CHAPTER 26 A
Dinner was announced. The queen led the procession into the dining room. Major Anderson stepped forward and offered his arm to her. She placed a hand on his arm as she allowed him to escort her into dinner. Kate and Anya followed the Queen. They each held the hand of their daughters.Patricia placed her hand on Liam's arm. Natalia did the same to Kacey. Behind them walked Rhea and Bella. The male members of the Honor Guard offered their arms to the princesses. After holding the Queen's chair, Major Anderson and the Marines removed their hats and gloves which they handed to waiting valets.
The talk through dinner was kept light Kate and told them stories of their journey. watched Kacey Liam regaled them with behind the scenes stories. Taki watched Kacey with interest.
"Colonel, you have so many medals. What do they signify?" Taki asked.
Kacey pointed to a few medals. Sharpshooter means that I hit what I was aiming at one hundred times out of one hundred shots and did not hit the instructor. This is my good conduct medal. Which does not mean I was perfect, I just was able to not get caught doing something wrong. This one represents that I was a member of the Earth's President's Mounted Guard. These smaller ones represent each year I have ben a Marine. This one is the Marcus Prime Medal of Valor for when I managed to get the very stubborn queen off her home planet before it exploded. The one next to it is the United World Medal of Valor for coming up with the idea to help us defeat the Megarans."
"What does the one around your neck signify?" Queen Dyan asked
Kacey cleared her throat, embarrassed by explaining her medals. "That one is the highest award a service person can earn. The Medal of Honor. I was awarded that for also rescuing the Queen."
"What the lass is forgetting to tell ye, your Majesty is that she piloted her shuttle with a concussion, numerous cuts and a dislocated shoulder." Kacey cleared her throat again and blushed listening to Liam.
"Captain, Chancellor Hime sent word about your wonderful shields. Would we be able to see a demonstration?"
"Certainly, your Majesty. Would tomorrow be convenient for you? We can do the demonstration and give you a tour of Andromeda."
"Tomorrow would be acceptable."
"We can have the demonstration at ten hundred hours. Ten in the morning."
"We will be there Captain. Perhaps we can exchange technology with you."
"Certainly. We can negotiate trades."
"Shall we adjourn to the reception room and continue our conversation over drinks and coffee?"
They all rose from the table. Queen Dyan with Kate at her side lead them out of the dining room. The room was large with rows and rows of book filled cases on three sides. Art work separated the cases. Floor to ceiling windows took up most of the fourth wall. A door led to the balcony outside. The large formal garden could be seen past the balcony. Large comfortable furniture took up the floor space.
The visitors waited for the Queen to sit before they did. The Princesses stood around their mother. She waved for them to visit with their guests. Kacey stood next to Natalia as she sat next to Queen Dyan. Kacey's eyes constantly scanned the room. She would not relax her guard while they were on the foreign planet. Her eyes met those of Taki's who winked at her. She quickly broke the contact.
"Captain, truthfully, how well do those shields protect you?"
"For the most part, we are fully protected. Unless of course we run into an electrical Ellipsis. That was the only thing that has been able to penetrate our shields. Andromeda's shields can handle a direct hit of one hundred fifty kilometers per second. We are working on improving that number."
"Perhaps you noticed as we rode through the city that the only males we have are those under twelve and over fifty?"
"I did notice that." Kacey spoke up. "Is there a reason for that, your majesty?" Kacey looked up and found herself the recipient of a lecherous look from Taki. She quickly looked away again. The princesses left their mother's side and walked among the visitors.
"Three years ago, we were attacked by raiders. They took all of our young men. We were unprepared for such an attack. They took many other things in addition to our men. I lost two sons to the raiders. We have had no word of them and little hope of protecting ourselves against further attack, if the raiders return."
"The shields will not stop the attacks, but will protect your people from being taken and against the destruction of your cities." Kacey said. She scanned the room. Once again Taki winked at her. Kacey frowned and looked away. She felt the princess walk to her side.
"Tell me Colonel, how does a woman get to be a Colonel in the Marines?" She stepped inside Kacey's personal space which caused her to take a step back.
"You highness, it took a lot of hard work and dedication."
"How dreary you make it sound. Why would you choose such a hard path. Surely there were easier fields you could enter."
"They chose me. On Earth anyone who wants to expand their education has the ability to do so. Either in a civilian school or one of the military academies. Everyone on Earth has to do a mandatory two year service after they complete secondary school. Unless they enter one of the academies. When we apply for the military academy, there is an entrance test. My test scores placed me in the Marine Academy, although at that time I wanted to attend the Space Academy."
"So you basically have no choice?"
"We have a choice. If we choose to fight the placement for another branch we can."
"Still sounds like a lot of hard work. Do you have any other interests?"
"Yes I do. I can fly a dozen different types of fighters, I am a musician and a fairly good rider. Most of all I have a beautiful wife that I love with all my heart who is expecting our children."
Taki leaned in close and whispered, "Does she keep you satisfied?"
Kacey's eyes hardened. "Extremely." Kacey noticed Kate signaling her. "If you will excuse me, the Captain needs to speak to me." She walked to Kate's side. "Thank you" She said and continued at Kate's look. "I will explain later." Kate nodded.
"Colonel, Captain Jensen tell me you are a very skilled pilot."
"I know my way around the inside of a flyer." Kacey stated.
"Would you be able to give my people the fundamentals of flying? We have the flyers, but not the pilots to fly them."
"I would have to look at your flyers first to see if I can fly them before I can teach anyone else."
"That was an excellent answer, Colonel. We can arrange a tour for you. If you can in fact fly our craft, and accept the task, how long wpuld it take for you to teach my people?"
"I can not give you a definite answer to that, your majesty until I see if I can fly them. My people can also help with the training once we learn."
"That is good to hear."
"We can schedule that for the day after tomorrow. The demonstration and tour will take several hours. We could also do a demonstration of the shields on the shuttles and Stingers. That I if you will allow a few of the Stingers off Andromeda."
"Yes I will allow that." Queen Dyan said.
"Will you pilot the fighter, Colonel?" Taki asked as she ran her hand up Kacey's arm.
"No. Not that I can't fly them, but I am taller than the average pilot and the cockpits are cramped. I can if needed. I prefer my shuttle."
"Taki return to your place." Queen Dyan ordered.
"We will talk again, Colonel." Taki said with a smile and returned to her mother's side.
"You Majesty, the hour is late. We should be going to get everything prepared for tomorrow." Kate said.
"Of course, Captain." Queen Dyan stated and pulled a cord by her chair. Within seconds a uniformed attendant appeared. "Our guests are leaving, please bring their hats."
The attendant bowed and left. He returned carrying a tray with the Marine's hats and gloves. Each Marine pulled on their gloves before picking up their hats that they placed under their arms. The crew stood and bid the Queen a good night before they were escorted to the door.
Once they were on the shuttle Kate turned to Kacey.
"So what was that thank you for?"
"Taki was flirting with me and I wanted no part of it. She even had the nerve to ask if Natalia kept me satisfied. I told her extremely and walked away from her. You saw how she touched my arm. What am I supposed to do, Kate. I am not about to break my vows for casual sex with the daughter of our host. I love Talia and will not hurt her."
"Easy little sister." Kate said. "That is not something you will be asked to do. EVER."
Natalia took her hand. "I trust you sweetheart, but I am really glad you said that That princess came very close to stomping all over my last nerve."
"I hope I can avoid being anywhere near her for the remainder of our time here." Kacey said.
CHAPTER 26 B
Two Stingers flew out of the Hanger. The pilots put the flyers through many maneuvers to put on a show for the Vernans. It was the first demonstration of the shields. The two moved apart until they were several kilometers away from each other. The Queen and crew watched with binoculars With the shields at maximum, the pilots fired at each other. The shots bounced harmlessly off the shields.. Once the flyers landed, the shuttles put on the same demonstration.
Kacey stood next to Kate and directed her pilots. Not a spot she wanted to be but did as a favor to Kate. She was dressed in fatigues and tried to stay as far away from Taki as possible. The princess had been looking her over since she walked off Andromeda.
"Mike, keep both shuttles in the air until we have demonstrated the big shields."
After the shuttle demonstration, Kate led the visitors to the Bridge. The Queen, and invited guests stood and watched the view screen as the shuttle moved into position. The officers sat in their command chairs after the queen declined the invitation.
"Close all ramps." Kate ordered. "Shields up."
"Ramps are closed and shields at Maximum." Rhea stated.
"Open ship wide channel."
"Channel open, Captain."
"Attention residents of Andromeda. This is Captain Jensen. We will be doing a demonstration of our shields. We are not under attack. I repeat, this is only a demonstration. We are not under attack." Kate nodded to the Communications Officer to close the channel. "You may want to hold onto something." Kate looked up at the queen. She held onto the railing. "You can give the order, Colonel."
"Yes Captain. Shuttles two and three, FIRE." Twin shots left the shuttles weapons and came directly at Andromeda. As with the Gellarians, most of the Vernans ducked in reflex. They felt the shots hit the shields with no damage to the ship. The Queen was one of the few who watched the shots hit the shields.
"Captain, could we see that again?" She asked.
"One more time, Mike." Kacey ordered.
This time they all watched the shots bounce off the shields.
"You are willing to share this technology with us, Captain?"
"Yes we are your majesty." Kate said as she stood up. "Would you like to see that again?"
"That will not be necessary, Captain." Queen Dyan stated. "I am impressed."
"Recall the shuttles." Kate told Kacey.
"Mike, the demo is finished. You can land."
"Lower the shields and open the ramps." Kate ordered. "Would you like a tour now, Queen Dyan?"
"I would like that very much, Captain." She responded.
"Your Majesty, I do not want to insult you. Andromeda is a very large ship. Will you need assistance to get around?" Kacey asked.
"Thank you for your concern, Colonel. The walking staff is mostly ceremonial. I am not insulted by your concern for my well being."
Kate led the way off the Bridge. The tour started with her Ready Room. "This is my office." She said as the door opened. The visitors walked into the room and looked around. The queen took in the plaques and commendations on the walls. She stood in front of the art work that dotted the walls.
"Very impressive, Captain. Also very functional." She said as she looked at the wrap around desk that held Kate'[s computers.
From the Ready room, they moved to the conference room. They left the Bridge and went to the Hanger where Kacey walked them around the ships. The looked into the smaller Hanger office and then to her office. The Queen walked in and looked around. As in Kate's office she looked at the commendations, plaques, certificates and invitations.
"So many awards for one so young. How can you and the Captain have earned so many?"
"Lots of hard work." Kacey stated.
"What are these invitations?"
"I was invited to join the Marine Corps Symphony and the United World Symphony."
"Impressive. Which instrument?"
"I play piano and guitar fairly well, but the violin is my true passion."
"Would you be able to play for me before you leave?"
"I would be honored your Majesty."
"The art work that you have, was it done for the same artist of the paintings Captain Jensen has?"
"They were indeed."
"Do you know the artist?"
"I do. She is standing right next to you."
"Captain, these are beautiful."
"Thank you, Queen Dyan. This one is the park across the street from our homes on Earth. The other is one from when we were children. It is the lake near the house we grew up in." Kate explained.
From the Hanger they moved to Engineering. Then made their way to Sick Bay and the Hospital level. They were shown the Virtual Reality rooms, gyms, labs, Safe Haven and the forest area. They ended the tour on the shop level.
Lunch was served in the Mess Hall where Patricia had set out her favorite recipes. The servers brought the meals to the crew and guests. Taki claimed the chair next to Kacey who sighed and wished that Natalia was with her."
"Tell me Colonel," She whispered. "Is there anything you do not look good in?"
"Quite possibly, there are number of outfits." Kacey replied. "Your Majesty, how many flyers do you have?" Kacey asked, trying to ignore Taki.
"We have one hundred smaller fighters that are a little bigger than your stingers. We also have thirty larger two person fighters."
"One hundred thirty flyers. That means you should have at least twice that many pilots."
"Why would you need so many?"
"The more qualified pilots you have, the better protected you will be. Pilots have stressful duties. Switching them will help them stay pilots longer." Kacey jumped when she felt Taki's hand on her thigh. She quickly removed the offending hand.
"How often do you fly, Colonel?" Taki asked
"When we are in space, I try to fly every day. All my pilots fly daily. I have them on a four hour rotation so that everyone can keep their skills in peak condition."
"Don't you get tired of the tedium of flying around the galaxy?"
"Not at all. My family is close by. I would not have considered this position if my family was not here."
"What is it like, to have your family that close."
"For the most part, it is great. This is a long mission. Up until that first briefing before the start of the mission, we both had the opportunity to turn down the positions. It was not until we met my First Officer that cemented my acceptance. I would not think of making this journey without my family. We lived in close proximity to each other on Earth. We had our own homes. As here on Andromeda, we have our own quarters. If we would have had to share quarters, that might have posed a problem." The queen laughed.
"Families are the same no matter what planet they live on. My daughters are always having arguments. Were you like that Captain?"
"Not so much when Kacey and I were younger, mainly because of the number of years between us. As adults, we have plenty of disagreements."
"Do your children argue?"
"They can get testy with each other, but outright argue? No. Anya will never allow it to go that far. She will stop them before it gets to that. We encourage them to discuss their problems, but will step in before it becomes a shouting match."
"Commander Jensen is an extraordinary person."
"That she is." Kate agreed.
CHAPTER 26 C
Kacey stood with her officers near the Vernan flyers. They each held a manual of the small ships. Unfortunately the manuals were in Vernan which none of them could read. While their translators covered the spoken languages, they did not cover any written words. They would need someone to translate. In order to be able to train the Vernans they would have to understand the manuals themselves.
Kacey climbed into the cockpit to see if she could understand what the manual showed. She pushed one of the buttons near the yoke that started the flyer. It was whisper soft, but she could feel the slight vibration. The meters lit up. She watched one device run through a scan of all the systems and realized that it was their computer.
"I found their computer. Still in Vernan so it really does not help." She called down to her officers. "But..." She stopped speaking.
"What are you thinking, Kacey?" Mike asked.
"I am wondering if we can get their computers to talk to ours. Then we can run everything through the translator." She said.
"Laptop or shuttle?"
"Laptop would be more convenient and portable."
"Can you see a port to hook the two up?"
Kacey looked closely at the alien computer. "Yes. There are cables in my shuttle. Left side top drawer. Bring the longest you can find along with connectors which are in the second drawer."
"I will get them." Mike stated and ran into the shuttle. He returned within minutes with the items they needed. He handed one end of the cable to Kacey who tried to connect it to the flyer's computer.
"Damn, our connectors are too big. Check in their Hanger and see if they have any connectors that we can rig to fit our computer." Kacey ordered. The men went into the Hanger. They returned several minutes with cables and connectors. "Those will fit into this computer, but not ours. Take the end off the cable and switch it with one of ours. The cables look to be the same size, just the ends are different." The men worked to switch the ends of the cables. They connected the cable to their computer. "Now lets see if they will talk to each other." Kacey said.
After several attempts and adjustments, Mike called out, "We're in."
"See if you can bring up the schematics of this flyer."
Several more minutes passed. "We have the schematic, but they are still in Vernan."
"Hit translate and see what happens." Kacey ordered.
They waited for the computer to translate the information."
"It is coming through Colonel."
"Talk me through the instruments." Kacey told him and pulled a marker from her pocket.
"Starting on the left, there is green lever. That is the landing gear." Kacey nodded and wrote landing gear over the lever. "On the console, first up is a white button, it is their version of the shields." Kacey wrote SH. "Next the black button is the starter."
"That one I know." She said and wrote ST over the button.
"Right next to the yoke on the left is a black lever, that is the stabilizer. It will correspond with the meter with the flyer on it with the horizon." Kacey wrote STABLIZER over the lever. "The yoke you know. On the right there are two sets of levers. The first two are red. Those are the thrusters." Kacey added Thrust above the levers. "The next set are blue and those are the throttles." Kacey added Throttle. "Each has a meter right above them showing the power level Above them are the meters for the Altimeter (ALT), Power Level, (P.L) Weapons (W) There are four grey switches for the weapons. Then the scanners, (SC.) Sensors, (SE) Green lever is life support, (LS) Blue switch is the radio. Push button control for the radio is on the yoke by your right thumb. Push it to talk, release to listen. (R) On the right wall is a white/grey lever which is the emergency brake. There is also a pedal for the primary brake near your feet. This baby even has adjustable heat which is a meter with a thermometer in it. (H) Red lever is for opening and closing the cockpit bubble. (CP) Those are the important ones."
"What no reclining bucket seats?" Kacey joked.
"No but there is a lever attached to the front of the seat that will move it back and forth if you need more leg room."
"Definitely more comfortable than the Stingers."
Once Kacey climbed out of the flyer, they worked to get the ones they would used set up the same way. By late afternoon they had all the systems sorted out. Kacey climbed into the cockpit. She strapped in. Kacey took a deep breath and pushed the starter. She felt the vibration. She lowered the bubble, turned the radio on and pushed the thruster lever. The flyer raised off the ground. She gave a thumbs up to her officers. She pushed the throttles and the flyer moved forward. Kacey pushed the thrusters forward for more height and Pushed the throttles for more speed. She flew towards the field where Andromeda sat. More speed and height as she tried out the flyer. She checked the readouts on all the meters.
Kacey pushed the radio talk button on the yoke. "Vernan flyer to Andromeda."
"That's me dad. Is Kate around?"
"She is out on the surface with Anya. I can see ye had some success."
"We did. The flyers are not much different from the Stingers. Except for more leg room."
"Does Katie know you are out there flying an alien vessel?"
"She knew we were going to try to see if we could." Kacey told him.
"That is not what I ask ye, lass."
"I don't need her permission to fly and did not tell her specifically that I was going up."
"She will not be liking that."
"Hell dad, she will probably hate it. Got to fly. Talk to you later."
"LASS." Liam warned.
Kacey flew off. She pushed the thrusters forward again and rose higher. Then moved the throttles forward and sped off. She flew over the city and into the country side as she put the small ship through it's paces. Twists and turns, flipping the craft over and flying upside down for a short time before she righted the flyer and headed back to the city. She slowed as she neared the populated area and dropped back down. Over the palace she spied the Queen in her garden and brought the craft to a standstill and lowered until she was only a few meters off the ground. She waved to the queen who waved back with a smile. Kacey took the small vessel back up. She knew the queen watched and could not help but show off.
"Kacey, how does she feel?" Mike's voice came over the radio.
"Like flying a cloud." Kacey answered. "Very responsive. The slightest touch will turn it."
"COLONEL RETURN TO THE AIRFIELD IMMEDIATELY." Kate's angry voice came over.
Kacey sighed. "On my way."
Return to the Academy