Chapter 2. How I fell in love with Camille.
I took a quick shower; I noticed that my shaving was lasting since my departure from Vientiane, today mid afternoon? Technically I had stepped back in time because the hypersonic aircraft needed only four hours to fly from Vientiane to San Francisco, and the time difference had turned the everyday life of who were making those trips in a mess, in fact I had already lunch today… so what I was now having was dinner. In normal circumstances I would have had already a meal and I would have gotten into bed, but I could not do that to the family who had prepared everything to welcome me. In the midst of my troubles, someone knocked twice on the door, fortunately I was already dressed. I opened the door and a young woman was in front of me, was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I fell fascinated by her blonde half mane and her beautiful green eyes, she shoved me to get me back into the bathroom and she closed the door.
“Excuse me, Lieutenant, but I’ve bet ten eurollars with my brothers that I’ll stand locked in the bathroom with you during three minutes.”
“What if your dad catches us? I’m afraid he would get a mistaken idea and I do not want him to think I’m betraying his confidence.”
“He won’t catch us. Let me redo your tie, but this is a very informal meal.” I allowed this girl redo my tie; I could not avoid looking at these feline green eyes and that tiny nose as a child’s. She looked like a teenager not more than sixteen or seventeen, but her poise showed that she may have any more.
“That’s it Sir, you will be the handsomest man in the dining room but you will not need to run much.”
“For me it is dinner, in Vientiane must be midnight.”
“Forgive me for interrupting you, Sir, I have to pee and the three minutes are over. Thanks for helping me to win the bet to my stupid brothers.” I left the bathroom, watching such as two young men rushed down the stairs, laughing.
I went back to the bedroom and put on my jacket. Already could be heard bustle in the dining room, I saw that girl wasn’t kidding me, people were dressed informally, men with sweater and jeans, women dressed discreetly. Doris looked at me and turned to her husband.
“Will, have you said you say to our honoree that he was coming to an Irish funeral? Sorry David, my son. For once you could wear a little more comfortable, nobody has warned you; at least women will enjoy an attractive man at the table.”
“Sit down please, David, we will begin to eat as soon as Camille comes, I already hear her steps on the stairs” Will said.
Gradually, I was meeting all the people who were sitting at the table, at that lunch all the people seemed or behaved as if they were family. In those circumstances I was the only stranger about whom all the people were attentive and who hosts showering him with attention. Will and Doris were sitting on the side nearest to a window covered with a colorful curtain, probably very old fashioned. They must be about fifty years old very well kept and they looked very much in love. The Captain Jan Mickiewicz sat down faced with the couple, he was pilot of the Navy like me; moreover, Mickiewicz was the military leader of the space expedition that would lead a thousand people to the Alpha Centauri system and a great friend of the family. This affable officer was a man in his forties who had come alone. I also met Will’s offspring: Chuck and his wife Bianca, the twins Jake and Michael, Nathan and his friend and comrade in arms Roberto and the beautiful Camille with her face of pretty girl. Following the family tradition, all the offspring of Will were military, Navy, Marines, Air Force … Chuck began to speak; he was of a similar age to mine.
“David…May I call you David?”
“Of course Chuck.”
“Did you enjoy flying with these civilian aircraft?”
“They are more complex than it may seem, he hypersonic flight requires great concentration, sometimes computers are not able to control the unpredictable weather and fly one of these planes at Mach ten in a ballistic trajectory is like riding a cannonball.”
“What about the feeling of piloting a fighter?” He headed to Camille “do you know, Camille, at your age David had already downed eighteen enemy fighters in Morocco?”
“I was also shot down in Morocco.” I replied in an attempt to prove that I’m a normal person and not a photo of a military yearbook.
“And is it true that you were killing some of those fanatics until you were rescued?” That comment left me misplaced, was a piece of the past that were left in a drawer locked and Chuck’s pulled it out with an ax.
“Chuck! You are on the table! Do not talk about these things while we eat, don’t you see the face of David? It is not appropriate to talk about war and dead in a family lunch.”
“I’m sorry Mom, but this man is considered a hero among the officers of his class. He is a genuine legend.”
“Do pilots also have fan clubs?” Nathan inquired his brother in his mannered voice.
“Just pilots that have two balls like this man.”
“Chuck, shut up!” This time he obeyed to his mother “your sister is on the table and I won’t admit that you be rude in her presence.”
“Mom, I’m not made of porcelain, I’m a soldier too, and Lt. Lavall lived his first experience of war when he was my age.”
“At your age, at your age… the animal that sent boys of nineteen to die in that war should have gone the first. Am I the only one who hates the war in this house full of soldiers?”
“Doris, come on, you should relax… sorry David.” He apologized while he was comforting his wife. “Our oldest son died in the war of Morocco, in Bou Arfa, now he would have twenty-nine…”
“I am so sorry, really.” Chuck was truly repentant to open that wound. “I have a tongue too long and a very small brain.”
“Shut up please, you’ve said too much foolishness.” His father said. “And even though you have not yet drank.”
The rest of the meal was quite enjoyable, Captain Mickiewicz’s loquacity managed to head back the waters to their course. That great communicator made me a summary the great power that wielded the Soldiers of the Faith: was undoubtedly the religious order which had more members among civilians and military, and had a direct line to the Vatican, from which was presumed to be his army. That man was born in Poland in a family of strong Catholic tradition and military, he was already a Navy officer when Will recruited him for the order and since then they have been friends.
For coffee, we went to the living room. Will lit a cigar and offered me one of them but I refused it politely with a smile. It was nice to feel myself newly at a home with the touch of an attentive mother even if only for a few hours. Finishing that first coffee, Doris filled immediately my cup without asking; she nodded to her offspring and they left Will, the captain and me alone.
“David.” Will started talking “I know we are stealing you hours of sleep, but these few hours are crucial for me. I need to know if you’re on my side.”
“Will, I do not understand, I thought it was clear my commitment to the mission.”
“This goes beyond.” Captain continued to support his friend “David, I am a friend of the family for many years, and I have promised them that their daughter would have the best training and protection.”
“Yes.” Will had interrupted me. “Jan offered me your name although you do not belong to the order and even you aren’t a Catholic. But your record speaks for you; you have never shied away from a mission although it would have represented a great danger. Your flying skills are legendary throughout the military establishment; we probably should go back to the World Wars of the twentieth century to find records of downed enemies like yours.”
“The numbers of those you speak do not define me as a person. I can also feel fear, I am like any human. All mythical auras with which you’re wrapping me are an invention, a fraud.”
“Your courage does not say that, it’s your humanity and devotion what we want, I know you will protect my daughter on this trip.”
“I had not decided yet to make the voyage; I just undertook to assume the instruction of pilots.”
“You will do it; I’ve seen it in your eyes.” Captain argued. “Every member of the helicopter’s crew which went to rescue you could assert and confirm that you faced in a close combat to a superior enemy and clearly hostile.”
“The close combat had been only against a poor devil and I don’t feel proud, I neutralized the others with the help of the gun and a machete.” I wanted to avoid the word kill; I did not find it appropriate to use that verb in a friendly conversation. “They were going to destroy with a Stinger the helicopter that came to pick me up, options were them or me, was an act of sheer survival.”
“I’m afraid this is the other point of the record we have to correct.” Captain replied. “You cannot always tell the truth to everyone, even less if you have to be my first officer on the ship.”
“Will I be your First Officer?” Captain’s offer was really tempting, that meant I would be commanding a ship, a job for which I had been preparing for my entire military career.
“Many officers of your age don’t dream of governing an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean, I offer you the steering of the largest and powerful spaceship ever built towards the farthest destination that man will reach on the next decade: the planet Miracle.”
“Miracle is the name of the planet?” I found odd this name for a planet.
“I know it does not seem very appropriate, but yesterday the ASA decided by secret vote.” Will said. “They say it is because it is a miracle finding signs of life on a planet that initially would have to be wilderness.”
“With these terms, I’m your man.”
“I just ask one more thing, such as great personal favor.” Will continued. “I need you take care of my daughter, she is very young and will be exposed to more dangers than young people of their age are used to.”
“I’ll do it with my life, Will.”
“Now you should sleep, tomorrow you will accompany me to the headquarters of the Order in San Francisco. I need you rested to impress the President of the Soldiers of the Faith.”
It was after four in the afternoon in Sacramento watches; in contrast, my biological clock told me it was six in the morning. I returned to the bedroom, I put on my pajama and fell asleep just cover myself with the sheets, I not even thought to draw the curtains not to wake me up by the sunlight. I woke up at two in the morning; I still had the Laos time in my body, had no more desire to sleep and did not know what to do. By not being in my home, to walk through the halls and wake up everybody was not correct, the moonlight streamed through the window of the room, it was not completely full but its brightness was as intense as if it were. I looked out the window and saw that Camille was sitting on the swing, even though the climate of that area was very soft, the nights of January are very cold, and she must be crazy. I had the urge to pick a jacket and put it on over my pajama, I thought I was also crazy, but I had no sleep and needed to talk to someone. I opened the bedroom door quietly and went downstairs, I assumed she got out by the kitchen doorway, I opened the door and here she was, she was cold as an iceberg but despite of this she remained seesawing.
“Hello Camille. May I join you?”
“Yes Sir, is a pleasure.”
“Do not call me Sir please; I do not even know your rank. Are not you cold, Camille?”
“Much. I am absolutely frozen.”
“What are you doing out apart from trying to catch a pneumonia?”
“I cannot sleep.”
“Neither do I, I still cannot digest the time change.”
“You said you came from Vientiane. Do you live there?”
“Vientiane is the capital of Laos and until your father came to recruit me it was my home.”
“You do not seem Asian, but by the accent I know you aren’t American, I would say that you are European but I do not know from where.”
“It is clear that I am not Asian, but I would not mind, I am Catalan.”
“Catalan?” She looked at me with a face that made it clear she did not know the origin of that word.
“Do you know Barcelona?”
“Just for the name, people say it is a very nice city. The Sagrada Familia is in Barcelona, isn’t it?”
“Yes, so they say.”
“Do not you know? Are you not from there? Why do you think you can be kidding me all time because I am younger?”
“Sorry, it was not my intention; please excuse my stupid sense of humor. You’re the first person in a long time that makes me feel at home. I feel as if I knew you a lifetime…”
“My mother told me that you seem very sad and she is right.”
“I miss a household like that you have here.”
“What about Barcelona?”
“There I have a father, a sister and a nephew, but that house is not my home. My home was engulfed by the sea and cancer.”
“My mother died when I was fifteen, I miss her very much.”
“I’m sorry, I can imagine it, when Frank died I felt really bad. Frank was the best of us.”
“Frank was your brother?”
“Yes, he was a Marine’s officer like my father, died in Morocco. My mother still cries at night when she thinks we aren’t listening to her.”
“I saw die many people in Morocco. Soldiers, children, women, old people…war sucks. When will these damn politicians learn?”
“Why are you military? Why do not you do something else?”
“I cannot do anything else, I did not feel myself either when am not myself when I fly with commercial hypersonic planes. At some point in my life I got lost and I am still looking for my site.”
“Did you really have killed all the people that Chuck has said?”
“I feel awful when I hear someone treating this matter this way. I just want to help the good people, but sometimes we lose the sense of what is good and what is bad. Survival makes us murderers.”
“Why do you say that? Do you think they would have let you to live?”
“Of course not. But I don’t feel better for it.”
“Were you scared?”
“Always I am. Even now many ghosts haunt me, I live scared and I feel helpless. Doctors say it is for post-traumatic stress.”
“I’m always scared too. Will you be my friend in space?”
“Of course, we will rely to each other, but in public you have to respect the rank. By the way, what is your rank?”
“I’m still a cadet. I have not done yet the one hundred hours of flight needed.”
“Do not worry, you will do the rest of the hours what you need quickly. I will make you the best pilot in the history of aviation.”
“Do not make me laugh, because I hear you’re the best pilot by far.”
“No, it is not possible; if that were true I would be at least admiral.”
“David, you really make me feel great. Do you find me too young?” The truth was that when she looked at me, I saw only the face of a young girl more than an adult.
“In any case you would be a beautiful girl, the prettiest I’ve ever seen.”
“Let’s go home, I’m cold.” I think I embarrassed her, there was an attraction between us that I could not quite explain, but I mustn’t try anything with the daughter of my hosts the first night I spent in that house. And she was also very young, Camille still had the face and voice of a teenager; and even worse, the fact she was not too tall made her seem much younger than she was.
I got up around the daybreak; I showered and put on my Navy officer uniform. I went down to the kitchen, there were Doris and Nathan.
“Did you sleep well, Sir?”
“Please call me David, this uniform is not to everybody called me Sir. If I could, I would go in plain clothes, but my wardrobe is a bit limited right now, because I have come with what I fit in a suitcase.”
“How do you want to be treated as a gentleman with that tie? Come here!” The Doris’ exclamation almost put me standing at attention.
While Doris was arranging my tie, Camille came into the kitchen and when she saw me she blushed and lowered her head.
“Bye Mom, I go out a moment to see Rita.”
“Do not you want to have breakfast, my little girl?” Her mother asked.
“No. Thanks Mom. I am no longer a little girl.” She went outside by the kitchen’s door.
“This girl is very rare.” Doris said.
“She is in love with you, David, cannot you see her face?” Nathan dropped imprudently. “She has been talking about you all the morning with Rita.”
“Why have I had children so mouthy? Now apologize to David.”
“Sorry David, my middle name is mouthy.”
“Do not worry; I like to be paired with the prettiest girls.” My joke relaxed a bit the ambience. “And your sister would be the prom queen.”
At that moment Will came in his uniform of Colonel of the Marines.
“When you order me, Colonel.”
We entered again in that vehicle; the first idea that came to my mind was that I had never had my own car. I learned to drive in the Navy; I had always driven military vehicles, apart from my father’s car, of course. A journey of a couple of hours, but this time I had more confidence to ask
“Can I ask you a question?”
“What is the role of Camille?”
“What do you mean?”
“The meeting of the swing seemed prepared. I have the feeling that you are manipulating her to get something.”
“I told Jan that you’re too smart, that you’d realize the play.”
“I’ll be honest, I love your daughter, but I do not want that you play with her or with me. I already promised you that I would protect her, the decision to form a couple is only of us two without any outside influence.”
“Sorry David, it was a blunder on my part, I hope you know to forgive me.” Will apologized.
“Let it be so. By the way, how many additional hours of flight does Camille need to reach the rank of officer?”
“Six hours. When you start the program in the Moon Defender she will be still a cadet.”
“Do you trust me?”
“Do I have another choice?”
“I want her come with me to Barcelona; I can get an evaluation of six hours in Reus Air Base. This way she will enter the Moon Defender as Ensign, with command over troops and she will be able to access charge of bridge crew member.”
“I just want you to promise me that you will respect her, although she asks you for something that wasn’t be in accordance with our beliefs. Her contract with the Soldiers of the Faith requires total chastity.”
“You have my word of honor. For now my affection is fraternal, I will not do anything to embarrass you in front of the order.”
“Okay, in ten days you will have to be in Cape Canaveral to board on the shuttle.”
“Do not worry, the day before she will be already in Sacramento to say goodbye to the whole family.”
The rest of trip was much more inconsequential, Will put the car in automatic driving and we talked about trivial things the more than two hours of motorway traffic of San Francisco, until a smart glass sign told us that we had reached the headquarters of the Soldiers of the Faith. Will had his car park in the basement of the building, as soon as we got off the vehicle, we entered an elevator that took us to the floor where the meeting with the president of the order would take place, from whom Will as vice-president was his right hand. We walked through the tables where the civilian and military personnel worked, Christian bureaucracy I thought, I laughed inside me imagining the same picture in heaven with St. Peter and a group of angels typing on their computer. Will invited me to come into an office that I assumed was his, I saw no sign on the door where it was indicated. Just we sat down; we heard a woman’s voice.
“Mr. Vice President, the President is at the reception.”
“Please, send him to my office.”
“Right now, Sir.”
At that moment an elderly man entered, he was bald and strongly built, his lack of hair gave the impression that it had been caused by a chemotherapy session. Will introduced us:
“Lieutenant Lavall, I introduce the President of the Order of the Soldiers of the Faith, José Coelho.”
“It’s an honor, Mr. President.”
“Please call me José; otherwise we will lose ourselves in the titles. I understand that Lieutenant it’s not your first name.”
“Are you Catalan?”
“Yes, how did you know?”
“I have lived many years in the Costa Brava; your Spanglish of school doesn’t hide your accent from Garraf. I’ve wanted to meet you because you will be the most powerful layman in the next colony and I think you will be the only guy you can do this.”
“Do what, sir?”
“You have to control the bishop. Don’t misunderstand me, as Soldiers of the Faith we respect to the Catholic hierarchy, but that damn Bishop O’Keefe is a stinker and if we give him a choice, nobody will be able to stop him.”
“And why will he go to this mission?”
“He has the support of the radical faction of the order, some media say he has enough support within the Roman Curia to become the next Pope and this trip gives him the chance to return to Earth as a Cardinal.”
“That sounds like something extracted from The Da Vinci Code.”
“From where you say?”
“Nothing, it’s a novel that was very successful in the XXI century.”
“This is not a novel, it is the harsh reality, Bishop O’Keefe is a real threat, he’s extremely dangerous, believe me David.” Will intervened. “This man awakens many misgivings in the Pope, but the Pope’s hands are tied. The only one who can put him some obstacles is someone who is not subject to his authority, a man from outside the congregation. Once in Miracle you will be the military of the highest rank not linked to the Soldiers of the Faith, you have no obligation to obey him as Jan, you could arrest him if the circumstances brought you into that extreme.”
“Arrest him?” I asked surprised.
“We believe that he is involved in real estate’s trouble and he is fleeing the planet.” He responded with a guess “Probably with the idea of returning when prescribed the possible offenses.”
“You promised we would eat at Ardoise.” Interrupted the President, thus concluding the message they wanted to transmit. “I do not know if I will be able to back to San Francisco with what I have, doctors have given me less than one year of life.”
“Well, come on, David, you’ll see that is the best French restaurant where you’ve ever eaten…”
After eating at that fancy restaurant and once in the street, the President shook our hands and got into a taxi. We went to the parking lot to take the car. The return was very enjoyable, we both knew one to another a little more, I explained him many details of my childhood in Sitges and showed him pictures of my family by projecting them on the windscreen from my cell card. By the way, he revealed me a secret:
“What do you think about Nathan and Roberto?”
“Are they more than friends? So, why they do not tell you it?”
“They do not say it to me because they think I would cause a conflict.”
“Of course not David, I think I’m still more father than Christian. I would do a disservice to my family if I do not learn to accept my offspring as they are. Is that perhaps I have not demonstrated it enough by looking for an atheist to protect my daughter?”
“I still do not understand the choice. You have chosen a person who left the Navy to go to the private sector and even though I was living with a woman.”
“Not a matter of logic, there is something inside me that tells me you’re the right one.”
“What if we do not fall in love? She is very young, I’m sure she has other interests. Even I find her too young for the mission.”
“She is much more mature than you think, you should stop seeing her as a child and you will take a nice surprise.”
“I think that is one thing that cannot be conditioned.” I no longer had many arguments, my own gestures betrayed me, and it was pretty obvious what was going on inside me.
“Six hours ago you told me that you liked her.”
“Which interest you have? It seems that you are selling me her.”
“Forgive me again; I think I’ve become to pass over the line. I’ve had a good day to cross red lines.”
Arriving at the home of Schwartz, Camille was in the garden talking to a friend of her age, each one sitting on one of the two swings. I did not stop, at the end they did not see me, and did not want to interrupt their confidences, I went home with Will. We went into the kitchen where Doris was cutting vegetables; Will took two beers from the fridge and offered me one.
“Doris, David wants to take our little girl to Barcelona.”
“I want to help Camille to complete their flying hours, but she will have to be who decides. I want to convert her pilot in less than a week.”
“Our pretty girl will go to Europe with you?”
“Whether you have no objection…”
At that very moment Camille entered the kitchen door, Will and Doris disappeared as if by magic.
“Does it always work this way with your family?”
“It seems that my parents want to pair us as if we were two pedigree dogs. I feel a bit violent because I like you a lot and I’m afraid they could separate you from me.”
“They won’t keep apart me from you if you love me, but we will go very slowly because I would not forgive myself if I hurt you. You’re a person too important to me.”
“And besides you will be my superior officer.”
“I have to make you a proposal, but if you we’re not prepared we let it be. I want to take you to Europe to complete your flight hours needed, I have a friend at the airport of Reus.”
“Will be you and I alone?”
“Not exactly, you’ll have your own room in the house of my father; my sister and my nephew of one and a half years will not take away the sight from us and will claim your attention. Do you like the idea?”
“I love it, when do we leave?”
“Let me book the flight and go preparing luggage for a week.”
That same morning we were flying towards Barcelona, I decided to buy tickets for a conventional flight instead of a hypersonic one because I did not want to land in Frankfurt and then take another flight to El Prat or go by TGV. The flight lasted about eight hours; we spent sleeping most of the journey. Camille woke me up when he saw that we got closer to our destination
“The airport is near the sea, as if it were part of the Mediterranean.”
“Preventing that the water swallowed it like my street in Sitges was a difficult engineering work. They say that despite these efforts, the airport will have to be relocated inland in less than ten years.”
The plane landed smoothly, I have to admit that I would not have done it better; we let to get out all passengers while we stayed inside. Camille was very nervous.
“What is it? Looks like you will have a hysterics.”
“What if your family doesn’t like me? Will they also say I’m a child?”
“Are you very worried a lot about this?”
“I do not want be the source of a conflict. I know that we are very different, but I feel something I had not experienced before. I only care if you’re worried about.”
“The only thing that worries me is that you are not comfortable. The conflict I have right now is to resist me to give you a kiss.”
“Give it to me, but please be gentle, it will be the first.”
“I do not think so. You’re too beautiful as to that no one tried to do so.”
“Don’t let it escape.” And it was she who gave it to me, an innocent kiss on the lips, perhaps too innocent, but very tender and full of feeling. It was as if our hearts would have been beating at the same rhythm, I again felt like a student in his first love as a teenager.
Then we left by the finger that would take us to the terminal to pick up our luggage. We walked out the main entrance of the terminal, where my sister Gisela and the little Marc were already waiting for us. She came running towards us with the child in her arms.
“My goodness, you’re a beautiful girl, my name is Gisela.” And she gave her two kisses while Marc extended his arms to me. “Take your nephew, he weighs a lot.” She put him me in my arms and grabbed my suitcase with wheels.
“Hello sweetie!” Said Camille to Marc, which in those moments was a little older than one year and a half. She grabbed him from my arms and we went to the parking lot.
“Sorry about the car, but my father loves this old car.”
“Do not worry, I don’t have car, I’ve never had.”
“Really? Is it possible a Californian girl without car? I do not think so.”
“I’ve been studying all my life in religious and military academies; I have not too much free time to go out. When I’m in Sacramento my father takes me everywhere.”
“And this week, you will neither have free time.” I intervened in the conversation, serious. “We have five days to get you ready for making the hours left to be an officer.”
“Come on, just a little bit, and give Camille a walk around Barcelona.” Gisela insisted by simulating a child’s voice.
“You got it. I guarantee you’ll see some of Barcelona.”
“When you say you got it and some of Barcelona. Do not you mean museums and stuff that you like?” Gisela dropped.
“I’ll take her wherever she wants, but I assure you she is more like me than to you for these things. As a good Catholic has already told me she wishes to see the Sagrada Familia and the Cathedral.”
“Do not worry Camille, I’ll take you to the clothing stores to try on outfits, with this body that you have you will look like a goddess. Whether all the clothes are like you wear now, you need an urgent renovation of your wardrobe.”
“Do not frighten her; she still does not know you.” But Camille seemed amused with all of that. Camille did not release the child in the whole time until we got into the car and Gisela grabbed him to secure him in the seat.
On reaching the apartment of my father, Gisela showed to Camille the room where she would sleep, which was actually where I rested when I was in Barcelona. Those nights I would sleep with the child, because I had promised to respect the virtue of Camille. After a while my father came home from work, he was fascinated with the young guest.
“Oh! It’s cute. David, you do not deserve a beauty like this.”
“Currently she is only a good friend whom I want help to accomplish such formation before starting her training at the station Moon Defender.”
“Oh girl, maybe it’s an idiot who does not know how to treat women, but I assure you that you will not meet a better pilot in your life. He is able to fly with anything.”
“Yes sir, this ‘friend’ is beginning to know him a little. I look forward to see him at the controls of an airplane, is a myth for all my companions of the Academy.”
“The six hours are not for showing off me, but to finish your training cycle, Cadet Schwartz. It’s the difference between start the training as a cadet or as an ensign.”
The next day we took the car of my father to go to Reus where the Captain of Air Force Miquel Gonzalez already was waiting us, he would kindly cede us a training AS97 during three days in charge of the Navy, the invoice would become part of the costs of the mission. It was the only supersonic model on the base that was approved to train Navy pilots.
“Hi Miki, I want to introduce you to the cadet Camille Schwartz.”
“David had put me on backgrounds, but you’re much prettier than I could imagine.” Camille turned red as a tomato.
“Don’t make lose her concentration. The exercise she should do today is quite complicated.”
“Sorry Camille.” Miquel apologized. “Move on to what concerns us. This you see is a supersonic aircraft with fuel to fly for four hours; in today’s test you must surpass three Mach and reach an altitude of 70,000 feet at four hundred meters per second. David, if you have to use the controls, press the yellow button and the test will be void. You have two and a half hours to achieve this and return to base, everything will be recorded and included in the applicant’s file automatically.”
“Okay, now we go to put on the anti-g suits.”
“You have them in the hangar. Shall I help you?” Camille looked at me a bit worried.
“Do not worry, we can manage it ourselves.”
“Thanks David.” Camille said with a look of relief, probably thought it was better a man than two. She already knew I would not touch more than necessary and I’d look away in the most delicate moments, although I madly wanted to see what this girl was hiding under her clothes.
Days went flying in every sense of the word and Camille fulfilled the program in an extraordinary way. It was a happy week that strengthened our connection, although we decided jointly that the physical part should wait. What could not be more obvious was that we were infected by love and that wouldn’t be longer stopped by anyone. Apart from the Sagrada Familia and the Cathedral, we could not see far more, were days of work for everyone, I promised to Camille that with more time we would make a longer visit to Barcelona to sightseeing. On the way back, my father took us to the airport, while we waited to board I seized that Camille was wearing the uniform.
“I know that they will give your yours in Cape Canaveral, but I want you to wear my wings” I took from a pocket the insignia of golden wings I wore when I was ensign” Camille Schwartz, it is my honor to put you the wings of Frigate Ensign.”
“It is my privilege to receive the wings from the bravest pilot of the Navy.” Thrilled, she dropped a couple of tears. “Thanks Lieutenant. This in what converts us?”
“At the moment we are comrades in arms. The future will tell us if we are destined for something else. From the Moon Defender we will have to capture the rest of flight personnel.”
“Are not there enough pilots?”
“Only volunteers of Soldiers of the Faith, they are all very young. I need to contact veteran pilots; maybe I can attract the attention of some of my former companions of Albatross Squadron.”
“It’s the name of the squadron organized with academy cadets because in those days there weren’t pilots for the war in Morocco. Besides me there are only five people alive in that group.”
“They all died in Morocco?”
“Aww no. They had been replacing those who were falling until the war of Israel; they dissolved and divided us in different Navy carriers, always in very risky tasks. In fact, my brother in law Marc died once we were out of the squad, when we were part of the evacuation unit of Tel Aviv.”
“What’s your interest in these people?”
“We were trained to fly with almost all existing flying machines: fighters, sliders, montgolfières, helicopters, space shuttles … you can learn a lot from them.”
“Are you able to drive all of these aircraft?”
“When I finish coaching you, you will all be able to fly with every aircraft; even some of you will be part of the bridge crew.”
“Part of the bridge crew?”
“A First Officer requires reliable staff … I thought of you; with the approval of the Captain, of course.”
“I’m flattered by your confidence but not sure I can live up to your expectations.”
“You’ll be amazed at what you can do in a few months; the best way to learn to do something is putting into practice as soon as possible.”
Moon Defender Orbital Station, January 21, 2167.
I have to admit I was surprised by Camille’s ability of adapting her to gravity of the seventeen percent of that military station which was orbiting around the Moon, that girl who had never been in space moved gracefully where the rest had to contortions to keep balance. We were a few hours at the station and the captain had been kind enough to show me all the rooms in that space station designed for war. He introduced me to the young pilots who were part of the group belonging to the Soldiers of the Faith: including a very tall ensign named Helen Rasmussen, Suzanne Rourke, Xavier Bosch, Stefan Vazov…, all of them extremely young and fervent Catholics, some of them coming from families of other religions. Most of them embraced Catholicism because of the huge campaign conducted in recent years by the Church and the Order.
I was assigned a room with a window from which you could see alternatively space and the moon thanks to the rotation of the station. That office had its own adjoining bedroom; work and relax all together. The station was half empty because our ships were conducting a new attack to retrieve Israel; the three destroyers which are usually in the vicinity of the station were now in Earth orbit, sending sliders from space to attack the Caliphatian positions. Despite the concentration of ships around the Earth, we still had a defensive mechanism important enough in the station to not to have to worry us about any military threat.
I stared out the window and saw the vast Chinese-Indian ship, a giant named Mao Zedong. That ship would leave towards Miracle a year before our ship; its assembling had just finished in the orbit of Mars. For all I knew, the Chinese-Indian Republic was planning to send two ships to Miracle, a big one to carry the majority of personnel and materials, and a smaller one that would be a shuttle between Earth and Miracle. By contrast, ASA’s program consisted in sending a modular ship, the largest ever built, from which a section would separate from the main body to perform the same function as a shuttle. Even though our ship is bigger, the Chinese-Indian one is slightly faster as they use fusion reactors a thirty percent more efficient; despite its higher top speed, their computers will suffer long to try to find a route that wouldn’t attract asteroids and other objects with the brutal gravitational distortion that this ship can generate if it exceeds the 0.89 lux that according to the Security Principle and Prudence was considered as the maximum speed advisable.
I assigned the secretarial tasks to Camille, because she was the person whom I trusted the most and that job would mean a promotion in less than six months for her. My intention was to turn her in the Second Officer of the ship; Captain Mickiewicz accepted under the condition that she should prove that she was really worthy of the position. Once in the station, we began working for at the latest on February 15 would begin the real training, a training that would not be ended until the summer of 2169. The haircut of Camille surprised me, almost masculine but she had lost nothing of her natural beauty.
“Hi Camille, you wear a nice haircut.”
“Hi David, I know it is not very feminine, but I find it more comfortable.”
“You’re still gorgeous.”
“Do not embarrass me … let’s talk about work. What should I do, Lieutenant?”
“I need you to contact these four people.” I showed her a projection of my flexiscreen. “They are the former Squadron Albatross components that are still alive. I would call by myself, but I do not want that personal circumstances could deprive the mission of the best pilots in the Navy.”
“What personal circumstances?” Camille smelled something sentimental. “Is it due the girl?”
“Soizick and I went out some time, her husband hates me.”
“Are you bringing an ex-girlfriend to the station?”
“Do not be jealous, Soizick and Michael are outstanding pilots and I do not want to renounce them. Maybe you do not trust me?”
“Is she pretty?”
“You’re prettier. But I insist that this is work. I repeat: do you trust me?”
“I do not know.” I grabbed her by the waist and approached her to me. “What are you doing?”
“I touch you; maybe you ginger up this way.”
“This is not a sin, silly.” She chuckled. “Do you think that I will be scandalized if you touch my ass?”
“And if I unbutton your pants?”
“I’m sure you will not do, I know you.”
“So maybe you ought to answer the question.”
“Of course I trust you, idiot. But I have no right to be a little jealous of a girl who knows you better than I do in all respects?”
“I just want you understand that we are here to carry out a very important mission, the Republic is dedicating significant resources to achieve this goal, resources that are diverted from the healthcare and education of our citizens, and I am totally committed to the fact that the money that is removed from the welfare of our people is used wisely.”
“Sometimes I forget that you can be hatefully serious and responsible.”
“Soon many lives will depend on us, Camille, we must be a team and feelings have to be left out of the mission or we will fail altogether.”
Some days after, Soizick and Michael arrived; the other two pilots could not come because they were mobilized in the new war with the Caliphate. The couple came to my office, she was beautiful, she had grown her black hair more than what is permitted by the ordinances and her gaze was different; she did not look anything to the chubby girl that I helped to make the famous obstacle course at the Academy in less than twenty minutes. She came to embrace me before the serious look of Michael.
“David, I’ve missed you so much.” Her voice was half choked with emotion, I was also moved “you look great, First Officer.”
“You look fantastic, but you know that you should cut your hair to the length that orders the Navy.”
“Really?” For a moment she was out of place, as if she was not noticing that I was kidding her.
“Of course not, can you see me capable to do it?” I turned my face to Michael. “Sorry, I do not want to be a rude, am glad to see you.”
“Lieutenant…” His expression froze me. I guess not would worth his friendship after all these years that we fought for the same woman.
“I want to introduce the Ensign Schwartz, Camille, a very important collaborator.”
“Collaborator and …” Soizick guessed it instantly.
“That’s all you can know at the moment. This station is an outpost of our mission to Miracle, right now is very important to focus on the job. And that goes for you too, Michael, I know we’re not friends, but this operation is more important than our quarrels.”
“Of course, David” said Michael “When do we start?”
“Right now, please take a chair and we start looking for pilots.”
“How many are lacking?” Soizick asked.
“Eleven, Lieutenant.” Camille replied.
“There is a skilled pilot in the Air Force, if he isn’t recruited for the attack on Israel.” said Michael.
“Who is it?” I asked.
“Lieutenant Lucien Gerhard, twenty two enemies shot down.”
“We may want to attract more Air Force pilots, Captain Mickiewicz has direct contact with the Ministry of Defense, if Gerhard wants, the war is over for him…”