The Abaivarapatish was at his usual place, the scented mud bath in his quarters, when he ordered the remaining ships back to the Sigma Scorpii System to mend their wounds and plan their next step.
He knew at this point his life was over but he still needed to save some face for the sake of his family.
How could he accomplish that? He wondered.
The King and Queen were in the Royal Chambers when Rexius and Reginus relayed the great news from the Graffias sector.
They quickly got dressed and had the rest of the palace staff scrambling to keep up with the giddy Royal Couple.
The King and Queen went to the throne room and requested that their personal secretaries meet them there.
They also wanted to eat breakfast while they worked.
The food and the secretaries arrived at the same time.
“Would you care to join us Christina and Joaquin?” the Queen asked smiling.
The secretaries both looked nonchalantly at each other and shook their heads no.
“You should,” said the King.
“It’s going to be a long morning and we have a lot to do before we can take a break.”
“In that case, we would be pleased to join both of you in a meal,” replied Joaquin.
“And thank you,” added Christina.
After breakfast was completed and the sun was just beginning to peak over the mountain range near the palace the Queen asked the serving staff to pour them each a cup of coffee.
As the aroma of fresh brewed coffee drifted around the room the King said, “We have great news.”
“And we want to make a proclamation!” said Isabella excitedly.
The Abaivarapatish had called a meeting with what was left of his Intelligence section to find out how many ships and weapons they had left to work with.
The Intelligence section reported the information to him and he sat and pondered for a while.
The Intelligence officers at the meeting were growing a little concerned because the Abaivarapatish had not said a word since they gave him the reports of the fleet’s readiness.
None of the six remaining officers thought it wise to be the first to break the silence because they all valued their lives.
Therefore, against their better judgment they sat and waited for their Warlord to speak.
The San Marcos was about ready to catch the last ‘bubble displacer’ when Chief Warren Officer Angelica Suarez entered the near empty observation deck and found Lieutenant Marinero staring out at the blackness of space.
She came walking over and stood next to him.
‘I wanted to see it one last time before we got back home,’ she said nonverbally.
‘Me too,’ began Manolo.
‘Sometimes you get so lost in what is happening in front of your face that you fail to realize that we are actually out here and not on a drill,’ he admitted.
‘Do you miss home as much as I do?’ she asked.
Manolo looked over at her and smiled, ‘All of us miss home Princess.’
‘I’ve told you…,’ she started to think hotly.
‘Oh, what’s the use?’
‘I’m just playing with you Suarez, you need to relax a little,’ he stated.
‘How can I relax?’ she asked.
‘We don’t know what we’re heading into until we get to Hispania,’ she finished saying.
‘Home will be there, Chief, but in what condition?’ he asked.
‘I don’t know.’
‘You are right,’ he stated.
‘We have no idea but you cannot go into a fight all tensed up.’
‘You will do yourself and our squad no good that way,’ he continued.
‘So, figure out a way to loosen up and get your head in the game,’ he commanded.
‘Yes, Sir,’ she said.
‘How do you do it?’ she asked.
‘Get loosened up that is?’ she further asked.
‘Me?’ he chuckled.
‘I play guitar and sing,’ he confessed.
‘Sing?’ she asked disbelievingly.
‘You got a problem with music, Chief?’
‘Me?’ she asked.
‘Naw, I just never figured you to be a musician,’ she admitted.
‘Well, it might surprise you even further to know that I’m learning the full catalogue of Bob Dylan’s songs,’ he said.
Anna turned to him and in a soft voice sang with a clear steady voice, “The answer my friend is blowin in the wind, the answer, is blowin in the wind.”
Manolo reached into his work uniform, pulled out a harmonica and started playing the song.
He stopped at the top of the refrain and sang, “How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?”
Anna sang the next line as Manolo played, “Yes, n how many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand?”
Manolo continued the chorus, “Yes, n how many times must the cannon balls fly before they’re forever banned?”
They both finished the chorus in a cappella harmony,
“The answer my friend is blowin in the wind, the answer is blowin in the wind.”
As they finished, the San Marcos slipped into the last bubble displacer taking them back to their home world with the song’s melody hanging in the air of the darkening observation deck.
The Abaivarapatish finally stirred and asked one question, “Do we know the location of their home planet?”
The day after his birthday celebration, Raul did not want to work the early morning shift.
He had no other choice though.
He already switched shifts with his friend, so he did not have to work on his birthday and had to cover this shift or he would be in big trouble with his friend’s wife.
So bleary-eyed and a little hung over from the day of celebration, Raul was not in any kind of a mood to start chasing down monitor ghosts.
He checked his monitor one more time and did another diagnostic reading to make sure the outside sensor relays were properly working before he decided to contact his immediate supervisor.
The little extra time Raul took rechecking his monitor and the relays was all the time the 32nd Spatiotemporal Exploratory Aggregation needed to penetrate into the Scorpii Solar System.
Before Raul could contact his supervisor, the Class 6 Marauder Group tasked to take out Raul’s outpost was already in their attack formation.
Just as Raul pressed the commo button directly linked to his immediate supervisor, the missiles were launched and on target.
Multiple atomic missiles hit Raul’s outpost monitoring a sector of New Spanish territory, instantly vaporized it.
The attack was so swift and so devastating that not a single message or plea for help went out.
The Abaivarapatish mentally checked off the first in a series of items on his list.
The Deintus’ Battle Fleet advanced slowly into the Scorpii System being mindful of what their mad dash into the Graffias System cost them.
The Abaivarapatish halted the advance and told his Intelligence Officers that they needed solid information on the inner system before continuing.
The officers scrambled seven sets of reconnaissance ships into the Scorpii System to give them more of a detailed picture of the system.
The Abaivarapatish ordered that they hit soft targets unable to put up any kind of a fight as they drove forward
He was tired of losing and he wanted the other side to start losing more than he did back in that forsaken system.
He wanted to kill as many as he could before they finally got him.
His men believed in him and they knew that they were not coming out of this last fight alive.
Salazar always had trouble sleeping these days.
He figured that he had slept for over two hundred years and that was plenty.
So sometimes at night, he would wander the empty halls of the hidden base and think.
Think about this new world that he woke up to, think about all the destructive power that he and his two drone partners had unleashed on the New Spanish Empire and finally think about how it would all end.
He had heard the rumors and innuendo regarding his awakening and it troubled him by what they represented.
He knew that these rumors were a ploy by the Dominicans to undermine his counsel to his niece and her husband.
He also knew they were the King and Queen and they held absolute rule over the Empire but deep down inside he knew that he helped them because they were family and needed his help, not because they ordered him to.
He did not second-guess the Rths’ actions when they told him of their plan to place him with some extra knowledge in the stasis chamber.
He believed they knew what they were doing.
He trusted their future vision of how he could help the Empire he loved.
However, he did not calculate the emotional toll it was taking on his soul.
Therefore, instead of sleeping the sleep of content, he aimlessly wandered through the halls late at night hoping that he did not run into anybody.
What made his nocturnal journeys at night even worse were the new rumors that were beginning to circulate about his restlessness.
The questions coming up were; if he was so much of a help to the Royal Couple then why was he so uneasy?
Was God tormenting his soul because of these terrible weapons that he developed?
The worse question of all was; how could any God fearing man design such killing devices?
The only answer to all of these questions from their point of view was, only a soulless demon could create such destruction.
That lay at the root of why Salazar wandered the halls late at night.
He knew himself that he was not a demon but a good man asked by the Rths to defend his Empire by any means possible.
Furthermore, Salazar had some questions of his own that he would like to ask but he knew that now was not the right time to ask.
Now was the time to finish the job, just as soon as they located the rest of the enemy fleet.
One group of Deintus’ scout ships came back to the Flagship to report what they had discovered.
They found a lightly guarded shipyard in full production.
The Abaivarapatish gave orders that the shipyard and everything around it destroyed as quickly as possible without giving any alarm.
The three shifts of shipbuilders were bursting at the seams with volunteer workers from the inner planets.
The manager had too many workers and not enough time to accommodate them.
He looked out his window and witnessed a bright blinding light that continued to expand as the atomic blast consumed the shipyard, his office and the surrounding dock.
The Abaivarapatish mentally checked off another item on his list as he silently listened to the action reports coming in.
Salazar’s restless walking was disturbed as he saw Coronado and Alphina approaching him from the corridor in front of him.
He stopped, as they got closer.
“We have a problem,” Coronado said.
“They are here?” asked the King incredulously
“In our very own system?” he further asked.
“It would appear so by all accounts, Sire,” answered Rexius.
“And how do we know this?” the Queen asked.
“Coronado was in commo with the Tarragona shipyard when the signal was cut off,” said Rexius.
“He backtrack the signal only to find high levels of thermal radiation emanating from the area where the shipyard was located,” he informed them.
“Could something have happened, some kind of accident?” asked the King.
“The levels of thermal radiation that Coronado detected were levels unknown to us,” Reginus said.
“So it is safe to assume that the Deintus Battle Fleet is in our backyard,” stated the Queen.
“That is the consensus of the Drone Council my Queen,” replied Reginus.
“Have we heard anything from my uncle on the matter Rexius?” the Queen asked.
“He was the one that ordered Coronado to report his speculation to the council, Your Majesty,” answered Reginus.
“At least he’s working on it from his end,” stated the King.
“What can we do from our end?” the King asked.
“As soon as the warning came through the Royal Navy launched everything they had,” Rexius said.
“The other shipyards, whether governmental or commercial, also launched all their available ships,” he concluded.
“And who do we have to coordinate both civilian and military efforts?” asked the Queen.
“I don’t know Your Majesty,” admitted Rexius.
“We have never been in this type of situation before,” he added/
“Does the Council have any recommendations?” asked the King.
“I’ll have to get back to you on that Sire,” said Rexius.
“Oh, please take your time,” the King said sarcastically.
“Now darling, there is no need to get snappish,” admonished the Queen.
“Ah, give me just a moment Highnesses,” requested Rexius.
Before the King or Queen acknowledged him, the Drone Counselors moved away from the throne and began a wordless communication between each other.
A few moments later, they hovered back over to the King and Queen.
“We apologize for our lack of courtesy, Majesties,” said Reginus.
“But we can now recommend the right man for the job, Sire.” Rexius said.
“And who is it?” asked the King.
“Grand Admiral of the Fleet Frederico Sebastian Marinero,” Rexius said proudly.
The King choked out his reply, “Yes, thank you both for your counsel but I think we should appoint someone from this system don’t you?”
“Your Majesty is incorrect in his thinking,” Reginus replied.
The Queen was a little faster in understanding what the drones were telling them.
“Are you saying the San Marcos has come back Reginus?” asked the Queen breathlessly.
“We are indeed Your Majesty,” Reginus replied.
“Have you been in contact with them?” asked the King.
“Personally, no,” began Reginus.
“But the hidden base concluded that an outside, monitoring system also detected the thermal radiation waves coming from where the shipyard was earlier,” Reginus informed them.
“And from that they concluded it is the San Marcos?” asked the King.
“That and further scans from other outposts located near where the signal was picked up,” replied Rexius.
“Although those scans record a slightly different shape of the San Marcos that left our system,” offered Reginus.
“But it does appear to be consistant with the configuration of the Admiral’s Flagship, Sire,” she concluded.
“So it may be the San Marcos but we’re not a hundred percent sure that it is?” asked the Queen.
“Not one hundred percent certain, that is true Your Majesty,” Rexius admitted.
“But how sure are you?” asked the King.
“Reasonably certain, Sire,” Rexius said.
“Any idea what could account for the discrepancy, Rexius?” the King asked further.
“It appears that the ship has been altered slightly, Sire,” replied Rexius.
“Then we can safely assume that their mission to the Old World was successful then?” asked the Queen.
“Judging by what appears to be weapons mounted to the ship, it would appear so Majesty,” admitted Reginus.
‘Hello?’ Alphina said.
‘Hello?’ she repeated a moment later.
‘If you really are out there, please Princess you must answer me,’ she pleaded.
‘Alphina?’ Anna asked slowly as she came awake.
‘Is it really you?’ she wondered.
‘Oh, Princess,’ began Alphina.
‘I have waited so very long to hear your voice again,’ Alphina replied.
‘I have missed you so,’ she confessed.
‘And I you, my friend,’ Anna admitted.
Then as sudden as ice breaking, the two flooded each other with thoughts, emotions, laughter and tears.
This loving reunion between two close friends would touch the heart of any battle-hardened veteran, all done within the span of a few heartbeats.
‘After we are finished talking,’ Anna began.
‘I am going to have Alphie upload all of the information gathered over the last ten months so that you can update my parents and whoever is in charge of the home system,’ Anna said.
‘Anna that would be Admiral Marinero,’ Alphina replied.
‘Huh?’ Anna asked.
‘We just got here and I’m sure that no commo link is set up yet,’ she said.
‘Other than ours?’ asked Alphie.
‘Hello Alphie,’ Alphina said.
‘Have you kept our girl safe?’ she asked.
‘Relatively speaking,’ he replied.
‘What’s that supposed to mean Alphie?’ asked Alphina cautiously.
‘It means we are talking to you aren’t we?’ replied Anna quickly.
‘As I said earlier you’ll get the full upload of information when we finish.’
‘But first,’ Anna began.
‘Tell me more of what’s going on and why is Admiral Marinero in charge of the home sector?’ she asked excitedly.
Alphina updated Anna with all of the information regarding their fight with the Deintus so far.
She also told her about the loss of life from all over the Empire.
As soon as Anna was finished crying, Alphina told her of the awakening of her Uncle Salazar.
She mentioned the defensive contribution that he and her mother made to keep the Empire safe so far.
Anna was a shocked by this news and grilled Alphina more deeply regarding Uncle Salazar and her mother.
As Alphina was answering all of her questions, Anna realized that she was not alone.
God had chosen her mother and her great uncle to carry some of the great weight she had borne since she stepped aboard the San Marcos.
As more tears silently fell down her face at this revelation, the enormous weight of the last ten months began lifting from her tiny shoulders.
Anna informed Alphina that the reason she had not responded to her first greeting was that it was the middle of the night aboard the San Marcos.
Alphina knew she had more time to talk to Anna later after she got some more sleep so she was content to get the upload from Alphie and talk with him about their voyage.
After Alphie updated her regarding the new weapons on the Flagship, Alphina excused herself and immediately sought out Uncle Salazar.
Even before she spoke with him, she was downloading all the new weapon specs to Coronado and up linking the schematics to the Drone Council with all the appropriate documentation.
Therefore, when Anna had reawakened a few hours later the whole system was abuzz with her new weapon’s designs.
Alphina had worked hard during those hours as well, setting up a visual link from the hidden base where she, Coronado and Uncle Salazar were located to the San Marcos.
She mentioned the link to Anna who quickly dressed and reported to Admiral Marinero’s quarters where a video chat was commencing.
Lieutenant Marinero was outside his father’s chambers waiting for her.
“Could you have taken a little longer to get here Suarez?” Manolo asked.
“Could I ...what?” Anna asked incredulously.
“I might point out Lieutenant,” she began.
“That I am not due to be on duty for another hour.”
“So please keep your comments to yourself,” she replied.
Just then, Brother Delgado and Sister Maria showed up and all four went into the Admiral’s workroom.
Before it started, Manolo nonverbally spoke to Anna.
‘I was just kidding earlier Chief,’ he said.
‘I guess,’ he began.
‘After this we won’t be talking to each other like we have over the last ten months,’ he stated sadly.
‘Oh and why is that?’ Anna asked.
‘You really drive me crazy sometimes,’ he replied.
‘You know perfectly why we can’t Your Highness,’ he said.
‘My dear Lieutenant I’ll have you know that I can speak with whomever I want to,’ she informed him.
‘And speak in any form I’d like to with them as well.’
‘Bantering included,’ she added.
‘Of course knowing my Mother, I will probably be able to speak with you again in oh, say, five years?’ she stated.
‘You don’t really believe that do you?’ he asked.
‘You really don’t know my Mother, Manolo,’ she replied.
The video chat soon began as Alphina began the meeting.
“Is this transmission coming in loud and clear?” Alphina asked.
“Yes, it is,” replied Admiral Marinero.
“Thank you for your hard work putting the conference call together,” Admiral Marinero said.
“Just all part of the service Admiral,” she replied.
The scene on the monitor increased in size to take on a man in his mid forties seated at a desk with a drone hovering by his side.
“I’d like to introduce you to Salazar de la Catarina and his drone companion Coronado, Sir,” Alphina said.
Salazar nodded his head slightly when she mentioned his name.
“It is indeed an honor to meet you, Sir,” the Admiral said.
“I’ve read all the reports about the tremendous help you have given the Empire while we were away,” he stated.
“The honor is mine Admiral,” Salazar said.
“To meet the man who commanded such a mission and voyage is a privilege.” Salazar said smiling.
That smile brought a tear to the corner of her eye and a lump in Anna’s throat as Salazar turned his gaze to her.
“Is this the young lady who has created such a stir with her new weapon’s designs?” Salazar asked.
The Admiral looked over at Anna and nodded.
“Sir,” he began.
“I have the pleasure to introduce you to Chief Warren Officer Angelica Josephina Suarez,” announced the Admiral.
“My dear, I am amazed at what you have single handedly accomplished,” Salazar began.
“Because of your adaptations to Alphina, we have been able to modify those abilities and create our own weapons.”
“We have placed these modified weapons on ships and have used them to stop the enemy’s forces,” Salazar declared with a smile on his face.
“You have saved countless lives, young lady.”
“I appreciate your gratitude Sir,” Anna replied.
“But I was told that you and the Queen share most of that honor,” Anna answered back.
“Your creation of the mines and your deployment of them was a crucial ingredient in their defeat, Sir,” she stated.
“Well, you may be right my dear,” Salazar said.
“But I do know, in speaking with your parents, that they are most proud of your accomplishments, Chief,” he declared.
“You do me great honor, Sir to have spoken with them,” she replied.
“I trust they are good?” she asked.
“I’m sure you’ll be able to find that out once this meeting is concluded,” he stated.
“I was told by Alphina that they are very anxious to speak with you,” he said with a glint in his eye.
“Well, yes but as you said that can wait,” Anna said reluctantly.
“Are you sure that this communication system is able to reach Hispania?” she asked faintly.
“I am confident of that fact Chief Warren Officer,” Alphina answered.
“It seems like a waste of time for me to clog up this channel just to talk to my parents,” she stated rather lamely.
“Oh,” began her uncle.
“That is no problem.”
“I was told that the King and Queen personally approved of this very important chat,” Salazar stated.
“I’m sure your conversation with your parent will be fine Chief,” said Sister Maria interrupting.
“I’ll be here with you should you need any support,” she stated.
Anna looked over at her and nodded her head slightly.
“Now shall we get on with the meeting Admiral?” asked Salazar.
After the video chat concluded, the Admiral announced that a battle strategy session would commence in the Command Center at once.
They all left except Anna and Sister Maria.
Anna looked at Alphina on the screen.
“Did you have to link us up with the palace?” Anna asked.
“I had no choice in the matter, Anna,” began Alphina.
“Both of your parents threatened to melt me down and use me as a doorstop if I didn’t compile with their wishes.”
“They wouldn’t have done that, you know,” said Anna.
“Yeah, well I didn’t want to find out,” she replied.
“Besides they are really eager to speak with you, Anna,” Alphina said.
“I just bet they are,” replied Anna.
She looked over at Sister Maria.
“Would you mind sitting in here with me?” she asked.
“Are you sure I won’t be intruding?” the Sister asked.
“No more than you did when you sat their side of the screen and my parents and me on this side,” she stated.
“Then it should be like old time, huh?” the Sister asked smiling at her.
“Don’t count on it,” Anna said flatly.
“Okay Alphina let’s get it over with,” Anna said.
“I’m tired of waiting for the axe to fall,” she stated.
Just as she finished the sentence, she saw both her mother and father on the screen in front of her.
She was surprised at the lump in her throat and the beginning of tears welling up in the bottoms of her eyes, so she just sat there looking at them.
It must have been early because they were dressed in normal clothes not court clothes, but there they were, Mom and Dad just staring at her.
Before anyone could speak, Anna heard a door open, bare feet running and all of a sudden, she sat looking at her whole family.
Anna completely lost it at that point and broke down and cried and cried and cried some more.
Sister Maria gathered her up in her arms and hugged her fiercely.
Whatever her parents were going to say to her evaporated in that moment when they saw their daughter crying her eyes out.
Her brothers and sisters started crying as well and for the next couple of minutes nobody said a word.
No body had to.
After the battleplanning session was over Commander Alvarez contacted Ensign Santiago and wanted to meet with him in one of the little used Observation decks.
Santiago said that he could meet with the Commander in twenty minutes.
Twenty minutes later both men were in the Observation deck looking out at the stars of home.
“We finally have concrete proof that Chief Suarez was the person behind all the new weapons,” Alverez declared.
“I knew there was something fishy about her,” Santiago replied.
“Always meeting with Marinero and having that Sister around her all the time gave me the creeps,” he stated.
“What do we really know about her?” asked the Commander.
“I checked her service and academic records and found her to be of average intellect,” stated Santiago.
“It doesn’t fit how someone who is average could come up with those weapons,” Alverez.
“She’s got to be a Jesuit plant,” concluded Santiago.
“What do we do with the Commander?” he asked.
“As soon as your squad goes into action,” began Alverez.
“I want you to stick close to her and when you can, get rid of her,” Commander Alverez ordered.
“No body is safe in combat, accidents happen all the time, Ensign.”
“Make sure she dies this time,” he added.
“The last time we lost some good people because of dumb luck,” Commander Alverez concluded.
The next item on the Abaivarapatish‘s checklist to destroy was another shipyard.
Not quite as big as the last one but one that was producing ships built to kill them, so he wanted it destroyed before it produced more ships.
The Abaivarapatish sent out the Class 6 Marauder Group and they did exactly what he wanted, they destroyed the base.
After melting the newest shipyard to molten slag, the Class 6 Marauder Group headed back to their Flagship.
The outpost, hidden base and the San Marcos all picked up the background thermal radiation coming from an area that held another shipyard.
The San Marcos was closer and decided to send out their long-range starfighters.
Their mission was to lock onto an enemy near the attack and follow them back to their base.
They had no luck in finding anything and were about to call it quits when one of the fringe starfighters got a return signal back from a long-range scan.
The Empire fighters locked on this target and followed it back to the Flagship.
They noted the position of the Flagship and then headed back to the San Marcos as quickly as they could.
The Abaivarapatish was tired of the small missions of hit and run.
He wanted a bigger target with more loss of life so he sat with his Intelligence section and worked up the next battle plan to hit the New Spanish Empire.
Grand Admiral Marinero ordered more long-range starfighters to keep a distant eye on the Deintus Flagship.
He also ordered the San Marcos into a closer tactical position relative to the enemy’s battle ship.
He wanted to catch the enemy Flagship at a vulnerable time and then launch a full battle wing to exterminate them.
The next day, both ‘men’ got what they wanted.
The Abaivarapatish decided to hit one of the man made moons orbiting the fourth planet in the system.
He found out through reconnaissance missions that this moonlet contained a fighter base.
It would be a good target to hit with plenty of death and destruction, just what his men needed to boost their morale.
It was also going to be a fight where he was going to lose some men.
That would be acceptable because he still had over twenty seven hundred ships but if he sent a big enough force to attack this moonlet, maybe his losses would not be as great.
An orderly woke the Grand Admiral up at zero three forty-five and told him the news of a massive starfighter assault group leaving the Flagship.
The Grand Admiral called the Captain and ordered the ship into battle stations.
His order was acknowledge and all military personnel scrambled into battle stations quickly.
While dressing Admiral Marinero remembered the words of a great Lakota Indian leader by the name of Crazy Horse who once said, ‘Today is a good day to die.’
Lieutenant Marinero met his squad as they were entering onto the hanger deck.
“This is really it, Lieutenant?” Dominguez asked.
“That’s what I’ve been told,” Marinero replied.
“So we finally get to kick some alien butt?” Dominguez further asked.
“Shut up,” Anna said.
“You shut up,” he replied.
“I want all of you, especially you two to keep an eye on each other out there,” Manolo said pointing to Dominguez and Suarez.
“Yes, Sir,” they squad said in unison.
“Good, then you all know what to do,” Lieutenant Marinero declared.
“Let the new weapon’s drones do their job and don’t interfere with them,” he advised them.
“They know what to do and when to do it.”
“They will deliver the killing punch, so let them do it,” he ordered.
“Yes, Sir,” they all replied.
“Okay, then let’s get out their and kick some alien butt!” Marinero shouted at them.
As they approached their starfighters Dominguez came up next to Anna and said, “I noticed you didn’t tell him to shut up.”
“He outranks me so I can’t,” she replied.
“But you don’t so I can order you to shut up,” she said smiling.
“So, shut up,” she said.
“Good luck to you too, Chief,” he said smiling back.
Anna looked at him.
“Emilio, be careful out there, please,” Anna requested.
Emilio smiled at her with a big bright boyish smile.
“Ah, Chief you’re not going to get snappy on me are you?” he asked.
Anna laughed and playfully punched him.
“The word is sappy, you big goofy teddy bear,” she replied.
“Whatever girlfriend,” he said snapping his finger at her and striking a pose.
Anna giggled as she walked away.
“Just make sure you keep tract of how many you take down, Suarez and we’ll compare kills at the end of the day,” he said.
“If I beat you, the drinks are on you tonight,” Dominguez said.
Anna looked over her shoulder and said, “Right, you beat me and I’ll not only buy you drinks all night I’ll even do your laundry.”
“I got some pretty ripe socks in there you know,” he acknowledged.
“You got some pretty ripe socks on now, Emilio,” she said back.
“You shut up.”
Before they knew it, they were in their starfighters prepping them.
Major Allen told them it was tradition to blare your own battle hymn as you went into a dogfight.
Each one chose from a vast catalogue of music that came back with him or her from the Old World.
Of course, they each choose their favorite song.
Manolo’s was ‘Eye of the Tiger’ by Survivor.
Anna’s was ‘Final Countdown’ by Europe.
Rico’s was ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’ by Boulez.
Finally, Dominguez’s favorite battle hymn was Ozzy Osborne’s ‘Crazy Train.’
Anna strapped in.
She was as ready as she was going to be.
She turned her commo on.
“Are you all ready back there Alphie?” she asked.
“Yes, Princess,” he acknowledged.
“So, it’s back to being Princess again, now is it?” she asked him.
“Yes, Infanta,” he stated sternly.
“We are home again and you have one more time gone out of your way to disobey your parents,” he accused her.
“First of all, I am not disobeying them,” she replied.
“They did not complete the sentence that may have ordered me to stay put,” she argued.
“Yes, that ‘solar flare’ that knocked out the commo was quite conveniently timed, wouldn’t you say?” Alphie asked.
“Are you suggesting I had something to do with that?” she asked innocently.
“No,” he replied.
“I was just point out the timing worked out well for you, didn’t it?”
“Yes, well, ah, yes it did,” she said stammering.
“And let’s just hope that your luck continues to hold out, Princess,” he said.
“You are mad at me?” she asked.
“I can tell, you know, by the way you said Princess,” she informed him.
“You are making it more and more difficult to keep you safe when you decide to put yourself in harm’s way, Anna,” he replied.
“This is my job Alphie,” she said.
“I’m the point man of our squad, without me they would not be able to go out on this mission.”
“Or if they did, they’d have a different point man one that might get them all killed,” she stated.
“I couldn’t or wouldn’t let that happen to them, Alphie,” she declared.
“I’m not so sure your parents would agree,” he replied.
“Alphie when I’m wearing this uniform my parents aren’t in the picture,” she stated.
“I can do this job and I can do it well, you know that.”
“With you helping we’ll take this fight to the enemy and we’ll beat them,” she declared.
“You have read the reports over a million of my people have been killed by these barbarians.”
“Over a million, I’ll not sit idly by and watch more of my people die and not lift a finger to help,” she announced.
“That is not who I am,” she admitted.
“I am sorry that I brought it up but I wouldn’t be doing my duty fully had I not broached the subject,” Alphie said.
“Now that being said, let’s go kick some alien butt.”
“Jinx right, jinx right,” Anna shouted at Dominguez.
“I got a bogey on my tail that I can’t shake,” shouted Santiago.
“Barrel roll him, barrel roll him and give me a few more seconds and I’ll get a zero angle on him and splash him,” Manolo said to Rico.
A few seconds later Manolo’s drone locked his lasers on the enemy fighter and took it out.
“Thanks Skip,” Rico said quickly.
“We’re not out of the woods yet ladies now let’s mop up the rest of these bandits and get back to the ship,” ordered Marinero.
“Give me weapon’s status when you can,” requested Rico.
“I am down to my lasers, launched all missiles,” Anna replied.
“Got one missile, no wait,” said Dominguez.
A second later two bogeys blew apart near Anna.
“Ah, make that no missiles left and I am also down to lasers as well,” Dominguez stated.
“Thanks for the help Emilio,” said Anna.
“Por nada, mi amigo,” he replied.
“I’m out all my missiles as well, Rico,” Marinero informed him.
“We can finish the rest of these vermin with our lasers and then head back to reload,” Manolo told them.
Marinero’s squadron finished of the last of the Deintus starfighters and headed back to the San Marcos.
“Dominguez take point, Suarez you’re on our six keep your eyes sharp,” Marinero ordered.
“Yes, Sir,” they both said in unison.
As they headed back, the group got a mayday signal and Marinero was quick to respond.
“Okay ladies you heard the man they need some help let’s go give it to them,” he ordered.
A couple of minutes later they were in the thick of another engagement.
What was left of the Red squadron was out numbered two to one.
Manolo and his six-man fighter squad entered into the fray and evened out the odds but each pilot was on his or her own.
Anna bringing up the rear could get a better over all look at the dogfight in front of her.
“Alphie we need to peel a couple of bandits off this furball,” she commoed him.
“Any suggestions?” she asked.
“Let me take over the controls and let’s see what this puppy can do, ok?” he asked.
“You got the helm, Alphie,” she replied.
“I’ll just sit back and enjoy the view.”
Alphie took control of the starfighter and Anna grayed out moments later for a second or two.
The g-forces that Alphie was putting the starfighter through made Anna feel like a marble in a ball that was going downhill but she stayed conscious most of the time.
When Alphie finished the initial maneuvers, Anna’s starfighter was perched to make a pass at the thickest amount of enemy fighters.
“You ready, Anna?” Alphie asked.
“What no Princess this time?” she groggily replied.
“No Princess, not at this time or any other time in the future,” Alphie announced.
“You are a warrior now,” he stated.
“Well, then I guess you can start calling me Zena,” Anna said laughing.
“That must make me Gabrielle, then,” Alphie said disdainfully.
“You said it, not me,” Anna announced.
They both chuckled.
“Let’s do it Gabby,” Anna stated.
This time Anna did blackout for a few seconds and by the time she came around Alphie had already taken out four enemy starfighters and broke the back of the attack on Red squad.
They helped Red squad mop up the rest of the invaders and then once more headed back to the San Marcos.
They nearly got back to the San Marcos but a group of eight fighters attacked them with another dogfight ensuing.
The quickness and maneuverability of the New Spanish Starfighters along with the help of the drone weapon’s operators helped them gain the upper hand quickly and turn the ambush into a rout.
Anna did a bat turn as one of the last Deintus fighters began to track her and hit the blower, or afterburner, to gain speed so that she could barrel roll her bandit and get underneath him to take a shot.
Suddenly Alphie took over the controls and Anna could not take the g-forces exerted on her and passed out completely this time.
Unknown to Anna, Ensign Rico Santiago took this time when nobody was watching Anna, to try to kill her.
Alphie detected Rico’s starfighter lining up for a kill shot on their starfighter.
Rico was at angle zero and looking right up Anna’s tailpipe with weapons hot when Alphie intervened.
Rico’s attack happened so quickly and without warning that Alphie had no time to inform Anna.
He quickly bat turned right then followed with a quick bat turn left and then did a pitchback which had Rico’s fighter now at Anna’s three o’clock position.
Alphie did a left barrel roll followed by a quick rolling scissors that gave them a little more room to maneuver.
Unknown to either one of the two Spanish fighters Warren Officer Emilio Dominguez had just finished off an enemy fighter caught a glimpse of what Rico was trying to do.
He did not understand why Rico was trying to line up Suarez in his gun sights.
It made no sense to him and he was about to commo Marinero when Rico took a shot at Anna with his forward lasers and barely missed.
Had Alphie not hit the blower a second before, they would have bought the farm.
Nevertheless, he did and they were safe for the moment.
Dominguez did not know why Rico was trying to kill his friend Suarez but he was not going to let it happen.
He lined up Santiago’s ship with his lasers, had him dead center in his sights, punched his laser but they failed to work.
He did a quick diagnostic on the lasers and found that they overheated during the dogfight and are useless.
He had no idea what he was going to do when he saw Rico back on Suarez’s tail and ready to take another shot at her.
Dominguez did the only thing he could do, he jacked up ‘Crazy Train’ and yelled, “Ramming Speed,” from one of his favorite films “Animal House” and rammed Santiago’s ship instantly killing them both.
Lieutenant Marinero acknowledged the flash off at his eight o’clock and could tell on his monitor that two of his starfighters just died.
When he queried which ones, he was saddened to find out that his second, Ensign Rico Santiago and Warren Officer Emilio Dominguez were both gone.
What remained of Blue squadron killed the last of the ambushers and headed back to the San Marcos without incident.
While heading back Anna slowly regained consciousness and Alphie filled her in on what Rico attempted to do.
Alphie took video of the attack on their ship and now showed Anna what had happened.
She saw the ultimate sacrifice that her friend Emilio made to keep her safe and began to cry.
‘He didn’t even know who I was but gave up his life to save me anyway,’ she thought to Alphie.
‘Why would he do that?’ she asked contritely.
‘I believe that he loved you, Princess,’ replied Alphie.
‘Not because you were his Princess, but because you were his friend,’ he concluded.
Anna did not reply to Alphie’s last thought.
Alphie heard her deeply sobbing, took over the controls and flew them back to the San Marco’s hanger bay.
The Abaivarapatish was stunned when he found out two thirds of the fighters he sent out never arrived at the target.
The Spaniards made them the targets instead and the Deintus suffered massive losses.
He was now down to only seven hundred fighters and his Flagship.
His Intelligence Department informed him that another Battleship had entered the system and was now in control of the battlefield.
He wanted the coordinates to this new ship to meet it head on.
He would take what was left of his command, launch a full strike against this ship and destroy it.
The Admiral had his officers send out picket ships and long-range starfighters to cordon off a section of space.
He ordered all fighters that had been in the latest action back to base to rearm before the next engagement.
All squadrons reporting in had orders to get some rest, eat some food and take care of any personal issues they needed to before the next battle station’s call.
After Blue squadron landed and everyone was debriefed, Marinero caught up to Anna and ordered her to check herself into sickbay for a checkup.
He even walked her there and sat by outside to make sure she went in to see a doctor.
She finally came out two hours later looking better than she did when she went in.
“I see that your color has improved,” Lieutenant Marinero said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Anna asked.
“It means that whatever you went through out there, Chief, it knocked the stuffing out of you,” Manolo said.
“I’m fine now,” she admitted.
“And you are going to stay that way too,” he stated.
“Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?” she asked.
“It means you are grounded Chief,” he ordered.
“No if ands or buts,” he declared.
“But…” she started to say.
“Ah, I said no buts remember,” he replied.
“These orders come from the top and I do mean the very top.”
“Get me?” he asked.
“Crap,” she stated.
“You know you came very close to dying a number of times out there today, Chief,” Manolo said.
“We can’t have that.”
“I can’t blame them for pulling the brakes on,” he finished.
“That’s putting,” she replied.
“Putting the brakes on, Lieutenant,” she informed him.
“Oh, don’t you get snippy with me Missy,” he said.
“It sucks you know it and so do I.”
“But Blue squad is pretty much gone now, Chief,” he said.
“With Dominguez and that traitor Santiago gone and now you…,” he trailed off.
“I’ll give you one guess who gave Santiago the order to kill me, Manolo,” she heatedly said.
“He’s already been arrested Chief,” Manolo said to her.
“It took a whole troop of Marines to make sure his limbs weren’t torn from his body when the crew found out what he and Santiago tried to do to you,” he declared.
“They?” she asked.
“The crew I mean.”
“They still don’t know who I am right?” she asked.
“No, but sooner or later they’ll find out, Anna,” Marinero said.
“They always do and when they do Alvarez better hope he’s already dead,” Manolo said heatedly.
“And what about the other Dominicans aboard?” she asked.
“My father placed them all on house arrest when they took Alverez into custody,” he explained.
“All by orders from the Vatican,” he said smiling.
“Are you kidding me?” she asked.
“Not at all,” replied Manolo.
“You know he would have done it anyway and damn his career but thank God, he didn’t need to in the end,” Manolo finished explaining.
“And so what is to be done with me?” she asked looking up at him with deep brown eyes.
“Oh, now don’t you start doing that Suarez,” he said backing away from her.
“You have been ordered to stay here where it’s safe…” he began.
Before he could finish his sentence, the Battle Station alarm began to sound.
“Thank God,” he said under his breath.
“I’ve got to go Chief,” he said aloud.
“You are ordered to stay here and work with Brother Delgado and Sister Maria.”
“Maybe there is something you can do while safely aboard,” he suggested.
“Stay here and hold down the fort!” he said as he ran down the passageway.
“Do you want me to locate the Sister and the Brother?” asked Alphie.
“What ever for?” she asked smiling up at him.
“I guess we won’t be following the Lieutenant’s orders?” Alphie asked.
“Lieutenant Marinero is not the boss of me,” she replied.
“And are your parents?” asked Alphie.
“I don’t know what you mean?” she asked innocently.
“He said that your parents put the brakes on.” Alphie stated.
“No, he did not,” she replied.
“He said ‘they’.
“They could mean anybody,” she suggested.
“Might I remind you he also said ‘orders from the top’.”
“That could mean anyone over him Alphie, he is just a Lieutenant,” she stated.
“Everybody is over him,” she finished with a smile.
“I hate it when you split hairs, Anna,” admitted Alphie.
“I thought you were going to start calling me Zena from now on?” she asked.
“Fine, Warrior Princess,” he said exasperated.
“I guess here we go again.”
“You seem to take the death of my people…” she began.
“My people blah, blah, blah…,” Alphie said interrupting.
“Avenge them blah, blah, blah.”
“Kill the invaders blah, blah, blah…”
“Heard it before,” Alphie admitted.
“Well, here’s something you haven’t heard before my dear callus Gabby,” she replied.
“For Emilio Rodriguez Dominguez!” she exclaimed pointing her finger in the air above her head and walking down the passageway.
“For Emilio,” Alphie repeated as they headed down the passageway, leading to the launch bays.
As Anna stepped onto the launch bay floor, she ran into bodies flying all over the deck readying the next launch of starfighters.
She calmly walked over to where the engineers were working on her fighter fitting a new weapon system under the wing to replace the missiles that normally sat there.
She walked around the fighter and asked Alphie to make sure that the new weapons pod was ready for use.
Alphie checked the schematics, the wiring and all the simulation test firings of the weapon before he announced that it was good to go.
An engineer came out from underneath her fighter and she asked him if her fighter was prepped and ready.
He gave her the thumbs up and said everything was good to go.
Anna climbed aboard with Alphie taking his appropriate seat at her back.
They quickly went through the preflight preparations and were ready for take off.
No body on the flight deck knew that the Admiral ordered Anna to stay on the San Marcos.
She and Alphie cleared the launch bay doors knowing that they were on their own.
“What are your plans?” Alphie asked.
“I don’t know,” she admitted.
“I just know we have to be out here for some reason.”
“Great, you’re not going to start using the ‘force’, are you?” Alphie asked.
“I hadn’t planned on it,” she replied.
“But you never know.”
“Now, shut up and stay alert,” she said.
“For anything in particular?” he asked.
“Or just whatever suits my fancy?”
“Again I don’t know,” she replied.
“We’ll know it when it happens,” she added.
“Fine,” Alphie declared.
“Do you want me to tap into the commo traffic to see if anything is going on?” he asked.
“That’s a great idea Alphie,” she exclaimed.
“Do that and ah, can you possibly tap into the Deintus’ commo traffic?” she asked.
“Why Zena that is an inspired thought,” Alphie stated.
“Is there an estimate on how many ships they have left?” she asked.
“Best guess I heard was close to seven hundred fighters,” he replied.
“We have twice that many so we have the tactical advantage,” she stated.
“Famous last words,” Alphie stated.
“I seem to recall one of our Admiral’s from the first Armada saying the same thing before we had our butts handed to us, by the Brits.”
“Good point,” she admitted.
They flew on for a while checking out as much as they could until Anna said, “Something’s not right here.”
“I don’t understand your concern,” replied Alphie.
“The San Marcos was ordered into Battle Stations for a reason,” she pointed out.
“Where is that reason?” she asked.
“I’m picking up multiple bogeys on an attack vector at the San Marcos,” Alphie informed her.
“It appears all seven hundred fighters are heading straight at the San Marcos,” he added a moment later.
“Why would they send all of their available fighters in one mad bums rush at the San Marcos?” she asked.
“Because they are suicidal?” he asked.
“Doesn’t quite fit the picture, Alphie,” she stated.
“There has got to be a reason why they are all bunched up like that.”
“You said they are heading straight for the ship?” she asked.
“That is confirmed,” he replied.
‘Think out of the box, Anna,’ she thought to herself.
‘Why are they doing that?’ she asked.
“Alphie, please do a 360 scan as far out as you can and see if they are hiding something that everybody has overlooked, okay?” she requested.
“Give me a moment,” he said.
A full two minutes went by.
“You are correct Mistress,” he replied.
“You almost sounded like K-9 from Doctor Who when you said that,” she said laughing.
“Yes, well he, unlike me, had only one way of defending himself,” Alphie admitted.
“I have more than a laser in my nose.”
“I know you do, can we get back to your scan please?” she pleaded.
“You were right,” he replied.
“While the seven hundred fighters attack from the front, the Flagship has slipped around the back of the San Marcos and is approaching it from its blind side,” he declared.
“That clever little Gray bodied monstrosity learned something from the Graffias System,” she admitted.
“He’s trying to use our own tricks against us,” she stated.
“And succeeding, it would appear,” replied Alphie.
“We need to contact the ship and alert them,” he finished.
“How can we alert them?” she asked.
“We are not even supposed to be out here, remember?” she reminded him.
“So, what do you suggest?” he asked.
“And please don’t say take them on ourselves,” he pleaded.
“Do you have a better idea?” she asked.
“Are you pathological?” he asked incredulously.
“What?” she asked innocently.
“Do you have some kind of death wish?” Alphie continued to ask.
“I don’t think so,” she stated.
“Do you?” she asked back.
“I’m not going to fall for that bit of a dodge, Zena,” he said.
“I am not the one that always put us in these kinds of situations,” he stated flatly.
“I don’t consciously put us in these situations,” she replied.
“They just happen,” she lamely explained.
“Great, now I’m with the New Spanish version of Forrest Gump,” he said.
“Life is like a box of chocolates,” she replied in her best Forrest Gump imitation.
“Okay, I give up,” he admitted.
“So what are your orders?” he asked.
“I was thinking we could try out our little toy,” she replied.
“And again you pull a rabbit out of the hat, Zena,” he said happily.
“Was there an apology I heard in there, Gabby?” she asked.
“Sure, why not,” he admitted.
“Now you do realize that we have not worked out all the bugs on this thing,” he stated.
“It might just blow up in our faces,” he admitted.
“The game says it works, so I believe it,” she replied.
“The game hasn’t steered us wrong yet has it?” she asked.
“Not yet,” he admitted.
“But there is always a first time,” he replied.
“It better not be now,” she pleaded.
“Our San Marcos is a big, fat, sitting duck out there.”
“The only thing that’s going to save it is gonna be us,” she declared.
“I hate it when you say things like that,” he replied.
“But it’s true,” she replied.
“I know,” he stated.
“But that doesn’t mean I can’t hate it,” he added.
“So any idea on how we are going to approach the ship?” she asked.
“We go dark of course,” he said coolly.
“I don’t know if that would be a good tactic,” she stated.
“Are you kidding me?” he asked.
“Not at all,” she replied.
“In fact I think we should do the exact opposite,” she declared.
“What are you talking about?” Alphie asked.
“Have you gained access to the Flagship’s computers yet?” she asked him.
“Of course,” he replied.
“Then you can flood their monitors with multiple hits indicating that a large attack forces is heading straight for them, right?” she asked.
“Sure, but what good will that do?” he asked.
“What better way is there than to hide in plain sight?” she asked.
“I get it now,” he said.
“The ole needle in the haystack routine, hey Chief?” he asked in his best Maxwell Smart impression.
Anna started to giggle.
“I really liked that show ‘Get Smart’, too bad they canceled it, stupid NBC,” she replied.
“Me too,” he replied, ‘But getting back to the action.”
“You want us to hide in the attack force heading right at them and then what?” he asked.
“Then you start to unravel the fake force bit by bit so they start to believe it is just a ploy to distract them,” she suggested.
“Okay and then what?” he continued asking.
“Then we jam this gun down their throats and pull the trigger,” she exclaimed with iron in her voice.
Although he knew, they were not going to survive this ill-conceived mission the Abaivarapatish ordered a message missile launched to the Home System to warn them about this space faring race.
In the message, he sent all the information they gathered regarding the New Spanish Empire.
Even though we failed, maybe the next mission will not, he thought.
After seeing his message depart, he immediately began getting action reports stating that their scanners had just picked up a large force of starfighters on an intercept course with his ship.
He ordered a general battle alarm to have his men on alert and ready at their action stations.
He was wondering about this new force when a technician working the scanners noticed a discrepancy.
As the tech, watched ships would blink in and out of the monitor.
The Abaivarapatish saw the monitor and told him that the ships were just shadows.
They were just a desperate ploy by the enemy to sow doubt and fear into their minds.
He laughed at their foolish try of deception.
They were inferior beings and they all deserved to die.
Grand Admiral Marinero had the San Marcos turned so that the full banks of anti-particle cannons pointed at the approaching fighters.
He also made sure that all his fighters had scrambled and were out of the way from any stray beams that might come from the cannons.
He wanted the fighters to take care of any stragglers left behind after the anti-particles cannons did their job.
He ordered the cannons to fire when the Deintus fighters came within their optimum range.
The Admiral did not have long to wait.
The Deintus fighters came on in a concentrated attack formation guaranteed to breach a hole in any defensive position it came against.
Their battle plan was sound, it was perfect and it would have worked if there were any fighters left after the anti-particle cannons let loose their destructive energy.
In a fraction of a second, the anti-partical cannon broadside from the San Marcos annihilated every enemy ship caught in its reach.
Five hundred fighters suddendly ceased to exist.
The remaining fighters scattered like bugs.
The cannons fired once more and took out another two hundred fighters trapped in its deathbeam.
After the last blast, the New Spanish starfighters hunted down separate groups of enemy fighters and exterminated them one by one.
Having witnessed the total destruction of his once glorious Battle Fleet, the Abaivarapatish ignored the phantoms shadows chasing his ship and decided to get in one last blow before his death.
He ordered all missile launch tubes loaded with atomics and all laser batteries trained on the New Spanish Command ship.
He gave the order to loose all weapons when the Flagship got within range.
Alphie nonverbally mentioned that the Flagship had gone into battle stations and was loading all tubes and getting ready to use their lasers on the San Marcos.
“I think we have waited long enough,” she said.
“It is time to try out this new design, Alphie.”
“Let’s just hope this gamma ray laser is all that it was made up to be,” he replied.
“I figure we got one shot at the Flagship before they wake up and notice we are here, Alphie,” she stated.
“Care to make any recommendations as to where the first shot should go?” she asked.
“Since the time you came up with this hairbrain idea, I have been busy Zena,” Alphie replied.
“According to the downloaded blueprints I got from the ship, I would make your first shot here,” he advised.
On Anna’s screen, a red cross appeared two thirds of the way down the left hand side of the Flagship.
“That’s where the missile and weapons arsenal is located,” he stated.
“A direct hit in that area should blow the lower half of the ship apart and begin a chain reaction that will gut most of the Flagship,” he added.
“Then that should do nicely,” she agreed smiling.
“You get to do the honors, Alphie.”
“You have control of the weapon’s system and the fighter; I trust your judgment and aim,” she admitted.
“Get us in closer if you need too and then get us out as quick as you can.”
“This is your show,” she declared.
“I’m just along for the ride,” she added.
“As you command,” he said.
“I thought that was ‘By your command’?” she asked.
“Oh, great,” Alphie said.
“Now you’re comparing me to a Cylon?”
“Really?” he asked her.
“You got to admit the newest version of Battlestar Galactica was better than the original,” she said.
“I don’t know,” he began.
“It seems like the creator Glen Larson had a thing against robotic life forms.”
“Wonder how he would portray us?” he asked.
“Just like the fun loving scamps you are,” she replied lightly.
“I’m going to need a long vacation after this is all over you, know,” he replied.
“And speaking of which, you may proceed,” she commanded him ending the conversation.
Alphie did not mind the small talk they were sharing with one another because deep down he knew what this was costing her emotionally.
Therefore, to save her the enormous amount of guilt for a few moments did not seem too unreasonable to him.
He was going to miss this form of comradery that he shared with the Princess these last several months.
Moreover, truth be told, he did not mind when she got them into these pickles.
That was her way and he did not see her changing in anyway as she grew older.
The King and Queen would have quite a handful on their hands when she got back home.
Who was it that said, ‘you can never go back home again?’
Ah, yes, Thomas Wolfe.
He was right because when Anna left she was simple girl looking for an adventure, just a bit of a distraction and what she found was much darker and so much lonelier.
She had changed and so had the Empire she had left.
So even though she was headed back home, it was not the home she remembered and loved.
Alphie knew that when they got back, Alphina would take over again as Anna’s sole companion.
What would happen to him?
Only the Drone Council could answer that, maybe he could ask Anna if she could talk her parents into keeping him around for one of her younger brothers or sisters.
That would be nice.
Alphie knew what he really needed was for Anna to take him apart and wipe his memory.
That would be the most humane thing to do he thought.
‘You only live once,’ he thought.
He will talk to her about this later, when she is safe and when the San Marcos is not a sitting target.
The Abaivarapatish gave his final orders and was heading to his quarters.
He was going to spend the last moments of his miserable life in his mud bath surrounded by the scents of home.
He could almost smell the birthing swamp where he crawled out from all those years ago.
He smiled inwardly at the thought as a massive energy bolt ripped part of him apart.
The bolt had traveled through six solid decks and continued to go through him and the decks below his feet.
He knew what was down there and began to shutter at the thought.
He never really had the chance to complete that thought as another bolt ripped through him and the ship blew apart.
His body hurled into space by the decompression of the bolt’s power and the venting of the atmosphere within his Flagship.
The Abaivarapatish died as his blood began to boil and his organs exploded.
He was not the only one that died by that manner either, every crewman caught below decks when the gamma ray laser hit was flung into space to drift around for eternity.
When the first bolt tore through the ship, it reached the armory and detonated some of the weapons stored there.
Then when the second bolt hit it, the rest of the ammunition went up taking the Flagship with it.
Alphie had just sent the second shot a few meters to the right side of the first one and then bustered out.
He knew that Anna was again going to blackout due to the enormous amount of g-force that they had to pull to get out of the danger zone.
He hit the burners while making sure that the vid cameras were recording everything.
This is going to be quite the show back home he thought.
The huge explosion behind them shocked the Grand Admiral and everyone on the Command Deck.
The suicidal Deintus’ fighters had suckered all of Command staff with their frontal assault.
No body kept a watch on their rear guard.
Someone or something had saved all of their collective butts.
He ordered fighters launched immediately to check on what had happened behind them.
He wanted them to report their findings to him immediately.
Lieutenant Marinero was one of the pilots in the group of fighters sent out to check on the explosion.
All of the scanners indicated that whatever blew up was huge.
The only thing he could think of that was that big and in the area was the illusive Flagship of the Deintus Battle Fleet.
If this was what was left of the Flagship, he thought, the War is over.
The mission to the Old World had been a success and the Empire was safe again.
He picked up a distress call from a starfighter heading towards them and recognized the signal.
“Chief, it’s Manolo, are you okay?” he asked over the commo unit.
“Lieutenant, this is Alphie and she is not okay,” he replied.
“What happened?” Manolo asked.
“We were the ones responsible for the destruction of the Flagship,” Alphie informed him.
“We hit it with a new type of weapon that the Chief had been working on and then had to buster out quickly,” he further stated.
“And so, then what happened?” Marinero asked.
“She blacked out because of the g-forces that we sustained in getting out,” he replied.
“And since then she has stopped breathing,” Alphie concluded.
“And her life signs?” Marinero asked.
“Minimal at best, Sir,” replied Alphie.
“Alphie hold a moment,” commanded Lieutenant Marinero.
“Yes, Sir,” he acknowledged.
“Marinero to Chief Geniro,” the Lieutenant said.
“Marinero to Chief Geniro,” he repeated.
“This is Geniro, Lieutenant,” the Chief replied.
“We have a life threatening situation out here Chief,” Manolo informed him.
“Suarez is not breathing and we need to get her to sickbay ASAP,” he shouted into the commo.
“Lieutenant, patch me through to Alphie, please,” Geniro requested.
“He’s already on Chief,” replied Manolo.
“Alphie hit your transponder now,” ordered Genero.
“We need to locate you so we can lock onto Chief Suarez and beam her aboard.”
“Already done Chief,” Alphie responded.
“Good give us a moment and let me get to the transmat chambers,” replied the Chief.
“Chief, you need to hurry she’s fading fast,” Alphie told him.
Anna woke up in sickbay three days later and saw standing by her bed Sister Maria, Brother Delgado, Lieutenant Marinero and his father, Doctor Sanador, Uncle Salazar, Alphina, Alphie, Coronado and her Mother.
Tears immediately welled up in her eyes enough that she had a hard time seeing everybody.
“She’s still not one hundred percent people so I suggest you limit your ‘welcome back to the living’ speeches and let her rest,” requested Dr. Sanador.
The Queen standing beside the doctor took his hand in hers.
“Thank you, Sir Knight for bringing my little girl back,” she said.
“The Chief is strong, Your Highness,” he began.
“She did most of it herself,” he stated looking down at Anna and smiling.
“That’s because she comes from good stock,” stated Uncle Salazar smiling.
“You can’t keep a Catarina down,” he admitted.
Everybody said something to Anna then and she was not able to respond because her throat was somehow too tight for her to say anything, so each one left her to rest.
The only person who stayed and requested a chair was Queen Isabella Catarina.
They brought her one and she sat down next to her little girl’s hospital bed.
As Anna watched her mother sit down in the chair, it seemed like all of her mother’s bones had suddenly turned to jelly.
The Queen laid her head down near Anna’s pillow and wept.
That got Anna to start crying all over again.
Anna placed her hand on her mother’s head and slowly stroked her hair the way her mother used to stroke her hair when she was younger.
Isabella, feeling the contact, looked into her daughter’s eyes and just said, “Oh, Anna.”
“Please promise me, no more adventures,” her mother pleaded as she lay her head down near her daughter.
The doctor looked in on them a few hours later and they were in the same position.
He did not want to disturb them so he silently walked out of the room.
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