Warren Officer Angelica Suarez was in the observation deck later that week with a few members of her squad taking in the sights.
They were all excited about the first of many insertions into the ‘bubble’ and wanted to see what occurred when they went into it.
Of course, the older crewmembers knew what the insertions were like and a few showed up but many just went about their normal business.
The stars along with the vastness of space always astounded her. She remembered as a little girl what it was like to look up at the stars above and know that was where they were from. Now at the ripe old age of fifteen, she was out amongst them seeing them up close.
She marveled at her luck to be out here then quickly realized why she was out here and what lay ahead of them. She was so deep in thought that when Lieutenant Manolo Marinero came up to her and spoke she was surprised.
“I never grow tired of the sight, Warren Officer,” he began. “Within our reach are all those stars and the worlds surrounding them right there for the touching.”
“Spoken like a true adventurer,” she replied.
He laughed and said, “I guess you’re right, it must run in the blood, they say. I come from a long line of officers and explorers. What about your family Warren Officer, any adventurers?”
She looked at him with big brown eyes. “Why, what have you heard?” she asked.
“Nothing, just a simple question,” he said.
“I’m sorry,” she began, “I don’t know why I’m jumpy like this. Excuse me, Sir.”
“You got some deep, dark secret lurking in your ancestral closet, Suarez?” asked Warren Officer Dominguez. He came walking over to the other two officers smiling.
“No, Emilio,” she said. “Other than the fact nobody in my family likes people who eavesdrop.”
“Shut up,” he said.
“You shut up,” she replied.
After the insertion finally happened and she was leaving Warren Officer Suarez spotted Brother Delgado. She excused herself from her small group and casually walked over to the seated Brother.
“That was a very interesting experience, no Warren Officer?” he asked.
“It was ah, unspectacular, Brother,” she replied.
He chuckled and said, “Yes, I know, I thought so myself when I saw my first insertion into the ‘bubble.’ I don’t know what I was expecting, but I am certain it wasn’t the lack of nothing.”
‘And that’s precisely what happened when we did insert into the bubble,’ nonverbally said to him. She looked out through the Observation Deck’s windows at a hazy, cloudy mist that enveloped the outside of the ship and suddenly missed the stars.
“Do you miss the stars now?” he asked.
“Yes, I was just thinking that myself,” she said surprised. “You gave me quite a start when you asked. It was as if you were reading my mind, Brother.”
“Well I do have some tricks up my sleeve but reading mind’s is not one of them,” he chuckled. “It’s probably just as well, being on a ship filled with bored and lonely spacemen.”
“Or women,” she added.
“Quite, right,” he began. “I’m glad you came over because I have been meaning to speak with you.”
“Regarding?” she asked.
“The musket weapon you came up with,” he stated. “I’ve been talking with a scientist and researcher that is part of our group and he is ecstatic about the whole concept and wondered where we got the idea.”
Angelica looked around and decided it was okay to talk because of the lack of people on the deck now.
“I really need to work on that name,” she confessed. “Alphie’s weapon is more like a launcher of tiny steel fragments. The original musket concept was different. The original muskets hurled lead shot through the air at objects in front of them and ripped them apart.”
“The chemical agent that propelled the lead through the air was called gunpowder. The powder when lit with fire blew up or, in this case, pushed these solid pieces of lead through a pipe,” she informed him.
“I see, I think,” he weakly commented.
“Let me try to explain it better,” she began. “The musket was a piece of steel with a hole bored through the middle. On it was a lever or ‘hammer’ that went back and was held in place until you pulled a half moon shaped steel member or ‘trigger’ with your forefinger.”
“The hammer struck a pan containing the gunpowder and igniting it. The blast from the pan went through the hole in the steel called a barrel. Stuck in the back of the barrel was the lead ball that was pushed out by the force of the blast,” she instructed him. “Whatever was in front of the barrel was hit with the lead shot. It was very crude but it worked effectively. I would imagine that our ancestors have improved upon that older model by now,” she stated.
“Yes, well let’s hope for our sakes that they have,” he replied.
“It has been hundreds of years since that time, Brother I would hope that they have.”
“That is if they are still around, Warren Officer,” he remarked.
“Why would you say that?” she asked.
“The little history that I could dig up on our old world suggests that they were a very warlike people,” he replied. “The old Spanish Empire had numerous enemies, any number of which could have gotten stronger and defeated them.”
“It’s probably best not to think along those lines Brother,” she suggested. “I’ll put my trust in God and believe that He kept them strong and apart from killing themselves.”
“Let’s pray that’s true, daughter,” he replied. “But getting back to the weapon that you designed, what made you chose sharp steel pieces instead of lead?”
“Lead is too weak a material for the forces that we are subjecting those little pieces of steel to tolerate,” she told him. “We tried it at the beginning but quickly gave it up. We tried a number of other materials too but got the same result. The size and shape of the steel slivers that we finally came up with did the trick.”
“We?” he asked.
“Yep, it was collaboration between Alphina, Alphie and me,” she stated. “Without their help I doubt very much that we would have been able to come up with such a superb weapon.”
“Speaking of which,” he began. “I have cleared it with the upper brass to have your squad in the armory when the first tests are made on the “Rapid Impulse Projectile Perforating Expansion Rounds” or “Rippers.”
“Rippers?” she asked. “Yes, I like that.”
“Rippers, because it will rip apart anything or anybody in its path,” said Brother Delgado.
She sat thinking for a moment and finally responded.
“Yes, it really does,” she said worriedly.
“Professor Esteban Santiago has improved on your design and has been able to make smaller and larger versions of the Rippers,” he informed her.
“I can see why those would come in handy,” she again responded slowly.
“It’s a great weapon and will improve with age,” he began. “With different minds working different angles, I suspect the Rippers will be around for quite some time. Unfortunately, it is gravity weapon and completely useless in space.”
“Where there is no gravity,” she stated. “Yes, I see, but that wasn’t one of the problems that I had to overcome. I would only need it for self defense.”
“That is understandable, should you need it, you would be in gravity,” he noted.
“Right,” she said.
“It is a great weapon but only useful in gravity,” he acknowledged.
“The property of space has its own unique application, Brother.” Alphie said.
“Glad you could finally join in the conversation,” Delgado remarked.
“Alphie’s not much of a talker in public, Brother,” she replied. “He is more a doer, if you know what I mean.”
“I believe I do, Warren Officer,” he replied.
“But he does have a first rate mind chock full with information and memory,” she advised him. “So, you were saying about the property of space, Alphie?”
“There are a few things that can adjust to and use the properties of an airless or gravity less environment,” he replied.
Brother Delgado looked around and nonverbally communicated with them.
‘I suggest we walk over to the window and look out like we are contemplating the universe and stay in the linked mode if we are going to talk shop,’ he said.
They said their good-byes aloud, went to opposite ends of the deck and looked out into the bubble’s universe.
‘You were saying Alphie?’ asked Brother Delgado.
‘Yes,’ Alphie began. ‘We know of a few things that will pass through space and not be influenced by it. The first; being this ship or any other sized vessel that has a propulsion system that can push through it and two; light.’
‘It’s too bad that we can’t make a smaller ship and use the Rippers,’ Angelica said.
‘The Rippers won’t work but…a smaller ship?’ asked Delgado.
‘Or maybe a smaller metal ball shot out from a really big musket sized ship,’ suggested Angelica.
‘But again we’re dealing with gravity,’ interjected the Brother.
‘Yes,’ began Alphie. ‘But what if the metal ball had its own propulsion system when it left the ship?’
‘You’re suggesting a powered metal ball?’ Delgado asked.
‘What do you think would happen to another ship if it was hit by a huge metal ball propelled through space at it?’ she asked.
‘Just like it would do to anything,’ he surmised. ‘Poke a big hole in it. Depending on the size of the metal ball would determine the size of the hole, I would imagine.’
‘Might I suggest something made from our heavier and denser alloys as the metal used in this ball?’ suggested Alphie.
Angelica was deep in thought as she looked out into space. ‘He is right,’ she simply stated.
‘About what my dear?’ asked the Jesuit Brother.
“About the ball, of course,” she began. ‘I’m thinking, if we fabricate and shape a projectile made from lead and thallium and secure a drone guided repeller system to it, then we have a space based weapon system,’ she continued. ‘If we give it stealth technology, we have a weapon that can penetrate into the heart of our enemy and strike at him without giving any warning.’
‘I must confess Brother that we have been working on this idea for a while, well ever since we created Alphie,’ she informed him. ‘I left my thoughts and ideas with Alphina to improve upon before we left.’
‘As I mentioned before, I believe you are onto something Princess,’ Alphie replied. Brother Delgado turned and looked at the Princess.
‘Princess, I’m sorry,’ he began. ‘I know how you hate it when we give you the due courtesy of your title, but this time it is much deserved, so please excuse me. Princess Anna, you have by no doubt the scariest and the most brilliant mind that I have ever come across.’
‘You sell yourself short by calling yourself ‘an extra piece of luggage’. ‘You are far more than that, Infanta. You are the living embodiment of the great line of Hapsburg and Savoy and I am honored to be your loyal servant.’
‘Did he say ‘scariest’ Alphie?’ she asked.
A couple of days later a group of scientists, space naval officers and the Warren Officer’s squadron were all in the armory in the belly of the ship. They were all there to witness a demonstration of the new ‘Rippers’.
A slightly bald, older man dressed in casual clothes with a lab coat over them approached the gathering crowd.
“Thank you all for coming down here to watch this demonstration of the newest gravity based weapon that we have made while on this momentous journey,” said Professor Santiago smiling. “Let me be the first to say this regarding the new weapon, this is just the prototype. We had this fabricated for this one trial. It works greater than you can imagine,” he began. “We have already made some improvements on its overall design and on other applications that will make this a formidable killing device.”
“But, I’ll let you be the judge of that. Shall we begin?” he asked the Captain.
Capitan de Avila nodded his head and the Professor gave the thumbs up signal to the operator behind the shatterproof glass.
The operator flipped off the cover over a red button and pressed the button. What happened next was the topic of many conversations in the weeks to follow.
What they immediately experienced was that a solid piece of one of their scout ship’s outer hull shredded like a piece of cabbage in seconds. There was no sound other than the hissing noise made by the pieces of the sharpened material blasting through the air and the ripping sounds made from the scout ship’s hull.
For a moment, they sat stunned by the destruction of one of their scout ships until the realizations of what they saw hit home and the room exploded with noise.
Capitan de Avila looked over at Capitan de Fragata Alverez and nodded at him. “Gentlemen and Ladies please come to order!” Alverez shouted out and the room went quiet.
“Thank you,” he said. “Now the Captain will address us.”
He nodded at Captain de Avila who walked over the Professor Santiago and stood next to him.
“I can speak for all my men Professor when I tell you ‘Job well done,” he said to a rousing chorus of cheers. “This is a spectacular weapon,” he began. “And I can see that when we use it, it should create quite a bit of trouble for this unknown enemy.”
“I wish I could take credit for this useful weapon Captain but I would only be deceiving you,” he confessed.
“Then who are we to congratulate Professor?” he asked.
Santiago innocently looked over at Brother Delgado who slightly shook his head no. “I can’t divulge that information to you at this point in time but can tell you this is just the beginning,” he announced.
“As I mentioned before, this is the prototype and what we are designing at this time is a smaller version that can fit in the palm of your hand and be used in hand to hand combat.”
“We have also designed a ‘Ripper’ that can be mounted on the underside of any fixed winged fighter to be used in the atmosphere,” he informed him.
“That is brilliant Professor,” stated the Captain.
“Thank you Captain,” the Professor began. “For this newer, mounted ‘ripper’ the rounds will be longer and bigger and use a heavier, more solid projectile made from a mixture of lead and thallium. It should be able to rip anything in its path to shreds in milliseconds,” he concluded saying.
“You and your staff are to be congratulated Professor.”
“But I left the best for last Captain,” he confessed. “We also plan on fabricating, in a short time, larger versions of these rounds between twenty to fifty meters in length.”
“Why are you doing that Professor?” he asked.
“So they can be launched at the enemy’s warships, Sir,” he advised. The room grew silent and then exploded with more noise than before.
“Quiet down!” shouted Capitan de Fragata Alverez. The room once again fell to low murmurs.
“Thank you,” the Captain said.
“Now Professor could you please explain that last statement?”
“We know the enemy has space traveling capabilities because they used them to attack the outposts,” he said.
“Yes, go on.”
“We have no idea what type of weapons they possess,” he began saying. “But it’s safe to assume that they have used them against our people. Therefore, we have to use space-based weapons against them when they attack us again.”
“And these larger rounds would be our weapons?” the Captain asked.
“Si,” the Professor replied.
“And just how do we use them, Professor?” asked Lieutenant Marinero.
“We will replicate launching systems for them and attach them to this ship,” he said. “The same way we will for the smaller fighters.”
“And how long before we can see a working model of what you are talking about?” asked the Captain.
“Not long,” he began. “I would say by the end of the week we can fabricate enough flying rounds to give you a demonstration.”
“By then we’ll be well on our way to one of the last bubbles before we hit the old solar system,” admitted the Captain. “I will make sure you have enough personnel available to complete the additions to the hull, Professor. If that’s all, then I suggest we leave you to it.”
Capitan de Fragata Alverez took charge of dismissing the men and left along with the rest of the Captain’s staff.
Lieutenant Marinero was talking with Brother Delgado as Warren Officer Suarez came around the corner of the passageway.
“I know what I saw Brother,” Marinero said accusingly. The Brother was about to reply when they saw Suarez standing there.
“Yes, Warren Officer?” Marinero asked.
“Ah, nothing Sir,” she began. “Just on my way to the galley for lunch,” she stated and started to step around them.
“Wait a minute Suarez,” began Marinero. “The Brother and I will join you. Care for some lunch Brother?”
Ricardo looked a little annoyed but said, “Sure, why not.”
‘What’s going on?’ Anna nonverbally asked Brother Delgado.
‘I don’t know right now but something’s got your Lieutenant Marinero in a huff,’ he replied.
‘He looked like he was giving you the evil eye inside during the demo,’ she informed him.
‘I caught him watching you when they were talking about the new rockets,’ she announced.
‘Rockets?’ he asked.
‘The new weapon,’ she began. “They are old technology developed by a country called China back in the old world.’
‘Well, more about that later we are almost here,’ he stated. ‘Don’t say anything during the conversation unless I ask you to, alright?’
‘Fine,’ she said reluctantly. ‘I’ll play dumb. I don’t know why he wants me here anyway.’
They walked through the galley’s hatch and got in line along with everyone else. They got their meals.
Suarez had roasted partridges along with some green salad and rice, while Brother Delgado got the rice chicken casserole from the oven. Marinero decided on the Buen broete con caldo de carne or good bruet with meat broth; made with a number of spices, one of which was saffron that Suarez really did not like, and a mixture of chicken, bacon, and almonds.
They found a table away from the rest of the lunchtime crowd and sat down. After Brother Delgado blessed the food, they dug in.
“I’ve been noticing that your drone, Alphie, is doing a lot better these days, Suarez,” said Marinero.
“I am doing better, thank you for noticing, Sir,” said Alphie.
“I have also noticed a few other things as well, Alphie,” Marinero stated. “Like the both of you spending most of your off-time with either Brother Delgado or Sister Maria. Is there something you care to tell me Brother?”
“Sir,” Suarez began. “I didn’t know my ‘religious pursuits’ were of any great interest to my immediate superior officer.”
“Normally they aren’t Suarez but these are not normal times,” he added.
‘I thought I told you to keep quiet,’ Delgado stated nonverbally. ‘Can’t you see he’s on a fishing expedition?’ ‘And giving him more line is not a good thing.’
“Although, as Senorita Suarez pointed out,” the Brother began to say. “Her devotion time or, in this case, education should not be of interest to you, Lieutenant.”
“What education time?” Manolo asked.
“Nothing to worry about,” Delgado assured him. “She is not planning on joining the convent or our order. It seems that she was a little remiss on her catechism due to her academy schedule. So, we have been working long and hard to bring her up to speed. Care for a demonstration?” Delgado looked at Angelica.
“What is the chief end of man?” he asked her.
“To glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” she said back.
“What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him?” he further asked.
“The word of God as heard by all people directly,” she stated.
“Thank you for the demo Brother,” Manolo said. “And good job Suarez but you know what? I really don’t really buy the Catechism thing.”
“You need to leave this alone,” warned Brother Delgado.
“Or?” the Lieutenant asked.
‘He is persistent,’ stated Anna.
‘And determined once he gets it into his head that something needs ferreting out,’ replied Delgado.
‘Ah, excuse me,’ interjected Scrak nonverbally. ‘But why are you both linked?’ asked Lieutenant Marinero’s drone.
‘Crap!’ Anna exclaimed.
‘Double Crap’ said Alphie.
‘And I’ll raise you a triple crap and call,’ stated Scrak.
Aloud Scrak said, “We need to wrap this lunch up quickly and go below deck.”
“I knew it,” was all Marinero said as he quickly finished him meal and left with the others.
Oblivious to the party having lunch, Ensign Rico Santiago had noticed the exchange and thought it significant that all these different personalities were eating lunch together. As they left, he decided to follow them at a discreet distance.
He informed the friars as to what he was doing and whom he was following.
It only took them only a few minutes to get to the workroom because Marinero hurried them along. They entered and as soon as they did, Marinero began to grill them.
“Why does a Warren Officer have access to this room?” he asked. Before anyone answered him, Sister Maria and Carreta came through the hatch.
“Vice Member,” Scrak said.
“Vice Member,” Carreta replied.
“Now that the pleasantries are over, can someone please answer my question?” Marinero asked. “And while you’re at it, please explain to us why a nun and another vice member of the Drone Council are here as well?”
“By the express order of His Holiness Superior General Father Antonio de la Medida, Lieutenant,” said Brother Delgado.
“The Black Pope?” Manolo asked.
“Si,” replied Delgado. “He was ordered by the Pope to oversee this mission’s success. His Holiness then asked me to gather my team to insure that we succeeded in our attempt to contact the Old World. That is what I have done and that is why everyone you see in front of you is here, Lieutenant. We are charged by the Holy Church and Our Sovereigns to accomplish the mission.”
“And why was I not informed about this team Vice Member Carreta?” asked Scrak.
“Nobody knows all the pieces of the puzzle, Vice Member,” answered Carreta.
“Then who is in charge?” asked Manolo.
“The simple answer would be God, Lieutenant,” said Sister Maria.
“I was hoping for someone a little closer at hand, Sister,” he stated firmly. Warren Officer Suarez cleared her throat loudly.
“Sorry, just clearing out something in my throat,” she said. “Vice Member Carreta may I bother you for some of that interesting wine you have on the sideboard over there?” she asked,
Her interruption seemed to pull everybody back from the edge and worked to sooth some ruffled feathers.
“Pardon me for my bad manners, senorita,” stated Carreta.
“Brother Delgado would you please do the honors and pour everyone a glass of wine, please?”
After Brother Delgado made the rounds and everyone had a glass of wine, the mood in the room changed slightly.
“Thank you Vice Member for the break,” said Scrak. “And for the little time we had to step back from a bridge that neither one of us wanted to cross.”
“You are most welcome Vice Member,” Carreta replied.
“And here we go again,” Anna said. All eyes looked at her as she took a sip of wine.
“I get it,” she said. She pointed at Marinero and at Scrak.
“You’re both a little mad because you found out that the plan that you are a part of got a little bigger and didn’t include you,” she began. “I get it.” She then pointed at Sister Maria, Brother Delgado and Carreta. “And all three of you have been cloaked in deep, dark secrets too long that anybody seeming to get too close to what you are up to makes you suspicious of them. That has to stop. As I said before, we are all on the same side, are we not?”
“We are Warren Officer,” agreed Carreta. “And I agree that we now need to bring the Lieutenant and Scrak up to speed,” said Carreta. “That is if you are okay with that Brother?” Delgado nodded his approval.
“Let’s start of by saying,” Carretta began, “That if there is one person in overall charge of the Vatican side of this mission it would be Brother Delgado by virtue of the person who command him.”
“I’ll grant him that Vice Member,” Scrak said.
“And as part of the Jesuit’s mission I gathered scientists, scholars, historians and as many brilliant minds that I could find to make sure of this mission success,” Delgado stated.
“And is Warren Officer Suarez one of those brilliant minds, Brother?” asked Marinero.
Brother Delgado let out a loud laugh. “Yes,” he began, “As a matter of fact she is, Lieutenant. Her involvement on this is to be kept secret. No one other than those in this room has a need to know her involvement.”
Lieutenant Marinero’s left eyebrow went up. “And that includes your father,” added Carreta.
“But...” Marinero started to say.
“You wanted some questions answered Lieutenant, now that you have some answers you are under the same constraints to keep certain information safe,” said Brother Delgado interrupting him. The Lieutenant stood up straighter.
“I will, of course, respect the will of the group, Brother,” he replied.
“I might add that without Angelica being here and her contributions, the new weapon system that was demonstrated earlier would not have been possible,” Delgado admitted.
“Are you trying to…I mean…what does she? Ah...,” Manolo stammered out.
“Don’t be fooled by her size, Lieutenant she may be tiny but she’s has a huge talent for destruction,” advised Sister Maria. “She always did, even when she was younger. And a word to the wise, Lieutenant, she doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and the words ‘be careful’ isn’t in her vocabulary either.”
“Great, a point man that’s reckless, destructive and nymph-like,” he said. “What more could I ask for?”
“Oh,” began Delgado. “And out of all of us and that includes both of you, she is by far the most irreplaceable. Nothing can happen to her and I do mean nothing.”
Angelica smiled at the Lieutenant.
“Then how can I possibly have her on point then?” he asked.
“Because nothing overall can change because of this meeting,” Carreta said. “If it does then those opposed to our mission could possibly seize upon the change and exploit it to their favor.”
“But how could they possibly know that Warren Officer Suarez is a key player in the game?” Scrak asked. Sister Maria looked at the Lieutenant.
“How did you know that there was more to our relationship other than religious?” she asked.
“By observation,” Manolo said.
“And you don’t think they observe as well?” she asked incredulously.
“Of course, they do and now, we’ll have to change our pattern of meeting, Warren Officer,” Brother Delgado said.
“Now that there are more members of this group we can split duties,” Scrak put in.
“It would seem that Warren Officer Suarez and I will have to be burning the midnight oil more than usual because I can sense her work performance suddenly starting to slump,” Manolo said.
“Great, now you want me to start screwing up so that we can spend more time together?” she asked accusingly.
“Sounds like a perfect plan to me,” put in Sister Maria.
“That’s right go ahead gang up on me will ya?” Angelica asked.
“Who’s irreplaceable now, huh Suarez?” asked Manolo.
“Fine,” she began. “I’ll play along for a while, you big lump,” she said back.
Sister Maria smiled and thought, ‘One more person to keep an eye on her. Thank you, Lord.’
Santiago watched as the meeting in the secret hold broke up and the different members of the group went their separate ways. He noted all the parties present and gave the friars an account of the members in this secret meeting.
As Lieutenant Marinero exited with Suarez, Santiago’s eyes narrowed. He did not know why they were spending so much time together recently but now he knew it went beyond a superior training a younger team member. Now here they were together in this meeting.
Santiago had a funny feeling about those two and he would keep an eye on them with or without the friar’s permission. He knew there was a reason why he did not trust Suarez from the beginning, now he was starting to get an idea why.
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