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"What are the chances that other planets will have that exact species? Or that I will ever be stung by that exact type again?"
"Slim at best. But between the two pens you will be able to survive until you get back to Andromeda. You came very close to dying, Captain. Between Colonel O'Malley's fancy flying and her going back down to get the hornets we needed, you are here to give everyone orders again. We are working on developing an all purpose anti venom that will counteract any type. Try to rest for the next couple days. In three days, we will take the stitches and give you a final check up before you return to duty on Monday."
"Thank you Doctor. For everything."
"You are welcome, Captain. Just try not to land back in Sick Bay again, or we will have to start a pool on you. Tell Colonel O'Malley that the pool on her is up to five thousand credits. But if you really want to show your appreciation, you can show it with chocolate."
The Doctor left the room. Anya raised the chair and pushed Kate out of Sick Bay. The corridor leading to the lift was lined on both sides with Marines in full dress uniforms, with Kacey first in line. She snapped to attention as soon as the door opened. Kacey stepped in front of Kate and saluted her. With tears in her eyes, Kate returned her salute.
"Draw sabers." Major Anderson ordered. The Marines held their sabers in front of them. They walked down the line of Marines. Kacey walked at Kate's side.
"Smile Kate. This whole thing is being recorded and played on the video screens for all those who could not be here today." Kacey said.
"No surprises Anya?" Kate turned to accuse Anya.
"Don't blame Anya. She did not know anything about this, Kate."
"So that means..."
"That means be quiet big sister and enjoy the ride and the love from your extended family." Kacey said. "Oh and Kate, relish that big sister comment because you probably will never hear it again."
Kate laughed and reached for Kacey's hand as she walked beside the chair. The corridor on deck four was lined with as many of the crew from Andromeda as possible in dress uniforms to honor their Captain. As Kacey had done earlier, Liam and Rhea stepped in front of Kate as Anya pushed the chair off the lift. They saluted Kate then turned to lead Kate to their quarters. Tears flowed freely as her crew snapped to attention as she passed. Bella stood by the door.
"Bella, you left your engines for this?"
"Of course Captain. Your recovery is more important than the engines right now." Bella rang the bell and stepped back. The door opened. Inside their quarters, the remainder of her family waited under large banners that said Welcome Home Captain. The banners were covered on the front and back with signatures of the crew and civilians on board.
"Mummy." The girls yelled as they ran to Kate. Kacey took the box of pens from Kate as she opened her arms for her daughters.
"My darlings. I have missed you." Kate cried as she hugged them. Through her tears she asked, " How did you get all this done. I only found out yesterday that I was being discharged today."
"The banners have been in the works since you were hurt. There were pieces of them all over the ship. We just had to collect them and get them all together." Kacey said. They even cancelled school today in your honor."
"I don't know what to say."
"Thank you is a start, but just enjoy the love and admiration, Kate." Kacey told her.
Throughout the morning, there was a steady stream of visitors to welcome Kate back home. Anya sat next to Kate on the couch. They each held one of their daughters. Anya looked around and spied Kacey and Patricia talking away from the crowd of people.
"That is encouraging." She told Kate.
Kate looked at the two, taking in Kacey's actions and stance. "It would be if Kacey was not so tense and uncomfortable. She looks like she is about to bolt. She is barely tolerating standing next to mom."
"But she is standing there, Kate. And she is talking. They many only be one word answers, but she is talking."
"Should I talk to Kacey? Mom is trying to break down the walls that Kacey has put up."
"No. Even Liam and Natalia are letting them work it out. We will just have to keep putting them together. Sooner or later, Kacey will thaw."
"I don't know about that darling. Kacey is so damn stubborn. We may be back on Earth before she lets go of the emotional baggage she is carrying."
"Kacey, you did a good thing having the Honor Guard for Kate." Patricia said.
"Thank you. Kate deserves it."
"I have been hearing a lot of very good comments about you running the ship."
"I will be glad to hand it back to Kate."
"How is Natalia feeling?"
"She is good."
"When I was expecting you, I had so much heartburn. Your grandmother told me that it was because you would be born with thick hair. She was right. You had a head full of beautiful black hair that was spiked up. The first time you looked at me with your father's eyes, you reached in and touched my very soul. You trusted be to love and care for you. You were then and still are my baby girl."
"I am an adult now mom with adult responsibilities. I am no longer your baby."
"No, Kacey. You will always be my baby girl. I lost the trust you once had in me. You may dislike or even hate me now."
"I do not hate or even dislike you, mom."
"You're right. It is much worse. It is indifference which is so much worse that dislike or hate."
"It is what it is."
"I hope Natalia has as easy a pregnancy as I did with Kate."
"Guess I was always your problem child." Kacey said looking at her mother for the first time.
"That is not what I meant at all."
"Escuse me, mom, I want to see how Kate is doing." Kacey walked away from her mother. Patricia watched her go. Liam went to Patricia's side.
Natalia went to Kacey's side. "Where have you been all my life, Colonel? How are you doing?"
"Looking for you, sweetheart." Kacey said with a smile. "The question is how are you doing?"
"The crackers helped a lot this morning. Where are you heading?"
"To see how Kate is doing."
"Want some company?"
"Always. I will always want your company."
"You are such a sweet talker." Kacey laughed.
"That is a sound that I have not heard too often." Kate said as they approached. Kacey let Natalia sit next to Kate while she perched on the arm of the couch.
"I took your advice and had Lieutenant Minor increase our speed. We are in a very high orbit around that planet." Kacey said. The Stingers will head out tomorrow."
"What are the enviromentals?"
"Breathable air, plenty of water, numerous life forms, mostly small animals. But sensors are also showing humanoid life forms and technology."
"I plan on having the Stingers stay away from those areas until you return to duty."
"Saw you talking to mom."
"Yeah, well she did most of the talking."
"It is a start, Kacey. At least you were listening. Did you learn anything new?"
"And that is?"
"That I was her problem child probably from the second I was conceived. And more than likely the only Hell she ever raised."
"Did she actually say that?"
"Not in so many words."
"You are so damn stubborn." Kate said.
"I learned form the best Kate, you. You showed me how to access my true and full stubborn potential."
Kate laughed. "Stubborn potential? You seemed to have learned your lessons exceptionally well."
"Bridge to Colonel O'Malley."
"You are on Colonel." Kate said.
"Go ahead Bridge."
"We have an incoming message from the planet."
"Shit. I can not do a first contact."
"You can do this little sister. I have full confidence in you." Kacey looked at Kate who took her hand. "Marine mode time. You can do this." She repeated.
"On my way." Kacey stood up. "Dad."
"Let's go lass." Liam said . He followed her out the door.
To be continued...
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