South of Bikini 5: Episode 5- ...Lest Be Forgot...

The Empress transmits a special multimedia news report that explained the strange happenings and illnesses around the Homeworld. A ‘Welcome to the Universe’ party goes awry when Camille’s mom and dad have a spat. What strange turn of events will the Empress of Time and Space experience this episode?

 


Copyright: 2016, R.G. Beyer


 
 

South of Bikini

 

Season 5

 
 


Episode 5


 

“…Lest be Forgot…”

 
 

9:30PM, Alexis Reilly Residence, July 4th, 1461AE
 
 

“What do you mean, ‘Welcome to the sisterhood’?” Frances Darough croaked incredulously.

“I’d like my second in command to be around for awhile, Franny. Our foundation has a lot of work to do now that Alexandra has so kindly saved our collective butts…er, I mean…ensured our civilization’s continuence.” Mom explained.

“Alexis, I don’t intend on going anywhere, anytime soon! I’m only fifty-five!” The elder Darough argued.

“And I’m ONLY twelve hundred and fifteen! But thanks to Alexandra, we’ve all gotten a second chance and I intend to make it count for my remaining years, my friend! I’d like you to be here to see it through with me.” Mom countered adamantly.

Frances Darough’s mouth hit the floor as mom dropped that little gem!

“Aunt Alex?” My niece asked to get my attention. “Um…I just thought of something that I was going to bring, but left back on Terra Neuvo. I’ll be right back, y’all.”

Alexandra promptly disappeared.

“Young lady, I wish you would warn me before you simply snatch my hand and phase us out to go Lords-know-where! Have you even filled out the proper travel permits your Grandfather requires?” Alex Steinert’s daughter, Alexis Fleming, chastised her youngest as she and Alexandra reappeared.

Ma gasped in surprise! Frances Darough took another mouthful from her bottle of liquor, then quickly, another.

“Hey kid; long time no see.” Alex Steinert casually greeted her daughter.

“Hey, mom, how y’all doin’?” Her Alexis replied obliviously, but suddenly stopped and slowly turned the hundred and ten degrees to her right. Her eyes grew logarithmically in size as she finally noticed her surroundings.

“Aunt Alex?” My niece, Alexis, squeaked as she looked at everyone in the large room. She looked back to her daughter. “Alexandra! Where on Terra have you brought us?”

“Welcome to Earth, honey!” I greeted happily.

“Earth?!” What am I already doing here? Mother? What’s going on?” Alexis asked trying to make sense out of what she saw.

“Ma, Ah thought y’all could help us with a small problem. Ya see…we jus’ gah’dun movin’ the whole outside ah this here planet, an’ we…Grandma , Auntie Alex, an’ me…we was wonderin’ if y’all could reset this here version ah you. She’s in dire need ah a resyncin’ after twelve hundred years or so. Please, ma?”

My mother- Alexis Reilly- broke into tears and sought out my shoulder immediately.

“Lady Alexis of this world, please allow me to fully introduce myself. I am Alexis of Terra Nuevo, daughter of Tibius, Grand High Counsel of Terra Nuevo, Legacy Grand High Counsel of Terra, daughter of her most charitable highness, Empress Alexandra Steinert-Fleming of Earth. This introduction is being tendered because of my daughter, her most charitable highn…”

“Aw, give it a rest, ma!” Alexandra shouted angrily. “These here folks don’ give a rat’s ass ‘bout no high fulutin’ inner-duction protocols! Jus’ say ‘hi, y’all’ an be done with it! Nice, short, an’ simple-like.”

“Wow! Someone needs a nap!” Alex Steinert leaned over and whispered to me as we observed young Alexandra’s bluish glow brighten as her anger flared.

Mom pushed herself away from me gently, took a deep breath, and stepped toward her temporal twin.

“Hello, I’m Alexis…Reilly. Welcome…welcome to Earth, Lady Alexis…my…temporal twin.” She greeted ackwardly, offering her hand.

“And welcome to you, Alexis Reilly! I bring greetings from Grand High Counsel Tibiu…OUCH! SON OF A BITCH! THAT FUCKIN’ HURT!”

That response was not completely unexpected as we witnessed a one-inch spark transit between each Alexis. Mom, I decided, had already prepared herself for the massive synchronization. What was unexpected was my niece’s foul retort! ‘Swears like a sailor’ was the response that came to mind. ‘Just like her mother’, I concluded silently though I laughed when I realized I had never heard my sister swear.

“I thank you, sister. It has been a rather long time since we universal twins last sync’ed.” Mom said elegantly, only slightly rubbing her hand.

“This is the first time for me, Lady Alexis.”

“Thanks, ma. She done needed it bad.” My niece praised with a tired, but satisfied smile.

“Excuse me a moment, Lady Alexis, Empresses, and sisters. I believe the future Empress of Time and Space is going to take a much-needed siesta. Come along, Alexandra.” Alexis Fleming declared as she forcibly took her daughter’s hand and pulled her past us to the guest bedrooms.

“Feel any better, mother?” I asked, noticing a very slight change in her hair color and facial features.

Frances Darough looked completely flabbergasted as she also noticed the changes starting to take place. She took a couple more swigs from the bottle then finally up-ended it, emptying it completely.

It wouldn’t be too long before Cami’s mom joined our future Empress, though for a slightly longer nap.

“It is rather invigorating.” Mom replied nonchalantly.

“The first time always is, hun. Why’d y’all lie about yer syncin’ anyway? Ain’t nothin’ to be embarrassed about.” Alex Steinert remarked.

Mom looked like she got caught with her hand in the ol’ cookie jar.

“How did you know…never mind.” She said dejectedly. “Guilty as charged, though I did sync with my earlier self about a thousand years ago…if I remember right…I don’t really count that one time though. I barely felt anything.”

Alexis stared at my sister for thirty seconds before asking the questions that I knew to be on her mind.

“Empress? Why didn’t you visit us more often? I know mother held out hope that you wouldn’t be a stranger. Why did you and my daughter only visit us that one time?”

“Hun…we woulda visited more if we coulda…” Alex Steinert began to explain, but mom cut her off.

“Are you trying to tell me that we were isolated because this planet was a temporal waypoint? How can a whole planet be…?”

“It wasn’t just the planet, hun.” My sister interrupted to explain. “It was your mother an’ you three daughters. Y’all were the temporal waypoint, Lexi. The development of the Empress and her three daughters on the Homeworld had to stay on course…without outside intervention. I’m sorry, honey.”

“Did mother know that, Empress?”

Alex and I nodded.

“How many times did you or Sam or Cassie ask to travel to our Earth in the last eleven hundred years, mom?” I asked as example.

“And how many times did Peyton harass yer ma to take her home? I’m sure it broke her heart to deny such simple requests.” Alex Steinert added.

“Mom just kept sighting the universal imbalance that would reoccur if we ever crossed into your universe, Empress. After a while we learned not to question her further. Especially after Aunt Persephone…” Mom explained sadly as she shook her head to the side slowly.

“Your Granddaughter went straight to sleep, Mom.” Alexis Fleming said as she approached from the guest bedroom hall. “I really wish you three wouldn’t drive yourselves so hard, Empress…wait…why are all three of you here at the same time?”

My niece stared into each of our eyes as she looked for her answer- hopefully consulting her gift.

“Wait…you three really did move an entire planet…AND all the people on it? Alexandra wasn’t joking?”

“Not the whole planet, honey.” I smiled excitedly. “Just everything on and including the outer crust…oh, and its atmosphere.”

“By the Lords! What possessed you three to do…?”

“It was the only way to save the Homeworld, hun!” Alex Steinert interrupted.

“Wait! You mean this is the fabled Homeworld? It really exists?”

Alex and I nodded with a smile.

“I couldn’t- in good conscience- allow so many to die because of a small group’s arrogance.” I added. “The Homeworld deserves a second chance just like anyone else.”

“Alex? Mom.” Cami said trying to catch my attention. Frances Darough’s eyes fluttered and looked to be getting heavy.

“Franny? What’s wrong?” Mom asked with concern. Like she had never seen the effects of the Mahanilui before?

“I’m sorry, Lexi, but I think everything has suddenly hit me- finding the Empress is a reality; the actual experience of jumping across universes; the shear revelation of what has happened today… I’m sorry…would you mind if I lay down for a few minutes?”

“Any room but the first on the right, Franny. That one’s taken. Take as much time as you need.”

“Thank you, Lexi. I appreciate this.” Frances Darough replied, barely able to keep her eyes open as she disappeared into the guest bedroom hallway.

“Apparently, travelling across four universe boundaries tires a body out. I can only imagine how young Alexandra feels doing it three times in one day.” Mom commented.

“She transited through four universes three separate times today?” Alexis Fleming gasped. “Why would she do that?”

“Actually more when you count coming to our Earth first. So, from your universe to here then through four universes to transport us here then back five to get you and five more to bring you back to us. She must be the strongest Empress of all.” Mom praised.

“M’lady.” Alexis Fleming said formally. “I did not experience any universal border crossings during our transit here. Are you sure you are five crossings from my world?” She paused to think a few seconds. “Although I did notice a slight temporal shift and experienced the usual intergalactic transit.”

Mom’s mouth dropped to the floor again as she turned to look at Alex and I. She recovered quickly though, and glared at the two of us.

“You said we transited four border crossings!” She quickly looked back to her twin, bewildered. “How could you not have felt that?” Mom demanded of her temporal twin. She glared back at Alex and I again.

“Alexandra?!” She hissed in anger. “What did you three actually do? Enough with the confusing diversions, cryptic answers, and teasing! We are way past that point right now!”

“We made four border crossings, mom, honest.” I answered truthfully.

“We went three universes higher then stepped back two universes, hun- that’s five universes by anyone’s math.” Alex Steinert smiled deviously.

“But what about the ‘unbalancing of the universes’ thing?” Mom cried out in anguish.

“That paradox and waypoint were satisfied the instant the Homeworld…your Earth exploded into a fusion giant…er…sun, Aunt Alexis.” My niece stated as she appeared beside me. “Surprise! Welcome to our universe!”

So…where are we…actually?” Mom asked sardonically- her eyes narrowing.

“Just a hop, a skip, and a temporal jump away from our Earth or Terra Nuevo, mom.” I answered with a bright smile. “Now we have no excuse not to visit.”

“I’m going to hold you girls to that!” Mom said as she wrapped her arms around me then Alex Steinert, and finally, Alexandra.
 
 

10:30PM, Alexis Reilly Residence, July 4th, 1461AE
 
 

“Randi? Key-up Avalon’s media transmitter for a world-wide announcement from the Empress- all bands, all communication devices, please.” Alex Steinert requested from my Comptroller.

“Skipper?” Randi croaked in surprise.

“By now people have had time to realize that something strange has happened- some might start thinking to the extremes: good or bad. The population of this planet- this ‘New Earth’- needs to know how close they came to annihilation and how the government plans to continue.” My sister explained as she nodded to my comptroller confidently.

“Breaking into world-wide comm channels now, Skipper. You’ll be live in five…four…three…two…” Randi said as she pointed to my sister instead of announcing ‘one’.

“My fellow inhabitants of Earth. My name is Alexandra Frances Steinert. Earlier today you may have experienced severe nausea and/or extreme headaches. I am making this announcement tonight to explain.” Alex paused a moment.

“Today at 11:23:45AM Fleming City Time, Homeland Energy’s Core Excitation Project suffered a catastrophic failure of ninety percent of its safety systems. This caused the planetary core to become overexcited, cascading into a super-critical thermal condition. A super-critical condition in this case is defined as an unstoppable chain-reaction that is irreversible. The Homeland Energy Facility was immediately and automatically placed into lockdown. It has been reported to me that all but four planetary government officials found themselves in the facility expecting to witness the momentous, full power-up of the Core Excitation Project.”

Alex paused again as she solemnly looked to the floor in front of her.

“At 5:30PM FCT, sensitive geological sensors around the world detected an exponential enlargement of Earth’s molten core area. At precisely 8:30PM FCT, those same geological sensors indicated planetary magma had reached a depth of one hundred and fifty kilometers below the surface and analytical software predicted a surface breach in thirty minutes, at 9:00PM FCT.”

“At this point in my broadcast I wouldn’t blame anyone from turning your devices off or ignoring anything further, but please…everyone needs to understand the circumstances behind our continued existence. Offscreen- to my right- is one of the four surviving government officials. Mrs. Alexis Reilly- Senior Representative for the Greater Fleming City Prefecture and CEO of the Reilly Foundation for Advanced Technologies. Rep. Reilly? If you would join me in-frame?”

My sister waited for Mom to stop protesting and step to her side.

“Alexandra, why are you doing this?” Mom hissed.

“Because the people need to know that I’m not making this up, Representative Reilly!” Alex replied.

“What should I tell them, Alexandra?” Mom questioned.

“Tell them the truth, ma’am. Tell them what you know…what your Orbiting Research Facility picked up before the people became sickened.” Alex advised.

“But we don’t even know where Reilly Research Station is right now! We don’t know if it still exists, Alexandra! How can I tell the planet that we almost destroyed ourselves and that I may have lost two hundred and eighty-three people on that orbiting facility?!” Mom lamented.

“You just did, Representative Reilly.” Alex Steinert told mom. “This is a live broadcast from Fleming City, remember?”

Mom’s face blushed immediately. Suddenly I heard my sister’s voice as she started a conversation with Cami.

‘Cami, I need you, Billie, and Cassi to patch me into everyone on the planet- just like we did back at Avalon, hun.’

‘Give me a moment to show Billie and Cassi how we did it, Empress.’

After a slight pause, Cami nodded to my sister.

‘People of Earth, I am Alexandra Frances Steinert. What you are hearing and seeing is not the usual media as transmitted world-wide by any modern communication device. It is a telepathic transmission from three very special individuals that I call very good friends. I have asked those friends to broadcast my image and words so that everyone…everyone may hear the truth and know just how close we all have come to certain death.’

Alex paused to wipe her eyes dry as they had started to moisten. Her mouth hadn’t moved since interviewing mom.

‘Today at 9:00PM FCT, I, and my two sisters, were forced to intercede with this world and enact it’s rescue. Before I go any farther, let me introduce us.’ Alex silently motioned Alexandra and I into frame. ‘To my right is Alexandra Frances Reilly, and to my left is Alexandra Frances Fleming. To head off all questions, yes, we all look identical. Each of us is known by another name or title, if you will. We are known as ‘The Empress of Time and Space’.” Alex paused for twenty seconds- as if to let the laughing die done.

“Now, in this modern age of advanced technology, I wouldn’t expect anyone to believe a word I say, but look around you. Maybe you see someone that looks like one of us three standing close by…waving.’

Immediately I saw where she was heading and promptly lost a week appearing at specific points around my assigned region just to impress the point.

Mom must have noticed that the three of us had ‘flickered’.

“What did you girls just do?” she asked aloud, forgetting she was still on screen.

‘What we have just done, Rep. Reilly, is given proof that we do exist. For far too long this planet has relied solely on its technology to answer the questions of the universe. Because this is the case, religions and superstitions have appeared and died out many times throughout the millennia here. The people of this world have grown complacent with their technology and, as such, have dismissed or forgotten the myths and legends that have driven the planet’s civilizations to this peaceful and relatively advanced era. They have forgotten completely how that peace was carefully forged over twelve hundred years ago in a small village near where we stand presently …the people we lost…who the responsible parties were, and how they all came to be gathered there for such significant mediations…how brutal the world was at that time…and how humanity almost destroyed itself then, too!’

Mom bowed her head reverently as she remembered that day in history.

‘The Empress of Time and Space has long watched this world and hoped history wouldn’t repeat itself, but time has once again taken his revenge and doomed this planet…this ‘Homeworld’ to extinction. And, as we had then, so we did today. At 9:00PM FCT we again invoked the Empress’ Triad in order to save this world from its own ignorance and shortcomings…to again give it a second chance.”

“Timekeepers, you will notice an extra hour in the daily, planetary revolution- twenty-four hours instead of twenty-three. Astronomers…you will instantly notice the foreign star constellations in the heavens. This has been brought about by the trans-positioning of the living portion of this world into a different universe and planetary core entirely. For those of you that feel this cannot be so, I dare you to look up into the night sky and try to locate your favorite constellations. You will fail in any and all attempts.”

“Our Earth has been moved to a new location…a new ‘universal neighborhood’. We- my two sisters and I- advise you, the people of this ‘New’ Earth, to reach out into this new cosmos and establish peaceful relations with the civilizations of nearby planetary systems- most of which you will find are friendly and neighborly.”

“Some of you will wish to know the methodology that was used…many will simply continue to denounce any of what has happened or conveyed to you here, tonight, as imaginary or impossible. Whatever will allow you to fall asleep at night will be fine, but if curiosity should get the better of you, go to your local archives and entertain the idea of reading the ‘Tomes of The Empress’. More than a few incidents that you have recently experienced may just be explained or prophesized there.”

“In the end it really does not matter how or by what means any of this has happened; just knowing the ‘why’ should be enough, my brothers and sisters of this world! That ‘why’ is that everyone, no matter right or wrong; believer or non believer, Scientist or Theologian, or whatever; The Empress of Time and Space believes in this world- her beloved ‘Homeworld’…and we wish it to continue…to continue to be the peaceful, cooperative world it has been…despite any inequalities that still exists. We love this world and everything on it and wish to see it continue to flourish- to become the great society it has been foreseen to be.”

Alex again wiped the tears from her eyes.

“May you all take this second chance and make the most of it in terms of further advancing technology, humanity, civility, and knowledge and know that we will continue our loving vigilance. I thank you all and good night.” My sister concluded aloud.

“Annnnnd we’re out.” Randi announced as apparently she discontinued the media transmission while motioning for Billie, Cami, and Cassi to disable their telepathic transmissions by sliding her index finger lightly across her throat.

“Empress, I’m picking up a drastic increase in individual communications around the planet. Information Network traffic has also increased exponentially. I think you got their attention, ma’am.” Randi added after a minute of silence.

Alexis, I have Representative Quintin Darough requesting communication with you.” Ava announced pleasantly. Cami suddenly looked concerned.

“Put him through to my livingroom, Ava.”

The large display in the room activated, showing a slightly familiar man seated behind his desk. To our surprise, Mom was standing quietly, and quite unnoticed, behind him with a huge, evil smile.

“Quinn! I’m delighted to see you decided against visiting Homeland’s facility.” Mom greeted excitedly from beside us here, in the living room. She also continued to grin evilly behind Rep Darrough, too. Obviously, her slightly future self.

Somehow, I don’t think my decision whether or not to attend the power-up had anything to do with it, Alexis! Especially since my name and two others mysteriously disappeared from the VIP guest list- AND I found out our security clearances had recently, and conveniently, been revoked! I’m sure you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you, Madam Chairwoman?” He growled playfully. “I trust my wife is with you, and if so, could I speak with her?

Mother- the one standing behind Rep. Darough, in his office, winked once.

“Oh, she’s here, but I’m afraid our transit through the universal barriers has caused several adverse side effects- one being severe fatigue. She decided to lay down for a bit.” Mom responded with a bright smile.

I’m not even going to appear to understand what you mean by universal barriers, Alexis. I never did understand Astrometrics.

“It’s quite simple, Mr. Darough,” I said as I moved closer to my mother, “We transported the outer portion of this planet through four sequential universes to arrive at a fifth. The finite limit between one universe and the next bigger or smaller is called the ‘Universal Barrier or Border’.”

Quintin Darough’s mouth dropped open and the pen he had been nervously fumbling with fell out from between his fingers.

You’re…you’re one of those Empresses! I thought I was hallucinating!

“My daughter is not a hallucination, Quinn! She and her sisters saved our collective ass’ today!”

Daughter? Lexi…you don’t have a daughter!” The man on the screen argued worriedly.

Mom vanished from the living room.

And I suppose I didn’t just appear behind you either, Quintin Darough!” She said from the monitor with the same evil grin.

We giggled as the man practically fell out of his chair.

The screen went black. Mom and Mr. Darough appeared back in the room- though closer to the kitchen.

“Any further questions, Quinn?” Mom dared ask the piqued-looking gentleman. He silently shook his head slowly a few times.

“Dad!” Cami quietly gasped out from where she stood, transfixed by our newest arrival. I suggested, mentally, that she remain quiet for now.

“Quinn, meet Alexandra Steinert, Alexandra Fleming, and my daughter, Alexandra Reilly. We refer to them as the Empress of Time and Space.” Mom introduced.

“So this is your father, Cami?” Yuuka said as she suddenly flew in and hovered before the startled official. “I can definitely see some resemblance.”

As usual the Pixie was the icing on the cake, this time for Quintin Darough.

“You! Full size! Now!” Mom growled to Yuuka. “And help me get him onto the couch.”
 
 

8:00AM, Alexis Reilly Residence, July 5th, 1461AE
 
 

“How did you sleep, Frances?” I asked pleasantly as Cami’s mother padded out of the guest bedroom hallway, across the living room, and approached me at the small kitchen table- her eyes intensely focused on the carpeted floor.

“What happened to me? I don’t look the same as I did last night.”

“We call it the Mahanilui and it’s what happens when the nanobots I designed activate.” I replied.

“You made me into a machine?” she exclaimed in horror.

“What? No! You are still Frances Darough, honey. The nanos just restored your body to a younger condition.” I responded slightly surprised by her outburst.

“Younger?”

“Yes, younger. I would guess this is how you looked at…oh…nineteen or twenty?”

Darough thought about that for about thirty seconds.

“Yes. That’s about what I remember…I think.”

Mom opened her bedroom door at that moment and walked out to the table.

“Has Quinn come back up yet, Alexandra?” She asked as she regarded the new and improved Frances Darough critically. “How are you feeling this morning, Frances?”

“Better than I’ve felt in years, Lexi. Wait. That you, Lexi? You got younger too? Did I hear you right; Quintin is here?”

“I went and brought him back here after you went to bed. He had called to see how you were.” Mom said casually.

“You brought him…here? He lives halfway across the prefecture! Does that mean what I think it means, Lexi?”

Mom giggled. It was so nice to see her looking young again.

“What do you think it means, Franny?” She asked with a devious grin.

“Weeeell…if the Alexandras’ can appear and disappear, I venture to say that you can do a similar trick. Am I close?”

“She’s very perceptive, mother.” I giggled. “I wonder how that will change when her gift develops.” I added, wondering out loud as I took another sip of my coffee.

“Alexandra, we’ve already seen the answer to that question, haven’t we?”

I nodded ever so slightly.

“Good morning, sisters!” Alexis Fleming greeted as she and my great niece, Alexandra, walked across the living room holding hands. Both were fully dressed and ready to depart, I presumed.

“By the Goddess, I thought I was seeing things last night!” Frances Darough groaned in surprise.

“Frances, this is my ‘temporal twin’, Alexis Fleming, from Terra Nuevo.” Mom introduced.

“Temporal Twin? Terra Nuevo?” Frances groaned in confused disbelief.

“Temporal twin is what we call two identical people but from completely different universes, dimensions, planets, or time periods.” Alexandra replied. “It’s just one of the encountered subtleties of time and space travel.”

“Oh…sooooo…do I have one of these twins too?” Frances asked cautiously.

“One or two, honey.” I giggled before taking another sip from my cup.

The apartment’s entrance door opened. Alex Steinert and Quintin Darough walked in- still conversing.

“So you say the three of you moved…us…from universe to universe with your minds’? That’s simply stupendous, Capt. Steinert!”

“I’ve already told y’all to call me Alex, hun. At present, I’m not on my Earth, and certainly nowhere near a United States military installation.” My sister urged with a pleasant smile.

“Oh, hey sis! Sleep well?” Alex greeted as the two entered the kitchen. Wow, yer up early, Cami.”

Frances Darough, still with her back to her estranged husband, looked up at my sister. “I’m Frances Darough, Alexandra.”

Her mouth suddenly dropped open as she looked toward me. She had finally figured out my previous cryptic answer. “I…I look like my daughter?”

“Oh, not you too!” Quintin Darough moaned. “What is it about this new universe that makes the women around me think they have daughters instead of sons?”

Frances Darough turned around silently- a disappointed frown on her face.

“Oh. Please excuse me ma’am. I thought you were my wife. I also thought there to be only one France Darough in the Prefecture. Alexis, my wife hasn’t left already, has she?”

“Quintin Darough! Have you gone blind AND senile?” Franny exclaimed. “I’m right here!”

Quintin Darough’s eyes popped wide open.

“Good Morning, sisters!” Cami chimed as her and Cassi’s feet gently touched the carpeted, living room floor. Both had elected to sleep up in the loft last night.

“Dad!” Camille Darough gasped as she stopped dead in her tracks halfway across the living room after noticing our male guest. Apparently, she hadn’t expected to see him again.

Quintin Darough looked between the two, identical, young women- one sitting before him and one standing ten meters away in a racy, red lace nightie.

“Dad?” He choked out in amazement.

“Come on over Camille, I’ll make another pot of coffee while you two reacquaint yourselves.” Mom said calmly as she motioned for me to get up and help. “Have a seat, hun.”

“Good morning, mother. I hope you feel better this morning.” Cami started the conversation.

“Thanks to the Empress, I feel better than I have in years, sweetheart.” Frances answered.

“Thanks to the Empress? Capt. Steinert? What did you do to my wife? Why do these two look like twins?” Quintin Darough demanded.

“We look like twins? Dad, I don’t look anything like mother.” Cami maintained as she looked at her mother repeatedly.

“You look the same to me.” A tiny voice said as it barely caught my attention.

Mom turned around quickly. “Yuuka! I swear if you don’t remain grown-up around here, I’m going to…oh…Allie…it’s you.”

“No, I’m over here, Alexis. And what are you going to threaten me with today?” A fully-grown Yuuka dared from the couch in the living room. She quickly went to Pixie mode and flew into the kitchen.

“Well, Alexis? What are you going to do?” Yuuka paused a few seconds for the nonexistent answer. “You know, I’ve held my tongue our entire visit, but…but I’m about up to here,” the hovering Pixie raised her tiny hand up over her head as indication, “with the assumptions that I’m the only Pixie in this apartment!"

Yuuka quickly left Pixie mode, and looked into mom’s eyes. “I think you owe me an apology!”

“What kind of nightmare have I slipped into?” Quintin Darough asked himself quietly.

Wanting to defuse the situation, I quickly poured a cup of freshly steeped tea for the agitated Pixie. “Have some tea, Yuuka. I sweetened it up with some honey as per your specifications.”

“Bribery will get you everywhere, Empress.” She giggled through narrowed eyes before nodding to me and taking a sip of the beverage. “Aaah…Domo.” She sighed wistfully with eyes closed then stepped over to the table, and pulled out a chair.

“You’re welcome. Allie? Would you also like some tea?” I inquired.

“Nah, I’ll just grab a cup of coffee. I’m really not into that ‘refined’ stuff.” She said as she too left Pixie mode to stand beside me.

Pouring out the last of the pot into a clean cup, I handed it to her with a bright smile.

“How about anyone else? You girls prefer coffee or tea?” I asked as I looked around the room- to all the cabinet tops, the top of the microwave and refrigerator, the shade of the hanging light over the table, Quintin and Frances Darough’s shoulders…
 
 

“So, are you two sure I can’t talk you into staying longer?” Mom asked Alexis and Alexandra Fleming.

“Quite sure, Aunt Alexis. I have a strict, four faint maximum for my stays.” My niece giggled. “You really should work on your fright responses, Mr. and Mrs. Darough.”

“I think they’ll have plenty of time to callus themselves, Alexandra.” Mom said with a sad smile as she looked to her twin. “Re-sync one more time, sis?”

Mom and Alexis Fleming embraced each other one last time before Alexis took Alexandra’s hand again.

A blur and slight breeze indicated that Hoshi had arrived to say her goodbyes.

“Travel safely, Empress and Alexis.”

She was gone in another blur and ‘swoosh’.

“My sentiment as well Empress and Princess Alexis.” Fay offered, lowering herself from overhead. She stayed on the ground only long enough to embrace both women before silently floating to the ceiling again.

“I’ve transferred as much information as I could about this world and its unique culture into the unused memory of your Reilly as you asked, M’lady. Though not a complete archive it should prove sufficient for your needs until I can completely back up my local archives to Reilly.” Randi Peltierre informed her.

“I thank you, Lady Comptroller.” Alexis Fleming bowed courteously.

“Travel well, Empress.” Randi said as she quickly hugged my niece.

Alexis Fleming looked around the room cautiously. “So, are we ready to go, Alexandra?” She asked, but quickly added in an annoyed tone, “Before the Pixies decide to line up for another round of ‘hugs and kisses’?”

“Yes, mother, we’re leaving now.” Alexandra answered in a slightly amused, but annoyed tone.

Alex Steinert, Billie, Cami, Cassi, Samantha, Cassandra, Mom, and I immediately dropped to one knee.

“May the temporal winds blow favorably, Empress!” We chorused.

My niece simply rolled her eyes before she and her mother disappeared.

“I would have never believed this had I not seen it with my own eyes!” Quintin Darough whispered in awe.

“What are you saying, Quintin? You were just thinking ‘what a bunch of crazy, eccentric, women I’m in the presence of’!” Frances Darough complained.

“No, I am not the craziest of the bunch, Quintin Darough! How dare you even accuse me of losing my mental functions?” Frances continued. “No! I am not reading your mind! If you don’t want to be here then I suggest you ask Alexis, Billie, Cassandra, Samantha, or one of the Alexandra’s to transport you home! Don’t tell me you haven’t said a word!”

Cami and Cassi looked up at me, only slight surprise on their faces. I nodded with a smile.

“Will y’all give it a rest, Franny? ‘Fore the furniture starts flyin’ ‘round the apartment?” Alex Steinert implored calmly.

“And just why would the furniture start ‘flyin’ ‘round the apartment’, Alexandra?” Frances asked sharply.

There was a subtle set of ‘thuds’ from the living room as the couch, love seat, and four upholstered chairs dropped back to the carpet.

I noticed twenty Pixies suddenly swarming the apartment’s entry door trying frantically to find a way out. They were so terrified that none of them had thought to grow up and try the knob.

“Because you can do that, Frances.” I said as I nodded at Cami and Cassi Darough. “Because you can do what your daughter and granddaughter can do.”

“Mom, perhaps it would be better if we could talk. I’m sure you have many questions for us.” Cami suggested, placing a hand on her mother’s shoulder. “First though, Billie, could you take us someplace we can ‘demonstrate’ our gift- and perhaps allow mother some practice?”

“Any place in particular?” Billie asked as she closed her eyes momentarily.

“The place you have just foreseen will work.” Cami smiled as she, Frances Darough, and Cassi joined hands with my Assistant Director.

“We’ll be back in a little bit, Alex.” Billie advised just before her small group disappeared.

Quintin Darough looked on in complete disbelief of what he had just seen.

“I thought the Empress was the only one that could vanish?”

“All members of the royal family- as it’s termed- can phase out of reality and travel- both to a location and temporally- to a limited extent, but only the Empress can do what she does, Quinn.” I informed him.

“Royal family, huh? In case you didn’t notice, we have no royalty on this world, Alexandra.”

“That wasn’t always the case, Quinn.” Alex Steinert smiled mischievously. “Have you ever paid close attention to the walls downstairs in the Banquet Hall?”

“I have seen them many, many times, Alex.”

“So what do they reflect, hun?” She asked, maintaining the impish smile.

“They depict the Empress in various scenes from the imaginary Avalon, of course. Everyone knows those myths.”

“Am I not…Are we not the Empress, hun?” Alex asked as we nodded to each other and keyed our Reillys’ clothing feature.

Quintin Darough’s eyes popped out of his head- literally, as our medieval dresses appeared on us.

“I think he finally recognizes us, sis!” Alex laughed playfully as Allie and Trina landed on my sister’s shoulders to complete the image.

“Maybe we should take him back to meet Lord Darough, Alex.” I said with a wink.

“No, no, no. That will not be necessary, Empress. You have made your point, so no further demonstration will be required. A good Politian knows when to admit defeat…or at least when to regroup and re-evaluate.”

I raised a single eyebrow to that statement.

“Isn’t that almost exactly what Lord Darough said when we all arrived at Willow’s Glen, sis?” Alex grinned as she looked to me. Allie took to the air slowly and flew away sadly. Trina followed, but at a much quicker pace.

“I don’t really recall, Alex, You were busy with ‘his royal hard-ass’, Lord Hathor, at the time and I was answering questions for Lord Sangiere. Maybe Grandma could…” I couldn’t finish before tears filled my eyes. “Why can’t this get any easier?” I asked no one in particular.

“It’s still too new to us, Alex. Only been about six years, ya know. A little more for you.” My sister reminded. “Still, she may have a few tricks up her sleeve,” Alex grinned again. “Remember, y’all sync’ed last year.” She winked.

“I remember, sis.” I winked back.

“Wonder when she’ll play that trump card?”

“Haven’t seen it- haven’t even looked, yet.” I replied with a smirk.

“Neither have I.” Alex smiled tensely as she shook her head twice.

“We never foresaw Andora or Ma Scott either.” I added.

“Kinda’ blows the whole ‘omnipotence’ thing right out of the water, huh.”

So what now, girls?” Quintin Darough asked, breaking Alex and I out of our semi-private conversation.

“Now,” I paused, “You, mom, and Frances travel the world to refill the various government positions. Earth still requires representation and the Empress WILL NOT engage in politics as we did the first time.”

Quintin Darough’s mouth dropped open again.
 
 

“I actually can’t believe that I can do all that, Camille!” Frances’ voice chimed out as the foursome of Mind Warriors reappeared in mom’s living room forty-five minutes later.

“Grandmother, we still urge extreme caution when using our gifts! Many people and things can be destroyed if not vigilant.” Cassiopeia Darough cautioned.

“I understand, sweetheart, and thank you all for showing me the ‘ropes’, as it were. I will do my best to honor the legendary Mind Warriors of the Empress on this Earth.”

“Ease up, Mrs. Darough! Just protect Alexis and the Pixies. Leave the Empress for us to protect. That’s our job.” Billie smiled warmly.

Alex Steinert and I looked at each other in amazement.

“Y’all heard that, right, Alex?” My sister asked.

“Ah did an’ Ah still don’t believe it, Alex.” I whispered. “We in the right time line?”

Billie glared at us both for several seconds before turning her attention back to Frances.

Mom suddenly looked at my sister.

“You have to leave so soon, Alexandra?”

“Afraid so, hun, but I’ll be back in a few months.”

Mom nodded.

“God, I know I’m going to regret this.” Alex Steinert lamented under her breath, but quickly smiled. “All Pixies going to my Earth to meet your counterparts please exit Pixie mode and join me.” She announced holding her faux smile.

Allie, Trina, and Yuuka quickly joined my sister.

I cleared my throat.

Yuuka glanced my way timidly then slowly walked to my side. A slight breeze indicated that Hoshi had arrived from wherever she had been and now stood beside Yuuka.

“No. I don’t think she found that funny, Yuuka.” Hoshi whispered with a serious expression. “Besides, I’d miss you.”

After twenty minutes of ‘goodbyes’ twenty women joined hands with my sister.

“Trina. Say hi to Sunni for me, will you?” Yuuka asked brightly.

“I will, Yuuka, but how will I know her?” Mei Lee’s second oldest asked innocently.

“Oh, you’ll know, hun.” Alex giggled with a knowing smile.

“Will this hurt as bad as yesterday, Empress?” Trina inquired.

“This one’s a piece of cake, hun, but I do need to make a slight detour for a pick-up.”

“Alex? Thanks again, sis.” I said, smiling brightly.

“Anytime, hun! We’ll see y’all later.” Alex winked just before her group disappeared.

Mom looked at me with narrowed eyes. I gazed back at her with a devious grin just to tease.

That response caused mother’s eyes to widen.

“What are you planning, Alexandra?” She asked cautiously.

“Something…wonderful.” I replied impishly.

Mom stared at me intensely as I paused a full thirty seconds. Finally I offered my hands to our remaining sisters.

“Ya know…with all the work we’ve been doin’ these last few years, Ah think we all could use a vay-kayshun!” I said using my sister’s accent. “y’all wonna go home fer a spell?”

Mom quickly grabbed my hand and I pull the trigger. Stars passed quickly in my sight.

Reilly’s main auditorium appeared before us and loud applause began as soon as I rephased us. I had transported us to the raised stage and we now found ourselves on display to a packed house of our sisters and brothers.

Mom, Quintin, and Frances Darrough immediately blushed and stared directly at me.

Sisters and brothers of Kili, let’s give it up for Alexis Reilly, Quintin Darrough, and Frances Darrough! Our Homeworld contingent!” Alex Steinert announced over the audio transdu…PA system as she motioned over to our newly arrived group.

Wild applause and enthusiastic whistling filled the auditorium!

Mom instantly released my hand and phased out!

“OH no you don’t!” I growled as I stopped time in Reilly. The result was that all members of the ‘Royal’ family began to glow blue. I quickly found Alexis Reilly, matched her phasing, and grasped her hand. She turned and glared at me in complete surprise! Alex Steinert laughed loudly as did her sisters Emily and Brianna; daughters Samantha, Cassandra, and Alexis; her son Alexander; as well as Billie, and my Sam and Cassie.

I also noticed a bluish glow from up behind the top row of seats at the very back of the auditorium, but I couldn’t make out who it was- though I did have a theory.

I restarted time around us.

“Why?”

“Why, what, Mother?” I asked.

Welcome to Reilly Research Station, home base of the Sisters of Kili, Sisters and brothers of the Empress of Time and Space!” Alex Steinert again announced resulting in more applause.

“Why are you two doing this? Frances and I, and certainly Quintin, don’t deserve any of this! We could have stopped the Homeworld from destroying itself and we didn’t! None of us deserve this welcome!” Mom cried over the continuing applause.

“Why condemn yourselves for something you had no control over, mother?” I asked as I stared directly into her eyes.

“There was no way to stop it. You, Cassie, Sam, and Grandma had no choice but to let it happen. Grandma knew she wouldn’t be around…or at least be strong enough to do what Alex, Alexandra, and I had to do.” I explained. “Therefore, why be so humbled now?”

Ma grabbed my opposite shoulder and pulled me to her. She immediately wrapped her arms around me and tried to squeeze the breath from my lungs. I could hear her crying even over the increasing applause. Looking over to Cami, I noticed Frances taking similar advantage of her and Cassi.

I felt another presence arrive behind me.

“It’s about time you brought them back for a visit, mom!” My daughter Reilly growled as she stared at me expectantly. I noticed a young man my shared memories told me was David Cummins standing slightly behind her.

“Do I get to say hi to grandma sometime today?” She added before trying to cut in. I raised my hand and indicated for her to wait.

“Hey, y’all! How ‘bout we all go out and get this ‘Welcome to the Universe’ shindig started? Everthin’s setup and just waitin’ for the guests! See y’all outside!” Alex Steinert announced just before she and a good third of the audience vanished. What was left of the audience began to exit the hall.

“Shall we? I asked as I pushed mom back from me slightly.

Again I triggered my gift and we found ourselves out in the large clearing just outside the airlock’s detection range. Mom, Frances, and Quintin’s mouths dropped open as they took in the beautiful, tropical scenery.

Quintin turned around and stared at the outside of Reilly.

“Is this the fabled Avalon?”

“Reilly?” Frances Darrough asked as she turned to see what her ex had seen, as if she hadn’t heard my sister’s welcome announcement. “But how?”

“That was my doing, Frances.” Alex Steinert said with a smile as she approached. “When what was left of the Homeworld again threatened our sisters, I took it upon myself to move both Reilly Station and its universe here to ours.”

“You did this all by yourself, Alexandra?” Quintin Darrough asked, flabbergasted.

“Well, I did have a hundred and three helpers to lend a hand.” She admitted.

Mom suddenly stared at me in fear. I rolled my eyes in regard to the question that was about to escape her lips.

“Alexandra, when we transited just now, the only hand you took…”

“Was yours, mom? How did I transport everyone around us without making contact?” I interrupted. “How did Alex transport one third of our attending sisters and brothers out here without physical contact?”

She nodded as her eyes narrowed.

“There are many things about the Empress of Time and Space that even Alex, Alexandra, or I don’t yet know, mom. That was just one of the things we recently discovered.”

“Grandmother. I am Reilly Reilly and this is my husband, David Cummins.” Reilly interjected aggressively.

“Hello, ma’am.” The young man said shyly.

“I know who you are, Reilly! I also see your Terran education has still not been well assimilated.

“Ah shit! She’s already synced with her!” Reilly cursed as she stomped the ground with her foot. “Well that screws THAT plan!”

Mom reached out and quickly wrapped her arms around my aggravated daughter. They embraced for a minute before she wrapped her arms around David. Mom quickly looked to her right, broke free from her grandson-in-law suddenly, and dashed off in the same direction.

“AUNT JACKI!” She shouted excitedly!

Mom suddenly flew a couple meters into the air and did several summersaults before landing feet-first in front of my sister’s Ex-O. They immediately embraced and I could hear mom crying again. I immediately recalled grandma’s memories. That was something that Jacki Cummins did when Alexis was a child.

“I wonder if she’s happy to see her?” Quintin Darrough asked sarcastically from behind me.

“They haven’t seen each other since we left Avalon six years ago.” Alex Steinert replied.

Quintin Darrough grasped the bridge of his nose, closed his eyes and shook his head a few times.

Jacki and mom walked back toward us.

Several flower lei appeared- hovering- from the treeline. As they grew closer, we noticed each required four Pixies to stay aloft. Quintin and Frances gasped as each of us ‘Guests of Honor’ received a flower necklace.

The pink Plumeria smelled wonderful and were very pleasing to the eye.

Emily appeared and approached our male guest.

“Hello Mr. Darrough, I’m Alex’ sister, Emily. I am the resident doctor, in my time period, here at Reilly and I am required to inform you that an isolated water reservoir has been conveniently located at the end of the buffet table in the blue, insulated, water cooler. Unless you wish to join the sisterhood, I strongly suggest you drink from only that reservoir.”

“Join the ‘sisterhood’? I don’t understand.”

“I’ll tell him, Emily. Thank you, sister.” Frances Darrough responded as she stepped up and gently took her ex’s arm then led him a short distance away.

Emily nodded before coming over to me.

“Hey, sis. I heard you had SOME adventure! Wish I could have been there to see it.”

“We did what we had to do, Em.” I replied. “I was just following our sister’s motto- ‘no one left behind’.”

“I’m familiar with it, sis, though I don’t think its originator ever thought anyone would take it to such an extreme.”

We both laughed at that.

“Hey! Sis! Y’all ferget ‘bout me?” Brianna shouted as she ran over to us and quickly wrapped her arms around me. Wow, was that girl strong!

“How y’all been, sis?” I asked after getting my breath back. “By the way, this is my mom, Alexis Reilly, Cami’s ma an’ pa, Frances an’ Quintin Darrough.”

“Nice ta meet y’all. Ah’m Alex’ sister, Brianna. Welcome ta the neighborhood! If y’all need anything, I’m the one that kin contact our Empress anywhere she goes.”

“Anywhere?” Frances asked skeptically.

“Yep! Any place, any time, any universe, any die-men-shun!” Brie bubbled. “We share a special link, me an’ the Empress.”

“So where’s Chuck, Brie?” I asked.

“Him an’ Brittany decided ta stay home. Brit’s got finals an’ Charles got a backlog at work that needs tendin’. Ah cain’t stay long neither. Dee an’ Freddy was gonna visit fer a spell- Ah’m ahopin’ they stay a few weeks this here time.”

“So…you found another facet of your gift, I take it.” I asked with a smile.

A gigantic smile filled Brie’s face. “Saves a ton a money on plane fare. An no TSA gropin’ neither! Don’t know how Ah done survived it before.”

“So how far can you transport these days, sis?” I inquired.

“Y’all don’t know a’ready? Boy sis, y’all slippin’ er sometin’?” Brie laughed as she appraised me. “All ‘round this here planet and a few months either way. But ah hope, with more practice, ah kin jump a whole year soon. Ah got some slip-ups that needs fixin’ ‘round last Christmas.”

I smiled as my sister’s memories of that event came to mind. Brittany’s new boyfriend’s surprise appearance at the Mason residence couldn’t have been more awkward. Brie should have used her gift to see that one coming!
 
 

Quintin! What the hell are you thinking!” Frances Darough’s voice rang through our heads and echoed through the tropical palms and bushes.

The entire gathering silenced.

“Frances, I didn’t say a thing! How dare you infringe on my thoughts anyway?”

“How could anyone miss those lewd thoughts, Quintin! Delilah is only fifteen! Do you WANT Randi to financially ruin you because you can’t keep it in your pants? What kind of a pervert did I marry? To think I had thoughts of us getting back together!”

“Frances, take it easy! I’m sorry! It was one stray thought- a thought I could have with any of these women. How can any breathing man not admire them?”

“Admiring is one thing, but what you intended vastly usurped admiration! It was…pornographic!”

A glass of water flew in from my right and poured itself on Quintin Darough’s head.

“I think it’s time that you understood the consequences of your thoughts, Quintin, dear!” Frances shouted angrily with a satisfied, but evil smile.

“Now Frances! I think you should settle down! This is not the time nor place for such hostilities.” The elder Darough calmly replied hoping to defuse the worsening situation.

“No, Quintin! I will not calm down! Never tell me to ‘Calm Down’! You want to think lewd thoughts about the sisters, why not try them out on yourself!” Frances Darough spat.

I decided to take action. I hadn’t seen this in any of my scenarios!

“Francis! Please don’t do something you’ll regret in six hours!” I urged as I hurried over to our newest sister. As I drew near, her arm shot out in my direction. I turned my head just in time to see an unopened bottle of twenty-year old Kentucky Bourbon inches from my face. I turned my head quickly.

Everything went black.
 
 
 
 

“My Queen, a foreign woman in strange attire seeks audience with you. What would you have me do?” My trusted Vizier asked as he approached respectfully.

“Does this woman have a name and affiliation, Jal’aj?” I inquired- annoyed that someone had the audacity to interrupt my allotted entertainment period.

“She only refers to herself as ‘Aleck-sandra, my queen and I cannot place the region she hails from- the realm of Mizzurra. She refuses to leave the palace and I have no idea how she got past the sentries, our security is flawless.”

“Does she seem to pose an imminent threat, Jal’aj?”

“She carries no weapons, traps, or elixirs whatsoever, my Queen.”

“Tell her to return tomorrow during court.” I ordered.

His face went white and his mouth dropped open.

“What is wrong, Jal’aj? Did you not understand my command? Did my voice or anything I have said sound indigestible to your ears?” I asked angrily.

“No, my queen!” He answered immediately as he looked to the throne room floor. “It is just that…the woman…she…she told me…told me word for word…that that is what you would say, my queen. I have no thoughts on how that be possible!” He stuttered awkwardly.

“She is a seer, Jal’aj! That is the only true explanation. Tell her to leave! She will ‘see’ that she should come back while I hold court.”

“But, my queen…” Jal’aj paused, unsure of his next statement.

“But what, Jal’aj? Loosen your tongue before I order it done for you.”

“My queen, her face…her voice…her endowments…lest the hair color and some extra time in the sun, she could be your double! I am completely at a loss as to how someone could imitate you so well! Surely there cannot be another woman of such outstanding beauty in all of Saba!”

I thought about what he said of this foreigner’s description. That coupled with his facial expressions, enticed me.

“Dismiss the artisans and bring this doppelganger before me at once, Jal’aj.” I growled with even more annoyance in my voice. “I shall dispel her myself.”

“At once, my queen.” Jal’aj said as he clapped his hands and hurried my entertainment out the servant’s door on my right. I noticed one of them- a brown-haired girl of above average beauty momentarily glance back to me. How dare she look upon me without my explicit approval!

Jal’aj hurried back over to me, bowed to me, and exited the throne room’s main doors.

I waited.

And waited.

Jal’aj re-entered slowly and approached me cautiously.

“My queen…I regret to inform you that the foreign woman, Aleck-sandra, appears to have taken her leave.”

“WHAT?” I shouted, infuriated. “How dare she demand audience then rebuke my exceptional kindness?”

“On my exit from your royal presence, the woman was nowhere to be found. She had simply vanished, my queen. The guards remember nothing, not even her arrival.”

I was incensed!

“Leave me, Jal’aj! If she should return, she is to be seized and taken straight to the prison and put to work in the brothel! How dare some foreigner rebuff my charity!”

“By your order, my queen.” Jal’aj bowed, turned, and let himself out.

A high-pitched, drawn out whistle sounded from my right as soon as the door closed completely.

“Wow, y’all got some setup here, sister.” My voice said, also from my right.

I turned suddenly and stared eye to eye with my own face- be it somewhat pale!

GUARDS!” I shouted immediately.

“It’ll do ya no good, sis. Nobody kin hear us.”

GUARDS!

“Ah said nobody kin hear us. Ah got us outta phase with this here reality. Ah assume you cain’t ‘member who ya are, right?” The impersonator stated calmly.

“My name is Bilkis! How dare you even think about calling me ‘sister’? I am no relation to you in any regard!” I exclaimed testily.

“Wow, we got us one swelled head don’t we? Guess the old adage ‘ power corrupts an’ absolute power corrupts absolutely’ still’s alive an well. Relax, hun, We ain’t here ta harm ya. We’re here ta help.” My insolent twin informed me. That impish smirk on her face was intolerable!

“How dare you address me in such a casual manner! GUARDS!” I shouted.

“Ah wouldn’t waste mah breath, hun. Ain’t nobody kin hear ya.”

“My guards and servants are at my beckoned call! They will be here shortly. Nothing can keep them from their pledged service!”

“Ah’ll repeat what ah said before…they cain’t see us, yer highness. Plain an’ simple…we no longer fully exist in this here reality.”

“That is impossible! Of course I exist here! I am Bilkis, Queen of all Saba!”

“Well now, that’s real nice, hun.” She replied flatly. That only incensed me more. “While we’re doin’ inner-ductions, ah’m Alexandra, Empress a Time an’ Space. Even in this day ‘n age, Empress trumps queen, hun, so shouldn’t y’all be bowin’ ta me?”

“You insolent! How dare you talk to me in that manner! How dare you claim to be something of myth and legend!”

“She certainly IS full of herself, Alex.” Another woman- this one shorter and golden-haired- said as she appeared beside my counterfeit.

“If memory serves, y’all have first-hand knowledge, Billie Sangiere.”

The one called ‘Billie’ sneered at my fake. “Alex, her Vizier is approaching.”

“Not gonna be a problem, Billie.” My double said nonchalantly.

Jal’aj opened the large, wooden double doors and stopped in surprised fear a few feet into my throne room.

“My queen?” He asked cautiously as he looked around my eloquently decorated throne room.

“Jal’aj! Have these intruders apprehended and thrown into the prison!” I shouted at the top of my lungs.

My double simply rolled her eyes.

“Hey queenie? Kin y’all do this?” My twin asked serenely as she snapped her fingers.

Jal’aj stopped in mid-stride! All outside noise- all motion around us, stopped! The two intruding women began to glow in a bluish light. As I looked behind the two I suddenly noticed two more glowing figures, both appeared to be women.

“What is this magic?” I demanded, noticing as I raised my hand to point, that my own hand was emitting a similar bluish light. I took a moment to examine this strange phenomenon.

“Alex. I wish you would’ve alerted me to the fact you were going to freeze time. I almost knocked over half the troop when they all froze in front of me!” Another woman exclaimed irritably as she entered through the side entrance she had just recently exited.

“Relax, Jamie. You knew we were working off script on this one.”

“Aunt Alex, what’s wrong with momma?” The younger looking woman asked as she stepped from behind the golden-haired wench and pointed to me.

“She done lost her memory after getting’ conked in the head by that flyin’ booze bottle at the party, Reggie. Yer momma don’t know who she is.” My double explained.

“I am virgin! I have never bore a child!” I argued adamantly setting their minds straight.

“I kind of like her like this, Aunt Alex.” The other, older, newly arrived woman stated with a devious smile. She held up a strange rectangular thing that produced a flash of lightning once and made a ‘click’ noise. “This will make the perfect blackmail material.” She mumbled quietly.

“Reilly!” My twin hissed.

“No can do, Aunt Alex! This one’s going into the album.” The woman declared while laughing maniacally.

My double rolled her eyes.

“Bilkis, may I introduce Reilly Reilly and her younger sister Regina Reilly.”

I tried ignoring the casual introduction- it was too far below me.

“Momma! Don’t be rude! The youngest woman declared. “We came here to bring you back home.”

The teenager disappeared and was suddenly standing beside me and took hold of my left arm. I quickly, roughly, brushed her hand off me.

“You shall not lay hand to my royal presence, foreigner!”

“Stick the attitude, momma! I’ll touch your arm if I want to!”

I quickly drew my dagger and placed it to her neck. Her eyes widen considerably!

“Touch me again and forfeit your life, you insolent child!” I hissed.

My knife ripped from my hand and flew to the golden-haired one.

“That wasn’t too wise, dear.” She said as the dagger hovered magically then shot to the ceiling and embedded itself to the hilt!

“Momma! How could you? How could you attack your own daughter?”

“I do not have a daughter, young one! Leave me and this palace at once! All of you!” I commanded.

“Billie, why don’t y’all help Jal’aj there back out the door an’ have him forget he ever’ seen us?” My counterfeit asked of her golden-haired cohort.

With just a nod, the one called Billie turned and gracefully walked back to my loyal Vizier and twirled her right pointer finger in the air. As if a puppet or doll, he turned and both disappeared.

The golden-hair reappeared instantly next to my twin.

“Jamie? Y’all wanna get back to your group, hun? I’m turnin’ time loose again. Y’all got two minutes.” This person calling herself Aleck-sandra advised. I scoffed at the very idea she could stop time.

“You would be amazed by what we can do, Ale…Bilkis. We will be going for now, but we’ll be back. An’ y’all can place money on that!” She said after waiting silently for a time.

With that threat, all four remaining women vanished into thin air! Instantly all ambient noise and motion resumed.

Had I been in the presence of demons? Gods? The things they did were simply astounding- miraculous even. I doubted even the court mage could replicate such incredible feats.

Guards!” I shouted. There was no hesitation on their arrival this time.

“There are four women, one average golden-hair, two that could be my younger sisters, and one looking identical to me except in hair color and pallor. Search the palace and grounds for them! I want them found and imprisoned immediately!”

My eyes panned to my right- to the exit my entertainers left by.

“Find the medium build brunette dancer of superior beauty and do likewise with her! No one disregards the queen of all Saba!”

With a confused nod by their captain, my guards were off to scour the palace and grounds for these arrogant interlopers.

“My queen, what has happened? I heard one of the guards say something about intruders. Have you been harmed?” Jal’aj anxiously inquired as he rushed into my throne room.

“I am unharmed. Give assistance to the search since you have seen the one called Aleck-sandra, Jal’aj. I want those women found and punished!”

“Women, my queen? What women?” He asked obliviously.

“There were just five women in this room, Jal’aj. You met the one called Aleck-sandra just moments ago. She is my close double. With her were two younger women that could have been my younger sisters had I had any. They were joined by one of the dancers- a ravishing brunette. There was also a golden-haired woman with them. Be extremely careful as that one has powers even Ta’kuk would pay handsomely for!”

“As you wish, my queen.” He said quickly before turning and hurrying out.

Left alone, I began to ponder the recent events.

‘Don’t think too hard on it, hun. Y’all’ll get a headache.’

Those ghostly words whispered into my ear produced several waves of tremors that moved, several times, along my spine.
 
 

Mahram, Saba, July 7th, 720BC

 
 

“Why can’t momma remember me, Aunt Alex? What did I do to make her forget?” My fifteen year old niece asked innocently as we appeared in a quiet alley just outside the palace walls of Mahram, Saba- or what the bible called Sheba.

“Sometimes when someone receives a severe concussion, they forget who they are, sis. Mom got hit pretty hard by that whiskey bottle. I’m surprised she transited instead of dropping like a brick.” My niece, Reilly, tried to explain to her sister. “I believe mom developed another persona based on where she rephased, in this case ancient Arabia in what is now Yemen.”

“We’re in Arabia?” Reggie asked excitedly. “Momma was teaching me about the Syrians, Samarians, and the Assyrians before she left for Reilly and her Homeworld mission two and a half years ago. Can we do some exploring, Aunt Alex?”

“Maybe after we restore your ma’s memories and she calls off the goons, honey.” I replied.

“Alex! Someone is coming.” Billie alerted as she suddenly looked toward the open end of the alley.

She relaxed immediately.

“It’s just Jamie.” She said with a sigh.

“Ya, its just me…run of the mill, normal ol’ Jamie.” Our sister groused as she turned the corner and joined us. “Lest we forget who’s been stuck here for six months scoping out her royal badass.”

“Ah haven’t forgotten, hun, an’ Ah thank y’all fer keepin’ an eye on mah sister all that time.” I said in thanks.

“Skipper, when was the last time you slept? Your drawl is runnin wild and free.” She asked with concern.

“I’d estimate- by the frequency of our Empress’ fatigue monitor- that she has been active for at least three days straight. Am I close, Alex?” Billie asked as she lowered and fixed my collar.

“Actually closer to four, Billie.” I corrected.

“Skipper, we’re heading over to my place so you can at least take a nap.” Jamie insisted.

“That is the first place the correction specialists will look, I’m afraid.” Billie rebutted.

“Then it’s up to you to see the cops find nothing, yer highness.” Jamie challenged.

Billie nodded and offered her hands. Jamie’s small apartment appeared around us.

“Bed’s back here, skipper.” She pointed to an open doorway toward the back of the tiny apartment. “It’s not what you’re used to, but it’s all I could afford. Dancin’, it seems, doesn’t pay much in any time period except the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.”

“Maybe it’s not the right style of dancing?” Billie asked with a smirk.

“I’m not as well versed in the naked mamba as you, Billie Sangiere! I, at least, have standards.” Jamie responded.

“So claims the seven time Playboy centerfold.”

“Nine.”

“Girls! That’s enough o’ the feudin’! We need ta keep it per-fesh-nol and keep ‘em eyes open.” I advised as I headed to Jamie’s back room. She was right. It wasn’t much of a bed, but it would do.
 
 

0600hrs, Mahram, Saba, July 8th, 720BC
 
 

“So, what did I miss?” I asked as I walked into the living/kitchen/dining area. Everyone was still sacked out on the floor in various levels of slumber.

Except Billie.

My sister’s second in command was sitting quietly at the small table in what I assumed was the kitchen. Her eyes were open, but there was no recognition of my presence at all.

“Billie?” I asked quietly.

No response; not even an eye blink!

“Billie Sangiere, are you in there, hun?”

I went to gently touch her arm.

“Aunt Alex, wait.” Reggie’s quiet voice and her hand quickly grabbing my reaching arm suddenly caught my attention.

“It’s not a very good idea to touch her while she’s like this. I know from personal experience.” My young niece added as a look of relief washed over her face.

“Relax. I’m awake, Regina.” Billie’s voice responded quietly. “Alex knew exactly when I would be leaving my comatose state, and I wouldn’t repeat that same mistake twice.”

“I would hope not, Aunt Billie. The need for four broken ribs and a concussion was not necessary as I was unaware of your state of consciousness at the time. Some sort of warning would have been prudent prior to the initialization of that mode.” Reggie replied in a very mature and professional tone.

“And I had hoped the Empress’ daughter would utilize her gift to foresee such coming events.” Billie countered.

I covered my mouth to squelch the laughter that I felt brewing. Billie could be so…

“Is there something you feel you should add, Commander Steinert?” She interrupted, glaring at me intensely.

“Not really. Though, it is interesting to actually witness accusations flying between a pot and kettle.” I giggled quietly.

Both women looked at me in confusion.

“Never mind. Did anything happen while I was out cold- Royal guards, that Jal’aj feller…‘Bilkis’ comin’ ta maybe apologize?” I inquired thinking the last part completely absurd.

“How could anybody cause trouble if they could not see, find, or remember this residence, Alex?” Billie boasted.

“Good job, hun, but I could have told you we were safe if you asked before I hit the rack last night.” I admitted.

“You mean if Aunt Billie had only used her foresight, she would have seen we wouldn’t have been bothered, Aunt Alex?” Reggie asked- just for verification, mind you.

“I’m proud of you, sis.” Reilly said as she sat up, yawned, and stretched her arms into the air. “So, Skipper, what’s the plan of attack for today?”

Jamie stirred, sat up, and rubbed the sand from her eyes- literally.

“Jamie goes to work as usual. Reilly, I want you to tag along with her as the troop’s returning soothsayer. Dress accordingly. Jamie, make everyone feel as though they know about her. Billie and Reggie will come with me.

Reilly stood and her Reilly suit changed to a diaphanous, transparent pink, Harem girl outfit- complete with matching skimpy lingerie and curled-toe slippers.

“Oh, that’s original.” Billie deadpanned as she appraised my older niece critically.

“Who’s to say this isn’t where the style started, Billie? My gift is telling me this is what I should wear. And far be it from me to screw-up the timeline.”

“Skipper, what happens if the palace guards are waiting for us?” Jamie asked with a little bit of concern.

“In that case, you both do what you do best,” I replied.

“Carte Blanc, Aunt Alex?” Reilly asked in complete surprise.

I nodded with a big, bright smile. “I haven’t seen it change things either way, hun.”

My niece rubbed her hands together excitedly, an evil grin on her face. I half expected her to cackle maniacally, too!

I guess we’ll see you all in a few hours.” Reilly said as she nodded to Jamie, who quickly changed her default Reilly suit into her court dancer’s outfit.

They disappeared.

“Shall we go, girls?” I asked as I changed into an ‘Arabian’ version of my Aryan Empress outfit- meaning it was a little more ‘billowy’ than the original design. I reached into the accompanying purse I had just designed days ago and retrieved my tiara.

“Damn, Aunt Alex!” Reggie sputtered in surprise, her eyes popping wide open as she stared at my outfit.

“Many men paid dearly the first time I wore this, Regina; I can think of nothing else that screams ‘I’m an Empress’ louder. I said somewhat solemnly.

“I’m hearing that get-up scream something else entirely, Alex.” Again Billie deadpanned.

“Are we ready?” I asked with a sigh. I held out my hands as Reggie’s Reilly finished changing into a modest, period correct, young women’s outfit.

Bilkis’ throne room appeared. I immediately noticed several palace guards at each of the exits and window openings. Apparently my sister was spooked and just a bit paranoid by our surprise visit yesterday.

“You ready, Xena?” I asked Billie with a smile. I wanted to make sure she and Jack had synced back at Kili- what for me was four days ago.

“Xena, Aunt Alex?” Reggie questioned as she tilted her head to one side slightly.

“Old television show from 1980’s Earth- the U.S., specifically. It was loosely based on Heracles from Ancient Greek mythology.” I answered and noticed no recognition. From either of my companions.

“Jack’s ensemble on our first visit to the Homeworld? Never mind, hun, you’ll get the idea.”

After a minute, Billie’s dress whites changed into a very Barbarian-esque, VERY provocative, strapless, brown leather outfit- complete with brown leather, thigh-high, stiletto-heeled, sinew-laced boots.

“You know…you really have no room to accuse, Aunt Billie.” Reggie giggled and shook her head as she appraised our blonde sister. “I guess I should follow form then.”

Reggie’s Reilly changed again, this time into a light tanned, leather vest-like blouse with a matching leather mini-skirt and, low-heeled, sinew laced leather boots. A bow and quiver of arrows completed her outfit. Reggie then reached back into a pocket on the side of her quiver with her free hand and pulled a smaller version of my tiara from it and placed it on her head with a satisfied smile.

“Now there shall be no question as to who I am related to.” She said smugly.

“So…now are we ready?” I sighed, looking at my two companions in annoyance.

“As soon as you stop time, Empress.” Billie grinned wickedly.

I nodded, regarded the two questioningly for a moment, and the four of us began to glow blue- Billie, Reggie, me, and ‘Bilkis’. I phased us in as my sister finally took notice of the complete silence and lack of motion- and finally of her own blue glow.

“So, you have returned. GUARDS!” Bilkis screamed.

“Boy, that conk of the noggin’ musta been harder than even Emily thought, sis.” I said with one eyebrow raised.

GUARDS!” She exclaimed again.

“I thought I would enjoy this more, but it just turns out to be so, so sad, Empress.” Billie sighed. “Apparently, she has absolutely no remembrance of who or what we are, or our individual talents.”

“Alexandra. Its time to go home, sister.” I said gently as I released my sisters’ hands and approached.

“I told you yesterday, I am no relation to you! GUARDS!

“Then care to explain why we are identical in every physical way?” I asked.

“We are not identical! I have black hair and a darker skin coloration.” She hissed in triumph.

“Only because you’ve somehow jumped into the real queen Bilkis’ body, Alexandra. That jump has clearly merged both individual’s traits. Now its time to jump out and be your own person again, sis. Let Bilkis be the rightful monarch and allow her to choose her own path in the timeline. She has many important things to do during her reign.”

“I am not possessed! I am Bilkis! Queen of all Saba!”

“Ya, and I play a barbarian on television, too.” Billie lampooned as our wayward sister turned her stare to our Queen Mind Warrior in complete confusion.

I decided to try something and began to concentrate.

“And I am Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space! You shall address me as ‘Empress’ you lowly excuse for supposed royalty!” I growled in mock anger as I willed the speed of light to slow. The room grew darker and took on a reddish hue.

Reggie whistled as she looked around us. “Now y’all gone an’ dun it. Y’all pissed her off royally now.” She warned with a very worried expression.

‘Bilkis’ looked about the room in fear.

“Next the seas will start to boil.” Billie added, catching on quickly. “Not that you’d be able to see that from this dry excuse for a civilization. What’d she do the last time after the boiling seas, Regina?”

“Fiery hail from the heavens, Billie.”

Billie snapped her fingers. “Oh, that’s right! I always get that and the catastrophic earthquakes and volcanic eruptions mixed up.”

Oh brother, were they vamping it up!

“I’d plead for the Empress’ forgiveness before she moves to stage two, Blistex.” Billie recommended.

“My name is Bilkis!”

“Won’t matter much if you cease to exist, dearie.” Billie countered.

I slowed the speed of light further.

Billie quickly looked around the blood red-tinged room.

“Better hurry, Bilky, the end of days is fast approachin’.” Billie urged through a serious, but impish grin.

Bilkis stared around the room as I slowed light a little farther.

“What…what would you…have…have me do…Empress of Time and Space?” She relented in a sullen tone.

“I just ask that you hear us out…though, without requiring us to take defensive action.” I requested as I re-established the speed of light and released my hold of time.

Immediately the palace guards jumped to action…

Well they tried, but suddenly found that their feet no longer touched the floor- that they were hovering in place, immobilized.

“Thank you, Billie.” I said with a nod.

Reggie had already started to appear in front of each soldier and disarm them of their spears, daggers, and swords. Each man marveled at the young women as she phased in and out magically.

“Empress, all guards have been liberated of their weaponry.” She reported appearing by my side again. There was no sign of where said weapons went.

“Well done, Regina! Your mother would be extremely proud.” I complimented.

“Thank you, Empress. Shall we move on?”

“Bilkis, if you will order your men to stand down, we shall talk as civilized persons.” I requested.

“Leave us and make sure we are not disturbed.” She ordered begrudgingly.

I nodded to Billie and all men settled gently to the ground. Once their feet touched the floor, they quickly, fearfully, retreated to the exits.

“So what will we talk about, Empress of Time and Space?” Bilkis asked in a strained tone as her eyes narrowed. She motioned us over to a few chairs and a comfortable looking Egyptian-style settee. She and I gracefully sat on the couch while Billie and Reggie sat on the chairs. I didn’t think she noticed our choreographed motion at all.

“I would like to discuss the separation of you from my sister, Alexandra of Reilly. An event of the recent past has inexplicably combined two entities into one common body and the entities must be separated before permanent damage can result to either one. And before you begin to argue, I have firsthand knowledge of this kind of accidental recombination.”

“I have always been Bilkis, Empress. I am of one mind as well as one body.”

“Please…if you will…think back to two years ago. Do you recall any strange feeling or episode that you found odd?” I asked as I gazed into her eyes.

“Not as I recall. What kind of feeling or episode specifically?”

I thought a moment, wondering if I shouldn’t just touch her and hope a re-synch would do the trick. It might just work or…it might backfire royally! I already witnessed what one portion of our gift could do in the wrong hands.

“Was there a particular instance where you looked into a looking glass and were surprised by the face looking back, Highness?” I asked.

She thought for a moment, but shook her head.

I mentally asked the question ‘how did it happen’. A smile came to my face.

“Was there a time when you woke up and felt more tired than when you went to bed?”

Bilkis’ eyes went wide.

Bingo!

“My Queen! We have found and apprehended the dancer you ordered imprisoned!” Jal’aj shouted as he burst through the door to the right of the throne.

He immediately rose off the ground clutching at his throat and gasping for air.

“I strongly suggest the dancer be released and exonerated at once, highness.” Billie hissed in anger. “While the Empress must remain diplomatic at all times, I, Billie Sangiere, Queen of Kili Island, do not adhere completely to those constraints…or the Empress’ will!”

“Release the dancer and bring her to me, Jal’aj.” Bilkis ordered reluctantly.

The Vizier’s feet gently touched the floor. He began breathing normally. Visibly shaken, he nodded once, and hurried out the same door.

“No, highness, I am not actually a barbarian, but I have fought in Greece and triumphed over the Spartans.” Billie replied answering the unheard question. “At least fourteen phalanxes fell to my will alone.”

“As I said, highness, I am not a barbarian, but I will protect friends and especially family.” Billie added.

Reilly materialized next to her sister, Reggie, rubbing her head gently.

“Alex, Jaffar jumped me and grabbed Jamie. I’m sorry, I got caught with my britches down.”

“We already know, Reilly.” Billie informed my niece calmly.

“It’s taken care of, hun.” I reassured her.

“You did?” She asked in confusion and rubbed her head some more. “Wow, that shot must have fried my time circuits a little.”

“Your orders, ma’am?” Reilly asked after a slight pause.

“Might as well stay here. Jal’aj is bringing Jamie back here, hun.” I responded. “Now…where were we?”

“My sleeping habits, Empress. There was one time I experienced that very issue. I thought nothing about it at the time, though I did cancel my morning court and remained in my room a few hours longer.”

“That has to be it, Empress. Alexandra must have transported as she collapsed and phased into Bilkis while she slept.” Reggie theorized excitedly.

I nodded in acknowledgement.

“Excellent deductive reasoning, lil sis!” Reilly praised.

I smiled…wait. I noticed Reilly had a tiara similar to Reggie on her head. Randi Peltierre must have compared notes with Randi Van Pelt recently.

Reilly noticed where I was looking and explained.

“Mom had Randi fabricate these for us a few months ago, Alex. She made mom one too, but it wasn’t finished before she left for the Homeworld. Same features as yours though,” Reilly blushed as she paused. “Well, except for the Earth-shattering, ‘kaboom’ part, that is. I think Randi still doesn’t trust us.”

“Gee, why would she think that, Reilly?” Billie poked.

“Ladies, please! Bilkis and I would like to continue this official dialog.” I reminded.

“Heh. Two equally hard-headed women trying to reach an accord.” Reilly quiped. “That has every possibility of working…yep.”

“There aren’t just two ‘hard-headed’ women in this room, hun. Count again.” I recommended as I looked at her then Billie then Reggie, and finally Jamie as she appeared in the servant’s doorway. She looked a little haggard and as she came closer, I noticed her bloody lip and bruised left eye.

“Everything okay, hun?” I asked in concern.

“Ya. You shoulda seen the other guy, skipper.” She winced as she smiled.

“Empress, will this take very long? I do hold court before the mid-morning hour.” Bilkis asked boldly.

“But I hold court whenever I deem it necessary, hun.” I replied arrogantly. “Shall I stop time again so that we will not overrun your assigned responsibilities?”

Bilkis looked at a loss for words. She simply looked to each one of us individually.

“Obviously, you consider this more important, Empress. Shall we continue?” She relented quietly.

“Jal’aj!” I shouted to Bilkis’ dismay.

“Yes, my queen?” the man asked as he cautiously peeked past the door. His eyes went straight to Billie.

“I called for you, Jal’aj.” I said with a neutral expression. Jal’aj stared at Bilkis for her approval. I didn’t wait.

“Jal’aj, there will be two leaders of a combined caravan heading north into Judea that will request audience with her majesty with an offer to ship any goods you have destined for that region. You will offer them rest and refuge for the night inside the walls, but admit truthfully that you do not have goods destined for the Israelites. Next the royal Architect will wish to have the Queen examine and critique plans for an improvement to the oasis well system. Here are the marked-up drawings the queen wishes he change.”

I reached into my regulation purse and pulled out a roll of papyrus scrolls and offered them to him. He reluctantly took them from me as he looked between the paper and the obviously too small satchel they came out of.

“Next, the leader of the dance troop currently employed by her highness for entertainment will wish to renegotiate- that he has received a more lucrative offer in Alexandria. On behalf of Queen Bilkis you shall offer him five percent over his agreed to fee to remain in Mahram for two more weeks. He will thank you profusely for the Queen’s generosity and be on his way. Lastly, several merchants will arrive later than expected, but will still wish to discuss the issue of recent thefts in their specific area of the marketplace. Inform them that you will assign two more guards to patrol that area, inform your captain of the change then enjoy a tasty mid-day meal with your favored concubine.”

I laughed quietly as both Bilkis and Jal’aj’s mouths lay on the floor in absolute astonishment of what I had just prophesized.

“Empress, you have left out the issue of a black scorpion infestation in the southwest corner of the city. Residents should be warned to not slumber on the floors after the desert rains come in fifteen days.” Billie added with a bright smile.

“Y’all get that, Jal’aj?” I asked as I looked to the befuddled man.

After a long pause he nodded and looked to his queen for approval. With a slow, silent nod from her, he turned and exited the throne room.

“There. Now that we have taken care of court affairs, shall we talk of your pending future, Queen Bilkis?” I asked.
 
 

Mid morning, Mahram, Saba, July 8th, 720BC
 
 

The nerve of this woman! How dare she summon my trusted Vizier and assume to give him orders in my stead. In my presence no less! Such arrogance to assume she could correctly predict the items, topics, and decisions I would make at my upcoming mid-morning court!

Wait! How did she know of my commissioned redesign of our precious oasis?

By all that I believe in, she just produced readjusted plans for the Architect! And from a bag incapable of holding such large documents! By my father’s lifeless body, what are these women? Why have they chosen Mahram and specifically me to vex? What is so important about my seat of power? How can I combat that which is undeniably unbelievable? And, as a foreigner, how could she know of our scorpion scourge as it only happens once every year just after the yearly spell of rain? Wait! Did the golden hair just predict the coming rain?

A stray thought enters my mind that seems to explain what I am witnessing- what I am experiencing. Are these women remnants of the ancient ones father had told me of when I was a child?

“Y’all get that, Jal’aj?” This ‘Empress of Time and Space’ asked of my Vizier- effectively refocusing my attention. He looked to me for my confirmation, obviously at a loss. With what I had just heard and witnessed, I had no choice but to nod agreement. How dare she take control of my throne and subjects?

“There. Now that we have taken care of court affairs, shall we talk of your pending future, Queen Bilkis?” My double inquired with that same over-confident smirk on her face. How I hated that look, but she did hold the upper hand…for now.

“Where shall we begin, Empress? You seem to suspect that your lost sister and I may have somehow combined during the night. That, my memory tells me, happened over two years ago. Would I have not noticed a strange voice in my head by now?” I asked, deciding to humor these women.

My double sighed openly.

“That would be expected normally, but I suspect that my sister’s consciousness has remained dormant to this point whether by the amount of damage she sustained or…or by choice.” Her response and how she sadly looked to the floor took me somewhat by surprise.

My feeling of weakness passed quickly.

“So you believe she is intent on taking my throne?” I asked heatedly.

The Empress as well as her three attendants opened their mouth in amazement. Had they not even thought of something so easily accomplished if the sister had similar talents as these four?

“WE…she wants nothing to do with your power or providence, honey.” The golden-haired one argued angrily. “She is already a ruler in her own right. And a much more unbiased one than you ever will be.”

“Jack!” My double barked.

“Wrong blonde, Alex.”

“Sorry, Billie. Y’all sound even more like her since y’all re-synced this time.” This…‘Empress’ admitted.

“What is this ‘re-synced’ and how could there be two of you, though with different names?” I asked as curiosity got the better of me. I was beginning to realize these women bore no ill intent or malevolence.

“We cannot answer that question at this time, Queen Bilkis. To do that may awaken our sister’s gift before she is coherent enough to control it. Her gift, if controlled by someone else could place the whole universe in jeopardy.” The Empress told me. By ‘universe’, did she mean outside the city walls or…or did she mean the world, the stars, and…and everything unseen, even by my court astronomers? Somehow, my feeling indicated the later.

“What sort of ‘gift’ is it, Empress?” I inquired graciously trying to shadow my fear of such assumed power.

“I’m afraid we can’t reveal that either, hun.” She replied sadly.

Again with the morose expression! What was she not telling me?

“Perhaps you would be able to speculate? Should I not be told if I could somehow set the palace ablaze or something just as heinous, Empress?” I asked slyly. Maybe I could learn something after all.

My twin thought for a moment.

“Using Billie Sangiere as a model, Bilkis,” she began. “Billie is the queen of my Mind Warriors. Her ‘gift’ allows her to read, persuade, and erase people’s minds. She can also use her gift as a weapon or to assist. She has the power to move mountains, reroute rivers and streams, lift the heaviest of objects, and destroy even the most, well-built, pyramid with just a thought. It has been offered she possesses the power of the universe itself.”

The Empress paused as I heard myself gasp audibly.

“Billie has learned that great control of her gift is of the utmost importance. Now, given what you now know of her ‘gift’, can you imagine what you could do with that gift?” The Empress looked intently into my eyes and I became unusually uncomfortable. Her action served to unnerve me to my very center- something I had never experienced before!

“Could you even use such a gift without losing control and ending everything? What is around you? What this world holds, what this universe offers? Could you control the power to wipe everything out of existence with just a thought, Bilkis? Please think deeply and debate that question in your mind, hun. Think of all the scenarios such power could conjure.”

Image after image of the possible events began bombarding my mind. There seemed no end to them, though all seemed to end in complete disaster or mass annihilation.

What was happening to me? What had this ‘Empress’ done using only her gaze- most likely, her words? Had she somehow conjured a spell to curse me? If so, for what was I being punished? Was this retaliation for my royal behavior toward her and her attendants- for my orders to arrest them?

The images finally slowed then blissfully stopped.

“Alex, she’s coming out of it. Wow, three and a half hours. I should have bet…oh…right…wrong blonde again. My bad.” The golden-haired one was saying as I opened my eyes. How strange, her use of our tongue.

“You find the answers to the question, hun?” The Empress asked politely.

I involuntarily shuddered at the things I had managed to catch- most were just a blur of locations, people, and outright despair! What things I did focus on, I considered gruesome at best. It had all seemed so real- like I had actually experienced these imaginary calamities.

“What curse did you put on me?” I asked as I tried to compose myself.

“That was no curse, but the same thing I experience day in and day out, Bilkis. What you witnessed was the answer to the question you posed to yourself- the one I asked of you. My sister and I share the gift of prophecy and foresight. What you have experienced was just one part of that gift. I took the chance and partially reawakened that facet as proof that my sister really does resided within you.” She revealed, again politely.

“As usual, Alex, I may have caught only about five percent of the information presented. I have no idea how you digest it all with one hundred percent accuracy.” The one called Billie expressed admiringly.

“It’s a gift. What can I say?” My double said as she shrugged her shoulders and smiled deviously.

Despite my loathing of these new intruders into my realm, I was beginning to develop a liking toward these two in particular. They seemed genuinely comfortable with each other as well as with everyone they interacted with. Was this how true sisters should behave?

“Would you care for a mid day meal, Bilkis?” My double asked from nowhere. “Our treat?”

Before I could answer I was suddenly in a different place. All around me were smooth, pristine walls and a high, smooth ceiling. I spied no windows or oil lamps of any kind- nothing to explain the brightness of the enormous room. At the tables spread throughout the huge room, I noticed women of many different races interacting as if there were no strife or conflicts among them as I knew there most certainly were.

“Welcome to Reilly Research Station, Queen Bilkis. This is the domain my sister shares with Billie here.” She told me. “Please move your right leg slightly to the left. I would not want you harmed in any way, shape, or form.”

I gasped as I looked down! My right leg was partially through the leg of the table we now sat at. I quickly moved it clear.

“Thank you, hun. Rephasing in three, two, one. Hey everyone, I brought back a visitor from Mahram, Saba.” She announced, as everyone in the huge room looked our way.

At me!

“Wow, Billie, that’s even more provocative than the getup you wore in Greece!” A small voice said. I turned to see a small, flying woman hovering just in front of the golden-haired woman called Billie.

She turned quickly and before I could blink, hung a hand’s width in front of my face- wings fluttering almost invisibly!

“Hi! Did anyone ever tell you you’re the spitting image of our director- only she can’t get that tan…and she doesn’t have black hair?” The tiny woman chirped excitedly with a playful smile.

Feeling completely overwhelmed, I simply nodded.

“Time to join the grown-ups, Yuuka.” My double announced.

By the ancient ones! She began to grow!
 
 
 

“Aye. She’s startin’ ta come ‘round now, Empress.”

“Lose the brogue, Fay. Ah’ve met your mentor, remember?”

“Sorry, Alex. Hey, you think she remembers who she is now?” The new voice asked. There was hope in her tone.

“What happened to me? And what of the small, winged woman? What kind of place is this?” I moaned as I reached for my forehead while keeping my eyes closed.

“Well, so much for hoping. I’ll float myself out, Alex.”

I opened my eyes in time to see a woman I hadn’t met hovering out the door of the smaller room I now found myself in, and I was laying down on a comfortable surface with a pillow behind my head.

“Welcome back, hun. Sorry, but Yuuka can be a bit excitable at times. I think it best if you count on things being really strange and magical around here during your visit.” My twin recommended.

“Where is here? Where is this Reilly Research Station you talked about earlier?” I asked as I suddenly felt perfectly fine.

“Let’s just say you’re about halfway around the world from where you started and call it even, okay?” She said cryptically.

“So I’m not to know where this is or what I am capable of, correct?” I asked in summation.

“That’s about it, hun. Though Ah promise, once mah sister has hightailed it out of your body, Ah’ll tell y’all ever’thin about where, when, and how. Deal?”

“I’ll agree to that since I obviously have no other choice presently.”

“Now that’s no way to think, hun. We all have choices and what we choose impacts what direction we go for the rest of our lives. If y’all wanna pull the cork an’ take my sister’s gift for yer own, why…y’all have that option. Wouldn’t be a very civilized or smart thing to do, but y’all are welcome to try.”

I picked up on the duality of her last statement immediately. She had no intention of letting me steal her sister’s gift- whatever ‘it’ was and would do everything in her power to see it never happened. I was immediately jealous of the devotion she showed for her missing sister.

Could it be that I was jealous of these women from the first time they appeared in my palace?

“So…you hungry still? We can go back to the Rec room if you think you can make it.” She asked, thereby refocusing my attention.

“Of course I can ‘make it’! I am Bilkis…”

Ya, ya. Yer Bilkis, Queen of all Saba. Got it the first hundred times, hun. A word to the wise? Here at Reilly we’re all on a level playin’ field. Not one of us is more important than anyone else. We all treat each other AND our guests equally. That means even though my title is ‘Empress’, I’m still just one o’ the girls. Got it?”

My twin flashed an evil smile for a brief moment.

“Except Billie. We allow her to act all high an’ mighty-like cause she’s one o’ them ‘special’ cases.” She added glancing at the door to this room.

The golden-haired woman suddenly appeared by the door and stuck her tongue out at my twin then vanished.

This certainly was a strange place!

“So, how ‘bout some grub?”

Eeew! “I do not eat peasant food!” I responded.

Why did this woman roll her eyes at me?
 

“What’ll it be, hun? Y’all got a hankerin’ for anything in particular?”

“I…I trust your selection…Empress.” I replied as I looked around. A few women sat and ate, but I observed no food table or servers. I also appeared to be the focus of attention in this place. I felt very awkward amongst all these unfamiliar faces. Why did I feel this way here? I had never felt this…unnerved…even around visiting monarchy! What was it about this place? These people?

“This order is to be split equally between two trays. Two American Hamburgers with tomato, iceberg lettuce, pickles, American cheese, and catsup on a regular sesame seed bun. Two small portions of American french fries, lightly salted, and two tall Cokes each with a small amount of ice.” My twin commanded of some sort of hollow in the wall.

To my surprise, food materialized within the magical hollow. A tiny, green candle lit and the Empress removed two flat boards each holding a plate of some stacked bread entrée, strange elongated golden strips and a glass of some dark, boiling liquid.

“Let’s sit over here, hun.” She suggested and led me over to an unoccupied table.

We sat down and she picked up the airy-looking bread which contained some very strange looking vegetables and a thin slab of what looked like fire grilled ground lamb.

“Try it, hun.” She said as she took a bite and began to chew. I decided to follow her lead.

This meat was not mutton! Nor were the vegetables anything I had ever tasted before!

“I have never tasted anything like this before, Empress. What is this delicacy? Do you serve it only to royalty?” I asked between mouthfuls.

My twin rolled her eyes and smiled. “It’s somethin’ we call ‘fast food’ back home in Missoura. Try the fries and coke, hun.” She suggested politely.

To my astonishment the meal evaporated quickly! Had I been that hungry? How did she get the bubbles much less cold, into that sweet, refreshing, liquid, I wondered as the tiny bubbles tickled my nose while drinking. The fizzing in my mouth was pleasantly novel.

Too soon the meal was finished and we both stood. The Empress picked up the ‘trays’ as she called them.

“I’ll just return these to the food station and we’ll head back to Mahram, okay, hun?” She stated just as another ‘tray’ with a glass container flew magically in our direction!

“HEADS UP!” A woman’s voice shouted from off to our left.

The sight of that object coming straight for me…

I found myself kneeling on the floor screaming hysterically!
 
 

1503hrs, Reilly Research Station, July 8th, 2020BC
 
 

I felt bad for my sister. First the poor girl folded like a pack of cards when she set eyes to Yuuka, now she knelt here screaming at the top of her lungs just because Cami’s floating tray came within three feet of her!

At least I knew there were some latent memories of Alex’ active in her subconscious. I felt bad that I had foreseen and orchestrated the whole incident to verify that fact.

‘Wow, that girl’s got issues.’ Cami thought to me.

‘Have you ever been in a good bar fight, hun?’ I thought back.

‘Not in as much as I’ve seen in Ricky Lynn’s mind, Alex. She’s been in some serious knock-down, drag-outs. I can’t imagine the world of hurt that might cause.’

‘What Alex is going through isn’t so different. Ask Alexis Reilly to please come in, sweetheart.’ I thought to her.

‘Alex? Maybe I should tag along? I feel terrible for causing all this and maybe I can help by way of apology?’ Frances Darough thought to me. Her voice sounded stressed and distraught.

‘Now is not the time for Alex to face her attacker, Franny- unintentional or not. You saw how she reacted to just the flying tray, right?’ I thought back seeing that she had found that facet of her gift.

‘But it WAS unintentional, Alex! I let my temper get the best of me without fully understanding my new capabilities and the responsibilities they demand. I’m truly sorry for what I have put her through!’Franny cried in my mind. I could almost feel her tears touching me.

As much as I felt for her, I had to remain strong- just as Alex had done for me many years ago- by my count.

‘Save the apologies for when we finally get her back, Franny. Until then remain distant and maintain telepathic silence. Am I clear on that, Frances Darough?’

‘As you military types say, ‘crystal, ma’am’. Darough, out.’

I knew she meant well and felt horrible about the accident, but Frances Darough was the last person my sister needed to see right now. If just a floating lunch tray caused her to fall to pieces hysterically, I could only imagine what seeing Franny would elicit. In fact, I knew exactly what would happen via quite a few scenarios I had run. I wanted to avoid all those scenarios where my sister activated her gift and transited to a completely different dimension and/or universe. In her present state of mind her destination- where ever she chose- would suffer greatly at Bilkis’ hand.

“Bilkis?” I called gently as I looked down on her sobbing figure. “Honey, it was just a floating tray and it missed ya by a mile. Could y’all try and pull it together? The other girls are starting to talk and I’d hate for them to get the wrong idea about the Queen of all Saba.”

To me, what I said sounded cold, and without an offer of extending my hand to assist, rude, but the last thing I wanted to do at this point was sync with her and possibly awaken my sister’s conscience prematurely. That would give the ever-plotting Bilkis the needed leverage to assume our gift.

“Bilkis, take my hand. I’ll help you to your feet, honey.” Reilly offered to my relief.

“I require no assistance!” Bilkis growled as she batted away the offered hand.

“Ya…it sure looks that way to me, highness.” My niece deadpanned.

“Empress! What happened? Is there anything I can do to help, M’lady?” Alexis Reilly asked as she entered the Rec Room and hurried over to us. “Are you alright, child?”

“How dare you refer to me as a ‘child’! You look no older than I, woman!” My sister declared haughtily.

“No…you’re absolutely right, your majesty. I’m just over twelve hundred years old, would you be older and by how much?” Alexis stated, returning her attitude.

Bilkis’ eyes widened considerably and her mouth dropped open.

“I recommended allowing for the strange and unusual here, hun.” I reminded. “Alexis Reilly here is probably the oldest of us at Reilly Research Station. Now how about we get our group together and head back to Mahram?”

“Yes, Empress, please take me home.” She agreed in not as snobbish a tone.

“Ladies? We’re leaving now.” I announced. Jamie, Reilly, Billie, and Reggie approached and stood close.

“Empress, would it be agreeable if Grandma were to accompany us?” Reggie asked. She nodded slightly to me, indicating she had foreseen our desired course. My niece was learning the ropes quickly.

Alexis Reilly looked somewhat surprised, but quickly stepped closer.

The throne room at Mahram appeared around us and I first looked to make sure we were all in the clear before rephasing and motioning to the settee.

“Now, where were we, your highness?” I asked lightly as I smiled to Bilkis. I watched Alexis looking around in wonder.

“Girl did good for herself, didn’t she?” I asked my niece. Alexis nodded absentmindedly as she continued to take in the décor.

A knock at the heavy, wooden, main door drew our attention.

“Come!” Bilkis shouted.

“Excuse the interruption, my queen, but I am here to inform you that the matters of this morning’s court have been resolved.” Jal’aj reported cautiously. No doubt noticing one additional person to the securely guarded room as well as zeroing in on Billie directly.

“Were there any unexpected issues, Jal’aj?” Bilkis asked.

“No, my queen. All went according to Aleck-sandra’s prophecy- exactly to her prophecy.”

Bilkis regarded me carefully through narrowed eyes.

“Well done, Jal’aj. Aleck-sandra and I will speak more. Leave us now.”

“As you wish, my queen.” He bowed and began to turn for the door, but stopped and turned back slowly. His face showed trepidation.

“Will Aleck-sandra and her ladies be attending the evening meal, my queen?” He asked, swallowing hard.

“Is it not too late to inquire about that, Jal’aj?”

“My queen?” Jal’aj asked in confusion. “It is one hour past mid-day. There still remains plenty of time for your selections.”

Bilkis immediately stared at me in disbelief. I winked at her and smiled.

“Yes, Jal’aj, they will be staying, and with my approval. Tell the cooks to ready my favorite meal. Enough for all of us.” She ordered.

“Yes, my queen. I will make the arrangements at once.” Jal’aj acknowledged as he bowed again, and quickly left the room.

“Ten to one its tacos.” I heard Jamie whisper to Billie.

“Pancakes…definitely pancakes.” Reggie whispered her guess of the evening meal with a giggle or two. “With plenty of syrup and kick-ass coffee!”

Had she just used her gift or did she know the Empress that well? I wondered?
 
 

“I should’ve known!” Billie moaned as she was served her dinner plate. On it was a stack of what looked like very thin pancakes, though the texture and color seemed off. Reggie bumped fists with her sister, Reilly then Alexis. All three had an amused smile plastered to their faces.

“Hey. These don’t taste like pancakes.” Reggie wrinkled her nose as she took the first bite of any of us.

“Ataif…with extra honey …hmmmm. I would have never guessed we’d be having this for dinner.” Jamie groaned. I didn’t think she knew anything about Middle Eastern food, though I think her mother had some Turkish roots.

“Do you disapprove of my selection?” Bilkis asked, though it sounded more like a challenge.

“Oh no, your highness. I have had them many times before.” Jamie answered in defense. “We use different ingredients in our country and the taste is slightly different. I do approve of the honey though.”

“The nectar is from the mountainous region and is expensive to import.”

They weren’t half bad, I thought to myself. The honey was just a bit too sweet for me though.

“I prefer something less sweet than nectar myself, but when entertaining foreign sovereigns it is worth the sacrifice.” Bilkis professed.

“Well I, for one, don’t mind. My compliments to your kitchen staff, your highness.” I said pleasantly.

Near the end of our meal, I observed that Bilkis’ eyes were getting heavy. My foresight indicated that Alex was starting to awaken. My earlier attempt to get Bilkis to access my sister’s foresight had gently caused her to stir.

“My guests, I hope it does not irritate you, but I grow tired and wish to retire to my chambers. Do you require lodging for the night?” She asked between several yawns.

I knew she was only half as fatigued as she appeared, though, and that she intended to ‘play’ me.

“Well, I can certainly say I’m not surprised. You’ve had an extraordinary day,” I agreed. “As for lodging, we already have quarters here in Mahram. By your grace, we shall go there now, Queen Bilkis. You are a very adept host and thank you for the delicious meal. Ladies? I believe it’s time we take our leave.”

With that we all stood, bowed, and left the royal dining room.
 
 

Late Evening, Mahram, Saba, July 8th, 720BC
 
 

“Jal’aj, I want them followed. Find out their lodging space and report back to me.”

“As you wish, my queen. May I ask why? I believed you to have made allies of these women.” He asked, eyeing me carefully.

“I do feel a kindred relationship to them, but the chance to ascertain this gift she told me of…it is very tantalizing! If I could somehow use it to bring the region under my rule…We could make Mahram a leader in trade and civility, Jal’aj.” I explained excitedly.

“But, my queen. Should you dare oppose them? We have no idea what each is capable of, excepting of course, the golden-hair named ‘Billie’. I have experienced the power she carries and am unsure I want her to unleash any sort of wrath upon you, me, or the city. Would it not be wiser to allow them to retrieve their sister from you and ally us with them instead?”

“Something tells me that once removed, we shall not see the likes of these women again, my trusted friend. If I could somehow assume control of this ‘gift’ Aleck-sandra talks of…

My hand went to my mouth on its own and I realized I had just yawned. Not just physically, but in my mind as well. My eyes shot open.

“My queen?” Jal’aj asked observing my strange response. “Is something wrong?”

“I’m fine. I just require rest, Jal’aj. I will retire to my chamber now and wish not to be disturbed.”

…oooow.

Again my hand came to my mouth of its own accord then reached around and gently touched the back of my head. Again my eyes widened at the strange event. I hurried down the corridor to my bedchamber.

Why did I hear my voice in my mind? Was the Empress’ sister actually inside me? Was she now awakening as the Empress predicted?

As I closed and latched my door, I tried to remain calm and think how I could achieve my desire- that of obtaining the gift of the Empress.

The gift of the Empress! Why had I not figured it out before? Aleck-sandra had already admitted that she had partially awakened a small…how did she put it? Ah yes, she had already awakened a small ‘facet’ of her sister’s gift- to see possible futures. The Empress had the ability to travel to other places- she even backtracked us in time by several hours after returning us back to Mahram…or was it days? I had no concept of how long I had actually visited their palace of Reilly.

Had I actually been there? The things I witnessed and experienced seemed magical and could have been the stuff of dreams…or nightmares! Small, winged women- several of them, in fact, able to grow to normal sizes on command! Serving boards that hovered and flew…I shuddered at that thought involuntarily as my hand reached behind my head again.

Oooow…what happened. Where am I?

My mouth opened on its own and I had no control of my head or eyes as I looked around my bedchamber.

Where is this place? How did I get here?

“This is my bed chamber and you are a part of me.” I answered, trying to understand just what was happening to me. Why had I suddenly started hearing a voice that sounded like my own, yet wasn’t?

Who are you? How did I get here?

“I should ask the same of you.” I answered, unsure if I should proceed. “How dare you distract me from my sleep?”

I distract from your sleep? Who are you?

“I am Bilkis, Queen of all Saba. Monarch of this region of Persia! And you are a part of me- a part that should know better than to interrupt me!” I said, hoping that would limit her protests.

My body started moving toward my chamber walls.

I need a mirror! I have to find a mirror!

My hands frantically searched the delicate hanging drapes around my room for this ‘mirror’. Could the voice mean a looking glass?

“First you shall reveal what manner of demon has taken residence in me then I shall guide you to this ‘mirror’ you seek.” I said, declaring my terms.

I am no demon! I am Alexandra Frances Reilly, Director of Reilly Research Station.

How vain! Naming a palace after one’s self!

“I think you have another title! That of Empress of Time and Space. Am I mistaken, Alexandra Frances Reilly?” I asked as I took the upper hand.

Suddenly my head hurt and my body began to move on its own again. I approached my cabinet, opened a door and took a small looking glass from the shelf. I began staring into it intently.

My, my! Y’all look good with that nice, dark tan, there, Alexandra! Too bad my nanos don’t allow it. Ah don’t much care for the hair color though. Ah like mah dirt blonde better.

“This is my body and I prefer my hair and complexion and you shall not change it!

Couldn’t change them things if ah wanted- ain’t mah gift, hun.

“Do not mock me! Tell me of the ‘gift’ I have inherited.” I demanded.

Inherited? Honey, what makes y’all think you inherited anything?

The voice actually laughed at me. A voice in my mind actually laughed at me!

“You are part of me now! You will do as I command!”

Y’all ain’t so hospitable, are ya? Ah think y’all should be concerned ‘bout me being in here, hun. Cain’t be too good fer either one’a us, Ah reckon.

“You will do as I command or I shall banish you to the deepest recesses of my mind! I shall have this gift of yours for my very own!”

No.

“No? How dare you defy me! You are a part of me and nothing more! You will obey me!”

Sorry, hun, but ah got a strict antie-tyrant protocol an ah cain’t let mah gift go rogue. Soon as ah figure out how ta git outta y’all, ah’m goin’! Ain’t y’all er any-one else gonna stop me! Now be a nice host an’ lay down. Ah’m seein’ me gettin’ out while y’all sleep.

“You will never escape me, Empress of Time and Space! I will not allow it!” I screamed.

My right eyebrow rose on its own and my face took on an evil grin as I continued looking at myself in the looking glass.

A firm knock on my door took my attention away from myself.

“Come.”

“My queen, is everything satisfactory? The guards alerted me to loud conversation and shouting from your chambers. I trust you suffer no duress?” Jal’aj inquired on entering.

“There is no concern, Jal’aj. I was just having a conversation with myself- nothing to be alarmed about.” My mouth replied on its own. “Leave me! I wish to rest.”

“As you wish, my queen. Rest well.” Jal’aj acknowledged as he hurried out.

“How dare you place words to my mouth!” I growled through clinched teeth.

Apparently, it’s mah maw too, hun, an’ ah’ll use it as ah see fit.

“You will pay dearly for that, Alexandra of Reilly!” I hissed venomously.

Hmmmm, let’s see what all still works while ah’m stuck in here. Wonder if mah Reilly is fung-shun-all?

An image of some sort of written language appeared before my eyes. Quickly many, many different clothes appeared in a sequence of sorts- clothes I had never imagined to exist. One piece of clothing remained in my view, though to call it clothing might be an exaggeration.

Ahhh, that’ll do nicely!

I suddenly found myself barely dressed in some pink cross between a dancer’s costume and something a bordello might require its whores to wear.

My arm picked up the looking glass again, staring approvingly at my reflection.

With the coloring I have at the moment, baby blue might look better.

The garment changed color…to a very pretty shade of blue!

What was I thinking? I tried shaking my head to clear the strange thoughts- the foreign thoughts.

Y’all are no fun, hun. Guess ah’ll try something else.

Again clothing sorted before my eyes and stopped on two very small pieces of fabric.

Let’s see how this looks on y’all, Bilkis.

I now found myself in a tiny bright blue…whatever it was called it looked like three triangles of blue fabric with thin strips of fabric to hold them in place. The two triangles on my chest seemed to strain to hold my generous endowments and why did it feel so strange to my bottom- like a string in my split back there?

Y’all could really rip some hearts out in this, hun! Not a guy ah know’a could leave this alone!

“How dare you! Change my clothing back this instant! I command it!” I shouted in extreme anger!

Ah’d be careful, hun. Them guards might call ol’ Jal’aj back. He might think you was havin’ some kinda breakdown er sum-thin!

Again the voice laughed at me! Laughed! At me, Bilkis, Queen of all…

Ya, hun. Queen a all Saba. Where the hell is ‘Saba’ anyway? We close to the E-quater?’least in the tropics?Sure is hot in these parts- somethin’ wrong with the enviro-mental ‘quipment?We kinda smell a might strong. We scheduled fer a bath sometime soon, peeeee-you-ee! Guess they ain’t got dee-oder-int in these here parts yet.

I wanted to strike myself in my face to make her silence!

“Y’all are trying mah patience, Alexandra!” I screamed in exasperation.

Gotcha.

“What?”

I felt a smile suddenly appear on my face. It didn’t feel like a good smile either as I felt one corner of my mouth curling tighter than the other.

So, Queen Bilkis, Y’all ready ta take a little ride with me? See what kinda gift y’all had yer heart set on? Let’s gofer distance first, ‘kay?

The palace of the Empress appeared around me.

“RVP, y’all monitor’d mah ‘rrival?” my mouth asked as my eyes looked to the ceiling.

Vocal print identification indicates either Alexandra Steinert, Alexandra Reilly, or Alexandra Fleming, but visual recognition contrasts that information. Conclusion…please clarify identification error.” An unseen woman’s voice replied from the room around me.

“Ah’m Alexandra Reilly- only packaged a little different, hun. Care ta remind me a the current date? Reference that in terms relating to the reign of Bilkis, Queen of Saba, please.”

Converting.

Bilkis, Queen of Saba. A suspected reference to the Biblical regent of Mahram, a small province in Southwestern Persia also known as Sheba by many biblical scholars and archeologists. The queen of Sheba is noted for her possible love affair with Solomon the Isrealite. Much of the real history of Bilkis is still unknown to this day. Will there be information entered for this historical figure, director?

“No, hun, just answer mah initial inquiry, please.”

This is 2423AD. In reference to the Queen of Sheba, it is the three thousand-one hundred and forty-third year preceding her reign.

I was now over three thousand years in the future?

“RVP, could you correlate and display the archives we have on the general time period of Bilkis? I’d like her to see any multimedia files we have from my travels in her region from that era.” My mouth asked.

Accessing…correlation complete. Beginning display of requested multimedia files.

Once my body had seated itself, I became engrossed in the presentation before me.
 
 

0123hrs, Mahram, Saba, July 9th, 720BC
 
 

“Y’all have a fun trip, Bilkis?” I inquired, as she appeared two steps in front of me. We had just arrived in her bed chamber not a moment before her arrival.

“Ah think she’s maybe learnt her lesson, sis.” She responded.

“Momma?” Reggie cried out in excitement. “Is it really you?”

“Sure is, honey. Y’all miss me?”

My niece rushed to her and began hugging her tightly.

“Any problems taming the wild beast, sis?” I asked.

“She promises to behave until we git me outta here, Alex.”

“Y’all told her it might sting a touch?”

There was a near-noticable change in her expression and demeanor.

“I have been advised, yes, Empress.”

“Y’all ready then?” I asked.

Bilkis/Alexandra nodded.

“Jamie, yer up. I need for Bilkis to go to sleep. Billie, Reggie, and Reilly, y’all will need to supplement her.”

I looked to my sister carefully.

“Only you will fall into unconsciousness, your highness. Jamie’s gift has no effect on the Empress. Sis, once Bilkis is out, I’ll stop time and ask for your hand. I’ve seen its gonna hurt quite a bit. Highness, hopefully y’all won’t feel a thing. Ready?”

With a nod from her, I let Jamie start ‘suggesting’ Bilkis get some sleep. It didn’t take long before Billie informed me that she thought my sister still remained lucid.

Jamie, since you’re in contact with Reilly, I won’t have to waste energy keeping you protected.You shouldn’t be affected by my halting time. Just keep concentrating on keeping Bilkis asleep. Here we go.”

What little noise there had been ceased and our combined radiance cast an eerie bluish glow about the room. Jamie glanced around us in awe, but quickly resumed her concentration on the task at hand.

“Alex, we’re ready. Reach out and take my hand.” I requested calmly.

“Sure this is gonna work, Alex?” She asked as I began to pull gently.

“Easy as yankin’ teeth, sis.”

“And what if I wish my teeth not removed, Empress!” the woman before me suddenly hissed.

“I was expecting this. Jamie, coordinate with Billie and move to phase two. Time to take the kid gloves off, ladies.” I ordered.

“I will not relinquish my acquisition so easily, ‘Empress’!” Bilkis hissed.

“She’s as hardheaded as you, Alex!” Billie commented.

“Thanks, hun.” I responded. “Can we get on with this little exorcism?” I asked while rolling my eyes in annoyance.

“Fine. Pulse phasing in three, two, one.” Billie announced as everyone except me began blinking in and out of phase rapidly. Each time they phased out, I could see my sister inversely phase in.

This was going to require precise timing on my part! I had to quickly yank my sister out as she phased in.

After several attempts, though, I was wondering if I had foreseen things right. It just didn’t seem possible to react that quickly!

“Aunt Alex?” Reggie tried to get my attention.

“What is it, Regina?” I asked as gently as my injured psyche would allow.

“Empress…I’d like to try something, if I could.”

“Ah’m not havin’ much luck, hun. Y’all got the floor.” I acknowledged.

My youngest niece stepped back and pulled Billie and Reilly closer then gently placed their hands together, effectively taking herself out of the ‘circuit’. She then walked the few steps over beside Bilkis and stopped. She placed her palms together in front of her as if beginning to pray.

“I haven’t had an opportunity to see if this works yet, but I foresaw myself doing it successfully, Aunt Alex.” She informed as she closed her eyes and began to concentrate.

“If I do this right, Aunt Billie’s phase shifting will begin to slow- slow enough that you should be able to pull momma free. Initiating localized time retardation in three…

“Localized time retardation?” Billie squeaked in surprise.

“Two, one.” Reggie continued, ignoring her aunt’s vocal outburst entirely.

To my relief, Billie’s phase shifting seemed to be slowing down. Conversely, Reggie seemed to glow all the more brighter. Still, timing would be critical.

Not wanting to waste too much time, I quickly observed and tried to synchronize myself.

It was now or never, I thought, and heaved with every bit of strength I could muster on my sister’s hand.
 

Two women’s screams nearly deafened me and they seemed to hang in the air instead of echoing!
 

I found myself on my back with a body directly on top of me.

We weren’t glowing blue anymore. I must have released time when Alex Reilly came free.

“That hurt a lot worse than I thought it would, sis.” Alex Reilly groaned as she slowly pushed herself up and off of me. The dirty blonde hair hanging between us told me she was back.

“Welcome back, Alex.” I said quietly, finally able to catch my breath. “You ARE Alex Reilly, right?” I added, narrowing my eyes.

“Le…ind…out…lex.” My niece said as she tried to touch her mother’s arm. I noticed that she was still phasing in and out but at a faster rate than Reggie had set.

All three of us quickly looked back to our sisters. They too, were still oscillating rapidly.

“By the Goddess, Regina what are you doing!” My sister shouted out in terror.

There came no answer. Reggie just stood still in the same stance she had first assumed. She was the only one still glowing. Brightly.

Alex Reilly tried to get to her youngest, but Reilly put out a pulsing hand to stop her.

“Mom…we…just…got…you…back…I’ll…do…it.” Reilly said as she timed her words to her ‘phase in’ rate. She smiled and calmly walked back to her younger sister.

“Reilly don’t! You don’t know what will happen! My sister cried out to her daughter. I gently took Alex’ hand.

“Let her do this, sis. Reilly can do it.” I urged.

Reilly Reilly now stood in front of her younger sister and carefully cupped her hands around Reggie’s Both seemed to be in complete synchronization.

“H…y…ki…w…ot…om….ck…an…stop…ow.” She said as I noticed a definite decrease in the oscillation speed.

“Real…y…she going…e okay…lly?” Reggie replied as their phasing slowed even more.

“I’m sure, sis. Look for yourself. You did a fantastic job, girlfriend!” Reilly answered as she, Reggie, Billie, and Jamie finally stopped phasing in and out.

Jamie quickly ran to an open window and we heard her gag a few times.

“Ya…sorry about that. I’ll get some of my guards to clean that up.” She said to someone in a strained, weary voice as she turned, wiping her mouth.

“Jamie? You alright?” I asked.

“Have I never told you how I HATE those kinds of amusement park rides?”

Someone moaning turned our attention back to the floor where Bilkis lay rubbing her forehead.

“That’s what y’all git fer tryin’ ta Shanghi my gift, yer highness!” Alex Reilly growled.

“Sis!” I scolded as I went to help the Queen of all Saba to her shaky feet. “Y’all can’t fault her for tryin’. We’d do the same thing in her shoes.”

“Y’all are wrong about that, sis! Ol’ Bilkis nearly peed mah drawers when ah took her sightseein’ a little while ago. Who woulda know’d she’d get so upset about them cru-sades fellers- an’ don’ even mention that modern Desert Storm affair that plays out near here in twenny-seven hunder’d years.” Alex Reilly argued.

“That all happens, Empress? All the killing…the carnage? Those fantastic flying and land machines? That will all happen…in the future?” Bilkis asked, her color returning somewhat. She was still rubbing several places on her body that continued to cause discomfort.

“If the timeline remains intact, hun…AND the Empress is still here to help keep it on course.” I said with a reassuring smile. “ Y’all sure you could have accepted all that responsibility? Keepin’ things on track? Knowin’ that all those things had to happen and if changed even the slightest bit, you wouldn’t exist?”

“If I had succeeded, why wouldn’t I exist? I am here now. How would I not be?” She asked- a confused look cast on her face.

“Even the Empress had a starting point, hun. We didn’t just spring to life from nothingness like one of those old stories y’all heard. If you had taken my sister’s place and changed something small…like sneezed at someone you shouldn’t have for instance, that simple mistake could have affected our starting point. Maybe we would never have been born- maybe we’d die before becoming Empress…there’s a multitude of things that could have been changed by that innocent sneeze.” I continued. “So, still want to have the Empress’ gift, highness?”

Bilkis’ head dropped in answer.

“Any questions I can answer for ya, hun?” I asked pleasantly.

She thought a moment as Alex and I looked to each other knowingly.

“The unseen woman’s voice…at your…palace…”

“Y’all mean Reilly Research Station, hun?” Alex Reilly asked to clarify.

Bilkis nodded unsure of the right response.

“She told of an Isrealite…that I would have an…an affair with?” She paused only for a second or two. “This Solomon…who is he, and why would I meet such a man?”

“We’re gonna leave that for y’all ta find out, hun.” I said cryptically. “I’m sure that in a few days, you’ll see what is to be and what will ultimately be required of you. For now though, I hafta get my sister back to Reilly so my other sister can check her out and so she can get some sleep. Thanks for the dinner, hun. It was a real treat. Alex here will keep in touch so if y’all have any questions write em down for when she next appears.”

She said nothing, but looked at the two of us in confusion as I offered my hands to my sisters.

“Oh, and y’all will be down one dancer now, but pay the troupe what’s been negotiated nonetheless.”

Bilkis nodded as I phased us out and transited back to Reilly.

Emily was there waiting and as soon as we arrived she placed a hand on our sister.

“You. You’re coming to the infirmary this instant and I will not hear any excuses, Alexandra Reilly!” Emily commanded just before both of them disappeared.

“Did Emily just match your phasing and port out?” Billie asked, her mouth hanging open in surprise.

I smiled. “Royal family, hun. We’re full of surprises.”

I quickly looked to my nieces, Reggie and Reilly.

All sorts of surprises, I thought to myself as my smile widened with pride.



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