Go to Prologue
Andromeda was on final approach to Eternus. All shuttles and chosen stingers launched just before the ship touched down. The pilot put the large ship down gently and cut the engines. The smaller ships landed in a circle around Andromeda. Once all ships were down, the massive ramps opened and the residents of Andromeda took their first breaths of fresh air in months.
The cleared area was several kilometers in each direction. The lake was near by. The travelers, especially children, had been warned not to go too far out in the water. Even though the scanners did not show any dangerous life forms in the lake, they had no way of knowing the depth of the water.
The scientists, geologists and botanists lost no time in gathering samples for later testing. They wore protective clothing as a precaution until they were certain the samples were harmless.
Engineers brought out the parts they would need to upgrade the relay tower. A perimeter was established and a circle of shock sticks were set out to discourage any alien life forms from entering the area.
Kacey set up her guard rotations and headed to her quarters for the travel pack that was waiting. She had said good bye to Natalia earlier. She left the ship and headed to her shuttle.
Kate and Anya were waiting at the bottom of the ramp when she emerged.
"Promise me." She told Anya. "Promise me you will be careful darling."
"I promise my Kate, and I will keep an eye on Kacey while we are gone."
"I will bring Anya back safely, Kate." Kacey stated.
"Make sure you bring yourself safely back also. How long do you think you will be gone?"
"Not sure. Depends on how long it takes us to find what I am looking for." Kacey answered.
"Keep me posted and please check in every thirty minutes."
"Will do, Kate."
"If you run into trouble, I have a video lock on you both."
"GOD DAMN IT KATE ..."YOU SAID... Kacey protested.
"Look neither of you know what you will find on the other side. It is just a precaution. I am not taking any chances with either of you. Because this is not a mission high command knows about, the video will only go to my personal computer. Accept it or scrub the mission." Kate stated.
The sisters stared at each other for several heart beats. Kacey threw up her hands and walked away. "What the fuck" she muttered. Kacey climbed into her shuttle, an angry look on her face, and did her preflight check. When she finished she watched Anya kiss Kate good bye before she climbed into the shuttle. The Marines that were assigned to them climbed in. Kacey started the engines.
"Strap in" Kacey ordered brusquely as she put on the head phones. . She sent on last scathing look at Kate before she pushed the thrusters forward and the shuttle rose quickly. She changed the directional beam and push the throttles all the way forward. The shuttle sped off, reminiscent of a teenager squealing his tires. Her anger at Kate evident in her flying. Within seconds they were gone from view.
Kate turned and found many crew members watching her. "You all have your assignments. They will not get done watching me" She stated and stormed back into the ship. She spoke to no one, and went directly into her Ready Room, where she turned the computer on. The screen lit up. "Computer show me Colonel O'Malley's shuttle." The screen flickered and showed the shuttle still speeding along. Kate knew Kacey was really angry with her. The door chimed.
"Damn it. She swore and looked at the monitor showing who was outside the door. "Come" She called out. The door opened and Liam entered. "You saw?"
"Katie, everyone who was outside, saw and heard." Liam stated.
"Was I wrong?"
"Maybe in telling her, but no lass. You were not wrong. No one knows what is in that area. If they got into any trouble even with armed guards, it might be more than they could handle. We would not be knowing."
"Would you have done it?"
"Aye, Katie, I would have."
"She is so angry with me right now."
"That she is. But give Anya time to work on her."
The air around Kacey almost shimmered with the depth of her anger towards Kate. She said little except to request vector changes or sensor readings.
"Kacey you know Kate is...."
"Please Anya do not defend her. I am not a child who needs a baby sitter. She needs to let me do things without pulling that Captain's Privilege bull shit she pulls constantly. I am an adult."
"REALLY? THEN TRY ACTING LIKE ONE.." Anya snapped at her. ". I TOLD YOU I WOULD HELP YOU, BUT NOT AT THE RISK OF MY LIFE OR THE MARINES WITH US. IF YOU WANT TO THROW YOUR LITTLE TEMPER TANTRUM, THEN LAND RIGHT NOW AND WE WILL GET OFF. THEN YOU CAN TAKE ALL THE CHANCES YOU WANT. SO UNLESS YOU SLOW DOWN AND START ACTING LIKE THE ADULT YOU PROFESS TO BE, I WITHDRAW MY OFFER TO HELP." Anya yelled.
Kacey took a deep breath and pulled back on the throttles to slow the shuttle down. "You are right Anya. I should not take my anger at Kate out on you. I apologize to you all."
"That was some flying Colonel. Ever think to sign up for the races back home?" The Marine asked, trying to lighten the mood."
"Andromeda to Shamrock." Kate's voice came over the radio."
"LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE KATE." Kacey snapped, ripped the head phones off and turned the radio off.
"The area we are looking for is just ahead." Anya stated.
Kacey dropped the speed even more until they hovered over their landing area. She landed the craft with a very slight bump. The Marines stood near the ramp.
"We will establish a perimeter, Colonel" The Marine stated. He lowered the ramp, pulled his rifle and walked off the shuttle.
"Bring water." Kacey ordered.
"Got it already Colonel."
"Do the sensors show anything Anya?"
"No life signs.
"So where do I find this stone I need?"
Anya typed in the information. The computer processed her commands and showed her the location. She transferred the information into her hand held computer, while Kacey got out the tools she would need. They left the shuttle and looked around the area for the rock formation highlighted on the computer.
"Kacey over here." Anya stated and headed towards a large rock.
Anya passed the scanner over the rock surface to find the spot that would yield the stones they looked for. Anya pointed to an area when the scanner beeped. Kacey picked up the tools she had brought. She placed the chisel against the rock and hit it with the hammer. Rock chips flew off with each hit. A large piece came off. Anya picked it up and scanned it. She shook her head and threw it on the ground. Kacey continued to chip away at the rock. Several times she stopped when Anya picked up a large pieces, only to return to her task when Anya shook her head no. Chipping away at the rock took longer than she expected. Her arm started to ached. She worked through the pain. Sore muscles were a small price to pay. She stopped again to take a drink from the water bottle at her side before returning to her chipping. After more than an hour, the scanner beeped, signally that the large chip held the stone they were looking for. She chipped off several more large pieces of rock. Each one made the scanner beep. Anya handed the large pieces to Kacey.
Kacey took out a smaller chisel and hammer and carefully cleaned all the rock covering from the green stones hidden within. Two hours later she held several stones in the palm of her hand. She studied each one before picking out one stone. She showed the stone to Anya.
"That is going to look absolutely gorgeous in a ring." Kacey stated to which Anya nodded. She held out her hand, "Want some for the bitch?"
"That bitch happen to be my wife." Anya snapped.
"Yeah and she is my sister. I can call her that. Anyone one else ever said that I would kick their asses."
Anya smiled and picked out a couple stones that would look good in a setting. Kacey wrapped the stone she picked out for the ring and put all the stones she had retrieved in the pocket of her flight suit for safe keeping.
"Ready to head back?" Any asked.
"No but I suppose we should before 'the Captain' sends the Calvary after us." She put as much sarcasm as she could on the word Captain.
Anya sighed. This latest upheaval between the sisters would take a great deal of smoothing over. "We will lose daylight in about ninety minutes" Anya stated and strapped in
"Lets go then. Load em up, guys." Kacey called to their Marine guard. She waited until everyone was aboard and strapped in before she entered and closed the ramp. She strapped in and started the shuttle. She pulled out a smoke stick and lifted off. "We will be landing at Andromeda in about an hour. I promise I will take it easy on the way back."
Kacey turned on the shuttle radio. "Shamrock to Andromeda. We are on our way back."
"Kacey." Kate's voice came over the speaker. Kacey turned the radio off.
"You will have to talk to her eventually. She is still the Captain" Anya stated.
"But not until I am damn good and ready, Anya."
"She does these things because she loves you. What would you do in her place?"
"I would trust her judgement, Anya. Makes me wonder if she has ever put that video lock on me in my quarters when..."
"Then she would have two of us mad at her. I would not allow her to do that. You can feel safe from prying eyes in your quarters. I never got the chance to tell you what a great job you did with the girls and teaching them that song."
"Thankfully their inherited your voice and not Kate's. She can not sing to save her life."
"Natalia liked that song you composed for her. When are you going to ask her?"
"I was thinking Christmas. The jeweler said he would need a couple weeks to get the stone cut and into a setting. Good thing I did a computer search of the artisans on board. His wife works in engineering and his daughter is on the gamma shift Bridge crew."
"If I may ask, how much is he charging?"
"Twelve hundred credits. I know it sounds like a lot, but I have more than enough credits to get a hundred rings made. I have not used a whole lot of credits from the eight years I have been in the Corps. Those extra bonuses I got for each promotion or for re upping. Then there are the ones we are earning every month. There is quite a large sum in my account. I did use a lot when we were getting ready for the voyage on things that would not be available on board. Things like extra violin strings, or papers and pencils and extra bows. Or for smoke sticks and what ever liquor I wanted to bring with me. Even that did not make a dent in what is in my account,"
"Do you ever regret accepting this post?"
"Even with Kate keeping an eye on you?"
"How about we do not talk about Kate." Kacey suggested. "Any idea what you are going to get those stones you selected made into."
"A few. We will be back to Andromeda in about seven minutes. Better let the ship know." Anya stated.
Kacey nodded and click on the radio. "Shamrock to Andromeda. E.T.A. in seven minutes. Please make sure landing area is cleared of people." She turned the radio off again before she received any response.
They made one pass over the landing area to verify it was clear before lowering the shuttle. Once on the ground, she stopped the engines and lowered the ramp. Through the windshield she could see Kate waiting at the foot of the ramp. Anya left the shuttle while Kacey secured the tools and equipment. She watched Anya kiss Kate and greet their children as they came running down the ramp. She smiled when she saw Natalia and her parents. Natalia boarded the shuttle as Kacey continued securing the interior.
"Permission to come aboard Colonel?"
"Any time sweetheart." Natalia smiled at the endearment and closed the ramp. She kissed Kacey.
"Was your mission a success?" Natalia asked.
"And you are still not going to tell me what it was?"
"Sorry I can not. You do not have the security clearance for that information." She joked. "Let me finish securing the shuttle then we can go to our quarters. I need a shower and a drink." Kacey stated.
"I think Kate is waiting to talk to you." Natalia said.
"She can stand there and wait. I do not feel like talking to her."
"Kacey I do not know what went on between you two, but she has been a bear and snapping at everyone since you left."
"I am sorry about that sweetheart. If I were to talk to her right now, I would probably get thrown in the brig."
Natalia silently watched Kacey finish securing the same area for the third time. Kacey showed no inclination to leave the shuttle. She wondered why Kate remained outside, then remembered she shut the ramp.
"Whenever you are done stalling I would really like to have dinner. I waited for you."
"Am I that transparent?" Kacey laughed.
"Get a move on Colonel. No more stalling."
"Yes ma'am" Kacey stated with a small salute. Feisty little thing aren't you."
"When I have to be. Now go." Natalia ordered.
Kacey laughed again and opened the ramp. Hand in hand they left the shuttle, Kacey closed the ramp. They walked around the front of the shuttle where Kate waited. The sisters faced off.
To be continued...
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