Meet Ryland Rigó. Allen’s father forms a very distinct opinion of her in seconds. Especially after she trolls him with their family history.
At the bottom, below the fold, is the image Roberta Rupert is referring too.
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“What?” he said a little louder, looking through the screen door into the house. “Why didn’t that boy – ”
“As Miss Rigó told me, standing in the spot you are now, he didn’t know she was coming. She…” He watched his wife take a deep breath. “She said she wanted to surprise him. She had this most unpleasant smile and said, ‘I want him off-balance.’ What does that mean?”
“I’ve an idea, but for right now, where is this girl?” he asked.
“Once I invited her in… and that was odd: she immediately took her hiking boots off… and told her he was out working on a tractor, she carried her boots to the back deck, put them back on, then walked over.” Now, she smiled. “I admit I spied a little, seeing if there was any hint of romance. But after a five minute quiet, I heard more metal-on-metal maintenance.”
Alan honestly did not know what to make of that or even this unexpected visit.
“So, what’s this academy genius look like?” he asked. His wife suddenly had a sly look.
“Go and see,” she smiled.
Not sure if he should change out of his uniform first, he decided looking the part of county sheriff might make a more distinct impression, especially if they were together. Moving through the house and out onto the deck, he just heard two voices talking at a normal range and not like two young lovers in a barn. Covering the distance, he made sure to step on a dry piece of wood to announce his arrival as he took off and slid his mirrored sunglasses into his breast pocket.
His son stepped out into the noon light first, with the girl just a fraction to his right.
Alan’s first thought was pretty! Followed immediately by she’s Oriental. And not Viet like one of the communities along the Gulf. After what we did in ExComm, Texas is over eighty-five percent White, most of the rest being Hispanic. Where did she come from?
He nodded once to his son and extended his hand to her.
“Afternoon, barely, Miss,” he began. “I’m Alan Rupert, sheriff of Brazos County.”
“Sheriff Rupert,” she took his hand, her accent normal for central Texas, “I am Ryland Rigó, currently a Cadet-captain of our Naval Academy in Galveston. I’ll be graduating this May. Please forgive my sudden arrival…”
She got a very curious look in her black eyes.
“But a man with your background can certainly appreciate the value of ‘sudden,’ correct?” she asked, letting go of his hand.
Sudden, Rupert knew, was one of the watchwords of ExComm. One of the ways Director Barrett was able to do so much with so little so fast. My son said last night she seems to know everything about us…
“Those days are long past, Miss Rigó,” he said leaning into her personal space a little. “But politeness has never gone out of fashion. A call first, from you, would have been appreciated.”
“I apologize, Sheriff Rupert.” Her face dropped to a blank. “Shall I go?”
“No.” His son suddenly spoke up. And, more interesting, put his hand onto her left forearm. “That is, she’s helping on the tractor. At least let us finish that.”
His father had noted her long, black hair up in a ponytail and her scarlet shirt above her dark gray skirt had some grease stains on it, from her grimy hands. So, she doesn’t mind getting dirty.
“Fine. I’ll go change before seeing how y’all are coming along,” he said, turning.
“On the engine or with each other?” Ryland laughed at him. He ignored her.
Back in his home, he heaved a great sigh.
“What a little shit!” he said just loud enough for his wife to hear.
“I can certainly see why,” Robbi added.
“What’s that mean?” he asked.
“You’re kidding? Didn’t you recognize her?” she asked.
“Men!” Shaking her head, she pushed him into the living room and picked up a tablet. A few taps later, she handed it over. Two young women were on the screen. One was Empress Faustina Hartmann of the imperium, next door to Texas’ east.
And the other was Ryland Rigó.
“She’s not just at the Academy,” his wife explained. “Either you missed or forgot this: that girl is a princess.”