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CHAPTER 19 A
Kacey worked to get the cloaking device connected to the computer in her shuttle after the whiz kids were able to adapt the alien technology. She worked for hours trying to get the two systems to work together without success. In frustration, she slapped the console which caused the computer and cloaking device to talk to each other.
She pushed back under the console to find the problem which was obviously a loose wire. After several minutes she located the loose wire and fixed the problem. While under the console, she double checked all the other connections. Satisfied that all the connections were tight, she pushed out from under the console and crashed into Kate who waited for her to finish. The force almost knocked Kate off her feet.
"Damn Kate, are you all right?"
"I am fine." Kate said as she rubbed her ankle.
"Are you sure I did not hurt you?"
"My ankle is a little sore. Have you Marines ever heard of sneakers or running shoes?"
"Sure we have heard of them. We even wear them at times."
"They would definitely hurt less when you kick someone, even accidently." Kate joked. "Anything to report?"
"We were able to adapt the cloaking device and the computer is talking to it. Now we just have to test it out."
"When will you go out?"
"With the next squad at fourteen hundred hours."
"Will the cloaking device affect the video locks?"
"I don't know. Why?"
"You know the answer to that."
"Yeah, unfortunately I do. If the cloaking device affects the video, the cloaking has to go." Kacey stated.
"Exactly." Kacey sighed. "The sooner you accept the fact that I will always try to look out for you the better you will be."
"Kate, I have accepted the fact that I will have the video locks on me each and every time I am off Andromeda, or whenever you deem it necessary. I also accept the fact that as my older sister you will always look out for me. I love you for it. But, when we have to stop using a device that could better protect us or rather me, because you would not be able to keep an eye on me, is not rational."
"I do not have to be rational when it come to you little sister. I am the Captain and what I say goes."
"Yes ma'am." Kacey stated "Have you come to any decision about the Stingers?"
"Yes I have." Kate said as she sat down. "Have a seat." Kate waited for her to sit down. "If the test on your shuttle goes well, and I mean not only protects the shuttle, but that it does not affect the video lock, then you can put the device on all the shuttles and one Stinger per squadron. BUT there must be at least one shuttle out with each squad. Understand?"
"I understand, Kate. Thank you."
"You are welcome, Kacey. DO NOT make me regret this decision."
"I will try my damnedest, Kate. We have come up with a way for the computers to send the coordinates, over a special frequency, so that even if you can not see me, you will know where I am at all times.
Kacey was in her element. She was out with her pilots, flying through the stars. This is where she belonged, where she came alive. There was only three places where she felt this way. In Natalia's arms, with her music and surrounded by the stars in her shuttle. She started the music disc and soft violin music played through the speakers she had placed in her shuttle. Not regulation equipment, the player had an indepent power supply and did not draw power from the shuttle.
Sensors were quiet. Shields were up. The expanded view showed the exhaust port now protected as much as they could. She brought the cloaking device on line.
"Shamrock to Andromeda."
"Go ahead, Kacey." Kate's voice came through the shuttle speakers.
"Ready to test the cloaking device."
"Roger, Kacey. We have you onscreen You can begin the test." They watched Kacey clamp the smoke stick between her teeth.
"On three." Kacey said. "Three, two one" She pushed the on button.
The crew on the Bridge, watched Kacey's shuttle disappear from view. Within seconds the video lock showed the inside of the shuttle while the shuttle itself remained invisible.
"How does it look?" Kacey asked.
"There was a couple seconds lag time after the shuttle disappeared, but we still have you onscreen." Kate told her.
They all heard Kacey let out a sigh of relief. "That is really good to hear, Kate. Is the computer picking up my coordinates?"
"We have them, Kate." Anya stated.
"Yes we can track you."
Kacey pumped her fist in the air. "Yes" She said. "All right ladies and gentlemen, lets go snooping. Stingers sixteen through twenty, you are with me."
"Not to far out, Kacey." Kate ordered.
"Now where is the fun in that, Kate?"
"KACEY." Kate warned.
"I know, I know. Sometimes it is like having two mothers." Kacey joked.
"At times you need more than one mother, Kacey." Anya stated.
"That is true." Natalia added.
"Ha, ha, ha. thanks a lot Anya. Are you still reading the coordinates?"
"We have them." Anya stated.
"Then it is time to go exploring." Kacey stated.
They watched her push the throttles forward and through the windshield could see exactly what she was seeing. She stayed on the viewscreen as the computer followed her progress.
"Anya keep a close eyes on her distance." Kate ordered.
"Tis good to see that little kid peeking out again."
"It certainly is dad. She has been making appearances more and more." Kate agreed. She is in her element out there. She has three of the four things that really make her come alive. Music, flying and a new toy to play with."
"Tis true, Katie. We all know who is the fourth." He turned and smiled at Natalia.
"Kacey is five hundred kilometers out." Anya stated.
Five hundred in five minutes, at least she is not pushing the speed." Kate stated. "What are the sensors showing?"
"Fairly quiet, Kate." Natalia answered. A few old propulsion signatures but nothing else."
"At least a day old. None are masked."
Anya checked the console and nodded to Natalia. "Good job."
Kacey lost herself in the stars as she felt more relaxed than she had felt in a long time. That elusive peace was still out of her reach. She could no longer find that peace. That apex where her restless spirit was calm. She could pinpoint the last time she felt that peace. That was before Kate was hurt and before the argument with her mother.
Why can't you just let go the of remaining hurt and anger. She asked herself. Your life is just about perfect, except for...
No damn it. I just can not forget what she said.
What are you so angry about? You damn pride. She gave you a kick in your pride. She only said what you were thinking to begin with.
Yeah she did. So get over it. You know you did the best job you could possibly do.
But it was not enough. Kate still got hurt. My best is never good enough for her
That is not true, O'Malley.
"Will you just shut the Hell up?" Kacey yelled at the voices.
"Kacey who are you yelling at?" Kate asked.
Shit. Kacey thought. Forgot about that damn video.
"Yeah, Kate. I was just having an argument with myself."
"So who won?" She could hear Natalia and Anya laughing in her earphones.
"Is there something you wanted?"
"A report would be nice."
"Sure. It is still quiet out here. Still showing propulsion sigs, but none are masked. Sensors have picked up a mass three hundred million kilometers away."
"We are seeing the same. The star charts have it listed as CQ113." Anya stated.
"Any information on it?"
"Plenty. Breathable air, it is an M class planet with water, plants animals and no technology."
"What sort of animals?"
"Just says small animals." Anya told her.
"What are your coordinates?" Kate asked.
"I am about nine thousand kilometers away. How is the video feed?"
"Still good. Are you still cloaked?"
"Yes. That way I can keep an eye on other things." Kacey said. Her sensors stated beeping. "Hold on Kate. My sensors just sounded off." Kacey checked her readouts. "All craft report in." She ordered. The stingers called out. "Are your sensors picking up anything funky?"
She asked her pilots.
Those Stingers with her replied "yes"
"Andromeda, all our sensors are picking up something out here. No information on what set them all off."
"Kate we are picking up some sort of thing." Anya stated.
"Thing? Can you be a little more specific?"
"For lack of a better word, thing is what best describes what is out there. It is not solid, a gas or a mass of any sort."
"How far away?"
"Less than ten thousand kilometers from Kacey's position and quickly headed towards her."
"Kacey there is something headed directly at you. You had better return to Andromeda."
"What sort of something?"
"We have no other information. It is now less that seven thousand kilometers from you. It is moving very quickly." Anya stated.
Kacey looked around at the stars that surrounded her. Then she saw the glowing orange. "I have a visual Andromeda."
"What do you see Kacey? Kate asked.
"I am not sure. It is glowing almost a pulsing orange ... thing. Even at six thousand kilometers, it is huge. What the hell is that?"
"Kacey I order you to return immediately to Andromeda." Kate shouted. "Pull in all the Stingers."
"Roger that, Kate. All Stingers return to Andromeda maximum warp." Kacey ordered. She turned her shuttle around and turned off the cloaking device so that the stingers could see her shuttle.
The orange mass followed them. Within minutes Andromeda was in sight. The strange glow was less than two thousand kilometers away by the time all the stingers had landed. Kacey waited to make sure all the flyers were safely inside the Hanger. She hesitated, to check the location of the glowing orange. She felt a jolt hit her shuttle. She was locked in place unable to move. She felt the life support shut off and the cold flood in. She was locked into the pulsing as it came closer.
CHAPTER 19 B
The Bridge crew watched the shuttle stop.
"Kacey land your shuttle." Kate ordered. "Kacey respond." Kate watched in horror as she stared unmoving in the shuttle. "Get a tractor beam on her and haul her ass in here immediately." Kate ordered. "Go to Red Alert. Close Hanger doors as soon as she is in and raise shields in that area." Kate fired orders. "Commander you have the Bridge. Natalia you had better come with me."
Natalia left her post to join Kate in the lift. "Sick Bay send a Doctor to the Hanger." Kate said into her communicator."
"Roger Captain. Do we need a stretcher?"
"I am not sure Doctor."
The air lock doors were still closed and they watched the tractor beam bring Kacey's shuttle into the Hanger. The launch doors closed. Red lights flashed through the ship. Dr. McCloud joined them as they waited for the air lock door to open. From where they stood, they could see Kacey unmoving in her shuttle.
They ran to the shuttle as soon as the air lock doors opened. The ramp was still closed. Kacey had not moved.
"Kacey lower the ramp." Kate ordered. The ramp remained closed. "Kacey lower the ramp." Kate said again with no results.
"I have this Captain." Major Anderson said as he punched in the code to lower the ramp. They were hit with a blast of frigid air as soon as the ramp opened. They all rushed inside.
"Christ where is the heat in this thing?" Kate asked.
The Doctor went to Kacey's side. "Heart beat down to thirty, respirations three, blood pressure seventy over forty two. Skin very cold to the touch. Colonel can you hear me?"
Kacey continued to stare as if in a trance. The Doctor pried her hands from the yoke.
"Katie, that thing is directly above us." Liam's voice came over the communicator.
"Get us out of here." Kate ordered.
The Doctor tried to unclench Kacey's hands. "Colonel, Kacey." Kacey finally turned her head and looked at the Doctor. "Can you hear me?"
Kacey started to shiver. "Cold." She managed to get out throught shattering teeth. "So cold."
"We will get you warmed up shortly." The Doctor told her. "I need to get her to Sick Bay immediately." The Doctor stepped aside as Major Anderson unhooked Kacey's harness and lifted her from the pilot's seat. He carried her out of the shuttle.
"Get some blankets down." He ordered. Several Marines hurried to lay blankets on the Hanger floor. Within seconds he gently lowered Kacey to the blanket. He grabbed a blanket and lay it over his commander and friend.
Natalia with Kate at her side knelt on the floor next to Kacey. She took Kacey's cold hand in her own. "Sweetheart, I am right here."
"So cold Talia."
"We know. The Doctor will get you warmed up quickly." Kate said.
"I need five volunteers to help Carry the Colonel to Sick Bay as soon as the Doc gives the word." Major Anderson called out. Men and women rushed to help their leader. "Someone get the Colonel's shuttle parked. Get the mechanics to go through every system to find out why the was no heat in there."
The Doctor knelt by Kacey's side and checked her vital signs. After a minutes she looked up. Not even close to being normal. Get her to Sick Bay immediately."
Major Anderson put his hand on Natalia's arm. "Mrs. O'Malley we need to move the Colonel now." He helped her stand. Kate put her arm around Natalia's shoulders. They followed the Doctor as the Marines carried Kacey to the lift. Within seconds they rushed her through the doors of Sick Bay where they laid her on a waiting stretcher.
"Get heated blankets on her immediately. Keep changing them as needed. Get a hot towel on her head. Keep a close eye on her vital signs." The Marines turned to leave. "Gentlemen stick around. Your services will be needed." The Doctor placed a thermometer in Kacey's ear. She checked the readout. She tried the other ear with the same results. "No wonder you are cold, ninety two. Keep those warm blankets coming."
Kate wait with Natalia. They watched through the windows in the doors as the medical staff surrounded the stretcher Kacey lay on.
"We are away from that thing. How is Kacey?"
"The Doctor is with her."
"Should I be getting your mother?"
"We don't know what is going on yet so you had better bring her." Kate said. " She only said she was cold."
The medical staff kept replacing the warm blankets as they tried to raise Kacey's temperature with little results.
"Get the whirlpool ready. Start with warm water and after she is in it add hot water. We have to get her temp raised gradually. Remove her boots only. Put her into the water with her clothes on. We can not take a chance of her getting colder." They pushed the stretcher into the next room where the whirlpool waited. The Marines followed. "If we do not get her warmed up, her organs could shut down. Gentlemen would you lift the Colonel and place her onto this sling?" The Marines lifted Kacey and placed her gently on the sling. The Doctor lowered the sling into the water until only Kacey's head remained above the water. "Put a heated towel on her head. Start adding hot water. Her temp has got to come up." After ten minutes, she placed the thermometer in Kacey's ear. "Damn, it has not moved. Keep adding hot water and replace the hot towels."
They worked for almost thirty minutes to get her warmed up with no improvement. Kacey's eyes were closed. "We will continue for fifteen more minutes. If there is no change we will have to try something else. Get the hypothermia suit on the stretcher. Get those wet clothes off her. As soon as she is out of the water, dry her off and get her into the suit before she gets any colder. Leave her left arm out for the I.V. Bring the I.V. heater into room four and start warming the fluids. Five percent Ringers. She will need a catheter. Push the heat in room four. I will need a permission form for the warm I.V."
The Marines turned as soon as they started to remove Kacey's clothes.
Liam, Patricia and Anya walked into the waiting room where Kate and Natalia waited for word from the Doctor. The Marines had not yet come out of Sick Bay. Anya put her hands on Kate's shoulders.
"Any word?" She asked.
Both Kate and Natalia shook their heads no. Anya moved between the two and placed an arm around them both. They unconsciously leaned into Anya as if to draw strength from her.
"Kate what the Hell happened?" Patricia demanded. "Liam told me about that orange thing."
"We don't know." Kate stated never taking her eyes from the window. "The inside of her shuttle was like a deep freeze. She was barely breathing when she was carried out of the shuttle."
"What happened to her heat?"
"We don't know."
"Why does she always have to take chances? What are they doing in there?" Kate turned to look at her. "What's wrong, Kate?"
"Nothing that needs to be discussed right this minute, mom." Kate stated and turned back to the window.
"Later mom." Kate snapped.
Anya rubbed Kate's shoulder and whispered. "Kacey is strong."
"Where are the girls?"
"I will get them shortly and bring them here for a short time." Anya answered. "Try not to worry. Kacey is strong. Is there anything I can bring for either of you?"
"No thank you Anya. Everything I need is through those door.
Forty five minutes and Kacey's temp had not risen. Her clothes had been removed and a blanket put over her. "We can not wait any longer. Get her out of the water, dried off and into the suit. Leave her left arm out and get the catheter in. Where is that permission form? Gentlemen as soon as she is dried off would you get her onto the stretcher? Is everything set up in room four?"
"Yes Doctor. Here is the form you need."
The Doctor raised the sling and the staff went to work drying Kacey off. They put a blanket over her as the Marines lifted Kacey onto the stretcher. They averted their eyes even though Kacey was covered with a blanket. They left with the Doctor and stood off to the side as they waited for the Doctor to talk to the family.
"Mrs. O'Malley, Captain, we have been trying to raise Colonel O'Malley body temp with a warm bath. Unfortunately it did not work. Her temp is still ninety two. Her vital signs are way below normal. She is suffering from hypothermia. If she were a bear she would be hibernating."
"What can we do?" Natalia asked.
"Warming her from the outside in did not work so we will need to use more drastic means. For that I will need your permission."
"What do you mean by more drastic means?" Patricia demanded.
"That means that Colonel O'Malley is being placed in a hypothermia suit and I want to start a warm I.V.. To warm her from the inside out."
"Of course I will sign the form."
"Natalia wait." Patricia ordered. "What are the risks?"
"If we do nothing, her vital organs could shut down. Or she could go into shock if her temp is raised too quickly. She will be heavily sedated as it will be extremely painful when the tissues and nerves start to warm up."
Natalia looked at Kate and Anya who both nodded. She signed the form and handed it back to the doctor.
"When can we see her?" Natalia asked.
"I will come get you when she is in a room. I have to get the I.V. started. She will be sedated and will not know you are there."
"I need to be with her. She will know I am there, Doctor." Natalia said.
"Of course Natalia."
The Doctor left. The Marines whispered to Natalia, saluted Kate and left the waiting area.
"I will go get the girls." Anya said She kissed Kate then kissed Natalia on the forehead before she left.
"How the Hell could she be suffering from hypothermia? She has heat in her shuttle doesn't she?" Patricia asked.
"She does." Kate stated. "Something caused the heat to kick off. I am not sure if that thing had something to do with it or if the cloaking device caused the problem."
"What cloaking device?" Patricia demanded.
"It is a device they took out of the fighters that attacked them last week. They adapted it to our flyers. Kacey was trying it out today." Kate explained. "Hold on." Kate spoke into her communicator. "Major Anderson."
"Yes Captain. Has something happened?"
"No change, Major. I know your people are going through Kacey's shuttle. I want to know what caused her heat to go off."
"We are in the process of pulling all the systems now, Captain."
"Keep me posted on what ever you find, good or bad."
"Why the Hell did she put alien technology on her shuttle. Did she get permission to do that?" Patricia asked.
Kate looked directly at Patricia. "I gave her permission, mom. We discussed it. She had many valid points and I gave her permission to do it."
"Why would she want to do that?"
"Patsy, don't be doing this?" Liam warned.
"Do what Liam. Kacey has got to stop taking chances with her life. She is a married woman with a child on the way. How could she be so careless?"
"MOM." Kate stated loudly. "Stop right there." She warned.
The Doctor returned which stopped their conversation. "You can go in now."
To be continued...
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