The four Marines stood around a table that had been set up with a computer and schematics. They had their heads together for many hours as they debated which weak spots to target. They had to decide which ones to attack to cause the maximum damage. Periodically they would ask for the coordinates to be updated. Those targeted areas appeared on the view screen in a different color as the rest. They entered the fifth hour without a break. Discussing, checking and rechecking the color areas. They ran simulation after simulation until they were all satisfied they had come up with the best possible solution.

Kate watched the process as the Marines came up with their plan. She stood with them and listened to their discussion. Most of which went over her head. She returned to her chair as she felt she was only in their way. They took the time to explain their process, but she had to admit her education was sorely lacking in this particular type of demolition.

True, she could take apart any part of the ship, put it back together and have it work, but she was smart enough to realize that her little sister had expertise in far different areas. No matter how much they argued, Kate was extremely grateful Kacey was on this journey. Well worth every gray hair she would get being worried about her little sister. She smiled as the realization hit her that Kacey was no longer that little kid anymore. She was an extremely smart, incredibly competent, grown up officer. "Ah Katie, what is that smile for?" Liam asked as her took his seat next to hers. "Kacey She is not my little sister any more."
"Technically lass she has not been that since she was fourteen and taller than you. But she has never stopped looking up to you. You have been and will always be her hero. She will never be telling you that now. But you can see it in her eyes."
"I see that from time to time. Sometimes I can still get just the tiniest glimpse of that little kid. The one who used to follow me around."
"Looks like we have the best possible course, Kate." Kacey stated, as she sat down in her chair next to Liam.
"Then ye will be taking a break. Ye have been going nonstop since this morning, lass."
"Can't dad. There is still too much to do."
"Would taking a short break to have a good meal really upset your timetable?"
"No but..."
"No lass. No buts. Ye both need to stop for a wee bit. Unless ye will be wanting me to get your mother."
"Lets go grab a sandwich, Kacey"
"Thought ye would be seeing it my way girls."
"Fine but you are buying Kate." They walked off the Bridge and into the lift. "Is mom still in Safe Haven with the rug rats?"
"Liam asked her to stay there until this is resolved."
"Good that means no milk with lunch." Kacey stated.
"Knowing mom, she has probably given the Mess Hall crew strict orders to make sure they give you that hated beverage in the event you showed up there."
"You can be such a kill joy, Kate. Do not even kid about that. After we get something to eat, do you think we can go down to the hanger? I want to see the demonstration of the remote controlled stinger."
"You do not need me to go to the hanger, Kacey"
"Yes I do. I am still under house arrest remember."
"What the Hell, I would like to see this demo also. But as Captain, I here by pardon you for good behavior. You are released from house arrest."
They shared a laugh as they entered the Mess Hall.

Everything was ready. Kacey check, rechecked and double checked all of her figures. She asked the same question a dozen times. The crew was patient and answered each time she asked. They knew the success of this endeavor rested squarely on her shoulders.
All coordinates were entered into the firing system. The decoy stinger was ready to fly. Every contingency, every scenario was played out in simulation after simulation. All the Stingers and Shuttles that would act as Honor Guard for the decoy were checked out and ready to go. Now they waited for the deadline.
Kacey paced the Bridge. She only stopped long enough to check her watch every few minutes. Then she continued to pace. Kate watched her as long as could. Her pacing set Kate's teeth on edge. Kate stood and walked to Kacey. She lightly grasped her arm and pulled her towards the Ready Room. She locked the door so they would have privacy. Kate poured them each a cup of coffee as Kacey paced the length of the room. Kate reached into her drawer and pulled out the bottle she kept there for times like these. She pored a generous amount into the cup she handed Kacey
"Sit" Kate ordered. "Drink" Kate told Kacey
Kacey sniffed the cup and placed it on the desk. "I will pass Kate. I need all my faculties for what is coming up in less than two hours."
"Do not force me to make that an order" Kate said. "You are so tense, I am afraid you will shatter if anyone looks at you. Drink" she said again. "Kacey for the past two days you have been all over every aspect of this. It is close to being perfect."
"But it is not perfect. So much can still go wrong." She took a sip of her coffee and coughed. "Damn Kate did you put the whole bottle in here with just a drop of coffee for coloring?"
"Just a good shot."
"What the hell are you doing with a bottle in your desk drawer?
"For times like these when a member of my crew is about to go off the deep end."
"Deep end Kate?"
"Yes deep end. I will say it again. You have been all over every millimeter of this plan. Your Marines have been working non stop to get everything ready. They do you proud. You are operating on very little sleep."
"Your crew does you proud also Kate."
"You once asked me if my crew would respect and follow you. I think that question has been answered. I have watched them the past two days. They would follow you into Hell if you asked them. Hell, I think half of them are in love with you."
"Kate if things do not go exactly as planned...."
"Stop it right there." Kate interrupted. "You will not be giving yourself up to them."
"That is not what I was going to say Kate."
"I apologize."
"Accepted. What I was going to say before you so rudely interrupted me was that if this does not go as planned and we have to fight our way out. Each and every one of my pilots are ready to fight to protect Andromeda. We have no way of knowing how many ships the Megarans have out there."
"That is very true. Where is that famous or is it infamous Marine fighting spirit?"
"It is there Kate. Ready and chomping at the bit. I am sending my people into a situation that I will not be going. It is hard for me to sit by while I send them out, maybe to their deaths while I sit in here safe. I was not trained to sit on the side lines. I should be with them." She held up her hands. "I will not be, but I should. Are you ready for me to turn everything over to you when the time comes?"
"I am. " Kate assured her. "Kacey, when this is all over, I would like you to do something for me." "If I can. I will." "I would like you to check into Sick Bay for a complete physical."
"Is that all? I do not think it would be necessary, Kate." Kate looked pointedly at her. "But I will do it because you asked so nicely."
"Bridge to Captain."

To be continued...

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