Go to Prologue
Kate with Kacey's help and the help of many volunteers spent the next few days checking items against the manifests. Once counted inflate-cots were set up in all spare areas. No one was sure how many extra people they would have on board, but they wanted to make sure they were ready for what ever came their way.
The ship had been able to maintain it warp nine speed for over twenty four hours, but had to drop back to warp seven when the engines started to over heat. After adjustments to the engines had been made they were able to resume warp nine.
The had been in contact with the Queen on Marcus Prime. The quakes were getting worse and more frequent. Buildings had collapsed which made getting to the survivors harder. Especially those still left in the outlaying areas.
Working around the clock, the crew managed to get everything set up for their guests. Many crew men volunteer to double and triple up to make room for everyone. Those civilians on board volunteered their quarters as temporary housing until the rescue ships could arrive.
Kacey set up an extra cots in the spare bedrooms in her quarters in the event they were needed. She fell into bed at night exhausted. But no matter how tired she was, she would dream. Each dream concerned the blond green eyed Queen. She worked out how she would get the Queen off Marcus Prime.
The ship was only about twenty hours away when the call came in. With each passing second the planetoid became larger in the view screen.
"Captain," the radio operator called out, "Marcus Prime is hailing us."
"Patch it through to my Ready Room. Get Commander and Colonel O'Malley up here immediately. Kate entered her Ready Room, sat down behind her desk, and turned the computer on. Within seconds Liam and Kacey came into the room. Her computer flickered on.
"Your Majesty, we are less than a day away."
"Thank you Captain. I wanted to keep you posted on what is going on here. The quakes are still getting stronger. The last one was seven point four. Our geologists predict that the quakes could hit over nine. At that time they say the planetoid will blow apart. At the current rate the quakes are hitting, they say we have thirty six to forty eight hours. There are deep fissures opening up all over"
"Hang in your Majesty, we have room set aside for about two thousand of your people, but we will not stop until all your remaining people are safe." Kacey stated.
"I appreciate that Colonel. Right now all of our ships are way over capacity and are holding about a thousand feet from the surface."
"There are fifty ships a few days behind us that will be able to relieve all the congestion. Don't ye worry none lassie. My two daughters here will take care of things." Liam spoke with pride in his voice.
"Our Hospital Deck is set up to take all your wounded. The entire medical staff will be at your service." Kate stated.
"Queen Natalia, do you have a landing area our Shuttles can set down on? We will have two coming down near the palace. The remainder of our Shuttles will be with squads of our flyers searching for survivors."
"Yes there are several areas that...." Another quake hit which knocked out the computer on Marcus Prime leaving them starring at a blank screen.
"Those folks are in a heap of trouble Katie. Do ye think we will get there in time?" Liam asked.
"If their geologists are correct we will. I hate to think what will happen if they are wrong." Kate said her face grim. "Kacey have your pilots ready to launch as soon as we get to twenty thousand kilometers away from Marcus Prime."
"We will be ready Kate. Do you need me for anything else. I would like to inform my pilots."
"Go ahead. I will page you if I need you." Kacey started out the door. "Oh Kacey remember to get some sleep tonight. You will need to be rested for this mission." She waved as the door closed.
Andromeda pushed on through the night and soon sensors showed Marcus Prime to be less than a hundred thousand kilometers away. Close enough that the crew could see the quakes hit. After the last transmission ended, they were unable to contact Marcus Prime again. The minutes crawled by as the planteoid became larger in the view screen.
"Ma... Pri... to...meda."
"We hear your Marcus Prime."
"We will be there in about ten minutes."
Kacey stood in front of her pilots. A large screen set up behind her. Marcus Prime was divided into sections.
"Alpha and Beta crews will begin the search. as soon as this briefing is over, pilots get to your ships and begin pre flight checks. Lieutenant would you do the check for my shuttle and then your own? You will be with me. We will land in the city square as close to the palace as possible. You take as many people as possible. I will locate the Queen and make sure she is evacuated. We will not have a lot of time so do not wait for me. Dismissed."
"Yes Colonel." The pilots ran to their assigned ships. Gamma crews be ready to assist survivors when they arrive. The Shuttles will be one to every five stingers. Relay all pockets of survivors to the Shuttles so that they can get to them."
"Captain to Colonel O'Malley."
"We will be coming out of warp in about five minutes. Be ready to launch immediately after."
"Will do Captain." Kacey talked into her communicator as she ran to her Shuttle.
"Kacey?" Kate's voice came over the private channel."
"Yes Kate." Kacey answered.
"You be careful down there. Make damn sure you get your ass back here safely."
"Aww Kate. You care." Kacey chided her sister.
"Of course I care. Don't you make me have to tell mom and Liam that your were hurt or killed on this mission."
"Not making any promises Kate, but I will do my absolute best. I will grab the Queen then come back."
"See that you do. No heroics Kacey."
Kacey was in the Pilot's seat on her shuttle. The primary door in the hanger closed creating an airlock. She heard the atmosphere leaving the air lock. The launch door opened Kacey taxied into position as the Andromeda dropped out of warp.
"All ships follow me." Kacey ordered. The Stingers followed her out of the hanger. The rescue shuttles followed right behind. "All ships follow your assigned sectors. One shuttle for five stingers. We may not have a lot of time before this place explodes. Do not take any chances. Lieutenant we will head to the city. See if you can find a landing area close to the palace."
"Will do Colonel."
Kacey's ship veered off from the group as she headed to the co-ordinates of the last transmission. She flew low over ruined buildings that once made up the Capital City. She found a clear spot in front of what was left of the Palace. The Palace staff and Government Officials waited at the foot of the stairs. Kacey trimmed the engines to neutral and lowered the ramp. The second shuttle landed a few feet from her.
There was cheering as they landed. Kacey had to yell to make herself heard. "Listen up. I am Colonel O'Malley, we are here to get you all to safety. That shuttle will be able to get you all off the surface. Can anyone tell me where the Queen is?"
"She was just here." One woman offered. "She must have gone back inside the Palace."
"Thank you. Please get on the shuttle. I will get your Queen." Kacey told the group. "You may have to crowd in, but it will only be for a few minutes. Lieutenant radio those other ships to join Andromeda at ten thousand kilometers. Have them meet up with Andromeda, to relieve some of the over crowding."
"Will do Colonel. Come on people. Let's move it."
Kacey climbed the stairs leading into the palace two at a time. "Queen Natalia" She called as she searched for the Queen. "Queen Natalia can you hear me?"
"Over here" came the soft answer. Kacey found the Queen standing at the entrance of what used to be the throne room. Many pictures lay broken on the floor. The throne lay on its side. Pillars leaned against each other.
"Your Majesty, I am Colonel O'Malley. Time to get you to safety."
"Sixty years Colonel. For over sixty years this was our home. My great grand mother brought her people here to be safe. All those years we worked together to make life better for everyone. We prospered and lived in peace. We were safe until the quakes started. Now it is all ruined. Sixty years of history all gone."
"Your Majesty please come with me. It is time to get you to safety. I need to get you out of here"
"Yes, this place is no longer safe. No longer my home. Have all my people been rescued?"
"We are working on that right now. Please I need to get you safely onto my shuttle before the next quake hits and brings everything..."
The ground started to shake. Walls that were still standing finally gave into gravity and fell knocking over the columns left standing. One wall fell close to where they were standing. They moved quickly away from the destruction as dust billowed out the door.
To be continued...
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