“Tough break Suarez,” Ensign Rico Santiago said. “You’ll get them next time.”
“If there is a next time,” smirked Warren Officer Dominguez.
“Shut up,” she said.
“You shut up,” he answered back.
“Are you children quite finished?” asked Lieutenant Marinero.
“She started it.”
“Did not!” Suarez stated.
“Did so,” replied Dominguez.
“Oh my God, Dominguez,” Manolo warned. “Unless you want to spend the next three hours going over basic maneuvers, I’d suggest you make yourself scarce.”
Dominguez got the clue and hurriedly left the simulation chamber. After the last of the crew and work detail, left Manolo and Angelica were finally alone.
“Are you really trying to get yourself thrown out of the squad Suarez, if that’s really your name?” he asked.
“It is,” she began. “It is an old family name and I chose it for this mission because it suited me.”
“Great more deception, just what I want from a team mate,” he declared.
“If you don’t want to find out the answer to something, then don’t ask the question, Sir,” she said politely.
“And there you go again,” he stated.
“Huh?” she asked.
“The demeanor,” he began. “And sly remarks, I can almost stomach, but the superior condescending attitude seems to come quite natural to you, Suarez. Who are you?”
“You better lose it or somebody outside our group will pick up on it and take a closer look at you,” he concluded.
“Sorry, Sir,” she said remorsefully.
“See now that wasn’t hard was it?”
She waited a couple of heartbeats. “And how quickly you fell for it,” she laughed. “You know something Lieutenant? You really are a big lump.”
“And you are…” he started to shout.
“Irreplaceable?” she interrupted, smiled and batted her eyes at him. He began to started laugh.
“You know Suarez if you didn’t remind me of my little sister, I’d knock you into next Tuesday,” he admitted.
“Yeah,” she began. “Well if you did that I’m sure the Black Pope would have a thing or two to say to you, buddy.”
“Fine, so you got connections in high places, big whoop,” he stated. “My dad’s an Admiral,” he informed her snidely.
“So now who’s being childish?” she asked.
“You’re killing me here Suarez,” he began. “Okay you’ve got my attention but did you have to get the squad blown up again? So what’s so all fired important that you needed to urgently speak to me?”
“That would be ‘we’ Lieutenant,” Alphie said as he materialized over Anna’s right shoulder.
“And how…ah, never mind,” Marinero began, “Please continue Alphie, what did you want to say?”
“We think we have another idea for a space based weapon system and needed to bounce a few ideas off of you,” Angelica said.
“Well,” he began, “Okay, but I don’t know the first thing about weapons. Other than the new ripper system we have been practicing with in the sim’s.”
“That’s fine we really don’t need your input just your attention, okay?” she asked.
“We know that the new rocket weapon that will be demonstrated tomorrow will work because it’s mathematically sound,” Alphie began. “We also know that we can’t count on just one system alone, they may have a counter system for it.”
“So, we need to come up with more weapon ideas,” she said.
“But isn’t that why we are going back to the Old World to trade up for their new technology Warren Officer?” he asked.
“Provided they have any, Sir,” advised Alphie.
“Good point, Alphie.”
“Sir, can we drop the warren officer this and warren officer that routine when we are alone?”
“Sure, what would you like to be called?”
“Angelica will do, Sir.”
“And you can call me Manolo,” he stated. “There’s no need to call me Sir either besides you probably outrank me anyway.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” she said under her breath. “Okay, then Manolo as I was saying, Alphie and I have designed a new type of weapon.”
“Go ahead, I’m listening,” he said.
“I’ll let Alphie explain the nuts and bolts to you,” she said.
“Right,” Alphie began. “The new rockets are a good offensive weapon system but you have to be close to the target for it to be effective. Unless we place hundreds or thousands of the rockets on a weapon’s platform and make them invisible to the enemy.”
“By God,” began Marinero. “If we can do that and have them waiting at a specific point where we know they’ll be crossing, then we can target them with ease.”
“We don’t know what their point defensive capabilities are,” informed Alphie. “But if we throw enough rockets at them to overload their system then we are sure to make some kills.”
“Point defensive capabilities Alphie?” he asked. “You lost me on that.”
“Let me explain it like this,” Alphie started. “When you are playing chess your first row of pieces are all pawns. They act as your point of defense against your opponent. You use them to tear down attacks made against you. It is the same thing I’m talking about but on a massive scale.”
“And you think that this unknown enemy has massive arms?” asked Manolo.
“Let me ask you this Manolo, do you ever start an offensive move in chess without a solid backup?” Alphie asked.
“I see what you mean, Alphie,” he said. He looked back at Angelica. “I now understand why Brother Delgado wanted you with us on this mission.”
“Well,” she began. “Let’s just get to the Old World, get what we need and get back home. Hopefully in time to stop any kind of offensive wave coming at the Empire.”
“We will, I just know it,” he offered. “But I keep interrupting and not letting Alphie finish with his explanation.”
“They are all mixed in together at this point, Lieutenant,” stated Alphie. “The point I made about their defensive capabilities is in direct connection with our next proposal to the group regarding our own points of defense. We actually have nothing that can defend this vessel or any of our vessels in the Armada.”
“In other words,” began Angelica. “Should they decide to attack our ship now, we have nothing to counter it. Our ships are as helpless as our outposts.”
“But you know how to fix that, right?” asked Manolo hurriedly.
“We might,” she began. “But in order to fix a problem we have to first understand what is the problem.” He looked at her quizzically.
“To look at the problem from all angles and design a solution,” offered Alphie.
“Which would be?” the Lieutenant asked.
“Let’s say they launch a bunch of rockets at us,” began Angelica. “What is the quickest and most effective way of dealing with them?”
“I couldn’t even venture a guess.”
“Let me explain it this way,” she started. “Go back in your memory and picture a snowball fight that you had when you were a kid.”
“Okay,” he said.
“The more kids you had on your side meant the more snowballs you could throw at the other side,” she stated.
“The more snowballs you had in the air, even if they weren’t aimed accurately, the better your chances were that your side hit someone on their side, right?” she asked.
“Yes, we all know that Suarez,” he said.
“And how did you get away from being hit?” she asked.
“I usually ran away from them,” he began. “Or got undercover, sometimes I got lucky because my brother used to build great snow forts. The balls would just bounce right off of them.”
Angelica’s eyes got that far away look in them for a moment and then she looked back at Manolo. “You just gave me a great idea,” she told him, “That we will need to work on before we bring it up but thanks for the vision.”
“Anytime, now we were talking about snowballs?” he asked.
“Running away is a good way to avoid getting hit but you can’t fight that way because your back is turned away from your opponent,” she began. “But for smaller vessels or smaller amounts of vessels going up against superior odds, that could be a good and logical defensive plan. Alphie make a note to talk to Brother Delgado about the need to increase speed on all ships.”
“But what I was actually thinking of is,” she began, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a weapon that could completely eliminate the incoming rockets before they could get close to us?”
“Do we have something like that now that I don’t know about?” he asked her.
“Well, sort of,” she stated weakly.
“What do you mean sort of?” he asked.
“The repeller systems that we use to repel objects out of our path when we are flying through space is the sort of I’m talking about,” she informed him.
“But can it be used to repel objects that are the size and weight of our rockets?” he asked.
“No,” she stated. “At least not right now, but I’m sure if we have some of Brother Delgado’s men deal with the problem,” she continued. “They’ll come up with some way to modify our systems in no time.”
Manolo had a smile on his face. “It’s so simple when you think about it,” he began. “You know, I’m pretty sure you are right about that. We have some great minds aboard that can make that happen, good idea Angelica.”
“Sir, that’s just the beginning,” Alphie said.
“This next part deals with light, Manolo,” Angelica said. “What do you know about light?”
“That it’s bright?” he asked jokingly.
She chuckled and replied, “You’re so bright your father calls you son.”
“Very funny Suarez, son same as sun, you blind me with your brilliant wit,” he said without humor.
“Oh, please not pun time, don’t get Alphie started Manolo,” she warned.
“Hey, I resemble that remark,” Alphie said.
“I did warn you.”
“Okay, Alphie, now let’s get back to the light thing, Suarez,” Manolo said.
“Again,” she began. “I’ll let Alphie give you the nuts and bolts. Go ahead, please.”
“The universe and everything in it is part of the electromagnetic spectrum,” Alphie began. “The radiation from the spectrum interacts with matter in different ways.”
“There are radio and microwaves, near and far infrared, visible, ultraviolet, x-rays, gamma and high gamma rays,” he informed Manolo.
“Fine,” Manolo stated. “The universe is made up of lots of stuff, didn’t know that,” he said sarcastically.
“And most of that stuff is good for us and some not so good for us,” Alphie continued despite the interruption. “Let’s talk about the not so good for us types like gamma and high gamma rays.”
“For our purposes we are only going to focus on high gamma rays,’” he continued. “Get it? Focus?”
“See, I told you,” advised Angelica. “Stop that now Alphie and get on with it.”
“Fine,” Alphie stated abjectly. “Now if I may?” They both nodded. “We were thinking,” he began, “That if we could somehow harness particles, especially antiparticles, from the high gamma ray waves and then encase them in an electromagnetic field, we could then create a device that would concentrate those antiparticles at a fixed point in space.”
“Anything entering into that fixed area of space would simply cease to exist. In other words, any rocket entering that space envelope would be instantly vaporized,” he concluded.
“There would be nothing simple about that, Alphie,” he declared. “If we could create such a weapon, think about the applications?”
“We have Lieutenant,” Angelica stated sadly. “Believe me I have agonized over the decision to even bring it up in this discussion. That is why I wanted to talk to you about it before I mention it to the group. We know your expertise is dealing with the military aspect of the mission.”
“What would the military do with such a weapon?” Alphie asked.
“Exploit it to the maximum, of course,” he replied.
“But don’t you see the bigger picture?” she asked. “The creation of such a weapon, with so much deadly potential, could eventually evolve into a planetary offensive weapon. One that will wipe out entire planets and the people living on them.”
“We couldn’t live with ourselves should it ever come to that,” Alphie added.
“Well I don’t envy you your decision,” Marinero began. “You have the potential sitting in your mind to single handedly give us the victory the Empire needs, but at a price that maybe too high for you to pay. On the one hand,” he continued, “You can save countless lives yours included if we encounter the enemy out here, and on the other hand cause untold destruction further down the road. What are you going to do?”
“By all rights I can’t sit on this,” she began. “I can’t worry about what might happen down the road, as you said, and sacrifice any chance we have to get the upper hand.”
“I cannot nor will not let any of my people die because I wasn’t brave enough to make a stand,” she admitted forcefully.
“My people, Suarez?” he asked.
“Ah, just a figure of speech, Manolo,” she said quickly. “I meant our people and all those other defenseless outposts or ships out there and especially this ship.”
“So you are going to tell Brother Delgado?” he asked.
She got up and started to walk toward the hatch. “I’m already on my way.”
She found Brother Delgado, Sister Maria and Carreta filling in more gaps of information with Vice Member Scrak.
“I see your additional flight instructions didn’t keep you up too late Warren Officer,” noted Scrak.
“No, Sir,” she began. “Alphie and I have a little something to talk to everyone about regarding a new weapon design. But first Brother we need to have some propulsion people working on increasing speed in our present day ships. If we can’t fight the enemy, then I would suggest running away.”
“That’s a great suggestion, I wonder why nobody has thought of that yet?” said Scrak.
“I’ll get them started on it, Warren Officer now fire away with your other idea,” Delgado said.
“Oh, please don’t get started with the puns,” she began. “I just had to drag Alphie out of the sim’s area so that he would stop punning with Lieutenant Marinero.”
“Sorry,” apologized Delgado. “Please go ahead, we are all ears.”
The next half hour Anna and Alphie explained what they had envisioned with the new antiparticle high gamma ray rocket killing system. The group was quiet during their explanation until the very end.
“That is one brainstorm of an idea,” Scrak admitted. “It is nothing short of brilliance, my dear.” He turned toward Brother Delgado. “How quickly can your people begin the mathematics on this to take to the next level?”
“As soon as I can explain the theory to them, I’d say within a week possibly two on the outside,” he conjectured.
“Good then, get started on it,” Scrak requested.
It was almost a week and a half to the day from that meeting and five hundred million kilometers away from the first planet in the Sol system Pluto that all the preparations and the fabrications were complete and they could test all the new types of weapons systems.
The crew was all excited about all the new ‘toys’ that were created while traveling to the Old World system. There was a sense of accomplishment and excitement because they had almost reached their goal and were now ready to test the new systems that had everyone working night and day on them to construct.
All shifts were standing by, nobody was going to be caught sleeping when this momentous occasion occurred. With the mock tests made and the drone simulations gone over with a fine toothcomb to work out any bugs that could mar this special day, they were ready.
Everyone was either watching at a monitor or actually part of the crew that was responsible for carrying out the testing. The only one missing, because she had faked sickness, was Warren Officer Angelica Josephina Suarez.
She and Alphie were in the inner sanctum of the group’s room reading a book. After reading, the same page repeatedly for the last five minutes she finally put the book down and looked off into space.
“A doubloon for your thoughts, Princess,” Alphie said.
“I don’t know if they are even worth that much Alphie,” she confessed.
“You have a wondrous mind,” he began. “And it contains the treasure to many beautiful things, my dear. Don’t count yourself short.”
“Another short joke, please,” she said. He chuckled and she asked, “But is my mind wondrous, as you say? Or is it only filled with death and destruction?”
“Will I be known as the heroine of this war or be vilified throughout history as the Killer of Worlds?” she remorsefully asked him.
This self-agonizing question was the last straw for Anna as she finally broke down and wept bitterly for some time. Alphie, being not only the loyal companion but also a very close and dear friend was not able to console her. He hovered helplessly as Anna cried her eyes out. That scene is what greeted Sister Maria when she finally found Anna.
She had been looking all over the ship for her. She quickly crossed the room, pulled Anna into her arms and hugged her until the racking shudders had subsided to just pitiful moans. Through tear-soaked eyes, Anna looked up at her old teacher.
“Oh, what have I done?” she wailed. “What have I become?”
“You have done what you needed to do to save your people, Anna,” Maria began. “What you have become is an adult. We all want to grow up and become an adult until it happens and then we want to go back to the days when we didn’t have to make tough and difficult decisions.”
“Am I just a monster now?” Anna asked.
“It may seem like you are right now,” the nun started. “But you are far from a monster, little one. You are a lovely, young woman who God has seen fit to give this enormous job to. He knows what you can withstand, my dear.”
“I want you to consider the Old Testament patriarch Job,” she continued saying. “Look what he endured for God and in the end God blessed him tenfold.”
“But Sister, I am no Job,” she stated.
“Job wasn’t Job until God got finished with him,” admitted Sister Maria. “And who will you be when He gets finished with you? You must endure and have courage in the face of impossible odds, Anna, because God requires it of you.”
“Your people now have a fighting chance against these demons, Anna, because of you. God has chosen you, as He once chose a little girl from eastern France named Joan, to fight her nation’s enemies and drive them from their land,” she informed her. “You will do no less, Anna you are no less than she was.”
“I am not in this for glory, Sister,” Anna admitted.
“Then why risk your life on this voyage?” the nun asked. “Why are you on it?”
“Because there is an unknown force out there that is killing my people,” Anna began. “Ruthlessly slaughtering them in their sleep and I can feel them getting closer and closer to Hispania. Closer and closer to Papa, Mama and my hermanos and hermanas, they must be stopped before they kill any more innocent families.”
“And God has provided a way for us to do that through you, my dear sweet Anna,” consoled her ex-tutor. “You may see yourself as a killer and a destroyer right now but this time will pass and one day you will meet a nice man and get married and God will bless your union with children.”
“Children that you helped bring about because of this time here and now and not only your children but generations of other children all growing up and becoming what God wants them to, all because of you,” she confessed as tears ran down her face. “This is the future that God has planned for us Anna and only you can bring it about with His help. Be strong now my daughter and trust in God’s Will.”
The delegation from the Dominican Order that included Friar de Mirillo and Friar de Jesus were on the Observation Deck along with a hundred or more spectators when the demonstrations began.
They were as shocked and stunned by the display as the crewmembers watching the trials. When the biggest demonstration was unveiled and the antiparticle beam vaporized the space debris entering into the ‘kill’ zone, the two Friars got down on their knees and prayed.
The other onlookers gasped in amazement as the experiment concluded. The crowds in all the other areas of the ship were of mixed feelings about the new weapon systems. Some saw it as a God given defensive weapon and others, like the friars, saw it as an evil omen and as a thing created by the Devil.
In one corner of the bridge sitting all by himself, at the moment, the Grand Admiral of the Fleet Frederico Sebastian Marinero saw it for what it really was; an answer to his impassioned prayers.
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