Go to Part 1
CHAPTER 25 A
The communication relay tower was completed and successfully tested. They were able to send a message through Gellary to Earth. Andromeda lifted off after spending a month on the planet they named Thetis. They would have a two month window to receive any response from Earth before they were out of range of the tower. Unless they came upon another friendly hospitable M class planet to set up another tower within that time.
Billions of stars, nebulas, gas clouds as well as all sizes of planets were their companions. Most of the planets they passed were unfit for landing. The stingers would map the area and the information added to their star charts. Andromeda went into a low orbit while the Stingers were out. The charts they received from the Gellarians were a valuable tool. The charts listed many more features of the planets that the sensors did not pick up.
The flyers were out in larger numbers. Kacey staggered their shifts so that there was always twelve ships out. At the mid point of the four hour shift, six additional flyers would launch and six would land. The flights ran around the clock. She was out with her troops daily. True to her word, she no longer went off alone. The cloaking device continued to work well. Half of the time, they could only track her by computer.
The Bridge crew could hear her music playing softly in the background. On the view screen they could see her relaxed in the pilot's seat. Her eyes scanned the area around her. She would glance at her sensors and scanners. All were quiet She allowed herself to fully relax as she listened to the ship to ship chatter of her pilots. She was cloaked and knew the only way the pilots could find her was if they checked the special frequency on their computers. Andromeda's computers automatically picked up her location.
Kacey hummed along with the music. Her hand kept time on the yoke. She purposely kept off the radio to be able to check any bad habits her pilots had picked up. She knew their attention would be focused on the area around them and forget she was out there. With the mike muted she was able to speak into a recorder. She listed the points she would need to address with her pilots. This was not her regular rotations, but as she told Kate She needed to spend time with all the squads to accurately judge them.
This was her last unscheduled overnight flight to Kate's happiness. It had been a battle to get her to okay the flights with conditions that Kacey had not pushed if she wanted to do this again.
"Andromeda to Shamrock."
"Kate, it is oh five hundred hours. What are you doing up?"
"Someone has to keep an eye on you to keep you out of trouble."
"Kate? Come on. I have followed all your conditions."
"Anything to report?"
"Lots of activity."
"Such as?" Kate asked testily.
"A few comet trails, ion trails from meteors, no propulsions signatures that are recent, When does Halley's Comet make an appearance?"
"I am not sure."
"That would be a coup if it is due this year and we are able to get close enough to get readings from it."
"That it would be."
"Do I sense a but coming?"
"No buts. Anything else out there worth noting?"
"There is always something worth mentioning. About a million kilometers off my port side there is a nebula. The colors are fantastic. Sensors are not picking up anything harmful. It is huge. Fifty thousand kilometers wide and double that in length."
"We have that on our sensors Captain." The Gamma shift Science officer stated. Nothing harmful noted."
"How far out is she?"
"Almost three thousand kilometers."
"How much longer will you be out Kacey?"
"I will be heading back shortly."
"Come to my Ready Room when you get in."
"Will do Kate."
CHAPTER 25 B
Kacey stepped off the lift still in her flight suit. She went directly to the Ready Room and rang the bell.
"Come in." Kate's voice filtered through.
The door opened. Kacey walked in and found Kate leaned back in her chair with her feet up on her desk.
"Coffee?" She asked.
"No thanks. when I leave here I plan of going back to bed for a few hours. Natalia has the day off."
"So I should not worry if I don't see either of you until tomorrow." Kate joked.
"That is a possibility." Kacey shot back.
"No blush? I will have to try harder now that you are an old married woman. How is Natalia feeling?"
"Except for a lot of heart burn, she is good. So, according to mom, at least one of the babies will have a head full of hair."
"I noticed you and mom talking at the party."
"I talked to a lot of people there."
"That is my name Kate."
"Spill it little sister."
"Not a whole lot to tell. We talked. She told me how you told her off. She apologized for coming down so hard on me and for not treating me as an adult."
"We are okay. How about you?"
"We are okay." Kate repeated Kacey's words.
"Kate when Anya was pregnant, I mean as her pregnancy progressed did she get overly sensitive about her waist line disappearing?"
"Are you kidding me? You bet she did. Especially that last month. My arms are not that long to begin with and when I had trouble putting my arms around her, I was in the deep freeze for several days. I mean sleeping on the couch deep freeze."
"Then I am glad my arms are longer than yours. The kids are on her side also. I can tell when she is upset with me, she will tell them to kick me when are in bed."
Kate laughed. "I know who she got that idea from."
"She keeps saying that she is fat, but I keep telling her she isn't. That she is expecting twins and is extremely beautiful. The other is cravings. Thank God for those replicators. Two nights ago it was spaghetti and olives."
"That would be a hard combination to find here in space." Kate said. "How many more overnights are you scheduled for?"
"This was my last one for a few months."
"That is good to hear."
"Kate it is my job."
"It is my right as Captain and your sister to worry about you. Get over it." Kate stated. "The real reason I wanted to talk to you is, I received a message from the Joint Chiefs last night. We have the go ahead for a fourth year if we want to stay out here. That is something I would like to hear from the crew on. And the second Star Traveler lifted off ."
"Is she headed towards us?"
"No. She is going towards the Beta Quadrant. The will be setting up more relay towers as they travel. Then we will have towers in two directions. Eventually the entire galaxy will be able to communicate with Earth."
"When do we need to decide?"
"That is totally up to us. Like I mentioned earlier, I want to get input from everyone before we make this decision."
"Good. If there is nothing else, I am going back to bed." Kacey stated.
"One last thing. We will be exploring another planet in four days."
"Do you want to use the Rovers again?"
"Yes. We have them, may as well use them."
"What happened to building up your stamina? Can not do that riding in a Rover. How do you ever hope to beat me in a foot race without building up your stamina." Kacey joked.
"That will have to wait. Sensors are picking up humanoid life forms and technology. So walking may not be a good idea."
April came in as Andromeda approached another planet. The haze around the planet glowed red in the view screen. They were fifty thousand kilometers away. Sensors were processing information quickly. The planet had an Earth like atmosphere with warm temperatures and an oxygen rich air.
Kacey sat next to Liam as they waited for first contact.
"Open channel. All sub space frequencies." Kate ordered. "This is Captain Kate Jensen of the United World Star Traveler Andromeda. We are on a peaceful mission to explore the galaxy. We hope to meet new civilizations, make new friends, and learn new customs. We request permission to land on your planet."
They waited for a reply.
"What is your place of origin?" The voice asked.
"We are from Earth." Kate answered.
The view screen lit up to show a beautiful woman with flawless light blue skin. Small antenna stood out from the dark blue hair.
"I am Amalie of the Planet Verna. Greetings Captain."
"You stated you are on a peaceful mission, yet your ship has large weapons."
"We are explorers in an unknown area. We will protect ourselves if necessary. We recently had some problems with Space Pirates."
"Chancellor Hime of Gellary has told us about you. He was very impressed."
"We spent several weeks on Gellary and made new friends and allies there. We hope to do the same here on Verna."
"We will allow you to land, Captain."
"Thank you Amalie, I also request permission to have some of our smaller craft to leave before we land. These will be our Shuttles and a few of our small fighters."
There was pause in their conversation. "We will allow the shuttles to be outside your ship, but not the fighters."
"That is acceptable. Thank you Amalie. We are a very large vessel and will need a large area to land."
"We have such an area a few kilometers from our main city. We are sending you the coordinates."
"We have them Captain." Lieutenant Minor stated.
"We have received the coordinates. It will take approximately three hours to land and secure our vessel."
"Shall we meet in eight of your hours? Will that give you enough time?"
"It will indeed. Thank you Amalie."The screen went dark. Kate turned to Kacey. "Bring in all the Stingers. Have all the shuttles go out. You will not be one of the pilots landing the shuttles. You will be part of the delegation for the first face to face."
"I was afraid you were going to say that, Kate. Do you want to do the Honor Guard again?"
"That would make a grand impression Katie." Liam offered.
"All right. Rhea, Bella Lieutenant Minor, with Major Anderson, Captain Taggart and Captain Williams will make up the honor guard. Full dress uniforms. Open ship wide channel."
A chime sounded. "This is Captain Jensen. We will be landing shortly on the planet Verna. We will meet with the Vernans in eight hours. All crew members will be in dress uniform. All Marines will be in their dress blues except for the following, Major Anderson, Captain Taggart, and Captain Williams who will wear their day formals as part of the Honor guard. Recall all the Stingers and launch all shuttles. Only the shuttles will be allowed outside Andromeda. All crew make ready your stations. We will begin our descent in twenty minutes. Close channel." Kate ordered. "Lieutenant take us to the coordinates and prepare to land as soon as all the Stingers are back."
"Shuttles have all been launched and all Stingers have landed, Captain." Rhea stated.
Lieutenant Minor skillfully brought the large ship down through the red haze to land Andromeda. The shuttles touched down around the big ship and were secured. The giant engines were silenced. The Hanger ramp opened to allow the pilots to reenter the ship.
CHAPTER 25 C
The main ramp opened. The honor Guard lined the ramps as Kate flanked by the twins stood at the top. They waited for the Vernan delegation to arrive. The transports landed several meters from Andromeda. The ramps opened. Several women exited first and lined the ramp in the same manner. An older woman stepped off, flanked by four younger women. They all had the same flawless light blue skin, They were all tall beautiful women. The only difference between the women was the grey flecked hair of the older woman. They walked slowly towards Andromeda. The older woman carried an intricately carved staff.
Kate started down the ramp, followed closely by Kacey and Liam. Behind them, Anya, Natalia and Patricia walked. When they cleared the ramp, the Honor Guard lined up behind them. The Vernan guard did the same. The two groups walked towards each other to a red strip halfway between the two ships.
Kate and the older woman took one step towards each other. She handed her staff to a young child who walked with her. She held her hands out in greeting. One palm up the other palm down. Kate extended her hand in the same manner.
"Greetings Captain. Welcome to Verna. I am Queen Dyan."
"Greetings Your Majesty. I am Captain Kate Jensen" The two women clasped hands in friendship. "Thank you for allowing us to land on your world."
"Chancellor Hime conveyed a great deal of information of you and your great ship."
"While we were on Gellary, we were able to share technology and forged friendships. We hope to be able to continue to make friends with the citizens of Verna."
"That is possible. Captain would you begin the introductions?"
"It would be my pleasure. My First Officer and father, Commander Liam O'Malley." Liam stepped forward and clasped hands with the Queen as Kate had.
"Your Majesty." He said, bowed and stepped back.
"The commander of our Marine contingent and my sister, Colonel Kirsten Campbell O'Malley." Kacey stepped forward and greeted the Queen. "Head of our Science Department and Star Navigator, and my life partner, Lieutenant Commander Anya Jensen." She stepped forward. "Head of our Security, Lieutenant Commander Rhea Torino" She stepped forward. "Head of Engineering, Lieutenant Commander Bella Torino. Marine Major Michael Anderson, Captain Jeremy Taggart, Captain Daniel Williams, our Chief Pilot, Lieutenant Richard Minor. My mother Mrs Patricia O'Malley, crewman Natalia O'Malley, life partner of Colonel O'Malley. Our children Erica and Erin Jensen." Each person greeted the Queen.
"Welcome to Verna families of Andromeda. I would like to introduce my daughters. Princesses Taki, Malie, Soren, and Chasen. Members of the Honor Guard are Colonel Dolen. Major Jarsic, Captain .Betia, Captain Tinkie, Lieutenant Banda, and Lieutenant Jakan."
Each person stepped forward to greet Kate. Taki looked at Kacey and winked.
With the introductions out of the way, the Queen motioned for the large transports to move forward. "We invite you to visit our main city. We have several transports that will convey any member of your ship to visit with us. Your shuttles can follow our transports to the city."
"I have to tell you, your Majesty that there will be almost nine hundred who will want to make this initial visit."
"We will call for more transports. They will be at your disposal for the time you are with us. I would like to invite your senior staff and families to dine at the palace tonight. We can not accommodate all your crew, unfortunately, but hopefully before you resume your journey we can set up some sort of feast for your entire crew."
"We accept your gracious invitation." Kate said.
The Queen turned and walked back to her transport. The officers made their way to the shuttles. Kate grabbed Kacey's arm.
"I know Kate, I know. Today I am a passenger."
"Correct little sister."
"Younger, Kate." They entered the shuttle. Kacey started towards the pilot's chair. Kate shook her head, no. Kacey sighed and joined Natalia in the passenger area. Natalia held her hand.
The shuttle followed the Queen's transports away from Andromeda. They flew at a very low level, just skimming the ground as they made their way towards the city. The buildings were prosperous looking. Crowds gathered along their route and waved at them. They waved back at the crowds. The palace was a large stone building at the end of a tree lined road. They stopped in front of a wide marble staircase that led up to the palace. The doors stood open. The staff hurried to assist the royal family and their guests.
The Queen and her daughters waited in the transport until the Honor guard formed up. Kate did the same. She walked off the shuttle with Anya and their girls. Liam and Patricia followed with Kacey and Natalia behind them. The Queen waited at the base of the stairs. Kate walked next to her as they climbed the stairs.
Kacey smiled as she took in the large stair case.
"What is that smile for, Colonel?" Natalia asked.
"Just thinking. I would have loved a stair case like this when I was a child."
Patricia hear her comment and laughed. "Didn't you get into enough trouble with the one we had?"
"Aye lass. I would have gone broke putting a gate across one this size." Liam added.
"Still a big kid at hearts, I guess." Kacey stated.
"That will never change." Patricia said.
They entered the large double doors into the vaulted ceiling of the foyer. Fresh cut flowers stood in ornate vases at intervals around the large area. The Queen directed them into the Reception Hall. A servant in fine clothes offered them refreshments while they waited for dinner to be announced. Another finely dressed servant carried a tray for the Marine officers hats and gloves. The Queen rang a bell. With in seconds a finely dressed butler appeared at her side.
"Prepare the large dining room. There will be a total of twenty five."
"It will be done, you majesty." He said and left quietly.
The crew waited for the Queen to be seated. She surprised them by walking among them instead. A server brought her a finely etched glass of amber liquid. She held her glass up when everyone had been served.
"To new friends and allies." She said.
They all raised their glasses. "To new friends and allies." They all said.
The queen stood next to Kate and Anya. Their girls stood quietly and listened to the buzz of conversation around them. Queen Dyan crouched down to their level and spoke to them. "I must say you are both very well behaved for ones so young. When my children were your age they were always running through the many rooms we have here."
"Thank you, your Majesty." They said together. "Mama told us we had to behave." Erin said which caused the queen to laugh.
"You have a lovely home." Erica said.
"Thank you Erica." she said softly.
"Aunt Natty used to be a queen but she isn't any more." Erin stated.
"Really. Perhaps you could help me. I am getting on in years and can not remember names too well. Which one is your aunt Natty? Could you point her out to me?"
"She is right next to aunt Kacey. The one in the blue uniform with the saber. Would you like us to take you over to her?" Erica asked
Kate and Anya beamed with pride at their daughter's behavior.
"That would be a great help to me." The girls looked at Anya for permission. She nodded. Queen Dyan leaned heavily on her staff, as she got up. Anya offered her a hand which she readily accepted. The girls led her to Kacey and Natalia, who stood a few feet away.
"Aunt Natty we told Queen Dyan how you used to be a queen"
"That is a story I would like to hear."
"There is not much to tell. My great grandmother moved her people off Earth after the last war decimated her country. They lived on the planetoid of Marcus Prime for sixty years. Earth quakes destroyed our home. I was the last queen. Colonel O'Malley and the crew of Andromeda rescued the remaining citizens. The Colonel was hurt during the evacuation. We ended up falling in love. We have been married for fifteen months and are expecting twins in June."
"Why did you not return to Earth with your people?"
"The main reason was that I fell in love. I spoke to all my advisors and we decided that I could not fully care for my people if my heart was elsewhere."
"Such a depth of intelligence in one so young."
"Thank you Queen Dyan."
"Now you are married and expecting twins. It is incredible. As the mother of four girls, and two sons, I can tell you that children can be a handful from their first breath, but they are always a blessing."
"I see how much my nieces have enriched my sister's life and can not wait for our little ones to arrive."
"If you are in need of any items, we have many fine shops here on Verna."
"We will have to check them out. We do not have anything yet for them." Natalia responded. "Right Kacey?"
To be continued...
Return to the Academy