With their mission to Celestra completed, Alex and company take time out to ‘soar’ with the Pixies before tackling their next mission of…
E.S. Atlantis, Standard Year 258:01:26
“Hey, mom. You get some rest?” My daughter, Reggie asked, as I walked out into the living area from my bedroom, my hand covering a deep yawn.
“How long was I out, honey?”
“About eighteen hours.” She answered as if it were nothing special. To me it was the longest I had slept in years- six and a half to be exact. Not counting my layover on Terra Nuevo, that is.
“So how goes the housing assignments for our newest passengers?” I asked as I sat down beside her.
“Everyone has been assigned quarters, mom.” Reggie paused ten seconds. “Of course you know we reunited several families…several separated family members that had given up hope of ever seeing they’re abandoned loved ones again.”
I nodded. “It’s what we do, honey.”
“I’m really proud of you, mom.” Reggie said as she snuggled up to me.
“And I’m so proud of what you did too, young lady! You really helped out back on Celestra.”
“I really didn’t do that much, mom.” She replied back, embarrassed. “I only did what I saw was right- what would help the time line.”
“But Amy, Lena, Romney, Cami, Cassi, Billie, Gena, Franny, Quinten, and Gram helped too. Even Andie and Reggie helped!” She argued.
“Also correct, honey. We all work well together. It’s called teamwork and the Empress has a great team to support her. Though…” I smiled as I looked around the room, “You might want to add a few more names to that list you just rattled off.”
My daughter took the hint and slowly looked around our living area.
“That’s downright creepy! Don’t they have stalking laws on your Earth, girls?” Reggie asked the twenty Pixies sitting about the room, silently watching and listening to our conversation.
Trina flew down from one of the lampshades and exited Pixie mode.
“Yuuka suggested we keep an eye on you, Alex…in case you decided to go back for more survivors.” She said sitting down on the lounge chair opposite Reggie and I.
“I’d go back if there were still any winners of the lottery still marooned on Celestra, honey.”
“You mean the rest are all dead, Empress?” Abigail, one of Allie’s original six, asked in shock.
“Many people regarded the ‘Exodus Lottery’ as an attempt to legitimize upper-class priority.” I told everyone in the room. “So, only about a sixth of the planet actually participated.”
“That’s so sad! Why would everyone think that, Alexandra?” Allie asked as she grew up and sat next to my Reggie on the couch.
“Because it was mostly true, honey.” I shook my head several times thinking about several scenarios I had run. “It was decided early on that some intelligent choice needed to be put into action. Starting over on a new planet requires the talents of many trades- mostly skilled professionals like Engineers, Carpenters, Doctors...” I related.
“Sending just laborers, skilled or unskilled laypeople, without proper oversight, lowered the chances of survival drastically. So, in essence the lottery was more of a quota system and not an actual game of chance.”
“So…does Commodore Celeste know about the sham?” Trina asked curiously.
“Why not ask her, girls? Time to phase in, sis.” I said to the air behind me.
“Aunt Andie, you should know better! It’s been how many months since meeting the Empress?” Reggie giggled as she turned her head and body almost entirely around next to me.
E.S. Atlantis, Standard Year 258:01:28
“How are the new recruits, girls? Andie asked, looking around the room without responding to my Reggie’s admonishment.
“Simone and Ginger are the most oblivious Pixies I’ve ever met, Commodore.” Allie declared without pause. “I’ve seen rocks in complete freefall that can grasp the basics of flight a hundred times faster than those two!”
“Wow, don’t sugar-coat it, honey!” I giggled.
“It’s true, Alex! Those two couldn’t fly a straight line if they were plastered on the windscreen of a fast moving, land-based vehicle going down a straight highway!”
“Wow…harsh.” Reggie giggled.
“They’ll get better, honey. We just need to get them drunk.” I assured my winged sisters candidly.
“Huh? Get them drunk? Why, Alex?” Trina asked, completely confused by what I said.
“I thought that’s how they got this way, Alex?” Maribelle, one of Mei-Lee’s great-granddaughters asked, looking very perplexed as she too grew up.
“Nope. Yuuka took them straight into Pixie mode…without any nanos in their system, honey. Virgin humans. Pixie mode is their base-form now. They must complete their Mahanilui in order to receive their gift- to be able to grow into ‘human mode’.”
“No way!” Annibelle, Maribelle’s natural- born twin shouted out as she too left Pixie mode.
“So…everything about those two is back-assward?” Trixi, Maribelle’s daughter, summarized, as she too grew to normal, human proportions and took a seat next to her mother and aunt on the side of the lounge chair.
“It happens sometimes, girls.” I said raising my hands to shoulder height, palms facing up.
“So…you’ve seen this sort of thing before, right?” Andie asked in a hesitant tone.
“Well…no…not really. This is the first time it’s happened…actually.” I him-hawed. “But I do know that things will work out for your Pixies, sis.”
Andie’s mouth dropped open and her eyes bulged for twenty long seconds.
“Mmmmmyyyyy Pixies?” My sister finally gasped out in surprise. “Why would I need any Pixies, Alex? What makes you think I even want any Pixies on Atlantis?”
Twenty pairs of eyes- both grown up and Pixie-sized- stared back angrily at my half-sister.
Did the room’s temperature suddenly fall twenty points?
“Present company excluded…of course.” She added timidly as she fearfully glanced around the room.
“Wow! That was a close one!” My Reggie declared with a slight giggle. “There was almost a canna Pixie whoop-ass opened in here! Good thing you’re related to the Empress, Aunt Andie! It coulda got reeeeal uuuugly!”
My quarter’s door opened and Yuuka walked in slowly, stopping with her hand in the doorway to keep it from closing.
“Oh, come on! I haven’t got all day, you two! Simone! Keep your attention on where you’re going and not where you’ve been! Ginger, quit playing with your breasts and pay attention to flying straight and level!” Yuuka growled to the yet, unseen new Pixies. She rolled her eyes in annoyance.
Our two newest Pixies ‘fluttered’ aimlessly into the room, awkwardly gained some altitude, and immediately tumbled onto the top of an end table instead of landing gracefully. Trina, Annibelle, Maribelle, and Trixi, as well as our other winged sisters, palmed their faces in embarrassment.
“Like I said, Alex, Flight sense worse than a rock! Attention spans’ about the same, too!” Allie complained as she pointed to her newest, clumsiest, winged sisters with a ‘there’s your proof’ hand gesture.
“Look, lady! This wasn’t our idea-oophhh.” The brunette Pixie shouted as she flew straight and true, angered by the comment. Allie simply batted the small, flying, woman away without a thought.
“You should have been able to avoid that! Rookie!” Allie hissed critically.
“Why can’t you fly that straight when you’re not angry?” Yuuka asked of the two as Simone picked herself up off the floor in front of where I sat on the couch. The redhead, still on the end table, simply and silently shrugged her tiny shoulders.
“Sorry you had to see that, Alex.” Allie apologized. She set her stare on both new Pixies. “If I could learn to fly at age six, these morons shouldn’t have any troubles like they do. They just frustrate the beeswax out of me!”
“We can make beeswax? What orifice does that come out of?” Simone questioned obliviously.
“I’d shut my mouth if I were you, Simone. I know for a fact she pulled that slap. The next one will probably do damage- a lot of it.” Yuuka warned.
“And that one didn’t?” Simone complained as she rubbed her tiny buttocks with both hands.
“Not as much as it could have, toots…” Yuuka’s eyes shot instantly to the other Pixie. “Ginger! Stop that this instant! You’ll go blind!” Yuuka growled angrily, appalled by what the mute Pixie was doing in ‘public’.
Again the older Pixies in the room palmed their faces in embarrassment.
“Yuuka, Trina, and Allie?” I asked to get their attention. “Please take me to Pixie mode. I think I might be able to help them.”
The room hushed as all eyes locked on me.
“Fly, that is.” I specified.
“You can’t be serious, Alex?” Andie gasped after ten seconds.
“Mom? Do you really think this is wise? I mean…you haven’t done this before, have you?” Reggie’s eyes were wide with concern.
“Alex Steinert had me take her to Pixie mode on our mission to 1942 Burma. Both shared memories so your mother should do fine, Reggie.” Yuuka responded as she took the few steps needed to stand before me. “I can do it alone if you two object.”
“Then take me to Pixie mode too, Yuuka!” Reggie demanded. “If ma insists on doing somethin’ stupid, I’m goin’ along to make sure she’s alright!”
“Would it work on me, I wonder.” Andie debated just above a whisper. “I’ve been curious…”
“Use your gift, sis. That should answer your question.” I advised with a smile.
After Andie’s eyes reopened, she grinned deviously as she nodded to me, but her smile waned a moment.
“What else did you see, sis?” I asked as I stood up.
“Regina’s on her way here…in three, two, one.”
“Andromeda Celeste! I forbid you to enter Pixie mode unless I am able to be by your side!” My half-sister shouted as she stormed into my quarters.
“No.” Andie exclaimed holding her hand up to stop our sister. “You can’t do it because of the baby, Reg. Stay back. I’ll be alright…promise.”
“Alex? Tell her she’s crazy!” Regina Celeste urged.
“She’ll be fine, Reg.” I reassured my younger half-sister. “Ladies? Anyone else want to be a Pixie? Mom? Cami? Franny? …Cassi?” I added, staring at the right side wall.
Those people named appeared right where I stared.
“Is it anything like going to ‘Mermaid mode?” Mom…Alexis, asked with a giggle.
“I would imagine it to be similar, yes.” I answered, though I really didn’t know since I’d never gone swimming with Rommie yet.
“Quinn? You want to come along?” I asked while trying to keep the devilish smile I felt surfacing in check.
“Wouldn’t I end up like those two geniuses?” He asked, pointing to Simone and Ginger, now both on the end table again.
“No, not necessarily.” I giggled as my restrained smile burst forth.
“IIIIIIII…I think I’ll pass on this one, girls. Thanks, but no thanks.”
I noticed Franny snap her fingers in disappointment.
“Ladies? Take us to Pixie mode, please. We’ll need three of you.” I announced as I offered my hands to those willing.
Trina, Allie and Yuuka joined our circle.
“Ready Squadron Leader. “ Allie and Trina chorused simultaneously.
Alex Steinert’s memories of this transformation were very detailed and concise. I felt every nerve in my body fire in perfect synchronization as the process initiated. At last my Reilly initiated a system diagnostic and recalibration before automatically selecting the appropriate covering.
The hands on either side of me released and I immediately heard Andie cry out.
“OOOUCH! That hurt!”
I was suddenly looking down at Andie, my Reggie, Mom, Cami, Franny, and Cassi. Andie had fallen backwards on her buttocks. She sported a pair of light pink wings with small splashes of pastel blue. Cami, Franny, and Cassi’s wings were a darker purple than Yuuka’s and all three had differing shades of red splashed in. My daughter and mom’s wings…they looked almost like Alex’ memories of ours- translucent wings only with powdery pink splashes instead of the bright pink ‘smudges’I knew mine had. Reggie’s smudges, however, were much closer in shade to mine.
“Showing off already, Empress?” Quinn gloated with a forced smile.
“I’ve sync’ed with my temporal twin, Quinn. She’s already done this, remember?” I answered as I flew up closer to his face.
“Hey! How did you do that so fast?” Simone asked as she was suddenly hovering unsteadily off to my right.
‘She’s the Empress, you twit! Even I know that she can do some really amazing things.’ An unfamiliar voice thought into my head.
“Who said that?” I asked, looking around the room where a single male human and a single female human stood in astonishment. Reggie Celeste had to have seen this, but from the gaping hole where her mouth was supposed to be, maybe not.
‘Forgive my friend for not grasping such a simple concept, Empress. Though I’m as guilty about my grace in precision flying as she, I am not as oblivious.’
Looking to my left, I saw Ginger hovering, but wavering slightly, with a smile on her face.
“I didn’t know you could talk, honey.” I told her out loud.
‘Though borne mute, Yuuka’s wonderful ‘accident’ has given me a way, exclusive as it is, to have my voice heard. Though, I was afraid to let my older sisters know of this miracle for fear of extended ridicule. Still, I thank you both with all my heart, Empress!” The redheaded Pixie thought back as she bowed to me. A single tear rolled down her cheek.
“OOOOUUUUCH!” Andie’s cry of pain caught my attention again. Flying down and landing gracefully next to my troubled sister, I offered my hand.
“How can you just up and fly as if you’ve done it all your life?” Andie asked as she finally stood next to me.
“Don’t over think it, sis.” I said as I held her arms in mine and started to hover a few centimeters off the ground. Andie became shorter then was looking me in the eyes again. I increased my altitude with Andie keeping stride.
I smiled deviously as I released my sister’s arms and hovered back from her.
Andie’s eyes almost popped out of their sockets.
I motioned with a nod for her to follow me and flew back down to the others.
Reggie was nowhere to be seen, Mom had a frown on her face, and the three Daroughs were hovering cross-legged a few millimeters above the floor.
Their wings weren’t moving.
“What is the use of going to Pixie mode if you three won’t use your wings?” I asked with a raised eyebrow and my arms crossed.
“We’re working on it, Alex.” Cami remarked. “Some of us aren’t as quick as you, Reggie, or even Andie.”
Cassi suddenly shot off toward the ceiling, ‘whooping’ excitedly.
“Excuse her, Alex. Apparently my daughter grew restless while waiting for Alexis to figure things out.”
“You two go have some fun. I’ll handle mom.” I said with a smile.
Cami and her mom shot toward the ceiling to join Cassi…
I just happened to catch a dusty pink blur streak across the living area wall adjoining our bedrooms and lavatory.
‘You better slow down, honey. Atlantis’ stock of honey is limited.’ I focused and thought to my daughter.
Reggie was suddenly in my face and jabbed her finger into my shoulder.
“Tag! You’re it!” She shouted and sped away. Without thinking, the urge hit me and I found myself catching up to her with my hand and pointer finger extended out to tag her.
Goddess! This was fun!
“Ummmm, Alex?” Yuuka said pulling up beside me as I banked around the couch for the…umm...twentieth or thirtieth time. “Wasn’t the whole point of this to teach Simone and Ginger how to fly?”
I slowed down realizing that I was having waaay too much fun.
“Slipped my mind, honey. Sorry.”
Yuuka began shaking her head with an amused smile.
“It’s okay, Alex. The Skipper did the exact same thing on our mission to Burma. Can we attend our two new sisters now?”
I nodded sadly, broke off my chase of Reggie, and flew over to Simone and Ginger. The two were patiently standing on the end table. Settling gracefully and lightly next to them, Yuuka and I smiled.
“So, Ginger, questions?” I asked as Yuuka looked over at me in surprise.
‘My actual name is Grange, but I suppose ‘Ginger’ fits my new predicament much better, Empress.’ The redheaded Pixie thought to me…
“You can talk?” Yuuka gasped.
And apparently Yuuka, too.
A silent giggle escaped Ginger’s mouth, but we both heard it in our minds.
‘As I told the Empress, I was borne mute, Yuuka. Though an accident, I thank you for granting me the privilege of finally having a voice.”
Yuuka wrapped her arms around the girl for a full minute.
‘Ginger?’ I thought to her and Yuuka.
‘My name is Alexandra or Alex, honey. I’d be honored if you called me that instead of ‘Empress’ all the time.’
‘I’ll try to remember that, Alex, thank you.’
Ginger’s face turned to a frown.
‘So. How do you do it, Alex? How do you fly straight and true?’
‘Don’t try to over think it, honey. You noticed how Simone flew much better when she had her mind focused on her anger instead of her wings? Try to clear your mind and think about where you want to go. Don’t focus on the how or why. You have the ability to fly anywhere you want, Ginger, so don’t dwell on the mechanics.’ I instructed our novice Pixie. I also thought of mom while I did.
From the corner of my eye, I saw another pinkish blur shoot ceiling-ward.
‘Thank you, Alexandra.’ Mom thought her thanks.
Ginger noticed too and slowly began to hover off the tabletop.
‘I think I have it figured out, Alex. What do you think?’ She smiled outwardly.
Trina hovered over between Ginger and I.
“Tag! You’re it!” She shouted as she poked the redhead in the shoulder before shooting off in a blur of yellow.
Ginger was gone instantly!
‘By the Seven Worlds! This is Amazing!’ Ginger shouted in my mind, excitedly.
“How do you make it look so easy, Alex?” Yuuka asked as I landed next to her and we both tracked the red-haired Pixie’s flight path around the room.
“Not a clue, honey. All I did was restate what you said back in the subway station. Maybe there’s a difference coming from the Empress?” I answered with a shrug.
“Okay, so…will it work on the ‘hard case’?” Yuuka asked skeptically.
“We’ll find out now. Ready?” I asked as I hovered over to a very discontented Simone.
“I never knew he could speak. He never said anything- ever. Not in the fifty years I’ve known him. Empress, I never knew he was born without a voice!” Simone shook her head in shame. “And…and I guess I never thought to ask.”
I wondered if she realized what she was saying, and about who? I decided not to correct the ditzy brunette.
“So what? Before a few days ago you didn’t know any of us existed- I was just an old wives tale. Maybe you just need to think more openly, Simone.” I challenged as I took her hands and began to pull gently.
“I’ve never been open-minded, Empress. I’ve always stuck to what was known and fixed. This flying thing it’s…it’s so different! It scares me tremendously.” Simone admitted sadly.
“What’s to be frightened of, honey? I mean, you have wings, so, unless something catastrophic occurs, you shouldn’t fall, right?” I inquired as I hovered slightly off the side table’s flat, smooth, top.
“But what if I forget to use them? What if I wake up and I’m actually standing on the ledge of some tall building?” She countered as tears lazily rolled down her cheeks.
“Look, honey, this is no dream; that, I can assure you. You really are a Pixie and this really is your reality.” I said as I looked directly into her teary eyes. If I could hold her attention for a few more moments...
“Simone, you are as much gifted as Ginger. My advice to her and also to you is to stop thinking too hard about using those beautiful wings of yours and just use them.”
“Don’t use doubletalk on a confirmed panhandler, Empress. I’ve heard and practiced it all.” She advised me sadly.
“Really?” I asked with a devious grin. “So, earlier when you got so upset at Allie, you intentionally concentrated on flying straight at her face to punch her, right?”
“She didn’t have to say those things about us, Empress! We’re trying our hardest to master these things! Ginger and I aren’t as adept as you and the others at flying or hov-ver-ing. EEEEEK!” Simone squeaked as she finally noticed that we had slowly hovered almost a meter away from the safety of the side table.
Her wings sputtered and stopped. Simone dropped to the floor instantly. I did, however, notice that her wings began to beat in order to slow her decent. As a result she hit the tightly looped, textile floor much slower than expected.
I decided to try a different method.
“What a loser!” I shouted, laughed, and pointed to her as she picked herself off the floor.
Simone looked up to where I hovered, perplexed; tears now streaming down her face in embarrassment.
“Allie is right! You really are the dumbest Pixie in the histories of the infinite universes! I’m sorry I even had the vision to help you and Ginger escape you’re fate. I should’ve left you to the apocalyptic thugs that were only minutes away from that subway station. They would have turned you into bitches like I did, but not in a way you’d enjoy.” I goaded.
“Please…don’t say that, Empress! I’m trying…”
“Trying isn’t the word, Simon! You’ve more than tried everyone’s patience! I’ve killed insects that have been less of a pestilence; less of a one man plague!” I continued to accuse.
“Shut up! I said I’m trying!”
“And I’m saying you are way worse than that, Simon!” I continued to prod. I was counting on her anger to snowball out of control very soon.
“Really? I demean you and call you stupid and the best you can do is order me to shut up? Not only are you a loser, but you’re a coward too!”
“I told you to shut up!” She shouted.
“A lowly, stupid, loser of a coward! How do you even live knowing that such a useless, poor excuse for a human being exists? What’s the use in trying to teach you anything? You’re nothing but a waste of wings, Simon!”
“I said, SHUT UP!” She barked in full fury!
“Why should I? It’s not like you could fly up here, let alone actually catch me, to stop me!” I shouted and took one last dig.
“What a Loser!” I laughed hysterically as I pointed to her.
Simone had closed the gap between us by half before I reacted and took off at fleet speed away from her. She continued to close on me, flying straight and true!
“You won’t catch me you pathetic loser!” I shouted as I increased my speed slightly.
Simone was right on my tail and continued to gain on me. I increased my speed again. I still had a little more before I’d need to cheat.
“Catch me if you can, loser!” I goaded as I went to full speed.
Still Simone gained on me. I wondered if she even realized she was flying faster than even Allie could. I decided to go for broke.
“Oh, come on! Is that all you’ve got; how absolutely pitiable!?” I laughed as I went to ‘warp’- as Alex Steinert called it. I slowed time down slightly for everyone but me.
Simone remained oblivious, but still gained on me! I could feel her trying to grab my feet.
Just as I thought she might grasp my ankle, she began to slow and drop back. I restored time to normal around me and began to slow also, matching her velocity exactly.
‘Alex? What did you just do?’ Allie asked in thought. ‘It’s like the two of you were flying almost at the speed of light! I’ve never seen any Pixie fly that fast before- ever!’
‘Simone? Have y’all burn’t out that anger of yours yet, or are y’all still hell-bent on knocking mah teeth out?’ I asked as I focused my thoughts to her.
‘You’re right, Empress. I AM a total loser.’ She thought back sadly. ‘I’ll just space myself and end this wretched nightmare I’ve entered. Let me say goodbye to Ginger.”
Simone slowed to a stop and hovered, with her head slumped forward.
‘Cami, or Cassi, could you replay what y’all observed of our lil’ competition?’ I thought to my Mind Warriors.
“Huh?” Simone gasped as she apparently was receiving the archive. “That was me? How?”
“That’s what we were wondering, girl!” Allie asked as she flew up and hovered next to the rookie.
Everyone with wings came to hover around the newest brunette Pixie. All wanted to know how such incredible speed was possible.
Mom, Andie, and Reggie flew over to me.
“I noticed that you and the rest of the family started to glow, Alexandra. Did you actually cheat by slowing time around you?” Mom accused politely as Andie’s mouth dropped open.
“Ah had to show her what she’s capable of, ma. Simone’s the kinda person that needs physical proof to believe.”
“Alex! That was possibly the most fantastic thing I’ve ever seen!” Quintin Darough bubbled over. “I didn’t realize Pixies could fly so fast!”
“Normally they cain’t, but that’un does, an’ quite well, Ah might add. Ah had ta slow time ‘round me to keep ‘heada her.”
Simone’s mouth dropped open as she realized what I meant.
“That was a dirty trick- pushing my anger like that, Empress!” Simone hissed as she stomped her foot while hovering towards me.
“Normal techniques didn’t seem ta be workin’, hun. Ah had ta try somethin’ a might risky to prove y’all ain’t never gonna be no loser.” I looked to Trina and Allie.
“She pass muster now, gals?” I asked.
They both answered by way of a smile.
Simone frowned as she considered something.
“Empress. While poking my anger you called me ‘Simon’ several times. I request you call me Simone from here on.”
“An’ Ah request y’all call me Alex or Alexandra from here on, hun. We square?” I asked as I offered my hand.
“Weren’t you afraid of what would’ve happened if I had caught you, Alex?” She asked as we shook hands.
“Nope. Seen it all happen when Ah run the scenarios, hun. Even if’n y’all did manage ta grasp mah foot, Ah’da just stopped time completely, freed mahself, an’ ported away. Mah sister calls it a tactical retreat.”
“Speaking of sisters, Alex, you’re starting to sound like her, sweetie. You might consider resting a spell.” Mom suggested as she placed a hand on my shoulder.
I woke up with a start. Everything looked incredibly huge! Was I really awake or was I having a multilayered dream like I remembered Alex Steinert had when she suffered from Hathor’s strange genetic sickness. I finally worked out, using my gift that I was laying on my pillow.
And I was still in Pixie mode!
With a loud growl, my stomach let me know it wanted food. The urge to eat was suddenly very strong. I wanted something sweet and needed it now! I thought about how Yuuka dove into a container of honey…my mouth started to water ferociously at just the thought of the word!
Goddess! I wanted honey! I needed honey!
I ported out to the living area and found everyone except Quinn still in Pixie mode.
“Welcome back, Alex. Have a good snooze?” Quinn asked pleasantly.
Quinn grimaced and nodded.
“Got it all ready for you, Empress.” He said as he pointed to the coffee table where a huge- to me at the present- bowl sat containing a golden tinted, thick, viscous fluid.
I was past drooling as my first handful emptied into my mouth. I’d never realized how good this stuff tasted when eaten out of your own hand. Of course, I was so ravenously hungry I might have forgotten and started eating my own hand if I wasn’t careful!
“Wow, mom, that’s a scary sight.” Reggie whistled as she kept her distance from me.
I fought the urge to climb into the container and start licking it clean.
“Alexandra! I thought I taught you better!” Alexis growled as she stood across the bowl from me with her arms crossed and a disappointed scowl. “As Empress of Time and Space, you need to keep up your royal appearance, young lady! What would the commoners think should they see you like this?”
“They’d think Ah’s hungry, Ma!” I sassed as I found a spot I missed and quickly used my index finger to wipe it up.
“Alexandra. I think its time you grew up. You’re starting to act ‘barbaric’, and no daughter of mine should act so ill-mannered and rude.” Ma chastised.
I decided to savor the film of honey a while longer as I stuck my finger in my mouth and slowly ran my tongue over it.
“I’m not even going to ask where you learned that, Alexandra. Now exit Pixie mode, please.” Ma growled as she watched me in disgust.
Slowly, I flew off the coffee table and landed softly on the textile flooring. I willed myself to grow up and felt the tingle of my body transforming, gaining height and mass. As before, my Reilly went through a series of diagnostics and a required covering change automatically.
“Welcome back to the grown-up world, Empress.” Quintin Darough greeted pleasantly.
One by one, my sisters all left Pixie mode.
“Now that…that was fun!” Reggie giggled uncontrollably as she hugged each of our Pixie sisters. “We’ll have to do that again!”
Simone and Ginger hovered up to me.
“Thank you very much, Empress.” Simone started then looked to her new sister. “What? Oh, okay.” She nodded and continued. “Ginger would like to know if we really are part of the Commodore’s ‘Royal Court’ now.”
“If Andie gives her approval, AND y’all promise to behave yerselves.” I smiled and looked over to my half-sister.
“And I’ll ask again, Alex. What am I going to do with two Pixies of my very own?” Andie glared at me in contempt.
“Well, the school kids’ll never have to wonder when Yuuka or the other Pixies are coming for a visit. You can also have ‘em provide reconnaissance after landing on Earth. And…and they kin get inta the smallest places around the ship to inspect otherwise unreachable components.” I offered as the sucrose started to infuse into my bloodstream.
Andie thought a minute then sighed heavily.
“Alright. Welcome to the staff here on Atlantis, girls.”
“Great!” I giggled. “Now let’s celebrate!”
I walked over to the food and beverage dispenser.
“Two, ten milliliter containers and eight, two hundred-fifty milliliter containers of Pa Steinert’s Blue Ribbon Recipe, please.” I ordered. In English.
Andie, Mom, Reggie, Cassi, Cami, and Yuuka quickly stared at me as I carefully took the two ‘thimbles’ of Pa’s Blue Ribbon Moonshine out of the machine and set them down on the end table.
“Here, ladies. Hold off though, until we all get ours, please.” I said as I passed the other, much larger glasses to my mission sisters.
“Twenty, two hundred-fifty milliliter containers of Pa’s Blue Ribbon Recipe, please.” I again ordered from the food dispenser.
I passed one out to all our Pixie sisters.
“To Simone and Ginger! Welcome to the family!” I offered via a toast before downing the smooth, yet potent, liquor.
Within five minutes of downing their drinks, both new Pixies were fast asleep.
They would remain asleep for about three hours while the Mahanilui worked its ‘magic’.
E.S. Atlantis, Standard Year 258:01:29
I had foreseen the tall, lithe, and athletic, brunette cautiously entering my living area with her head slumped forward.
“Ya, honey.” I answered without even looking toward the voice.
“Um…it’s…iiiiit’s me? Simone?”
“What’s the problem, hun?” I asked as I turned the page of my book, a Celestrian science-fiction composition entitled ‘Escaping Metropolis’. It was publicized as predicting the exodus from the planet via a spacecraft similar to Atlantis. I found it surprising that the author, one Andruth Scotto, had been so accurate and precise. The book even had an appendix of conceptual drawings that looked remarkably…eerily reminiscent…of the ship we currently inhabited.
“IIIIIIIII…I need your advice, Empress.” The woman’s voice wavered.
“Sorry, but it’s the Empress’ day off, Simone. Can I help you instead?” I replied, turning my attention from the top of the right page to the bottom of the left as I continued to read.
“Ma’am…um…Alex? I…” my newest sister paused ten seconds. I heard her swallow hard. “Alex? Am I…supposed to look like this? I…I thought Ginger and I were to be Pixies for the rest of our lives? How can I be like this again?”
“The liquor I gave you last night triggered the nanobots in your body. You and Ginger have gone through a process we sisters call the Mahanilui. Everyone that goes through the Mahanilui receives a specific, individual set of, what we call ‘gifts’, honey. That is yours.”
“Nan…nanobots? How did they, whatever they are, get into me?”
“They were suspended in the water I offered you and Ginger back in the subway station, hun. Welcome to the sisterhood.” I revealed as I turned another page.
“So where is your sister, hun? If I’m to answer any more questions, you both should be here so I don’t repeat myself.” I inquired, still not looking toward my guest.
My quarter’s door opened again.
“Thank you very much for the assistance, Camille. Things look very different at this size and I didn’t want to find myself lost in my new home. Empress? May I enter your residence?” Ginger asked kindly. She had a beautiful voice thanks to her Mahanilui.
“Like Ah told yer sister, honey. It’s the Empress’ day off. Take a seat.” I patted the cushion next to me on the couch. “What brings y’all by?”
“But are you not the Empress, Alexandra?” Ginger asked in confusion.
“Sure am, but Ah needed some ‘me’ time away from all the time travel, royal stuff, an all.”
“Oh. Pardon me for intruding then. I will come back at a more convenient time, when the Empress once again holds court. Forgive me, Alexandra. Good day.” She apologized.
That got me to look up at the red-haired beauty standing next to her new brunette sister. Both were almost the same height and build, and both continued staring at the floor.
“Ah said come an sit a spell, y’all. Ah assume y’all wanna know what happened an why?”
“Please. If you would be kind enough to indulge me…um…us?” Ginger replied.
I marked my page, closed the book, and sat it on the end table.
“First off. You two have just gone through what we sisters call the Mahanilui, a process whereby very small biomachines recently introduced into your body have activated to modify your genetic code and initiated other small repairs as needed. In regard to modifying your genetic code, you have received what we refer to as our ‘gifts’- specific abilities individual to each of us. As an added benefit, your Mahanilui, Ginger, has manufactured the vocal structure you were originally born without.”
Tears quickly appeared in the redhead’s eyes.
“As y’all found out precisely two hours ago, your ‘gift’ is the ability to exit Pixie mode and become human again- quite the reverse of your sister Pixies. Unfortunately, the Mahanilui has imprinted on your female base images and cannot be changed, unless by one of our shapeshifters…but only temporarily, and only with their assistance. But now that you have undergone the Mahanilui, you’ll find your gender change easier to accept. I specifically programmed that vital subroutine in during the earlier project trials.”
Ginger stared at me for fifty-three point four seconds.
“You designed and developed those tiny machines, Alexandra? Why, if I may be so bold?”
“Our race had been condemned when our planet imploded into a solar reactor. My research facility- on an orbiting planetoid- was thrown clear in the initial reaction. Only two hundred odd people were left. But to answer your question, we had been monitoring the planet previous to that and predicted months in advance the possible outcome. Camille, Billie, and I decided to design a defense against complete annihilation. The nanobots traveling throughout your body- through all our bodies- are the result of that defensive program of over nine hundred years ago.”
Simone and Ginger stared at me in awe for over a minute.
Simone gulped loudly.
“You’re over nine…nine hundred years old?” She squeaked.
“More or less, yes. Closer to a millennia now, but mah mother is over twelve hundred to answer your impending question.” I said calmly.
“Would we live that long also?” Ginger asked herself, just above a whisper.
“Don’t see why not, honey.” I answered frankly.
“What would I do if I lived that long?” Simone asked herself.
“Anythin’ y’all want, honey! Many of our sisters take advantage of the higher educational offerings. Some have almost a dozen master’s degrees or doctorates. All depends on whatever y’all decide to do. Ah only require that whatever it is, ain’t illegal, ain’t prostitution, or ain’t massively destructive…so you might want to consider retiring from panhandlin’, girls. We try to keep the sisterhood respectable.”
“But how will we provide for ourselves?” Ginger pressed.
“Ah believe Andie put y’all on the staff?”
“That I did, and at your urging, Alex.” Andie said as she appeared in the lounge chair opposite us.
Both girls popped into Pixie mode and their emptied clothing dropped to the seat cushions.
“Good idea, sis. Let’s see if they can re-initiate ‘human mode’.” I said with a wink as I carefully picked up the abandoned clothes, walked into my bedroom, and placed them on my bed.
“When y’all feel like growin’ back up, your clothes is in mah room, gals.”
Both Pixies flew into the other room and the door closed seemingly on it’s own.
“So why the accent, sis?” Andie asked curiously. “Have you been moonlighting again? And for how long this time?”
“I’m actually feeling very rested, Andie. I just decided to let my sister’s drawl out for a nice long walk.”
“Oh. Just wondering.”
“Day after tomorrow.” I said out of the blue.
“What? Oh. Ya. I saw we’d be landing then too, Alex. How bad will it be?”
“Way easier than liftoff, sis. Ricky Lynn improved the reliability and performance of the thrusters. The Daroughs and the Sangieres are still going to be needed, though.”
Andie nodded as her two fully grown…and fully dressed, Pixies re-entered the living area.
“Will this become a habit, Commodore?” Ginger asked cautiously as she gracefully sat down next to me again.
“You’ll get used to it, honey.” I giggled.
“You have the most melodious voice I’ve ever heard, Ginger!” Andie smiled. “Perhaps I can talk you into joining the ship’s choral society?”
“I think I would like that, Commodore, thank you.” Ginger replied excitedly.
“Please, call me Andie when I’m not on duty.”
“Of course. Thank you. Alexandra, I think it is time we leave you and Andie to the obvious conversation she wishes to initiate. Good day, sisters.” Ginger said as she stood and motioned Simone to follow her to the door.
“Talk about your hundred and eighty degree change, sis!” Andie giggled.
“She is one very educated individual, Andie. I think we’ll be hearing a lot from her in the coming days and months…and years…and…”
“I get it, Alex! What I’m wondering is… have they even noticed that they now look like biological sisters…possibly even fraternal twins?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“So what sort of duties will you assign them, Commodore?” I asked with a big smile.
“Crew/passenger liasons. I asked their sisters to mentor them when they join their rounds of the schools.
“Wow. Talk about performing under fire.” I giggled.
“I’ve foreseen them handling it quite well, Alex.”
“With some intervention.” I added, causing her to roll her eyes.
“Yes…with SOME intervention, Alex.”
“So…you should be getting close to starting your de-orbit procedures right?” I asked to change the subject.
“The conversion alerts will start to go out to the rings at three bells today and sequence from Epsilon ring inward at two hour intervals. By the time we transition to de-orbit mode, all quarters and vender establishments should be secured and ready to encounter natural gravity.” Andie answered using her professional tone.
“I’ll have our Mind Warriors positioned and standing by where needed as you begin to light the thrusters, sis. Atlantis will settle onto her new home gentle as a feather.”
“I’ve already seen that not to be so true, Alex.” Andie smiled confidently.
“Good girl.” I said as we both stood and I gave her a sisterly hug- proud she had used her gift.
E.S. Atlantis, Standard Year 258:01:30
“Welcome to the bridge, Empress.” Andie greeted with a bright smile and a wink. Billie, Yuuka, Simone, Ginger, Mom, and my Reggie accompanied me.
EMPRESS ON THE BRIDGE!” Ian roared as everyone stood, turned toward me, and went to attention.
I’ve never felt so embarrassed in all my life!
“HONORS!” He ordered and the huge room erupted in applause!
“Why?!” I demanded as I stopped time and looked at Andie and Regina Celeste. The room was eerily quiet and my question echoed for several seconds.
As usual all members of the ‘royal’ family gave off a bluish glow. I also noticed that Regina and Ian were holding hands. He was aglow as well.
“On behalf of my staff, Alexandra, I’d like to thank you and our sisters for your continued assistance in the successful completion of Atlantis’ mission to ensure the continuance of our race- our society. We ask your permission to enter into our de-orbiting phase, my Empress.”
I didn’t know what to say, other than ‘stop this royal horseshit at once’. That wouldn’t have been acceptable in this case, though.
A glowing Artemus Celeste paraded over to me, stopped, turned, and stood to attention.
He saluted me.
“Ohhhhh, shit!” My daughter and mom gasped simultaneously.
“Empress Alexandra. We await your permissions.” He stated rigidly.
Billie nodded her approval despite my momentary glare towards her.
“My permissions?” I restated questioningly, raising an eyebrow. “Alright! My first is permission ta stop this here horseshit! Second. Let’s get this mission back on track! Third! Let’s get this old girl on the ground safe an’ gentle-like! Those are my permissions, Commander, Commodore, and Sub Commander Celeste!” I growled. I noticed my illumination pulsating to punctuate my every word.
My Reggie and mom looked over at me. I noticed a slight tinge of amazement in their eyes.
I released time and the applause resumed.
“ORDER GIVEN!” Ian roared. Everyone stopped applauding, turned, and quickly manned his or her stations.
Artie displayed a quirky grin as he dropped his salute, turned, and marched smartly back to his seat.
“Conversion status!” Andie barked.
“All rings report ready for de-orbit, Commodore. All passengers have reported to designated re-entry facilities and await further instructions.”
“LZ status is reported as nominal with a slight weather event…hold on. Commodore! LZ status is clear with ideal conditions!”
Andie looked back at me. Her eyebrow ‘twitched’ ever so slightly before she continued.
“Alert all sections. De-orbit thrusters in ten minutes. Begin MTP&I. All passengers are requested to take seats and buckle in securely.”
“Beginning Main Thruster Priming and Ignition.”
“Alerting all re-entry shelters.”
“Main thrusters alive and idling, Commodore.” Regina Celeste relayed to Andie after eight minutes. “Transition burn should commence in one hundred-three seconds.”
“Axial thrusters to null rotation, Subcommander.” Andie commanded.
“Axials firing, Commodore. Ship rotation slowing.”
The feeling of breaking inertia and lessening gravity was an odd mix and my stomach complained momentarily.
“Axial rotation stopped.”
“On your order, subcommander.” Andie said handing off to our sister.
Regina Celeste’s fingers flew over her console for several seconds.
“Sectors one through sixty, prepare for a ten second burn at twenty percent on my mark. Three, two, one, mark!” Reggie commanded and we felt the attitude of the gargantuan ship start to change smoothly.
“De-orbit translation burn complete.”
“Compensory burn, Subcommander.” Andie ordered.
“Two second burn on sectors two-fifty through two-ninety now.” Reggie commanded.
“Burn complete. Attitude stable, subcommander.”
“Take us down, subcommander.” Andie ordered as she turned and nodded to me. “You’re on, Alex.”
“Miss Sangiere. All MARE stations enable and standby. Acknowledge status.” I said to Billie.
“Stations Camille, Cassieopiea, Francis, Iphegenia, and Billie, ready. All MARE stations ready and awaiting orders, Alex.”
Artemus Celeste looked over at me.
“MARE?” He mouth silently.
“Commodore. We’re ready with Mind warrior Assisted Re-Entry. On your order, ma’am.”
“Full power to the grav-generators. De-orbit sequence in five, four, three, fifty percent power to the thrusters, now.” Reggie ordered excitedly.
Atlantis began shaking and we could feel our momentum change. I felt my body weight increase slightly.
“Engage heat shields, Subcommander.” Andie said calmly.
“Heat shields to maximum.” Reggie relayed the order.
“REHS to max.” Someone responded.
“Commodore! We’re slowing faster than expected.” Another voice warned.
“Ricky Lynn’s modifications, sis. Back off to twenty-seven percent.” I suggested quietly.
“Main thrusters to twenty-seven percent.” Andie ordered as her eyes went wide with surprise.
Again Reggie relayed the order.
“Re-entry velocity back within specified curve tolerances.”
“Secondary and backup power sources to all MARE stations, Miss Sangiere.” I said as I nodded to mom, Yuuka, and my Reggie. Yuuka flew over to Billie’s shoulder and gently grasped her earlobe. Mom and Reg took Billie’s offered hands.
“All secondary and back-up power sources are engaged, Cap.” Billie confirmed.
“Are we going to start this again…commander?” I asked in response.
“Seemed to fit the situation, ma’am.” Billie replied with a grin.
“Acknowledged.” I responded coolly.
Atlantis began to buffet as well as shake harder.
“Miss Sangiere. Fifty percent to all MARE stations. Compensate for outer atmospheric turbulence.”
“Aye, Cap. Fifty percent. Compensation enabled.”
The shaking and buffeting smoothed, but not entirely.
“Decent velocity increasing.”
“Main thrusters to seventy-five percent.” Andie ordered.
“Main thrusters at seven-five percent.”
“Velocity still increasing, Commodore.”
“Mains to one hundred.” Andie ordered- a slight tenseness in her voice.
“MARE stations to seventy-five, Miss Sangiere.” I too, ordered.
“Aye, cap! All stations to seventy-five.”
“Velocity still increasing, but only slightly, Commodore.”
“Full power to all thrusters!” Andie shouted in alarm.
“Engage secondary power sources, Miss Sangiere, and supplement with backups as necessary.”
“Aye, cap.” Billie acknowledged and I walked over to her and took mom’s hand.
“Miss Sangiere. Eighty percent to all MARE stations. Prepare to modulate stations for attitude adjustments.”
“Commodore, could you bring up your artificial horizon readout on the large display in combination with an actual view of LZ?” I asked.
“Split the gyro’d horizon and realtime LZ on the large display for the Empress.”
The large display over the center of the Bridge came to life with two side-by-side images; one, a two dimensional representation of Atlantis in relation to a solid horizontal line, the other, an enlarged view of the ocean waves.
“Too close.” Billie complained.
“Please zoom out on the LZ?” I asked loudly.
The ocean zoomed out and Billie nodded her head that she was satisfied.
“Velocity slowing, but still above recommended decent rate.”
“Full power to all MARE stations. Discontinue turbulence compensation.”
“Aye, cap. I’m opening your reserve.” Billie replied as I felt her start to draw ever-so-slightly from me. Mom suddenly stared at me as she quickly looked at our joined hands.
“Decent velocity now within acceptable limits on the curve, Commodore.”
“Wind shear is picking up, Commodore. Measuring seventy knots and climbing.”
“We’re crossing through the jet stream, Billie. Compensate for wind shear to keep us on target.”
“Already on it, cap.”
“Winds at one-zero-five knots and holding.”
“Subcommander, are we still on target to LZ?” Andie inquired.
Regina Celeste turned to her sister and gave her a thumbs up.
“Wind shear decreasing. Down to two-nine knots.”
“Dixie? Could you display Atlantis’ altitude on the display nearest us? In metric, please.” I asked the A.I.
The display came to life and indicated we were seven kilometers above sea level.
“Fuel status!” Andie shouted as she looked back at me.
“Sixty percent and full reserves.”
Andie seemed to calm slightly with that information.
“Commodore! I’m reading above redline temperatures on thrusters ninety-nine through one eleven and twenty-one, thiry-five, forty, and seventy-four! Shutdown imminent! We just lost them, ma’am!”
“Another two kilometers, Miss Sangiere. Add two more Pixies to the secondaries and increase your own power draw on me. Take us to one-ten and settle us gently into the waves, please.” I ordered. Again I felt a very slight increase in her power drain on me. Yet again mom looked at me and our connection in disbelief.
“Alexandra? Where is all that energy coming from? I never thought you so…” Mom began before I interrupted.
“Ma, we can talk later. Right now Atlantis is our main concern.”
Ginger and Simone flew over to Billie. Ginger landing on Billie’s empty shoulder to take her earlobe, and Simone gently landing next to Yuuka, taking her hand.
“How’s Gena doin, hun?” I asked.
“Ffffffft.” She’s laughing hysterically, Alex- claims she’s having the time of her life.”
“She lists her status as nominal, Alex. She reports that Quinn isn’t helping very much so she has six Pixies as well as Rommie with her.”
Billie frowned a moment.
“Franny wants to know when we’re actually going to start.”
I shook my head in amazement of mom’s Mind Warrior. She seemed to be a real trooper. It amazed me how similar the Darough women were.
“Tell her to be patient and that the real test is coming in…” I looked at the altimeter. “In thirty seconds, commander.”
“Aye, cap. Stations Camille, Cassi, Gena, Francis, and Billie appreciate the heads-up.” Billie answered with a cocked eyebrow.
“One kilometer under the keel, Miss Sangiere, don’t make her bob too much.” I informed ten seconds later.
“Aye. Relaying repulsion field blending percentages to all stations, cap. All MAREs report ready.”
I intently watched the altimeter for another ten seconds.
“Miss Sangiere, begin blending repulsion field at twenty percent then ramp up as necessary.” I ordered.
“Blending complete. Ramping up now. Thirty, thirty-five, forty, fifty…”
“Commodore! Keel telemetric antennae are awash and structural integrity on our Alpha Long-Range dish has been compromised!” One of Andie’s bridge crew shouted out.
“Full power to the repulsion field, commander! Ease us in, we’re still a little too hot.”
“Aye, cap! Increasing power draw now.” Billie responded as she closed her eyes in concentration. Simone and Ginger moaned loudly- even Mom’s hand tensed in mine.
“By the Goddess, this thing is heavy!” Billie commented as her face flushed.
“Captain! Stations Gena and Francis have tapped backups. We have four Pixies down!” Billie alerted as her eyes shot open. “Widening my field, ma’am!”
The noticeable increase in her energy draw told me that Billie was on the verge of overloading herself. Ma’s hand was crushing mine and started to shake moderately.
“By the Goddess, Alex!” She groaned as she continued to stare at me. I reached out and took Billie’s arm with my free hand in order to shunt around Alexis. That seemed to help, but now, Ma was staring intently into my eyes. She gasped as she blinked a few times, looking confused. Billie nodded to me- her eyes also lingering on mine in wonder, closing them, she began to concentrate even harder.
“Velocity slowing to ten cubits per second.”
“Three cubits per second! Alpha keel is awash! One cubit per second!
“Fifty cubit a minute, Commodore!”
“All ring keels awash, Commander! Two cubits a minute!”
“One cubit a minute!”
“Shutdown all thrusters!”
Atlantis shook violently as we watched water wash up over the outer Bridge observation windows.
Everything became silent, except for the chatter of fingers tapping frantically on the various consoles around the bridge. Billie’s power draw decreased substantially.
“All MARE stations report station-keeping, cap.” She informed me with a huge smile.
“Commodore. Alpha Telemetric antenna reports eighty-five cubits under the sensor and stationary!”
“Atlantis buoyancy confirmed, we’re down, Commodore!” Regina Celeste shouted excitedly.
The bridge erupted in shouts, applause, and ‘whoops’ of joy!
Artemus Celeste unbuckled, stood up, and walked over to Andie.
“Well done, Commodore! I’ve never been prouder of this crew!” He said in a proud voice as he shook her hand enthusiastically.
“Secure all sections. Activate water detection teams.” Andie ordered as she smiled tensely.
Billie’s arm began shaking violently as her complexion began to drain.
“Will!” I shouted as I quickly transported everyone still in contact with us to her quarters.
“Dixie! I need Dr. Mintaka to room Beta thirty-seven on the double!”
“The doctor is on her way, Alex. She asks for some insight.”
“Billie over did it and passed out.” I said as ma and I gently placed our sister on her bed.
“Message received and understood. ETA, five minutes, Mintaka out.” Belle’s voice announced from all around us, but she was suddenly standing next to me. Reggie had her arm and was looking all too serious at Billie.
“Or less.” Belle added as she looked around at us then to my daughter. Dr. Mintaka produced her hand-held scanning device and began passing it over my Assistant Director.
Ten seconds later, Gena stumbled into the bedroom- her face looking paler than usual.
“Mom gonna be okay, Alex?” She asked.
“She overdid a might, honey. Y’all needn’t worry.” I replied with a guarded smile.
“So…why did you even call me here, Alex?” Belle asked sarcastically as she looked up from her scanner.
“Just wanted to make sure. Mah sister, Emily’s the doctor in the family.”
“Sorry, Empress. I let all of you down.” Gena sighed as she dropped her eyes to the deck. “I got a little too confident and wasn’t paying attention to how much I was pulling from Shuania and Violet.”
“How are they, hun?” I asked.
“Both got really light-headed so I had them tag out. I’m really sorry, Alexis, for overdrawing from two of your Pixies.”
‘Cami? Status on all stations?’ I thought to her.
‘Billie and Gena you already know about. Cassi and I, as well as our ‘secondary’s’, are fine. Mom has a migraine the size of Atlantis, but she’ll survive. Lavi, Peri, Daisy, and Piper are awake now and demanding an extra portion of honey, director.’
‘Stand down from MARE stations, girls. Good job!’I thought back as I physically nodded my head.
“You three wanna fetch the others?” I said to Ma, Reggie, and Gena. “Ah’ll watch yer ma, honey.”
“Roger that, ma.” Reggie said before she and Ma disappeared. Gena hesitated so I motioned her to go by waving my hand a few times.
“Alex?” Andie cried as she, Artie, and Regina appeared. “Is Billie alright?”
“I’ll live.” My Assistant Director moaned as she reached for her head. “Sorry, cap, I over did it a little.”
“Ya crazy blonde! What were y’all thinkin’?” I demanded in relief.
Billie giggled a few times.
“Subcommander Alnilam to Commodore Celeste.”
“Celeste. Go ahead, Ian.” Andie answered her page.
“Commodore, Section two-thirty in Gamma ring reports minor seeping of sea water. Repairs are underway on that airlock seal. Fifty percent of the inspection crews have reported in favorably.”
“Keep me up to date, Subcommander.”
“How is Cmdr. Sangiere, Commodore?” He inquired.
“She’s fine, Ian. Pass the word, please, that all ladies of the Empress’ court are well.”
“Thanks, ma’am. Alnilam out.” Ian replied almost being drown out by applause, hoots, and holerin’ in the background.
“Well, let’s get Atlantis secured.” Billie said as she attempted to sit up.
Belle assertively pushed her back down.
“Oh no you don’t! I’ve been called to check you out, and you will not move until I’m satisfied, your highness!” Belle growled. “Even though you can blow me to tiny pieces, as chief medical officer on this ship, I still have the last say as to whether you are fit for duty, Cmdr. Billie Sangiere!”
Billie glared at her a moment then looked away from us.
“Yyyyyes…mmmma’am.” She acknowledged submissively.
“Simone and Ginger? I need you girls to visit the individual Re-entry shelters and make sure our passenger’s needs are being met. Once satisfied with the well-being of each facility, you may dismiss the attendees to their quarters. Understood?”
“Perfectly, Commodore Celeste. And thank you for putting your trust in Simone and I.”
Both Pixies flew out of the room.
“I wonder if she even realizes she was talking aloud in Pixie mode, Alex.” Andie giggled to me.
“She knows, but I don’t think Simone likes it very much.” I answered as I shook my head and laughed.
E.S. Atlantis, Standard Year 258:02:01
“So how are you two feeling today?” I asked as Billie’s door slid open. She and Gena were sitting on their couch looking extremely bored.
“Alex, isn’t Dr. Mintaka being overly cautious? Mom’s vitals have been stable for sixteen hours.”
“She just wants to be thorough. She put Francis Darough on wavers too, sweetie.”
“But why? Belle knows we heal faster than she does, doesn’t she?”
I nodded as a tense smile began showing though.
“Gena’s eyes narrowed.
“What did you do, Alex?” She asked accusingly.
“Not important, sweetie.”
“Enter into our graced and noble presence, humble practitioner of the healing arts.” I said loudly at the door.
“You drouging royals are all alike.” Belle mumbled under her breath as she entered. “Girls, I’m releasing you back into the wilds of active duty. Don’t make me regret my decision.” She said irritably at full volume.
“What did I ever do to you?” Billie asked innocently as she began looking around the room sheepishly. “That I haven’t already seen in your mind, that is.”
“Nothing yet…” Belle growled, stunned by the admission, “but you girls must have some kind of death wish! Why do you all insist on doing damage to yourselves instead of letting others help?” Belle demanded, looking specifically at me.
“New Babylon Class Riots, 226:10:07.” Billie interrupted rudely.
“Excuse me?” Belle asked quickly turning to look at her.
“From the Empress Mother’s readable personal memories, Ruth Scott remembered you spending over eight months in a severe trauma unit after running headlong into a crowd of angry protestors that had started and continued beating on an adolescent male you had no connection to.” Billie paused. “228:05:26: You singlehandedly subdued and then sedated an armed and violent patient after being stabbed by him three times in the abdomen. 233:12:12: while attending to a power station reactor accident, you…”
“Alright already! I get it! I’m just as guilty as the rest of you!” Belle Mintaka steamed. “The point is I know what drives you girls and I’m going to do my best to make sure you stay as safe as can be humanly expected!”
“That still doesn’t explain being overly cautious…or the attitude, Doc.” I said with the slightest hint of a smile.
“Like any of you don’t already know!” Belle suddenly snarled furiously.
“Fine!” She growled impatiently as we sisters, Billie, Gena, and I remained silent, playing innocent.
“After finding out about your little Bio-Mechs, Alex, I finally decided to run a sample test on myself yesterday. Just to ensure that your father, Louis, hadn’t compromised me accidentally during his surgery.” Belle glared at me specifically, though I knew she had just lied about her reason for the test. Billie and Gena glanced over to me also knowing the real reason.
“Turns out that my ‘K’ cell count, as you call it…which I shouldn’t even have,” she paused to inhale sharply, “Is through the roof! One thousand-twenty parts per million! When did you do it, Alexandra? More specifically, why, Alex? Is my life suddenly going to take a turn for the worse and you wanted to save me? Are things in Atlantis going to suddenly fall apart? Infection, pestilence, disease, something like that going to run rampant? What? Why, Alex?” Belle shouted angrily as tears ran down her cheeks.
“I…I asked for her input and then her permission, Bellatrix.” Andie said calmly as she appeared standing behind Billie’s couch.
Belle jumped then stared at her friend and superior. “Andie? But why?”
“Does it really need explaining, Belle?” Andie asked as she walked around the long piece of furniture and took the doctor’s still-trembling hands in hers. Belle looked at my sister, completely baffled. “Short answer is…well…we need you. Reggie, Father, Ian…everyone here, in this city, needs your experience, your talent…and especially your companionship.”
Dr. Mintaka continued staring blankly at her longtime friend.
“While practicing with my gift- something Alex has strongly recommended- I found you to be a principal player in our future here on Earth. Every scene…every…every day, you were there, Belle! So…so who am I to disrupt Alex’ precious time line? Our…timeline.”
“So what now, Commodore?” Mintaka pulled free and raised her hands in defeat. “Do I simply go to my favorite Bistro and order the strongest drink they stock, or…or do I place myself flat on a gurney and have one of my staff infuse me with medical grade alcohol intravenously? Am I to have any choice in this at all?”
“You definitely do have a choice, Belle.” I argued. “Right now the nanobots in your body are only repairing you- strictly station-keeping. They are maintaining your health so that you can keep doing your job. One thousand parts per million only means that triggering the Mahanilui is possible. Even if triggered, you aren’t going to change genders like we did. It doesn’t work like that.”
“Then how DOES ‘it’ work, Empress?” She shouted in frustration.
“If you decide you want to join the sisterhood, by all means, please, go get stinkin’ drunk! Trigger the nanos’ primary function and sleep the three odd hours natural females take for the process to complete.”
“If not, then don’t get loaded and simply allow the nanos to continue maintaining your body so you can still live just as long as Andie, Regina, Ginger or Simone, or even Artie,” Andie instantly gasped as I continued, “but without the self-denied, ever-cumbersome, gift of medical foresight and telepathic scanning. That’s your choice, Belle! You make the decision…you, alone, make that call!”
“Impossible! I don’t believe it!” Mom cried out, stunned.
“And what don’t you believe, ma?” I snapped angrily, looking to where she and my Reggie had just appeared!
“I can’t believe that my daughter actually went straight to the truth about someone’s gift! Are you feeling okay, Alexandra?”
“Peachy, ma. Just peachy! Never in mah career as Empress have Ah found a sister so staunchly opposed to activating, let along accepting such a miraculous opportunity- such a useful talent! Whatever happened to the Hippocratic oath you doctors take?” I replied angrily as I looked Belle directly in the eyes with several quick glances to Billie.
Andie took my hand gently and suddenly we were in a private domain. I hadn’t brought us here so that could only mean…
“Yes, Alex, I found my little pocket dimension a week ago while I was experimenting with my gift. I couldn’t help thinking about it after our desperate visit to your sister’s two months ago. Welcome to MY private domain, Empress.” Andie declared proudly.
“What are you…really, Andromeda Celeste? I thought I knew everything about you… I delivered you into this life, Andromeda! I knew your mother!” Belle cried and shook with fear, as she looked around- at the darkness surrounding us on all sides. At the small, yellow sun behind us- and the slightly larger one in front of us!
Two suns? In one domain? Okay…this was different.
“That’s right, Belle, you knew my mother. Ruth Scott. The woman Alex and I now refer to as ‘Mother Empress’.”
Mintaka gasped as Andie continued.
“Think about it, Belle! Wasn’t it you that told me Mother picked you- specifically- to deliver me? To be our family’s Primary Physician? That she seemed to know everything there was about you and your practice? Think about that, Dr. Mintaka. Why would a woman, a petite woman no less, now called ‘Mother Empress’ pick you from the thousands of qualified practitioners on Celestra?”
“Andie? Sis, go easy on her. I’m sure this is a shock for her. Knowing mother, she probably withheld most of the specifics.” I said trying to calm the situation.
“IIII always knew Ruth was a special person.” Belle admitted. “And yes, she was so very tight-lipped about…well, about everything. Recently…when you started showing or imitating the Empress’ powers, I thought that you, Alex, had ‘granted’ them to her. I…” Belle paused to look around the domain then me and Andie. “I never realized that I had delivered a true miracle that afternoon forty-seven years ago!”
“And so, I’ve asked Alex to allow you to be a part of that continuing miracle, Belle. Please…I beg you to accept the gift Alex has offered us by way of her nanobots.”
“But why me, Andie? Why choose me?”
“Because you were there for Reggie, Father and I, Belle. When mother left us for her home universe, you happily assumed the role of our mentor- our surrogate mother…our…sister.” Andie explained.
“Mentor, I can accept, Andie. Mother or sister? I can prove no genetic codes link the two of us in any way.” Belle argued.
‘Yet’, I thought.
“So…you didn’t sleep with father? Are you not Regina’s biological mother?” Andie attacked with confidence.
“You knew?” Belle gasped as her facial color drained quickly.
“Not until recently…not until my half-sister, Emily mentioned she noticed similar genetics between you and Reggie when she did her impromptu pregnancy scan.”
Belle was on the verge of passing out.
“Speaking of my sister Emily. You’ve met her right, Doc?” I asked and waited for her to answer.
The middle-aged, but young looking, doctor took a breath and slowly let it out.
“I’ve met and consulted with Dr. Scott, yes, Empress. Why?” Belle answered guardedly. She still looked fearfully perplexed.
“Do you recall what her gift is, Belle?” I asked evenly.
“Um…she called herself a ‘Medical Seer’, I believe.” Dr. Mintaka replied hesitantly
“And said she could foresee medical diagnoses for any given patient and also scaaaan…them…for…oh, Day Owl dretch!” Belle actually swore as she suddenly looked at Andie. “You actually WANT ME to be your sister?”
“Only if you decide it’s what you want, Belle.” Andie acknowledged the option as she and I smiled brightly.
“I…I have to think about this, girls. Could we please go back to Atlantis now?” Belle looked around the domain uncomfortably. “Please?”
“Welcome back, sisters. So?” Billie and Gena greeted expectantly.
“Almost. Belle has to think on it a little more before she makes her decision.” I said as Dr. Bellatrix Mintaka hurriedly exited Billie’s quarters in silence. She didn’t even look back.
“You didn’t showboat, did you, Aunt Alex?” Gena asked knowingly.
“No, your Aunt Andie carried on the tradition quiet admirably.” I laughed shaking my head. I still couldn’t get over Andie having her own private domain.
“(Aunt) Andie has her own domain?” Gena and Billie shouted at the same time.
“Why does it have two Suns, Alex? I thought they only had one, but in different positions as identification of ownership?” Gena continued.
“You have two Suns too, Aunt Andie?” My daughter asked excitedly as she and mom looked on from across the room.
Mom looked at her granddaughter in surprise.
“You? You have your own private void, too?” Mom gasped in amazement.
“I thought all members of the ‘Royal’ family had them.” My Reggie admitted innocently.
I could see the wheels start to turn through mom’s eyes.
“You’ll have to show me sometime, cuz.” Gena said to Reggie excitedly.
“Sure. Anytime you want. Just not now. I have to tail Aunt Belle and make sure she doesn’t do something stupid to change the time line.” Reggie replied.
“Mind if I join you, cuz? You might need my…talent.” Gena hinted.
“I saw that one too, Gena. Let’s go. We’ll leave the ‘rents to the other project. Bye Ma. Bye Grams. Bye, Aunties.”
Reggie and Gena disappeared.
Billie, Andie, Mom, and I remained silent for thirty-six seconds.
“I have a private domain?” Mom quietly whispered to herself several times in disbelief.
“But I don’t even like that place. It gave me the ‘willies’ every time mother took me there.” She continued her private, one-sided, conversation at just above a whisper.
“Hence the reason you haven’t found out about it ‘til today, ma. Why would you look for something you dislike so much?” I reasoned. “You or Billie.”
My assistant director rolled her eyes at my jab.
‘So…about the ‘other’ project, Regina mentioned, Alex?’ Cami’s voice asked in my mind.
“Are we ready to make anchor, Andie?” I asked, figuring Cami was monitoring me.
“Whenever Rommie’s ready, Alex.”
“Dixie? Could you have all parties involved with securing Atlantis’ location meet us out in cargo storage bay Forenza-six in an hour.” I asked our A.I.
“The invitation has been extended to all involved parties, Alex.”
“Good. Let’s go. I’ll drive.” I said as the huge storage bay that once held a football-field-sized block of ice appeared around us.
“That’s definitely gonna take some gettin’ used to.” Mom complained. Why is it so cold in here- like an ice bo…”
Mom stopped talking as she noticed the huge block of glacial ice off to our right.
“That the remnants of what Cami and Jack brought up from the surface on our initial visit?” I asked Andie.
“That’s the ‘little extra’ they included. I ordered it held in reserve.”
“But it’s the size of a house!” Mom exclaimed.
“The rest of it went toward thruster fuel and the ship’s sanitary water reserves. When it first arrived, there was only a two cubit-wide walking path around the cargo bay walls. And maybe ten cubits clearance overhead, Alexis.” Andie told her.
“You know…Jacki’s memories really don’t do this justice, Alex! That was one big block of ice!” Billie said as she whistled in awe of her sisters’ accomplishment.
“Can we safely open the cargo bay door, subcommander?” Andie asked as Regina Celeste’s image appeared on the comm panel she had just activated. Rommie, Lena, Amy and a few of Mom’s Pixies entered the bay silently.
“Sensors indicate Forenza-Six Cargo bay floor to be eight cubits above sea level.” Regina Celeste’s voice replied.
“Environmental conditions?” Andie continued.
“Current wave differential is one to two cubits. Current air temperature is three-zero-three above absolute with clear skies. Water temperature is two-nine-seven point six above absolute.” Our half-sister reported.
“Open the cargo bay door, Reggie.” Andie said with a brilliant, excited smile.
The sound of mechanical locks disengaging echoed around the huge, near-empty space as we all looked to the massive door in anticipation. A low hum filled the huge storage hangar as the gigantic door began to move. A thin, but bright line of light flared from between the floor and the lip of the door. As the gap increased, the light’s intensity ebbed and the familiar smell of warm, salty air began to hit my nose.
It took five minutes for the massive door to fully open. All the while, watching Rommie proved very entertaining. As soon as the salt air reached her nose, I could see our sister start to drool. She began nervously looking back and forth between the beckoning sea and me.
The five minutes it took for the bay to open must have been killing our resident Mermaid. I grinned as I noticed that her gills had already appeared and her eyes had already started to change.
Rommie looked to me as a low-pitched metallic ‘thunk’ signaled the door was fully open and had stopped. The pleading look, with those large, yellow, cat-like, eyes begged for my approval.
“Don’t forget ‘when’ you are, Senator. Things are a little bigger here than back home.” I warned. We had been walking toward the newly opened end of the cargo bay and were now a scant twenty-two meters from the water.
With a nod of acknowledgement and a very big smile, Rommie began sprinting toward the water at full speed - her body as well as her Reilly changing with every stride. Two meters from the Bay’s edge, Rommie jumped into the air, her legs and feet instantly becoming her large muscular tail and fluke.
The dive would have earned her straight up tens from any highly discriminating set of Olympic judges as she entered the waves cleanly with no ripples, disturbances, or even a splash!
“You’d think she actually missed the ocean.” Billie deadpanned as we took in the view and continued to breathe in the warm salty air.
“I’ve waited ten long years for the opportunity to breathe in this pristine, un-recycled air!” Andie moaned as tears formed in the corners of her eyes.
“So you, Alex, and Jack traveling to different points in time on this planet don’t count, sis?” I asked with one eyebrow raised in curiosity.
“I tried not to hold out hopes, Alex. At the time, our travels seemed just a fantasy- something of a dream- not actually real. This,” Andie motioned out to the gently undulating waves, “this is real! This is our new ho…”
Rommie shooting from the water suddenly stopped Andie mid-sentence!
“SHITTHOSETHINGSAREBIGRUN!” Rommie screamed as she changed in midair, landing on the floor at a full-out run away from the water!
As we, too, retreated, a huge, dark gray shark appeared from the water and attempted to beach itself in the bay, obviously trying to catch its meal, aka, Rommie. The thing had to be over twelve meters long and it could have easily swallowed a VW beetle (thank you, Alex Steinert-Fleming) in one gulp! It wasted no time sliding back into the water and disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.
All I can say is it was a good thing we all wore our Reillys!
Andie’s mouth was still hanging wide open as Rommie, out of breath, made her way back to us and cautiously moved closer to look over the edge.
“So, what did you do to it?” I asked as if she had purposely caused the attack.
“Nothing,” Rommie turned and answered, looking embarrassed. We noticed the sleek, one-point-five meter dorsal fin gracefully and silently parting the waves as the huge, dark gray creature patiently circled just out from the opened storage bay.
“She appeared out of nowhere behind me, and asked to play. I wasn’t ready for her size and panicked.”
“That monstrosity just wanted to play?” Mom gasped out.
“I guess I have to go back in and apologize for my rude behavior.” Rommie nodded as she sighed. “I’ll let Billie know when I’m ready to start the survey, Andie.”
Our Mermaid sister dove headfirst into the water- her magnificent fluke appearing just before it cleanly slipped under the waves.
“You know…it’s hard to believe that she was afraid of the water and couldn’t swim to save her life before she received her gift.” I said to no one particular.
Mom and Andie just stared at me.
“Andie?” Billie said, catching my sister’s attention. “Rommie has completed her survey and the last location, zero-one-zero, is free of sentient life. She says to give her two minutes to clear the area before you deploy that anchor.”
The ‘anchors’ were of the autonomous type designed to begin drilling once contacting the seabed. Their programming- to continue drilling until bedrock was encountered- made certain they would hold in the severest of conditions.
“Acknowledged. Subcommander? Wait another minute then launch the last anchor.”
“Acknowledged, Commodore.” Regina Celeste’s voice confirmed from the display panel.
“Thank Sen. Marsh for me and please recall her, highness.” Andie feigned a smile then turned her eyes to the storage hangar’s deck. She began wiping her eyes gently.
“Something wrong, Commodore?” Billie asked as she touched Andie’s shoulder gently.
“What?” My sister asked as she looked back up. “No…I’m…I guess it finally hit me that…that we’re…we’re finally…home. This is our home now…my…our mission is complete. After ten long years…out there,” Andie pointed up and out the hangar to the wonderful, blue sky, “It’s…it’s finally over.”
Quite a few people had gathered to see their ‘new’ home since we opened the gigantic hangar door. Artemus Celeste, Andie’s father, being an earlier arrival.
“And I’m so proud of all of you, Andromeda.” Artie said as he turned my half-sister around and drew her into a warm embrace. “I knew that…if anyone could…you…you are a true leader, Andromeda.” He stumbled, tightening his arms around her.
“And I’m so glad I could be here with my girls.” He added while looking at me in appreciation.
“Now comes the true test.” I said to myself, though loud enough that everyone near me heard. I’d had my eyes closed re-examining some of the many future scenarios for the people of ‘Atlantis’.
“What kind of ‘tests’, Alexandra?’ Artie asked…or rather dared me to explain.
I looked to Andie then to her father. “First and foremost, how will the people of Atlantis deal with the indigenous peoples of Earth?”
“What?” Andie and Artie gasped in unison.
“The peoples your ancestors left here.” I said neutrally. “As on Celestra ten years ago, many peoples of Earth never made it onto the Exodus ships that departed this ‘dying’planet over forty thousand years ago to populate the stars.”
“So why have they not attempted communication with us when we first entered orbit, Alex?” Andie asked as she stared at me.
“It’s like our sister told you on your first transit to the future. Civilizations don’t usually progress farther than the limits of their environment, morality, or sometimes their technology. After being left behind, survival became paramount. Much as those still on Celestra have found out, sis. The advanced technology that had been common in their everyday life became useless without the trained personnel to repair and operate it. And, since everything and everyone they knew had deserted them- abandoned them on this cooling, supposedly dying, planet with no means of escape- the possibility of changing their minds to follow along or even recreating the technology necessary to leave this world was gone. Day-to-day survival, as I said, became crucial. The remaining people of Earth devolved into barbaric clans- small family tribes, really. Most have reverted back to the primitive peoples my sisters and I rescued over six hundred thousand years ago.”
“So we are related, Alex?” Lena asked in surprise as she looked around her- to all the people gathered in the huge hangar.
Andie’s mouth dropped open as her eyes shot to our young sister.
“I…I thought you were Amy’s daughter?”
“Amy adopted me. When Alex and her sisters arrived at my peoples’ encampment, they found me hanging on for my very life, high in a tree, one hundred and fifty long steps from where my entire clan had already expired from this world. Barely able to climb that high tree up away from the strong, foul smell of death, I became the lone survivor. Amy and Alex offered me the Mahanilui to save my life.”
Lena paused to breathe as she glanced up and looked around the ceiling thoughtfully. “I accepted the Empress’ offer gratefully, but I choose to never forget my beginnings…my people…those that I lost in the last days of my first life.”
“Listening or not, I offer them well wishes and favorable thoughts every night before I sleep and shall remember them all for as long as I still draw breath.”
“Wow!” Amy declared in surprise as she gently placed her hand on her adopted daughter’s shoulder. “God Sprinkle, that was beautiful!”
“Alex? Is there some plan to reacquaint our peoples then?” Artie asked as he wiped a tear from his left eye.
“The Empress is going to leave that sensitive mission to her sisters and brothers residing on Atlantis, Commander. A mission this important will take years to complete, and even longer to refine. Think you can handle it, Commodore?” I said turning to Andie.
“I think I’ll be able to ‘see’ my way through it, Alex.” Andie giggled nervously.
We both knew it would be a long and perilous road.
“Alex? Andie?” Billie asked loudly to get our attention.
“Rommie is requesting permission to board Atlantis and also requests that we ‘make a hole’.”
“Let’s start moving everyone away from the edge then.” I agreed. Billie, Andie, Artie, Lena, and Amy began motioning people back. When we had a good four-meter area cleared, Andie gave Billie permission for Rommie to board.
To everyone’s astonishment, Rommie shot high up out of the water letting loose with an excited ‘YEEHAW’, performed three complete somersaults in the air while transforming to her land mode, and stuck a perfect two-legged, gymnast’s landing! Taking a bow before the stunned crowd, Rommie stood straight and casually walked toward us with a huge smile.
It took a while for everyone gathered to start applauding, this being the first time most had seen Rommie’s gift, let along an actual Mermaid.
Lena squealed in absolute delight as she clapped enthusiastically.
“Show-off!” Amy growled in annoyance.
“You’re one to bitch about attracting attention, Driz.” Rommie giggled to her sister. “I remember a certain tropical storm that produced quite the light show back on Ni’ihua in ’44.”
“Jacki asked for something that would keep the ‘Fly-Boys’ grounded.” Amy defended as she rolled her eyes at our sister.
“A good monsoon would have been sufficient, Driz, yet you decided to effectively put an ‘electric fence’ around the whole island. Just a little overkill, perhaps?” Rommie countered with a devious smile.
“I took the request as a chance to practice my gift. Remember, Alex says we get better with practice, Splash.”
“Girls, girls.” Artie started as he waved my two sisters to quiet down. “Not in front of the people. To reveal too much about your gifts only invites problems later on.” He stressed quietly.
“Dixie, I’d like to make a city-wide multimedia announcement, please.”
“Ready, Alex.” Atlantis’ A.I. responded pleasantly.
“People of Atlantis. Most of you know me as Alexandra Reilly, but I also have another designation that some of you already know. I am one of three who call themselves ‘Empress of Time and Space’. I understand there to be quite a few myths and legends about me in your literature. I, along with my sisters,” I paused to motion to Amy, Lena, Rommie, Billie, Gena, Mom, Reggie, Artie, Andie, Regina Celeste, and all the Pixies in attendance. All of who nodded or bowed.
“Have taken on the duty of protectors of the timeline, or, if you will, guardians of your past, present, and future. As time’s guardians, we each have special gifts that allow us to do our job. Some of you have witnessed, firsthand, these gifts. My sisters and I should not be trifled with and we request you allow us all to continue to protect your new home’s timeline as we see fit. As previously stated, our gifts are numerous and potentially dangerous. Please, for your own safety, do not attempt to push us to our limits- instead, revisit the aforementioned written myths and legends. I’m sure they will prove very…insightful.”
“Alex? What in the seven worlds are you doing?” Artie asked, flabbergasted.
“You must forgive Cmdr. Artemus Celeste. He believes that the Empress should be protected at all cost. I will tell you all what I told him when we first met officially and that which some of you have learned firsthand.”
I began to think about my ‘glow’.
“My sisters and I are VERY capable of protecting ourselves,” I said as I spiked its intensity, “And will do so if necessary.”
I disabled my illumination having illustrated my point.
“We are here to help you all establish a successful colony on this planet we call ‘Earth’. We are not here to advance personal or nefarious gains and/or vendettas.”
“So now, since the safe and successful landing of Atlantis has been fulfilled, our participation in Atlantis’ arrival and success has come to a close. The Empress and her sisters will now leave Atlantis’ future to our resident sisters, Andromeda Celeste, Regina Celeste, and…Belletrix Mintaka.” I added as I noticed a younger, more familiar face approach out of the gathered crowd. Andie looked at me with a shocked, sad expression. Regina looked surprised as well.
A murmur rose as those gathered noticed Belle’s arrival, but looked confused by her new, younger, physical appearance. I was glad to see she had worked things out and accepted her Mahanilui.
Though Andie’s pleading had come close to indicating Belle’s importance, she had only seen a small glimpse of the doctor’s new role here in the city of Atlantis…in its foreseeable future.
“At this time I would request all ‘Sisters of Kili’ and all “Sisters of Avalon’ to assemble here, in this storage hangar for departure. It is time for the ‘Sisters of Atlantis’ to begin their first mission- that of reuniting the old and new peoples of Earth- a process I hope everyone within earshot of my voice will undertake enthusiastically, but fairly.”
I offered my hands, outstretched, to all my sisters. Once gathered, we found ourselves in the Diplomatic hangar in the Command Core- recently redesignated the ‘City Center’.
“Well that was rather abrupt!” Mom said as she looked around to see where we were. I had intentionally taken us forward an hour.
“What was that all about, Alex?” Andie asked angrily as she, Regina, and Belle appeared beside me.
“To prove a point.” I said without much emotion. “The people of Atlantis- all of them- needed to see that the Empress was real and would not be swayed by greed or want. They needed to see that even the Empress’ blood sisters weren’t immune, but required to act on their own accord with similar morality.”
“Wait! Have I…will I do something that you disapprove of. Alex? Will Reggie…or Belle…”
“What have you seen happening in the near future, Andromeda Celeste?” I questioned, narrowing my eyes as I continued to assess her and her two sisters. “I trust that you will run ALL of the scenarios this time?” I hinted, seeing Andie close her eyes slowly.
We patiently waited the fifteen minutes it took my half-sister to use her gift. I knew she had properly accessed it when her mouth dropped open suddenly and her eyes popped open in shock.
“Things will fall apart so soon, Alex?” She asked as her voice trembled with fright.
“It is only one scenario, Andromeda. So it is up to you, Reggie, and Belle to see that those specific events never occur, are undone, or circumvented entirely. Your gift, Andie, has developed to the point that you and your five sisters will successfully find and repair the temporal discrepancies in Atlantis’ near future. Your gifts will continue to develop to enable you all to repair all but the most difficult incursions. For those, look to my, Alex Steinert’s, or Alexandra’s assistance. We are but a thought away, Regina. Until then, my sisters.” I said with a nod as I thought about phasing my group out.
“Well, I have to admit it.” Mom commented sadly as she shook her head while I watched the shocked faces of our three sisters. They looked around the hangar in disbelief of our sudden disappearance. Andie, Regina, and Belle started crying heavily as they huddled together holding each other tightly.
“What have you to admit, mother?” I asked tersely.
“You are much better at ripping off a bandage than I am, Alexandra.”
“I told them exactly what they needed to do, mother.”
“Really, Alex?” Rommie contested. “I’m usually very good at looking deeply into political bullshit, not to mention your prophetic predictions, but that information was buried farther down than the Challenger Deep!”
“Mom just told Aunt Andie that she’s in charge of her ‘Sisterhood’, that she, Reggie, Belle, Ginger, and Simone will be able to handle the upcoming ‘glitchs’, and that Aunt Regina is the trans-dimensional communicator for the ‘Sister’s of Atlantis’.” My daughter translated.
“Not to question your math skills sweetcheeks, but there are only five ‘Sisters of Atlantis’, not six as Alex specifically stated.” Amy challenged while Lena looked on and nodded.
“Wait. You mean ol’ Artie…” Quintin Darrough gasped before he was interrupted.
“Hey! Alex said ‘me and my five sisters!” Andie gasped in a higher octave, garnering our attention. “There’s only five of u…”
Reilly’s Recreation Room appeared around us.
“Welcome home, everyone,” I said with a sad smile. I had really hated to leave my sisters so abruptly, but that is how I saw our departure. Alex Covington would be visiting our beleaguered sisters in about a year, Atlantis-relative.
Right now, I had to make sure my sisters were returned to their respective times or planet.
“So…who’s first?” I asked my companions sadly.
“I guess Driz, Sprinkle, and I should get back, Alex. As much as I’d like to stay, there’s a whole heap of shit just waiting for me on the hill. I’m sure that Lena wants to meet her new brothers and sisters, too.” Rommie moaned in distress.
“Could you drop Lena and I off in St. Pete, Alex? That’s where my rental car is.” Amy inquired.
“You can drop me off there as well, Alex. I need a little more meeeeermaid time before I can face those f…” Rommie again moaned as Amy instantly covered Lena’s ears. “Idiots!”
I nodded and silently offered my hands.
1310hrs, St. Petersburg, Fla, July 13th, 2020AD
“How close are we to when we left, Alex?” Amy asked as she and Rommie looked around their hotel suite. Lena gazed, wide-eyed, around the plush living quarters.
“About an hour later, Driz.” I giggled. It still seemed comical that some of my sisters used ‘code names’.
“So when would this be, Director?” Yuuka asked from my left shoulder
I rolled my eyes having not felt her there before we left Reilly.
“July 13th, 2020AD,” I sighed in resignation.
“I thought things would look a bit more…modern.” Allie commented from my right shoulder.
I rolled my eyes again and groaned. Mom, Reggie, Rommie, Amy, and Lena laughed hysterically at my discomfort.
“Girls? Please join us in the land of grownups.”
“Nice digs.” Yuuka commented as she reached full height. “I take it Randi Van Pelt made the reservations?”
“As always, Little Flower.” Rommie smiled. “The girl’s the best travel planner I’ve ever dealt with. Far and away better than the congressional travel agency.”
A knock sounded from the suite’s door.
“Who is it?” Rommie asked loudly as she looked to me for an answer. I just grinned like a Cheshire cat…whatever breed of feline a ‘Cheshire’ might be. My sister’s memory of them was very truncated.
“Senator Marsh? Geno from Guest Services, ma’am. I have a delivery for you and Ms. Reynolds.”
“Be right there.” Rommie answered, as her Reilly became a thick, luxurious, dark blue bathrobe. A white towel wrapped itself around her hair as if she had just come out of the shower.
Rommie approached the door in her bare feet and opened the door cautiously.
“I wasn’t expecting any packages today, Geno. Who’s it from?”
“The Carrier would not say, but the label specifies ‘Reilly Research Foundation in Kili Beach, California’ ma’am, she did insist it was imperative that you and/or Ms. Reynolds receive it immediately. It’s also marked ‘Time Sensitive’.” The Concierge explained as he handed Rommie the thick FED-EX document mailer.
“I can hand it over to the police if you are unsure, ma’am.” He added.
“No, no. We’ve dealt with them before, Geno. Ame’s and I lobbied for them several years ago. Being marked ‘Time Sensitive’, it has to be important. I’ll accept it.”
Easily overhearing the conversation and the Concierge’s concern, Amy raised a finger to us, stepped into action, and approached the door.
“Rommie? What is it?” She asked feigning curiosity, as she ducked around her roommate.
“We got a package. Were you expecting anything from Reilly Research Foundation?”
“Not that I know of, but it sure looks important.” Amy said as she fished into her purse she grabbed from the table, pulled a couple twenty’s from it, and handed them to the gentleman. “Thanks, Geno.”
“Thank you, ma’am. Have a good afternoon, ladies.” The concierge said as he smiled and disappeared from the doorway.
“Any idea what this could be, Alex?” Rommie asked after closing the door. She turned back to the rest of us, her eyebrow raised in mock curiosity. Her Reilly again changed, this time into a pair of designer jean shorts, stylish low-heeled sandals, and a light, flower-patterned summer blouse.
I just smiled, silently walked over to the dining room table, and took a seat. I noticed Reggie had a huge smile on her face as she pulled out the chair to sit next to me. Mom quietly took a seat on my other side while Yuuka and Allie sat down at each end. Rommie, Lena, and Amy sat down across from us.
“Oh wondrous and mysterious package, reveal thy magical contents to those undeserving, gathered before our frivolous, mystical Empress.” Rommie giggled as she waved her hand over the package before opening the container and emptying it out onto the large, formal table.
A personal data device this period called a ‘tablet’ along with several notarized documents slid out. A small, black, leather-bound booklet as well as a small banking card- a ‘debit card’, I think my sister called it- also slid from the package.
Amy and Rommie looked at me in relief.
“I was wondering how long it would take.” Amy said as she shook her head and smiled. She reached to the table, picked up the tablet, and handed it to Lena.
“Here, this is for you, Sprinkle. Push the button on the top right of the device. If I’m right, something should happen immediately.”
“What is it, mom? It looks similar to the standard report forms they use on Atlantis.”
“Sort of…turn it on and let’s see.” Amy prompted with a nod to the thin, rectangular device Lena held.
“Please stand-by for an important message from her most honored self, Alexandra, Empress of Time and Space.” Randi Van Pelt’s voice announced as a picture of Sand Dollar, underway, appeared on the device’s display. The screen went blank for two seconds before my face appeared.
“Hi, y’all!” Alex Steinert’s smiling face greeted. “Ah understand y’all had a new addition to the fam’ly, Amy. Lena, honey, ah’d like ta oh-fishally welcome y’all to the Sisters of Kili. By now you been brought up ta speed and expeir’enced some of our exploits and have a gen’ral idea a what the sisters kin do. Ah understand yer ‘specially taken with Rommie’s gift, hun.” Alex paused and smiled to our newest sister knowing exactly where she, Amy, and Rommie would be sitting. Lena’s mouth dropped open as her eyes grew wider.
“In the comin’ months we’ll meet form’ly, but ah jus’ wanted ta say ‘how-dee’ fer now. Ah also need to explain summa the contents a this here parcel. See, darlin’, when the sisterhood welcomes a new member- ‘specially one from so far ‘way, we need to make her legal-like in regards ta today’s society. On the table behind me’s that necess-sary paperwork provin’ y’all are Amy Reynold’s daughter and a bone-i-fied citizen a these here Yew-nited States. Randi set y’all up with a birth certificate, immunization record, bank account, an’ some other important papers, includin’ a passport. Y’all be a good girl an Ah’ll see y’all sometime ‘round Labor Day. An don’ worry none, hun. Amy’s a good ma an’ an even better teacher so listen to her like y’all been doin. Ah look forward to meetin’ yal the first time, hun. Take care now!”
The tablet’s screen went blank for three seconds before the photo of Sand Dollar re-appeared.
“The preceding message from our ever-baffling, illustrious Empress is the sole property of her most-charitable majesty, and therefore cannot be retained, copied, or replayed on this or any other device and will self-delete entirely in ten seconds. Please step back to lessen the chance of physical damage.” Randi’s voice warned.
Rommie, Amy, Lena, Yuuka, and Allie jumped from their chairs and quickly moved back from the table as Randi’s voice started counting backward from ten.
“Five, four, three, two, one…file deletion complete.” Randi’s face on the display looked to each of our five sisters individually and giggled.
“Did you guys REALLY think I’d make a perfectly good tablet go up in smoke ‘Mission Impossible’style?” Randi laughed as she shook her head on the screen for thirty seconds.
“Seriously? Lena, sweetie, the tablet is yours to keep. You can use it to keep all your appointments, store your homework, and even store boys phone numbers- lots of boy’s phone numbers,” Randi’s face glanced over to a glowering Amy momentarily and seemed to gulp nervously, “But only after you reach thirty-five, honey. Amy’s a real stick…ler on dating guys.” The image laughed nervously then continued. “Enjoy the tab and we’ll see you on Labor Day, sweetie. Good luck, Ames!”
The display quickly went blank then was replaced by what I knew to be the tablet’s ‘welcome’ screen.
Mom began laughing hysterically!
“Goddess! I LOVE this family!”
“I’m really gonna need to have a talk with that girl.” I promised out loud as Reggie and mom both wiped their eyes dry. She had been laughing just as hard as mother- if not harder!
Lena had been investigating the piece of twenty-first century technology for about five minutes when Randi’s face suddenly reappeared on it. Lena shrieked and dropped the tablet to the table instantly.
“Alex Reilly?” Randi’s image asked, her face looking around the room from the display.
“Here, honey. What can I do for you?” I answered as I came into range of the unit’s built-in camera.
“Alex, Alex requests your presence in 1889 Britain- London’s Whitechapel District. She said you’d know who to bring.”
“Acknowledged. Tell Alex I’m on my way, honey. Reilly out.” I said as the tablet went completely dark.
“How would all of you like to visit London?” I asked as my sisters’ eyes widened with excitement.
“We need to stop by Reilly to pick up a few things and inventory the proper clothing for the late 1880’s.”
“Back so soon, Alex?” Billie asked as we rephased in the Rec Room a microsecond later.
“Alex Steinert and I need the Cummins twins, Billie. Yuuka and Allie? We’ll need the squadron. You’ll want Trina, Kess, Daisy, and Lavie.”
“Ginger and Simone? Since you two decided to stow away, we could use your help too. Commodore Celeste already knows you girls are here, but you two will be assigned as her personal wait staff for six months upon your return.” I said as I looked to the far left corner of the room. Yuuka followed my stare, went to Pixie mode and took flight after our two stowaways as they made for the Rec Room’s exit and out into the passageway. Five other pixies instantly took to the air and followed their ‘Squadron Leader’.
“Goddess! Reilly was never this much fun in its original universe, Alexandra!” Mom giggled.
“I’m sure Andie would be willing to work out some sort of ‘Pixie Exchange Program’ with you, mother. I know she’s already thought about it.”
“Do you require apprehension and restraint of the two illegal pixies, Director?” Fay asked enthusiastically from just overhead.
Her face showed a quirky smile that I didn’t quite like the look of.
“That won’t be necessary, honey. I’ll put a halt to their fun in a moment. For now, and for your safety, I suggest you land, sit, and enjoy that cup of coffee you’re holding.
“Aye, as ye wish, mum.” Fay replied with a disappointed snap of her fingers as she and her cup of coffee settled gently to the floor beside the table where Billie and Gena were seated. I smiled and walked over to the food dispenser.
“Coffee, Empress-blend, black, please.”
“Director, I have picked up the fugitive pixies on my sensors. Yuuka’s squadron is pursuing at close range. What actions should be taken, Alex?” RVP’s voice inquired from the room.
“None, RVP. I’ll handle it from here.” I replied. “Just alert me when they get close.”
“They are enroute back to the recreation room as we speak, director.”
“Thanks, honey, I’ll snare them.” I said as I placed my coffee down on the table.
“Please don’t hurt them, Alexandra.” Mom pleaded as she looked expectantly to the doorway.
“I have no intention of harming any of my sisters, mother, but they have had their fun and now need to assume their roles in our upcoming mission.” I said as seven pixies entered and streaked around the room overhead several times.
“Simone and Ginger! Stop right…there!” I said calmly as I blindly pointed a finger over my shoulder to them.
Both girls suddenly froze in mid-flight!
Yuuka and her squadron had no choice but to quickly take evasive action in order to avoid colliding with their suddenly stationary sisters.
“Nice shootin’, Tex!” Mom laughed.
With little emotion and to the silent stares of everyone else in the large room, I stood and walked over to the temporally, time-suspended, twelve-point-seven centimeter pair. Requesting my medieval purse from my Reilly’s inventory, I opened it fully and held it up in front of the two stationary pixies.
I couldn’t quite reach them.
“Would it be too much to ask for one of my ‘loyal’ Mind Warriors to lend a hand or at least a step?” I asked without looking at any one of the five in attendance.
I felt myself rise about ten centimeters.
“Thank you,” I said as I positioned the purse directly in front of my quarry and released time for them. The resulting impact into my purse moved me back about half a meter as I quickly closed the open end by the sinew purse strings. Settling gently to the floor, I casually walked back to our table- my purse jerking and jumping on its own as I held it by its strings.
I unceremoniously tossed the bag onto the table.
“When you both decide to settle down and behave, I’ll let you out- provided you stay grown up.” I said loudly at the bag as it continued to hop and bounce spastically on the table. I occasionally batted the purse away from my hot cup to prevent spillage.
Waiting two full minutes after my purse went dormant; I loosened the strings and allowed the two pixies to exit. Simone and Ginger slowly crawled out with their heads hung low in disgrace.
“Why is it so deceptively large in there, Alex?” Ginger asked as she stood, hovered off the side of the table, and grew into ‘Adult’ mode while pointing to my purse.
“Variable Dimension Physics, honey. My mate and his people optimized it centuries ago on their planet. Are you two ready to behave now?”
“We are, Empress. What would you have us do on this ‘mission’ of yours?” Ginger asked formally.
“You two will be imitating cadavers in order to clear a good friend’s name in a series of gruesome murders.” I replied indifferently.
“Caaaaaadavers/Mmmmmurders?” Ginger and Simone gasped together in shock.
“But, why?” Ginger asked, quickly overcoming her astonishment.
“You two just so happen to look very similar to one of the victims.” I smiled. “Trina, have you been able to get a handle on the gift you share with your twin, Sunni?”
“You mean can I use the gift I never knew I possessed, Alexandra?” She asked.
“That very one, honey. I might need you to ‘modify’ our corpse to resemble the walking dead or impersonate someone else if warranted.” I smiled as I looked around the room for the last member of our mission group.
“Lilly? We’ll need your mimicry, too.” I said spotting her off to the left about halfway across the room.
She nodded and walked toward us.
“So what do you need us for, Alex?” Rommie asked as she, Amy, and Lena looked on from my right. “Are we really going after the ‘Ripper’?”
I nodded. “Sort of, but not directly.”
“Rommie, you’ll be our liaison to the local constabulary and Scotland Yard. I may also need you to play ‘Legal Assistant’… Amy and Lena…how good are you at making fog- the ‘pea soup’ variety?”
Amy smiled wickedly. “Not a problem, Director.”
“Fog, mom?” Lena questioned innocently as she tilted her head to one side.
“Its easy enough once I show you the basics, Sprink.” Amy answered, still with the devious grin.
“So what do you have planned for us, Alexandra?” Mom inquired snobbishly as she and Reggie looked on expectantly.
“Transportation and ‘temporal effects’.”
“So Regina and I are to be lowly conveyances?”
“No, you are going to help us clear James, mother. Reggie, when the time comes, you are going to make sure our cadavers appear and disappear ‘mysteriously’.”
“Gotcha, ma.” Reggie acknowledged with a very…VERY disconcerting, malevolent grin.
“Mom? How practiced are you at phasing out of brick walls like you did back in Avalon?” I asked impassively.
Alexis Reilly grinned maliciously!
“So what will Pixie Squadron be doing, Director?” Yuuka asked on behalf of her flight. I did a double take as the five women were now dressed in WWII Era Army Air Corp uniforms, officer’s covers, and leather flight jackets.
I shook my head and a giggle escaped my lips as I noticed the ‘Pin-up Girl styled Flying Pixie’ squadron patch on each of their right breast pockets.
“Reconnaissance…except for Trina. I want twenty-four hour, overhead surveillance of James, Ginger, and Simone for the duration of this mission. Any questions?”
“Um…director?” Yuuka asked shyly. “Does this mission require corsets?”
“And Bustles, too, but only while not in ‘Pixie Mode’. We will be in 1880’s Britain after all. Being underdressed is simply not done, my dear.” I replied after selecting the most proper English accent my Reilly was programmed with.
She cringed, visibly.
“I hate corsets.” Billie groused quietly.
“Believe me, I’m not fond of them either, Will. Neither is your sister, Jacki, for that matter.” I replied- my voice tainted with similar hatred toward the dread torture devices. I’d had my fill back at Avalon, after all.
“RVP, we’ll need requisite translation archives with appropriate accent variants along with proper 1880’s women’s fashion data transferred to our Reilly’s as needed.”
“Parsing individual unit discrepancies. Complete. Downloading. Downloads complete. I have also taken the liberty to download Omega Processor #3’s ‘Corset Initiation’ software patch to limit physical damage to the individual.” RVP responded.
“Thank you. Status on mission group Reillys’ charge levels?” I asked.
“All unit power levels within normal reserve parameters, Director. I suggest sanitary holding system purges for all units before mission onset.”
“Agreed. Commense sanitary system purge of all relevant units, RVP.”
“Initiating purge. Please remain stationary.” RVP advised.
“Director, I’m reading system error codes on units’ Simone and Ginger. Revisionary logs do not comply with Reilly Research Foundation OEM specifications. Recommendation: unit replacement before mission onset.” RVP quickly announced.
“You heard RVP, girls. Yuuka, please escort these two to your quarters and have RVP measure and fabricate their ‘official’ Reilly suits. Install all necessary archives, programs, and software patches. Report back here when systems interfacing is complete. RVP, copy?”
“Acknowledged, Director.” Our A.I. confirmed.
“Understood, Alex. We’ll be back in a little while. Come on you two.” Yuuka acknowledged as she went to pixie mode. Simone and Ginger followed her lead and all three flew out into the passageway.
“We have three hours. Now what should we do in the mean time?” I asked.
“Alex?” Cami asked. “What should Clan Darough do while you’re away?”
“If I’m not mistaken, I think Alexandra will ask if you four would like to go on a mission with her. I believe she needs assistance on a planet called Medrin?”
“Oh, Goddess! Really? Medrin?” Cami gasped with a horrified expression. “Why there of all places?”
“I’ve seen some very important negotiations occurring in the Medrin capital, honey- something about telepathic precautions and error checking.” I revealed.
“Marvelous! What I always wanted to do. Reading the minds of the Medrin’s and De Medrin’s! The most notorious womenizers in the universe!” Cami complained holding her hands high into the air in protest. “What did we do to deserve this, Alex?”
“Too many Mind Warriors in Victorian London makes for a very big crater in Britain, Sweetheart. Besides, I think Quintin would ‘love’ to see Medrin and its unique governing political system.” I replied with emphasis on the word ‘love’.
‘Is that where it happens, Director?’ Cami thought to me, as she remained silent.
I twitched my eyebrow ever so slightly in response.
“Alexandra will arrive tomorrow at 0800hrs, sweetheart.” I informed. “We’ll be in the auditorium acclimating ourselves to the period clothing. Gena, stay here in reserve just in case.” I added as I first looked around at the unassigned Pixies then to Fay again floating overhead, before walking out the door.
After spending six restful hours at Kili’s south beach, I had brought our group- minus Yuuka, Simone, and Ginger- back to Reilly’s main auditorium. We had been walking, sitting, and standing for an hour now in our period clothing. Yuuka, Ginger, and Simone had joined us forty minutes ago. Ginger and Simone had lost consciousness four times each so far, but finally…finally, seemed to be adjusting.
“Is everyone comfortable with their clothing restrictions?” I asked my companions.
“Aesthetically, does this ‘bustle’ exponentially expand my buttocks?” Billy inquired.
I rolled my eyes.
“Must we wear these constrictive garments, Alex?” Ginger asked as she readjusted herself in her blouse for the…Goddess, I had lost count how many times!
“YES!” I answered curtly before looking around to my other sisters.
“Pixies. You’ll all need to remain grownup unless on sortie.” I reminded. Seeing the six women nod, I continued while holding out my hands.
“Shall we go, Ladies?”
“Amy, a cover of the foggy type to phase in unseen, if you please?”
“Copy, Alex. Watch and learn, Lena. Fog is really easy when you have so much humidity already in the air. Just concentrate on making very small droplets of water condense. Not so big that they begin to fall, just big enough to form a low, dense cloud. Like this.” Amy instructed.
A modest fog bank immediately rolled ominously down the street to almost obscure the buildings on either side of the narrow thoroughfare.
Taking that as her cue, my sister’s group rephrased.
“Y’all are late, Allison Covington!” Alex Covington griped quietly before we even rephased.
“Apologies, Alexandra. We had costuming issues that needed immediate rectification. How have you been, sister?” I said as we embraced. The familiar tingle was barely felt. I now knew everything she knew and quickly began to review her plan.
“Mina! Jacki! How nice to see you two again!” I added excitedly embracing the other two women.
“What is that smell?” Simone questioned, thereby interrupting our greetings; her nose scrunched up tightly.
“We country folk call it ‘horseshit’, hun. Didn’t Allie tell y’all ta watch your step before rephasin’?” Alex Covington informed our freshman sister. “Maybe y’all should take a slow, careful step to your right? An lift yer dress a might b’fore doin’ it.”
“Greenhorns.” She huffed to herself while shaking her head several times. Jacki and Mina giggled quietly while politely covering their mouths with their gloved hands.
“Lexi? How’s this here Universe been treatin’ ya?”
“Been intrestin’, ma. A whole heap more fun then Flemin’ City’s been these last five hundred or so years.” Mom replied using her rarely unleashed drawl. She quickly wiped at her eyes.
“Sorry, Alex.” She said quietly as her eyes lowered sadly to the slowly darkening street.
“Ah told ya it was all good, hun. Ah’m honored to be her stand in.”
Mom gave my twin a single nod.
An awkward minute passed as we just stood and looked at each other. I noticed that Billie and Jacki had moved away a few paces and were quietly conversing with each other.
“Well…shall we divvie up an’ go to our rooms to start the mission? Granted, the places ain’t much, but it’ll suffice for the mission. Mina, you an’ Lexie take Reggie, Lilly, an’ our Pixie Squadron over to the other…house. The rest of us need to go in here.” Alex said gesturing to a nondescript door to the left of the cobblestone street we had ported to.
“Be on your best behavior tonight, girls.” Mina smiled with a wink as she directed mom, Reggie, Lilly, and the Pixies up the street. “My flat is this way, sisters.”
They vanished- literally and physically- into Amy and Lena’s manufactured fogbank. The fog itself began to quickly disperse as we reached the two steps leading to the indicated door and Alex reached for the handle.
1634hrs, London, England, December 23rd, 1887AD
“Margie!” Alex shouted as we entered, single file, into a gas lit hallway. A well-worn staircase off to our right led to the second floor and beyond, it’s heavily worn banister testament to its frequent use. Muffled feminine giggling could be heard from behind a darkly stained, heavy, wooden, double pocket door.
One panel of the door slid open slowly and a middle-aged woman’s head appeared.
“You Americans. Got no sense a privacy or decorum. Didn’ I tell ya we had custome…I means friends arriving shortly?” The woman scolded as she quickly assessed Alex and I, looked to the door then back at our group. Her eyes grew large.
“Oi! Where you pretty wenches been hidin’?” Marge blurted out as her jaw practically dropped to the floor. She quickly composed herself. “Quick! Get yer pretty lil’ arses in ‘ere ‘fore they gets ‘ere!”
Both panels of the door quickly slid open to reveal a large sitting room- a lounge- I believe the British called it.
Six stylishly dressed women of varying ages stood or sat around the tastefully decorated room that smelt heavily of cigars and perfume. We got several different reactions from them. Three of them looked very jealous. The other three regarded us critically; one woman even licked her heavily painted lips.
“Quick, girls, help em get comfy!”
Several of ‘Margie’s girls’ offered help removing then quickly took our overcoats, hats, and bags to the back room.
“Dearies, take an open seat if ya likes, otherwise stand so’s ya shows off yer goods for the nice gentlemen we’re expectin’.
I looked at my sister in surprise.
“You booked us into a Brothel?” I whispered angrily to her.
“Y’all seen it, sis! Don’t gimme that ol’ righteous act- not after what Ah seen y’all do back on Terra!”
She had me there, but before I could argue, we were interrupted.
“Oi! Tart ain’t on the board this night, ol’ woman, got her menses jes b’fore Alexandra’s cab called!” Amy barked as she placed a protective hand on Lena’s shoulder. A bright flash of light filled the lounge windows and a menacing clap of thunder sounded outside that shook the lamp globes.
I’d say Amy was definitely surprised by our mission parameters already and intended to keep Lena’s honor intact.
“Suit yerself, dearie. This here’s a respectable establishment an’ we don’ expect no pervs tonight anyhow. The tart can stay in the back an fix refreshments.” Margie acquiesed after looking curiously toward the nearest window.
“I ain’t no tart! I’m sixteen an’ certainly no maid, mumsie! Me an’ Ames, we stays together through thick an’ thin! Don’t we Ames?” Lena griped angrily.
Our young sister had caught on very quickly.
“We’ll head to the back, mum. Sorry, Allie. Sorry, Alex.” Amy replied as she made her decision. Alex and I nodded.
“Ah understand, hun. Allison an’ Ah’ll split our take with y’all.” Alex offered as I nodded my agreement.
“You’re loss! We share profits equally amonst the girls that…’provides’…services.” Margie said as she relented.
“How many we expectin’, mum?” Rommie asked giving off an aire of experience as she struck a very enticing pose by the heavy, cast iron coal stove that provided heat for the room.
“Received nine ‘reservations’ fer tonight, dearie. Don’t know if any them gents cater to the lean meat though, asked fer more wholesome company, an’ the word ‘twins’ was mentioned once or twice, so…”
Several of the ‘resident’ girls giggled politely as the Senator blushed.
“How’d you do it, Alex?” Margie asked as she looked to Billie and Jacki then to me and Alex.
“Told y’all Ah had connections!” Alex answered with a devious smile. “Hey Allison, y’all care to inner-duce the gals?”
“Shur, sis.” I answered, taking her hint. I let my shared drawl come out to play. “Y’all met Romney Marsh over by the Franklin. Amanda Reynolds and her kid sister, Lenora…”
“Lena’s good, mum.” Lena interrupted gruffly.
“Seems y’all met my twin, Alex, an’ these here are our best friends, Jacki an’ Billie Cummins.”
‘I absolutely refuse to offer myself to some unknown man for compensation, Alexandra!’ Billie declared in my mind.
‘It won’t come to that, Billie.’ Her own voice- or rather, Jacki’s- answered calmly. ‘Alex says the festivities will be disrupted by some commotion out on the street. This ‘house’ won’t earn a penny tonight. So relax, sis. Wait. Didn’t you see what happens tonight?’
‘Of course I have foreseen tonight’s adventure, Jacquelyn. I had also seen myself conveying the aforementioned statement.’ Billie responded regally via thought.
‘Must you always be a prude, sis? Goddess, you can be such a stuck-up bitch at times!’ Jacki thought back strongly.
A bell ringing three times indicated someone was at the door and canceled the opening shots to the upcoming war of ‘thoughts’ between our two Mind Warriors.
“The Gents is here! Make yerselves look pretty fer ‘em, Dearies!” Margie urged excitedly in a loud whisper as she opened one of the pocket doors, gracefully exited the room, and quickly reclosed it.
We heard Margie answer the door.
“Welcome to Margie’s, Gents! Step right in an’ get somethin’ to warm yerselves this cold winter’s eve.”
“Thank you, Lady Margaret. Your hospitality is, as always, first rate.”
“Aren’t you the dear, Mr. Sadler? Nice to see you again, too! Come on in, I have just the thing ta take ‘way the chill.”
The pocket doors opened wide revealing Margie and several well-dressed gentlemen. I recognized one of the faces.
“Well, girls? Help the gent’s with their overcoats.” She prompted expectantly, scowling around the room. We all went into action helping the men remove their overcoats, gloves, scarves, hats, and a few had walking canes.
“What in the Queen’s name? Alexandra? Is that you, luv?”
“Well, Ah nevva… Little Jimmie Sadler…all growed up-like…could it really be true, hun?” Alex said acting surprised as she gently touched his forearm.
“Lady Alexandra, please!” The man pleaded genteelly in embarrassment.
“Hi, Jimmie.” I said shyly as I moved over to where he could see me.
“And Allision? You’re here, too? My how the time flies, Ladies! Could it have possibly been three years since we met at Uncle’s party? How have my favorite twins fared since last we ‘talked’?” James Sadler asked with reserved enthusiasm.
“Been more like five, Jimmie! How’s ol’ ‘Unc’ doin’ these days?”
“I’m sorry to admit that his gout severely limits his activities these days, yet he is still randy as a first year. I fear it will be his death.”
Alex and I giggled to each other.
“Natcher’ly.” Alex said as we winked to each other.
“An’ how’s her ladyship, Jimmie?” I asked seriously.
“Mother is as always, Lady Allison. She wishes for far more communication than Father will allow. I feel a socialite, such as Mother, should never have been taken out from the pool of society and placed in the brook of Father’s small hamlet. She simply cannot swim free and constantly gasps for breath, I’m afraid.” James Sadler explained before his expression lightened.
“You simply must come out to the country for a visit, ladies! Mother, Father, and even Uncle should be ecstatic to see you both again!” James stated as he walked over to Billie and gently took her hand.
“And you must be Jacki. Alexandra has spoken of you and your sister at length. I feel that I know you intimately.
“I’m Billie, that’s Jacki,” Billie corrected without any expression as she pointed to her twin.
“My apologies, ladies! You both are equally beautiful.”
“What’s with all the prattling, Alex? You know this here gent?” Margie demanded, as she looked him up and down.
“Allie an’ Ah ‘worked’ this ‘fancy shindig’ for his uncle a few years back- right after we crossed the pond as y’all call it. Earned us enough to settle inta a cozy little place here in London while we set up ‘shop’.” Alex explained without even the slightest blush.
A Police whistle sounded from right outside on the street. It was my and Alex’ cue to start acting frightened.
“Jinkies! The Cops!” Alex and I cried excitedly as we began to look around nervously for a place to hide.
“Let me handle this, girls.” Margie said as she motioned for us to calm down. She exited the room through the double doors. Rommie just rolled her eyes ever so slightly.
After waiting fifteen seconds, Alex motioned that we should move closer to the door and we each placed an ear to it to listen.
“What’s all the excitement, Robert?” Margie asked as she opened the door to the street.
“Best you ladies stay inside, Margie. There’s been an incident. This ain’s somethin’ you fairer lot should see.
Several of the newly arrived men hurried past us and joined Margie.
“My dear constable, I heard something about an incident; what is going on? I should inform you that I am a surgeon. Is someone in need of medical attention?” One of them asked.
“I reckon no doctor can help this one, gov’ner. You’re welcome to try though.” The officer responded.
“One moment, my bag is right here.”
“Don’t know about you girl’s, but I’m morbidly curious as to what’s happened.” One of Margie’s girls stated as she and her friends hurried past us and out into the street. Alex, Rommie, Amy, Lena, Jacki, Billie, and I followed.
We followed the officer and ‘our’ men half a block up the thinly, ‘naturally’ fogged street and turned into an alley.
There, Ginger and Lilly stood, clutching each other in fear, over an elongated pile of clothes heaped on the cobblestones with a wooden stake protruding from its middle. In the modest light of the bobby’s lantern you could almost make out that it was a woman’s dress.
“Please move away, ladies. I am a surgeon.” The self-proclaimed doctor announced. Ginger and Lilly yielded and silently stepped back several feet while still consoling each other.
The doctor placed a finger to the body’s neck then carefully placed his ear to her chest.
“Afraid she’s gone, constable.” He announced sadly looking up toward Officer Robert.
“Anyone recognize ‘er?” The bobbie asked as he looked around our gathered group.
“Might be a girl name a ‘Fay’ I seen around ‘ere lately”, Lilly suggested. “Too dark to be certain, though.”
“Well we can’t leave the poor thing lie here, Constable.” Our doctor said as he unceremoniously yanked the stake from the corpse.
“HEY! THAT HURT! CAN’T A CADAVER REST IN PEACE? WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH YOU?” The inanimate body, Simone, shouted as she instantly sat straight up in a panic, ‘popped’ into Pixie mode- clothing and all, and shot out of the alley.
‘What a Newb!’ Jacki giggled in my mind as I felt myself cringe. ‘Reggie’s gonna be pissed she screwed the plan up!’
The barking of a dog several streets away filled the alley and echoed in the empty silence we all suddenly found ourselves in. Not one word was said in that alley for more than three minutes as we all tried to quietly work out our shock- faked or honest.
“Bloody Hell!” Margie finally gasped out as she blinked a few times and began looking around. I personally, had been picturing Ricky Lynn saying, ‘ah, shit’!
“Oi, Ames, pinch me! Ain’t seen nothin’ like’at b’fore- least awake!” Lena adlibbed.
“I need the Loo!” One of Margie’s girls cried as she quickly turned and ran out of the alley.
“You seen what Ah jus’ seen, Allie?” Alex asked in very believable shock.
“Nope! Ain’t seen nothin’ that might get us both throwed inta some Asylum, sis. Neither did you!” I stressed.
“Snogged a gent what had a bad ticker once…’e’s ol’ lady show’d an caught us. ‘E popped up an run like a demon possessed. Don’t recollect him sproutin’ no wings though!” Rommie commented with equal shock.
“I…I…don’t…there was no heartbeat. How could she…” The doctor babbled emphatically. “What was she?”
“Maybe that weren’t her name, Gov’nor, but what she were?” Another one of Margie’s girls suggested as we all looked to her in wonder.
“What say we all agree we ain’t seen a thing tonight? Margie? Y’all got any strong stuff? Ah’m thinkin’ we could all use some strong bourbon or such.” I suggested.
“Sheriff, look’s like y’all could use some too!” Alex added.
“But I have to report this. There is no such thing as a false homicide. Bodies don’t suddenly jump up, turn into fairies and fly away. It’s simply absurd in this modern age!” The officer complained.
I inwardly held a laugh of disgust. ‘Modern’. Huh!
“This’n did!” I proposed instead.
“Cain’t y’all see what happens if’n ya report this, sheriff? Supposin’ y’all wanted a per-mo-shun. Things like this here ain’t helpful. Ah’d personally think twice b’fore puttin’ this ta paper or verse. Maybe think on it over a shot?” Alex recommended.
“This’d take at least a few pints, Alex! Y’all got some pertie strange things happ’nin’ here in England, sheriff.” I added. “Nothin’ like this ever happened back home in Mahzzura…even AFTER a good drunk!”
“Girls’ got a point, Robert! Step in and warm a spell.” Margie recommended then continued with a cautious smile. “Got a new cask a Brandy down in the cellar specially fer the gent’s.”
Author’s note: (citing Wikipedia, because…well, why not?)
In addition to the eleven Whitechapel murders, commentators have linked other attacks to the Ripper. In the case of "Fairy Fay", it is unclear whether the attack was real or fabricated as a part of Ripper lore. "Fairy Fay" was a nickname given to a victim allegedly found on 26 December 1887 "after a stake had been thrust through her abdomen", but there were no recorded murders in Whitechapel at or around Christmas 1887. "Fairy Fay" seems to have been created through a confused press report of the murder of Emma Elizabeth Smith, who had a stick or other blunt object shoved into her abdomen. Most authors agree that the victim "Fairy Fay" never existed.
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