South of Bikini 4: Episode 9- A New Home

When last we left Alex, she was calling for assistance just before losing consciousness. Will the Empress and her sisters succeed in relocating the deposed Egyptians to a new home? Has Alex unlocked another facet of her gift that will finally allow her to apprehend Clemson? If so, at what cost? Read on to see if the Empress of Time and Space can triumph over evil once again.


Copyright: R.G. Beyer 2014


Episode 9


“A New Home”


1211hrs, Temple of the Sun Complex, Egypt, 2510BC

“Alex! Alex, can you hear me?”

Was that Emily calling for me? Her voice sounded so far away, and what was with the darkness? Why had Meridian turned off her exterior lighting?

“Doctor, what happened?”

“Meridian alerted me to a medical emergency outside the hull, captain.”

‘Oh no, one of our passengers has been injured! I should go see what happened. They may need my help, sis,’ I said, but they were apparently too far away to hear me.

“How bad, Doctor?”

“I haven’t finished my examination yet, captain. She seems to be unresponsive though.”

‘The patient must be really bad. I’d never heard Emily’s professional voice sound so concerned.’ I wish I could see where they were so I could help.

“Captain, her cerebral cortex. I’m detecting severe hemorrhaging in multiple locations!” My sister whispered.

‘We better get that patient to the infirmary. I’d like to help, but I don’t know where they are.’

“What happened to her?” Another, far away voice whispered.

‘What a nice sounding voice. Very forceful- very commanding,’ I thought to myself. I liked this man’s voice. I wonder who he is?

“She pushed herself way over her limits, sir. Allie, we need to get her to sick bay on the double.” Emily mumbled.

“I’d like to, sis, but I can’t transit into Meridian, her shielding won’t allow me to phase through her hull.” Allie said from somewhere far off.

‘Hi, sis.’

I really wish I could find them so I could help.

“Then we do this the old fashioned way.” That rich, wonderful, male voice said.

My head started swimming. Wow! His voice really did make me swoon!

“Khufu, be careful! We need to immobilize her head to avoid further damage.” Emily insisted from far away. They must have been on the other side of the temple somewhere.

‘I better hurry and find them so I can lend a hand.’

“Alex, you need to remain still!”

‘But I should be helping with the patient. Time means everything in these cases.’

“I’m warning you, Alex, if you don’t relax and stop fighting us, I’ll have to knock you out!”

‘But you need my help! I’m hurrying, sis!’

“I warned you, Alex! I told you not to move! Now you leave me no choice; its time to say nightie-night!”

‘What? No! I…Oh, I feel so tired all of a sudden...Nightie-nigh…’

Intensely bright light assaulted my eyes as I came to. I tried to raise my hand to shield them, but found it restrained. Since that didn’t work I tried blinking a few times.

That only made things a thousand times worse. Apparently my eyes had already been closed.

A ‘beeping’ sound filled the air of wherever I was. What was going on? Where was I?

I tried my other arm to no avail. Why am I strapped down? Had I been captured? Had I even been anywhere to get captured?

“So how is our hardheaded patient, Doctor?”

Was that Anna Beth’s voice? She still sounded so far away.

“What’s going on, Emily? Anna Beth?” I demanded.

“Settle down Alex, you’re in Meridian’s infirmary. You’ve suffered severe hemorrhaging to your brain. You need time for what nanos you still have to repair the damage. Why didn’t you take my advice and not push so hard? Are you in that much of a hurry to scramble your brain?”

“I did what I had to do.” I told her.

“What did she say, Doctor?”

“She said she did what she had to do, captain. I think. Her speech center is still pretty scrambled.” Emily mumbled. “This is the first she’s said since I found her.”

“Empress, you had no right to sacrifice yourself on our behalf!”
The tearfilled, yet shaken, voice of Anna Beth declared. “Still, I humbly thank you for your efforts and dedication. You are a true friend and valued ally. Should I still call you friend, Empress?”


The blinding light dimmed and I think I felt someone kiss my forehead?

“Heal thyself, Mighty Empress. Let your humble servants do your bidding for now.” Anna Beth said just above a whisper. Why wouldn’t any of them come closer so I could actually hear them- and who just kissed me?

“As you wish, your majesty.” I responded with a giggle.

“Could you make that out?”

“I think, ‘as you wish, something’.”

“You are truly the enigma, Empress.” Anna Beth laughed nervously from across the room.

“Keep me up to date on her condition, doctor. I’ll go update our Mind Warriors. Jacquelyn and Camille have refused to leave their posts until the Empress is out of danger. Djedefre also refuses to seek shelter in Meridian. ”

“Aye, captain.”

“How’s your patient?” I asked.

“What?” Anna Beth asked, just above a whisper.

“I think she asked how my patient was, captain. You go on, ma’am, I can handle this one.” Emily paused for the longest time.

“Alex, you’re the patient, you crazy, hardheaded, blonde! You pushed yourself way past your limits and popped a few dozen blood vessels in that stubborn brain of yours! When I arrived you were bleeding from your ears, nose, and, eyes. Alex, your nanos are almost completely depleted.” Emily mumbled. Why wouldn’t she come closer so I could hear better?

“My flask. In my purse.” I told her.

“Alex, your flask is empty. Where did it all go?” Emily asked in a whisper.

Where did my supply of nano charged water go, I asked myself? Oh, that’s right.

Oh, man did my head hurt!

“I gave the last of it to that little girl, last night.” I told my sister.

“You what? Alex, when did you do that? You never left my side last night.”

Everything was so hazy. When did I do that?

The throbbing in my head felt twice as bad now!

“After we played chess.” I answered as soon as the answer presented itself by way of a single, painfully recalled, image. “I beat the tall, handsome guy with the great six-pack, remember?”

“Not as well as you do, obviously. Alex, I’m afraid I’m going to have to knock you out again. That seems to be the only way you’ll get any rest.”

“But I’ve been out for like a week already, sis!” I argued.

“You’ve only been out for ten minutes, Alex! Time to rest now.”

“But I…”

I awoke to the sound of Meridian’s thrusters starting. As I struggled to gain my freedom from the restraints, the noise multiplied.

“Peyton’s firing up the thrusters! I have to get onboard!” I said aloud.

I fought some more with the straps. Why couldn’t I get free, I asked myself?

The answer made me feel so stupid.

Phasing out, I sat up and pushed myself off the hospital bed. Finally free of the restraints, I rephased. My head pounded like the symphony was using it as the solitary tympani!

I had to get to the bridge, but where was I?

“Duh! You’re in the infirmary, Alex!” I answered myself.

Again the thruster noise doubled.

Exiting the Infirmary, I made my way to the elevator.

“Bridge.” I told it.

Alex, before arriving at that level, I suggest you change clothes. The captain requires her command staff to be properly attired.” Meridian’s voice advised me.

Accessing my HUD, I selected my Reilly’s default configuration. Just in time too, as the doors slid open to reveal a fully engaged bridge crew.

“All thrusters online, hot, and standing by, Captain.” Seph said confidently.

“Thank you, subcommander. Engineering?”

“Planetary umbilical retracted. All fuel cells fully charged and tending. Beta wave APU online. Meridian reports launch tube clear. Primary and secondary escape passages open to atmosphere, captain.”

“Thank you, Lt. Samuels. Security!”

“All external sensors show Meridian safety zone clear of unauthorized personnel. Temple Gateway secured and sealed. Exhaust vents are open and unobstructed, captain.”

“Thank you, Lt. Cmdr. Darough. Nice of you to join us, Ex-O. Take your seat.”

Why did Anna Beth sound so stiff?



“TACTICAL!” Anna Beth shouted angrily. I looked over just in time to see Sunni fly up onto her console and jump to a specific location on it.

“Immediate area and local airspace shows clear, Captain. Launch corridor is a go.” Sunni’s voice echoed through the bridge loudspeakers. Why hadn’t she exited Pixie mode?


“All particle and optical weapons fully charged and online, Captian.” Jack acknowledged.


“Remote tower AI indicates all clear, Captain. Launch countdown clock is moving.” Allie reported.

“Internal environment!”

“All levels report pressurized with an optimal mixture and temperature, Captain.” Emily reported.

“Navigation, plot a trans-lunar trajectory! We’ll hold there until our Ex-O has fully healed.”

“Confirmed. Trans-lunar course plotted and entered. Go on your mark, Captain.”

Even Natalia? Why did everyone sound so ‘by the book’? What happened while I was out? For that matter, how long had I been out?

“Thrusters to three quarter power. Engineering, release docking clamps on positive bouyancy. Internal inertial generators to full!”

“Aye, captain.” Ricky Lynn and Peyton chorused as I watched Seph’s hand advance all three banks of thruster controls with confident ease.

The whining roar of the thrusters increased a hundred fold causing my head to vibrate painfully. Meridian began to shudder.

“Z-axis movement, captain.” Persephone Peyton reported with excitement. Natalia and her daughter high-fived each other.

“Let’s maintain professionalism, ladies!”

“Aye!” Both replied smartly.

“Remote tower AI reports Meridian clear of launch tube, Captain.” Ricky Lynn reported over the thrusters.

“Helm, full power to the thrusters.”

Seph again advanced the throttles. The signature whine and roar tripled in volume.

My head vibrated wildly and felt ready to explode!

“Thrusters at maximum, captain.”

“One hundred–fifty meters per second, captain. Passing Mach one. ” Allie reported as Meridian’s shuddering smoothed out slightly.

“Altitude, seven hundred meters and climbing.”

“Confirmed, Helm.”

“Three hundred meters per second.” Allie said as she called out our speed.

“Five hundred meters per second.”

“Twelve hundred meters.” Seph reported.

“Seven hundred meters per second.” Allie said continuing to announce our velocity.

“Seventeen hundred meters.”

“One point five kilometers per second.”

“Engineering, thruster report.”

“All thrusters at one hundred and ten percent of rating, captain. My panel is all green.” Ricky Lynn reported.

“Five kilometers per second, Captain.”

“Twelve Kilometers, Captain.”

“Nine kilometers per second.”

“One hundred-seventy kilometers.”

“Eleven kilometers per second, Captain.”

“Two hundred kilometers.”

“Escape velocity, Captain.” Allie advised.

“Two hundred-forty kilometers, Captain.”

“Inertial generators to dynamic.”

“Dynamic, aye, Captain.” Ricky Lynn acknowledged.

“Helm, thrusters to half.” Anna Beth ordered.

“Half throttle, Captain.” Seph repeated as the thruster whine and roar decreased significantly.

“Captain! I’ve detected several large explosions from our launch vicinity! One from the Temple and…and one from the plateau, ma’am!” Allie reported excitedly.

“What in Osirus’ name happened?” Anna Beth demanded angrily.

“Unknown, Captain. All planetary telemetry has ceased. Lt. Sukiro try to raise the alternate sites.”

“Aye, Commander.” Yuuka responded.

“Captain. Commander. All alternate sites are out. The whole planet has gone silent, ma’am.” Yuuka quickly reported in confusion.

“We need to know what happened. Keep trying, Yuuka.” Allie responded.

“Aye, ma’am.” Yuuka acknowledged.

“Commander Steinert, stop drooling and wipe your mouth! You’ve had your time in this seat!” Anna Beth said as she looked over at me angrily.

I simply smiled nervously at her. Her face remained hard and neutral. What was going on? Was she mad at me for scrambling my brains?

“Twelve kilometers per second.”

“Parking orbit, Captain.” Natalia reported. “Trans- lunar correction burn in nineteen minutes.”

“Main Thruster Cut Off, Captain. Thrusters standing by.” Seph confirmed.

“Well done everyone. Alex, Allie, Emily, my ready room. Now!” Anna Beth ordered angrily.

“WHY WASN’T I ADVISED?!” Anna Beth growled- her hands slapping down hard on the conference table as soon as the door slid closed.

“About what, captain?” I asked in confusion.

“Don’t act like you don’t know, Alexandra! Why does the Empress constantly withhold important information from me?”

“I told you everything, Anna B…” I began.

“This is not the time, Alexandra! TELL ME WHY!”

“Why what, ma’am?” I asked innocently.

“Alex,” Emily said sadly, “Djedefre stayed behind. He refused to board Meridian.”

I lowered my gaze to the floor. “Oh…that.”

“Oh! So now you two remember! Alex, why didn’t you tell me- tell us?” Anna Beth asked after a long pause where she stared angrily at Allie and I.

“Captain, I’m sorry, I…we couldn’t tell you.” I admitted sadly.

“Why? Why couldn’t you tell me? I LEFT MY SON DOWN THERE, ALEX! Meridian’s sensors detected multiple explosions right after we launched! What is your game, Alexandra?!”

I took a deep breath as I looked to Allie. She lost focus momentarily and seemed to double for an instant. Wow! That felt really, really strange!

“Djedefre is to become the next Pharaoh, Captain. One of the explosions would be Allie and Cami laying siege to the Sun Temple. There will be almost nothing left of it for history to find. The mystery of Djedefre’s Sun Temple will be debated by experts for decades if not centuries, but nothing will be confirmed absolutely.”

“By seeming to cause the destruction of the Temple, your son secures his place as the powerful ‘Living God’ the people of Egypt had demanded. Though sometimes brutal, he will reign for many years before his eventual death. Even had you been informed, you wouldn’t have been able to stop him, sister.”

I was suddenly sitting down on a chair. When had that happened?

“Woah, that was weird. When did I sit down?” I said as I reached for my head.

“Alex, you just popped into that chair.” Emily informed me.

“I ‘popped’?”

“Yes, one minute you were standing over there, the next instant you were in that chair. There was no noticeable break in your explanation, though.” Emily explained.

“Captain? Permission to sync with my temporal twin?” Allie asked worriedly.

“Will it help unscramble that pig-headed, piece of granite you both call a brain?”

“It should help.”

“Do it.” Anna Beth growled.

Allie walked over to me. I was suddenly standing across the room from where I was just an instant before.

“Sis, what are you doing? This is no time for games.” Allie said, surprised, but disappointed.

I felt lightheaded again and reached for my head.

“I didn’t do anything, Allie. I wanted to sync up.” I said as Allie again walked over to me.

My head began buzzing loudly. Suddenly I was looking at a whole bunch of me- at least twelve, evenly spaced, Alex Steinerts, encircling the room.

“AAAW, that hurt!”

“AAAW, that hurt!”

“AAAW, that hurt!”

“AAAW, that hurt!”

“AAAW, that hurt!”

“AAAW, that hurt!”

“AAAW, that hurt!”

“AAAW, that hurt!”

“AAAW, that hurt!”

“AAAW, that hurt!”

“AAAW, that hurt!”

“AAAW, that hurt!”

“AAAW, that hurt!”

Twelve instances of my voice echoed through the room.

“Doctor? Analysis!” Anna Beth demanded sounding none too happy.

“Alex, which one of you is the real Alex Steinert?

“I am.” All twelve of me chorused.

Emily palmed her face in defeat.

“Of course. Why did I even think that would work?” She mumbled to herself in frustration.

“Internal chronometer, sis.” Allie said to no one in particular. “Alex freeze your chronometer…now!”

“You.” Allie pointed to the Alex to my right. “Tell me your internal chronometer number to the right of the decimal.”

“Zero-zero-six-two-two-nine.” That me answered.

Allie pointed to me. “Read your number.”

Consulting my HUD, I read off the number. “Zero-zero-zero-nine-eight-three.”

“Sit down on the floor, please. Don’t move.” Allie ordered. “You. You’re next. Read your number.” She pointed to the Alex on my left.

“Zero-zero-one-zero…” She began.

“Enough! Em, this here’s the real McCoy.” Allie reached down and placed her hand on my shoulder.

I cried out in pain as a severe burning sensation spread quickly though my body!

Everything went dark.

“It’s about time you woke up, Alex.”

Sunni’s voice didn’t sound too happy. What was up with that? Where was she, anyway? I tried to move my head but felt it restrained by a tight belt across my forehead.

“Why is my head tied down?” I asked in confusion.

“Why do you think, Alex?” Sunni said as she hovered up into my range of sight then landed beyond my left breast and leaned angrily on it with both hands. She certainly looked perturbed. “You almost gave the captain a coronary!”

“And just how did I do that?” I asked.

“Emily said there were, like, twelve of you in the captain’s ready room- that you all answered at the same time.”

“How did I do that?” I asked.

“What? Seriously? You don’t know? Alex, how could you not know how you do it? You were there…weren’t you?” Sunni screeched angrily as she leaned harder on my breast and stared.

“I remember it happening, but I still don’t know how I did it, Sunni.”

“Well, that makes it unanimous, Alex.” My voice said from my left.

“Alex? Alex Reilly?”


“But you were fine. You and I, we…” I started to say with concern.

“Yep.” She answered my uncompleted question.

“Then, how?”

“When we sync, its bidirectional, sis, remember?”

“Yes…my brain isn’t that scrambled.” I replied in annoyance.

“Apparently it was, sis, and…apparently when our nano reservoir is low, we both feel the pain of the information migration. Don’t ask me how. I don’t have any of my research here to review. Thanks, by the way, you’ve made my week.”

“Week? What do you mean ‘I’ made your week?” I asked as my confusion multiplied.

“Alex, we’ve been orbiting the moon for four days. Anna Beth refuses to set any course until you two recover.” Sunni informed me.

I looked at the five-inch, yellow-winged, yellow-haired, woman pressing hard into one of my prominent, sensitive, assets. It seemed strange for Sunni Smithson to be doing that given…

“Why haven’t you left Pixie mode, Jim?”

“Why haven’t I left Pixie mode.” Sunni repeated dourly as she suddenly stood straight and put her hands up above her head. “Aren’t you even remotely concerned about your own health? God, you are really something, Alexandra Steinert!”

I stared at the tiny woman in silence for some time.

“Fine!” Sunni angrily crossed her arms under her bust. “Aunt Emily thinks it’s because of my period! She thinks maybe you and I share a common trait- not being able to access our gift during that time of the month! Ya happy, Empress? I’ve been stuck as a honey-sucking, flying, Barbie doll for almost five days!”

“Well at least it’s almost over, hun. In a few more days you’ll be a grownup then you don’t have to ask Yuuka to take you to Pixie mode ever again.” I said with a reassuring smile.

Sunni became very animated as she raised her right hand, pointed, and angrily shook her tiny finger at me.

“Just…just…just a few more days? That’s all you have to say, Alex? How can you be so upbeat? I’ve felt bloated, crampy…I’ve had a blaring migraine, and my mood changes have been off the scale! And to top it all off, I think I’m even beginning to like boys, Alex! How screwed up is that?”

“Well, you are fe…”

“Don’t even go there, Alexandra Steinert! I know what you were going to say and just. Don’t. Go. There! I’m usually a guy, just in case you’ve forgotten that little fact?”

“I didn’t forget, Jim. You knew the risks going into this and willingly accepted them. You just got immersed a little deeper than you anticipated. Now you can say you’ve experienced good as well as bad from our side. Not many men can claim that on their resume.”

“Alex, that’s not the point! Sure, I’ve experienced what you all experienced so many years ago. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity, but this isn’t right. I’m James Smithson, Colonel, USAF, not Sunni Smithson, blonde, yellow-winged, femme-fatal, Pixie.”

“So what is the real point here, Colonel?” I asked raising an eyebrow.

Sunni’s head dropped in defeat.

“I…I think…I think I like it, Alex. I think I like being a Pixie! How completely absurd is that? I mean…I mean I haven’t even received my gift yet. Sixty-two years old and James Smithson hasn’t received his goddamned gift! I’ve got to be the lamest brother of Kili there ever was! Now I’m stuck…as a Pixie…having my frickin’period, fer chrissakes! Alex? You would have told me if I had a giant ‘L’ tattooed on my forehead, right?”

“Why would you have an ‘L’ on your forehead, Jim?” I asked, not following his more modern vernacular.

“’L’ for loser, Alex. I feel like such a loser. This trip only confirmed what I’ve known for years. James Smithson is an absolute loser!”

I began to laugh.

“See, even the great Empress of Time and Space thinks I’m right and can’t help laughing.” Sunni said as her wings slowly lifted her off my ribcage. She began to slowly fly out of view.

“I’m not laughing at you because I agree with you, Jim. I’m laughing because of how sensitive…how girly you’re acting right now. So you’re stuck like this for a few more days- big deal! You still performed a valuable service to not only me, but also to the Queen of all Egypt! You and Yuuka both helped save hundreds of lives over those two hectic days.” I took a breath as she flew back into view and settled back on my ribs.

“You have never been, nor will you ever be a loser, James ‘Sunni’ Smithson! On the contrary, you are one of the bravest men I know. Who else would volunteer to help me with my cause, knowing what would happen to them…again? No. You are a brave man, Jim- a man who cares less about himself and more for those around him. For me, that more than pays for membership into Kili society.” I told her. “I’m also surprised you fought the urge to feel me up just now.”

Sunni looked down to where her hands rested and blushed profusely. Her hands shot back to her sides.


I smiled wickedly a moment.

“As for your gift…that’s just around the corner, hun.” I indicated the direction with my eyes.

“Great! Now you’re back to teasing with your predictions.” Sunni griped raising her arms over her head in defeat again. “So, tell me, Empress…when can I expect to receive my gift…and will I know it when I see it?”

“Go around the corner and see, Jim.” I suggested.

“Now I know you’re teasing! You’ve never given anyone a straight answer to that question for as long as I’ve known you, Alex! Just tell me the truth, please, Empress.”

“Your gift awaits you around the corner, James Smithson! How much clearer can I be?” I laughed as I motioned with my eyes to my right again.

The yellow-winged Pixie paused a moment then pointed behind and to her left.

“My gift…you say my gift…its right around that corner? On the other side of that wall, right?”

“Got it in one, hun.” I giggled.

Sunni slowly took to the air and flew off to my right. She was gone for no more than a minute before she returned, looking extremely disappointed.

“I am sooo damn gullible! I didn’t really expect you to be straight with me, Alex.” She said as she gently, slowly landed again on the left side of my ribcage.

“So, you’re not happy with your gift, Sunni?” I asked wondering how long it would take.

“All I saw was a mirror, Alex. I get it. You win. I won’t bitch anymore.” She replied, disheartened.

“Pixies can be sooo oblivious at times, sis.” Allie giggled from my left.

“Now there are two Empress’ laughing at the loser.” Sunni moaned. She began to slowly hover off me.

“So, what did you see around the corner, hun?” I asked gently.

“I saw a mirror, Alex. I already told you that.”

“No,” I continued, “What did YOU see, Jim?”

“Like I said; I saw a mirror, Alex! I saw me- a blonde-haired, yellow-winged, pixie with a nice rack- hovering in front of a mirror. Satisfied now?” She sulked.

“Almost, Sunni.” I answered.

“So, let me get this straight, Jimmy.” Allie asked for clarification. “You went around the corner- a corner my sister told you was where you would find your gift- and all you saw was a voluptuous, blonde, yellow-winged, Pixie in a mirror.”

“That’s it! I’m out of here!” Sunni shouted angrily as she suddenly streaked out of my line of sight.

I phased out and sat up. Looking to my left, I noticed Allie sitting on another bed looking back at me. We both started counting.

“Three…two…one.” We chorused.

Sunni shot back into the Infirmary and hovered mere inches from my face. Her face was red with anger as she pointed a tiny, delicate finger at me again.

“You enjoy doing that way too much, Alexandra Steinert!” She groused.

“Do you like your gift or not, Jim?” I asked bluntly.

The tiny, yellow-winged Pixie flew closer, grabbed the end of my nose with both hands and kissed it. She flew over to Allie and did the same thing before returning to me.

“So I’m stuck like this? I’ll never be James Smithson ever again, Alex?”

“No, hun,” I giggled. “You’ll be stuck like this only if you forget to grow up, but only for a week’s time. Congratulations. Now…go find your squadron leader and go celebrate.”

“Have one for me, colonel.” Allie said before Sunni left in a blur.
“You two really need to watch what you say to that girl, Alex. She just shot into the passage and barely missed me. Good thing I saw it coming. So what did you do to her now?” Emily protested as she entered the Infirmary. She didn’t seem surprised that Allie and I were sitting up and free of restraints.

“We just told Sunni she received her gift a few days ago. She didn’t believe us.” Allie revealed as she turned to get off her bed.

“I thought Jim Smithson received his gift years ago? That’s what my future memories say, anyway.”

“He hid the fact well, sis, but no, he just got it five days ago.” I told her.

“Wait, you don’t mean there’s ANOTHER Pixie in the sisterhood, do you?”

Allie and I nodded.

“Wow! That’s going to play with his head!”

“Well, it’s better than the alternative, right?” I stated casually.

“And what’s that, Alex?” Emily asked.

“Remaining in that form even when she grows up.” I laughed.

“But only if she wants that, sis. That’s the way I’ve seen her future.” Allie giggled.

“We’ll let the shape-shifting Pixie decide which is right.” I giggled, along with Allie and Emily.

Meridian 12, + 4 Days, 7 Hours, Lunar Orbit, 2510BC

“Welcome back to the conscious world, Commander. I trust we won’t be seeing more than one of you or your sister?” Anna Beth greeted stiffly as I exited the elevator.

“Forgive me, captain. I had no idea I was so badly damaged. Lt. Scott has cleared Allie and I for duty, ma’am.” I replied after stopping and standing to attention.

“Take your seat, Commander.”

“Thank you, Captain.”

“So, Alex…what can we expect from the Empress with regard to destinations?” Anna Beth asked with one eyebrow raised, daring me to try anything. I knew her question had deeper meaning.

“You are the captain, ma’am. You have a starship. You can go wherever you want in this big, beautiful universe. Say the word and we’ll set course straightaway.” I replied with a smile.

“Where would you go, Commander Steinert?” She asked slyly. If this wasn’t a test, I didn’t know what would be. Natalia and Persephone turned around to observe. Anna Beth motioned with her finger for the pair to turn back to their consoles.

“Home would always be a good place to go.” I suggested as I put finger and thumb to my chin. “It’s always nice to return home after successful missions…don’t you agree? You get to sleep in a familiar bed, talk with familiar people…just relax and unwind in familiar, comfortable surroundings.”

“If home were anything like it was when Meridian 12 launched, I would agree whole-heartedly, commander. However, recent reports shed a different light on our home planet.” Anna Beth looked very tired as her eyes lingered on me, she had obviously hoped for more.

“How about we take a vacation then, Captain? Ship’s morale would benefit if we could vacation among friends.” I suggested.

“Alex, right now we have no friends! We’re probably the most wanted fugitives in this galaxy. By this time, word has reached all the other systems that the great Egyptian society of Earth has crumbled- that Khufu and Anna Beth have been…‘expelled’.”

“Hmmmm, you may be right about that, captain. Why not go some place that hasn’t gotten that message yet?” I asked, finger and thumb still on my chin.

“Where would you suggest, Commander?” Anna Beth asked skeptically as she seemed to play along.

“It’s not a matter of where, but when, captain.” I smiled as I began to concentrate on the outer hull of Meridian 12- about when in time I wanted us to go.

“Captain! The stars! They’ve changed position!” Natalia shouted, suddenly breaking my concentration.

Anna Beth glared at me then looked to the large view screen ahead of us.

“Navigation, I want a best guess on our location!” She ordered.

“Navigational sensors indicate we’re still in lunar orbit, captain!”

“Alex? What! Did you. Just. Do?” Anna Beth hissed at me angrily.

“Communications, please open Terran subspace-band Alpha-theta-epsilon-nine, channel Gamma-nine-point seven.” I requested hoping I remembered the proper comm band. I cued another language for my suit’s translator.

“Captain?” Yuuka asked for authority to comply.

Anna Beth cautiously nodded her approval then continued to stare laser beams at me.

“Alpha-theta-epsilon-nine, Gamma-nine-point-seven open, Exec. Go ahead.” Yuuka repeated confirming the open channel.

“Terran Interstellar Space Probe, Meridian 12, requesting docking permission and liberty privileges.” I said in my newly selected language. Two faces, Anna Beth, and Natalia, suddenly stared at me like…well, like I was speaking some foreign language. Jack, Cami, Emily, Ricky Lynn, Sunni, Peyton, and Yuuka remained silent but gave me their attention nonetheless.

Unknown spacecraft, repeat your designation.” A familiar man’s voice responded over the loudspeaker. Seven of the bridge’s occupants began to smile.

“I repeat, Terran Interstellar Space Probe, Meridian 12, requesting docking permission and liberty privileges.”

Meridian 12, please state your planet of origin.” The voice asked.

“Sol 3.” I answered, knowing that was going to raise all sorts of flags. There was a delay before they responded.

Meridian 12, we have no record of any trans-stellar spacecraft registered to the uninhabited planet, Sol 3. Do you possess a valid authorization code, perhaps?

“OakridgeEmpress8716, Atlantis Control.” I responded with a smile. A response came instantly.

Alex? Alex Steinert is that really you?” A familiar woman’s voice cried out over the speaker.

“Hey, Reggie, long time- no see.” I giggled in response.

A long time? You’ve only been gone two weeks. Where are you? We can’t see you anywhere on our sensors?” Reggie inquired.

“We’re just coming out of the lunar umbra. Meridian isn’t that big though, so we’ll still be hard to detect.”

We? Alex, we just picked up something only eight by four cubits. How can there be anyone else with you?

“I say again, we request docking authorization and liberty for two hundred-eighty-one souls, Atlantis Control.” I said ignoring her question. There was a long pause before she answered.

“Atlantis Control, do you copy?” I asked just to make sure we were still in communication.

Again there was no response.

Meridian 12. Please restate your liberty request.” Reggie’s mate, Ian’s voice came back over the speaker.

“We request liberty for two hundred-eighty-one souls, Atlantis Control.”

Standby, Meridian 12.

“Acknowledged, Atlantis Control.” I replied.

Meridian 12, do you support remote docking capability?

“Standby, Atlantis Control.” I switched back to my current default language. “Captain, they want to know if we have remote docking capability.”

“Yes, but who are ‘they’, Alexandra?” Anna Beth asked cautiously.

“Friends of ours, Captain.” I said before reselecting Atlantian. “Atlantis Control, we do indeed have remote docking capability.”

Acknowledged, Meridian 12, sending synchronization protocols. Acknowledge on valid checksum.

“Receiving an information packet, Exec.” Yuuka reported.

“Pass it to Lt. Samuels for authentication.” I instructed.

“Protocol packet received, Communications, thanks. Give me a minute to decrypt and install, Cmdr. Steinert.” Ricky Lynn acknowledged.

“Alex, whose language are we speaking?” Anna Beth asked as she looked between Ricky Lynn, Yuuka, and I.

“It’s a very old language, captain. I suspect Meridian has no record of it in her archive.” I informed her.

Anna Beth looked at me skeptically.

“How old are we talking, Commander?”

“About sixty-five thousand years before the exodus of Khufu and Anna Beth from Egypt.” I responded.

Our captain gasped loudly. Natalia, Sunni, and even Persephonie turned around and stared at me, mouths agape.

“Meridian, where is Khufu?” She asked the AI immediately.

Your mate is in your quarters, Captain.

“Tell him I want him on the bridge immediately!”

Khufu is on his way, Captain.

“Captain, we have something big coming around the planetary horizon.” Sunni cried excitedly.

Anna Beth gave me an angry glare.

“Commander Steinert, remote docking protocols have been accepted by Meridian AI. Passing checksum to Communications on your command, ma’am.” Ricky Lynn reported.

I looked to our captain for her permission. Anna Beth looked defeated.

“Send checksum.”

“Aye, passing to Communications.” Samuels repeated.

“Checksum received and transmitting, commander.” Yuuka acknowledged.

Meridian 12, Atlantis Control. Checksum received and validated. Welcome to Sol 3 and Expeditionary Ship, Atlantis. Dock Control will synchronize and bring you into docking bay Alpha-three. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

“Captain, Meridian reports remote docking enabled. Thrusters coming online.” Peyton said as we heard the thrusters winding up.

“Breaking lunar orbit, captain.” Natalia reported. The look she gave me though, asked if I was sure of what I was doing.

As we slowly approached Atlantis, her sheer scale became apparent.

“I pray to the Terran Lords you know what you’re doing, Alexandra.” Anna Beth whispered to me.

I smiled confidently.

“Two hundred–forty-thousand kilometers and closing, captain.” Natalia reported.

“Thrusters shutting down, captain.” Peyton announced.

“We’re still that far away and it looks that big?” Anna Beth’s eyes bulged.

“Sensors indicate it to be fifty-three point four-six kilometers in diameter by two point eight-six kilometers at its thickest point.” Sunni announced over the loudspeaker.

“Eighty-eight thousand cubits by forty-four hundred cubits, Captain.” Ricky Lynn informed her, converting to the Atlantian measurement system.

Khufu and Allie exited the elevator.

“Cubits?” Anna Beth blinked several times.

“What’s this about cubits, my love?” Khufu asked, immediately intrigued.

Allie wasted no time taking her station.

“That’s ‘Captain’ while on MY bridge, mister!” Anna Beth told him through clinched teeth.

“Ah yes, forgive me, ‘Captain’. Already I am a second-class citizen.” Khufu answered sarcastically. He turned his attention to our main view screen.

“Captain? Where are we? What is that colossus we seem to be approaching?

“Ask my Executive Officer. This is her doing.”

“Alex?” He asked looking to me.

Terran Interstellar Space Probe Meridian 12, please restate your crew complement as there is a discrepancy between hull dimensions and stated passenger complement.” Atlantis Control asked.

“Meridian 12 stands at two hundred-eighty-one souls, Atlantis Control. We’re bigger than we look.” I responded in Atlantian.

Khufu slowly walked in front of me, turned, and stared deeply into my eyes.

“Atlantis? Empress, can this be true?” He asked in wide-eyed astonishment.

Our captain and navigator gasped.

I smiled.

Khufu began laughing and grinning maniacally before his hands flew to his mouth in childlike excitement.

“By all the Gods is this really possible? We’re actually here…Atlantis… the Ancient Ones?”

I placed a finger to my lips to quiet him down.

“Seven hundred kilometers and closing, captain.”

Khufu dropped his hands and his mouth fell open. He turned to watch our approach.

“We’re still that far away?” He asked then swallowed hard as I nodded my head.

“One hundred kilometers and closing.”

“Retro-thrusters and maneuvering quads coming online, captain.”

“Thirty kilometers.”

Our course was bringing us in head on to the split, outer or Epsilon ring.

“Quads firing, captain. ‘Z-axis changing.” Peyton reported.

We began to pass directly over the upper section of Epsilon ring, so close in fact that we could see people watching in the windows.

“Atlantis Control, Meridian 12. Control, think you could tell docking control that we just painted the hull and we’d kinda like it to stay there? We’re microcubits away from receiving a collision alarm and Meridian activating her automatic evasion maneuvers.”

“Z-axis quads firing again, captain. We’re gaining some altitude.”

Sorry about that Meridian 12, our Dockmaster has very little experience with scout ships. Meridian 12, our security sensors show your weapons systems may still be active. Suggest you safety them. We are peaceful, repeat, we are peaceful.

“Captain, Atlantis Control is asking us to disable and safety our weapons.” I relayed the request in Ancient Terran.

“So it’s true? They’re really the ancient ones, Alex?” Natalia said as she spun around and stared at me.

Again, I just nodded.

“Weapons Officer, disable and safe all partical and optical weapons. Acknowledge when complete.

“All weapons systems disabled. All safeties engaged, captain.” Jack reported seconds later.

“Atlantis Control, Meridian 12. All weapons offline with safeties engaged.” I relayed to Atlantis.

Acknowledged, Meridian. According to our sensors, you’re carrying enough weaponry to destroy the planet below us several times over! We’re breathing a little easier down here. Thanks.” Ian responded. There was definitely relief in his voice.

We had just passed over Delta ring and were closing on Gamma.

“Captain Y-axis quads firing. Y-axis motion.” Peyton announced. “We’re matching rotational velocity, ma’am.”

The massive ring speeding under us seemed to slow down and soon stopped entirely. We were now passing Gamma on our way to Beta ring. Alpha or the Command Core continued to grow on our screen. Although I had witnessed something like this when we first arrived, seeing it from a transport tube was nothing like the view we had now! Atlantis could only be called magnificent!

Beta Ring passed silently below us now.

“Retro-thrusters firing, captain.”

On our main screen, a small speck of bright light appeared on the Command Core, about two-thirds up the giant, spherical hull. I noted that we were heading right for the grey circle above the huge grey ‘A’ of Atlantis’ registry number: Alpha-Rho-Kappa, painted on her colossal, center hull.

“Does that say what I think it says, Alex?” Jack gasped.

“Sure does, hun.” I answered. Emily, Yuuka, and Ricky Lynn all turned in their seats and stared at me. Even Sunni’s head peered over the back of her seat at me with her jaw unhinged. Peyton remained surprisingly quiet.

More thrusters fired.

“Captain, Meridian’s attitude has changed by ninety.” Peyton reported as the command Core dropped below and off our screen. “X-axis quads firing.”

“The Commodore must be really anxious to see you, Alex. As I recall, that docking bay is almost right next to their bridge. Dixie told me it’s reserved for diplomats, heads of state, and other dignitary shuttles.” Ricky Lynn informed me.

“Retro-thrusters firing. X-axis motion stopped, captain.” Peyton relayed before more thrusters began to whine. “Z-axis quads firing again, ma’am.”

After just a few minutes, the brightly illuminated, metallic superstructure of Atlantis’ emmense docking bay ceiling filled our screen.

Meridian 12, Docking Control. Which end is up? Your configuration closely resembles our lifeboat capsules, but I wanted to make sure. Please advise.” An unknown man’s voice queried.

“Same configuration, Docking Control. Wide end down.” I responded.

Acknowledged, Meridian. I’ll try to be gentle.

We felt a slight jolt.

“All movement stopped, captain.” Peyton reported.

Docking Control, Meridian 12. Welcome to Expeditionary Ship Atlantis. Commodore Celeste sends her warmest welcome and has asked to meet with your command crew following re-pressurization and decontamination protocols. Remote docking will be removed when all processes have been completed. Enjoy your stay, Meridian.” Docking control informed and greeted pleasantly.

E.S. Atlantis, Standard Year 257:08:28

“Captain, remote docking has just disengaged my console.” Peyton announced. It had been ten minutes since Docking Control had closed the outer door and began pressurizing the large docking bay.

Docking Control, Meridian 12. Remote docking protocol has completed. Your command crew is asked to egress at this time to meet with Commodore Celeste. Thank you for your patience and again, welcome aboard.

“Acknowledged, Docking Control. Give us a few minutes to finish our post-flight.” I responded.

Acknowledged, Meridian. Commodore Celeste has been informed and will be waiting. Docking Control out.

“So, do we know this Commodore Celeste, Alex?” Anna Beth asked acerbically.

While we’d waited, I had Ricky Lynn download the Atlantian language file to the rest of the command crew Reilly suits and Meridian’s database.

“Commodore Andromeda Celeste is our half sister, Captain.” Allie responded for Emily and I.

“My, but you do get around, Alexandra.” She replied in a catty tone.

“In this case, Captain, it would be our mother, Ruth Scott who ‘got around’.” Emily remarked, equally catty, to set the record straight.

“Engineering, are we done yet?” Anna Beth demanded, changing the subject.

“Aye, ma’am. Inertial dampers are offline. Power cells are fully charged and Beta wave APU is shutdown. Meridian is all tucked in for the night.” Ricky Lynn answered.

Local gravity is zero-point-nine-one of Earth normal, Captain.” Allie reported.

“Excellent job, everyone! Let’s go have a look at Atlantis.” Anna Beth announced. To me she sounded a bit too cynical.

The outer hatch opened to reveal the large, well-lit hangar bay. Two other…what could only be called, shuttles sat nearby. They dwarfed Meridian in size and mass, but I’d wager she could dwarf them in firepower.

We must have appeared quite the circus act as twelve people emerged from a craft that couldn’t possibly hold more than two of us. Even from a hundred yards away I could see Andie’s mouth drop open.

“Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I’d never have believed it!” Andie exclaimed in English as she walked toward us. Reggie was at her side along with Ian and his men.

“Hello, sister. I bet you never thought we’d be back so soon?”

“Somehow, I felt I should expect something bizarre like this. Welcome back to Atlantis, Alexandra and Emily.” She greeted us with a bright smile. She embraced Emily, Allie, and I lovingly.

“May we introduce the rest of Meridian 12’s flight crew?” I offered then pointed everyone out as I named them.

“And the Pixie on your right shoulder? She does not belong to you?” Andie asked with a quirky smile.

“Hey, I don’t BELONG to anybody, Commodore Amazon.” Sunni growled from my shoulder. I had again forgotten about her being there.

“Oh, right. Andie, this is Colonel James Smithson, but she prefers we call her Sunni while in Pixie mode.”

“Maybe my suit’s translator is malfunctioning, but you introduced her as Col. James Smithson? The translator indicates ‘James’ is a male designation, not female. Please correct me if I’m wrong.”

“Oh, your translator is working fine, sis. James and I share the same limitation in that part of our gift doesn’t work while menstruating. Sunni has a few more days left before she can exit Pixie mode.”

Andie blinked a few times as she tried to comprehend what I said.

“Welcome to Atlantis, Sunni. I’m sure Yuuka is dying to show you around.” Andie looked over to Yuuka for acknowledgement.

“Yuuka, I hear the children have been asking about the little Pixie woman that had been visiting the schools around the ship for the last several months. I wager they would be thrilled to see you brought back a friend.”

Yuuka faced Anna Beth and stood to attention.

“Captain, permission to be dismissed.”

“Granted, Lt. Sukiro. Col. Smithson, see that Yuuka is properly escorted.

“Aye, ma’am.” Sunni acknowledged as she sprang from my shoulder. Yuuka wasted no time going to Pixie mode and the two flew towards the interior hangar door- Yuuka having to toggle back to normal to trigger the door.

“So, Captain. Would it be proper to invite you and your mate to dinner? It should be ready in an hour or so; we should meet first on my bridge. You are welcome to decline if you so wish.”

“It would be our honor, Madam Commodore.” Khufu said, accepting graciously before confirming it with Anna Beth.

Our captain glared at the former Pharaoh of all Egypt then looked back to Andie.

“Thank you, Commodore. On behalf of my command staff, I accept your generous offer and look forward to sharing a meal with you. Perchance, is there something we can provide to the meal? Preparations, supplies, labor?” Anna Beth said stiffly.

“Ah, I know of this future Earth concept!” Andie said excitedly. “If you so choose, you may contribute to the post-meal delicacy- dessert, I believe it to be called?” Andie said as she looked to me for confirmation.

I nodded with a smile.

“Acceptable. I would now like to update my passengers and see to their egress. I trust your men are here to escort us around the ship?” Our captain inquired stiffly.

“Actually, Captain, I request your Chief Engineer see to your passengers, as I would like to get to know you, your mate, and the remainder of your command staff?” Andie asked diplomatically.

Anna Beth remained silent for a moment.

“Meridian, Lt. Samuels is in charge. Alert me if I am needed.”

Confirmed, Captain.” Meridian acknowledged.

“Dixie?” Andie asked, looking up to the ceiling.

Yes, Commodore?” Atlantis’ AI’s voice echoed through the hangar.

“Dixie, offer communications to Meridian 12. Standard network access, please.”

Understood, Commodore. Mom, welcome back to Atlantis. I have missed you very much.

“Me too, baby. Play nice with Meridian, she hasn’t had anyone to talk to in quite some time.” Ricky Lynn said pleasantly.

Anna Beth’s attention immediately snapped to our Chief Engineer.

“Mom?” She said just above a whisper.

“It’s a long story, skipper. Dixie has all the latest firewall and security protocols though. Meridian is perfectly safe.” Samuels confirmed, easing her fears.

“Ricky Lynn, Ian and his men are under your command. We have reserved quarters in sections D-thirty-four through thirty-six for Meridian passengers. Local neighborhood liaisons will meet and greet when you arrive at Delta ring. They are being equipped with translation units as we speak. If you could copy the appropriate translation files to Dixie for download? Oh, and please pass on my welcome greeting to everyone?” Andie said as she smiled brightly.

“Ricky Lynn, when you have time, would you like to meet me out on E-ring? I’ve been dying to talk with you.” Reggie asked politely. There was definitely excitement in her voice.

“As soon as I’m off duty, I’ll give you a call, toots.”

“I’m off at three bells.” Reggie added quickly, smiling. I noticed her quickly take Ian’s hand and squeeze it.

“Captain, if you and your remaining command staff would follow me?” Andie suggested as she motioned us to follow her to the exit door. It slid open as we approached a minute later.

Once through it, Andie began her narration.

“Meridian is docked in our high security bay, the only bay on Atlantis reserved for planetary heads of state, royalty, and other important dignitaries.” Andie said as she led us down the passage and into Atlantis’ bridge.

Earth was just passing in front of the huge, floor to ceiling windows of the large, multi-tiered Control Room.

“Gods, is that Earth? I’ve never seen it look so snow-covered.”

“At this time in Earth’s history, the ice-age is in full swing.” I informed Khufu. “Glaciers cover most of the northern and southern hemispheres.”

“I hardly recognize the planet like this. Alexandra, you are truly the miracle!” Khufu said to Allie and I.

“I agree completely, sir.” Andie concurred with a huge smile.

After a few silent minutes she motioned us into her private conference room. Once the door slid closed, Andie stopped, turned, and quickly knelt, head bowed, before Anna Beth and Khufu.

“Your highness’, It is a pleasure to finally meet the great Pharaoh Khufu and Queen Anna Beth of Egypt. Atlantis is yours to explore, your majesties.”

“What?” Anna Beth gasped in shock.

“Alex has told us so much about you two. Since first seeing your images courtesy of Jacquelyn and Camille, I have longed to meet actual royalty!” Andie bowed her head deeper. “Forgive me for my forwardness. I have dreamed of this moment since meeting my half-sisters.”

Anna Beth looked for some comment from me with tears in her eyes as Andie slowly stood back up.

“Don’t look at me hun; she came up with that all on her own.” I giggled.

The former Queen of all Egypt looked back at our hostess then looked at Khufu momentarily. Both of them instantly fell to both knees and bowed deeply.

“It is we who bow to you- for you are the Commander of Atlantis- the leader of the Ancient Ones- the first to colonize Earth. We present ourselves to you, Andromeda Celeste of Atlantis. We are your humble servants.” Khufu said- his eyes cast down to the deck.

“Alex? I’m not sure what to make of this, sister. Why would royalty bow and prostrate themselves to me, I have neither noble blood nor royal title?” Andie asked as she stared at Pharaoh and his mate in teary-eyed confusion.

“That is where you are wrong, Madam Commodore. It has been recorded that the Egyptian people are the direct descendants of the Ancient Ones. Some say they were Gods from the heavens, others believe them to be settlers from another world. You have proven the latter undeniably. What would you have us do, Madam Commodore?” Khufu explained.

“Well, for one thing, you two should get up before my sister Reggie starts to tease me relentlessly!” Andie told them. “She thinks I already have too much power as it is.”

Reggie frowned and elbowed her sister’s forearm.

Anna Beth began to laugh. Quietly at first then she got louder. She looked up to see Andie staring down at her in confusion.

“Now I know you and Alexandra are sisters, Commodore. You both show too much humility to your subordinates.”

“Subordinates, your highness? How could you say such a thing? I am nowhere near your superior! Please stand up, you are making me nervous.” Andie blushed profusely.

“She’s right, Andromeda. I saw the similarities between you four the instant you stood together. Even you, Regina, you share some facial features and expressions with Emily- especially that glare you just gave Andromeda a moment ago. I’ve seen Emily give it to Alex many times in the last few days.” Khufu laughed.

“But Andie and I only have our father in common. I am not related to the Scott side of the family, your highness.” Reggie gasped.

“Neither are Allie and I, hun, but we all look like sisters just the same.” I said trying to convince her of what I knew to be true. I wondered what she would do if she knew she actually had ‘K’ cells floating around inside her. Oh well, I thought, she’ll find out when her gift manifests.

Jack and Cami looked over at me in astonishment. I just nodded my head slightly while Allie gave them a slight, quick smirk.

Andie must have noticed our covert exchange.

“I’m sure everyone would like to freshen up before dinner? Reggie and I would be happy to show you to your quarters, majesties.”

“Commodore Celeste?” Khufu asked in a gentle tone.

“Yes, Pharaoh?” Andie answered while bowing slightly.

“Let us call a truce of sorts, shall we? If you agree to call us Khufu and Anna Beth, we will return the courtesy and call you Andromeda and Regina. Agreed?”

“I cannot, in good faith, concede, your majesty. In order for this bargain to work properly, you must agree to call me Andie and my sister, Reggie.”

“You do drive a hard bargain, Commodore.” Khufu smiled as he paused a moment. “You have a deal, Andie.”

Khufu offered his hand to seal the pact. Andie instead grasped his forearm- a normal enough gesture by Atlantian tradition, but for an Egyptian, the sign of friendship and camaraderie between fellow warriors.

Excuse me, Commodore. Mom wants me to tell you that several members of the ‘Royal Egyptian Family’ demand an audience.” Dixie interrupted politely, but with some subtle sarcasm.

“That wasn’t the way she said it, was it, Dixie,” I asked with a devious smile?

No, Alex, her exact words were ‘The royal bad-assed nephew, bitchy princess Alusia, an’ their three spoilt brats wants ta see da head dame o’ this here joint’.” She recited, doing a fairly good impersonation of the good Professor.

“Alusia…isn’t that the name of the…the Polish woman you told me about, Alex?” Andie asked as she narrowed her eyes.

“The one and only, sis. Watch out for the oldest daughter though, she’s a handful.” Allie warned.

“Dixie, inform Professor Samuels that I will be there shortly to escort the ‘Royal Family’ to my conference room.”

Mom sends her thanks. She claims she was about to throttle the young Alexis. Commodore? What would engine controls have to do with teenage and adolescent children?” Dixie asked innocently.

We all laughed.

“It is a future Earth colloquialism meaning she wants to strangle the child about the neck, Dixie. She does not actually mean to do that though.” Andie explained while continuing to giggle.

“I wouldn’t be too sure about that, Andie. Alexis can be a bit…abrasive.” Allie concluded.

Shall I alert security of a possible altercation, Commodore?” Dixie asked with noticeable concern.

“No, I’ll take care of it, Dixie.” Andie said right before she vanished.

“Interesting.” Allie and I chorused. Emily, Jack, Cami’s, as well as everyone else’s mouths dropped open.

“So she has the family gift?” Emily asked me after a few seconds.

“Seems so, sis.” I replied.

“She scared the dark matter out of me three days after you all left, Alex. One minute she was talking to me about how she missed her new sisters, wondering what it would be like to be able to phase out; the next, she was gone. I was beside myself until she reappeared right where she had been. She claimed she was trying to talk to me but I wouldn’t respond. Andie said she went to get my attention and her hand passed straight through me. I guess that was when she figured it out and thought about rephasing. She’s been practicing for almost two weeks straight. I’ve had to disable the temporal anomaly sensors all around Atlantis because she refuses to stop doing it.”

“Alex, Andie just rephased behind Alusia’s Alexis.” Jack informed us.

“Now Alexis is hurrying back into Meridian. She’s running kind of funny.” Cami laughed.

“Apparently she doesn’t handle surprises too well.” Jack grinned.

“Good bladder control IS key in these instances, sister.” Cami giggled back, nodding to Jack.

“That’s been my experience, too, sister.” Jack agreed.

“Stop it you two.” Anna Beth groused, feigning a slight smile. “No one likes to have an accident…well deserved or not.”

“Let’s face it,” Emily said seriously with a devious smile, “A strange, six foot tall woman appearing out of thin air behind me would likely give the same result.”

Several minutes later, Alusia and her brood arrived in the conference room. Alusia glared at me accusingly as she instructed her two girls and her wide-eyed boy to be seated and behave themselves. Khefra had an almost serene smile on his face.

That vanished as soon as his mate turned around and glared at him. At least I wasn’t alone.

“Welcome to Atlantis,” Andie greeted formally in Ancient Terran, but she targeted the three children specifically.

“I must remind you that this is a fully operational space vehicle and there are many rules that we all must adhere to. First and foremost,” Andie paused for only a second, “this is MY ship and what I say goes!” Her fist hit the top of the table to emphasize the point. “There will be no whining, moaning, or bitching! Especially on MY BRIDGE! Is! That! Clear!?” Andie glared at Alusia’s oldest.

“If I hear from my subordinates that any of you…ANY of you have been the least bit out of line, Mommy and Daddy will be visiting you in our luxurious BRIG!”

“When addressing any member of my command, you will use the proper courtesies and language. For your information, we all have translators with English, Polish, German, Egyptian, and Terran. I am also fluent in some of the more novel uses for one’s middle finger! Yes, Alexis, I am one of Alexandra’s sisters.”

“The way you suddenly appeared behind me- are you…” young Alexis began to say, but realized she had been given the answer already. She crossed her arms in anger and stewed quietly in her seat.

“Kids, my sister isn’t as patient as I am, so I suggest you be on your best behavior while we’re here.” I recommended.

“So where is here? I thought we were going to our new home,” young Lusius asked. Ana wisely remained quiet and casually stared at our statuesque hostesses.

“I didn’t want to leave Memphis in the first place!” Alexis grumbled.

Andie glared at the girl intensely. I wondered how the girl didn’t burst into flame!

“You know what, princess? I didn’t want to leave my home either! We had no choice in the matter, though! Our planet was dying and we were the ‘lucky’ ones that got chosen to find a new world. My sister and I also had to leave our friends and family to venture out into the unknown. My own father didn’t make the cut! At least you have your mom and dad, youngling! Reggie and I have spent the last ten years traveling across the universe looking for a new place to live- hoping that somehow our father might follow our beacon and arrive sometime in the near future. But that’s a very big and illogical dream, princess! This whole vessel has been more alone than any of you could possibly understand.” Andie lectured.

“You don’t have a clue as to how lonely it can be- while traveling between systems- how utterly disenchanted we were until Alexandra and her sisters arrived five months ago. You children don’t know how wonderful you have it!”

Andie looked at Alusia suddenly.

“And you! You of all people should be thankful! Alex rescued you from certain death and you complain that you have been forgotten and treated like one of the servants! How dare you! Neither one of you should utter a single complaint against these women! They have nothing but your best interest in mind and you show them contempt at being left out. What is it with you blue-bloods?”

I looked to Allie and Emily to confirm that they noticed the faint, but familiar blue aura emanating from our statuesque sister. Both nodded clandestinely.

“Andromeda, you’re letting them get to you.” Reggie said softly as she cautiously placed her hand on her sister’s shoulder. “Please sister. The young ones are only testing your patience; like we did with father when we were that age.”

“Yes, but we didn’t have a mother in our lives to teach us right from wrong as these younglings do. Father seemed always busy in his efforts to conserve Celestra. He had little time for us and we turned out better than these high-borne…”

“Commodore Celeste, I beg you to look past anything these three have done or said. They are, as your sister said, ‘testing’ you. Why not show them what their home looks like from up here? Maybe that will instill in them a sense of scale?” Khufu interrupted.

“Andie, I’ll take them out to Epsilon.” Allie volunteered as she walked over to the kids and offered her hands. “I wonder if you’re Aunt and Uncle would like to go also.”

“My mate, would you like to chaperone our nieces and nephews? I believe Alusia and I have many things to talk with our hostess about.” Anna Beth suggested.

“Okay, I get it. You and Alusia want to discuss ‘policy’. Come on Khefra, the women want to talk.”

“I know, uncle; I’ve seen that look many times.”

“Captain,” Jack looked to Anna Beth, “Cami and I would also like to chaperone.”

Meridian’s captain nodded her permission.

Allie and her group vanished.

Anna Beth, Alusia, Emily, Reggie, Andie, and I sat down with Seph and Natalia. We stared at each other for a few seconds.

“My ship, my rules? Since when did you become Capt. Bligh, Andie?” I asked as I began to giggle.

“Since ‘little’ Alexis gave me the one finger salute and called me a statuesque whore behind my back! She also suggested I sit on an obelisk and rotate when I confronted her. Alex, what in the seven worlds is an obelisk?”

Anna Beth began to giggle then laugh.

“She certainly takes after her mother, isn’t that so, Alusia?”

“Equal parts of her father too, my queen.” Alusia countered reflexively.

“Funny, I’ve seen the same behavior from our Empress.” Emily laughed.

“Hey, I was never like that, sis!”

“No? How about right after you woke up from that designer virus Janelle infected you with? I recall you throwing a tantrum because I wouldn’t let you out of bed.”

I noticed Peyton lower her head, as if recalling a similar experience.

“Emily, if it is all the same, I would rather not revisit those memories.”

“What do you mean, Seph? What happened to cause my Sephie to look so sad?”

Peyton looked at her mother. A few tears rolled down her cheeks.

“I almost died, mother. If not for Alex and Emily, I would have.”

“You never told me of this, Alexandra. Why?” Natalia glared at me.

“Because I asked her not to, mother. I felt embarrassed that Hathor had finally bettered me…and I helped her do it.” Peyton said, looking at her mother sadly.

“Peyton, there was no way you could have known you were infected with anything. That’s not how a virus works. It usually takes between five to ten days to incubate before it overruns the immune system…manifests.” Emily informed her. “How you and Alex contracted it so fast, I still have no clue.”

“Y’all are forgetting Peyton arrived with Hathor. We met outside, but she removed herself from our memories…almost.” I told our group. “There are few Terrans, Reilliese, or hybrids that can affect my mind.”

“So you knew about me the whole time, Empress?” Seph asked, confounded. “Why not let me know?”

“Tactics, hun. We each had our own way of doing things. Had we banded together earlier Hathor would have recognized the patterns of attack and modified her strategy. That would have been bad. Not telling you also allowed you more confidence in your plan and kept Hathor second-guessing herself during our separate campaigns. Two independent flanks always have more successful odds of defeating a single foe. The odds get even better when neither flank knows the other’s tactics.” I revealed.

“Synchronized-yet-chaotic battlefield theory?” Natalia asked shaking her head. “I never thought chaos theory could be adapted to warfare. It sounds too risky to work…for both sides.”

“But isn’t Alex the one who makes logic out of chaos, Nat?” Alusia asked.

“They’re the very definition of that concept.” Emily laughed.

“Chaos,” I shrugged, “it loses all of its menace when you can see the outcome…usually. Now time,” I looked at Emily, “he was a true adversary, huh, sis.”

“I vaguely remember him, Alex- though I do remember him being a bit too arrogant for my tastes.” She said, trying to recall our recent encounter.

“What are you two talking about?” Andie asked as she, Reggie, Natalia, Peyton, and Alusia looked at the two of us like we had gone mad.

“So, where do you plan on going now, Anna Beth?” Reggie asked, quickly changing the subject.

“I fear our future can only be found amongst the whims of our Empress, Reggie. She has seen our correct path and taunts us ‘mere’ mortals incessantly.” Anna Beth said dramatically looking to me with a mischievous grin.

“And what if I were to tell y’all…truthfully…that I mean to take y’all to a planet that will remind you of your Terran Homeworld, Captain?” I said evenly.

“I would not hold my breath, sister. There have been too many times you have withheld certain details from us. The Empress of Time and Space is a tease, Alexandra. Plain and simple, you are a tease of the highest order.” Anna Beth responded.

“I disagree, Anna Beth. I too have received her vague and sometimes obtuse references, but I understand the motivation…just recently as a matter of fact, but I do understand the concept now.” Andie said on my behalf.

“Do enlighten us then, to the motivations of the Empress.”

“When in command, Anna Beth, do you micromanage your officers and crew?” Andie asked.

I noticed Natalia begin to nod, but quickly stopped as Anna Beth suddenly glared at her.

“No, I trust my officers and crew to know their tasks. It is only in special circumstances that I personally oversee their actions.” Anna Beth admitted.

“So you trust them to do the jobs they’ve been trained to do, right?” Andie restated to confirm.

“I do. A well-trained crew knows what is expected of them and acts without intense scrutiny.”

“And if they err in their tasks?”

“Provided the error is not detrimental or fatal, they learn from the mistake and strive to not make it again. I really don’t understand where this is going, Commodore.”

“My point, majesty, is that Alex does the same thing! She gives us hints and puzzles so that we may decide our own futures. She allows us to make mistakes and only steps in when things might do harm. By ‘teasing’ us she forces us to think…think about what is right or wrong, what we think we should do…what our hearts tell us we need to do. Having recently developed my own sense of foresight, I can see the many twists and turns the future represents. I can also see how fragile it is. One missed step is all it takes to ruin one person or a whole planet, Anna Beth.”

“Wow, welcome to the family, sis,” I said- impressed by her assessment. Emily nodded, as did Alusia.

“And may I add,” Andie continued, “that seeing the future is not for the faint of heart? Caution must be taken- and restraint carefully exercised when looking into a friend or relative’s future.”

Andie looked to her sister, Reggie, and bowed her head slightly in sorrow. Emily and I knew immediately what she had done.

“So you looked into Reggie’s future without accounting for the various scenarios?” I asked.

“Let me guess,” Emily continued. “You didn’t see what you thought you would, right? You saw something disturbing…something…frightening?”

Andie’s head bowed lower. “Yes.”

“But now that you are back, Alex, that will not happen. That scenario has been purged from possibility.” Reggie stated- her hopes raised.

I didn’t answer, instead I thought about several scenarios that I had seen previously- two of which had already happened and been rectified.
Blinking my eyes, I noticed I was almost alone in the conference room. Only Andie, and Emily remained. I had no idea where everyone else had gone.

“So how long was I gone this time?” I asked expecting the worst.

“About an hour, sis. We saw that you would be coming back about now and decided to stay.” Emily said as she looked to Andie.

“I mistakenly told Reggie of our alternate future. I think I almost frightened her into miscarriage.” Andie admitted. “I really DO understand why you do it, Alex.”

“Why I do what, Andromeda?” I asked, hoping she would give the right answer.

“Why you are so vague in you prophecies. You do not wish to frighten us. You also don’t want to feel responsible if your foresight were to hurt instead of help- though you would feel responsible anyway, am I right?”

I said nothing. Instead, I stood up and motioned for Andie to stand. I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed tightly for a moment.

“I’m hungry. Are either of you two hungry?” I asked as I broke my embrace.

So, Alusia’s children behaved pretty well at dinner didn’t they, Alex?” Emily asked me as we settled down for the night in our quarters.

“It’s amazing how seeing their planet from this altitude can make them realize how small they actually are in the scheme of things.” I answered.

“It is sobering, sis.” Emily agreed.

“What is even more sobering is how small this universe is when viewed from the next higher one, but you wouldn’t understand that reference since Allie requested you stay with me on Terra.”

“I’ve seen the Protoverse Chamber, Alex. As I remember, that was the next higher universe before you switched them…right?”

I nodded.

“So, are you going out again tonight to repair what Clemson changed?” Emily asked as she turned a page in her book.

“I’m allowed four hours tonight, sis.”

“Oh, awfully gracious of ‘Upper Management’.” She said irreverently.

“I’ll take what I can.” I said as I closed my mouth and thought for a bit.

“Why so quiet all of a sudden?” Emily asked as she placed her book face down on her lap and looked over at me.

“Our endgame with Clemson is almost here, Em. I’m…I’m afraid I may replace mother as leader of ‘Upper Management’.”

“Why would you say that, Alex? Clemson deserves everything he gets. He’s done inexcusable things to not only us, but Earth’s entire past, present, and future inhabitants.” Emily argued.

“He’s done some good things too, sis.”

“At what cost, Alex? It would seem to me that he made the Empress’ job hundreds of times more complicated. He deserves to be stranded in that half-paralyzed, zombie-like, soldier back in 1865.”

“Wouldn’t that make us just as bad as him?” I asked.

“Let me think on that a minute. No! No way are we anywhere near that despicable, Alex. He makes Hitler look sane by comparison.” Emily answered quickly.

“I think I’m going to turn in for the night.” I said as I got up to walk to our shared bedroom. “Night, Emily.”

E.S. Atlantis, Standard Year 257:08:29

“So, I thought you said you were only scheduled for four hours of sleep last night? Emily asked as I shuffled, half asleep, out of our room.

“Why, was it less than that?” I asked, feigning no surprise.

“Far more, sis. You got almost eight before you turned over when I got up. I’m sorry I woke you by the way. I’ll get it, Alex.”

Emily got up and walked over to the door, entered her code to unlock it, and stood back.

The door immediately slid open and a grownup version of Sunni Smithson hurried into our quarters.

“Alex, we have a problem!” She said as she gracefully sat down on our Davenport. Emily excused herself and walked into the lavatory.

“What problem would that be, Sunni?” I asked as I raked my fingers through my hair to detangle it and make myself more presentable.

“That’s the problem, Alex. I’m still Sunni! Don’t you get it?” She complained.

“At least you aren’t a Pixie anymore. I thought that’s what the original complaint was.” I reasoned, choosing to look on the bright side.

“No, thank God, but I’m still female.” Sunni said as if it left a bad taste in her mouth.

“And a very pretty one at that, hun. What’s so bad about that?” I asked as I tried to wake myself up completely by rubbing my face with my hands.

“Alex, I woke up this morning back at my normal size, but I still look like Sunni. I didn’t change all the way back! Why?”

My answer was short and concise. “So…change back to Jim.”

“Aunt Emily, is she still messed up in the head?” Sunni asked as Emily appeared from the lavatory.

“I gave her a clean bill of health, Sunni. Why, do you think she had a relapse? Alex? How do you feel?” Emily asked engaging her professional voice.

“I feel better than I have in about five years, sis. Sunni wants to know why she hasn’t changed back yet.”

“You look normal to me, Sunni. What’s the problem? Did your wings not retract right for some reason? I’ve heard that Yuuka’s sometime don’t retract all the way when she is extremely stressed. Here, let me scan you, sweetie.”

“Aunt Emily!” Sunni stood, reached out, and eased my sister’s out-splayed hand back down. “I’m still a girl! What went wrong?” She asked as she motioned to her body. “I’m usually a guy…remember?”

“Did you try to change back, sweetie?” Emily asked frankly.

“Why did I even bother coming over here?” Sunni cried in frustration before turning and heading for our door.

“Sunni?” I called gently. “Come back here, hun.”

“Alex,” she said as she turned and reseated herself on our sofa. “What am I going to do? I’ll have to abandon my commission and restart my life. Aunt Randi will have to make a whole new…female…identity for me. I wasn’t ready to give this life up yet.” Sunni wiped at her eyes to dry them.

“So change back. What’s so confusing about that, Jim?” I asked.

“My gift is to become a Pixie, Alex. All Pixies are female…at least that’s what you told me thirty years ago.”

“That’s true, Sunni, all Pixies are female.” Emily agreed. “So far we haven’t found evidence to the contrary.”

“But not everyone with the gift of becoming a Pixie is female, Sunni.” I informed her.

“Again with the riddles!”

“Look, Sunni, how blonde are you now? If you want to be Jim Smithson again…just become Jim Smithson.” I told her, exasperated. “You’re a shape-shifter, Sunni! Shift your shape. That’s how you can become a Pixie…you can shift into one.”

“I’m a shape-shifter.” She repeated, unconvinced. “Just like Aunt Corrine and Julia?”

“No. Corrine and Julia can’t enter Pixie mode like you can. They can only shift into other full-sized humans. You, Sunni, can shift into any one or thing you desire…provided it’s alive and not inanimate.” I looked away from our newest sister. “You know, I thought Alusia was the hard-headed, clueless one.”

“So I can change back to my normal self just by thinking it, right? Is that how it works for you?” Sunni asked, suspiciously, for confirmation as she again stood.

“I can’t turn into anyone but me, hun.” I giggled as I watched her frown. “Though, I would command my Reilly suit to change before I did think of changing…if I could change shapes, that is. Jim is ten inches taller than Sunni, and at least sixty pounds heavier, hun.”

An Air Force uniform appeared on the five foot-five blonde, though it was way too big for her.

The poor fit slowly improved as Sunni began to change.

“Feel better now, Jim?” I asked, standing back up as Colonel Smithson’s hands gently probed his body.

Without warning, Jim Smithson wrapped his arms around me, lifted me off the floor, and turned both of us around several times before placing me gently back on the floor again.

“Thank you, Alex! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

“You’re welcome, hun, but you did it all on your own.” I smiled deviously.

“Alex…I’m sorry, ma’am. I…I thought you were…I never know when you’re teasing. I don’t mean to be so dense or paranoid- I…I just wasn’t prepared for all this…not under these circumstances anyway.” Jim more or less pleaded for doubting us.

“We all have our doubts at times, Jim. I think, given the conditions, you were justified in some of your bitching. From what I’ve seen and been told you handled your first period superbly- especially for a man.” I giggled. “Tammy will be proud of her son and his courage when I tell her. As I recall, even her first wasn’t nearly as composed.”

Our door chimed.

“Enter, Yuuka.” Emily said while rolling her eyes.

“Sorry to intrude, but Dixie said that Sunni was here…oh, hi, James.” Yuuka started to apologize until she saw Jim Smithson standing by me. Her expression changed drastically.

“Hi, Yuuka.” He said before motioning to his body. “Look, I’m back to normal!”

“Yes, I see that, James.” Yuuka said sadly. “I had hoped we could’ve shared one more day as Pixies, Sunni. I guess the children will be disappointed when only one Pixie shows up today. I…I thought you had fun with them yesterday.”

“I did…um…have fun playing with the kids yesterday, Yuuka. Why the sad face? I thought you wanted me to get back to normal?”

“Oh, I did, James, but I’m not going to deny I enjoyed Sunni’s company.” She explained. “I’ll see you around, James. Take care.” Yuuka said before she turned and took a step toward the door.

“Yuuka, wait.” Smithson called out.

Yuuka turned around just in time to see James Smithson lose height and gain more hair. Within a few seconds Sunni stood in the room in Jim’s ill-fitting Air Force uniform.

“Shinseina tawagoto! (Holy shit!)” Our grown-up Pixie exclaimed in Japanese as she blinked in astonishment.

Smithson’s uniform shifted and changed. Sunni stood in her form fitting, default Reilly suit.

“How…how…how did you…?”

“I finally got my gift, Yuuka!” Sunni chirped excitedly.

“You didn’t have it before?” Yuuka asked, confused.

Sunni looked to the floor. “No, not until this past week. I’m sorry if I deceived everyone. I was so embarrassed to be the only brother that hadn’t received his gift…I…I…well, I sort of hid it from everyone.” She admitted sadly.

Yuuka walked over to her and embraced her sister. The two hugged for a minute or more.

“So, can I still be your roomy?” Sunni asked as she leaned back.

“If I can trust you to stay Sunni.”

“Deal!” Sunni Smithson cried happily as she tightened the hug again.

“Sunni, are you still willing to go into Pixie mode or should I tell the children you had to leave?”

“I’d never disappoint the kids if I could help it, sister.” Sunni replied with a smile.

Yuuka offered her hands. “We’re due in Delta ring in half an hour.”

Sunni didn’t take the offered hands. Instead, she looked to me for support. Yuuka looked at both of us, disappointed.

I nodded with a bright smile.

“Let me try something, Yuuka.” Sunni said as a smile crept onto her beautiful face.

A full-sized set of yellow Pixie wings emerged from Sunni’s back yet she hadn’t lost any height. Her Reilly immediately transformed into a full-sized version of her green Pixie outfit.

Wow! Was it short!

“Oops.” Sunni blushed as she looked around. She quickly shrank- her wings following along in scale.

“Megami no shinseina haha! (Holy mother of the Goddess!)” Yuuka gasped as the yellow-winged Pixie hovered in front of her with her arms splayed out wide.

“Surprise!” Sunni giggled nervously.

Yuuka instantly entered Pixie mode, hovering in front of Sunni. Reaching out, she touched her yellow-winged sister and shouted, ‘TAG, You’re it!”

Both Pixies shot toward, and out our door. Good thing Emily had anticipated their actions and triggered it to open!

“So…where were we, sis?” I asked after our door closed.

“We were talking about you actually getting a full night’s sleep. As I recall, the first in almost five months?” Emily said, looking at me skeptically. “Though, I suspect it’s quite a bit longer?”

“Years.” I replied sheepishly.

“Years longer?”

“Five to be exact, sis. Allie and I have been repairing Clemson’s ‘adjustments’ for five years now- usually once you and Cami go to sleep, Allie and I hit the road, so to speak.”

There was no response from my sister. Looking back up from the floor, I saw the reason. Emily stood staring dumbfounded at me with her mouth open.

“Ya, go ahead and say it, Em.” I said, feeling guilty. “Why are we working ourselves to death?” I paused momentarily for her to respond. When she didn’t, I continued. “Because the world depends on us, sis- because Allie and I are the only ones that can counter the Clemson scourge.”

My sister remained quiet.

“So,” I said, “no comment- snide or otherwise?”

Emily just kept staring at me in silence.

“Fine, sis, but it’s what Allie and I have to do! The timeline has to be fixed, Emily.” I groused at her silence. I started toward the lavatory to wash up.


“What is it?” I asked coarsely as I stopped and turned.

“I…I understand, sis. I…I’ve been…um…afraid…to…to look ahead…at our…at us.” She stumbled quietly. “I finally…I took the chance and…and…I looked…Alex…and…and I’m not frightened anymore, Empress. I know we have a very long time together, sis.”

Emily hurried the few feet between us and wrapped her arms around me. She began to sob softly on my shoulder.

“So…you know.” I whispered knowing exactly what she had seen. It was just one of the many scenarios, but offered the better future overall. At least it gave her something to look forward to- something to believe in for the foreseeable future.

I was proud that my sister finally had the nerve to confront her demons and look into our futures. It was the next step in developing her gift to its fullest. She had already come so far, but like me, she had a ways to go yet.

“I…I know you have to do this, Alexandra.” She said, her voice muffled by my shoulder. “I can see this mission…this manhunt, will succeed. After all, we’ve come too far to fail, haven’t we?”

“Never assume that, sis. Don’t forget how ruthless ‘Time’ can be. He cares nothing about anyone’s feelings but his own and willingly sacrifices his pawns without regard.” I reminded.

Emily lifted her head off my shoulder.

“Alex, we are talking metaphorically here- because it sounds like you’re talking about your opponent from that game last week.”

I didn’t reply.

“You’re not saying he was actually…’time’, are you? We actually met time?” She asked, staring at me.

I just looked at her for a few minutes as I thought about that philosophical question. Could someone actually meet ‘time’? Wasn’t time a construct of sentient beings? Though, he was ‘constructed’ very well…

Thinking about it, Allie and I did ‘beat’ time. Andora said that the Empress was the only entity that could better him, didn’t she? But…if the Empress could best time… I thought about that single fact. I…we had actually bested time. He stood no chance of winning when Allie and I brought all our ‘weapons’ to bear- so to speak.


Was that whole exercise- the game- Empress against time- real or was it actually metaphorical as Emily suggested.

Given that, was the Empress just as metaphorical? Was I just an imagined entity- a fictional character- a construct of some rich, fertile imagination?

My mind started to hurt.

“Alex?” Emily’s voice shocked me out of my deep concentration.

She was dressed for the day and looking at me with concern.

“You going to skip lunch too?” She asked with a knowing smile.

“I missed breakfast?” I asked in realization as I rubbed my eyes.

Emily nodded her head and giggled.

“Yesterday and this morning, sis. What were you thinking about for a day and a half?”

“Time.” I said effortlessly and matter-of-factly.

My sister nodded twice- still smiling.

“That’s an awfully big thing to think about, sis. How about we go get you something to eat?” Emily said as she guided me to the door.

When had I changed clothes? I thought as I looked down and saw my default Reilly. I stopped.

“Dixie, what’s the current mission date?” I asked as I looked questioningly to Emily.

257:08:29:1432, Alex. Is there something wrong? Have you been traveling again?” The A.I. replied.

“Thanks, hun.” I said then looked at my sister. “Nice try, Jim.” I scowled.

“Well, I almost had ya.” Sunni said as she finished changing. “Emily asked me to watch you while she went to eat, Alex. I couldn’t help myself.”

I placed my hand on her shoulder.

“You actually had me…for about a minute, Sunni. I guess I deserved it given what I put you through this past week.” I admitted. “I thought you were in a hurry to become Jim again, hun?”

“I promised Yuuka I’d stay Sunni for as long as this mission continues, ma’am.” She shook her head a few times. “I know I’m probably going to regret it in the long run.”

“You’ll be fine, hun. In case you haven’t realized it, you can precisely emulate whoever you’re imitating.” I told her.

“Um…how am I imitating Sunni, Alex, I’ve never met her before?”

“How about thirty years ago?”


“You met Sunni thirty years ago. When you and Yuuka first joined hands? Sunni was born that day as your wings unfurled. She is your alter-ego- your other half, Jim. If need be, think of her as your sister.”

“But I already have three sisters, Alex.” Sunni complained.

“So…you already knew how girls behave. I’m sure your Ma would be thrilled to have one more, hun.” I giggled.

“Dad would have a coronary… if he hadn’t already passed, Alex!”

“Not if he wouldn’t have been as stubborn as my Sandy and taken a sip from my flask.” I argued as I suddenly felt very melancholy.

“I’m sorry, Alex. I forgot how sensitive you are about that…wait, I thought you were Alex from 1944?” Sunni said as her eyes narrowed.

“I am from 1944, but the memories are still there, hun. I remember Sandy as if it were yesterday. Our entire life together…it’s all up here.” I told her sadly, pointing to my head.

“We better go eat something, Alex.” Sunni insisted as she gently took my arm and urged me to the door. I felt a tingling from between my shoulder blades.

“Sunni,” I said gently.

“What is it, Alex?”

“I already know I have pink wings in my Pixie form, hun. You’ve proven your hypothesis, so please, nix my wings?”

“But you look so pretty, Empress!”


“Alright.” She grumbled as I felt another tingle from my back.

“What have I created?” I asked the ceiling as we walked down the passageway to the local café.

“Hi, si…” Emily started to say before she stopped and stared. Allie, Cami, Jack, Khufu, and Anna Beth also stared at me…at us. I reissued my previous question.

“Y’all know they say impersonation’s the highest form a flattery.” I said as I looked and raised an eyebrow to my doppelganger. I sighed heavily. “Just like a kid with a new toy on Christmas!”

“Hey, I resemble that, sis.” My double commented, giggling.

“And I thought her Pixie form was incorrigible.” Emily laughed.

Sunni was suddenly standing next to me.

“I see that your transformations are getting faster, Sunni.” Cami commented. “Your Reilly interface is also improving- well done, sister.”

“So where is Yuuka? I thought you two had an appointment at the daycare out in Delta ring today?” Allie inquired.

“We do.” She answered but appeared to look at her HUD momentarily. “What time was that today?”

“Just before three bells, hun.” Allie answered. “In about fifteen minutes.”

“Oh man, I better get going!” Sunni suddenly shrunk to her Pixie form and flew out into the passageway.

“That one is going to get herself into some very uncomfortable situations, sis.” Allie commented as I took a seat beside her.

“She’ll kick it back a few notches once she finds out how much of a mimic her gift makes her.” I responded.

“I thought she was a shape-shifter, Alex?” Jack asked in confusion.

“A normal shifter wouldn’t be able to assume Pixie mode, Jack, plus, we all have secondary gifts- don’t forget that.”

“So what does that mean for Smithson, Alex?” She asked in curiosity.

In response, I held up my right hand and began to count back from five on my fingers.

“Five, four, three, two…” I said before being interrupted by me appearing next to our table.

“Oh, Alex! I can’t thank you enough! That me said excitedly as she came over and hugged me tightly.

“Sunni?” Jack asked in astonishment.

“Yes. It’s me, Aunt Jacki! Isn’t this fantastic? I can emulate people’s gifts too! Alex, why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because I didn’t want it to go to your head, hun. You can only make use of other’s gifts on a very limited basis. In my case, only a week or two either way. I trust you’ve already had the scare of your life and learned from it?” I asked.

Sunni- in my form- shuddered visibly.

“Yes, ma’am. I had the buh-jesus scared outta me all right. I thought I popped right into the twilight zone! I’m glad I figured it out and got the hell outta there!”

“Time to jump back ahead six days, ‘Alex’.” I said calmly as I looked to my double.

“Yes, ma’am. Thanks again, Alex!” My double said as she leaned down and kissed my cheek.

Standing back up, she disappeared.

I noticed Khufu and Anna Beth staring, open mouthed.

“Like you two have never seen Djedefre trying his gift out.” I accused.

They turned to stare at Allie and I.

“Wait…you didn’t know?” I asked in amazement.

“My son had a gift, Alex?” Khufu asked candidly.

“Djedefre shares his mother’s gift.” I revealed to the man.

‘Alex, don’t go there right now. Anna Beth won’t take it well at all.’ Cami thought to me.

‘I don’t intend to, sweetheart.’ I thought back.

“Alex!” Andie cried, gasping for breath as she appeared behind me. Half the table jumped. “Sisters, I need your help!”

“If y’all will excuse Emily, Allie, and I, our sister needs to consult with us on a family matter.” I said as the three of us stood and joined hands with the Commodore.

Andie’s conference room appeared around us.

“I hope I wasn’t late, Alex.”

“Right on time, Andie,” Allie smiled.

“I saw that you were heading into trouble, Alex. I came as soon as I was able to ascertain the proper time.”

“Y’all are doin’ great, hun. You arrived at just the right time.” I complimented.

“Thank you, sister. One thing though…please…could you have a talk with Miss Smithson? Certain people do not wish to be mimicked…me especially! I find it very disconcerting.”

“I don’t think you’ll have a problem from here on out, sis. Sunni’s learned her lesson.” I guaranteed confidently.

“How can you be certain, Alex…oh, my apologies, Empress.”

“It’s okay, Andie. Sunni pushed her emulation of my gift to her limit and found herself at the crash site.” I said, lowering my head solemnly.

“What crash site, Ale….oh.” She asked, but suddenly stopped. “But I thought we stopped that from happening?”

“In this dimension, yes. Another dimension wasn’t so lucky, I’m afraid.”

“Sunni can jump dimensions too, Alex?” Emily cried in surprise.

“Only on a limited basis. Fortunately she figured out what happened and came straight back.” I replied.

Andie nodded then walked over to the room’s food dispenser.

“One American cheeseburger, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and catsup. Coffee, Empress Blend, black.” She ordered. Then, when completed brought the tray over and placed it before me.

“I know you haven’t had the chance to eat yet, Alex, so get to it.” She said sternly.

“Yes, mother.” I remarked as I picked up the sandwich. Knowing it was an organic beef substitute didn’t matter at all. I was hungry!


E.S. Atlantis, Standard Year 257:08:31

“How did you sleep, Alex?” Emily asked as I padded out of our lavatory.

“Six hours, I think, and I still feel like a zombie.” I replied as I rubbed my ribs.

Emily approached and lifted my nightie over my head.


“So how long did you have that boned corset on this time, sis?” She asked releasing the flimsy, pink, silk lingerie. It bunched above the swell of my chest instead of flowing freely over and down my body.

“A month.” I replied as I fussed with its fit. “I had a week’s downtime. Next time though, I’ll wait until after that time of the month to travel to the middle ages. It felt disgusting- even though I used my tiara and broach to keep my Reilly charged.”

“I thought that was the case. I heard the shower when I got up.”

“Sorry I took so long in there. About half the town had the plague.”

“Wow, what a two-fer- your period and the plague!” Emily giggled. I hope you didn’t bring anything back with you, sis.”

“No, my Reilly’s diagnostic was clean.” I answered with a smile.

“So who did the Empress save this time?”

“Someone calling himself Bacon- Francis Bacon?”

“You met Francis Bacon? The creator of the scientific method?” Emily’s eyes grew wide. “What was he like, Alex?”

“Not very scientific at all, Em. He didn’t seem to have a clue that he was being hunted through Spain by a group of church-sponsored mercenaries. Clemson had the local diocese believing Bacon was an English, demonic, hell-spawn sent by Queen Elisabeth to unseat one of the Popes.”

“So what happened?” Emily asked in excitement.

“Well, after saving his proverbial ‘bacon’, we laid low for a week in Paris. After that I showed the blessed Spanish hierarchy what a true demonic, hell-spawn was and what it could do!” I giggled. “I’ll bet there wasn’t a clean set of britches in the whole city of Aragon, sis!”

“You didn’t do anything to upset Upper Management, did you?”

“Not that I know of, sis. I did, however demonstrate the scientific method in a very ‘creative’ way.” I replied with an evil grin.

“Was it really that bad back then, Alex?”

“Let’s put it this way, sis. If one more, smelly pervert had pinched my ass or fondled my boobs the whole city would have been transported back into the late Jurassic Period! I mean, how can so-called priests be so vulgar?”

“So I take it, you just missed Clemson again?” Emily asked, changing the subject.

“He saw me appear and took off like a spooked rabbit!” I laughed.

“Didn’t Ricky Lynn’s fix work?” She asked in concern.

“From his perspective she didn’t do it yet, sis. I’m fixing them as I find them- not in the order he did them.”

“So what’s on the agenda for today, Alex.”

“Allie and I go catch us a scared little rabbit.” I smirked.

“You mean it’s finally going to be over? This extended mission is almost finished?”

“For Clemson it will be. We’ll be cleaning up after him for a few more months.”

“At least he won’t be causing anymore trouble though, right?” She asked, hopeful of my answer.

I didn’t answer.

“Alex, you know I’ll find out. I told you, I’m not afraid to use my gift anymore. I may limit its use, but I have no qualms about using it to find what I need.” Emily reminded.

“There have been changes in Clemson’s wake, sis. Things might not be exactly as we remembered them when we get back to base.”

“I’ve seen that part, Alex. What aren’t you telling me?”

“I can’t say for sure. I just know that things will be a little different, sis…for all of us."

“Alex, I don’t want things to change too much. We’ve both come so far on this mission. I don’t want that to disappear.”

“Alex,” my voice said from behind me, “Ricky Lynn, Cami, and Jack have completed archiving our log entries and personal profiles to Dixie’s core memory. We can leave whenever you want.” Allie said somberly.

I nodded.

“I’m coming with you, Alex.” Emily stated matter-of-factly.

“I know.” I said as Allie took my hand and I waited for Emily to take my other. She seemed surprised that I would suddenly just agree.

“Dixie, we’ll be back by dinner if anyone should ask.” Allie informed the A.I.

Understood, Empress, and good hunting.” Dixie replied.

A small, tiered auditorium appeared in front of us and we found ourselves just behind the lecture podium. Two male students were just leaving through the single door over to our left.

Emily looked at me to fill in the blanks.

“Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, April 10th, 2035, 1310hrs.” I said with a smile.

“Sis, didn’t you, Jack, Ricky Lynn and her class just go into that smaller classroom?” Allie asked as she nodded to the same door.

“In about five minutes we’ll be alone. Clemson will appear right there.” I said as I pointed to the floor just ahead of the podium.

“So how do we catch him before he uses the CDA again?” Emily wondered.

“He’ll find his ill-gotten device has suddenly stopped responding.” I grinned.

Once rephased, we stood around and waited. Emily, curious of the auditorium’s use turned on the small projection device and looked at the large screen behind us.

“President Lincoln.” She said reading the screen unemotionally. She clicked one of the virtual buttons on the small device and the picture changed.

“Examples of Paradoxes as they relate to history? Sounds like this course would be right up your alley, sis.”

“Ricky Lynn had Jack and I lecture here. We just finished up a few minutes ago and now I’m conducting a ‘thought experiment’ in the next classroom. As we speak, I’m asking the class to join hands and think about traveling back in time thirty minutes.” I told her.

“I suppose you had them close their eyes so they wouldn’t see Jack turn the clock forward after you ported them back that thirty minutes? How many actually noticed?”

“They all noticed, but only one woman came back to congratulate us on a successful experiment, Em.” I answered and promptly looked down. “Janice Silvers and Cassi were the first sisters we lost to Clemson.”

“So that’s why you had Ricky Lynn program her CDA to arrive here- back to where it all started?”

I nodded.

My HUD suddenly came online with my tiara’s Temporal Anomaly detector flashing red.

“He’s coming. Everyone ready?” I asked.

“Ready for what, Alex? You said the machine wouldn’t work now.” Emily asked in confusion.

“Clemson still may have a trick or two up his sleeve, sis.”

After several flashes and several near fade-ins, Ricky Lynn’s newest toy appeared exactly where I predicted it to be.

“So…where is Clemson, Alex?” Emily asked as we looked at the unaccompanied CDA. “Some trick, Alex. Can Clemson phase out like we can?”

“No. He must’ve found the programming rewrite and left go in mid-transit.” I theorized.

“So he beat us again? What are we going to do now?” Emily cried.

“Now we go to the endgame.” I said as I took my sisters’ hands.

A rolling, grassy meadow outlined by tall deciduous trees replaced the small auditorium.

Now where are we, Alex?” Emily asked as she looked around us.

“In a place where I recommend we should stay out of phase, sis. Just outside Chancellorsville, Virginia, May 3rd, 1863.”

“Why did we come back here?” She asked in shock.

“Because this is where it all ends. Darren Clemson finally pays for what he’s done. Right here.”

A horn trumpeted off in the distance. Shouting and shooting ensued as artillery fire erupted all around us!

Clemson materialized to our immediate right. He immediately hit the ground and cowered in a fetal position.

“Do it, sis!” Allie shouted so we could hear.

The rush of men converging on our position suddenly froze. Sound, sky, animal, vegetable- everything became motionless. I dropped my sisters’ hands and walked over to where Clemson lay cowering.

Touching him, my bluish luminescence engulfed him and he began to move again.

“Stand up!” I ordered.

The terrified man stopped shaking and began to slowly look around. He finally looked up at me and began shaking again.

“I SAID GET UP!” I shouted angrily as I grabbed his arm and yanked him to his feet. As it had in Egypt, my voice echoed menacingly from around us.

Clemson cautiously looked around.

“What…what happened? Why isn’t anything moving?” He asked innocently.

“Shut up, you ignorant piece of shit!” I seethed. “I’ve had enough of your arrogant manipulations of this timestream! Time to pay for your crimes.”

“What crimes? I was just repairing what you fucked up in the first place, you stupid whore! Why do you dikes constantly want things your way?”

“Stupid whore? Dike?” I shouted as the light around us dimmed significantly. The air around us instantly took on a crimson red tinge.

Clemson looked around in confusion.

“You dare call me a stupid whore and lesbian? You know nothing about me or any of my sisters! What gives you the right to pronounce title on anybody? Who gave you the right to destroy billions of lives? What kind of sick amusement do you get from altering history to your liking?” I shouted. My voice continued to echo strangely from everywhere in the stillness.

Try as I might, any patience I still had lost out to anger.

“I corrected the past to match the history books. The REAL past. The one ‘Experts’- the academics that have actually researched history- have proven existed. Not the chaotic, fantasy past your frail mind choose to meddle with! I did nothing wrong. You, on the other hand, ruined more lives than I saved!” Clemson responded snobbishly.

A hand swung past me and slapped Clemson’s face. I was surprised the strike hadn’t broken his neck!

“My sister is not a whore, asshole! She has helped hundreds of millions of people- saved several planets and even a universe or two! How dare you say she ruined anyone’s lives? How can you be so sure those historians…the so-called ‘experts’ that wrote those books are correct? How?! Where they actually there?! Did they actually visit?!” Emily shouted just before planting a powerful right hook to the left side of his jaw.

“You don’t know,” my sister continued as she threw a strong left and made serious contact, “how many years of her life,” she threw another right that loosened some teeth, “my sisters have lost trying to rebuild what you destroyed!” Emily finished with an uppercut.

“Emily, please…stop.” I urged. “This isn’t like you, sis. You’re a doctor.”

“Alex is right, Em.” Allie agreed as she approached a bleeding, injured, Darren Clemson.

The man spit out two teeth, wiped the blood from his mouth then looked at Emily evilly and began laughing.

“Is that all you can manage? I must say that you hit harder than I expected…for a girl.”

“So you think she hits like a girl, huh?” Allie said as she raised her right hand. “You are lower than the primordial scum I experimented on hundreds of years ago. Let’s see how you like this!”

My sister’s hand plunged into the man’s chest cleanly. Clemson immediately looked down with bulging eyes and began to wheeze as if his airway was constricting.

I was flabbergasted! How was she doing this? How could she just reach through someone’s chest?

“Alex! Stop, you’ll kill him!” I shouted in horror.

“Wasn’t that the point, Alexandra Steinert? Revenge for those that lost their lives many times over? Compensation for those that never came back! Alex, this is the least I can do to avenge them!”

“We aren’t avenging angels, Alexandra Reilly. This isn’t what we are- what we represent. Please take your hand out of him, sis. Don’t stoop to his level.” I pleaded.

Clemson began to smile evilly.

“Go ahead, Bitch…you know you want to do it. Make me pay for what I’ve done!” Clemson baited before he winced in more pain. Allie’s face remained determined and cold.

“Alex? We aren’t like him. Don’t let him goad you.” I warned.

Alex, Alex is right.” Emily said gently. “He wants us to go too far and anger ‘Upper Management’. He wants the Empress to ruin her reputation. Do you really want to do that?”

Allie didn’t answer for a moment.

“We are nothing like you,” she seethed! “Nor will I stoop so low. You will be tried and sentenced like the common criminal you are.”

Allie pulled her fist out of his chest and stepped back.

“I knew it! You three don’t have the balls! How absolutely pathetic! You disgust me!” Clemson laughed evilly.

“Let’s take him to see ‘Upper Management’, Alex. Emily suggested.

“I don’t think so, you stupid sluts! I’m out of here.” Clemson countered as he grabbed and threw my hand off his arm.

“I’m stronger than you ‘Time Skanks’. You can’t stop me from doing what I want!”

“You seem to forget that you lost your toy, hun. You set one foot outside of my protective bubble and time stops for you too. There is no escape, Darren. Not this time.”

“You really are stupid- all of you! Did you really think I wouldn’t find Ricki’s programming change…or that I wouldn’t have a backup plan? No, I think I’ll be just fine. Though we’re in the middle of the battlefield, you won’t try to change the outcome by making me trigger the bomb I brought along.” Clemson cackled thinking he had the upper hand.

“You mean this little ol’ thing, asshole?” Allie asked as she held out a small device in her right palm.

“Like I wouldn’t carry a backup to my backup after you bitches surprised me the last time.” Clemson laughed as he held out an identical device in his left hand. “I’ll be going now. See you bitches some other time.”

“You really don’t understand the concepts of time travel very well, do ya, hun?” I asked casually.

“I know everything I need to know about time and how to handle three spoiled sluts. Why don’t you ‘ladies’ go find a new street corner.” He said arrogantly. “Protective time bubble, pffffft!” He said in disgust as he reached out his hand.

Clemson immediately stopped, looking at his hand as it suddenly froze in place- at least the part that had found the barrier of my bubble.

“The fuck?” He swore in confusion.

“What’s the matter, Mr. Clemson? The ‘three spoiled sluts’ actually know more than you?” Allie chided sarcastically.

“What kind of dumb-assed trick is this? Why can’t I move my hand?” Clemson cried in anger.

“You tell us, hun, we’re just stupid whores, remember?” Allie continued with a sinister giggle.

“Oh, just a little history lesson. Tri-thermite didn’t exist in 1863.” She said nodding to his trapped hand. The small explosive device he held in it vanished. I’d have to ask her about that later.

“How’d you do that?”

“In case you might have forgotten,” Allie said looking to me and seeing me nod, “I am the Empress of Time and Space.” We chorused.

“That’s bullshit! There is no such thing!”

“Oh, but there is, Darren, honey. I’m right here.” I said pointing to Allie and I. “I don’t suppose you remember this little trick, do you?” I asked as the light around us slowed and dimmed more. Everything was now bathed in a brownish red hue. I thought it sickeningly appropriate for our present location.

“Nice parlor trick, bitch! Now release my hand before I really have to teach you who’s in charge.”

“Awfully confident, Mr. Clemson.” Emily grinned in a neutral, professional, tone. “I read your heart rate at a hundred-seventy beats a minute and your blood pressure, one-ninety-five over one hundred? Those vitals indicate that you are lying, Darren.”

“Bite me!”

“It wouldn’t be safe. I don’t know where all you’ve been.” Emily’s expression brightened slightly.

“You bitches asked for it! Now I’m really gonna have to give you a lesson in manners!” Clemson warned angrily.

“You know, sis, his clothes are looking a bit ‘old’ don’t you think?” Allie smiled as she snapped her fingers.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean you stupid cunt!?”

Every stitch of clothing on Clemson’s body began to rot and fell off in small withered patches.

“What the…?”

“Spare us the cussing, hun. It never did suit you well,” I giggled, “Neither did those clothes. Where’d ya’ll get ‘em from, hun, the five and dime?”

“Okay, that’s it! Time for me to drop the gloves!” Clemson said as he started to pull his hand out of the barrier. I was moderately impressed. Once free he flexed his fingers a few times and sneered at us. “That wasn’t so hard. Now time to bow to your master, bitches!”

“Not so fast…old man.” Allie countered as Clemson turned back to us with wild rage etched on his face.

“Who you callin’ old, whore? I’m twenty-four.”

Allie sneered in anger then she seemed to concentrate. She smiled and pointed to our adversary. His hair began to turn gray and wrinkles began to form on his forehead. His eyes began to sink back in his head and he began to slouch slightly.

“Looks to me like y’all are about ninety, hun. Want a mirror?” I laughed.

“Nice trick, but I’m not amused. How much do you like your sister, ‘Empress’”, Clemson asked as he reached out with his now, much older and frail hand?

Emily’s hands went to her throat and she began to choke- struggling for air.

“Oh, what’s that, bitch? You can’t breathe? Aw, what a shame. You should have listened to me before things got to this point. Now see what you’ve made me do?”

That was the last straw! The time for playing with this asshole was over! Emily wasn’t going to die on my watch…not again! Things became pitch black, except for the bluish light Emily, Allie, and I…and Clemson- through my grace- were giving off.

“LET! HER! GO!” I hissed through my clinched teeth. There was no question I was beyond serious. The bluish glow illuminating us increased tenfold in intensity.

Allie looked around us. “I’d let our sister go if I were you, honey. I’ve never seen my sister this pissed before.” She warned calmly.

“I have no intention of backing off! You’ve angered me now.” Clemson cackled confidently.

“Your funeral, honey.” Allie warned as she stepped back from me. Emily was still fighting for breath next to me.

“Mr. Clemson, what does everything in the universe have in common?” My voice cold and unwavering.

“Um…me?” He laughed dementedly.

“No, Mr. Clemson. Time. Time is what defines the whole of the universes. It affects everything there is- everything we are. Time, Mr. Clemson, whatever form or PHASE it takes is everywhere.”

“What kind of philosophical bullshit are you spouting now? I’m just going to kill little sister here if you’re intent to babble on about the concept of time! Why delay the inevitable, right? You stupid cunts!”

Emily disappeared.

“What the…!” Clemson cried in sudden shock.

“I wasn’t merely babbling or delaying, hun. Time eventually catches up to everyone. I’ve even met him, though I think even he isn’t as full of himself as you are, Darren Clemson.” I told him.

The very recall of our recent confrontation with ‘Time’ only angered me further! We were getting nowhere playing by the rules. Upper Management be damned! This was stopping now!

I began to concentrate harder and felt a rush of power even stronger than back in Egypt!

Our surroundings began to hiss and creak. There was an ungodly squealing like nails on a chalkboard. What could be seen outside my time bubble began to bend and distort. Several tremors rumbled under our feet.

“Alexandra? What, in the Goddess’ name?” Allie asked calmly as she took a few steps back up to me. Her eyes showed the fear that her voice concealed. “Alex? Please…I’ve never seen this...this reaction from you before, Sis.”

“Mr. Clemson wants to change history, Alex.” I seethed. “I say we save him the trouble.” I suggested coldly as I stared demonically into his eyes.

“How about I cancel history all together?! Would that appease your vanity?! Remove your need to control and bend the past to your will?! How would you like it if I deprived you of that greed and want, Mr. Clemson?!” I hissed. I could only imagine the maniacal grin on my face. “Then there would be nothing for you to disagree with, feel hurt by, or even question!”

Our surroundings began to melt and twist even more. What color still existing became shades of black and gray.

“Alex? My God! What are you doing?” Emily appeared again and stared at me in terror.

“If history never existed, neither would he; neither would any of the terrible deeds he’s done…all the innocents; all the peoples of this and other worlds, they wouldn’t exist to be tortured for his sick amusement! Even better, if nothing existed, there wouldn’t be a Darren Clemson to arrogantly declare his self-assumed superiority…his self-proclaimed ‘mastery’ over history...over time and space.” I said as I felt that strange surge of energy increase even more! “Maybe time shouldn’t exist! Maybe the universes shouldn’t exist!”

Everything around us blurred out of focus, becoming a mess of fuzzy shapes, swirls, and some, only slightly, recognizable patterns.

“Empress, you don’t want to do this!” Emily cried. “Upper Management…”

“To hell with ‘Upper Management’, Emily Scott,” I interrupted! “They obviously don’t give a damn what this bastard does, so what do they care if I just nullify everything! ‘Upper Management’ won’t have anything to worry about anymore!”

“But, Alex, we’ll all die!” Emily cried in response. “Worse…we won’t exist!”

“Then that’s what needs to happen, Em! We need to put this evil back in the box that it escaped from!” I angrily hissed.

“Box? What box, Empress?” Emily asked as both she and Allie stared at me in complete confusion.”

“The box I originally locked him up in…eons ago.” I shouted as I licked the blood from my upper lip- the warm, metallic, taste spurring me on.

“But, Alex, that was Andora, not you.” Allie tried to argue.

“Let’s find out who it really was, shall we?” I growled evilly as I continued to glare maniacally at the now terrified man.


“This refuse has to be disposed of properly or things will just become worse and worse, mother.” I coldly answered the voice, not taking my eyes off our prisoner.

Our surroundings reverted somewhat. Shapes only marginally refocusing, colors only slightly returning.

“I know, and I concur, Alexandra. He does require judgment and he shall get exactly what he deserves, but you, my dear Empress…you will not be the one judging him today!”

The landscape around us reverted back to the horrid Civil War battlefield. Both sides had almost converged on us- Union from behind and Confederacy from ahead.

Clemson looked around, but managed not to look surprised.

“I knew you cunts didn’t have what it takes! You couldn’t hurt a flea- none of you!” He gloated.

“Move out of the way, Alexandra.” Ruth Scott growled from behind me, her bluish glow intensely bright.

“Awww, mommy is going to throw a tantrum now because her babies couldn’t protect the world. What a shame you can’t do anything to me either, queen bitch!” Clemson laughed deviously.

Time outside our bubble began to slow again. Everything moving at half normal speed.

“Mr. Clemson,” Momma began in a composed tone. “What you call me does not matter in the least. I do, however draw the line where my daughters are involved. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Ruth, Mother of the Empress of Time and Space. I consider Alexandra- both of them- extremely diligent, restrained, and fair in their work. I however,” Momma shot forward and grabbed Clemson’s shoulders.

I was so surprised by her aggression that my hold of time slipped and I wholly expected time to start moving forward normally.

It didn’t!

“…Have no such restraints, and I have no difficulty being your judge, jury, and executioner!” Momma continued as she stopped suddenly and yanked Clemson back toward us! She released him just as an older union soldier slowly ran through him. The soldier suddenly jerked sluggishly backward as his shoulder erupted in a spray of blood and ripped cloth.

“There is your justice, Darren Clemson!” She spat at the soldier now lying on his back.

For the former owner of the body as well as the many hundreds of other soldiers- North and South- lying around him in varying states of death, government policy or beliefs lost all relevance.

“You bitch! What did you do to me?” He screamed out in pain in the older man’s voice.

“I simply made it impossible for you to leave this time ever again, you wicked boy.” Momma laughed darkly. “Welcome to your new home, Darren Clemson. I hope you enjoy your new present. This time period was so…you!” Momma said as she suddenly looked to her right.

“Oh no, not yet, my friend.” She said as a Confederate soldier, still at half speed, stopped, raised his bayoneted rifle, and thrust it into the newly enslaved Clemson.

The bayonet slashed down through him and pulled back out as the soldier continued on his way. Clemson’ new face stared in shock.
Time resumed normal speed.

“Death will not claim you so easily, Mr. Clemson. There is more for you to experience before you pass from this realm into the next.” Momma callously told the wounded man.

A cannon ball exploded just to his left- the concussion lifted and threw him up and over us several feet to the right, but left momma and the three of us unaffected.

Taking a new head wound, Clemson moaned in pain before passing out and going limp.

“Mother? Did you just kill him? That isn’t what we saw happening to him.” Emily gasped out as she started toward him.

“He’s not dead, but he IS different than he was a minute ago, child.” Mother replied with a smug expression.

“How is he different?” Emily asked as she stopped before my bubble’s barrier.

“You should know and recognize this man from your earlier travels, dear. His brain’s speech center has suffered a massive trauma. It is unlikely he will ever be able to form two words again.” Momma Scott informed her. “Or walk for that matter.”

“Mother! How could you do something like this? How could you subject another human being to such suffering?” Emily cried out.

“He wasn’t much of a human, now was he? More monster, I’d wager. That was your conclusion as I recall.”

“Still, mother! He was a man- a human. You can’t just assume he was guilty on all counts and sentence him to a life worse than death.”

“He won’t be alone in there. I’m sure the other five personalities will keep him and each other company, Emily.”

“Mother, that’s not the point!”

“It’s absolutely the point, child! This man condemned billions of people- living or yet to be born- to a fate worse than death!” Momma argued. “I just returned the favor!”

“But Mother, what about ‘Upper Management’?” Emily cried.

“Alexandra, would you please tell your sister what she refuses to see?” Momma said looking between Allie and I.

“It’s another paradox, sis.” I said quietly.

“Condemning a man to suffer in a broken body with five different voices in his head? How is that a paradox, Alex?”

“Momma. Momma is the paradox, Emily, not Clemson. This is how momma comes to be our guardian…our mentor.” I told her sadly.

“So you knew.” Momma closed her eyes momentarily and nodded to the two of us.

“We had a general idea, Ma. I wasn’t sure until a minute ago, though.” Allie said for both of us.

Momma nodded once more.

“Now I must go, girls. I must go to stand judgment for my crime. I shall miss all three of you until we first meet. Take care, my Empress. Rule wisely and evenly, my daughters.”

Ruth Scott disappeared.

“Alex,” Emily cried, “do something!”

“Director, make sure Em gets back to Atlantis.” I ordered.

“Aye, Cmdr. Steinert.”

“WAIT! ALEX!” Emily shouted as I began to concentrate on where I wanted…needed to be.

I recognized my surroundings immediately- the warm, comfortable, living room; the large, fieldstone, fireplace with the crisp, crackling, fire ablaze in it; the overstuffed, wingback chair facing the fire- it looked exactly as my memories told me it should.

Above the fire- centered prominently on the thick, dark stained, wood mantel, sat a very familiar, small, wooden box. From my vantage point the bright brass latch- previously sprung- looked new, locked, and secure.

“Care to freshen up before we go, mother?” My voice asked from the chair. I noticed a pair of legs, crossed and barely showing from between the chair’s front legs.

“That all depends on where we’re going, Andora.” I replied calmly.

“I’m surprised you knew how to get back here…or even dared.” She said casually.

“And why wouldn’t I come? My mother is to answer for her actions and I wish to speak on her behalf; to offer myself up in her place if need be.” I answered stoically.

Andora’s head shot around the edge of the chair in surprise.

“Mother, I do not wish to see you perjure yourself because of a woman who is not actually your mother.”

“I wish to speak on behalf of my sister who is, in fact, the accused’s biological daughter- and it doesn’t matter if she officially adopted me as a daughter or not…I would speak for a complete stranger if I believed I could help.”

“Oh, mother!” Andora sighed heavily.

“My mind is set, Andora. You should know that once it is, nothing will stop me!”

“Then we shall depart for the place of reckoning, mother. I hope you are prepared for all you will stir up.” Andora replied as she stood gracefully from her chair and walked toward me. Her expression was sadder than I had ever seen.

“I am ready to face all charges, Andora.” I said as I offered her my hand.

“Mother,” she began, as she looked down at our linked hands, somewhat surprised. “I wish you wouldn’t. I know you do not trust in my existence, but I am your daughter and do not wish for you to go through with this.”

“Well, Andora…if I AM your mother then Ruth Scott is your Grandmother because I consider her one of my mothers. Logically, that would make you one of her granddaughters. Would you rather I let your Grandmother fend for herself in a court of her peers with no testimonial or representation on her behalf?” I asked as I gently squeezed her hand twice.

Andora remained silent for a moment- we both looked deeply into each other’s eyes. Again, as on our last meeting, I saw deep dark pools of warm feelings within those beautiful, green irises.

“You are right, mother, and your convictions are strong and well founded. Let us go and speak on Grandmother’s behalf.” Andora finally said with a warm, but sad smile.

The blackness that suddenly surrounded us reminded me of my private domain; only there was no star to be seen to provide the light or warmth. I had no clue where the light that dimly lit this place came from. Ahead of us, eight, worn, wooden church pews appeared from the darkness. All but the front two had ‘people’ seated in them already. A large wooden desk of the same apparent age appeared ahead of the pews, facing them- its chair unoccupied at the moment. Next to and offset slightly to the right of the desk, another empty, plain, wooden chair faced us.

This place reminded me all too much of a seventeenth century courtroom.

Andora and I advanced and she motioned for us to sit down in the empty, second row pew even though the first was empty also. We sat there silently for a few minute before Andora turned to me.

“I’m sorry mother, I have to do something. Please excuse me.” She said as she got up and walked forward.

Walking around then sitting down gracefully behind the large wooden desk, Andora adjusted the chair and looked at me sadly. She immediately wiped her eyes of a few tears that had appeared.

“This inquiry into the exploitation of power is hereby convened. Please present the accused.” She said sounding slightly choked up.

I was suddenly appalled- shocked that she would be Momma’s judge.

Ruth Scott suddenly appeared directly in front of me and began to look around. Seeing me, she flinched and her face saddened considerably.

“Alexandra, what are you doing here?” She whispered conspiratorially.

“Where else would I be?” I asked matter-of-factly with a sad smile.

“You. You, of all people, shouldn’t be here.” She continued to whisper.

“Tough, Ma. Ah’m here and Ah ain’t leavin’!”

“This inquiry will now come to order.” Andora said as she banged a gavel- I had no idea where it came from- on the desktop.

“In the matter of Ruth, Mother of the Empress of Time and Space and your abuse of powers on an insignificant human, how do you plead?”

“Guilty as charged, your honor.” Momma exclaimed proudly, her head held high.

Andora dropped her gavel and stared at her supposed Grandmother in shock. The people behind me gasped in surprise.

“Aren’t you even going to present a defense, mother?” I whispered as I leaned forward.

“And just what difference would that make, Alexandra? I did abuse my power and now I gladly accept my punishment, so there is no need to waste time on a useless trial.”

“Useless? Useless trial, mother? You, who presided over the most cockamamie tribunal I’ve ever attended?! How can you possibly think this one is more useless?” I asked, exasperated.

“Please go home, Alexandra. You have much work to do now that the Clemson threat has been neutralized. Go home and make me the proud mother I am.”

I stood up.

“Your honor. If it pleases the court, in order to ensure due process, I offer my services as representative for the defense and if allowable, wish to modify my tenative client’s plea.” I announced proudly so there was no mistaking my request or intent.

“Mother…Alexandra! Are you sure you want to represent the accused? Somehow I see a conflict of interest between you and your client.” Andora asked, an expression of surprise again showing on her lovely face.

“What is it with these humans? Must they always ruin our entertainment?” A woman’s voice asked coldly from behind me.

I instantly turned and stared back into the faces behind me, searching for the owner of that arrogant, rude voice. Not seeing emotion on any of the faces, I turned back toward Andora…our judge.

“You honor,” I began. “Is this or is this not an officially sanctioned inquiry into the accused’s misuse of powers?”

“I have been asked to preside over a formal inquest into the actions of Ruth as they pertain to the treatment of one Darren Clemson.”

“As I thought, your honor. Thank you for the clarification.” I said with a nod and continued. “May I inquire of this court, the reason for our gallery? For, if I am led to believe rightly, they are simply here for the ‘entertainment value’ and not to audience mature legal proceedings. If my client cannot receive a fair and legal ruling on her alleged digressions, what purpose does this inquiry serve if not amusement?” I asked as I glared back and over the people seated behind me.

There was another gasp from them and one woman- a raven-haired, Greek beauty, dressed in a white toga style dress blushed and looked down to the darkness that was the floor to escape my glare.

“The Alexandra has a valid argument. Those not interested in serious legal proceedings should exit this inquiry.” Andora…our judge declared.

“My sincerest thanks, your honor. At this time, may it please the court if I provide counsel to my client?” I asked.

“If that is what you wish, mothe…counselor. We will resume this inquiry when you have concluded the defendant’s counsel.”

Momma and I were back in the warm and inviting living room of wherever this place was.

“Alexandra, I don’t know what you are up to, but this is serious and very, very dangerous for you. Why didn’t you take my advice and go back to Atlantis?” She chastised.

I walked over to the fireplace and, very carefully, lifted the small, stained box from its place on the mantle. Just as a precaution, I examined the latch and both hinges for integrity.

“Alex and I have worked too hard; too long. We’ve experienced our sisters- our loved ones, vanished from existence too many times. I began to think I’d never get that evil back into this box, momma. It should have never been put in here in the first place.” I said carefully tapping the top of the container in my hand. “It only made things worse; worse for everyone. Something so angry and loathsome, restrained for that long, was bound to fester and grow. Its need for revenge grew exponentially, it seems.”

“What the devil are you talking about, Alexandra? What does that silly little box have to do with anything?” Ma demanded in confusion.

I didn’t expect her to understand. I bearly understood it myself.

“Apparently it has everything to do with…with all of it; all of this. Ma! But now that the evil has finally been returned, I’m even more determined to keep it from ever escaping again. And…and I will fight to my last breath to keep the universes safe from this.” I declared as I carefully put that insignificant, yet so significant, small, wooden box back in place on the fireplace mantle. Front and center so as not to be missed. To remind anyone seeing it just how destructive something so small and innocent looking could be.

“And I will not have my mother going to who-knows-where without as much as a whimper! You of all people should know I will stick to my guns until the very end, or…until I prevail.” I argued back.

“You hard-headed, blonde! You don’t know when to give up, do you?”

“Takes one ta know one Ma, and no, I don’t know when to give up! Especially when it’s family! Now, do you want my counsel or not?”

Ruth Scott turned to me and wrapped her arms around me, squeezing tightly.

“Alex, you crazy, crazy, girl! You make me so proud! Of course I accept you as my defense counsel.”

“Good, then let’s see how we can present what happened so that there is reasonable doubt to the original charge.” I advised as I began to picture where we had been.

We found ourselves back in the courtroom, but standing side by side in the front row this time.

Andora looked startled by our appearance. Hadn’t she expected us back so soon?

“This inquiry will now reconvene.” Andora said as she banged her gavel once more. “Counselor, I trust you and your client have agreed on her defense?”

I stepped forward. “We have your honor. My client pleads ‘guilty, but under extenuating circumstances’.”

I thought that sounded plausible given the ridiculous charges leveled on me at MY ‘Upper Management’ hearing.

“State the reasoning behind this specific plea, counselor.”

“Your honor, I submit that Ruth Scott is indeed guilty of over use of her gift, but also submit that it was in response to actions and slander on the part of one Darren Clemson that instigated the circumstances. Had he not verbally abused and debased my client’s three daughters face to face, such severe actions may not have resulted.”

“Slanderous accusations, counselor? Please elaborate.” Andora prompted, showing considerable interest.

“Your honor, the alleged victim, Darren Clemson, accused all three of my client’s daughters of illicit and lewd behaviors and also of prostituting themselves degradingly for profit. He also referred to them using vulgar, contemporary references to their genitalia, questioned their moral beliefs, and expressed lewd, disgusting, actions if they submitted to his nefarious intentions.”

“In other words he called you, Emily and Alexandra Reilly, whores, sluts and…”

“Yes, your honor, and on numerous occassions.” I quickly interrupted so she wouldn’t foul her tongue or soil her person.

That raised a murmur from our gallery of all women.

“In as much as my sisters and I ignored those comments and claims, they still impugned that we were less than honorable and virtuous. To insinuate or assault one’s character without foundation is regarded as slander on our world- in almost every other world that we’ve visited, in fact.” I explained. “Unfortunately, the aforementioned verbal onslaught did irritate the Empress into a very ill-thought course of action.”

“Go on, counselor; enlighten us as to what the Empress’ decided course of action entailed.”

I looked down sadly, took a breath, and looked back up to Andora.

“Your honor…I thought…that if…that if history didn’t exist…that…that the man, Clemson…he would have no issue or desire to change it and destroy billions of lives- that if there was no history…then there would be no Clemson at all- there would be nothing…anywhere. And if he did somehow survive, there would be no innocent lives for him to torture by repeated temporal extinctions.”

Not only did the gallery gasp loudly, our judge, Andora, did also!

He eyes widened significantly!

“Mother, how could you?! How could you even conceive of such a drastic recourse?” Andora asked, incensed. “Don’t you realize what you could have done? To all of us? Do you not yet understand your part in all our lives?”

“Alexandra is still relatively new to her craft, your honor.” Ruth said in my defense. “She has yet to fully understand the gravity of her actions.”

“On the contrary, mother, Your Honor, I understand all too well, the ramifications of what I attempted!” I countered angrily. My body began to tingle and I noted a bluish tint to our surroundings.

“Mother? I beg you to assert self-control. Can you provide detail to back up such drastic measures? What led to your dire assessment of the situation?” Andora questioned as she continued staring at me in disbelief.

“Clemson used our sister, Ricky Lynn, to acquire the means to enact his devious plan, your honor. He seduced, drugged her then left her to take full responsibility for what was to happen.” I took a breath and pushed those memories back.

“Once in possession of the time device, he took it upon himself to change the destiny of entire countries- including the country that afforded him his education and lodging. That single action drastically changed the course of history, disrupting the time line- ultimately negating the Empress and her sisters. Had some of us not gone back farther than his reach extended, that is exactly what would have happened,” I paused.

“At least four different times the Sisterhood of Kili has been devastated- purged completely from existence- for what? To appease a single man’s whims of what history should have been- what some ‘historical experts’ theorized to be the truth? To wantonly change his standing and assert control! In essence, to become some supreme leader of the world or universe!”

“Your honor, I would not speculate as to his true intentions or endgame; that is not my gift, but I knew…I felt, with all my heart, that this man somehow wanted to be God, or no less assume the role of the Creator.”

“So, in essence, you felt Clemson to be what you would call the ‘antichrist’- the defiler of humanity…of your universe?”

“I do. No human should have that much power at his or her disposal, your honor.” I answered with conviction. “No human should ever have the power to play God!”

“Yet here you stand, mother- a human with the power to delete history- to defeat time himself- to effectively delete as many universes as you feel necessary. The power to delete all of us and yourself just to punish a single, simple, greedy, immoral human; not unlike you?”

“I will not deny being human, your honor. I do, however, take offense to the implication that all humans, me included, are greedy, simple, and immoral! Ruth Scott’s and my records- as well as those of my sisters and millions of other’s throughout the universes, counter that generalized assumption.”

“Your honor, Alexandra has proven exemplary in her capacity as Empress. Her single indiscretion should not be assigned the same weight as my blatant act of damnation and subsequent incarceration of a man’s soul into a would-be dead man’s husk OR my many other infractions over the years.” Momma pleaded.

“Who is defending whom here, mother?” I asked, looking to her in disbelief.

“Indeed, Grandmother. Who shall this inquiry pass judgment on since both counsel and defendant claim equal ownership of punishable offences?” Andora asked. She looked at both Ruth and I for several minutes before saying anything.

“Counsel, perhaps we should hear more of your exploits concerning Darren Clemson? Please continue your dialog of the events leading up to your final confrontation.”

“As I stated previously, Clemson, using the stolen time device, erased our sisterhood from existence several times. Each time, I and several of my protected sisters found methods to restore those existences along with thousands, even millions, of other innocents that never had a clue as to what had just happened. Your honor, I have spent the last five years of my life rehashing history in order to right the wrongs that Darren Clemson created while playing God! Five years of near sleepless work that should’ve never been necessary. Five years dedicated to bringing the time line closer to its original configuration.” I stated as calmly as possible.

“Your honor, in order to expedite justice, I ask the court’s forgiveness for my actions to date and subsequent attitude in this chamber and request full restoration of all pending charges, but to me exclusively. I will not offer further defense on my behalf, I only ask that all charges against my client be transferred to me and expunged from her record. If this pleases the court, I now submit myself to the full authority and whims of this inquiry.”

“Alexandra! Don’t do this, child! You can’t understand what you’ve just agreed to! On this plane of existence you have no inkling as to what punishments await. I implore you, my Empress, recant while you still can!”

“I’m sorry, mother; I’m not going to retract anything. You have paid for your sins and it is now my turn to answer for what I have done. As you claim, I am THE Empress. Therefore, it is my responsibility to answer for whatever those under me have done in my name. Your honor, please pronounce sentence and end this inquiry presently.” I said stoically, bracing myself for whatever came next. Holding my head high, I closed my eyes and waited before my ‘firing squad’.

“Enough!” The same woman’s voice as before shouted from behind us. “I’ve heard enough!”

“Alexandra and Ruth, this is an inquiry and not a trial.” The woman said. She was somehow now suddenly standing right beside me.

“You both have proven your dedication to each other and to your cause. I would find little guilt on either of you should I have found myself in similar situations. Have either one of you not realized that we have been watching- that we are always watching?”

“We have ma’am, and both of us have seen the possible outcomes of this inquiry today. We both understand the seriousness implied here also.” I replied, as I remained facing forward- afraid to look this woman in the eyes.

She began to giggle then her giggle turned to pleasant, melodic, laughter.

“Oh, Alexandra, you will face no retribution if you look upon this face. After all, it is just one of many given me by the various sentient beings throughout existence.”

I gulped as I turned slowly to view the beautiful, perfect face- the perfect smile and brilliant green eyes. She winked at me.

“There. Is what you see so horrific?”

I shook my head slowly a couple of times in silence.

“Ruth, your daughter is everything you claimed her to be, and more. Though not my choice for the position, she certainly convinced us that we were in err. You may now proceed to your next assignment- that of mentoring the newly chosen Empress of Time and Space. Teach her well, as we have seen you have, sister. Please keep me updated on her progress, though we all know the summation of that progress already.” She said.

Ruth…momma nodded.

“As you wish, ma’am, and thank you.”

Ruth Scott turned me around and wrapped her arms around me.

“I knew you could do it, Alexandra! I’m so proud of you, as I am of all my children! I’ll see you girls around. Take care.” Momma said as she released me and vanished.

“Alexandra, join me?” The woman beside me asked- not ordered- and offered her hand.

Taking it cautiously, we walked to and around the large wooden desk to where Andora was now standing with a warm, wonderful, smile.

“You should be very proud of your mother, young one.”

“I am, very much, ma’am. I am also extremely impressed with how she challenged and overcame all advances father made- how forgiving she was- knowing he had cheated- several times, in fact. I have never met a woman of her character in all my existence.”

“And have you learned anything from those observations?”

“Oh, I have, ma’am. She is quite the role model- much more dynamic and caring than father.” Andora admitted happily.

The woman next to me nodded.

“Then I consider your visit here concluded, Alexandra. Time to return and finish the missions you have left open- those so-called ‘paradoxes’ you have yet to close.” The woman took a step back and bowed regally.

“Continue wisely and morally, my loving, young Empress. We will continue watching.”

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