Alex and company embark on a three pronged mission which the ‘Time Thief’, Clemson has necessitated. In the process, several things get corrected. Alex finds out firsthand what it is to share one of her sister’s gifts.
1145hrs, L. Scott home, Bridgeport, Conn, August 24th, 1944
“About time you got back, Alex. We’ve been worrying about you. Where have you been?” Emily started the interrogation as soon as my feet touched the porch steps.
“I had to take care of something, sis.” I replied as I winked and sat next to her on the glider. To our left on the porch swing, Doris Sullivan stared unblinkingly at us. Pa seemed comfortable just staying quiet, observing his neighbor and daughters.
“Really, Doris, you can’t know how annoying that is. Not only on this planet, but on other’s as well. Could you please stop staring and acclimate yourself to the fact that you are not hallucinating? I assure you we are very real.” I asked the woman.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t understand how special you all were until we walked out in front of that car. I don’t think I’ll ever stop having nightmares about that.”
“After that happens a few times you kind of shrug it off, although the best thing would be not to let it happen in the first place.” I said as I glanced over to my sister.
“I wanted to demonstrate my gift to her, Alex. I don’t get to use it as often as you.” Emily contended.
“You both can travel through time?”
“Just Alex and Allie, Mrs. Sullivan. I’m primarily a medical seer, but I share the royal bloodline of the Empress- as does Andromeda.”
“Royal bloodline? Louis, I never knew you or Ruth had royal blood?” Doris Sullivan exclaimed as she suddenly looked at Pa.
“I didn’t either until I met Alexandra. Apparently they inherited that from their mother.”
“It’s just a figure of speech. None of us are anywhere close to royalty, ma’am.” I said downplaying our gifts. “We were just the lucky ones- the ones in the right place at the right time.”
“Lucky? Alexandra, what Emily can do…what she has told me you and Allie, and your friends can do is nothing short of miraculous! I find it hard to believe that just fortune has smiled on all of you. Surely higher powers have seen to it that you can help all of mankind the way you do.”
I nodded as I shifted in my seat. I rolled my eyes as I couldn’t get that all-too-familiar, uncomfortable feeling to subside.
“You are too kind, Mrs. Sullivan. If you’ll excuse me, I have to take care of something.” I said politely as I got up and walked inside.
“Alex, why the sad face? Are you alright?” A tiny voice asked as I made my way up the stairs.
“It’s nothing, Yuuka. I’m just tired and a little crampy.”
“Alexandra?” Doris Sullivan’s voice called from down, behind me. She was just coming in through the screen door.
“Yes, ma’am?” I answered as I turned around automatically.
The woman’s eyes bulged immediately. She reached for the railing to steady herself.
I rolled my eyes then took in and exhaled a long breath.
“I’m in trouble, aren’t I, Empress?” Yuuka moaned quietly from my shoulder.
“Not any more than usual, hun.” I said as I walked back down to the first floor.
“Doris, this is Yuuka Sukiro and this is her gift. Yuuka, could you grow up for a few minutes?”
“I’ve had enough air-time for today anyway, Alex.”
The pixie flew from my shoulder and quickly returned to full-size beside me. Doris Sullivan’s shock passed quickly this time.
“I always thought my husband’s tales from his ancestral homeland were just, um, stories. I guess I have no idea how the world really works, do I?”
“About as much as we do, ma’am.” Yuuka said as she looked back at me. I nodded in agreement.
“What do you call yourself, Yuuka…when you have wings, I mean?”
Yuuka stared at the woman for a few seconds then looked at me completely baffled; she looked back to our neighbor. “Um…Yuuka?”
Doris Sullivan rolled her eyes. “No, dear, what I meant was what type of fairy are you?”
“Yuuka is a pixie, Doris. Because of her size and speed, she helps Allie and I by doing aerial reconnaissance on our missions.”
“Well, you certainly match your given name, dear. I love those violet tinged wings!”
“Thank you ma’am.” Yuuka curtsied. “I should be getting out to the kitchen now. I’m on the schedule to help with lunch today.”
“What’s on the menu, hun?” I asked before she walked away.
“Something Ricky Lynn calls a ‘Braunschwager sandwich’. She claims it’s a local favorite in Pittsburgh and that she first tasted one in 1998 and has eaten them occasionally ever since. She claims them to be good, though I’m not too fond of German food myself.”
“Just make mine a cheese sandwich with mayo. I’m not in the mood for liver today, hun.” I said, watching Yuuka scrunch up her nose in disgust.
“You got it. One cheese and mayo coming right up, Alex. All-grain bread okay?”
“Sure. Make mine last though, hun. I have something to take care of first.”
“What’s it like?” Doris asked as Yuuka bowed slightly and walked into the kitchen.
“What is what like?”
“1998. What does it look like? Has very much changed?”
“Some things have changed, some things haven’t.” I told her honestly. “Life does get a little more convenient though.”
“Ma’am, I really need to use the lavatory, so if you’ll excuse me?” I said as I hurried up the stairs and into the bathroom.
“So…are you going to help her, Alex?” Emily asked as we sat around the dinner table. She had made a very good beef stew. Everyone stopped eating to hear my decision.
“Of course we’ll help her, sis. I promised her we’d bring Lu Sei back.”
“I mean her husband, Alex. Have you found a way to rescue him?”
“And just how am I going to pull a guy from the cockpit of a damaged P-40 while in flight?”
“Cami and I could make sure he lands safely on the ground. Getting him out would be a breeze then, Alex.” Jack offered.
“No, Ralph Sullivan was reported shot down over enemy held territory, April 19th, 1940. His wingman reportedly watched him crash into the side of a mountain. It was a clear day with little or no fog in the area to obscure what happened.
“You could always stop time, skipper. That way the plane would be stationary and you could be in an out with ol’ Ralphie in a jiffy.”
“Can’t risk it because of the wingman, Professor.”
“Ya, I guess he kinda needs to see him go in. Sorry.”
“How fast would he be going, Alex? If I could match the fighter’s speed…” Yuuka proposed.
“Airplane canopies are locked from the inside, hun, how would you get in?” I countered. She sighed heavily in disappointment.
“Pixie mode!” Emily burst out.
“What about it?” I asked and immediately received my usual barrage of video and still pictures.
“Wow! That was amazing, Alex! I think that was the first time you ever let me watch your thought process.” Cami commented with excitement. “How can you sort out things when everything hits at once?”
“It doesn’t hit all at once, Cami. Its sequential, just real fast.”
“Maybe you slow things down in your mind, Alexandra.” Pa suggested. “You are the Empress, right?”
“Or like a super high-speed computer, skipper?” Ricky Lynn chimed out.
“That could be a viable comparison, Prof. Samuels.” Reggie concluded.
“Now I’m part supercomputer? Y’all are just slobberin’ at the bit to take away mah humanity, ain’t ya?”
“I think it is a wonderful postulation, Alex. Cami and I will develop the hypothesis further upon our return to our time period.”
“Hypothesis is the prudent initialization point, Director. More concise though, would be a logical set of experiments carefully designed to confirm or disprove the proposed theory.”
“I concur, Camille, but theorize that the collected data could take revolutions to format and analyze correctly given a specifically designed algorithm.”
“That is a definite probability. Should we also calculate the associated statistical parameters as to the resulting probability as well?”
“Or we could not worry about how fast our brains work and form a plan to save those flyboys from getting their butts blown back to Siam.” I said, interrupting the Reilly ‘tech-talk’.
“Do they speak like that all the time, Alex?” Pa asked with a smirk.
“Once a nerd, always a nerd, Pa.” I said, giggling.
“What’s a ‘nerd’,” he asked in confusion?
“Late twentieth century slang, but it’s what those two and those two are.” I said, pointing to Allie and Cami then to Ricky Lynn and Reggie.
“But I thought you had all’a Allie’s memories, Skipper?” Ricky Lynn smiled deviously. “Wouldn’t that make you one too?”
“Ah never said Ah wasn’t, professor. Can we get back to what Emily was going to say, please?”
“That’s all I had to say on the matter, sis. My foresight told me that’s all I had to say to get your foresight in gear.” Emily giggled.
I looked at my sister warily.
“You’re the one always pushing her to use her gift more, sis,” Allie laughed.
“Fiiiine.” I drew out the word in annoyance. “Here’s what we’re gonna do…”
Pa leaned in as close as he could to listen. I remained silent and looked up at him still annoyed.
“We meet in Emily’s and my room right before ‘lights out’.”
Pa’s mouth dropped as he groaned in disappointment.
“Are we secure?” I asked, looking between Cami and Jack.
“She’s got the door and windows, and I have an acoustic shield in place, Alex.”
“Good.” Alex Reilly and I chorused.
“Sisters, that is very disturbing. Can just one of you talk at a time?” Andie asked from where she sat on the floor.
Fine. I’ll start.” I said. “First order of business. Andie, you and Reggie suggested earlier this week that Louis Scott’s foot could be replaced. Is that true or not?”
“We have the technology to do so, Empress. Though not familiar with the process, I believe it takes two or three Earth standard days to complete and three or four more for adaptive therapy.” Reggie said from atop the folding chair beside her sister.
“So Pa will be laid up for almost a week, is that what I’m hearing?” I asked to set the record straight.
Both women nodded.
“Okay, what do you need? What do you require as compensation?”
“Compensation, Alex?” Andie asked, quizzically.
“Monetary funding, services rendered, favors from me- things like that in return for the procedure.”
“Empress.” Andie glared up at me. “With all you and your sisters have done for us…” She paused and looked up to Reggie. Both nodded. Andie looked back to me. “How about we pronounce it squared?”
A quiet giggle escaped my lips as I rolled my eyes. “That would be ‘call it square’, sis.”
Andie shrugged her shoulders as Reggie continued to explain.
“I believe the process requires the patient to donate a prototype cell that can be taken and attached at the amputation point or so I have read. The specialized medical equipment will do the rest, Empress.”
“And y’all are sure you can do this with a normal human, right?” Alex Reilly asked for clarification.
“I will require preliminary tests to confirm that, yes, Alex. It would ideally add half a day to the process.” Andie assured us.
“Good. Now once in China, I want you, Yuuka, to break contact and fly along the airbase’s jungle boundary. From what I’ve seen, the vegetation will provide you adequate cover. Find the smallest cabin to find Lu Sei. She should be in there at the time of our arrival.”
“Once we make contact with her, we need to leave quickly. A Japanese bombardment group will be hitting the field quite heavily. She must be out of there before the bombing starts. Next, we go back in time to get Mr. Sullivan. Yuuka, I need to know if you feel up to taking me to ‘Pixie Mode’?”
The room silenced immediately as all eyes focused on me in surprise.
“Y’all heard me. Yuuka, for this to work someone needs to be in that cockpit when he takes off, but must be small enough not to be noticed.”
“I can do that, Alex, but why do you need to…?” Yuuka protested.
“You can’t transport him out of there just before impact, hun. Only Allie and I can do that and Allie is going to have her hands full with Pa on Atlantis. So, do you feel up to it or not?”
“Alex, is this wise? I mean…Alexis had trouble returning to normal. Can you really guarantee that you’ll fare any better?” Emily argued.
“That’s where you come in, sis. I might need you to help me want to grow-up. Yuuka? What’ll it be?”
“I’ll try, Alex. Now that I know I can actually do something like that, it shouldn’t be too hard. Things always seem easier the more you practice them, right?”
“I’m counting on it. Now…what to do about Ralph Sullivan? Do we bring him back stateside, or do we make it look like he escaped the crash by dropping him off in Rangoon.”
Rangoon fell to the Japanese in early 1942, Alex. If anything, any downed airmen would head for free China; that or get captured and held somewhere in Thailand for the rest of the war.” Prof. Samuels informed us.
“He’ll have to make up his own mind then. I’m not sure how much, let alone how far I’ll be able to transport in my pixie form.”
0945hrs, L. Scott home, Bridgeport, Conn, August 28th, 1944
“What’s wrong Pa, you’ve been quieter than usual this morning?” I asked, walking out to the porch after I had finished the breakfast dishes.
Pa looked up at me with a look of amazement.
“You have to ask that, Alex? You, of all people?”
“Sometimes I just like to hear it first-hand.”
“Oh…well…I…I’m going to miss you girls. You were right that first day, Alex, you spoiled the hell out of me.”
“You’re coming with us, aren’t you?” I asked kindly.
Again Pa looked at me, not believing what he heard.
“I would just slow you down, Alex. The mission is too sensitive to have me foul things up.”
“And if I say I’ve seen you pulling your weight in that jungle, would you still decline?”
“You already know the answer to that, Empress.”
“I do.” I replied with a huge grin. “We’ll be leaving right after Doris gets here,” I paused a moment, “which will be in thirty seconds.”
I pointed up the street just as Doris Sullivan appeared on the sidewalk from behind the neighbor’s tall shrubbery. She seemed pre-occupied in thought and wasn’t walking as fast this morning.
“I’ll bet you’re the life of any party you attend, aren’t you, Alex?”
I smiled deviously at the man. “You’ve already seen how I am at parties, Louis.” I purred.
“Stop it this instant, Alexandra! You remind me of your mother that one time!”
“And what time would that be, Louis?” Mrs. Sullivan asked as she reached the porch steps.
“Oh, we were reminiscing about a party we both attended many years ago.” I answered with a grin. “Are you ready to do the impossible, Doris?”
“I think so.” She replied quietly after swallowing hard. “Are you sure it’s safe for people…people like me?”
“You don’t even realize it happens.” Pa reassured her.
“You’ve…you’ve traveled with Alex before,” the woman gasped?
“Once. Um…how far back did we go, sweetie,” he asked?
“Around seventy-thousand years.” I replied candidly.
Doris Sullivan’s jaw dropped…again.
“Shall we go inside? It’s less conspicuous.” I suggested before turning for the screen door.
Once in the living room, I gave the order.
“Everyone, form up. Pa, you take Allie’s hand. Doris, you get to be between Emily and I. Jack and Yuuka on Emily’s side. Cami, Ricky Lynn, Reggie and Andie on Pa’s.” I said positioning people where I wanted them. Allie and I had immediately taken each other’s hand.
Waiting for everyone to join hands, I asked the unnecessary question.
“Is everyone ready? I’ll begin the countdown at five. I ask that everyone continue holding hands until I say to release them. Doris, do you understand?”
Though her hands were shaking moderately, she nodded.
“Phasing out. Transport in five…four…three…” Allie and I released each other’s hand. “Two…one.” The Burmese jungle appeared on our left, a grass and mud airfield on our right. Doris Sullivan’s jaw again dropped as she stared around in complete astonishment.
0810hrs, Magwe Airstrip, China, March 21st, 1942
“Take flight, Pixie.” I said as I leaned out to look at Yuuka. She wasted no time taking to the air.
“Are we really here?” Doris asked, still looking around like a tourist.
“21 March, 1942. Near the Chinese town of Magwe.” I informed everyone. “You might want to set your translator’s secondary language for Cantonese; uniforms to our standard navy regulars.”
Again Mrs. Sullivan’s jaw dropped as everyone’s clothing except hers changed to become standard navy issue officer’s uniforms.
“We’re a little too far inland for our regulars, aren’t we, Alex?”
“The Flying Tigers or the AVG- American Volunteer Group- is made up of Army Air Corp, Marine Air Corp, and Navy aviators, Jack. They even have Civilians working here too. You won’t see rank anywhere on base, either.” I stated calmly in answer.
I pulled on Doris’ hand so that we could go find Lu Sei’s quarters. Everything seemed quiet and peaceful. I knew that would not last very long today. Glancing up to the sky, I knew we had maybe four hours before all hell broke loose.
Off to our right, I noticed that about half the planes were covered with Camo netting. It looked like pieces were missing from each one.
“Looks like they’re down a few planes.”
“Scavenging them from the looks of it, Alex.” Jack commented.
I noticed Yuuka flying around one of the buildings ahead of us.
“Yuuka’s found her. Let’s get over there quickly.” I said as I started to drag Doris somewhat.
Seeing us approaching, Yuuka disappeared inside. She would have a few minutes to meet and prepare her for us.
The small, wooden shack was raised on stilts about two feet off the ground like the other buildings, but this one was smaller, roughly sixteen feet square. With just a screen door and netting on the windows it wasn’t the most comfortable place to live, but it served its purpose. We went up the rickety wooden stairs single file- still phased out and holding hands. Lu Sei sat on a small hand-built chair talking to Yuuka as if they were old friends. My translator kicked in immediately.
“How did you find me, Miss Pixie? Where did you come from?”
“I have been instructed to seek you, Lu Sei. Some very important people would like to ask you a few questions. Would you care to talk to them?”
“I don’t know if I should trust you, Miss Pixie. Who are these people that want to talk to me?”
“Please call me ‘Little Flower’ that is the name my mother gave me, Miss Lu Sei.” Yuuka replied. I noticed that she intentionally let her name be translated into Chinese.
“Alright…Little Flower…who would like to speak to me?”
“We call her the Empress, but she is not like any royalty you can imagine. She is kind, beautiful, wise, and funny too. She and some of our friends would like to ask if you want to go on a little trip.”
“A trip? To where?”
“To a very wonderful place; a safe place where you can run and be free without fear of bad men with rifles or explosions, or killing. A place where you can receive the love you want and need; a place where you will never be alone.” Yuuka paused a moment. “If you don’t want to talk to them, or think it not safe, I will just fly away and you will never see me again, Lu Sei. We mean you no harm.”
“What side are you and these other people on?” The girl asked cautiously.
“The Empress is on the side of China. In fact, she has done her best to reduce the number of enemy soldiers fighting in this country- many bad men. Would you at least consider meeting her, Lu Sei?”
“When will they be here…when will this Empress be here?”
“She’s here right now, Lu Sei. She and three others are in this room at this very moment.”
“Why can’t I see them? Where are they, Little Flower?”
“Well…you have to believe in her to see her. I thought you knew that?”
“I didn’t know that.” The girl grimaced.
“But you can see me, right?”
“Then you believe in me?”
“Then all you have to do is believe in the Empress, Lu Sei. Just think about believing, and just to be sure, count up to three.”
“That’s silly. How does counting to three make me believe in someone?”
“Alright, you have a point.” Yuuka hovered up close to the girl’s face. “I know! Would you happen to know any English?”
“The nice men here have taught me some, why, Little Flower?”
“Well, it just so happens that the Empress speaks English, too. Could you show her how serious you are to meet with her by counting up to three in English?”
Lu Sei giggled as she nodded happily to the tiny, winged woman.
“Look to the door and start counting, okay? Ready? One…” Yuuka started.
“Two…” Lu Sei said with a giggle.
“Three!” I said as we phased back in. The girl jumped and started laughing outright.
“Are you the Empress?” She said through her laughter.
I bowed slightly. “I am Alexandra, you are Lu Sei?” I said in English.
“She is very pretty, Little Flower, I like her.”
“I like her too, Lu Sei. Alexandra and I are friends.”
“Can I be friends too?”
“Why don’t you ask her?” Yuuka suggested.
“You be friend of Lu Sei?” The girl asked in rather broken English.
“It would be my pleasure, Lu Sei.” I replied then switched my translator to Cantonese.
“I would be glad to be your friend, Lu Sei, but wouldn’t it be better if we speak your language? I speak it too as you can see.”
Lu Sei’s mouth dropped open in amazement.
“You speak like me!”
“I do. In fact, all but this woman speak like you. This is Doris Sullivan, by the way. She is also a friend of mine. Beside her is my sister Emily, and beside her is my best friend Jacquelyn.” I pointed as I said their names.
Lu Sei bowed- almost in half.
“Isn’t she the cutest, Alexandra?” Doris stated as she gently tugged on my forearm.
“You think I cute?”
“I think you are very pretty, Lu Sei.” Doris answered the girl.
“How’d I do, Alex?” Yuuka asked from my left shoulder.
“You did great, Little Flower.” I praised her, though quietly.
“You name Sul-a-van?” Lu Sei asked. There was curious hope in her voice.
“It is. Why?” Doris asked.
“I know Sul-a-van. He stop come back.” The girl said as her smile faded quickly. “You know he?”
Doris’ facial expression also changed rapidly. She nodded sadly.
Lu Sei studied the older woman’s face for a moment. “Where he go? Lu Sei miss.”
“I do too, sweetie. I miss him very much.”
“He go home?”
“I guess you might say that.” Doris looked to me briefly. “I’m not sure where he went, Lu Sei.” She added, wiping away newly formed tears.
“Doris is Ralph Sullivan’s wife, Lu Sei. She allowed him to come over here to help fight the bad men.
The young girl suddenly bent in half again.
“Thank you for letting him help free my people, Sul-a-van! He is a good man. He will come back soon?” Lu Sei rattled off quickly in her native tongue.
Doris looked at me in hopes of a translation.
“She thanks you for letting him help free her people and hopes he comes back soon.” I told her.
Doris suddenly wrapped her arms around me.
“Oh, Alexandra, Can’t you find it in your heart to save my husband? Please?” She cried softly into my shoulder.
“We’ll try to save him, Mrs. Sullivan. We can’t guarantee anything though. Like Alex said…time travel is tricky.” Emily said, trying to console her.
“You help Sul-a-van, yes?”
Emily looked at the young girl. “We’ll try our best. Alexandra is very good about traveling back in time, but Mr. Sullivan might pose a problem.” She told Su Lei in Chinese.
“You take Lu Sei back. I help!” She replied in her limited English.
Doris started crying all over again, hearing the girl’s commitment.
“To do that, Miss Lu Sei, you have to trust, Alexandra. You must do exactly as she tells you, and you must behave yourself. Do you understand?” Yuuka asked. She was again hovering inches from the girl’s face.
I tapped Doris’ shoulder to get her to stand straight and take my hand.
“Okay…so…the first step is to take someone’s hand and hold on until I tell you to let go, got it?”
Lu Sei nodded and pushed between Doris and Emily. She quickly grabbed their hands.
“Next, Little Flower will take to my shoulder and hang on, okay?” I said for the girl’s benefit. Again Lu Sei nodded and began to giggle as Yuuka flew around her head in a tight circle before lighting on my right shoulder.
“Now we go back through time a month or so. Ready,” I asked with a smile?
Alexandra Reilly’s group: Atlantis, Standard Year 257:08:05
The quarters I shared with Camille on Atlantis appeared around us. That annoying Temporal Anomaly alarm initiated!
“Why are we back on Atlantis?” Pa asked immediately. I nodded to Camille to progress with my sister’s plan.
“Allie, why are we…” Pa again asked before he went limp. Cami and I quickly caught him. Alex was right- his mass was significant.
“Andie, where should we put him?” I asked as we struggled to hold him up before Camille thought to use her gift.
“Dixie, alert medical that we have a patient, and turn off that blasted alarm!”
“Right away, Commodore. I trust your trip was relaxing?”
“It was very nice, Dixie. We had a pleasant stay with the Empress’ father.”
“I am glad you had a good time. Welcome back, mom.”
“How ya feelin, toots?” Prof. Samuels asked the A.I.
“All parameters normal, mom.”
“Good ta hear, so where we take Mr. Scott, baby?”
“Treatment facility two, ring Beta, section twenty-three. Commodore, I have been asked the nature of the patient’s injury?”
Everyone took hands again.
“He lost his left foot three Earth standard years ago. In appreciation for all the Empress has done for us, we have offered our technology to help him become whole once again.” Andie answered.
“Acknowledged. Treatment Facility two has been advised and is standing by.”
“Dixie, disable the Temporal Anomaly alarm in Treatment two. I will be transporting him there myself, hun.” I advised.
“Acknowledged, Empress. Alarm has been disabled. You are cleared for transport.”
One of Atlantis’ medical facilities appeared around us.
A medical group had assembled and all jumped in shock of our sudden appearance.
“So y’all never seen the Empress transit before?” I asked with a slight giggle, noting that I had slipped into my sister’s vernacular again. I guess I needed some sleep. It could wait though.
“His name is Louis Scott. He is the Empress’ secondary father. This man is native to Earth and I would suggest all compatibility tests available should be completed before the procedure is started. He has been rendered temporarily unconscious.” Andie told the physician in charge as Camille levitated Louis Scott onto the waiting exam table
“The wound has already healed, Commodore. After initial testing, we will have to reopen the wound and remove all scaring and lesions to obtain a successful graft.” Andie’s personal physician, Bellatrix Mintaka, warned.
“Do what is necessary. This man is important not only to the Empress, but to me as well.”
“He shall receive foremost care, Commodore. Empress, he will be- how do you say- ‘good as new’.”
“Ah know he will, doctor. Ah’ve foreseen and reviewed the impending process and could find no revisional abnormalities or cloning errors.” I replied before turning and walking out of the facility.
“Alex, you just stumped all those doctors.” Cami said as she hurried to catch up to me.
“Ah simply stated that Ah saw a successful outcome for Louis Scott. Y’all want to get somethin’ ta eat, hun?”
“Sure. Then we go back to our room and you get some rest. Agreed?”
“Acknowledged, Ma Darough.”
“So, if the tests prove out, how long will it actually take for the appendage to successfully mature?” Prof. Samuels asked Reggie and Andie as they slowly caught up to us.
“Cell division is logarithmic in nature so the process doubles in speed for every generational division. With artificial excitation, I’m told two to three days, Ricky. What usually takes the longest is toning and control of the newly grown muscles once they anchor themselves.” I heard Regina telling her.
“Actual acceptance an’ successful operation a the new peripheral is a function a the patient’s willin-ness an’ atta-tude.” I added.
“Camille, how long has it been since Alex took a nap?” Prof. Samuels asked.
“She’s going to bed after we get something to eat, Ricky Lynn. The director has not been sleeping very well this past week, I’m afraid.”
“Ya, I can tell! The skipper’s accent doesn’t translate too well to Atlantian.” The professor giggled.
Of course, I turned my head and stuck my tongue out at her.
“I got machinery for that, Director.” She laughed evilly. I frowned when my query of shared memories provided the answer to her strange retort.
Alexandra Reilly’s Group: E.S. Atlantis, Standard Year 257:08:08
“Alexandra Reilly, welcome and enter.” Regina Celeste greeted and granted me entrance to Commodore Celestes’ domicile. “Andie will be out in a minute. She’s operating at a somewhat diminished rate this morning.”
“Hi, Alex. I haven’t seen too much of you the last few days.” Andie greeted as she entered the room.
“Cami has been watchin’ me like a hawk. I swear she would be worse than my mother if I could remember the woman from my initial revision’s childhood.”
Reggie stared at me in confusion. “I thought Andie’s mother was your mother, Alex?”
“Relationally, she is, but my initial revision’s birth-mother remains somewhat of an enigma. I’ve only met her earlier in her lifespan…several hundred years before my birth…six hundred-thirty-five to be exact.”
“Your people live that long?” She gasped in surprise.
I felt my face increase in temperature slightly. I remained quiet, choosing not to mention that they both might share our longevity. A fact proven as my foresight engaged.
“Dr. Mintaka, Medical Facility Two- Recovery to Commodore Celeste.” A woman’s voice sounded from the Communications panel by the domicile’s entrance door.
“Yes, Belle, this is Andie. What can I do for you? Is there a problem?” Andie said answering the call.
“Andie, Mr. Scott is now awake and demanding to see you and the Empress. He is quite…adamant.” The voice said. In the background we could hear Louis Scott’s muffled shouts.
“We’re on our way, Bell. Dixie, disable the Temporal Anomaly Alarm between my quarters and Medical Two.”
Andie walked back to me and took my hand.
“I don’t understand what you people are saying! Get Alexandra down here on the double! I want to see Alexandra or Andromeda here, NOW!”
“Calm down, Louis.” I said as Andie and I appeared. As happened several days earlier, everyone in the recovery area jumped when the two of us ‘popped’ in.
“Don’t tell me to calm down, Empress! Why am I strapped to this bed in what looks like a hospital room, wearing nothing but a large paper sack? What did you do to me?”
Louis’ eyes got bigger as he apparently thought of something.
“Release my hands! I have to check if it’s still there!” He shouted to anyone that would listen.
Andie looked questioningly to me.
“You didn’t go through the Mahanilui, Louis, so just calm down.” I giggled. “You would definitely see more…’results’ in certain areas if that had happened.”
“Louis Scott, if you promise to regulate your temper and remain docile, I will ask the doctor to release you.” Andie told him as she looked over to the physician, repeated what she had said in Atlantian, and received a nod.
“What…what did you do to me?” He asked again at a diminished level.
“We made you whole again, Stepfather.” Andie responded, but in her native tongue as she obviously forgot to switch her translator back to English. I noticed the doctor suddenly stare at her in disbelief. Her attention and silent question turned to me. Andie rolled her eyes.
“It’s a long story, honey. Yes, Andie is related to me. Let’s keep that amongst ourselves for the near future, alright?” I told Dr. Bellatrix Mintaka with a devious smile as I motioned to everyone around the room.
After a minute, Dr. Mintaka released Pa’s wrists, thighs, and chest restraints.
“Y’all better be a good boy now, Pa.” I said in a warning tone.
Sitting up, Pa’s eyes went wide. “I…I have a foot again!” He exclaimed in complete amazement.
“Why…why can’t I move it? What’s wrong with it?” He asked in a panic.
“Mr. Scott, you cannot move the new limb until you have relearned to do it.” Dr. Mintaka said in Atlantian.
“Belle says that you have to learn how to move it again, father. It will take a few days to do that.” Andie translated for him.
“Mr. Scott, now that your composure has been reestablished, I would like to see if the nerves have connected properly. I am going to gently touch the foot with a probe. Tell me if you can feel anything.”
Again, Andie translated.
“OUCH! SHIT, that hurt!”
Apparently that didn’t need translating.
“Tell him that his brain will have to recalibrate to the output levels of the new nerve synapses. I am very pleased to see such response in such little time though.”
“Tell her thank you for me, Andie, though I fail to see why you’ve gone to so much trouble.” Pa told her after receiving the doctor’s translated, prognosis.
“It was something Reggie and I felt you deserved, father. It is the least we could do.”
“And you Allie? You and your sisters’ planned this before we left?”
“Down to the most miniscule detail, Louis.”
“Empress? May I have a word in my office please?” Dr. Mintaka gently interrupted by tapping me on my shoulder lightly.
“Excuse me a moment, y’all.” I told the others.
“Empress,” the doctor began as the door to her office slid closed automatically. “We found some rather strange cells inhabiting his bloodstream when we did the compatibility tests. As of yet we still don’t know what they are or if they are dangerous. Being from this planet’s future and obviously well versed in genetics and human biology, I was wondering if you could shed light on what they are?”
She immediately went to her wall monitor and touched the lower right corner.
A slide capture displayed and I recognized the ‘K’ cells immediately.
“Nanos.” I mumbled quietly.
“I’m sorry, what did you say, Empress?”
“These aren’t biological, Belle…at least not entirely.”
“What are they then? I thought you said something about Nanos? I take it you’ve seen these before?”
“I should, I invented them.”
“You…invented…you designed these? How can that be? I’ve seen nothing in our references even remotely as advanced as these…nanos, you call them?”
“They are a byproduct of my home planet’s demise, doctor- a last ditch effort, my sister Alexandra Steinert would say, to save our race from certain annihilation. Bio-cybernetic, nanoscopic, modificational technology, revision ‘K’. Nanos or ‘K’ cells, for short.”
“But I thought you came from this planet’s future?”
“I do…now, but that was only recently…um…relatively.” I informed her, and related the story of how Reilly Research Station ended up here on Earth.
“She actually transposed universes? How is that even possible, Empress?”
“Would you have believed time travel possible before meeting me and mah sister?”
“Well…no…in fact, I still don’t believe it…not entirely, that is.”
“I’ll have to have y’all tag along sometime, hon.” I giggled.
“I would be honored, Empress. So…what is your recommendation for the patient then?”
“Recommend that he not consume large quantities of anything containing alcohol as it acts as a catalyst to activate the nanos’ secondary programming.”
“Secondary programming? I don’t understand, Empress, what secondary programming.”
“I wasn’t always like this, Belle. The secondary programming is latent from our early experiments during development. It modifies several chromosomal strands in order to help us against the environmental extremes we were to face after our planet began its fusion reaction. One change in particular was left forgotten- the modification of the ‘Y’ chromosome- number twenty-six by our numbering system- to an ‘X’ configuration.”
Dr. Mintaka’s eyes almost exploded from her head as she understood.
“You changed the ‘Y’ chromosome to an ‘X’,” she shreiked? “Why would anyone do that?”
“It was used as an easy to observe indicator that our designs were working properly. Our early experimentation employed rodents native to our Homeworld. In our haste to save ourselves, we neglected to remove that subroutine- hence I am as you see me now.”
Dr. Mintaka stood there shaking her head side to side for several minutes.
“So, if he were to ingest a high concentration of alcohol, he would…” She said but stopped without finishing.”
“Within six to eight hours, yes, but only if the nano concentration is over four thousand parts per million. What was the count as of this sample?”
“We estimate around eighty per million, but this sample was taken three days ago.”
“Then I suggest you repeat the sample and reassess the count to see if there has been any change. Eighty is extremely low for the aggressive mitosis rate of their base programming.”
“What if the count remains static, Empress?”
“Then the nanos are still dormant and he should still be warned about excessive liquor consumption. Nanos, in their dormant state, will not repair the liver any faster than normal.”
“Thank you, Empress…oh, one other question. The reason I have asked to consult is because we have not been able to maintain any of these nanos for study. Could you tell me why that is?”
“We built an ‘anti-contagion’ subroutine into them, Belle. We were worried that, should we succeed in saving our race, we would not inadvertently infect others. The nanos will self-destruct within one minute when exposed to any breathable mixture of air by removal from solution. That includes preparation for slides.”
Dr. Mintaka nodded her understanding.
“So, what did the doctor tell you, Allie? Am I going to be some kind of circus act or something?” Pa asked when I returned. Cami and Prof. Samuels had arrived and were pleasantly chatting with Pa, Andie, and Reggie.
“Pa, this may seem really personal, but when Mother Scott visited you that night, did she, by any chance, injure you…say…on your neck…or ear…or…”
“I get it, Allie.” Pa turned bright red and slightly angry. “She may have gotten a little…over-zealous, why?”
“It validates one of the tests Belle conducted and received erroneous results for prior to your procedure.”
He narrowed his eyes at me, but I ignored that and made my second inquiry.
“Pa, do you consume alcoholic beverages in large quantities on a regular basis?” I asked routinely. I noticed my sisters’ eyes open wider.
“I go down to the corner for a draft every once in a while. I wouldn’t consider myself a drinker by any stretch though…why?”
“Dr. Mintaka is concerned that alcohol may have an unwanted interaction with their re-growth process. She recommends limiting your consumption to no more than one glass of fifteen percent alcohol by content in any specific twenty-four hour period.”
“So nothing stronger than one glass of wine? No whiskey or bourbon?”
“That’s about it, Pa. I’m sorry. ” I confirmed sadly.
“If I can get around normally again, it would be worth it, sweetie.”
I smiled and winked once to Belle.
“So what’s next? How long until we can get back to the mission?”
“Belle says you’ve got about three days of intensive therapy before she can release you.” I told him.
“I take it Alex went to Burma? Will she, Emily, Yuuka and Doris be okay?”
“Everything will go as we have seen it, Louis.”
“That really didn’t answer my question, Allie.”
“It’s the best answer I can give you, Louis.” I said as I wondered how my sisters were faring in the place she called ‘Burma’. I could have easily popped up to 1942 to satisfy my curiosity, but that wasn’t part of ‘our’ plan.
Alex Steinert’s group: 0700hrs, Magwe Airstrip, China, Feburary 19th, 1942
“Now we go back through time a month or so. Ready,” I asked with a smile?
“What happened to the sun? It was there just a second ago, now it is back over there. How did you do that?” Lu Sei cried out in surprise in her native language.
“Do you remember where and what you were doing the day Sullivan flew away and never came back, Lu Sei?” I asked gently. I wanted to make sure we didn’t run into her temporal twin.
“I help to plane. Always I walk Sul-i-van to plane.” She responded sadly. Lu Sei craned her neck forward slightly and looked up at Doris for a moment.
Closing my eyes, I ran the scenarios a few times to make sure I saw things properly- that things hadn’t changed. I frowned for a second before nodding to myself and reopening my eyes.
Doris was staring at me again.
“You aren’t bringing him back with you.” She stated dejectedly. “I…I understand…Al…Alexandra.”
“He will come home, Doris Sullivan. It may take several years, but Ralph Sullivan WILL come home.”
“Will he still b…”
“And he will still be your loving husband, Doris. It might take a few more years for things to get back to normal, but you WILL be a family again.” I interrupted and assured her.
“Emily, it’s time. Y’all sure you can hold everyone out of phase until Yuuka and I get back?” I asked my sister in the most serious tone I’d ever heard myself use.
“Do you really have to ask that, Alex?” She smiled pleasantly. “The all-seeing Empress really has to ask?” She giggled before letting go of my hand.
She, Doris, Lu Sei, and Jack disappeared.
“It’s our turn, Yuuka.” I said as I held my finger up for her to take.
Yuuka hovered at my side and quickly grew to full-size.
“Are you sure you want to do this, Alex?” She questioned gently.
“In order to repair this part of the timeline, yes, Yuuka. Let’s go to Pixie mode, shall we?” I said with a tense smile. Of course I wasn’t completely sure about doing this, but if Alexis could do it, I could too.
“Going to Pixie-mode.” Yuuka said as she closed her eyes and started to concentrate heavily.
A sudden feeling of euphoria washed over me. Electricity danced over every inch of my skin. It felt hundreds of times stronger than any future or past version ‘syncing’ with me. This feeling was completely opposite of anything I had felt when Connie and I had gone on ‘the’ mission! My body felt like it was buzzing with energy- like a billion volts were rushing through me.
I had no idea when I had closed my eyes, but I opened them immediately when I felt the strange draft. It reminded me of waking up wearing my favorite nightie. In the cooler, but still humid morning jungle air, I felt…exposed. My HUD was reporting a mandatory clothing change by way of big, flashing red letters. A diagnostic window of some sort appeared to the right of the warning. That display seemed like a prefight checklist for lack of a better description. In short order both pop-up windows turned green for a moment then disappeared. Another, smaller window quickly appeared. This one announced that I had safely entered a new mode and that all suit systems were online and fully adapted.
I wanted to worry or be distressed by what had happened. Yet, I felt it was no big deal. In fact, I felt better now than that first morning of my change. I felt alive! I felt nothing in the world could hurt me- nothing could catch me! I felt free!
Wait, where did all these huge plants come from?
“It is done, Empress.” Yuuka said from beside me. Had we even changed? She still looked up at me like she normally did when full size.
“It is? Really?” I asked as I stared around.
‘I suggest that you try your wings, Empress. I have heard many rumors of extra-large insects inhabiting the region. I do not wish to lose the Empress on my watch, ma’am.’ Yuuka told me. I noticed her mouth wasn’t moving.
“I guess that would look bad, wouldn’t it?” I giggled as I concentrated on moving the unseen wings on my upper back. I felt a vibration and found myself flat on my bottom. Yuuka was laughing at me.
“That was only the first try, Yuuka. Don’t laugh at me!” I cried in embarrassment.
“A very wise woman once told someone in your situation to just not think about it- that birds don’t dwell on the facts of where to go, how to get there, how much is the wind blowing…”
“Am I that bad, Yuuka? I am not my daughter, I’ll have you know.” I said as Yuuka grew shorter and suddenly dropped from my sight. She quickly reappeared and I noted her wings were barely visible. That only meant one thing.
“I’m flying!” I cried out in surprise.
“Yes we are, Alex, and no, you aren’t anything like Alexis. You took to this like a seasoned pro. How does it feel?”
How did I feel? I took a minute to think about that.
It didn’t feel like anything, really. I felt no different here, now, flying high above the ground than if I was standing firmly on the ground far below. Though, looking down, I noticed that I was indeed several hundred feet above it. That observation alone filled me with energy- happy energy. I felt more alive than at any other time in my life!
“YAAAAHOOOOOO!” I screamed as I dove for the ground. Pulling up just feet from the dirt and course grass of the airfield, I adjusted my course for the jungle surrounding the field and quickly made several laps of the base. This was the greatest!
‘Alex?’ I heard in my mind several times, but chose to ignore the voice.
“EMPRESS!” The same voice screamed into my head suddenly. I came to a quick stop, though my feet still didn’t touch anything firm. I looked around to see where the voice was coming from and saw another pixie flying toward me.
“Empress. The mission. Please don’t forget about the mission.”
I hadn’t forgotten about the mission…or…or had I? I shook my head to clear it.
“Alex?” Yuuka asked cautiously as she stared into my eyes directly in front of me. “Are you alright, Capt. Steinert?”
“I’m okay, Yuuka. I…I…this is just sooo…”
“Alex, the mission? We need to get aboard that plane before Ralph Sullivan closes the canopy.” Yuuka pleaded.
I shook my head again- in fact, I shook it several times before the gravity of what we were to do here reemerged. “I…I remember the mission. I…I just can’t believe…believe how liberating this feels!” I admitted, feeling a huge smile plastered on my face.
“Well, if you two are finished flying around like first-graders, I think Lu Sei and Doris would like to get this over with. I know that Jack and I would like to see our captain grow back up from her second childhood.” Emily said sternly as they appeared a few feet away.
Lu Sei and Doris stared at the two of us in complete amazement. I decided to fly over to the little girl.
“Little Flower and I are going to rescue Sullivan now, okay?” I asked.
She nodded. “Alexandra, you have the prettiest pink wings I’ve ever seen! Are you the Empress of Pixies too?” She asked, blinking several times in astonishment.
“I just asked Little Flower to help me, honey. She helped me change into a Pixie.” I said as my mouth suddenly started to water. Was this what it was like? Did I now have a craving for honey?
No. I thought to myself flatly. The mission came first. After that… My mouth started to water again as I mentally thought the word ‘honey’.
My mind filled with Yuuka’s laughter.
“Stop laughing at me!” I shouted to the other pixie audibly. She was hovering only inches away and began laughing out loud.
“Sister! The mission!” Emily’s voice echoed loudly through my head- so loud in fact, that I had to cover my ears.
“I know the mission, Em! I planned it all out, remember?” I shouted back.
“Do you remember, Alex? Really? You’re acting just like Alexis when she volunteered for her mission.
“I remember the mission, Emily. Y’all kin change me inta any form y’all want, but ah’ll still remember what ah gotta do!” I groused.
“Good, they’re about to scramble. Git yer ass in gear an’ git ta that thar cockpit, Empress!” She growled with a much-exaggerated accent.
“Alex?” Jack asked to get my attention.
I hovered over to her.
“Alex, you know I can’t see you in this mode. I’ll try to follow Sullivan as best I can. Be careful, Alex.” She reminded me. I saw a tear form in her massive- to me- eye.
“Alex, we have to phase out now. Be careful, sis.” Emily said with a slight hint of sadness in her voice.
Emily, Lu Sei, Doris, and Jack disappeared again.
Let’s go, I thought to Yuuka. She nodded to me and took my hand. I phased us before hurrying off to the plane I knew was his. We quickly stowed ourselves behind the seat and waited.
“When is he going to get here?” I asked Yuuka impatiently.
“It’s only been a few seconds, Alex! Take it easy.”
“Only a few seconds? It feels like we’ve been here for hours.”
“It felt like that to me too the first hundred or so times I went into pixie mode. You just have to ignore it. I know it’s a hard thing to do, but you just have to, Alex.”
The equipment we were standing on shifted violently several times and a huge shadow blocked the light around us. The shadow- Ralph Sullivan- stepped in and settled himself, roughly into the cockpit’s seat.
“Give those Japs hell, Sully.” An unseen voice said from outside the plane somewhere.
“You be back, Sul-I-van?” Lu Sei asked as her head appeared just above the rim of the cockpit’s side.
“I promise I’ll be back in time for lunch, Lucy. You don’t have to worry, sweetheart. I promise, this is my last mission and then we’ll go home, you and me. We’ll be a family and far away from this war- far enough that you’ll be safe and not have to worry. You’d like that, right?”
“I wait, Sul-I-van.”
“A kiss for luck, sweetheart?” He asked as Lu Sei kissed her hand and quickly reached in toward him. She managed to just touch his face with her fingers. “Alright, sweetheart, you’d better get down so I can get ol’ Doris started.”
We could hear movement of all kinds as Sullivan readied his plane. There were sliding sounds, clicking sounds, and tapping sounds before someone outside yelled, ‘CLEAR!’
The noise of an electric starter spinning to life filled the still open cockpit then the sputtering of the multi cylinder engine as the fighter came to life- the roar so loud Yuuka and I had to cover our ears.
‘This is when it pays to have telepathic communication, Alex.’ Yuuka thought to me as she looked across the fuselage at me. We had released hands after Lu Sei climbed off the plane.
After backfiring a few times the motor smoothed out and quickly revved several times. Sullivan held up his thumb for a minute then the motor revved higher and the plane began to shake violently.
We were moving.
The ride as I perceived it from this size was almost life threatening. I hoped that we could survive it long enough to complete this part of our mission.
‘I’d take riding out a depth charge attack over this any day.’ I thought to my sister.
Several times the motor revved up and down and the plane shook as we were apparently waiting our turn to take off. Suddenly the canopy slid forward and slammed shut. The motor revved to full speed and we began to bounce violently again. I could feel the plane picking up speed. The shaking became even worse.
Suddenly everything smoothed out, though the roar of the motor was still deafening. The plane began to bank sharply to port and stayed that way for a minute or so then leveled off.
We were on our way.
Yuuka took flight and hovered at the cockpit’s rim as she looked to see where we were after about ten minutes.
‘Things are going to start getting fuzzy, Alex.’ She thought to me.
‘Why’s that?’ I thought back.
‘We’re climbing pretty high. The air gets pretty thin up here. The thinner the air, the lighter-headed we get without oxygen. Try to breath as deeply as you can and don’t make any unnecessary movements- nothing that will deplete your blood oxygen level quickly.’
‘I guess the cold goes along with the thin air?’ I asked.
‘Is this how it was for you…above Kili?’
‘Alex, conserve your oxygen!’ Yuuka growled in my mind.
‘Are we there yet?’ I thought emotionlessly. For the last forty-five minutes or so, I had noticed my field of vision narrowing. I felt drowsy- on the verge of sleep.
‘Alex, you have to conserve your air. Hey, come over here for a minute.’ Yuuka motioned for me to approach.
‘There is a small leak in his airline. Lean over and take a few good breathes.’ She pointed to the fitting on the hose leading from a regulator atop a cylindrical tank. The cold air refreshed me as I took several deep breaths.
‘Hey! Don’t hog it, Alex, I have to breathe too.’ Yuuka giggled.
I felt myself blush. ‘I’m sorry.’ I said sheepishly.
Curiously, I hovered up to look out the clear plastic canopy. Three planes flew in close formation off our starboard.
‘Don’t go too high, Alex, they’re close enough to see you.’ Yuuka warned as I looked down.
We were flying above the clouds.
‘How high are we?’ I asked my sister.
‘My guess would be very close to the operational limits of this aircraft, Alex.’ Yuuka answered as she took another deep breath from the supply hose. ‘While serving in Manchuria, we heard several Imperial pilots describing the tactics of the ‘Flying Tigers’ of Burma. Apparently these fighters…um…P-40’s, are inferior to the newer Imperial fighters. The adapted attack style is to dive at the unsuspecting bombers and escorts. Though more maneuverable, Japanese fighters cannot follow at sufficient speed to catch such fighter attacks- they are simply not built for such speed.
Our plane’s motor suddenly revved to full power. We pitched to port suddenly and began dropping in altitude quickly.
‘Here we go,’ I thought. Yuuka nodded to me in worry. Within a matter of a few seconds the fuselage around us began to shake and vibrate. It increased as we picked up more speed. I had to get a look at this!
‘Alex, be careful. Remember that there are going to be plenty of bullets flying though the air around us.’
I found a good vantage point on the top of Sullivan’s parachute. From here I could see almost everything. We were rapidly dropping in on a group of ‘Betty’s’ and their ‘Nate’ escorts.
‘This is suicide!’ I thought loudly to my sister. I suddenly began to think of my time aboard Jim Lovell’s spacecraft- how my appearance just after the fuel cell explosion caused his crew’s concentration to break temporarily- how the spacecraft quickly began to oscillate out of control again and how they fought with the control quads to get Odyssey to cooperate as she lost precious oxygen- the pressurized gas creating unwanted thrust.
But that was in space. The feeling- the weightlessness of this dive stood in stark contrast in that I could see exactly what was happening now. In space everything except the Earth and moon was black nothingness- similar to my private domain but filled with stars. The feeling of being weightless and violently thrown around was there but nothing else. I felt my heart pumping furiously as we closed at an astounding rate on the enemy aircraft. Had they seen us yet? Probably not as the sun was at our backs- the sun would obscure our attack. Ingenious.
I noticed one of the ‘Nates’ break away from the group.
“Shit!” Sullivan swore from behind his air mask. He immediately changed his course to follow the fighter.
“What are you doin’ Sully? Get back in formation!” I heard from his nearby headphone.
“I’m staying with my ‘Nate’! You guys take out the ‘Betty’s’.”
“Sully, you can’t match him in a fight! Get with the program!”
Sullivan rolled his plane as we rushed closer to the escaping fighter. The plane began to shake even more as the P-40’s machineguns roared to life. Smoke erupted from the enemy plane as we hurtled below and behind it.
“Got him!” Our pilot announced calmly.
“That’s all well an’ good, Sully, but you got one on your tail now!”
Over the roar of the motor, I could hear the telltail metallic ‘tings’ as we came under attack.
‘Yuuka, get up here and hang on!’ I thought excitedly.
There was a sickening ‘thunk’ and smoke began to stream from somewhere forward of the cockpit. Sullivan violently pitched the plane on its side several times, but more bullets found their marks.
“Shit, I’m losing oil pressure.”
‘Alex, we have one right on our tail!’ Yuuka screamed in my mind.
“Bank hard to the right then pull back hard on the stick! Now!” I screamed as loud as I could at the nearby headset.
The plane violently pitched to starboard and I began to feel the pull of gravity increase substantially.
“Now roll it, hard to the left, and pull up again!” I shouted.
Again the plane violently shifted as the earth circled around us quickly and gravity increased in the other direction.
“Who’s that?” Sullivan asked as he tapped frantically at his headset.
“What are you talking about, Sully, and where did you learn those moves?” The male wingman’s voice asked.
“A woman’s voice…she told me to bank right, roll it then left and pull up. Where did that voice come from?” Sullivan asked.
“Less talk and more moves, Sully! There’s another one on your tail!” The wingman shouted.
“I know! I lost too much speed!”
“Alex, he’s coming on fast. I don’t think we can escape this time.” Yuuka cried her alert.
“I’m not going to get to you in time, Sully.” His wingman said sadly.
“Hey, it’s been nice flying with you guys. Tell Lucy I’ll try to make it back.”
Quickly, I grabbed Yuuka’s hand and mentally threw her imaginary valve almost all the way open. I concentrated on putting a containment shield around the whole plane.
“Thanks for the warning, Alex!” My sister gasped as I concentrated on phasing plane, pilot, and pixies out at the same time I stopped time inside my containment field.
The enemy plane was suddenly in front of us.
“Fire yer guns!” I shouted into Sullivan’s headphone.
The tail of the plane now directly in front of us disappeared. The ‘Nate’ immediately rolled to starboard and began plummeting to Earth in a spiral.
“How the hell did you do that?” The voice cracked over Sullivan’s headphone.
The P-40’s motor began to sputter and miss furiously. The propeller began to slow.
“Doesn’t matter how the hell that happened, I’m not going to make it back home, Smithie. What I said before goes. I’ll try to get as close as I can before I have to jump.”
“Been great flyin’ with ya, Sully. Keep yer head low if you make it.”
More metallic impacts echoed in the much quieter cockpit.
“Shit, not another one! Can’t you guys give me a little cover fire up there?”
“Kinda busy, Sull...” The wingman’s voice stopped abruptly as I smelt smoke fill the air. The radio had been shot.
“Take your headset off, Ralph Sullivan.” I shouted.
“What the…?” our pilot said as he tore his flying cap from his head.
“I want you to aim for that mountain to your left, Ralph. Do it now if you want to live.” I told the man as he desperately tried to see where my voice was coming from.
“Why should I aim for the hillside? How can I possibly live if I hit it?”
“You’ll just have to trust us, won’t you?” I argued back calmly.
“Us? There is more than just one voice in my head? Did I buy it already?”
“No, y’all are quite alive for the time bein’, Ralph.”
“I have a Southern Belle in my head? I’ve got to be dead.”
“For the record, I’m from Missoura, Ralph, now aim for the mountain, please.”
“Alex, what are you doing? Not even a pixie can survive slamming into the side of a mountain at over two hundred miles an hour. You know that, right?”
“Who said anything about us crashing, Yuuka?” I asked my sister verbally.
“Oh jeez, there ARE two voices in my head!” Sullivan said as he continued trying to get a look at us.
More bullets hit our crippled plane as our pilot banked left.
“I’ll let you see who we are if you promise to keep your composure, Ralph Sullivan.” I said calmly, but firmly. “Both hands on the stick and don’t you dare pass out, understand?”
Our pilot nodded with a loud swallow.
The motor gave one last backfire before everything went eerily quiet. We didn’t have much time left. I motioned for Yuuka to follow me.
Flying forward, we both stopped and hovered before the huge face of Ralph Sullivan. His eyes danced frantically between Yuuka and I as his complexion went pale.
“I said no passing out, Mr. Sullivan!” I ordered. “Stay on course.”
“Who…what are you?”
I am Alexandra and this is Yuuka. Doris sent us to rescue you.” I said matter-of-factly.
“Doris? Doris sent you? How…what?”
“Alex, his wingman is approaching and one’s still on his tail.” Yuuka said as she looked to the rear of the plane.
More bullets echoed through the quiet fuselage again. Sullivan’s hands jerked back on the joystick suddenly.
“Shit! He just took out my ailerons. No way can I land this thing now. Looks like you…um…”
“Pixies, Ralph, we’re Pixies.” I answered with a smile.
“No way I can land this thing, girls. Looks like you decided to rescue the wrong guy.”
“Just let us decide whether we bet on the wrong horse or not, Ralph. Try to keep us on target.”
“Then what will happen?”
“You trust, Sul-I-van?” I asked using Lu Sei’s pronounciation.
The man’s eyes got wider. “You know Lucy?”
“She’s safe and waiting for you to get back to the states, Ralph.” I reassured him.
“Time to unbuckle the straps, Ralph. You might want to try and open the canopy as well.” I suggested as the trees on the mountain ahead of us started to take on more definition. Sullivan tried to open the large plastic canopy with one hand while holding us steady with the other.
“It won’t budge! I can’t get it open!” He said with a slight amount of panic.
“I didn’t think it would open.” I said calmly. “Jammed by a bullet.”
“Alex, tell me you saw all this happen.” Yuuka said in an excited voice as she stared at the onrushing jungle.
“Let’s get to his shoulder, hun.” I said as I took Yuuka’s hand and tugged her to Sullivan’s huge shoulder.
I grabbed the man’s earlobe and began to concentrate on where to transport him. I noticed our wingman pull up and bank hard to port. Again I opened Yuuka’s imaginary valve wide.
Dense, dark green jungle surrounded us- the plane we had been in, nowhere to be seen. Off in the distance the buzz of airplanes lowered in pitch as they moved away from our new location. A sudden explosion echoed through the trees thus making the jungle come alive with animal chatter, roars, and squawking.
“Yuuka, perimeter search.” I ordered as I released Sullivan’s earlobe.
“Where are we? How…how did you do that?”
I hovered back in front of Ralph.
“I am Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space, Ralph Sullivan. As to where we are…my guess would be a few miles north of where your plane just exploded on that mountain over there.” I answered as I pointed to the nearby summit.
“I’m really dead, right? I mean…I mean something like Pixies and…and time travel…they really don’t exist…do…do they?”
“Hold out your hand, Mr. Sullivan.” I requested. He obliged and I landed on his upturned palm.
“Do you have a mirror in your survival kit, Ralph?” I asked with a smile.
“Um…ya…why?” He asked in curiosity.
“Because I have yet to see myself in this form and before I leave it, I’d like to see what I look like, silly.” I answered matter-of-factly.
“Oh…um…sure, its…its right here. I’ll get it.”
After a few minutes of digging, Ralph produced a small shaving mirror and held it in front of me.
The girl reflected looked exactly like me. The notable exception was my clothing. The reflection was dressed in a light green, tight-fitting leotard that left way too much of me exposed- cleavage or otherwise. She wore light green ballet slippers on her bared legs and a light green fabric mini-skirt that left almost nothing to the imagination. On her back a double set of wings with bright pink ‘smudges’ flitted nervously. I immediately tried to pull more skirt fabric to my exposed thighs. I felt myself blush profusely.
“Perimeter is clear, Alex…oh, I expected you wouldn’t waste any time…” Yuuka reported but stopped when she saw me admiring my reflection.
“Good,” I said as I looked up into the sky. “It’ll be dark soon and you’ll be able to move.”
“Where am I going to go? I don’t even know where I am?” Sullivan complained a little too loud for either of us pixies. Yuuka and I immediately covered our sensitive ears.
“Sorry.” Sullivan whispered in reaction.
“Yuuka, I think it’s time that we grew up. We stand a better chance of not becoming a main dish for the inhabitants.” I suggested as I took to the air, closed my eyes, and began willing myself to exit pixie mode.
As before, the rush of electricity…the sheer pleasure that encompassed my body, overloaded all my senses. In the background I heard a sharp gasp from our new companion.
Again my HUD displayed two pop-up windows; one alerting me that my suit had automatically changed my style of clothing; the second, running diagnostics on my changing body. Both changed to green for a moment then disappeared. Again another window popped up alerting me to a ‘mode’ change. I opened my eyes.
Standing before me was Ralph Sullivan in his flight suit and parachute. His eyes bulging at what they beheld. I glanced to the side and saw Yuuka had also left pixie mode.
“You’re navy?” He gasped.
“Y’all got a problem with that, flyboy?” I growled as I looked down to examine myself. I was back to my regulars.
“No…no ma’am…Commander, sir!” Ralph jumped to attention and saluted. “Lt. Ralph Christen Sullivan, Former Army Air Corp, sir!”
“Give it a rest, Ralph. I’m not here to pull rank on you.” I giggled. “I’m here to right a wrong that was caused by someone thinking they could change the world to match their specific image. Yuuka and I are here to put time back on track, Mr. Sullivan.”
“Ma’am?” the man asked, perplexed.
‘It’s about time you got back, Alex! I was starting to get worried you and Yuuka didn’t make it.’ Jack’s concerned voice echoed through my skull. I placed my finger to my lips to tell Ralph to be quiet for a moment.
‘Yuuka and I are fine, Jack. Part two of this mission is complete. We’re just going to make sure Ralph is safe for the night and be on our way. Tell Doris that her husband is safe and she’ll see him again as promised.’
‘Aye, Cap! I’ll pass that news along.’
“Talking to Jack, Alex?” Yuuka asked.
“She was concerned we wouldn’t make it.” I answered.
“I was starting to think the same thing the closer we got to that mountain, Alex.” My sister admitted as she gently rubbed her forehead with the back of her hand.
‘Alex, I’m ready to do the mind wipe when you’re ready.’ Jack informed me. I nodded slightly.
“Ralph Sullivan, I’d like you to inventory your supplies. Make sure you have your chit handy. You’ll need it soon enough.” I recommended as I reached for and took Yuuka’s hand.
“You’re going? Where will you go? I didn’t observe any small villages or anything remotely appearing to be civilization from up there.” He said as he pointed skyward.
“This is as far as we can take you, Ralph. I’m afraid you have to make your own way to freedom from here on out, and you may not have seen civilization from up there,” I gestured skyward also, “but you have been noticed by allies. Take care, Ralph Sullivan. Always remember that Doris and Lu Sei will be waiting for you.”
“Thank you, Commander. I hope one day we’ll see each other again. I owe you two my life.” Sullivan said as he reached to shake our free hands.
“The only thing you owe us is to make it back to the states in one, living, piece. You have two girls pinin’ away for you there.”
‘Now, Jack. Everything but what I said awaited him stateside. The man has to have a reason to go on.’
Magwe airfield appeared around us.
Walking down to the far end of the field, I rephased Yuuka and I to meet up with Emily, Doris, Lu Sei, and Jack.
“Welcome back, stranger.” Emily giggled. “How is my little Pixie-poo?”
I smiled broadly. “It was the most amazing feeling in all the worlds, sis! I can see why Alexis was reluctant to grow back up. The feeling of pure freedom…it was just so amazing!” I gushed.
“Alexandra, I like you better this way.” Lu Sei said in her tongue. “Although you are a very pretty pixie. I just love those pink wings and your green outfit!”
“You do?” I asked in excitement as I bent down to our small companion. “I like this form too! How would you like to go somewhere where it’s safe and warm, and full of people that care for you very much?”
“Will Sul-I-van be there too?” The girl asked; excitement and hope filled her voice.
Not at the first place we visit, but maybe…just maybe he’ll be at our final destination. You want to go see?” I asked with the same excitement.
The girl nodded cautiously once.
“Let’s join hands and we’ll be there in a…”
My quarters on Atlantis appeared around us.
“Flash!” I said as I excitedly completed my sentence.
As usual, the Temporal Anomaly Alarm was sounding.
“It’s just me, Dixie.” I said in an annoyed tone.
The Alarm silenced.
“Welcome back, Empress. I trust your mission went according to plan?”
“Yes it did, hun, all of the players are in place. How is my sister’s mission progressing?”
“I’m afraid Mr. Scott is proving to be very stubborn and is trying Empress Alexandra Reilly, Dr. Mintaka, as well as Commodore Celeste’s patience, Empress.” Dixie replied in a vexed tone.
“Where is that voice coming from, Alexandra? Little Flower, I am scared.” Lu Sei cried out in fright.
“You are on a spaceship, Lu Sei.” I told her with a big, reassuring smile.
“What is a spaceship?”
“It’s like a big airplane, but flies through the heavens, high above the Earth and your home.” I replied. “Would you like to see?”
“I recommend observation lounge Beta-17, Empress. Temporal Anomaly Alarms have been disabled at both points for transit.” Dixie informed me.
“Have the others meet us there, Dixie.”
“As you wish, Empress.”
A familiar lounge area now surrounded us. I quickly rephased us and released the hands I was holding.
“It’s nighttime already?” Lu Sei exclaimed as she ran to the windows and stared out. Earth appeared at the right-most pane and moved slowly across the room’s transparent wall. The girl released an excited squeal before her jaw dropped open in awe of the sight. Doris walked up slowly behind her and held her tight as she too watched our home move from panel to panel. We all stood there in silence until the beautiful blue and white planet disappeared from view.
When Doris turned back to me she had tears streaming down her face.
“This…this is just so incredible! Alexandra…how…how can this be? That can’t be Earth. It looks too snow covered.” She paused a moment. “That is snow down there isn’t it?”
I nodded. “Welcome to the year seventy-two, thousand-something BC, Mrs. Sullivan. What you saw below on the planet is what scientists call the Ice Age. It will last another twenty or thirty thousand years before the Earth starts to warm and melt into the continents you studied in geography class.”
“Seventy-thous…thousand?” She sputtered out.
“Give or take a few thousand, but yes. A magnificent sight, wouldn’t you agree?” I switched my translator to Cantonese. “So what do you think, Lu Sei? You like the view?”
“I want to see it again, Alexandra! Can we see it again?”
“It’ll be back around in a few minutes, honey.” I promised.
“Em, y’all really oughta do somethin’ ‘bout yer Pa!” Alex Reilly groused as she stomped through the door when it slid open. “Ah swear he bitches worse’n Billie!”
“He never used to be like that, sis, he was always so reserved.” Emily giggled.
I was never ‘reserved, young lady! I just know how to keep my mouth shut!” Pa said as he entered the large room- still on crutches.
“Hey, gir…oh, look at you, cutie!” Cami started to say as she and Ricky Lynn came through the door, but upon seeing Lu Sei, her attention changed.
“Who are you?” The girl asked in Cantonese.
“My name is Camille…Camille Darough. What’s your’s cutie?” Cami asked in the girl’s tongue.
“I am called Lu Sei. Are you a friend of Little Flower and Alexandra?”
“We all are, cutie.” Cami giggled. “Here, I’ll introduce you to the gang, okay?”
While Cami introduced Lu Sei to everyone, I approached Doris Sullivan.
“So what do y’all think, Doris?” I asked.
“I can’t believe that I’m here…” She gulped, “looking down on my home…or what will be my home some day.”
“It does look spectacular from up here doesn’t it? That’s not what I asked though, Doris. What do you think of Lu Sei?”
“I’m not sure. If she spoke better English…maybe?”
“So you are one of those people that judge someone else by the way they look or speak? I’m surprised at you, Doris Sullivan.” I chided.
“I never said that, Alexandra! I just wish I understood Chinese so I could know what she’s saying- what she thinks of me.”
“It’s been my experience that the old adage is still true, Doris.”
“What old adage?”
“That the eyes are the windows into the heart…and soul.” I recited with a smile. “Words can be arranged in all sorts of ways- mostly by politicians- to say one thing but mean another, but a person’s eyes…? With experience and close observation they will never hide their owner’s true feelings, Doris. Look into the child’s eyes and see the truth reflected there. They will never lie.”
“Is that how you do it, Alexandra? Look into someone’s eyes?” She asked candidly.
“Sometimes, but most of the time I cheat.” I giggled. “Mostly, I rely on my gift of foresight to know if a person is telling the truth or not. If I stare into someone’s eyes long enough they start to get ‘creeped out’, so in the interest of comfort, I use my gift- less awkward that way.”
Sullivan’s hand came to her mouth as she started to giggle quietly.
“Though, right now,” I said motioning to her, “your eyes tell me that you find my conversation entertaining and disarming- which was my goal- to make you feel comfortable around all this.” I motioned around the room then to the door as Andie and Reggie entered.
Cami immediately introduced Lu Sei to our hosts, noting that Andie was Emily’s and my half sister.
“Lu Sei, here comes the Earth again.” I called and the excited girl rushed to the windows again.
A few moments later, Andie walked to my side.
“Welcome back, sister. I trust your end of this mission has gone smoother than my end?”
“Was he really that bad, Andie?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“At first he seemed excited, but once asked to move it and with no result, he became discouraged and sank into despair. He still refuses to fully embrace the limb, Alex. It is as if he does not trust it to hold him- that it will somehow detach and run away on its own.”
“I think he’s just mad that we tricked him. He’s a very proud man you know. Pride sometimes has a way of interfering with progress.”
“I know that all too well, sister.” She looked back to the windows as Lu Sei watched, transfixed, as the last vestiges of Earth disappeared from view again. “If Mrs. Sullivan does not wish to accept the child, I have room for her here. She will get the best education Atlantis can provide, and all the love she will ever want. That, I guarantee, Empress.”
“Thank you, sis, but Doris will be every bit the doting mother Lu Sei lost when her family and village was decimated. There is, however, always room for a doting aunt or two.” I said with a grin.
Andie smiled deviously. “As long as some form of transportation is available for us to visit her, Empress.” She replied with a wink.
We both laughed as she wrapped her long arms around me and squeezed gently.
Someone tapped me on my shoulder and Andie released her bear hug. Cami stood there waiting patiently.
“I will insert the necessary archives while she sleeps, Alex. Jacki has insisted I show her my technique and will supply some of the needed knowledge.” She informed us.
“Wait till we get back to Bridgeport to instruct Jack, Cami. Doris has requested she learn a little Chinese to understand Lu Sei better. We’ll see y’all in the morning, Sweetheart.”
“I have arranged for Doris and Lu Sei to share quarters, which are located next to you and Alex Reilly, Cami.”
“Thank you Commodore. I suspect both will require escort there within the hour. Our little cutie is already starting to fatigue.”
“I’ll try to have Jack and Emily back in a few hours then. We still have some unfinished business back in Burma.” I said as I kissed both women’s cheek.
‘Jack, get Emily. It’s time to finish the Burma mission.’ I thought to her.
‘Aye, Cap, be right there.’
I decided to meet Jack and Emily half way.
“Alex! Alex, sweetie, you have to take me with you! These women are going to kill me if I don’t get out of here! Please, I beg you, get me out of here.” Pa said quietly as he took my arm gently, but firmly.
“Pa, what’ s the problem? They just gave you back your foot! What you need to do is listen to what they say and let the therapy do its work. Don’t be such a baby!”
“No, I’m thankful they were willing to give this thing to me, but it’s not…me! They grew the thing in two days, Alex! Two days! How could it be me in so little time?” He asked, still at a low volume.
“Look,” I told him as I stared directly into his eyes. “They took a certain kind of cell from your spinal cord- a stem cell they call it in the twenty-first century, Pa. This cell…they processed it and programmed it to divide and replicate. Using specially designed equipment, they persuade the cell to produce more cells. On and on it goes until the cells begin to form bones and tissues and skin. With the equipment, this happens at a phenomenal rate. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but every cell in that new foot is yours! There is not one living cell in that ‘thing’, as you call it, that you don’t have in your other foot. The foot is every bit an integral part of you, Pa. You! So stop whining and walk on the damn thing! It will never fail you…ever!”
“Alex, I think he should come along.” Emily said gently touching my other arm. “The jungle air might do him some good.” She added with a quick wink.
I offered my hand begrudgingly.
1113hrs, Magwe Airstrip, China, March 21st, 1942
“Keep holding my hand until I say it’s safe, Pa.” I warned in an unhappy tone. “Jack, the bombing group will be coming from that direction.” I nodded to our right. “We need the Airfield to look like more jungle.”
“How long until they arrive, Cap?”
“About five minutes, but I have to rephase us or you’ll destabilize us and we’ll be seen anyway.”
“Got it, Alex. This will work better if I set up toward the middle of the field. I’ll be able to fortify the shield better if I can see where it’s weakest.” My Ex-O recommended.
“I know, Jack, and you’re going to have to erase us from their memories- in fact, the whole incident will have to be erased. Remember this attack never happened before Clemson’s intervention.”
Off in the distance the droning of aircraft engines could be heard. We had just arrived at Jack’s designated location, as the droning grew louder.
“Rephase us now, Alex.”
I nodded and released Emily and Pa’s hands.
“Deploying camouflage shield now, Alex.” Jack announced. The sky above us darkened slightly.
Several men ran from their quarters, started pointing to us, and ran toward us. Most of the others pointed over our heads to the incoming enemy aircraft.
Suddenly pulses of bright, blue light began launching straight up from Jack’s suddenly up stretched arms. I had seen this display before, on Terra.
“Show off.” I accused.
“Better that they be awed than aiming, Empress.” She offered.
“Well done, sister.” I said before I turned and walked toward the gathering crowd.
“Alex! Where are you going?” Emily cried out.
“I’m going to offer our services and hope they don’t shoot me before I tender it.” I turned and replied with a wink.
“Alex, wait.” Pa said as he hobbled to catch up.
“Get back by Jack, Pa, she’ll protect you.” I warned angrily.
“I know one of those guys. We were in boot camp together.”
“What the hell you doin’ on my field an’ what the hell is she doin’ out there?” A middle-aged man screamed in anger, as he hurried closer.
“She’s savin’ your worthless asses, Bobby! You do hear the bombers comin’ right?” Pa screamed back.
“Lou?! What the hell you doin’ here? I thought you got out a long time ago?”
“I re-upped. You have a problem with that?”
“What’s she doin’ here?”
“My daughter, Alex, is in charge of this mission, Bobby.”
“In charge? Your daughter is in charge of a mission? How stupid you think we are? Women can’t command!”
“And I suppose women can’t produce a camouflage force field over this entire base to hide you from those Japanese bombers either, right?”
“What the hell she yappin’ ‘bout, Lou?” ‘Bobby screamed.
I phased and rephased behind him.
“I suggest ya shut yer yap and stand down, Bobby.” I said before phasing out and rephasing next to Pa again.
The staring commenced- all aimed at me, of course.
“What the hell?! What is she, Lou?”
“She’s my daughter and your salvation, Bobby; now shut-up, stand down, and watch!”
The first of the planes appeared over the trees. It made no obvious moves to alter coarse to make a bomb run. The fighter escorts stayed in formation. They didn’t appear to take notice of the base or anything on the ground.
‘Jack, leave knowledge of the ‘Scott twins’ in this guy’s mind. It comes in handy in the future.’ I thought to her.
“Hey, Bob, I can’t find Lucy anywhere! I wanted to get her away from the buildings but I can’t find her!” A younger man shouted as he ran from Lu Sei’s quarters.
Overhead in the opposite direction more aircraft could be heard approaching. Diving fighters came into focus as they dropped from a higher altitude. Smoke began billowing from several ‘Bettys’ and two ‘Nates’.
“It’s the third! They must have been on patrol today!” Someone shouted excitedly from the gathered crowd.
Everyone began cheering as the specialized attack continued over us. I noticed a ‘Nate’ take heavy fire. It began plummeting to the ground toward us.
‘Alex, its going to hit close to you and Mr. Scott. Get out of there!’ Jack shouted in my head.
‘Let it through, Commander.’ I thought back to her calmly.
‘But you and the others…’
‘We’ll be fine, Jack, just let it through. Make it look like it crashed into the jungle.’
‘Aye, Cap.’ Jack replied sounding very skeptical and concerned I was making a grave mistake.
“If Ah were y’all, Ah’d run for cover! Y’all got incomin’!” I shouted with my back toward the approaching disaster- my thumb pointing behind me.
Men took off running in every direction. Bobby continued to stare at Pa and me.
“Pa, You an’ Bobby’s in the line of fire.” I said calmly.
“Alex! Get out of the way! You’ll be killed!” Pa shouted as he hobbled quickly away from me.
The man named Bobby just kept staring at me.
“Pa, Bobby’s in danger. Y’all hafta get him outta here.” I said with no emotion. “Ah kin phase out to protect mahself. Your friend cain’t.”
I could hear the sputtering of the motor as it closed quickly from behind me.
“Alex!” Pa shouted as he wavered a few yards away from me.
“Get Bobby!” I screamed.
Suddenly, Pa dropped his crutches, sprinted to, and tackled his apparent friend. They landed hard, but were now out of harm’s way. I phased just as the plane impacted several yards behind me. I could feel the intense heat rush through me as the flaming hulk stopped only a hundred feet ahead. I looked over to where Pa and Bobby lay, shielding their eyes and faces from the heat.
“So, your new foot served you well, Louis Scott?” I said as I rephased standing a foot or so behind the two prone men.
“How the hell did you…I saw the plane hit…you were right there!”
“You don’t need to know how I accomplished that illusion, sir. Just know that this base…and every man on it…has been saved. Please go back to your quarters and rest assured that you will all live to fly another day. In a few minutes we will take our leave of this place. You and the others will never remember any of this happening.”
“What the hell are you broads?”
“Watch it Bobby, this is my daughter, Alexandra, the Empress of Time and Space, and she and her friend just saved your asses! I recommend you say ‘thank you’ to the girls before you don’t remember this happening.” Pa informed the man with pride overflowing his words.
“How the hell would I not remember this, Lou? Three strange women and a guy I know to be mustered out years ago suddenly appear in the middle of my airstrip just before an enemy bombing group flies into range? How can I forget that? Not to mention that one of the women is shooting blue balls of light from her hands and another one…that you say is your daughter…disappears and reappears like some ghostly apparition…then survives being run over by a burning, downed enemy plane not two hundred feet in front of me! What the hell is going on, Lou? Are you even Lou at all, Lou?”
“Sir, you have a burning aircraft on your airfield,” I interrupted. “Don’t you think you should put out the fire? Or would you like us to do that for you?”
“I think we can put out a fire, Princess.” Bobby retorted caustically.
“I know you will, SIR.” I replied snidely. “I just thought that if it were put out quicker, that the enemy planes might not circle back after we’ve left. Once my Ex-O drops her force field your base and the tell-tail smoke will be completely visible.”
Pa’s buddy stared at me for a few minutes. I stared back in defiance.
“Do it.” He growled in defeat, looking away from me embarrassed.
“Jack, we need a suppression field over the plane to snuff out the flames, please.”
‘Sure thing, Alex.’ She thought back to me.
The thick, black, smoke and flames suddenly started to collect, roll, and boil in the unseen containment field.
Bobby’s jaw dropped.
“How the hell are you doing that?” he finally asked.
“My girls can do some pretty amazing things if they wish, Bob, so don’t piss ‘em off. Just thank them and we’ll be on our way.” Pa informed his friend.
Many more of the base inhabitants had approached the strange phenomena and surrounded it, scratching their heads in wonder. The flames had died quickly with the oxygen used up, but the smoke still boiled and swirled in the transparent, hemispherical field.
“How…how did you get here? No one reported any parachutes or unauthorized vehicles…” Bobby asked as he looked around.
“I transported our little group here, sir- we’ll leave the same way.” I answered.
“Jack, the fire’s out. Y’all can disable your containment field.” I added.
Immediately the smoke burst forth into the air and began to dissipate. There was a collective gasp from all gathered.
“Get the pilot out of there!” Bobby shouted.
“He was dead before he hit the ground, sir.” I told him sadly.
“How could you know that?” He asked, turning to stare at me again.
“I know a lot more about what happened today than you would actually believe, sir. I also know that one of your pilots is alive and in the protection of the Chinese resistance. Another- unofficial- member of this base is under my protection and is safe from the dangers of this war.” I answered.
“Lucy? She’s safe?” Bobby and several other men close enough to hear me asked.
“Stateside.” I answered with a pleasant smile. “She’s in a loving home in Bridgeport, Connecticut.”
“Bridgeport? But that’s where you’re…”
“Whoa, buddy! Doris Sullivan offered to take her in, not me!”
“Sullivan? But, Sullivan was reported missing last mon…”
“Ralph Sullivan is being escorted to the nearest Allied port as we speak, or weren’t you listening to me before, ‘Bobby’?” I smiled deviously.
“So, he’s safe too?”
“As safe as anyone can be while traveling behind enemy lines, sir.”
“But he’ll make it out, right?”
“In a year or two.” I said as I took Pa’s hand and pulled him away from the growing crowd.
“Time to go, Louis. Jack, disable your Camo shield, we’ll be on our way.”
The sky immediately brightened as Jack dropped her hands to her sides. She, and Emily started walking toward us.
“Great job, Jack.” I gushed with pride.
“You are truly amazing, Jacquelyn Cummins! I still can’t believe you did that. Why didn’t you stop that plane from coming through, though?”
“Alex told me not to, Mr. Scott. I’ve learned not to question most of her commands. She knows what she’s doing, sir.”
I winked at her and smiled.
“How the hell did you do that, young lady? How the HELL did you make them Japs fly right past us?”
“I distinctly heard the Empress tell you how I did it, sir. I’m just glad we could help today.” Jack answered demurely.
“Bobby, this is Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jacquelyn Cummins,” Pa motioned to Jack. “And this is my youngest daughter, Emily. Girls, this is Robert Garvie. An old buddy of mine from a long time ago.”
Jack and Emily smiled as they shook hands.
“Just as we talked about, Jack.” I said despondently as I offered Emily my hand.
“What did you talk about? Lou, what are your girls talking about- ‘Just as we talked about?’ you mean they really can make us forget everything we seen here? Really?”
Releasing my hold, I stopped and turned around to face him.
“That’s exactly what is going to happen, Mr. Garvie, though you specifically won’t forget quite everything. You and you alone will remember me, my twin sister, and Emily as being the daughters of Louis Scott. What you will not remember is anything that has happened here today.” I told him honestly.
“I don’t understand. What the HELL do you mean?”
“I mean, Mr. Garvie, that this attack…our visit to your base…it never should have happened, or been necessary…not in the original timeline, anyway. Someone has purposely tried to change history…the history that has just and is still happening around you…around us…at this very moment. None of you will remember any of this happening because we’re going to make sure the culprit is stopped from doing it in the first place.”
“There’s no way in HELL that made any sense at all, princess! How you gonna stop somethin’ thats already happened?”
“I travel through time, Mr. Garvie, but I don’t expect you to remember that after we leave. What I would expect is that you feel some sort of importance…nothing more than a feeling that Emily, my twin sister, or myself are special- that there is more to us than meets the eye. Until we meet again, have a good day, Mr. Robert Joshua Garvie.”
Re-connecting with Pa and Emily, I nodded to Jack to commence our deletion from base-wide memory. Jack gave a sad nod and everyone that we could see froze in place for a moment.
After she nodded an airstrip with different aircraft appeared around us. These aircraft displayed the familiar ‘Rising Sun’ emblem of Imperial Japan.
“What are we doing on an enemy base, Alexandra?” Pa gasped out in surprise.
“To right the wrong Darren Clemson initiated.” I replied as I pulled gently for Pa, Emily, and Jack to follow.
I walked us through several soldiers right into a building that I knew to be the base headquarters.
“So now what, Alex?” Jack asked as she looked around uncomfortably.
“We wait for Clemson to show his face.”
“Do you want me to try to grab him, Cap?”
“You won’t be able to, Jack. He can shunt your telekenetic attempts remember? You won’t have time to suggest he can’t move once he sees us.”
“He’ll be able to see us? That means they will be able to see us!” Jack cried in shock.
“I don’t plan to be here all that long, hun. We just need to scare him into moving on.” I revealed. “Get ready.”
Suddenly, I felt the air around us become static-filled- almost like Jack powering up. I had noted this strange feeling several times in our pursuit of Prof. Samuel’s time machine. I sensed that Clemson would appear any second.
I also felt reality synchronize around us. Boy, was Ricky Lynn’s machine, unstable!
The Base Commander confirmed my feeling immediately.
“What? Where did you come from? Guards! Intruders!” The Japanese commander shouted as, by his perspective, we suddenly appeared across the room from him.
Clemson and the QDA appeared instantly thereafter between us. Our would-be captor’s eyes bulged from his head as he tossed something out of range of the QDA’s ‘attractive’ perimeter.
“There you are!” I said to our adversary calmly. “Thought you could out run me, did you?”
Clemson’s face was priceless as his hand scrambled for the activation button almost instinctually.
In another instant he was gone. I hurried to phase us out again. Not a moment too soon as three soldiers hurried in and walked directly through us.
“Jack, please take care of that paper with the coordinates of Garvie’s base written on it.”
Clemson’s hastily discarded, folded piece of yellow notepad paper burst into flames and disappeared completely leaving no ash whatsoever.
“What is it sir? What did you call us for?” One of the newly arrived, slightly out of breath, guards asked of his superior.
The base commander’s mouth moved slightly, but no words came out. He simply continued staring at us- or where we had been- in horror.
“I’ll handle this, Alex.” Jack giggled deviously.
“I saw a mouse.” The commander said as if suddenly in a trance.
“A mouse?” all three guards repeated giving him a strange look.
“Of the two-legged variety. It was about this tall,” The commander’s hand came up to about neck level to indicate the size. “He had large round ears, wore white overalls, and large, round, white shoes. He claimed his name was ‘Mickey’ in a high squeaky voice.”
“Jack?” I giggled as Pa and Emily began laughing.
“Get the doctor here at once, the Captain has fallen ill!” One of the summoned guards told another, who then proceeded to run from the building immediately.
My quarters on Atlantis surrounded us. Alex Reilly, Cami, Doris Sullivan, Yuuka, Ricky Lynn, Andie, Reggie, and a more rested looking Lu Sei were waiting.
E.S. Atlantis, Standard Year 257:08:09
“Welcome back, Empress. I take it ol’ Darren needs to stop and change his britches?” Alex Reilly greeted wryly.
“Probably.” I replied with a slight grin. Both him and the Japanese captain we surprised.
“You went to see the Japanese, Alexandra?” Lu Sei inquired in perfect English. “Did you kill them?”
“We don’t do that, Lu Sei. We try to help people, not hurt them.” I answered, reassuringly.
“But they hurt my friends…my family…” She countered.
“And they will pay for their crimes, honey- that, I promise.” I replied. I then changed the subject. “Have you made your decision, young lady?”
“I was waiting for your advice, wise Empress.” She bowed gently to me.
“And what does your gut tell you to do, honey?” I asked.
“My ‘gut’ wants to know how I can be talking fluently to you in a tongue that I have only basic knowledge of, Empress.”
I couldn’t help laughing at her bravado.
“Each of my sisters possesses special abilities we call gifts. Camille’s gift allows her to put the knowledge you need to speak English into your brain. Try talking in your native tongue for a moment, Lu Sei.” I answered.
The two of us carried on a short, but decisive conversation in Cantonese.
“See, you still know your native language, honey. Cami just made it easier for you to adapt to your new home- that is, if you want a new home?”
“What do you think I should do, Alexandra?” Lu Sei asked me again.
“Let me ask you a few questions, honey. Do you like Doris Sullivan? I mean in the time you have known her does she seem like she likes you?”
“She reminds me of my mother.” The girl answered with a frown as she crossed her arms under her small, but developing bust.
Doris looked on the verge of tears.
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing, Lu Sei?”
The girl thought a minute or so.
“I know that my mother will not be coming back?” Her answer, in the form of a question, was intentionally directed to me. This girl was very smart and quick on the uptake.
I looked away and shook my head sadly. “No, I’m sorry, honey. I can’t go back to help them. Some things just have to be…left to happen.” I told her as my voice trailed off.
“Mrs. Sullivan…she has shown an interest in me?” She asked in a whisper after reaching for my upper arm and pulling me down to her height.
I cupped my hand around her ear. “She has wanted a daughter for so long, Lu Sei- so long that she has almost given up hope entirely. Just your reluctance to answer saddened her to tears. I think she would be more than excited to have you as her daughter. She is a very kind and loving person, and…and she lives a few doors away from our father.” I said in Cantonese as I motioned quickly to Pa, Emily, Andie, Alex Reilly, and Reggie.
“You see no difficulties at my new home, oh Empress of Time and Space?” She whispered back, placing her other hand around my ear.
“I won’t lie to you honey, there will be many times you will not agree with Doris or Doris with you. Many more times, others will cause problems and you will feel at odds. You must work through those times as you have worked through your life up to this point. That is what life is all about, Lu Sei…learning how to survive- although, you already have a good foundation to work from.”
The young girl looked me in the eyes a moment then nodded and released my arm.
Lu Sei slowly walked over to Doris and eyed her carefully for a few seconds.
“Mrs. Sullivan,” she paused briefly, “would it be okay if I came to live with you? I will work to clean and prepare meals in exchange for a place to sleep. Would that be acceptable?”
Doris Sullivan broke into tears and took the girl in her arms. Both cried for several minutes before Doris pushed back and placed her thumb and finger to Lu Sei’s chin. She gently lifted it so both made eye contact.
“I know…” Doris paused a second. “I know I’m not your real mother, but…” she paused again to wipe away more tears. “Would you do me the honor of becoming my daughter, Lu Sei? We can share the housework and the cooking duties. In exchange, I promise to love you as much as I am able and to provide you with a good home as long as I am able. How would you like that, Lu Sei?”
“Would I have to call you ‘mother’?”
“Only if you want to, dear. I know I can never replace your real mother, so I won’t try. I just ask that you treat me with the respect you have shown to the men at that base.”
“That is theoretically acceptable, provided the underlying parameters remain logical and stationary as per the verbally outlined agreement.” Lu Sei replied in Reillese.
I looked questioningly to Cami, who just raised both arms in defeat. Apparently, she had implanted more than we had planned.
“What did she just say?” Doris asked as she stared at me in confusion.
“She said she accepts provided everything we’ve told her holds true and correct.”
Something struck me as being off with our group as Doris and Lu Sei embraced each other again.
“Pa? Where are your crutches? Did you leave them in Magwe?” I asked with a slightly beleaguered tone.
Louis Scott began looking down then around him in surprise. After failing to locate the items in question, he began shifting his weight back and forth from his good foot to his new foot.
A smile came to his face as understanding surfaced.
“You did that on purpose!” He suddenly accused.
“Did what on purpose, Louis? I didn’t tell you to leave your crutches back at that base, and Jack was given no such orders either.” I defended.
“You made sure I had to run and push Bob Garvie out of the way! You wanted me to forget and use my new foot! You placed yourself in harm’s way to make me do that!”
I smiled deviously. “Would I do that, Louis…really?”
“Yes, you would do that, sis! And you both have done it many more times than I should even know about…if I hadn’t seen it with my gift, that is!” Emily complained vehemently.
“I agree with Emily’s assessment, Mr. Scott. My Alexandra is- how would you say it- reckless, as well?” Cami added. “She also takes too many chances on our missions. It seems to me that these two are not twin sisters, but identical sisters- both in intelligence and courage.”
I looked over to Allie. “Oh? What did you do, Alex?”
“We took a trip to Orleans, France last night…” Cami began to say.
“I decided to do somethin’ constructive and shoo ol’ Darren ‘way from that there dungeon where they was holdin’ Joan.”
I closed my eyes and asked the one question I had seen when we first arrived on Atlantis several weeks ago.
“You gave her some water.” I stated before opening them back up.
“The director seduced the guard then knocked him out to do it, Alex.” Cami tattled.
“Y’all said to be chaotic, sis.” Allie defended as I shook my head side to side several times. “And besides, y’all know how hard swaggerin’ in them old torture devices is? Had to expose mah udders ta get em ta even half look!”
“Really, ladies! Is this a conversation to hold in front of such a young, impressionable girl?” Doris complained stiffly.
“Doris is right. None of my girls should be showing off any part of their bodies to catch the eye of anyone! You were brought up better than that, Alex.” Pa stated angrily. “Both of you!” He clarified.
Lu Sei began to laugh, but stopped quickly and looked to the floor.
Doris quickly stared at her new, tentatively, daughter. “What’s the matter, Lu Sei? Why did you suddenly stop laughing?”
“You will think badly of me.”
“No I won’t. Please tell me?” Doris pressed gently.
“Pa, could you go into the bedroom for a minute? And shut the door, please?” I asked, after Lu Sei looked my way.
Pa begrudgingly left our living area and closed the door behind him.
“Okay, hun, we can talk, girl to girl. What did you do that you thought was so wrong?” I asked gently.
Lu Sei looked around at each of us for a minute or so.
“I may have…” she paused to take a deep breath. “I offered favors to several men along the road for helping me escape the Japanese soldiers.” The girl began crying. “I know…I know I shouldn’t have, but…but I was desperate. I needed to get away from there- any way I could.” She looked sadly at Doris for a moment.
“I know…” She sniffed a tear or two back. “I know this changes things between us and nullifies our collectively negotiated, verbal, agreement, Mrs. Sullivan. I understand if you wish to discontinue it and don’t want me anymore.” Lu Sei said in a combination of English and Riellese. She turned and ran to me, wrapped her arms around my waist and began blubbering uncontrollably.
“You knew about this, I assume, Alexandra?” Doris asked quietly. I closed my eyes and slowly nodded once.
She came over and gently touched the young girl’s shoulder.
“Did they hurt you, Lu Sei?” She asked calmly. “Did the men you did…‘favors’ for…did they hurt you in any way?”
Lu Sei shook her head ‘no’. After a few minutes, she looked back to the older woman. “They only had me kneel before them. I took them each once in payment for their help.”
Doris exhaled a sigh of relief.
“Her ‘virtue’ is still intact, Mrs. Sullivan, though her psyche has been traumatized.” Emily informed her in her professional voice.
“I understand that, Emily. I wasn’t born yesterday.” Doris responded sternly to my sister. “Dear, you did what you had to do to survive…to reach safety. I might have done the same thing if in similar circumstances. However, you are here with friends and safe from that war now and I will not think badly of you just for doing what you felt needed to be done. This changes nothing between us and I would still be very honored if you were to become my daughter, Lu Sei.”
“Really?” The girl brightened up almost instantly.
“We call it giving someone a second chance, hun.” Allie said with a bright smile.
“When can we go…home?” She asked the older woman as she turned her head back to me.
Doris looked to me. I nodded.
“Anytime you want to go, dear- any time you want to leave.” She told her new daughter.
“How ‘bout we leave after I get a few winks? Emily, Jack, and I have been goin’ for a while now. I think we could all use some sleep, hun.” I responded, covering my mouth to hide a false yawn.
“In the mean time, Lu Sei, why don’t we take a trip out to the outer ring to do some planet watching? Reggie and I know this wonderful eating establishment out there with the best unobstructed views in all of Atlantis.” Andie suggested as she got my hint.
Reggie offered Lu Sei her hand and they headed for my quarter’s door. Andie winked at me and turned to follow.
“I’ll be right with you ladies,” Doris told them as she hung back. She waited until the door slid closed.
“How old is she really, Alexandra?”
“How old? What does that matter, Doris?” I asked, putting on a curious expression.
“As if you wouldn’t know. How old is Lu Sei, Alexandra? I know she is not fourteen- I can see it in her eyes!”
“Eleven. She is a very grown-up, very intelligent eleven, Doris Sullivan. Remember that always and nurture her despite it.”
“Thank you, Alexandra. Thank you all for what you have given me, even though not all of my prayers have been answered. Thank you so much.”
Doris Sullivan turned and hurried out of our quarters.
“Um…is it okay for me to come back out?” Pa asked loudly from behind our bedroom door.
Everyone still in our living area began giggling. We had forgotten he was still in there.
We began laughing as Pa angrily stomped out into the room.
“Thanks for letting me be the brunt of your little joke, girls.”
“Dr. Mintaka would like to do one more follow-up on your new appendage, Pa. I recommend you go there now because we leave for Bridgeport in eight hours.” I told him before he stormed out of our quarters as the laughing died out.
“It’s not an ‘appendage’; it’s my foot.” He corrected formally.
“I thought you said it really didn’t belong to you, Louis?” I asked with an impish grin.
“I…I changed my mind,” He said as he began to walk toward our door. It opened, but he stopped and turned around quickly. “I’ll be back here in four hours…after I see the doctor and after I take a nice, long walk around the city!”
“Ship,” I corrected.
Emily waited until the door had closed completely.
“I don’t think I’ve seen daddy…”
I cleared my throat and glared at my sister.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen father so flustered, sis- not even when we appeared at his front door last week.”
“We do have a way a doin’ that, sis.” Allie replied with a giggle.
Jack and Cami suddenly looked at each other. “Alex, Dr. Mintaka wants you both to know that Louis Scott’s ‘K’ cell count has not changed, holding at eighty parts per million according to his latest blood sample.” Jack said first.
“Tell her thanks, Jack.”
“Will do, Alex.”
“He has ‘K’ cells in his bloodstream, Alex?” Emily replied in shock, her mouth dropping open.
“Apparently, Ruth and Louis Scott like to be adventurous, Emily.” Cami said as she blushed.
“Adventurous? As in how, Camille Darough?”
“K’ cell transference can only be accomplished while still in solution.” She stated clinically.
“I already know that, Cami.” Emily replied irritably.
Camille took a deep breath. “Then you already know that any bodily fluids can be considered solution- if just for lubrication.”
“EEEWWwww!” Emily groaned loudly as she scrunched her nose.
“So is everybody ready to go?” I asked as we all joined hands in the middle of our living area. There were twelve of us standing together.
“I’m not sure I have enough beds this time.” Pa groaned as he looked around.
“I have a few rooms open, Louis. A few of the girls can stay with me. I’m sure Lu Sei would love the company while she gets used to the change of scenery” Doris Sullivan offered.
“Could Little Flower stay with us, ma’am?”
“If she wants to, dear.” Doris told her daughter.
“Can you, Little Flower?”
“We’ll see, Lu Sei.” Yuuka answered sheepishly. She still hadn’t told the young girl her real name. She was afraid that Lu Sei would reject her if she found out she had been Japanese before her Mahanilui.
The Sullivan’s living room in Bridgeport appeared around us and we dropped hands.
“Welcome home, Lu Sei. I said as she immediately started to look around us.
“Its…its so big!” She cried in joy.
“And its all for you and me, dear.” Doris said with a big, happy smile.
“Could Alex and Little Flower and Emily and Jack and…”
“They are all welcome here when they are in town, dear, but I think they will want to stay with their father, don’t you?”
“Oh…yes…I guess they would.” Lu Sei replied sadly.
“Pa just lives a few doors down the street, honey. We’ll make it a point to visit when we’re in the area.” I reassured the young girl.
I noticed Emily’s eyes were closed. She quickly opened them and looked at me sheepishly. I smiled tensely and nodded once.
“Pa, we better get you home before some of your lady friends start to worry about you.” I suggested before Emily could confront me with what she had seen and ruin everything.
“Do we still have enough in the freezer for a cookout, Alexandra?” Pa asked.
Again I nodded.
“Um…what time is it here…um…Empress?” He asked cautiously.
“We’ve only been gone for two hours, Pa. This is still August 28th, 1944- 1145hrs.”
“But we just ate dinner back on Atlantis.” He complained.
“Welcome to my world, Louis.” Allie said.
“Jack seems to like when it happens this way, sis.” I giggled.
“Hey! Just because I get hungry sometimes…” Jack began to defend herself before Pa cut her off.
“How about everyone meet over at our house for dinner…say…around four…uum…1600hrs?”
“What is a ‘cookout’?” Lu Sei asked out of curiosity.
“It’s where we make a fire and cook food on it instead of making it indoors.”
“Oh, is that all?” she said dejectedly. “I thought it was something incredible.”
“Oh…I think you’ll like our version of a cookout, honey.” I assured her with a big smile.
1145hrs, L. Scott home, Bridgeport, Conn, August 28th, 1944
“Welcome home, Pa.” I said as his living room appeared around us. We all dropped hands.
Yuuka and Cami decided to stay with Doris and Lu Sei while the rest of us chose to come back to the Scott house.
“Jack, we’ll need a fire with some good hot coals for cooking those cuts we saved for tonight. They’ll take about twenty-five minutes.” I requested.
“Professor, Pa’s car has a slight miss and it’s drinking down gas like a pig fresh outta the salt shed. How are you with old Plymouths?” I continued.
“Why didn’t you tell me these things before, Skipper?” Ricky Lynn said, sounding put out a little.
“Because it hadn’t happened last time we were here. Allie went and changed some history back to what it was originally.”
“And the health of a ’37 Plymouth changed because of it? Ya gotta be shittin’ me!” She griped in amazement.
“A lot more than that has changed, Chief, but I won’t ruin the surprise.”
“You still got them tools and some gasket material out in the garage, Lou?” Ricky Lynn asked Pa grouchily. He shrugged and her regulars changed into a custom tailored set of denim bib overalls over a lace-trimmed, white tank top. Her regulation shoes became a pair of old, worn-out, brown work boots. “Let’s get her into ‘Samuel’s Garage’ then.”
Ricky Lynn and Pa headed for the back of the house. “Um… professor? Could you use your gift on the meat first?” I reminded before she got too wrapped up in the automobile. Prof. Samuels waved back to us as she and Pa turned the corner into the hallway.
“Alex?” Emily tried to get my attention. I looked straight at her and gave my head a slight shake to the side. This wasn’t the time to be asking such questions. Jack’s eyes lit up but I shook my head at her too.
“Sis, I think we need to go down to the corner grocery for some fresh corn. Sisters, would you like to come along?” I looked at Andie, Reggie, Jack, and Allie, individually.
Jack suddenly groaned.
“What’s the matter? Emily asked.
“Ricky Lynn needs a jack. Apparently Mr. Scott’s car also has a flat.”
“I know Dadddd has a jack in the garage. Why did you groan like that?”
“Ricky Lynn said she wants a ‘Jack’” My Ex-O said, emphasizing her name as she motioned to herself. “You go on without me. I’ll be here imitating a piece of machinery for the PHD.” She said in sad annoyance.
Our short trip to the corner market turned into a question and answer session. Several of Pa’s neighbors recognized Emily, Allie, and I and asked about our duties and exploits for the navy. One older woman- Emily said her name was Helen something- even asked if we had met possible husbands yet.
Of course we weren’t lying when we both said that we had.
On the way back, Andie asked a reasonable question.
“Alex, those women…they stared at Reggie and I as if we were some sort of aliens. We look like you in every way, so how did they know?”
“It’s your height, hun.” Allie explained. “Y’all stand almost six feet in height. That’s pretty unusual for women these days.”
“But Reggie and I are considered petite on our home planet. An average female measures over three cubits- just slightly shorter than a male.”
“Pay them no attention, sis,” Allie told her. “Y’all are both as human as we are.”
“Sis, you might want to revise that statement.” Emily suggested as she smiled. “I don’t think we can be included in that category completely. Not everyone has our sort of gifts.”
“And I don’t even have any such gift.” Reggie added, sounding jealous.
“That you know of.” I mumbled quietly.
“Speaking of gifts,” Emily said as her eyes narrowed, looking at me. “Why will you leave your flask on the kitchen counter tonight?”
“Now why would I leave my water flask on the counter, sis?” I asked as Allie began looking in the opposite direction from our sister.
“Do you really want me to tell you, Alex?” Emily sighed, a little upset with me.
“You wish to infect the girl.” Andie accused.
“Maybe?” I answered with a shrug.
“But why? Why would you allow that to happen to someone that has gone through so much already, Alex?”
“She wishes to be like Yuuka- to fly- to be free to go where she wants- to escape her would be captors. She needs that release to stay healthy and…and stable.” I told my companions as we reached the house.
Walking through the house, we deposited the fresh produce in the sink and continued out into the back yard.
“How in the world did you rebuild that carburetor so fast? It takes me this long just to get the thing off!” We heard Pa say as he stood scratching his head by the side of the car.
“Well if ya expand the hold down nuts and contract the steel fuel line and fitting, everything just falls apart, Lou. Easy-peasy.”
“Ya, real easy.” Pa repeated sarcastically. “So, will this fix of yours actually work?”
“Go start ‘er up an’ see, Lou. I stand by my work one hundred percent.” Ricky Lynn giggled politely.
Pa pulled the choke, hit the starter, and cranked it a few times. His expression was less than satisfied as he released the starter pedal.
“It’s okay. Gotta get some fuel into the bowl first. Try it again.”
The older Plymouth turned over immediately and idled roughly until Pa opened the choke. After that, the engine ran smooth as silk.
Pa’s mouth dropped open as he listened to the engine purr.
“I never heard a six cylinder sound so good! What did you do to this thing, Ricky Lynn?”
“Well, I cleaned and rebuilt the carb; I played with the fuel mixture needle ‘an seats, and readjusted the float.”
“That’s all you did? That’s all it took?” Pa exclaimed in amazement.
I walked over to Ricky Lynn as she wiped her hands off on a somewhat clean rag.
“So that’s all you did, eh?”
“Well, I mighta increased the lift on the intake and exhaust lobes of his camshaft a little, too.” She admitted in a whisper. “Anyway, he should get another three or four miles out of each gallon and a little more power.”
“Good job, Professor.” I complimented.
“Alex, it’s almost 1400hrs, do you want me to start the fire?” Jack asked as she pointed to the carefully stacked wood in the center of the yard from just inside the open garage doors.
“Go ahead, when you’re ready, Jack.” I responded.
A blue ball of energy began forming in her upturned palm. When it was about the size of a baseball, she lazily tossed it over her shoulder into the pile of wood.
The campfire erupted into flames immediately.
Pa’s mouth dropped open again.
“And I thought we were going to go easy on our gifts while here, Jack.”
“I had an ‘eye’ on every window and vantage point in the neighborhood, Cap. No one saw a thing.”
“We saw you do it, Jacki. Don’t we count?” Cami said as she, Doris, Yuuka, and Lu Sei walked in on the partially cemented driveway.
I rolled my eyes and sighed deeply.
“Why so big of a fire? Won’t you attract the enemy soldiers in the area directly to us?”
“Honey, you don’t have to worry about the soldiers here. Y’all are safe in the United States now. The war is fifteen thousand miles away now.” Allie told her.
“Hey, Lu Sei, you want to help get dinner ready?” I asked excitedly.
The young girl nodded enthusiastically.
“Have you ever shucked corn before?” I asked.
Lu Sei stared at me for a minute then shook her head ‘no’.
“No? How about we go into the kitchen and I show you how we shuck corn in Missoura?”
“It’s where I grew up. We have a farm there.”
Lu Sei nodded happily and the two of us went inside.
We quickly prepared all two-dozen ears and placed them into water in a couple large pots then turned on the stove.
“Great job, hun. We have to let those pots boil for about ten minutes.” I said as I reached into my regulation handbag on the kitchen table. “Wow, I worked up a thirst!” I added as I unscrewed the cap to my flask.
Lu Sei stared at the silver container as I took a drink from it.
“Great! Now I have to use the lavatory. I’ll be right back, hun. Could you stay and watch the heat? If it starts to boil over turn the heat down a little, could you do that?”
“Thanks, I’ll be right back.” I said as I hurried out of the room. As my feet hit the stairs, I phased out and walked back to the kitchen.
The curious, young girl wasted no time taking my flask. Opening it, she took a quick tug and grimaced when she tasted just water. Lu Sei obviously had some idea what was normally in such containers.
That was one surprise down. One to go, I thought.
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.