The gym they entered, was transformed. A podium was standing on the stage with several chairs behind it. Large screens were at the front and back of the room. Applause broke out as they entered. Military and civilians filled the auditorium. Marines were lined up, in the center aisle. Sabers drawn and crossed, the group walked under the arch. After everyone had walked under the arch and climbed the stage, the Marines lowered their sabers and filled the seats that were reserved them.

Natalia stood behind the podium. "For those who could not be here with us, we are broadcasting these procedures to the other ships and to Earth. For a few minutes more, I am Queen Natalia formerly of Marcus Prime. As one of my last official functions I would like to talk about the person we are honoring tonight. Colonel, would you join me?" Kacey ramrod straight, joined Natalia at the podium. Before we start Colonel, I was told to tell you not to lock your knees." This brought a smile to Kacey's face and laughter from all the military personnel. Kacey relaxed a little.

"When our world was being destroyed by quakes, Andromeda was there to help us evacuate those citizens who were still left on Marcus Prime. They took us on, gave us a place to stay, food to eat and clothes to wear. But they also gave us something much more. The crew of the Andromeda gave us our lives. For that the crew of the Andromeda have my eternal gratitude." Applause stopped her speech. It was several minutes before she could continue. "One person in particular risked her life to make sure a stubborn Queen was rescued. Colonel O'Malley received several injuries for her trouble. No amount of gratitude could ever repay what you have given me Colonel. It is my extreme pleasure to award Colonel O'Malley the Marcus Prime Medal of Valor for saving my life. She stood on tiptoes to slip the medal on a gold ribbon around Kacey's neck. Thank you Colonel." Then kissed her cheek.

"You are very welcome your Majesty."

Natalia held up her arms for silence so that she could continue. Although Marcus Prime no longer exists, our government still does and with it our Constitution. According to our Constitution, there are several reasons that would allowed the Queen to abdicate. Age, health and when our interest no longer followed the same path. Now that Marcus Prime is but a memory, most if not all of you will be returning to Earth. I will not. I am remaining on Andromeda."

"As of this date, one August twenty one seventy six, I am transferring all authority and powers to Prime Minister Michaela Carmelo. She will be responsible for finding a new place to start your lives over. She will, with the help of the United World Government get everyone settled. Please give Minister Carmelo, the same love and support you have always given my family." Applause stopped her speech for several minutes. "This was not a decision I came to easily. I knew I had a responsibility to my people. But I also knew that I could not do justice to that responsibility if my heart was elsewhere. You will always be a part of me. I want to thank the people of Marcus Prime for all their support, love and respect they have given not only myself, but my family through the years. Minister Carmelo, would you join me at the podium?" The Minister walked to Natalia's side. "Colonel would you hand me the Orb." Kacey handed the Orb with the cross on top to Natalia who placed it in the Minister's left hand. "This Orb is a symbol of our world and the faith you have in the leadership. Now the Scepter please Colonel. This Scepter has been in the Esperanza family for over six hundred years. It is the symbol of leadership." She placed the Scepter in the Minister's right hand. "Minister Carmelo do you solemnly swear to uphold the laws as set forth in our Constitution and to lead your people with compassion. To have the strength to take care of all you people."

"I solemnly swear."

"Congratulations Prime Minister."

"Thank you Natalia." The Minister returned to her seat after several minutes of applause. "I will now turn this ceremony over to Captain Jensen" Kacey turned to escort Natalia back to her seat.

"Not so fast Colonel." Kate said.

Kacey returned to the podium. "Don't do it Kate."

"Just stand there watch and listen. Computer play video." The room went dark as the screen lit up behind them. The video showed Kacey as she landed her shuttle on Marcus Prime, through the liftoff when the fissure opened seconds after she left the ground. The video went blank. Applause filled the room. On the screen now was the face of General Millhouse. "Colonel O'Malley, When I gave you the order to save the Queen, you went above and beyond those orders. I had total faith in you ability to carry out your mission. You have probably said you were just following orders. As I knew you would, you surpassed those orders and risked your life to fulfill your mission. You deserve the honors that are bestowed upon you today. Do not give Captain a hard time or I will have the remainder of the video played. Thank you Colonel for you courage and watch out for the little people. It is your turn Captain.

"I sent a copy of the video to the Joint Chiefs and High Command. They dispatched a courier ship immediately after reviewing the video. The courier ship caught up to the rescue ships as they were held up my a meteor storm. They brought this to me today. Colonel Kirsten Campbell O'Malley, it is with great pleasure and a great deal of sisterly pride, That I can bestow upon you the highest honor a service person can be awarded. The United World Medal of Honor. Congratulations Colonel. Now bend down here so I do not have to stretch to put this over your head."

The audience laughed as Kacey leaned down to Kate's level, then hugged her. "Care to say a few words Colonel?" She whispered in Kacey's ear.

"Hell no, but I will." Kacey stood behind the podium. "I owe everything I am to my parents Liam and Patricia O'Malley. And my older sister Kate Jensen, who never let me get away with anything. I grew up knowing that if I ever beat her at anything it was I out played her. She never let me win just because I was younger." Kacey stopped, took a deep breath then continued." As Marines we are taught not to think of ourselves but for the greater good. That day the greater good was served by rescuing Queen Natalia from the destruction of Marcus Prime. When she refused to leave before all her people were saved, I had to resort to unconventional means. I had my orders. My injuries were insignificant, though they did hurt like hell. That does not matter at that point, because by saving her life, I found my heart. Thank you for the honors you have bestowed on me today. And a special thank you for the Marines who helped the Doctor reset my shoulder." Kacey backed away from the podium. Natalia came to her side. They joined hands. Kacey leaned down and kissed her to the hoots and whistles of her Marines.

The audience was on their feet with a standing ovation. All the women on the stage were crying. Liam wiped his eyes as tears of pride threatened to spill out. Kacey stood next to the podium, not sure what to do.

"Okay Kate now what do I do?"

"You could take a bow, wave to the audience, then take a step back from the edge of the stage. Kacey did as Kate instructed. The applause continued. Natalia took the podium. "Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a buffet set up in the next room." The applause stopped but no one left their seats. Kacey went to her parents and hugged them both. She congratulated the Prime Minister. They prepared to leave the stage. The Marines stood at attention and saluted her. Kacey returned their salute. They left the stage with their honor guard.

The buffet tables were set up with all sorts of food, for the crew, Marines and invited guests. A bar was set up at one end of the room. Natalia never left Kacey's side. They were talking to Anya and Kate when Patricia and Liam came to their daughter's side. "I have never been prouder of both of my girls than I am today."

"Thanks mom." They both said

"Tell me who told Natalia to me not to lock my knees?" Four hands went up. Liam signaled for the drinks he ordered earlier. "How long did you know about this Kate?"

"I only learned about the medal yesterday when I finally received the okay to bring Natalia on as a part of the crew. I knew something was coming because the lead rescue ship told me they had a package that was for my eyes only. We did not have a lot of time to put this all together."

"What exactly will you be doing Natalia?"

"I am not sure. I will spend two weeks in each area to see where I fit in best."

"Do ye have an knowledge of law lassie?" Liam asked.

"When I was Queen I needed to have knowledge of many areas. Law was one of them."

"Would ye be willing to help us with a bit of a problem we have?"

"You are talking about the Sergeant? Kacey told me about him."

"Aye. We found someone willing to defend him. But we do not have a prosecutor. Would ye be willing to make that your first official duty?"


"I tried to have him transferred to one of the rescue ships to send him back home to be prosecuted. The request was denied. They do not want him any more than we do."

"Did you find someone to take my place on this case Dad?"

"I did indeed lass. Bella Torino will take the time from her engines to sit in your place. She said to tell you not to be making a habit of this. The civilian on the bench will be Doctor Neilson. He is one of the geologists. He does not have much to do until such a time as we land then he can collect his rocks to study.

"Question is what do we do with him if he is convicted? Leaving him in the Brig is a waste of the man power needed to guard him." Anya said.

"There are several things I could do, every one of them would be risky to the people on the ship.

"We will figure something out Katie. I have confidence in you. Will ye look at that. They are setting up for dancing. Time to get this party in full swing. Come on Patsy Darlin.

"You do know how to dance, Colonel?" Natalia asked.

"Yes. With a father like Liam, we both learned to dance."

"Then dance with me Colonel."

Kacey and Natalia soon joined her family on the dance floor. For a few minutes they were the only ones. Then the Marines and crew took partners and joined them.

To be continued...

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