The news stunned everyone in the room. The silence was profound. Kacey never took her eyes off the tear filled green ones as the news sank in.

"What can I do to help?" Natalia asked as Kacey held her tightly.

"I don't know."

"Are ye sure lass?"

"I am dad. I wish it wasn't true."

"Then our way is clear." Anya stated. "We take out the field as soon as the decoy stinger is sent out, then we take out as many Megarans as possible"

Kate was surprised to hear Anya talk like that. She had a reverence for life and now to hear her talk of 'taking out' other lives left her stunned. Kate knew Anya loved Kacey like a sister and their girls adored their aunt.

"That is about it Anya." Kacey answered.


"The Megarans have to come out of the clouds to chase the decoy ship right?" Natalia asked. Kacey nodded. "Why not have the Stingers go after them?"

"That would waste a lot of time. If we blow the field as soon as the decoy ship is launched, the Megarans will realize it is just a ruse." Kate stated.

"You are right Kate. So the Stingers at least some of them have to be already outside the ship before the decoy explodes."

"An honor guard." Liam said.

"What?" They all asked.

"We tell those laddies that because the Chosen One is a well respected and highly decorated officer on this ship, we are sending an honor guard to escort her safely to them."

"I like that idea, Liam." Kate said. "It would not even be a complete lie. Kacey is a well respected highly decorated officer. What do you think, Kacey?"

"I think you will be laying it on a little thick, but it could work."

"If we can get enough Megarans close enough to the decoy when we blow it, it could take a few of them with it." Kate suggested.

"Excellent idea Kate. I want to make a suggestion. As of this minute, nothing about this goes out over the communicators."

"Do you think they can monitor our inter-ship communications?"

"I would not put anything past them Kate. I do not think we can take that chance."

"Agreed. Nothing but normal ship business goes out over the communicators. Everything else will be by messenger only."

"Now I really need to get back to looking for those weak spots." Kacey kissed Natalia and left the Ready Room. She took up her position in front of the view screen. She continued to look for the weak spots. Kacey continued through the rest of the Alpha shift, through all of Beta shift and half way through the Gamma shift. Kate and Liam remained on the bridge. Neither stated it, but they would not leave Kacey to work through this by herself. Kacey went non stop. Her only concession to the fatigue that was present was to lean against the console behind her, and to take a sip from the ever present cup of coffee at her elbow.

"Katie," Liam whispered. "She has been at this for hours. She can not keep going. Neither can you lass."

"I know Liam. What can I do. I have suggested several times that she take a break. She just says no and goes back to staring at the screen. I will not leave her to do this alone. I may not be able to help her find what she is looking for, but I can at least offer her my support."

"The time for suggesting is long past Katie. Time to make it an order. Both of you need rest. Go into your Ready Room if you want to stay close. I will stay here and wake you in a few hours."

"You are right Liam." Kate said. She stood and walked to Kacey's side. "Time to take a break, Kacey"

"I can not do that Kate. There is to much to do." Kacey responded.

"That was not a request, Colonel. I am ordering you to take a break. Come into my Ready Room and rest." Kacey pulled her eyes from the screen. Kate noticed how blood shot her eyes were. She grasped Kacey arm and tried to pull her away from the screen. She felt the tremors in the arm she held. "Now Colonel." Kate ordered.

Kacey sighed and let Kate pull her into the Ready Room. Kate pushed her down on one end of the long couch. "Just for a few minutes Kate." Kacey mumbled. "Not enough time. Should have asked for more time. Should..." Her voice dropped of as sleep claimed her.

Kate went to the closet and pulled two blankets from the shelf. She draped one gently over Kacey. She lay on the other end of the couch and covered herself with the other blanket. She was soon asleep.
------------------------------------------------------------------------Liam came into the Ready Room four hours later with Anya and Natalia close behind him. Each carried a breakfast tray. They placed the trays on the table by the couch. Anya knelt by Kate's side and kissed her. Kate's eyes flew open. "Anya" she said softly and returned the kiss. "What time is it?" Kate asked.

"Oh eight hundred hours." Kate sat up. Natalia knelt next to Kacey and was about to wake her up.

"Let her sleep for just a bit longer, Natalia. I think she is still feeling the effects of the field. She was very shaky when I ordered her to take a break at four hundred hours. Liam handed her a cup of coffee that he poured from the thermos he carried in.

"Thanks Liam. Where is mom?"

"I sent her to Safe Haven to be with the girls." Liam stated.

"How are the girls?"

"They are fine Kate. They think it is just a big party. Especially now that their grandmother is there."

Kacey stirred and opened he eyes. She smiled at Natalia and sat up. She gratefully accepted the coffee Anya handed her. She took a sip of the beverage.

"How the hell did I get here?"

"Katie pulled rank on ye lass and made you come in here to rest. You could not keep going lass. Neither of you could."

"What time is it?"

"Just after 800 hours."

Kacey stood up and began to pace. "That gives us thirty six hours to get everything ready. I should have asked for more time. Why did I only ask for two days. We will never get everything done in the time left."

"Kacey stop." Liam ordered. "Those laddies of yours have been working non stop. The Major said those two young ones have the remote control installed. It has been tested around the hanger." Liam reported. "Lass you need to get more rest "

"No time now dad. I will rest when this is over. How many chinks did we find?"

"You found them lass. But the count was twenty four. The kids on Gamma shift think they may have found two more, but need you to verify them. Every one is pitching in to get this plan to work lass. You do not have to do every thing by yourself." Liam told her.

"Then it is time to get back to work." Kacey started for the door. Natalia grabbed her arm.

"Absolutely not Colonel." Natalia stated. I brought you a change of clothes and you need to have something to eat before you go back to work. Your mother said to make sure you both eat. Are you feeling lucky or brave enough to defy your mother twice in less than a week?"

"I have... She stopped and looked at Natalia. "Oh hell, I have to change my clothes and grab a bite to eat before I get back to work." She took the clothes and sundries from Natalia and went into the bathroom in the back of the Ready Room. She came back out fifteen minutes later in clean fatigues. Her short dark hair was wet and neat. She sat and ate the breakfast that was placed before her.

"I have your glasses and the eye drops the Doctor gave you also."

"Thank you sweetheart. I was going to ask you to get them for me. My eyes are really burning."

"If you are admitting it, they must really hurt."

"You are so busted, little sister. Did not take Natalia long to get your number." Kate said from her desk.

"Like Anya does not have yours." Kacey shot back. "I have clean clothes for you also, Kate." Anya stated. Kate took the clothes from her and went into her bathroom to change and clean up. She walked back out a short time later.
Kacey finished her breakfast then drained her coffee cup. Natalia refilled it. She kissed Natalia and whispered. "Thank you" In a louder voice she said, "Time to get back to work."

The women went back to the Bridge. Liam held back. "Katie, do ye mind if I borrow your couch for an hour or so?"

"Of course not Liam. Sleep. I will yell if I need help. I will make sure Kacey takes breaks periodically." Kate left the Ready room.

To be continued...

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