Year two of the continuing voyage of the Star Traveler Andromeda. The story started in Among The Stars continues in Beyond The Farthest Planet.
Captain's Log 4, September 2177
We have been on our journey for fourteen months. All the towers have been repaired and upgraded. We passed the Kuiper Belt yesterday. That makes us pioneers from here on out. We are headed into an uncharted area of space. We no longer can rely on our star charts. From this day on we will be making the star charts for those will come after us.
The new scanners that Kacey and her Marines developed are working better than we ever hoped. Those scanners add almost a hundred million kilometers to our long range sensors. The ship is working well. We have had no major problems with any of the thousands of systems that keep this flying city operable. Any small hiccups are fixed quickly with a little tweaking.
We will spend at least a year exploring the vast region before us. I hope any races we come upon will be open to establishing ties with earth. So far the two civilizations we have met up with have not been open to that contact. The first, the Megarans wanted Kacey as their leader. I was not about to give in to the demands and surrender a member of this crew no matter who that crew person was. The second wanted nothing to do with us.
If we can form some sort of alliance with other races we may be able to negotiate with them and erect relay towers for communications with Earth. At our present speed we will be out range of the last relay towers in a month. Then we will be truly alone. We will have to resort sending messages and reports in a torpedo that could take years to reach Earth. I already feel like a ship wrecked sailor of old who would toss a bottle with a message in it, into the ocean in hopes someone would find it.
Personal Journal Colonel Kirsten C O'Malley 4 September 2177,
The first year is behind us. Our journey has been interesting so far. Looking back on the time that has elapsed since we lifted off, I am surprised that so much has happened in those fourteen months. Who would have thought I would have found the other half of my soul millions of kilometers from home. If I had accepted either of the symphony invitations, I would never have met Natalia. All things do happen for a reason, is not just a tired cliché for me anymore.
Since I underwent hypnosis, most of the lost bits, gaps or holes have been filled in. Except I still feel that there is something missing. Something dark and forbidding. Did something happen in my past that I do not want to face? Will it ever return? Do I really want it to? For now I will leave that memory in Limbo.
There are too many happy moments in my life to worry about some possible dark memory that I have lost. I have Natalia, my family, music and flying to help keep me on an even keel. What more could anyone ask for. That may be a silly question, but it is one I know the answer to that particular question, children. I see how Kate and Anya's children have enriched their lives. Natalia and I have an appointment tomorrow with Dr. Amstall to talk about starting the process for Natalia to conceive.
I admit the concept scares me. I watched how Kate handled Anya's pregnancy. I hope I will not be as bad as she was. The thought of my dear sweet Natalia having to go through wave after wave of bone wracking pain bothers me. I think we are going to try for a multiple birth so that Natalia would only have to go through labor once. If, for some reason, Natalia is unable to conceive or it is not advisable, I will ask the Doctor to test me also. My love wants children, and one way or the other she will have them. I am sure I can find someone on board who can alter my fatigues.
We are in an area of space no human has ever seen. My pilots are out constantly. I have them set up to go out ten ships at a time in four hour shifts around the clock. Shuttles will be out also. For those of us too tall to fit into the cramped cockpits of the stingers.
Sensors have shown a planetoid two days away. We have a mission planned. Hopefully the atmosphere is life sustaining so we can spend some time exploring.
Andromeda pushed through uncharted territory. Billions of stars greeted them as they travelled. The computers were working overtime to chart the new territory.
"Captain, sensors are picking up on an M class planet two million kilometers from our present position." Anya stated.
"M class? Sounds interesting. Lieutenant Minor set our coordinates for the planet. Lets do a bit of investigating." Kate said. "Colonel O'Malley to the Bridge."
"On my way." Kacey responded.
"Lieutenant how long until we reach the planet?"
"At our present speed, two days." He stated.
"Increase speed to warp seven." Kate ordered.
"Aye Captain, increase to warp seven." Lieutenant Minor responded.
The lift opened and Kacey walked unto the Bridge to her seat.
"What's up Kate?" She asked.
"An M class planet two days away."
"Planning on taking a look around?"
"We are. Before we attempt to land we will have to scout the area first to make sure. Also to see if there is an area large enough for the ship to land."
"We will get it done, Kate." Kacey said and looked at Kate. "Do not say what you are thinking."
"How do you know what I am thinking?"
"Just the look on your face. You want..."
"Wait, Kacey. Lets take this argument in the making to a more private setting. Commander you have the Bridge."
Both women left the Bridge and went into the Ready Room. Kate poured them each a coffee from the carafe on her desk. "Sit Kacey."
"Before you say anything, Kate, I will be going on this mission."
"Think this through Kacey. Remember Eternus."
"So because of what happened there, I am supposed to hide in my office while I send my Marines out? You want me to give up going on any sort of mission that would put me in contact with a foreign world. Not going to happen Kate."
"That is not what I am saying, Kacey."
"It most certainly is. Kate it is my job. Do you expect me to stop doing my job? Stop doing what I was trained to do?"
"No, not your entire job."
"Just the part that takes me out of space to go to a new planet. You have no problem with my taking part in the guard flights, but you balk at me landing on the ground. Kate you can not protect me from everything."
"I am not..." Kate stopped. "I am aren't I."
"Kate don't get me wrong. I do appreciate you worrying about my well being. But you can not protect me from every little hurt like you did when I was a child. I am an adult, with adult responsibilities. I must be allowed to do my whole job and not just those parts that you deem safe. I am not a child anymore, Kate."
"No, you are not. You are cleared to explore to your heart's content."
"Thank you, Kate. I do have one question."
"Only one, little sister?"
"Younger, Kate. Would you like to be my first mate and go exploring with me? Just the two of us, just like we did when we were younger?"
"I would love to. Unfortunately it will not be just the two of us. Regulations state that if the Captain is off ship, the Heads of Security and Science go with her."
"So it will be a group of four. I can ask Natalia to keep an eye on the rug rats."
"Speaking of rug rats, how are things going on that front?"
"We have an appointment with Dr. Amstall tomorrow."
"Yes, Natalia really wants children. If the doctor finds she can not or should not conceive, then I will try."
"That is quite a change from a few months ago. What happened to not being able to find maternity fatigues?"
"There has to be someone on board that can do alterations, or I will just have to wear larger sizes."
"I am sure we can find someone if the need arises." Kate said with a smile.
"If we are going on an away mission, there are things I need to take care of before then." Kacey stated.
"Of course. We will be there within two days, so plan for three days from now."
Kacey rose, placed her empty cup on the desk and turned to leave. She stopped, turned back to Kate. "Thank you for caring Kate." Kacey said and left the Ready Room. Kate went to the windows and watched the passing stars. The door chimed.
"Come in." Kate called out.
The door opened. Anya walked in. "Is everything all right Kate?"
"Better than all right, darling. I was just thinking. Kacey and I were able to have a discussion without resorting to a shouting match."
"I take that to mean you are allowing her to go on the away mission?"
"We are going with her. You, me and Rhea. I will ask mom to watch the girls while we are off ship."
"All right Kate." Anya replied.
CHAPTER 1 C
Kacey called her pilots together as she gave them their orders.
"We will be at an M class planet in two days. We will use the same procedure we used on Eternus. Major Anderson in shuttle two with fifteen members of Alpha Squadron will accompany my shuttle to find a suitable place for Andromeda to land. Captain Taggart in shuttle three with fifteen Beta squadron with start in the Northern section and work towards the East. Map out the area. Captain Williams in shuttle four with fifteen Gamma squadron will start in the Southern section and work to the West. We need to get as accurate a picture as possible of this planet for future flights. I have no idea how long we will be there, so try to get as much mapped out as possible. Make sure all your survival gear is aboard. Pack extra rations, shock sticks and water in the event you find a suitable place to spend the night. Instead of returning to Andromeda each night. Grab extra weapons and medical supplies. If the area is safe, civilians will be allowed off ship for the first time since Eternus. Questions?"
"Colonel, what will the rest of us be doing?"
"As on Eternus, those not mapping the area, will be doing escort and guard duty."
"This will be a real test for the new scanners."
"We are far enough away from the Megarans, hopefully we will not run into any other races that was to commandeer one of the crew for their leader."
"That is for damn sure, Colonel." Captain Taggart stated.
"Those of you who will be assigned to guard and escort duty will set up a safe perimeter around Andromeda. Set the perimeter at two kilometers in all directions. Spend today and tomorrow checking out your ships and stocking extra supplies. Dismissed." Kacey stated.
Kacey went to her shuttle. She keyed the lock and the ramp lowered. She checked the outside of her shuttle, before she climbed onto the roof to check. Once satisfied the outside was secure, she entered the shuttle and checked the supplies. Survival gear, extra rations, thermal blankets, extra water, radios, batteries, she said to herself , as she checked off the items. She made a list of those items she will have to load up. Rifles and side arms, both phasic and regular, extra battery packs, ammunition, medical supplies, coffee, Cannot forget the coffee, she thought. Extra shock sticks and lights. When her list was complete, she left the shuttle and went to the supply cases and brought out what she needed. She worked for the remainder of the day loading those items onto her shuttle. She hesitated when it came time to load the weapons. She grabbed the phasic weapons and put them on board. For reasons she could not understand, her hands shook when she grabbed the regular weapons. She forced it from her mind. Get a grip O'Malley, she thought.
Kacey sat in her shuttle, going through her pre flight checks. Once completed she checked that all the supplies were carefully stored so there would be no chance of anything coming loose during flight.
They would launch when Andromeda was one thousand Kilometers away from the planet. They would be within range in an hour. She called her pilots together to give them their final orders.
"Do your pre flight now. Captain Taggart you and your squad will launch fifteen minutes after Alpha squadron. Captain Williams fifteen minutes after Beta. Find a safe area to set up a base camp. In the event of any foul weather showing up you can dig in and wait it out. The Captain has given permission for the mapping squads to spend the nights closer to the areas you will be mapping out instead of wasting time each day going to and from the sections. We will start launching in an hour. Make sure everything is ready to go. Remember to pair up. No one flies off alone at any time. Grab something to eat before we launch. Questions?" She waited for any response. "Dismissed."
Kacey walked to the Hanger office where she poured herself a coffee as she waited for the rest of her crew to appear. She brought up her mail program and typed a message to Natalia. She worked for several minutes before she hit send and closed down the mail program. She went over the roster of pilots going on the mission. She nodded at the choices the Major and Captains made.
She left the office and walked out into the Hanger. She watched her pilots getting ready for their flights.
"Close air lock doors." Kacey ordered. The large doors slowly closed with a loud clang. "Alpha squadron radio check." The pilots counted off. Kacey started her shuttle and taxied into position. "Alpha squadron start engines and get into launch position. The stingers lined up behind her, with the second shuttle at her side. They felt Andromeda come out of warp. "Lower atmosphere." Kacey said. "Open launch doors." She said, as she pushed the throttles forwards. When the massive doors fully opened, she released the brake. "Hold onto your shorts everyone as they shot out of the Hanger. She held position far enough away from Andromeda so the ships behind her could launch safely. Kacey grabbed a smoke stick and clamped it between her teeth.
"Very smooth take off Kacey." Kate said.
"Thanks, Kate." Kacey keyed the mike. "Here we go people. Mike take Stingers one through seven and head towards the South. Stinger eight through fifteen follow me. Look for a safe, level place big enough for Andromeda to land."
The Stingers split up and followed the two shuttles. They flew towards the planet.
"What are sensors showing Anya?" Kate asked.
"Plenty of life signs." Anya responded.
"Humanoid, animal, insect?"
"Animal and insect Kate, also invertebrates, but those are mostly in the Northeast sector."
"Shall we go looking for those animals, Kate?" Kacey asked.
"We are out here, may as well check out the wild life situation while looking for a landing site. If the shock sticks can not handle the animals then Andromeda can not land."
"Those shock sticks can stop anything smaller than an elephant." Kacey told her. She piloted her shuttle low over the planet. She slowed as the found a large open area. They looked out for a possible landing site. "Anya is there anything in our immediate area?"
"Other than insects, there are no life forms for two kilometers." Anya reported.
"Breathable air, temperature is a balmy seventy degrees with sixty percent humidity."
"What do you think Kate? Take her down?" Kacey asked.
"Take her down." Kate answered.
CHAPTER 1 D
Kacey landed the shuttle and shut it down. She took off the headphones and grabbed her hat and sunglasses. She went to the rear of the shuttle and handed out survival packs, water and scanners. Kate opened the weapons locker and handed out phasic rifles and regular side arms. Kacey shook her head at the regular side arm and grabbed a phasic one instead. She met Kate's eyes. Kate nodded. Kacey clipped the radio to her belt and handed an extra radio to Kate.
"Shamrock to Andromeda." She said into the radio.
"Go ahead lass. You are coming in loud and clear."
"Be advised we are leaving the shuttle to do a bit of exploring."
"Roger that Shamrock. We have you all on screen."
Kacey rolled her eyes. "Make sure you get my good side Dad." Kacey said as she pulled on a survival pack.
"Told ye before lass ye do not have a bad side."
"Thanks Dad, but we all know you are prejudiced."
"Aye lass and I am not ashamed to admit it." Liam stated. "You girls be careful out there." He ordered. "Do not be making me tell your mother any of ye got hurt."
"I will keep Kacey out of trouble dad," Kate said. They could not see Liam's smile as Kate called him dad.
Kacey hooked the radio onto her belt and picked up the scanner. "Quick guide. This button on the side is the on button. Make sure the light is green." They all checked that their scanners were on. "These will pick up any EM fields no matter the size. They will also act as back up sensors and let us know if there are any animals larger than an insect close to us. It will beep and the light will flash red for EM fields and green for animals. Very simple. Just hook them on your belts. They will also emit a small electric charge to discourage any life forms who try to get a bit too close to us with something other than friendship in mind." Kacey finished and opened the ramp. The pilots gathered around her. "Pair off and pick a direction. Go out five kilometers. No one is to go off alone for any reason. Understand?"
"Yes ma'am." They responded and saluted her. Kacey returned their salute. She rejoined the others. Two Marines followed her. "Lets take a walk. I have point." She said and waved in the direction of Andromeda before she started walking. Kate was at her side as they left the shuttle.
"Mind if I walk with you?"
"Hell no Kate. I will try not to take you on any runs today."
"I certainly appreciate that. Although I have been trying to work on my stamina." Kate told her. "Tell me, Kacey, why the turn around over the video locks?"
"Mom asked me not to get mad at you for something she asked you to do. Besides, Natalia will be pissed if she can not keep an eye on me also. I would rather not have her pissed at me."
The terrain they walked across was fairly flat. Off in the distance they could see a forested area. They came upon several large rock formations near a large clear lake. They took water samples to bring back to the shuttle for testing. Anya brought the equipment to do primary testing. They would have answers before they lifted off.
Kacey kept the pace steady. They walked along for two hours. The scanners at their sides remained silent. She checked the distance meter on her belt and called a halt.
"We are almost at the five kilometer mark. Lets take a short break then start back." Kacey stated and leaned against a large rock. She looked up at the sky. Kacey pulled the radio from her belt. "All units, check in." She ordered.
"Stingers eight and nine, reached the five kilometer mark, Colonel and have started back. We have a few samples for Commander Jensen."
"Stingers ten and eleven, the same here Colonel. We have water samples for the Commander."
"Stingers twelve and thirteen, have started back with insect and water samples."
"We will meet back at my shuttle and grab lunch and run some tests."
"Will do Colonel."
Kacey hooked the radio back on her belt and took a long drink of water.
"If the tests are good, Andromeda will have plenty of area to land." Kate stated.
"The tests will take about an hour Kate." Anya said.
"Andromeda to Colonel O'Malley."
Kacey pulled the radio from her belt. "Go ahead Andromeda."
"Did ye find anything interesting lass?"
"We have several samples that will need testing before we know if Andromeda can land. We will know in a couple hours. The egg heads will have a field day out here."
"Tis good to hear lass. Keep us posted."
"Affirmative dad." Kacey said. "Ready to head back?" They all nodded. "Want to race Kate?" Kacey joked.
"It would be unwise for us to separate until we know more about this planet." Anya stated.
"Maybe next time, Kacey." Kate told her. If we are here for awhile I may take you up on that."
"Good." Kacey stated as the group started back towards the shuttle.
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