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CHAPTER 23 A
The tests were all completed. Nothing harmful was found in the plants, soil, water or insects. Andromeda was waiting for Kate's order. She appeared on the view screen.
"Andromeda, I am sending you the coordinates to land. Lieutenant Minor bring her down."
"We have the coordinates, Commander."
"Ye heard the Captain, lad, time to land this beauty."
"Aye Commander. Coordinates locked in. Preparing to land."
Under his skillful hands, Andromeda came down slowly and smoothly until with a slight bump, she was down on the surface. The landing struts absorbed the weight of the large vessel. The engines shut down and all they could hear was the sound of the slight breeze that blew across the grass around them and the trees in the distance.
Kacey remained outside the perimeter the Marines had set up. Kate once again walked towards her. The Marines let her pass.
"Andromeda, has landed, you can relax now." Kate told her.
"Not going to happen Kate. I do however want to apologize for pulling rank on you earlier."
"Not necessary. You did exactly what you were supposed to do. Once again I am very proud of you for assuming command."
"Thanks Kate." Kacey said taking her eyes off the surrounding area for the first time. "Captain, I turn command of Andromeda and all it's personnel back over to you."
"I accept, Colonel. Now my first order is for you to relax."
"Then you had better put me on report, because it will not happen."
"I am not going to put you on report for doing your job. Do you think you can you be just a little less rigid?" Kate asked her. "You are so damn tense, I am afraid you will shatter if anything touches you. What would it take to get you to relax?"
"My family to be completely safe from harm, but being that we are billions of kilometers from home, and that there are dangers lurking around every corner, I doubt that will happen for a long time."
"You, little sister, are beginning to sound paranoid." Kate poked her in the arm.
"If it means we all return home safely, then yes I am paranoid." Kacey told her. "Kate you have to remain safe, because I do not want your job."
"How about a compromise?"
"I will be more vigilant if you are a little less."
"Can not make any promises, Kate, but I will try."
"I accept that. How about something to eat. I don't know about you but I am hungry."
"Yeah now that you mention it, so am I."
"Well our lovely wives are waiting for us and one thing you need to remember when you have a pregnant wife is never, I mean absolutely never make them wait to eat." Kate took Kacey's arm and pulled her towards the ship.
The girls practice was over. They sat and listened to the discussion of the upcoming adult party they would be allowed to attend. They were sworn to secrecy. Each adult had their pads out and went over their lists.
"Food is taken care of." Kate reported. "Mom did not ask too many questions, thankfully."
"Music is line up. Steve has the play list set."
"Will you play?" Natalia asked.
"That would depend on how nicely you ask."
"Do you like walking that thin line, Colonel?" She asked. Kacey smiled.
"Decorations are ready to be put up, Chaplin has been notified, and flowers have been arranged for." Natalia went down her list.
"Tables and chairs will be set up the day before. Rhea said she would get the decorations put up." Anya finished. "Looks like we have everything covered except for two things. Natalia and I have a shopping trip planned for tomorrow."
"Uh oh, we may not see them for several days" Kacey teased. "Ow." She said when Natalia slapped her arm. "What was the second thing?"
"Kate said you wanted to talk to me."
"Yes. I spent a couple days after I was released from Sick Bay looking for some suitable music. I finally found a song I think would be nice for you to sing. Let me play it for you."
Kacey opened the computer and brought up the song she mentioned. She turned the volume up and hit play. They listened to the words.
"That was beautiful. " Natalia said as she wiped tears from her eyes.
"What do you think Anya?"
"Sure, if you sing it with me." Anya stated and smiled.
"Would you Kacey? I really like listening to you sing." Natalia asked. "It would go a long way towards erasing that shopping comment.
Kacey smiled and kissed Natalia on the forehead. "Yes." She replied and handed Anya a copy of the words.
"Can we hear it again?" Anya asked. Kacey played the song again.
"That song is better suited for during the ceremony than the party." Kate said.
"I agree. I was thinking a good place would be right before they renew their vows. Kacey said. "I think dad knows, he cornered me two days ago."
"Are you sure?"
"He did not come right out and admit it, but you know him. He said, in the event you lasses are planning a grand party, there is a song, I will like to be singing to your mother." Kacey mimicked his brogue. "He said it was a song his grand father sang to his grand mother at their sixtieth anniversary."
"Did you find it?"
"I did. Want to hear it?"
"Of course." Kate said.
Kacey pulled up the song and hit play. They listened to the words. At the end they all wiped tears from their eyes.
"Mom is going to cry when he sings that." Kate said.
"Seems only right as he made up both cry at our receptions." Kacey stated.
"Aunt Kacey, why would you want to make grandma cry?" Erica asked.
"It will not be a sad or hurt crying. It would be an I am so happy, or that the words are so beautiful and have so much meaning sort of crying." Kacey explained. "So now I have two new songs to learn. You get your wish, Talia, I will play at least two different instruments that day."
"Well if I will be singing with Anya, I will play the piano. For dad's song I will play the violin."
"So you will have to practice too, Aunt Kacey? Can we watch?" Erin asked
"That I will demon. It's a good thing we are on the ground and I will not be flying as much." The girls nodded. "That is after I make sure your mom does not get hurt."
Kate rolled her eyes.
Every morning, Kacey had the Marines not assigned to mapping or escort duties walk the perimeter and test the shock sticks. Two Marines were assigned to Kate each time she walked out side, to Kate's growing aggravation. No matter where she went or when she left Andromeda, she was followed by the two Marines assigned that day. She tried to sneak out, but within seconds of her leaving the confines of the ship, her escort was close at hand. She had just stepped off the ramp when the escorts popped up. She turned on the Marines.
"Gentlemen, I appreciate your vigilance. However I am quite capable of walking outside alone." She said angrily.
"Yes ma'am , we are well aware of that."
"Then I am sure you have other duties that need your immediate attention."
"No ma'am. " You are our only responsibility at this time."
"I am the Captain of this ship."
"Yes ma'am, but the Colonel would skin us if you were to walk around unescorted."
"Kate please do not give my people a hard time. They have their orders." Kacey said as she walked down the ramp.
Kate grabbed Kacey's arm and forced her back into the Hanger to her office.
"We need to talk." Kate said as she waited for Kacey to open the door.
CHAPTER 23 B
Before the door was fully closed, Kate yelled. "CALL OFF THE ESCORTS."
"Sorry that is not about to happen."
"THAT WAS NOT A REQUEST, COLONEL."
"I really do not care what it was. I will not take off the escorts."
"GOD DAMN IT, I AM THE CAPTAIN."
"Yes you are."
"THEN CALL OFF THE GOD DAMN ESCORTS."
"Look Kate, we are on a foreign planet. Even though our sensors and scanners are not showing anything dangerous, we can not take the chance that it is totally safe. It is either them or me dogging you ass. You choose."
"When did you become paranoid?"
"When you were hurt on my watch, Kate. I am not about to let that happen again. Look I know I am not entirely to blame there, but I am not about to tempt fate here. Anya would be devastated if anything would happen to you. If you will not do it for yourself, do it for her and your children."
"I learned a lot from you Kate, including how to fight dirty. Please Kate?"
Kate threw up her hands. "All right, all right."
"YES." Kacey pumped her fist in the air. "So where were you headed earlier?"
"Just for a walk outside. Anya and Natalia are off with the Botanists and I felt like some fresh air. How about you?"
"I was just taking a break myself. I have been working on those two songs and needed a break."
"Then come with me. We can talk outside."
"So what do you want to talk about?"
"When do you plan on telling the rest of the family the results of the ultrasound?"
"Talia and I were discussing that last night and figured the next family dinner would be the time. I guess we could get everyone together before then."
"Will you tell them about the sex?"
"The one we know anyway. If at a later time we find out the sex of the second, that will be kept a secret.. Especially if that the other is a boy, we are planning to keep that quiet."
"Why for heaven's sake?" They walked slowly outside, stopping periodically watching the activity around the ship. The slight breeze stirred the grass. "Are you going to answer my question?"
"Not right this minute. Mom and dad are walking this way." Kacey stated.
Their parents walked toward the. They held hand like two young lovers. Kate smiled at the sight.
"Tis good to see you both able to be out enjoying some time off the ship." Liam said.
"You both work way too hard." Patricia added.
"That comes with the heavy hardware on our collars, mom." Kacey told her.
"So what new devices are you working on?" Patricia asked.
"Not much in regards to the ship. Although I have a couple music projects I am working on now." Kacey looked at Liam who smiled back at her. "Are you both free tonight?"
"I believe we are."
"Would you come over to our quarters say twenty hundred hours after the girls practice?"
"Of course. We will see you then." They walked off leaving the sisters alone to walk off in the opposite direction. Kate waited until she thought their parents were far enough away to continue their conversation.
"So why would you keep the sex of the second baby a secret?"
Kacey looked around them before answering. "We were talking and decided that if the second is a boy, we wanted to wait and see dad's face when he met his first grandson."
"You little sister are an old softie." Kate nudged her with her elbow. "Have you discussed names?"
"We have a list started." Kacey stated.
"Is it a secret?"
"That it is Katie me darling, so do not be trying to wheedle the information out of me." Kate laughed at how easily Kacey could slip into the Irish brogue when she wanted to. "Have you given any thought to what you are going to do when this journey is finished?"
"We have to finish this one first. There is still a lot of this mission left."
"I know. Would you take another long mission if it were offered?"
"I doubt another would be offered, but it would depend on several things." Kate stated.
"On if you would ship out with me. That goes for mom and dad also. If we could ship out on Andromeda." Kate answered. "Would you?"
"Only if you were the Captain and if we could bring our families with us, Do you honestly think mom and dad would let us go off without them?"
Kate laughed. "No way in Hell. But there is very little chance of being picked for another long mission. We were the first of the star travelers but not the last. What brought that up?"
"We were watching a recording of our launch last night which reminded me that if everything was on schedule, the second would have been launched today."
"The launch is not the only reason you brought this up. What is on your mind?"
"I have been thinking about my future once we are back on Earth."
"What did you decide?"
"If I stayed with the Marines, I will put in for a flight training command."
"If you stayed with the Marines?" Kate asked. "You thinking about becoming a civvie?"
"I don't know. It has crossed my mind. It would be safer for Talia and our children.
"Little sister, you almost sound like a grownup."
"It had to happen sometimes, Kate. No matter how hard I tried, it had to happen." Kacey laughed.
The girls practiced. Kacey stood off to the side with her attention on the notes they played. She let them play the piece they were learning all the way through without comment. When they finished, she smiled at them.
"Almost perfect. You have to watch your timing. Try not to rush through the music. If you hit a wrong note, keep playing. The next time you play the piece, remember the mistake you made and try not to make the same one again. You both did a good job tonight." Kacey told them. "Anya your turn."
"Do we have time?" She asked
"For one go through." Kacey told her. Anya placed her drink on the coffee table and joined Kacey at the key board. The girls moved to allow their aunt to sit. Kacey started to play and nodded for Anya to sing. Anya sang the first line alone. Kacey joined in on the second. Their two voices blending in harmony They were able to go through the entire song.
"That was really good. Your voices blended beautifully. It will be a big hit at the ceremony." Kate stated.
"I agree, Kate. That was beautiful." Natalia stated. "Do we have time to hear the other song?"
The door chimed. "I would say no." Kacey said. "Come in." She called out as she hid the song they had just practiced.
The door opened to admit Liam and Patricia. Kacey poured her father a whiskey and a wine for her mother. She refilled everone else's glasses. Natalia moved to the chair to give the love seat to her in-laws. Kacey handed out the drinks.
"What is the occasion for this meeting?" Patricia asked, as she accepted the glass Kacey handed her.
"Thank you lass." Liam said. "Now why the smile?"
"We have some news to tell everyone." Kacey stated. "Natalia went for her first ultrasound. Kate went with her because I was indisposed."
"What did you find out?" Patricia asked.
"Talia would you like to do the honors?"
"Thank you. According to the Doctor, unless I am carrying a two headed four armed and legged alien, we are expecting twins."
"Twins." Anya and her in laws said together.
"That is wonderful news lass. Congratulations."
"Were you able to see the sex?"
"We know one is a girl. The other remains a mystery. Thank God there are only two choices." Kacey said.
"What about names?" Anya asked.
"We have a list started."
"Any favorites?" Patricia asked.
"Yes, but the babies should hear them first." Kacey said.
"That is how it should be, lass. Once we decided what your name would be, we never said your name out loud to anyone until we held you for the first time." Liam told her. "You were a sight. Long legs and arms, yelling your head off with this head full of black spiked hair."
"DAD." Kacey complained.
"If you are needing help getting the nursery set you, you be giving me a call." He stated.
"Nursery?" Kacey blurted.
"You know the room where the babies will sleep." Natalia said. "Did you think they would sleep with us in our bed?"
"Hell no. I just had not given it any thought."
"Don't forget diapers, clothes, formula." Kate said. Kacey got paler with each item. Kate continued. "Food, college..."
"Kate, stop." Anya ordered, as she watched the panicked look cross Kacey's face. "Need I remind you how you panicked when I was pregnant?" Kate had the decency to blush at Anya's reminder. "Try not to worry, Kacey. Everything will be done by the time the babies arrive. Right Kate?"
"Right, Anya. Kacey I am sorry. We will all pitch in to help." Kate said contritely.
CHAPTER 23 C
Natalia placed the garment bag on the back of the chair. She placed her makeup bag with the garment bag. The ceremony was scheduled for fifteen hundred hours. She showered while Kacey moved the keyboard to the auditorium where the ceremony would take place.
Kacey had a list of errands to run the first of which was to place her violin and stand on the stage. She stopped long enough to admire the decorations. The tables and chairs were set up. Servers were setting the table. The floral arch was set to go. The same arch that had been used for several weddings and ceremonies.
Kacey was certain Liam knew about the party, but was also certain they were able to keep it from Patricia. She finished her list of errands and returned to their quarters by twelve hundred hours. She walked in the door just as Natalia came out of their bedroom. She tied her robe closed. Kacey smiled and went to her side. She smile rakishly. Everything is all set. We have a few hours to kill. How about we go back into the bedroom?" She kissed Natalia's neck.
"I would love to sweetheart, but unfortunately we do not have the time for that right now."
"What do you mean? We still have three hours." Kacey stated. It does not take three hours to shower and get dressed."
"You may not need three hours, but some of us do. I am going to Kate and Anya's to get dressed. Kate will come and keep you company. She will get dressed here."
"Why? What is wrong with you getting dressed here? Why all the secrecy?"
"You will see Colonel. I left snacks out on the counter for you and Kate to nibble on. Now I have to go so I can be ready on time. I will see you at fourteen thirty hours. Do Not be late. Hit the shower Colonel."
Natalia kissed her before she picked up the garment bag and make up case and left their quarters. Kacey headed to the kitchen where she picked up one of the snack, Natalia had left. Within minutes the door chimed. She looked at the monitor.
"Come in Kate." She called out. The door opened. Kate carried a garment back and flower box as she walked in. "Want a coffee or a brandy?"
"Coffee's good." Kate said as she laid the bag on the chair and went into the kitchen. She took the coffee Kacey handed her and grabbed a snack off the tray.
"Kate, explain something to me."
"Sure if I can."
"Why the Hell does it take our wives three hours to get dressed. It take us what thirty minutes including a shower."
"Ahh little sister, that is a question that has been asked probably since the dawn of time."
"So what is the answer?"
"The answer is who the Hell knows." Kate stated. All I know is at the end of the time, they are knockouts. They have hair and make up. It take time for perfection to happen."
"When you put it that way it makes sense." Kacey stated. "Did you get a chance to shower before Anya kicked you out?"
"Of course I showered." Kate stated.
"Don't get mad. I was going to offer you the use of the bathroom in the soon to be nursery if you needed it. I was not insulting you."
"I am not mad. I told mom and dad that we were going to take them out for dinner and dancing. Told them to wear formal clothes." Kate stated. "Not a lie but not the complete truth."
"Everything is ready. Decorations hung in both rooms. Talia sent me to check on everything this morning."
"We have to meet our girls at fourteen thirty hours. Anya told me very emphatically not to be late."
"Talia said the same thing, so I better get showered. Make your self comfortable. Kacey said as she went into the bathroom.
Kate heard the water turn on as she refilled her coffee. She took a sip of her coffee and picked up another snack. Kate picked up the garment bag and went into the spare bedroom to change. She took off her off duty clothes and unzipped the bag. She removed the shoes and socks. She put on the frilled shirt, then donned the pants, carefully tucking the shirt into the waist before she did up the clasp. She sat down and put on the socks and shoes. She had problems trying to get the cuffs fastened and slipped the cuff links into her pants pocket. She would have Kacey help with them. She pulled the vest on and did up the top button before she put on the bow tie. Kate carried the jacket and draped it over the back of the chair. She tried once more to get the cuff links in, but gave up. She sat on the love seat and sipped her coffee. Kate glanced at the pad that was on the coffee table. She was surprised to see the list of names. There were several girls names, but only one boy's. She smiled.
"Kate could you come in here?" Kacey called out. Kate walked into the bedroom. "Could you help me with these damn cuff links?"
"Of course. I need the same help myself." The cuff link problem was taken care of.
"Did we have cuff links the last time we wore these duds?"
"No. It seems our lovely ladies decided we needed new dress shirts when they bought their dresses."
"Did Anya tell you?"
"She did. I take that to mean, Natalia forgot to tell you? Don't forget your shoes." Kate reminded her.
"Would you get them out of the closet for me?" Kacey asked as she put on the vest and tie. She struggled with the tie. No matter what she did, it looked crooked. "Come on you piece of shit, straighten up." She spoke to the tie. Kate slapped her hands out of the way and fixed the tie. Kacey checked her reflection and adjusted the belt buckle. She sat down and put on her shoes. She brushed a speck of dust off the toe. She checked the time as she picked up her jacket and went into the living room. "We have twenty five minutes before we have to pick up our ladies. Want a brandy?"
"Sure why not. A small one." Kate answered. "So when will you do that song?"
"Just before they renew their vows. The Chaplin will announce that there is a special musical selection. Then at the party it will be the first song played. I have a special surprise for dad when he is singing it to mom. I managed to get some practice time in with the band on it."
"Better put your jacket on and get the flower box so we can be ready on time." Kate said as she finished her brandy.
Kacey opened the flower box and handed the smaller rose to Kate to pin on her lapel. She did the same with Kate's. She checked her reflection one more time and smoothed the shirt front.
"Ready to get our ladies?" Kate asked.
"Ready." They both picked up the flower boxes and checked the time. They left Kacey's quarters and made their way to Kate's. Kate rang the bell. Kacey looked at her. Kate held up her hands.
"Those were my orders." She said as they waited for the door to open. The girls greeted them. They wore pale pink dresses which skimmed the tops of their shoes. The blond hair was held back by garlands of pink roses. Kate smiled at them.. "My darlings you look beautiful." She said and bent down to kiss them.
They pulled the two into the room. "Mama said Aunt Kacey has to stand here." Erica said and pointed to a piece of tape on the floor." Kacey took her place.
"Mummy you have to stand here." Erin directed and pointed to another piece of tape. Kate took her place.
The girls knocked on the bedroom doors. Both doors opened at the same time. Both Kate and Kacey could only stare at the vision before them. Natalia's gown of emerald green fell in graceful lines down to the floor. The bodice was low cut and held up by impossibly thin straps. The empire waist hid the thickening waist that was their babies. She carried a green silk shawl. The emerald necklace and earrings, Kacey had given her. sparkled and matched her gown. Kacey felt her heart beat double at the vision Natalia was. Her hair was curled and gathered to fall down her back.
Kate had an identical reaction as Anya stood before her dressed in a low cut sapphire blue strapless gown. Her blonde hair was loose and touched her shoulders. The flowing gown moved gracefully as Anya walked towards her. She closed Kate's mouth which hung open.
"Breath Kate." She whispered. Kate took a breath.
"My darling you are absolutely beautiful." Kate managed to get out.
Kacey had not moved and continued to star at Natalia as she walked forward.
"Sweetheart, you are perfection." Kacey said as she ran her hands up Natalia's bare arms. Kate was right." She whispered.
"About what?" Natalia asked as she placed her shawl on the back of the chair.
"That perfection take time." She said and leaned down to kiss her. This time I know where the corsage goes." Kacey joked and opened the box. She placed the corsage on Natalia's wrist. Kacey held her hand and brought it to her lips. She kissed the smaller hand.
"We had better go get your parents before we are late." Natalia stated.
"Parents?" Kacey questioned.
"For their party?"
Kate laughed. Just show a little cleavage and an I.Q. of one hundred sixty drops to forty."
"You are no better Kate." Anya scolded. "I know what you were thinking." Anya handed Kate the lace shawl which Kate placed over her shoulders.
Kacey did the same and offered her arm to Natalia. She readily placed her hand on the strong arm.
The girls led the way to their grandparents. Kate rang the bell. "Computer begin recording." She said.
To be continued...
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