With their secondary mission complete, good deeds done, and shore leave coming to an end, Alex and company turn their attention back to their pursuit of Clemson. Has the time thief gone too far by stirring up Pharaoh’s people and how does a reunion between captain, pilot, and starship figure into Khufu and Anna Beth’s future?
2200hrs, L. Scott home, Bridgeport, Conn, August 29th, 1944
“So Lu Sei found your flask?” Emily asked, as we got ready for bed.
“Didn’t waste a second after I left the room, sis. It was comical in a way, though. You should have seen her face when she found out it was just water!”
“She knew that there would be alcohol in it?”
“She was living on a base of fighter pilots. I’m sure at least one of them needed some ‘liquid courage’, Em.”
“But how would she know, unless someone offered her some?”
“Hey, maybe one of the guys found out about her method of payment…”
“I think its better left alone, Alex.”
“I do too.” I agreed then changed to subject. “I hope Pa has a good supply of hankies for tomorrow.”
“I hope it turns out like I saw it, Alex. Everyone needs to have a little joy in their life at some point. Doris was telling me a few days ago that she hasn’t seen her husband since he shipped out early in 1941- something like June or July, I think.”
“Things will work out just as you’ve seen, sis. Thankfully, there is a ‘happily ever after’ plot for the Sullivan family- not right away, but on average everything falls their way.”
“I’m glad we could help. As for Lu Sei…when does her gift manifest? I haven’t been able to see that for some reason.”
I closed my eyes to think about her question.
“Lucy Sullivan reigns down ‘pixie’ havoc in three weeks if…if the timeline remains stabilized.”
“We’ll give Doris and Ralph a good heads-up, right?”
“Doris, yes. Ralph…he somehow already knows what pixies are capable of.” I told her with a sly grin.
“Gee, now how would he know that?” Emily said just as Yuuka flew lazily through our bedroom window.
“Alex, Lu Sei has fallen asleep. She must have been very tired.” Yuuka said as she landed and grew to full height.
“Let’s hope she sleeps for more than three hours, that girl had several dormant health issues that needed repaired.” Emily said to herself.
“She had several health issu…? Empress?” Yuuka looked at me, confused.
I nodded. “I’ll talk with Allie and make arrangements for her to bring you back to Bridgeport in three weeks for some ‘flight training’. I’m sure you two will get along wonderfully, but don’t…don’t let her play you, Yuuka! Lu Sei is a very smart girl and an even more devious Pixie than you. Since you already know all of the ‘tricks’, make her listen and learn. Teach her the responsibility of her gift.”
“Does she come back with Allie and I then?”
“No, Lucy Sullivan will stay with her parents, receive stellar marks all through school then attend MIT on a full scholarship for aeronautical engineering.”
“So is that good? What is an ‘MIT’”
“Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It’s a school similar to Ricky Lynn’s school.”
“So Lu Sei is going places?”
I looked at Emily with a devious smile. “You could say that, hun. You could say that.”
“Okaaaaay…I’ll take that as a positive thing.” Yuuka said carefully before starting to shrink.
“I’m glad she’ll be well cared for, Alex. Should I welcome her into the sisterhood or wait until Allie and I come back?”
“Emily and I will give them a heads up in the morning, but you can give Lucy the news after you tell her your real name, Little Flower.”
“Alex, she really doesn’t like the Japanese right now. I’m afraid she’ll reject me if I tell her.”
“Like you look anything but American these days.” I scuffed. “And you’ll never know how she’ll react until you actually tell her, hun.”
“I know, but I don’t want to…”
“Just tell her that you’re named after your Japanese mother! What could it hurt? I mean, she already knows that you mean her no harm.” Emily chided.
“Okay…I’ll tell her in the morning.” Yuuka said in defeat as she slowly flew back to our open window. “Good night, ladies.”
“Yuuka, we leave for Atlantis at 1100hrs.”
“Are Doris and Lu Sei coming this time?”
“They’ll be busy with something else, hun.”
“Alright. See you before 1100hrs.”
“Sleep any better, sis?” Emily asked as she pulled the sheet aside and got off her side of the bed.
“Not really, but I got enough. You?” I asked, rubbing my eyes.
“Not so much last night. I kept dreaming of the Sullivan’s.”
“Dreaming or seeing, sis?” I asked with skepticism.
“I’m not really sure. Is that how it is for you, Alex…more like a dream than a premonition?”
I smiled at my sister.
“You are such a tease, Alexandra Steinert!”
‘Breakfast is ready.’ Echoed in my head- Emily’s too, as her hands went to her forehead immediately.
“Sometimes, I think Cami is even less subtle than Jack.” She groused while still rubbing her head gently.
“Let’s wash up and go down stairs, we have a fairly busy day ahead of us.” I suggested as I walked out the bedroom door to the lavatory.
“Hey, you got the bathroom first yesterday!”
“Did I? Sorry, sis, you go ahead then.” I said as I stepped back from our door. I would just jump ahead, clean up, and reappear here fully dressed for the day as she walked back in. Emily would stick her tongue out at me and accuse me of cheating as usual.
I thought about that for a moment then closed my eyes and saw it wouldn’t happen this time since my sister had used her gift again and saw my deception. I needed to be even more devious around her from now on.
It would always be a friendly competition though.
Yuuka, Lu Sei, Doris, and Ricky Lynn arrived about halfway through breakfast. Being a beautifully sunny and tepid morning, once done cleaning up, we all decided to take advantage of Pa’s large front porch. Pa sat in his usual lounge chair while Emily, Allie, and I called the glider. Yuuka, Ricky Lynn, Andie, Cami, and Reggie brought folding chairs out from the house. Doris and Lu Sei claimed the hanging porch swing. It effectively placed their backs to the Sullivan house five doors up.
A taxi drove down the street- a rare sight in this neighborhood to say the least.
Emily looked to me in momentary trepidation.
“How odd. When was the last time we saw one of those on this street,” Doris replied off-handedly.
“The last time was when I shipped home from Schofield.” Pa answered innocently.
Doris looked at Pa and cocked her head to the side for a second then shook it side to side twice as if answering some internal question.
Pa choked slightly as his eyes opened wide. He stared at the sidewalk in front of the neighbor’s house- the one with the large shrub.
“I’ll be damned,” was all he said.
“Louis, the child!”
“Hey Lou!” A man called from the street. “Hey…you seen my wife lately? She’s not at home, so I figured I’d check here.”
“Ya, she’s right here, Ralph. Come on up. Join the party.”
Doris’ head shot around and she was down the steps and into her man’s arms quicker than I could have transported her there!
“You’re here! You made it home to me! Oh Ralph, I’ve missed you so much! I can’t believe it’s you!” Doris cried happily as she smothered him with kisses.
To say that there wasn’t a dry eye among us was an understatement. Strangely, Lu Sei remained seated and seemed to become very nervous. She looked to be shivering.
Pa got up and went down the steps where he shook Ralph’s hand and patted him on the back.
“Got some cold beer in the refrigerator, want one?” Pa asked happily.
“Thanks, but I gave up drinkin’ about two years ago- haven’t had one since.”
“Well, come on up and have a seat. My girls and some of their friends are here on leave and I’m sure they’re curious as to where you’ve been.”
“Welcome home, Mr. Sullivan.” We all chimed. Doris turned around and stared at us for a moment then mouthed the words ‘thank you’. The happy, reunited couple slowly walked back up onto the porch where Ralph began to stare at the three of us sitting on the glider. His mouth dropped wide open as he froze in place. Doris, confused, looked between her husband and us several times.
“You…” He managed to say before he looked to Pa. “She…she’s…she’s yours?”
“These are my daughters Alexandra, Allison, and Emily.” He introduced us then pointed over to the Atlantians. “And this is my other daughter, Andromeda and her half sister, Regina. Next to Reggie is Jacquelyn, Camille, Ricky Lynn, and over there is Yuuka.”
All nodded as their names were called.
Ralph Sullivan’s staring was short lived though as he turned his head and saw someone he’d never expected sitting on the swing.
“Lucy! My God, how can you be here?” He exclaimed as he rushed over to her, picked her up, and swung her around in circles in a tight bear hug.
Once dizzied, he stopped and set the girl down. Lu Sei wrapped her arms around his waist.
“Sullivan! You finally made it home! The Empress told me she would help bring you home and she did!” She cried excitedly then looked to me. “Alexandra, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you have done! Thank you for giving me back my Sullivan!”
“You…you…you can speak English! How in the world did you learn to speak so well?” The confused man asked.
“Camille taught me when we stayed on the spaceship. She did it in one night, too!”
“One night?” Ralph said as he looked back at Cami. “On the spaceship?”
“Is it so hard to believe, Mr. Sullivan? Care to explain how you survived a crash into a mountainside?” I asked calmly.
Doris’ mouth dropped open upon hearing that little gem.
Ralph looked around at all of us for a minute or two as he debated fulfilling my request.
“I…IIIII…I was rescued,” he said quietly as he looked to me fearfully.
“How could you have survived crashing into a mountain, buddy?” Pa asked in astonishment.
“I…I was rescued…”
“Yes, we got that already, Ralph…but how?”
“Two…twooooo…little…ummmm…ummm…fairies…took me…aaaaahhhh…out of the plane…at the, umm, last…ummm…possible second.”
“Two Pixies?” Lucy exclaimed as she bent over and hugged Yuuka excitedly. She then looked around at the rest of us- her eyes stopping on me. “Empress? That’s why you and Yuuka went? Why you became a Pixie too? You rescued my Sullivan?”
I smiled. “We’re all full of tricks, hun- each and every one of us.”
“How can any of this be possible?” Ralph exclaimed.
“Buddy, these girls can make things happen! I was reluctant at first, too, until they showed me.
I phased out after looking up and down the street for observant bystanders, got up and walked over to the newly returned pilot. Again Ralph’s eyes opened wide.
“We can do wondrous things, Mr. Sullivan.” I said phasing back in beside him.
Lucy began giggling uncontrollably.
“How did you…?”
“Weren’t you paying attention two years ago, Ralph?”
“You mean when one second I was trying my best to crash into a mountain, because two mythological beings from my ancestors’ homeland told me too, and the next I’m sitting on the ground watching you two,” He pointed to Yuuka and I, “grow from four inches to full-size in the matter of five seconds?”
“That would be it, Ralph. Each of us can do other things as well.”
“Hey, pal, I’m five inches tall in Pixie mode!” Yuuka corrected angrily. I could tell from her concentration that she was holding back from actually going to that ‘mode’.
“My God! What are you?” He asked as I phased out and suddenly appeared sitting on the glider again.
“Show off.” Emily grumbled quietly.
“Does it really matter what ‘we are’, Ralph Sullivan? Isn’t it enough to know that you are back with your loving wife and daughter now? Can’t you just leave it at that and be happy?”
“My daughter?” He gasped out.
“Lu Sei,” I said switching my translator to Cantonese, “would you like to adopt Ralph Sullivan as your father in lieu of your parental loss?”
Doris’ eyes widened as she looked to me indicating that Cami and Jack had successfully implanted the language.
Ralph’s eyes popped out of his head.
“I accept, Empress Alexandra, and thank you again for this miracle.” She replied in her native tongue.
“What did you just say to her?”
I asked her if she would be willing to adopt you as her father, Ralph.” I giggled as tears suddenly burst from Doris’ eyes.
“And…and what did she say?”
“She said she accepts and thanked Alexandra again for bringing us all together.” Doris replied to her husband’s surprise.
“That’s exactly what I said. Empress?” Lucy questioned as she regarded Doris cautiously.
“Lucy, we don’t use my title when there is a chance somebody we don’t know will hear it, okay?” I nodded to Cami and Jack.
“I officially state my repentance, Alexandra, how inconsiderate of me,” she apologized in Reillese.
“Now what did she say? That didn’t sound like Chinese.”
“It is a language we use on my home planet, Ralph Sullivan. Alex calls it ‘Reillese’. Cami, Yuuka and I just call it ‘our’ language.” Allie told him.
“You all…you’re from another planet?”
“Just Allie and Cami, Ralph. If you remember, I’m from Oak Ridge, Missourra. Jack’s from South Bend, Indiana; Ricky Lynn’s from Brooklyn, Yuuka’s from Hiroshima, Japan, and Andie and Reggie are from Atlantis of late.”
“Celestra, Alex. Our Home planet was called Celestra.” Andie said sadly.
“But you said they were your daughters, Lou?” Ralph exclaimed looking at Pa like he had three heads.
“It’s…it’s complicated, Buddy. Just know that they ARE my daughters and I love them all dearly- every one of them!” Pa said as he gestured to everyone on his porch.
Pa’s phone began to ring.
“I’ll get it.” Emily sang before she disappeared- physically.
A few seconds later, we heard her answer.
“Hello, Scott residence…This is his daughter Emily…Yes, we’ve been back in town for a week…what? Oh, no, we’ll be leaving this afternoon…we have a few more days left on our leave and we were thinking of taking Daddy to Atlannnnnntic City…are you sure that’s…no, we’re all out of Pearl Harbor, ma’am…yes, Hawaii… …okay then, I’ll tell him, thanks…ah huh, I hope so too, ma’am…what? Oh, not yet, I…yes, ma’am, I’ll keep looking for the right one…thank you, Mrs. Levit…bye.”
A few seconds later, Emily was again seated beside me on the glider.
“That was Mrs. Levittson. She wanted to tell you about some very strange things that have been happening in the neighborhood recently, Dadddd.”
“Strange things? What strange things could possibly be happening around here this past week? Alexandra, any ideas?” Pa asked sarcastically.
I rolled my eyes. “Jack, apparently Mrs. Levittson saw you pick up her clothes line when it fell yesterday afternoon.”
“That’s strange? How exactly?” Both Doris and Ralph asked at the same time.
“Jack was sitting here the whole time.”
“But, I thought Cecily lives at the other end of the block…” Ralph began to say.
“Here’s your duffle, Mr. Sullivan. You shouldn’t leave it on the sidewalk.” Jack said with a giggle.
The man reached out and took the hovering bag without really paying attention.
“Thank you…um…Jacquelyn, is it…wait…how did you…?” He said, suddenly realizing that Jack hadn’t moved. He stared at her then at his duffle in confusion.
“Like Alex said, sir, we’re full of surprises.” She continued to giggle.
“She also thought she saw one of my twin sisters vanish into thin air at the park four days ago. Alex, did mother visit after Doris and I left?”
“She might have.” I responded cautiously.
“I thought Ruth died a few years back, Lou?” Ralph asked in confusion.
“She did, but that apparently didn’t stop my wife, Ralph. You see…” Pa sighed heavily. “Again, it’s complicated. You probably wouldn’t believe me anyhow. I’m not even sure I believe half the things I’ve seen this last week!”
“Ruth Scott…the Ruth I was seen at the park with, is not from this universe, but from one where I did not become Empress of Time and Space. She is here, in our universe visiting after a rather lengthy stay in another universe- one vastly different from her own. She had stopped to say goodbye and thanked me for helping her.”
“You’re right…I don’t believe it…but I do…in a way…sort of…I think?” Sullivan replied shaking his head free of the bazaar explanation.
“She said goodbye to you and didn’t even stop to see me?” Pa said, shattered.
“I don’t think she would forget you, Pa, do you? Remember, she shares our gift.” I reminded, pointing between Allie and myself. “She could pop in anytime she wants.”
“I…I didn’t even think about that, Alex…you’re right.” Pa smiled happily.
“And on that note…Hey, Flirt, you wanna go home and get reacquainted?” Ralph asked, attempting to change the subject.
“And just who is this ‘Flirt’ character, Mr. Sullivan?” Doris asked in a very icy tone.
“Lucy. Some of the guys named her that because she seemed to always be helping around the base- like she was always flirting with us. I argued that maybe she was just lonely and wanted the companionship. We’ll get reacquainted later…if you’d like, Roxy.” Ralph explained smoothly. He waggled his right eyebrow several times after he said ‘Roxy’.
Doris stood up and hugged her husband again while Lucy blushed and looked away.
“Are there any other surprises in store for my family,” Doris asked after she carefully looked up and down the street a few times, “Empress?”
“Only one minor thing, Doris. If you two would stay behind for a moment? Ralph, Doris will be home in fifteen minutes. Why don’t you take your bag home and change out of your uniform…get comfortable.” I suggested.
Ralph Sullivan placed his duffle on the floor and walked over to me.
“Thank you again for the rescue, Alexandra. Though unorthodox, I stand forever indebted to you and your sisters.” He said as he hugged me tightly. He then went over to Yuuka and thanked her likewise.
Picking up his bag, Ralph Sullivan said his goodbyes to Pa and my sisters before turning and slowly walking off the porch to the sidewalk then up the street.
I waited patiently before turning my attention to Doris and her new daughter, Lucy.
“Expect Allie to bring Yuuka back in three weeks, Doris. She has a training program set up for our newest sister.” I told her. When a blank stare came back, I had to elaborate.
“Ralph was almost right in the nickname his comrades choose for Lucy. ‘Flit’ will be her callsign and nickname from now on.”
“Flit? I…I don’t understand. Why ‘Flit’?”
I placed my hand on Lucy’s shoulder. “Did you and Yuuka clear things up, honey?”
“Yes we did, Alexandra, why? What type of training will Yuuka give me? She is a Pixie aftera…”
A huge smile filled the girl’s face. Doris stared, first at her daughter then at me.
“There were several small medical problems I diagnosed in Lucy when we first met, Mrs. Sullivan. Though not life-threatening at the moment, they would have shortened your time together. Alex decided that time had already robbed you of your special ‘togetherness’ and allowed her the Mahanilui. You will now have all the time you need together.” Emily said in her professional voice.
“I’m a pixie now?” Lucy asked enthusiastically.
“Will that be alright, honey?” I asked the excited girl.
“Can I fly now, Alexandra?”
“Not right now, Lucy. Give your body time to develop your gift. I’m sure that, by the time Yuuka and Allie arrive, you’ll be driving your new mother and father crazy. Remember this though…no matter how excited you may be, be wary of where and when you choose to enter ‘Pixie mode’. You are one of us now- a member of the Kili sisterhood. We operate mostly behind the scenes to avoid attracting undue attention. Never forget that if the world found out about any of us…well…it would be worse than the cruelties you have already experienced in your life.” I then set my attention on our older guest.
“Doris, Lucy is a very special person- even before we intervened. She is very smart, very responsible, and very mature for her short, almost twelve years. Being our sister now, she will live several lifetimes longer than normal. Understand, also, that you will be offered a similar choice when the time is right.” I winked. “I suggest not dwelling on what I have just told you and instead concentrate on giving this young woman the love and affection she desperately needs. Concentrate on being a good mother to her, Doris Sullivan.”
Mrs. Sullivan immediately embraced me and began to cry into my shoulder.
“Thank you for everything, Alexandra! May God protect you where and whenever you go!” She said before stepping back from me. “Bless you all!”
Doris motioned for Lucy to join her at the porch steps.
“Lu Sei? Stay out of your new parents’ liquor cabinet. You might find you no longer have a taste for any alcoholic beverage other than mead. Oh, and Doris? Better stock up on honey, okay?”
Doris nodded, but Lu Sei’s mouth dropped open- taken aback that I actually knew about her raid on the Sullivan’s bourbon early last evening. I waved my finger at the girl several times to drive home my point.
“We’ll see you in three weeks, Lucy.” Yuuka waved as mother and daughter walked, hand in hand, down the steps toward the sidewalk.
“Alex, does it always feel this good? To make things right, I mean?” Pa asked as the pair walked up the street and disappeared past the neighbor’s tall shrub.
“Most of the time, Pa, but not always.” I answered as my expression saddened. Mr. Lincoln came to mind- enough said.
“Alex, it’s quarter to eleven.” Jack reminded quietly.
“Right, Jack. Does everyone still have their Reilly suit on,” I asked our group?
My sisters all nodded. Pa remained quiet before looking down slightly.
“The question was directed at you too, Pa. Y’all got your suit on?” I asked with a slight grin.
“You…you want me to come along again? Girls, I thought you had to leave for your base?”
“Let’s go inside. It’s much more private than the front porch.” I recommended.
After making sure the house was locked up, we gathered in the living room and joined hands.
“Are you sure I should go with you, sweetie?” Pa asked once again.
“Everyone to dress whites, please.” I ordered without answering him.
Louis Scott’s brown Army uniform was the sole standout among our sea of white.
“Once Army, always Army, girls.” He stated flatly as we all stared at him.
Uncle Demmit’s office appeared around us.
“Make sure you aren’t standing in anything before I rephase us.” I reminded. “Jack, please close the Admiral’s door.”
The wooden door slowly closed and latched with the slightest ‘click’.
“I gave Ted the rest of the day off, Alex. Care to pop in at any time.” Uncle Rick said without even looking up or around.
“How did you know, sir?” I asked as soon as I phased us in.
“I didn’t. I’ve apparently been talking to myself on and off for the last two hours, Capt. Steinert.” He said, finally looking up from the paperwork in front of him.
“Lou! Good to see you. How are things back in Bridgeport?”
“Everything was…normal…up until a week ago, Rick. How are things in paradise?”
“Yes…I can understand that.” He chuckled. “As for paradise, a whole lot better since the scenery changed.” He nodded to us. “I’ve missed you, Lou.”
Uncle Rick stood and began walking around his desk. Pa met him halfway. Both men shook hands and Uncle Rick raised an eyebrow while looking down at Pa’s right foot.
“I see the foot heeled nicely, Lou. I’d like to get the name of your doctor.”
“Bellatrix Mintaka, Rick. She’s really good! Would make one hell of a DI too!” He replied then leaned in closer, “And brother? She’s a real looker, too!”
“So, is mother ready to leave, sir?” I asked, ignoring Pa’s quieter comment about Andie’s chief surgeon.
“She left earlier this morning, Alex. She said that you, Allie, Andie, and Emily would understand.”
“Um…did she say anything about me, Rick?” Pa asked timidly.
“Sorry, but I suppose I’m guilty of hogging the conversation, Lou. Ruth wouldn’t open up about where and what she’s been doing lately. I tried, but she just wouldn’t budge.” Uncle Rick admitted, sheepishly.
Several of us raised an eyebrow to his admission.
“Anyway, she left this morning. Gave me a kiss on the cheek, stepped back, smiled, and ‘poof’, gone.”
“Sounds familiar.” Pa mumbled.
“Maybe we should go back to Atlantis so you and Allie can look forward in time to locate her, Empress?” Yuuka suggested. “I’m sure Mr. Scott would like to see his wife again?”
“So when do I get to see this ‘Atlantis’, Alex?” Uncle Rick asked begrudgingly.
“There’s already one more of you than necessary in play at the moment. I’d rather not chance another. I promise I’ll take you on my next mission, Uncle. Right now we need to get ‘Daddy’ back to Atlantis for his follow-up with Dr. Mintaka.” I said glancing over to Emily for a second.
“Lou, why do you still insist the girls call you ‘Daddy’? It was fine when they were little, but they’ve grown up and are adults now. Don’t you think just a simple ‘dad’ would do?” Uncle Rick smiled and almost laughed when Pa blushed deeply.
“I never told them to call me that, Rick! Emily’s never called me anything but.”
“He’s teasing, Pa! Don’t get so embarrassed.” I groaned. “We have to get going, sir.” I added as I held out my hands.
“When you find Ruthie, tell her she’ll always be welcome here, Alex. I’ll always have room for her. Oh, and Lou? Unless you have the proper authorization, I would expect the proper uniform and rank while on this base. Is that clear Major Scott? After all…if all my marine counterparts walked around in Army uniforms, we’d have far too many court marshal’s to review!”
My sisters and I, with the exception of Andie and Reggie, began to giggle quietly amongst ourselves.
Pa looked downtrodden. “Aye, sir, I’ll remember that.”
Uncle Rick smiled and shook his head to the side several times before taking Pa’s hand and shaking it again.
“Lou, it’s been nice to see you again. Maybe after the war we can get together properly…maybe at Alexandra’s wedding? I hear that’s coming up in a few years.”
Pa suddenly stared at me in surprise.
“I heard that it was a ‘one-of-a-kind’ ceremony- that the bride was given away by both of her fathers.” Uncle Rick laughed heartily.
“We really need to go, Pa.” I stressed in embarrassment. Louis Scott slowly took my outstretched hand.
Our quarters on Atlantis surrounded us.
No Temporal Anomaly Alarm greeted us as we rephased and dropped hands.
“Louis!” My voice screamed out as Ruth Scott rush to Pa.
In a running tackle, Ma embraced Pa, knocked him over, and vanished!
“And here he thought she didn’t care for him.” Jack giggled.
“So, you think she missed him, Em? I wonder what she had in mind?” I asked trying to contain my own laughter.
“Trying. Not to. Think. About it, Alex!” Emily replied through tightly pursed lips, her face beet red.
E.S. Atlantis, Standard Year 257:08:11
“Do you think mother took dad back home instead of stopping back here, Alex?” Emily asked as we left Andie’s conference room.
We had spent the last two days planning our next move on Darren Clemson. In that time, Louis Scott hadn’t re-materialized on Atlantis.
“Let them have their fun, sis. We really don’t know how long Ma’s been exiled.”
“Let them have their fun? Alex, do you even realize the images that statement conjures?”
“Like we’ve never done or seen anything like that, Emily.” I replied sarcastically.
“But they’re our parents, Alex! Have you no shame or…or decency?”
“Where is this coming from? I know for a fact that you never join a nunnery.” I giggled.
“Still, it’s not right, Alex. Our parents aren’t supposed to be the ones transiting the cosmos…” she paused to think, “getting it on! They’re the ones that should be giving US the talk!”
“Oh? And what ‘talk’ would that be, Emily,” my voice asked from behind us.
“The talk about promiscuity, mother! What I witnessed two days ago was the act of a wanton harlot- the sex-starved creature that you always warned me about becoming! How could you, mother?” Emily answered in anger.
“If you had been sequestered as long as I was, I’d bet you would do the same thing!” Ma argued bitterly.
“So how long has it been, mother?” Emily growled, not backing down an inch!
Ruth Scott suddenly closed her mouth and eyes. A smile appeared.
“Long enough to make me see my errors, my daughters. Long enough to recognize where I went wrong.” She answered serenely.
“Hey, if you girls are going to keep this going, I think I’ll go out to Delta ring and grab something to eat.” Pa said as he carefully looked our way and tried to slip out of the room. I hadn’t noticed him standing there until now.
“I’m not through with you yet, Louis.” Ma growled enticingly. It reminded me of a lioness looking at the half-dead antelope she’d been playing with!
“Alex, do you know if they serve bourbon or scotch anywhere on this ship? I could use a few good stiff ones.” Pa asked, despite Ma’s ‘warning’.
“Pa, Dr. Mintaka told you that alcohol could interfere with your health now.” I reminded him.
“Well then maybe she could give me a script for all the aches and pains I’ve developed over the last ten days! I’ll be over at Medical.” He declared as he walked out the door.
“Ten…days?” Emily gasped as she covered her mouth with her hand.
“I guess it really has been a looooong time, sis?” I smiled tensely at Emily with a wink.
‘Empress Central to Alexandra! Come in, Alex!’ Brie’s voice rang through my head suddenly.
“Go ahead, Brie.” I said aloud.
“Who is she talking to?” I heard Ma ask Emily.
“Our sister, Brianna, she…”
‘Alex, I need you to come to my house April 10th, 2035, ASAP.’ Brie stated sharply. It sounded serious.
“Ladies, I’d love to continue this conversation, but Brie has something important to show me.” I said quickly. Just as I thought about phasing out, Emily’s hand touched mine.
“Oh no you don’t! You are not leaving me here with her, Alex.”
“Declares my prudish sister.” I replied as I opened her virtual throttle in my mind. Emily moaned in surprise. I had done it without warning her again.
“Sorry, sis, but I might need the extra juice just in case Clemson did something else.” I said trying to validate my action.
Brie’s living room effortlessly appeared around us. I relaxed a little.
Chas. Mason Home, Springfield, Missouri, April 10th, 2035
“Well you could have warned me!” Emily complained.
“Coulda warned y’all ‘bout what, Em?” Brie asked.
Emily quickly glared at me and just as quickly started fidgeting with her hair and uniform.
“Alex and I were just having a serious discussion when you called, Brie. How have you been?”
“The headaches been real intense these last few days, Doc. I’m hopin’ Alex get’s them time fluctuations fixed soon. How y’all been holdin’ up?” Brie answered candidly.
“I’m about ready to go out of my skull, Brie, now whatcha got for us?” I answered.
“I thought you did that once, already, sis?” Emily chortled.
I glared at her intensely until Brie answered.
“Well, I was toolin’ ‘round on the ol’ Internet just a little while ago an’ ah found somethin’ very in-trestin’. Ah thought y’all should see it fer yerself.” Brie said as she motioned us into Chuck’s home office. She touched a monitor screen and it popped to life.
Randi Van Pelt’s face appeared.
“You rang, Brianna?”
“Hi Randi. Ah got Alex an’ Em here finally. You wanna show’em what we found on Twitter?”
Randi’s face looked right at Emily and I. “Hey, Alex…Doc. I monitored this vid on Twitter this morning…watch.
A crudely shot video began playing on the screen in place of Randi’s face. I recognized the location immediately.
“Memphis.” I said quietly as I struggled to keep my mouth off the floor. I listened to the audio as I stared at the familiar face talking and the hieroglyphics scrolling across the bottom of the screen.
“I tell you, I would not stand for the disrespect shown to you by the current administration! The supreme administrator has become weak in his old age and ignored the wishes that our Gods so graciously set forth eons ago. I can tell you that I have spoken with them at length and have received their suggestions for new leadership of these lands. Now, many of you will declare me mad or deranged to such an extent…” Clemson’s voice preached.
“I’d be the first to have the bastard committed.” I interrupted.
“Take a number, sis!” Emily suggested.
“…But I have actually talked to our forefathers- for I and I alone have the power to go through history to visit the various periods and interact with those living in them. The land that I visited was serene and placid. No wars, no conflict, and no dissension whatsoever- as peaceful a place as anyone here could imagine. My people, the Gods, our forefathers, have seen the unrest in our lands and they have tasked me to come back and warn you of your coming downfall! They have entrusted me to spread their sanctioned message throughout the land, and that message…”
“Ain’t this the most horseshit y’all ever heard in one sittin’?” Brie asked, interrupting this time.
“…To honor the Gods in the way they have demanded! They therefore, recommend that all Egypt pay homage to those that brought about the original peoples of these lands and put to task the lesser peoples beyond our borders! Let them know that we are the promised ones- the leaders of this world for now and for the foreseeable future!”
“Those Gods, that I have conversed with, have recommended that I take the office of Supreme Administrator, and therefore have given me the authority to reorganize and re-imbue our people with strength, wisdom, and technology. Together we will remake our planet and govern it the way the Gods have decried! We shall unseat and evict those that have hampered our reaching our pinnacle- our providence! Join with me today in our quest to re-imagine our destinies- our futures- as I have foreseen we shall do, for I have seen our future…and I have seen our past! So if our current Supreme Administrator would honor our forefathers’ requests, I will lead this great nation into its glorious future- the future our forefathers have envisioned for us! Egypt will once again be known as the first and greatest civilization in the known world!”
The video halted and Randi’s face reappeared on the display.
“Why haven’t you caught this whack-job yet, Alex?”
“I’ve been trying, Randi. Clemson always seems to be one step ahead of me at every turn, though. It’s as if he actually knows where and when I’ll be.”
“Well, if you ask me, this was a blatant cry for capture, Alex, I mean, posting this to Twitter? Everyone’s known for decades that posting something like this to social media is an open invitation to get caught! I fail to see how someone could consciously put this incriminating stuff out there for all to see.”
“He’s completely aware of what he’s doin’, hun.” I said with a distinct growl in my voice. “He’s daring me to come after him.”
“You’re kidding, right?” Emily said looking at me in disbelief.
“Alex, how the hell y’all get THAT outta that video?” Brie exclaimed.
“Randi, what has been the average response to this video since it was posted?”
“Who is this whacko?”
”Ya, like that could possibly be Ancient Egypt, dude.”
“Is this a promo for an upcoming reality show?”
“Aryan’s unite! The original fatherland calls to us!”
“David Keresh has risen!”
“What a loser! That is definitely not Egypt. I was there in a past life.” Randi quoted a few of the responses.
“The list goes on, Alex. Though, I’ve taken the liberty of translating the Emogies for you. I know how much you like those things.” She snickered. “It’s received three thousand seven hundred and three comments in the last four hours.”
“Can you zero in on where it was initially uploaded, hun?” I asked without emotion.
“Doing it as we speak, Alex.”
“How’s Dell doing, Randi?” I asked out of curiosity while she tracked the video back.
“She just went through her reboot, Alex. If the authorities had had eyes on me when I went for her reset button, I’d be in jail right now for child molestation!” Randi confided then paused. “Empress, the video originated in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I can pinpoint the exact address if you’d like.”
“Ricky Lynn’s house.” I said off-handedly.
“How’d you know, Empress?” Randi’s expression on screen became confused.
“Clemson posted that video from her house! Probably while she was sleeping off that drug he gave her.” I said in anger. “First he rapes her then he destroys her character by posting that…that garbage! I’m going to take him so far back in time, time won’t exist yet!”
The lights dimmed noticeably.
“WOOW! Brianna, I’m reading a moderate, but very disturbing, temporal fluctuation in your neighborhood- your block- in fact the fluctuation is coming from your house!” Randi cried excitedly as she stared at Brie, Emily, and I from the monitor.
“Alex, you better calm down a little. We’ll catch that no-good, sorry excuse for a man!”
“Sis, y’all take a breath, ‘kay?”
“Has she always glowed like that, Emily? I can’t remember seeing her give off light before.” Randi asked.
“Only when she gets really mad, Randi. I’ve seen her do this a few times on this mission so far.”
Randi noticeably gulped. “Oh man, I hope I’m nowhere near her when she finally goes off.”
“Keep Brie informed if anything else catches your attention, Randi. Emily and I have to go visit an old friend. Oh, tell Dell I miss her, hun.”
“Will do, Empress.” Randi replied. “Oh…Skip? Good hunting, ma’am.” She added as she moved away from her camera and saluted me. The monitor went black and the computer turned itself off.
“Ah really wasn’t done usin’ that yet.” Brie said to herself quietly, hand on her hip. She paused, staring a moment at the computer then turned to me. “Peyton’s at Norfolk, Alex.”
I leaned in and kissed my sister’s cheek while giving her a gentle hug. “Thanks, Brie, now…y’all better get upstairs an’ care fer that sick youngin’ of your’s.”
“She ain’t sick, Alex. She’s just a might sensitive to all the time fluctuations. Y’all fix ‘em and yer niece gets better, now scoot.”
Emily took my hand.
“Period dress whites, sis.” I said as Norfolk Naval station appeared before us. To our left were the submarine docks.
“Boy has this place changed.” Emily said as she looked around.
“Ninety-one years has a way of doing that, sis,” I said with a smirk.
My sister looked at me and rolled her eyes in annoyance.
“Really? I wouldn’t have thought…There’s Peyton with Vernon, Julia, and Tim, Alex.”
“Admiral, what in the world has been going on the last few days? One quarter of my crew has been reporting severe migraines and our doctor can’t figure out why.” Vernon Reynolds asked as soon as they were close enough to talk without the others hearing.
“I need Peyton for a few days, Vern.” I demanded without pause. I don’t think I even smiled.
“Alex, what’s wrong?” Julia gasped out taking notice. “What happened? Did we lose somebody?”
“Peyton, we have to go…before anything else changes.”
“Changes? Alex, what is going on?” Vern questioned.
“We have to go before I lose you all again.” I said quietly, through tensed lips.
“Before you lose us? Again?” Tim Penne gasped in alarm.
“According to Alex, we’ve ceased to exist about four different times now, guys.” Emily informed our brothers and sisters.
All four mouths dropped open in disbelief.
“Peyton, feel like taking another crack at Meridian, hun?”
“I haven’t had any Sim time on her in quite some time, Admiral. Isn’t there some way I could…”
“We’re on a tight schedule here, hun. Either you can do it or I ask the only other pilot available! What will it be?” I stated tersely.
“Aye, ma’am! You’ve got yourself a pilot!”
“Good girl. Jules…Vern…I could use your talents on this one if you feel so inclined. Tim?” I turned my attention to the youngest of Detroit’s officers while her Captain and Ex-O smiled like little children at a candy store. “How are those muscles getting along with Submarine life? Want to flex them a little, hun?”
“I could probably lift a full-sized tour bus, Admiral.”
“How about just a ten ton granite slab, hun?”
“Not a problem, ma’am.” Tim Penne, Abby’s second oldest, replied with a big grin.
“Preparations?” I asked.
Vern looked to Julia then to Tim and Peyton. Each nodded to him.
“Reillys’ are charged and ready, Admiral.” He reported, still with the childish grin.
I noticed Vern’s third in command approaching.
“Lieutenant, I’m taking these four with me.” I barked. “I’ll have them back in a few days.”
“Aye, Admiral. Take care of her, Cap…Julia, Tim- you too, Peyton.” Kyle Richards said as he saluted. He turned back toward Detroit and pointed out into the bay after I saluted back.
“What the hell are they doing out there?” He shouted as loud and as surprised as he could. Kyle began running back toward Detroit.
To my surprise, the rest of the crew turned to see what he was talking about. We quickly joined hands.
Atlantis’ command level conference room surrounded us. Alex Reilly, Ruth Scott, Pa, and the rest of our previous group sat conversing amongst themselves.
“I believe our crew has arrived.” Ma stated casually as we rephased.
“Clemson messed up. Badly this time.” I said with an evil smile.
Vern, Jules, Timmy, and Peyton’s mouths dropped again.
“Commodore Celeste, may I present Commander Vernon Reynolds, Lt. Commander Julia Masterson, Lt. Timothy Penne, and Lt. Persephone ‘Peyton’ Triebsch. Folks, this is Commodore Andromeda Celeste and her sister, Subcommander Regina Celeste. Standing next to Alex Reilly is…”
“Ruth Scott. Glad to make your acquaintances.” Ma interrupted and proceeded to shake Vern and Tim’s hand. She embraced a stunned Julia Masterson and a wide-eyed Peyton next.
“Um…Alex…this doesn’t look like any place I’ve seen before. Where are we? When…are we?” Vernon Reynolds asked cautiously in confusion.
Andie smiled as she looked at our newest arrivals. “Welcome to Atlantis, ladies and gentlemen. I believe my sister has brought you back some seventy thousand years into Earth’s past.”
My four new companions remained silent for a long time- they just kept looking around in wonderment.
“I believe a tour would be in order?” Andie continued with a smile. “I suggest we adjourn and reconvene tomorrow at two bells, ladies. Alex, I believe our mother requires you and your sisters’ presence in her quarters?”
“That’s right, Andie, I have some catching up to do with your sisters. You and Reggie take our new guests on a tour of the ship and we’ll see you two in a few hours.” Ma said pleasantly as she motioned for Alex Reilly, Emily, and I to follow.
“Vern. How’s things?” She asked casually.
“Professor, what is going on? Why are you all here? Why are we here?”
“Well, you’d have ta ask the skipper, but in general, we’re here to stop my boyfriend from destroying the universe. You see…” Ricky Lynn was telling Vern, Jules, Tim, and Peyton as we left the conference room.
“Okay, so what is it, mother?” Emily asked angrily. It was evident she really didn’t want to be here. “I thought you’d be gone by now to whichever universe it is you hail from?”
“She gets her animosity from the Demmit side, Alexandra. You two should keep that in mind.” Ma said nonchalantly.
“You aren’t my real mother, mother! Maybe there’s a me on your world that you gave birth to, but not here. I knew MY mother very well, Ruth, and you are nothing like her.”
“Aren’t I, dear? See…I distinctly remember growing up in Hartford. I remember how your grandfather worked very long hours to put food and clothes in that overly large house.” Ma began, looking at Emily critically.
“I remember when my Rickie joined the Navy and I recall quite well that father was very disappointed he did so without consulting him. I also distinctly remember the day that you two came calling to the house, and I remember vividly the way you two introduced Louis and I. You know…Mother and Daddy where very distraught about the way you left that night! Mother cried for a week afterward and Daddy…well, he never did forgive himself for treating you the way he did, Alexandra. He blamed himself until the day he died. Mother and I never revealed you despite my sudden …revelation.”
“Revelation? I’m not following, mother.” Emily remarked disbelievingly.
“Like your sister, dear, I found I could do the impossible. It was shortly after you were born. I found myself at home…but not at home…not what home had been just minutes before, I mean. Things were…were almost the same, but I noticed minute differences- one being that mother and father had never met Allison or Andrea Demmit the week of the wedding.”
“Naturally, I became completely confused, but decided to play along until I could find out what had happened. Months went by before I finally figured things out- things I never thought possible until I thought back to that day I met you, Alexandra Steinert.” Ruth pointed to me. “You were my exact double in every respect save one. I realized that maybe…just maybe after my last growth spurt I had cleared that hurdle…the only thing I couldn’t understand was how I could have experienced a sudden growth spurt at eighteen? To this day I’ve never been able to answer that question.” Ma revealed, shaking her head to the side a few times.
“You went through my things the day of the wedding.” I said out of the blue.
Ma instantly looked over to me and stared for a moment.
Emily looked at Ma curiously. “The flask,” she stated decisively.
“What about the flask? It just had water in it.” Ma admitted softly- like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar.
“Have you searched our shared memories, Ma? Obviously you haven’t. Had you, those memories would have told you the answer.” I said with a serious tone. “My only question is, how did you consume the alcohol needed to trigger Alex’ nanos when I know the Rowland Demmit household was dry?”
“Now it is you that should access our ‘shared’ memories, Alexandra.” She responded after her eyes and mouth reduced in size.
I took her to task.
“Ruth Demmit went to see grandfather at the family distillery when you were three months, sis. While there, several cases of illegal, uncut whiskey fell from a cart and smashed on the shop floor. Ruth followed Grandfather despite his warning to remain clear. The smell of well-aged liquor permeated the air. I remember you felt dizzy afterward. Things felt tighter the next day. I’m sorry, Ma, I didn’t mean to bring this on you.” I reminisced and apologized.
“Don’t apologize, dear. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. The experiences I’ve had…the places I’ve visited…the people I’ve met…” Ruth Scott’s eyes suddenly dropped to the floor, “the things I’ve done.”
“So what did you do, mother?” Emily pushed rudely.
“I…I can’t tell you, girls. It…it was part of my ‘agreement’.” Ma sniffed. “I’ve already revealed too much! Upper management is watching, and I haven’t finished my task yet.”
A sudden realization hit me.
“Mother, do you expect us to believe that you have your own agenda…that you are actually on a mission of you own?” Emily groaned, interrupting my thoughts. “What mission could that be?”
Ma composed herself quickly.
“One that will remain hidden until fruition, my lovely daughters. Rest assured I have no intention of failing.”
“Sis, I think it would be better to leave this alone.” I suggested evenly.
“How can you suggest that, Alex?” Emily questioned irritably.
“We’d do better to continue planning our next move concerning Clemson.”
“Alex is right, Emily. We need to concentrate on our current mission.” Alex Reilly agreed.
“Alright, so what do we do about him? He seems hell-bent on destroying Khufu’s administration in Egypt. I’m seeing this as his twilight.” Emily asked giving in and concentrating on centering our attention.
Alex, do you still have the prints for the Sun Temple Cami made before it was destroyed?”
“I’ve had them the whole time, sis.” Alex Reilly smiled as she reached into her purse and retrieved a small ‘Reilly’ memory crystal.
“You think five years is enough time, Alex?” she asked.
“Should be,” I replied. “Take Ma with you. She’ll run interference for you and Djedefre.” I said reaching for Ma’s arm quickly. The mild tingle passing between us caught Ma by surprise.
“I wish you would stop that, Alexandra!” She exclaimed.
“I would, but I want you to know what my plan is.” I told her.
“Let’s go, Ma.” Alex Reilly said as she took Ma’s hand and disappeared.
“They left so soon?” Emily asked in surprise.
“Why, weren’t you done being rude to her?” I countered tersely.
“I’m sorry for that, sis. I just can’t believe she’s our mother. The Ruth Scott I knew growing up would never behave that way.”
“Around her own daughter, no, she wouldn’t. She would need to set a good example so that you would learn propriety. Search your future memories and tell me you didn’t do the same with Jimmy.” I challenged. Emily’s head turned slightly and her eyes looked to the floor.
Ma’s door opened and Andie, Reggie and the others entered. Everyone looked around noting the decreased occupancy.
“They’ll be back in a few hours.” I reassured everyone.
“My God, Alex, we’re…we’re in orbit!” Vern gushed as he came over to me and embraced me tightly.
“Why would they call it a ‘space ship’ if we weren’t, hun?” I asked, struggling for breath.
“Very funny, Alex! You could have given us warning.”
“Like you’ve never gone off-world before, Vernon Reynolds.”
“Off-world, yes, but not off ANY world, Alex! I wasn’t prepared for this at all.”
“You do know that our default Reilly IS a deep-space rated space suit, right?”
“He knows, Alex. Vern just has a slight case of motion sickness and is acting like this to keep his mind off it.” Julia Masterson explained. “There is a noticeable difference between artificial and natural gravity. I felt it immediately on our arrival.”
“Tim?” I asked as I turned to Abby’s son. “How are you holding up? I believe this is the first time for you?”
“I’ve never felt anything like this, Admiral! Commodore Celeste told me she would turn off the gravity inducers in one of the storage bays in the Command Core so I could see what zero ‘G’s’ really feels like!” The young Lieutenant prattled excitedly.
“Permission to instruct the Lieutenant in low gravity situations, Captain Reynolds?” Peyton asked formally.
Vern looked to Andie for her confirmation. She nodded and moved to the information terminal by the door.
“Dixie, alert storage bay ‘Alpha-4’ Control Personnel to prepare for gravitational inducer disablement. There will be a group of guests conducting ‘null-G’ training in half an hour.”
Vern, Jules, Peyton, and Tim looked at her curiously. I had forgotten that they had not received the Atlantian language files.
“All maintenance personnel have been notified and are awaiting the Empress’ group, Commodore.”
“Thank you, Dixie, that will be all for now.”
“You are most welcome, Commodore. Mom, will you be participating in the training?”
Ricky Lynn blushed brightly.
“I haven’t been in zero ‘g’ for a long time, Dixie. I’m a little out of practice.”
Our newer arrivals turned quickly and stared at the professor. Samuels looked around, feeling the pressure.
“Sounds like fun, I’d love to, Dixie.” She said, smiling tensely at our USS Detroit contingent. “Dixie, commense transfer of archive ‘AtlantisLang’ to our new arrivals. Request code ‘Richard-Lawrence-Samuel-zero-five-nine-one-one-echo-zeta-phi’.”
“Request accepted, mom. Download port link-up and handshaking initialized. Download initializing. Download complete, mom.”
“Thanks, baby. Cappy, I had Dixie load Atlantian to your suits. You should be able to access and select it for translation.”
“Thanks, professor.” Vern answered for the other three.
“Dixie, what is the weather at our ‘L-Z’?” Andie requested suddenly.
Atlantis will be over the designated ‘L-Z’ in four minutes-thirty-two seconds. Weather at requested location is currently two hundred-ninety-nine-point-zero-eight-one-six-repeating above absolute zero and precipitating under clouds.”
Ricky Lynn quickly reached into her backpack and retrieved her personal computing device. She tapped in the information.
“Eighty degrees and raining.” She translated.
“That is correct, mom. I did not realize I needed to format my response in the ‘Empress’ scale. My apologies.”
“Its okay, Dixie. Professor Samuels just wanted to make sure our new guests’ translators were working properly.” Andie told the A.I.
Ricky Lynn nodded to her after receiving similar confirmation from Vern, Jules, Peyton, and Tim.
“So who wants to go flying around?” I giggled.
“I’m game.” Yuuka said as she began to shrink.
“Pixie,” Peyton began as she held her hand out to stop the five-inch flying woman, “things are not what they seem with gravity absent. I recommend caution at first.”
“As long as there is air for my wings to push against, I’ll be fine, Lieutenant.” Yuuka confided confidently.
There was going to be no end to the comedic slapstick this afternoon. No severe casualties, but a lot of wounded egos would result.
E.S. Atlantis, Standard Year 257:08:14
“So how is your shoulder, Alexandra?” Pa asked as he and Ma entered our quarters. Emily begrudgingly lowered, marked and closed her latest book. This one was by someone called Alistair MacLean and was about a fictional, covert, World War II, rescue mission in the Austrian Alps.
“I’m glad we heal fast, Pa. How is that knot on your head?” I responded.
“I think it hurt worse than having my foot blown off, sweetie, but I’ll live.”
“Louis?” Ma looked shocked. “You’re joking…right?”
“Mother, Pa was caught in the barracks at Schofield! He was lucky that was the only thing he lost!” Emily growled irritably. “I thought you were watching from the other side?” She glared at Ma. “Or was that a lie also?”
“Young lady!” Pa interceded quickly. “That is no way for you to talk to your mother! I want you to apologize immediately.”
“If she really is our mother! Somehow I question our relationship, Father.”
“Let her go, Louis. She’s allowed her own opinions. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“I will not stand for this rude treatment, Ruth! She is our daughter! Our daughter! Not my daughter- ours!”
“But Daddy, I…”
You will treat your mother with respect, Emily Amelia Scott! Have I made myself clear?” Pa roared.
“Yes, Daddy.” Emily answered timidly.
“I’m sorry you had to witness that, Alexandra, but know this…” He paused to take a breath and calm down, “I…I will not stand for any of my daughters being rude and snooty to anyone- especially their mother.”
“Technically, I’m not really your daughter, Pa, I…” I began to say, but he cut me off quickly.
“We are so far beyond that at this point, Alexandra! You and Allie are our daughters forever more. End of story, understand?”
“Yes, daddy.” I cowered, impressed by his statement and its forcefulness.
“Louis!” Ma cried as she looked at him in surprise. “Where did this come from?”
“Someone had to stop this insolence before it escalated, Ruth. Since you went away, I’ve had to act as both parents- not very hard considering our daughters are in the military. It worked because I had my own problems at the time. Alexandra’s arrival changed all that though- considerably. The Empress of Time and Space and her friends have redefined the meaning of my life, Ruth. Our daughters have proven that the impossible is most certainly possible and you being here only punctuated that. Even so, Emily’s behavior since your return has been unacceptable and I will not let it go any farther. Now apologize to your mother, Emily.” Pa demanded and crossed his arms in wait.
Emily looked at me sadly for any support. I had nothing and ever so subtly shook my head to indicate such. She closed her eyes and nodded once then looked at Ma.
“Daddy’s right. I was out of line and I’m sorry, Momma.” She said before bursting into tears and running into our shared bedroom. The door ‘swooshed’ shut.
“Emily, you get back out…”
“Leave her go, Louis. She needs to sort this out on her own, dear. I’ve seen she’ll calm down in an hour or so. Everything will be fine, though things will never return to my pre-arrival norm.”
“What is that supposed to mean…’pre-arrival norm’? Ruth, I just want her to show the proper respect for you.”
“Pa, Emily’s going through some very unusual changes. Ma’s arrival and subsequently observed, uncharacteristic behavior has made those changes even more difficult.”
“What changes, Alexandra? Except for her more aggressive demeanor I’ve seen no other changes.” Pa said looking at me curiously.
“You’ve seen the major changes, Pa, in fact, you were the very first to witness two of the big ones.” I revealed.
Louis and Ruth Scott looked at me without comprehension. I stared back at them for a moment.
“Before I knocked on your door…how long had Emily already been ‘visiting’, Pa?” I asked to make my point. Ruth Scott’s eyes opened wide at my question.
“She arrived the day before you and…and…holy shit!” Pa answered before he gasped. “I forgot about that. I forgot that she had suddenly disappeared from the kitchen to stand next to you at the front door. That was one of them?”
I nodded. “I’d been pushing Emily to develop more portions of her gift since I had discovered my travel abilities. I figured that if I could do time related stuff, my sister could too. She began slowly exploring and pushing her limits after we arrived here, on Atlantis. Emily missed you so much, Pa; she yearned to visit you.”
“So she can travel through time too?” Pa asked, his mouth not quite closing.
“In a way. Emily’s gift isn’t quite as robust as mine, Pa. She is only capable of projecting herself through time. Yes, she looks and feels like she is there, but her physical body remains stationary. It will be termed ‘physically manifested, out-of-body’ experiences in the twenty-first century.”
“That’s one, sweetie, what was the other?” Pa asked as Ma remained silent.
“Emily shares my ability to shift out of phase with reality. You saw that several times during our stay, as did Doris and Ralph Sullivan.”
“You rescued Ralph and Lu Sei?” Ma gasped out in surprise.
“It was the right thing to do, Ma. Even though it didn’t happen originally, it was the only decent thing to do. I’m willing to face ‘Upper Management’s’ judgment for it too!” I declared confidently.
Ma’s expression turned serious as her eyes lowered slightly; they began moving quickly side to side as she apparently pondered my newly admitted exploits.
“Things work out better this way, Ma.” I assured her. “Lucy proves she is every bit a sister of Kili. I’m glad I helped save that family’s future.”
I noticed tears forming as Ma looked up and stared me straight in my eyes.
“Ruth, what’s going on? Did Alex do something wrong?”
There was a very long pause before Ma said anything. In the meantime, tears slowly ran down her face. Pa looked between us constantly, concern etched on his face.
“I’m serious, Ma. I’ll take whatever “Upper Management” decides should be my punishment!” I said boldly.
“It’s not that, honey.” Ma replied as she wiped her cheeks.
“Then what?” I challenged.
Ma approached and wrapped her arms around me, her mouth moved close to my ear. “I’m so proud of you, Alexandra, and I will forever be your humble servant, my Empress.”
I gasped- my eyes going wide with what she had just said. Pushing her back so I could look directly in her eyes, I stared into them wanting to find the reason this woman- my adoptive mother- would say something like that. I saw two, infinitely deep, green ringed pools of love and pride.
I looked into her eyes again.
There was something else there. Devotion- I saw her unquestionable devotion to me and everyone associated with the Empress. I saw that she would follow me to the ends of existence…and then some…if necessary.
“No!” I said forcefully after only a moment of deliberation. “We’re equals, Ruth. There’s no need OR desire for servants where the Empress is concerned. I will not have anyone lower themselves to servitude…ever.”
Ma stepped back and silently regarded me for a couple minutes- the instant, satisfied, smile on her face said it all.
“You…you are everything I couldn’t be.” She finally whispered as her right hand reached out and she gently slid the backs of her fingers down my cheek.
I was momentarily stunned.
“Louis, I think it’s time to leave our daughters to their mission. We should be getting back home.” Ma said, turning her attention to Pa and offering her hand to him.
“Are we really going to go home, Ruthie…or am I going home and you’ll disappear from my life again,” Pa questioned skeptically?
“I promise to stay around for a little, Louis.” Ma said sadly. “Unfortunately, your wife suddenly reappearing, not to mention her unexplainable youthful appearance, will not be easily accepted or understood, so yes, I must eventually leave you, my love. I’m sorry. Alexandra, we will talk again. Take care, Empress.”
Ruth and Louis Scott vanished just as our quarter’s door opened and Alex Reilly walked in.
“So, did Ma and Pa leave?” Alex glanced around, suddenly looking stunned as her eyes settled on me.
“Apparently she has,” my twin said, answering her own question as she hurried over to me and wrapped her arms around me. The slight tingle felt wonderful. “Oh, Alex, I neglected to see how hard that was. I’m sorry.”
“I got caught up in the family aspect, sis. It felt wonderful, I…” I paused. “I’m going to miss her, Alex.”
“I know, honey. We both knew what was to happen.” Alex Reilly said gently as she guided my head to her shoulder. The coolness I felt on my cheek when it touched the fabric of Alex’ uniform indicated I had been crying. Her Reilly quickly took care of the salt water, absorbing it instantly.
“Jack, Cami, assemble the troops, we leave in an hour.” I said toward the ceiling after I had composed myself.
“I didn’t think you wanted to leave so soon, sis.” Alex Reilly commented.
“We still need to be as unpredictable as possible.”
“Now that everyone is here, I’d like to thank Andie and Reggie for their hospitality…” I began.
“Wait…you’re not coming back, Empress?” Reggie asked in surprise.
“Oh, we’ll still pop in from time to time, but our mission has almost reached its conclusion.” Alex Reilly assured her.
“We, the Sisters of Kili thank the people of Atlantis for their generosity, hospitality, and understanding. Without y’all, we couldn’t have protected our sisters and brethren…the whole of Earth’s future from Mr. Clemson’s careless alterations of history. My sisters, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.” I concluded as tears again began to interfere with my sight.”
“Alex, you’ll need a bridge crew.” Andie said with hope.
“Jack, Peyton and I have flown Meridian once before, Commodore. I’d be happy to take you along, but you have your own ship to command. Besides, you’ll be needed here for Atlantis’ landing.”
I noticed Ricky Lynn’s eyes narrow slightly.
“I didn’t know it was that close now, Alex.” Andie said quietly.
“Closer than anticipated.” I mumbled quietly.
Commodore Celeste nodded her understanding. She had been through two landing scenarios, one successful, but unconventional, the other catastrophic.
I walked over to Andie and hugged her tightly.
“Thanks for everything, sis, I’ll think of you every day until our next visit.” I whispered into her ear. I released her and repeated my action with her sister.
“You and Ian take care of the babies now, you hear? Watch Andie’s back for me too.”
“I will, Empress.”
I glared at our half sister.
“I will, Alex.” She nodded with a smile.
I stepped back while each of us took turns saying goodbye to our hostesses. After many goodbyes and many more tears, Alex Reilly and I offered our hands to our sisters. It was too bad that Brie had contacted me and requested I take Vern, Jules, and Tim back to Norfolk. ‘Admiral’ Covington claimed she needed them for an important mission. Apparently Clemson’s tampering had caused a tangent in early 2034AD.
“Ready to visit the lands of Pharaoh, ladies?” I asked as I winked at Andromeda and Regina Celeste.
“Be back soon, sisters.” I added.
Pharaoh’s residence appeared before us. A large crowd had gathered between the main doors and where we stood in the mansion’s front plaza. Chanting and demanding shouts for one action or another echoed deafeningly off the building’s façade. This was the biggest protest I had ever witnessed- bigger than even the protests for action against Janelle Hathor on my first visit here.
“What in the world is all this, Alex?” Emily gasped as she looked around us.
“Clemson. He’s lobbying for power.” I said as I nodded toward the top of the mansion’s steps. You could barely see the protagonist among the hive of activity. “We’ve arrived in time to stop him from collecting his recording device.”
Emily nodded in understanding. “Is Anna Beth alright?”
“The residence has been secured, Em. Anna Beth and the others are all safely inside.”
“So, how do we get in, Skipper?” Professor Samuels inquired.
“We port in. Right, Alex?” Peyton answered impatiently.
“We could, but that wouldn’t flush our pray, ladies.” Alex Reilly replied. “Cami, could you bring Mr. Clemson here, please?”
“But I thought Clemson had a defense against our Mind Warrior powers?”
“One Mind Warrior, hun, not two- not right away. Jack? Care to help your sister out?”
“It’d be a pleasure, Alex.” My Ex-O said as she and Cami closed their mouths and began a private conversation.
Darren Clemson began to rise out of the crowd- literally. The expression on his face was complete and utter terror as was the crowd’s.
“Alex, you know what to do.” I said to my twin.
She nodded with a smile and released my hand as I concentrated on keeping the rest of us phased out now that our hands weren’t physically touching.
Unfortunately, several locals were close enough to also be shifted. Their expressions were priceless.
“How did you…”
“Where did you come fro…”
“Empress, you’ve arrived to…”
“Yes, I am here to repair this mess. I’m sorry, but you three have been caught in my phase shift. You will not be harmed in any way, shape, or form, I assure you.”
“Empress, you have to stop this man! He means to dissolve Pharaoh of his position and take us back to the old ways- the way things were before our star brethren arrived and enlightened the world.” One of them said. I recognized him as one of the residence’s maintenance craftsmen.
“Let’s see how committed he is to his own cause.” I said as Clemson hung hovering over the huge crowd.
“Cami, I believe Alex wants to say a few words?” I said, nodding to the front doors of the residence. Alex Reilly appeared on the top step.
“Hear me, residents of Memphis! This man hovering above you is nothing but a fraud- a flim-flam man- a con artist bent on gaining power and forcing this mighty nation into ruin! His only goal is his personal greed for complete control over the lands of Egypt. Once acquired, he will move on and leave what is left of this society to rot and fester until Egypt is desolate and barren.” Alex Reilly shouted in our minds.
“My turn, Jack.” I said as I first made sure my companions were clear of anyone or thing.
“The man hovering above you wants nothing more than to use all of you for his own gain- for his pleasure!” I said. The crowd as a whole suddenly turned their attention to me. Clemson’s face turned beet red in fury and concentration.
“We’re starting to lose him, Alex. He’s nullifying our gift.” Jack informed me. I continued my portion of the speech as our quarry began to sink back into the crowd.
“This man- a man that you have never seen before, but remember always among you, is a fraud as my sister claims. He means to return Egypt to the dark days before technological enlightenment eased the lives of all. Even now he plots to escape my Mind Warrior’s hold and flee to a safer time and place! He is a coward and not a worthy leader as he claims. He cares not for the people of the Upper and Lower Nile. He seeks to change this time period to suit his own aspirations, and do it all at your expense!”
“And who are you?” Someone shouted.
“We are Alexandra.” Alex Reilly and I said simultaneously. “We are the only and true travelers of Time and Space. We are Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space!”
“Have you visited the forefathers’?” Another voice challenged.
“We have indeed just arrived from the distant past. In fact, in that time they have yet to land on Earth and remain in orbit high above this planet.” I answered.
Yet someone else shouted. “The forefathers created this planet, whores! Everyone knows that!”
“Y’all keep right on thinkin’ that, honey. I’ve seen truth to the contrary, though.”
“Alex, he’s escaping.” Jack informed me.
“If I am not to be believed, why is your self-proclaimed, time traveler and future leader running to his machine as we speak?” I said as I pointed directly at Clemson, making his way secretly through the outer reaches of the crowd.
“Professor, have you made the modifications?” I asked Ricky Lynn, verbally. She smiled deviously.
In clear view of most of the crowd, Clemson had pulled the QDA out from under a medium-sized merchant’s cart a hundred or so feet from our position and hastily punched a destination into the device’s control panel.
‘You get it, Cami?’ I thought.
A very small explosion- just a firecracker, really- went off just above our heads. “Sure did Alex. Scratch one media recorder.” She thought back.
“Why would the Empress of Time and Space instill terror into one who claims divine favor from the forefathers?” I shouted the question, pointing to where Clemson had vanished.
The crowd silenced.
“Witch! You made him vanish!” A man’s angry voice shouted out from the confounded gathering.
“Alexandra had nothing to do with that pretender’s disappearance! He has proven himself a coward in the eyes of the people and nothing more!” Peyton shouted to the group.
Those starting to disperse suddenly stopped and turned their attention to her. There were soft murmurs of, ‘it’s her’; ‘the hero of Memphis, she’s here’; ‘Hathor’s vanquisher returns’, echoing around through the crowd.
Peyton took advantage of her sudden fame and recognition. She had ordered her Reilly into period clothing before speaking out.
“Yes, I am the one, along with Alexandra and her sisters, who brought Hathor to justice and stopped her reign of terror! How dare any of you berate this woman, Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space! A woman renowned throughout this and many other worlds for her integrity and truthfulness! Only the ignorant would dare insult her or any of her sisters! The coward that hastily fled just now, he seeks to inject doubt and discord throughout our society for his personal gain. Believe me when I say, Egypt is in far better hands with Khufu! He is a wise and even-handed administrator and has great interest in the good and health of all the people! You have been duped, my friends and neighbors! Think about that as you disperse peacefully and return to your homes, businesses, and lives!”
“Damn, girl! Didn’t know ya could sound so…commanding!” Ricky Lynn complimented.
After a few minutes the crowd again began to disperse. Ten minutes later it was clear to approach the residence of Pharaoh.
“Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space and company. We seek audience with Pharaoh Khufu and his queen, Anna Beth.” I announced placing my right hand on one of the ornate seals of the imposing granite doors.
There was no activity or response of any kind from the other side.
“Hey, An’a B’th, Y’all should open the door ‘fore Ah port us all in unannounced-like.” I shouted with a giggle as I tried again to announce us.
The mansion’s door slowly creaked open a few inches.
“I told you never…ever…call me that…that name again, Alexandra!” A familiar voice hissed in anger.
“Y’all gonna open the door an invite us in, oh mighty queen’a all Egypt?” I countered pleasantly.
“I told you never to refer to m…”
“Ya, ya. So how long y’all wanna stare into mah eyes this time, hun? Rest assured Ah ain’t been ‘round no Mind Mages or the like since our last visit.”
“Our last visit was six years ago, Alexandra. What took you so long?” Anna Beth asked as the door opened fully and we all looked upon her haggard face.
“Mother, I specifically asked you not to open the door for…” A young man’s voice said angrily before an older Djedefre appeared behind his mother.
“Empress! I had no idea of your arrival. Come in, please.” The young man motioned us all in and quickly closed and locked the door. “Your arrival is not well timed, I’m afraid.”
“On the contrary, honey, it’s perfectly timed.” Alex Reilly stated wryly.
Anna Beth’s face paled.
“Mother? What is wrong? Are these not the Empress and her sisters?”
“This is THAT time, isn’t it?” Anna Beth gasped in horror.
Alex Reilly and I nodded in unison.
“Oh, Alex, no!”
“Mother? What have you not told me? What time is this we hint at?”
“I trust construction of the Sun Temple has completed?” Alex Reilly asked, looking to the future Pharaoh.
“It has, Alex, but what has that to do with anything?” Djedefre answered.
“The plans have been followed per the specifications?” Alex continued her questioning.
“They have, Empress. My contractors have questioned the complex machinery, excessive ventilation passages, and the large, barren, main chamber though. What is its purpose, if I may indulge you?”
“The Sun Temple is your lifeboat, young Pharaoh. Through it we will save the royal family and all who still follow devotedly.” I said in a melodramatic tone.
“Oh, give me a break, Alex! Must you be so over-the-top?” Emily asked in dramatic exasperation.
“If Djedefre insists on being so formal.” I countered.
The young man rolled his eyes. “Sorry, ma’am, I forgot how easy-going you are, although you did frighten me severely on your last visit. I had never seen anyone that could affect light the way you did that day- even if it happened in the blink of an eye.”
“And I’m real sorry ‘bout that, hun. The guy we brought for a visit was gratin’ on my last nerve and I let it get the better of me.” I apologized back.
“How long do we have, Alex?” Anna Beth asked from out of the blue.
“How long, mother? Alex just arrived and you want to know how long they will be visiting?”
“My son, you cannot understand the circumstances for which the Empress has returned.”
“Then enlighten me, mother. Reveal the true purpose of the arrival of the Empress and her court.”
“The land of Egypt is about to change, hun,” I began to inform him. “There is an opposition to your father growing among the people of both the Upper and Lower Nile. In a few months this ‘plague’ will reach a critical point and the land will no longer be safe for the Supreme Administrator or his family.”
“But how could this have happened? Father has been nothing but fair and understanding of our people. How could such dislike develop in the first place?” Djedefre asked in genuine bewilderment.
“The seeds have been sown for many years now, honey.” Alex Reilly told the young man. “There has been an underlying discontent in your father’s government since Hathor began making slaves of your mother’s people. Darren Clemson’s recent appeals and assemblages have forced that discontent out into the general public. I’m afraid the people will not tolerate another conflict with the ‘Gods of old’ and would instead renew their allegiances with them in the name of peace.”
“So, what do we do, Alex?” Djedefre asked as he looked between Alex Reilly and I.
“Meridian 12 awaits, Commander.” I said as I bowed and gave a flourish of my left hand.
“Meridian 12?” Djedefre gasped. “I didn’t think that story was true, mother! You really were a starship commander?”
“A damn good one to get as much of her crew safely to this planet like she done, sonny!” Ricky Lynn bragged.
Djedefre was dumbstruck for a moment as he stared at his mother as she blushed profusely from the high praise.
“Aunt Anna Beth…my queen, would it be acceptable if mother came with us to fetch Meridian? I’m sure the ship would enjoy her presence once more.” Peyton inquired politely.
“I thought you would never ask! It would be my pleasure, Sephie.” Peyton’s mother, Natalia, said as she and Ahm-Shu, Peyton’s Pa, appeared from a side corridor several yards ahead of us.
“Momma!” Peyton screamed in happiness, running and almost tackling her mother.
“Nice to see you too, Persephone. I see you have missed your father…as usual.” Ahm-Shu greeted dejectedly as he stood by their side, apparently forgotten.
“Pappa, I haven’t forgotten you!” She said as she pulled him close too.
Anna Beth, Djedefre, and the rest of us silently observed the touching reunion.
“Sephie, we’ve both missed you so much. How have you been, child?”
“Tim and I have made a good life for ourselves in Norfolk, Momma. We’ve been planning to visit after Tim’s tour next spring, though I’m not sure in light of our unanticipated visit today.”
“All y’all have to do is ask, hun. Wherever the parties reside, I’ll be happy to reunite them.” I assured her.
Peyton turned her head towards me and nodded her thanks.
“So where is my son-in-law? What critical matters have disqualified him from this trip?” Natalia questioned.
“My fault, ma’am.” I answered. “The mission parameters required a pilot- one knowledgeable in Terran Spacecraft. He was asked to be a part of the Empress’ travel party, but he, Captain Reynolds, and Cmdr. Masterson were called back to help the future Empress.”
“Besides, momma, now Tim will have more time to spend with young Natalie. She’s only two and is not ready to travel with the Empress yet.” Peyton explained further.
Natalia and Ahm-Shu’s mouths’ dropped.
“We are Grandparents? When were you going to tell us, Sephie?” Natalia spoke for both stunned parents.
“Tim and I planned on breaking the news on our next visit…”
“Again, I’m sorry for spoiling their plans, Natalia. The current mission has consumed most of my attention of late.” I explained.
Peyton’s mother glared at me for a moment. A slight smile appeared on her face thereafter.
“I trust our relocation will result in closer communications with our expanding family, Alexandra?”
“My pledge,” I tried hard to hold back certain recent memories of her daughter’s alternate life on the Homeworld. With much effort, and with as short a pause as possible, I continued. “…Has not wavered since our first meeting, ma’am, and I still stand by that pledge.”
Natalia smiled brightly and nodded.
“Momma, Meridian’s helm is yours.” Peyton told the ‘retired’ Terran Sub-commander.
Natalia smiled widely at her daughter- her eyes gleaming with excitement. Turning to Anna Beth, she placed her right fist to her left breast.
“Captain, I, your ever-loyal first officer, officially request service as your Navigation Officer and that my daughter, Persephone Peyt-Ahm, be assigned to the pilot’s chair. I believe she is more than qualified.” Natalia requested thus revealing her daughter’s real Egyptian middle name.
“Sister? Why demote yourself?” Anna Beth questioned.
“There are others more qualified, sister.” She replied with a decisive smile, nodding to Alex Reilly and I.
“With all due respect, ma’am, I believe my sister Alexandra Steinert is much more qualified as first officer. I prefer the sciences over ship-wide responsibilities and offer my services as officer of sciences.”
“Very well, Alexandra. Cmdr. Steinert, I’ll leave the other command assignments in your capable hands.” Anna Beth announced with a wide smile. Djedefre looked on silently as his mother took command.
“Aye, captain. All assignments will be completed when we arrive at the ship.” I responded, snapping to attention.
“When do we leave, Alex?” Anna Beth inquired.
“At the Captain’s discretion, ma’am.”
“Good, we depart to collect Meridian 12 tomorrow morning at first light. Sister,” Anna Beth turned to Natalia, “contact Alusia and Khefru. I want both families represented today for a mid-afternoon briefing. Use the secure channels to limit media coverage.”
“By your order, my queen. Should I not also contact the Supreme Administrator so he may shorten his visit to the Western Hemisphere?”
“That will not be necessary. I will send word on my own.”
“As you wish, sister.” Natalia said as she bowed slightly. She and Ahm-Shu turned and walked back down the corridor that they first appeared from.
“Empress?” Peyton inquired.
“Of course, Seph. Go with your family, but be here for the meeting later.” I replied nodding my head slightly. Lt. Persephone ‘Peyton’-Penne hurried to catch her parents.
“Uhj!” Anna Beth shouted as she clapped her hands loudly.
A much older version of the man I met on my last visit appeared from a corridor on our right and bowed. I felt sorry for him immediately, knowing his hearing was probably even worse now.
Uhj smiled brightly as he approached us.
“You heard?” Anna Beth asked. I thought it cruel of her.
‘Patching you and Allie in, Alex- listen only.’ Jack’s voice announced in my mind.
‘I have my lady. It is regrettable that our time here has ended, though I have heard the stirrings growing louder these last few years. Indeed, it would seem that the Empress has correctly predicted her visit, as the peoples’ voice has become louder the last few months. Alas, I thought I would have escaped my physical bonds well before these events.’
‘Only Alexandra knew for sure, my friend. I freely admit I have been terrified to even approach our Empress on our fates. I doubt she would frighten us further by revealing even a small portion of it.’ Anna Beth thought to Ahj.
I gasped audibly. Anna Beth and Ahj suddenly looked over to Allie and I with their eyes narrowed in suspicion.
‘Apparently, our Empress is more than a little bit concerned by our conversation.’ Anna Beth thought as she continued to stare contemptuously at my sisters and I.
‘She felt you to be taking advantage of my ‘disability’, Commander. Her concern for our well-being is commendable but unnecessary. She and her sisters would do anything to see everyone treated equally- with respect and compassion, wouldn’t you agree, Empress?’
I nodded as I looked back to Jack. Both she and Cami were blushing profusely, having been caught eavesdropping.
“I’m sorry, Ahj, I thought you near deaf from your ordeal with Hathor. I am truly sorry that my negligence unleashed her on this peaceful civilization.” I said solemnly.
‘Dear Empress,” Ahj thought to me courtesy of either Jack or Cami- Cami, judging by her downcast eyes. “Though I can clearly hear your outermost thoughts, I do not need but to look upon your face for the truth of your character. My lady, at the risk of speaking for my commander, we are forever your allies.’
Apparently Allie and I weren’t the only ones Cami was relaying the conversation to, as all my sisters’ eyes seemed to be leaking.
I didn’t have the heart to even think about his absence from Meridian 12’s roster.
Ahj flinched ever so slightly. Now I was certain he too downplayed his abilities, as did many other Egyptians of Terran origin.
I closed my eyes slowly and squeezed out one last tear from each.
“Alexandra, Ahj will see that you all have quarters with which to freshen up before the scheduled meeting.” Anna Beth informed us as the older man turned and motioned us to follow.
Ahj showed Emily and I to a spacious suite consisting of two bedrooms, a living area, and a lavatory complete with walk in shower and a hot tub.
‘Empress and Doctor, I hope the facilities meet with your requirements. As usual, Meridian will see to your needs and keep you updated of schedules and activities within the residence. She will be happy to assist you any way she can.’ His thoughts told us as he turned to exit.
“Thank you, Ahj. Again, I’m sorry about Hathor.” I told him sincerely.
Our host smiled silently, turned, and walked out the suite’s door shaking his head slowly.
‘The Empress, she is still apologizing for events of the past, Commander.’
‘Haven’t I told you before that she feels solely responsible for those dark times, my friend?’ Anna Beth’s thoughts replied. ‘The only thing stopping her from attempting to return to repair those desperate days are these ‘temporal waypoints’ she speaks constantly of. Alexandra, neither of them, is in the habit of causing pain to anyone.’
‘Her concern is commendable, but I find her utopian convictions humorous. Being the woman of many worlds, dimensions, and universes, her optimism is ever so uplifting.’
‘Now, if only we could impress upon her sisters’ the meaning of privacy. Camille Darough, I would expect this breach of privacy more from Jacquelyn…’ I heard Anna Beth’s voice say before it suddenly disappeared from my mind.
I shook my head and giggled. I loved my sisters!
0505hrs, Pharoah’s Residence, Memphis, Eygpt, 2510BC
“So where do we travel today, mighty, all-seeing, and ever-charitable, Empress of Time and Space?” Anna Beth chimed as she, Natalia, and Peyton entered the residence’s dining room.
Allie and I began laughing hysterically.
“You dare find frivolity in a statement spoken from the most sacred mouth of the Queen of all Egypt?” Anna Beth said regally as she too began to laugh. She nodded to our butler for this morning’s meal and sat across from Allie, Emily, and I.
“Was that too over the top?” She asked, still snickering.
Emily held her right hand up, her thumb and forefinger almost touching. “Just a little, but don’t worry, I’m sure our Empress takes no offense, highness.”
The entire room erupted in laughter. Despite my inability to catch even a wink of sleep last night, the jovial nature of my sisters and the attending staff felt wonderfully rejuvenating.
“When we’re finished with this wonderful meal.” I said after we settled down.
Anna Beth looked at me strangely- probably expecting me to continue. “Alex?”
“You wanted to know when we were leaving.”
“I distinctly remember asking where, not when, Alex.”
“We all know where, hun. Aren’t you curious as to when?” I asked with a sly grin.
“I don’t care when, I just want to see my Meridian again, Alex. It has been sooo long since I sat in that center seat…”
“Tired of this throne and want your old one back, Commander,” I giggled with a wink?
“I actually prefer command of Meridian 12 over ruling all Egypt, Empress. I think you understand that feeling as well.” Anna Beth said, eyeing me carefully.
I nodded as breakfast was formally served.
“Empress Alexandra Steinert, her majesty highly recommended we serve this dish to you. She was quite specific in its construction and ingredients. I hope it is to your liking?” The residence butler said, stopping beside me and placing a covered, golden serving plate before me. He graciously took away the golden-domed lid to reveal…
“Wow. Pancakes,” Emily wisecracked neutrally, “A stack of four. I bet there’s butter between each, too. Who would’ve guessed?”
I rolled my eyes and shook my head to the side a few times as Anna Beth laughed deviously.
“Did I miss something, majesty?” The man asked looking rather confused.
“No, it looks absolutely wonderful, sir.” I said giving the man my brightest smile.
“The syrup was shipped overnight from the northern part of the western hemisphere at Queen Anna Beth’s request, Empress Alexandra.”
“I thank her majesty for her thoughtfulness.” I said as I cut into the stack and placed a forkful into my mouth.
They were superb- the maple syrup was the sweetest I had ever tasted. I immediately took several more forkfuls, closing my eyes and savoring each bite.
“These are fantastic!” I exclaimed.
Emily giggled. “That’s my sister for you! Alex has never met a pancake she didn’t like.”
“Mind if I have a taste, sis?” Allie asked as she stared open-mouthed at my plate. I half-expected her to start drooling any minute. Her fork had already skewered a few pieces.
“Empress Alexandra Reilly, your plate is here as well.” The butler announced with a smile and another golden-domed plate was placed before her, too.
“Let me guess,” Emily said sarcastically, “We’re all having pancakes this morning?”
“I’m afraid not, Practitioner Scott. Her majesty has specified breakfast entrees for each of you, based on Empress Alexandra’s recommendations.”
Each of my sisters received golden plates with their favorite morning foods. Within five minutes we were all engaged in our meals.
“So, Alex, what course do I chart once Meridian is awakened?” Anna Beth asked as she wiped her mouth with her white linen napkin. Natalia looked on with excited interest.
“We travel to the house of Ra, highness.” I said with an evil grin.
“Well that certainly clears things up!”
“You asked, hun.” I giggled. Natalia shook her head side to side a few times as she closed her eyes and smiled.
“No, really…where do we go after retrieving Meridian, Alex?”
“I’ll do the driving on the first leg of our journey, hun. You don’t worry about anything other than the ship.” I assured her. Peyton’s ma’s head dropped in disappointment.
“You crash-landed her the last time you were in command, Alex.” Our hostess chided.
I do better with Earth-to-Earth transports than I do Earth-to-Space transfers, highness. Besides, Meridian will be fully refueled this time.”
Jack groaned while rolling her eyes. “So I play the part of the plucky power source again, huh, Alex?”
“You and Cami, Jack, but Meridian was designed to accept power from her crew also. She’ll have you, Cami, Peyton, Natalia, and Anna Beth to suck power from. After we arrive at our first destination there will be about one hundred-seventy people to obtain energy from. That should distribute the load better.” I said, smiling at Jack.
“Coffee, Empress Alexandra?” The butler interrupted.
“Please, and it’s Alex, Aaron. How many times must I tell you, my name is Alex?”
“Forgive me, Alex. Since your last visit, I have lapsed back into my old habits. Can I get you anything else, Alex? Either of you?”
“Thank you, we’re good.” Allie and I said in unison.
Emily rolled her eyes in annoyance while Anna Beth grinned deviously.
“Yes, Alex?” He turned to answer as he moved on with the caraffe.
“Quietly spread the word to all those within the walls and gardens of this residence that there will be a special dedication at the new Sun Temple, three weeks from today.”
“A dedication, Empress?”
“Like no other on this planet, Aaron!” I smiled brightly. “It’s gonna be a real blowup.”
“Don’t you mean ‘blowout’, Alex?” The man corrected politely.
“I’ll do that, Alex. Thank you in advance, Empress.”
“The pleasure will be all ours, hun.”
As her servants cleared the table, Allie and I stood from our seats and walked around behind Anna Beth’s chair.
“Shall we go get her majesty’s fire chariot, ladies?” Allie asked this time.
We all joined hands.
A huge, unremarkable, weather-worn, aircraft hangar appeared before us. The number ‘18’ was the only thing displayed above the huge, rust-poked and streaked sliding panels. Two men stood guard with assault rifles by a single man door built into one side of the giant main doors of the mostly forgotten relic of a bygone age.
The day was warm but overcast and, by the rain slickers the Security Police guarding the hangar wore, it just might rain soon.
“Allie, your group to default Reilly’s, everyone else to dress blues,” I ordered, “except you, Ricky Lynn.”
“Alex, we might have a slight problem with that. My suit contains no military uniform selections,” Anna Beth said in worried response.
“Got it covered, hun. I’d like you to turn off your translator.”
“Why would I do that? I doubt I’d understand a word said. I really don’t know your language as well as I’d like.”
“Precisely. You will be our expert on ancient Egypt, hieroglyphics, writings and runes, Professor Khufu.”
“Professor ‘Khufu’? I never took my mate’s name, Alex! You above all people know that to be true. And…and what of my clothes?”
“They’re perfect, Professor. Professor Samuels, would you be so kind as to translate for our visiting expert from Egypt?”
“Gotcha, Skipper. Relax, highness, I know what Alex has in mind, just follow my lead.”
“Allie, time to split up. I’ll see you in the storage area. Stay out of phase until we’re all alone.”
“Just as we planned, sis; got it. Y’all be careful.” Allie said as she released my hand. She, Yuuka, Natalia, Peyton, and Cami disappeared.
“So what do we do now, Alex?” Anna Beth asked in her native, ancient Terran.
“We go introduce ourselves to the base commander.” I replied as I pulled her and the rest of my sisters gently. We headed for a tan, stucco-looking, two-story building.
“Alex,” Prof. Samuels asked as we walked toward the Base Administration building. “Um, just so I know how to dress, when are we?”
“Dayton, Ohio, 1, April, 1993- Wright-Patterson AFB to be exact.” I said without looking at her.
“Gotcha. Business formal then. Shall I nerd it up with glasses or just be myself?”
“Relax, Professor. We’ll be among friends.” I told her as I remembered to change my rank and nameplate.
Reaching the entrance, I made sure we were not being observed and rephased. I knew that several cameras were monitoring us the whole time, though. Their footage would only add to the intrigue.
Opening the door, I allowed Jack, Ricky Lynn, and Anna Beth to enter first followed by Emily- much to the surprise of the Sergeant at the front desk.
“Where’d y’all come from?” He gasped out in angry surprise.
“That is above your security clearance AND pay grade, Sergeant Everson!” I said sternly, pushing my way through my companions to the desk.
“Admiral!” He gasped again, jumping to attention- his chair flying back and striking the wall.
“At ease, Everson.”
“I…I wasn’t told of your visit, ma’am.”
“Good! At least the Colonel still follows orders.”
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll let him know you’re here.” Everson said as he fumbled to pick up the phone. With trembling hands, he punched a series of four buttons.
“Sir, Admiral…” The Sergeant looked nervously at my nameplate a second. “Fleming…Admiral Fleming has arrived, sir.” There was a pause. “No sir, she’s not alone…two other officers and two civilians…yessir, two civilians, sir...yessir, a redhead and an Arab…”
“Egyptian, Sergeant.” I interrupted.
“Sorry, sir, an Egyptian.” Everson corrected himself as he paused to listen once more.
“No, sir! They just walked through the door! No, sir, I mean none of the cameras caught any of them arriving! …Alright, sir, I’ll tell her…yessir, I’ll do that, sir. Thank you, Colonel Smithson.”
Everson gently placed the handset back on its cradle and looked at me cautiously.
“Colonel Smithson will be right down to see you, Admiral Fleming.”
I didn’t say a word, but continued to stare at him. After a minute or two he finally got the message.
“With your permission, Admiral, I’ve been given the rest of the day off by the Colonel.” He said nervously.
“You stand relieved, Sergeant. Enjoy the rest of your day.” I said pleasantly with a slight smile.
“Thank you, ma’am, you too.”
Everson was just securing his weapon when a familiar face entered the small reception area from a stairway door.
“Admiral, Commanders, what brings you and Professor Samuels to Wright-Pat today?” Col. James Smithson said as he smiled brightly at all of us. “Ah, you must be Professor Khufu? Welcome to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.” He said bowing slightly to Anna Beth.
“That. Is. Not. My. Name!” Anna Beth snapped, as all she could understand was ‘Khufu’.
“You must allow me to translate, Professor.” Ricky Lynn chided in Ancient Terran.
Anna Beth frowned, but quickly forced a smile to her face before looking at me. Several lightning bolts were shot from her eyes in my direction.
“Col. Smithson welcomes you to Wright-Patterson AFB, Anna Beth.” Ricky Lynn translated to ancient Terran.
“I shall not forget this, Alexandra. The Queen of all Egypt should not be treated in this manner!” Anna Beth said coarsely as she looked back to Tammy Richard’s first borne son.
I couldn’t help noticing the slight smirk on his face. He obviously had an updated Reilly on.
“She thanks you for your warn and kind welcome, Col. Smithson. She is excited to begin her examination of the artifact.” Ricky Lynn translated back.
Anna Beth glared at her.
“I’m afraid she’s a little impatient, colonel.” Prof. Samuels gulped as she nervously glanced at our white linen-draped sister.
“Artifact, sir?” Sgt. Everson repeated in confusion.
“Didn’t I give you the rest of the day off, Sergeant?” Jimmy Smithson asked tersely.
Everson jumped to attention. “Yes, sir. I was just on my way out, Colonel.”
“Good. Not a word of Admiral Fleming’s visit, understood, Airman?”
Everson gulped loudly. “Understood, sir.”
“A word before you go, sergeant?” I said as Everson came around the desk to leave.
“Admiral?” He said as he drew near.
I moved closer to his ear.
“We’re going to return Meridian 12 to her rightful owner, Felix.”
Everson’s eyes got bigger and his mouth dropped open a little.
“Remember, mum’s the word, sergeant.”
“I will…thank you, Admiral!”
Sgt. Felix Everson hurried out the door.
“You really are a tease, Alex.” Jim Smithson said as he shook his head.
“Just a little fun, Jimmy. He hasn’t seen me since…”
“Since he was about three, Alex. God, it’s so nice to see you again!” Jim Smithson said as he wrapped his arms around me and squeezed gently.
Releasing me, he stepped back and embraced Jack, Emily, and Ricky Lynn.
“Welcome your majesty. I’ve looked forward to the day of our first meeting.” Smithson said in ancient Terran.
“So why did I have to disable my translator again, Alex?” Anna Beth asked as she turned to glare at me.
“Entertainment.” I said simply. “Jim, we’re here for her. The Commander here is itching to get back in the saddle.”
“She’s still down in sub-level five…hasn’t gone anywhere since they brought her here back in ’66.”
“We figured, hun. Allie’s down there waiting for us with Cami, Peyton, Natalia, and Yuuka as we speak.”
“Yuuka’s here? Wow, I haven’t seen her in ages! And I sure haven’t forgotten that one summer when she put me into Pixie mode. I’d love to do that again one of these days!”
“I remember! I’d never seen a pixie with yellow wings before. You sure you want to go through that again, hun?”
“Sure! The only thing that freaked me out at the time were the breasts. No one thought to tell me that all Pixies were adult females, but I can adjust my attitude to compensate now- no big deal.”
“Can we please just get to my Meridian, Alex?” Anna Beth urged impatiently.
“Boy, you really have been away from it for awhile, haven’t you, your majesty.”
“Stop calling me that! My name is Anna Beth!”
“Wow, you better get her in that center seat before she really starts to freak out, Alex!”
“That’s the plan, Jimmy, so if you’d be so kind as to lead on?” I said with my biggest smile.
“My pleasure, Empress.” Jim Smithson smiled. “This way, please.” He added before stopping and retrieving several small badges from the sergeant’s desk drawer.
“These need to be visibly worn below the neck and above the belt while on base, ladies.”
Each of us took the proffered ‘VIP’ badges and clipped them to our uniforms. Prof. Samuels clipped her’s to her grey-striped, suit coat’s lapel and Prof. Khufu clipped it to the linen crossing over her right shoulder.
“Ladies, if you could follow me?” Col. Smithson offered as he opened the outside doors for us.
“Gentlemen, Admiral Fleming and company to examine the artifacts.” Col. Smithson announced as we stopped in front of the two, armed guards stationed at Hangar 18.
“I’m sorry sirs, but we have standing orders to let no one enter this building under any circumstances.”
“Trust me boys, I’m the only one that has the clearance to legitimately enter this facility.” I said with a smile.
“I’m sorry, Admiral, but our orders are explicit.”
“Even if I speak the proper code and that door behind y’all opens, Master Sergeant?”
“Now that would be a good trick, Admiral. I’ve never seen that door open for anyone and I sure don’t know how to do it, verbal or otherwise. For all I know the hinges could be rusted shut.”
“All y’all have to say is,” I paused and switched my translator to Reilliese, “RVP, by order of Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space, open this door and allow our entrance.”
The two guards stared at me incredulously as the lock audibly clicked and the door slowly swung open on its own.
“How did you do that? Was that some kind of jibberish, Admiral?” One of the men asked in amazement.
“Nah. It’s just some language I picked up on another planet, nothing special, boys.” I said with a smile as I motioned everyone inside the empty-looking hangar.
“There’s nothin’ here! We’ve been guarding an empty building?”
“Not exactly. It’s almost empty, but that will soon be modified.” I smiled as I led everyone across the huge hangar to a large, white-striped, square outlined on the floor.
“Gentlemen, I’m temporarily increasing your security clearance. Beyond this point, anyone with less than top-secret security access would trigger a discharge of hydrofluorocarbon gas that would completely drive the oxygen from this hangar and its storage facilities. I’d stay close and keep my mouth shut if I were you.” I advised our two guards in a stone serious tone.
Again I went to Reilliese. “RVP, I personally vouch for these two; level five, please.”
The floor started to lower and we descended below the empty, but infamous, Hangar 18.
“Why is fabric draped over my spacecraft?” Anna Beth said once we were clear of the elevator doors. She hurried over to the dusty, green canvas shrouded object. I had urged her to turn off her translator until we got inside Meridian since two armed SP’s were escorting us.
“Don’t shoot! She’s just excited to see the artifact!” Col. Smithson ordered as the two guards began to raise their weapons- P90’s, if I remembered right.
“Prof. Samuels, I suggest you tell your associate to curb her enthusiasm before she regrets it.”
Ricky Lynn nodded.
“Anna Beth, you wanna get yerself shot? Be patient! We’ll get into Meridian shortly.” She translated.
The Queen of Egypt stopped, turned around, and glared at us angrily. She approached our two escorts and stared into their eyes intensely.
“You two will turn around, walk back to the lift and take it back to the main floor. From there you will exit this building, close the door behind you and forget that you ever saw us. Is that understood, gentlemen?” She ordered in perfect English.
Both men nodded once then turned mechanically and marched stiffly to the elevator. Once the fenced doors reopened, they both entered and turned back toward us.
“RVP, please take these gentlemen back up and monitor their movements until they have exited the building. Re-enable the door’s security protocols after it is securely closed. Report back when the task is completed.” Anna Beth said aloud in Reilliese.
The fenced elevator doors closed and the elevator began its short journey topside.
“Wow, you really are scary, your majesty! I don’t think I’ve ever seen you do that.” Emily said in amazement.
“If it would work on either Alexandra I would feel much better.” Anna Beth growled as she glared at me.
We waited a few minutes until RVP gave us her report.
“So when did RVP start monitoring security here?” Jim Smithson asked.
“Randi interfaced to it as soon as it was installed a few years back.”
“But why involve those two? They’re innocents and just doing their job, Alex.”
“I placed a suggestion into their minds, Jimmy. They think they turned us away at the door. For all they know we went back to the Admin Building with you.” Jack explained.
“I should have known.” Smithson mumbled to himself.
“So, how am I getting back to my office…or am I part of the crew for this mission, Alex?” He said with only slight excitement.
“Sadly, I’m porting you back after your tour, Jim.”
“You wanted to see Meridian didn’t you?” I asked enthusiastically.
“Damn right I do, ma’am!”
“Fine. Captain, care to wake Meridian 12 up?” I answered.
Anna Beth’s eyes seemed to glisten brighter as she approached the dormant spacecraft.
“Meridian 12, would you please awake and let us enter?” She said in Ancient Terran.
“Good morning, Commander. Password please?” Meridian answered in the same language.
“I’d like to do some exploring, please?”
“Password accepted. Would the secondary commander care to log in?”
“I thought I asked you not to require a secondary login, hun.” I asked curiously.
“I just wanted to hear your voice again Empress. Outer hatch lock disengaged and opening. Interlevel transit system now operational. Welcome aboard Commander, Empress, and crew.”
Some dust kicked into the air as the outer hatch opened and disturbed the heavy canvas covering it.
“Girls, care to take Meridian’s blankie off?” I asked as I noticed Allie, Cami, Peyton, Natalia, and Yuuka phase in to our left.
The heavy cotton duck lifted effortlessly to reveal what the Nazis had dubbed ‘Der Glock’. Anna Beth stepped up onto the wheeled, reinforced-steel platform and ran her hand up and down Meridian’s outer hull.
“Did you miss me old girl?”
“Very much, Commander.” The ship purred.
The old canvas was folded neatly and hovered down to the floor beside Meridian’s platform as Anna Beth stepped through the hatch slowly- still running her hand along the pristine hull. Natalia and then Peyton reverently entered next.
“We better get inside before Anna Beth decides to take her for a spin.” I suggested with a grin.
Once we were all in the airlock, Natalia closed the outer hatch.
“Command level.” She said as the elevator immediately began moving.
“Meridian. Power status.” Anna Beth asked as the elevator door opened to the bridge.
“Power reserves are holding at twenty percent, Commander. Would you like to re-establish biological energy reclamation? Several valid sources are now onboard.”
“Confirmed. Start energy reclamation from known Terran organisms.”
“Commander, I recognize the former temporary first officer as a valid source also. Would Jacquelyn submit to energy reclamation also?” Meridian inquired.
“That would be acceptable, Meridian, though I insist you not under-estimate my capabilities.” Jack agreed.
“Meridian, I am Camille Darrough and am of the same construction type as Jacquelyn. You may reclaim my energy with the same limitations as my sister.”
“Thank you, Camille Darrough. Your profile has been added to the crew reclamation list.”
Cami and Jack immediately closed their eyes and tilted their heads slightly to one side feeling the energy draw begin. Anna Beth, Peyton, and Natalia didn’t seem to react at all.
“Power reserve at forty percent and increasing, Commander.” Meridian immediately reported.
“Confirmed. Bring interior lighting to working intensity, please.” She requested.
Instantly the room brightened and Jim Smithson looked around in awe.
“And how many levels are there, Alex?” He asked.
“Seven including the bridge, Jim.” I told him.
“Commander Steinert, are your station assignments complete?” Anna Beth inquired.
“Aye, Captain, they are.”
“Aye! Meridian, the following personnel will attend the designated stations. Sub-commander Persephone Peyton, Helm; Sub-commander Natalia Peyton, Navigation; Cmdr. Alexandra Reilly, Sciences; Lt. Ricky Lynn Samuels, Engineering, Lt. Emily Scott, Medical/Environment; Lt Cmdr. Jacquelyn Cummins, Weapons; Lt. Cmdr Camille Darrough, Ship-wide Security; Lt. Yuuka Sukiro, Communications; Commander Alexandra Steinert, Executive Officer/Tactical. That completes the assignments.”
“Assignments accepted, First Officer Alexandra.”
“Thank you, Meridian. Status on the previous outer hull compromise.”
“During my slumber the offending partial breach has sealed. Outer hull integrity has returned to one hundred percent, Alex.”
“Wonderful to hear, hun. Captain…your orders?” I said pleasantly. I was glad the ship had the ability to repair her hull and to erase the swastika and two other ‘Nazi runes’.
“Stations, everyone.” Anna Beth said with an excitement in her voice I had never heard before. I guessed she had already forgotten about Jim’s tour?
Natalia immediately sat down at the Helm, much to Peyton’s chagrin.
“Excuse me mother, but didn’t you elect Navigation for this mission?” She asked politely.
Natalia stopped, gently gliding her hands down the sloped control panel in front of her. She paused before looking around to her daughter. There was a look of longing…true longing in her eyes.
“I’m…I’m sorry, Sephie…I…I just…It just overwhelmed me to be here…on Meridian, once more. The helm is your’s, sub-commander. Forgive me.”
“Ex-O?” Peyton asked.
“Sub-commander?” I responded.
“Ma’am, permission to temporarily exchange stations with Sub-commander Natalia?”
“I think that would be an honorable action on your part, Sub-commander.” I said with a smile. I turned to Anna Beth and gave her a wink.
“Meridian, log the temporary re-assignments and load the appropriate login credentials to both affected, critical stations.”
Natalia’s eyes overflowed with tears. She stood back up and pulled her daughter into a tight embrace for several minutes
“Thank you, Sephie, you don’t know how much this means to me…how much I’ve dreamed of this day…returning to my post on Meridian, I…I never thought I’d…” She said before breaking down and crying even harder.
“Natalia, your station if you please, older sister.” Anna Beth urged after a few more minutes.
“Yes captain, please forgive me.”
“Persephone, your station if you please.” Anna Beth continued. “The rest of you, stations.” She commanded.
“Captain, I believe we have a fairly new crew, ma’am. Wouldn’t it be better that they know where their stations are located?” I said smiling tensely to her.
Anna Beth exhaled heavily as what I said dawned on her. Over the next few minutes, she escorted each of my sisters to their assigned stations around the bridge, giving each a short overview.
“Sciences, your station is to my right.” Anna Beth finished- or so I thought, as she pointed to the right-most seat of the three in the exact center of the bridge.
“Commander Steinert, as Executive Officer, you sit on my left.”
I rolled my eyes seeing her evil grin.
“Aye, Captain!” I said momentarily standing at attention before sitting down next to her.
After another few minutes of slowly gliding her palms back and forth on the armrests, our captain stopped moving entirely. I glanced over to see tears slowly rolling down her cheeks.
“So…is it how you remembered, Captain?” I finally asked quietly.
Anna Beth turned her head to look at me and simply nodded slowly. Her tears fell faster.
“Orders, captain?” I asked calmly.
“Captain, what are your orders?” I asked again, this time a little louder.
“Oh…um…all stations, preflights, report back when ready.”
“Aye, ma’am! All stations begin preflight checks.”
“And how are we supposed to do that, Ex-O?” Emily asked angrily from across the room.
“Press the icon that says ‘Preflight’ then follow the displayed checklist. Meridian will help as much as she can. Isn’t that right, hun?” I said.
“Of course, Alexandra. Just like last time.” Meridian responded.
“Engineering preflight, go.” Ricky Lynn announced from her station quickly.
“Navigation preflight, go.” Peyton replied excitedly.
Some dust exited the ventilation grilles.
“Environmental systems online and functioning…um…environmental prefight, go.” Emily began, but decided to follow the set protocol.
“Weapons systems priming… ready. Weapons preflight go, captain.” Jack reported from our far right.
“All science apparatus initialized and calibrated, captain.” Allie reported.
“Internal and external communications- ready. Meridian transponder active in ELPO mode, captain.” Yuuka said as she bowed slightly.
“All internal and external sensors have been initialized. Security preflight, complete, captain.” Cami said sounding extremely professional.
“Lowly Air Force Base Commander, wondering if he’s actually going to go on this mission despite what the Empress told him earlier, Captain!” Jim Smithson lampooned.
Everyone turned to stare at the man standing toward the rear of the bridge, physically twiddling his thumbs absentmindedly.
“The offer hasn’t been rescinded, Colonel.” I said with a smile. “I can have you back in your office before anyone knows you’ve even gone on this ‘tour’.”
Jim’s eyes lit up!
“Your orders, captain?” He said with a smile.
Anna Beth looked at me and nodded.
“Meridian, transfer tactical functions to the unused station. List Col. James ‘Sonny” Smithson to the bridge crew, please.”
“Confirmed. I was wondering when you would assign him a station, Alex. He looked very disappointed just standing there.” The AI replied.
Jim Smithson smiled and hurried over to the empty seat beside Jack.
“I’m glad you finally got with the program, ‘Sonny’.” Jack giggled.
“Me too, Aunt Jacki, but Alex,” he said turning back to me, “you didn’t have to include my old call sign!”
I countered his frown with a bright smile.
We waited a few more minutes.
“Tactical preflight is a go.” He almost giggled in excitement.
I got no reply.
“Now where did that silly little main engine pre-heat…”
“Helm? We’re waiting. Is there a problem?” Anna Beth inquired impatiently.
“Not enough simulator refresh time, captain. I’m sorry…there you are you sneaky little…” Natalia began to apologize, but changed topic suddenly as she apparently found what she was looking for. The remaining small portion of her console changed from red to green. “Helm preflight, go, captain!” She said triumphantly. She instantly rubbed her hands together then interlaced her fingers and bent them backward, cracking her knuckles. “Oh, Hell yes!” she said to herself.
“Does the Empress have a specific destination?” Anna Beth asked as she fought a proud smile for her sister’s achievement.
From what I’d been told, it had been almost one hundred and fifty years since she had occupied that seat.
“I plan to transport us back to the newly constructed Sun Temple three weeks from when we left, captain. Thrusters and main engines will not be required.”
Natalia groaned in disappointment.
“Any points of note, Alex?”
“I will transport us to the sight, but remain out of phase until the surrounding exterior is clear. Meridian, please disable your shields.”
“Confirmed, Alex. Deep-space protective shielding has entered standby.”
“Ex-O, external sensors are online and monitoring.” Cami announced. Her tone was rock steady and consummately professional.
“Meridian, automation status.” Anna Beth requested.
“Computational arrays, ready. Automated fire and damage control systems, ready. Hull integrity, one hundred percent. Power reserves, sixty percent and increasing. AI preflight, go, captain.” Meridian answered.
“Alexandra, you may proceed.”
I nodded. A huge smile came to my face. “All hands, prepare to phase out.” I announced proudly.
Only one person didn’t move or make an effort to touch something connected directly to the ship.
“Natalia, that means to take hold of Meridian’s structure so we don’t leave you behind, hun.”
“Newbie, Alex.” Peyton giggled as she thumbed to her mother in the next seat. Natalia’s stare was hot enough to melt her daughter’s navigational console.
I stood from my station and walked the few steps to Natalia’s console. Placing my hand next to her’s, I began the countdown.
“Phasing out in three, two, one.”
Natalia stared at the active display in front of us then stared at me.
“That’s only the beginning, hun.” I winked.
“GOD, I love this part!” Jim chimed from his station.
I concentrated on a specific time and precise destination.
“Transiting in three, two, one.”
The display in front of us went completely black.
“Exterior illumination.”Anna Beth commanded.
The painted, hieroglyphic walls of an Egyptian tomb appeared on the screen, but were almost totally washed out by the intense light.
“Yes!” Jimmy Smithson cheered, pumping his right arm once in excited triumph.
“Decrease exterior intensity by fifty.” Anna Beth ordered.
The beautifully crafted cartouches on the view screen gained more contrast and appeared in fantastic detail. What I read indicated that we were indeed in the Sun Temple’s main chamber- a chamber specifically designed for Meridian to launch from when ready.
“We’re here, Captain. External sensors indicate a compatible atmospheric mixture equal to Earth. Humidity level equals that of an arid region. Temperature is currently three-oh-five above absolute zero- eighty-nine degrees Fahrenheit.”Allie reported.
“Security, are we alone?”
“Proximity sensors indicate several thousand biologic entities it classifies as Terran-like several hundred meters around Meridian, Captain.” Cami answered.
“Several thousand? Alex, I thought only those within the residence were asked to meet outside?” Anna Beth gasped.
“Captain, I suggest we go out and see what is happening.” Jack said in a serious tone.
“Meridian, place all systems into standby- access by my voice print only.”
“Confirmed. All ship functions reverting to standby; awaiting your command, captain.” The AI replied.
“Captain, I recommend utilization of a secondary log-in to increase ship’s security.” Cami suggested. I had never seen her so serious.
“Alex, Jack and I have picked up distressing thoughts from those gathered outside this monument. Prudence requires increased security protocols.”
I nodded as Cami voiced her opinion.
“Captain, there is a protest occurring on the Processional Causeway- a protest against Khufu and those of the royal court. We need to get out there and make a statement.” I revealed sadly.
“Particle and optical batteries charged and ready, Captain.” Jack answered confidently. “Mind Warriors awaiting orders, Empress.”
I nodded and looked at Anna Beth.
“Meridian, we’ll be back. Keep the lights on” Anna Beth ordered with conviction. “Let’s go, sisters.”
“One moment, Captain. We’ll need some overhead surveillance. Yuuka, you remember how you promised Jim here another chance to fly?”
“Alex? I’ve never met Col. Smithson before today. How could I have promised him anything?”
“Yuuka, I understand your confusion, but from my perspective, we met thirty years ago as of 1993. I was ten at the time of my ‘mode’ change and enjoyed the whole experience…despite the…um…misinformation.”
“What happened? What did I do to you, Colonel?” Yuuka asked in horror.
“Take Jim into Pixie mode and find out, hun. I assure you nothing bad will happen.” I recommended.
“I’m ready when you are, Squadron Leader.” Col. Jim Smithson said as he walked over and gently took Yuuka’s hands.
Taking a deep breath, Yuuka looked with concern at me a moment. When I smiled and nodded, she slowly closed her eyes and both adults started to shrink. A moment later Yuuka and another Pixie, this one with vibrant yellow wings, flew up and hovered in front of me.
Yuuka stared at her new sister, appalled by what she had done.
“I’m sorry, Colonel, I…I…didn’t know…I can’t explain…”
“I knew this would happen, Yuuka. The same thing happened the first time.” The beautiful, blonde, yellow-winged…female…pixie consoled. “Empress, what are your orders?”
“Scan the area from a safe altitude and report back with any pertinent information. Jim, you report to me, Yuuka, to Allie.”
“Understood, ma’am, and please…call me Sunni when I’m in Pixie mode.” ‘Sunni’ advised as she momentarily gave me the ‘evil eye’. Obviously, she realized why I had designated her ‘handle’.
I nodded. “The away team is ready, captain.” I informed Anna Beth proudly.
She stared at Sunni, Yuuka, Allie, and I for several minutes, stunned by the Colonel’s amazing transformation, before moving toward the elevator. Sunni landed on my shoulder, Yuuka on Allie’s.
Once the outer hatch opened and we stepped out, we made our way down a set of seven steps, and looked around. Meridian’s external lights illuminated the entire chamber exquisitely. I saw that my aim was dead on as I turned back to look at the ship. Meridian 12 was perfectly positioned on her specially built throne atop her alter and looked perfectly at home there. Her radiating, exterior lighting clearly indicated that Ra, the Egyptian sun god, was in attendance here.
“In my limited number of visits to this site, I never imagined how beautiful my Meridian would look sitting on her very own throne.” Anna Beth gushed as she turned and stared reverently.
“Captain, we must make our way to the gateway if we are to protect the Supreme Administrator, his government, and his heir.” Allie stressed, trying to get Anna Beth’s full attention back on track.
“Um…” she blinked a few times before tentatively turning back to us. She glanced between Meridian and her companions quite a few times. “Of course, Empress. Khufu should have his mate by his side where government is concerned. Precede me to this monument’s gateway, my ladies.” She said regally. Anna Beth took one last look at her beloved spacecraft and sighed noticeably.
“You two will have many more adventures together, captain.” I said quietly as Allie and I took our positions directly ahead of her.
As we neared the temple’s gateway, Yuuka and Jim…Sunni took flight from our shoulders. Yuuka disappeared to the left as Sunni peeled off to the right once they cleared the wide opening. Jack and Cami were first to reach the exit. They walked side-by-side several yards farther into the bright sunlight. Jack turned to the right and disappeared from view. Cami turned left and disappeared likewise.
The noise from the people gathered outside quieted exponentially.
Ricky Lynn and Peyton exited the temple next and after several paces, both stepped off to either side of the gateway and faced each other. Some applause could be heard over the crowd’s diminished chatter.
Both women placed their right fist over their left breast and bowed slightly. The gathering quieted further.
Natalia and Emily were next to exit, but delayed for a moment as Natalia turned and looked back to her sister one last time. Anna Beth silently nodded in some unsaid acknowledgement. Natalia raised her hands to her abdomen and began rolling her hands one over the other. She did this several times before a large bouquet of white Lilies appeared in her hands.
Emily’s expression was priceless as she stared. Natalia casually split the flower bouquet and handed half to her.
“Are we ready, my sister?” Natalia asked of Emily.
With a simple nod, both turned and stepped out into the light and took up positions this side of Ricky Lynn and Peyton.
Again, some applause rose up from the crowd.
“We’re up, sis.” I said as a smile came to my face. We both walked to the edge of the sunlight on the floor, standing shoulder to shoulder. As one we stepped off and exited the Temple of the Sun. The brilliant light momentarily blinded me, but within seconds I gazed upon the thousands gathered in either protest or invitation. We stood several dozen feet above those gathered on the landside of the sinuous Processional Causeway. Twenty, maybe thirty, steps separated us from them.
The crowd silenced reverently except for a handful of shouts and whistles. Applause slowly started to run through the crowd nearest us to drown out the nuisances.
Allie and I stepped to the side and took our positions next to our sisters- Allie next to Natalia and Peyton; me next to Emily and Ricky Lynn. Jack and Cami had taken position on granite pedestals at the edge of the wide, granite stairs, stood at attention, and somberly looked out over the throngs below.
Khufu appeared below us and began climbing the polished granite steps. The crowds again silenced, save for a few boos, hisses, and jeers. As he neared the landing, he looked to either side- at Jack and Cami. Both performed a ‘left/right face’ parade move to face him, placed their right fists to their left breasts, gracefully genuflected, and bowed their heads in respect. Beautifully choreographed, I thought.
The crowd seemed awestruck by our Mind Warriors’ reverent actions as several gasps echoed across the gathering.
Khufu bowed visibly to each before taking his final step onto the gateway’s landing.
The Supreme Administrator stopped before Ricky Lynn and Peyton after topping the magnificent granite steps. He turned and embraced his niece then Ricky Lynn, placing a kiss on both women’s cheeks. I noticed both blush deeply.
Next, he stepped before Natalia.
“The uniform still looks good on you, my sister. Welcome home.” Khufu said as he repeated his welcoming embrace.
Natalia bowed as he stepped back.
“Welcome back, Lady Physician. I am sorry to have missed you and your sisters’ arrival three weeks past.” He said after embracing and placing a kiss on Emily’s cheeks also.
Emily bowed reverently once pharaoh stepped back from her.
Khufu turned back to Natalia and took four lilies from her bouquet. Likewise, he took four flowers from Emily, turned, and stepped back out to Cami and Jack. Both were still kneeling. He handed Cami a single bloom. She nodded once as if answering something unspoken. He gently kissed her forehead and moved over to Jack, repeating the previous actions exactly.
Ricky Lynn and Peyton were next, gracefully kneeling. Each received a single bloom and a kiss on the forehead.
Khufu returned to the center of the landing and stepped closer to the gateway. Allie and I nodded to each other and stepped toward each other, turned, and gracefully dropped to our knees before the Supreme Administrator.
Khufu’s expression melted instantly. He then bowed to us reverently in return.
A murmur rose from the people far enough back to see what was happening and progressed back toward us.
“Empress, it is I who should be prostrating himself before you, for without your charity and counsel, my beloved mate would not have filled my life with love and blissful companionship for as long as she has. I thank you both for the years of peace this realm has enjoyed with your assistance.” He said as he leaned over and placed a kiss on the top of each of our heads.
Khufu motioned for us to stand, which we did as I wiped the tears from my cheeks. Allie was doing likewise. He offered two lillys each to Allie and I, which we accepted with nods of appreciation. Both of us then stepped to the side and resumed our position in the ceremonial lineup.
Turning around, Khufu walked to the edge of the steps again.
“My people! For three weeks my mate has been traveling with the Empress of Time and Space in a diplomatic capacity. Her purpose was to visit the past and future, and confirm that my time on this earth has reached its apex.”
The thousands gathered broke out in conflicting shouts and noisy discussions. The din grew quite loud as he raised his hands to quiet them and waited.
All reached for their heads in pain and the gathering hushed. Khufu nodded to Jack and Cami each, in thanks.
“My fellow patriots. It is with great joy that I present to you, my mate, your queen, Anna Beth!” He shouted before turning, walking back, and taking the remaining flowers from Natalia and Emily, but offered a single bloom to each of them. He turned and knelt toward the gateway to the temple, the remaining bouquet of lilies raised high above his head.
Anna Beth appeared out of the shadow and gracefully walked to her husband. Enthusiastic applause filled the crowd as she accepted the flowers and promptly knelt down facing her husband.
“Thank you for the lilies, my mate. You always know exactly which flowers I enjoy.” She said quietly as she looked over to Natalia and nodded. Pharaoh and queen stood back up and turned to the gathered masses. “I am yours to command, my mate. We rule evenly, wisely, and together forever!” She shouted.
Roughly half of the crowd applauded and cheered.
“Alex, several men on the right flank have snuck off and are approaching the rear temple safety zone with what appear to be munitions of some type.” A small voice near my right ear informed me.
“Thanks, Sunni. Jack, did you copy that?” I said quietly.
‘How do you want me to handle it, Alex?’ Jack thought to me.
‘The way I see it, one flare-up deserves another, commander.’ I thought back.
Jack and Cami stood, snapping to attention instantly- they had still been kneeling on their pedestals. Both women nodded to each other as their recently received flowers hovered in front of them. They then began to roll their hands. Bright blue balls of energy formed and each compacted and kneaded them as they increased in size.
As if choreographed, both Mind Warriors turned away from each other and pushed the balls of concentrated plasma away forcefully. Showing some sort of guidance, the energy balls flew behind the pyramid in opposite directions. A loud thunderclap echoed across the area followed by several smaller explosions in rapid succession. Cami and Jack turned around again and nodded to each other before taking their floating blooms back in hand.
The gathering gasped in amazement. Some clapped excitedly at the spectacle.
‘Threat alleviated, Alex.’ Cami said sadly in my mind.
“Back to patrol, Sunni. More threats are pending.”
“Rodger that, Empress One.” She said, taking to the air and speeding off to her assigned patrol sector.
Instantly thirteen royal guards appeared around their Pharaoh and queen in a semicircle.
“Where y’all been, hun?” I asked the guard closest to me.
“There have been several small outbreaks both here and on the main plateau, Empress. Unlike you, we cannot be in two places at once.” He replied quietly without turning his eyes from his leaders.
“Our Mind Warriors are at your disposal, Captain. Use them wisely.” Allie said loud enough for Cami and Jack to hear.
“Empress? I…I do not understand. You and you alone control your Mind Warriors. I stand, unworthy, to command such forces. I have no right.” The man exclaimed solemnly.
“For your information, Cami and I are not controlled by anything or anyone, sir. We are enlightened, sentient beings that think and act on our own.” Jack said after turning toward us and glaring at the uniformed man.
“My apologies, Ladies, I meant no offence. I only sought to respectfully defer to the Empress.” He answered sheepishly.
I noticed Allie tilt her head to the left slightly. Again, Jack and Cami turned away from each other, hovered their lilies, and began rolling their hands. They quickly formed two more plasma balls, and released them- this time straight up into the air. Both balls of energy arced over the pinnacle of the temple and disappeared behind it.
Again there was a thunderous explosion that echoed around the temple complex followed by several smaller explosions. It caused the throng to quiet down once more.
“Empress, they seem to have the situation well…” he gulped reflexively, “ in hand.”
“Still, captain, you will coordinate with our Mind Warriors. Is that clear?” I said tersely.
I smiled pleasantly at the tall, young man.
“We are united in the protection of the Supreme Administrator and his queen, captain. It is imperative they survive this protest and the rest of their days.” I explained quietly.
“Confirmed, M’lady.” He said finally looking my way with only his eyes.
“Will the leaders of the unscheduled protest please approach?” Khufu shouted to the crowd below us. “This will be a free forum. No reprisal or retaliation will result. I wish us to peacefully discuss the issues of protest.”
A hole in the crowd on the Causeway opened several hundred yards back. The small clearing moved as five men boldly approached the temple’s steps.
Several minutes later all five stepped onto the landing. Two of the men sneered at Cami and Jack as they passed. Both women stared intensely back at them in response.
The Captain of the Royal Guard gasped suddenly. Jack immediately turned to him and nodded. She rolled her hands quickly to produce another plasma ball and released it high over the gathered people. Becoming smaller and smaller, it suddenly veered slightly to the left and streaked to the ground. A cloud of smoke developed at the far away spot. Seconds later, the sound of a large explosion echoed crisply in our ears.
One of the two men turned his attention back to Jack- hatred clearly visible in his eyes. The other that had shown contempt suddenly looked very nervous.
“Sirs, I certainly hope you have come to civilly discuss issues. I should warn you that Alexandra’s sisters never miss their targets. I will allow any or all of you to leave without fear of harm now if you cannot adhere to the terms of peaceful negotiation.” Khufu said confidently, but evenly.
“The prophet predicted this day, old man. He said the reign of Khufu was ending.” One of the older men began, looking around nervously at the imposing Royal Guards and us.
“What prophet? Please, call him up here so that we may include him in our discussions, good sir.”
“He…he has not reappeared since the Empress and her sisters forced his withdrawal, Administrator.”
“Alexandra, do you know the prophet to which this man refers?”
“I do, Administrator. He is a fugitive from the distant future- four and a half thousand years from now, charged with theft of proprietary equipment and intentionally and knowingly redesigning history for his personal profit and amusement.” I answered calmly. “He seems intent on destroying Egypt as it is today for that of an earlier historical hypothesis originally proposed forty-four hundred years in your future. The theoretical model of Egypt’s history- your present- is based on brutality, slavery, war, and totalitarianism. My sisters and I have spent the better part of five months chasing him throughout time and correcting the adverse changes- changes that have negated innocent people, their families, even whole societies from existence.”
One of the other men turned and gazed at me in surprise. Apparently he hadn’t realized the damage that could be done.
“I see. So this…prophet…he has traveled here before and has actually experienced our civilization first-hand? Lived among us for some time?”
“He has not, Administrator. Prior to his commission of equipment theft, he possessed no talent for time travel.” I answered.
“So…this equipment the prophet acquired…it is a machine that imitates your ability, Empress?” Khufu asked curiously. “How could such a miraculous device be imagined, Alexandra?”
“I designed it, Administrator.” Ricky Lynn said as she stepped forward. “I have been intrigued by the Empress’ gift and sought to replicate it. Unfortunately my assistant and coincidentally, my lover conspired behind my back. His agenda wasn’t evident until Alexandra brought it to my attention. I’m afraid the old saying: ‘Love is blind’ is still true forty-five hundred years into the future.”
Khufu nodded in sad acknowledgement. “I too have been blinded in such a way, Lady Scholar. For many years during Hathor’s terrible reign, I remained blinded because of my love for this great land. I ignored the blatant indicators I saw around me hoping the tenacity of my constituents would prevail. I delayed and stood completely devastated when I learned of my mate’s conscription into Hathor’s nefarious forces. As with you, scholar, Alexandra answered my distress. I can never repay her favor.”
The two men, the ones that showed Jack and Cami distaste, both looked around nervously now. The one that first looked nervous began to twitch as his eyes quickly darted around the landing we stood on. He had slowly approached Khufu and now stood within a few feet of him.
The Captain of the Royal Guard- the man nearest me began glancing around nervously in concern. He seemed to be favoring his right as if listening to some unseen communication device. He quickly glanced to me and winked.
Without warning, the young captain rushed Khufu, knocking him aside, tackling, and falling onto both nervous men. Jack and Cami’s heads snapped around instantly and both instantaneously raised their right hands.
Anna Beth, Natalia, Peyton, Emily, and Ricky Lynn screamed in terror.
All three men flew skyward and disappeared from view within the blink of an eye.
There was a flash of brilliant light then seconds later a delayed, ear-shattering explosion from high overhead. It was replaced by a tiny sphere of red that hovered in its place for a moment before a flash of light expanded out in all directions like a skyrocket. Another thunderous explosion echoed across the people gathered below.
I felt tears roll down my cheeks as I watched. Allie’s face mirrored mine.
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