“In the name of the Alpha Centaurian government, I command you to-” I smashed a steel pole into the wall speaker and watched gleefully as yellow and orange sparks flew across the hall.
“We’re clear!” I shouted to my team. They raced into the hall and then down into the deserted dormitories of the now evacuated ship. “We’re clear,” I repeated to myself as I watched my team quickly and efficiently force open every steel curtain that acted as a door.
“Princesa,” my assistant Rodolfo stood at attention beside me. Despite the fact that I had ordered him to not wear his formal Head Admiral uniform he was still in that stuffy suit with a perfectly starched collar and coat buttons so shiny I could see my petulantly angry reflection in them.
“Rodolfo,” I turned away from him and to the other halls of the ship. Government ships are like a rabbit warren. The dark colors and poor lighting give the dismal impression of being underground, and the maze-like design of the halls are legendary. Still, when I was a child, I made a habit of sneaking on the ships to play pretend. If you know one, you know them all, and I knew my way around them just fine.
“Princesa, the boarding has been a complete success. The government soldiers have entirely evacuated, the ship is ours to take or destroy.”
I still did not turn to look at my baby sitter. “Grazias, Rodolfo. This will work just fine I think… It should buy us enough time to slip by the defenses of the-”
Suddenly, the screen on my watch flickered. I raised my arm and looked directly at the screen. There was another flicker, I narrowed my eyes. Another flicker, then a succession of tiny flickers, and the face of the man I last wanted to see appeared on the screen.
Johann Rademacher. I couldn’t help but snarl at the incoming picture which only made him smirk. “Greetings, Princesa Valentina. You look pretty as always.”
“Greetings, Johann. You look like you crawled out of the trash.”
“Oh stop,” he said giggling and winking. “You’re too flattering. You gotta save a little for our next special day.” I opened my mouth to speak, and then his entire demeanor changed. His face darkened, his eyes hardened, and the curve of his smile fell to form a tight line across his lips. “Cut the shit Valentina. You know why I’m here.”
Rodolfo silently moved in closer to eavesdrop on the transmission, “I do know. But I don’t care. I took this ship with my own ingenuity and manpower, and I’ll be damned if I let you take it from me!”
“Valentina,” Johann said slowly and deliberately, “If you and your rabble do not leave this ship in five minutes, I will take it by force.”
“Just try it assh-”
“And if I capture it, and I capture you, I’m sure your family will pay whatever ransom I charge.”
I felt all the color drain from my face and spiral down at my feet. My head was woozy, my eyes crossed and faint. He would never do that, I know we’re unofficial enemies but, he was bluffing, he had to be. My knees buckled and immediately, Rodolfo rushed to hold me up. “He can’t… I’m not…” I whispered.
“It’s alright Princesa,” Rodolfo’s deep voice echoed emptily through my head, “Stand up again, you really can’t be-”
Johann’s smile was positively diabolical. “Ah, so the traitor speaks.”
Rodolfo grabbed my arm and stared coldly into the screen of the watch. “And what’s it to you, you dirty crimminalo?”
“You have five minutes to unboard the ship before I attack. Your move.” The screen blinked and went to black.
Through the haze, I could see Rodolfo and my men staring expectantly at me, the thin, pale princess fainting on the floor in her poofy pink skirt and pink lace top; with a white ribbon around her black hair and chunky heart bracelets covering her shaking arms. I wondered who they saw at that moment. If they saw the child that my dress yearned for or the commander my position demanded.
Regardless of what they saw, I knew my place. I knew it when I gave Johann Rademacher a kiss and a gentle push into bed. I knew it when I sped off with his fuel, leaving him satisfied and unconscious in a bed on the surface of a barren desolate planet knowing it might lead to his death. I reminded myself of my place when my chest was aching to cry knowing I might never see him again.
I knew my place then, and I know it now.
I put my hands on my knees and slowly, but firmly stood up. I took deep breaths and steeled my eyes until I felt their sharp glare cut through the masks of my men. “Listen up everybody. I have a skeleton of a plan. If it works, we can blast out of here with this ship, and the retaking of Xictlamec will proceed as planned. If it doesn’t… Well… I think we all know what happens if it doesn’t. Either way, Johann Rademacher takes this ship over my dead body.”