Go to Prologue
Kacey sat at her desk working on her stack of reports. She had a slight headache from their misadventure of the day before. It could have been a lot worse if her mother and Natalia had not forced her to drink all that water.
She kept her promise to Kate and Natalia and sat out the recovery mission to bring back the downed stingers they left inside the electromagnetic field. The last communication she had was that the pilots were driving the stingers to the field before pulling them through. One shuttle had flown all the men they would need to the field. Kacey wanted to be with her troops, but her promise kept her working away at the pile of reports instead. She hated sitting out any mission.
Kacey avoided calling Kate to see how she was feeling. According to Natalia, Anya was really angry when she came to their quarters and escorted Kate out. In all the years she had known Anya, she had seem her sister in law's temper a few times. Twice she could remember being on the receiving end. Each time it happened was for a good reason. Anya did not need to lose her temper. Those cool blue eyes boring a hole through you was enough to bring any one to their senses.
In the past Kacey had sought out Anya's advice many times. Her level headed thinking and advice helped Kacey make decisions that always turned out to be the right one and the one that made her the happiest.
That relationship never ceased to amaze her. Kate with her compact wiry frame and sometimes volatile temper in contrast to Anya tall stately almost regal bearing, who was slow to anger. Yet despite their differences, their love for each other was evident just by looking at them. Kacey found a rare jealous streak at their relationship peeking out. She pushed it to the background. She was happy with Natalia and she hoped that their love would continue to grow and deepen as Kate and Anya's or her parents had.
Before she reached her office, she dropped the stone she had picked out for Natalia's ring to the jeweler. He checked out the stone and complimented Kacey on her choice. They spent a few minutes going over the cut and setting. Kacey left his workshop feeling good about her choices.
She checked the time, surprised to find that she had been working steadily for almost five hours. The stack of reports was smaller. She decided to take a break. Kacey knew the Botanists would not be back until dinner time. She decided to take a short break. She locked her computer and left her office. She walked down the ramp to the lake where a few nights ago she and Natalia sat in the moonlight. She picked up a handful of stones and leaned against the large rock. She started skimming the stones over the still water. The sunshine felt good.
Kate sat in her Ready Room. Her head pounded and her stomach was upset. She sipped a glass of ginger ale and hope it would help quiet the upset. Her ears still rang from Anya yelling at her the night before. She hope Kacey was faring better. Kate almost took the day off, but one look from Anya was enough to tell her you did this to yourself, now you get to enjoy the aftermath. Anya had not forgiven her yet and was still angry when she left to work with the Botanists. Kate had the whole day to think up some way to beg her wife's forgiveness.
She knew she could very easily lock her door and take a nap on the couch in her Ready Room, but she didn't dare. She had no way of knowing when Anya would make an appearance, or even her mother.
One good thing had come out of the misfortune of yesterday. She and Kacey had cleared the air and were once again friends as well as sisters. How long would this peace last? Kate had no way of knowing. There would not be a repeat of yesterday, no matter how badly they argued.
Kate counted the reports she had left to finish. She was surprised to see how many she had completed. She earned a break. Maybe some air would help clear away the rest of the cobwebs still clinging to her brain. She left her Ready Room.
"I will be outside if anyone needs me." She told the Security guard still at his post.
"Yes ma'am." He replied.
Kate left the bridge and headed for the forward ramp. She took several deep breaths of the fresh air which did help clear her head a bit. The sunshine felt good on her face. She strolled to the water's edge where she noticed a familiar sight. She watched Kacey skimming stones across the glassy surface of the lake.
"Hey." Kate said as she walked to where Kacey leaned against the rock.
"Hey Kate. How is the head?"
"I feel like there is some drugged out drummer hammering away. How about you."
"Not to bad. But then again I managed to bring up everything I drank and then some. Then Mom and Natalia took turns bringing me glasses of water to drink. Is Anya still mad at you?"
"Mad is not the word for it. I have some major groveling and sucking up to do before she thaws. Do me a favor. Next time I suggest we have a drink, run do not walk in the opposite direction."
Kacey laughed. "Sure, Kate."
"That was a first time for you wasn't it? Getting drunk, I mean." Kacey nodded. "I am sorry."
"Kate, mom was right. You did not sit on me and pour drinks down my throat. I knew what I was doing. You know it's funny, a few nights ago, Natalia and I discussed doing just that. We opted for a walk in the moonlight instead.."
The radio on Kacey's belt crackled to life. "Major Anderson to Colonel O'Malley"
Kacey took the radio off her belt and pressed the mike. "Go ahead Major."
"We have reached the stingers and are preparing to drive them to the field. We should be there in about ten minutes. We will them winch them through the field."
"Good work Major. You should be back to Andromeda in about two or three hours."
"That is about what I figure."
"Carry on Major." Kacey returned the radio to her belt. "That field is a real puzzle."
"What caused it? Why didn't the scanners pick up on it? Why did it knock out the engines on the Stingers and why was I the only one affected by it. I really hate this Kate. I should be out there with my pilots."
"I half expected you to go. Why didn't you?"
"I did think about it, but I promised you I would sit this out."
"I am glad you did little sister. I worried about the cumulative effects of going through that field." Kacey looked at her. "Think about it, the first time you went through, your heart rate skyrocketed and you went down. The second time the same thing happened, but it took longer for your heart rate to return to normal and the shakes you had afterwards took a long time to subside. The symptoms were worse the second time. What would happen if you went through a third or fourth time."
"Did you by any chance read the Doctor's report on me?"
"I am not allowed to see those reports unless you give permission. Why?".
"You said exactly what the Doc said about the effects being cumulative."
"Lieutenant Jervais to Captain Jensen."
"Go ahead Lieutenant."
"Captain sensors just picked up a large weather system headed our way."
"What sort of system?"
"Not sure Captain. It just showed up on our scanners."
"On our way." Kate stated. "Come on. Lets go see what is going on."
They left the water's edge, and headed into the ship.
"On screen." Kate said as she stepped off the lift. The view screen in front of them lit up. The storm system was enormous. "Distance?"
"One point seven million kilometers."
"That gives us a little time."
"Not much Captain. When I contacted you it was two million kilometers away. It is moving extremely fast."
"Time until it hits?"
"Maybe an hour tops."
Kate hit the switch that would carry her voice to every communicator.
"Attention, this is the Captain. We have a weather situation heading towards us. All work crews, scientists, civilians stop what you are doing and return immediately to the ship. Bring in as much equipment as possible. Lets move it people. We have less than an hour before it hits." She turned the mike over to Kacey
"This is Colonel O'Malley. All off duty Marines and those not on escort duty, report immediately to the outside ships for emergency prep and tie down."
She switched off the mike and left the bridge. Kacey called to the rescue crew as she ran out of the ship. "Major Anderson how close are you to starting back?"
"Just getting ready to now Colonel." The Major responded.
"Change of plans Major. There is a weather system headed our way. Find a place to dig in and secure the ships as best you can."
"Will do Colonel."
Kacey worked with her Marines as they secured the smaller ships. She hoped the tie downs would hold. The wind started to pick up .
"Kacey can you get to the clearing, just past the trees?" Kate's voice came over the communicator.
"Sure, what do you need Kate."
"The children are having their classes out there. They may not have heard the announcement."
"We will get the kids in Kate." Kacey assured her sister. "A dozen of you come with me. The kids are still out there. We have to get them in." She had to yell in order to have the men hear her orders over the wind.
The Marines with Kacey in the lead took off at a run. The wind buffeted them. They met the teachers bringing in the children. The twins ran to Kacey who scooped them both up in her arms. Each Marine lifted up two of the smaller children, while the older children help bring in all the supplies as they ran for the ship. Kate was waiting at the bottom of the ramp when Kacey broke through the tree line. Kate relieved her of one of the children.
"Thank you for my children Kacey."
"No thanks necessary, Kate. Have your heard anything from the scientists? Kacey asked.
"They are about twenty minutes away." Kate had to yell over the now howling wind. They looked at each other. Kacey turned to her Marines.
"Get those kids inside and then follow me. I am going Kate. Natalia and Anya are out there."
"Wait I am going with you." Kacey handed one of the children to the Marine at her side. Kate did the same.. They took off in the direction they knew the scientists had headed that morning. Kacey led the way with Kate at her heels. They met up with the scientists a few minutes later. The wind at their back helped push them along. The scientists struggled with the sample boxes as they battled the wind.
"Drop those boxes and get to the ship. Your lives are more important than plant samples. You can collect more after the storm." She turned to her men. "Help these people back to the ship." The scientist dropped everything they carried. "Kate have you seen Natalia and Anya?"
"Not yet. Where can they be?"
"Captain" One of the scientists spoke up. "A crewman twisted her ankle and the Commander was helping her. They were a short way behind us.
Kacey with Kate close at her side, took off at a run. They finally met up with Anya and Natalia a few minutes later. Natalia leaned on Anya as she favored her ankle. They hugged their partners. "We do not have a lot of time. The storm is almost on us." Kacey scooped Natalia in her arms and carried her to the ship, followed closely by Kate and Anya. It was taking them longer as they fought the wind every step of the way.
"Kacey put me down." Natalia yelled.
"Not going to happen sweet heart." Kacey yelled back. She felt the burn in her legs as they struggled onwards. The muscles in her arms started to protest from the strain of carrying Natalia.
The wind continued to pound them, making every step harder and harder to take. They dodged stones and branches the gale force wind sent at them.
The Marines tried to take Natalia from Kacey's arms. She shook her head at her officers. "I have her" She managed to get out. Her breath coming in short pants. They gave up trying to take Natalia from her, and just grabbed her arms to help her along. Two Marines did the same for Kate and Anya. The ship was in sight when Kacey felt her strength give out. She stumbled and went down on one knee. Natalia fell from her arms. A Marine scooped up the woman and carried her the remainder of the way to the ship. Two Marines helped Kacey to her feet and got her to the ship. She dropped to the floor, holding her left arm close to her body. Kate and Anya came up the ramp right behind them.
The ramp started to close.
"Any word from Major Anderson?"
"They found a cave and are dug in for the duration Colonel. The ships are secured."
Kate stood leaning against Anya as she caught her breath. "We need to get you both to sick bay."
"I'm fine Kate." Kacey protested. " Natalia needs to go."
"Really? Then tell me why are you holding your arm that way?" Kate said. "Captain Jensen to Sick Bay."
"This is Doctor Kipling. What do you need Captain."
"Doctor we need two hover chairs to the forward ramp for two injured crew members."
"Be there shortly Captain."
"I can walk Kate." Kacey protested.
"After what you just did, relax and accept the ride." Kate leaned in and whispered in Kacey's ear. I can always get mom here. Your choice."
"When did you turn into such a dirty fighter Kate?
"I do what I have to do when I have a little sister that is too stubborn to accept help or know the limits to her own strength." Kate replied. "Is everyone accounted for?"
"We think so Captain."
"Think so? Find out for sure. We do not need anyone stuck out in the storm." She ordered.
They could hear the storm through the thick hull of the ship. Periodically debris would hit the side of the ship and echo through the area they were in.
The doctor arrived and got Natalia and Kacey into the hover chairs. They headed for sick bay.
To be continued...
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