Go to Prologue
"We need to talk." Kate told Kacey.
"Is this an order Captain?" Kacey asked.
"No it is not."
"Then Captain it can wait until I am ready to talk to you. If you will excuse us we have plans." Kacey brushed past Kate bringing Natalia with her.
"COLONEL STOP" Kate ordered.
Due to years of conditioning, Kacey stopped and turned. Her eyes snapping with anger.
Patricia and Liam stood on one of the ramps leading into the ship and watched their daughters.
"Liam we have to stop this. I have seen those looks before and it never leads to anything good."
"I know Patsy, but they have to sort this out themselves. If we interfere it could make matters worse."
"Do you think Kate was wrong?" Patricia asked.
"Only in telling Kacey" Liam admitted.
"Is this place about to explode, Captain? Or a meteor headed our way? Kacey snapped.
"No of course not." Kate responded.
"Then with all due respect, Captain, it can wait."
Kacey turned and continued into the ship. She stopped only for a minute to greet her parents, before they resumed their journey. Once they reached the sanctity of their quarters, Kacey set the privacy code before she headed to the shower. She had rock chips in places they did not belong. She took the stones out of her flight suit pocket and tucked them in the bottom of her night stand next to the bed. She stripped out of her flight suit.
While she showered, Natalia set the table and brought their dinner out. Kacey came out of the shower wrapped in a large towel. She finished drying herself and donned her favorite around the quarters outfit. She headed to the cabinet that held her alcohol. She poured herself a generous amount of brandy and poured Natalia a wine. She carried both glasses to the table. They sat down to eat their meal.
"Anything special you want to do tonight?" Natalia asked.
"Get drunk and forget what a day this has been, and what a bitch my sister is."
"Have you ever been drunk?"
"Nope, that would mean losing control. What about you."
"Queens do not ever get drunk or even a little tipsy."
"Then my dear, we are both due a good drunk."
"Maybe, but then we would really hate ourselves in the morning."
"True. So what would you say to a walk in the moonlight? There is supposed to be a full moon tonight."
"How can I turn down an invitation like that. Of course I would love to take a walk in the moonlight with you Colonel."
They finished their dinner and cleaned up the dirty dishes. Kacey changed into warmer more legal clothes and brought a warm shirt for Natalia.
Natalia slipped her arm into Kacey's as they strolled around the ship. They met several couples doing the same. They kept their conversation light. Natalia was able to take Kacey out of her dark mood and soon they were laughing and enjoying the evening air. After their third trip around the ship they sat on a rock near the water's edge and watched the moon rise.
Natalia rested her head on Kacey's shoulder. The silence was broken by the announcement that the ramps would close in fifteen minutes. They rose and arm and arm made their way back into the ship.
Kate and Anya had a quiet dinner after their children were put to bed. They snuggled on the couch, after they cleaned up the remains of their dinner.
Kate lay Anya's chest. She listen to the strong steady heartbeat. They had avoided talking about the day through dinner. Now in the quiet, Kate found that she needed to hear Anya's thoughts.
"Darling, do you think I was wrong?"
"About putting the video locks on us?" Kate nodded. "No, not at all. You have regulations you have to follow. I do think you were wrong in telling Kacey. Ignorance is bliss, and in this case it would have been an asset."
Kate sat up and looked at Anya. "WHAT HAPPENED?"
Anya pulled Kate's head back down. "Other than a hair raising fifteen minutes, when we were travelling at breakneck speed, nothing. Kacey threw a little tantrum and was flying what I considered to be recklessly. I was able to talk to her and got her to slow down. She is really angry with you."
"That I know. I tried to talk to her, but she was adamant, she will not talk until she is ready to. I need to get her to understand."
"Kate, I love you with every fiber of my being, but please let it rest for now. Give her time to lose the mad."
"That could take some time. You did not see the look she gave me earlier. I swear sparks would come shooting out. I had to stop myself from ducking. I can not back down. Damn it I am the Captain. She needs to understand that I have to do this, for any member of my crew and this ship." Kate was silent for several heartbeats. "Did she find what she was looking for?"
"That she did. Natalia is going to be surprised. Kacey said it was a Christmas surprise."
"Christmas will be very different this year. The girls will not have a tree."
"We will figure something out, Kate. Are you having regrets about taking this mission?"
"Not in the least. Why?"
"We have seven weeks until Christmas you are worried about having a tree. What is really on your mind?"
"Kacey who else. I thought that by changing the subject it would take my mind off her, but it did not work. Today she stepped over the line several times with insubordination. But I caused this. I can not put her on report for something I did"
"Kate, put it down for tonight. Let the burden rest until morning." Anya stated and lifted Kate's head to kiss her.
"Think you can take my mind off my head strong sister and the problems of the day?"
"I like a challenge." Anya stated and kissed Kate again.
"Anya take me to bed." Kate stated.
Natalia lay with her head on Kacey's chest. The strong arms that held her made her feel safe and secure. Kacey hands massaged her back. Natalia felt so relaxed that she was not aware of when she fell asleep.
Kacey was aware when Natalia nodded off. Thankful that Natalia was able to take her mind off her anger at Kate. Their lovemaking was so much better than those first few times when they were learning about each other.
She lay with her eyes open in the darkness. Kacey doubted that she would be able to sleep as her anger with Kate came back in full force. She was content to hold Natalia while she slept. The clock on the nightstand read three hundred hours when Kacey felt her mind start to shut down and she was able to sleep.
The clocked chimed six hundred hours as the lights came on. Instead of rising immediately as was her habit, Kacey was content to lay with Natalia still in her arms. She closed her eyes and felt herself drift back to sleep. She knew the computer would not let her oversleep but would state the time in ten minutes. Kacey felt Natalia stir in her arms.
"Good morning" Came the sleepy voice. "Did you sleep at all?"
"I did for a bit. I am grateful we did not get drunk last night."
"So am I" Natalia said and sniffed the air. "Is that coffee I smell?"
"It is, I programmed it last night. But I am way to comfortable to move right now." Kacey stated.
"So am I. Unfortunately, I am scheduled to report to Anya to help the Botanists. How about we shower together to save time."
"I love a woman who knows how to save time." Kacey laughed and kissed Natalia. She smacked her backside. "Time to move it woman."
They left the bed and made it before they headed to a leisurely shower with plenty of shared kisses. Kacey donned her fatigues and Natalia had her coveralls on when they shared a quick breakfast.
"Meet me for lunch?" Kacey asked.
"Certainly, but I am not sure when the Botanists will break for lunch. I will call you as soon as I know."
"I will be in my office. I have a lot of reports and reviews to get done before next week. I have to give the pilots their instructions to show them which area to work on first." Kacey kissed Natalia before they left their quarters. Kacey held her breath as they passed Kate and Anya's place and then her parents quarters. They were just entering the elevator when she heard Kate's voice in the corridor. She hurriedly closed the elevator. "Deck one" She stated. "Where are you meeting the Botanists?"
"By the forward ramp. Will we have an escort?"
"Everyone who is away from the ship's perimeter gets an escort. I promise I will not order a video lock on you."
"Do you have the authority to do that?"
"I may, but I have never tried to do it. I trust you. I know that if you get into any sort or trouble you will give me a shout on the communicator."
"That I would. Have a good day sweetheart."
"I will walk you out. The pilots are waiting for me."
They left the ship. Kacey walked to the stingers where her pilots waited. She brought up scans on the planetoid. "Listen up. There are several areas that we really do not know a lot about. Here in the West sections seven through twelve, North one through six and South thirteen through twenty. Concentrate on the Western sections first. We need to see every hill, rock, valley, and water way. Get a complete map. We will work on the other areas while we are here. Be on the lookout for any life forms and relay the information back as soon as possible. Two stingers per section. No one is to fly alone. Fly as low as possible. The more we know about this planetoid the more we well be able to utilize it in the future. Good Journey. Dismissed."
Kacey stepped away from the stingers as the pilots started their preflight checks before taking off. She turned and walked toward the forward ramp. She saw Kate at the top of the ramp. Their eyes met for an instant. Kacey changed direction and went to the Port ramp instead.
She went directly to her office, grabbed a cup of coffee from the always filled pot, sat down at her desk and pulled up the quarterly reports. She worked steadily, stopping only to refill her coffee cup and stretch.
Her communicator beeped several times during the morning. She chose to ignore it. If it was Natalia she would have said something. She had an idea who beeped her. Kacey knew she was dancing with insubordination, but could not muster up the energy to care. She picked up the radio that would connect her to all the ships.
"Colonel O'Malley to Stinger One."
"Go ahead Colonel."
"How is it looking out there?"
"We are about halfway through mapping the Western area. Sections seven, eight and nine are completed. We will be breaking for lunch, then finish the last three sections this afternoon. So far the only life signs we have seen are space bugs. We were able to collect several for the egg heads to study."
"Very good. Carry on." Kacey stated and put the radio down. She got up and went to get another coffee but found only the dregs. She cleaned the pot and started another. She left the office to take a walk and rest her eyes, which were burning due to staring at the computer screen, when her communicator beeped on the private channel.
"Kacey meet me in the Mess Hall in fifteen minutes" Natalia's said.
"See you there." She replied. Kacey looked at her watch. If she left her office now she would make it to the Mess Hall just in time. She locked her office and started for the lift. "Deck three," she said.
Kacey had just entered the Mess Hall when she felt a slap on her butt. She turned to dress down the person who took liberties, only to find laughing green eyes.
"Paybacks like revenge are a dish best served cold. That was for this morning." Natalia said smiling.
Kacey laughed. "Will I get the same treatment I gave your red mark this morning? Will you kiss it and make it all better?" Kacey whispered, then laughed as the memory caused Natalia to blush. "Lets go eat." She took Natalia's hand.
They sat at their favorite table and programmed their orders. Their meals were brought to them quickly. Kacey noticed the ever present glass of milk with her meal. Given all the coffee she drank during the morning, she did not say anything. Her eyes continued to burn and she rubbed them to ease the discomfort.
"Something wrong with your eyes?"
"Staring at the computer screen all morning makes them burn. I have some eyes drops in my desk drawer for when that happens."
"When was your last eye exam?"
Kacey had to think. "I am not sure. I think it was my last year at the academy. I had this same problem. The Doc gave me glasses to wear for close work."
"Sounds like you are due for another checkup."
"You might be right. I will go to Sick Bay after lunch."
"Sick Bay?" Patricia asked as she brought Kacey's coffee to her after she drained the glass. "Are you sick dear?"
"Not sick mom. I think I need to have my eyes checked."
"Is it from the concussion?"
"No just burning from too much computer work this morning."
"Have you seen or talked to Kate this morning?"
"Seen, yes, talked to no. I am not planning to either."
"Well you girls will work it out. You father and I decided to stay out of it. We have confidence in both of you."
"Thanks mom." Patricia kissed the top of Kacey's head and went back to her kitchen. "How is the plant gathering going?"
"Pretty good. I think we must have collected about two dozen samples. They all look the same to me. The only way I know they are different is because they put them in different containers."
"That will keep them busy once we get back into space. The pilots collected some space bugs for the bug experts on board. What time do you have to report back to the plant people?"
"Not until fourteen hundred hours. They want to catalogue the samples before they collect more. How about I go with you to Sick Bay?"
"Sure lets go." Kacey stated. They took their empty plates to the assigned area and started to leave. As they reached the door, Kate and Anya came in. They looked at each other for several heartbeats.
"Colonel" Kate said. "Natalia"
"Captain." Kacey acknowledged. "Anya"
Kacey took Natalia's hand and left the Mess Hall before Kate could say anything. They went directly to Sick Bay where Kacey was able to get her eyes examined right away. Within an hour she had new glasses tucked away in her fatigue pocket. Her eyes felt better, due to the drops the doctor put in them.
They walked outside and sat in the shadow of the ship. Kacey leaned against the strut with Natalia between her legs. Kacey closed her eyes.
"Hey are you falling asleep?"
"Nope. Just checking my eyelids for leaks. That is what dad used to tell me when he tried to get me to take a nap when I was a kid." Kacey joked.
"What were you like as a child?"
"Boring would best describe me as a child, maybe restless or antisocial."
"I find that hard to believe."
"It is the truth. I had a few people in my life that I would actually call friends. But I was not a lonely child. I had my music and books. And I had Kate. Although I am sure mom would tell a different story."
"Can I ask her?"
"Go for it. Why would you want to hear about my ancient history?"
"Just to know what helped shape the person you are today. Did you and Kate get along?"
. "Kate was almost eight when I came along. As a child I idolized her. She was my hero. She would take me to different places. Never treated me like a tag a long little kid. Then one day she left and I could not go. I was ten when she left for the Space Academy. I remember crying and crying for her not to go. But she left any way. It was during that first year she was away, that I found that losing myself in my music, helped dull the pain until I could deal with it. I would spend hours lost in the music. Something I still do today when things get to intense. Music helps me put everything in perspective."
"Did you get into a lot of trouble as a child?"
. " Stupid kid stuff. I could always count on Kate to be there to save me from myself. She kept me from doing things I could have been arrested for. I was really upset and angry when I took the exams for the academy. My test scores placed me into the Marine Academy instead of the Space Academy where I wanted to go. I wanted to fight the placement, but Kate told me I could make a difference in the Marines. So that is where I went."
"Seems to me she is still saving you from yourself."
"You are really slick aren't you? Yes she still is. But I am no longer that kid that used to follow her around. I am an adult. She no longer has to protect me. I can take care of myself. It is going to take time before I am ready to sit down and talk to her about that habit of hers. I am not ready to let go of my anger yet."
Natalia's communicator beeped. "Guess it is time to go back to work. See you at dinner."
"How about we go out for a nice romantic dinner?
"I like the sound of that." Natalia kissed Kacey, then left to join the Botanists. Kacey returned to her office
To be continued...
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