The Summer I Died
Author: Richard Anthony

Chapter 27
You Gotta Love San Francisco

For the moment, she did not feel remarkable.
She felt like she was a test tube in the inside of a centrifuge.
The Lander when entering the atmosphere was being toss around like a ragdoll in the hands of a three year old.
Thankfully, it was soon over and they were flying smoothly and cloaked into the San Francisco Bay Area.
She instructed Scrak to put them down in a secluded spot in Golden Gate Park, yes just like the Star Trek movie.
Why did they pick that spot?
It was because Golden Gate Park had over a thousand acres of land that included very nice secluded spots just big enough to park the cloaked Lander.
The Park was the only location in the Bay Area close to the city but with enough hiding places to keep the Lander concealed.
Furthermore, after watching the Star Trek movie Anna fell in love with San Francisco and the park.
San Francisco was also close to the famous Silicon Valley, known for its innovative thinkers, and the Bay area contained hundreds of businesses with the precise type of personality the party was seeking.
The Chief knew they would need spending money when they were in the City so before they left the San Marcos, Anna had the transmat team ‘beam’ down two pounds of American Golden Eagle coins.
They materialized in a safety deposit box at the Bank of San Francisco on Market Street.
She did not know how much they needed but assumed that two Troy pounds of coins were enough for their needs.

Anna had of course ‘hacked’ she loved that word now, into the bank’s mainframe and set up their account with the safety deposit box under her and Lieutenant Marinero’s name.
They were now set for spending money and with their modern era clothing including clergy garments, compliments of the engineering department’s fabricator, the away team was set to infiltrate San Francisco.
She secretly thanked the Star Trek television series for giving them the idea of transporting materials or objects from one place to another.
It seemed so simple that she wondered why they or the Rths had never thought of doing it before.
It took the engineering department and their drones the better part of a month to replicate the transmatter beam and perfect it.
The New Spaniards, after watching the transporting sequence done on the monitor, fabricated what they needed to make their own transporters.
They landed at around six AM so as not to attract undue attention of their arrival.
After they secured the Lander and the drones were in place to do their active surveillance for the group they decided to venture out into the outside world.
“Just think,” began Delgado.
“This is the first time any of our ancestors has breathed the air on Earth for centuries.”
When they first stepped out everybody took a deep breath and smelled the aroma of the sea and mixed in with it the early morning bakery fragrances coming from the Arizmendi’s, the Tartine’s and the Boudin’s bakeries near Golden Gate Park.
All of a sudden, everybody became hungry.
“First things first,” said the Lieutenant.
“We need to get into our assigned pairs and begin our search.”
“We cannot afford to waste time because we have so little of it to waste,” he added.
“Does anybody have a suggestion on what to do first?” Marinero asked.
“How about breakfast before we go our separate ways?” Warren Officer Dominguez asked.
“Figured it would are you asking about food, Emilio,” said Angelica.
“Shut up,” he said.
“You shut up,” she replied.
“I believe our young and hungry Warren Officer is correct,” declared Delgado.
“I could use some breakfast.”
“Fine,” Manolo replied.
“I’m sure all of us could have a bite.”
“Okay, Suarez is there a restaurant close by?” he asked.
“We would have to find a place that serves breakfast this early,” she began.
“Let me check with Alphie.”
She took out a commo unit that looked like a typical cell phone and spoke with Alphie in hushed tones while the others look around.
“Alphie says there’s a breakfast brunch place not far away called ‘Boulange de Cole Valley’,” she announced.
“That should suit our purpose,” she stated.
“Then lead the way Chief Warren Officer,” Manolo said.
‘He did it again,’ the Chief said to Sister Maria nonverbally.
‘Did you hear that?’ she asked.
‘Yes, I did,’ Maria said.
“So why haven’t you talked to him yet?’ Maria asked.
‘I can’t talk to him in front of everybody,’ she replied.
‘Have Scrak link you into him and talk to him that way,’ the nun suggested.
‘I will do that,’ Angelica said.
‘But only if you are linked in too,’ he requested.
‘Fine, but hurry up,’ Maria said.
Anna contacted Scrak and he linked the Lieutenant, Sister Maria and Angelica together.
‘Ah, I see your mentor is joining this conversation Suarez,’ acknowledged Manolo.
‘What is with you?’ Suarez asked.
‘Ever since we left the ship you have been saying my name funny.”
“What gives?’ she asked.
‘I might ask you the same question, Angelica.’ Marinero said.
‘There you go again,’ stated Suarez.
‘Please, Manolo tell me what is going on,’ she requested.
‘I’d like to know as well Lieutenant,’ replied Sister Maria.
‘Fine,’ he said.
‘We would all like to know even me.’
‘So, let’s start off with a few questions, okay?’ he asked.
‘Fine,’ the Chief replied.
‘Chief Warren Officer, your file says you went to the Academy in Port of Bilbao correct?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ she replied.
‘Lies,’ he accused her.
‘You said you got your commission at the Officer’s Training School on Cartagena, correct?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ she stated after a moments, hesitation.
‘You lie again, Suarez,’ he announced.
‘If that’s your real name,’ he accused.
‘Really Lieutenant, this grows tiresome,’ warned Sister Maria.
‘You’ve worked with Chief Warren Officer Suarez for over four mouths you know her better than most on the ship and you think for a moment that she is not who she says she is?’ asked Sister Maria.
The Lieutenant looked over at the nun as they were walking out of the park and heading down Stanyan.
‘The only thing I know about her is this, Sister,’ he began.
‘She knows you and my father knows you.’
‘My father and I had an interesting talk before we left the ship earlier,’ he admitted.
‘And what did your father say about me?’ the Sister asked.
‘He told me that he was surprised to see you aboard because of your vow to the royal family,’ he stated.
‘Crap!’ Anna exclaimed severing the link for a moment.
‘Double crap,’ thought Sister Maria.
‘Looks like you’ll have to make a clean break of it as they say,’ she suggested.
‘And there you go again shielding me from your private conversations,’ complained Manolo.
‘The fact that they are ‘private’ should give you some kind of hint, Lieutenant,’ Angelica warned.
‘That’s Sir, to you Chief Warren Officer,’ Manolo warned.
‘Oh, will you two please shut up,” demanded the nun.
‘Sister?’ asked Manolo.
‘You act like little children sometimes I just want to bash your heads together,’ Sister Maria acknowledged.
Angelica chuckled.
‘Sorry Sister Maria for acting like a child,’ she replied.
‘And why wouldn’t you?’ she asked.
‘You are barely a young woman now, Anna,’ she replied.
‘Sister,’ Anna said warningly.
‘I knew it!’ Marinero exclaimed.
“I knew it and I didn’t do anything about it, did I?’ he asked himself.
‘No, and why would I?’
‘I mean here I am one minute wondering why you look so young but the records say something else but my gut tells me something entirely different,’ he admitted.
‘Am I going mad?’ Manolo asked.
‘Well, if you keep talking to yourself like that you might,’ said Anna.
‘Anna,’ the sister said warningly.
They had just crossed over to Fredrick and were heading up that street to Cole when Anna said, ‘I’m sorry for deceiving you Lieutenant,’
‘Really, I do apologize,’ she admitted in a contrite voice.
‘Apology accepted,’ he began.
‘I should apologize as well because if you had not been on this mission we probably would have failed.’
‘Almost everything we have discovered or built would not have come about if you were not aboard,’ he admitted.
‘So, who are you really?’ he asked.
‘My name is Anna Clara Eugenia and I am the Infanta of Miguel Juan Alejandro and Isabella Catarina your King and Queen,’ she stated point-blank.
‘Crap!’ Manolo exclaimed and then looked at whom he had just said that to and turned red-faced.
‘I am truly sorry, for the last remark,” he apologized.
‘Since I became a sailor,’ began Sister Maria.
‘I have grown accustom to the colorful language.’
‘You are forgiven, young man,” the nun admitted.
‘Anna?’ the nun asked.
‘Yes, well, Lieutenant,’ she began.
‘You have to remember that it is just a title.’
‘None of us are consulted before we are born and asked who we would like to have for parents,’ she admitted.
‘But had I been, I would have picked them regardless, they are pretty terrific parents, now as for my brothers and sisters…’ she trailed off.
‘Now, Anna that’s no way to talk about your little brothers and sisters,’ stated the Sister.
‘Now, I can understand why you and Dominguez fight all the time,’ he replied.
‘That’s just playful banter,’ Anna admitted.
They stopped nonverbal communications after this last exchange because Manolo had a lot to think about before he spoke with them again.
Millions of thoughts were running through his mind by the time they reached Cole, headed down the street, and entered the Boulange de Cole Valley restaurant.
It was just seven AM and the restaurant was opening up.
They decided to eat outside on the sidewalk tables.
The server, a beautiful red headed, green-eyed young woman came up to them and gave them menus.
The group having never used menus before was acquainted with their usage because Anna made them watch hours and hours of movies regarding how to act normal in public.
“Can I start you off with some coffee?” asked the waitress.
Puzzled the group looked around at each other.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she stated.
“Are you tourists?” she asked.
“Si,” began Anna.
“I mean yes, we are.”
“Oh, that’s nice, from Mexico?” the waitress asked.
“No, Espanola, I mean Spain,” Anna corrected herself.
“Spain? I love Spain!” she exclaimed.
“Yep, we are from Old Spain,” Dominguez said smiling up at her.
“Old Spain, I didn’t know there was a New Spain?” the waitress asked puzzled.
“His English isn’t that great so you must excuse my dim whit of a cousin,” said Anna.
“And yes, you are right, there is no New Spain, how silly, just Spain, not old or new,” she admitted.
“And yes, coffee would be splendid,” said Brother Delgado.
“All around please.”
“Be back in a jiff, Father,” the waitress said.
“Nice recovery, Suarez, ‘just Spain, not old or new,’” said Dominguez.
“Shut up,” she replied.
“You shut up,” he replied.
The waitress came back with a coffee urn and filled everybody’s cups with hot, steaming coffee.
“Have you decided yet?” she asked.
“Decided?” asked Angelica.
“On your breakfast orders, Miss.”
“Oh, breakfast orders,” she replied.
“I am sorry, not yet.”
“Can we have a few more minutes?” Angelica asked.
“Sure,” and then she went off to her other customers.
The group looked at their menus and had no idea what most of the food was.
Sitting at another table close by was Ms. Cruz, A.J. Turner’s Spanish teacher, who had recently moved from Spain.
She overheard some of the conversation the Chief’s group was having with the waitress and also heard their archaic form of Spanish and was intrigued.
She had not heard that form of Old Castilian Spanish in years, so she decided to introduce herself to the group and help them familiarize themselves with the local foods.
She came over to the table with the landing party and introduced herself.
“Hello, my name is Francesca Cruz,” Ms. Cruz said.
“I too come from Spain,” she said in Spanish.
“I overheard your conversation with the waitress and thought I’d offer my services to fellow Spaniards.”
The group looked up at her from their menus.
“Thank you for your help,” Angelica replied.
“We are unaccustomed to the variety of dishes that this restaurant has to offer,” said Brother Delgado.
“Will you please join us, Señora?” asked Sister Maria.
“Señorita, Sister and thank you,” Cruz replied.
Before she was finished all three male members of the landing party had stood up and offered her a chair next to them.
She took the one next to Sister Maria and Anna and sat down.
She looked at her own menu.
“Yes,” she began.
“They do offer quite a selection.”
“May I ask if you like eggs?” she asked.
Everyone seemed to like eggs so they all nodded, yes.
“Good, then let’s see what they have to offer,” she stated.
“They have a quiche that’s quite good,” she informed them.
“Quiche?” asked Rico.
“Yes, it kind of an oven baked pie with a flaky crust that’s filled with different items like sausage, bacon or ham, green onions, peppers and vegetables mixed with eggs and milk or cream,” she advised him.
“That sounds very good,” admitted Dominguez.
“They also have other daily selections of different types of quiche,” Cruz stated.
“Just ask the waitress what the daily specials are,” she suggested.
“They have fresh fruit as well if you are vegetarian and a selection of granola with yogurt.”
“What do you normally get?” Angelica asked.
“Me?” Cruz asked.
“Oh, I get a Baker’s Breakfast Pizza made with tomatoes, Swiss cheese, eggs, herbs, on a light pastry crust with bacon and asparagus on top,” she said giggling.
“Well, that sounds fine with me” Suarez said.
“I’ll have one of those as well, Señorita Cruz.”
“Just call me Frannie, everybody does,” Ms. Cruz said.
“Ah, Frannie where would I find the, ah… baños?” asked Rico.
“Oh, they are right through the doorway on the left, Señor,” Frannie said.
“Gracias, when the waitress comes back please order some fruit and some of that great smelling bread for me please,” Rico requested.

Rico then excused himself and went to the restroom.
As soon as he walked into the bathroom, he went into one of the stalls, locked it and then took out is commo/cell phone.
“Santiago, here is anyone receiving?” he asked.
“We are Ensign,” replied de Morillo.
“What is your location?” he asked.
“We are eating at a place on Cole called Boulange de Cole Valley, Friar,” Rico replied.
“And where are you headed next?” asked de Morillo.
“I have not been given instructions yet,” Santiago began.
“But I am teamed up with Dominguez so it should be easy for me to check in from time to time because he is so easily distracted,” he added.
“I did find out the men are staying aboard the Lander at night and the women will be staying at an inn called the Hotel Drisco, it’s on Pacific Ave,” he informed the friar.
“That’s an answer to prayer brother,” stated de Morillo.
“I was wondering how we were going to be able to separate her from the group.”
“Please keep us informed of your progress and that of your team,” de Morillo requested.
“What do you mean, separating her?” Rico asked.
“We’ve come to realize, not with a hundred percent certainty, that Señorita Suarez maybe more than what she pretends to be,” said de Morillo.
“Whatever she is,” began Rico.
“I get a feeling that something is not right between Marinero and Suarez,” he added.
“What do you mean?” asked the friar.
“I can’t put my finger on it, it is just a feeling,” he said.
“I will let you know more when I find out,” he advised.
“Fine, keep in touch and God bless you son,” said de Morillo signing off.

The waitress came by shortly after Santiago came back and they all ordered their breakfast and chatted about the sights of San Francisco until the food arrived.
After breakfast, they said their good-byes to Frannie.
The Chief gave her the name of the hotel where she and the Sister were staying and then they all headed off to their individual tasks.
The three teams included; Brother Delgado and the Lieutenant, the two women, leaving Ensign Santiago with Warren Officer Dominguez.

The first task that Sister Maria and Angelica did was check in at the Hotel Drisco on Pacific Ave a couple miles away from where they ate breakfast.
They decided to take a cab and got there fairly quick.
Angelica paid the cab driver and they went inside to the lobby area to check in.
Suarez did her homework and viewed as many movies that she could to determine the best way to check into a hotel.
She prepaid for the rooms, so check in was a breeze when they got there.
After checking in, an attendant quickly escorted them to their rooms.
They had adjoining rooms that opened up so that they could cross back and forth without using the hallway.
She gave the bellman a tip for escorting them.
“I noticed you are traveling light,” he said.
“Oh, the bags will be arriving shortly,” said Angelica.
“Then I’ll keep my eyes open for them and will bring them up as soon as they arrive, miss,” he informed her.
“Thank you for your help young man,” said Sister Maria.
She held the door open for him.
He went through and Sister Maria quickly closed the door.
“I thought we would never get rid of him,” the Sister stated.
“You didn’t have to be so rude as to hold the door open for him,” replied Angelica.
“Well,” the nun began.
“Is he hanging around for more money?” she asked.
“You should not be so extravagant with the money,” Maria advised.
“If we run out we can always have them make more,” the Chief said.
“But is that right?” asked Maria.
“There’s nothing wrong with the gold,” advised Angelica.
“It is pure gold.”
“We just didn’t get it from Earth.”
“I know,” the Sister began.
“They got it from a passing asteroid.”
“Their whole monetary system throws me off, how can you place so much value on something that comes out of the ground?” she asked.
“You know they also place a high value on hard, compressed carbon,” she added.
“They called them diamonds.”
“We could fabricate those too but it would have been harder to exchange for currency,” she advised her.
“I hope we are not going to be staying here long enough to begin to understand their strange ways,” Maria said.
“We won’t be,” advised Angelica.
“I am going to contact Alphie in the Lander and have our bags transported over here.”
“Did you need anything else from the Lander while we’re at it?” she asked.
“No,” the nun began.
“I am good as long as I have a few changes of clothes and the books you promised,” she said.
“They are in my bags,” Suarez admitted.
“As soon as we get them, I’ll unpack them and then they are all yours.”
“What is next on the agenda?” asked Maria.
“I need to check in and see how Al is doing with his search,” she said.
“I still don’t really understand the instructions you gave him,” admitted Sister Maria.
“As I mentioned before Sister,” Suarez began.
“Earth does not have the weapons technology that we need but they do have the imagination to conceive of them in their minds,” she declared.
“Yes, I got that,” Maria began.
“But, you are asking Al to find a person who has this destructive capability and one that will also accept who we are?” she asked.
“It may seem like a tall order but I believe that our ancestors have the capability to accept and grasp concepts outside their, normal limits,” Angelica stated.
“So, yes, I do believe Al will find someone.”
“And trust them to keep our secrets?” asked the nun.
“Trust is one trait that has to be earned, so we’ll just have to earn this person’s trust,” admitted Suarez.
“I will trust God to provide us with this individual, Anna,” Sister Maria stated.
“And I’ll trust you to find them and convince them of our need.”
“Great,” Angelica said.
“It is not like I have anything else on my plate at the moment, right?” she asked sarcastically.
The phone rang Angelica went over to it and answered it.
“Hello?” the Chief asked.
“Ms. Suarez?” asked the voice.
“Yes, who is this please?” she requested.
“It’s Frannie,” replied Ms. Cruz.
“We met earlier at breakfast.”
“Oh, yes Frannie,” Angelica said smiling.
“How can I help you?”
“I was wondering if you had decided where you wanted to sightsee today,” Frannie began.
“Maybe I can be of some help?” she asked.
“Funny you should call,” Suarez began.
“I was just speaking with Sister Maria about that.”
“Just to let you know we are not your typical tourists,” she informed her.
“We are looking for maybe something off the beaten path.”
“Like what?” Frannie asked.
“Are you familiar with personal computer games?” the Chief asked.
Frannie chuckled.
“No, not really,” she stated.
“But some of my students were.”
“Your students?” the Chief asked.
“Oh, yes, I guess I didn’t mention that this morning but I’m a middle school teacher here in San Francisco,” she informed her.
“I teach at Francisco Middle School.”
“You are a teacher huh?” asked the Chief.
Sister Maria who was busy doing something overheard this part of the phone conversation and decided to come closer.
Angelica looked up at her and smiled.
She held the phone out so the Sister could hear the conversation.
“Yes, just a boring teacher,” began Frannie.
“I know that there are some companies in the area that produce PC games and that they just held a big gaming competition earlier this year,” she said.
“Are there any more competitions coming up soon?” asked Suarez.
“Not that I know of, but then again I don’t know much regarding games,” she confessed.
“The only reason I know about them is because a couple of my students at school happen to win both competitions.”
“Really, wow, that sounds great,” stated Suarez.
“Would there be any chance that we might be able to meet your students?” she asked.
“Would tonight for dinner be okay?”
“Of course, you would be there too acting as a chaperone,” added the Chief.
“Well, I guess I can try and get a hold of AJ and David but I can’t guarantee anything,” Cruz stated.
“Why are you interested in meeting them?”
“We are PC game designers and have come here to San Francisco to meet and interview possible candidates to help us test our games,” replied Suarez.
“It seems awfully far to come to get some game players to test drive your games,” Frannie said.
“We’ve already done some testing in Europe and are now interested in the US market,” the Chief said.
“I am sure you realize that the US market is more lucrative.”
“That’s why I moved here myself,” Francesca replied.
“So that makes plenty of sense.”
“I will see what I can do to locate the boys and call you back to firm up the dinner plans,” Frannie said and then hung up.
Anna hung up the phone and then turned to look at the sister.
“Nice job of praying Sister,” Angelica said.
“Nice job of lying, my dear,” stated the nun.
“Those lies seem to flow out of your mouth with ease.”
“All those years of practice is starting to pay off it would seem,” she added.
“No, that’s not true,” insisted Suarez.
“As I mentioned earlier these are my people that are being slaughtered and I will do everything within my power to stop that from happening, Sister,” she declared.
“But what if we meet these children and they fit our needs,” Sister Maria began.
“Are we going to take children away from their parents and their homes to serve us?” she asked.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves Sister,” the Chief replied.
“That’s not an answer, Anna,” prompted Maria.
Anna started pacing around the room the Sister sat and watched her.
“I’m still waiting my dear,” Sister Maria requested.
Anna stopped and turned around the face the Sister.
“I don’t have an answer for you at this moment Sister,” she replied.
“Anna,” began Sister Maria.
“I know you have a burning passion to save your people but it can’t be at the expense of sacrificing children to our cause,” she stated.
“God does not work that way,” the nun admitted.
‘Princess and Sister?’ interrupted Al.
‘Yes?’ Anna asked.
‘I hope you don’t mind that I’ve been listening in on your conversation?’ he asked.
‘I won’t mind if you have something to add,’ stated Anna.
‘I do,’ Al began.
‘The competition sponsored by a company called IGN Entertainment that your friend Frannie mentioned happened back in April.’
‘They highlighted a contest featuring one of their games called ‘Star Craft II’,’ he informed them.
‘The interesting thing about this game and its predecessor is the fact that it contains space battles, weapons and battle plans that is tailor made for our needs,’ he declared.
‘Can you download this game?’ Anna asked.
‘I want the first one, then Alphie gets a copy and then upload it to Professor Santiago back on the San Marcos, okay?’ she requested.
‘It is being done as we speak,’ replied Al.
‘Also can you gather as much information about this competition and the winners and upload the information to me?’ Anna requested.
‘I’d like to get that information as well Al,’ interjected Sister Maria.
‘Princess?’ he asked.
‘Make sure the Sister gets the same information that I do please,’ Anna said.
‘Done,’ he stated.
‘Thank you and have you uncovered anything else?’ she asked.
‘Yes,’ he began.
‘There was another competition held down the coast in a town called San Jose at the beginning of the year sponsored by a group called Game Stop.’
‘This time the game featured was game called ‘Halo – Reach,’ a role-playing game that features ground combat,’ he informed them.
‘This game and those similar will be of vast worth to us when and if we meet these invaders on the ground,’ he suggested.
‘According to the media information that I have accessed the winner of this competition is friends with the winner of the IGN contest and they are both former students of Senorita Francesca Cruz,’ he added.
‘AJ Turner and David Chang,’ stated Anna.
‘Yes, I am accessing up their information now,’ she continued.
‘They are both close to my age.’
‘That is interesting,’ Anna pointed out.
‘In what way, may I ask?’ asked Sister Maria.
‘I don’t know, Sister, just interesting.’
‘Just remind yourself, or I will continue to,’ began the nun.
‘That even though they are close in age to you and are easily manipulated, they don’t have the same vested interest in this that you do, Princess.’
‘Young boys like that always want to play the hero and they always want to impress the beautiful, maiden in distress,’ she stated.
‘Just look at Ron and Harry when they went after that Mountain Troll in the girl’s lavatory to save Hermione,’ she added.

The friars were sitting in their shuttle waiting to hear more news regarding the location of the different landing party members when they received a call from the San Marcos.
“Friar de Morillo this is Commander Alvarez, come in please,” Alverez said.
The friar replied, “This is de Morillo I hear you.”
“Go ahead please,” he requested.
“Friar, we have it on good authority that the new weapons were developed aboard during our journey here,” Alvarez advised.
“Just as we had suspected Commander,” began de Morillo.
“Any idea yet who it was that created these new weapons of destruction?” he asked.
“I’m not a hundred percent certain but it seems that they may have been created by a female agent of the Jesuits,” stated Alvarez.
The friars both looked at each other and then a smile slowly lit their faces.
“We may have an idea who it is and by God’s grace we will deal with her down here once and for all,” de Morillo pledged.

As soon as Al completed his assigned instructions from Anna, he decided research AJ and David on his own.
He was in stealth mode when he went in search of the pair and found them at AJ’s apartment building.
He infiltrated AJ’s room through the open window while I was playing a game and David was looking on giving me pointers.
While keeping an eye on the two, Al started uploading all the games that were in AJ’s room.
He uploaded games with titles such as; Starlancer, Tachyon, Allegiance, Dark Star One, Free Space 2, X-3 Terrain Conflict, Independence War 2, MechWarrior 4 and Space Interceptor.
After he was done, he decided to spend a couple of minutes listening to the teens to gather personal intelligence on each of them.

“And there I go again getting blown up,” I said.
“I keep telling you to keep an eye on your six,” David said.
The phone rang and I picked it up.
“Hello?” I asked.
“AJ, it is Ms. Cruz from school,” Francesca replied.
“Oh hello Ms. Cruz,” I said smiling at David.
“How can I help you?”
“I was wondering if you and David were free tonight to have dinner downtown with some game developers that I recently ran into,” Ms. Cruz inquired.
“Did you say dinner?” I asked.
“Ah, Dave is here let me ask him.”
I covered the mouthpiece on the phone and said, “It’s Ms. Cruz and she wants to know if we have time to meet with some game developers tonight.”
“Are you kidding me?” David asked.
“We get to have dinner with Ms. Cruz and game developers?”
“Wow, I’ll have to ask my parents but I’m pretty sure that it’ll be okay,” David replied.
I nodded at him and spoke into the phone.
“Dave has gotta check with his mom and dad and so do I,” I began.
“But we’re pretty sure we can meet you for dinner, Ms. Cruz.”
“That’s great, call me at this number when you find out,” she said.
“I will give you the address where we’re going to eat and by the way my name is Francesca, AJ,” she said.
“Ah, okay, ah Francesca,” I replied.
“We’ll call you back in a while and thanks.”
I hung up the phone as David launched himself out of his chair.
“Gotta go and talk to my parents, AJ,” he said.
“I’ll call you back as soon as I find out what’s up.”
“Yep, give me a call and I’ll let Francesca know,” I replied.
“Francesca, kind of knew it’ll be something romantic like that,” David said.
“Yeah but it seems kinda weird calling her by her first name,” I replied.
“I know, well gotta go,” and David was gone in a flash.
“Wow, dinner with Francesca and a chance to meet some game producers, wow,” I said as I sat back down and continued playing.

Al kept a close watch on AJ as he played examining his moves, and his fighting strategies.
He was confused as to why he played the way he did so he kept watching this young player.
Without anyone watching him, that he knew of, AJ played with such intensity that he lost track of time until Dave called him to let him know that his parents said it was okay for him to go to dinner with his former teacher and AJ.
After the call and while the game was still in pause mode, AJ went down stairs and asked his mom if it was okay if he went to dinner with Dave leaving out the other facts.
She said it was and told him to make sure he dressed better than he was and a little warmer.
He called Francesca back and got the name of the hotel where they were going to be meeting for dinner.
AJ decided to go all out he even took a shower and got dressed in a pair of dress slacks and a good shirt and sweater.
He looked up at the clock on his wall after he was dressed to check the time and realized he still had a couple of hours left so he decided to finish his game.
He was getting closer to beating this level when he decided to make a risky gamble and of course lost in a spectacular fashion.

“Oh, well as they say, ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained,’” I said aloud.
“But you were so close to winning,” Al said.
‘I know but…,” I began.
“Hey wait a minute…who is there?” I asked.
I looked around and did not see anyone.
I grabbed a baseball bat close by and pointed it around the room.
“Come on out,” I demanded.
“I know you’re in here, I heard you.”
I made a couple of more passes with the bat that Al easily avoided.
I check the room once more looking at everything; my closet, my dresser drawers and even under my bed but I did not find the person who had spoken aloud.
I put the bat down finally and sat on my bed with my hands over his eyes muttering.
“You are not losing it AJ,” I said.
“You did hear a voice, so it’s not you but, you are talking to yourself, so you may be losing it.”
“That is just great,” I began.
“It figures though, you get an invite by the hottest teacher in school to meet up with some game developers and just before you leave, you start hallucinating,” I said.
“Or…”
I looked around again more earnestly this time.
“I’m on that Syfy show, ‘Scare Tactics,’” I said.
“Yeah maybe that’s it or just I’m losing my freaking mind,” I admitted to myself.
Just then, Al materializes in one of my corners.
“You are not losing your mind, AJ,” Al stated.
“What the …?” I began to say.
“My name is Al and I’m a drone, AJ,” he said interrupting me.
“And as I said you are not losing your mind.”
“Right, so says Al the drone, is it?” I ask.
Al hovered closer to AJ.
“Reach out and touch me, but do so slowly please,” Al advised.
“Or what?” I asked, “You will zap me?”
“I don’t have a laser, but I do have a Ripper,” he admitted.
“That’s a new one,” I said.
“What’s a Ripper?”
Al opened up one of his defensive panels on his body and produced the Ripper’s muzzle.
AJ reached out and gently poked at it.
“It appears to be some sort of gun but your bore is kinda small,” I noted.
“Does it shoot .22’s?” I asked.
“More like a volley of sharpened, razor thin steel projectiles traveling close to the speed of light, AJ,” he replied.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked.
“I did not know we had that kind of technology.”
“In fact, I did not know we had the expertise that could build you,” I pointed out.
“You don’t,” he replied.
“Who does then? I asked, “The Chinese or the Russians?”
“Please don’t tell me it’s the North Koreans,” I pleaded.
“No AJ,” Al stated.
“Think further away.”
“Are you kidding me the Japanese?” I asked.
“I guess that makes sense they have been working on robots since forever, but you are flying,” I noted.
“By the way, how are you flying?”
“I fly by the use of antigravity impellers,” Al admitted.
“Of course, the ole antigravity impellers trick,” I replied.
“I should have guessed that.”
“AJ,” Al began.
“I don’t think you understand what I am telling you,” he observed.
“Of course I do,” I declared.
“You are a drone, with antigravity impellers that has Rippers for weapons and you have found me…” I trailed off.
“Wait a minute and I will get it,” I requested.
I thought hard for about 30 seconds.
“Right, to tell me your story because, well I’m at a loss there,” I admitted.
“Why would you come to me?” I asked.
“The better questions is, am I gonna wake up in time for dinner tonight or did I dream that up as well?” I asked myself.
“Well, AJ, I’m at a loss too,” Al replied.
“Everything that I have seen today and have read about you from all your teachers has led me to believe that you are a bright and inquisitive teen.”
“The fact that you play some games that deal with science fiction fantasies and are a master at them led me to believe that you are one of the only individuals on Earth that could be of service to us,” he added.
“Am I wrong?” he asked.
“What do you mean you have done research on me?” I asked Al.
“Why would you get into my personal files from school but the really big question is, why did you say on Earth?”
“AJ, I’m not from Japan,” Al began.
“Although it’s a good country filled with good and creative people, I am not from there.”
“In fact, I am not from Earth at all,” he continued.
“And yes, I am real.”
“Let me show you,” he added.
Al extended his antigravity field, lifted me off the floor, and carried me to an area outside and above his apartments.
“Whoa, we’re flying,” I said.
“How did you do that?” I asked.
“I have the ability to extend my antigravity field to include larger objects and carry them where ever I want to,” he replied.
“This is truly wicked,” I admitted.
I enjoyed the view for a couple of minutes and then asked, “Why isn’t anybody freaking out?” I asked.
“Or pointing up at us?”
“They cannot see either of us,” he replied.
“I have extended my cloaking field to cover you as well.”
“Wow, you call it a cloaking field too?” I asked.
“That is so wicked cool.”
“We didn’t even have a cloaking field or even a drone like me until a few months back,” Al informed me.
“So this is all new?” I asked.
“Some government black op’s ultra secret project that just came about and you escape to tell the world because they wanted to use you to destroy a country or some bad leader or something right?” I asked.
“Ah, no,” Al stated.
“AJ you are not even close,” he added.
Al then spent the rest of the time telling AJ about the Rths, the New Spanish Empire, and the Invaders.
He mentioned the Princess and her struggles to become a member of the expedition, her creation of the new type of drones and of the Empire’s need to defend itself against these invaders.
While they were talking and Al was finishing his tale, he carried AJ over to David’s home where they found a secluded alley, put AJ down and made him visible again.
“That’s one heck of a story Al,” I said.
‘I really hope you people can find somebody that can help you out but I think you are way off base if you think that David and I can help,” I informed him.
“I mean we are just kids that play games.”
“Yeah we are really good at them but there’s got to tons of people way better than us,” I admitted.
“There is always somebody better at playing the game, but will they have the ability to accept us for who we are and not turn us into your government?” he asked.
“You got me there, Al,” I admitted.
“Most adults would take one look at you or your friends and scream bloody murder.”
“The cops would get involved then the government then the military and God knows what would happen to all of you then,” I advised him.
“That’s my point exactly,” Al stated.
“You see why I took the chance to contact you?”
“Yeah, I do now,” I began.
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, but you will have to confide in David so we can get his take on it,” I admitted.
“Yes,” Al replied.
“I had planned on doing that.”
“You know him, what do you think he’ll say?” Al asked.
“Are you kidding, he’ll love it,” I stated.

“Are you crazy?” David asked.
“About which parts?” I asked him.
“About all of it AJ,” David began.
“I mean, new Spanish Empire and Princesses, and killer invaders dudes.”
“I mean, come on it sounds like a bad sci-fi movie they play Saturday nights on the Syfy network,” he stated.
“Well,” I began.
“I guess I was wrong about you Dave.”
“I told Al here that you’d love the fact that we were chosen to help out,” I explained.
“Think about it?”
“This is what we have dreamed about all our lives,” I admitted.
“We play these games and fantasize about actually being there doing it.”
“Now that we have the chance you chicken out on me?”
“I don’t get it?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Dave began.
“This is different.”
“In the games if we crash and burn or get smoked by the other side we can always go back and start again,” he stated.
“But if we go out there and help them and get smoked in actual life we are dead, AJ, dead,” he repeated.
I looked at Al and shrugged.
“He’s got a point there Al,” I admitted.
“I’m sorry,” began Al.
“Maybe I should have clarified your actual job description on the team,” he stated.
“Maybe you should,” replied Dave.
“Both of you will be acting as instructors,” he informed us.
“You will not be going into combat against the Invaders.”
“It would be deplorable for us to even think of sacrificing any Earth cousins for our cause,” Al said.
“So we’ll just be around to show you how to play the games, and win and not go out and fight?” I asked.
“No fighting,” stated Al
“And you are not going to have to leave Earth either,” he stated.
“Well that kinda sucks. I was hoping…” I stated to say.
“Do you hear yourself AJ?” David interrupted.
“First off,” David began.
“As of three hours ago, you never heard of this space conflict and now you’re all gung ho about going out and flying a fighter.”
“You want to mix it up with these bad guys?” he asked.
“Are you nuts?”
“This isn’t Star Wars and you’re not Luke Skywalker,” David stated.
“Yeah, well I never saw myself as Luke more like an older version of Anikin,” I replied.
“Wrong you are,” Al said in his best Yoda voice.
“Instructor you be.”
That got David laughing and after a few moments me as well.
We continued to discuss our options while flying in the air to meet Ms. Cruz and the game developers.
Al delivered us to another secluded alley by the Hotel Drisco and made us reappear.
“Thanks Al,” I said.
“Got to admit having him around cuts down on the taxi fare,” stated David.
Al still invisible said, “I’m going in with you and will hover close by.”
“But I want you to act like I’m not here.”
“You cannot let Ms. Cruz know that we have talked or who Anna and Sister Maria are, okay?” he asked.
“Fine, but how are you going to explain to Anna…” I began to say.
Al interrupted me and said, “AJ, you can’t make that slip in front of either of them or I’m dead meat.”
“Anna will introduce herself as Angelica Suarez and you need to call her by that name, is that clear?” he asked anxiously.
“Got it but how about you, Dave?” I asked.
“Are you kidding,” he began.
“I will be lucky if I breathe correctly through dinner let alone speak.”
“You do all the talking and I’ll just cower in the corner, buddy,” David said.
“Thanks for the support buddy.”
“You’re welcome.”
“Okay are you ready?” asked Al.
“As ready as we can be,” I said.
“Let’s do it.”
David and I went through the front doors of the lobby and met up with Ms. Cruz who was waiting downstairs for us.
We went over to front desk and Francesca asked for Ms. Suarez’s room.
The clerk at the desk said that she and the Sister were already waiting for us in the hotel’s dining room.
The clerk pointed out where we needed to go and we turned and walked over to the hotel’s restaurant.

 

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