South of Bikini 5: Episode 7- Celestra

Alexandra Reilly and her sisters return to Atlantis where they lend their assistance and their gifts to rectify some discrepancies, events, and shortfalls pertaining to the gigantic ship’s preeminent day.

 

Copyright: R.G. Beyer 2016


 
 


South of Bikini


Season 5


 
 


Episode 7


“Celestra”


 
 

4:30PM, Reilly Research Station, July 17th, 2020BC
 
 

Welcome back Empress. It is 4:30PM July 17th, 2020BC.” RVP announced as I rephased our group- all thirty-six of us.

Needless to say the Rec Room was instantly alive with some of my sisters rushing for the four food stations, some others- the Pixies- changing modes to stretch their wings after such an extended sequester-actually just two days. A few- Mom, Franny Darough, and Quintin Darough quickly left the room for a much needed shower.

Billie, Gena, Reggie, Amy, Lena, and Rommie sat down at a table after pulling a few more chairs to it.

“So…glad that’s finally over, Alex?” Billie asked wearily as she placed her head in her hands with elbows firmly planted on the table. “I know I am.”

She lifted her head slightly to look at the rest of us.

“How can they live like that?” She moaned.

“The age of enlightenment- aka, Andie and Regina Celeste, and Atlantis won’t land for six hundred-ten thousand years, Billie. Almost half of those ‘peoples’ we relocated today will not survive the initial stages of the coming Ice Age. Only the heartiest of them will last the many millennia of frozen landscape. Some will even leave the cooling planet in search of a more stable home. What technological advancements they make in that time will not survive intact. Only a handful of simple cave art, some pottery, and some bones from the ones left behind will clue archeologists in to the very basics of life in the future millennia of the era we just visited.” I informed my Assistant Director.

“That’s a pretty bleak and foreboding future, Alex. Why did we spend the time rescuing them in the first place?” Billie commented morbidly.

“Could you predict which tribe moved to the forefront in technology just by our limited observation, Will?” I asked and waited.

She didn’t answer, but her gaze fell to the table.

“Remember how early we were in their development. Six hundred thousand years is an awfully long time for the peoples to intermingle and rearrange themselves socially. All of those tribes could be donors of genetic material for the greater society that will arise, take to the stars, and establish thriving civilizations on other worlds. Would you really want to make the call as to which ones we saved?” I argued.

I sensed someone nearby.

“What do you think of that, mother?” I asked, looking over to the closest wall of the room.

“I would say that was a very rational and civilized argument, Alexandra.” Alexis answered as she walked out of the wall and became completely tangible.

“Ma? How did you…I mean, I couldn’t feel…how did she do that?” Reggie babbled as her eyes popped out and mouth unhinged.

“Your Gram has been doing that almost her entire life, Reg. Great-gram’s memories indicate she was responsible for scaring the pantaloons off many a noble or villager in and around Avalon.”

“And I’d have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids!” Mom laughed heartily.

That warranted an exaggerated eye roll from some of us seated at the table.

“Didn’t you say you wanted to take a long shower, ma?” I asked in an annoyed tone.

“Did that for a couple hours then came back a couple.” She answered nonchalantly before pulling up another chair. Everyone moved around to make room.

“I must have the greatest Grandma in the world!” Reggie exclaimed.

“Well unfortunately your Gram has to be leaving, Honeybee. I have a planet to reorganize.” Mom told her sadly.

“That’s okay. I know where you live, Gram.” Reggie replied cryptically with a devious grin.

“Of course you do, honeybee. And y’all are welcome to drop in anytime ya like. Y’all have a standin’ invite.” Mom smiled tensely.

Had she seen Reggie’s miraculous arrival a year from now? Or, was she just humoring her Granddaughter? Only the Empress knew for sure…

And I sure wasn’t tellin’!

Ma, whether snooping in my mind or accessing her gift, seemed to sense that her granddaughter might not be kidding about coming to visit.

“Remember, Honeybee, Gram’s not just across the river and through the woods.”

“No,” Reggie countered in an all too serious tone, “You’re out of this system and thirty degrees to the left of the galactic center at a declination of forty-two-point seven-eight-eight-six above our current horizon.”

All independent conversations at our table suddenly ceased and all eyes were now locked on my daughter. Mom’s mouth dropped open and almost hit the tabletop.

Sounds like someone’s been talking to a rocket scientist or at least studying to be one!” Rommie giggled.

“Reilly took you to visit your Aunt Carroll?” I assumed with a laugh.

Reggie shied away a little.

“She’s a very intelligent woman. Why doesn’t she work for NASA?”

“Carroll prefers to work behind the scenes, honey, but she’s the best damn navigator in the universes.” I praised.

Billie decided to switch topics.

“So…you mentioned Commodore Celeste and Atlantis, Alex? Is there possibly a mission there in our immediate future?” She smiled knowingly.

“Atlantis?” Ma gasped. “It really exists? Ma would always talk about it, but she said she hadn’t been there personally. Maybe we could go there sometime?”

“It’d be great to see the kids again, Alex.” Yuuka said from my right shoulder.

“Ya, Sunny told me all about her visit. I’d like to see it for myself, Empress.” Trina bubbled from my left. I hadn’t felt either of them land. In fact, I just noticed that each of us had a Pixie on each of our shoulders!

I looked up to the ceiling- neigh, to the heavens- for strength.

Fay was hovering up there and waved back timidly with a forced smile.

Should I be calling pest control for a severe infestation of flying pests, I wondered?

Shaking my head in defeat, I looked back down to those of us seated around the table. Those of my sisters with mind-reading abilities were fighting a giggle or two.

“Ma, before you leave, I know some people that might like to meet you.” I proposed with a quick wink to Billie.

“Yessss!” Both Trina and Yuuka hissed quietly in victory.

“Another mission with the Empress, Alexandra? My, you certainly don’t believe in letting any moss grow under your feet, do you?” Mom replied in mock surprise.

“I promised to return and help some people we met earlier. Y’all are welcome ta come.” I explained. I was beginning to feel tired again. This next mission would commence after I got some rest.

“Cami, you make the preparations. We’ll need you, yer ma, and Cassi as well as Billie and Gena at the core of the mission. Who else joins us is yer choice. Limit the team ta thirty-six, though. Yuuka and Treen, y’all need ta dismount now. I’ll see y’all in the morning. G’night.” I said to my sisters as I got up and walked out into the passageway.

“She does know that it’s only four in the afternoon, right?” I heard someone whisper just before I ported to Kili’s south beach. My Reilly became my favorite pink string bikini and beach towel, and I sat down then stretched out on the warm sand for some needed relaxation.
 
 

When I awoke, I noticed two other women lying beside me, one on either side.

“Good morning, Director. Did you sleep well?” Yuuka asked from my right.

“Let me guess, you two ported with me, right?” I assumed correctly.

“Trina and I thought it best to stay with you, Alex. Each of us took a two hour watch.”

I checked my suit’s chronometer. It was 7AM.

“Was I out here all night?” I asked; a little concerned that I had.

“Like I said, director, we took two hour shifts to make sure you were not alone.”

I had a funny feeling and looked back toward the treeline to see nineteen other women lying in the morning sun.

“Thanks for the concern, girls.” I acknowledged as I nodded to them. “I knew that I’d be fine, though.”

“Well we didn’t, Alexandra!” Allie countered as she flew into my vision and hovered. She now looked younger than when we saw each other at the Epiphany day celebration. She and Sasha’s Petunia had synched up when Alex had taken them to her time.

“Really, honey, I’d have been fine. It’s not like anything would crawl out of the ocean and…” I started to say before I noticed six heads appear in the gentle swells just off shore. One of them seemed to be wearing a mask, regulator, and Scuba tank.

After a minute or so, Rommie, Reggie, Gena, and Francis Darough jogged excitedly out of the surf. Mom and Quintin followed at a slower pace. All seemed to have enjoyed their morning swim.

“Well, that was certainly something I’ve never done before!” Mom said as she produced a towel from behind her and spread it out at my feet and sat down. The others choose close spots and did likewise.

“You really should’ve taken Rommie up on her offer, Quinn.” Mom teased as she gave me a wink.

“Sorry to be such a party-pooper, but I’m not that big a fan of the water, ladies. I can only take it in small doses…one swimming pool at a time, usually.” He chuckled. “Although, I must admit that the present company had me rethinking that phobia. Before these last two weeks I’d never even heard of ‘Mermaids’,” he shook his head in disbelief, “now, I’ve just swum with five of the most beautifully exotic creatures the heavens could have produced.”

“It honestly doesn’t hurt when Rommie does her thing, Quinn. Just an invigorating tingle is all you feel.” Franny told him as she smiled knowingly to her ex.

‘He forgot and ordered a drink from the food station this morning, Alex.’ She thought to me and physically winked precociously.

‘All according to what mom and I have seen, honey.’ I thought back with a slight twitch of my eyebrow. Mom flashed me a devilish grin.

Francis Darough grimaced momentarily at that.

“So, Alexandra, I have been invited on another one of your missions, though details have been rare in release. Might I ask where or when we might travel today?” Quintin Darough asked as our silence started to become awkward.

“We’ll be helping family settle and unpack on their new home, Quinn. It’ll be more of a family reunion than mission though, so no need to worry about wild animals or bloodthirsty savages.” I informed him as I giggled playfully. “Well, maybe a few bloodthirsty savages.”

“Girls? Are we all packed and ready to go?” I asked around as I saw Reggie rephase from returning Amy’s scuba gear back to Reilly.

“We’re still missing a couple people, Alex.” Rommie said as everyone on the beach began to stand up; they’re Reilly’s changing into their default configuration. I stood and followed suit.
 
 

“Hey! Wait for us!” Amy Reynolds shouted as she and Lena ran out of the treeline thirty meters away from us.

We had been waiting almost fifteen minutes and started to join hands in preparation for transit. I know I didn’t have to have physical contact with my companions to transit anymore, but I wanted to be sure no one rephased outside Atlantis’ hull.

“Sorry to hold you up, Empress, but Lena had a wardrobe malfunction and Randi needed to diagnosis it.” Amy informed us. Lena was blushing profusely, looking extremely embarrassed.

I motioned for them to join our group and began thinking of where and when.

“Transiting in three, two, one.”
 
 

What immediately struck me as odd was the lack of any alarms. Usually the ship’s temporal anomaly warning system would go wild as soon as we arrived. Why wasn’t that happening now? What had happened in our absence? Where was everybody?

“Doesn’t look like anybody’s home, Alex.” Yuuka said from my shoulder.

I felt…someone…close by. Since we were all in physical contact, I decided to turn the tables on my half-sister by stopping time.

We all began to give off a bluish light, as well as one other person standing over by the floor to ceiling windows in this observation lounge.

Reggie and mom both looked at me curiously.

“Is that her, ma? Is that Aunt Andromeda?”

“Sure is, honey! And she’s tryin’ ta pull a fast one, too.” I answered with a smile.

As we looked on at the glowing figure, you could see her turn from the window and pause for a moment. She then began walking toward us. Once near enough, the figure began to pulse and quickly came into plain view as she matched my phasing.

“You are absolutely no fun, Alex!” She accused as I released time and rephased us all.

“How’s everything, Andie? You kinda’ had me worried when we got here.” I told her as we embraced each other lovingly.

“I wanted to pop in and surprise you, but…well…you got me instead.” Andie said as she released me and looked around at us. Her eyes lingered on Reggie and Mom.

“Andie? My mom, Alexis Reilly and my second daughter, Regina. Ladies, Commodore Andromeda Celeste.” I introduced.

“Nice to meet you.” Mom offered.

“Hi there.” Reggie squeaked shyly.

Andie’s attention snapped to Reggie instantly then slowly returned to me. Her eyes looked ready to overflow with tears.

“You named your daughter after my sister, Alex?” Andie sniffed as she wiped her eyes. “Why?”

“Apparently, Alex has a thing for the letter ‘R’, Commodore.” Billie answered sarcastically.

“JACKIE!” Andie screeched shrilly as she jumped over and wrapped her arms around my Assistant Director. Our squadron of Pixies suddenly took flight and flew to the far side of the recently empty lounge. Andromeda noticed and momentarily glanced back at me through narrowed eyes.

Billie remained stiff and silent.

“Andie? My Assistant Director, Billie Sangiere. She’s Jack Cummins’ temporal twin.

My half sister immediately released her.

“I’m very sorry, Miss Sangiere. I’m relatively new to the whole ‘temporal’ thing. I assume you and the Commander have…um…synched?”

“We have, Commodore. It is nice to meet you in person though.” Billie replied diplomatically offering her hand. “My I present my daughter, Iphigeneia.”

“Mother!” Gena groaned. “Just call me Gena- with a ‘G’.”

“Welcome, Gena.” Andie bowed slightly. “Cami, good to see you again.” Andie said, not missing a beat. “I see you brought your daughter as well?”

“I did, but I’m over here, Commodore. I also brought my mother, Francis, and my father, Quintin, on this visitation.” Andie looked between the two women then looked back to me.

“Temporal twin or identical genomes?” She asked.

“Universal twins, sis.” I corrected with a devious smile.

“Universal twin…” Andie’s mouth dropped open as she made the connection. “By the Seven Worlds, Alex! Does this mean that you found a way to save your Homeworld?” She screeched in excitement.

“She did indeed, Commodore. Alexandra, all three, transported the living portion of our homeland to this universe and saved almost the whole population.” Mom bubbled with pride.

“All three…Alexandras?” Again Andie’s eyes widened in amazement. “I thought the power of three was a fanciful story!”

“Commodore Celeste, I thought the very same thing until I witnessed it personally. Quintin Darough. Pleased to meet you.” Quintin Darough offered his hand in friendship. “In fact, I find your entire sisterhood simply amazing and quite unbelievable.”

“Thank you, Mr. Darough, I feel likewise. Sisters? Who might you three be?” Andie asked Amy, Lena, and Rommie pleasantly.

“Commander Amy Reynolds, U.S. Navy, Retired, Commodore. Alex Steinert’s crew, ma’am.” Amy announced as she snapped to attention.

“United States Senator, Romney Marsh, Commodore. Also a member of Alex Steinert’s crew.” Rommie stepped forward and offered her hand.

“And you, young lady? Who would you be?” Andie asked brightly.

“I’m Lena…Leeena Reynolds, Madam Commodore. Amy just adopted me a few days ago, ma’am.” Our young sister blushed profusely.

Amy’s mouth just about hit the floor!

“And what of the Pixies, Little Flower?” Andie asked referencing the name she used on our previous trip to Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1944.

Yuuka flew from my shoulder and grew up in front of Andie. In the far corner of the lounge, nineteen other Pixies followed her lead and grew to human size.

“Commodore, may I present the Pixies of the Homeworld…”
 
While Yuuka handled the Pixie introductions, Mom, the Daroughs, Billie and Gena Sangiere, Rommie, Amy, Lena, and I migrated to the windows. Earth came into view and slowly crossed the expanse of the observation lounge.

“It’s such a beautiful planet, Alexandra.” Mom whispered as she took my hand in hers and squeezed gently. “But why all the ice and snow?”

“This is what we call the Ice Age, mom. We’re about seventy-thousand years in the past, relative to us leaving Reilly.”

“So all those people we rescued and relocated yesterday…”

“All long since departed, mom, but their descendants lived on and developed advanced technologies, advanced civilizations. Most left for the stars when the planet started to cool while a small portion decided to tough it out down there, Without our help that never would have come to pass.”

“So if I’m seeing this right, the prodigal children have returned?” She asked quietly.

I squeezed her hand a little tighter twice in answer.

“I see. So they are not to know or does your stepsister already carry that knowledge within her?” Mom asked just above a whisper.

This time, I squeezed her hand once.

“Alexandra, you mustn’t keep such valuable information from them- especially from your sister.” Mom advised a little louder.

“I agree, ma’am. Our Empress should be more forthcoming with any vital information that may influence our future, isn’t that right, Alex?” Andie interrupted from just behind me. I hadn’t seen her reflection in the window.

“So what is this about ‘prodigal children’?” Andie continued.

I swallowed hard then looked to the ceiling.

“Hey, Dixie? Can you tell me the current status of the LZ?” I asked the station’s AI.

The LZ is currently clear of all severe weather anomalies. Current weather patterns indicate another low-pressure event building to the east. Depending on the upper level current, it could obscure the LZ in ten days, Alexandra. Oh, and welcome back to Atlantis, Empress.

“Thank you, honey, it’s good to be back.” I answered pleasantly.

“Dixie?” Andie smiled as she looked around to all of us. “You’ve been monitoring the introductions, I assume?”

Of course, Commodore. Quarters for our guests have been reserved and are being prepared. Would you like me to establish accesses and security clearances for our visitors, also?” The AI inquired in a happy tone.

“You know me too well, dear. Yes, standard access and clearances…oh, reinstate Camille, Yuuka, and Alexandra Reilly’s status. Amend Jacquelyn Cummins’ clearances to Billie Sangiere since they share all memories and knowledge.”

Already done, Commodore. Will there be anything else, Andie?” Dixie inquired.

“Yes,” Andie looked at Yuuka for a moment before continuing, “Alert all primary educational facilities and personnel that the Pixies have returned for a visit and have brought their sisters this time. Curriculum schedules should be amended accordingly- just as last time.”

Message sent, Commodore…Ma’am, I’m already receiving replies from several educators wishing to schedule visitation times and days. How would you like me to respond?” Dixie announced in a stunned tone.

Andie thought for a moment, observing the twenty-one women gathered together looking back at her- all with pleading eyes.

“After an impromptu orientation conducted by Yuuka, Sunni, and myself, all requests will be acknowledged and scheduled so that our guests will not fatigue themselves, the faculty, or the students. Coordinate all scheduling requests with Yuuka and Sunni, dear.”

As you wish, Commodore. Welcome back Yuuka and Sunni. The children have missed you these last four months.

“Nice to be back, Dixie.” Yuuka replied but paused a few seconds. “Um, just to set the record straight? This is not Sunni Smithson but her universal twin, Trina.”

“Trina Richland, Commodore Celeste, second daughter of Mei Lee, Third eldest Pixie to Empress Alexandra Frances Steinert of Avalon.”

“My apologies, Trina. I assumed you to be Sunni and wasn’t listening clearly during Yuuka’s introduction.” Andie bowed slightly. “Apparently, neither was Dixie.” She smirked.

“M’lady.” Trina said returning the gesture.

“Alex? I’d like an explanation of your most recent statements? Shall we say…five seconds in my conference room?” Andie eyed me critically.

I closed my eyes gently and nodded once. When I opened them, three of us were standing in the requested venue.

Andie’s mouth dropped open immediately as she looked at mom and I then around us.

“Should I even ask where or when you learned that one, sister?” She gasped.

“Mistress Reilly, why are you here?” Andie asked- still in shock.

“Yes, mother, why ARE you here? I hadn’t included you in my transit group this time.” I said with my eyes narrowed to her.

“I thought I’d give it a try, Alexandra. Not having to physically touch someone to transport is much more convenient. Wouldn’t you agree, Empress?” Mom giggled.

“She reminds me of mother.” Andie grumbled just above a whisper.

I had seen the similarities from the start.

“So, Alex, you were saying something about the ‘prodigal children’ and ‘returning home’? Can you explain this more so I can understand your terminology? In our base language, ‘Prodigal Child’ or more specifically ‘Prodigal Son’ references a person- sibling if you will- that has left the family unit to venture forth on thier own only to return to the base unit after some time, but only after realizing that existence was difficult, and opportunities were rare and somewhat fleeting outside of the base unit.”

“That is basically the specifics of the fable, sis.” I said with a smile. “In this case though, the definition should be expanded to children, as in the ‘children’ that had long since left this world to populate the stars have now returned home to start anew. The fourth cycle of Earth is about to begin.”

Andie plopped down into a chair and stared, dumbfounded, at me for several minutes. Mom and I also took our seats and waited patiently.

“Wwwww…wwwweeeee are from here…originally, Empress?” She stammered; her mouth still somewhat unhinged.

“Commodore Celeste,” Mom started to answer, “We have just returned from a mission to some six hundred thousand years before our current date where we relocated several thousand individuals from certain annihilation. While there, Alexandra, Billie, and I foresaw the future of the ‘peoples’- as they called themselves, tracing them through many millions of generations up to the present. According to what we have seen, you are the descendants of those ‘peoples’, in particular, the ones who decided to reach out into space to colonize this universe. You are the first to return home though. Welcome home, Commodore Andromeda Celeste.

Andie looked on the verge of tears before she vanished.

“That went better than expected, Alexandra.” Mom said as she eyed me carefully.

“And you accuse me of being over dramatic.” I groaned.

“It had to be done, Alexandra. You, yourself, saw that it was necessary for what now must come to pass.”

“Yes, Ma, I know. I just think we could have broken the news a little softer?”

“Bandage theory, Alexandra. Rip it off and get it over with quickly.” Mom said coldly.

I stood up and walked over to the door.

“I’ll show you to your room, mother.” I said as I motioned her out.
 
 

E.S. Atlantis, Standard Year 258:01:23
 
 

“And you claim that almost half this spacecraft is empty because of mass riots and pandemonium before their departure?” Mom reiterated as we sat in my living area conversing.

“The protesters and saboteurs threatened to rip Atlantis to bits according to Andie. She despondently had to follow the order to liftoff. Her father wasn’t even able to get aboard.” I related sadly.

“Maybe I should have done more research before ripping that bandage off.” Mom said quietly in retrospect.

“Maybe, but what’s done is done. Andie’s strong. She’s one of us, mom. She’ll get through it.” I told her as I looked over to my entrance door. “Isn’t that right, Andromeda? Billie, you, Gena, and Reggie can rephase too, ladies.”

“How in the worlds do you do that, Alex?” Andie complained as soon as she appeared.

“…of course she was going to do it, Gena, we all take extreme pleasure in doing it, and it drives Reilly up the wall.” Reggie giggled as she and Gena reappeared. Billie silently shook her head in amusement as she materialized.

“Have a seat, ladies.” I giggled. “There are several bumps in the time stream pertaining to Atlantis that need addressed.”

“So, Aunt Andie, have you reconciled yourself to the fact that this is your peoples’ origin world?”

“Regina Andromeda Reilly!” Mom exclaimed angrily at her granddaughter’s rudeness.

Andie’s mouth dropped open and her eyes immediately grew wet.

“Yes, I’m named after you and your sister, Aunt Andie- or so I’ve been told.” Reggie answered Andie’s unasked, tear-laden, question. “I’ve been told it was so we never forget our history…our past…that we never forget the ideals…”

Enough, Regina.” I said gently. “We have more important topics to discuss with our sisters.”

“Sisters?” Andie asked as she looked back up and over to me.

“You really should get into the habit of using your foresight more, sis.” I said pointing to the door. “Three, two, one.”

The door slid open and Regina Celeste timidly walked in. She was starting to show nicely now at four and a half months.

“Alexandra? Empress, you asked me here?”

“Have a seat, Reggie.” I said motioning her to the open spot next to my Reggie.

“Thank you…um…Empress.”

“Reggie, I’d like you to meet my sisters for this trip. This is my mother, Alexis Reilly. Next to her is…”

“Jacki! So nice to see you again.” Reggie Celeste cut me off. Billie noticeably stiffened.

“Billie Sangiere, honey. Billie is Jack Cummins temporal twin.” I corrected.

“Sorry, ma’am. Nice to meet you.” She said after taking a deep breath.

“Over next to Andie is Billie’s daughter, Iphigeneia…”

“Gena. With a ‘G’” Gena interrupted through clinched teeth.

I rolled my eyes.

“And sitting next to you is my youngest,” I paused briefly, “Regina Andromeda Reilly.”

Reggie Celeste’s eyes opened wide and her mouth dropped open.

“Must you be so dramatic, ma?” Reggie hissed. “Hi, I’m Reggie Reilly, nice to finally meet my namesakes.” My daughter glared at me from her seat. “See, ma, it’s that easy. No muss, no hassle, no worries.”

My mom began laughing hysterically.

“Goddess!” She exclaimed, “I love my family.”

That seemed to break Regina Celeste out of her shock.

“I am humbled by your decision to honor us this way, Empress Alexandra. I am at quite a loss for words and can only think of a quaint retort that Ricki Lynn Samuels relayed to me when she last visited.”

“And what would that be, Reg?” I asked with a knowing smile.

“Ooooh, shit!”

Laughter filled my living quarters.
 
 

“So that is the core of my plan, ladies. Any questions?” I asked as I observed Andie and Reggie Celeste shaking like two Aspen leaves in a gentle wind.

“Do we even know where this planet is, Alex?” Billie asked.

“That’s where Cassi comes in.” I looked to one of the three women who had arrived late. “I need you to scan Andie’s memory for an image of the city they lived in before departing their world- preferably a park with some privacy. Relay it to me and we’ll be off.”

“Alex, I would like to go, but I am afraid I will only slow you down. My son has been restless of late and I wish not to take chances.” Regina Celeste explained as she politely tried to opt out of the mission.

“Trust me when I say that nothing will happen to your child, Regina, and that you are the key to the success of one portion of our mission. I ask that you reconsider accompanying us.” I said regally. “Ask Andie if her foresight agrees with mine, though. Just to be sure.”

I noticed Andie immediately close her eyes for about thirty seconds. Her eyes shot open.

“Reggie, you have to go. Alex is right. You are the key to convincing father of our identities. I have seen your child being born healthy on the planet beneath us.” My half sister confirmed.

Regina Celeste remained quiet for a few long seconds before agreeing to come along.
 
 

E.S. Atlantis, Standard Year 258:01:24
 
 

“So, is everyone ready?” I asked as Yuuka walked into Andie’s conference room.

“I’m sorry to be late, Alex. I wanted to make sure Trina and Allie knew the visitation schedule. Those preschool kids can really get cranky- almost bordering on cannibalistic!”

I remained quiet, but held out my hands.

“Reverting back to the ‘old ways’ Empress?” Billie inquired sarcastically.

“I find it’s not as easy to lose someone when traveling to a new world, Billie.” I retorted, eyeing my assistant director through narrowed lids.

Billie smiled nervously. “Oh.” Gena and Reggie fought valiantly to keep from giggling.

“Andie, if you would picture our target site in your mind so that Cassi can relay it to me, please?”

“Doing it as we speak, Empress.” Andie responded with a devious grin.

An image of a pleasant looking parklet with a row of tall, evergreen-looking trees appeared in my mind.

“Thanks, honey.” I said as I leaned out to look at Cassi Darough.

“Everyone ready?” I asked for a second time. Everyone nodded.
 
 

The ‘pleasant looking parklet’ looked bigger in my mind. Now, in reality, it couldn’t have covered more than three thousand square meters. I also noticed the decreased pull of gravity. It explained the taller statures of my half-sisters and their friends.

“Wow, my parent’s backyard in Shizuoka was bigger than this!” Yuuka complained as we all continued to look around.

I noticed off to our left the huge and very imposing ‘Atlantis’ with hundreds of support and umbilical towers around her massive perimeter.

I also noticed that we were very alone.

“Phasing in three, two, one.”

“Holy shit!” my daughter gasped as she just caught sight of the monstrous spacecraft. “How close are we to that?”

“As I remember, this park was about eight hundred furlongs from the launch site.” Regina Celeste answered.

“HOLY SHIT! That’s like, a hundred and sixty kilometers!”

“As the Carnivorous Dwelling Finch flies, yes.” Regina Celeste replied.

“Carnivorous Dwelling Finch?” Yuuka asked with a gulp.

“Don’t worry. They only attack smaller birds, Yuuka.” Andie said brushing off the Pixie’s concern.

“Oh…wait, how big are these Finches?”

“About a third of a cubit.” Andie answered.

“Um…that’s…that’s around eight inches.” Yuuka gulped again, her eyes practically popping from their sockets.

“I guess you should stay out of Pixie mode while we’re here then, huh?” I snorted as I tried desperately to hold my laughter.

“Fffffffffft. They’re relatively harmless unless they haven’t eaten in a while. The things to really watch out for are the Golden-Crested Raptors. They attack in pairs and straight out of the sun. You never hear them coming!” Andie warned with a devious grin.

“And how big are they?” Yuuka asked with her mouth slightly open.

“They usually have a two or three cubit wingspan. Some are bigger.” Andie’s smile widened.

“And they live around here?” Yuuka dared ask.

“Well, this is one of the few places left where they can still roost.”

“Alex? Maybe I should have bowed out gracefully on this one.”

“We got us a whole squad of Mind Warriors, honey.” I laughed. “Nothing is going to happen to you here.”

A large shadow flew across the ground as a very large bird gracefully glided through the sky directly above us.

Yuuka was suddenly nowhere to be found! I felt a slight tugging on my right earlobe.

Andie looked up then suddenly looked back toward me and started laughing hysterically.

“That was a Green-billed Day Owl. They only eat fruit, Pixie.”

“Only fruit? You sure?” She asked.

“Only fruit,” Andie continued to giggle, “but it is best to stay out from under them. They tend to be very regular.”

Holding back my laughter became impossible as my companions broke into fits of laughter themselves.

Sirens began to sound from everywhere! Their tones echoed across the desolate, urban streets in a shrill, out-of-tune, chaotic, symphony. Andie and Regina’s heads snapped toward the gigantic ship.

“We have to seek shelter! This way! NOW!” Andie shouted excitedly.

“Why? We should be far enough away from the launch here, shouldn’t we?” Quintin Darough asked innocently.

“In our last communication before we got out of range, we were told this park had suffered heavy damage.” Andie relayed rapidly. “We have thirty minutes to get to shelter. This way, quickly!”
 
 

We had no sooner gotten to the subway station’s platform level several hundred meters below the surface when the ground started vibrating. Panicked cries echoed through the abandoned station from others who had taken refuge down here. Andie motioned for us to get against the wall opposite the guideway and crouch down, protecting our heads.

The vibration quickly worsened and the ground actually began violently shaking. An earsplitting, low frequency droning filled the obsolete station as a ravaging wind exited the tunnel at the far end of the station platform and wildly blew debris around us.

“Cami, can you channel this wind back into the tunnel through the station?” I shouted.

The debris blowing around us collected as if vacuumed up and entered the tunnel bore at our end of the station and a calm settled in around us. Several of our fellow refugees looked on at the strange occurrence, dumbfounded.

Of the fifty people to take refuge down here, we were, by far, the shortest in stature. Only Andie, Regina, Mom, my Reggie, and I came close in height to everyone else. After ten minutes the winds and the shaking eased and Cami dropped her deflective field.

“Now what do we do?” A woman of about one hundred and ninety centimeters asked as she stood up- her voice trembling fearfully.

“We survive.” A man, about two hundred-ten centimeters tall answered as he stood and looked curiously at our group.

“And just where do you ‘dwarves’ hail from?” He boomed glaring angrily at us.

“Leave them alone, Rould! They’re trapped like the rest of us.” The woman logically chided. “I’m sorry for his rude outburst. My brother isn’t known for his diplomacy. I’m also sorry for the chaotic situation, but the launch wasn’t scheduled until tomorrow, mid-morning.”

“We were all scheduled to board this evening.” The towering man again boomed in a deep baritone. “Something must have happened to cause the premature departure.”

Andie stood, took a cleansing breath, and turned.

“According to the reports we heard there was a massive riot at the launch site. People were being ordered to get away, but were instead trying to disable the ship. We had just arrived in the park when the warnings sounded.”

“You look very familiar, madam. Have I seen you in and around the launch site, maybe?” The man asked as his eyes narrowed.

“Andromeda Scott, sir.” Andie said as she offered her hand. “I’m an interplanetary liason. My half sisters, Regina and Alexandra Fleming, and I were put in charge of escorting these visiting dignitaries here to watch the liftoff. May I introduce Quintin, Frances, Camille, and Cassiopeia Darough, Isabella and Iphigeneia Sangiere, Yuuka Sukiro, Amy and Lena Reynolds, Romney Marsh, Freya Morgana, and Alexis and Regina Reilly- all from the planet Solara Three.”

“Billie. Gena.” Each corrected in disgust.

“So you have a spacecraft? Would it be possible to request a ride?” He asked in a very subdued, pleading tone.

We all looked down to the station’s floor sadly.

“Our ship was in the spaceport. We were to leave for orbit…before the launch tomorrow.” My Reggie replied despondently.

The towering man rubbed his face in despair.

“Anything in the spaceport has likely been incinerated to atoms.”

“Ya,” my Reggie replied, “getting off this planet doesn’t look so promising right now.”

“We are truly sorry for your predicament. As I said, the launch had been scheduled for tomorrow, mid-morning.” The woman apologized.

“What do we do now, Madam Scott?” Billie asked looking at both Andie and I with worry clearly evident. She was getting too good at acting parts.

“I imagine,” Andie responded, “we find Commander Celeste and see what can be done for you and these unfortunate people, Mdm. Sangiere.”

“Chairman Celeste was due to board earlier today. He was scheduled to board three groups before us.” The woman explained sadly.

“Lucky Cadaver Hound,” the man, Rould, groused angrily.

“Maybe the rioting discouraged his boarding?” Cami chimed brightly.”

“Hardly! His eldest daughter commands the ship! He probably boarded during the preflight preparations two days ago.” Rould declared jealously.

“I can assure you that is not the case, sir.”Andie responded, a little angered by the accusation. “I was in a meeting with him just last night at 1800hrs- in his office.”

“An’ what of the riotous? Have they suffered the same fate as our wee spacecraft, Mdm. Fleming?” Fay asked in her inherited Freya Clan brogue.

Everyone remained silent at that question.

“The poor ground hares. Never had a chance.” Rould mumbled despondently to himself.

“Maybe they got to shelter?” Rommie suggested optimistically.

“The place is probably still a molten crater. Nothing within an eight hundred and fifty furlong radius could have survived.” Rould cried- his voice echoing down both tunnel bores.

“Then let’s go topside and see what’s left.” Amy suggested.

“Are you out of your minds? I just said that anything in an eight hundred and fifty furlong radius no longer exists and you still want to go up there? Just to see?”

“We call it ‘recon’, sir. Shall we go topside, Mdm. Fleming?” Amy countered bravely.

“Your burial ritual.” Rould said shaking his head.
 
 

The view from our vantage point consisted of kilometers and kilometers of devastation. The heat radiating from everything around us was barely tolerable and several fires rekindled as we looked on.

“I told you nothing would be left.” Rould reiterated sadly as he appeared from the subway entrance stairway.

“Amy? Would you and Lena care to cool things down a little?” Billie asked pleasantly.

“Sure thing, ma’am.” Amy replied as she looked to Lena. “Come on, little sister, let’s have some fun!”

Immediately, angry looking storm clouds began to appear and gather overhead. Our fellow refugees looked at the two women in confusion until it stated to sprinkle.

“What in the seven worlds is happening?” Someone in the crowd exclaimed as a murmur arose.

“We need to cool the surrounding area quickly in case others are trapped below ground as we were.” Billie explained calmly.

“How can these two be doing this, Mdm. Scott?” Rould asked in awe. His sister, whom we had no name for yet, looked on in complete amazement at the miracle happening around them.

“The women of Solara Three have differing abilities, sir. I explained. “Each having pledged to use their abilities to help their fellow sentients.

What was left of a building’s wall began to crack and collapse a few meters away and threatened to injure several people that had wondered too close.

“I got it.” Frances Darough shouted as she raised a hand toward the crumbling façade. The falling debris magically diverted to either side of the potential victims and fell harmlessly to the still hot, now-steaming ground.

Again, the onlookers were awestruck by the display.

“Ladies and gents a wee problem’s appeared. Hostiles on our eight. Fay announced as she motioned in that direction.

“You sure, Fay?” Andie asked in concern.

“Aye, ma’am. A dozen hostiles inbound on our eight.” She clarified.

“Defensive actions only, Ms. Morgana.” Billie advised as Fay nodded and began to gain altitude.

Our onlookers’ mouths dropped, as they became silent- their eyes locked on the miraculous flying woman. About three meters up Fay deployed her weapons ports and kept rising; finally holding at about thirty meters.

That really drew a gasp from the crowd!

“I didn’t know she could do that!” Andie declared excitedly as she looked toward me.

I just smiled deviously.

After five minutes a dozen unruly types appeared walking out of a heat mirage on the devastated, urban horizon.

Laughter and shouts could be heard from the small group along with breaking glass and other breakable materials not already destroyed from the liftoff concussion.

The intentions of the unsavory characters were confirmed three minutes later.

“Ah, fresh meat!” Their apparent leader announced to his band of miscreants. “Take what ya want my pretty’s! They’re harmless…an’ look, they gots them some dwarves too! Must be havin’ a party!”

His group laughed menacingly as one.

Billie stepped forward.

“I must insist you leave these people alone and just move on, sir.” She warned pleasantly.

“Hear that, pretty’s? The blondie dwarf wants us to move on,” he mocked sarcastically. The group again laughed as one.

“What’s say we don’t want to, Miss Pigmy? What’s say we like it here?”

“Then I must warn you, we will defend ourselves and these people, sir.” Billie replied calmly, showing absolutely no fear.

He paused to think about it for a few seconds.

“Nah.” He replied and started to approach us again.

Fearful cries erupted from our fellow refugees.

“Why must they always underestimate us?” Billie asked as she nodded to me.

“Ms. Morgana, use of deadly force is hereby authorized, though only if necessary and by your discretion.” I announced with an evil smile toward our attackers. The malevolent group glanced around at us but neglected to look up. Had they, they would have seen our sister thirty meters up in a fully offensive attitude, all weapons systems actively tracking them, and with the sun at her back.

Billie stood her ground as one of the larger minions rushed past his leader toward her.

A boney dart struck the huge man’s neck as he got within three meters of my steadfast assistant director. More than half of it disappeared into his flesh, still he moved forward.

Another dart embedded itself into the advancing man’s neck. He finally stopped and looked up to see where they had come from. Seeing Fay hovering overhead, he looked confused and suddenly crumbled to the ground.

The derelict band’s leader growled in anger at his fallen comrade.

“Gloves off, pretty’s! Get ‘em!” He bellowed.

Four tall men rushed forward toward us.

‘Steady ladies.’ Billie’s voice recommended in my head. ‘Try to incapacitate only. Use of deadly force has already been authorized, but only if required.’

Fay landed one of her darts in each of the four advancing men. But they had momentum on their side, the closest reaching Billie with a gruesome expression on his face.

He suddenly flew off the ground and over her head to land several meters away from us. Two other men instantly flew high into the air and landed hard on the scorched pavement next to their dazed comrade.

The forth man- having made it almost to Gena- simply evaporated into a cloud of dust, which then slowly settled to the ground.

“I suggest you withdraw or surrender, sir. You cannot possibly win this.” Billie advised as four more lackeys rushed our position. Fay landed a critical dart to the center of two of the men’s foreheads, dropping them instantly.

‘I’ve got the other two, Billie.’ Cami’s voice said in my head. Immediately, the remaining two rushers shot sideways and collided hard with each other. Both dropped to the ground unconscious.

The three remaining henchmen ran around to try and flank us, but Fay directed two of her smaller yield missiles at their feet. One of the resulting explosions threw the man on our left into the air and toward Rommie. She instantly jumped to attack mode and her large muscular tail redirected him twenty or so meters behind their onlooking leader.

The other unfortunate attacker took a direct lightning strike from Amy’s angry storm cloud.

“See, that’s how to use a defensive tool to make an offensive strike, kiddo.” Amy lectured Lena without losing her focus on the action around her.

Yet another man, the third of the last group, evaporated into another cloud of dust.

One of the thrown men got back up and started to approach from our rear.

He too vaporized before he got within a meter of Frances and
Quintin Darough. Franny suddenly looked like she was going to lose the contents of her stomach.

Unconscious man number two shook his head, stood, and ran back toward us. Fay landed two darts into his forehead. He stumbled and dropped on the spot.

As the third reawakened man approached, Rommie coiled down once more into her attack stance and ‘knocked one out of the park’- to quote my sister. He flew headfirst into what remained of a nearby building with a disgusting crackle. His lifeless corpse dropping two floors to the ground.

Mr. ‘bigshot leader’, now minus his ‘friends’, turned in fear and began to run away.

“I think not, young man!” I said serenely as I pointed a finger to him.

He froze in place as I stopped time for him.

“Billie, if you please?” I asked her to retrieve the fleeing criminal.

The once arrogant man hovered off the ground and slowly floated back, turned then landed gently before me.

“Could you hold him here a few minutes, Cassi?” I asked as his feet connected with the burnt and cracked pavement in front of me.

She nodded and I released my hold on time. The terrified thug began to struggle to free his feet, but failed.

“You were warned.” I stated calmly as I looked up into this man’s eyes. He stood a full half-meter above me glaring back defiantly.

“Was it really worth it?” I asked. “You lost eleven men here today and for what?”

“Because you didn’t feel it was necessary to participate in the Exodus Lottery? Or were you just so lazy you didn’t feel like bothering? Maybe you figured that with a third of the people gone you could declare yourself king or master of your own little piece of the planet?”

I smiled at him knowing it was all of the above. Some subtle eye movements and his slightly flaring nostrils verified I had hit the mark. I walked completely around our prisoner once and again looked directly into his eyes.

“Do you want me to let you go, young man…give you a second chance?” I asked as my mouth formed an evil smile.

“I want to kill you all!” He seethed.

“Well that’s not going to happen, I’m afraid.” I paused for a brief twenty seconds. “Here’s what IS going to happen, though.” I paused again.

“I’m going to let you start over…give you that second chance…a chance to redeem yourself and become the better person you could have been, socially.”

My prisoner tried to spit in my face, but I saw it coming a kilometer away and stopped it- reversing time for it. The result was the spittle returning to his mouth and dissociating. His eyes widened as well as those of our nearer, fellow refugees.

“Hold still now,” I advised, my evil smile growing to maniacal proportions. “This may or may not hurt. I’ve never done this before so we’ll just have to find out.”

I began to reverse time for this damaged, waste of an individual, while at the same time cueing my ‘otherworldly’ blue glow. Amy would later tell me that the effect was very impressive with her overcast sky.

Several minutes passed as I continued to reverse time for him. He grew younger by the second and I kept on turning back his clock. Still younger he became as he began to lose height and volume- his clothes becoming slack, losing his pants then his undergarment falling to the ground. His scruffy beard vanished, receding back into his face.

Still I rewound his clock.

He was now shorter than me and my sisters and looked on the verge of puberty. His shirt now looked like a knee-length dress on him.

I continued to reverse time for this individual. He was losing height and mass at a staggering rate now.

I estimated he was roughly five or six years old now, but I kept concentrating.

The toddler looked barely out of diapers now as I nodded for Cassi to release him. Her eyes looked on in fear as she tried to comprehend what she saw happening. The child wobbled, lost his balance, and fell back onto his bare buttocks. The new infant began crying loudly from inside his pile of adult clothes. I finally reestablished time for him.

Everything was quiet- except for the crying baby in front of me. Not a single person said anything as I reached down and lifted the naked infant into my arms and cradled him.

Settling somewhat, he immediately set his attention to my breast.

“No can do, sweetie. These here soda fountains are dry for the foreseeable future, but Ah’ll find ya some grub.” I said gently.

Closing my eyes for only a few seconds I opened them and began to approach the unmoving, deathly silent, crowd. They began to silently part in fear as I drew closer. I finally stopped before one young woman who looked to be in her mid twenties and on the verge of passing out.

“Ah understand y’all been trying to have a youngin’ a yer own fer a number’a years?” I asked gently and waited for the terror-stricken, dumbfounded, woman to slowly shake her head in the positive.

“Y’all recently had a late-term miscarriage?” I asked gently, almost in a whisper.

She nodded almost imperceptivity this time.

I offered her the infant in my arms.

“He’s yours if y’all promise to raise him better this time as opposed to the last.” I said setting my terms. “Can y’all do that?”

Reaching out slowly, the young woman cautiously took the infant and cradled him lovingly to her. She continued to stare at my sisters and I- mostly at me, though.

“He looks to be a might hungry, best make use of them full udders y’all got there. Ah seen they still work pretty well.”

“What…what are you?” She spoke quietly, nervously. “IIIIII’ve never heard of any race that can do the things I’ve seen here, today. Are you Gods or…or Goddess’, or…?” The woman asked as she awkwardly pulled up her blouse and bra cup. She winced as the infant latched on immediately.

“No, ma’am! We’re just normal folk tryin’ ta make a difference…tryin’ to help those ‘round us in dire straits.” I told her.

“If not Gods, who are you then?” She asked as she looked down at the feeding infant then back at me.

“Just friends, hun. Just…friends.”

“Alex? We’re running low on moisture here. Lena and I won’t be able to keep up the fire fighting for much longer.” Amy warned as she caught everyone’s attention.

“That’s good for now, gals. We’ll be switching to recovery mode now.

Amy and Lena both nodded and the clouds dispersed rapidly.

“Alex? Was it your intention to show our hand so early?” Mom questioned in a hushed voice.

“They needed our help, but this here one,” I pointed to Rould, “This here one’s jus’ ‘bout ready ta ask the million dollar question.” I whispered back.

The man, Rould, carefully, reverently, approached.

“Madam, I know you have been introduced to us as Alexandra Fleming, half –sister to Andromeda and Regina Scott here, but…if I might ask…do you…” he swallowed hard and tried to prepare himself. “Mmmmmight you answer to another name? Say, a name vastly more regal?” He asked cautiously and paused again for a few seconds.

“From what I have just seen…and…and from what I have studied of our myths and legends…Are you…’Her’?” He continued, bowing his head reverently.

His still unnamed sister gasped and looked to her brother incredulously.

“Rould?”

“Raquel, you’ve read those same stories! Does it not strike you, the similarities between this woman and the legend? She…she actually turned back ‘Time’ for this man!” He motioned to the nursing mother and babe next to me. “What more proof should we require?”

“Is my brother correct, Mdm. Fleming? Are you indeed…’Her’?”

Mom stepped forward.

“The Empress of Time and Space,” Mom decreed, but paused as everyone within earshot gasped and I glared at her, “does not usually reveal herself so quickly upon our arrival in any given place. This group, this time period, must be very special to her for some reason.”

When I returned my attention to our fellow refugees, I noticed them all kneeling!

“Now look what ya done, Ma! Please…please, ever’body stand up.” I protested wearily as I motioned for everyone to stand back up. “None y’all should feel ya need to kneel to me…nor ta any a my sisters fer that matter.”

The group looked around at each other in confusion before slowly standing.

“And you, madam,” Rould looked to Andie, “You are observably a sister of the Empress, but…you look like the commander of the Exodus ship that just departed this planet. Am I correct in that assumption, Commodore Andromeda Celeste?”

Again the group gasped and began murmuring among them selves.

“I am.” Andie confirmed firmly. “Along with my sister and executive, Regina Celeste, and we do not deny our relationship to Alexandra, sir. We are indeed her half-sisters. We are of her bloodline.”

The group’s volume increased exponentially.

Andie continued as she increased her volume too.

“We are here to correct several issues pertaining to the launch of Atlantis! Please! If you can direct your attention toward Alexandra!”

“Ladies and gentlemen,” I started my explanation, “it has come to my attention that most of you were scheduled to board Atlantis in later calls. As we have told you, riotous protests at the launch site threatened to compromise the structural integrity of the ship. Launch Control, in compliance with your government officials, issued an emergency departure order that Andromeda had no choice but to follow.”

“In any case, it is to your advantage that you and many others did not embark as planned. A severe miscalculation in the engineers’ thrust to mass ratio doomed the mission before it started.” I revealed and paused as the group began talking all at once to me. Andie and Reggie stared at me in abject horror!

“It’s true!” I shouted to regain their attention. “Once barely clear of the support and umbilical towers, thirty-five percent of the main thrusters would have gone into thermal overload and shut down. Atlantis would be on the ground in a smoldering hulk, all those aboard dead or critically injured.”

“NO!” Andie burst into tears as she and Regina buried their heads in each other’s shoulders.

“And how can you possibly know this?” Rould asked in disbelief.

“Do your legends not describe my other ability of foresight and prophesy?” I asked seriously.

The towering man thought about that for a few moments before his mouth dropped open.

“So this venture was doomed from the start had the protests not ensued? We are all condemned?”

“Not at all, ladies and gentlemen.” I smiled. “Y’all can rest assured that mah sisters and Ah have been watchin’. In fact, that’s why we’re here now. Though Ah cain’t transport the whole planet, Ah kin transport those that the lottery’s already chosen.”

“And what if not selected by the ‘lottery’?” A man further back in the group shouted angrily.

“Mr. Blankenhardt, don’t try my patience!” I warned as all conversation stopped. People were amazed that I knew exactly who posed the question.

“We will try to help as many of you as we can- as safely as we can.” I told him as I stared the taller man down. “My way of travel does not involve use of a spacecraft and therefore I must be extra cautious as to the number of people I transfer from here to another planetary system.”

“I thought you said your craft was at the spaceport?” Rould asked confused.

“And it has just left orbit for your new home, sir. Would you have believed any of us before seeing demonstration, though?” I asked with a bright smile.

“We need to get back to Exodus Project Headquarters. I promised my sisters, Andromeda and Regina, I’d ask their father if he wanted to come along. Now…are any of you interested in seeing the beautiful planet Andromeda and her crew found?”

After silencing the group again, I asked everyone to join hands.
 
 

New Babylon Space Command, Celestra, Standard Year 247:06:21
 
 

“Please make sure that you are not partially obstructed by any objects. If I rephase and you are standing in something it becomes part of you.” I warned before Cami acknowledged everyone was in the clear.

“Alright, we’ve arrived. Everyone can release their hands.”

“How can you do such amazing things?” Our former ruffian’s new mother asked in cautious fear.

“I just can, ma’am. We refer to them as ‘gifts’.” I replied with a calming smile.

“Andie? Where might we find ‘Father Celeste’?” I asked brightly.

“Seeing as you transported us straight into headquarters, I’d say that we found him.” She said as a somewhat tall man hurried over to us with several other VERY tall men holding their weapons at the ready.

Andie and Reggie’s dad slid to a stop as I turned in his direction.

“YOU! How did you get in here and why bring all these people?” Artemis Celeste demanded as he held out his arms to stop his guards.

“Hello, Artie. Miss me?” I replied in a sexy, breathy voice.

I felt my half-sisters’ eyes burning into me.

“Sir? Do you know these people?” One of the guards questioned.

“I know one…maybe three of them, Sergeant.”

“Your orders, sir?”

“Sergeant,” I spoke up, “See that these people are escorted to the large auditorium, given something to eat and drink, and made comfortable. My sisters and I need to speak to your commander for a few minutes.”

“Sir?”

“Do as my wife says, sergeant, I’m in good hands.” Artemis Celeste ordered.

“Very well, sir. Ladies and gentlemen, if you would please follow us?” One of them replied after staring between me and their commander several times.

Artemis waited until the last of our fellow refugees turned a corner at the end of the corridor.

“Ruth! What in the Seven Worlds are you doing here? I haven’t seen you since you just up and disappeared twenty-seven years ago!”

“Father, this isn’t mother.” Andie informed him. “This is our half-sister, Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space.”

“Alexandra, Empress of Tim… Andromeda, what have you done to your hair? And Reggie? Are you…you…?”

“Yes, father, I’m expecting.” Reggie announced as she and Andie hurried over and wrapped their arms around their father.

“It’s so good to see you again, father! After the ship launched, I never expected to see you ever again!” Andie sobbed joyfully.

“But Atlantis…it hasn’t launched yet!”

Andie and Reggie slowly turned back from their father and glared at me.

“Alex?”

“Do you think the people we rescue this afternoon are the only ones needing assistance?” I asked nonchalantly.

“But this control center is eighty furlongs beneath the surface, Alex.” Andie exclaimed.

“And Andie’s favorite park, where we arrived, was eight hundred away and completely devastated, hun.” I stated factually.

“What?” Artemus choked, “The liftoff destruction will spread out that far?”

“Your spaceport will be nothing more than a ninety furlong deep crater, Artie.” I revealed. “In four hours.”

He looked dumbfounded.

“What, you set about to build this huge spaceship, but somehow you miscalculated the thrust to mass ratio, and then you miscalculated the destructive power of the engines you actually installed? Honey, I’d be hiring a different group of engineers!” I chided.

“Be that as it may, why bring innocent people here? To share our fate?”

“Artie, I don’t believe in ‘fate’.” I declared with determination. “Never have.”

“But how could you possibly transport the entire control center away given just four hours, Ruth…Alexandra?”

“Billie, get your Mind Warriors into the bullpen and warmed up, hun.” I said with a grin.

“Sangiere and Darough Protection Agency awaiting orders, director.” Billie responded.

“Hey! I thought we agreed that this time it should be Darough and Sangiere!” Cami complained.

“Really, Camille?” Billie exclaimed, “At a time like this?”

“Ladies?” I turned and stared. They both rolled their eyes at each other and turned their attention back to me.

“Mmmiiii…Mmmind…Warriors?” Artemis stuttered but suddenly winced with a start as his head bumped the ceiling.

“Yes, Artie, Mind Warriors. Plural. Five to be exact, and all with the power of the universe at their beckoned call. Ruth has told you of the power of a single Mind Warrior, right?”

Artemus Celeste’s face went white. Apparently, she had.

“Billie, Gena, Cami, Cassi, and Franny, stay here and coordinate your regions. We need Atlantis to liftoff without overloading the engines AND blasting this facility into molten rock. Artie, they’ll need the outside dimensions of this bunker. A floor plan would help immensely. Reggie, Lena, Amy, Rommie, Yuuka, Fay, and Lexi are with me. We have more refugees to round up. Quinn you are our liaison. Work with Cmdr. Celeste.” I ordered as our group began to split up.

Another subway station appeared around my smaller group. This one contained over one hundred people- all sobbing and crying in fear and despair. Several of them looked injured from the turbulent winds and debris that thrashed through mere moments ago- by their perception.

“Reggie, you an’ yer gram shuttle the injured back to Artemus. The rest of us’ll gather ever’one else up.” I ordered.

Both women nodded and began looking through the crowd for the severely injured. Finding a couple in dire need of medical attention, they immediately disappeared with the select victims.

“Where did you come from?” A very tall woman demanded cautiously from off to our right.

“We are known as the Sisters of Kili and are here to help, ma’am.” I answered.

“But, you weren’t here a moment ago! Where did you come from?”

“We just made it into the station as the winds hit, ma’am.” I lied.

“No, I was watching the stairs as the winds began and you were nowhere in sight!” A man off to our left accused.

“Hey! I claimed me a perty dwarf!” Another man crowed just as Yuuka screamed. The prone man had reached out and grabbed my sister’s ankle.

That was an unfortunate mistake!

Yuuka went into Pixie mode instantly. Fay disappeared toward the ceiling, weapons deployed.

Unfortunately, the man’s hand was still attached to my Pixie when she did so.

Three Pixies now lay on the floor- one, Yuuka, desperately punching at the hand on her ankle for release. The second and third Pixies seemed to have passed out and lay sprawled together on the floor, one holding the other’s leg.

Once released from the hold, Yuuka flew up to my shoulder and cried hysterically into my collar. Amy, Rommie, and Lena stared down at the floor in stunned amazement.

“Hooooollllly SHIT!” Rommie gasped finally, though still unable to look away from the spectacle. “How the HELL did you do that, Yuuka?”

“Brilliant! Two more of ’em!” Fay groused from overhead.

Yuuka continued to cry on my collar.

“Same way you can, Splash. Yuuka and Sasha did it with the skipper’s Alexis that one time.” Amy informed her stunned sister.

“You okay, hun?” I asked quietly of the girl sobbing hysterically on my shoulder.

“I…”

“Shhh. It’s okay, hun. They had it coming anyway.” I tried to soothe my Pixie sister.

I noticed the people around us looked stunned and hadn’t said a word since Yuuka had screamed.

“What are you people?” The first woman asked cautiously.

“Empress!” Lena announced as she came over and knelt on one knee before me, her right fist to her left breast. “There are more wounded here! We must get them to the medical facility!”

“Empress?” Several people gasped quietly.

Reggie and mom rephased at that instant and the crowd hushed instantly.

“Lena found more over there, ladies. She seems to think they require immediate treatment.” I recommended.

Both saw Lena on one knee and replied.

“Of course, Empress Alexandra! We will attend to them.” Mom answered humbly.

My name and ‘title’ echoed in whispers around the station.

“Empress? What of these people? Are they to be relocated as we have done to others stranded by the premature launch?” Lena pressed.

“They will, if they are so inclined, sister. I will not relocate anyone that is against my doing so.” I replied regally.

Again my name and title circulated around the station, along with the word ‘relocate’.

“And what of them, mighty Empress of Time and Space?” Lena pointed to the two unconscious, naked, Pixies still splayed out on the floor as she dropped yet another hint as to my identity.

“Oh, my God! Did I do that to them, Alex?” Yuuka gasped as she apparently finally realized what had happened.

“Did anyone know those two men?” I asked, looking around the platform.

“I think I do, Majesty? Simon and…and…” A slightly shorter man- just over five centimeters taller than me- stepped forward on their behalf. The man paused as he tried to think of the other’s name, but seemed to draw a blank. He continued despite any successful recall. “I have seen them operate around our neighborhood as panhandlers, though they are not intentionally criminal- quite benign and generally social, actually. What has happened to them? What have you done to them?”

“Something they inadvertently brought on themselves, I’m afraid.” I answered sadly.

“Care to tell them, hun?” I asked of Yuuka.

“I guess they have that right, Alex.” She answered sadly before flying down to the floor. She gently shook the two, almost fourteen centimeter tall, girls until they started to wake.

Both slowly stood and regarded themselves frantically as Yuuka talked to them. I couldn’t hear what was said because of the crowd murmurs, but the two seemed very upset and animated.

Finally Yuuka flew away from the two and exited Pixie mode.

“I am very sorry,” Yuuka began as she looked sadly down at the two new Pixies. “Being startled by you, I defensively entered my ‘Pixie mode’. I didn’t realize you both still remained in contact with me.”

‘Pixie Mode’ echoed around the station.

“My gift is to become a Pixie in order to help the Empress complete her various missions. My specialty is covert reconnaissance.” Yuuka explained.

“Covert reconnaissance?” Someone else in the crowd scoffed in disbelief.

Yuuka was instantly hovering before the individual’s face obviously demonstrating the covert part.

My sister hovered away from the man in question and left Pixie mode, again, to everyone’s amazement.

“Any more questions about my usefulness to the Empress of Time and Space, sir?” Yuuka asked as she craned her neck severely to look up at the man’s face.

“How many here have drawn valid lottery numbers to board Atlantis?” I asked loudly to change the subject.

Most of the people raised their hands, though I knew several were lying.

“I see,” I said as I noticed even the two new, naked, Pixie women raised their hands. Bending down, I motioned for the two to step into my upturned hand.

“I happen to know that you two never took part in the lottery. Don’t try to deny it, I already know what you’re going to say.”

“Alex, this is my fault. I shouldn’t get so spooked every time someone shouts or tries to grab me. Please, is there some way we can return them to normal, Empress?” Yuuka begged on their behalf.

“Once a nonmember of the sisterhood has been transformed, there is really nothing that can be done short of welcoming them into the sisterhood, Little Flower.” I advised sadly.

“I was afraid you’d say that.” Yuuka responded sadly as she motioned the two new Pixies onto her upturned hand.

“Here girls, have a drink.” I said as I retrieved my flask and poured some liquid into the cap and placed it carefully on Yuuka’s palm. Though comically large for them to grasp, both took a mouthful.

“Hey this isn’t booze! Its just water. An’ who you callin’ girls? We aint’ no girls! Now turn us back!” The curly-haired brunette demanded.

Yuuka palmed her face with her free hand. “I thought I had explained this all out already. We can’t turn you back to your original size or gender! This is how you’ll be for the rest of your lives.”

“This is plain crazy! I’m getting’ out of here!” the brunette shouted as she ran toward, but stopped at the edge of Yuuka’s hand. Her momentum caused her to lean dangerously over the edge, but her wings began to flutter and pulled her back from the brink…and back onto her buttocks. I giggled at the antic and her surprised expression.

“How’d I do that? How’d I do that, yer Empress lady?”

“I thought the explanation Little Flower gave you was self explanatory? You are now Pixies. As Pixies, you have wings and therefore can fly. How you get those wings to work depends on how accepting of them you are, honey.” I spelled it out for the two.

The brunette, Simon, began jumping up and down in Yuuka’s palm as she began to experiment, but stopped when she suddenly realized there was actually more of her that moved.

“Little flower, can you take these two over by the steps and ‘coach’ them? We really don’t have time to be standing here while these two rediscover the mechanics of flight. We still have injured here that need medical treatment. I’ll call y’all when we’re ready to leave.”

“Right away, Empress. Come on you two!” Yuuka acknowledged as she walked back over to their previous location by the station entrance.

“Lexi and Reggie, continue to transport the injured to the medical facility.” I ordered before turning to the rest of the crowd.

“Who here wants to be rescued and which of you only have world domination on your minds?” I inquired, but qualified it further. “This is not a question as I already know who is who. I’m just asking kindly and appreciate a truthful answer.”

Several young men toward the back of the station platform began to inch away, looking for another exit- one that didn’t require walking past me.

“You five!” I declared loudly. “So you guys don’t want to be rescued?”

“No offence, Madam Empress, Ma’am, but we didn’t draw winning numbers in the lottery…well, Clive did, but he refused to go if we couldn’t come along and he give it to his ol’ mom.” One of them answered before they all turned away from everyone.

“Really?” I asked brightly causing them to stop and turn around again.

“We’re the type that sticks together, Mdm. Empress! We’ll make a life here now that the Exodus ship is gone…no way off this rock now, anyway.”

“What if I told you there was still a way off Celestra, Crispin? A way for everyone here plus many others that missed their boarding cues.”

“I’d say you’d be pullin’ our legs, ma’am.” He replied skeptically.

“Never underestimate what I can and can’t do, sir.” I said into his ear as I remained out of phase next to him briefly.

He was white as a sheet when I rephased in my original location.

“Are there any other questions?” I asked.
 
 

“Rut…Alexandra, how many more victims of the as-of-yet-to-happen destructive launch will you be transporting here? Our Auditorium has reached full capacity.”

“And that capacity would be?” I asked with a bright smile.

“Eight hundred people.”

“One or six hundred more people, Artie.” I answered as a devious grin replaced my smile.

“Are you sure you are not my wife, Ruth, Alexandra?”

“Nope, I’ve got two kids of my own, Artie, sorry.” I replied.

“Mom?” My daughter Reggie asked to get my attention. “Gram and I just finished transporting all the injured into the medical center. Are there any more we don’t know about?”

Artemis Celeste looked at Reggie and Alexis in confusion. He pointed at me.

“You’re her mother?” He asked pointing to me.

I nodded.

“And you’re her mother?” He pointed to Alexis Reilly.

Mom nodded.

“See what I have to put up with, Commander?” Quintin Darough interjected as he looked stoically toward Artie.

Whatever it was Cmdr. Celeste said, it didn’t translate.

Andie and Reggie Celeste both blushed profusely as their father threw up his hands and walked away silently- Quinn following him at a few meters.
 
 

So, Alex. What do we do with all these people?” Andie asked after we had made several more trips to the post-launch future. “The only place big enough on Atlantis is the Diplomatic Hanger Bay.”

“That’s about right, sis. Problem?” I asked with a smile.

“Standard policy is to leave the hangar bay depleted of atmosphere until needed. Since Reggie and I are here with you, who would give the order to pressurize when we arrive?”

“Don’t forget we have six sisters that can transport, sis.” I reminded. “You, Billie, Gena, Alexis, my Reggie, and me. I’m sure one of us can transport to the bridge while the rest of us hold our transport bubble secure.”

“Oh…I forgot about that.” Andie blushed. She suddenly looked concerned.

“Given the number of people we’ll have, won’t the air supply foul quickly in the bubble, Alex? I mean, I remember what happened when our sister transported back to empty space…I noticed the atmosphere fouling quickly with just the three of us in there.”

“Well, whoever ports to the bridge to give the order should think about going back the amount of time it takes to pressurize the bay, right?” I asked kindly.

“Forgot about that too! Thanks, sis.” Andie smiled and quickly hugged me. I knew that, being so new to time travel, she wouldn’t have thought of that angle.

Reggie Celeste was standing nearby, looking on silently at the conversation between her sister and I.

“Please don’t tell me you’re feeling jealous, sis.” I asked as I noticed her expression change instantly. “Your gift will develop shortly, Reg. I’m sure part of it has already manifested and that you’ve noticed something a little out of character about your waking dreams. Maybe a slight feeling of déjà vu to certain events, perhaps?”

“Alex, I’m not really related to you. Ruth was not my mother so I have none of the royal blood in my veins.”

“Honey, how old were you when Ruth Scott left?” I asked.

“I wasn’t borne yet, Alex.”

“Did you ever have premonitions, say, in a dream while sleeping?”

“I’m not sure. I don’t remember.” Reggie answered after a few seconds.

“Umm, Alexandra?” Artie Celeste called out as he entered the back of the auditorium where Andie, Reggie, and I stood observing the huge group we had gathered. I immediately stopped time around us.

As I expected, Andie and I…and Reggie began to emit the telltale bluish glow of the ‘royal’ family.

“Alex? Why did you stop time?” Andie asked in curiosity.

“To prove a point, sis. Look at yourself, Reggie.”

“By the Seven Worlds! I’m glowing!” Reggie squeaked.

“Alexandra? What is going on?” Artemis Celeste asked from our left. I noticed he had the same bluish glow- though not as bright- about him. “Why have all the people stopped moving, and stopped conversing? Why are you three emitting a light blue glow?”

“Well, that explains it.” I giggled as I pointed to Reggie and Andies’s father.

He immediately began examining his very own luminescence.

“What is going on here?”

“I was showing Regina that she is indeed a member of the Empress’ family by way of a simple demonstration.” I released my hold of time. “All members of the ‘royal’ family are capable of resisting the Empress’ stoppage of time. When doing that we emit a bluish glow.” I answered. “Apparently, you and Ruth must have exchanged ‘bodily fliuds’ at some point- though not enough of an exchange to keep her ‘K’ cells multiplying to their threshold trigger level in your body to cause your Mahanilui, Artie.”

Artemus Celeste’s mouth dropped open instantly. Andie gasped through the hand she’d quickly raised to her mouth.

“Don’t worry. As I stated, I don’t think they’ve reached the required concentrational threshold to trigger. If that were true, you two would have two mothers already.” I grinned sheepishly. “Welcome to the family by the way.”

“So…I’m…I’m like Andie?” Reggie asked bashfully, hoping I’d say otherwise.

“Ask yourself that question, sis. I’m betting you’ll get your answer in a flash.” I hinted with a smile.

Reggie slowly closed her eyes and after several seconds she jumped with a start. Her eyes flew wide open and she stared at Andie and I in shock.

“I see you’ve gotten your answer, sis.” I smiled brightly.

She nodded her head a few times, still in shock.

Andie wrapped her arms around her sister and squeezed gently.

“And you were worried! I told you that you were more related than you thought. You should have believed me, little sister.”

Tears started pouring from Regina Celeste’s eyes as she tightened her arms around her older sister.

“Should I…be concerned, Alexandra?” Artemus Celeste asked as he continued to observe his daughters.

“When we get back to Atlantis, I’d like Belle Mintaka to do a ‘K’ cell count on you just to be sure. If the concentration is dormant and low then you’ll be good.”

“And if it isn’t, Alexandra?”

“Then I suggest you give up drinking strong spirits unless you want to invest in a whole new wardrobe, honey.”

I thought the man would pass out, but surprisingly he remained conscious.

A warning klaxon sounded and all the lights dimmed with some red rotating beacons coming to life around the large auditorium. All conversation stopped.

Artie’s hand shot to his left ear as he listened to some announcement in his earpiece.

“I’m on my way!” He barked and rushed through the doors. Andie and Reggie looked at the closing door in horror.

This was it.

Instantly, a busy control room appeared around the three of us. Mom and my Reggie appeared next to us also.

“Show’s about to start?” Mom asked as I nodded my head.

‘Billie, are we ready?’ I thought as soon as we rephased.

‘We’re good to go, Cap.’ She thought back. I decided to ignore her slip.

“Sir! We’ve received orders from Celestra World Headquarters to launch immediately!” A man’s voice echoed out from somewhere in the large control room.

“I want that order verified and authenticated! I’m not launching a partially filled ship if I can help it, drogue-it!” Artie ordered then looked at me in terror. Quintin hurried through the door and stopped in time to also look for my response.

I closed my eyes and nodded once sadly.

“Sir! I’m getting reports of fights breaking out at the tower elevators in sector alpha twenty-eight and twenty-nine!” The same voice alerted loudly.

“On the monitors!” Artie commanded without a thought. I motioned the five of us further off to the side.

We looked on as a crowd of forty or fifty people took to fisticuffs near the base of ten of the towers that ferried passengers to the Mega-ship.

“By the Seven Worlds! It’s happening again!” Andie cried at almost a whisper.

Artemus instantly looked around at her, his mouth agape.

I want Atlantis Command right now!” He shouted turning back to the monitors.

“Commodore Celeste, online, sir.”

Commander? What is going on down there?” Andie’s voice demanded from another, smaller monitor to our right.

Artemus looked around to see if we were still here. Knowing my group was well off-camera, I hadn’t phased us out. I nodded to him.

“Commodore, we’re receiving reports of civil unrest around the loading towers in sections twenty-eight and twenty-nine. Celestra World Headquarters has issued an emergency launch order.”

They can’t do that, Commander! We’re only just passing thirty-three percent capacity! Can’t you do something to quell the insurgents?

“Security is doing the best they can. We’re validating and authenticating the order to launch as we speak. I suggest you order your people to stuff those waiting to board into the lifts as tight as possible, Andromeda! I want to get as many passengers onboard before CWH calls my hand.” Artie paused to look down to the floor for a long moment. “Authorization to begin Final Launch-Prep Sequence, repeat, begin FLiPS!”

Commander! No! We can’t do that! What about all the people still cued for boarding?” Andie’s voice shouted from the display.

“Once authenticated, I’ll sound the first warning sirens. They’ll then have two hours to seek refuge in the farthest bunkers they can. After the final sirens sound they’ll have thirty minutes before Atlantis rains down the fires of Valhalla.”

“Sir! We’re getting reports of explosions against Atlantis’ primary umbilical towers in sections twelve, fourteen, seven, two, two-thirteen, three-fifty-three, one hundred-nine, and two-ninety-nine!”

“Sir! CWH order verified and authenticated!”

“DROGUE-IT!” Artemus spat vehemently as he pounded his fist on the nearest console top. “Andromeda! Get those people at the towers onboard now and ready Atlantis for launch! Cancel all further boarding calls!”

But, Commander!

“No buts, Commodore Celeste! Follow your orders! Get that FLiPS started now!”

Acknowledged and understood, Commander! Atlantis, out.” Andie’s defeated voice said from the comm monitor.

Andie and Regina Celeste each took one of my hands and squeezed. Both were shaking violently.

“Alex, IIIIIIII don’t think I can take this again!” Andie cried quietly. I gave her hand a firm squeeze of support.

“Ground Control, Sound the first warnings!” Artemus Celeste ordered as he looked around to us again, tears streaming down his face.

“Empress?” He pleaded for me to do something.

Those near enough to hear him turned and began to stare at the five of us then their commander.

Artie turned around and gazed out at his control room personnel. He turned back quickly.

“Oh, Empress of Time and Space,” he announced loud enough for everyone in the room to hear as he knelt down on one knee, “please, help rescue our race from extinction? I beg of you!”

“Father, NO!” Andie cried out as she rushed over to him and pulled him to his feet. “Alexandra already knows what will happen plus, we’re already here to help! Pleading or praying to her will only upset her.”

There was a room-filling gasp from his peers as they witnessed something they thought completely impossible.

“Commander Artemus Celeste,” I pronounced regally as I caused myself to glow moderately for effect, “we are here to help and will do everything within our powers to save this civilization. We do not require your devotion or your prayers to us. We do, however, require you to complete your given orders before rendering our assistance, so please sir, continue the mission.”

The control room was so quiet you could hear people’s hearts’ rapidly beating!

“Thank you, Empress.” Artie bowed before turning back to the others.

“You heard the Empress! Let’s get Atlantis off the ground, people!”
 
 

Two hours passed by slowly. In that time, most of the elevator towers had been cleared, disabled, locked up, and abandoned. Only two had a few people calmly waiting for their turn in the last lift to enter the mighty leviathan christened ‘Atlantis’.

“Sound the thirty-minute warnings!” Artie ordered forcefully. “Patch me through to Atlantis!” He barked. The stress of what he had to do was starting to really show on his face and in his voice.

Atlantis Command. Commodore Celeste.

“Sweetheart? I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it aboard. We have major uprisings at over seventy-five umbilical towers now. I’m sounding the thirty-minute warning. Are you ready on your end, Commodore?”

The ‘pre-launch’ Andie on the display looked away for a moment and quickly rubbed her eyes dry before turning back. “FLiPS complete. Awaiting final departure orders and authentication…SIR!

“Start the departure clock at ‘T’-minus thirty minutes! Commodore, you are go for Main Thruster Priming sequence.”

Acknowledged! Commensing MTP.” Andie’s voice sounded coldly professional over the audio transducers.

“Atlantis Command, because of the emergency launch order you now have authority. Repeat, you have authority! Good luck, Commodore! Get those people to our new home safely. Launch Command, out.” Artie signed off and immediately turned back to me. His cheeks were wet.

“Now what, Alexandra?” He asked dejectedly as he wiped his tears.

“Sir! You might want to see this! Freight tower eighty-one! There is a man actually climbing the tower, sir!” A man’s voice shouted out.

Before us on the display, a figure was shown actually climbing the external structure!

“Zoom and refocus.” Artie ordered and the picture zoomed in.

“The EQUIUS! I know for certain Representative Mirtuak’s name was not on the boarding list! What is he thinking?”

“Only of himself, would be my guess, Cmdr. Celeste.” Quintin Darough answered in disgust as mom nodded her agreement. “He’s trying to save himself and to hell with the real passengers! I’ve seen similar acts of desperation on my world in less severe circumstances!”

“Sir! Security reports several incapacitated personnel at the base of tower eighty-one. Four with no vital signs!”

“Get those men out of there and down into the bunker. NOW!”

“Security at tower eighty-one. Clear all causalities. Get out of there immediately, if not quicker! Countdown clock is ‘T’-minus twenty-five minutes and counting!” Someone barked into they’re headset.

Andie squeezed my hand tighter to get my attention.

“Alex, Rep. Mirtuak never boarded Atlantis. Seventy-five other representatives boarded, but not him.”

Artie turned to us, overhearing his daughter.

“Andromeda,” Artie sighed heavily in resignation, “none of the Representatives’ names’ were on the boarding list! We all voted, unanimously, to stay behind so that more, well-deserving people could go.”

“WHAT?” Andie shrilled in absolute horror! “Are you telling me that you had no intention of boarding, father?” She demanded.

Artie remained silent.

Billie appeared off to our right.

“Cap, we’re ready for MATO. All Mind Warriors are in position and standing by.”

“Understood, commander. For now, Billie, can you possibly clear that freight tower? It seems we have a verified, potential stowaway trying to board Atlantis.”

“On it, cap.”

“Billie?”

“Cap?”

“No need to be gentle about it. Four people paid with their lives.” I added calmly.

“Aye, Cap. Which tower?”

“Freight eighty-one, Commander.”

The individual climbing the structure suddenly flew off at an alarming speed before our very eyes!

“SurvCom! How high was that man on the tower?” Artie balked. Quinn balked at me, astonished that I’d order such an action.

“Three hundred-forty-seven cubits, sir.”

“That’s almost two hundred-thirty meters, Alex.” Mom whispered.

Artemus Celeste’s mouth dropped open as he stared at us.

“You just killed that man!” Quinn declared in anger.

“And he killed four others in his greed-driven pursuit to gain access, Quinn!” I countered.

“Cmdr. Celeste, I believe martial law has been in effect since the order to launch was issued?”

He nodded sadly.

“Cmdr. Celeste, I need you to picture the faces of all the representatives, please.” I said nodding to Billie. ‘Transfer those images to Reggie Reilly, Gena, Alexis, you, and me, Billie.”

Once received, we sorted our quarry between the six of us. Surprisingly, they had stayed in their exclusive little clichés- except for Mirtuak, who was now out of the picture.

“Good hunting, ladies,” I said as I phased out to find my share of unauthorized passengers

I found them- twelve men and eight women- hunkered down in a large storage compartment in Delta ring. I didn’t even introduce myself, instead just transporting them back to the control room without a word.

Within two minutes, all ninety Celestra representatives were crowding the back third of Artie’s control room in complete confusion as to how they got here.

The large room had grown eerily quiet.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” I began with a predatory grin to our new, unwelcome ‘guests’. I had walked down to the middle of the large control room. “Welcome to Launch Control.” I greeted with outstretched hands. “I’m sure you will have the best seats in the house to witness the launch of Atlantis.”

“How did we get here?” One very tall, older man growled, arrogantly!

“The Empress of Time and Space does not have to justify her reasoning or actions to the likes of cheaters, liars, and cowards!” Mom declared regally with a strong helping of disgust thrown in. I noticed Quinn stare at her.

“There is no such person! And how dare you dwarves deny me my rightful passage to our new home!”

“How dare I,” I initiated my glow again before continuing? “How dare…I…deny you YOUR nonexistent, cowardly…ILLEGAL, place on Atlantis?!” I upped my glow emphasizing those words. I began to slow the speed of light in the large room.

Everyone looked around and began gasping in fear.

“How dare YOU insult me before my sisters and honorable colleagues, sir! Miss Sangiere? If this arrogant thug opens his mouth again, please impress upon him the meaning of ‘silence’!”

“As you wish, Empress Alexandra.”

“I will not be bovined by special effect…ech…” The Representative declared just before he started grabbing his throat and choking for air. He rose about a cubit- a little over a third of a meter into the air.

“You will not annoy our Empress with your arrogant tongue any longer, sir.” Billie hissed with narrowed eyes.

Again a collective gasp sounded throughout the control room.

“Would anyone else like to challenge my Mind Warrior?” I asked calmly and waited several seconds. “Cmdr. Celeste, you claimed these men and women selflessly voted to stay behind to let the more deserving seek a new home?”

“I thought we were all in agreement, Empress. Apparently, I have been misinformed.” Artie answered with a sneer to his fellow representatives.

“What would you have me do with them then, Commander? In total, there is less than a phalanx gathered before us…a small enough number for Ms. Sangiere to dispatch in less than the blink of an eye.” I asked still holding my predatory grin on the nervous group before me.

“Dispatch, Empress?” Artie asked in trepidation.

“Dispatch, Commander, as in delete. I believe the operative term you use on this planet would be ‘disintegrate’ or reduce to the sub-atomic level.” I answered, remaining eerily serene and callous.

Quintin and Artemus looked at me in shocked fear- appalled that I had even entertained that action.

“Alex, Billie, please don’t do that.” Andie urged with a trembling voice. “Too many people are going to lose their lives when Atlantis launches in twenty minutes. Can’t we just make sure they honor their initial commitment? Transport them to one of the outlying, abandoned, subway stations, well clear of the blast radius?”

“You make a good point, sister.” I said as I walked over to Andie and placed a hand on her shoulder. I then looked around the room, to all the faces anxiously listening to my every word. Billie nodded in agreement.

“Atlantis’ launch was fouled by many losses and I am sure you felt strongly about leaving those that lawfully participated in and won the lottery- the ones left behind when greed and self-righteousness overruled generosity and courage…when these very representatives decided they were more important and that Atlantis was at risk from those not as deserving. It was then that they ordered the emergency launch while already safely aboard.”

I motioned for Billie to release the now, not so demanding, man.

Billie gently lowered her prisoner to the floor and released him from her invisible hold.

“What are your orders, Empress?” Billie looked my way while her target increased the distance from her.

As if that would help protect him!

“Sisters? Now knowing their motivation, what would you have me do?” I asked Andie and Reggie Celeste as I looked at them both, calmly.

“Empress, could we still allow them a choice?” Regina Celeste asked timidly. “Give them the choice of boarding Atlantis or honorably staying behind as they originally agreed?”

Andie looked at her sister with a renewed respect as I nodded once to my half-sisters.

“Acceptable.” I agreed as I looked around at the cowering group. “Those wishing to honor their original commitment, please move to the left side of the control room. Those wishing to still board Atlantis, move to the right side.” I announced.

The whole room started to vibrate subtly.

“Sir! Atlantis has completed MTP and has begun Sequential Main Thruster Ignition.”

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please make your decision. Time IS of the essence.” I pushed.

Andie and Regina’s eyes widened as they watched the division forming in our large, interred, group.

Seventy-five people had decided to do the honorable thing and elect to stay behind. I walked over to them and observed their faces, their posture, they’re commitment.

Seventy-six of us were suddenly in one of the large auditoriums in Beta ring.

“I am so sorry for this. Please take your seats and strap in, ladies and gentlemen.” I announced loudly.

“But we were the ones that choose to stay behind. Why are we here?” A younger woman with ruined make-up asked as she looked around in astonishment.

“Because you are the honorable ones, Lisele.” I answered her by name. “You alone are the ones that showed renewed courage to do the honorable thing. In order to re-establish your society on a new world, people such as yourselves with the courage to do what is right, are the most sought after commodity in the universes. We will meet again toward the end of your journey. In the interim, you will not speak or write of what I have done OR of my very existence! Good luck.”

The control room reappeared.

“Are we ready?” I asked sadly of the other group, but didn’t wait for any replies.

A darkened subway station platform appeared. Before anyone protested the control room reappeared around me.

“T-minus ten minutes and counting. SMTI fifty percent complete. Thrusters on Epsilon and Delta rings are hot, ready for throttle-up, sir.”

“Sir! Surface temperatures are nearing critical at the launch site!”

“Already?” Artie exclaimed in surprise. “At just fifty percent?”

“My people are working on it now, sir.”

“I wasn’t lying, Artie.” I whispered as I neared him and Quinn. “A ninety furlong deep crater, remember?”

Quintin Darough remained quiet, his eyes motioning to me.

“What are we to do, Alexandra?” Artie lamented in horror.

“Let us all do our jobs, commander. Trust that the Empress and her sisters will do what is needed.” I answered as I placed a hand on his shoulder. “Miss Sangiere. Status.”

“All stations re-manned and standing by, Cap.” Billie responded.

“T-minus five minutes, sir. SMTI- sixty percent. We just lost all thermal sensors on the surface! By the Seven Worlds, level one internal temperature is starting to climb!”

“Commander, all data links and telemetry just went off-line!”

“Switch to remote site telemetry!”

“Yes, sir! Telemetry coming back online.”

“Miss Sangiere, all stations enable protective thermal shielding. Thirty percent.” I ordered.

“Aye! All stations report thirty percent on the protective thermal, Cap. Standing by for further orders.”

“Internal Environmental. Temperature status on level one?” Artie requested after I nodded to him.

“Holding steady, sir.”

Artemus Celeste exhaled heavily.

“Sir. SMTI- eighty-five percent.”

The place was really shaking now as over three quarters of Atlantis’ main thrusters were running and awaiting throttle-up.

“Ex-O, increase thermal shielding to fifty percent.” I ordered.

“Aye, Cap.”

“All stations reporting thermal shielding at fifty and holding steady. Emitter power confirmed well within the green, ma’am.” Billie relayed.

“Very good, Ex-O. Stand by.”

“Aye, ma’am.” Billie smiled as she looked over at me.

“How’s Gena holding up, Billie?” I asked.

“She says she’s having a blast, Alex.” Billie rolled her eyes, as did I, at the pun.

“Commander Celeste, Atlantis has completed SMTI and initiated automated throttle up.”

“Full thermal shields, Miss Sangiere, and engage MATO.” I ordered calmly.

“Aye, Cap, thermals to one hundred. MATO coupling complete and standing by.”

“MATO, Alexandra?” Artie asked in confusion, not recognizing the acronym.

“Mind warrior Assisted Take Off, Commander.” I grinned devilishly. “Unless, of course, you don’t want Atlantis to leave the planet?”

His mouth dropped open as well as Quinn’s.

The walls around us began shaking violently and dust started falling from the ceiling. Many a head looked up and around in subdued terror. Quintin Darough’s eyes became wide as saucers.

“Atlantis throttling up, commander! Twenty-five…fifty…seventy-five…”

“Miss Sangiere, MATO is go. Coordinate supplemental thrust proportionally between all stations.

“Aye, Cap. MATO units engaged and supplementing thrust to Atlantis Main Engines.”

“Keep her straight and level, Miss Sangiere.” I said calmly.

“Aye, Cap. Straight and level.”

“Sir, we confirm Atlantis liftoff at ‘T’-plus one minute and twenty seconds!”

Loud applause, cheers, and whistles issued forth from the large control room.

“Commander! Level one internal temperature is climbing again!”

“Evacuate Level One of all personnel.” Artie ordered as things really started shaking apart! Loose items began falling from the various command stations as pictures and technical drawings violently jumped from the walls. Overhead lights began blinking, failing, or breaking from the intense vibration. In Alex Steinert’s words, it felt like all hell was breakin’ loose!

“Level one EVAC commencing.”

I nodded to mom, both Reggie’s, and Andie.

“Time to help our sisters, ladies.”

All four disappeared. I went over and took Billie’s hand and felt the slight drain immediately

“Cap, all stations report arrival of secondary power sources.” Billie announced.

“Go to War Emergency Power- one-ten-percent- on all thermal shield emitters, Miss Sangiere.” I commanded.

“Aye, ma’am, one-ten!”

I groaned as the power drain on me became uncomfortable. Billie looked at me curiously as the uncomfortable feeling subsided immediately.

“Don’t go easy on me, honey. I’m not a china doll.” I told her.

“I started out pulling the percentage I had previously in Greece, but…” Billie started to explain, but stopped and stared at me again.

“But?” I asked.

“But I nearly overloaded myself, Alex…its…its like…your available energy reserve has increased by hundreds of magnitudes! How did you get so powerful…in such a short period of time?”

“Look, let’s worry about the particulars after Atlantis tops escape velocity.” I suggested. “In the meantime, use what you need, Will.”

She nodded silently, her eyes narrowed and mouth slightly open.
 
 

“Sir, Atlantis just reached escape velocity!” ‘Flight’ announced excitedly about two minutes later.

“Keep MATO active for a few more minutes, Miss Sangiere.” I ordered.

“Aye, Cap. I saw that we’d be needed for a little longer.

“Alert Amy and Lena that I’ll be transporting them topside for fire control.”

“Aye. Cmdr. Reynolds and her daughter have been alerted and are standing by at station Frances, Cap.” Billie acknowledged.

“Will she be able to keep up with the rest of you, Will?” I asked with concern.

“Secondary power has already decoupled and she’s holding her own, Alex.”

I nodded and transported to that location, picked up Amy and Lena then transported to the surface, but remained phased out.

The devastation was unimaginable! Nothing remained of the three hundred-eighty support towers or the ground they had been built on. Even out of phase, the heat was almost unbearable!

“Think you two could put together enough of a rain to cool things off a little?” I asked.

“Shouldn’t be much of a problem, though I can feel how dry the air is…even though we aren’t even phased in.” Amy responded. “Sprinkle, you handle the precip and I’ll try to import as much water vapor as I can scrounge up.”

“I’ll give it my best, mom.” Lena replied, but paused a moment. “Um…Alex? Can we even do our thing while still out of phase with this reality?”

“Never question the Empress, Sprinkle. We wouldn’t be here if she didn’t already know we could handle it.” Amy told her.

“Sorry. I’m still new to this whole ‘gift’ thing, mom.”

“No prob, Sprink! Here comes the moisture, have at it.”
 
 

Though only a moderate rain event and nothing like they had accomplished in Yellowstone or our arrival site, it was enough to cool the red-hot earth on and around the newly exposed control bunker. It wouldn’t cool completely for a few days at the least.

The size of the new crater was massive- by my reckoning, almost twice the size of the modern Yellowstone caldera and many times deeper!

We stood and watched as the steam of the rainstorm rose high into the sky for a few minutes before we transported back to the control bunker.

“No, sir. I can’t explain the appearance, or disappearance for that matter, of the precipitation! Level one internal temperature has returned to nominal levels, though.” Artie was being informed as we rephased in the control room just to his left.

“How did you do it, Alexandra?” Artemus Celeste asked in awe. “How did you make it rain?”

“Commander, I wouldn’t automatically assume Alexandra the source.” Quinn warned as he nodded to Amy and Lena.

On the console nearest us, ‘FlightComm’, sat a newly opened polypropylene bottle of water. Amy snorted at our host and motioned to the bottle with her eyes. The water in the bottle began to evaporate even as a small cloud appeared and grew darker up near the ceiling.

“I think you hurt my Weather Mage’s feelings by giving me the credit, Artie.” I said with a nod as it began to rain lightly on the mesmerized people sitting at and around FlightComm’s console. Quinn shook his head and rubbed his forehead while grinning knowingly.

“Umm…Sir, Atlantis telemetry reports they have exceeded parking orbit velocity and are still accelerating!”

FlightComm’s console immediately shorted out and went dark.

“Oops, sorry about that, guys. I may have gotten a tad bit overzealous.” Amy blushed brightly.

“Miss Sangiere, one final push, as we talked about, if you please?” I ordered as Artemus Celeste turned and glared at me.

“Aye, Cap, increasing Atlantis velocity to one third light speed.” Billie relayed and paused.

“Cap? Increasing to that velocity, all stations will lose their lock with Atlantis in two minutes.”

“Understood, Ex-O and noted, but the increase in velocity has to occur.”

“Aye, ma’am.”

“Why, Alexandra?” Artie questioned, as he got right up in my face.

“To make it to their destination in ten-point-four-six years, Cmdr. Celeste.” I explained. “And also so they can escape the galaxy’s galactic center. You do know there is a destructive, black hole there don’t you?”

“That theory has never been proven! How could you know…” Artie started to protest before realizing who he was talking to. “I guess it really does exist.”

“Now you’re learning, hun.” I giggled in amusement.

“But our planetary departure checklist! How will they know their course?” Artie argued.

“Let’s ask Atlantis’ Commander, shall we?” I suggested. “Billie could you have Andie and Reggie come up to control?”

“Aye, they’re on their way.”

“Alex? You wanted to see us?” Andie asked as she and Reggie appeared beside me. Artemus jumped in surprise.

“Your father is concerned that since you did not complete your planetary departure checklist that Atlantis is at risk of becoming lost. Could you and Reggie relate the actions taken on your part? Just after launch?”

“At first we were concerned that our continued acceleration would compromise Atlantis’ structural integrity, but as we neared the phenomenal velocity of six hundred million cubits per second, all structural parameters remained in the green. We determined that our trajectory would allow us a safe course out of our system and pass harmlessly between several others, but using their gravity wells to maintain, even increase, our velocity.”

“Further computations confirmed that we could safely ‘slingshot’ past our galactic center- which we later discovered contained a zero point anomaly- a black hole, as Alex calls them. Gaining even more velocity from our ‘slingshot’ around the galactic center allowed Atlantis to near the speed of light briefly, but because of our mass, we could only maintain seven hundred fifty million cubits per second for about eighteen months before again slowing to six hundred million cubits. That seemed to be Atlantis’ ‘sweet spot’.” Andie related as she eyed me carefully. The whole control room remained silent as she continued.

“We found that our initial trajectory had actually saved us from making any course changes during our ten year voyage to Earth.”

Artemus Celeste looked at his two daughters with a slack jaw, his eyes open wide.

“What did you say?” He asked completely dumbfounded.

Andie and Reggie just looked back at him in confusion.

“What did you just call the planet you traveled to?”

“Earth, Father. The planet we are currently orbiting- Sol 3- is called Earth by Alexandra and the future inhabitants.”

“You found our Homeworld? By the Seven Worlds, how?”

“Our ‘Homeworld’, father? I thought the planet of our ancestors dead and no longer capable of supporting life?” Andie shook her head several times, successfully acting confused.

“You must be mistaken, father. Earth, the planet we found and now orbit, is thriving with diverse life and according to our instruments, very much capable of supporting life.” Reggie responded.

“Would y’all like to see it, Artie?” I interrupted with a big smile.
 
 

“Cap, all stations have just lost touch with Atlantis.” Billie informed me one hundred long, silent, seconds later.

“Have all stations disengage, power down, an’ report to the control room,”

“Aye, Cap.”

“Will?”

“Cap?”

“Y’all can stop referring to me as mah sister. She’s the one in the mil’tary, not me.” I smiled.

“Sorry. Jacki Cummins’ memories kind of took over, Alex. All stations are enroute to our location, Ca…Alex.” Billie blushed and glanced to the floor momentarily.

“Thank you, Miss Sangiere, wonderful job.” I replied with an impish smile.

Billie glared at me for ten seconds.

“So, Ru…Alexandra, what is your plan now?” Artemus Celeste asked, as the whole control room seemed to grow quiet. He had definitely picked up on my offer to see Atlantis.

“Ah don’t know ‘bout y’all, but Ah need ta take five. T’day’s been a little tirin’. Artie. Where kin a body get forty winks ‘round here?” I asked as the fatigue I had felt and fought since our first confrontation started getting stronger.

“I have a convertible in my office, Empress. You’re welcome to use it for as long as you require.” Cmdr. Celeste offered.

“Ver’ kind a y’all, hun. See y’all in four hours.” I said as I triggered the control room door. “Billie, y’all have the Con.”

“As you wish, cap.” Billie replied shaking her head while smiling knowingly. “We’ll come and wake you in eight. Rest well, ma’am.”
 
 

New Babylon Space Command, Celestra, Standard Year 247:06:21
 
 

“Alex? You really need to stop testing me.” Billie said as I came out of Cmdr. Celeste’s private bathroom. “I’ve been using and refining my gift since Gena was born, you know.”

“Look, I’m sorry, Will. I was really tired and I didn’t want certain things to slip away while I reclined. I can’t afford to make any mistakes on this one. Andie and Reggie are counting on me.”

“We, Alex. We can’t afford to make any mistakes that will interfere with the landing. We all have a stake in this. It’s not just you, all alone, sister.”

A knock on the door stopped any rebuttal I might have given.

“Come in, Artemus. We’re both decent.” Billie shouted.

“I hope you slept well, Alexandra. You look refreshed.”

“I got four hours. I’ll perform within nominal limits.” I answered.

“You’ve been asleep for eight hours, Alex.” Billie argued.

“Have I?” I countered with a smile as Cami rushed into the room.

“Alex? How did three hundred more survivors suddenly appear in the auditorium? I thought I’d come and ask seeing as you were here fast asleep, weren’t you?” Cami asked, or stated angrily, crossing her arms in front of her.

Artemus and Billie glared at me in silence.

“There was work to be done.” I stated simply as I headed around them for the door.

“That’s your answer?” Billie demanded as she caught my arm to stop me. “Alex, there are others of us that can retrieve survivors. Why must you insist on taking full responsibility?” She asked before pausing. An idea seemed to hit her.

“You don’t trust me! You don’t trust us- your sisters! Why, Alex?”

“It’s not that I don’t trust my sisters, Will. I do. I trust you with my very life!” I countered.

“Then what? Why do everything by yourself, Alex? Why?” Billie demanded in anguish.

CONDITION BLACK IN CONFERENCE ROOM THREE-SIX! REPEAT, CONDITION BLACK IN CONFERENCE ROOM THREE-SIX!” Screamed from the ceiling.

Artemus reached for his headset.

“This is Celeste. What’s happening?” He demanded angrily.

“WHAT?!” He paused in astonishment, staring directly at me. “How many?” Again he paused. His face seemed to drain of color.

“And they just suddenly appeared? Was Alexandra with them? Did anybody see the Empress amongst them?” Artie continued to stare at me as he listened carefully to his headset.

“Understood. Do what you can for them. See if there are any medical professionals in the other survivor groups. Get them to help if able.”

“That’s what I said. Those people need the best care we can provide! I’m on my way, Celeste out!” Artie glared at me as he signed off.

“What possessed you to go to that power plant and rescue one hundred and seventy-eight employees from a highly radioactive, sealed off, containment area, Alexandra?! You could’ve been killed!” Artie almost shouted. He was so incensed, I half expected him to keep going.

Billie continued to glare at me, but her eyes softened as I pictured the scene and what I had to do.

“You actually phased out all those people while phased out yourself, Alex?” Billie’s mouth dropped open slightly. “How, by the Goddess, did you manage that?”

“It wasn’t easy, Will, but I got most of them out.” I answered. I let my head drop. “Still, I should have been able to get to all of them. It’s just that the few that were closest to the leak…they were melt…I couldn’t get to them in time, Will!”

Pulling myself together quickly, I smiled tensely.

“At least I know my Reilly’s Emergency Recall system works.”

Billie’s mouth hit the floor!

“How…how long, Alex?” She asked cautiously narrowing her eyes.

“Tibius said I was fortunate this time- only one Terra Nuevo year.”

“You should have told me, Al…”

“So you could’ve gone in my place, Will? Could you have stopped time in order to get those people out? Could you have rewound time for the ones you missed the first, second, third, or even forth time?” I asked as my pitch raised an octave. “None of you could have rescued all those people and you know it, Will! I…I was the only one…that had the right gift…”

“At what cost though, Empress? We lose you and we lose the means to protect the timeline! We lose the means to protect these people, Alex!”

“Duely noted, Assistant Director Sangiere. Let’s continue with our mission, shall we?”
 
 

E.S. Atlantis, Standard Year 258:01:25
 
 

After the usual collapse to black, deafening screams of terror from my eleven hundred or so inexperienced companions, travel through the stars, and another blackout, Atlantis’ diplomatic shuttle hangar appeared around us. The lights were already on and I noticed the green indicator light by the shuttle bay’s access door illuminated, thus indicating that we had breathable atmosphere, and that it was safe to open the passageway door.

Immediately, gasps and other verbal indications of surprise and wonder assaulted my ears. And complaining? It was deafening!

“Huh, I guess I don’t have to go back and re-pressurize the shuttle bay after all.” Andie surmised curiously as she looked around us.

“Sorry, sis, y’all still need ta go back, that’s why ever’thin’s ready. Fifteen minutes should do it. Be careful and try to stay firmly in this dimension.” I smiled at my temporally-naïve, half-sister as I started to feel the load of so many passengers on my over-extended, protective temporal bubble.

“Oh ya. Sorry, Alex, I’ll get a move on then.” Andie apologized before her face turned red in concentration and she disappeared.

She didn’t even think to ask if she could phase out while our group, as a whole, was still out of phase. Nor did she even think to ask if she could return in time fifteen minutes earlier.

I shook my head and smiled brightly at those observations.

You are clear to rephase, Empress.” Andie acknowledged over the shuttle bay’s audio transducers.

The fatigue I had been feeling subsided only slightly as I phased us back in to this reality.

“What was so funny, Alex?” Mom asked as she, Quinn, Billie, and the rest of my sisters looked to me.

“Andie didn’t even blink when I told her she still needed to go back fifteen minutes to pressurize the shuttle bay.” I answered.

“So? What’s so funny about that?” Amy inquired. “I thought she was part of the royal family?”

“It’s the first time she ever done actual time travel, honey. Up’n’till this point, Andie’s only ever phased out and ported to a place in normal time.” I explained.

Reggie Celeste’s mouth dropped open as she stared at me.

“Oh, come on! Y’all didn’t see that happenin’? Own up, honey, ‘cause Ah know better.” I challenged my younger half-sister.

Andie, Ian, and a contingent of security coming through the shuttle bay’s interior door stopped any reply from Regina Celeste.

Ian and his men stopped dead in their tracks as they looked around at the large assemblage of people curiously milling about the massive hangar.

Andie quickly approached me then suddenly lunged, wrapping her arms around me.

“By the Goddess, Alex, I did it! I actually did it!” she squealed in excitement as she squeezed me tighter.

“Never had a doubt, sis.” I managed to gasp out as I noticed Ian stop in front of Reggie.

“Are you alright, my l…subcommander?” He asked with a slight stumble in his professionalism.

“Just kiss your girl, son!” Quinn pressed.

In response, my half-sister wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him full on the lips!

Cheers and whistles arose from those of us close enough to witness the overly sustained event.

“I had hopes that those two would eventually find each other.” Artemus said from my left as Andie finally released me.

“And you!” Artie said looking enamored at his oldest daughter. “Did you really just go back in time to activate the shuttle bay? Did you actually travel backward in time fifteen minutes, Andromeda?”

Andie only nodded enthusiastically and wiped some tears from her eyes.

“Simply fantastic! I find it hard to believe what my eyes have shown me these last eighteen hours! You cannot possibly fathom how proud I am of you and Regina at this moment, Andromeda Amelia Celeste!”

Andie and Reggie’s eyes overflowed as they both wrapped their arms around their father and hugged him for all they were worth.

Artemus Celeste managed to look over at me, smiled, and winked- a tear running from his eye.
 
 

“Ma?” My daughter, Reggie, called to get my attention. I looked over to where she approached.

“Ma, Ian and his guys have things well in hand. Maybe you should go and get some rest? It’s been, like three days since you got some real shut-eye.” She urged taking my hand in hers.

I smiled deviously as I countered her attempt to transport me to my quarters. Her questioning gaze demanded an explanation.

“Ain’t ready to call it a day, honey. Got a couple more surprises yet.”

“Oh. You mean this one?” My Reggie asked as she pointed back to the door where more people began to file in.

“Araul, I need the council to stay back until I can welcome our newest passengers to Atlantis.” Andie ordered as she turned to her head of security.

“Understood, Commodore.”

Artemus looked at the growing contingent and squinted a few times.

“Alexandra, are those perchance the seventy-five representatives that ‘elected’ to stay behind on Celestra?” he asked quietly.

“Why? Did Ah get it wrong? Did Ah transport the courageous and mor’ly willin’ to the wrong place, Artie?”

Without answering, Cmdr. Celeste wrapped his huge arms around me and squeezed gently. I had to admit that it felt good.

“Score another win for the Empress.” Reggie giggled softly from my side.

“Dixie, I’d like to make an overhead.” Andie asked, looking to the ceiling.

Can I have everyone’s attention?” Andie’s voice rang out through the huge hangar as she waved her hand in the air.

For those that have yet to meet me, I’m Commodore Andromeda Celeste, commander of this vessel. On behalf of my crew, my first officer Regina, and myself, I would like to welcome you all aboard Atlantis.” She greeted, stopping for the applause to die down.

You have arrived in our diplomatic shuttle bay. Currently, we are orbiting a habitable planet in the Sol planetary system we originally named, ‘Sol 3’. I’m sure you all would like to view this gem it took Atlantis over ten years to get to, but first we have assembled a contingent of representatives and security personnel to answer any questions and help secure living quarters for each of you. I would ask that everyone please remain calm and cooperate with us as this process will take time.

“Ten years! But how did we get here in a matter of seconds when it took so long for you?” Someone shouted out from the crowd.

Yes, it took Atlantis ten years, four months, and fifteen days to arrive here. Sol 3 is estimated to be two hundred and three Light Units from Celestra. As for how you all got here in the matter of a few seconds, I defer to our amazing benefactor, Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space.” Andie answered as she pointed to me, but her smile clouded as she realized something was off with the time versus distance math. She looked at me strangely.

‘Empress of Time and Space’, echoed around the room and Andie waited for the commotion to quiet.

Alexandra generously offered her gift of time and space travel to transport those marooned on Celestra because of the emergency order to launch, here to Atlantis.

“Dixie? I’d like to add my greeting as well.” I said to the ceiling. Andie looked at me and nodded with a smile.

And now my sister, Alexandra, would like to say a few words.” Andie said, announcing me.

‘Sisters’, echoed throughout the large hangar. I gave Andie a stern glare.

“In truth, Andromeda ‘n Regina Celeste are mah half-sisters. “ I announced to clarify- my voice amplified by the overhead audio transducers. “We have our mother, Ruth, in common.

I waited until the echoes and murmuring faded before continuing.

On behalf’a me an the rest of mah sisters who call this here planet our home, Ah’d like ta ‘fishally welcome y’all to Earth!

‘Earth’ began to resonate loudly throughout the shuttle bay- not only voiced from those newly arrived, but also from Atlantis’ attending crew.

“Happy now, mother?” My daughter groaned, but smiled as she gently took my hand again. I squeezed it once to have her wait a moment.

“Andie? Y’all got this?” I asked. “Ah’m feelin’ a might tuckered, so me’n mah Reggie’s gonna port ta mah quarters.”

“So, you’ll be staying the week then, Alex?” Andie asked after closing her eyes for only a few seconds.

“Got it in one, hun.”



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