Warren Officer Suarez was a little anxious as she was about to enter into the simulation monitoring station when Alphie stopped her.
‘I’m sensing that you are uneasy, Princess.’
She looked up at him before she knocked on the hatchway and replied, ‘No,’ she stated. ‘Not uneasy, but a little apprehensive.’
‘And why is that?’ he asked.
‘Oh, I don’t know,’ she began. ‘Maybe because we are just skimming by every time we go out in the sim’s and barely manage not to get our butts blow away.’
‘It was all by design, my dear Anna,’ he stated. ‘Your design if I might add.’
‘Am I detecting a smirk?’ she asked.
Alphie chuckled and said, ‘No, I don’t have the facial features to pull that off.’
She smiled and said, “Well, let’s get this over with, why don’t we?” The drone followed her through the hatchway.
They encountered a mixture of efficient work and sheer chaos. They had to avoid a number of personnel that nearly bumped into them. They finally spotted Lieutenant Marinero and walked over to him. Anna stopped the appropriate feet away from the Lieutenant and saluted him. Marinero noticed her at the last moment and returned the salute.
“Let’s grab a console over in the corner and go over your last mission, shall we?” he asked.
They walked over to the monitoring station and sat. Marinero was busy pulling up the right simulation file while Suarez kept an eye on all the activity in front of her.
“Ah, here we go, Suarez.” He stated.
He looked over at her, saw her drone close by and pointed up at him. “I see your drone is doing much better than he was the last time I saw…”
“Alphie,” she said interrupting him. “And I do apologize for not introducing him to you sooner, Sir.”
“We’ve had a lot of things on our plate, Warren Officer,” he admitted. “No apology necessary. It’s a pleasure to meet you Alphie.”
“Al, is fine, Sir,” Alphie replied. “And thank you for letting us have the time to fix me up.”
“No, thanks is necessary, Al,” Manolo said. “Whatever is good for Warren Officer Suarez is good for the unit. We all have to work together as a team in order to be the best we can.”
“Yes, Sir, we get that,” Anna replied.
“And judging by your scores and performance it seems that a better Al, equates to a better team effort on your part, Suarez,” he admitted. “Your scores have improved by twenty five percent.”
“He is a great help to me out there, Sir,” she admitted. At that point, Ensign Rico Santiago entered into the conversation.
“It is a good thing that he had improved your overall performance, Warren Officer,” Santiago began, “Because had they not improved you were going to be washed out.”
“I realize that I am a raw recruit,” she began. “But aren’t you supposed to take that raw talent and fashion it into a fighting tool?”
‘Tone’ Alphie sent out immediately.
‘Sorry,’ she thought back.
“I apologize, that was harsh, Sirs,” she stated apologizing.
“You got backbone, Suarez. I give you that much,” said Santiago.
“That and much improved scores to back it up hey, Rico?” Marinero asked.
“Si, Seńor she has improved much,” Santiago admitted.
At that point, Alphie started to hum a little louder and lose altitude. Marinero looked up at him.
“Let’s go through these quickly so you can have a little more time to work on Al, okay?” he asked.
‘I don’t know if I feel comfortable with the unilateral decision you and the Sister made about not telling the rest of the group about the Infanta being aboard,’ thought Brother Delgado.
‘Your level of comfort does not play a factor in this Brother,’ Carreta simply stated. ‘Sister Maria’s strong argument to keep this secret from anybody but us three makes perfect sense.’
‘But what happens if something should happen to any of us during this trip?’ Delgado asked.
‘I can download all of my data in a millisecond’s worth of time to any council member aboard should anything occur,’ Carreta said. ‘But until then her secret is safe with us.’
‘Why do you think she is here?’ asked Brother Delgado.
‘That’s precisely what your sister is going to find out,’ he informed Delgado.
‘Doesn’t she know that her presence could jeopardize the mission?’ Delgado asked.
‘I doubt the thought has even crossed her mind, Brother,’ replied Carreta. ‘She’s young, impetuous, and used to getting her way. She is royalty and at her age, she believes herself to be free of responsibility and invincible.’
‘God watch over her and keep her safe,’ prayed Brother Delgado under his breath.
Sister Maria spotted the Princess leaving a part of the ship used for military training and decided to follow her at a discreet distance. The Princess walked with a hovering drone that did not appear to be Alphina. Furthermore, the new drone looked in need of repair, thought Sister Maria.
‘Carreta, I’ve just spotted her and I am following her,’ she informed him via the link. ‘She appears to have a drone in attendance. I don’t recognize the drone, so it is not her personal drone Alphina. Who could it be? Do you have any records of this drone?’
‘Let me check,’ Carreta thought. ‘I’ll be right with you.’
‘Make sure you stay out of sight, Sister,’ injected Delgado.
‘Trust me,’ she said. ‘I know what I’m doing from years of experience following a prodigal son, dear brother,’ she added.
‘Ah, what?’ he asked.
‘Are you two finished reminiscing?’ asked Carreta.
‘Yes, Sir,’ thought Delgado.
‘Quite finished,’ she stated.
‘Good,’ the drone said. ‘I have checked her service records, which appear to be incredibly fabricated and flawless if she wasn’t the Infanta I’d be tempted to recruit her. But I digress; the records show she does have a drone that was handed down to her at the age of nine from a relative. The drone’s name is Alphie.’
Sister Maria chuckled and said, ‘Her real drone was given to her before she was able to walk and is named Alphina. Close to Alphie, just in case if she slips and calls out the wrong name, clever girl.’
‘That’s not even the half of it,’ began Carreta. ‘She has a whole elaborate life history in her records complete with an average academy history.’
‘She is quite clever,’ admired Delgado. ‘She did not want to raise any flags regarding her academy records by being too self-assured and over confident.’
‘But how did she get here?’ asked Maria.
‘It’s all in the transfer records,’ replied Carreta. ‘She replaced another Warren Officer who had suddenly been given orders to report dirt side. From the time her orders were cut and his transfer was completed, was only a matter of ten hours.’
‘Ten hours?’ asked Delgado disbelievingly.
’Ten hours,’ replied Carreta.
‘I can understand why you would want to recruit her, Carreta,’ thought Delgado. ‘It’s incredible what she has been able to do by herself until now. How could a young girl fool the security of a top of the line military ship?’
‘Are you both finished with the admiration party?’ asked Sister Maria.
‘Oh, sorry,’ thought Delgado.
‘Yes, Anna has always been a very intelligent pupil,’ Sister Maria began. ‘Capable of doing or creating the most fantastic scenarios in class but she was always without fail, reckless, to a fault. She has the ample intelligence needed but without an off switch. So, she blunders about crashing into any object that stands in her way and in the end, she either gives up or crashes through the wall.’
‘So, not subtle, then?’ thought Brother Delgado.
Sister Maria laughed and said, ‘No, dear brother, not subtle at all.’
‘Oh, my,’ reflected Carreta.
‘You seem to have attracted some attention, Princess,’ Alphie informed her.
‘Will you stop calling me that, please?’ Angelica pleaded. ‘You might slip when we are actually talking and then where would we be?’
‘The chances of that happening are nil, Angelica.’
‘See,’ she asked smiling, ‘was that so hard?’
‘Not the point,’ Alphie stated. ‘I might remind you, you are still being followed.’
‘By whom?’ she asked.
‘That is who, Warren Officer,’ informed Alphie.
‘Whatever,’ she said casually. ‘Whom is following us?’ she asked.
‘Ah, that is who now…’
‘Can you please just tell me the person that is following us and do you have a visual?’ she asked interrupting him.
‘No,’ he stated. ‘But my outer sensors are detecting a human female. She is being very stealthy and definitely on our scent.’
‘I don’t know if I much like being stalk like common prey Alphie,’ she stated hotly.
‘Yes, it does feel quite creepy,’ Alphie admitted.
‘Then let’s just see how little miss stealthy creeper is when you go invisible and I hide, shall we?’ she asked him. ‘Check out the passageways ahead of us and come up with a plan to execute that plan, will you please?’
‘Passageway plotted,’ he stated. ‘We’ll take the next two lefts and then I’ll go dark and you can hide in an air duct nearby conveniently just your size.’
‘Just my size?’ she asked. ‘You could have said ‘an air duct that would be an ideal place for you to wait in ambush. But, no you had to pull the size card on me. I can’t help it if I’m petite!’
‘Focus please, we are almost there,’ he advised her.
They reached the second left and immediately Alphie went invisible while Anna saw the air duct cover, pulled it open and slipped inside. Within a few moments, Anna heard soft footsteps coming down the passageway leading to where they hid.
‘Something’s up,’ Sister Maria informed them.
‘What do you mean?’ asked her brother.
‘I can’t hear or see them anymore,’ she said. ‘Carreta, please check the blueprints of this section of the ship and see if there is a room or corridor that I somehow missed,’ she requested.
A moment later, Carreta replied, ‘I can detect nothing in that section of the passageway. There isn’t anything but the passageway that continues on for another 60 yards.’
“Damn,” Sister Maria said aloud.
‘Oh crap!’ exclaimed Anna.
‘What did I miss?’ Alphie asked.
‘That voice and the anger behind it,’ she stated. ‘I know who it is, Alphie.’
‘Oh, crap indeed,’ he replied.
Just then, the commo unit that Warren Officer Suarez wore went off. “Suarez, where are you?” asked Warren Officer Dominguez.
She pulled the unit off her belt and whispered into it, “Shut up!”
“You shut up,” he replied.
Sister Maria heard the unit go off and looked at the duct where Anna was hiding and cleared her throat.
“I think it’s safe to come out now Warren Officer Suarez,” Sister Maria said. ‘Make sure you guys stay on this conversation because it should prove to be very interesting.’
‘Your sister is quite the operative, Brother Delgado,’ stated Carreta.
‘She is quite cool under stress that’s for sure,’ he replied.
‘Why thank you dear brother,’ she thought back. Brother Delgado looked over at Carreta and rolled his eyes.
The air duct panel came swinging up Sister Maria caught it and held it while Anna crawled out of the air duct. When nothing else came out Sister Maria replaced the air duct panel back to where it belonged.
“And where is the barely functioning drone that was passed down to you Warren Officer Suarez?” she casually asked. Anna was dusting herself off when she looked over at Sister Maria.
“Oh, knock it off Sister,” she said exasperated. “You know who I am and I certainly remember you. So, can I assume by the fact that you are using my Warren Officer name and that you know about my drone that you have been keeping tabs on me?”
“Anna...” Sister Maria began.
“Don’t you mean Angelica, Sister?” the Princess smiled as she interrupted her.
“Yes, of course, Angelica,” Sister Maria smiled back. “You are right, I have been keeping tabs on you. Why shouldn’t I?” ‘The nerve of her,’ Maria thought.
‘You better watch yourself, Sister,’ thought Delgado.
‘I’m mad right now, so she better watch herself,’ Sister Maria informed him.
Anna stood up straighter and looked Sister Maria in the eye.
‘Oh, here it comes, the imperious Anna Clara Eugenia Infanta of Nuevo Hispania,’ Maria stated.
“Sister, I’ll have you know that I am on Imperial business.” Anna began. “As soon as I reached my majority and my First Confirmation my mother and father took me into their confidence and explained to me the seriousness of this expedition. They begged me to be their eyes and ears on this voyage and created this elaborate disguise so that I would fit in. What better way to learn all about the inner workings of this mission than to be an insignificant part of the crew?”
“How long have we known each other, Angelica?” the Sister smiled and asked.
‘Crap!’ Anna thought to Alphie.
“I asked you how long, child?” Maria repeated.
“I hate it when you call me that, Sister,” announced Angelica.
“I’ll refrain for doing so, but please answer the question.”
“What is it with you and questions?” she asked. “Day and night, week in and week out, month after month, year after year, questions, questions, questions...,” she trailed off. “My dreams were filled with questions because of you Sister Maria.”
“Oh, please,” sighed Sister Maria, “How long, Warren Officer?”
“It's been eight years, six month, twenty one day and according to my watch, nineteen minutes,” she said. “Is that satisfactory, Sister?”
“Twenty three minutes, dear, I saw you a few minutes before you saw me,” Maria confessed.
“Figures,” she said under her breath.
“My point is Angelica,” Maria began. “That I know you.”
“I know you,” she exaggerated each word. “So, do you want to complicate your life anymore than you already have by continuing to lie to me?”
The commo unit on Suarez’s belt went off again. She grabbed for it and said, “Suarez.”
“Warren Officer, this is Ensign Santiago,” he stated. “We need you down in the shuttle bay as soon as you can make it. Copy?”
“Copy, Sir,” she said. “On my way,” she replied. She looked at Sister Maria, shrugged and said. “Duty calls, Sister. We’ll have to catch up on old times later.”
Anna was about to turn away when Sister Maria reached out, grabbed her and held her closely. “You take care of yourself, Anna,” she whispered in her ear. “Your mother would die if anything happened to her little girl.”
Anna was a little puzzled when the Sister released her and looked at her quizzically.
“Go with God,” Sister Maria said. Anna turned around and headed in the other direction.
‘It seems you care for her sister,’ Brother Delgado stated.
‘Of course I do you big dummy,’ she stated. That is why I’m so mad and so scared for her.’
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