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CHAPTER 34 A
Christmas was upon them. Celebrations were held all over the ship. They had come upon a small planetoid that Kate decided to have the ship land on. This would allow the entire crew time off to celebrate. Kate bent the rules in allowing the entire crew time off. They would rely on the scanners and computers to warn them of any dangers. There were three times during the course of the year, Kate was allowed to bend the rules.
The atmosphere outside was not life sustaining so no one was allowed outside the ship with out full protective equipment. Which meant only military personnel could be off ship. Even the recon trips were scaled back. They had landed early Christmas Eve day and would remain until the day after New Years. This was not a planned stop for Andromeda, but when the opportunity arose, Kate grabbed the brass ring.
If they had not been held up by storms and the Megarans they would have been well past the planetoid by the time Christmas had arrived.
Kacey had fully recovered from her reaction to the field and had been released from Sick Bay with a clean bill of health. She had to their mother's displeasure, returned to her duties. Kate had yet to tell anyone the contents of the message from General Millhouse. She would enlist Liam's help when the time came.
Kate stared at the report Kacey had sent her when she returned to her duties. Kate knew Kacey had been busy catching up on all her reports that had fallen into the background while she was laid up. She put off talking to Kacey about her report on the Megarans..
Kacey and Natalia had decided not to take the full week allowed for their honeymoon. They said that because they had only just returned to work neither felt right taking additional time off. They would take three days right after their wedding and take the full honeymoon later on.
Her communicator beeped. "Kate are you busy?"
"No. I was just about to call you. What's up?"
"Can you come down to the Hanger?"
"Sure be there shortly." Kate pushed away from her desk and left her Ready Room. The Bridge was empty except for Rhea.
"I thought I gave everyone time off? That we were going to let the scanners and computers take care of Security?"
"You did Captain."
"That does include you Rhea."
"I know that Captain."
"Then why are you still at your station?"
"Because you are."
"You are a good friend Rhea. Thank you for your dedication."
"We have know each other since childhood. I do not want your mother after me if I let anything happen to you."
"That would not happen. You are a member of the family. How is everything shaping up for Kacey's and Natalia's party tonight?"
"Everything is ready, Kate. Do they still think this is just a kids Christmas party?"
"This is going to be quite the surprise. I will be down in the Hanger. After that I plan on taking the rest of the day off. We have a party to get ready for."
"I will walk with you. I need to stop by Engineering."
"Don't tell me Bella still has her people working?"
"She is trying to catch up on her department reports that she never seems to be able to find time for when the ship is in transit. I bet the girls are excited about Christmas."
"They certainly are. They seemed to get a little louder and more excited as Christmas came closer. Can't blame them. They are children. Their biggest worry right now is if Santa Claus would be able to find them. What time is he scheduled to appear?" Kate asked.
"Nineteen thirty hours. We have also set up the room next to the Auditorium with inflatable cots for the kids to crash while the other party is going on. "
"You seem to have everything under control. Thank you Rhea."
"It was my pleasure Kate. I am happy Kacey has fully recovered. It is hard to believe that, that little kid that followed us around is about to get married. Well let me go see if I can get my wife away from her reports"
"Good luck. See you at eighteen hundred hours. Remember no uniforms. This is supposed to be a casual party."
Rhea watched Kate leave. "Casual? You have a big surprise coming Kate." She said to herself, as she entered Engineering.
Kate continued to the Hanger. The Marines had decorated the large area. Twinkling lights chased around the perimeter. Christmas music came out of speakers around the room.
There were only a few Marines still at work. Kate looked around for Kacey's tall form. She spied two pairs of legs sticking out from under one of the stingers. They were of equal length and the boots made it hard for Kate to know which legs belonged to her sister.
"After we connect these two wires we can give it a try." Kacey said and felt a kick against her foot. "Hold onto your shorts" She called out. "We can schedule the first test for the day after Christmas Mike."
"Sounds good Kacey" The two people pushed out from under the stinger on rolling carts.
CHAPTER 34 B
"Merry Christmas Captain."
"To you also Major. Thank you for playing Santa for the children. Where did you get the material for the suit?"
"I brought the suit with me."
"Mike used to be Santa for all the children's Christmas parties on the base. I told him how the girls were worried about Santa finding them here on the ship."
"Sure can not let the children down, Captain."
"On behalf of all the children on board and those who are still children inside, I thank you very much."
"It is a pleasure to do it Captain. I have always loved doing that, just like my father did for many years. If you will excuse me, I want to finish hooking up that new sensor, then call it a day."
"Of course, Mike. Kate come into my office I want to show you what we have been working on."
"Got the coffee on?" Kate asked.
"Kate how can you ask that? Of course the coffee is on. It is always on down here."
Kacey opened her office door. The lights came on automatically. Even the office was decorated. Kacey poured them each a coffee and led Kate to a table that held pages of schematics.
"Check these out Kate." Kacey said.
"Impressive. What are they?"
"These my dear sister are the schematics for upgrading all the sensors."
"Will it work?"
"We will find out when we do the test runs in two days. That is what Mike and I were installing when you kicked my foot."
"Those will pick up EM fields?"
"That is the plan. The preliminary tests are all positive."
"Just how are you going to do a field test?"
"The whiz kids put together a device that will broadcast a small EM field. We will drop it on the surface, then see if the new sensor can pick up on it."
"How do you plan on getting this device out onto the surface?"
"Well... ummm... One of the shuttles will go out and drop it into place. Then the Stinger will try to find it."
"I thought you could not launch when the ship was on the ground."
"It is not that we can not, it is more of it being a tricky maneuver."
"Well it has to be a smaller one." Kacey hesitated. Kate gave her a pointed look over her cup. "Mine. It is smaller and would be easier to launch. All the others are too big. Which definitely leaves out the Captain's shuttle. Before you say anything, I will only be gone for fifteen minutes tops. I will only drop the device and head back in. We will not even turn it on until I am back on the ship."
"Of course no one else can fly your shuttle."
"Kate, since I have returned to work, I have not left the ship. Besides I told you before, I can not ask my people to do something I am not willing to do myself."
Kate sighed. "So what you are telling me is that you are bored." Kacey opened her mouth to deny the accusation, but closed it when she could not refute the truth. "I can not fault you. Be careful. That is an order Colonel."
"I will, Kate."
"Now we need to discuss your report on the Megarans."
"I knew you would not be happy with it."
"Why do you insist on down playing your role in it?"
"It was a joint effort Kate. I could not have done any thing if it was not for your Bridge Crews, my Marines, you and dad. You and they deserve the recognition. Please submit it the way it is."
"There have been three reports already submitted that tell an entirely different story. The way your report reads, all you did was sit back and give orders."
"You know I didn't. Do you want me to rewrite it? Spend pages and pages telling the brass how great I am. You know I do not work that way Kate."
"No I do not expect you to rewrite your report. Just in the future at least give yourself a little of the credit. I will submit it the way it is and we can let the brass sort it out."
"All right Kate."
They finished their coffee. "Time to close up shop and enjoy the rest of the day before the craziness of the kids party. Speaking of which, tell me you did not go overboard with them this year?"
"Define overboard." Kacey said and watched Kate's face. She laughed at the look of frustration. "Relax Kate. I stayed with the one present rule. I got them one and Natalia got them one. We know space is limited."
"Wait until you and Natalia have children. Then Anya and I can spoil them rotten."
It was Kate's turn to laugh at the look of shock on Kacey's face as she swallowed audibly. "Before we go to the party, I want to drop off a special present for you and Natalia from Anya and I. You can not under any circumstances open it until tomorrow night when you are alone. It could be embarrassing if you open it with others around."
"Embarrassing for us or you and Anya?"
"Yes." Kate said. "Close up shop. A day off is for everyone including us."
The left the office and headed for the lift.
CHAPTER 34 C
Kacey stepped out of the shower and headed into the bedroom to get dressed. Natalia had already showered and left to get dressed at her parents. Kacey had not seen the dress Natalia would wear to the party. She unzipped the garment bag her mother had dropped off earlier with orders to not ask questions, just wear the clothes inside.
Kacey stared at the dark green tuxedo that hung there. "What was mom smoking when she chose this outfit for a kid's party?" But, orders were orders and there was no way she would go against her mother tonight. She donned clean underwear, pulled on the dark green socks and reached for the ruffled white shirt. Her fingers fumbled to do up the small green buttons through the ruffles. Next she removed the pants and slipped them on. "How the hell did she get the length right." She asked her reflection. Kacey tucked the shirt in and did up the zipper and clasp.
The door chimed. Kacey stuck her head out of the bedroom to look at the monitor. "Come on in Kate" She called out. Kacey picked up the tie, buttoned the top button, and put the bow tie on. Glad that it was one that just needed to be clipped on instead of having to tie it. Kacey doubted she could do up a fancy bow tie. She sat down on the bed as Kate made her way into the bedroom. She carried a small flower box under her arm. The sisters looked at each other and said, "mom". Kacey put her shoes on and reached for the vest. She made sure all the ruffles were going in the same direction and flat as she buttoned the vest. Kacey grabbed the jacket and put it over her arm as they walked out of the bedroom. She checked her watch. They had twenty minutes before they had to meet their dates.
"Didn't anyone tell mom this was a children's party, Kate?" Kacey asked.
"All I know is she handed me the garment bag with orders to wear it and not ask questions."
"Me too. Where are Anya and the girls?"
"They are getting dressed at mom's."
"Is there something going on that I should know about, Kate?"
"Maybe it is a dry run for next week when you are not allowed to see Natalia's dress before the ceremony?"
"She is wearing her dress uniform." Kate shook her head. "She's not?" Kacey thought for a minute. "Oh damn, Kate we are doomed."
"What do you mean?"
"I just realized that now mom has two of them to plot with."
"We are doomed." Kate said. "There is a box like this in your refrigerator. Do not forget to take it. Put your jacket on before we are late. Kacey slipped the jacket on and buttoned it. She checked her reflection to make sure everything lined up properly. She went to the refrigerator and removed the box. She opened the top.
"Kate, did you look in the box? There are two flowers in here. I think we are supposed to wear one of them." She said as she picked up the bouttonier. Kate did the same. Kacey's was a green tipped white rose. Kate's was blue tipped. Kate took Kacey's and attached it to her lapel. Kacey did the same for Kate.. The sisters looked at each other. Twin sighs followed.
"Ready to collect out dates?" Kate asked.
Kacey checked her reflection again and adjusted her tie.
"Why do you do that?"
"It's not vanity, Kate, but rather a habit I got into since the academy. It is regulation. Everything has to line up perfectly. The knot in the tie, buttons, belt buckle and zipper have to line up perfectly. The corps is very strict . Hat brims have to be two fingers from the bridge of the nose, sabers have to hang one inch below the waist. They walked out the door together. "First time we had to stand dress uniform inspection, they measure the distance. Heaven help the person whose uniform was not perfect."
"That ever happen to you?"
"No, thank God. I got it right the first time."
"They arrived at their parent's quarters and rang the bell. Kacey brushed a speck of dust from Kate's sleeve. Liam opened the door, dressed in a charcoal grey tuxedo. His white rose was tipped in a light grey.
"You too, Dad?" Kacey said.
"Aye lass. Come in. The ladies have not come out of the bedroom yet."
"Dad, mom has really gone off the deep end this time." Kacey said.
"Aye. Are ye feeling brave enough to be telling her that, lass?" Liam handed them each a drink. They went to sit down. "Don't you be sitting down. Your mother's orders."
"Dad I can see putting all this fancy stuff on for New Year's eve, but not for a kid's party. What will she do next week?" Liam just shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.
The bedroom door opened just enough for the girls to come out. They ran to Kate as soon as they spied her. "Mummy you look super nice." They said together.
"Thank you my darlings. You look very pretty in those dresses."
The door opened again and Patricia walked out. Her dress was a light grey that contrasted with Liam's tuxedo. The dress fell to her knees and had a flowing skirt. It was slightly off the shoulder and had three quarter sleeves.
"Mom you look absolutely fantastic." Kate stated.
"I agree mom."
"Aye Patsy me darling you are a vision."
"Thank you all. Now Kate put your drink down and stand over here." Kate did as she was told. "Kacey you do the same and stand over here." Kacey obeyed her mother's instructions. They both looked at their mother. "Eyes that way girls" Patricia said and pointed to the bedroom door. When they looked to the door, Patricia called out, " it is time girls."
The door opened and Natalia walked out first. She was dressed in a short strapless, low cut light green dress. Kacey felt her jaw drop at the sight. Natalia's hair was curled and fixed to just touched her bare shoulders. Patricia laughed and closed Kacey's mouth with an audible click.
Then Anya's presence filled the doorway. Kate had the same reaction as Kacey when she saw her wife in the strapless low cut light blue dress that matched the color of her eyes. The short skirt showed off long shapely legs. Patricia closed Kate's mouth. She nudged both out of the trance they were in.
"What are you two waiting for? Go get your dates." She ordered.
They both walked to their dates. Kacey opened the flower box and removed the corsage. "There is no place to pin the corsage."
"That is because it goes on my wrist." Natalia said. "Help me put it on?"
"Of course. Natalia you are beautiful." Kacey said and kissed her.
CHAPTER 34 D
Kate put Anya's corsage on her wrist and kissed her wife. "You my darling are gorgeous."
"Thank you my Kate. You look very sexy in that tuxedo."
The four women walked to the center of the room where Liam handed them each a drink. Wine for Natalia, Anya and Patricia, brandy for Kate and Kacey and whiskey for himself.
"I will be the envy of every lad on this ship tonight with all you beautiful women on me arms. I propose a toast to meself. I am a very lucky man."
They all raised their glasses to Liam. "To Liam." They said together.
"You know I just had a thought." Kacey stated.
"I did not smell any smoke. Did any of you? Why didn't the smoke detectors go off" Kate joked.
"Ha, Ha, Ha, Kate."
"Do not start Kate. What was your thought dear." Patricia asked.
"It just occurred to me that everyone except the kids call dad Liam. Seeing how I am an adult maybe I should too?"
"Are ye feeling brave enough to doing that lassie?" Liam gave her a pointed look.
Kacey looked at her father's stern look, cleared her throat and said, "then again maybe not. It was just a thought." She changed the subject quickly. "Mom why are we all decked out in these fancy duds tonight instead of next week?"
"I heard there was going to be dancing afterwards and thought we would celebrate in a big way this week and have a quiet celebration next week. You will be getting married the next day and it would not do to have you looking tired your ceremony. Besides there is another reason to party this week." Patricia said.
"What's that, mom?" Kacey asked.
"At twelve thirty you and Natalia will be separated until the ceremony. You can thank your father for the time."
"What do you mean?"
"I was going to separate you at five minutes after midnight, but your father talked me into extending the time."
"Thank you dad. Will you really do that? We have been living together for months."
"Do not try arguing with mom, little sister, I tried and it did not work for me either."
Santa had come and gone. The children's party ended. The crowd thinned out until the only people left were the crew members and Marines. The orchestra took the stage. Patricia and Liam climbed the stairs to the stage. Patricia directed Kacey and Natalia to stand in front of them on the floor.
The drummer got everyone's attention. Liam took the microphone from the stand. "For those of ye who are not knowing, and I am thinking there might just be one or two of you out there, our youngest daughter will be married next week. I know we are wasting an opportunity to be having another party next week, by doing this now. Our daughters wondered why their mother insisted that we get all fancied up. This is no longer a children's party, but a celebration for Kacey and Natalia. Lads would ye be bringing in the tables."
Several Marines carried long tables filled with gifts for Kacey and Natalia.
"I am told this party is a combination bridal shower and stag party so we lads have to be keeping it clean. Kacey lass time to take your lady to the dance floor. Let's party."
Both Kacey and Natalia had looks of surprise on their faces. Liam and Patricia left the stage as the orchestra started to play. Kacey led Natalia out to the dance floor. She held Natalia tight in her arms. Natalia had her head on Kacey's chest. Her eyes closed as Kacey expertly led her around the floor. They were the only ones on the floor as everyone let them have the first dance. Natalia looked up just as Kacey looked down. Their lips met. The walls fell away and they were alone in the universe, until the cheers from the party goers brought them back to the party. They both blushed.
The song ended and another began. Kate and Anya joined them and shortly after Liam and Patricia. Soon the floor was crowded with dancers.
As the night wore on Kacey managed to get Anya away from Kate for a dance. Or was it Kate that took Natalia out to the dance floor. Either way it worked out as Kacey wanted to speak to Anya.
"Anya do you have any words of advice and wisdom to offer?"
"Ahhh. The only words of wisdom I will offer are these. Respect and love each other. Know that there will be times when one or the other or both of you will not be in the best of moods. You will argue, it is human nature. But never let the opportunity to tell Natalia you love her pass. Try to love her a little more each day."
"Is that yours and Kate's secret?"
"Yes and a very healthy and satisfying sex life is a very important part of it also, little sister."
Kacey laughed at Anya use of Kate's favorite term of endearment for her. "Seeing as you are a whole quarter of an inch taller than I am, I will let you call me that."
"I will not say never go to bed angry with each other, because no matter how hard you will try, it will happen. But no matter how mad you are with each other, never let that stop you from telling her that you love her."
"I won't Anya. I hope we are as happy as you and Kate are."
"Natalia," Kate said, "you know you are getting the best partner in the world. She will never go back on her word to you. It would destroy her to do that. I never thought she would find someone that she would give her heart freely to. I pictured her growing old alone. I never wanted that for her. Love her Natalia. Love her hard. She needs that. But do not let her get away with anything that we all know will ultimately hurt her. She sometimes really does have more courage that brains at times, especially when she thinks her loved ones are in danger. I love my sister very much, even though we argue we still love each other. Tell her you love her no matter if you are mad at her. You will argue and have spats, but never lose sight of the fact that you love each other."
"Is that you secret? It is evident that you and Anya are deeply in love with each other. Sometimes it is like an electric current between the two of you."
"It is one of the many secrets. A romantic relationship, any relationship does not just happen. You have to work at it for it to be successful. Another is a very healthy and satisfying sex life. Do not be afraid to try new things. Which reminds me did Kacey tell you about the gift from Anya and I?"
"The one with the instructions not to open it until we are alone?" Kate nodded. Natalia laughed. "Kacey is afraid to open it."
"Just make sure you read the instructions. Be happy little sister." Natalia smiled at the use of Kate's favorite term of endearment for Kacey
Kate brought Natalia back to Kacey when the music ended. She looked at Kacey and told her, "As an only child, I think I am really going to enjoy having sisters."
To be continued...
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