There was no warning this time. No advance signals or read outs from the eyes and ears that constantly swept the heavens. There was nothing at all.
Those that colonized the outpost in Quadrant 64792 never knew what hit them. One minute they were at their post or recreating or just sleeping and the next, they were not.
They were not going to have that extra piece of pastry or that other commo from home. Nobody was going to be able to place any bets on who was going to win this weekend’s chess matches. The love for the game of Chess came with the Spaniards from the Old World. With it came the greatest book of Chess instructions ever written called ‘Questo libro e da imparare giocare a scachi et de li partiti’ that was published in 1512 by author Pedro Damiano. His book was one of the oldest comprehensive chess books they had and became one of the only books ever used for playing Chess.
The book, the handmade marble, chess pieces and the onyx and ivory inlaid chessboards along with the hundreds of personnel just disappeared without a trace in a blinding flash that lasted a millisecond.
There was no time for the drones to send out any distress calls, so no messages went out. The outpost died. Every manmade object ceased to exist.
The tiny moon continued to revolve around a binary star hundreds of light years away from Hispania. Not caring or not grieving. Not even aware of the voiceless shrieks that peaked for a second on its surface and were silenced.
The observation deck was a place where crewmembers would show up from time to time to gather and soak in the beauty or the vastness of the universe that lay just beyond their reach.
It did not come as much of a surprise when Warren Officer Suarez found Sister Maria seated in a secluded corner of the deck’s ample seating area. She looked around to see if any of her squad members were in the room before she slowly approached the Sister.
“I hope I’m not interrupting your devotional time, Sister,” Suarez said.
Sister Maria looked up at the Warren Officer, smiled and said, “No my dear, you are not. I come here from time to time to remind me of God’s infinite power.” She pointed outside at the stars. “He created all of this and when I’m here, I feel closer to Him.”
“I would have thought it would have been the opposite Sister,” Angelica replied.
“What do you mean child?” she asked.
“How can you look out that view screen, see how big the universe is and not feel insignificant?” Angelica asked.
“It is true,” the Sister began. “The universe is vast and God created it all for a reason.”
“And what is that reason, Sister?” Angelica asked.
“To show each and every one of us that although the universe is endless,” she said. “He still concerns Himself with one individual and keeps a watchful eye on His beloved children.”
“Do you truly believe that Sister?” she asked.
“How can I not?” replied the Sister. “God has a plan for each one of His children.”
“That was the lesson that you constantly pound into my head everyday when I was in school, Sister,” Angelica stated.
“Si,” she began. “But I was there to teach you more than just math or history Angelica. I was also there to teach you humility and accountability. Your life is not yours alone, my dear, but belongs to your people. You needed to learn that with great power also comes great responsibility.”
Anna sighed and confessed, “You did teach me those values Sister and for that I am eternally thankful. But sometimes those lessons, when you are too young to really understand the concepts, go right over the heads of the students receiving them.”
“Then it is up to us to keep repeating the lessons until the students understand them,” Sister Maria flatly stated.
“Don’t I know,” confessed Angelica laughing. Sister Maria looked over at Anna.
“You know as well as I do that your problem wasn’t in understanding the lessons, but in accepting them,” Sister Maria stated.
“You could always see right through me, Sister,” she admitted. Sister Maria reached over and enfolded Anna’s hands in hers. “You were the oldest, my dear,” she began, “And because of that you had a lot of responsibility thrust upon you. Your younger brothers and sisters looked to you for guidance, whether you knew it or not. I and all the staff were hard on you, yes, because we had to be, not because we want to be.”
Anna bowed her head and softly said, “I wished I’d known that at the time. Then maybe I wouldn’t have been such a bother.”
“Or an insufferable know-it-all?” asked Sister Maria. Anna gasped as Sister Maria chuckled and asked, “Had that one coming, now didn’t you?”
Angelica chuckled. And admitted, “I guess I did, Sister.”
“So, what brings you to the Observation Deck, my dear?” the nun asked.
“I was hoping to run into you to finish our conversation,” she confessed. Sister Maria looked around and noticed that the Observation Deck was beginning to get crowded.
“Not here,” she said. She stood and so did Suarez. “Follow me and I’ll take you to a more secure place, so that we can talk.”
Warren Officer Angelica Suarez followed the nun through elaborate passageways until they came to an unmarked hatch that Sister Maria opened and entered.
When the Warren Officer came through the hatch, she was stunned at the size of the room and the furnishings.
“Wow, nice place Sister,” she stated. “Who did you have to kill to get this place?” she asked snickering.
Someone from the shadows in the corner cleared their throat. Suarez turned quickly in that direction and was about ready to charge the would-be assailant when Brother Delgado appeared out of the shadows followed by Carreta.
“May I introduce, Brother Delgado,” Maria began, “That obviously has a flare for the dramatic, Warren Officer Suarez?”
Brother Delgado nodded his head at his sister and made a slight bow to the Princess. Anna noticed the slight courtesy and raised an eyebrow when she looked back at Sister Maria.
“It appears that Brother Delgado has your full trust, Sister,” Angelica stated. Sister Maria cleared her throat and was about to say something when Carreta interrupted.
“The Brother and the Sister…”
“Are actually siblings, Vice Member Carreta?” she asked interrupting him. “Yes, I do know that and you of course.” She smiled up at the hovering drone. “Which makes this place,” she looked around, “I would assume a very safe place to talk? So I suggest we get to it, right?”
“You have acquired his ‘let’s get to it’ attitude that has rewarded your father, Princess,” Carreta said.
“Thank you, I am sure he would be pleased to know that, Vice Member,” she admitted.
“Almost as much as he would be pleased to know that his daughter is millions of kilometers away and not in some secluded convent?” asked Brother Delgado. Anna chuckled and replied, “I think you already know the answer to that one Brother.”
“We all do, Anna,” admitted Sister Maria.
“By ‘we’ who are you referring to, Sister?” asked Anna boldly.
“At the moment just the three of us, Warren Officer,” admitted Carreta.
Anna found a comfortable looking chair and sat. Alphie hovered protectively over her right shoulder as she looked at the others and they sat as well. “So, it would seem that my little getaway has gotten noticed,” she began, “But the only ones that know are you three?”
“Si,” stated Carreta.
“One would wonder why that is, Vice Member?” she asked. “One would also wonder why a Vice Member of the Drone Council is lurking around dark corners and with Brother Delgado, ‘The Eyes of the Black Pope’, on this mission?”
Sister Maria choked, Brother Delgado got red in the face, Carreta merely chuckled and said, “As well as your mother’s flair for directness.”
“Yes, yes,” she stated rudely, “I have all the attributes and qualities that make up the Houses of Hapsburg and Savoy, because I am a Royal Daughter of the Blood. And because of that, I know many state secrets. But I must have missed out on the one incorporating my old tutor, a Jesuit Brother and a Vice Member of the Drone Council together as a team on this particular mission. It seems that I require some answers Vice Member,” she ordered.
Sister Maria was looking out at Anna with a newfound respect for the girl but had to cover it quickly before the Princess noticed. “Maybe, my dear,” she began, “But right now, you are not the one in position to demand anything, right?”
The bluster and irritation that Anna was feeling evaporated quickly as Sister Maria’s words sunk in. “I suppose I’m not Sister,” she stated meekly.
“And when we finish asking you a few questions, we might answer a couple of yours as well,” the Sister acknowledged.
“That would be nice, Sister.”
“Good, now the first question that comes to mind is, what possessed you to come out here and pretend you were a pilot?” Maria asked.
“I don’t know,” she began. “All I had heard about the mission, the importance, the place where it was going, and the great import that it had on the Empire, told me I had to be on it. I just had to be a part of this first mission back to the Old World,” she confessed.
“In other words you thought it would be a great adventure?” asked Brother Delgado.
“Well, of course, Brother,” she said.
“So you had no other motivation than just adventure?” asked Carreta.
Anna looked over at Sister Maria and shrugged her shoulder. “Sounds like the Anna I know,” admitted Sister Maria.
At that moment, Alphie started to lose attitude and began to hum louder. The others looked at him.
‘We’ve got to get you out of here,’ he nonverbally said to Anna.
‘I know,’ she replied. ‘But we have to find out a few things first.’
‘And those things would be?’ asked Carreta, intruding on their nonverbal communication.
All of a sudden, Alphie fell to the ground and lay there sputtering and sending out electrical sparks. Brother Delgado came off the chair in a hurry and went to the fallen drone.
“What happened?” Delgado asked.
“Nothing happened, Brother,” stated Carreta. “The drone is fine and just suffering from over acting.” Carreta looked down at the drone. “Oh, please get up,” he requested, “You may try to fool them but you can’t fool me.”
‘Do as he says Alphie,’ Anna said. Alphie floated off the ground and hovered near Anna’s right shoulder.
“All better I take it?” asked the nun. Anna just looked daggers at her.
Carreta said, “It seems we have more questions that we had anticipated. I have just discovered that the drone and the Princess have created their own ‘link’.”
“Have they now?” asked Brother Delgado.
“That would only make sense,” said Sister Maria. “How else could she do what she is doing now in the sim’s?”
“How do you know…oh, never mind,” Anna said exasperated.
“And what appears as a simple companion drone is something quite different,” added Carreta.
‘Crap!’ exclaimed Angelica.
‘Double Crap!’ added Alphie.
“You were always quite the student in robotics my dear, as I recall,” said Sister Maria. “Now what have you created?”
“Oh, he’s not much, Sister,” Angelica began, “Just little bits of this and that.”
“Now don’t be so modest, Princess.” Carreta said as he looked over at Sister Maria. “What she has created, against the Drone Council’s express rules, is a fully automated personal Drone. He has extra memory capacity and some nasty security assault abilities. She gave him an ultra sensitive commo faculties, that can decrypt or jam any commo relays within twenty kilometers, and sensors that can read all spectrums of light emissions or waves and there is something else that I haven’t seen before. Give me a moment or two to analyze it and I’ll let you know what it does.”
“I feel quite naked,” said Alphie.
“Oh, please be quiet,” said Anna.
“I see you have been busy,” Maria said.
“What can I say, Sister?” she asked. “I like to tinker.”
“While Carreta is busy trying to further figure out your drone,” began Delgado. “Why don’t we continue with our questions?”
“It seems I have no choice, so please continue with your inquisition,” she accused him.
“Hardly that, Princess,” admitted Delgado.
“I wish you would refrain from calling me that, Brother,” she requested.
“It is your rightful title as you so eloquently pointed out earlier, Warren Officer,” he replied.
“Yes, well that was then and this is now,” she stated. “As your sister can point out I grow tired very easily with quizzes. So, please ask away and let’s get to the point where you either let me go or I get taken to the brig and locked up.”
“I have it!” exclaimed Carreta. All eyes turned to him. “That extra something that Alphie has hard wired into him is a technology that has never been used by any other drone in our entire history.”
“Which is?” asked Sister Maria.
“Stealth technology,” he said amazed. “It seems our little common, ordinary, passed down from generation to generation drone has the ability to go ‘dark’ or invisible if he wants.” All eyes turned to Alphie.
“Cannot!” Alphie exclaimed.
“Can too,” replied Carreta.
‘Might as well fess up,’ she said. ‘Alphie we are caught. Best to give them what they know to stop them from finding everything out.’
“Oh, please stop doing that,” Carreta said. “We can detect when you are communicating nonverbally with each other.”
“Fine,” she began. “I told Alphie to come clean. Go ahead and show them Alphie.” They all looked at Alphie as he disappeared and then reappeared on the other side of the room.
“Fast little bugger, isn’t he?” asked Delgado. Sister Maria looked over at Anna and said, “I am very impressed with your ability to craft such a fine companion. It must have taken a lot of time and expense to create such a wonder?”
“Time, I have,” Anna confessed, “As far as materials, I just borrowed a few items from around the palace when people weren’t looking.”
“You stole material you mean?” the nun accused her.
“Stole is such an ugly word, let’s just say I appropriated the items I needed and leave it at that,” Angelica offered.
“Regardless of how she put him together I have to admit, I too am impressed,” replied Carreta.
“Can we please stop the admiration club for a moment and look beyond her abilities and see what she has done,” said Brother Delgado. Sister Maria looked at Delgado.
“I’m surprised that you are taking that kind of tone with such a technological accomplishment, Brother,” she said.
“She has made a drone that has never existed before,” Delgado admitted.
“We should all be thrilled with her accomplishments,” Sister Maria stated.
“I’m with her,” Anna said.
“Yes, fine,” Delgado began, “I have to admit that I’m impressed as well. But some major questions come to mind like; why did she create him and when?” All eyes turned to Angelica.
“Well, ah…,” she began stammering. “I created him when I knew I needed another Alphina to accompany me on this journey. I couldn’t take Alphina with me. I had to leave her with my replacement so that no one would become suspicious.”
“Unbelievable, the more you find out, the more you have to keep digging,” said Delgado.
‘Double Crap!’ exclaimed Alphie.
‘So digging some more makes you both worried?’ asked Sister Maria nonverbally.
‘Ah…,’ Angelica began.
‘I warned you about nonverbal communications, but you keep insisting on doing so, so…’ thought back Carreta.
“Ah, sorry,” Angelica said aloud, “It won’t happen again. And by the way how did you do that?”
“We have some tricks of our own, my dear,” Sister Maria admitted. “So please keep that in mind and please realize who we are. We are the ones that caught you in your little deception and your fate is in our hands.” Anna glared at her, smiled and said, “I don’t know if I like having an axe hanging over my head like that Sister and I would have thought that blackmail was beneath the Church’s dignity.”
“We are not blackmailing you into doing anything, Warren Officer,” replied Delgado. “We haven’t asked you to do anything have we?”
“I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop, as they say,” admitted Anna.
“We haven’t even finished with the first shoes La Señorita Suarez,” said Carreta.
“Oh, then by all means please continue with the drawing and quartering,” Anna stated.
“Anna, please,” pleaded Sister Maria. “I know how you get when you start taking that tone. I thought you had grown up since the last time we were together. Am I wrong?”
The Princess heaved a heavy sigh and then looked over at the Sister. “No, you are not wrong. I just…” she began.
“Don’t like being painted into a corner?” Brother Delgado injected. “Nobody does. But we are not trying to do that, if we could ask a few more questions and if we get the right answers we might be able to open a door in that corner so that you can get out.” Anna nodded her head.
“Fine then please, continue,” she said.
“Let’s get back to this ‘replacement’, that you spoke of earlier,” said Carreta.
“As I said, I wanted to come on this mission so I had to find a credible replacement for me while I was gone,” she admitted. “It took a few weeks but Alphina found one, we contacted her and surprise, she had no problem with getting dressed up and being pampered every day. Alphina is with her right now keeping her safe and out of the public’s eye.”
“And whose idea was it to go off to a convent to contemplate?” asked Sister Maria.
“Mine,” she admitted. “I knew we were going to be gone for a few months and I didn’t want to expose Alicia Marie to any court intrigue or get her near my parents. So we had to go into seclusion.”
“Very good planning, my dear,” said Sister Maria.
“We thought so,” acknowledged Angelica.
“It seems you had a lot of time on your hands to plan all this and to build Alphie,” began Carreta. “How and when did you hear about this mission?”
Anna sat there for a few moments without answering.
“Anna?” the nun asked.
“Fine,” she said resigning herself. “I had heard through channels that we had lost all communications with an outpost in sector 29. The most common theory dealt with a possible incursion in that sector that wiped out the outpost. That was my first thought as well.”
“Go on,” said Sister Maria.
“After the attack,” she began, “I had to keep closer scrutiny on all the commo traffic between military channels to find out anything new. It was after we had learned about the drone communication, that it was clear to me that we were facing an unknown enemy. I started researching all relevant information of our capabilities to combat an unknown enemy and ran into a brick wall. We had nothing, nothing! I was shocked.”
“Then I heard about a plan that was bouncing around a few circles regarding with this mission. I was glad somebody had finally come up with this plan,” she stated.
“What do you mean, finally?” asked Delgado.
“Well, it seemed obvious to me that we had to do something drastic,” she said. “The research I did regarding the Rths led me to the same place it led our military. The Rths were explores not soldiers. They only took technology from dead space faring civilizations that would help them with exploration and discarded the rest. It was awfully short sighted of them if you ask me.”
“Yes, please continue,” said Carreta.
“So you add up all the zeros and what do you come up with?” she asked. “A big fat zero, that’s what. As far as I could see,” she began, “We had to change our way of thinking. We either had to find those lost or abandoned space faring civilizations that the Rths ignored. Or we had to go back to where it all began,” she stated. “We had to go back the Old World and seek their help.”
“It seemed more logical to you that we venture back to our ancestors?” asked Sister Maria.
“Of course,” she stated. “We know where we came from and why we haven’t gone back before this is, seems remarkable to me.”
“But the Dominican’s object to ‘seeking out the devil’…” began Brother Delgado.
“Is outweighed by the Empire’s need to survive, Brother,” she said interrupting him.
“And all of this you put together while you were also getting ready for your First Confirmation and making Alphie?” asked Sister Maria.
“I did have help from Alphina,” Angelica admitted.
“But the capabilities of a companion drone, even a royal companion drone, are pretty basic,” admitted Carreta.
“Unless a certain ‘royal ability’ came online before it was supposed to,” replied Angelica.
“Stop right there, Princess,” warned Carreta.
“You opened up this can of worms, Vice Member,” she said. “You can’t close Pandora’s Box once you open it.”
“But…” Carreta said feebly.
“No,” she stated flatly. “It is all or none. You decide.”
“Very well then, you may continue,” said Carreta. “But I must warn you Sister Maria and Brother Delgado you are about to hear some information that only a few are privileged to know. You are bound to keep this as confidential as you would the confessional.” They both acknowledged his statement with a nod.
“You were saying, Princess?” asked Delgado.
“My implant came online about half a year before my fifteenth birthday.”
“And you told no one?” asked Carreta.
“Why would I?” she asked. “It was something I knew I was about to receive. It came a little earlier, so what’s the big deal?”
“The implant is supposed to come online on the eve of your fifteenth birthday,” informed Carreta. “All preparations are made for that date and are then implemented on your birthday.”
“The fact that it came online prior to that date could have had an impact on your mental stability,” he informed her.
“Well, it didn’t,” she simply stated. “It came online and I dealt with it. And as I said, Alphina was there to help me as well.”
“But she wasn’t programmed to help you with the change,” he stated.
“And she wasn’t until we made a couple of changes in her core programming,” she admitted.
“Changes, such as?” Carreta asked.
“I upgraded her memory capacity, tinkered with her self-awareness chip…” she began.
“Her what?” interrupted Delgado.
“It seems that all drones are sentient,” she informed them. “Some more so than others, all I did was adjust Alphina’s chip to a greater degree of self awareness. And after that she helped me out tremendously.”
“You tweaked her and then she tweaked you back?” asked Sister Maria.
‘Well, yeah, kind of,” she admitted. “I mean, we were just kind of exploring all of our newfound gifts and one thing led to another. One door opened another one, one thing led to another and there you have it.”
“I’m lost,” confessed Delgado.
“If you haven’t figured it out already Brother,” began Anna. “The Rths gave the royal family a little something extra that we call ‘our abilities’. It’s an implant that allows us to link with our personal companion drone that was created for us. We also have the ability to learn anything and once learned be an expert at what we just learned.”
“As long as there’s a data base for whatever it is we want to do or become, we can. Also I can download all the data from my ancestors and experience what they did, when they did it. If I want to find out all about the life of my great, great, great grand uncle Roberto Salazar, all I have to do is ask to have his life downloaded into me and within seconds it’s there,” she informed them.
“And each of the royal family from the beginning until now has this ability?” asked Sister Maria.
“Yes, now you can understand why this must be kept secret at all costs,” admitted Carreta.
“The secret is safe with us, Vice Member,” said Maria. “This just adds another piece to the puzzle.”
“What puzzle?” asked Angelica.
“The puzzle of how you came to be here,” she said. “Now I can understand why you had this sudden urge to go exploring.”
“You can?” asked Delgado.
“Yes,” she began saying. “It seems Angelica gave me a clue when she was explaining how the implant works. She chose her great grand uncle Salazar as an example. But in mentioning his name she also alerted me to the fact that he was always her favorite when she was growing up. Not because he left us with a rich legacy but because he was the black sheep of the family. His wanderlust and brashness were legendary and finally led to his untimely death.”
“Oh, I remember him,” said Delgado. “He was a bright shiny star that burned itself out too quickly.”
“Yes, some how not to dissimilar to a brother of mine,” admitted Sister Maria. “She was always digging up new facts about him and fantasizing about his exploits, to the point where her mother became worried.”
“He was just misunderstood,” Angelica stated. “And I could never understand why she wanted me to stay away from his story; she was a direct decedent too, you know.”
“Maybe that’s the reason why,” acknowledged Brother Delgado.
“What do you mean, Brother?” Angelica asked.
“Stories are usually past down from generation to generation,” he began. “Maybe your mother knew intimate stories dealing with your uncle that nobody else did. And maybe it was because of those stories that made her fearful that you would somehow glorify his adventures and then follow in his footsteps.”
“She should have had more faith in me,” Angelica said pouting. Both Sister Maria and Brother Delgado laughed aloud.
“As she said in a private storage room in defense of being a stowaway who has lied, cheated and falsified her way aboard a suicide mission,” confessed Sister Maria.
“Well, when you put it that way,” Angelica said softly.
“You know as well as I,” began Maria. “That if your parents had known about this wild scheme of yours to infiltrate this mission, they would have moved heaven and earth to get you back home,” stated Sister Maria.
“And I’m sure that we don’t have a complete listing of things you have done to get yourself assigned to this mission,” continued Carreta. “I have to admit that the Academy Records were perfect counterfeits. But didn’t the fact that you had no real piloting experience affect your first sim session?” he asked.
Anna chuckled and said, “No, the reason why is because I become an instant expert on any subject that I download. I transferred a number of databases dealing with piloting into my implant and now I’m a pilot.”
“At the beginning, I had to hold back and just like a rookie I had to slowly gain my confidence. Now I’m almost average,” she finished with a smile.
“I hope you’re not treating this mission and the lives of those squad members you hold in your hands like a game, my dear,” said Sister Maria.
“No,” she stated. “I would never do that Sister. Over the past few weeks, I have come to appreciate all the hard work and long hours the military puts in so that we can feel safe. I can’t afford to be an expert within a short period of time. That would throw up a red flag,” she explained. “I have to gain experience just like anyone else would.”
“Good,” began the nun. “Then just make sure you keep your focus on that, Warren Officer.”
“One final question and I think we’ll have enough information to discuss what we are going to do with you, Senorita Suarez,” said Carreta. “When I was describing your extraordinary work on crafting Alphie, I made reference to your drone’s offensive and defensive capabilities.”
“I was wondering about that myself,” admitted Delgado.
“Considering the fact that no other drone has those capabilities,” Carreta continued, “I was wondering how they came about?”
“I knew,” she began. “That we would find ourselves in a situation that we have never encountered before, I decided that I would have to defend myself, somehow.”
“And the regular defensive means weren’t enough?” asked Delgado.
She laughed and said, “Oh, you mean repelling or stunning?” she asked.
“They seemed to have been working for hundreds of years, my dear,” said Sister Maria. Anna turns to look at Brother Delgado.
“She hasn’t read the report on Outpost #2247; the first one that was attacked has she?” she asked. The Brother shook his head no.
“Then maybe she should after this,” Angelica advised. “To answer your question Sister no, the old methods are extinct now that we face this new enemy. Repellers or stunners do not affect them.”
Sister Maria looked at her brother and asked, “We have nothing that will hold these devils at bay?” The Brother shook his head no again. “So what is your answer to this?” she asked Angelica.
“Good old fashion steel, Sister,” she replied smiling. “Actually slivers of razor sharp steel repelled at thousands of feet per second from one of Alphie’s port or aft muskets.”
“Muskets?” they all said in unison.
“Well that’s the old fashion word for it,” she began. “I haven’t come up with another name for it so far, so muskets will have to do for now.”
“I have the knowledge of hundreds of years stored within my memory and I don’t recognize that name, Warren Officer Suarez,” said Carreta.
“That particular piece of knowledge has been withheld from everybody Vice Member by order of the Royal Family,” she informed him. “I was only able to get at it when I reached my majority. It would seem that they tide has turned and I now hold the upper hand,” she said with a smirk.
“I have more knowledge than you or your team does and I’d love to tell you more but I have to ask myself, can I trust you?” she sneered at them. “And just whom will I be trusting? All the members that make up your team? And who really runs this team, the Vatican, the Black Pope or just the Jesuits? We both have questions and maybe if we worked together to form an alliance, then maybe we will get the answers we each seek.”
All three members of the Vatican group turned around ignoring her and looked at each other. “Can we trust her?” asked Brother Delgado.
“That’s a stupid question, brother,” replied Sister Maria. “She is the Royal daughter and as such deserves our respect and trust.”
“It might go even deeper than that sister,” said Carreta.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Are we to blindly place the mission and all that it entails into the hands of a young woman who just wanted to be here because she thought it would be fun?” he asked.
“Her motivations might have been adolescent at the beginning of all this,” Maria began. “But they have changed into a well thought out plan. She has created the tools to make sure this mission succeeds.”
“You do realize that I’m still here in the room, don’t you?” asked Angelica.
“You have a point Sister and you make a convincing argument for her,” replied Brother Delgado.
“So, what’s it to be?” asked Carreta. “Do we bring her in or turn her in?”
“I’d hate to lose the information that she has and any technological advancements that she has come up with,” said Delgado.
“You can have access to all you’d like if you decide to bring me into your group,” Anna stated into the air.
“She has a great deal to trade,” began Sister Maria. “So do we form this alliance? Try as we may, we can’t overlook who she is. Should anything happen to her, how can we face her parents?”
“Tell them it was my choice and mine alone,” Anna said. They all turned back to look at Anna. “Sister you know as well as I do that I’m just an extra piece of luggage to be tossed about or even better be married off to make our line stronger. My brother is the next to take the throne not me. There hasn’t been a daughter elevated to the throne in hundreds of years.”
“And do you think for one minute that your mother or father care about that?” Sister Maria asked her.
“Your point is well made, Sister,” Anna stated. “But it was still my decision to infiltrate the military on this mission and it will be on my head should anything happen to me. But rest assured I am safe. Nothing can harm me, not with my extra abilities and Alphie’s defenses.”
“Accidents can and do happen my dear,” stated Maria.
“Yes,” Anna began, “They do but with all that I have going for myself and also my youthful quick reaction time, I have reduced that down to an acceptable level.”
“That’s something worth considering,” admitted Delgado.
Anna smiled at her old teacher and said, “And another thing to consider would be; should I be placed into the brig and should they start asking questions, I might be obliged to let them know about a certain faction of Jesuits that are running loose around the ship.”
“Are you seriously considering blackmailing us into allowing you to continue this masquerade?” asked Carreta.
“Blackmail is such an ugly term, Vice Member,” she stated. “I would rather use the term mutual alliance.”
“You little vixen,” exclaimed Sister Maria.
“And what do you see as your role in this mutual alliance?” asked Carreta.
“I will tell you everything about Alphie’s capabilities,” she confessed. “Those that you know about and the other things you did not detect. I will also help implement all of Alphie’s upgrades into any other drone of your choosing. I will also ‘come clean’ to just you three about everything that I have planned and hope to accomplish on this mission.”
“And all you have to do is keep quiet, sit back and keep an eye on me. I’ll leave it up to you if you want to help me or not.”
“But before you decide I’ll tell you this much to whet your appetite, the year was 1530 in the Old World and Charles V, my ancestor and also the Holy Roman Emperor who ruled over Spain and Austria, imported the brothers Marquarte to transfer their workshops from Augsburg, a city outside Spain, to Madrid. They brought to Spain unsurpassed knowledge of firearms production.”
“Firearms were pieces of metal that spat out lumps of lead. These lumps of lead when they hit an object like a body or a horse or even a building blew chunks of debris off the object. In the case of a human, it ripped him or her in half.”
“It was a very useful tool when armies fought each other,” she confessed. “We didn’t need that kind of a weapon in the hands of our people in the New World, so that knowledge was buried away from every one until I dug it up recently, improved on it and placed it into Alphie’s defensive array.”
“Thank you for your trust, Princess,” Carreta said.
“I’m sure you’ll have more for Brother Delgado to work on later but first let’s confer Brother and Sister.” They excused themselves and went off to a corner. In a few minutes, they came back.
“We can do nothing else but agree to your demands, Anna,” said Sister Maria. “You’ve left us no other choice.”
“Sister, Brother and Vice Member it is not I that has left us no choice,” Anna stated. “It is this unknown and deadly enemy. Never be mistaken we are on the same side. God has allowed a powerful evil in our midst. He expects us to fight it with all our resources and all the abilities that He has given us.”
“We will not or cannot fail. My mission, the mission that God has placed on me, is to see that this enemy is utterly destroyed,” she exclaimed.
“In that I will not fail. As Infanta Anna Clara Eugenia of Nuevo Hispania it is my destiny, and my duty to save my People or to die in the trying.”
“So help me God,” Anna said as she rose from her seat.
Sister Maria felt at that moment that all the long, hard hours spent teaching this Daughter of New Spain were not in vain. She walked over to Anna and hugged her.
“Vaya Con Dios,” she whispered into Anna’s ear.
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