Alexandra Fleming awakes to witness her daughter Cassandra’s gift has arrived. Several previously mentioned paradoxes reach finality.
Sanford Fleming house, Long Beach, California, 0630hrs, April 23rd, 1953
That same dream had crept into my sleep again. Why did it constantly seek to ruin any full night’s sleep I desperately needed?
The soft sheets, fluffy pillow, and warm blanket made me not want to answer the small child’s voice I heard beside me.
The touch of a small warm hand on my exposed cheek coaxed me further out of my slumber- it also made me realize there was touch of another kind applied to me. The pleasant warmth emanating from Sandy’s still sleeping body made my choice to acknowledge the small voice even tougher.
“Momma! The voice insisted a little louder, this time nudging me several times.
“Mommy’s trying to get a little more sleep, hun,” I told the voice softly.
“Cassandra, honey, what is so important it can’t wait a few more minutes?” I asked softly as I opened my eyes to see no one there.
I closed my eyes again.
The voice was not so insistent, but playful this time. I again opened my eyes to an empty room.
It seemed like I had seen this day eons ago. It was finally here.
I closed my eyes again, but not tightly. I could still see the early dawn lit room in front of me.
Cassandra suddenly appeared in front of me, but before she could say anything, I thrust my hands out from under the covers and grabbed her around the waist. “Cassie!” I exclaimed quietly as I did so.
My three-year old started to giggle uncontrollably as I dragged her close and hugged her. After a minute or so, she settled down.
“How did you know it was me, mommy?”
“I always know when you’re around, honey. Mommas can do that. We can feel our children all around us.” I said quietly with a smile.
“Did you check with the Empress, mommy? Did she tell you I was here?”
“Nope. I could feel you here without the Empress’s help, Cassie. Now, why did you want to wake me up? Just to show me your gift?” I asked still being quiet. Sandy and I had been up rather late last night and he didn’t have to be up just yet.
“That’s my gift, mommy? Walking through your door is my gift?” The small girl asked in disappointment. “I thought I would be able to jump through time like you do, mommy.”
“Cassie,” I brushed my fingers through her long hair a few times, “I told you before that we each receive our own special gift. Being able to walk straight through a wooden door is no less special than traveling through time. I’m so proud of you, honey.” I told her, squeezing her a little tighter.
“But I wanted to travel through time with you, mommy. I want to help you fix things.”
“I promise y’all will get to do that in time, Cassie. You just have to be patient. Now why did you come in to get me?” I asked again, releasing her.
“I…I just wanted to show you what I can do, momma.” My daughter said after a longer than normal pause. She vanished and reappeared several more times with a broad smile on her precious face.
“What did you really come in for, Cassandra?” I pressed gently.
“You talked to the Empress!” She accused as she pointed to me and grimaced.
“Cassandra Fleming, what did you come in here to tell momma?” I asked in a little sterner tone.
There was another long pause as my daughter decided or tried to remember why she had woken me from a restful sleep.
“Momma. I think. I think…Samantha…did somethin’.”
So much for getting anymore sleep.
As per our bad timing of late, Sandy’s arm draped over me as I tried to slide out from under the covers.
“Not now, honey, Cassie is here and I need to change the baby.” I said quietly as I gently moved his arm off me.
I slid out of bed and found myself wearing my favorite pink nighty.
Why did my Reilly always revert back to that single piece of lingerie when I slept?
Feeling very embarrassed in front of my daughter, I keyed up a more modest, full-length nightgown.
“I like it when you do that, mommy! When I get older, do you think I could have a Reilly suit?”
“I’m sure you’ll get one, Cassie- when you’re old enough.” I told her as I took her hand in mine and walked to the door.
The soreness in both breasts as my weight shifted was a painful reminder that I had just weaned Samantha a scant eight days ago. Damn Alex Reilly’s nanos! They could heal wounds in nothin’ flat, but when it came to motherhood chores well, they weren’t in any hurry to heal that!
Entering the nursery and seeing my newest daughter wiggling, blowing bubbles, grunting happily, and red-faced made them feel even better! The urge to nurse Samantha was still very strong and I became annoyed easily these days
“Hey, sis, how’s things?” my voice said cheerfully and loudly from behind me. The sudden start incited more pain in my already sore udders!
“What do you want?” I groused as I tried to cradle my boobs and work on Samantha’s diaper at the same time!
“Aunt Allie!” Cassie screamed and tried to tackle her leg.
“Hey, squirt. How’s my big girl?” Allie asked our daughter.
“I got my gift! Ya wanna see, Aunt Allie?”
“Sure! Let’s see what you got, hun.”
Cassie moved over to me and vanished! She reappeared over by the room’s window.
“Boo!” she shouted and began to giggle.
“That’s wonderful, hun. You’re getting so big!”
I went to grab the baby powder, but only succeeded in knocking it over. A cloud of pleasantly perfumed powder wafted up to my face. Sammi chose that moment to complete her morning ritual.
I quickly slammed the soiled diaper back over her.
I needed a break!
“So why y’all here, Allie?” I asked rudely. This day was starting off so well!
“I was wondering if you were cleared for takeoff yet, sis?” My voice replied sounding all too cheerful.
“Haven’t tried yet, why?” I responded with an edge in my voice.
“Well, if I remembered the date right, you should be good ta go.”
“What do you want me to do, Alex?”
“First, see if you can phase, then we’ll talk.”
“First you get over here and finish changing your daughter, Alex! I’ll see if my wings have been reinstated while you do that. Then we’ll talk!” I growled.
“We are the grouchy one these days, aren’t we, sis.”
Oh, how I wished she would get close enough for me to sync with her!
“Still real sore, huh? I remember all too well, Alex. It’ll pass in another day or two.” She said trying to comfort me.
“Just come closer and we kin commiserate, sis.”
“Not a chance, Alex! I’m coming up on my next one in a few months as it is. I don’t want any additional swelling beforehand.”
“Y’all think I wanted these huge udders, Alex?” I growled at my future twin.
“Oh, come on! We only increased one-cup size from our normal ‘D’. It wasn’t that bad!”
“Come closer and I’ll remind y’all how bad it was, Hun.”
“Momma, you really shouldn’t fight with yourself. What would the neighbors think?” Cassie appeared between us and held her arms straight out at each of us.
“We’re not fighting, hun. We’re merely having a sisterly discussion.” I told our daughter.
“But you’re not sisters, momma.”
“She has a point, sis. Truce?” Allie offered with an evil smile.
What I really wanted her to offer was her hand!
“Truce.” I said before trying to pass my hand through the back of the rocker we kept in the room. It slipped through unimpeded. “I’m off waivers, so what y’all need me ta do, Allie?”
“Just a short trip to Flagstaff, 2028, July 12th. Something’s come up and I need you to bring Jack back to next year…’54.”
Closing my eyes I thought about that date.
“Mitchell!” I hissed at the recall of the man’s name!
“Ya, him, Alex, but he has to do those things! It only makes their bond stronger.”
“So this is why I was so angry?” I asked, inwardly seething at the hurt he would cause my baby.
“Alex, she’ll be old enough to hold her own, but I remember how I felt- how you feel now.”
“It’s still okay if I go off on him like before, right?”
“Ya, y’all can get it out of your system, sis! As Pa used to say- ‘give him both barrels’, Alex!”
“Honey? I thought you said you wanted to sleep in this morning?” Sandy’s voice said from the hallway. “Oh, hi Allie. I didn’t hear you come in.” He said with a devious smile.
“Nice to see you to, Sandy.” Allie smiled back, though her smile was somewhat more sad than happy.
“Dear, someone had to change Samantha, and I didn’t want to wake you.”
“I didn’t hear her fussing, sorry.”
“You never hear her fuss, hun. On the whole, men never hear that sort of thing- trust me, I know.” I giggled slightly before the irritation caused by my nightgown made me remember why I was in such a good mood this morning!
“So, to what do we owe the pleasure, Allie?” Sandy asked, changing the subject. He made no move to help finish his daughter’s change.
“Well, I thought that- having covered for my maternity leave- I’d ask if I could do me a favor.”
“Alex, if from anybody else, that would make no sense whatsoever.”
“But you understood it, right?”
“But you understood it nonetheless. What’s crazier, me telling you I want to ask myself a favor, or you comprehending what I meant?”
I rolled my eyes.
“Y’all wanna knock that off? I’m still hurtin’ and a headache’s not helpin’ any!” I growled.
“Sandy, could you finish dressing Sam? I need to talk to Allie- see what she has planned.” I asked my husband with my best smile.
“Sure, you two go have a sisterly chat, I’ll take care of the baby.” Sandy replied in a sing-song voice.
Allie and I went downstairs to the kitchen. Along the way I changed into my dress whites. I welcomed the support given by my regulation undergarments.
“So, you want me to bring Jack back to next year?” I asked as I fixed the percolator and started to make coffee.
“Ya, I need to take care of something a few years back.”
“Allie, 1865 isn’t only a few years back!”
“No, this isn’t that time. I was talking about that slight burp in 1937.”
Allie nodded sadly. “Yup.”
“Wow, I’d almost forgotten about that.” I responded.
“Ya, I know. Well, any way, I have to get back there. I’m sure I’ll get the royal inquisition for being late!”
“But I know what time I should be there, sis! Just arrive an hour earlier.”
“You know I can’t do that- stationary point in time, hun, remember?”
“I’d like ta know who wrote that damn rule, Allie!”
“Them.” My future twin pointed her finger straight up and giggled.
“So we’ve been told! I still don’t think she should be left ta wake up on that cold slab, Allie!”
“It serves its purpose, hun. Anyway, I’ll leave y’all ta get dressed.”
“Just wanted ta thank y’all for covering while I had Sammi.”
“No problem, sis. Uncle Rick never caught on.”
“He knew, Allie. He always knows.”
“Tell Sandy it was nice ta see him again, hun.”
“I know it’s hard on us, Allie. Even now it’s hard to repress those memories and I still have him.”
“I have my Brandon now. On many levels, he’s similar to Sandy” Allie’s eyes looked to the floor a moment. “Well, see y’all later, hun.”
I was alone at the kitchen table.
“Alex, is Allie going to stay for…oh, never mind, I thought she would hang around a while longer this time.” Sandy said as he came into the room.
“She had to go, sweetheart. She didn’t want to be later for her appointment.” I smiled at my husband.
Without answering, I stood from the table. “I won’t take a moment longer than necessary, dear.”
“Will you be back before dinner, Empress?”
“Don’t worry, Sanford Fleming, y’all will get fed.” I said, leaning over to kiss him goodbye.
My surroundings changed instantly to a room filled with mostly women and three men.
“Three!” The little cherub of a girl squealed followed by giggling and outright laughing.”
“Three?” My two temporal sisters said at the same time.
“Yes, three!” I said from my location just inside the room from the hallway. “I’m glad I was able to arrive in time for such a monumental occasion!”
Immediately everyone in the room, save three, fell to one knee.
“Welcome Empress. It is 1425hrs July 12th, 2028.” They greeted me in harmony.
“What’d I say to y’all about that?” I growled, glaring at everyone- especially Alex Covington and Alex Steinert!
“Its fun, sis!” Alex Steinert laughed as she stood first and approached to embrace me.
The familiar tingle greeted us.
“Y’all sure I ain’t dead, Samantha?” A male voice said from behind Alex.
“I told you, Jarrod, she’s the Empress. She can do things like this.” Sam laughed. I could see her shaking her head.
“Jack, I think your ride’s here.” Alex Steinert said over her shoulder then looked back to me.
“Though not exactly from the same time, I assume?” Alex said quietly.
“’53, sis. I just got Sam weaned last month.” I whispered. “I sort of couldn’t come right back for Jack as you can imagine.” I smiled tentatively.
“No, sis, not really.” She giggled.
I stared at my twin for a few long minutes. Talk about your ultimate dead draw!
“I’m absolutely impossible!” I shouted as I put my hands to the ceiling in angry defeat. “How do I stand myself sometimes?” I complained as my eyes locked onto another target.
Infuriated, I stomped past Alex Steinert and stopped before Sam’s beau-to-be.
“Y’all got somethin’ ta say ‘bout me bein’ here thrice, young reb?” I growled as I gave the young man the patented Demmit stare.
The boy gulped!
“No, ma’am…ah mean no, Empress.” He gulped a second time. Sweat appeared from his forehead and began to trickle down the sides of his face.
“Good! You’ll do!” I said pointing and glaring at him.
“Ma’a…Empress?” He swallowed hard a third time.
“Promise me y’all won’t take shit from him, Sammi!” I said as I met her eyes, shifting my attention from my initial target for a brief second.
“Yes, momma.” Samantha replied meekly.
“That’s mah girl!” I said returning my glare back to Jarrod Mitchell.
“If ah get another call from her Aunt Brie, ah’ll have ya back in that poor s’cuse of a hospital f’sure! We understand each other, boy?” I growled.
‘I’ve heard you sound like this before, Alex!’ Jack’s voice said in my head.
I knew she wasn’t talking to me.
Just to be sure, I turned and pointed a finger to my former Ex-O.
“Don’t!” I said pointing a finger. I felt my anger burn furiously. “Mah breasts er still hurtin’ an ah’m in no mood, Jack!” I glared at her for a moment. “Y’all ready or no?”
“Aye Cap.” Jack timidly answered with some confusion as to
my angry disposition.
I thrust my hand out and grabbed Joss’.
A slight sweet smell wafted into the air around us. I hoped Jacki could handle her twin!
“Alex. Ma’am, you’re doing it again.” Jacki said to me in an even voice.
I felt my face flush red with embarrassment as I realized Jack was right. I was going a bit over the edge with my acting!
“I’m sorry, y’all.” I apologized just above a whisper. The sweet smell of ozone dissipated quickly as Joss powered down and stepped away from me.
“I understand, Empress.” Alex Steinert commiserated, lowering her eyes to the floor.
“So do I, Empress.” Alex Covington added.
They both put an arm around me and hugged tightly. Again the tingle felt reassuring. I was really hoping they wouldn’t squeeze any harder though.
“Empaa!” Little Lexie screamed, her tone none too happy. The child reached out to me as far as her little arms would allow.
I felt my anger melt immediately.
“Of course, my little pixie, come to Aunt Alex.” I said as I crouched down with my arms in front of me.
Carroll helped the little toddler down, supporting her until she stabilized on her own two feet.
The girl made a beeline for me!
I smiled as I caught the child, and scooped her up into a hug. Young Lexie wrapped her arms around my neck and giggled uncontrollably! A familiar feeling, one I had had for the last year and a half intensified.
“Must be you, sis!” Alex Steinert giggled to Alex Covington.
“Sure y’all ain’t twin sisters, ‘cause that’s how ya’ll act?” Mitchell observed.
The increased pain in my chest needlessly reminded me of this youngin’s future foul-up!
“Nope they are one in the same, Jarrod.” Sam told him. “That one’s my present mom,” she pointed to Alex Covington. “That one’s from 1944.” She pointed to Alex Steinert. “The grouchy one is from 1953 or ‘54- shortly after I was born.” She said pointing to me.
“Protective of her pup- that explains things.” Mitchell said absentmindedly.
Sam looked at the young man in amazement.
“I never thought about it that way, Jarrod.” She admitted. “Maybe there is hope for you after all.”
“I jest wish ah knew what ah did ta piss ‘er off?” He said looking back cautiously to where the three of us now stood.
“Alex, don’t worry. I’ll watch him like a hawk, but he has to make that mistake you know. They grow closer together because of it.” Alex Covington reassured me.
“Just following the script, sis. Eat yer heart out, Hepburn.” I giggled quietly. “Honey, Aunt Alex has to give you back now, sweetie.” I told the cherub still clinging around my neck.
Carroll came over and retrieved her daughter.
“Girl’s as smart as her ma, Carroll.” I complimented.
“Empaa! Empaa!” Lexie’s fingers again reached out- for Alex Covington this time.
Carroll happily handed her over.
“See, sis? She does like you.”
Alex Steinert and I giggled. Carroll and the rest of our sisters joined in.
“Well, I’d like to get back to my own girls now. Jack, are you ready?” I announced.
“Aye, ma’am. Ready when you are. Empress,” Jack turned her attention back to my past self, “Thank you for the adventure and the second chance. I now know that Mrs. Lincoln was an extraordinary woman.”
“The pleasure was all mine, Jack. You know I always enjoy our travels together. Good luck on Terra.” Alex Steinert said then looked to me. “Both of you.”
I had almost forgotten about that! I nodded.
“Take care of Sandy, Alex.” Alex Covington told me with a sad smile.
“Thank you, my sisters.” I said as I felt my own face turn sad. “Until another time, Empresses.” I said taking Jack’s offered hand.
“Until another time, Empress.” Everyone in the room chorused. This time the three newest people in the room joined in.
Jack and I were now in her small apartment.
“Thanks for the lift, Alex.” She said before I released her hand.
We stood in silence for a minute.
“Care for some coffee, ma’am?” She asked, breaking the quiet.
“Sure, but first I need to drain the two cups I just had.” I responded and headed for her lavatory.
“Alex, what were the sad looks for when Admiral Covington mentioned Sandy? If…if it’s too personal, I’ll understand.” Jack asked after I had returned.
“Sandy doesn’t join the sisterhood, Jack.” I replied quietly. I noticed my hand shaking slightly as I picked up my cup to take another sip of coffee.
“I’m sorry, Alex…I didn’t know.”
“Its okay, Jack. I still have him- what I know of the future only makes it that much more special.”
Despite my best efforts, I felt a tear roll down my cheek.
Again there was an extended period of silence.
“So, when do we leave for Terra?” Jack asked, again breaking the silence.
“The day after tomorrow.”
“Is it going to be as painful as I remember it?”
“It won’t be a picnic, Jack.”
“No, I guess not. If our previous visit was any gauge…” She let the thought drop.
“Alex?” She asked after a long pause. “How come I can’t remember Connie’s dad?”
There it was.
“Maybe Tibius missed that specific memory, Jack. You do present them with an unusual dilemma. I mean…for the Terrans you’re as much of an enigma as the Empress.”
“I never thought of it that way before. Thanks, Alex.”
I couldn’t believe she bought it that easily! I continued to concentrate on keeping my mind off certain things.
“So…what aren’t you telling me, Cap?”
“I can sense that you aren’t telling me the whole truth, Empress. Is it specific to some upcoming mission that I not know the details?”
“It is, Jack. Sorry if that makes you feel like I’m holding out on you. I value our friendship too much, but some things just can’t be revealed at this time.” I told her as I looked to the floor.
“Oh.” Jack looked sad.
A few more minutes went by in silence as I finished my coffee.
“Alex, if the Empress can permit it…will I ever meet someone…you know…special?”
“Now that I can answer, hun. Yes. Absolutely, yes.” I said with a smile.
“When?” She asked shyly.
My smile turned devious. “You’ll know when the time is right, hun. It will be blatantly obvious. Trust me on that.”
“Must you always be a tease, Alex?”
“Yep.” I chirped as I got up from her small table. “Look, I have to get back to last year and make preparations for our trip to Terra. I’ll see you then, Jack.”
“But why don’t I remember us going there last y…”
My own kitchen appeared around me.
“BOO!” Cassie’s tiny voice shouted from my right.
“Oh! You scared me, honey!” I jumped as she expected me to before phasing out and moving behind her.
“Boo!” I laughed as I rephased and grabbed her tiny waist in my hands.
My daughter began to laugh hysterically! This would be our little game until she reached the fifth grade.
Sandy called from work a few hours later.
“Hi, sweetheart, what’s the matter?” I asked into the phone’s handset.
“Something came up with one of our new navigation beacons and I have to spend a few days in San Diego.” His voice said calmly.
I immediately consulted my gift.
“More like eight days, hun.” I told him calmly.
“You would know, dear!” He laughed. “Should I ask if we get it fixed?”
“It’ll work perfectly until taken out of service ten years from now, honey.” I said cheerfully.
“Could I ask you what needs to be replaced?” He asked. I could almost see the smile on his face.
“That’s for you smart men to figure out, hun. See you in eight.” I laughed.
“You and the kids take care then. I love you Alexandra Fleming!”
“Love you too, Mr. Fleming.” I replied with a smile before hanging up.
Sanford Fleming house, Long Beach, California, 0630hrs, April 25rd, 1953
“So when do you leave, Alex?” Emily asked as I poured her some coffee. She had just started her prearranged- relatively- eight-day leave from base.
“Thanks for volunteering to watch the girls for me.”
“I thought you would be in a hurry to go get Jack?”
“One thing needs to happen before I can go anywhere, sis.”
“I don’t see what. I’m here, Cassie and Sammi are in good hands…” She started to say.
Actually I was waiting for Brie to contact me as I had foreseen.
“Temporal Agent Brianna Steinert to Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space! Come in, Alexandra!” Brie’s voice rang though my head.
“What’s up, Alex?” Emily asked as she saw my attention shift.
“Brie.” I pointed to my temple.
“Oh. You better take it then.” She told me as she began to get up from the table and disappeared into the living room to check on little Samantha.
“Temporal Agent Brianna Steinert to Alexandra, Empress of…”
“I heard y’all the first time, Brie, what is it?” I answered, cutting her off mentally.
“Alex, Jack needs your help in 2015. Are you available?”
“If y’all would give me a more specific date an’ time, sis.” I responded using our special link.
“Oh…ya…right. She needs your help at her house in Springfield, Missouri, June 10th, 2015, Alex.” I heard her reply.
I felt myself cringe.
“Alex, what’s the matter? Is something bad going to happen?” Emily asked in concern as she returned to the kitchen holding Samantha.
“Sis, I have to go. I’ll try to be quick about this. I have to go to 2015 to sort something out. Hopefully, I’ll be right back.”
My kitchen became a living room, well decorated, with a feminine touch. Jack sat on the couch with her face in her hands. She was crying.
“What’s wrong, hun?” I asked quietly after I rephased.
She barely moved.
“Russ and I had a fight.” She replied just above a whisper.
“So that’s the big emergency Brie called me about? You and Russ had a fight?” I asked in amazement.
“Alex,” She finally looked up at me, “I…IIIIII almost…almost…” She began crying again and returned her head to her hands.
“Mind telling me what this fight was about, hun? Leave out any details that are too personal.” I asked softly.
“Russ finally wants to start a family.”
I looked at her a moment.
“And you’re not sure you’re ready for that, right?” I inquired gently.
“No, Alex, I’m more than ready, but Russ…he…he says that he’s ready, but his thoughts tell me he’s saying that for me.” She told me as she again looked up at me. Her eyes were red and swollen. I wondered how long she had been crying before I arrived.
“Jack, maybe he just wants to please you. I’m sure he wants kids too.”
“There was uncertainty in his mind, Alex! If you’re sure you want something there shouldn’t be uncertainty!”
“That’s not always true, hun. I should know about uncertainty! Where is Russ now?” I asked to change the subject.
“I…I don’t know. When we were arguing, he got real angry. Alex, I’ve never seen him so mad!” She sobbed quietly.
“Is that when you almost…?” I let my question drop.
“Alex, he hit me. He slapped me when I accused him of lying about his intentions- that he might be too old to give me any children! That’s when…” She dissolved to tears again.
I sat down next to her and took her left hand in mine. We sat quietly for a few minutes.
“Jack, fifty-one isn’t that old anymore. Look at Hefner, he’s a fossil.” I said trying to cheer her up.
“Alex, he’s been out of work for four years. We’ve been living on the last of my military pension and what little I make at work. Things haven’t been intimate between us for a while now, but last night…last night I thought I saw the old Russ peak through. Things…things happened last night that made me think things were about to change.”
I nodded in understanding.
Jack showed no sign of cheering up as the minutes passed.
“I know!” I shook her hand gently and smiled when she looked at me. “How would you like to go on a trip with the Empress?”
“I shouldn’t leave, Alex. What would Russ think if he came home and I wasn’t here?”
“Russ wouldn’t know anything about it, Jack- Empress, remember?” I said with a wink.
“Really? You would just take us on a trip…spur of the moment like this- just like that?”
“The Empress protects her friends and family, Jack- especially her family!”
Jack’s beautiful smile finally broke through!
“Then it’s settled.” I proclaimed. “Just one thing before we leave…I need a base date and time, hun.”
Jack looked shocked.
“I’m sorry, Empress! Today is June 10th, 2015, 1100hrs, ma’am.”
I nodded as I committed the date and time to memory.
“So, where are we off to, Alex?” Jack asked with renewed energy.
“First we pick up a few friends, Jack.” I told her offering my hand. “Right after you change into your Reilly suit.” I giggled. Apparently Jack hadn’t thought about changing out of her…sleepwear.
Jack looked so pretty when she was embarrassed!
“Sorry, Alex, it just slipped my mind.” She confessed with a crimson face.
A slip would have been considered modest by what she almost had on. Then again…what I had on this morning… I had to remember this design for later.
Exactly one hour later Jack took my hand and we appeared at our first stop.
The large room, more a small conference hall, full of desks, telephones, typewriters, loads of paper, and women was state of the art in 1950’s business normal. The noisy din of typing, ringing phones and the one-sided conversations on them, immediately assaulted our ears.
In front of us, a small woman with extremely long, raven colored hair sitting with her back to us answered her ringing phone.
“International Business Machines. My name is Tish, how may I route your call, please?” The woman said in her best British accent. She immediately began talking to whomever on the other end in Spanish. “International Business Machines, mi nombre es Tish. ¿Cómo puedo transferir su llamada?” The woman pushed a button on the phone and hung it up abruptly.
“Is that Takashi? When are we, Alex?” Jack asked in surprise.
“Tokyo, Japan, February 26th, 1954.”
At that moment Tish said something I’d rather not translate and began rubbing her eyes in disgust.
“Around quitting time I would assume, Jack.” I added as a bell rang and a stampede of women headed for any door that led outside!
Takashi stayed seated for some reason. It was then we noticed a small, heavy-set Japanese man coming out a door at the far end of the nearly deserted hall. Tish slowly rose from her chair.
“Moritsu Takashi, I require the transcripts from this morning’s conference on my desk by noon tomorrow. I remind you additional compensation is not approved!” The arrogant sounding man said in his native tongue.
Tish nodded and bowed silently. Her apparent boss returned no niceties and simply walked past without any second thought.
“And I thought I had an asshole for a boss!” Jack groused.
I heard a door slam behind us. A man’s muffled voice cried out in pain.
“Jack!” I chided with a slight giggle.
Takashi looked around suddenly startled by the commotion. She began looking around the room for something
That ‘something’ was undoubtedly us.
“Jacquelyn Cummins?” Tish said quietly into the air.
“Empress!” She hissed- her tone was less than happy.
Nope…she knew I was here!
“I guess she’s still mad at you, huh?”
“Empress! I know you to be here. Show yourself!” Tish growled in a less than cheerful voice.
“Let go of my hand, Alex?” Jack asked as she looked gently into my eyes.
I released her hand and watched as she stumbled slightly from her sudden rephasing.
“Jacquelyn!” Tish jumped with a start as Jack suddenly appeared a few feet from her. “Why are you here, Commander? Where is the Empress?” She demanded as her eyes narrowed.
“Hi, Tish.” Jack waved shyly before bowing to her. “Alex was afraid you might scream for help if she appeared.”
Tish cautiously moved the few steps toward her former crewmate and suddenly wrapped her arms around Jack.
“It is good to see you again, ma’am!” Tish told her. “Empress, I will not announce your presence nor will I say it is good to see you again, for that matter.”
“I stayed away like you ordered, Moritsu Takashi.” I said formally and bowed respectively to her.
“I still hold you responsible for my home’s destruction, Empress!”
“I told you many times that I tried to stop him. I can only apologize so many times.” I said quietly.
“I had friends there you know. Friends that will never understand what they did to receive such barbaric treatment.”
“I’m sorry, Moritsu Takashi.” I replied. I felt a tear form.
“Tish, she saved your family, doesn’t that garner some forgiveness?” Jack said from her side.
“Miss Cummins is right. I thank you for saving my family, Empress.” Takashi said as she bowed slightly to me.
Without warning she stepped to me and wrapped her arms around me. “I have missed you so much, Alexandra!”
More tears fell from my face. This was the new start for the two of us. I hadn’t seen or talked to Ms. Moritsu since late 1945- the day she found out about her hometown of Hiroshima being blown into the next realm.
“How are your parents, Takashi?” I asked softly with a sniff or two.
“I check in on them often, though I still haven’t gotten up the nerve to tell them- not that they would believe me in the least. They are both in they’re eighties and therefore may not survive the shock.” She replied sadly as she again looked to the floor.
“Alex is going on a trip, Tish. I think she wants to know if you’d like to come along?” Jack gushed, happy that the two of us seemed to finally be on better terms, but more I think to lighten the mood.
“Really,” Tish eyed me carefully, “a trip to where, precisely?”
“I was thinking we’d pay a visit to Alex Reilly.” I admitted for the first time since I had left Long Beach, 1953.
“Reilly BC? Why Reilly BC, Alex? Why not Reilly AD, instead?” Jack asked in surprise.
“I had a dream last night involving Alex Reilly. She seemed to need our help with something… for the life of me, I can’t remember what.” I told them.
“If you can’t or don’t want to come along, we’ll understand, Tish.” Jack said sadly.
Moritsu Takashi glared at me for several long seconds.
“Do you wish for me to attend you this trip, Empress?” She asked formally.
“It would honor me greatly if you decided to travel with us, Ms. Moritsu.” I said with sincerity.
“Only if you stop calling me ‘Ms. Moritsu’, Empress.”
“Then it would be a pleasure to travel with you, Tish, but only if you stop calling me ‘Empress’.” I replied with a nervous smile.
“It is a deal.” Tish bowed to me with a smile. “When do we leave?”
“Are you wearing your Reilly?” I asked.
“No, I haven’t worn it in several years, Alex.”
“Well, we leave after you’ve changed then.” I giggled.
“To do that I need to go home.”
“Okay, Tish, I’ll drive.” I said with a cheerful smile.
Tish automatically took my hand in hers. “Ms. Cummins, if you would relay my thoughts to Alex, please?”
“Only if you stop calling me ‘Ms. Cummins’, Tish.”
I immediately saw Tish’s modest apartment in my mind.
The empty hall became a small one-room apartment decorated in a tasteful Japanese motif.
“I thought you didn’t like such close quarters, Tish?” Jack asked as I released both women’s hands.
“A single, half Japanese, half Navajo woman has a very limited selection of lodgings in Tokyo, Ms…Jack- anyway, I’m lucky to afford this on what those cretins pay me!”
“Are things that difficult here, Tish?” I asked.
“Every night before bed, I pray that you appear and take me away from this reality.” She looked to the floor a moment. “And now, here you are, Sensei.” Tish wrapped her arms around me again and squeezed harder this time.
I heard her sniff back a tear or two.
“You two must stay for dinner.”
“Do they accept American dollars here, Tish?” I asked innocently.
“Yes, American dollars are worth thousands more than our yen.”
“Then I’m buyin’, hun.” I announced. “You just get yerself prettied up an we’ll go wherever y’all want, Tish.”
“Please have a seat, ladies. I shant be but half an hour.” Tish giggled as she began to undress on her way to the lavatory. At least I hoped it was the lavatory since I could see no water closet.
True to her estimate, Tish pronounced herself ready in twenty-six minutes.
“Where to, M’lady?” I asked as I offered my hand.
“The place I’m thinking about is within walking distance, Alex-chan, besides, this is Tokyo. There will be no private place for you to rephase.”
“Oh, okay. Jack, we still need to change. Something close to Tish’s outfit, but more American looking, I think?”
Tish nodded her approval at our selections and smiled.
“Then lead on, hun.” I motioned to the door with a genuine smile.
I recognized the woman’s face immediately. Tish had brought us to her parent’s restaurant. As her mother seated us, she seemed to recognize me and desperately search her memory.
I doubted she would remember me from eight years ago.
“Misu wa, jibun no namae Arekusandoradeshou ka? (Miss, is your name Alexandra?)” She asked. I was glad I had my translator on.
“Hai, soreha, fujin Moritsudesu! Watashi wa okusama, anata ga subete no kono-jikan-go ni oboete iru to wa omowanakatta. (Yes it is, Mrs. Moritsu! I didn’t think you would remember after all this time, ma’am.)” I smiled, answering her in Japanese.
Tish glared at me with contempt!
“You still look the same as that day in town! How have you been, child?” Tish’s mother asked.
“I’m well, ma’am, and thank you for the compliment.” I replied as I bowed my head slightly to her.
“Takashi, I didn’t know you knew Alexandra? How did you two meet?” She asked.
“Alex and I met during the war. She came to my rescue when I was in peril.” Tish replied.
“And you, Miss…” Tish’s ma pointed to Jack.”You seem familiar as well. Have we met?”
Jack played dumb- as if not understanding the language.
“Momma asks if you two have met before. She thinks she recognizes you, Jacquelyn.” Tish translated- her eyes narrowed.
“I can honestly say I’ve never been to Tokyo before, ma’am.” Jack said, as she shook her head ‘no’.
Tish rolled her eyes before translating Jack’s reply.
“I think I would remember such a beautiful fair-haired woman.” Mrs. Moritsu said as she narrowed her eyes and looked off to the side slightly. “Maybe it was just in a dream that I saw you. Do you sometimes answer to ‘Jack’, child?”
Again Tish played translator, but not before Jack’s face flushed!
“Mrs. Moritsu, Tish and I are the only ones that call her that! How did you know?” I asked in complete surprise. Hopefully that would stop her from further inquiries.
Tish’s ma stared at the three of us for a moment.
“You know, I just noticed that a booth is open back by the kitchen. It is secluded and a little quieter. I want you to meet someone. Please, follow me, ladies.”
After quietly, and persistently urging us to follow, Mrs. Moritsu seated us at the mentioned booth. It was located right next to the swinging door to the kitchen but isolated by a wall from the wait staff traffic.
“I’ll be right back to take your order. I have someone here that wants to say hello.” She told us as she hurried around the corner.
Jack started to look worried.
“What’s up, Jack?” I asked as I tried to focus on the slight commotion in the kitchen. From what I could hear, a man and women were obviously having a heated discussion.
“She knows, Alex.” Jack said as she closed her eyes and sighed heavily.
“She knows what, Jacquelyn?” Tish asked conspiratorially.
“Your mother knows who we are.” She pointed between herself and me.
“How would she know…?” Tish glared at me. “I thought you would do that mind erase thing that the Commander can do on her, Sensei?” She accused.
“I did Tish.” Jack reassured her quietly. “It’s been my experience that sometimes certain people are too ‘headstrong’ for it to stick.” She continued even quieter.
The two quibbling voices got louder and Mrs. Moritsu suddenly appeared at our table with her husband in tow.
“Take a good look at this one! Tell me now who is imagining things!” Mrs. Moritsu said pointing to me.
“She looks familiar, that is true, but I cannot say for certain, wife!” Tish’s pa said in his own defense.
“Arhh! You men are all alike! Must I always be the observant one? Take a good look at her! Her name is Alexandra! Think eight years ago, you old fool!”
The older gentleman adjusted his glasses to really look at me. I noticed Jack really getting nervous.
“Yes…she does look very familiar. Is she the one? Are you sure, wife?”
“Look at the fair-haired one! You should definitely recognize her, you perverted old fool!”
“You are ‘Jack’?” He asked.
Jacki Cummins blushed even more!
“See! I told you they were sent from above! You did not believe me then! But now you cannot deny their appearance here!” Tish’s ma continued.
“Mr. and Mrs. Moritsu, do you have a few seconds…just a few seconds to sit down with us so we can talk?” I asked in Japanese.
“I can’t! I have meals to prepare. I have a business to run! Maybe some other time.” Mr. Moritsu replied, trying to excuse himself.
“Mr. Moritsu, I INSIST you and Mrs. Moritsu have a seat.” I suggested sliding over to make room for the two next to me.
‘Jack, could you ‘suggest’ they sit down, please?” I thought to her.
With a look of horror, both sat down next to me.
‘Acoustic field, if you will, hun?’ I thought again.
Jack nodded to me.
‘They’re terrified, Alex.’ She thought back to me.
“Mr. and Mrs. Moritsu please do not be afraid. We have no interest in causing either of you harm.” I said as gently as I could. “We just came in with our friend, Takashi Moritsu, to enjoy your wonderful cooking.” I continued.
“Are you demons?” Tish’s ma asked, but I could see the same thoughts going through her pa’s mind also.
I really wish I couldn’t see things like this sometimes.
“Not in the least, ma’am.” I giggled slightly. “We’re just a couple American girls visiting an old friend and her parents.” I added with a smile.
“Alex, what are you doing?” Tish hissed!
“Old friend and ‘her’ parents? Alexandra, our son died at sea in the war when one of your submarines sunk his ship. That is the only child we had.”
Tish’s expression went sad and she looked down at the table, her hope suddenly dashed.
The Moritsu’s noticed her reaction.
“Were you his wife?” Her ma asked in disbelief. “Oh, child, I’m sorry. You never said anything about it!”
“Mother, I am not his wife!” Tish told her quietly through gritted teeth.
“Tish is right, ma’am, she was never married.” I said to clarify.
“Then what does that mean?” Her pa asked in confusion.
“Takashi Moritsu never died on that ship.” I said as calmly and seriously as possible.
“And just how would you know that, Alexandra?” Mrs. Moritsu asked in doubt.
“Because Jack and I, and the rest of my crew, saved him.”
I let that try to sink in before continuing. The last minute or so Tish sat stone silent with a look of total horror.
“Mrs. Moritsu would you take your husband’s hand, please?”
I noticed Jack bump Tish’s arm and take hers.
“Why would I want to do that, Alexandra?” Her ma asked.
“Do you trust me, Mrs. Moritsu? Don’t you want to learn the secret of your son’s disappearence?”
“What will happen if I do?”
“Then I will ask you to take my hand. After that I will offer my other hand to Tish.”
“And then what will happen? Will we magically disappear?” She scoffed.
“Something like that…but do you trust me? Ask your feelings if this would be a good thing to do, Mrs. Moritsu.”
After looking at her husband for a moment she cautiously took my offered hand. Her eyes closed tightly as our hands met. They opened quickly afterward. She looked surprised that nothing had happened.
“What did you expect to happen, Mrs. Moritsu, all you did was take my hand?” I giggled.
“I thought we would magically disappear.” She confessed.
“Not yet, and only from someone else’s perspective, and certainly not before the other two members of our party take my hand.” I told her.
Takashi reached across the table and took my other hand. There was a lot of worry on the girl’s face.
The busy, noisy restaurant became a quiet, empty, large room- its futuristic appointments, coldly utilitarian compared to our previous location.
Both older Moritsu’s gasped as they began to look around!
“Welcome to Kili Island, Reilly Research Facility.” I said in greeting. “RVP, please state the date and time?” I asked the A.I. still in Japanese.
“Welcome Empress, today is March 19th, 2004BC, 1304hrs.” Randi Peltierre’s voice answered.
“Who said that?” Tish’s ma asked in surprise.
“I did.” Randi giggled.
“Where are you? We can hear you but cannot see you!” Mr. Moritsu accussed loudly.
“If you will give me a few minutes, I will show you exactly who I am.” The disembodied voice complied. The Moritsu’s never noticed that all conversation to this point was in Japanese.
“Why did that voice call you ‘Empress’?” Mrs. Moritsu asked me with alarm.
“Because, mother, Alex is the ‘Empress of Time and Space’. How else do you explain your being here?” Tish tried to explain rationally. “She and she alone can travel the mediums. She can go anywhere, anyplace, and anytime that she wishes just by thinking about it…and she is my friend.”
“And what are you exactly, Takashi…really?” Her mother demanded.
“I am an interpreter! I am capable of translating and conversing in over forty-five known languages…a few of those not being known on this planet, mother!” Tish replied in anger.
“Why do you keep calling her mother?” Her pa asked in confusion.
“Mr. Moritsu, is it not strange that a woman bearing the same first and family name as your supposed deceased son finds her way into your establishment? One, I might add you opened just after the surrender, AND two weeks after you suddenly decided to move from Hiroshima to Tokyo?” I questioned the two as they continued to stare at the three of us.
“Mother, Father, Alex was the woman that persuaded you to move before the destruction. She foresaw the coming apocalypse and moved everyone she could before it happened! She even tried to dissuade the American president from doing it in the first place!” Tish broke down in tears finally. “She saved as many as she could because of me! She saved you…because of me!” She collapsed and cried into Jack’s shoulder.
“Takashi! Sister, why are you crying?” Randi said running into the room. She hurried around the other side of the table and sat beside her temporal twin.
“You are trying to trick us, demoness!” Mrs. Moritsu shouted in anger. “I did not give birth to twins! Why are you tempting us like this, you that calls yourself Alexandra?”
“Mother, did you not pay attention to my greeting of the Empress? Did you even pay attention to the date as given?” Randi glared at the older woman in anger. “This is the year BEFORE the Jewish prophet 2004!” Randi looked over at me for a minute.
“Empress, please state origin date of this expedition.”
“Tokyo, Japan, February 26th, 1954.”
“Input accepted, Empress.” She again looked at the Moritsu’s. “To save you the math, you are three thousand-nine hundred, and fifty-seven years into Earth’s past. Does that mean anything to either of you?” Randi chastised angrily.
“How do we know you tell the truth? We thought Alexandra to be truthful and look how she used that trust! Prove to us that this is truly the ancient past!” Tish’s ma screamed.
“My presence here should be enough to convince even the most devout skeptic of that, Mrs. Moritsu.” My voice said calmly from the open doorway.
The two older Moritsu’s head’s snapped around to see Alex Reilly standing there.
“I am the director of Reilly Research Station and the reigning Empress of Time and Space in this era. What Alexandra Steinert has told you…”
“Fleming, sis- Alexandra Fleming.” I said as Alex glared at me.
“What Alex Fleming has told you is absolute fact and you are indeed in the time of the Pharaoh.” Alex Reilly finished.
“There are two of you?” Tish’s pa looked back to me in confusion.
“More or less, yes, Mr. Moritsu. Alex Reilly is what I call my ‘temporal twin’ as is Randi Peltierre to your daughter, Takashi.” I answered as I stood to welcome my sister.
“It is good to see you, Alex! I hope I haven’t interrupted anything by coming here?” I welcomed Alex Reilly quietly before offering a hug. “I can hug you right?”
“You are not interfering, my sister. I have just returned from that pivotal mission. Of course you can offer me welcome!”
I wrapped my arms around my temporal twin. The tingle felt wonderful!
“I’ve missed you, Alex. I can never repay you for your help in recovering the Empress. I hope that was the last time such an event will occur.” I apologized just above a whisper.
“And yet you still taught me something I didn’t know about myself, Empress. You owe me nothing, as we are sisters- sisters share everything…or so I have been told.” Alex Reilly winked and smiled at me. Each of us tightened our arms around the other.
“So tell me,” Alex nodded back to our guests after a minute, “how long do you plan to stay?”
“Maybe a day or two. I was basically here to pick up Randi for our next mission. Tish’s parents needed to know that their daughter was still alive before they…they…passed on.” I felt the sadness grow in my heart for these people.
“The Mahanilui is out of the question, Alex.” She reminded me.
“Maybe.” I mumbled to myself.
“No maybe about it, Alex! We’ve been told about spoiling the plans of upper management, sis. I’d rather we not find out their idea of punishment.” She warned. “Still…if they were to accidentally…”
Alex Reilly let that last thought drop, but winked at me again.
“Could I offer you something to drink, Mr. and Mrs. Moritsu?” She asked as she broke our embrace.
“I could use a stiff drink.” Mr. Moritsu said predictably. Tish’s ma nodded to that. “Make it two for each of us.” He demanded honorably.
“I’ll get it for them, Empress.” Tish nodded to her twin to move, shot from her seat, and hurried over to the food dispenser. On her way back she gave both Alex and I a distrusting glare before serving the drinks to her parents.
‘Nice try, Alex.’ Jack thought to me.
“This is the best sake I’ve had in a long time.” Tish’s pa said after slugging his second glass down without pause.
“Thank you, Moritsu Shinji. Takashi personally entered the formula into my spirits archive several years ago. She noted that it was a private recipe handed down through multiple revisions.” RVP answered.
Moritsu stared to the ceiling and periodically glanced over to Tish and Randi. “It sounds like you.” He gasped and pointed.
“I should hope so. I designed and built this station’s artificial intelligence interface myself.” Randi giggled as she blushed.
“And I have been performing flawlessly for almost a millennium now.” RVP said proudly.
“And y’all will work beautifully for several more too, hun.” I stated truthfully. Randi’s smile couldn’t get any brighter hearing that.
“Spirit archive; handed down through multiple ‘revisions’?” I have never heard someone talk so strangely.” Tish’s pa retorted after patiently waiting his chance to speak.
“The people of Reilly have a tendency toward strange speech, Mr. Moritsu. Sometimes I even have a hard time understanding any of them, even Alex Reilly.” I related, smiling at her. I may have even stuck my tongue out at her slightly.
“RVP, please prepare a guest room for Takashi’s parents.” Alex Reilly said as she looked at the two. It sounded more like an order.
“I have already taken the liberty and prepared a room on the western side of the facility next to Takashi’s quarters, Director. I trust they will be as impressed by the sunset here as their daughter.”
“You have residence here, Takashi?” Her ma asked in surprise.
“Why wouldn’t she, ma’am?” I asked with equal surprise. “Takashi is a valued member of our sisterhood. She is and always will be…family.”
Mr. Moritsu finally found his voice…or the nerve to use it. “If what you say is true, how has my son become our daughter- and why would he agree to this?”
“I’ll take this one, Alex.” Alex Reilly said as she raised her hand to stop me. “It is a very long and complex story, sir. The short explanation is that I am a scientist. My world, in its search for alternative energy solutions experimented with the core of our planet. Through a series of failures and miscalculations, the planet’s core became unstable and uncontrollable.”
Alex stopped when she saw the expressions on our guest’s faces.
“Yes, I said our planet. I am from another world. If you truly believe that you are here, in Earth’s past, then y’all shouldn’t be surprised.”
Alex rolled her eyes when their expressions didn’t change.
“At my request, my development team set about designing a doomsday plan to save our species should the experiment reach critical. We designed an intelligent, capable machine tiny enough to travel freely throughout the human body. It would first modify our physical bodies to survive the expected radiation from what we theorized to be a massive fusion reaction thereby turning our Homeworld into a sun. Once modified, the ‘nanos’ as I dubbed them would continue to maintain our bodies in near perfect condition. Our initial tests confirmed the basic functions, but in our haste, I neglected to remove a certain key feature used for confirmation of proper activity. To make modification more observable in our test animals, we programmed the machines, the nanos, to change the subject’s gender.” Alex lowered her head in shame.
“That specific trait went unnoticed as the nanos were activated mere hours before our Homeworld went critical. We all awoke to new bodies, new talents, and new lives. Alex Fleming, Jacquelyn Cummins, and your Takashi are just the latest recipients of my foul-up nine hundred and eighty revolutions…years ago.” Alex finished as a few tears cascaded down her cheeks.
Our guests’ expressions remained unchanged. Neither one had understood my twin’s explanation.
“In layman’s terms, Alex turned us all into women.” I said bluntly. “My whole submarine crew, your Takashi, and many others became female in the matter of six or seven hours.”
“So the voice of the Empire, Tokyo Rose, was right about the submarine of women sinking one of our freighters?” Moritsu Shinji accused.
“That’s about all she ever got right, sir.” Jack snorted.
“Father, Alex did sink my ship, but it was not an innocent freighter like that lying whore led everyone to believe! We carried enough weaponry to hold our own with any American destroyer. We carried munitions and artillery, not the basics of food and medicine.” Tish informed her parents angrily.
“According to the ‘rules’ of warfare, Alex had no reason to come back and rescue any survivors- especially after we opened fire on her first! You see, her boat was surfaced, flying a quarantine flag, and a Red Cross flag.” Tish paused as the memory brought a tear to her eye.
“At the time Alex and her crew had no idea what had happened to them or how. In order to not be taken prisoners, they fought back- much to my captain’s surprise. When my ship exploded I was thrown into the water. I had broken several bones and fractured my skull, but I was lucky enough to find a lifeboat still intact. In my condition I was unable to right it and therefore hung on to its overturned keel as best I could. I spent over four hours in the water fearfully awaiting my fate by either drowning or shark. Alex rescued me and her sister Emily tended my wounds. Prudently, Alex locked me away in their brig so I wouldn’t harm her crew. The guards she had assigned to watch me though felt sorry that I was in so much pain and offered…”
“What Takashi is trying to tell you is that my crew offered her food and water and unexpectedly Takashi began to change before their very eyes. The changes continued until she looked exactly how you see her now. The best thing about her change though was the repair of all her wounds.” I finished the story for her, not wishing to reveal the Mahanilui’s nuances.
“But my Takashi was nothing close to an interpreter. How can you understand so many languages?”
“Mother, the Mahanilui as we call it grants us each specific ‘gifts’. Alex, as has been said can travel through Space and Time. Jacquelyn can do miraculous things with her mind…”
“Would you like another sake, Mr. Moritsu?” Jack interrupted.
Tish’s pa reached for the offered glass hovering off to his right without even noticing it was held by nothing physical.
Tish’s ma, on the other hand, noticed and gasped loudly!
“Bloody tasteful of you, Jacquelyn!” Tish growled in her proper British accent as she shook her head.
“And more, Mrs. Moritsu.” Jack answered the unspoken question calmly with a devious grin. “Let me clear the table of those empty glasses for you folks.” She added as five empty jiggers rose from the tabletop and hovered over to the food dispenser.
Both pair of elder Moritsu eye’s popped from their sockets!
Alex Reilly and I both closed our eyes and shook our heads in annoyance.
“So that is how you defeated us!” Shinji Moritsu accused.
“No, father! Alex may have commanded a submarine, but the Empress never participated enough to sway the outcome either way! She tries to repair discrepancies in past and future. The Empress has saved more lives during the war than you know. I’m not even sure about the exact number.” Tish explained.
It was time for me to reveal the extent of my efforts in Japan in late summer 1945.
“Jack and I, along with several others from my crew, safely relocated over a hundred residents from each of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I’m only sorry that more people wouldn’t believe us and agree to leave.” I revealed sadly. “Your people are so very headstrong, Tish.”
I felt a single tear roll down each of my cheeks, as Takashi looked at me horror-struck by my confession. I knew she had just assumed I had saved her family and only her family!
“I’m sorry, Alex.” She said quietly. “I just assumed you…”
“I still failed in my initial mission, Tish. If I had succeeded, both cities would still exist.”
“If that is true why didn’t we meet Takashi there?” Mrs. Moritsu asked in confusion. “And why can I barely remember any of this?”
“I didn’t want Tish hurt by those too stubborn to leave.” I admitted. “We went on sorties when we had the opportunity. I still had to captain my boat as commanded.” I paused. “As for why neither of you remember any of that time specifically…Jack has another unique gift. She can make you forget- wipe out any memory she needs to assure our anonymity and safety. You, it seems, Mrs. Moritsu, are one of the rare people that are resistant to that part of her gift.” I explained.
“So that’s how I knew you, Alexandra? Jacquelyn was not successful in taking my memories?”
During our explanations I noticed my twin getting agitated. She suddenly looked extremely tired.
“Look…” Alex Reilly said as she broke the silence that had fallen on the table. “I just came back from a long, tough mission and I think I’ve earned a few days worth of sleep! Being reminded of that awful week in 1945 will only give me nightmares. Mr. and Mrs. Moritsu, congratulations y’all- it’s a girl!” Alex Reilly brusquely exclaimed as she turned and walked out the door and down the passageway.
“Wow, that was…blunt.” Jack said after a long minute. “What mission was she on that was so tough, Alex?”
“One day I’ll tell y’all, I promise, Jack. For now it has to remain the Empress’ closely guarded secret.” I told her cryptically.
“I figured as much.” She replied with a sigh.
“Randi, I was wondering if y’all would like to go on a little trip with us? I assume Alex has had you stuck in the system for a while?”
“As a matter of fact I could use what you term a ‘vacation’, Empress. When do we leave?” Randi’s eyes as well as her smile grew in excitement.
“Day after tomorrow- as soon as I return Mr. and Mrs. Moritsu to Tokyo. In the mean time, maybe you can take them on a tour of Reilly and the Island?”
“It would be my pleasure, Empress.” Randi agreed with even more excitement. “Come on Tish, let’s show mother and father around.” She said with a giggle as she jumped up from the table and pulled Tish from her seat! Both women came around to help ‘they’re’ parents up.
Tish and Randi hurried out the doorway, each with a Moritsu in tow.
“So, you’re not going to forget to return their booth, right, Alex?” Jack giggled at me. I hadn’t even noticed that it had come along for the ride as well.
“It works out better this way, Jack.” I said as I fought to conceal my embarrassment. It was amazing how rusty I had gotten in just twenty-eight months.
Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, 1030hrs, March 21st, 2004BC
“Mr. and Mrs. Moritsu, is there anything else you’d like to ask before we return to your restaurant?” I asked after another round of trying to explain how important Tish was to us.
Yesterday, I had gone into great detail explaining her contribution to several of our early missions and to my development as Empress of Time and Space. They seemed to be respectful of my praise for their daughter and I could see acceptance of her in their eyes. It was a welcome observation. Unbeknownst to Tish, she would have many years to spend with her sisters in the future.
A devilish grin appeared on my face at that thought. I only hoped that ‘upper management’ would approve.
“So what happens now, Alexandra?” Yoko Moritsu asked with a worried look.
“I take you back to the restaurant.” I told her. “No one will even know that you were missing.”
“How can you do that?” She asked in disbelief.
“Y’all really got to ask that, ma’am?” I replied. “For someone who can travel through time it really isn’t a problem, remember?”
“Will we remember you this time?” Shinji asked. He too looked a little worried.
“Only if you promise not to reveal our secrets.” I smiled.
“How can we reveal that which we do not understand completely?” Mrs. Moritsu asked in confusion.
“It’s been my experience that humans have no problem boasting about things they don’t understand, ma’am. For instance, the judgment you made of Takashi-chan when you learned her secret- when you learned my secret. Didn’t you think us demons or monsters at first?” I asked with half a smile.
“That was before we learned of your true intentions, Alexandra.” Shinji Moritsu argued.
“That is exactly my point, sir- after”, I paused for effect, “after you learned of us! It is human nature to fear that which is unknown- even to destroy that which is unknown.” I argued back. “So, any more questions?”
“Will we see any of you ever again, Alexandra,” Tish’s ma, Yoko, asked seriously?
“Tish lives about four blocks from the restaurant and works about thirty minutes away by train. You’ll see her as much as you always do.” I answered and smiled knowing that I only answered part of her question.
Mrs. Moritsu’s eyes narrowed at how I answered.
“Now that I know where you work, I’ll pop in from time to time, ma’am.” I winked. “If that’s all the questions, I need for you to be seated in the same spots as when we arrived. We’ll join hands and I’ll return you and your booth back to the restaurant.”
Jack, Tish, and Randi sat down on the other side. We all joined hands.
Reilly’s recreation room became the Moritsu’s noisy establishment.
Again Tish’s parents gasped loudly as they looked around in amazement.
Releasing my grip, I smiled. “We’re back.” I announced. “To everyone in here, we never appeared to move.”
“Are you sure we returned to the same night, Alexandra?” Shinji asked.
“Think about what you were preparing that night then go back into the kitchen and see for yourself.” I suggested.
Mr. and Mrs. Moritsu got up and excused themselves. They hurried around the dividing wall separating our booth from the kitchen door.
“It looks exactly as I imagined it, Tish.” Randi beamed as she looked around.
Tish looked at her twin strangely for a moment.
“Shared memories, remember?” She replied and pointed to her head to illustrate. “So, when do we travel, Empress?” She then asked me.
“After we eat.” I giggled.
Yoko Moritsu appeared from the kitchen minutes later with a tray loaded with plates of food!
“You will eat with our thanks, Alexandra.” She said cheerfully placing a plate in front of each of us.
“Isn’t it a little early to eat dinner?” I asked her with a giggle.
I looked over to Jack, amazed at how fast her food was disappearing. Hopefully no one in the dining room would notice that her chopsticks only moved about half as fast as the meal to her mouth!
Both Tish and Randi stared at her in fascination.
“You going to surface any time soon, Commander?” I asked with a laugh.
“At least come up for air, Jack.” I rephrased.
“This stuff is good and I’m really, really hungry, Alex.” She said pausing long enough to respond.
“I see Jacquelyn likes my husband’s cooking?” Tish’s ma said as she stopped and peered back around the divider. “I didn’t even eat that fast when I was expecting Takashi.” She added with a wry giggle before disappearing again.
“Thank you for the meal, Mrs. Moritsu. Please tell your husband he is an amazing chef!” I praised as I placed a twenty on the table. “This should cover all of us.”
“What is that, Alexandra?”
“An American twenty dollar bill. I’m paying for our meals.” I replied flatly.
“Your money is no good here, Alexandra.” She growled as she forcefully picked it back up and pushed it back into my palm.
“Excuse me? I thought Tish said dollars were worth more than yen?”
“For everyone other than family, Alexandra. Family has always been ‘no charge’! Don’t forget to visit any time you’re back in Tokyo.”
We all bowed to her in appreciation.
Yoko Moritsu turned with a satisfied nod to us and headed back into the kitchen.
I phased out quickly, the twenty still in my hand. I walked quickly through the swinging doors and into Shinji Moritsu’s realm.
“Can you believe she tried to pay us?” Yoko complained to her husband.
“So what is wrong with that?” He replied.
“What do you mean ‘what is wrong with that?’” She growled. “After what she has done for us, you want to take compensation from her? What is wrong with you, Shinji? We owe her our very lives! We can never repay that, you old fool!”
Mr. Moritsu placed his finger to his lips. “Quiet woman! Do you want to reveal her to the world? I would like to remember that she gave us back our so…daughter, not forget about everything as before! There are other customers needing service, wife!” He said as he pointed to the dining room.
Mrs. Moritsu turned around, an angry scowl on her face, and stomped out of the kitchen muttering Japanese expletives. There was going to be a very intense discussion in the Moritsu home later tonight!
Walking over to him, I held out the currency slightly over and in front of his face and released it to float down before him. He flinched visibly, but grabbed it before it touched his worktable!
“Thank you, Empress. Travel well.” He whispered to no one in particular with a slight smirk. A tear escaped his eye, but was quickly wiped away.
I returned to my position and rephased.
“What did you just do, Alex?” Jack eyed me suspiciously.
“I always pay my debts, Jack.” I smiled.
We made our way through the streets of Tokyo back to Tish’s apartment.
“My sister, how can you live within such confining walls?” Randi asked in amazement.
“It’s all I can afford, Randi.”
“Why not reside in Reilly? There are plenty of residences available there- each one three times the size of this.”
“I wasn’t sure I was still welcome, sister. The Empress and I had several misunderstandings at the end of the war- misunderstandings that I now feel foolish and embarrassed about.”
“How ‘bout we all forget about that period of our lives and start a new chapter?” I suggested with a smile.
Tish’s face brightened considerably!
“So now what, Alex?” Jack asked as we all looked around the cramped room.
“Now we change into our dress whites and go someplace to celebrate the return of a valued family member.” I said enthusiastically as my clothing changed.
I offered my hands.
Pearl Harbor Naval Station Officer’s Club, Hawaii, 1830hrs, February 27th, 1954
“Commander Fleming, I thought you were stationed stateside in Long Beach. To what do I credit this honor?” Admiral Demmit’s voice startled me, as I was about to put a piece of delicious, mouth-watering, steak in my mouth.
“Admiral Demmit!” I gasped as the fork hit my plate and the four of us jumped to attention from our seats.
“At ease, ladies!” The old man laughed. “I’m surprised to see you here. On another mission, I presume?”
“Not this time, sir.” I replied, quickly chewing and swallowing what was in my mouth. “We’re just here to celebrate the return of a family member.” I nodded over to Tish.
Uncle Rick smiled. “So you two finally got around to making up?” He asked looking between Tish and me. “That’s just great! Welcome back, Ens. Moritsu.” He said offering to shake her hand.
“Thank you, sir, I’ve missed you too.” Takashi blushed at his attention.
“So, Captain how is my favorite boat?” He asked, turning to face me.
“Contentedly sleeping in the grotto awaiting her next outing, sir.” I replied nervously.
“So, how is my little grandniece, Alex?” He asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Both Cassie and Sam can hardly wait for your next visit, Admiral.” I said with a wry grin. He was trying to get me to reveal my departure date!
“Care to join us, Admiral?” I asked, changing the subject.
“Don’t mind if I do.” He said with a smile.
“Simmons, another steak, medium-well, and a cold draft beer.” He said catching a waiter’s attention.
“Right away, Admiral.” The waiter said as he hurried back to the kitchen.
“See what an extra star can do, Alexandra?” He commented with a devilish grin.
I was being tested again.
“Really, sir, I fail to see why you always must know which year I hail from.” I giggled. “If you must know, Jack had an argument with her husband and we decided to take a vacation.”
“Ah-huh! Err, I mean…oh…what did Rusty do, honey?” He attacked, but quickly caught himself before turning his attention to Jack.
“I’d rather not talk about it, sir- you being his best friend and all.” Jack answered defensively.
“He didn’t hit you did he?” Uncle Rick’s expression instantly turned angry! “Cause if he did, I’d be the first one to straighten him…” He stopped and looked at Jack with sudden worry. “You…you didn’t…you know…pffft him…did you?”
“Admiral! I love Russell and would never do something like that to him! How dare you even imply…”
“I was just making sure, Commander. I apologize for the assumption.”
Admiral Demmit’s steak came just in the nick of time and the conversation around our table quieted down as we each focused on our meal. As was becoming the norm lately, Jack wolfed down her dinner in record time! Where was the girl putting it?
“So, where were you thinking of going, ladies?” Uncle Rick breached the silence.
“We haven’t decided yet, sir. I was thinking somewhere special- someplace we haven’t been to yet.” I answered as I thought about the different places I had been since becoming the Empress. “The Andromeda galaxy has many resort type destinations, as do Signus and Serius.” I grinned.
“Does it have to be someplace so exotic, Alex? Couldn’t we just stay on this planet instead?” Jack almost wined as she finished her soda. She refused to even have a beer tonight for some reason.
“So…Random, what has you traveling with Alex and not Alex Reilly?” Uncle Rick inquired.
“The Director was off on a very important mission, Admiral. I was required to monitor the station sensors for any anomalies or slight astrometric discrepancies while she was gone.”
“So how long were you attached to Reilly’s A.I. this time?” He asked matter-of-factly.
“Three months, sir. It felt like an eternity though! I was thrilled when Alex popped in with Jack and Tish!” Randi smiled brightly. “When she asked if I wanted to take a vacation…well…I didn’t delay a nanosecond!”
Uncle Rick nodded his approval as he put another chunk of steak in his mouth. “I couldn’t imagine being connected to a machine even a fraction of that time,” he stabbed another chunk of steak and placed it into his mouth, “however long a ‘nanosecond even is.”
A memory from the future played in my mind.
A memory that brought with it sadness and a tear or two…
Jack suddenly stared at me in horror, but her face quickly melted into dour understanding.
“If that has something to do with my future, Alex, let it drop right now. I’ve already learned far too much about my own future since the Empress arrived!”
“I’m sorry, sir. It can’t be helped sometimes.” I answered quietly in a sad tone.
Unexpectedly, Sandy’s face came to mind. I realized that I really missed him! Our nightly interludes the last week before he left for San Diego brought an unexpected smile to my face- and a reaction farther south!
Jack began smiling at me- a big, devious, manure eatin’ smile!
‘Like you’ve never done anything like that, hun!’ I thought to her.
She quickly blushed!
“Well, I can see that you four are somewhere else at the moment.” Uncle Rick announced as he placed fork and knife back on his plate and wiped his mouth with his cloth napkin. “I’ll leave you girls to your vacation plans.” He added as he stood from his chair.
We all stood up as he did.
“Admiral, we didn’t mean to ignore you…I…we…” I babbled.
“It’s alright, Commander. I have a staff meeting first thing in the morning and I think I’m losing more sleep over this war than the last. Good night and good travels, ladies.” He told us.
“Tell Mina we said hi, sir.” I said as he began to walk away.
He stopped for just a second, shook his head once, and continued on his way without a second glance back.
Jack giggled. “You just had to one-up him.”
“What are nieces for? Besides, he was testing me when he first sat down.” I giggled as we sat back down.
Unbelievably, Jack ordered desert! I was glad I had brought extra cash- twenty-first century currency or debit cards just wouldn’t work in 1954.
“What is with you the past few days, Jack?” I asked as her large strawberry sundae was placed in front of her.
“I don’t know. I’m just really hungry, Alex.” She replied between spoonfuls. “Not like we need to watch our weight or anything!” She added after yet another heaping spoonful met its demise.
Jack was just scraping the last drops of ice cream out of her dish as Tish, Randi, and I finished our dinner.
Have you had enough to eat Jack, or am I going to have to stop every couple weeks as we travel?” I laughed.
“I should be good for a while, Alex.” She replied with a little attitude.
“Good to hear, hun, are we ready to go then?” I asked as I looked at my other two companions.
“So where have you decided to go, Alex?” Randi asked cheerfully.
“I haven’t decided yet.” I answered simply as we all got up from the table. I dropped two twenties on the table. That should more than cover our bill, I thought.
Walking to the O.C’s door, I noticed today’s base newspaper.
‘Bravo Test set for Bikini Atoll.’
Jack noticed me hesitate.
“What’s up, Alex?” She asked, also stopping to look. “God, I forgot about those things. You think we should stop off at Kili and make sure Reilly is okay?”
“I’m sure RVP is monitoring it closely, but that might be a good idea, Jack. Ladies, we’re going to make a slight detour to Reilly. I’m sure the station will be okay from the radiation, but it wouldn’t hurt to give RVP a heads up.”
“Do we have to get so close to the test, Alex?” Tish asked in concern. I could understand her being gun-shy.
“We’ll be long gone when it goes boom, Tish.” I giggled.
She gave me a skeptical look.
We walked out the OC’s door and quickly found a deserted spot to phase out.
Pearl Harbor Naval Station became the clearing just outside Reilly’s discriminating airlock. The time difference made for an extra few hours of daylight, which meant that it was dinnertime again!
I looked at Jack awaiting the famous phrase of the past few days.
“I’m hungry, Alex.” Jack recited as I pointed my finger to her as a cue.
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” I said rolling my eyes at her.
“Open says me.” I said as we came in range of the airlock door.
“There is no verbal password enabled for this entrance, Empress. Welcome to Reilly Research Station, it is 1403hr, February 28th, 1954.”
“Thanks, RVP.” I said as we entered.
After closing the inner door, we made our way to the Rec room.
“Empress shall I prepare your domiciles for reclining this evening?”
“We only stopped by to remind you of the impending nuclear test over on Bikini Atoll tomorrow. Have you been monitoring it, RVP?”
“I have been employing above average sensor resources to that region for the past seven years, director. As it is now, the Atoll will be uninhabitable for the next seventy years at minimum. When will they gather sufficient data to know that they are hurting this planet’s environment just like our people did to the Homeworld?”
“Remember RVP, very few people on this planet have the insight you do, hun.” I said seriously.
“So, will you be staying the night to observe the detonation?”
“I don’t think…” I noticed Jack begin to yawn. “On second thought, I think Randi would like to play a few games with you, hun.” Randi hurried out the doorway. I rolled my eyes. “We’ll be leaving before the blast commences tomorrow.”
“Your quarters have been readied, Alex.” RVP replied immediately.
“How on Earth did you do that so quick, hun?” I asked.
“Statistical analysis of your visits would indicate a ninety-nine percent chance that you stay the night, Empress.”
“Great! I’m getting predictable.” I laughed as I raised my hands in surrender. “Thanks, hun, great job.” I commended the A.I.
“Alex, be advised that I’ll be raising Reilly’s radiation and EMI shields a few minutes before the scheduled detonation and that all essential systems will be suspended in response to the expected EMP magnitude.”
“Noted, RVP. We hope to be well on our way by that time though. How’s the Protoverse Chamber containment fields holding, hun?”
“Containment shields are holding at one hundred percent integrity, Alex, Why do you ask?”
“Just checking, hun. I couldn’t remember if an EMI pulse would interfere.” I lied.
“The Chamber is heavily shielded against such interference, director.”
“Okay. I just worry about that thing sometimes, hun.”
“Should integrity differ between any of the shields by point zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-five, my systems will indicate the possible breach in plenty of time, director.”
“Thanks, hun.” I replied as I thought about the catastrophe we narrowly avert in 2029!
“Jack…” I started to say, but noticed a tray full of pizza, home fries, and quiche float past me. “I thought you were getting sleepy?” I finished.
“After I eat, Alex. I can’t believe I’m still so hungry.” She replied.
“Am I going to have to set weight restrictions for my travel companions?” I asked in all seriousness.
“Like you never had a tapeworm!” She grumbled in response.
“Actually…no.” I giggled and headed up to the fourth level observation deck to watch the sunset. That would still be a few hours away, but I wanted to get some sun, too.
As usual, the sunset from Reilly’s westward facing observation deck was breathtaking! I decided to turn in early for the night after realizing we had been up for almost twenty-six hours. Taking the elevator down a floor, I found myself in front of my door. It opened as I approached.
There it was, just where I left it the last time I was here! My tiara still sat royally on my pillow. Why did I have such feelings for it? Was it simply because it had proven so useful back in Poland? Or was it that on some level I secretly desired the notoriety, attention, and respect it implied? Was I really that narcissistic?
Without really knowing why, I had seated myself on the edge of my bed and now held the alluring headpiece before me.
Why not? I thought and positioned it on my head.
Something seemed off as I looked at my reflection in my mirror!
If this was really 1954, why was my tiara even here?
“RVP, date, please?” I asked kindly, suddenly unsure of when I was.
“July 23rd, 2029, Empress. You arrived on the West observation deck twenty minutes ago. Is there a problem?”
“No, I just surprised myself. I just came to retrieve my tiara. I’ll be on my way now. Thank you RVP.”
“You are most welcome Emp…”
I was still looking in my mirror.
“Welcome back to 1954, Empress. You had me worried when you vanished from the observation deck.” RVP welcomed me back with a little concern in her voice.
“I…I must have been dreaming and went into the future, hun. How long was I gone?”
“Thirty-two minutes, twelve seconds, twenty-eight milliseconds…”
“Okay, I got it. Why not say I’ve been gone for ‘a while’?”
“There is no clear definition for ‘a while’.” The A.I. almost giggled.
“What is that you’re wearing on your head, Empress?” She asked after a slight pause.
“Oh.” My hands quickly reached for my addictive headpiece. “This is something Randi Van Pelt designed for a mission back in 1945.
“The craftsmanship and design reflect External Processor #3-Omega’s technological expertise, but the materials and synthesized gemstones do not reflect technology from that time period, Empress.” She observed.
“She built it here at Reilly in 2029, RVP. I’m going to leave it turned off while here to preserve the time line.” I informed her.
“That would be advisable, Empress. I sense it has substantial memory storage capability and also carries quite the ‘explosive yield’ should it detect unauthorized access.”
“Very astute, RVP. As a matter of fact, I almost blew up half of Hartford, my adaptive mother, and grandmother when I first found that feature.” I felt a shiver run the length of my spine as I recalled that memory. “RVP, I’m going to turn in for the night.”
“Pleasant dreams, director.”
“Pleasant dreams, Alex.” Randi’s voice added.
“Randi, I want you disconnected in plenty of time tomorrow morning. I want to be well clear of here when they light the match.”
After I ordered my clothing to change for bed, I climbed under the covers, but could not seem to fall asleep. Laying there for an hour or more, I finally realized why. Sandy. My husband was not beside me. I realized I had been just a conventional housewife for twenty-seven months- twenty-seven months. In that time, I had the love of my life next to me every night of every day. It wasn’t until now that I missed him immeasurably! Feelings of want- of need- began to fill my mind.
I needed Sandy!
The closeness we had shared over the last two years was suddenly rebounding and giving me…feelings…wonderful…feelings…feelings that couldn’t be properly ‘influenced’ here at Reilly…by myself. Well, maybe they could be, but it wouldn’t be the same without my Sandy!
Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, 0635hrs, March 1st, 1954
“Alex! Alex? Alex, are you awake in there?” A familiar voice called out to me accompanied by knocking at a door.
“Empress, we have to get going! Empress!”
What was going on? Why was Tish beating at my door? What was she even doing in my house?
I reached for my alarm clock.
It wasn’t there.
I sat straight up in realization!
“RVP, unlock my door.”
“Alex! It’s about time you woke up! We’re going to be late!” Tish exclaimed as she finally gained entrance.
“What are you talking about, Tish?” I asked as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and my feet touched the floor.
“Wow, Alex! That’s…that’s some…um…interesting…um…negligee you’re wearing. When does that come into fashion?” Tish asked as she turned deep red after appraising my sleepwear.
Why did she do that?
I looked down at myself.
“Sorry, Tish, I didn’t realize I had this on!” I apologized, turning my own deep shade of crimson.
Looking down again, I noticed something was not right. My hands quickly rushed to hide ‘me’ as the nightie Jack had on the other day was now on me- and like her, it didn’t quite cover everything!
“I think that’s more scandalous than the outfit you had on when you returned from that mission to Poland.” She said cautiously.
“It’s from 2015, Tish. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“I can imagine.” She giggled. “Very well, in fact!”
I quickly keyed up my uniform.
“RVP, time until the explosion?”
“Four minutes until Radiation and EMP Shield initiation, director.”
I didn’t have much time.
“Thanks, hun. Tish, we have to hurry!” I said as I rushed out of my quarters. We had to leave quickly!
“Alex-sensei! Don’t forget me!” Tish shouted from behind me.
What was I doing? I stopped to wait for her.
“Where are Jack and Randi?” I asked the stress evident in my voice.
“They’re waiting down in the Recreation room.”
“Let’s go ladies!” I cried in excitement as Tish and I reached the rec. room!
“About time you got here, Alex!” Jack exclaimed in annoyance.
“Yes, I thought Jacquelyn would delete Reilly of food stocks!” Randi laughed as they both stood and took my outstretched hands.
“Shield initiation in ten, nine, eight…” RVP started to say as we phased out.
“Seven, six, five…” She continued as I thought about Terra as a vacation spot.
“Four, three, two…” I pulled my trigger as Tibius came into my mind.
Reilly’s Rec. Room faded quickly and became the darkness of space.
A searing pain shot through me as a familiar star centered in my vision! I heard three other voices scream in pain! For whatever reason my tiara came online and appeared to sequence through the pop-up menus to engage my environmental shield automatically. Randi never said anything about that option!
My vision suddenly shuddered, moving out then back into focus in the briefest of seconds.
What happened? Had I been a fraction of a second too late and encountered Reilly’s shields as we departed? Had the nuclear explosion gone off early?
Whatever the reason, I concentrated even harder on our destination and was delighted when the familiar course correction around Solara took place.
We arrived in Citadel’s Community Park- in the same location we always appeared. The path and bench were unoccupied- in fact; there wasn’t a soul to be seen! Maybe there was some event going on in the activities arena? I quickly rephased us.
“I kind of figured we’d end up here.” Jack said evenly. “I wonder if Connie knows we’ve arrived?” She paused a second and looked at me. “What happened in transit, Alex?”
“I’m not sure. That never happened before. Is everyone okay?” I asked while looking at everyone individually. My three companions nodded.
“Where is everyone, Alex? There are usually one or two people walking along this path.” Tish asked.
“Director, I’m being blocked from accessing Terra’s system timebase. It’s firewalling me- can you believe that?” Randi added indignantly.
A sharp blood-curdling scream suddenly broke the silent splendor of the park as the foliage began to shimmer.
“Oh no, not this time you don’t!” Jack growled as the air around us began to spark and crackle! “This is not going to happen a second time! No freakin’ way!”
A concussive wave- looking more like a mirage heat ripple- charged out in all directions away from the four of us. Screams of a different kind began to fill the air as Citadel Community Park came back into focus.
Around us, yet out of view, men screamed in extreme agony!
“Once was enough, Alex. I refuse to be tortured like that a second time.” Jack said calmly as she relaxed slightly. I could still smell the sickeningly sweet smell of ozone in the air.
At first a few men appeared followed by more…many more! I had never seen a gathering of Terrans like this since Tibius took me to one of his global planning sessions.
As we stood here, hands still joined, many more men arrived. We were now surrounded. The faces I saw around us showed no recognition of our identities- moreover, they seemed predatory- some were even leering at us!
“What has gotten into them, Alex?”Jack asked as the hairs on my arm started to stand again. She was building up another defensive burst. I could feel her drawing power from me and could only assume she was drawing from Tish and Randi also.
“Jack, broadcast my thoughts please.”” I said aloud.
‘Now hear this! I want to talk to Grand High Council Tibius right now!’ The last few words I thought as loud as I could!
“You think you could think any louder, Alex?” Jack complained as she shook her head a few times.
“Any response, Jack?” I asked verbally.
“I’m getting a lot of confusion, Alex. What’s going on here? Did we jump into another universe or something?” She questioned.
“Not that I know of. Randi, have any luck hacking into Terra’s master database?”
“Still working on it, Empress.”
“Tish, can you tell them we mean them no harm, please?”
“Sure thing, Empress. We mean you no harm. We are only here on holiday. Please resume your normally scheduled tasks.” Tish shouted in Terran while our Reilly’s translated instantly.
“Jack, broadcast again, please?” I asked.
‘I say again, I am Alexandra Steinert-Fleming of Earth, I seek an immediate audience with Tibius.’
“Alex, they’re gathering strength again. I’m going to send out another burst if they start moving closer.” Jack warned. “They’re like zombies! You’d think they never saw us before!”
“Randi, any luck?”
“Still working on it, Empress.”
“One more time, Jack.” I requested. Again she nodded.
‘I want Tibius here NOW!’ I thought loudly.
Jack must have really turned up the gain this time because the mob surrounding us stepped back a few paces.
A single body moved through the hoard toward us as evidenced by the parting in the sea of men.
I recognized him immediately as he rubbed his temples.
“Tibius! What the hell is going on here?” I shouted in anger!
My mate on this world stopped and stared at me- never saying a word.
Okay, I’d have to put this as a formal greeting request if he was going to be that way!
“I, the Empress of Time and Space, Alexandra Steinert-Fleming of Earth hereby request the formal and honorable introduction to his most highly regarded, honorable, Grand High Councilor, Tibius. Once arranged and agreed upon, I also seek introduction protocol approval for Jacquelyn Cummins, Takashi Moritsu, and Random Valerian Peltierre, astute friends and honorable companions of the Empress of Time and Space, Alexandra Steinert-Fleming, as afore mentioned.” I said to the best of my recollection and single breath.
Tibius began to laugh!
“Though the intent was heartfelt and true, your protocol lacks proper format. Alas, I am Tibius, but I have not attained so highly an honorable status of Grand High Counsel as of yet.
‘Alex, they’re going to try it again.’ Jack warned.
“Tibius, I suggest your people stand down unless they want to lose consciousness! My Mind Warrior is very intolerant of your protective protocols!” I warned as I felt Jack start to draw more from me.
“Did you say ‘Mind Warrior’, madam?” He asked as his mouth suddenly fell open.
“Yes, you heard me right, Sir Tibius! Jacquelyn is my Mind Warrior. She travels with me often.” I said in annoyance.
“And you state for the record that you are the Empress?”
“That’s right, hun, I’m referred to as the ‘Empress of Time and Space’. Now, can we cut this excessive protocol crap and get on with our visit?”
“You say you are the Empress of Time and Space? She is but legend- a mere story passed down through the generations!”
“I’m real, hun. As real as y’all are. Now can you tell yer boys to drop their protocols and we can behave like civilized folk?” I glared at him.
“Empress, I do not have the authority to command my people.”
“Then maybe y’all could vote on it- and quickly! My Mind Warrior’s got an itchy trigger finger- plus she’s a woman and y’all know how the two can become unstable!” I warned again while I tried desperately to understand what was going on here!
Tibius just stared at me after my remark. So did Jack!
‘Give me a break, Jack.’ I thought to her. ‘I’m tryin’ ta figure things out and I need some time.’
‘Let’s just phase out a minute, Alex. Prove that you ARE the Empress if they want to play that game.’
Why hadn’t I thought of that?
“Everyone hold tight, I’m going to phase us out a minute.” I said in Reilly. Hopefully only our suits would translate it. “On three drop your shield, Jack. One…two…three.”
The gathered mob suddenly went quite! Some approached our location and reached out trying to touch us. Several got close enough to wave their hands through us at waist height. Tibius just stood there and stared at where we still stood, albeit slightly out of phase with this reality.
I decided to ask my gift what had happened.
“I’m going to rephase us when the area around us is clear.” I announced to my companions.
“Is that a wise thing to do, sensei?” Tish didn’t look like she agreed.
“Randi, did you have any luck with their system before we phased out? Should I move us forward a little?”
“No, but this could be the hole I was searching for. Hopefully the firewall protocol has timed out. I can start from that point and proceed farther before it locks me out again.”
“Okay,” I said as the remaining few men at our location decided to search for us elsewhere, “In three…two…one.”
Tibius’ eyes went wide in surprise!
“Shield is back up and holding, Alex.” Jack said with confidence- and a devious grin!
“Tibius,” I began, totally avoiding any protocol whatsoever, “Is this not Median, Saturian 31st, 428 of the New Age?”
“No, your highness, this is Climax, Saturian 30th, 292 of the New Age.” Tibius said, shaking his head in obvious confusion.
My three companions looked at me in disbelief! How had I brought us here one hundred and thirty-six years too early? I thought about that date- more specifically that year- 292 of the New Age. Why did it mean so much to me?
“Shit!” I said aloud as my memory and gift worked independently and simultaneously arrived at the same answer.
“Tibius, I take it that we are the first women to set foot on this planet in almost three hundred years?”
As Tibius nodded, I noticed Jack suddenly stare at me! Tish and Randi quickly followed suit. Apparently we all had figured out the importance of this date!
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