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CHAPTER 18 A
Kacey donned her coveralls to get the remaining Stingers and shuttles systems recalibrated to the new sensors. She lay on a rolling cart under the Stinger and she struggled to open the hatch underneath the flyer. After several tries the port opened. She turned the meter on and attached it to the bottom of the flyer. Kacey inserted the earphones to hear the sounds of the systems being correctly synched up. She picked up her tools and went to work listening to the sounds and watching the numbers line up. She worked steadily for several hours, going from ship to ship.
While her shuttle was being repaired, she took herself off the flight roster. She knew she could take any shuttle she wanted, but decided after the close call she had, She would stay close so that Natalia would not worry. Truth be told, her body was still a bit sensitive from Natalia's acceptance of her apology. Sitting in the pilot's seat for an extended period of time was just what her body did not need at the present time.
Who would have thought that sweet gentle Natalia could be so creative. Maybe I should ask her not to spend so much time with Anya. Oh that would not go over at all. It just might be the pregnancy hormones. She thought.
Kacey pushed out from under the Stinger and ended up banging into Kate who was just about to kick her foot to get her attention.
"What brings you down here? Have I forgotten another family dinner?" She said as she removed the earphones.
"I have been hailing you for the past hour. Are you ignoring me for a reason?"
"I had the earphones in and did not hear you. I told you that before. Did you need anything in particular?"
"Can you take a break?"
"Sure, come into my office." They walked out of the Hanger and into Kacey's office. She poured them each a coffee and handed one to Kate. "Is there something on your mind or did you just come down to give me grief?"
"Really would I do that?" Kate asked innocently. Kacey gave her a pointed look. "All right I would. I really just wanted to make sure you were not sick or hurt."
"Why would you think that?"
"You did not go out today."
"Oh that. My shuttle is still being repaired. I know I can take any shuttle out if I wanted to including yours, but I happen to like mine. It has special equipment in it. After the scare I gave everyone yesterday, I figured I would stay close for a day or two and finish getting the other ships recalibrated."
"Is that the only reason?"
"The only one you need to know about."
"So the groveling worked? Any sore areas today?" Kacey felt the blush start. Kate laughed. "Never mind. That blush answers my question."
"Laugh it up Kate. Now is there anything else you came here to bust my chops for?"
"As a matter of fact there is. Do you know what is coming up in a few weeks?"
"Hell Kate, I am lucky to remember what today's date is." She brought up the calendar on her computer. "Mom and Dad's anniversary."
"I guess that means a big party."
"What do you think about having them renew their vows?"
"It is a fantastic idea. We can do it up big. Will this be a surprise party?"
"It would be tricky, but we can pull it off. We could wear those tuxedoes mom had made for us. Seems a waste to just have them hanging in the closet."
"Why don't you and Anya come over tonight when the girls come over to practice and we can really discuss this. The Bridge and Mess Hall are out so that leaves our offices and quarters."
"Your quarters are safe during the lessons because they will not come over and distract the girls at that time." Kate stated.
"If they are going to renew their vows wouldn't uniforms be called for?" Kacey asked. "They did have a military wedding then or so I have been told. I was still a twinkle in Dad's eye then. Does that mean this one should be military also?"
"Not at all, but it would be a formal affair."
"Talia likes the way I look in either outfit."
"Or out of them." Kate said which caused Kacey to blush again. Kate laughed. "You are still such an innocent even after almost nine months of marriage little sister."
"We are working on correcting that Kate." Kacey defended herself. "The girls practice is at nineteen hundred hours. We can discuss the party plans then."
Kacey divided her attention between the girls practice and the party discussion. She sat on the love seat next to Natalia, facing Kate and Anya on the couch. Each held a pad and pencil. They all wrote line after line on the pads while they talked.
"If this is going to be formal, are we talking military or civilian?" Natalia asked.
"Kacey and I were thinking civilian that way we get to wear those fancy tuxedos."
"Does that mean Anya and I get to buy new dresses for the occasion?"
"Honey if you want to buy a new dress go ahead and buy it." Kacey told her. "No that was wrong. Try that passage again." Kacey told her nieces. "Why not take mom with you and get her a new outfit also?"
"That is a great idea Kacey." Kate said.
"If Talia, Anya and mom get new outfits, and we will be in our tuxes, that means dad will have to wear his." She said. "That time was better. Try not to rush through. Continue."
"What if they want to spend their anniversary quietly?" Anya asked.
"They both love a good party." Kate said.
"We could always say we are taking them out for a celebratory dinner, then dancing afterwards." Natalia offered.
"Good idea." Kate stated.
"What about food for the party? We can not have Patricia cook for her own party."
"She does not need to know it is their party." Kacey said. "No that was not right. Go back and try that again."
Kate shook her head as Kacey jumped in and out of their conversation. "Do you feel lucky enough to lie to mom?" She asked.
"There are always the replicators." Natalia supplied.
"That would be a last resort. You do not have to out right lie to her, Kate."
"What do you mean I don't have to out right lie to her? What about you?"
"Replicators are sounding better and better. Look Kate, I am in charge of the music, unless you can learn how to play an instrument in the short time we have. You can at least handle the food side." Kacey told her. "That sounded a lot better. Finish the piece and you will be done for tonight."
"That is good to hear. You jumping back and forth was giving me a headache." Kate said.
"She does that to me all the time." Natalia stated. "I never know if she is talking to me or the girls."
"It is called multi tasking." Kacey joked. "Didn't they teach you that at the Space Academy?"
"I suppose you took a multi tasking 101 course?"
"No it was 202." She laughed. "I can only do that when music is one of the tasks I am doing."
"I will talk to mom about the food for a party. She does not need to know it is their party."
"Anya can the girls have cookies?" Natalia whispered.
"Yes they can." Anya answered and went to the kitchen area to help Natalia. She poured the girls a drink while Natalia took the cookies out of the storage area and put them on a dish. They brought everything to the living room. Kacey refilled Kate glass and her own. She added ice to her glass. She could not stop herself from blushing as she remembered the way Natalia used the ice.
"We need to get more cookies." Natalia stated. "Are you all right?" Kacey cleared her throat.
"The replicators can give us what ever type you want. Someone can not seem to get enough cookies lately." Kacey said as she pointed to Natalia. "So we have the music covered, food, you ladies will take mom to get a new dress. We have our tuxes. The big problem will be getting them to the auditorium."
"What about the line up?" Natalia asked.
"They walk down the aisle together." Kacey told her.
"Okay. By themselves or will you both walk in front of them?" Anya asked
"I guess we could do that." Kacey said. "Where does that leave you and Natalia?"
"How about this." Kate offered. "We use the same line up we used for your wedding. The girls first. Then Anya and Natalia, followed by you and I, then mom and dad."
"That would work. Are we going to separate them the night before?" Kacey asked.
"Do you have some sort of death wish little sister?"
"Not really. It was just a suggestion. I know I am no where near brave enough to suggest that to them."
They all laughed.
CHAPTER 18 B
The enemy fighters were in pieces as the mechanics studied each system. They spent extra time on those systems they were not familiar with. Those they were familiar with were put aside for later study. They had found the cloaking device and were trying to find a way to adapt them for use on their fleet. If they were successful they would be able to replicate more that every flyer could be equipped with the extra protection of cloaking capabilities.
Kacey along with her top three officers sat in her office as they poured over the schematics for the shuttles and stingers. The weak spot on all the flyers were the exhaust ports, where the shields did not cover. They could not completely cover the exhaust ports, but there had to be a way to better protect that area and make it harder for a direct hit. A hit in that area could cost the life of a pilot and loss of a stinger. Kacey found out the hard way. She was lucky the hit only knocked out her engine. She could not afford to take that chance again. Her ego still smarted from having to be rescued and would not allow that to happen again.
"There has to be a way to better protect that area." She said as they looked at the schematics. "We have to find a way to make it harder for a direct hit."
"Can the computer be programmed to extend the shields to cover anything but the bottom of the exhaust ports?" Mike asked.
"The computer would have to talk to the shield matrix to make the adjustment, but I think it could be done." Captain Taggart stated.
"How much power would be needed?" Captain Williams asked.
"The amount would be negligible." Taggart responded.
"If we can do this to the smaller flyers we can do it to Andromeda. She has four ports that are much larger than the flyers." Kacey added.
"That would not be a problem, Colonel." Taggart stated.
"Good. Make that your first priority, Jeremy." Kacey ordered. "Now about the cloaking device. Will we be able to adapt them to our flyers?"
"Everything depends on the computers accepting the alien technology, but I think it could be done." Taggart stated.
"Where will we take the extra power needed from?" Mike asked. "Do we take power from the sensor range again?"
"No. Kate was adamant. We can not sacrifice range or speed. Where else could we take power from?" Kacey asked.
"Life support, weapons, and shields are off limits also." Mike added.
"Add communications to that list." Kacey stated. "That does not leave us any areas on the Stingers. The shuttles though, we could take the power from the heating units or refrigeration. Those two systems rarely get used unless we plan an extended trip. They both are non essential systems."
"That would work. They both pull eight amps each. That would give us sixteen amps to play with. That might be enough for the shuttles."
"The Stingers do not have either of those. The only place we could possibly pull power from would be the scanner range." Taggart supplied.
"They have the maneuverability to get away with the shorter range." Mike added.
"How much range would be lost?" Kacey asked.
The men added figures into their calculators. "Two to four percent which translates to no more than fifty thousand kilometers. It is your call Colonel." Mike stated.
"My first inclination is to say do it, but if we are going to play around with range, I have to get Kate's permission first. She pulled Captain's privilege after the last time we sacrificed range." Kacey said.
"A shuttle goes with each squad. They would have the range." Mike stated.
"That is very true. If we can adapt the cloaking device, have it installed on my shuttle first."
"Colonel are you sure? The Captain may not like that."
"She will out right hate it, but it needs to be done. It would better protect us all in the long run. Now I just have to convince Kate of that. Disconnect the heating and refrigeration units on my shuttle so that we can be ready to go as soon as the device is adapted. If I need something heated, I can bring hot water." Kacey stated as she picked up her notes and computer. "If you hear an explosion, it will be Kate tearing me a new ass." The men laughed.
"Good luck, Colonel." Mike said.
Kacey headed for the Bridge as her officers headed to her shuttle. She perched her glasses on the top of her head.
The stars in the view screen zoomed past as Andromeda continued to forge and explore new territories. The Bridge crew went about their tasks, which after eighteen months in space were second nature to them.
Kate and Liam sat in their chairs and watched the stars. The stingers crossed the view screen periodically as they flew their guard duties.
"The lads are busy out there. How many are out?" Liam asked.
Kate pulled up the flight roster Kacey sent her every morning. "Twelve. Kacey increased the number until we are through this area."
"Is her shuttle still down?"
"No, but they are trying to find a way to protect the exhaust ports from attack, before she goes out again."
"Those tiny fighters out there, tis a lot like David protecting Goliath."
"Very true. Those fighters have the maneuverability that Andromeda does not. They are a definite asset. I know." Kate held up her hands. "I was against them at first. Now I can not imagine being out her without them."
The lift behind them opened. Kacey stepped off and went to her chair.
"We were just talking abut ye lass."
"Nothing good I hope. I do not want you to ruin my bad reputation, dad."
"You reputation is safe, lass."
"Thanks, dad. That had me worried." She joked. "Kate I need to bring you up to speed on the fleet."
"Come into my Ready Room." Kate said as she stood up. "Commander you have the Bridge." Kacey followed Kate off the Bridge. She placed her notes and computer on Kate's desk and accepted the coffee that was offered. She booted the computer.
"We found a way to protect the exhaust ports on the shuttles and Stingers." She handed Kate the pad. "I am not the artist you are so my drawing is a little rough." Kate smiled.
"Rough is an understatement, but I can see it is a drawing of the shuttles and Stingers."
"We can not protect the whole area because enclosing the exhaust port would seize up the engine." Kate nodded in understanding. "So we can protect the top, both sides and the front, leaving the bottom open for the exhaust. In order for a hit to take out the engines through the exhaust port the shot would have to come from below and take a ninety degree angle."
"What are the chances a ricochet would knock out the engines?"
"Extremely slim. This modification would make it next to impossible to take a direct hit to the exhaust port."
"That looks good." Kate admitted.
"The same with the Stingers. Their exhaust ports are on the bottom, but the same configuration applies."
"You do what you have to do."
"We could also adapt Andromeda's shields. She has four engines, which means four exhaust ports. That makes it four times more likely to take a hit there. Granted it would take four direct hits to knock out all the engines. The power needed to extend the shields are negligible.
"Sounds like you have made good use of your down time."
"Thanks Kate. I really do not want to be rescued again. It was a blow to my pride."
Kate laughed. "Have you found anything interesting from the enemy fighters?"
"We found the cloaking device. The Whiz Kids are looking at ways to adapt them to our shuttles."
"Hear it comes." Kate said and leaned back in her chair. "Lets hear it. Which shuttle will be the guinea pig?"
"First let me say that the power needed for the device will not be taken from any important systems like sensors, weapons, life support, communications, or any other essential areas."
"Which shuttle?" Kate asked again.
"What we are going to do is reroute the power from the refrigeration and heating units. They might get used once or twice so why have them drawing power when it is not necessary?"
"Which shuttle?" Kate asked for the third time.
"If they work, we can replicate enough to equip the entire fleet..."
Kate slapped her hands on the desk as she stood up. "WHICH SHUTTLE GOD DAMN IT?" She yelled.
"Mine Kate. We will try it on mine first."
"Why does it have to be yours?"
"It is smaller than the rest. We could put it on one of the bigger ones first."
"But you won't. Will you take the shuttle out for the demonstration?"
"Why Kacey? Why you? Surely one of your pilots can do the demonstration run."
"Of course someone else can, but I am in charge. Like I have told you before, I can not ask any of my people to do something I am not willing to do."
"You said you would reroute power from non essential systems."
"What about the Stingers? Where would the extra power come from?"
"We were thinking about taking the power from the sensor range. Before you get angry, let me explain. There is always one shuttle out with the Stingers. Those sensors would still have the range. The Stingers can move out of the way faster than even the shuttles."
"How much range would be lost?"
"Two to four percent which translates to no more than fifty thousand kilometers. They would still have range of one point two million kilometers."
"You sacrificed range for sensitivity. Now you want to sacrifice more range for the cloaking device. I am sorry Kacey. I will not approve that."
"Kate we are still talking one point two million kilometers range. Plenty of reaction time."
"Can we do this? One stinger in each squad will have a cloaking device."
"How many ships are normally in a squad?"
"Nine ships. Eight Stingers and a shuttle. It would put us on more equal footing. We can not see their actual numbers. They wold not be able to see ours."
"I assume you have all the information on your computer?"
"Send it to me. I will read it and give you an answer."
"I could always go back to a definite no. Accept the maybe, or scrap the plan." Kate said emphatically.
Kacey started to protest, but a look from Kate stopped her. "Okay, okay." Kacey said and sent the information to Kate. "I have sent you all the information we have come up with."
"Will you be going out today?" Kate asked.
"With the next squad. I thought I would switch things up and go out with different groups."
"Does that include the overnight squads?"
"Yes. It occurred to me when I was doing the last set of evaluations, that the only information I have on some of the pilots is what the squad leaders tell me. I really need to see first hand if what they are telling me is actually true."
"I am not sure I like the idea of your night flights."
"I am damn sure you hate the idea because you will not be able to keep an eye on me."
Kate laughed. "Busted. Yes, I feel better about your being out there when I can keep an eye on you."
"I am not a child, Kate. I do not need a baby sitter."
"No you are not. You are an extremely capable adult, who can sometimes get in over your head."
"Are you ordering me not to do the night flights?"
"No, I am not. However, you are to go no further than three thousand kilometers."
"Three?" Kacey stated. You have to be kidding me?
"Accept the restriction or confine your flights to the Alpha shift." Kate ordered.
Kacey sighed. "All right Kate. I do not have to like it. It is like being a teenager with a curfew again."
"You are correct, so do not try to break it, little sister. We will have video evidence."
To be continued...
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