South of Bikini 5: Episode 4- May Old Acquaintances...

More questions are answered about Reilly Research Station personnel and the Homeworld. Can Alexandra keep the Timeline intact and save her home Planet at the same time?

 
 

Copyright 2016, R.G. Beyer


 
 


South of Bikini


 

Season 5


 
 


Episode 4

“May Old Acquaintances…”

 
 

“So…Alex…” Billie began as she gracefully sat at the kitchen table with her breakfast of citrus juice and this world’s version of cultured, active biomass with fruit- ‘yogurt’ on twenty-first century Earth.

“How can you eat that?” I asked as I looked at the personal-sized serving container and winced. “Don’t you know it could be, and probably is, sentient?”

“Thanks, Alex! That’s really appealing. Just because you never liked it doesn’t mean I can’t.”

“I just thought you- of all people- would be deterred by the biologically-questionable aspect. You wouldn’t eat pond scum would you?” I argued.

“This isn’t pond scum, Alex! It’s a scientifically grown and cultured, nutritionally-beneficial, dietary alternative.”

“Like I said…pond scum.” I grinned.

“By the Goddess, what are you two arguing about now, Alexandra?” Mom asked with a tired expression as she exited her bedroom.

“Alex was expressing her concerns over this container of ‘Chlorella et Fragaria with Speckleberrys’, Alexis.” Billie informed her. I’m guessing Billie didn’t have Homeworld Latin programmed into her translator. But just to be nice, I held my laughter.

“How on Earth did that get here?” Mom puzzled as she gently lifted Billie’s hand to examine the container it held.

“Discard by: March 15th, 1456.”

Just as gently, she lowered said container and hand.

“Billie, you do know this expired over three years ago, right?” She gawked at my assistant director in amazement. “This stuff should be in preschool, hun.”

The look on Billie’s face was financially astronomical! She quickly downed her drink.

“Adding fuel to the fire, hun.” Mom warned. “Sugar only enhances the fermentation process, William.”

“If you’ll excuse me…I think I need to brush my teeth and gargle.” My blonde sister said as she gracefully got up and calmly made her way to the other side of the apartment and our shared bathroom.

Mom waited a minute. “I think that blonde hair has gone to her head, Alex. I don’t think our version of William Sangiere would have even tried that stuff…let alone missed reading the expiration date.”

“Billie’s different now, mom. You should have seen what we caught her doing in ancient Greece last week.” I said as I waggled my eyebrow a few times.

“Really?” Mom gasped.

“Yep.” I answered, accentuating the ‘p’. “Iphigeneia will be thirteen the middle of July. Fifteen when she gets back from school on Terra.”

“That’s such a pretty name! Did Billie come up with that herself, Alex?”

“Billie and her mate, Theseus, thought it fit perfectly.” I smiled. “Now that I think about it, Billie pretty much demanded Theseus name her that.” I giggled.

“Who knew the female version would have the stones?” Mom wondered out loud.

We both laughed.

“I’m curious to see…well, I actually saw…but…well, how she’ll react at our meeting with her ‘alter ego’.” Mom shook her head, holding a silly grin.

We sat quiet for a minute.

“You saw that William will refuse to board the shuttle with the command staff this afternoon, right?”

I nodded. “I saw. I can’t remember any of this from the first time, but I can see it now. I want to know why I can’t see…never mind.” I said as the answers instantly filled my mind.

“At least you can see your future, Alex.”

Mom’s eyes started to tear up. “Mine decidedly ends twenty-two months from now.”

“Come on, ma. I thought we arrived at a mutual understanding?” I asked as I leaned over and wrapped one arm around her. I thought maybe if I shared something…something only I knew…with her, her mood might brighten.

“You do know that Grandmother synced with me when she stopped in the other morning…right?”

Alexis Reilly’s jaw dropped instantly.

Maybe not.

“And I know that she arrived three days before…” I paused and looked down for a moment then looked back up to her. “That was more than enough time for our nanos to regenerate…unless she found some way of disabling them. Somehow, I can’t see her intentionally doing that though.”

“You mean she could have pulled one of her tricks…that she’s out there somewhere…or even phased out, laughing at us here?” Mom gasped.

“Not clear.” I answered, shaking my head. “Alex Steinert said she didn’t feel any syncing pulse after…um…but we all noticed Grandmother’s temporal shield come on line…in fact, Alex was even enveloped in it before I pulled her away. I hadn’t known what it was then. Now…well, I’m not sure…”

“That sneaky bitch!” Mom exclaimed. “The next time Ah see her Ah’m gonna give her a tongue-lashin’ even the Goddesses’d blush at!”

“That’s the spirit, ma! I’ll do the same when next I meet her too! Even if I have to follow her through time and several universes to do it!”

“That’s mah girl!” Mom beamed.

Again we were quiet for two minutes.

“So…I have to go into the office this morning to monitor the launch and fill out the boatload of accompanying paperwork. I don’t know when I’ll be home.” She smiled deviously at that impossibility. “What do you have planned today, sweetie?”

“I’ve got some minor temporal anomalies to repair- nothing too serious though. Do you need any help with the paperwork? I know these two blondes that are usually up to their armpits in it.”

“What paperwork, Alex?” Billie asked as she walked in on- as usual- the end of our conversation.

“I too, could help you with your reports, Alexis. It might at least deter my sister, for a short while!” A younger looking Fay said through gritted teeth as she floated into the room- Yuuka flying tight circles around the stewing Valkyrie. I thought I saw Yuuka’s tiny tongue shoot out as she passed in front of Fay several times.

“You two! Down!” Mom growled at our two flying sisters. “Thank you for the offer, Fay, but I am not above doing my share of work. Yuuka! I swear by the Goddess if you don’t light…I said down…NOW! And…and grow up when you eat meals in my house!”

The five-inch woman quickly turned and slowly ‘fluttered’, ‘butterfly-style’, out of the room, pouting.

“My thanks, Alexis. Yuuka is a wonderful sister, but sometimes she can be…”

“OH! There never IS a dull moment, is there, Alexandra?!” Mom laughed heartily as she watched me rolling my eyes.

Despite my sister’s antics…or because of them, she smiled. It was nice to see my mother smiling again!

“So…what paperwork, Alex?” Billie asked again in confusion.
 
 

10:58AM, Reilly Foundation for Global Research Building, Fleming City, July 4th, 1459AE
 
 

Mom rephased us in her private conference room at the headquarters of The Reilly Foundation for Advanced Technological Research- aka, ‘the foundation’. Today was the day that all remaining staff assigned to the newly commissioned Reilly Research Station were asked to report to the Fleming City Space Port for transportation to the Reilly planetoid.

As had been foreseen, William Sangiere had ‘declined’ the ‘Administration flight’ eight days ago.

This morning, Cami, Cassi, both Samanthas, both Cassandras, Yuuka, Billie, Fay, Randi, Hoshi, Mom, and I- all dressed professionally in business type suit coats, blouses, and trousers or skirts- were to meet William Sangiere here for a ‘special’ briefing. We each took seats around the large, oval, chromed metal and glass table- balanced equally around Alexis, who sat at one end.

“So what do we do now, Alex?” Billie asked impatiently.

“We wait a minute,” I said as we heard voices growing louder out in the hallway.

Cami pointed at the door and we heard a quiet click from it.

“Thanks for unlocking the door, Camille.” Mom said.

Cami nodded.

“I’m telling you! I didn’t see Ms. Reilly recorded as checked in, Mr. Sangiere!”

“Trust me. She’s here, Jamal. I know she’s here. I was ordered to meet her…in her conference room…at 11AM sharp. If I’m not there, I’ll lose my posi…shun!” William Sangiere whined as he hurriedly, recklessly opened the door without knocking or looking! He stopped dead in his tracks seeing all of us seated and patiently waiting. His security escort looked surprised that such a large group had arrived- and probably wondering how we all got past his watchful eye.

“Thank you, Jamal! That will be all. We will take it from here. William, please…have a seat.” Alexis said in a stern, professional voice.

She waited for the conference room door to close before beginning the special meeting.

“So, William, I heard there were some complications at the space port last week. Care to enlighten the Board as to why you aren’t up on Reilly Research Station and instead in our presence this morning?” Alexis pounced immediately on the shaken man.

“IIIIIII…I felt there was something wrong with the shuttle, Madam Chairman.”

I noticed sweat form instantly on his forehead.

“Oh? Apparently your ‘feeling’ proved wrong, William. I have been informed that all systems have initiated properly and that Reilly waits final staffing. William, what are we going to do with you? I designated you for this assignment because of your impressive qualifications and flawless recommendations. Nowhere in your dossier was there mentioned anything about cowardice. How do you feel the Board and I should mediate this?”

William Sangiere said nothing.

“Ms. Sangiere…being related to William, how do you recommend we proceed on this issue?” Alexis looked to Billie.

“Alexis, I am hardly one to pass judgment on this man. If he honestly believed the shuttle faulty, then I can understand his caution…however,” Billie paused as she regarded her male version carefully. “I would fully expect a fellow Sangiere to admit his shortcomings and redouble his effort- that being to seek passage on the staffing shuttle scheduled for this afternoon. Reasserting himself to his assigned position would, in my eyes, and the family’s, re-establish confidence.”

“I concur, Ms. Sangiere. What are your thoughts on this matter, Ms. Darough?” Alexis now looked to Cami and Cassi. I watched as William Sangiere’s eyes popped from his head.

The two whispered quietly to each other for one minute- though I knew that was strictly for show.

“Ms. Reilly, We fail to see probable cause in this instance. Mr. Sangiere clearly displayed a lack of confidence on his part as to the functionality of the equipment. Such insecure attitude limits our confidence in him, Madam Chairwoman. Therefore, if lacking confidence, would he set about his tasks as a senior research supervisor in a similar manner?” Cami addressed the issue quite professionally.

“Point taken, Ms. Darough, and that issue does hold precedence. Ms. Morgana, how would Clan Freya handle such incidents, I wonder?’ Alexis now looked to Fay.

“Aye! Clan Freya would ‘ave ‘em sweepin’ floors in the lowest level of basement- in the most isolated manufacturing center we’ve got, Chairman Reilly!” Fay stood quickly and menacingly leaned over the table. “Ye know what the Clan did ta cowards like you in the old days, Mister Sangiere? We done ‘way with ‘em ‘fore they embarrassed the family! I vote nay to him ever getting’ on the damned shuttle! An’ I’d rid the family of such a wee an’ frail winkie, Ms. Sangiere!”

Billie glared at Fay angrily.

“Fay Morgana! I’m surprised yet again by your lack of compassion! Not everyone has the stones to appease your clan’s lofty personality requirements- especially this particular Sangiere.” Alexis argued vehemently as she thumbed back at a shaken William Sangiere.

“Beggin’ yer pardon, Chairman Reilly, but I’ve known many Sangiere clan members that possessed far more brass,” Fay nodded to our Billie, “like this one here.” She again glared at William. “That’s Clan Freya’s stand!”

Alexis nodded to Fay as she reseated herself.

“Alexandra Fleming, care to share your thoughts?” Alexis looked to me.

“From reviewing his transcripts and all available personal data, William Sangiere appears to be an excellent and diligent researcher and, given the right stimulus, might even excel in his assignment as Assistant Director in Charge of Research at Reilly Research Station, in the future- and if he ever gets there.” I gave the man a devilish smirk. “If successful in countering his dread fear of space travel AND successfully widening his acceptance toward abstract thinking, he would prove the asset Madam Chairwoman sees him being. Therefore, I recommend a second chance, Alexis.” I quickly turned and set my eyes to William Sangiere. “Please prove your detractors wrong, William, if this Board indeed approves my suggested option.” I advised truthfully.

“Does anyone else wish to add their input or observations?” Mom waited a minute with no one responding.

“Thank you, Alexandra. I believe we have sorted the issues, and have heard suggested a beneficial resolution. All in favor of reinstating William Sangiere to the Reilly Research Station?” Alexis asked. Five of us raised our hands.

“All against?”

Fay, Cami, Cassi, and both Samanthas raised their hands.

“The board is tied, William. Apparently, your fate has now fallen to me.” Alexis announced before pausing dramatically.

“Since I do not believe in fate, the chair votes to allow you the second chance, William. Do not make me wish I’d voted the other way!” Alexis told him. “Fleming City Space Port will be contacted, by me personally, and told to expect one additional passenger. Also, I will give orders that its departure will not commence until the revised passenger manifest has been fulfilled. Two hundred and seventy-eight of your constituents will be relying on you, William! Don’t cause them to lose their deserved employment. Do we understand each other, Mr. Sangiere?” Alexis growled forcefully.

“Yyyyes, Ms. Reilly!” William Sangiere nodded vigorously.

“Good day, William.”Alexis growled.

We all watched a very relieved William Sangiere stand and hurry from the room.

“That was very impressive, mother.” I congratulated.

“When you’ve run the foundation as long as I have hun, you learn to be tough! Where on Earth did you find the accent, Freya Morgana?”

“Morgan Freya, sis. You remember mom’s first chambermaid, right?”

Mom pointed to Aunt Cassandra. “Righhht. I thought it sounded familiar. Well, I guess I should alert the space port.”
 
 

A knock on the door ten minutes later stopped our casual conversations.

“Come!” Alexis shouted.

“Excuse me, Ms. Reilly, Ladies, but a Mrs. Rena Peltierre and her daughter claim they were given instructions to come see you today? They claim their appointment is for 11:21:35AM?”

“And what time is it now, Jamal?” Alexis asked professionally.

“11:20:28, Ma’am.”

“Send them in, Jamal, then shut the door on the way out. Thank you.”

“As you wish, ma’am.”

A shocked Rena Peltierre slowly guided her daughter into the conference room- her eyes scanning us continuously. She kept a firm hold on the child’s shoulders as they approached. Alicia recognized some of us- especially me- immediately. She smiled, but remained quiet.

“Ms. Reilly, I really must apologize, I had no ide…” Rena started, but Alexis held her hand up to stop her.

Waiting fifteen seconds, mom lowered her hand and motioned for our latest guest to continue talking.

Silence hung in the room.

“Were you not told to follow the instructions exactly as written, Mrs. Peltierre?”

“Yes, ma’am, we did everything it said, but…”

“Do you realize you began talking fifteen seconds too soon, Mrs. Peltierre? Are you in that much of a hurry to start this interview?” Alexis asked.

I had no idea how my mother held a straight face!

“No, Ms. Reilly, I wasn’t even sure this was a legitimate invitation, ma’am.” Alicia’s mom replied.

“Please have your seats ladies.” Mom motioned to the two empty seats at the far end of the table. “We trust you have not arranged employment since obtaining the instruction packet from our representative at the Epiphany celebration at Reilly Hall?”

“Unfortunately no, ma’am, but I’m still hopeful and doing everything I can to secure lasting employment.” Rena answered, her voice sounding very troubled.

“And just what are your qualifications, Mrs. Peltierre? Could you please brief our board?” I asked.

Alicia’s worried expression took on a hopeful smile.

“I am confidently trained in social control techniques and previously employed by the Homeland Energy Partnership.”

“Go on. What caused your divergence, Mrs. Peltierre? Please be truthful as we have already conducted our own confidential inquiry and know of their intentional shunting of any career opportunities for you.” Mom directed.

The elder Peltierre narrowed her eyes at Mom’s admission.

“Unfortunately, I was released when I questioned some supervisory interference into my investigation concerning the new planetary core integration project, ma’am.” Rena answered professionally, but continued to evaluate us all.

“Why would there be such interference, Mrs. Peltierre?” Alexis asked “Why would you even question a project that will revitalize our planet by providing much needed energy for all of us?”

“I’m not at liberty to say, ma’am, I’m sorry.” She answered quickly.

“Honesty and loyalty, Madam Chairwoman.” Cami concluded aloud. Mother nodded.

“Rest assured, Mrs. Peltierre, we have nothing close to competing technologies in that area. This foundation’s primary focuses are genetics, robotics, aerospace, and astrophysics research.” Alexis conceded. “And…we have our own proven method of energy generation, which, by the way, has recently been brought online and is operating at optimum efficiency. We would rather see this foundation keep its distance from your former employer for reasons we cannot disclose at this time.”

“Mother witnessed them cannibalizing the safety equipment, M’lady!” Alicia interrupted as she looked directly at me. “Empress Alexandra, won’t you please help mother find another job? Please?”

“Alicia! What have I told you about revealing secrets?!” Rena Peltierre admonished her daughter.

“So you feel the project to be compromised in some way, Mrs. Peltierre?” Alexis asked calmly as she regarded our newest sister.

“Yes she does, M’lady!” Alicia interrupted again “Alexandra, please use your foresight and look into our future to see if it is true!”

“Alicia! That is enough! I will not stand for these outbursts!”

In response, Alicia stood up angrily, pulled off her ever-present knitted head covering, tossed it high into the air, and fired four of her ‘darts’! The result was that she revealed her full head of blonde hair, part of her gift, AND she effectively spiked her hat to an innocent ceiling tile!

Rena Peltierre almost passed out from the shock of her daughter’s rash actions.

“Was that really necessary, Lady Alicia?” I asked calmly with a huge smile.

“Yes, Alexandra, it was! In accordance with the bylaws for the Sisters of Avalon, I can reveal my gift if necessary to my parent when and if I choose. I deemed it necessary in this case, Alexandra, and I felt it time to confide with momma!” Alicia told us forcefully. “I stand by my actions and fully understand there will be a penalty, Empress.”

I noticed movement off to my left near the ceiling.

“Freya Morgana that will not be necessary. Lady Alicia is quite capable of cleaning up on her own.” Mom advised. Rena Peltierre’s face lost pallor as she looked up to see a women in a business pant suit floating near the ceiling ready to start working the bony darts free.

“You are quite right, Lady Alexis. I will retrieve my own projectiles.” Alicia said as she too flew slowly to the ceiling. After doing so, she settled gently to the floor and held the four thin darts in the palm of her hand. Fay also landed and took her seat again.

“What shall I do with them, Lady Alexis?” The girl asked. “Evidence of the sisterhood should never be left for discovery.”

I winked at our newest sister with a proud smile.

Alicia’s mother overcame her fear and began to examine the small projectiles that, quite magically, came from the knuckles of her daughter’s closed, right fist.

“Cassiopeia Darough, you have a delicate touch. Would you please do the honors?” Mom suggested.

The four darts in Alicia’s hand crackled and disappeared- all that was left was a hint of fine, white powder.

Both Rena and Alicia’s mouths fell open and they both looked fearfully at the younger Darough.

“I could have done that, Alexis.” Billie whined in disappointment.

“My queen, your idea of ‘delicacy’ is disintegrating a whole Greek phalanx or two. Begging your pardon, but Lady Alexis selected me for the task.” Cassi replied to the shock of our two guests.

I phased out and appeared standing beside Alicia. Rena’s color drained a little more.

“Lady Alicia, perhaps you and Lady Rena should remain seated while my mother conducts her interview.

“Of course, Empress.” Alicia curtsied modestly then turned to her near unconscious mother. “Momma, Alexandra and our sisters mean you no harm. During Epiphany, she allowed me to travel back to Ancient Avalon with her where she gave me this amazing gift and cured my affliction!”
 
 
It took several minutes to bring Rena Peltierre around. Once awake, mom finalized her interview.
 
 

“Well, Mrs. Peltierre, I think you will make a fine addition to our Social Control group, but I must receive unanimous agreement from the Board before I can proceed. All in favor of Lady Rena Peltierre heading up the Social Control group?”

Thirteen hands rose instantly.

“Against?” She asked. No hands rose.

“Ladies, we have two undecided votes. Ladies Alicia and Rena…why would you not vote for your own employment at this foundation?” Mom asked, as she looked at our newest sisters in concerned amazement.

Again two mouths dropped wide open.

“Excuse me, Lady Alexis?” The surprised girl asked as she tried to recover.

“Are you and your mother not accepted, gift carrying, members of the Sisters of Avalon- inducted by the Empress herself, Lady Alicia?” Mom asked regally.

“Tis true, for me, M’lady, but I dunna think we had such privilege nor status in this venerated establishment since mother has yet ta be inducted?” Alicia answered with words older than her years.

Rena Peltierre instantly stared at her daughter in absolute astonishment!

I retrieved my flask, poured some of its contents into a clean glass for the pale woman, and walked to her end of the table carefully placing the full glass on the table in front of her.

Care for a drink, Rena?” I offered. “It’s just filtered water.”

“Mind if I have some, Alexandra, I’m the wee bit parched?”

Her mother again stared at her daughter trying to ascertain where and when the accent manifested.

“Of course, Lady Alicia, but not too much. I think your mother could use most of it. She doesn’t look so good at the moment.”

After drinking a small portion of the contents, Alicia handed the glass to her mother.

“Here momma, it tastes fine- better than the water at the shelt…”

“That’s enough, Alicia! I could use a drink right about now, but this will suffice. Thank you, Ale… What should I call you, ma’am?”

“Oh…I don’t know…how…about…um…Alexandra or Alex?” I giggled.

“Thank you …Alexandra.”

After taking a slight sip, Rena downed the remaining water and placed the empty glass back on the table.

Alexis again pressed Alicia and Rena for their vote.

“Ladies Alicia and Rena, do you wish to change your vote? I’m truly sorry for my oversight in informing you of the benefits the sisterhood share. It has been many decades since we have inducted new sisters- especially with our Empress’ personal interaction.”

Rena Peltierre looked at mother, narrowing her eyes in suspicion. I don’t think Alicia noticed.

“Lady Alexis, I do indeed wish to change my vote! I choose Aye! Aye, to appointing Rena Peltierre Head of Social Control!”

“Thank you, Lady Alicia.” Mom smiled brightly. “Lady Rena?”

Rena Peltierre gulped and slowly raised her hand and muttered, “yes…um…aye.”

“Motion carries!” Mom cheered excitedly. “Welcome to the Reilly Foundation for Advanced Technological Research. Now…your first assignment will be to head up Social Control at our Reilly Research Station…”

“Reilly Research…” Rena gasped. “Isn’t that up…up…?” She stuttered and shakily pointed to the ceiling.

“No, M’lady, Reilly Research Station is not located on the floors above us; it is located forty-eight thousand, two hundred and eighty kilometers from Earth. We trust you and Lady Alicia can be packed and ready in…oh…say…an hour?” Randi Peltierre corrected.

“Outer space? You want me…us…to go to outer space? With Alicia?”

“OUTER SPACE!?” Our eleven-year-old sister screeched in excitement.

“Is there a problem, M’lady?” Alexis asked unemotionally, but with concern.

“Isn’t Alicia too young to be…out…out there?”

I pointed to Alicia hovering directly over her mother’s head, pinwheeling with her hands holding her cheeks. Someone had been practicing!

“I really don’t think Lady Alicia will have a problem, M’lady.”

Everyone but Rena Peltierre laughed at our little sister’s exuberance.

After convincing Rena of our sincerity, she blushed and revealed that she and Alicia had very few things to their name- that most of their belongings had been claimed as collateral against Rena’s extensive financial debt- the result of two years of unemployment and costly treatments for her ‘terminally ill’ daughter.

No wonder she and Alicia came to Reilly Hall for Epiphany. It was probably the only hot meal and warm bed they had gotten in a very long time.

“Ms. Sangiere, could you possibly escort our newest members back to their residence and help them transfer their belongings here?” Alexis asked Billie kindly.

Apparently, Rena knew the family name and stared intently at my assistant director as she approached them.

“Hi! I’m Billie Sangiere, but you both can just call me Billie. So…where will we be going to get your belongings?” Billie asked brightly, offering her hand, Alicia wasted no time shaking it.

Rena blushed furiously as she tentatively shook the offered hand.

“Rena…Rena Peltierre.”

“So…where are we off to?” Billie asked keeping her pleasant smile

“Fleming City Shelter for Homeless Women.” She replied, barely above a whisper- embarrassed beyond reason.

“Ok, let’s go.” Billie responded with no prejudice or judgment and offered her hands to mother and daughter. “Please take my hands and I’ll escort you out.”

As soon as they joined hands, all three disappeared.

“So, we have five minutes then?” Mom looked toward me to confirm her estimate. I nodded.

“Randi, can you hit this version of RVP from here, hun?” she asked my Comptroller.

“OH! Um, I’ve been talking to her all day- on and off-,Alexis. What do you need?” Randi jumped slightly before answering.

“Have you beaten her at chess yet, Randi?” I asked with a knowing grin.

“I had to upload the game into her archives first, Alex. RVP’s link speeds aren’t what they could be yet. And yes, I’ve beaten her forty times so far.”

“Is that all?” I asked in surprised sarcasm.

“We just started playing five minutes ago, Director!” She replied in disbelief.

“Randi, I’d like planetary archives of Rena and Alicia transferred to the facility. Birth archives, genetic, physical, and psychiatric data only. Nothing of a financial nature though…access foundation coffers and payoff all of their debts. List me as the initiator. Also log Rena as head of Social Control and Alicia…”

I coughed into my fisted hand graciously.

“Sorry. Also log Rena as head of Social Control and Freya Morgana as deputy head in our planetary archives.”

A quick check of Fay had her looking very confused and conflicted.

“Aye, ma’am. Uploading requested files as we speak.”

“Alexis?” Randi looked concerned. “Um…we might have a problem, ma’am.”

“And that would be…?” Mom asked looking at her patiently.

“Um…Rena’s maiden name is…is Hathor, ma’am.”

I heard Fay gasp.

“We know, Ms. Peltierre.” Aunt Cassandra said as mom, my aunts and assistants, and I all nodded.

“Um, wouldn’t two Hathor’s equal a whole lot of trouble, ma’am?”

“Y’all think those two would be homeless if they was in tight with the Hathor clan, Randi?” Mom questioned dramatically.

Fay exhaled in relief.

“Just doin’ my job, ma’am…doin’ my job…yep…Doin’. My. Job.” Randi responded exaggeratedly as she comically rolled her eyes and tapped her fingernails on the glass tabletop a few times. “Upload complete. Financial transaction complete. Planetary archive correction complete.”

I felt Billie arrive, but she hadn’t rephased yet.

“Miss Sangiere now is not the time to show off. We have important matters to take care of, so rephase and let’s continue, shall we?” I said to the exact location I knew the three to be standing.

“…could she possibly know we were here, Billie?” Alicia asked as they appeared. Two medium sized duffle bags were all our new sisters carried. Billie shouldered a third, smaller duffle, and a translucent clothing bag.

“Because Alexandra is THE Empress of Time and Space, Alicia. She can do that and much, much more.” Billie answered while Rena stared at me in horror.

“A word to the wise, Rena Peltierre,” I said to her with a devious smile. “Before you decide to pass on the stories of a myth or legend, make sure that they actually are just myth and/or legend.” I winked.

“Where should they put their things, Alex?” Billie asked.

“Just put them on the table, Billie.” Mom told her.

“Okay.” Billie responded and I could see Alicia and Rena gasp as they suddenly began to fight their baggage. One duffle and the clothing bag floated over to the table and gently touched down, while Rena quickly released her bag and watched in awe as it too floated over and landed on the table. Alicia refused to release her bag though and decided to follow it. While her duffle landed gently on the glass tabletop, Alicia hovered just above it- strap still in hand- with a playful smile plastered on her young face.

“Alicia!” Rena hissed nervously, trying to make the girl behave.

“Anybody hungry?” I asked as Alicia touched the floor gracefully.

“We could eat on Reilly, honey. I hear Randall programmed the food stations with quite a variety. But before we leave, our Social Control officers need their uniforms.” Mom said before she shimmered slightly. “Through that door is the conference room’s lavatory.” Mom pointed behind her. “In it, hanging on the door, you will find two Reilly Research Facility uniforms. They have been fabricated to fit each of you. At this time, I’d like you to go put them on. I must warn you that they do fit snugly and that undergarments and any sanitary accessories of any kind must be removed. You must do that because our uniforms interface with the Facility’s sanitation and reclamation system. The advanced material they are constructed of must make physical contact with the skin.”

When neither moved, I felt I needed to simplify the instructions.

“Please go in, strip to your birthday suits, and put the uniforms on. It should fit you like this.”

As I stood, my Reilly changed to its default form.

Mother and daughter gasped in shocked astonishment. As if that were a cue, mom and our still seated sisters stood and ordered their Reilly’s to change. We all stood before our new sisters in the default, skin-tight, red with blue trimmed, Foundation developed, environmental suits- aka, our Reilly’s.

“That was ridiculous!” Alicia shouted. She began dragging her mother to the bathroom. Her feet weren’t touching the floor though.

Fifteen minutes later, Mother and daughter slowly reentered the conference room. Both were tugging at their Reilly’s in several places- though one place more so than the others. I immediately retrieved Alex Steinert’s memories of her first time in the coveri…spacesuit.

“This is embarrassing! I feel like I’m being cut in half, Ms. Reilly.” Rena said expressing her concern about the fit. To illustrate, she tugged at her crotch and swiveled her hips a couple times trying to get a better fit.

“We all said that the first time, Rena. You get used to it.” I giggled.

“Now…something important you should know,” Mom began her suit introduction. “These coverings are technologically advanced- way beyond anything Earth has ever seen before.” Mom said before pausing to assess the shocked faces. “Reilly Research Station contains no customary lavatories or similar sanitary facilities. Meaning you should never have to take off your suit. When nature calls your covering will absorb the waste and transfer it to the reclamation system through the floor decking. Observe.”

Mom picked up her water glass and poured the contents on the floor. Within seconds the water had been completely absorbed and the tight pile carpeting dry.

“Wow!” Alicia cried out excitedly.

“In other words, y’all kin mess yer britches and not worry ‘bout no accidents!” I said as my sister’s memory and accent erupted.

Mom looked over to me with an amused expression.

“Camille, would you care to instruct our sisters in the use of the neuro-interface?”

“Neuro…interface…” Rena managed to get out before she stopped abruptly. Mother and daughter stood rigid and statue-still while Cami telepathically told them how to use their Reilly’s.

‘Cami, do not inform Alicia of her Valkyrie mode at this time, please.” I thought to my Mind Warrior. “Randi, please lockout the Valkyrie Mark 4 Platform functions with a six year delay. Be sure to delete the covering inventory and adaption function of both units, also.”

“Accessing…done, Director.”

“Thanks, honey.”

“I…I could…could hear you…in…in my mind!” Rena stuttered. “Hhhhow can you ddd…do that?”

“Rena,” Mother paused a moment, “Each of us…the Sisters of Avalon…have gifts…special gifts that allow us to help our Empress as she travels time and space to right the quirks and snags in what she calls the time stream.”

“Yes, Rena, she said travel through time.” I responded.

“Travel…through time?” Rena repeated, but stared at me realizing I had beaten her to her response.

“No, I don’t read minds, but I can see ahead to what you would say. In many ways it looks similar to mind reading, but usually more accurate.” I smiled.

“Can you read mi…minds?”

“What have you gotten yourself into, Rena? Why, only the most challenging, implausible venture you’ve ever dreamed…and then some! This is your chance of a lifetime.”

“What have I gotten…?” She started to say, but stopped and looked angrily at me.

“Yes, I’ll stop, M’lady.” I smiled deviously.

“Will you please…uuurrrrgh!” Rena Peltierre went to turn and walk out, but quickly thought better of it. She looked at mother- a look of apology flashed to her face.

“Well, Alexandra? What has the Empress to say about our new department head?” Mom asked calmly.

“I see her serving the foundation admirably for quite a few years, mother.” I answered respectfully.

“I concur, Alexandra. Billie Sangiere?” Mom asked, moving on. Billie closed her eyes for thirty-five seconds.

“I see many trying times ahead for Mrs. Peltierre and her deputy, Alexis. Yet…most scenarios are quite similar and positive. She logs many…”Billie’s face flashed a grimace briefly before she continued. “She logs many years with a flawless character.”

‘She saw what happens, Alex.’ Cami thought to me. I nodded very slightly. Sadly, I knew.

“Empress? What did she see? I noticed the grimace. What’s wrong?” Alicia asked with concern.

“There…,” How could I put this? “Billie saw one scenario that- if allowed to happen- might cause harm to your mother, honey. We’ll try not to let that happen though.”

“And how many of these ‘scenarios’ have you run on me?” Rena asked in disbelief.

“Twelve.”

“Three hundred and five.”

Billie and I answered at the same time.

My assistant director looked at me in absolute amazement.

“You ran that many? When?” She asked.

“Same time as you, Billie.” I answered indifferently.

“Alex was going easy on you, my queen.” Cami giggled. “Her typical benchmark is over eight hundred scenarios per second.”

“Typical?” Randi gasped while mom and both Samantha’s and Cassandra’s looked stunned.

“Look…” I said, “How fast I can run scenarios is irrelevant. Shouldn’t we be getting Reilly’s security people to their post?”

“I agree with Alexandra. Who here wants to go to Reilly Research Station?” Mom asked excitedly as she raised her hand quickly.

Rena Peltierre was the last to cautiously respond- and only after looking around at each of us skeptically.

My conference room- one I had spent many revoluti…years in, appeared around us. I wondered if anyone had noticed that our new sisters’ bags had come along.

INTRUDER ALERT! INTRUDER ALERT! INTRUDER ALERT!...” RVP began loudly repeating over and over just after I rephased us. Her voice sounded slightly mechanical since Randi hadn’t been able to interface with her at her greatly enhanced- gifted- level yet.

“RVP, reset alarm, authorization, ReillyDirector4386!”

Voice pattern not recognized! INTRUDER ALERT! INTRUDER ALERT!...

Randi looked to the ceiling angrily. “What do you mean, ‘voice pattern not recognized’?”

“Go easy on her, Randi. Remember, I’m not the director yet.” I recommended gently.

Acknowledged, Empress.” Randi’s voice interrupted the repeating warning announcement.

Apparently, Randi was already in the system.

Cancelling the alarm, Alex. I’m inserting your voiceprint and access code.” Randi said from the facility’s announcement system after it silenced.

“Try it now, Empress.” Randi advised- from her own mouth.

I smiled and nodded.

“RVP, do you recognize me now?” I asked pleasantly.

Alexandra Frances Reilly, Empress of Time and Space. Authenticate with access code, please.” The A.I. responded.

“ReillyDirector4386.” I stated.

That access code has already been reserved by another user. System and Facility safeguards may be compromised if stated access code remains in effect. Do you still request system access using this access code?

“Affirmative, RVP.”

Witness voiceprint and access code required for requested transaction.” RVP continued.

“Alexis Reilly, Chairwoman, Reilly Foundation.” Mom spoke up as she looked to the ceiling with annoyance.

Voiceprint recognized. Please state access code.

Mom looked worriedly around the conference room. “Imissmyma.”

Access accepted, Chairwoman Reilly. Voiceprint and access code for Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space has been accepted and archived. Thank you and have a pleasant day. Remember, this A.I. is at your service and will be happy to answer any and all questions if possible. Welcome to Reilly Research Station, Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space and associates.

“Wow. I forgot how annoying that was! No wonder I changed it.” Randi groused under her breath.

“Not now, Ms. Peltierre.” Mom advised. “Rena and Alicia need their access codes setup and…I believe a tour is in order?”

“Understood, Alexis.” Randi responded as she stared back at Rena, who was intently staring at her.

“Yes, Rena, Randi is related to your husband! A distant cousin. Now, can we strike the staring contest and get on with things?” Mom growled.

“Fine, but we’re going to do this my way!” Randi huffed. She looked at Rena intently as we heard a set of three chimes sound from all around us.

Please state your full name followed by the vocal access code you wish to use.” Randi instructed as her voice sounded from around the room. She was back in RVP again.

Rena stared at my comptroller in astonishment- like she had done the first time Randi interfaced.

We’re waiting, Mrs. Peltierre.” Randi’s voice said flatly- impatiently.

Rena gulped before opening her mouth.

“Rena Lenore Hathor-Peltierre.” She paused to think of a code. “Unbelievable!”

Voice print and access code archived. Thank you, Administrator Peltierre.

Randi motioned to Alicia and she repeated her instructions.

Alicia looked at me as concern clouded- what was to this point an unfathomable- smile.

I nodded.

“State the name you want the Station A.I. to know you by, honey. Then think of a unique access code…one you can remember…I suggest something that is important to you.” I coached.

Alicia nodded uncomfortably and took a minute to think of something. Her face suddenly became extremely serious.

“Freya Alicia Morgana.” She paused to look at her stunned mother then took a deep breath and continued. “Avalon9264.”

Voice print and access code archived. Thank you, Deputy Administrator Morgana.

“Why did you choose that name, Alicia? Are you still that embarrassed by your father?” Rena asked sadly.

“When daddy left us and it was just you and me…then when you lost your position…”

“Oh, sweetie! Your father didn’t leave us, he…” Rena stopped suddenly as her eyes moistened.

“Why that specific name, Alicia?” she asked after taking a moment to compose herself.

“When Alexandra took me back to Avalon…when she cured me…and…and she gave me my gift, my tutor…her name was Morgan Freya of Clan Freya. She was very patient…I will never forget our trip to Avalon, Alexandra.”

Fay, though trying not to, stared, teary-eyed at her past self, but remained quiet.

“I think I understand the ‘Avalon’ in your access code, but the number, sweetie?” Rena asked.

Alicia-now-Freya looked at her mother incredulously.

“The month and year Alexandra took me to, momma! I will never forget that either! September of 264AE!”

“Sept…264? But that’s impossible! Alicia, I thought you were making the whole thing up.” Rena declared as she stared between her daughter and me.

“RVP? Please state today’s date.” I asked the A.I.

1:07PM, June 26th, 1459AE, Empress.

Rena’s eyes and mouth opened fully! “Eight days ag…”

“Thank you, RVP.” I said with a devious smile.

“You brought us back eight days, Alexandra? Why?” Alicia questioned.

“Mostly to prove to your mother that I am the Empress of legend. But you two need to be here when the administrative staff arrives.” I answered. “Shall we start our orientation tour, ladies?”
 
 

1:57PM, Reilly Research Facility, June 26th, 1459AE
 
 

“This is sublevel two. Below us are four levels of storage and the environmental systems that keep this facility operating. Under that is sublevel seven, the shuttle hangar bay. It is the last publicly accessible level- where the administrative staff will arrive in just under two hours.” I told everyone.

“Sublevel two is completely configurable for special projects that require more than just a laboratory or demonstration theater. If you wish, Freya Morgana, you can configure this area for specialized, Social Control training exercises.” I told everyone, hoping Alicia would take the hint as I knew she would.

“As I said, the shuttle bay is the last accessible public level. Four kilometers below the shuttle bay are the power generators. Twenty-two, zero point reactors capable of providing more than enough energy for any experimental projects you can imagine. They also power the Station’s defensive systems and protective shields. Let’s go back up to level one.”
 
 

“Beyond this hatch is the airlock.” I began, but for some reason I started to reminisce about the many events that occurred here over the years…” My re-entrance after Alex Steinert brought the facility to Earth and effectively rescued me. Her memory of Yuuka and Hoshi’s first day here…

A feeling of extreme sadness overcame me.

Suddenly Rena’s much younger, despondent face reflected in the hatch’s porthole. I jerked back in shock! Had she really been there just now or had it been some delusion?

“Alexandra? What is it, daughter?” Mom asked gently as she touched my arm in concern.

“N…nothing.” I replied softly as I reconfirmed that the love of my life wasn’t repeating her last living actions. Mom looked at me with some doubt in her eyes that I was telling the truth.

“On this level are the general administrative offices for our individual research groups, the Infirmary wing, and several computational and robotics labs. The lower portion of the main presentation auditorium is also accessible on this level. Also, there is an environmentally protected outdoor patio for those who require relief from claustrophobia or would just like an unobstructed view of the stars when the observatory is unavailable.”
 
 

“Here on the second level is where we expect many of the foundation’s major discoveries and breakthroughs to take place. Labs dedicated to biology, nanotechnology, genetics, metaphysics, and quantum mechanics are located on this level. The upper entrance to the auditorium is here also. A large recreational room fitted with our most state-of-the-art entertainment equipment is open and accessible twenty-four-seven. About a third of this level contains personal residences. Let’s go up another level.”

“Twenty-four-seven, Alexandra? Why add an extra hour to Earth’s natural cycle? Rena asked.

“As its name implies, Reilly Research Station is about research. One of the topics we’ll be looking into is the effect of longer daily time cycles and how they affect the human body and its rhythms.” Mom answered.

“Why?” Alicia asked, not understanding the concept.

“As we explore this limitless universe of ours, we may find other systems- systems that contain planets very similar to Earth, Miss Morgana. These planets theoretically can have different orbits and different rates of planetary rotation. A year may not be three hundred and sixty days long or there may not be twenty three hours in the day as here on Earth.” Mom tried to explain.

“But Alexandra said she has already been to other planets…other universes, Lady Alexis.” Alicia contested. Rena instantly stared at her daughter, shocked again at the things she knew.

“Lady Alicia,” Mom looked to the youngest of our two newest sisters, “The Sisters of Avalon, aka the Sisters of the Empress of Time and Space know conclusively that other habitable planets exist. We know also that an unlimited number of universes, with unsurprisingly, an unlimited number of dimensions in each are known because of the Empress’ travels.”

“Yyyyyyyou’ve…” Rena Peltierre swallowed hard and licked her lips nervously, “You’ve been to other planets? Other universes? Empress?”

I blushed. “I and several of our sisters,” I motioned to Billie, Cassie, Sam, Cami and Cassi Darough, Yuuka, Hoshi, and Fay, “Live in another universe on an alternate version of this Earth. Six of us were born here though.”

“Look, can we please dispense with all of the staring and continue the tour?” I said having had about enough. “Sisters, you both will experience many strange, sometimes unbelievable things now that we have revealed ourselves and welcomed you into our sisterhood. I suggest you expect the unexpected from now on.”
 
 

“Welcome to level three.” I said as we walked off the lift. “This level is primarily personal residences- some are suites for and in case our staff have family in attendance…or wish to start one. Six, small, conference-presentation rooms occupy this level and are also accessible around the clock. Two observation patios are available for the same reasons I listed earlier.”

“Alexandra? We’re out in space, right?” Alicia asked curiously.

“We are. Why?” I asked.

“There isn’t any air in space so how can we go ‘outside’?” She puzzled aloud.

“Reilly Research Station employs a protective force shield to safeguard the structure and a limited circumference around it. The shield is substantial enough to contain a breathable atmosphere. Combined with the foundation’s patented gravity generation system, you can walk outside without worry of decompression, radiation exposure, or just plain floating off into deep space. Now please follow me.”

I guided our group to a door in the north residential wing.

“This is one of our residences, sisters. To actuate the door simply tell it to open. The commands ‘lock’ and ‘unlock’ function as you would think they do. Care to try it, Lady Alicia?”

“RVP, Please open the door.”

Acknowledged.” The A.I. replied as the domicile door opened and the illumination increased.

Beyond us was a large two-bedroom suite that looked Spartan now, but would take on a warm, ‘lived in’ nuance in less than four weeks.

Rena and Alicia’s mouth’s dropped.

“It’s yours if you want it.” Mom told them.

“This is for us?” Rena gasped as she looked around slowly.

“If it does not suit your needs, we can show you a three bedroom suite instead.” Mom insisted, politely.

“What?” Rena shrieked! “No! Um…no…no this will be fine, ma’am.”

“RVP, reserve and list ownership of this residence to Rena and Ali…Freya.” Mom ordered.

Acknowledged.

“Shall we see the rest of the Facility?” I asked as I motioned us out.

We had to wait several minutes for our new security staff to catch up.
 
 

“The fourth level contains more residences, several more conference rooms, and the upper administration office spaces such as the Director and Assistant Directors offices and their attached, private, conference rooms.” I stopped us by another door. “This is your office, sisters. Open, please.” I said asking for the door to comply.

“Our office?” Alicia asked.

“You two are the head and deputy administrators of Social Control are you not?” I asked.

Fay suddenly turned and hurried down the passage.

“We will be in the Directors conference room, Fay. Take your time.” Mom advised loudly just before Fay turned the corner. She would rejoin us after the original administrative staff arrived. That would be twenty minutes from now.
 
 

“Chairwoman Reilly, RVP has advised me that the shuttle is on final approach and will be docked in fifteen minutes. Randi notified us as we arrived on the fifth level.

“Very well, Lady Randi. Alexandra, as usual you have impeccable timing! Shall we finish this level and I will take our Social Control representatives to meet the other administrators.”

“As you wish, Madam Chairwoman. Sisters, this level is only half the area of the other levels. It houses our observatory, several equipment rooms and a pressure hull access via another airlock. Now we must take our leave so you can meet your fellow researchers and staff in the shuttle bay.” I finished our tour and looked at Mom, my aunts, Rena, and Alici…Freya. “We’ll meet again, ladies.”

With that I phased Billie, Hoshi, Randi, Yuuka, Cami and Cassi Darough, my Samantha and Cassandra, and me, out. Mother looked a little surprised that, one, I hadn’t offered my hands to my sisters and two, I had left her and my aunts with Rena and young Freya.

The director’s conference room appeared around us.

As I anticipated, Fay knocked gently at the door and entered slowly. She looked like she had been crying.

“Feeling a little better, Fay?” I asked gently.

“Alexandra, why can’t I remember any of this?” She asked looking like she would cry again at any moment. “Memories like this would be impossible to forget, so why…why can’t I remember any of this?”

I took more time than I realized before answering. This reply…it would cause pain and distrust. Ultimately, it would cause brief suspicion toward me until the completion of this mission.

In the words of my sister, ‘This job really sucked!’

“Because of the sensitivity of this mission I cannot reveal the how’s, why’s, or what for’s at this crucial point in our history. Know that it pains me severely to withhold information pertaining to our memories. What happens in the coming chapters will take great tolls on each of us.” I said sadly through moist eyes.

“I want to know why I can’t remember this, Alexandra Reilly!” Fay shouted in frustration.

“Yes, ‘Alexandra’, please tell us why?” A male voice asked from the door.

Alexander Reilly stood there with an angry scowl- leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed.

“That is no way to talk to your Grandmother, Alexander!” Mom chided as she appeared behind my male version.

“She is no more my ‘grandmother’ than I am, mother! What game are we playing here? Why now? Why, when so much is at stake?” Alexander Reilly asked angrily.

I remained silent and just gazed at my past version. Each of my sisters looked at him as if seeing a ghost.

“Get into the room and have a seat, Alexander.” Mom ordered as she pushed him forward and allowed the conference room door to slide closed.”

“Executive Lock.” She said calmly.

Alexander cautiously walked to the large table and slowly sat down- all the while staring suspiciously at me.

“Alexandra,” Mom said gently. “The time grows close and it is now time for answers. You know what is to be and that it must happen. Oblige them the answers they demand, daughter.”

“Daughter? Mother, you do not have a ‘daughter’! You only have a son! One son! Me! What is this madness? What does this Empress know and thus must reveal…if she IS the Empress, that is!”

I appeared behind my former self instantly.

“I am indeed the Empress, Alexander.” I hissed as the stress and pain of what I had to purvey raised my anger instantly.

The male seated in front of me jumped from his seat and spun to stare at me- the chair flying through me with no effect and crashing to the wall! His face immediately reflected terror.

“I’ve never seem the Empress do that before! That blue glow! When are you from?” He asked as he tried to hold his reserve.

“I am the Empress from your future, Alexander- though you ARE right; I am not Grandmother.” I paused, regretting what I was now going to say.

“We are here to restore what we must remove in the near future to safeguard our civilization.”

“What kind of double talk is that…Alexandra?” Alexander Reilly asked angrily, but curiously.

“If you truly did comprehend time travel, Alex, you would understand that what I said is logical and not ‘double talk’, as you claim! What I said must- despite great pain and suffering- come to pass. Although you do not believe me, the future must continue on its current path and must not deviate. Grandmother spent fourteen hundred years looking for an equitable solution to your fast approaching future. She never found one before passing on with honor and respect!”

I wiped my eyes.

“Then, please, Alexandra Reilly- Empress of Time and Space- tell this undeserving…insignificant…mortal…why it is logical? Explain it so even I can understand!”

I stopped time.

“Mother, I…I can’t do this! I know what the future requires, but wish not to see it through.” I cried.

“Alex,” Mom said gently as her bluish glowing form stepped closer. I noticed Sam, Cassie, and Billie glowing also. “You are the only one that can make this future happen. You must follow through or everything that we…that mother- your sister, Alexandra Steinert, has done to this point will go away! We will all cease to exist!”

“Mother? Is it even right that he knows who I really am and what our purpose here is? Won’t this just make my future worse instead of better? Surely what is said today can only hurt instead of heal?”

“Empress, let your trusted sisters make their own decisions. They have known you long enough that they can make their own well-informed choices. Trust them, Alexandra.”

“Alex…I understand now and I…I think Alexis is right. Let us make up our own minds.” Billie advised as she looked to Sam and Cassie. Both looked sad, but nodded their agreement.

“You can do this, Alex, and I’ll be right here to help if you need me.” Yuuka said from my shoulder. When had she gone to Pixie mode anyway?

“You’re right, mother…sisters…thank you. This has to be done.” I admitted sadly- reconciling with my conscious.

Time restarted.

“So you want to know the answers, Alexander Fredrick Reilly! I wonder if you can handle the answers?” I said as I gazed into his eyes, Demmit style.

Alex paused and swallowed hard. “Well, we’ll never know if you don’t tell me, Empress.”

“As you wish.” I paused. “The first thing you should know is…I am you…or rather…I am who you become twenty-two months from now, Alexander Reilly! I am Alexandra Frances Reilly, Director of Reilly Research Station and I have held that position for well over nine hundred and eighty years.”

“Over there,” I pointed to Billie, “is William Sangiere or Billie as we call her now. She is still Assistant Director of the Station. To her left is Freya Morgana, head of Social Control. To her left are Samantha Fleming, Cassandra Sangiere, and Cameron- now Camille- Darough, my research assistants, and Camille’s daughter, Cassieopia. Do their names mean anything to you, Alexander?”

“And what of the brunette to my right or the Pixie on your left shoulder? Do they also reflect my staff here on Reilly?”

“Why, if you weren’t her, I’d go Pixie on your ass in an instant, buster!” Yuuka said as she angrily shot to and hovered in front of his nose and swatted it.

“Ouch!” Alexander Reilly shouted. Hoshi giggled from her position as she dangled his belt.

The men’s version of the Reilly suit had a belt?

“Don’t piss us off, Mr. Reilly. You won’t fair well.” Hoshi warned.

“Hey! That’s my belt. Give it back!”

“Nope! Not until you show Alex some respect and at least entertain the fact that she is you.” Hoshi giggled.

“Do I look like this Alex?” My male version complained, pointing to me.

“Not yet, but you will, hun.” Cassandra giggled evilly.

“Maybe I can be of assistance, Empress?” Billie offered where she stood.

“And how can you help, Willie?”

“That’s Billie…Billie Sangiere!”

“Whatever! What could you possibly do?” Alexander dared.

“You mean other than disintegrate you into something smaller than quarks?” Camille asked with a serious glare. “The Queen Mind Warrior should not be pushed or angered, Alexander!”

“Cami, he’s not worth it. Let him find out for himself.” Billie told her calmly as she decided to ignore him.

“Now that’s what a Sangiere would say!” Alexander mocked. “Always ducking out of a conflict! Typic-.”

My male version suddenly grabbed at his neck, but his hands didn’t stay there for long. Alex’s arms and legs stretched out as if tied to four different posts. He shrieked in pain.

“On our new world, there is a very effective torture technique called drawing and quartering. Would you like to experience it first hand, Alexander Reilly?” Billie hissed in anger.

“Billie? Is this really necessary?” Mom asked.

“How dare he speak badly of my family, Alexis? Though my male version was reluctant to challenge convention in this time period, I’m not that person any longer and certainly won’t!”

“No, Billie, you’re not. You’ve grown exponentially since Alexandra brought you back from the grave.” Samantha complimented.

“Oh, this gets better and better! Owwwww!” Alex cried as apparently, the invisible bindings holding his limbs tightened.

“Billie! If you quarter him now, we all cease to exist.” I warned.

“Right as usual, Empress.” Billie admitted as she released my male version. He dropped to the floor in a groaning heap.

“You deserved that, son!” Mom scolded. “Now stop being so swine-headed and listen to your sister!”

“I don’t have a sister.” Alex argued contemptuously.

“Billie?” Mom said as she stared at her son with an evil grin.

“Fine! I’m all ears.” He reluctantly conceded.

Despite the sarcastic reply, I started my ‘prophecy’.

“In twenty-one months, the Homeland Energy Partnership will initiate their energy generation initiative dubbed, the ‘Planetary Core Excitation Project’. After a two-week trial at twenty percent output, Homeland Energy will advance the project to its next phase and push power generation toward it’s calculated, nominal output. At approximately eighty-three percent output, safety limiters meant to protect and warn the operators of a cascading failure begin to malfunction. The result is a runaway process that begins to over excite the planet’s core. As the core excitement continues to increase unrestricted, the generated energy reserve builds and builds until it reaches critical. Nothing is done…or can be done to slow the reaction.”

“At approximately 11:23AM Fleming City Time, July 4th, 1461AE, the last safety devices fail and Earth’s core begins to go super-critical. Homeland Energy ‘neglects’ to alert planetary authorities for four hours. By then it is completely unstoppable and irreversible. According to RVP’s sensors, at 5:13PM FCT Earth’s mantle begins to liquefy. At 9:00PM FCT, Earth’s crust fails, ruptures, and ignites- effectively turning our Homeworld into a blazing fusion reactor and transforms this singular star system into a binary one. Reilly Research Station, its foundational satellite, and all hands experience severe gravitational effects, as the facility is slingshot five hundred thousand kilometers further away from the newly formed star. All our friends, all our families, everything we knew…All signs of civilization on the planet vaporize in that instant!”

“There, Reilly will orbit- completely isolated- for nine hundred and sixty years, until the Empress again visits and takes pity on its remaining inhabitants.”

“Their demise once again rapidly approaching, Alexandra Steinert uses her gift and transports both Reilly, and it’s staff to an entirely new universe- to a planet very similar to Earth, but with a far better future prospectus.”

After pausing a moment to recover, I observed how the prophecy sat with my sisters. The anguish I felt was reflected back around the room- even Alexander looked to the floor in solemn distress.

“Alexander. The only way to save those living and working in this facility is for you, Cameron, and William to develop the nanos currently flowing freely through our bodies.” I told him as I motioned to my travel companions. “How you do that, I will leave to you as I cannot allow you to extract a sample from any of us. I’m sorry.”

Finished with my prediction, I looked to Mom.

“Mother, it is time for us to go. We must move on to the next phase of our multi-facetted mission. Ladies? Are you ready?” I asked solemnly.

“Alexandra! Wait!” My male version urged as he took the few steps needed to approach.

Looking intently at me- examining me from head to toe- he settled his gaze into my eyes for a few minutes.

“See something interesting in there?” I asked in curiosity.

“You’re incredible!” He half-whispered without looking away.

“If only I had the deposits for every time someone has said that.” I replied sadly as I blushed.

“How do you do that?” He asked, still looking into my eyes.

“Do what, Alexander?” I asked curiously.

“How do you make your eyes look infinitely deep- as if a whole universe was contained behind each pupil?” He asked, completely mesmerized.

“It is said, son, that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Alexandra has the ability to see countless souls in an infinite number of universes, for she is THE vessel! The vessel that holds all our hopes and dreams! But she is much more.” Mom gushed. I really wished for her to stop with all the hype- that wasn’t what the Empress was about. Unfortunately, she continued to spread it densely.

“The Empress of Time and Space represents opportunity... opportunity for those lives that need second chances, my son! Alexandra…” Mom pointed to Alexander instead of me. “You son…and all your future sisters,” Mom motioned around the room, “are destined to become the embodiment of all our hopes and dreams- living proof that our people, our Earth, will never be forgotten. If you remember anything at all, remember that you must keep our legacy alive, Alex. The paradox that is the Empress, along with our ‘Homeworld’ must carry through to infinity.”

“And it all starts with me? I have to be the one that develops and disperses these ‘nanos’? Why me?”

“Do you really have to ask that…brother?” I asked as I motioned to myself then him with a smile.

Alex swallowed hard and his face began to pale.

“Give it a rest, Alexander Reilly! You’ll have nine hundred years to become acquainted with me before Alexandra Steinert comes to our rescue!” I chided, but an evil grin appeared as I thought of something. “That’s only about eleven thousand menstrual cycles, Bro.”

“Twelve thousand, five hundred-forteen, Alex.” Randi corrected, though it didn’t matter as what I said had already achieved its desired effect.

Alexander Reilly’s mouth dropped so far open I thought it would detach and land on the floor!

“Stop teasing, Alexandra!” Mom giggled deviously. “Tell him about your daughters, hun.” She winked.

Now Alexander’s eyes opened even wider.

“You…I…you have children?” He gasped. “How?”

“Um…the usual way.” I said watching his face pale even more. “It ain’t just point an’ click, ya know.” I laughed. Damn Alex Covington and her contemporary phrases!

I thought I saw Cami begin to open her mouth, possibly about the ‘point and click’ remark, but stop as she apparently thought about THAT necessary development.

“Alexandra has two girls, Alexander.” Mom continued with a wry smile. Had she teased me like this on a regular basis?

“Reilly is somewhere around thirty-two, and Regina is almost thirteen.” I said.

“Somewhere ‘around’ thirty-two; almost thirteen?” Alexander scoffed having relocated his jaw. “I don’t even know how old my daughters are?”

“MY daughter’s, honey! I had all the fun and I had all the pain- and yes ‘around’, because she is in OUR Earth’s future with her husband starting her own family and Regina is on Terra being schooled by my neice. My options remain open as to when I will go to visit Reilly and David.” I informed him.

“And this all happens because of me…what I will do in the future?”

“And y’all do good work too, hun!” I giggled as I again motioned down my body. I was starting to feel tired all of a sudden.

“Alexandra, could you possibly release time outside this conference room? I think Alexander knows enough about us and what needs to happen.” Mom advised gently. I hadn’t even realized I had done it.

My male version looked between us as his eyes opened wildly again.

“You…you…yyyyou can stop time in specific locations?”

“She can even reverse it if she so chooses, Alex.” Billie chirped excitedly.

“Alex?” Mom reminded.

“Time is re-established outside of this room, mother.”

“Thank you, sweetie.” Mom said as I noticed the sparkle diminish in her eyes. “Hun, it’s time for you and the girls to move to the next phase.”

This was going to be the hard part. I began to concentrate on our next location and date; who was going with me, and keeping us all out of phase.

By all outward indications it looked like we hadn’t moved, except Alexander was no longer with us.
 
 

6:57PM, Reilly Research Facility, July 4th, 1461AE
 
 

“Where did Alexander go?” Hoshi asked.

Before I had a chance to answer, an angry Alexander Reilly burst through the apparently too slow to open, door.

“Two hours left and my asshole, assistant director is still hiding in his room! Doesn’t he know what’s at stake here? Doesn’t he realize he’s going to die without activating the nanos?” Alexander complained angrily. We could see the tension and worry drawn out on his face, and in his movement. “How am I ever going to keep this place together without him? I can’t lose my friend- not now!”

He thought for the briefest of moments.

“Empress? If you’re out there somewhere and can hear me, I need your help! You never said anything about me going it alone! Please! I need you, Alexandra!” Alexander lamented, looking to the ceiling sorrowfully.

“Pardon me a moment, ladies. It appears I need a pep talk. Sam and Cassie, can you hold our group out of phase while I talk to myself?”

After receiving two, giggling nods, I phased back in.

“Hello, you have reached the Empress Helpline. I am the attending Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space. How may I be of assistance?” I cracked in a slightly mechanical, nasally voice.

My male version spun around in shock and, off balance, almost fell over.

“Cute! Real cute, Alexandra!”

“What is it you want, bro?” I asked innocently, thereby letting him know which Empress I was.

“Why didn’t you tell me Will was going to lock himself in his residence?! I know he has the nanos floating through his system, but he needs to trigger them for it to do any good. Why didn’t he listen? Why is my friend willingly going to destroy himself, Empress?”

“William Sangiere has his mind set on doing things his own way, Alex.” I said sadly. “He is proof that only the individual can choose his or her way in life and that I can only try to guide someone along the right path.”

“Can’t you just pop in and ‘guide’ him on what’s right?” He asked, exasperated.

I paused, looking to the floor with a sad expression. “Unfortunately, he must die an agonizingly slow and painful death in order to realize his mistake- a mistake that you allow her to rectify in nine hundred-sixty-six years when you decide Will should come back from our ‘private domain’ with Alexandra Steinert. Even then it will take Billie giving birth to her first child to convince her that I only mean to help. She is a headstrong and very ethical individual, Alex, but lacks confidence in herself- for what she must do.”

“You mean him…himself.” He corrected, narrowing his eyes slightly.

“Both, I’m afraid.” I said as I looked sadly at him then to where I knew Billie was standing. “The time has arrived where both versions must make a decision- to leave things alone and hope for the better or…to follow through with what has been seen to be needed.”

‘Billie, I need you to pass along what you know to Cami and Cassi then you take Hoshi and Yuuka down to level one. Stay phased-out and monitor my thoughts. Please do what needs to be done, my sisters and friends. Cami, take Fay and go with Cassandra to level two- also staying out of phase. Cassi, go with Samantha and Randi to level three and do the same. All of you please wait for my order. I’ll stay with Alexis and Alexander here on four. Prepare yourselves ladies, this is gonna be the toughest thing I’ve ever asked a y’all!’ I thought my orders to my sisters.

“So, Alex? Are you going to do something or not?” Alexander asked, looking like he had been talking to me for some time.

“I’m going to do something, but you’re not going to like it, Bro.” I said as I walked into my office…his office, walked behind the desk, opened the bottom right drawer and retrieved a full bottle of Earth’s finest distillation- 100 Proof; by Alex Steinert’s standards, the ‘good stuff’.

“Hey! How did you…oh…ya…right.” Alex protested weakly.

“Here!” I shoved the bottle at him forcefully. “Time to get shit-faced, Alex!”

“But I already had…” Alexander started to complain.

Mom rephased and glared at me.

Without saying a word, I reached back into the open drawer and pulled out another bottle- this one half empty.

“You too, mother!” I said handing it to her forcefully. “Save some for me though.”

“And why do I need to drink, Alexandra?” Mom asked, slightly insulted. She took a sip then handed the bottle back to me.

“Because I hate to drink alone! So here’s to a new life, Alexander.” I toasted, took a sip from the half empty bottle then pointed its neck to my male version. “As mah sister, Alex Steinert says, ‘y’all gotta chug that bottle down, hun! Take the nipple off an’ toss it back like a real man!’”

I noticed a tear roll down mom’s cheek.

Alex looked at me uncertainly for thirty seconds before placing the newly opened bottle to his lips and upending it. After a couple good gulps, he quickly lowered it and began coughing harshly.

“Smooth,” he wheezed after taking a few careful, truncated, painful breaths.

“Hey, you bought it, hun!” Mom giggled as she took a drink from our bottle. “It doesn’t seem too strong to me. Of course, I’ve tasted worse. I remember this one time when ma and I took a trip back to 33AE. The local landowner we were there to help had his own private recipe and man was it powerful! Ma said it reminded her of Grandpa’s Blue Ribbon Moonshine and coulda run a tank- whatever a tank is.”

“Don’t stop now, Bro! You have to have a blood alcohol content of point-one-three for the nanos to trigger.” I pestered and motioned that he should keep right on drinking. “Shit-faced or we’re all dead…your choice, Bro.”

“Will it hurt?” He asked after he downed another gulp and began coughing again.

“Did you and Cameron both program in the six hour comatose period?”

He looked at me in shock and nodded.

“Then no, it shouldn’t hurt at all. I just remember waking up and feeling very, very strange. Within a week the feeling passed.”

Taking another swig and another coughing fit, he looked at me in silence.

“So…how long…um…until…until…IIIII…um…you know,” He stuttered nervously, unsure if he should even ask the question. He placed his palms together in front of him then quickly moved them apart at an odd angle. I guess it was his way of showing me phase out.

“Your gift will manifest when…and only when you feel confident enough to use it responsibly, Alex. It will not come over night or for several years. Now finish that one. Y’all need to finish this one too!”

“I thought you and mom were…”

“Nope! I’m drivin’, hun!” I giggled awkwardly as Mom looked on strangely.

“Alexandra?”

“Yes, Alex?” I smiled tensely.

“Alex…I’m scared.” He finally admitted and wrapped his arms around me for several minutes. In that moment I knew exactly how Alexandra Steinert felt when she and Connie left Terra for System M353.

“I know.” I whispered.

Alex suddenly stopped and gazed into my eyes again then quickly looked to mom.

“You’re not staying…are you?” He asked sadly with some vague intuition.

Mom broke into tears, looked down to the floor, and shook her head slowly.

“This is where we part company, Alexander. My life here is complete. I’m sorry, but it has to be this way, honey. I wish it could be different, but my destiny was set long before you were born.” She said sniffing and wiping her eyes.

“Ta hell with destiny, Mother!” Alex shouted as he forcefully threw his empty whiskey bottle into a corner, shattering it. “Empress, do something! Mom doesn’t deserve to die! She hath too many things still left ta do. Give her a second chance, oh mighty Empress of Time and Spayth.”

I handed him the other bottle of booze. “Finish this and we’ll talk about it, Alexander.”

Mom looked over at me in shock.

Alexander downed what was left in the second bottle in one long gulp and threw it into the same corner, shattering it also.

My male version’s eyes began to droop and I had already noticed his speech starting to slur. Funny, I didn’t remember being such a lightweight.

‘Youngin’ cain’t hold his liquor’, Pa Steinert’s voice echoed in my mind.

“So, what exactly is it I should do, Alexander?” I asked, watching the sleep phase of the Mahanilui begin to assert itself.

“Take her some…some…where she can live…live…happy, Alecth! I donno…nother uni…verssss…ma’be?”

The Mahanilui was really starting to hit him hard now. I knew time was running out for this phase to complete.

“That’s a good idea, Alex! Maybe another universe might just work. Let me think about it a second.” I played along. Alex just drunkenly flourished his hand at me in confirmation.

“You seriously think that it hasn’t been thought about, Alexandra?” Mom lambasted me. “Mother, Sammi, Cassie, and I have spent countless hours trying to find a positive scenario for me. What makes you think you can find one now…on such short notice?”

“Because I asked me to do it, mother.” I said as I nodded over to a very drowsy, very relaxed, Alexander.

“Alex?” I called to get his attention for just a little longer. His eyes barely remained open.

“Alex, I found a place…another universe where mom will find happiness! I’m going to take her there now, okay?”

Alexander Reilly nodded then folded to the floor, unconscious, with a satisfied smile on his face.

“You did that just to appease him. You lied to yourself just so you would stop fighting the Mahanilui!”

“Alexis, you have two minutes to use your Terran charms on him.” I ordered ignoring her accusation. “He…everyone on this level…needs to remember about the nanos and their duties here on Reilly. They must remember every member of staff also.” I took a deep breath and exhaled heavily. “They are NOT to remember me, us, or anything about our sisterhood, and…he must completely forget about you, mother…you and Aunts’ Sam and Cassie!” I paused and looked at her frigidly. “Do you understand, Alexis? Can you do it, or do I call Cami, Cassi, or Billie?” I asked while forcing myself to become detached, calculating, and heartless.

Alexis Reilly just stared at me, completely stunned by my sudden emotionless persona.

“I will do as you command, Empress.” She said fearfully with the slightest bow before she began concentrating. At the same time I gave the order for Billie, Cami, and Cassi to begin the mind wipes on the rest of Reilly’s staff.

I truly hated myself at the moment.

“RVP, Bring the auxiliary reactors online immediately. I want one hundred percent on all defensive and radiation shields now! Then in fifteen minutes, I want all inertial dampeners taken to full power! Shields and dampeners are not to be reduced until a Delta ‘G’ of zero is restored to Reilly and radiation levels drop to the newly calculated norms.

Acknowledged, Empress Alexandra.

“Permanently delete all but the last two hours of sensor data from all memory archives. Authorization: ReillyDirector4386.”

Acknowledged, Empress Alexandra.

“Transfer my voiceprint to Director Alexander Reilly’s security profile. Authorization: ReillyDirector4386.”

Is the access code to remain valid, Empress Alexandra?

“Yes. Also disable usage of ‘Empress Alexandra’ or Empress of Time and Space’ and strictly restrict access to designated terms until a severe temporal event has been recorded internal to this facility.”

Acknowledged, Empress Alexandra.

“Acknowledged and comply.” I responded with the rarely used ‘Executive Command’ protocol.

Auxilliary reactors are now online. Defensive shielding enabled and charging to one hundred percent. Radiation shields enabled and charging to full power.

“Let’s get Alexander into his bed. I remembered waking up halfway across the floor with several large bumps and bruises on my new body.” I said as I reached for and took mother’s trembling hand.

My personal residence appeared around us.

“Help me pick up Alexander and put him in bed.”

Once done, I again took my mother’s hand- forcefully this time.

Appearing in the third level conference room, we picked up Cassi, Sam, and Randi. All three looked at me in poignant anger.

“Time until crust breach?” I inquired icily of Randi, knowing she was remotely monitoring RVP’s sensors.

“Approximately fifteen minutes, director.” Her voice and tone very distressed.

“Understood. Let’s collect our remaining sisters and get out of here.” I said frigidly as the Recreation Room on level two filled our view.

All around us lay our unconscious brethren- deep in the hold of their individual Mahanilui.

Cami quickly wiped her eyes dry as we appeared. “All personnel on this level have been wiped as ordered, Empress.” She sniffed sadly. Fay and Cassandra looked to the floor, silently refusing to make eye contact with me.

Adding them to my growing cache, level one’s auditorium appeared. Again the large tiered room was filled with unconscious people. Billie, Yuuka, and Hoshi appeared after I matched their phasing.

“Are you sure this had to be done, Alex? I mean…couldn’t we…” Billie moaned sadly as she wiped tears from her eyes.

“Yes, it had to be done. Has everyone had the required memories deleted?”

Billie nodded once, distraughtly.

“Then we’re leaving.” I stated coldly as I added Billie, Hoshi, and Yuuka to my travel cache.

Our surroundings changed once more. Mom’s apartment encompassed us.

“Alex?” Hoshi asked in shock. “Why are we back on the planet?” She paused for only a few seconds as she looked around nervously. “Isn’t it ready to blow up?”

“I have to keep a promise, honey.” I said as I looked up to the loft. “Girls? I need everyone down here this instant! In Pixie mode, please- you too, Yuuka! Its time to go Pixie on this place.”

“What are you going to do, Alex?” Yuuka asked as she landed on my left shoulder. Allie shot from the loft and landed on my right.

“Welcome back, Empress! We thought you forgot about us.” Allie greeted; extreme relief evident on her tiny face.

“Listen up! I want you two to divide up our winged sisters- seven to an Empress. Get going.” I said to Yuuka and Allie.

“Seven to an Empress, Empress?” Allie asked. Both she and Yuuka looked at me in confusion.

“That’s what I said, now do as you’re told!” I ordered with no emotion.

Yuuka and Allie took flight hesitantly.

“Billie, Fay, and Cassandra you are with Alex Steinert! Cami, Randi, and Alexis, you are with me! Cassi, Hoshi, and Samantha, you are with Alexandra! Let’s split up!” I commanded rapidly.

“But Alex, you’re the only Empress here!” Billie cried in alarm.

“Hey, sis, sorry I’m late! Did I miss anything?” Alex Steinert deadpanned, as she appeared three steps in front of me and two to my right.

I nodded as my sisters looked on in wonder.

“MA!” Mom shouted hysterically as she rushed my sister.

Alex dropped her gaze to the floor instantly. “I’m sorry, Alexis, but I’m not yer ma.” She said as she looked back up and wiped her cheeks.

“Apologies for my late arrival, Aunt Alex.” Alexandra spoke gently as she materialized three steps in front of me and two to my left.

A hushed murmur rose from our Pixie sisters.

“The Empress Triad!” the murmur echoed. “Great-grandmother and Aunt Allie…” One Pixie began.

“The original Pixies…they have told us of the ‘Empress’ Three’!” Another gasped.

“It is said they can do the unimaginable in this configuration!” Yet another winged sister gossiped.

“Girls we really don’t have time for this!” I said as Alexandra, Alex Steinert, and I joined hands. “Mind Warriors, join us.”

Billie placed a hand on Alex Steinert and Alexandra’s joined hands. Cami placed her hand on my connection with Alex, and Cassiopeia placed hers on my connection to Alexandra.

So far we formed a triangle with three outstretched rays.

“Fay and Cassandra, join hands then take Billie and Cami’s. Randi and Alexis, join with Cami and Cassi. Hoshi and Sam, do the same between Cassi and Billie.

The result was a triangle with three outstretching rays connecting to a circle.

“Pixies! I want two of you on each of our outlying sister’s shoulders. One Pixie on each of our Mind Warrior sisters, and two Pixies on each Empress.

I noted that Allie had claimed Alex Steinert’s left shoulder while Yuuka had taken mine. Trina, Mei Lee’s oldest had claimed my niece’s right shoulder.

“What are we going to do, Director?” Yuuka asked curiously.

“Work a miracle.” I whispered. “I hope.”

“Empress, we each know our selected regions. Are we still in agreement should this fail?” I asked.

“Ready, Aunt Alex.” Alexandra nodded.

“Let ‘er rip, sis!” Alex Steinert shouted excitedly.

“Sisters,” I began as I looked around our formation. “Each Mind Warrior will begin to draw power from each of you in the outer ring. Please do not fight it or this will not work. In turn each Empress will draw from her Mind Warrior and the Pixies on each of our shoulders. There will be discomfort, but if everything works as we’ve seen, many, many lives will be saved.” I nodded to Billie, Cami, and Cassi. “Ladies, let’s begin.

All three nodded and a quiet moan sounded from our outer ring of sisters.

“Ready Empress?” I asked, looking at my niece and sister. Each nodded. I imagined and opened three virtual controls in my mind, immediately feeling the huge surge of raw energy.

“Let’s concentrate on our regions, sisters.” I said, informing Alex Steinert and Alexandra that I was ready.

“Sis, when you have your target resolved, start the count.” I added as I opened my virtual valves from twenty-five to fifty percent. I began to concentrate on ‘my’ designated region.

“I have an acceptable solution on my region, Alex. Three!” Alex Steinert announced.

“Region acquired and locked, Alex. Two!” My niece declared. I increased the flow of power to one hundred percent, as I knew Alex Steinert and Alexandra had just done. A massive groan filled the room.

“Objective acquired. One! Three, two, one, Engage!” I proclaimed and triggered our transport.

The world around us collapsed instantly and went black!

Slowly the black lightened and stars appeared. They quickly grew smaller and coalesced, to form galaxies. Those galaxies diminished to form a cloud.

Yet again the blackness engulfed me temporarily and the stars again appeared and began to shrink. Again the galaxies formed and diminished; another cloud formed, then black. The cycle sequenced twice more before the blackness engulfed us a little longer.

Finally, things brightened around us and started to come into focus. Our formation had remained intact, though everyone seemed to be suffering intense pain. I myself, felt very nauseous and on the verge of collapse, feeling my own pain radiate through my entire body.

On my shoulder, Yuuka and Freesia shuddered and moaned as I closed, and reversed the three valves in my mind. Cami looked relieved as the pain abated somewhat.

“Where are we?” Yuuka asked after recovering.

“Director?” Alex Steinert asked.

“Five.” I responded.

Alex Steinert whistled, awestruck. “Damn, sis!”

“I haven’t gone this far before, that’s for sure! Why, Aunt Alex?” Alexandra asked.

Cami, Billie, and Cassi rubbed their temples.

“Alex? Did we just cross FOUR universal borders?” Cami asked carefully.

I felt the eyes of all our sisters staring at me, waiting to hear my answer.

A collective gasp filled my ears as I nodded.

“Empresses? Why have the buildings of Fleming City followed us?” Trina asked as she exited Pixie mode to stand between us three Empresses and looked out the apartment’s window. It was daylight here.

“Y’all gonna tell ‘em, sis?” Alex Steinert grinned as she checked her nose for a third time since our arrival.

“Yes, Aunt Alex, reveal our endgame.” Alexandra encouraged.

I took a minute to compose my thoughts.

“My sisters,” I began. “There was a request from my mother, Alexis Reilly, to save you girls from the fast approaching apocalypse. In all good conscience, I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t at least try to save everyone. As my sister Alex Steinert- I nodded to her- says: ‘no one will be left behind.’”

“My temporal twin contacted me a few days ago to discuss possible scenarios that would accomplish just that.” Alex Steinert continued in my place. “Said she had new information. The problem we kept runnin’ headlong into was the Earth herself. Each scenario failed when the crust breached.”

“When grandma visited me yesterday, she posed Aunt Alex’ problem along with the new intelligence, and we debated it at length. After much deliberation, I proposed a bold, dangerous, and radical idea.” Alexandra took up the explanation.

“So you decided to move the people AND buildings?” Hoshi asked, astounded.

“Oh, it was more than that, hun, much more,” Alex Steinert answered. “We decided to separate the Homeworld into three, overlapping, regions.”

“This planet we’re on now,” I continued, “it was completely devoid of any habitable surface- no outer crust whatsoever- just rocky mantle and molten core. Not a speck of crust, no soil, no water, no vegetation, no…atmosphere.”

“You mean we just transported the whole outer crust and atmosphere of our Earth…here?” Billie choked, completely flabbergasted.

“Y’all bet yer ass we did, sister!” Alex Steinert proclaimed proudly.

Mom stared at me- at us- in absolute fascination.

“How did I not see this?” she muttered to herself. “There was nothing in her mind about any of this.”

“Aunt Alexis, as you’ve apparently just discovered, the Empress’ mind contains many facets- some completely inaccessible by anyone other than the Empress herself.” Alexandra informed her with a devious smile. “Plus, each Empress has a secure place that only she is granted access in order to store her most intimate secrets.” She winked provocatively.

“Mother never told me any of this. Why?”

“Do we know absolutely everything about you, Alexis? Even though the Empress can see what will be, there are still things…private things…we deem necessary to overlook about our sisters.” I proposed. “It simply is not our business.”

“But how can you tell if someone will corrupt one of your plans- that one of us might have ulterior motives?”

“Don’t y’all think we take them things inta consideration in our scenarios, hun?” Alex Steinert smiled evilly. “Foresight’s more accurate then mind readin’, hun. How many times y’all gotta be told?”

“Sounds like someone needs a nap.” I giggled as I winked at my sister.

“Y’all try jumpin’ a universe then helpin’ ta jump four more without a breather!” Alex growled with a slight grin.

“Randi, what is Avalon’s reactor status?” I inquired.

“Y’all didn’t shut down her reactor, sis?” Alex Steinert asked as she looked at me in shock. “Why not? From what Ricky Lynn says, them zera-point things is highly unstable when in temporal flux!”

“It was a decommissioned unit from Reilly when Grandma brought it here, Alex! It already had nine hundred and eighty three…wait,” I stopped to recalculate. I had forgotten that Alex had left from the twentieth century. That added another four thousand…no, three thousand before it had been shutdown and mothballed.

“Correction, it already had thirty-nine hundred years on it when she restarted it under Avalon.” I argued. “Now it has another two thousand! You really think that tired old thing is going to want to restart once more? Seriously?”

“Director, Avalon confirms one hundred percent integrity on her reactor with a twenty-three percent load.” Randi responded once she saw an opening in the conversation.

Alex Steinert seemed to relax with the report. Mom though, looked tense now.

“Ava, could you give me the status of all Reilly Foundation reactors- running or on reserve, please?” Mom requested.

All Foundation ‘Z’-point reactors, one through forty-five, integrity is one hundred percent with seventeen percent load on reactors one through four. During temporal transit there was a zero-point-zero-zero-zero-one-five-two percent positive variance in active reactor output. Reserve reactors are ready to be activated once nulling fields are discontinued.” The A.I. reported.

“You’ve got forty-one Zero point reactors just sitting in one building, doing nothing? “Randi exclaimed in shock. “They could have run the whole planet for the foreseeable future! Why didn’t you turn them on and save Earth from annihilation?”

“Politics.” Mom answered evenly. “Earth’s government refused to give us the permits necessary to generate power into the world-wide grid- citing that the method was completely untested and extremely unstable. We- the sisterhood- never released the Z-point’s actual existence to the public. Instead, they commissioned, permitted, and licensed Homeland Energy and their ‘Core’ project.”

“Well, that certainly worked out.” Billie carped. “Speaking of Homeland Energy, did we happen to bring them along too, Empress?”

Alex Steinert shook her head sadly.

“No. Because o’ magnetic and gravitational fluctuations goin’ on there, I wasn’t able ta secure that whole area in my region. As we stand here, a five-hundred and twenty mile deep hole has been left. Because of the new tectonic pressure in that location, a direct path to this new planet’s core is open and currently filling with magma. The new volcano will seal itself in three weeks, but remain active for six decades.”

“Unfortunately, all high ranking government officials were onsite to witness the ‘momentous’ power-up. When the safety limiters failed, the facility went into lockdown mode- no one in, no one out.” Mom continued.

“So…not all of us were saved then, Empress?” Trina asked.

I was stunned by the question.

“Alexis told me there were only twenty of you girls left. I wasn’t awa…”

“My ex-boyfriend worked there, Empress.” Trina interrupted.

“You mean the one that dumped you ten years ago, Treen?” Allie asked sarcastically. “The one you wanted to take into Pixie mode…permanently…just so he would know what it was like to actually be a woman- to actually have the experience of being beaten senseless by some barbaric caveman?”

“E-nough!” Alex Steinert shouted. “There was fifteen hundred people in that facility! None of them made it- deservin’ or not! We…I just couldn’t save ‘em.”

“We, sis. We agreed that there was going to be collateral. It couldn’t be avoided.” I told her.

“Still don’t make me feel no better!” My sister groused.

“So, we still have forty-five reactors sitting in one building just waiting to provide power to this newly relocated, old world?” Randi restored the original topic.

“Only fifteen are located at the Fleming City location, Randi. There are fifteen in each of the three regional facilities- one facility on each continent.” I revealed with an evil smile.

Mom’s jaw opened slightly.

“So you knew about them? Alexandra, when did you find out about the foundation’s other facilities?”

A knock sounded at Mom’s apartment door stopping further conversation.

“Lexi? Are you home?” A woman’s voice called from the hallway.

“Come in, Frances.” Mom said loud enough to be heard through the door.

“Lexi, we have over a hundred people down in the hall complaining of severe nausea and terrible pain. I’m not sure what to d...” The middle-aged brunette informed mom, but stopped instantly upon seeing our group.

Nineteen Pixies immediately shot to the loft and our newest guest’s eyes followed them- her mouth agape.

“Please shut the door, Frances, we wouldn’t want any of the Pixies to escape. We just got them all collected.” Mom giggled wryly.

The fifty-five-year-old woman complied, but continued to stare up at the loft in silence.

“Frances?” Mom asked to get her attention. “May I introduce you to Alexandra?” Mom offered happily as she finally succeeded in catching Frances’ attention by touching the woman’s shoulder, gently turned her around, and pointed to Alexandra, Alex Steinert and I. “Empress of Time and Space.”

“I’m sorry, Lexi, but I’m not feeling very good myself, so I’m really not into any gags at the moment.” She responded as she rubbed her abdomen gently.

I phased out and rephased beside our guest.

“Oh, it’s no gag, ma’am.” I whispered then raised my volume. “Ladies? It’s okay. Frances Darough is a friend and colleague of mother’s. She can be trusted.” I said, effectively scaring whatever out of her.

“How did you d…oh…my…Goddess!” She stared as realization hit. “It…it really is…you?”

“In the flesh, M’lady.” I said bowing and giving a hand flourish, but in triplicate as Alex Steinert and Alexandra performed the same move as if choreographed.

Our guest stared at the three of us. She seemed deep in thought for twenty seconds before gasping loudly.

“The legendary power of three…” she whispered after swallowing hard and continued to stare at each of us in fear. “If true, what just happened is your…”

“Mother, is this my grandmother?” Cassi asked Cami aloud.

That instantly drew Frances’ attention!

“I don’t have any grandchildren…not yet.” She admitted, somewhat shocked.

Frances Darough was a very astute woman and quickly put the few clues together- and apparently, she was well versed in the legend of the Empress.

“One of you is from the future.” she accused pointing to Alex Steinert, Alexandra, and me in sequence with her eyes narrowed. “And I think one of you attended last year’s Epiphany celebration.”

“Yes.” We three chorused and began to giggle like schoolgirls.

“Frances, may I present Camille Darough and her daughter Cassiopeia.” Mom continued pleasantly after rolling her eyes at the three of us.

“Camille.” Frances repeated a few times, mulling over her name as if it meant something. “I take it you are Cameron’s future mate?”

Cami’s head dropped in sadness and she shook it slowly.

“Not quite…mom.” she replied sheepishly.

“Not quite? But how are you…related…then…if…not…” Frances Darough gulped loudly and her eyes widened. “Cameron?”

Cami blushed brightly and nodded.

I took the initiative before more staring could result.

“Yes, Frances, she was Cameron, but because of a fortunate mishap, she is Camille now and this is her daughter, Cassiopeia. And yes the power of three has been invoked to save this Earth from total and complete, obliteration. You and the rest of the population have just been transported through four universes to your new home in a fifth. Yes, we can do that, and yes, Cami and Cassi helped. They are my Mind Warriors after all.”

At least she was just staring at me now.

“Oh, that went well, Alex!”

“Stow it, Billie Sangiere!” Alex Steinert growled as she pointed menacingly, poking Billie gently just above her right breast a few times. “Y’all got no room ta talk! ‘Least the rest ah the sisters had the nerve to live through the Homeworld explosion! Where was you, huh? Hidin’ in yer quarters like a frightened child!”

“I’m not that person any longer, Empress! I’ve seen the light, as you would say.”

“Seen the light?” Frances repeated in shock. “I’m dead and this is just some…I don’t know…some crazy hallucination?”

“A hallucination would imply you are still among the living, Mrs. Darough, and crazy would imply loss of one’s faculties’, so no, you are not dead, and this world is still very much alive…and sane…rrrrelatively.” My niece, Alexandra, answered.

“Thanks to the Empress of Time and Space.” Mom complimented smugly.

“And all our sisters, mom! Let’s not forget to give them the credit they deserve. Right Ladies?” I said as I looked up to the loft and motioned them to come back down.

Nineteen Pixies flew down from the loft and exited Pixie mode to Frances Darough’s shocked surprise.

“Yes, Frances, the old stories are true…and quite factual.” I assured her with a smile. “Now, as to your original question, the symptoms of Universal border crossings will subside in a few minutes. I am sorry for the discomfort. Mom? I believe it will be getting dark very soon. Shouldn’t we turn the lights back on?”

“What do you mean, ‘turn the lights back on?’” Cami’s mother asked.

“Ava, honey, could you request our facilities in all three regions to make ready their connections to the world-wide grid and have reactors seven through eleven, twenty through twenty-five and thirty-five through forty brought online?”

Acknowledged, Alexis.” Ava replied through the apartment’s transducers.

“Alex, I’m monitoring activations of Z-point reactors on all three continents. Substation sensors report sequential activation of subnets in each region.” Randi reported with her eyes closed.

“Excellent, hun. When stable and synchronized, connect to the main grid.” Mom ordered. Randi nodded.

Frances Darough remained quiet, but looked at my Comptroller with fascination.

“She can talk to the equipment?” she inquired.

“I beg your pardon?” Randi said indignantly, her eyes flying open instantly. “Avalon and the Foundation’s A.I.s are practically sentient. Calling them ‘equipment’ is simply rude- demeaning!”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way, M’lady.” Frances apologized formally.

“Franny, this is Alexandra’s Comptroller, Randi Peltierre.” Mom introduced.

Again the woman repeated the name several times.

“Isn’t there a Randall Peltierre serving with your son, Alexand…er…” Frances stopped as another realization hit.

“Randi has been my integration comptroller for almost a millennium, Frances Darough.” I informed her to hopefully head off more staring.

It didn’t work.

“Did she just say a millennium? As in, one thousand years?” Darough asked Mom- her eyes bulging.

Alex Steinert sighed heavily. “Yes, the Sisters of Avalon live a long time, ma’am. Best get used to it.”

Alexis, Reilly Foundation reactors world-wide have synchronized successfully and are stable at seventeen percent load. World-wide power grid is now energized and stable. Avalon has also re-synchronized with the power grid.

“Thank you, Ava.” Mom smiled.

“I’m sequencing through the regional manufacturing control grids to reinitialize all industrial process A.I.s, Alexis. By this time tomorrow, production will reach pre-universe transport levels.”

“Thank you, Randi. Good job.” Mom complimented.

“Lexi? Are you telling me that the Foundation had the ability to power the whole planet and we didn’t use that to everyone’s advantage?” Frances Darough cried in amazement.

“Like I told Alexandra earlier, Franny, the government had other plans.” Mom frowned.

“And what are YOUR plans for us, Empress Alexandra?” Mrs. Darough asked cautiously.

“Weeeeell…I guess forming a new government wouldn’t be out of the question since most of the old one got themselves locked into Homeland’s facility.” I answered as my eyes scanned the apartment nervously. I knew how our recent actions might look like a power play from what I had just revealed.

Frances Darough stared- her mouth dropping farther open.

“Why? What happened to the Homeland facility?”

“It…it didn’t make the journey, ma’am.” Alex Steinert told her sadly. “The facility was in my region and I failed to acquire that particular area due to severe magnetic and gravitational fluctuations- a direct result of Earth’s mantle breaching.”

“Huh?” The older Darough asked in confusion. “Magnetic and gravita…What are you talking about? And what’s this about Earth’s mantle breaching?”

“Homeland’s Core experiment lost containment and overloaded what safety protocols they still had in place, Frances. Once those protocols failed the facility went into a lockdown condition. There was no way to get out. Earth had thirty minutes until the outer surface- its crust- started to superheat and liquefy when we enacted our transport to this new, incomplete planet.” I sighed as I paused.

“Ma’am, we tried to save everyone. I’m sorry we failed.”

“You…you saved fourteen billion people?” Frances Darough looked flabbergasted. “And…and the buildings?”

“No, Franny! The people, the buildings, the top hundred and fifty kilometers of outer crust from our old planet, and the atmosphere we are breathing!” Mom replied calmly.

“Let’s not forget the satellites all the way out to and including geo-sync Earth orbit too, Aunt Alexis.” My niece added with a confident, but tense smile.

Mom slowly looked toward Alexandra, her mouth hanging open in disbelief.

“What? The planet would’ve fallen into chaos if world-wide communications had been lost. We felt it necessary to include them too.” My niece answered the stares as if it was no big deal.

“So, Reilly…?” A glimmer of hope appeared on Mom’s face.

“No. Reilly Research is what we call a stationary waypoint, Alexis. It had to follow its course- without deviation…or else this,” Alex Steinert answered sadly as she swept her hand around the whole room. “This…none of this would exist. This Earth would still be in its original universe to be sure, but with its human population still primitive, barbaric, and animalistic. Civilization- any whatsoever- wouldn’t exist! The Empress of Time and Space…would not exist.”

“That is what mother determined when she and my Aunts Jacquelyn and Persephone first arrived on Earth, Franny.” Mom verified.

“When…your mother…arrived? Here?” Franny gasped hesitantly. “When did they…”

“Our years don’t contain ‘AE’ as a suffix by accident, hun!” Mom grinned nervously. “AE’ stands for ‘After the Empress’ arrival’ or did you forget that little passage in the Empress’ tome.”

Alex Steinert walked over to Mom’s friend.

“Here, I think you could use a hit of this, Mrs. Darough.” She offered, producing her hip flask, opening it, and handing it to her.

“Hey this is just water!” Frances Darough exclaimed disappointedly after she took a long drink, thinking the flask contained something stronger.

“Sorry to disappoint, hun, but I’m drivin’ a little later on, and I want to get home in one piece.” My sister giggled.

“Here mom, try this.” Cami suggested as a bottle from mom’s liquor cabinet floated over and presented itself to Frances.

The older Darough accepted it without even noticing there was no one holding it! She quickly opened and took several good slugs from it.

“By the way, Frances,” mom said with a gleam in her eye, “Welcome to the sisterhood!”



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