As Lieutenant Marinero, Scrak and Ensign Rodriguez got within twenty-five feet of the wardroom the two “Nuevo Imperio de los Infantes de Marina” or the New Empire Marines came quickly to attention. Manolo and the ensign also came to attention and saluted the marines.
“Lieutenant Marinero reporting as ordered by the Capitán de la Armada,” announced Ensign Rodriguez. One of the marines turned and knocked on the hatch.
“Enter,” a voice from within, said. The same marine opened the hatch to let them enter.
“I must leave you here, Sir,” the ensign said. Manolo stopped in his tracks and held out his hand to Rodriguez.
“Thanks for your help and I hope that we’ll run into each other again,” he said.
“As God wills,” Rodriguez said as he shook Manolo’s hand. “Si, as He wills,” Manolo replied.
He watched as Rodriguez turned on his heels and headed down the passageway. After seeing him turn the corner, Manolo walked through the hatch.
An older distinguished man dressed in the royal blue naval uniform of an Admiral stepped away from several officers that had crowded around him. He smiled as Lieutenant Marinero started walking toward the Admiral.
“It’s good to see you hijo,” the Admiral said. As Manolo reached him, the Admiral threw his arms around him and hugged him. “I also want to wish you a happy belated nineteenth birthday, Son.”
“Thank you Papa, your gift was very thoughtful,” he whispered in his ear. Manolo looked a little uncomfortable as his father finally released him from his embrace.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” said the Admiral. He came to attention a fraction of a second before the Lieutenant did.
“Don’t want to forget formalities,” he explained.
“Lieutenant Marinero reporting as ordered, Sir,” Manolo stated. The other officers in the room came to attention as well.
“At ease, Second Lieutenant,” the Admiral said. He looked around the room and found his adjutant, “Capitán de Corbeta Alvarez, let’s begin the meeting.”
Commander Alverez, a man in his mid forties with slightly gray hair at his temples and a pencil thin mustache nodded as he said, ”Gentlemen, please take a seat.”
All the officers present sat down around the conference room table. “On the table in front of you is a sealed packet, please, when you are comfortable open it up,” he stated. The younger officers seated around the table tore into their packets immediately, while the older officers took a few moments to unfold their packets and opened them up.
A few minutes went by while the officers studied the contents of the package and spoke between themselves. After a short while, Commander Alverez looked over at Admiral Marinero who nodded. Alverez cleared his throat and the murmuring died away.
“As you’ll note, we had an incursion of our territory in Sector 29, a month back,” Alverez declared.
“A month back?” asked Captain de Avila.
Another officer seated to the right of Admiral Marinero asked, “May I answered that Admiral?”
“Yes, by all means Capitán de Corbeta Torres,” replied the Admiral.
“Captain, it took a couple of weeks for us to get the intelligence from that sector because of the vast distances that it had to travel,” Torres announced. “We also needed to have time to interpret the information that was received.”
“Lieutenant Commander, I can appreciate the fact that the Servicios Inteligentes needed time to interpret this intelligence but, by the hostile nature of this incursion the delay to act on it has cost us valuable time,” stated de Avila.
The Admiral looked over at Captain de Avila and said, “Captain, it was my decision to delay this briefing until we had the right resources in place to act upon the information we received from Sector 29.”
“I apologize if I misspoke Admiral,” the Captain said.
“Noted but, you did not misspeak, Captain,” said the Admiral. “It was very painful for me to sit on this intelligence and not act on it quickly.
“The delaying decision occurred because we did not want to lose more people than we already had by moving too quickly,” replied Torres. “The extra time we spent putting everything together may have cost us some time, but it has also given us enough data to be able to come up with a few plans of action.”
“Commander, if you will please,” ordered the Admiral.
“Yes, Admiral,” as he said this he looked over to his drone hovering above his right shoulder. “Please start the presentation, Drulop,” he asked.
After the presentation and all the officers left to carry on their other duties, the Admiral, Lieutenant Commander Torres and Lieutenant Marinero sat back down around the conference table.
“What did you think of the presentation, son?” asked the Admiral.
“It was concise and to the point, Sir,” he replied.
“What little points we could make,” admitted Torres.
“That’s true, but this lack of information is only temporary,” countered the Admiral.
“I still don’t like keeping the others in the dark like this, Sir,” admitted Torres.
“Nor do I, Commander,” stated the Admiral. “But we are fighting on several fronts and I must make strategic decisions based on that necessity.”
“I understand, Sir,’ said Torres.
“Do you have anything to offer Scrak?” asked the Admiral.
“I concur with your decision, Admiral,” Scrak stated.
“The consensus of the Council believes that the military must make a credible enough showing to come up with an effective battle strategy before we can revert to the Council’s own plan,” he added.
“So I am supposed to fail in my efforts to build a strike force, from the pilots that were transferred here?” asked Manolo. “Father, you are forcing me to look like a complete fool.”
“Son, you knew what I wanted from you before you signed on to our little subterfuge,” he stated. “And you agreed. I know it will look like you’re an incompetent bungler but it’s for the good of the fleet and their Royal Majesties.”
“Oh, great I didn’t even consider the incompetent part,” Manolo acknowledged. “That makes me feel loads better.”
“I’m here to help you in any way I can, my boy,” admitted the Admiral smiling.
“Don’t worry Lieutenant, by the time we get back you’ll be a national hero,” stated Torres.
“Unless I kill my incompetent self in maneuvers trying to prove we’re no good,” stated Marinero.
“If that happens then I’ll just have to disown you,” the Admiral added.
“Huh?” his son asked.
“The maneuvers will all be in a simulator, Son,” admitted the Admiral.
“Oh, well, okay then,” said Manolo. “See, I’m already thinking like an idiot.”
“Go head out and get a good night’s sleep because at 0630 Commander Alvarez will be looking for you in simops,” his father ordered.
The Lieutenant stood and saluted both officers and headed out the hatch with Scrak trailing behind.
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