Yuuka looked back at us calmly from Alexis’ shoulder. Though still phased, the Pixie knew exactly where we were standing. Cami tightened her grip in a show of support.

For once in my long life, I felt completely inert- unable to move or even talk.

Alexis sighed sadly. “Well…I also saw this happening. Alright, if you won’t come to me, I’ll come to you, Empress.”

The woman I knew as Alexis- my sister’s daughter- that now called me her daughter- shimmered slightly as she walked over to us.

“There you are.” She chirped happily. “I understand you recently found out about us, Alex, although for me, it’s been over a thousand years since we last met. Let me have a look, hmmm?”

I felt myself nod slightly.

Alexis smiled brightly as she reached out and gently ran her fingers down my cheek. “I can go to my rest happily now that I have seen my daughter attain her true calling.”

I felt my expression suddenly change and my vision blurred.

“Oh, come on! I didn’t mean right this instant, honey! I’ve still got a few hundred good years ahead of me!” Alexis giggled then her expression turned serious. “Look, don’t act so surprised, Alex. You and Camille knew I was your mother those last two months back at Avalon! Are you going to talk to me or do we stare at each other until we tire of standing?”

“What…what do…do I call you?” I stuttered.

“Ahhh, your voice still does work! That’s good to know. As for how you should address me? I would suggest a page right out of the Empress’ own handbook: in public, call me Alexis, but when among friends, call me mom, mother, momma, mum, or nothing too derogatory. How’s that?”

“Yes…mother.” I answered shyly.

“I like her, mom.” Cassi said to Cami.

“She wasn’t like that the last time we met, Cassi.” Cami replied snidely.

“Things have been difficult these last hundred years, Camille Darough.” Mother responded tersely.

Yuuka whispered something into her ear.

“I’m sorry, little one, but Mei Lee has since passed- almost twenty years now. However, Allie and their remaining descendants would be delighted to meet you. First though, I think you should exit Pixie mode. People of this ‘technologically enlightened’,” Mother snorted in disgust, “era, no longer believe in the existence of Fae like yourself. You are simply impossible and illogical according to their technology!”

“Won’t they see me growing up, Lady Alexis?” Yuuka asked.

“As long as you are within my protection, no, Lady Yuuka. You are free to ‘grow up’.”

As Yuuka grew, I asked a rather sensitive question.

“So, I take it that Alex Steinert has already left on her final mission, mother?”

“It will be one hundred years tomorrow, Alexandra.” Alexis Reilly…my mother informed us sadly. She began to cry. “All these years and I still miss her so much!”

I took her into my arms and held her until she managed to compose herself. The whole time Billie, Randi, Sam, Cassie, Hoshi and Freya remained silent.

“Come, I’m sure you all are tired from your trip. I’ll transport us to my residence.”

A large, but modest domicile- what my sister called an ‘apartment’- appeared around us.

“Welcome to my home, girls. Sorry it isn’t as spacious as our suites in Avalon, but it fits the bill. The guest bedrooms and the guest bath are off that hall to our right. My bedroom is off to our left, beyond the dining room and kitchen. The loft is only accessible to Pixies and those of us that can transport or fly. Now, I have provisioned for your two week stay so please make yourselves at home and do not worry about putting me out.” Mother said with a bright, but strained smile.

I got the distinct feeling that she had been lonely, possibly on her own, for quite some time.

Cami, Cassi, and Freya began to float up toward the ceiling. Yuuka quickly entered Pixie mode and joined them.

“Why bunk beds, Lady Alexis? And why so many?” Cassi asked innocently from the loft.

“Allie and her kin occasionally stop by for a visit.” Mother sighed quietly. “There are but twenty Fae left on Earth.”

“Twenty? I thought by now our Homeworld would be teeming…” Cami seemed surprised.

“Automation, hun. With the advent of more sophisticated devices, Fae are more prone to get in the way. I can’t begin to count the number of funeral services I’ve attended over the recent years.”

“Can’t you do anything to the programming…some embedded subroutine to distinguish Pixies from real targets?” Randi asked appalled by what she heard.

“Lady Comptroller, please remember that- at this time- you have not received your gift yet. Randall Valiant Peltierre is an extraordinary programmer and Cyber Engineer, but he still does not have the rapport with technology you possess.”

“Oh…I forgot…sorry.” Randi apologized then her face brightened. “Maybe I can do…my ‘thing’ without him detecting me?” She asked, hopeful.

Mother gave her a slight, but quick grin.

Yuuka flew back down and exited Pixie mode next to mother.

“Lady Alexis, there is a bunk in the loft that has my name on it. Why?”

“Allie has never lost hope that you would come back to Earth to visit, M’lady. She has never forgotten you- you’re rescuing her and Mei Lee, or your patient tutoring. You are her idol and ‘Squadron Leader’. I would start to prepare for the emotional reunion now, Lady Yuuka.” Mother explained and warned.

“Am I due to stop by during our stay, mother?” I asked curiously.

Her smile became tense. “No, Alexander is busy with things of his own, honey. If he should slip by my foresight and surprise us, you are his cousin from Daroughton- one of my sister Cassandra’s, kids.”

I had to ask the question.

“Mother, are Samantha and Cassandra still…you know…?”

“They’re faring better than I am, Alex. Your sister brought her Sam and Cassie to visit about five hundred years back. They were able to sync, while I still remain patient. It seems my sisters again take favor from the Empress.” She said with disappointment.

“Mistress Reilly, we did not mean to offend. It was the Empress’s request that we accompany her.” Cassandra apologized.

Alexis…mother raised her hand.

“I have seen all that will happen, ladies. I assure you I am not insulted. In fact, I look forward to the impending events- events I know cannot be changed nor even modified by the Empress of Time and Space. I have lived my entire twelve hundred and fifteen years in preparation for what is to come…what has to come. I welcome the conclusion of this Goddess-forsaken paradox!”
 
 

10:00AM, Alexis Reilly Residence, Fleming City, June 19th, 1459AE
 
 

“Mistress Reilly,” Billie Sangiere began.

“William, I am well aware of who you were, are, your title, and your gifted talents. You ladies may all call me Alexis.” Mother said as she suddenly pointed to me blindly. “Except you, of course, Alexandra!” She smiled impishly.

“Questions?” She asked as she turned and walked to the dining room. We heard ceramics clattering. It was a full two minutes before she reappeared carrying cups, saucers, and two carafes on a metallic serving tray.

Setting the beverage tray down, she looked at us intently.

“Come on! I know y’all have at least one question!”

“Mistress Reilly…” Freya began as mother glared at her.

“Mistress Alexis…”

Mother shook her head with a giggle.

“Care to try one more time, my Valkyrie sister?”

“Alexis?”

Mother nodded.

“Alexis, is this really the Homeworld? If so, why do the memories of it appear unfocused- phantasmal…as like something once dreamed then discarded?”

“How long have you all been at Reilly Research, ladies?” Mother asked.

“Nine hundred and eighty-three revolutions, Alexis.” Randi answered.

“Reilly Research Station officially goes online in nine days, ladies.”

“Oh my Goddess!” Cami gasped loudly as she shuddered visibly- a haunted look washing over her face.

“Mother?” Cassi asked with concern as she took hold of Cami’s arm.

“There are twenty-two months remaining.” Cami answered in whisper.

“That is correct, Cameron.” Mother nodded sadly.

“And you are alright with this?” Cami’s voice squeaked two octaves higher.

“I have already made my peace, sister. I look forward to rejoining mother and father in the next realm. But enough of this morose conversation! I said I would answer any questions…please let me clarify. I will answer any questions other than those referencing this world’s pending demise, okay?”

“Why are we needed here, Alexis?” Randi asked boldly.

“To try to stop the catastrophe. Comptroller.” Mother answered quickly. “As well as other things previously mentioned, some, more critical.” She added cryptically.

“Such as?” Hoshi inquired.

“Such as providing support for your ‘cousins’ as they prepare for their lifetimes’ adventure!”

Teasing really did run in the family, I thought.

“THEIR lifetimes’ adventure? Mother, becoming stranded on a lifeless planetoid for over nine hundred years…” I paused, “that was more of a death sentence, not an adventure!” I corrected harshly.

My mother’s smile grew larger- her eyes seemed to sparkle deviously.

“And yet here you all stand…finally complete and comfortable with your true selves. I see no significant- residual or otherwise- signs of imprisonment or torture.”

Mother went silent and let us all think about that for a few minutes.

“Now, since tomorrow is Epiphany, we shall begin to prepare for the ‘celebration.”’

“Epiphany?” Cassi asked in confusion. “What’s Epiphany? I mean, I know what it means…but…you celebrate ‘Epiphany’ here?”

“It is THE day, M’lady!” Mom proclaimed. “The day the Empress of legend was rumored to have ‘mystically’,” She framed the word in air quotes, “enlightened the world to its barbaric, destructive, future path- if you still believe those old tales, that is.” Mother smiled tensely.

Seeing no reaction- positive or negative- mother continued.

“The modern holiday commemorates the supposedly recorded day that our ‘ancestors’ finally got their collective heads outta their asses and banded together to form a new world order- suddenly agreeing to put down their weapons- quite out of the blue, I might add- and work together in peace for the betterment of all. They called it ‘the Epiphany’, DUH!” She explained sarcastically. Her face angered instantly and a tear dripped from the outer corner of both eyes.

“I call it the day…the day…my…the day that…my…MY mother gave her life to try to save this cursed planet from itself!”

Mom broke down and cried openly. I quickly stood and gathered her into my arms. I felt another pair of arms embrace both of us.

“Be assured it is more current in our minds, M’lady.” Cami said gently. “It has only been,” she paused to calculate, “fourteen years for Alex and I. I thank the Goddess you were not present to witness it.”

“Unfortunately, you, Aunt Jocelyn, and Aunt Jacki- Goddess rest her soul- transmitted it world-wide.” Mom choked out as she cried harder. She and Cami held me tighter.
 
 

“More coffee, Alex?” Mother asked as she picked up the carafe and offered to fill my cup.

“I’m good.”

Mother nodded. It had taken well over half an hour for us to regain our composure. “So, about our Epiphany celebration…”

“What kind of commercialized occasion has this Epiphany evolved into?” I asked sourly. Any celebration seemed somehow gruesome knowing what the anniversary really meant. I silently- so as not to sadden mother further- mourned my sister- my actual grandmother- Alexandra.

She noticed- being half Terran and all, but remained silent, a look of understanding flashed across her face before she answered.

“It is a holiday similar to your world’s American day of thanks. Thanksgiving, I believe it to be called?”

I nodded as I recalled my sister’s memories.

“How many sisters are to attend?” I inquired.

“Just us, your two Aunts, and a few other sisters, sweetie. I don’t have enough room for many more.”

“My Aunts? Samantha and Cassandra? They’re coming here?” I asked in shock.

“Director? Sam and I are here, but we are not your ‘Aunts’! Though unsure of our real relationship, I think ‘Aunt’ is somewhat of a reach.” Cassie exclaimed emphatically.

“They will be staying with us here, at the apartment, yes, but the celebration will take place down in this building’s banquet hall. You see, long ago we decided that Epiphany should mean more than just giving thanks. Every year, your Aunts and I invite the city’s poor and downtrodden, those that have suffered loss, hospitality. We offer hot meals- as much as they can eat- entertainment, socializing, and if they are in need, warm beds for a few nights. It is just one of the ‘holidays’ we do for those that have nothing or have lost…everything, Alex. We believe it is what mother would have wanted. Actually, she gave us her approval when she popped in several times…” Mother paused for ten seconds. I could almost feel her fighting against that last thought…

“Alexandra, the children…they love to hear about the ‘mythical’ Empress and her adventures through time, though keep it light and simple. Mother always made that a priority when she attended.”

A sorrowful look began to creep over mother’s face again. This had to be extremely hard on her. I know I was having a hard time suppressing my own memories.

“So we’re offering up a soup kitchen? Something like the Red Cross?” I asked, but wondered how I knew that…oh, Alex Steinert’s memories again.

Everyone stared at me. Only Yuuka and Hoshi seemed to understand.

“So Cassie and I get to meet our temporal twins? Are they like us?” Samantha asked innocently.

“We shall see what happens tomorrow, ladies. They will arrive promptly at 7:30AM,” Mom prophesized. It sounded all too much like one of my responses.

“So…Randi…have you made any more modifications to RVP in the years since RRS went on line?” Mom asked our comptroller. To this point Randi had said/added little in the way of conversation.

Randi made no attempt to respond, instead, she continued to stare blankly out the window. Billie waved her hand in front of our sister’s face several times with no recognition.

“Avalon, honey? Could you let Randi talk to us for a while? I need to ask her several questions.” Mom said looking up to the ceiling a moment.

“I’m sorry, M’lady, Omega #1, Revision 3, External Processor was busy downloading my complete library of historic archives which required both processors’ collaboration and significant access time.” The A.I., whose voice sounded a lot like me, apologized.

“That’s alright, Ava. I won’t keep her long.” Mom said with a tinge of red in her cheeks. She looked over at me and nodded sadly.

It wasn’t my voice, I realized. It was grandmother’s voice.

“Sorry, Alexis. I wanted to back up as much data as I could before… um…” Randi said as she suddenly realized where she was heading and stopped. “What is it you asked, ma’am?”

“I wanted to see how connected you were to Ava…Avalon, Randi. I also asked if you made any modifications to RVP over the years.”

“Modifications to the RVP core programming is constantly being upgraded, Alexis. To date over seven thousand major modifications have been implemented.”

“And why have you decided to backup our historical archives? I would think that Reilly would house such archives already.” Mom inquired

“Apparently, such data has been lost or otherwise rendered unrecoverable, M’lady. Hypotheses range from core memory failure to extreme Fusion Giant EMI.” Randi answered.

“You people from the future talk funny.” Mom laughed tensely.

M’lady, for what purpose am I here? This society seems peaceful enough. What upcoming event would require a Valkyrie?” Freya asked.

“We may have some ‘persuading’ to do later in the week, sweetie.” Mom answered, though cryptically.

“And why, exactly have I been asked to come along, Empress?” Hoshi asked as she stared; daring either of us to say something just as ‘mysterious’.

“I just thought you would want to see our Homeworld.” I admitted. “That and I thought you could use some R and R. After Greece, we all could use some time off to recuperate.”

“Oh.” Hoshi said quietly as she sat back. She seemed appeased, but disappointed that I hadn’t baffled her.

“Following form, M’lady, why am I here? I bring to the table the only true recollection of the Homeworld, but other than that, I see no purpose for me or my gifts to be here.” Billie- as usual- said formally.

Mother giggled as she shook her head several times.

“My, you certainly are not the William set to depart this Earth in eight days, Miss Sangiere. So how can you be so sure you alone remember your history reliably?” Mom stared into my assistant director’s eyes intensely for a moment. I recognized the ‘Demmit stare’ immediately!

Mom’s eyes narrowed.

“My Terran side has uncovered some surprising information about you, my dear. It seems you have learned- because of your ‘maternal’ experience- the use of force…when necessary, of course. That particular talent will be needed with your cousin.”

“I have no cousins, Alexis. I am the last of the Sangiere clan.” Billie declared as she puffed up her chest a little.

“The last direct descendent, yes, but the last Sangiere? Not likely, William.” Mom countered with a devious smile. Billie immediately closed her eyes and began to concentrate.

“She still can’t do that on the fly like you or I, honey?” Mom winked at me with a quiet giggle.

I shook my head as I noticed tears beginning to run down Billie’s face.

“Why is the queen crying, Empress?” Cassie asked in concern.

“She has just seen that she has relations that live and breathe the same air you all have- and for the same amount of time, Cassandra Jacquelyn Sangiere.”

Cassie’s mouth dropped open. I thought she would fall over, unconscious.

“You never told me you were related to the Queen!” Sam cried in surprise as she gently punched her sister’s arm. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“She’s still as clueless as she ever was.” Mom giggled just loud enough so I could hear her.

“It hasn’t gotten any better in three revisions either.” I whispered.

Mother looked at me in astonishment.

“Revisions? Are these not my sisters?” She whispered.

“Yes…and no, mother,” I winced. “They still are Cassandra and Samantha, but…they are reproductions…with certain enhancements. It was necessary as the radiation from the Fusion Giant caused more damage than my nanotechs could effectively repair. They are the fourth revisions of your sisters.”

“You knew this and never said anything, Alex? After everything we have done together…after nine hundred and sixty years?” Cassie exclaimed in disbelief.

“Nine hundred and eighty-three.” Randi corrected.

“Whatever! Why didn’t you tell us Sammi and I are related to you?” Cassie demanded.

“Wait.” Sam interrupted. “Yer sayin’ we’re related to the director, Cassie?”

Mom and I looked at each other, rolled our eyes, and barely kept from laughing.

Nope. Not even through four revisions!

“I’ll get the door.” Billie said as mother and I continued to laugh at our two arguing sisters- my two revised Aunts.

A silvery-violet blur streaked between our faces. And just as suddenly, a middle-aged woman practically fell on Yuuka- almost knocking her and the chair she was sitting on over in the process.

“YUUKA!” the woman screamed excitedly.

“Nice of y’all to join us, Allie! I see you still remember your old squadron leader.” Mom said, still laughing. “I think she’s happy to see you, Yuuka!”

Mom used the sudden distraction to gently take my hand and pull me closer.

“I want you to promise me, Alexandra!” She whispered sternly into my ear.

I looked around at our group in concern then realized she had taken us out of phase also.

“Promise what, mother?” I asked, still looking around the room.

“Promise me that you’ll transport the Pixies back to your Earth. Mom said it needed to happen. Please, Alex…please promise me that…that no matter what…you’ll take all twenty back to your Earth!” She continued in a beseeching whisper.

“Anyone else, mother? Who else would you request the Empress of Time and Space save from this planet’s self-imposed demise?” I whispered back as I tried to keep an even temper.

Alexis stared at me with trepidation for a moment before a tense smile erupted.

“I see Aunt Mina has taught you well.” She said as she leaned closer and kissed my cheek. “Then we both know what has to happen in the upcoming days and months before the end of days.”

I nodded sadly as I also noted Billie was the only one looking around the room for us. Her look of relief told me we were back in phase.

‘Welcome back, Alex.’ Cami’s voice said in my head. “I hope your mother has not asked too much of you?”

‘I have not, sister. I have merely made several small requests. That is all.’ Mom’s voice answered as she looked from me to Cami, Cassi, and Billie in that order with her tense, closed-lipped smile.

My eyes scanned the room after I looked over to Yuuka and Allie. Both had stood back up and were hugging each other tightly. Other eyes, much smaller, and residing in pairs in five-inch female frames, but still very observant, also watched the two women.

Seven pairs of eyes along the top of the bookshelf nearest the apartment’s entrance door, four pairs seated on the top of this room’s video monitor, three pair looked on from the edge of the end table, and five pairs of eyes quietly observed mom and I from the drapery rod over the large living area window.

Wonderful! Twenty-one Pixies! And I thought one was too many!

This was certainly going to be a party like no other!

“What did I ever do to you?” I asked mom quietly- just loud enough to be heard above my two, still arguing, revised, Aunts, and the two reunited Pixies.

“Wait!” Yuuka said loudly, attracting everyone’s attention. “Your daughters, granddaughters, and nieces?” Her voice cracked into the next octave.

“Yes, all those that remain, Squadron Leader.” Allie answered. “Twenty of us have survived the technology and curiosity hunters over the millennium. I promised them all a trip to see your…our Homeworld- my old planet Earth! Do you think the Empress could find it in her heart to do that, Squadron Leader?”

“Why don’t y’all ask the Empress herself, ladies?” I said with a giggle before being almost bowled over by Allie.

“Empress? Alexandra? Is it you, sister?” Allie almost cried as I tried to push her off of me.

“Allie, this is my daughter, Alexandra Reilly. She was also at Avalon that day. She and Camille of Darough.” Mother said to end her confusion.

“My apologies, Empress. I forgot about the Empress as three.” Allie bowed after standing back up. “Would it be possible for us to request transport for a short vacation to your Homeworld, M’lady?”

“I’m sure that can be arranged, Allie. And it is good to see you again, young lady.” I answered. I now noticed my companions looking around the room in wonder.

I thought about my daughter, Reilly, and what she would say if she had come along. Something like: ‘where’s a good exterminator when ya really need one.’

‘I was wondering that myself, Alex.’ Cami thought to me.

I…Mom, Billie, Cassi, Cami, and I giggled.
 
 

7:30AM, Reilly Building, Community Hall, Fleming City, June 20th, 1459AE
 
 

“Hi! Is anybody home?”

That simple question was followed by a perceptible loss of atmospheric pressure in our immediate area. To my right, cutting vegetables at one of the long preparation tables, Samantha and Cassandra gasped and appeared to lose any and all color as they stopped and stared at one another.

Walking out of the large, industrial refrigerator, Alexis giggled and motioned with her hand for us to follow as she passed, heading into the main hall.

Sam and Cassie didn’t move at first.

“It’s going to happen- either out there or in here. Your choice.” I said calmly.

Are they that afraid, Empress?” Allie asked from my left shoulder.

“They’ve never met, honey. I told them that it wasn’t any different than meeting their twins on our world.”

“But aren’t they the same persons, Empress?”

“Yes, but they’re terrified, Allie.” I began to explain. “Terrified of what they will find out about themselves- what has been forgotten over almost a full millennium.”

Yuuka flew off my right shoulder and hovered just off my left.

“Maybe we should stay in the kitchen, Allie. It’s going to be very awkward for them. These types of reunions should be as private as possible.” Yuuka advised as she held out her hand to the other Pixie.

“Of course, Squadron Leader, we have all experienced awkward situations. We understand.” Allie said looking around the huge kitchen as she took the offered hand. Both Pixies flew to the top of one of the large metal cabinets where all nineteen of their sisters sat or stood milling around.

“Girls,” I said looking at them. “You really don’t need to stay in Pixie mode. I don’t think mother accounted for this when calculating her inventory of honey.”

A yellow-winged Pixie with beautiful blonde hair flew down and hovered before me.

I knew her temporal twin, Sunni, back on Earth.

“Empress, we wish to not take up the precious space- space that your highness requires.” She said as she bowed deeply.

“Cut the crap, Trina!” I replied sharply. “You know my name and, no matter which one of us you’re talking to, that we all request using it instead of that title.”

The Pixie giggled politely.

“Sorry, Alexandra. We do not wish to get in the way. We usually stay in Pixie mode while meal preparation is done. We have already set the tables and when it comes time to serve our guests, we all change mode and begin those tasks. As for Princess Alexis’ limited honey inventory, we have accessible financial accounts and have already placed request, and received, sufficient quantities from the local supplier.” She informed me.

“Fair enough. I’m sorry I snapped at you, Trina.” I said as I walked out into the main hall where I was just in time to see my aunts wrap their arms around my assistants.

“OUCH!” All four women exclaimed in surprise. It echoed loudly around the empty, cavernous room.

Allie’s fighter group swarmed out of the kitchen immediately and hovered over the heads of both Sams and both Cassies.

“Pixies! It is a normal reaction when temporal twins have not synchronized for an extended period. Your Squadron Leader can explain. Please stand down.” I told the excited swarm.

All twenty-one women gathered over in the nearest corner of the room. I barely heard Yuuka’s voice over all of the buzzing wings. The group slowly dispersed and all twenty-one exited Pixie mode, found seats, and watched us with interest.

“Empress! It is good to see you again. Alexis said that you would be here this year.” Cassandra…I guess Aunt Cassandra now, said. My Cassandra remained stationary and mute as she came to grips with all the new memories flooding her mind. The same was true for Samantha.

“So, it is as Aunt Alex claimed all those years ago, Empress. Your nieces are identical to us except in personalities- which are opposite. How intriguing. I would like to meet them one day.” Aunt Cassandra proclaimed.

“You mean in all the years, Alex hasn’t taken you across the universal boundary?” I asked incredulously.

“Neither mother nor Aunt Alex, Empress, though we can think of no reason for it.” Cassandra replied sadly. “Though…I believe she felt the imbalance might persist and destabilize the Protoverse as it did before her initial arrival to our universe.”

“Well, I’ll just have to remedy that soon.” I said quietly to myself.

“Don’t, Alex.” Mom ordered. “There is a reason mother procrastinated our introductions and I’m sure you know exactly why!”

I nodded almost imperceptibly. I did know the exact reason- only it had nothing to do with upsetting the Protoverse! Unfortunately, it was worse- a temporal waypoint.

Alexis…mom, nodded back once. She obviously had been monitoring my thoughts. Talk about not following Terra’s premiere protocol!

‘May I remind you again that we are not on Terra, Alexandra?’ Mom said in my mind with a devious, visible, smirk.

‘Yes, mother, I know…and so do Cami and Cassi now.’

‘Cami is well aware of my breaching ‘protocol’, Alexandra.’

Physically I rolled my eyes.

“Empress?” My assistant, Cassie, inquired in confusion, “What happened to these memories? Why couldn’t I remember any of this…from before our upcoming assignment?”

“Since I have the same voids in my memories, I can only hypothesize. Perhaps it is related to the significant EMI pulse when…” I started to explain, but noticed Alexis’…mom’s expression grow sad.

“I hazard to guess, honey. Any number of things could have caused it.” I said instead, deciding not to upset mother further.

From somewhere in my mind the word ‘LAME’ shouted loudly. Mom raised an eyebrow to that.

Yes, she was monitoring.

My Aunts had already started to look younger as they’re newly reset nanos began the task of cellular regeneration. Before the day was over, my aunts would look identical to my assistants, Cassandra and Samantha. They might even start acting identical too.

Yay.

‘My’ Cassandra suddenly stared at me then Ale…mom.

“We can do all that stuff?” She asked in surprise. “We actually helped the Empress move all those villages?” She squeaked.

“Y’all bet yer asses we did, sis! Scared the livin’ piss outta us at the time too! As of that day we’d never done anything remotely that demanding! If Aunt Alex hadn’t required our participation, Sammi, Alexis, and me would’ve never found out how much we can really do…how much you can do.”

I thought my assistants would pass out, but instead, Cassie disappeared and a moment later walked out from the kitchen- a huge, brilliant smile on her face! Seeing her sister’s smile, Sam decided to try her newly remembered skills, phased out, and she reappeared by the banquet hall’s front doors sixty seconds later.

“So where’d you two go?” Mom asked as my two aunts looked on with matching smiles.

“I spent the day at the public archives…um…researching.” Sam answered.

“That’s funny. I didn’t see you there.” Cassie replied in surprise, but continued. “And I was in the history section for over eight hours.”

“I spent most of my time in the myth and fantasy section.” Sam told her, annoyed.

“Funny, I thought you’d spend your time in ‘Romantic Fiction’.” Cassie teased.

That didn’t take long.

“Well, our work here is done! We’ll be going now, Empress!” Aunt Cassandra announced hurriedly as she and Aunt Samantha quickly made for the door.

“You two are going to stay right here!” Mom growled. “We ALL still have a tremendous amount of work to do before opening those doors! And you two aren’t just going to stir things up and bale like you did a few years ago! Now get in that kitchen and help with Epiphany prep!”

“Alright, Lexi! Geez!” Aunt Samantha groused. “Who woulda thought our lil sis would become our mother?!”

Mom’s head drooped forward as her gaze fell to the floor immediately.

“Now look what ya done? Y’all know how Lexi feels about that subject, Sammi!” Aunt Cassandra growled.

“What I done? Like y’all didn’t do a damn thing, Cassie Sangiere?”

“Y’all knock it off, will ya!” I told them to quench the squabble I knew might possibly be coming. “Ain’t nothin’ worse ‘en missin’ yer ma! Do Ah hafta turn mah Mind Warriors on y’all?” I warned in a louder voice.

From the corner of my vision, I noticed Cami and Cassi Darough appear in the kitchen doorway. I mentally waved them off.

All three faces shot toward me then immediately dropped.

I guess I hit a nerve.

“I’m sorry.” I said quickly. “I had no right to-”

“You, above all others, have that singular right, Empress!” Mom said softly as she gently took my hands in hers. She and my two Aunts began to kneel.

“Don’t even start!” I scolded angrily, but calmed myself as they stood back up- mom slower than her, now physically younger appearing, sisters. “Look, I know this is not the happiest holiday for you, but instead of dwelling on what actually happened that day, let’s celebrate the Empress’ achievements- what she accomplished!”

It was my turn to look toward the floor now and I felt a tear run down both cheeks. “What…she…what she…she had to do. Let’s...” I sniffed back more tears. “Let’s…celebrate her…courage…the courage to do what had to be done.”

Mom quickly pulled me into a tight hug and we both cried in shared anguish.
 
 

The ‘Banquet Hall’ on the first floor of the Reilly Building, in which Mom’s ‘apartment’ also resided, was enormous. Easily six thousand square meters, it had been separated by a floor to ceiling, soundproofed, corrugated, divider. The larger two thirds of the area- the dining hall- was filled with tables and chairs and could easily seat five or six hundred. The lesser one third was further partitioned into individual ‘bedrooms’ where the guests could safely sleep, if desired. Overall, the dining hall was spectacularly decorated with two-dozen crystal chandeliers hanging eloquently from the nine-meter high ceiling to provide illumination. Around the walls and on the dividers, were murals depicting scenes of the ‘mythical’ Empress and her beloved Avalon in their prime.

One mural in particular portrayed a beautiful and very realistic looking Empress, her blonde Mind Warrior, three daughters, and two small, winged women- one with silver-violet wings and lustrous black hair as they posed in front of the heavy wooden doors of the Empress’ ‘Palace’.

One of those Pixies depicted in the mural flew lazily past me now. Allie stopped, hovered, and followed my gaze.

“I don’t think it looks anything like me, Empress. You, however, have been depicted beautifully.” She said, bowing to me in midair.

“Thank you, Allie, but that is not me. That is my grandmother, Alexandra of Avalon.” I corrected sadly.

“I so wish my mother was here.” Allie sighed as she continued her flight to the bedroom area.

“Don’t you even think about it, young lady!” Mom warned as she appeared behind me and placed a hand on my shoulder.

“Why?” I asked simply as I turned.

“Because Mei Lee asked not to. She made me promise that, when you did arrive, I’d prevent you from transporting her here. Mei Lee gave her life to protect her daughter, Alexandra. Let’s just honor the woman’s wish.”

I nodded after running the scenarios.

“There appear to have been many promises made in this universe, mother. I’m afraid I will be breaking a few.”

“I know, Alexandra…I know.” Mom agreed sadly.
 
 

Within a half an hour of opening the doors, the dining hall was filled to capacity and a line snaked out onto the sidewalk through the large vestibule. How could it be that on a planet so technologically advanced, so many were either homeless or financially destitute?

“So…what kind of game bird is this again? Yuuka asked as she picked up another serving tray full of the whitish, sliced meat.

“I’m thinking it’s this world’s version of turkey?” I answered, though not really sure. It certainly matched my sister’s memory of the United States’ holiday favorite.

“That goes out to table twenty-one, hun.” Alexi…mom told Yuuka as she walked briskly into the kitchen. “Alexandra, be a dear and fetch another container of gravy out of the cold locker, please? Give it to Hoshi so she can open it and reheat it. After you’ve done that, I need you to come with me. It’s just about time.”

Finishing that task, I joined mother by the doorway. Aunts Cassandra and Samantha walked through the crowded dining room and joined us.

“Do we have to do this, Lexi?” Aunt Sam whined.

“Yes, and no, you cannot be the Empress this year, Sam!” Mom responded.

My aunt frowned in disappointment immediately.

Mom reached out and gently touched my assistant, Cassie’s, arm.

“Cassandra, dear, could you put that tray down and join us, please?”

“Of course, Lex…M’lady.” Cassie frowned in confusion. After five hours of receiving her newest shared memories, she was still coming to terms with them.

“Now where is Rose?” Mom said aloud as she scanned the nearer section of the dining hall. “Rosie?” Mom shouted as she found her target and motioned to get her attention. “Could I borrow you a moment, please?”

“Yes, M’lady?” The woman that looked a lot like Corrine Masterson said as she joined us.

“Rosie, I’d like you to do a little cosmetology. I need Cassandra here,” Mom grasped and gently raised my assistant’s hand, “to look like me when I was eighteen. Think you can do that?”

The woman I knew to have green-speckled, lavender wings carefully appraised my dumbfounded assistant for several minutes then gathered her hair up in her hands. Two minutes later, Cassie’s hair matched Alexis’- save the gray. Placing her hands on Cassie’s face for less than a minute, Rose removed them to reveal ‘Alexis’- as I first met her back at Avalon.

“Wonderful job, Rosie!” Mom praised.

“The cast has been set! Now on with the program!” Mom announced excitedly after Rose went back to her previous duties.

“Ummm… what program?” Cassie, now disguised as Alexis, asked blankly, but then blinked as the memory presented itself. “Oh! Sure, I can do that, M’lady.”

“Remember, dear, you will represent me now. You’ve met the real Alexis in your universe. I have been told the two of us are much the same. I’ll be monitoring you should you have any questions.” Mom reminded my assistant. She then turned around to face all four of us.

“Places, everybody!” She chirped happily as she gently clapped her hands.

It was certainly nice to see a full-blown smile fill my mother’s face for a change!

Mom touched the earpiece in her right ear.

“Ava? It’s time to make the announcement. Please patch me into the Address system.”

A pleasant chime sounded through the hall and the conversational noise dropped significantly.

“Dear guests, welcome one and all to the Reilly Foundation’s annual Epiphany celebration. I have been informed that in just a few moments Empress Alexandra will arrive to begin the festivities. Everyone is invited to attend her Majesty and her daughters as rumor has it they will hold court here today. Thank you.” Mom’s upbeat voice rang out over the audio transducers.

Several of our Pixie sisters- in human mode- moved to the center of the dining hall and asked several tables worth of guests to help them open up a clearing in the middle. They increased the space to just over ten meters in diameter. Then the girls each picked up, unfolded, and held up a section of a large red ‘curtain’ that one of them had brought out from the kitchen.

The lights dimmed.

Mom phased out.

A bright spotlight snapped on and illuminated the red, circular, ‘curtain’.

Our sisters quickly dropped the thick red fabric in unison to reveal mom in a beautiful, royal blue peasant-style medieval period dress with white lace trim. It wasn’t hard to believe it was authentic.

The gathering hushed immediately with a collective gasp.

“Lords and Ladies, and all you young squires and maidens! Welcome to the one hundred and seventy-fifth annual Epiphany celebration here at Reilly Banquet Hall. Is everyone having a good time so far?”

The crowd applauded politely and children could be heard shouting ‘yes’.

“Is everyone getting enough to eat and drink?”

Again the audience applauded- some whistled. The children’s excitement seemed to double.

“Wonderful!” Mom cheered with a dramatic smile. “Now. It is our pleasure, the Daughters of Avalon and our sponsor, the Reilly Foundation, to present to you…” She paused dramatically, “THE ROYAL COURT! Please give it up for Empress Alexandra and her daughters: Cassandra, Samantha, and Alexis!” Mom announced as she pointed back toward the kitchen and took a few steps in our direction. The children began cheering, giggling, and shouting as they jumped from their seats and ran toward the cleared space. Our sisters carefully kept the excited kids from getting too close and cleared a path for us to enter.

“I guess that’s our cue.” I said as I selected my medieval clothing and activated my covering. My ‘daughters’ did the same. As I offered them my hands, I felt the slightest of weight press on my right shoulder.

“This year we’re going to try something a little more spectacular.” I informed my ‘daughters’ as I phased us out and transported us to the center of the room and back a minute and a half.

“Is everyone getting enough to eat and drink?” Mom asked again as my real aunts leaned out to give me a questioning look.

I smiled deviously.

Everything stopped and an eerie silence suddenly filled the hall.

“I want you, Cassie, to lay on the floor sideways, head to my left. Lean your head on your left hand, elbow on the floor, and raise your right knee in the air about a third of a meter. Rest your right hand on your right knee. Don’t worry about rephasing when you release my hand, I’ve got that covered, honey. Aunties, I need you to stand on either side of me- facing away slightly. Cassandra, move your right leg half a step from the left- toes only, touching the floor. Samantha, do the same only with the opposite leg. Now I want you both to act like you’re both holding plasma pistols vertically in the air with both hands.”

One face looked up at me and two others looked over to me in awe.

“Did you just stop time, Empress?” Aunt Samantha gasped.

“Yes, I can do that.” I replied flatly. “Please, I need all three of you to have a serious face when I rephase us to make this work.”

Thirty seconds later- by my count, we were ready. I let time resume.

Mom was repeating her introduction. If she had nullified my time stoppage like I knew she could, she hadn’t moved or let on, and I hadn’t noticed as I posed my ‘daughters’.

As before, the audience applauded- some whistled. The children’s excitement had definitely doubled in volume.

“Wonderful! Now. It is our pleasure- the Daughters of Avalon and the Reilly Foundation- to present to you…THE ROYAL COURT! Please give it up for Empress Alexandra and her daughters, Cassandra, Samantha, and Alexis!”

Again Mother pointed to the kitchen entrance and took a few steps in that direction. She was now well clear of us.

I began to think about my temporal shield- to turn it on gradually and confine it- and was rewarded by the telltale, bluish glow surrounding only the four of us. The light increased as I thought about its intensity. Our guests- especially the children closest to us- began to point, gasp, and retreat, suddenly frightened by what was happening. Mom turned at their gesturing and gasped audibly! My shield continued to double in intensity for a few more seconds before I rephased us and completely cancelled my shield.

Our guests- all of them, and only after a unified gasp- began applauding wildly at- what appeared to be- to their eyes- our scientifically impossible, magical appearance.

No doubt some adults were wondering how we did it and how much it had cost the Daughters of Avalon or the Reilly Foundation!

Mom, still with a very stunned expression, immediately went to one knee and bowed deeply before us, but remained silent.

“Well, my brave daughters,” I announced with royal bravado as I looked out onto our guests and smiled. “I believe we are safe once again! I have brought us to a more ‘civilized’ era in this planet’s history.”

The younger children began oooowing and ahhhing while pointing to my shoulders. Apparently they had noticed Yuuka on my left and Allie on my right. The pointing out of the two, colorfully winged, five-inch women spread like wildfire through the young revisions.

“My faithful Pixies,” I said purposely, turning my head to each- just to bring more attention to them. Mom instantly looked up at me, in wide-eyed horror! “Hurry away and begin your reconnoitering; I want to make sure this location is truly secure!” I commanded as I pointed back to the kitchen majestically.

Both Pixies quickly got the idea, shot from my shoulders, and flew along the cleared path doing several loops and a few crossovers before disappearing through the open kitchen doors.

I observed mom’s expression change. She rolled her eyes and shook her head. ‘Show-off!’ she thought to me.

Our guests were silent for several long seconds, completely stunned by the ‘too realistic effect’.

The stunned audience recovered and clapped wildly for two full minutes. The enthusiastic whistling actually hurt my ears.

Still smiling and remaining stationary, I heard coherent voices making comments from the closer adult guests.

“Wow! That looked real, but that’s impossible, right?!”

“How in the world did they do that?”

“These are some of the best special effects I’ve ever seen!”

There were many more, but those were among the ones I could make out.

“Mother? We have company!” ‘Alexis’ informed from where she lay below me. “Apparently you’ve rephased us into the middle of some large gathering. A festival of some kind, I presume.” She never acknowledged mom kneeling less than a meter in front of her, instead looking past her to the audience.

Our audience laughed and giggled mildly.

“Empress, why have we arrived here? Do you have some foreseen purpose you intend us to fulfill?” Cassandra asked, her head turning slightly to me.

“Look at all the children! I love children!” Samantha cackled like an old hag.

‘Alexis’, Cassandra, and I slowly looked to- and stared uncomfortably at Samantha in disbelief.

Our guests, especially the kids, laughed hysterically!

“My daughter, I believe you have taken too well to the Terran’s ‘Witches Festival’! We, however, are no longer on that planet. These children look benign and well mannered. I sense only good magic’s and intentions here.”

“Don’t mind her, mom, Samantha just likes to tease.” Cassie assured me.

“Humph!” Samantha huffed indignantly. “Hey, where are we anyway, Mom?” She continued, looking around in confusion.

Again mom- still bowing and on one knee- went unnoticed.

“Let’s ask the local inhabitants.” I suggested then looked past mom to a girl of maybe seven revolu…years of age in the front row.

“Um…” I pointed past mom to the little girl, “Pardon me, M’lady…we’re not from around here…soooo…could you tell us where we are?” I asked sweetly.

“Fleming…City.” The girl answered timidly just above a whisper.

“Could you say that again, M’ lady? Time travel sometimes dampens our hearing, as the winds of time can be very loud. Where are we again?”

The audience laughed.

“Fleming City.” The youngster shouted, giggling.

“Oh! Fleming City.” I paused to contemplate that. “And…and do you know what year this is, M’lady?”

“1459!” She again shouted.

“Is that AM or PM, M’lady?” I asked, feigning confusion.

The young girl began laughing hysterically.

“Mother! The time of the day is AM or PM, not the year!” My ‘daughter’, Alexis, growled from below me. I imagined her rolling her eyes.

“Why are you lounging on the floor?” An older boy- maybe nine or ten blurted out to ‘Alexis’. Several other children followed suit and began shouting the same question.

Looking at the initiator, I raised my hand for them to quiet so I could answer.

“Because we were under attack by a horde of Romans bearing gifts; their only thoughts, to do us financial harm!” I said royally.

“Don’t let her kid ya, honey! Mom likes to tease. She actually asked us to assume this pose before we transported in.” Cassandra giggled.

More laughter filled the hall

This was fun, but the Empress had other duties here today.

“Have the people of this era forgotten the proper way to greet the Empress of Time and Space?” I questioned in a menacing, regal voice. Again, overlooking mom for the gathered participants.

Mom looked back at the little girl that had told me our location and coaxed her to move forward and join her. The girl shyly did so and automatically knelt on one knee. Mom leaned over and whispered something in her ear.

“Empress, welcome to Fleming City! It is 12:30PM, Saturday, June 20th, 1459AE.” Mom and the girl chorused together loudly.

“Thank you, M’ladies.” I said as I curtsied delicately. Sam and Cassie bowed to her also.

The girl beamed at our noble gesture.

Mom whispered into her ear again and the girl rose cautiously and ran back to her previous location. Giggling and high-pitched murmuring ensued from the young children surrounding her.

Mom looked back up at me and smiled proudly. She then gave us a nod and rose to her feet before moving off to our right.

My three ‘daughters’ looked toward me.

“You know, Empress, I think- that in the name of peaceful relations- it is customary to distribute gifts when meeting a new society. Am I right, everyone?” Samantha informed me as she motioned to our guests with one hand.

Applause filled the hall and we waited one minute for it to subside.

“So it is, Samantha! How might we go about this? These young maidens and squires seem set to bolt from their lines and storm our position!” I replied.

“Maybe if they formed single lines in front of each of us and remained orderly and well behaved, Empress?” Cassandra offered.

“I think that would work well, daughter.” I acknowledged. “Lady Moderator, would you see to the particulars?” I asked mom regally as I motioned and bowed to her.

“As you wish, my Empress.” Mom answered with a gentle bow of her own and a pleasant smile.

“Can I get up off the floor now, mother?” ‘Alexis’ whined.

The hall again filled with laughter as applause erupted. Several of our sisters that had been serving guests approached and formed the children into single lines according to different age groups. I, the Empress, naturally got the youngest group and the children that were courageous enough to ask about meeting the Empress personally.
 
 

“And I want a new personal comm, an a real, grownup, motorized bicycle, an a Heavy Hectare Automated Earthmover, an…an…” A young boy of about seven revo…years droned. I had hoped someone was taking notes as his list seemed to take at least four pages!

“My, are you sure you can use all those things, young squire?” I interrupted with a pleasant laugh and grin.

“I do, Em…Empress! Poppa promised me you would get me all the things that I want as well as lots of money for him to pay for it!” The child replied. I didn’t think he quite understood the reason he was here, or what money really was.

‘Here.’ Mom said in my mind as she remained out of phase behind me.

“Well, let’s see if this can help you and you’re Poppa on your way. It might take me some time to get your request together as it is a rather lengthy list, so please be patient, honey.” I said as I reached my left hand behind me and felt an envelope drop onto it. I reached back around and offered it to the moderately surprised child.

“Is that all?” he asked in surprise and quickly continued.

“Where’s all my stuff? I wanted my stuff today!” He demanded.

“Patience is a virtue, my young squire!” I replied as I looked into his scowling face. “Time is a sequence of events that must happen correctly or they might not happen at all.” I looked to his apologetic father sadly standing off to the side. “Give this to your Poppa and I promise you will have all that you have requested.”

“It’s just a stupid envelope though! What could this do?” he demanded quite petulantly.

“My dear young squire, just give this to your Poppa as I have requested. He will know what to do with it.”

“Keep your dumb envelope!” The boy shouted and threw it to the ground before stomping away angrily.

A look of horror filled his father’s face.

The discarded envelope suddenly hovered off the ground and slowly flew over to the boy’s father. He stared in utter amazement of the spectacle, but accepted it in his outstretched hand. A tear appeared on his cheek as he nodded reverently to me.

‘Thanks, Cami.’ I thought to her.

‘He thanks you too and apologizes for his son’s rude behavior, Empress.’ Cami thought back.

Another spoiled child rushed to me and immediately demanded that I produce his requests in real-time or he would have his mother charge me legally with ‘breach of contract’!

I stopped time and turned around to where mother stood.

“Y’all believe these here brats? Ah ain’t no Homeworld Santa, ma! How dare they demand anything from me…or…or any of us! They got no solid ground to stand on yet insist I cater to their egos!”

“The children of this time period are very spoiled, Alexandra, I’ll give you that. Though,” she giggled, “This is the first time an eight-year-old has threatened us with judicial action! I’ll see what I can do.”

“No. I can take care of this, ma.”

“Just think to me if you need me, Alexandra.”

I nodded and released time.

“So…you’re intention was to accuse the Empress of Time and Space with breach of contract, young barrister? Rather a bold move on your part, though futile! Do you not understand that I am above any and all laws of the land- on any continent- any planet- any universe?” I said looking at him with a devious and foreboding grin. I also engaged my temporal shield a few notches.

“And do you also understand that you and your mother have no legal right with which to apply business law charges to a nonprofit organization- let alone two? May I remind both of you that you are here because you both are monetarily distressed- your mother, Chantel, not having held a job for eighteen months? I’m also afraid that means you have no finances with which to initiate any legal action at all against me OR my daughters.” I said calmly while looking straight at the child’s mother. I pulsed my shield to accentuate the ‘or’.

“What I will do for you both is give you this envelope. You, dear Joshua, will hand this promptly to your waiting mother. She will understand and act on it’s enclosed instructions or I will see you back here next year. Do…I…make…myself…clear?” I said all that as I gave him and his mother the ‘Demmit Stare’ while pulsing my shield to emphasize the last five words.

“Come along, Joshua! We’ve taken up too much of the Empress’ time already.” His mom whispered in wide-eyed, fright as I held out the envelope, which she accepted with down-turned eyes. “My most humble thanks, your Majesty.”

The woman took a firm hold on her son and quickly guided him away from us.

‘Not what I would’ve done, but impressive nonetheless, Alexandra.’ Mom thought to me. There was the slightest sound of approval in her thought.
 
 

This was getting very disappointing! I had welcomed over two-dozen children so far today and all wanted the same thing. Things! As if my previous observation about being some Santa Claus supplement on this planet were actually true!

I took a deep breath and let it out slowly to calm myself.

Not one of the children seen by me so far seemed to have grasped the concept that their parent(s) or guardian(s) had little or no means by which to support themselves, yet all had more or less demanded material ‘things’ from me and my ‘daughters’. None seemed to even think about asking for the ‘important things’; things like a home, education, food on the table, or loving parents in the case of the orphans in attendance.

I interviewed several more ‘demanding’ children before deciding I definitely needed a break. I closed my eyes and within that brief second, I saw an image…or rather a set of images that surprised me and shook me to my core!

How had I missed this?

Opening my eyes, I looked to the next child in line. She had been waiting patiently to see me for well over an hour. The meter and a half tall girl suddenly began to teeter and looked on the verge of collapse. Two of our sisters noticed and very quickly stepped in to help as her mother looked on in horror from not far off.

“Well hello there! How are you today, sweetie?” I asked the frail, sickly looking girl of about ten or eleven as I gracefully offered my hand in friendship when Allie and Yuuka carefully handed her off to me.

She was dressed in a slightly medieval looking dress and strangely, wore a knitted cap on her head. I noted her high forehead and no escaping locks of hair at all. I also noted that she was deficit eyebrows and lashes, as well- odd.

I immediately consulted my gift again to make sure.

“I’m feeling good, your majesty, and you?” She said politely, trying to genuflect. I quickly motioned for her to remain standing.

“Oh, I’ve had good days and bad days, Alicia. That is your name is it not?” I replied pleasantly.

“Yes, I’m Alici…” She stopped abruptly and momentarily stared at me in curiosity.

“How pretty!” I smiled. “Alicia…what is it…Peltierre?” I said gently.

“Peltierre, your majest...” She whispered as her mouth suddenly dropped open.

“I won’t tell anybody, Lady Alicia!” I whispered back conspiratorially- her tentative futures having already played out in my mind.

Alicia suffered from a lack of antibodies and clotting agents. I saw two possible futures for this poised and very polite young lady. Unfortunately, her name didn’t list among Reilly’s crew manifest as I’d just foreseen.

I got up and offered her my seat. She nervously waved off my offer.

“That’s okay, your majesty, I’m just a little nervous. This is the first time I’ve ever met you, Empress Alexandra.” She gracefully declined.

“And this is the first time I’ve met you, M’lady.” I admitted, bowing my head. “So…what is it you truly desire this day, Lady Alicia, on what I have been informed is the planetary holiday called Epiphany?”

The young girl blushed and I noticed her intensely concerned mother watching off to my right, listening intently for her answer.

It took her about thirty seconds to build the courage to answer.

“To travel through time and help people like you do, your majesty.”

Her mother instantly looked heartbroken.

“Why would you want to travel through time, Lady Alicia? It is laced with uncertainty and unknown dangers. Traveling through time is very stressful and not for the faint of heart.”

“But mom told me the stories of how you travel through time to help people, your majesty! I want to help people too!”

My heart fell! She had just forced me to choose option two. Looking around I saw that ‘Alexis’, Cassie, and Sam were between interviewing children.

“Watch this, Lady Alicia.” I whispered as I raised and waved my hand left to right slowly. All movement and sound around us stopped.

Both Alexis’, Cassandra, and Samantha all looked toward me. They were giving off the slight bluish glow that told me they were shielding themselves from the stoppage.

Alicia noticed the glow too and her mouth dropped open.

“Empress? Why did you stop time again? Cassie inquired. Alicia looked around us- probably wondering what was happening.

“We’ll be back, ladies.” I said, standing, before phasing out. Of course I released my hold on time as well.

A huge, white-walled, castle towered before Alicia and I. We were standing in the center of one of the many villages that had been moved that fateful day.

“Do you recognize this place, M’lady?” I asked the dumbfounded girl.

There was only stunned silence from my companion.

“Lady Alexandra, what brings you and this strangely coifed young maiden to Miller’s Glen? I thought you out spreading the peace?” A man in period coverings asked as I rephased us. He seemed shaken by our appearance, but had quickly recovered.

“My young companion wishes to see where I live, sir. I did not wish to startle you by appearing so suddenly.”

“It is nothing but pleasant to see you out and about, M’lady!” He said happily as he bowed slightly to us and continued about his business.

“Majesty? Are we really here? Can this really be…? My confused companion inquired in an excited, but unsure tone.

“I thought your wish was to travel with me, Lady Alicia?” I said with a pout. “That was your deepest desire, was it not?”

“Momma and Poppa said you weren’t real though. They said you were just a legend.”

“Huh! And I suppose the two Pixies you saw when we first appeared weren’t real either?” I countered with a smile. “Lady Allie? Would you consider yourself real or imaginary?” I asked looking to Alicia’s frail right shoulder where a silver-violet-winged Pixie stood clutching the girl’s knitted head cover.

The Pixie hovered off the child and faced Alicia eye to eye.

“I consider myself very real, Empress. Who is our friend?” Allie replied.

“An acquaintance from a future time that has very eloquently asked to travel with me through time, Allie. Alicia, meet Allie. Allie, Alicia.

The Pixie began to grow- but not too much. Alicia’s eyes almost popped from her head and I thought she would faint on the spot!

Allie offered her hand as soon as she stopped growing to her six-year old height.

Alicia was speechless as well as motionless. Allie took my companion’s hand and shook it vigorously. “Hi.”

“Empress, why does she wear such a strange bonnet? I have never seen such a design before.”

“As I said, Alicia isn’t from this time, Allie. We have just arrived from the far future.” I explained.

“Then you are not Alexandra of Avalon?” Allie realized.

“I am Alexandra of Reilly, dear sister.”

Allie dropped to one knee. “Welcome to Miller’s Glenn on Avalon, Empress! It is 1:35PM, Sunday September 12th, 264 AE.” The six year old declared.

My companion gasped as I felt her grip tighten on my fingers.

“Why…why…are we here, majesty?” The girl gasped as she continued to stare at the younger girl before us.

“You said you wanted to travel through time to help people, didn’t you, Alicia?” I asked gently.

The child silently and slowly nodded.

“Well, we’re here to help someone.” I continued.

“Who, majesty?” She asked quietly.

I looked at Allie a moment then back at my guest.

“You. We’re here to help you, Alicia.” I said with a bright smile.
 
 

8:30PM, Avalon, Homeworld, September 12th, 264AE
 
 

“Did you pass my message to Mei Lee as requested, Morgan?”

“Aye, M’lady. Mother and child have gone to East Bordergate for a few days to greet Lady Alexis’ arrival from her crusade.”

I nodded my acknowledgement.

“How’s the girl doing, Lady Alexandra,” Alex’s chambermaid inquired as we met and conversed quietly in the hallway just outside my domicile. It was a suite really, consisting of three bedrooms and a large living area with a small dining nook.

“Sleeping peacefully for several hours now.” I answered. “Apparently the trip and everything associated with it fatigued her more than she thought. She was not a well child, Morgan.”

“I trust she will look…less piqued by morning?” Morgan stated more than asked with a knowing grin. Alex’s chambermaid was one of the few people that had known about the Empress before our big ‘coming out’ three months ago- relative to this time period.

“Yes, she will, but I’m not comfortable with the circumstances though, sister. I saw one of two possible scenarios; one where she asked me and her parent for a new personal communicator then she and her parent deleted with the Homeworld; the second was she asked to time travel with me…to help people…she…she forced my hand, Morgan! That crafty little revision actually- and freely- chose her future!”

“Isn’t that what you wished to happen, M’lady?” She asked in confusion.

“Morgan, the future of this planet is but twenty-two months from ending in her time and I have no record of her assignment to Reilly Research Station! I am afraid I have done something that will hurt this child…to somehow increase her pain and suffering in the end.” I paused to wipe my eyes.

“Surely her gift won’t somehow prolong the agony, Alex? Why would you heal her only to allow that?”

“That was never my intent. I just couldn’t stand to see an intellectually mature young woman spend her last days confined to a hospital bed, hooked to life-sustaining equipment!”

“Empress, I know this must be asked of you many times…and for varying reasons…but couldn’t you find some way…some scenario as you call it, where the girl survives? Would it change the time stream so markedly?” Morgan inquired as her eyes pleaded with me to find at least a niche for Alicia.”

“You do know what the water of Reilly does, don’t you, Morgan?”

“Aye, M’lady! It bestows both longevity and gift to those that you allow to partake of it- right wondrous gifts!” She recited with a nod and a smile.

I shook my head in amusement. “And what gifts have the waters bestowed to you, sister?”

Morgan began to float off the ground with a devious grin on her face.

“Excuse me, your majesty, but…” A sleepy-eyed Alicia said as she opened my suite’s door. She froze and gasped seeing a woman hovering one meter off the floor in front of her!

“I thought you said the young lass was sleeping, M’lady?” Morgan said as her shoes touched the floor gently. “Feline’s out of the crate now, I’d wager!”

I nodded and turned to my young companion.

“I did not mean to wake you, Lady Alicia. I’m sorry.”

“You didn’t wake me, majesty. I need to use the sanitary facilities, but don’t know where they are.”

“The privy is down at the end of the hall, M’lady. Don’t forget to pull gently on the handle when finished. Wouldn’t want that lovely dress to get splashed would we?” Morgan instructed as she pointed off to our left. “Mind the seat, it might be chilled.”

We watched in silence as Alicia hurried down the hall and disappeared behind a wooden door at the end.

“If I may, M’lady? What gift has been bestowed upon Lady Alicia?” Morgan asked.

Before I could answer, a shrill scream emanated from the small room at the end of the hall. Morgan and I raced there immediately.

“Alicia? Are you okay? Do you require assistance?” I asked.

There was no reply.

“Lady Alicia? Do you require our assistance?” Morgan tried.

“I’m…I’m alright…IIII think. IIIIII saw a rodent…and…I…” she responded in a tiny, quivering voice. There was a pause before she said anything else.

“I…I…Mmmmmajesty, could I…um…p…p…possibly bother you…um…for some assistance? IIIII seem to have…to have a…a slight problem?”

My foresight provided Morgan’s requested ‘niche’- its answer anyway.

Carefully and slowly opening the privy door, Morgan and I peered in cautiously. Alicia was nowhere to be seen, but we spied a small rodent spiked to the floor with what looked like a thin dart made of bone! This looked all too familiar.

“Alicia?” Morgan asked in confusion.

“Um…can either of you advise me as to how I can do this? More importantly, can you tell me how to get down?”

Looking up, we saw the problem immediately. Alicia struggled and strained to push herself away from the ceiling of the room- desperately searching for some way to restore her localized gravity and return to the floor.

I smiled.

“Morgan, it seems you have a student to instruct.” I said before looking up at a very frightened Alicia Peltierre. “How you get down depends on you, Lady Alicia. By the way, welcome to the sisterhood, M’lady.” I nodded up to her, smiled, and then turned to step back out into the hallway.

“Lady Morgan, she shall require a basic, but firm, knowledge of her gift before we leave tomorrow. She must also fully understand about the sisterhood and its importance.”

“It shall be done first thing on the morrow, Empress.” Morgan acknowledged as I walked back to my suite of rooms.

“But majesty, how do I get down?” Alicia cried out from behind me.

“Ye just have to think about landing, lass. Don’t think it too strongly though or…” Morgan instructed just before I heard a shriek and a muffled ‘thump’ on the wooden floor.

The mystery that was Alicia Peltierre had been solved. That being said, I retired to my bedroom for the night.
 
 

And how is our young Valkyrie this morning, Morgan?” I asked as I walked out into my living area to see the chambermaid cleaning up.

“Majesty! Look! I can fly!” Alicia’s excited voice exclaimed from just over my head. Good thing the ceilings were just over three-point-six meters high in Avalon!

“Ah, but can you land and not break any bones in the process, young lady?” I questioned as I observed her flying slowly across the ceiling.

“I suggested she practice adjusting her altitude, Alexandra. Once she has accomplished that she’ll be able to touch down safely.”

I nodded my approval and walked over to the small table set with breakfast.

“Have either of you had breakfast yet?” I asked as I saw that nothing had been touched.

“I informed my student that once she succeeded in changing height she could eat.” Morgan answered.

“You are quite the tyrant and taskmaster, Morgan Freya.” I giggled. “To deny a student sustenance…”

“A barbaric, but effective way of instruction, Empress. Sometimes the old ways are still the best, are they not?” Morgan winked playfully, yet remained strict looking.
 
 

“Very good, Lady Alicia! Now try to land and not make the floor creak.” Morgan said as I looked across the room. To my relief Alicia touched down fast, but gently. I heard no noise from the floor.

“Well done, Lady Alicia! You may now partake of breakfast.” Morgan approved.

“YES!” Alicia shouted as she thrust her fisted hands high up over her head. Eight boney darts lodged themselves into the ceiling directly above her head.

“My apologies, Alexandra! We have not touched on ballista control as of yet.” Morgan admitted in embarrassment.

“She’ll have lots of time to learn that, Lady Morgan, you’ve done wonders with Lady Alicia- and in record time. Come ladies, have something to eat. Everything is simply delicious.” I told them both.

“In a moment, Lady Alexandra.” Morgan said as she gracefully flew to the ceiling and worked the eight boney projectiles free.

My companion’s face flushed in embarrassment.

As we sat eating our breakfast, Alicia asked the question I knew she would ask eventually.

“Majesty? When you first appeared in the Hall…there was a silver-violet-winged Pixie on your shoulder.”

I silently nodded.

“Well yesterday when we first arrived here, I think I saw that same Pixie. Was I seeing things or are they related?”

I smiled. “They are one in the same, Alicia. Yesterday you met Allie as a six-year-old. In your time she has grown up and is over twelve hundred.”

She gasped at that so I decided to ask Alicia a few questions.

“Have you ever heard of the ‘Sisters of Avalon’, Lady Alicia?”

“Sisters, majesty?” She asked, confused.

“In your time we call ourselves the ‘Daughters of Avalon’, honey. You see…the sisters of Avalon…not just our Pixie sisters…live a very long time. So long in fact, that several of us are still alive in your time period. Do you understand what that could mean?” I asked.

“You mean you are THE Empress?” She asked, her eyes widening instantly.

“Alas no, I am the Empress’ Granddaughter, but I share her gift, memories, and physical appearance. You see; there are actually three Empresses, Alicia. My Grandmother we refer to as the ‘Past’ Empress. I am the ‘Present’ Empress, and my great niece is the ‘Future’ Empress. We all look identical- and are- except for our home time period. Understand?”

So you are actually from my time, majesty?” My young companion answered.

“Yes and no, Alicia.” I answered as I winced. This was where things got confusing. “I once lived in your time, but now I live in another time and another universe completely.”

Now Morgan and Alicia stared at me in confusion. This wasn’t exactly how I wanted things to progress so I promptly changed topics.

“What you really need to know is that the Sisters of Avalon live a very long time. And because we live so long, the average person simply cannot understand. To them it is impossible for someone to live several ‘normal’ generations.”

“How old are you, majesty?” Alicia blurted out innocently, but quickly covered her mouth in embarrassment.

“I have existed almost one thousand years in one form or another.” I told her.

“And you, Lady Morgan?” Our young guest added.

“I’m only a hundred and forty-five, lass, but what does it matter? We’ll live a very long time. I wouldn’t be in any hurry though! Live each and every day as if it were your last and savor the experience. Learn new things. Educate yourself, lass. That’s the code I decided to live by when the Empress offered me the water of Reilly.”

Alicia looked even more confused.

“Why offer me all this advice, M’lady? You talk as if I have received this water.” Alicia said, still confused.

“Lady Alicia,” I asked, “can you not fly and shoot boney darts from your fists?” I asked calmly.

She froze while staring at me.

“Welcome to the Sisters of Avalon, Lady Alicia Peltierre.” I said in response to her silence. “Now to the bylaws of the sisterhood, M’lady.”

“By…bylaws?” She stuttered.

“Bylaws, Lady Alicia. First and foremost, people outside the sisterhood cannot find out about us. Unfortunately, that includes your parent…unless you explicitly wish her to know. Secondly, you shall not use your gifts in public unless absolutely necessary or as suggested by another sister or myself.” I told her. Appraising my young guest’s comprehension, I continued. “Those are our bylaws, Lady Alicia. Do you understand them?”

“Just two? How can you have just two bylaws, majesty?” She frowned in confusion.

“Oh…there is a third, but it is more a requirement than a suggested bylaw, honey. You must call me by my given name of Alex or Alexandra. Is that understood?” I smiled pleasantly.

Alicia’s mouth dropped open as she nodded agreement.

“Understood, majesty.”

I glared angrily at our newest sister.

“I…understand…Alexandra?”

“That’s better, honey.” I smiled. “Morgan, we will be leaving this afternoon. I don’t want so much time to elapse as to allow Alicia to forget what we were doing before leaving her time.”

“My time, maj…Alexandra? But I thought you were from ‘my’ time?” Alicia argued, confused again.

“The Empress of Time and Space belongs to no time in particular, lass. When one can move randomly through it in either direction, ‘belonging’ to any one time loses its meaning.” Morgan tried to explain.

“Lady Morgan is right, Alicia. What I would call my ‘home’ time is actually nine hundred and eighty-three years in YOUR future and on a completely different planet that ‘we’ coincidentally call Earth and, in a completely different universe. I wish it were easier to explain and understand, but one day you will grasp at least a small portion of how time works for me. I’m sorry I have confused you to such extent, sister.” I said sadly. “Time travel is not the most straight-forward enterprise to comprehend.”

“So it was true…what you said to me…um… before you brought me back here…” Alicia summarized, “Time travel IS NOT for the faint of heart.”

“Aye, lass! I’ve been on a few trips with our Empress. I shant dwell on the things we seen. Could’ve used your gift on more than one occasion though! That skewering of rodents ye do woulda come in quiet handy.” Morgan admitted.

Alicia blushed brightly again.

“I…I still don’t know how I can do that, M’lady. It feels ‘otherworldly’ when it happens and my skin crawls when one fires off.”

“Aye! Muh skin crawls when I see ye do it, too, Lady Alicia. Good thing I’m in your good graces, huh?” Morgan laughed.

All during our meal I had noted that Alicia had been scratching her scalp through the woven cap she refused to take off. The frequency of that action had only increased.

“Alicia, I suggest you remove your head covering and allow air to circulate for a bit.” I advised.

“Maj…Alexandra, it is embarrassing. My treatments have left me…” Our sister warned as she blushed profusely.

“Bald, Alicia?” I interrupted. “And when was the last time you felt like scratching your scalp?” I asked with a playful smile.

She thought about forty seconds. “Before my hair fell out from the treatments, Alexandra.”

Alicia’s eyes suddenly opened wider as my words and question sunk in. Carefully she began to pull the material from her head to reveal a head full of short blonde hair- no more than a centimeter long, but hair nonetheless.

“It is a miracle, your majesty!” She gasped as her fingers experimentally combed through the short growth.

“Ney, lass! Tis the water of Reilly!” Morgan replied with a smile to the exuberant girl. “The water both heals and bestows a gift, Lady Alicia.”

“Heals? You mean my disease is cur- I no longer need treatments?” Alicia cried in happiness. “Will I live as long as you, Maj…Alexandra?”

“That I can completely guarantee, M’lady!” I explained happily.

The eleven-year old flew at me and wrapped her arms around me, squeezing tightly.

“Thank you, Empress! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

“You are most welcome, Alicia Peltierre! Now,” I said calmly, “Could you put me down gently? Very…gently?”

“So, did ye see that little trick comin’, Empress?” Morgan giggled as Alicia settled us gently to the floor.

“In fact, I know exactly what she can accomplish, sister!” I smiled pleasantly.
 
 

“I must ask you not to tell your parent about your ‘miraculous cure’ immediately after our return, Alicia. It would be better if she just ‘stumbled’ upon it by ‘accident’ at a later date. When she does, you should act as surprised as you did when you found out this morning. Do you understand?”

“Why, Alexandra? Why put her through anymore worry?” Alicia asked me as we prepared for our trip back to ‘present day’ Fleming City.

“What are the bylaws of the Sisters of Avalon, young lady?” I asked as a reminder.

“Um…don’t let normal people find out about us and…um…don’t use our powers in public?”

I nodded with a smile.

“But, if I won’t be using my pow…gift in public, Alexandra, how could they find out?”

“Some of our ‘guests’ are already close to believing that I exist. Not many, but all it takes would be a few.” I said calmly. “I used my gift to make our ‘grand entrance’ into the Hall, remember? I also stopped time to let our sisters know you and I were going on a little trip. Someone…maybe a distant relative that doesn’t know they possess a gift…may have seen that, honey. We can’t take the chance. Does that make sense?”

Alicia, mouth wide open, nodded her understanding.

“Good. Now take your place in front of me and try to remember your state of mind and expression as we talked in Reilly Hall the other day, okay?”

The girl’s expression neutralized.

“Good. Morgan Freya, it has been good to see you again, M’lady! Tell Alex of my visit when she and Byron get back. Also tell my aunts that I’ll see them next time…and to behave themselves!”

“That I’ll do, Empress. May the temporal winds blow favorably, Alexandra!” Morgan replied then paused.

“Well, lass, ye gonna say good bye? The student should always so honor her tutor the respect she deserves.”

Knowing that Morgan and Alicia hadn’t made formal contact since her Mahanilui, I watched with amusement.

“Ouuuuuuch!” Both exclaimed together.

Morgan eyed me angrily.

“Ye knew that were ta happen! Alex, yer the sneaky bitch!”

“What happened? Why did you shock me, Lady Morgan?” Alicia asked in alarm as she rubbed the pain out of her hand.

“Forgot ta tell ya, lass, but the Empress…she likes to tease her sisters- sometimes mercilessly!”

Both Alicia and Morgan stared at me- though for different reasons.

“You two just ‘synced up’”, I revealed. “When temporal twins meet and touch, they ‘synchronize’ with each other. The nanotechs in each of you have been ‘reset’ to the younger instance- you, Alicia.”

“So I’m gonna go back through maturement again, am I?” Morgan glared angrily.

“No. Well, maybe…yes…um…no.” I answered as I checked my foresight with a devious smile.

“See what I mean, lass?” Morgan glared back at me again then looked to the young girl. “Welcome to clan Freya, Lady Alicia. Serve the Freya’s and the Empress well, lass.”

“Oh…by the way…thanks for the reset, M’lady! I’ve been feelin’ slower these last ten years.” Morgan added with a pleasant smile as she embraced Alicia once more.

Stepping back beside me, Alicia took my offered hand.
 
 

1:58PM, Reilly Building, Community Hall, Fleming City, June 20th, 1459AE
 
 

“Well hello there! How are you today, sweetie?” Alicia and I found ourselves back in Reilly Hall as we met each other the first time.

Alicia looked at me as her mouth again dropped open.

“Tha…ttttthat’s me!” She stuttered. “But how…”

“I’m feeling good, your majesty, and you?” Her former self said politely as we listened.

“Oh, I’ve had good days and bad days, Alicia. That is your name is it not?” My previous self replied pleasantly.

“You knew who I was!” She accused.

I nodded.

“Yes, I’m Alici…” Past Alicia said stopping abruptly.

“How pretty! Alicia…what is it…Peltierre?”

“Peltierre, your majest…” Both past and present girl’s mouth suddenly dropped open.

“I won’t tell anybody, Lady Alicia!”

“Lady Morgan was right about you, Alexandra! You do like to tease.” Present Alicia groaned as she looked up to me. “Did you also see my affliction?”

“That you suffered from a lack of antibodies and clotting agents?” I nodded.

When past Alex got up to offer her seat, I nudged us forward until we were standing just behind our past selves. Alicia began to get nervous.

“That’s okay, your majesty, I’m just a little nervous. This is the first time I’ve ever met you, Empress Alexandra.”

“And this is the first time I’ve met you, M’lady. So…what is it you truly desire this day, Lady Alicia, on what I have been informed is the planetary holiday called Epiphany?”

“I hadn’t noticed my mother watching off to the right, Alexandra. Why was she there?”

“She wanted to hear what your wish was, honey. You ARE familiar with the Epiphany wish, right?”

“But I told you my fondest wish, Empress! And you granted it!” My travel companion exclaimed excitedly.

“To travel through time and help people like you do, your majesty.” Her previous instance stated succinctly.

“Why does mother look so sad, Alexandra?”

“Let’s keep listening.” I suggested.

“Why would you want to travel through time, Lady Alicia? It is laced with uncertainty and unknown dangers. Travelling through time is very stressful and not for the faint of heart.”

“But mom told me the stories of how you travel through time to help people, your majesty! I want to help people too!”

“Apparently your mother was hoping you’d wish to be cured, honey. Believe me…no mother wants to lose a child…especially her only child!” I told Alicia. “Trust me, I have two girls myself.”

“But you did cure me!” Alicia declared then thought a minute. Her mouth dropped again as she finally caught up with what I said. “You…you saw all that too, Empress?”

I smiled and nodded toward our past selves. “We need to carefully occupy the same space that our past selves do so it appears we never left the building, Alicia. When I say to, we take our previous places, understand?”

“Watch this, Lady Alicia.” Past me whispered as she raised and waved her hand left to right slowly. All movement and sound around us stopped- just as I remembered.

Once more I noticed the bluish glow envelope us.

“Am I really glowing, Alexandra?” Alicia screeched.

Both Alexis’, Cassandra, and Samantha all looked toward us like before. They were giving off the slight bluish glow that told me they were shielding themselves from the stoppage.

“Empress? Why did you stop time again? Cassie inquired again. Alicia looked around us- this time with a better understanding of what was happening.

“We’ll be back, ladies.” My past self announced.

“Now, Alicia.” I said as we both moved into position. “Remember your mood and expression, honey. Good continuity is the key to believing.”

“Welcome back, Empress.” Cassandra greeted. “And welcome to the sisterhood, Alicia Peltierre.”

Thank you, M’lady.” She answered politely with a slight bow.

“Play along now, honey.” I said as I raised my hand and released time. The hall became noisy and people started moving again. “You see all those people around us, Lady Alicia?” I continued as if I hadn’t stopped to take a quick trip back to Avalon.

“Yes, Al…your majesty?” Alicia said catching herself quite quickly.

“All those people are here to ask things of me and my daughters, Alicia. Sadly, we can only grant them their more materialistic wishes. Now, given those parameters, what is your wish?” I explained sadly.

Alicia’s mother looked at us, hopeful that her daughter might rethink her wish.

“I would still like to travel with you, Majesty! I want to help people…like you do here…for everyone here! That is my truest, most heartfelt, wish, Empress Alexandra!” Alicia announced with more force than I thought a girl in her ‘condition’ should have used.

Again her mother looked heartbroken, yet awed by her daughter’s determination.

I nodded- though more like bowed to my young sister. “Such conviction from one so young, Lady Alicia! Let me see what I can do to honor such a heartfelt wish, M’lady.”

Taking a page from my great-niece, Alexandra’s book, I reached into my authentic cloth purse up to my elbow- knowing that few would notice the spatial anomaly, rummaged around in it for a moment, and pulled out a small beige legal envelope. I checked to see if it had Alicia’s surname on it.

“I believe this will complete your wish, M’lady.” Instead of looking to Alicia, I looked intently at her mother as I handed over the envelope to Alicia.

“You will stay here tonight continuing to enjoy the hospitality of the Daughters of Avalon, M’lady. I’m sure you will undoubtedly find our beds stiff, but at least you won’t be out in the cold and damp- and before you decline or deny anything, consider the myths and legends that surround this holiday and me. Those that you wished your daughter to believe.” Alicia’s mother stared at me in wide-eyed amazement. She never noticed I had stopped time again. “You have a very talented and courageous daughter, Rena Peltierre.” Releasing time again, I winked and continued my recommendation.

“Follow the instructions contained in this envelope to the absolute letter and be present at the precise location on the day and time specified. Failure to do EXACTLY as indicated will result in the loss of your wish, is that understood, Lady Alicia?” I asked, but never took my eyes off her mom.

Rena Peltierre gulped and nervously nodded her understanding.

“I promise, Empress Alexandra!” Alicia smiled and hugged me before stepping over to her mother. The two slowly walked back to their table hand in hand. Rena Peltierre still looking quite stunned by my intense gaze.

Mom clandestinely nodded her approval and gave me a quick smile. I quickly turned back to my waiting admirers.

“Hello, and how are you today, young squire?” I greeted the next child.
 
 

“Empress Alexandra? Might I interrupt a moment?” An adult male voice interrupted.

Looking to the voice, I immediately recognized…me…or rather Alexander Reilly!”

“Of course, Lord Alexander. Lady Yuuka, might you implore the young squires and maidens to be patient. I shant be long.”

“Of course, Empress.” Yuuka bowed reverently, her eyes wide in astonishment.

Alexander motioned me through our guests back to the kitchen. Not stopping there, we walked back into the hall’s shipping/receiving area. Once sure we were alone, Alexander started his inquisition.

“Hello, grandmother. I didn’t expect to see you again. I trust there is a good reason you’re here?”

“What would an Epiphany celebration be without the Empress, Alexander?” I asked coyly.

“I know what you are, grandmother!” He accused.

“I should hope so, Alexander! I would hope that the grandson of the Empress of Time and Space would know the family history.”

“Stop with the self righteous attitude, grandmother! What are you doing here? What Earth-shattering events have drawn your attention! Tell me, Grandmother!” My male version hissed venomously. “I want to know.”

I glared at this man. Had I always been so…so sarcastic and cynical? Had I really been this arrogant? I glared at Alexander Reilly, employing the ever-humbling ‘Demmit stare’.

“Why ah’m here ain’t fer y’all ta question, boy! What my purpose is don’t die-rectly concern y’all at this time! An’ how dare y’all question me, young man? Y’all should be ‘shamed ah yerself!”

I was amazed by how fast he backed down! This was the first time Alex Steinert’s accent had proven useful.

“You’re right. I’m sorry to have questioned you, Empress. It’s nice to see you again, grandma. I’ve missed you the last ten years.”

“As I recall, Alex, it’s been longer than that? Closer to twenty maybe?” I responded calling his bluff.

Alexander Reilly closed his eyes and shook his head a few times.

“I can never fool you, grandma.” He said as he quickly wrapped his arms around me and squeezed tightly.

While concerned there would be synchronization between us, I felt nothing- no tingle- no shock- nothing! I felt relief spread over every part of my person. Confident I wouldn’t change this time stream, I returned his embrace enthusiastically.

“One day you will, Alexander. One day you shall indeed fool me.” I predicted in a whisper.

“Grandmother?” Alexander pushed back and stared at me, confused.

“Nothin’, hun.” I forced a smile. “So why’d y’all decide to grace us with your presence? Alexis said y’all weren’t foreseen ta make an appearance this Epiphany?”

“I decided to test your theory about how my decisions can influence my future. Well? Did I change it?” Alexander asked hopefully.

“Sorry, hun, but one of the scenarios had you present today.” I revealed.

“Oh.” He said with a sigh.

“If it makes ya feel any better, hun, Ah originally seen y’all arrive two hours from now, so y’all effectively changed yer ‘rival time.” I said with a reassuring smile.

“Well, I guess that counts. How have you been, grandma?”

“Oh…I’ve been around, Alex. How goes the preparations?” I asked to change the subject.

“Reilly Research Facility is almost ready to go online…but you already knew that.”

I smiled.

“We’re going to be shuttling all assigned personnel up to Reilly in two weeks. Randall, Cameron, William and I will be leaving in three days to oversee initialization of the facility and habitat areas. Could we possibly see you up there, Grandma?” Alexander asked hinting subtly that he wanted the Empress to be there.

“Ah don’t know if Ah can, Alexander. Ah only allotted two weeks this time. Ah do have other duties that require mah attention in this time, ya know.”

“I guess that’s the best I can hope for then.” Alexander was silent for two minutes.

“Well…I guess I should let you get back to the children, Grandma. I have to get back to the foundation and continue my preparations for our departure. Nice to see you again, grandma.” He said despondently.

“Ah made two additions to your staff, hun.” I said quickly, before he left the receiving area.

Alexander stopped in his tracks and sighed heavily before stiffly turning around.

“See? I knew you couldn’t just let things go, Grandmother! Who did you add to my staff list? Is it another one of the family? Another sister? Who, Grandmother?”

“Ah added another Peltierre, Alexander. Ah assigned her and her auxiliary to Social Control Services where they both will train and prove useful with their talents.”

“And what relation is she to Randall, Grandmother?”

“Ah believe second or third cousin, Alex. Trust me when Ah say they was both made for the job.”

“MADE, Grandmother? What, like that fictional character, ‘Frankenstein’ you terrified me with as a boy?”

“No! If y’all must know, one recently joined the sisterhood. She was dying of somethin’ we called ‘leukemia’ back in mah original universe, Alexander. Ah seen her potential and contributions to the foundation. Though that one is young they’ll both prove extremely trustworthy and very, very loyal!”

“If that is your wish, grandmother.”

“It IS mah order, Alexander!” I decried.

My male version looked at me strangely for several seconds. Had I revealed my true identity somehow?

“They really must be important to you, Grandma!”

“Y’all kin trust ‘em with your life, Alexander; as Ah done for many, many years now. Y’all will see what Ah mean when y’all meet.”

“Okay, I get it, grandma! I’ll make sure they receive the proper training and memorize the procedures. I better get back to the foundation. Christa and I had a date scheduled for later this evening- an evening meal out then the theater.” He told me before turning and walking back to the dining hall.

Mom and Billie were waiting as I came back into the kitchen. Cami and Cassi looked at me with very worried expressions. I mentally told them that everything was fine- that Alexander believed me to be my grandmother.

“So…y’all pulled the wool over the boy’s eyes, Alexandra?” Mom asked with a wink.

“She does that frequently. Alexis.” Billie commented.

“At least she does something…as opposed to you, William.” Mom remarked hurtfully.

“What else could I do? Anything else would have changed the time line and caused a catastrophe.” I said.

“You did what had to be done, Empress. My thanks for upholding our time line- dark as it may be.”

I dipped my head in sorrow as I thought about the upcoming events.

“Come on,” mom said as upbeat as possible, given what I had just thought, “There are plenty of children that have yet to vex you, dear Empress.”

“I guess I can’t let them down, can I?” I acknowledged sarcastically with a sigh.
 
 

“Thank you ever so much, Alexandra,” Mom gushed as we filed into her apartment. It was well past two in the morning and every one of us was well beyond exhausted. “I think that this celebration was the best one we’ve put on in almost seventy-five years- especially that ‘Empress’ arrival’! How did you ever think of something like that, Alex?”

“Ah actually borrow’d it from an ol’ TV show, ma.” I confessed.

“What old TV show? What’s a TV, Alex?”

“On our Earth, in Alex Covington’s time, we got video monitors that receive over-the-air broadcasts. Them receivers is called Televisions or TV’s. Actors and actresses ply their craft through ‘em in things called sit-coms, dramas, serials, and something called ‘reality shows’. There usually are one, two, or even more of these ‘TV’s’ in a single home. It’s a popular entertainment medium on twentieth and twenty-first century Earth.” I explained.

“Oh. Why not go to a theater? Don’t you have those anymore?” Mom inquired.

“We got them too, ma.”

“Oh.” Mom said as she sat down, removed the heeled shoes from her feet, and massaged her arches gently.

“Alexis?” My assistant, Cassandra, asked from across the room. “Not that I really mind it- and I really don’t want to upset you, but…when can Rose make me look like me again? I just looked in the mirror and saw someone that wasn’t me looking back. It…it startled me.”

“Rosie?” Mom called as she looked up to the loft. “Y’all feel upta givin’ Cassie her face back?”

Three small, winged women descended into the living area and exited Pixie mode.

“I’m very tired, Alexis, but Allie and Yuuka said they could lend me some of their energy.” She said as she walked over to Cassie and placed her hands on my assistant’s face while Allie and Yuuka touched Rose’s bare forearms. Within three minutes Cassie looked like Cassie again.

“Thanks, hun. I’ll be up in a minute.” Mom said in appreciation.

“Come on, Squadron Leader! You don’t want to miss the honey!” Allie said as she shrank and took flight. Yuuka and lastly, a very tired looking Rose, followed her example and flew up into the loft. I noticed mom shimmer.

“There. That should appease our small sisters for the night.” She said with a giggle. “I don’t know ‘bout y’all, but I’m turnin’ in. Thanks for your help, everyone.”

Mom pushed herself to standing and walked through the dining room and kitchen hallway and closed her bedchamber door.

“Director? Shouldn’t I be downstairs in the hall providing security?” Fay asked from the chair on my right.

“Cami and Cassi volunteered to take this shift, Fay. I thought you would like to get some sleep first.” I answered.

“I am not that fatigued, Alex. I would be happy to relieve Camille and Cassi. I’m sure they could use the rest period more than I.” Fay volunteered.

“If you feel you should, I have no objections, honey. Just make sure you safety your Reilly. I’d rather not have to explain any casualties to mother in the morning.” I advised with a yawn.

“Acknowledged, director.” Fay said as she casually walked over to and out the apartment’s door.

Aunt Cassie waited a few minutes.

“You think she suspects anything, Alex?”

“Fay is always suspicious. That’s what makes her so effective.” I replied. “It’ll be a shock at first, but the two of them will work things out.” I assured them.

“So…how did Morgan react? Mom never did tell us what she told her when we got back home from our diplomatic travels.” Aunt Sam questioned.

“Well, she accused me of being a ‘sneaky bitch’ and I can tell you that quite a bit of ‘information’ was exchanged before we left Avalon.” I grinned.

“Morgan told us that too…but in harsher terms. As for information…we were really surprised to see her so young! What was she, Cassie, maybe twelve…thirteen, when we got back?”

I smiled wickedly despite trying not to.

“Around there, sis. It seemed so strange to hear those vulgar phrases emerge from such a young mouth.” Aunt Cassie replied. My aunts giggled.
 
 

A knock at my bedroom door interrupted my thoughts about sleeping. I had just sat down on my bed.

“Enter, Randi Peltierre.” I groaned.

“Thank you for admitting me at this late hour, director. I have some concerns that presented themselves during the celebration.” Randi revealed politely.

“And ‘who’ might those ‘concerns’ be, honey?” I asked, already knowing where this was going.

“At the wishing ceremony I overheard ‘Peltierre’ mentioned by you and observed you talking with a young girl and her mother. I also had the strangest feeling that you stopped time not once, but twice at least. Am I right in thinking that was the case, Alex?”

Yes, I did stop time, Randi, and…yes, the girl’s surname is Peltierre.” I answered.

“Can I ask what relation she is to me, director?” Randi asked uncomfortably.

“She is your third cousin, honey…and will be…”

Another knock sounded on my door as it opened without permission.

“Empress! What is going on? There is a young girl- Alicia Peltierre- downstairs that shocked me when we touched after being introduced! I have these old, but new…memories…memories of meeting with you and…and realizing my gift in…in a place called…Avalon! Tell me I am just fatigued more than I thought and imagining this.”

“You mean she’s…Freya is…she’s…she’s related, Empress?” Randi gasped as her color drained. “I’m related to Valkyrie?”

“Have a seat, you two,” I said calmly, motioning to the two chairs in my room.

“First off, I trust you have found relief for your security detail, Freya Morgana?”

“You mean, ‘Alicia Peltierre”, Empress?” Fay corrected with a little attitude. “Yes.”

“No, I mean Freya Morgana, Fay. You changed your name to avoid conflict when you first arrived at the facility. You chose your tutor’s name but decided to reverse the order- Freya Morgana instead of Morgan Freya. As a matter of fact, you are debating that issue at this very moment downstairs.” I revealed.

“I thought I recognized that little girl, Alex!” Yuuka’s voice chimed out.

Fay flew from the chair and went to full alert instantly. This was the first time I had seen her new upgrades in action. Within one second she was fully armed and her projectiles had located and locked onto their individual targets.

Yuuka froze- not even fleeing into Pixie mode!

“See the importance of properly announcing yourself, Yuuka?” I giggled nervously.

Our Pixie sister gulped loudly as she stared at Fay in complete horror.

“This is the wrong time, Pixie.” Fay snarled furiously. “I suggest you turn around and leave this private conversation. Now!”

Yuuka nodded silently and backed up against the door. She fumbled around behind her to turn the knob then carefully, silently, slipped out of my room.

Fay landed gracefully and, resuming her peacetime posture, sat back down.

“Why don’t I remember these things…things from…before?” She asked, almost showing fear of what I would say next.

“I can’t tell you that yet, Fay. I can’t tell any of you that…yet. I’m sorry.” I admitted truthfully. “As my sister, Alex Steinert, would say, ‘this is one story y’all cain’t skip to the end of’.”

“But, Director. We have been allowed to meet our selves prior to our assignment to the facility! Why has this been done and why have all our past memories been somehow removed? What terrible events- other than that which we already know- will occur that we must forget?”

“Ladies, I’m really not at liberty to reveal the near future as it may change the time line. I know I sound like a corrupt archive, but I need you to trust that I know what I’m doing. I AM able to tell you that we all survive the coming catastrophe- both versions of us…mostly.”

“Mostly, Empress?” Fay challenged.

I began crying as the future memories bombarded my fatigued mind.

“Leave it go, Freya Morgana! It will be hard enough when it does happen!” I shouted then abruptly turned away from them and curled up into a fetal position on my bed.
 
 

“Good morning, Alexandra.” Mom greeted as her door opened and she walked over to the kitchen counter to pour a cup of, what this world called, coffee.

“What’s so good about it?” I questioned. My mood hadn’t gotten any better from earlier this morning.

“Well, we’re all still alive.” Mom offered, trying to be upbeat.

I thought my tears had dried up hours earlier, but they reappeared instantly- and were just as plentiful.

“Honey? Care to talk about it?”

“What good could that possibly do, mother? The future is set and I have absolutely no say in its progression! None of it is good!”

Mom remained quiet as she observed me.

“Oh, Alexandra, it’s not that bad…”

“Oh spare me, mother! It IS that bad! I’m going to lose you and that’s the cold hard fact of our Homeworld! The one person in all the universes capable of correcting it and Ah cain’t do a damn thing! What good am Ah…what good is any ah us if we cain’t save our home? Tell me, ma? Tell me why this gotta happen! Tell me!”

A hand gently touched my shoulder. I felt the familiar tingle.

“Ma!” Mom gasped, her eyes widening instantly.

“Sis, stop blamin’ yerself! Ah’m the one that should be crazy-angry cause Ah’ve been tryin’ to find a way to stop all this for almost fourteen hundred years!”

“Alex…I…”

“Y’all thought Ah was dead a’ready?” Alexandra of Avalon- my grandmother- smiled tensely, but warmly. “Ah had to stop here and comfort mah sister in her hour o’ need. Ah have the utmost confidence y’all kin do this; just as Ah know Ah’ll do what Ah gotta do.”

“Ma! Don’t do it! Stay here with me, Sam, and Cassie!” Mom cried out in anguish.

“Dammit! Y’all ain’t makin’ this any easier fer me, girls! Y’all think Ah wanna go back there an get mahself shanked? Hell no! No sane body would ever agree to somethin’ so ludicrous! It’s jes somethin’ we all gotta do, one time or ‘nother! You’ll do great, Alex! An’ y’all best never doubt that- ever! An you, Lexi…y’all keep yer chin held high an don’t fret none. We got us some plans once we meet up in the next ‘verse!”

“Ma, I’m so ‘fraid! Been that way since you told me you was leavin’ a hundred years ago. Ain’t nothing felt right since and the hurt…it never gone ‘way!” Mom lamented.

“It don’t, hun. Always gonna be there. Nothin’ we kin do ‘bout it ‘cept get callus to the feelin’. Y’all know that already. Okay, time fer me to go now. Y’all take care!”

Grandmother disappeared as fast as she appeared.

After a few minutes, Mom sighed and looked across the table at me.

“Ma’s right ya know. This thing has to happen regardless of our personal wants or feelings, Alex.”

“Y’all didn’t see her face that day at Willowglenn, ma!”

“I did see what happened, Alex…only not from your perspective. I believe that actually being there caused much worse feelings and far greater emotions because of how close y’all were. You’re right, Ah could never really understand what y’all went through.”

“Ah felt the blade each and ever’ time it was thrust into her, ma! Each and ever’ time! The pain was so intense! It felt like Ah was the one dying!” I admitted, recalling the memories, but thankfully not the pain.

Mom hurried over to me and held me tight.

“Oh baby! Ah didn’t know! If Ah had Ah wouldn’t have…”

“The Empress was right, ma. We gotta be confident and continue to play our parts- believe in what we’re doing- believe that the timeline is on course and intact.” I said before I paused.

“If we don’t…then we won’t exist. That’d be the ultimate catastrophe.”

“So how’d mah daughter get ta be so blasted wise an’ phil’sophical, hmmm?” Mom asked gently as she smiled proudly at me.



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