South of Bikini 5: Episode 2- We'll Aways Have Athens

In this episode, we rejoin Empress Alex Reilly and company in ancient Athens, Greece. Then, skipping ahead several years and after a different kind of wardrobe malfunction, Alex and her sisters fight for their lives as first Assassins attack then Spartan troops threaten to destroy Corinth to abduct Billie and her daughter, Iphigenia. But, is there a more sinister explanation for the onslaught? Will the Spartans survive the Empress’ forces- especially the sharp blade, and sharp tongue of the Empress’ daughter, Reilly?

 

Copyright 2014, R.G. Beyer


 
 

South of Bikini


 

Season 5


 
 


Episode 2


 

“We’ll always have Athens”


 
 

4:03PM, Athens, Greece, July 22nd, 1199BC
 
 

“My love, where have all the people gone? Where did the distressed earth disappear? With the exception of the missing buildings and homes, it is as though the events of today never happened.” Theseus questioned his mate after we reappeared next to Billie on the outskirts of Athens. The crater was gone and so were the destroyed buildings- rubble and all.

“Sangiere Demolition and Hauling.” I said simply while nodding at Billie.

“You…you did all of this in the time the Empress and I were gone?” Theseus looked to Billie in complete astonishment.

“Ya. Just don’t look under the rugs though, okay?” Reilly giggled with a wink.

Naturally, I rolled my eyes. I noticed Reilly rolled hers, too.

“Director? I wish to enact maternity leave privileges commencing at once.” Billie requested formally after a full minute. “I have a daughter to raise and I want her father to be part of the project.”

I smiled pleasantly. “Leave granted. I think thirteen years should be a sufficient project term limit.”

“I concur, Director.” Billie replied after closing her eyes for a moment.

‘About time she starts to really use her gift!’ I thought as I noticed Reilly wince and scrunch her nose quickly. My daughter was getting better at using her gift also.

‘Think she’ll stick with it, Mom?’ Reilly thought back.

‘SHE will certainly try, Reilly Reilly.’ Billie thought to both of us as she physically smiled.

Lilly, Fay, Yuuka, and Hoshi laughed and shook their heads a few times.

“Then we’ll be going home, Billie. Call if you need help.” I said as I noticed her close her eyes. Her face turned crimson, as she appeared to concentrate on something.

“Empress, wait! My gift does not seem to be working properly. I cannot initiate transport of Theseus, Iphigeneia, and I to our residence.”

“And that surprises you, Billie?” Reilly sassed.

I glared at my daughter once again. Obviously Billie had more of my gift than she realized.

“I guess you need my help sooner than expected, hun.” I smiled and offered my hands.

A familiar decorated, stone room appeared around us.

“Thank you, Empress.” Theseus said as he began to bow.

“Knock it off, hun! You’re part of the family now.” I warned, nodding to Billie and Gena. “Oh…you might want to rebuild all those homes and businesses Billie destroyed. The people can only be fooled for so long, Theseus.”

Lilly, Fay, Yuuka, Hoshi, Reilly, and I reappeared in my office conference room.

“Wow, that was worth my effort!” Hoshi grumbled to herself.

“It’s not over yet, hun.” I commented without even looking at her. “We have unfinished business in Athens.”

“Didn’t we just get back from there, Alex?” Yuuka asked, confused.

“Yes, director, why return if our mission has not completed?” Lilly inquired.

“RVP, I need Samantha and Cassandra in my office on the double.”

They have been notified and told of the importance, Director,” our A.I. replied.

“Fay, Very carefully, I require you to remove your covering.” I told my sister. Her response was expected.

“Why would I comply? Do you wish to humiliate me as some sort of punishment? What have I done so wrong?”

“I don’t wish to embarrass you in any way, Fay! I have foreseen a critical failure in your Reilly suit and would like the casualties to remain low. RVP, disable Freya’s Reilly’s offensive protocols. ReillyDirector4386, execute.”

Unable to establish communications with Valkyrie Mark 12 covering unit. Recommend user local shutdown procedure.

“Everyone evacuate this compartment!” I commanded using one of Alex Steinert’s terms while noticing Fay’s eyes bulge in horror.

“Director! It will not respond! My primary weapons systems are activating!” She cried as every port and storage compartment in her Reilly suddenly opened and mounted their lethal projectiles.

I had to buy some time so our sisters could escape. Concentrating, I tried what I had observed my sister do back in Memphis.

To my relief, Fay became stationary then her armament began to deactivate and stow themselves back into her Reilly. I actually made time reverse! Now to hold it still.

To my dissatisfaction, the strain I felt on my gift increased exponentially. I couldn’t hold her for long. How did Alex Steinert seem to do this so easily? A memory- one indicating extreme pain and agony appeared. My sister had been suffering too, but never displayed what she felt internally. I felt a renewed respect for my temporal twin and vowed here and now to follow her brave example.

“Ever’one move yer perty little britches! I cain’t hold her much longer!” I ordered, noticing my sister’s accent had reemerged.

Yuuka went to Pixie mode immediately and took up a position above me.

“I’m staying, Alex! I’ll act as a decoy. Unless Fay made any improvements her missiles can’t keep up with me.”

Hoshi instantly appeared in front of me. “Me either, Alex.” She added.

Without saying a word, Lilly shimmered and I found myself looking at myself standing in the doorway.

“Director, two of you will be harder to establish target lock on.” She shimmered again and now there were three of me in the room. “Three, even harder.”

Without warning, or understanding, six copies of my daughter now surrounded Hoshi and I! I was astounded! When had she learned that little trick?

“Hoshi, you thread the fence like we practiced earlier today. Remember the disassociation when transiting my phasing. We’re all ready, mom. You can let her go now.” My daughter assured me with a smile. Had she and Hoshi just gone back to earlier today just to practice? At the moment searching my gift for that answer would have to wait.

It was with a renewed confidence and respect of my sisters and daughter that I released my localized temporal anomaly around Freya. In all truthfulness I was near exhaustion anyway. Once again her weapons systems executed.

While already wide, Fay’s eyes widened farther as, by her perspective, her sisters were instantly in full defensive mode- a mode she had obviously never encountered before. Her projectiles frantically and chaotically panned and adjusted trying to decide on what or which one of us to lock onto.

“Director? I am unsure as to my ability to control my systems. I recommend immediate departure to some place safe.” She advised in a terror-stricken voice as she looked around.

“Status on munitions.” I requested calmly while wiping the trickle of blood from under my nose hoping to hide the fact that I was near collapse.

“Alex, you don’t understand! Get out of here!” Fay cried.

“Status on munitions, Miss Morgana.” I repeated evenly.

“My inventory is maximized, director. Please. Evacu-!”
 
 

It all happened so fast, even I couldn’t follow what exactly took place…or in what order!

Looking around, my office and conference room were in shambles- blackened blast marks, holes in the walls, floor, and ceiling; sparks from the embedded control systems the explosions had compromised… I doubted RVP still had any monitoring capability here.

Freya stood frozen in place, weapons bays completely depleted- her tear-filled eyes continuously scanning the destruction around her.

Across the room from me, Lilly - now restored and a single entity once more- steadied herself against the mutilated doorframe- blood slowly seeping from her nose, mouth, and ears.

Hoshi knelt on the floor in front of me, gasping for breath, one shaking arm trying to hold her semi-upright. Yuuka lay unconscious next to her, face down on the floor- her wings twitching spasmodically.

I instinctively gulped as I swallowed. What a disaster.

“Well that went better than I anticipated.” All six of Reilly chorused from around me. They all dropped their hands, which they had held palm out, and disappeared sequentially until just one remained.

“Now,” Reilly said as she approached a still terror-frozen Freya, “Let’s get that thing off before it causes any more excitement.”

She produced and made a show of twirling a large hunting knife in her hand as she gently pulled Freya’s fabric collar out and began to cut the defective Reilly suit off our horrified sister.

“Mom? Are you alright?” She inquired when she reached Fay’s abdomen.

“Mom?” Reilly asked again having not received my status. She stepped back, twirled the impressively large knife once again, and made it disappear to wherever she kept it. She turned back toward me. “Mom? Hello? Are you okay?”

I nodded silently- the fatigue finally taking its toll. I felt my knees buckle.
 
 

9:01PM, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, July 5rd, 2020BC
 
 

“Hey. Feeling any better?” Reilly’s voice asked as the darkness abated. I found myself in my bed.

“What revolution is it?” I asked, still uncertain of how long I had been unconscious.

“Its July 5th 2020BC. You’ve only been out of it for fifteen hours, mom.” Reilly giggled.

“Freya, Lilith, Hoshi, and Yuuka?”

“All recovered and waiting for you to wake up, mom.”

I nodded.

“Mom?” Reilly paused a moment. “What you did with Fay…That! Was! AWESOME! I never knew you could reverse time, let alone stop it…I mean, for a single person. Aunt Alex show you that?”

“It was something Alex showed me in Egypt. I wasn’t sure I could do it.” I answered pushing myself up to sitting.

“Where did you learn to multiply like that, honey? And…what was with the big knife?” I inquired back.

Reilly blushed. “I kind of broke Terran protocol, mom. I listened in when you were writing your report on Anna Beth and Khufu’s rescue from Egypt- how Aunt Alex almost killed herself with that awesome display back at the Temple? You kind of went into mental detail about her episode in Anna Beth’s Ready Room. Appearing microseconds ahead of yourself- multiple times- it actually served a useful purpose.”

“Why were your hands raised like that?” I asked, curious about my daughters’- all six- strange pose. I raised my own hands and illustrated.

“That’s something Alexis taught me on our latest visit to Terra Nuevo. She calls it her phase shield. Apparently I got it right or you, Hoshi and I wouldn’t be here. I don’t think Alexis intended for me to use it in quite that capacity though.”

“And that Bowie knife?” I asked as I raised an eyebrow curiously- surprised I remembered what Alex Steinert called it.

“Oh. This little pig-sticker?” Reilly blushed as she again produced the knife from the ether and began twirling it in her hand. “Uncle Charlie gave it to me and showed me some moves…I mean how to use it properly… when I went with Aunt Alex on a trip to Springfield a few months ago. Unc says I’m a natural with it.”

With another twirl, she made it disappear again. I eyed my daughter cautiously for thirty seconds. I made a mental note to ‘talk’ to Charles Mason next time I went to visit Brianna.

“I’ll…I’ll get the door, mom.” Reilly suddenly announced awkwardly as she walked over and actuated my domicile’s door control. She motioned for Lilly, Hoshi Yuuka, and Fay to come in. I noticed Fay didn’t even attempt to look at me- her eyes staring at the floor sadly- and that she had one of our old default Reilly’s on.

“Director, I hope you have recovered sufficiently?” Lilly inquired.

“Reversing, then holding time at bay is harder than it looks, sisters! I was not prepared for the fatigue that followed such a task.”

“Then how did Capt. Steinert make it look so easy, Alex?” Yuuka asked as Hoshi nodded her agreement to the question.

“If my memories serve me, it was not any ‘easier’ for her, honey. Our sister camouflages her pain better, that is all.”

“Fay? Have you diagnosed the failure and made the proper modifications to your Reilly?” I asked, hoping to get my sister’s mood to improve.

“Aye, I have, director.” She answered despondently.

“The modifications to your Valkyrie must be completed and thoroughly tested before we return to Athens tomorrow, Freya.”

“I know that, director, and it’ll be accomplished…if ye still consider me for the mission’s continuation.”

“I do indeed still ‘want’ you by my side on this…and many more missions in the future, Fay. Just because a piece of tech malfunctions…it doesn’t mean that I have lost confidence in you! We have co-habitated in this facility for over nine hundred revolutions, one failure should not deconstruct that lengthy a friendship.” I consoled.

“Director, if not for our sisters…your daughter…I mighta deleted ye!”

“Are you sure ‘you’ would have deleted me and not that faulty covering, Freya? I judge our friendship stronger in resolve than that, don’t you?” I asked but didn’t wait for an answer. “Therefore, how could you have intentionally deleted me?”

I looked to Yuuka, Lilly, Hoshi, and Reilly. “Girls, we will meet in the Assistant Director’s conference room in one hour for our new mission parameters. Freya, please remain a moment more.”

Freya and I waited until my door closed. As expected, my sister fell onto my bed and wrapped her arms around me and began crying uncontrollably- mumbling something about being so sorry and asking my forgiveness. It was difficult to understand through all the weeping and her Scottish brogue.

I held her tight and let her liquid emotions flow unrestricted.
 
 

Twenty minutes had passed before I felt her crying ebb.

“RVP. Status on ‘Valkyrie’ model Reilly suit?”

“Valkyrie Mark 13 fabrication has just completed, Director.”

“RVP, redesignate Valkyrie Mark 13 as Mark 14, please.”

“Acknowledged, Director.”

Fay pushed back gently and looked into my eyes in curiosity.

“Why the redesignation, director?”

“First off, my name is Alex, or have we slipped back into formalities? Secondly, roughly three thousand years from now the prime number thirteen will prove very unlucky for a large group of men in medieval Europe. Because of that the number ‘thirteen’ is considered by many to be cursed. Many future businesses and rental residences wish not to ‘tempt’ fate and therefore skip thirteen altogether. I wish to continue that superstitious tradition.”

“But…” Fay paused to contemplate my confusing syntax. “That’s yet to occur, director. Why honor something that hasn’t yet happened?”

“Why not?” I countered with a gentle smile. “Ready to suit up, honey?”

“RVP, I will arrive momentarily to receive my Valkyrie Mark…14 covering. Please re-munition with practice ordinance exclusively for commissioning.” Fay advised the A.I.

“Valkyrie Mark 14 will be ready and outfitted on your arrival, Freya Morgana.”

“Aye. Thank ye, RVP.”

RVP, setup Sublevel Two for Valkyrie commissioning protocol, please.” I added. “Difficulty level ten.”

Fay stared at me in shock, knowing that was the hardest level- one she had never been able to complete satisfactorily.

“I assume you need to relieve excessive tension?” I reasoned aloud.
 
 

“Isn’t Fay coming with us tomorrow, director?” Hoshi asked as I walked into Billie’s conference room. Yuuka and Lilly looked surprised. I noticed that Samantha and Cassandra decided to join us.

“Fay is below in Sublevel Two commissioning her new Valkyrie. I ordered difficulty ten be instituted.”

“Ten, director? Why ten? Freya has never completed that level in the history of her Valkyrie project! She could get seriously damaged!” Cassandra responded excitedly. Her concern was warranted.

“As mah sister says, ‘y’all gotta git back on the horse that done throwed ya to git back yer con-fee-dunce, hun.’”

Hoshi and Yuuka rolled their eyes as Reilly giggled loudly. Sam and Cassie groaned quietly, while Lilly just stared at me with concern.

“Director, are you sure you are recuperated?”

“I’m fine, Lilly.” I said shaking my head with a grin then set my eyes to our newest attendees.

“How long until my office is somewhat usable, ladies?”

“RVP’s analysis revealed no major structural degradation to the facility on levels three and four, director. My estimate is two weeks once all involved systems are repaired, functionally tested, and re-certified.” Cassie reported.

“Reclamation, environmental, and facility critical systems in sections ‘B’ and ‘C’ on level four and section ‘B’, level three are inoperative. Hydroponics Labs three and five, Computation Lab six, and Biometrics lab one are currently disabled pending systems repair. Shield emitters alpha four through ten, both Gamma and Theta wave observatories, and our Low EM Near-field transponder are also offline. It is advantageous that this facility is currently within an acceptable atmosphere, director. All personnel in levels three and four could have been deleted if Reilly was still situated on her Homeworld satellite.”

I took a moment to thank the Goddess for Alex Steinert and her decisive strategy.

“Thanks ladies. Combined facility repair estimate?”

“Three weeks, director, but I’ve assigned a crew to repair the outer hull breach already.” Samantha said with a smile. “At least things will be dry if a monsoon hits.”

“Status on facility ‘K’ cells?” I asked next.

“Nano migration initiated immediately after the incident. Based on nanotech metabolism and lymphatic current, we can expect thirty-five percent auto-regeneration, director. Cassie answered.

“Reilly is alive?” Reilly gasped!

I turned slowly to my shocked daughter, staring at her for three seconds.

“Of course Reilly is ‘alive’, honey.”

My daughter stared at me for ten or fifteen seconds more before saying anything.

“Does Aunt Alex know that, mom?”

“Against my careful attempts to conceal that proprietary information, Sand Dollar is well ahead of schedule on her refit, Reilly. In another ten revolutions your Aunt’s submarine will be just as sentient as RVP.”

“Shit!” Reilly exclaimed in disbelief as her eyes opened wide and her mouth fell open.

I continued to stare at my daughter for two more minutes before moving on.

“Now that the damage report has concluded, we’ll move onto our Athens mission.” I paused to wait for Reilly to compose herself.

“When we arrive Billie will still be partially gifted. She will be able to use her telekinetics but not her temporal/spacial shift portion therefore we must focus on keeping Billie, Theseus, and Gena protected.”

“Protected from what, Alex?” Yuuka inquired.

“Apparently the real Helen is still mysteriously missing and Sparta still wants their queen back, honey. Of course rumor has spread back to Sparta that Theseus has kidnapped Helen. We all know this to be horseshit, but the Greek city-states ain’t exactly speakin ta one another these days.”

“Can’t they all just get along?” Reilly said before breaking out into full-fledged laughter.

I caught the reference to one of Alex Covington’s memories and stared at my daughter once again.

“Am I going to have to ban you from any more visits with your Uncle Charles and Aunt Brie, Reilly?” I asked seriously.

“Oh…you caught that one.” She grimiced.

“I certainly did…Rodney.” I deadpanned before continuing.

“Yuuka and Fay are to provide air support. Hoshi, you will run messages between the supporting troops and Athens. Lilly, you’ll toggle between intelligence gathering and decoy duty.”

I’ll need to replenish physical contact with you multiple times throughout the campaign, director. I’ll only be able to hold a given form for twelve hour- though, if I hold your form, four.”

“Maybe curtail using my gift of foresight and spatial multiplicity. You may just get more duration, honey.” I suggested.

“But it is such an addictive gift, director.” Lilly admitted timidly.

“You won’t think that next time things get complicated, hun!” I warned.

“Now you, Xena,” I paused and turned to Reilly with a wicked grin.

My sisters and daughter all looked around the room in confusion until Reilly noticed where my attention was set.

“I’m…I’m Xena? Who or what is that, mother?”

“I just thought that- well, with that there big ‘pig-sticker’- y’all could help Lilly with intelligence gatherin’ and give her some protection as well. And Ah’m surprised Charles Mason didn’t tell y’all about that ‘hooky’ video series! When Ah see that man, Ah’ll…”

“Got it, mom. Provide cover and support for Lilly. Roger that.” Reilly interrupted quickly. “Anything else, Empress?”

“I’ll bring Fay up to speed after her commissioning tests are complete. That’s all Ah have everyone. Get a good night’s rest. We leave at 0730hr.”

Standing, I saw everyone out of the room. Reilly remained seated and looked at me in wonder.

“You have something to say, honey? It would be unheard of if you didn’t.” I asked, feeling an evil grin emerge.

“Are you sure you’re alright, mom? You aren’t acting the way you usually do today.”

“I feel fine, honey.” I reassured her. “In fact, I feel better than I have in a long time.”

“See? That’s what I mean. You’re usually ‘stiffer’ than this! What has gotten into you, mother?”

“I think I just spent too much time with your Aunts, honey. Their personalities are very addictive. Andromeda’s was the only personality that was anywhere near my own.”

“Andromeda?” Reilly repeated in confusion. “I have an Aunt Andromeda? Since when?”

I paused ten seconds before answering.

“Since about sixty-eight thousand years ago…give or take a couple thousand.”

Reilly’s mouth dropped open- a noteworthy achievement seeing as no words where coming out at the same time!

I rolled my eyes in annoyance when she just continued staring at me.

“Andromeda is my half sister and commander of Atlantis. Grandmother Scott visited her Homeworld. She met Andie’s father much like I met yours, honey.” I explained.

My daughter continued to stare, until she finally snapped out of it with a start.

“The images that just flooded my brain…I’ll never be the same again, mother!”

“I didn’t tell you to look into the future and your conception, honey! That was your doing, not mine.” I giggled.

“So…how far into the future, mom?”

“Is there anything else you needed, honey?” I asked, blatantly ignoring her last question.

We stared at each other for another full minute.

“No…I guess there isn’t. I’ll see you tomorrow morning, mother.” She replied in a neutral tone as she stood and began walking toward the door.

I quickly reached out, gently grabbed her arm, and pulled her close.

“Thank you again for protecting me, honey! I’m so very proud of you, my wonderful daughter!” I said quietly near her ear then let her go.

Reilly nodded slowly a few times as she stopped half way between me and the door. I heard her sniff back a few tears as she exited Billie’s conference room. I only hoped Regina turned out half as well when I went to bring her home from Terra Nuevo in a few days. From all indications…and my foresight, I had nothing to fear.

With those wonderful thoughts in mind, I headed down to level two to get something to eat in the Rec Room. After which, I planned to retire for the night.
 
 

12:01AM, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, July 6th, 2020BC
 
 

“Come in, Freya Morgana.” I answered as my domicile alert sounded. I had just thought about reclining for the night.

“Am I disturbing you, director?”

“No more than anyone else, honey. What can I do for you?” I asked as Fay entered my room bashfully. She looked haggard and slightly bruised, but less stressed than earlier today.

“Commissioning of the Valkyrie Mark 14 is complete and certification has been submitted to RVP’s archive, director.” She paused to quickly look up from the floor at me before again looking down.

“I am…confident that…that I will have no more…failures…equipment malfunctions.”

“There will always be equipment malfunction, as sure as there will always be mistakes made by all of us, honey. I know that for a fact and there is nothing any of us can do to prevent that. Now, cheer up and tell me why you are really here to talk to me.”

Fay looked at me for quite some time before sighing and speaking.

“I want to tell ye how very sorry…”

“Care to try again, Fay?” I asked as I raised my hand to interrupt her.

Freya Morgana smiled tensely and shook her head side to side a few times.

“I liked you better before you realized your gift, Alex.” She said as she walked over and sat on the edge of my bed.

“So what displeases you now, sister? Has my character changed that much in nine hundred revolutions?”

“Just since your gift…”

“My gift has been with me for just as long, honey. It just took an off-worlder to show me how to use it.”

“I…I don’t understand, Alex? How could you have such wondrous gifts and not realize them?”

“Before the arrival of Alexandra Steinert, I remained blind to them. I guess Alex was right when she told me I wasn’t confident enough to use them.”

“You? Not confident? Director, I disagree with that assessment completely! If not confident how could you have designed and implemented your nano-techs to save our society?”

“That turned out well though, didn’t it?” I asked sarcastically. “Again…if Alex Steinert hadn’t appeared, ‘our society’ would have been doomed.”

“Maybe, maybe not, Alex.” Fay countered.

“You forget that I had already abandoned the facility when she appeared. Had she seen you flying overhead against the ceiling panels- weapons at the ready- I doubt she would have decided to help us as she did. Not that you were not authorized to keep the facility secure.”

“She knew, Alex. At least that is what she told me after our arrival on Earth. Your sister is more observant than maybe you realize. She is very intuitive- as are you.”

So,” I paused for three seconds. “Enough archive retrieval. State you intended purpose, Freya Morgana.” I said officially.

Fay delayed for a minute.

“I am unsure of your trust in me, director.”

“Alex.”

Fay paused four seconds to observe my expression.

“I am unsure of your trust in me…Alex. If you wish me not to accompany you and our sisters in the morning, I’ll…”

“Unacceptable, Freya Morgana!” I exclaimed in sudden anger.

“But I almost deleted…”

“Not you, but equipment in your possession! You are to attend me on this mission and I will hear nothing more on the matter! Is that understood, Miss Morgana?” I asked in anger. Not waiting for a reply, I continued. “You will be in the Assistant Director’s conference room at 0730 hrs and pray you are not late!”

Fay snapped to attention. “By your command, my Empress!”

I nodded sharply and she exited my domicile quickly.

“Have I provided sufficient entertainment for you, Reilly?” I asked, feeling her presence over by my window since before Fay had arrived.

“Kind of hard on her weren’t you, mom?” Reilly asked as she phased back in.

“It’s exactly what she needed; though I dislike giving strict orders to anyone, honey. Fay has regained self-assurance in her equipment, but she needed to know I still had confidence in her. Giving a strict order made her face that doubt. Once issued, she had no choice but to accept that truth.”

“And there I thought you were just being a bitch, mother. What made you decide on that approach?”

I sighed loudly.

“That’s the only way Fay will listen to reason. In case you haven’t noticed, she is excessively ‘military’.”

“Actually, I think it was the two dozen mini rocket launchers that popped out of each arm the first time I pissed her off; that confirmed it for me, mom. Is that why you made her head of security?”

“At first she was second in command of facility security, honey.” I looked down as a certain memory sprung to mind reminding me of the vivid, recurring nightmare it was. “Rena was my original head of security before and after the Homeworld exploded.”

“Rena? Who is Rena and why am I just hearing about her now?” Reilly asked in astonishment.

The nightmare began playing in my mind. I felt like I was reliving it for Goddess knows how many times.

My daughter’s eyes opened wide, her Terran side again breaking primary protocol.

“She was your lover?” She swallowed loudly. “When you were a guy?”

I nodded sadly.

“I’m sorry, mom, I didn’t know! I feel so bad now…for making you remember…”

“It’s okay, honey. I’m resigned to what happened and why. It’s been over eight hundred and sixty revolutions since it happened.”

“Resigned, my eye! It still seems pretty fresh in there, mom.” Reilly said right before she shimmered slightly.

“So where did you go this time, honey?’ I asked knowing what she had done, but not why.

“I…I just remembered I had to do something tomorrow and…and I knew I wasn’t going to be here for it, soooo…I…I went forward and did it just now.” She babbled guiltily.

I began laughing, realizing she sounded a lot like me when I tried explaining something ‘temporally’ to our sisters.

“I guess that sounded real intelligent, huh?” Reilly giggled as she looked at me with a guarded smile.

“I understood it perfectly, honey.” I answered as I pulled her into a tight embrace and kissed her cheek.

“I better get going, mom. I want to be fully rested for the mission.”

How far back will you be going, sweetheart?” I asked.

“I’ve been asleep for about four hours now. Good night, mom.” Reilly replied before disappearing from between my encircled arms.

“Good night, honey.” I said to the location where I knew she was standing.

I felt her presence disappear and requested my illumination to cease.
 
 

10:03AM, Corinth, Greece, October 31st, 1189BC
 
 

“Happy Halloween you dumb mother…!”

“Sister, do you really think contemporary profanities appropriate in this case?” Lilly interrupted Reilly off to my left. My daughter had just deleted another Spartan soldier that had broken our soldiers’ line and threatened harm to Lilly’s imitation of Billie. My Assistant Director had refused to take up arms to protect the people of this city-state- Corinth. Instead she chose to keep her daughter safe and in hiding from the assassins ordered to retrieve her to Sparta.

Assassins…It seemed like every able-bodied man in the whole City-State of Sparta went on the march to return ‘Helen’ to her rightful home!
 

Overhead, Fay again brought her secondary weapons to bear on another enemy phalanx. I had ordered her to conserve munitions. She therefore dove at the enemy wielding twin swords. Though not as effective as her explosive projectiles, they still sent terror through the men of the nearer enemy phalanx- enough to scatter them at least.

Yuuka flew through the enemy soldiers at high speed to upset moral and spread confusion. Though physically spent, she kept up her reckless sorties into the tightly grouped men, dodging spears and knives time after time. There were several cuts and bruises that indicated she hadn’t been quite fast enough a few times.

Hoshi continued her high-speed attack runs from the sides and rear of a half-dozen other enemy phalanx. Though not inflicting much damage, she still succeeded in disarming a handful of soldiers each time and causing some casualties. She too was visibly slowing because of fatigue.

“When will these assholes learn that we aren’t going to give up?” I heard Reilly swear as she swung what she called a Katana out at another infiltrator.

“Alex, my telekinetic mimicry is depleting rapidly. I must re-establish physical contact with the Assistant Director within the quarter hour.” Lilly informed me as she pushed out with her open-palmed hands. The entire phalanx nearest us tumbled backwards several hundred meters- the nearest insurgent flying up and over his comrades and landing another hundred meters further back- from the loud cry of agony probably impaled on a comrade’s spear.

As for myself, I had felt and tasted warm blood on my upper lip for the last hour. Now, with only three days left in my cycle, I found that if I concentrated extremely hard I could activate one of my gift’s abilities- stopping time. Though finding my range extremely limited, it at least allowed me to contribute to the cause.

Contribute to the cause…huh! Theseus intentionally involved us by sending Billie and Gena to Corinth on a diplomatic mission. Mother and daughter had been attacked as soon as their feet crossed the city gates!

Twelve-year old Gena- whose beliefs were those taught by her mother- folded immediately and Billie learned first-hand about protecting her young daughter.

Those initial assassins’ bodies were never recovered. Nothing big enough to qualify as remains at least. Killing her first eight men, Billie had vowed never to use her gift in such a way again. Period!

Unfortunately, her retaliation had been witnessed by the wrong people- some loyalists of Sparta.

Yuuka, Hoshi, Lilly, Reilly, and yes, Fay, arrived with me just after Billie and her daughter were incarcerated. Billie now realized what she was capable of and the potential consequences. True to her nature, she had shut down. Apparently her history had a way of repeating itself, I thought.

Somehow, two days ago, word had spread that the ‘Empress’ and her ‘Mind Warrior’ were grounded and would be vulnerable. Had I not seen Darren Clemson permanently detained, I would think this was his handiwork. Still, with my clairvoyance, I knew exactly who to blame!

An explosive blast opened a moderate-sized crater fifty meters to our right.

“Freya! One kilometer to our south! Particle cannon! Use of deadly force is authorized! Extreme prejudice!” I shouted to my airborne fighter. Fay nodded and immediately changed targets.

The resulting explosion opened a crater ten times larger than the cannon could produce. Fay re-acquired her original target.

“Was that an Egyptian particle weapon?” Reilly asked as she and Lilly finished off two more unlucky attackers.

“It was.” I replied as I zeroed in on the leading edge of another Enemy phalanx. Hoshi quickly zoomed in and disarmed the men while the second and third row stumbled into the temporally frozen front line. As with the other phalanx I had done this to, the chaos it spawned wouldn’t last long.

“Ya think Billie’ll get her head outta her ass any time soon, Alex?” Reilly asked, swinging her super-strong, super-sharp blade at another intruder.

“Right now ah’m kinda busy, hun. Ah cain’t waste time on them var’bles presently.” I answered quickly. “Be nice if she’d lend a hand though.” I wiped more blood from my upper lip.

“Billie Sangiere! If’n y’all can hear me, the Empress needs y’all’s help!” I shouted to the sky.

Two blondes appeared behind me- one adult, one adolescent- both female.

“About time ya got yer lazy ass out here where its needed!” Reilly shouted as her blade sung out hitting an enemy soldier’s leather armor. Again blood splattered over her.

Young Gena screamed in terror at the sight.

“I’m sorry, Alex. It never should have gone this far.” Billie apologized sincerely.

“Now that it has, y’all care to help out, mah queen?” I asked sarcastically.

“Momma? Why are these men fighting and why is the Empress calling you her queen? You told me the Empress answers to no one.” Gena inquired in confusion- getting up the nerve to even speak.

“Listen, sweetie, we kin debate the per-tick’lers ‘after’ this here squabble’s over?” I hinted as I watched the almost-teen grasp her mother’s arm tightly in fright as Reilly sent another foe to his afterlife.

It amazed me how calm my daughter was at the moment. She actually seemed to ‘enjoy’ this!

“Assistant Director, I need to refresh your pattern. I am thirteen minutes from losing your image and gift entirely.” Lilly implored.

“Rest, sister. I have allowed you to fight my battle long enough. I shall take it from here.” Billie replied as she took a few steps forward.

“Stop this altercation immediately! I will not see any more carnage on this land!” Billie shouted.

“Gee…why didn’t we think of that, mom?” Reilly shouted sarcastically as she swung at another infringing enemy soldier. More blood splattered on her covering, her face, and her hands as she plunged her katana deeply into his chest.

“Billie, we are soooo beyond that right now!” I shouted angrily. “Time y’all put up or shut up, hun!”

Gena suddenly screamed in terror! A severely wounded soldier had succeeded in pulling himself closer to the young girl and grabbed her leg.

The look that Billie gave him was one of the scariest I had seen on her face. A memory of Jacki Cummins popped into my mind.

With a crackling ‘poof’ the man simply wasn’t there anymore.

Billie now turned her attention to the rest of our attackers- her dark, foreboding expression becoming even darker!

“No one hurts my daughter! NOBODY!” She shouted as the phalanx closest us simply evaporated- weapons and all!

“What gives any of you the right,” she continued to shout as another phalanx of men blinked out of existence, “to delete me, my daughter, or my sisters?”

The enemy advance ceased as the closer troops stopped and stared at us in terror.

Correction. Stared at the enraged mother and her young daughter behind us.

Two more phalanxes vaporized.

“Billie?” I asked calmly with no response.

Another unit disappeared.

‘BILLIE! Y’ALL GOTTA SNAP OUTTA IT. Think a Gena!” I urged at the top of my lungs to get her attention.

Another phalanx disappeared though this time it fizzled and popped out of existence.

Billie’s expression suddenly switched to confusion. She looked down at the twelve-year old in horror.

“Iphigeneia? Did you just…”

“I wanted to help, momma.”

“What did I tell you about using your gift, young lady?”

“But you were using your’s, momma! I thought since you were using yours, that I should use mine too. I just wanted to help.”

“What I did was wrong, Iphigeneia! No one should ever decide whether another sentient life form lives or deletes! No one has that right.”

“My queen, correct the revision later. The enemy has almost regrouped.” Fay advised from overhead.

Yuuka flew in and stopped just in front of the elder Sangiere.

“Next time wait until I’m clear of them, highness! I’m on your side!” She growled in anger swatting Billie’s nose with her tiny hand.

My Assistant Director stared cross-eyed at the Pixie in astonishment. Gena began to laugh at the fae’s antics.

“My queen? The enemy again approaches!” Fay urged.

“Withdraw now and you all shall live to see another day! Close and cease existence! Those are your only options!” Billie’s voice boomed out across the plain of battle as if amplified several thousand times. Young Gena, me, and my sisters quickly moved to protect our auditory…our ears.

One commander refused to take heed and ran forward shouting his battle cry.

He advanced maybe a meter before silence again filled the battlefield. A murmured gasp wafted through the air as if a slight breeze.

“Would anyone else like to select the second option?” Billie dared loudly. “I have no limiters and can therefore do this all day! Leave while you are simply defeated!”

“My lady.” A single, quavering, male voice called out from behind the next phalanx in Billie’s sight. “We cannot return without our objective fulfilled.”

“State your objective!” Billie and I called out in unison.

The commander became visible as his men yielded. “We are to acquire our queen-
Helen, my queen. Why do you resist our rescue, majesty?”

“Because she isn’t Helen, moron!” Reilly shouted in annoyance. “Besides, she’s our queen, not yours!”

The enemy commander looked at my daughter in confusion.

“Have you even seen your monarch, captain?” Reilly asked after several seconds of silent staring.

“I have been fortunate.”

“So, you still blindly claim I am this ‘Helen’ you have been tasked to retrieve? Despite knowing otherwise?” Billie asked in disbelief.

“Just as I thought. Another real Einstein!”

“Reilly! That is enough!” I shouted.

“Yes, mother.”

“Your mission aside, why attack the Empress and her sisters outright, Pollux? Who put you up to this?” I asked the man I knew to be general of the aggressive force as I advanced toward him. Fay hovered just overhead.

“From what I know and have heard of the Empress, I expected more magic. My source had outlined the vast array of powers I would face if confronting her three weeks out of the month, but should I be patient, I could possibly gain the advantage in the fourth. Since you obviously suffer no such deficiencies, I assume you are not she.”

“I’m sorry to break it to you, General, but I truly am the Empress of Time and Space. Your ‘source obviously forgot to explain the intricacies of time travel.” My voice said from my left.

“For instance, before or after my weeklong deficiency, I can travel forward or back to aid myself if needed.” I revealed before continuing.

“I can do this again…” My voice continued from my right as I appeared again.

“And again.” My voice again said from my left.

“And again. And again. And again. And again!” Eight Empress’ chorused as we completely surrounded the befuddled man.

General Pollux began to reach out and touch each instance of me to verify our solidarity.

“I assure you, general, we are all real…and quite capable of working our ‘magic’ on you and your courageous troops. Though nowhere near as powerful as the Queen Mind Warrior,” I alone thumbed back toward Billie, “I am capable of transporting you and your men back to a time where your talents WILL be tested- to a time so ferocious and barbaric you will cower and cry in fear.”

“The Egyptian never briefed me on such abilities.” Pollux murmured to himself.

“Do you reveal all your talents to any given adversary, General?” I asked candidly. He looked surprised that I heard him and shook his head ‘no’.

“Did Pharaoh’s Vizier also neglect to inform you of my clairvoyance, General?” I asked as the other seven of me disappeared.

“For instance,” I said as I walked right up to him and stared into his eyes. “I know for a fact that your queen is in Athens at this very moment- living in the palace with her lover. You will find her no more eager to return home to Sparta than my sister Billie and her daughter. I am sorry you have paid heavily to learn this information, but you should have done your own reconnaissance on me and my sisters, Pollux. Your siege of Athens would have been much shorter had you not lost the three thousand here today. We will allow you to move your legions south with no further aggression. Three hours in that direction will bring you to fresh water and ample game hunting. Neither the forces of Corinth nor the Sisters of Reilly will pursue.”

“You would dishonor me in front of my men?” Pollux growled.

Foresight can sometimes be so…disenchanting…

Instantly, I turned around, produced my vintage Valkyrie plasma pistol, and placed it gently against my brave adversary’s temple.

“ALRIGHT, MOM!” Reilly shouted with excitement.

“What is it with you Spartans? Can’t you just accept that you lost this time and move along?” I asked in annoyance as I took a page out of Alex Steinert’s book and gently twisted the emitter into the side of his head.

“But Sparta will be seen as weak, Empress. I am honor bound to see that does not happen. You must have seen that?”

I simply winked at him, eliciting a confused expression.

“Pollux, you’re honor and Spartan reputation is safe.” I said calmly.

To my amusement, he closed his eyes tightly.

Just as rapidly as before, I removed my energy weapon from his head and placed it back in its phased holster.

I began to laugh as I reached up and removed his helmet. Dropping it, I placed a quick kiss on his sweat-soaked forehead.

“I…I don’t understand.” He replied as I stepped back from him.

“As I said, Pollux, your honor and Sparta’s are safe. Miss Sangiere, have you been listening?”

“I have, Empress.” Billie replied with tears still in her eyes.

“Enact my command, my sister.” I said as I ordered every one of my comrades to join hands.

Once again I appeared in front of me, smiling at me, she took her place several spots over from me. I nodded to my assistant director. Billie nodded back just before we reappeared on the northeast edge of Athens.

“Thanks for the ride, Alex.” I said to my temporal twin.

“My pleasure, sis.” She responded before phasing out.

Reilly quickly broke rank and rushed over to me.

“That. Was. Absolutely. AWESOME!” She shouted excitedly. “How did you do that, mom?” She continued.

“All Homeworld researchers were required to undertake military exercises and training before being assigned to they’re facility, honey.” I told her. She squinted at me not quite believing.

“Okay. Your Aunt Alex had this thing about becoming a cowboy in the ‘Old West’, and since we share memories, I thought it would be useful.” I admitted as I produced the pistol from my phased holster and spun it a few times on my finger then replaced it.

“I can understand that, but still…where did you get the piece, mom?”

“What…this?”I asked pulling it from my phased holster once more. I made sure to slide the safety back on and held it out for her.

My daughter regarded the weapon for thirty seconds then looked at me with tear-filled eyes.

“Mom…I never knew you…When did you ever carry? I mean…I always thought you were a pacifist?”

Fay approached and lifted the weapon from my open hand. She immediately began to look it over.

“An original, perfectly restored, Valkyrie type 3, Six round, 45 Mega-joule Personal Protection Device! Where on Earth did you obtain this antique, Alex?” She asked in excited disbelief.

“It’s not restored.” I revealed sheepishly. “Its original.”

Fay’s mouth fell open and she immediately turned the pistol over and regarded the bottom of the grip.

“Forty-three-eighty-six.” She said before looking back up to me. “Alex, that is your service number!”

I nodded. “And that pistol is over nine hundred years old, so go easy on her. I didn’t even take the chance of charging the powercell before we left Reilly. I can’t say if it’s operational or not.” I said as I took back possession, slid off the safety, pointed the emitter into the air, and pulled the trigger.

A bright blue burst of energy rocketed skyward, surprising not only me but everyone in our legion of two thousand.

My sisters’ jaws dropped to the ground simultaneously.
 
 

9:017AM, Athens, Greece, November 3rd, 1189BC
 
 

“So you claim Pirithous is responsible and that he and the real Helen are lovers?” Theseus gasped as he stared between Billie and I.

“I think mom’s a little more reliable than some group of high-flyin’, strung-out, bimbo oracles, dude!” Reilly chided sarcastically.

I looked over at her and- as usual- rolled my eyes.

“Then where in the palace does he keep her? I have never seen a strange black-haired woman in the passages.”

“Did ya ever hear of something called peroxide, Bro?” Reilly remarked snidely.

“Per-ox-eyed?” Theseus repeated as he looked toward me in confusion.

“A solution that washes the natural color out of one’s hair. In essence it allows someone with darker hair to become fair-haired…until the hair grows longer and the lengthened strands show their true color again.”

Theseus nodded his understanding.

I nodded back.

“We’ll let you conduct the search for your brother’s elusive lover, honey. Unfortunately, we have to get back to our home. Time to go, Billie.” I said, looking at my sister.

“Can I come, with you, momma?” Gena asked calmly.

Your Papa can’t come with us, Iphigeneia. It is too dangerous for him there.” Billie told her daughter sadly, looking to me for my input.

I shrugged with a neutral expression.

“I want to go with you, momma,” the girl insisted!

“But I need you, Iphigeneia. Here, with me.” Theseus claimed.

“You want me here only to marry me off to someone named Hades! I heard your thoughts, papa. Momma says I’m too young to be married to anyone.”

Billie’s eyes widened and her expression began to turn dark.

“Oh shit!” Reilly blurted out impulsively.

“Theseus, tell your mate that you have decided against this joining and allow the girl to accompany us to Reilly. There, she will receive the required training- mental and physical- that a Mind Warrior of her level needs. I promise regular updates and visitations.” I suggested quickly. Billie had already brought enough destruction to this city and some of the scars were still visible from twelve and a half years ago.

“Is that your recommendation, Empress?” He asked.

I smiled tensely and nodded, glancing to an angered Billie several times as a hint.

Looking very unsure of the situation, Theseus hesitantly nodded his consent.

“I will miss you, Iphigeneia. Behave and do not treat your mother as this one does hers.” He said, pointing to Reilly.

“Hmmmph!” My daughter snorted before she phased out.

My remaining sisters and I couldn’t help but giggle.

“Good luck in the coming year, Theseus. Rule wisely and amicably.” I said as I offered my hands to my travel companions.

Reilly Research Facility’s Assistant Director’s conference room appeared around us. Gena’s mouth dropped open as her eyes widened.

“Welcome to your new home, Iphigeneia.” Billie said to her overwhelmed daughter. “RVP, this is my daughter, Iphigeneia. She will be staying here for the foreseeable future.”

“Welcome Gena, I am RVP, Reilly’s A.I. If there is anything you need or want to know, simply ask me. Assistant Director, the necessary modifications to your domicile have been completed.”

The girl gasped in surprise, hearing the voice all around her. A large, bright smile filled her face.

“Thank you, RVP, efficient as usual.” Billie said with a happy smile of her own.

“Director? Permission to safety and disarm my Valkyrie’s munitions?” Fay requested nervously as she glanced around at each of us repeatedly.

“Ya really shouldn’t have much left in stock, hun, but y’all have permission.” I responded, noticing I was somewhat fatigued.

Fay looked at me sheepishly, not moving.

“Reilly brought me back here several times during the confrontation to resupply, Director.”

“She did?” I stated as if surprised- knowing that my daughter was standing beside me, though out of phase, I continued. “And what made her think to apply herself in such a responsible manner, Freya? What y’all claim sounds completely outta character for mah daughter.”

“Alright, mother. I get it.” Reilly said as she popped into phase. “Fay informed me that she was running low on ammo so I decided we both could use a break.”

“And you never thought we could use a break, Reilly Reilly?” Yuuka questioned angrily, suddenly flying up into my daughter’s face. Hoshi looked equally upset, but stood fast nodding her agreement.

“You were moving too fast, Yuuka! You both were moving too fast! It takes a lot of concentration for me to shift places- especially when I try it with moving targets! I’m nowhere near as good as mom.” Reilly told our Pixie, trying to rationalize and yet apologize.

“Sister, if it appeases you, I was impatient to get back to the confrontation. We only spent enough time here to complete my reload. I did not feel a ‘break’ to be equitable, considering the situation.”

“Good job, Reilly.” I said as I pulled her to me and wrapped my arms around her. “Ah’m proud of ya, honey!”

“Alex?” Lilly gently interrupted. I noticed she was grasping the back of the nearest chair tightly. “Director, with your permission, I’d like to manually increase my reclining period. These past several days have fatigued me severely.”

“Y’all’ve earned it, hun.” I said, but winced hearing my sister’s drawl resurface. “We all earned some time off, gals.” I added before looking back at Billie and Gena.

“Ah’ll let y’all give Gena the fifty cent tour, Commander.”

“Aye, I’ll do that, ma’am. Thank you.” Billie answered, snapping to attention.

I don’t remember if I saluted or what before turning and walking into the passageway toward my quarters.
 
 

3:35PM, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, July 10th, 2020BC
 
 

“Mom?” A female voice asked as I felt someone shaking my shoulder gently.

“What is it, Regina? Mommy’s still tired, honey.” I answered groggily.

The voice laughed quietly.

“Mom, you’ve been asleep for almost thirty-six hours.” It responded.

“Just twenty-four more, honey. Mommy over did it yesterday.”

“Mom, I’m Reilly, not Regina. She’s still on Terra Nuevo with father.” My daughter said as she gently, insistently shook my shoulder again.

“Regina, I need a few more hours, honey.”

“Mom, Aunt Alex is due to arrive in two and a half hours. I thought you would at least like to be ‘alive’ when she rephases?” She insisted.

“Fine.” I said as I forced my protesting frame to a sitting position. “I’m up.”

The light hurt my eyes and I hadn’t even opened them yet!

“Mom? I thought you said you were up?” That damn voice questioned a second later.

“I said I was up, Reilly!” I growled.

“Mom, that was over an hour and a half ago! Aunt Alex will be here in fifty minutes!”

I never thought the light could be so unforgiving!

“Uuhhhggg! Disable the intense light!” I said as I dared open my eyes.

“Mom, the window dimmers are fully enabled. Interior illumination is at only twenty-five percent. That must be some hangover!” Reilly continued, laughing quietly.

“Wait!” Reilly’s voice suddenly took on a serious tone. “RVP bring up illumination level slowly to fifty.”

The intense light got multitudes brighter and I closed my eyes tightly again.

“Mom? Your hair! It’s mostly all gray!”

“My nanos are probably less than optimal.” I said without emotion or thought.

“RVP, bring the director’s food synthesizer online and pour a one liter glass of water, please.” Reilly said in an even tone.

“Mom, I want you to drink all of this.” Reilly ordered and not requested. “RVP reduce illumination back to twenty percent until the Director has finished her water consumption. Monitor ‘K’ cell levels and alert me if the levels do not rise to acceptable limits.”

“Not to worry, Reilly, I’ll watch her like a hawk.” Randi’s voice replied instead of RVP’s.

I thought that entertaining at a certain level. Randi’s and RVP’s voices were identical, yet I…correction, Alex Steinert and I could tell which one was talking the second something was said.
 
 

“So let me get this straight,” Alex Fleming said with a shocked grin. “Reilly got Billie so pissed, she transported herself to Greece? Y’all are a cruel bunch, sis!” She finished, giggling.

“Well, it was for the best. Her development had been stymied to that point, Alex. Iphigene…”

I paused as Gena ran into the Rec Room chasing Yuuka. A blue blur and a breeze indicated Hoshi had just entered, tagged the twelve-year old, and streaked back out. Gena ran out of the room laughing hysterically.

“Iphigeneia represents her era’s waypoint, and I was beginning to wonder if I would need to…how do you say…light a fire under Billie’s ass?”

My sister smiled and nodded as we both giggled.

“So, has my niece realized that she was jumping eight hundred and some odd years between here and Greece yet?” Alex asked as she motioned with her eyes and brows to our left.

“She does now!” Reilly gasped, stunned, as she phased in on the seat next to Alex.

“How did I do that, Aunt Alex?” she inquired after thirty seconds. “Hi, by the way, Aunt Alex.” Reilly added as she leaned over and hugged my temporal twin.

“Y’all done good, hun. You’ve become quite the responsible young woman, Reilly.” Alex continued as I rolled my eyes in response to that last statement.

Alex began to giggle, unable to contain her amusement any longer.

My daughter glared at me for a good fifty seconds.

“Thanks Aunt Alex, I appreciate the praise. I just did what needed to be done. I had no idea how far in the future we were. I thought I was only capable of a few days at most. It seemed so easy…I mean, I think I put more concentration into the shorter jumps…”

“Necessity.” My sister said in response.

“Beg your pardon?” Reilly suddenly looked between Alex and I in confusion. She continued to do that until Alex spoke up.

“You knew that you needed to transport Freya back here to reload, hun. In order to do that you had to forget about the distance. Necessity…instinct, if you wish, took over. You disregarded your assumed constraints and just traveled to where you knew you needed to be. Well done honey, you’re the first daughter of the Empress,” Alex thought a few seconds, “in this universe, anyway, to break her gift’s imagined ceiling.”

“I am?” Reilly’s mouth dropped open as her eyes opened wide. “Even Sam, Cassie, or Alexis?”

Alex nodded.

“None of my three have figured it out yet, hun, and y’all ain’t cleared to reveal that little gem to any of ‘em…either set, got it?”

“Aye, ma’am.” Reilly responded nodding to her, though she seemed partially confused.

“Either set, Aunt Alex?” She questioned, looking around the room a moment. Closing her eyes for thirty seconds, her mouth again dropped open.

“Noooo!” My daughter exclaimed in awe.

Alex and I nodded the affirmative as Alex put her finger to her lips.

“Greetings, Empress. I saw that you were due to arrive today, but did not realize you already had.” My Cassandra said as she and Sam walked over to Alex, Reilly, and I.

Reilly just quietly stared at them.

Cassie sighed loudly as she noticed my daughter’s odd silence.

“Sam and I hope to speak with you before you leave, Alex.”

Giving Reilly another tentative glance, she and Sam turned and walked to the other side of the room.

“I think that’s what they want to talk to you about, sis.” I smiled at Alex as Reilly again looked between us.

“Not word one, Reilly!” I threatened, anticipating her response. “So how are your Cassie and Sam, sis?” I said to realign the subject.

“Just Cassie for now, Alex. I’m due to be grounded in three months, but she’s enough for right now. My little angel has begun to notice that some things seem odd when she’s over her friend’s house.”

“How would things seem odd when visiting a friend, Aunt Alex?” Reilly asked in curiosity.

“Her friend’s mom is soooo slow she says.” Alex giggled. “I’m reminding her more often that not everyone has gifts like we do. I’ve got about eleven months ‘til she realizes her foresight and I’ll have to have that ‘talk’ with her. How’s Reggie doin’ out on Terra Nuevo?”

“My precocious twelve-year old seems to be following in her older sister’s footsteps.” I said with a frown. “But she should realign by her next birthday.”

Alex nodded.

“Realign, mother? Kind of cold isn’t it? I would have said something like: ‘I expect her character to mature’ instead.” Reilly argued calmly.

Alex giggled as she shook her head.

“Empress, so good of you to visit! Will you be staying very long?” Billie welcomed warmly as she walked into the Rec room and over to us. She looked to the ceiling for a single second before sitting next to me.

“My daughter will arrive in a moment so I might make introduction.”

“Y’all are bein’ kinda formal, aren’t ya, Billie.” Alex asked with a lilting giggle.

“First introductions are the most formal, Empress, as your first visit to Terra demonstrated. I wish Iphigeneia to understand that concept. Her education must be of foremost importance.

“You called, momma?” Gena phased in between Billie and I. She immediately looked quizzically at Alex Fleming.

“Empress? There are two of you? Lilith, is that you?” She asked.

“Y’all are cute, sweetie. No, I’m the real McCoy. I’m Alexandra Fleming. I’m the Empress’ future temporal twin.”

The girl wrinkled her nose in confusion.

“Iphigeneia, the Empress does not signify a single entity…”

The young revision wrinkled her nose tighter as she stared at her mother.

“Let me try, y’all.” Alex offered.

“Sweetie, ‘Empress’ is a name given to one of the three Alexandras. Alexandra in this case is my sister, Alexandra Reilly; she is what we agreed to call the ‘Past’ Empress; me, Alexandra Fleming- the ‘Present’ Empress, and Alexandra of Terra- my Granddaughter- whom we refer to as the ‘Future’ Empress.” Alex explained slowly.

“To sum it all up, Alexandra Reilly,” she pointed to me, “Past Empress. Alexandra Fleming,” she pointed to herself, “Present Empress, and…”

“Alexandra of Terra,” my grandniece said as she appeared across the table from me suddenly, “Future Empress.”

Gena’s head snapped around and she gasped.

“Quite the showoff, aren’t we, cuz?” Reilly quiped. Alexandra replied with a tooth-filled smile.

“Now there are three of you?” Gena screeched.

“Does that surprise you, Iphigeneia?” Alexandra asked with a pleasant giggle.

“Ah huh.” The twelve year old nodded her head.

“Don’t worry, sweetie, it took me a long time to get it all straight too.” My niece admitted with a pleasant smile. “I’m sure that once you start traveling on your own, you’ll begin to understand.”

Alex and I cleared our throats in unison. Alexandra looked to both of us quickly.

“Oh.” She replied quietly.

“Oh?” Billie questioned, unsure why she had done so.

“Sweetie, I just got here. Care to tell me how old y’all are?” Alexandra asked.

“I’m thirteen, Empress.”

Billie gasped quietly.

“Honey?” My neice asked the older version of Iphigeneia, “I need you to go back to the time you just came from. Can you do that for me, Gena?”

“Why? I like it here! Momma doesn’t argue with me nearly as much here. Momma can I stay here? Please?”

Alexandra closed her eyes.

“The Future Empress is only looking out for your welfare, Iphigeneia. I think it is best you go back to the Reilly you left. I also only want what is good for you and I can guarantee that, back there, as here, your mother is now worrying severely where you have gone.” Alex Fleming replied gently.

Gena sighed heavily and looked ready to jump somewhere else.

“I know!” Alexandra interrupted brightly as she opened her eyes. “Why don’t we travel back to my home? I know some people that would love to meet you, Gena!” My niece paused for ten seconds.

“That is…if your momma would allow it?” She continued glancing at Billie with a wide, bright smile.

“Do I know these ‘people’ Future Empress?” Gena questioned cautiously.

“I don’t know. Have you met my daughter Alexia already?” Alexandra continued to smile, “Or, the Past Empress’ daughter Regina? Alexia and Regina are both about your age and I’d bet they would love to meet someone their own age, sweetie.”

“Would it be acceptable, momma?”

I noticed Alexandra wink quickly.

“If you promise me that you will behave and not try to return home on your own, Iphigeneia.” Billie conceded after she thought about it for thirty seconds.

“I will, momma!” Gena squealed in excitement. She ran around and grabbed Alexandra’s hand with enthusiasm.

“I’m ready when you are, Future Empress!”

“Okay!” Alexandra answered with equal enthusiasm.

“We’ll be back in a year and a half, Majesty.” My niece said before both phased out.

“Momma? Iphigenia’s voice asked from the Rec Room’s doorway. “Was that…” she gulped, “me…I just saw?”

“Yes, Iphigeneia, it was. The Empress will take you on a trip with her next year, but she had to come back here to ask me a question. Do you understand?” Billie explained nervously. Her daughter slowly started to shake her head yes, but it gradually turned to a ‘no’ after several shakes.

“You will understand when we leave next year, honey, I promise.” I said to the confused revision.

“Ummm, okay. Did you see Yuuka fly in here, momma? I’m ‘IT’ and I can’t find her anywhere…or Hoshi! Have you seen them?”

“Sweetie? Yuuka and Hoshi might be taking a break. I know for a fact that Yuuka can only go so long before she needs honey. Playing ‘tag’ burns a lot of energy. I’m sure they’ll turn up in an hour or so.” Alex Fleming told her as Billie nodded.

Gena’s eyes got big suddenly!

“Momma, someone named Cassieopeia is asking if I want to play! Who is Cassieopeia?”

That’s why my niece had stopped by, to drop off Cami and Cassi.

Cassi and her mother Camille are like us, Iphigeneia. Why don’t you use your gift to find them. You’ll have to listen carefully though.” Billie suggested.

“Okay, bye.”

The twelve year old rushed out of the room giggling.

“Telling her to use her gift, Billie?” Alex giggled with closed eyes. “That’s a new one!” She turned to Reilly.

“So, you ready to go see David, hun?” My twin asked.

Reilly’s eyes widened farther than I had ever seen before!

“You mean that, Aunt Alex? Is it really that time?”

“Yep. I trust your mom already knows?” Alex asked as she winked at me. Actually, it wouldn’t be for another couple days, but things, I had learned, were never really cut in stone. I leaned over and kissed my excited daughter on the cheek.

“Have fun in Illinois, honey…and you better behave yourself, young revis…lady!”

Reilly silently nodded with an excitement I hadn’t seen in a very long time.

“We’ll stop in your quarters to pack some things. After you get your first paycheck though, I’ll take you out shopping.”

“I’ll see you a year after your arrival, Reilly.” I said sadly.

“What year will we be going to, Aunt Alex?” Reilly chirped in curiosity.

“1960, hun. I have to warn you about some of the fashions though…”

Alex and Reilly phased out.
 
 

8:35AM, Reilly Research Station, Kili Island, July 11th, 2020BC
 
 

“Running on an abbreviated schedule this morning, director?” Cami asked as I placed my breakfast on the table and sat down.

“Reilly seems empty today.”

I know the feeling, Alex. When Cassi first departed with you for a mission, I felt a similar sensation. It does become easier.” Cami offered.

I nodded. “I’m not unfamiliar, Cami. The feelings I have conflict themselves though.”

“How so, Alex?”

“Well,” I began, but paused a several seconds, “I feel the loss- my daughter isn’t here as she has been these past ten years. On the other hand, I felt I couldn’t wait for her to leave. Reilly can be very…demanding on the nervous system.”

“You’ll receive no negative feedback on that statement, Alex.” Cami responded with a wry grin.

“Still I feel that we were just making progress- that Reilly and I were starting to align neurons. Now she is in the future to start her own family.”

I stopped to wipe my eyes.

“Conflicting feelings confuse me even more than concentric, embedded, temporal paradoxes, Camille Darough!” I choked out, wiping my eyes once again.

Cami gently placed her hand on top of mine.

“It’s not like you didn’t know this would happen, Alex. Can you remember the moments just before you ventured nearer the Protoverse Portal?”

I nodded as the memories were instantly recalled.

“Do you also remember our departure from the Homeworld after being chosen for Reilly Research Facility- how our mothers wept openly until the launch personnel dispersed our families back behind the protection shield?”

Try as I may, I could not recall the requested images! Apparently my expression conveyed my conundrum more efficiently than I thought.

“Alex? What’s wrong? Why the perplexed look?” Cami asked as I opened my eyes to see her staring worriedly.

“The requested archives do not exist, Cami. I know I should have a complete inventory, but those memories are either somehow locked or deleted.” I said sadly.

“For me they seem more like dreams, dreams that have faded severely with time. To date, I am not sure my description of our departure is even valid.” Cami said before she paused.

“We could always go refresh those specific memories, sister.” Cami added with a twinkle in her eye and a devious smile.

I felt my mouth drop open, as I wondered why I hadn’t thought of that.
 
 

“Here Alex, I brought you a moistened towel and a glass of water.” Cami said from my right side. “Would you like me to place your request for dinner? It is almost 10PM.”

“Today’s winner is Billie Sangi…processing…Today’s winner is Theodora Staveley. Billie Sangiere has been disqualified from all Empress Lotteries due to her gift of foresight. Sorry, my queen. Nice try.” RVP announced.

“Vermin! I thought maybe this time I could have slipped in under her sensors.” Billie groused across from me. She sat watching intently as I placed the cool towel against my face.

“A lottery? I thought Alex Steinert’s crew placed wagers on meditational scenario durations?”

“It makes for morale-building, financially-lucrative, entertainment, director. Our sisters have become addicted to the active use of probabilities as applied to randomly occurring events… ‘luck’, I believe it is called.” Cami giggled. “So…who is going and where shall we go, Empress?”

I rolled my eyes at her assumptive forwardness.

“Billie, you must stay here.”

“What? Why, Alex? I have already seen that I am an integral part of this mission!” She protested animatedly.

Cami regarded our queen humorously.

“Who else should I prepare, Empress?” She finally inquired.

“Yes, Empress, who else?” Yuuka’s voice asked by my left ear.

Again, I rolled my eyes!

“Our Queen, the Pixie, the Streak, the Valkyrie, the Comptroller, the Daroughs, also Sam and Cassie.” I listed in decreasing order of annoyance. “A brief meeting will commence in thirty minutes in the Assistant Director’s conference room. Confirm?”

“Acknowledged.” My sisters, virtual or in attendance responded.

“I recommend only a light snack be consumed if any at all before we leave.” I recommended before I downed the entire glass of water. Getting to my feet, I walked over to the food station, reached into my pocket, and produced my newly fabricated flask. It was a faithful reproduction of Alex Steinert’s container, but with Terran technology incorporated to triple its capacity.

“Fill to limit with water, please” I requested.
 
 

“This mission is the most delicate and important one we have been on to this date.” I said as I walked in to the conference room and counted the faces seated therein.

“Alex?” Billie asked in confusion.

“The difficulty of this mission lies in the fact that we cannot disrupt the timeline for any reason. We must go, observe, and interact as little as possible with the local inhabitants. It is imperative the timeline remain pristine!” I continued as I stared directly at her.

“But if we can change the outcome, Alex, then…”

“I forbid it, Billie! The timeline must remain unmodified! Is that understood?” I shouted angrily.

Billie stared angrily at me for forty-three seconds while everyone else looked on in concerned silence.

“Understood, Director.” She grumbled.

“That goes for each one of you! Especially you, Pixie! No unauthorized humanitarian forays like the last time, understood, Yuuka?” I strongly recommended.

“Aye, ma’am. But where are we going?”

“To meet up with our sisters.” I said matter-of-factly.

“Director, my munitioning? What shall be my level of ordinance?” Freya inquired.

“Mixed, Freya. Mostly crowd control, but keep one high-yield and several medium-yield devices just in case.”

“Understood.”

“Clothing period, Alex?” Hoshi asked.

Modern day. Early twenty-first century Earth.” I answered.

Hoshi nodded.

“Alex, are you sure you want to do this?” Cami asked with a worried expression.

“They will need our help, sweetheart. Unfortunately, there will be some contaminating interaction. It will be unavoidable.” I answered as I looked to my right…to Yuuka.

“I want everyone to stick to the prime directive, understand?”

Why I said that, I have no idea! All the statement garnered was confused looks. I silently cursed my future twin’s impinging memories!

“Freya, you have fifteen minutes to resupply. We leave in twenty. That concludes this briefing.” I told them as I headed toward the doorway. I hated to be blunt and cold, but there would be plenty of questions on our arrival.
 
 

The pain of crossing the universal border wasn’t as bad as I anticipated- maybe because I now knew what to expect. We now found ourselves in a quaint, recreational park surrounded by huge buildings. If not so small it could have been Citadel’s Community Park on Terra. The neighborhood park in 1944 Bridgeport came to mind.

Amazingly, I had managed to keep us phased out on our painful arrival.

"This looks vaguely familiar, Empress.” Billie announced as several people walked through us. Randi and Freya looked around with an expression of Déjà Vu also.

Freya’s hand came to her mouth quickly- her face suddenly void of color. I noticed my two assistants, Samantha and Cassandra looking slightly nauseous as well.

“Now I understand why you recommended little or no food before this transit, Empress.” Freya commented weakly. Sam and Cassie nodded their silent agreement, but they seemed to be handling the pain of crossing the universal boundary quite well given this was their first time.

“The feeling passes very quickly, sisters.” I consoled.

“If my dinner does not pass quicker, director!” Freya complained weakly.

‘So, where are we, Alex? I know we entered another universe, but which one? I only felt one border crossing.” Cassi Darough asked to the surprise of the others.

Before I could answer, a very familiar woman appeared and walked over to us. She stopped a meter or so away.

“Welcome back to your Homeworld, Empress. I know and understand why you are here. We have been expecting you.”

Billie, Hoshi, Sam, Cassie, Freya, and Cassi’s mouths dropped open as they gasped loudly. Cami’s expression remained neutral, but Yuuka’s smile almost jumped from her face!

She immediately went into Pixie mode breaking our physical contact.

“Welcome Pixie, it has been a long time.” This world’s Alexis said as Yuuka flitted dizzily toward her before landing on her shoulder.

Cami gave Alexis a smug smile- though we were still out of phase.

“You are among friends, ladies. Alexandra, rephase and greet your mother properly.”



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