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CHAPTER 14 A
The festival was over and the crew and Gellarians worked together to install the new technology for each other. The replicators were being installed and tested. Each member of the crew from the Captain to the lowest crew member wore the small translator on their uniforms. Every member of the crew was busy installing the new technology.
Kacey gave up trying to work on her reports during the day and would spend time in the evenings after the construction was completed for the day. While she had taken a small step forward in breeching the chasm with her mother, she was not emotionally ready for a family dinner yet and used the reports as an excuse and not make an appearance. Natalia would attend without her.
After several nights of working late, Kacey was down to one final report to write. This report would be the hardest she had ever had to write if she could ever screw up the courage to watch the video. The video detailing Kate's injury on Hell Planet or Planet JZ 126 as it was entered in the new star charts. They decided to leave it unnamed and except for the designation the Gellarians used.
Kacey watched hours and hours of video footage from their first excursion on the planet. It took several nights to get the entire report on that trip written. She had not looked at the video pertaining to Kate's injury since that day in Sick Bay.
She checked the time. That can not be right? Twenty two hundred hours. She definitely did not want to work that late. Natalia is going to be angry She thought. Kacey shut down her computer and hurried from her office. Her footsteps sounded loud in the Hanger as the noise echoed off the metal walls.
"Talia, I am on my way." Kacey said as the lift opened and Kate stepped off.
"Kate is looking for you."
"She just found me."
"We need to talk." Kate said as she pulled Kacey back towards her office. Kacey balked and stopped in the Hanger.
"I was just heading back to my quarters, Kate."
"Natalia missed you at dinner. We all did."
"Can this wait? I have been staring at the computer screen for the last five hours. I would like to go back to my quarters and relax for a while before all the craziness starts all over again at oh eight hundred hours."
"No it can not wait. We can stand her and talk where everyone can hear us or we can talk in the privacy of your office. You choose."
Kacey sighed. "Come into my office. Can you make it quick?"
"It will take as long as it takes to get you to take the next step."
"The next step where? I was trying to take a lot of steps to my quarters when you hauled me back here."
"That is not the step I was talking about and you know it."
"I am or rather, I was up to my eyeballs in reports that I put off doing after you were hurt. I did not have anyone who could do about ninety percent of these reports. Mike did what he could, but even that did not make a dent in them. If I did not work at night, after the construction and installations are done, you probably would not see me for a couple weeks."
"Does that mean you are out of excuses for ditching family dinners?"
"No it means I am down to one report and to be completely honest, I am having a very hard time writing it. What is with all the family dinners lately?"
"Mom has extra time on her hands right now. She will have even more time when all the replicators are up and running."
"Lovely." Kacey said unable to keep the sarcasm out of her voice. "Look Kate, there are only so many hours in the day. It starts at oh six hundred hours. I report for duty by oh eight hundred hours, sometimes earlier. We start working on getting the technology up and running. Or work with the Gellarians to explain how the Stingers work. Then maybe, maybe, if I am very, very lucky, I can grab a quick sandwich before I start working on the never ending list of reports. I try to knock off around twenty hundred hours so that I can spend a little time with Natalia, before the craziness starts all over again. So you tell me, where in the course of a day like that, am I supposed to fit in a family dinner just to pretend that everything is all rosy, when it is not. I can not pretend that I have forgotten."
Kate held up her hands. "Enough. Kacey no one is asking you to forget. Just bend a little. You are so rigid and stubborn. Would it kill you to be a little more flexible and bend so that you can accept the inevitable."
"FOR CHRIST'S SAKE. JUST FORGIVE HER AND GET IT OVER WITH." Kate yelled. "HOW MANY GOD DAMN TIMES DOES SHE HAVE TO TELL YOU THAT SHE IS SORRY?"
"THERE ARE SOME HURTS THAT JUST CAN NOT BE FIXED WITH AN APOLOGY." Kacey yelled back.
"Let it go, little sister. Let it go."
"I am working on it, Kate."
"Work faster then. Because if you blow off another family dinner, I will not be the one paying you a visit."
"Do you know what all this shit has shown me, Kate? I am not afraid of mom anymore, so do not even threaten me with her."
"I was talking about Anya, not mom."
"I am not afraid of her either."
Kate stood up. "You should be little sister. You really, really should be. That said. Consider your self warned." Kate turned and left Kacey's office."
CHAPTER 14 B
Kacey spent most of the daylight hours explaining the various meters and gauges inside the Stinger, so that the Gellarians would have a basic knowledge of the small ships they were building. She spent time with them in the Virtual Reality rooms as they practiced simulated flying. The Whiz Kids developed control consoles to work with the programs to give the pilots a better feel of the cockpit.
They were eager to learn everything they could on the small ships while Andromeda was still on their world. The program would take the pilots from take off, through twists, turns, flips and other maneuvers, before they landed
The replicators were all installed and brought on line. The first thing tested on all of the replicators was an inventory book of all the items the machine would create. The shield matrixes were installed and connected to the Gellary power grids. More matrixes were replicator so that the entire world could be protected. The shuttles tested the shields. The last item to be done was the erection of the relay tower.
Work was halted for another day. With the installations now complete, Kacey found herself in rehearsals for the concert their orchestra would give for the Gellarians hosts the day before they were scheduled to lift off to continue their journey.
Kacey was able to find time each day to spend with Natalia before heading for rehearsals. Their program was set so they practiced just the songs that would be performed.
Once they lifted off, life would return to it's crazy normal. Kacey had postponed her nieces music lessons. She found she was looking forward to resuming them. They continued to practice on their own.
Kacey decided to make it an early day. With nothing planned, she logged off duty and shut down her computer. She made her way to their quarters.
Natalia was not at home when Kacey arrived. She changed out of her fatigues and into her around the quarters outfit. She poured herself a brandy which she carried into the living room. She started the music disc, took a long pull of her drink, welcoming the familiar burn. She stretched out on the couch and let the music take her away. She closed her eyes.
Kate stood outside Kacey's empty office. She had come down to pull her very stubborn sister away from her work, before Anya found out she blew off another family dinner.
"Computer locate Colonel O'Malley."
"Colonel O'Malley is in her quarters."
Kate pressed the private call button on her communicator. "Dad?"
"Aye lass, what can I do for you?"
"Have everyone move dinner to Kacey's. She is in her quarters. We will bring dinner to her."
"We will get everything ready to move, Katie."
"Wait for me to get there." She said as she closed the office door.
Kacey was still lost in the music when the door opened to admit Natalia and her family. Natalia smiled at the sight of Kacey stretched out on their couch. The only parts of her that moved were her foot and hand which kept time to the music. Liam closed his eyes at his daughter's state of undress and backed out of the room.
"Is she asleep?" Patricia asked softly unwilling to wake her volatile daughter.
"No, she is lost in the music. She is not even aware she is keeping time to the music." Natalia said.
"At least she is out of Marine Mode and relaxing." Kate stated.
"Do you think so?" Anya asked. "If someone other than Natalia were to touch her, she would jump a foot." She smiled. "Want to have some fun? Everyone stand back." She said as went to stand behind the couch. Kate moved the coffee table so that Kacey did not hurt herself when she jumped. She pulled the twins out of the way.
Anya lightly touched Kacey's arm which caused Kacey to jump and take a wild swing. Anya pulled her hand away quickly.
"WHAT THE FUCK." She yelled. "WHAT DID YOU DO THAT FOR ANYA? I COULD HAVE BROKEN YOUR ARM."
"You did not. Now go put some clothes on so Liam can bring dinner in."
"Yes we decided if you will not come to a family dinner, the dinner would come to you. So go change." Kate stated.
Kacey's heart was still beating wildly. She stood up and drank the remaining brandy in her glass. She put her arms around Natalia and kissed her. "Thought I would surprise you by coming home early. Guess the surprise is on me." She said and walked into the bedroom. Kate helped Liam bring in the dinner cart.
"I had better go talk to her." Natalia stated.
"Let me." Anya said. "I started this. I need to fix it." Natalia nodded. Anya went to the closed door and knocked.
CHAPTER 14 C
"WHAT." Came the growl from the other side.
"Kacey, it's Anya, may I come in?" There was no response. "Kacey?"
"Yeah come on in." Anya opened the door and found Kacey sitting on the bed with her elbows resting on her knees and her head in her hands.
Before she closed the door Anya heard, "I think it is safe to assume that plan backfired." Anya sat on the bed next to Kacey and placed a hand on her arm. She felt the tremors. Kacey's voice was soft when she started to talk.
"My Senior year at the Academy, we had just finished finals. We did our run through Drop Out Canyon. Those of us who made the run successfully decided to celebrate. Some of the guys decided getting drunk was the best way. I decided to celebrate just me and music. I was on my bunk listening to music, when a few decided that I needed to join them. Because they were half drunk, they did not listen to Mike when he told them not to touch me. One touched my arm and I came up swinging. I broke his arm. You just did the same thing. Do you know how close I came to really hurting you?"
"You did not even come close. Were you really angry with me or just scared that you did hurt me?"
"I don't know, Anya." Kacey admitted. "It is really funny, from the first time Natalia touched me when I was sleeping, I did not react that way. It is like..."
"Like your body knew that you belonged together."
"Yeah something like that I guess. Anya, I am sorry."
"I should apologize to you. I knew you would jump and I thought I would have some fun with you. I honestly thought you would just jump like you did that night in Sick Bay. I did not expect you to react that way. I consider myself lucky that I have excellent reflexes."
"So am I."
"Are we all right, little sister?"
Kacey chuckled. "Yeah big sister by a quarter of an inch. We are all right."
"Good, so change your clothes."
"I need to slap some cold water on my face first."
"I will let everyone know" Anya pulled Kacey into a one armed hug and kissed the top of the dark head.
Kacey grabbed clean sweats and headed to the bathroom..
"Is everything all right?" Kate asked when Anya came out of the bedroom.
"Yes. Kacey will be out shortly
"Is she still mad?" Patricia asked.
"She was not angry. She was startled and scared. She told me about that incident in her senior year." Anya said as she accepted the drink Liam handed to her.
"What happened?" Natalia asked.
"The last week of school, they had finished finals and their run through the canyon. Those that completed it decided to celebrate. Kacey chose to relax with music, much like today. She totally came out of Marine Mode and relaxed. Probably for the first time in four years. Some of them decided that would not do so when they were half drunk one of them touch her hand. She broke his arm. He was kicked out for that stunt. His career gone, one week from graduation for that."
"Why did she react like that. I have seen her jump when someone touches her head when she is sleeping, but never to the point where she comes up swinging." Natalia stated.
"It is that Marine Mode. That hyper vigilant state, that even when they are asleep, they are still aware of what is going on around them. I noticed when I went on that rescue mission, that when one person went to wake another they only tapped the top of the head. Away from any moving parts. It would only take one tap and the person was instantly awake." Kate told them.
"How many taps did it take for you that night, Kate?" Kacey asked as she came out of the bedroom. She accepted the brandy from Liam. "Thanks dad."
"I am not sure. Probably half a dozen at least. I was beat."
"Tired or not, you pulled your weight. For a non Marine you did good on the trip. You should have been with us on the survival trip."
"Come and eat while you tell your story. Everything is ready."
"I remember that lass."
"So do I." Patricia said.
"Tell me." Natalia begged.
"Between Winter and Spring semesters we would always have a six week break. During that time the Seniors would go on their thirty day survival trip." Kacey started her story. "They would take all the Seniors to this remote area. We were over a hundred miles from civilization. There were twenty five hundred Seniors and they broke us up into squads of one hundred. We were all over the East Coast. Each squad had either a Full Bird or a Looney Bird Colonel as leader."
"What is a Looney Bird?" Natalia asked.
"A Lieutenant Colonel. Anyway during this trip we learned how to live entirely off the land, what plants were edible, how to set snares and build a smokeless fire. We had no running water and bathed in cold water from ponds, lakes and rivers. We had to make our way to the rendezvous point a hundred fifty miles away. There were five squads in each section set down in a circle with the base in the middle. Those hundred and fifty miles were booby trapped with mud holes. Nothing to really hurt us, because that would make the Colonels look bad. The first week half the squad had fallen into the mud at some point. If at the end of the trip one person made it through without completely falling in the mud, the whole squad passed.
"Did your squad pass?"
"We did. We had two who were able to brag."
"Were you one of them?"
"I almost wasn't."
"Our last night out, when we were ten kilometers from our objective, the temperature dropped to ten degrees. Until then it had been cold but never below freezing. Next morning, Mike and I had point when we started out. He stepped on a trigger, which dropped the ground out on both sides of a two foot wide area. We grabbed each other to keep from falling in. We only had one foot go into the pit. What save us was the freezing temperature. The mud was partially frozen and we were able to get our footing. We did not fall completely into the mud. We made it to the base camp without further incident and three days early. They took us out of the area immediately and brought us back to the dorms. I grabbed my duffle and headed home for the remainder of the break. Did not even take the time to shower because we were only allowed a five minute shower at the dorm and I knew I would need one a hell of a lot longer to get rid of thirty days of grime."
"That is for sure lass. Kacey was a real mud puppy when she arrived home." Liam said.
"I jumped into the first hot shower for several weeks and just stood there trying to warm up. Then I crashed. Probably slept for a couple days."
"No dear. It was not even a full day. Your uniforms however were hopeless cases and had to be thrown out or used for rags."
"I think she still wears what is left of them from time to time, mom." Kate said.
"So where does the head tapping come in?"
"When we were on sentry duty and went to wake our replacements, we were told that the only place that was safe to touch someone was the top of the head and never on the arms. We slept with our guns in our hands. So to avoid getting shot, you learned to tap the person on the top of the head. That is why I jumped that night in Sick Bay but came up swinging earlier."
"If you could do it again, would you still decide to take Kate's advice and not fight the placement?" Anya asked.
"Yes, because being the contrary person I was, I decided Kate was right and I needed to break tradition. You will not hear me say that Kate was right too often. The worst part of that survival trip was we were not allowed any coffee. Marines and students lived on coffee. Instead we were each issued thirty caffeine pills. It would not be good to have twenty five hundred Seniors down with caffeine withdrawal headaches, which sometimes can be worse than migraines. Heaven help any one who lost their pills."
Everyone around the table laughed.
"I am so happy you could make it for dinner tonight, dear." Patricia stated.
"I didn't know there was one." Kacey admitted.
"I sent you a message on your computer." Natalia said.
"After I finished with the Gellarians, I went to my office and decided to take the night off and surprise you. I shut the computer down without checking my messages."
"Have you finished all your reports?" Anya asked.
"No. I still have one more to do, but I am having trouble writing it."
"You have never had trouble writing report before. Why this one? What is the problem?" Kate asked.
"I am having trouble because I can not sit through the God damn video and watch you get hurt again." She said loudly as she started to rise from her chair. Natalia's comforting hand stopped her.
"Would you like some help?"
"What are you going to do Kate, hold my hand while I watch the fucking thing?"
"Kacey, please your language." Patricia stated.
"If you need me to hold your hand then that is what I will do. We all need help sometimes."
"I will think about it."
CHAPTER 14 D
Kate and Anya strolled through the Hanger on their way out to enjoy a rare day off together. Construction of the stage for their concert was almost complete. Kacey stood at the top of the ramp watching the builders. She leaned the door frame staring out . Her normal ramrod straight posture was gone. Instead she slumped in frustration. Just the way she was standing told Kate she was in turmoil.
"Done for the day, little sister?" Kate asked.
Kacey shook her head. "No. I am just trying to get one ounce of courage to show itself and kick in so that I can watch that damn video."
"Is it working?" Anya asked." She shook her head no again. "Kate take her arm." Let's go Kacey. This has hung over your head long enough." Anya said, as she took hold of her other arm. They both tried to pull her away from the door way. Kacey resisted their efforts. She tried to stand her ground, but could not fight them both without hurting them. They pulled Kacey to her office. "Sit." Anya ordered as she pushed Kacey into her chair. "Kate get her a coffee. Bring up you report."
"It is not going to work. I have tried everything I know to get past this, but I just can not."
"That is not acceptable, Kacey. We will help you. Bring up your report."
Kacey put on her glasses and brought up what she had written so far. Second excursion on Planet Hell World, (JZ 126)
900 hours, We landed and divided into four squads of six persons each. Members of my squad included myself, Captain Kate Jensen, Lt Commander Anya Jensen, Lt Commander Rhea Torino, Sergeant Miles O'Commor, and Private Edward Miller. We walked in a North East direction. We came across several herds of what we now know were genetically altered species of Earth's animals. They were docile and did not attack.
1137 hours, we arrived at the five kilometer boundary of our search area and started the return trip to base. Nothing remarkable to report.
"Kate bring the video to 1303 hours." Kate hit the start button and found the time code they needed. Both women placed a comforting hand on Kacey's shoulders in support. They watched the playback until Kacey looked away just before Kate was stung. "Stop playback and bring it back to 1303 hours, Kate." Anya ordered. "Try that again." The video restarted and the same thing happened. Kate hit stop again. "We can do this all day if necessary, Kacey, until you can sit through the video. We are both off so we have plenty of time." Anya stated. "What you need to do is jump start that courage we both know you have and get it done." Anya ordered. "Kate restart."
It took several more tries before Kacey was able to watch the incident.
1303 Captain Jensen stung by a genetically altered hornet.
1305 Lt Commander Jensen removed stinger and applied an antiseptic to the sting.
1308 Resumed our journey to base.
1312 Captain Jensen in distress. Trouble breathing and high fever.
1314 Went for shuttle for emergency evacuation to Andromeda.
1320 Captain in Sick Bay due to allergic reaction to sting.
1350 returned to planet to retrieve samples to make anti venom. Major Michael Anderson was backup in the event I was also stung and had the same reaction as Captain Jensen. We used full protective gear with face masks and gloves. Nest retrieved without incident.
1405 Nest delivered safely to Dr. McCloud. Most of the crew volunteers to be guinea pigs to get anti venom. Doctor would not allow me to volunteer.
"Is there anything else you need to include?" Anya asked
"No they do not need to know about the blow ups mom and I had." Kacey replied.
"Then your report is complete." Anya stated. "So just send it to where ever you need to send it and call it a day." She ordered.
Kacey obeyed Anya's orders, then exited the report file. She closed down the hand computer and stood up. Kacey faced her sisters.
"Thank you. I could not face it alone."
"We all need help once in a while. There is no shame in asking or accepting help when it is offered." Kate told her.
They both put their arms around Kacey. She held them both and took a deep breath.
To be continued...
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