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CHAPTER 31 A
While the twins were in the hospital, Natalia spent several hours a day there as she nursed them. Kacey visited as often as she could during the day. She left the remaining training of the Vernans to her troops. Her family was the priority in her life. Her wife and children were what was important. This was a special time to bond with her children. A time she did not want to miss out on.
Less than a week after they were born, the twins were released from the Nursery once they both reached their minimum safe weight of five pounds. They slept in their bassinettes in their parent's bedroom. Neither Kacey or Natalia was ready to move them into their own room. They would lie with their arms around each other and listen to their children breathe. They fell asleep to the sounds.
They worked together to get the babies changed and fed. While Natalia nursed one child, Kacey would bottle feed the other. The next feeding, the children switched so that both received the benefits of nursing and became accustomed to a bottle. They were able to deepen the bond through the feeding
The twins had distinct personalities which showed quickly. Caitlyn had a good appetite and slept in long stretches with little movement. Patrick had to be coaxed into eating and was a restless sleeper who kicked his blankets off several times a day. Both children loved to cuddle. The blue eyes he was born with turned a deeper blue. Caitlyn's eye's were a blue/green . Caitlyn's blonde locks lay flat against her tiny head while Patrick's black hair resisted their efforts to get it to lay flat. Kacey and Natalia quickly learned how to waste no time in changing his diaper. He had a fantastic aim and managed to get them both.
Their lives were complete. Both children would quiet when Kacey played, or had music disc on. Experts might claim that children that young, had no concept of what music was, but Kacey was adamant that one or both would be musicians.
The family, especially Liam visited more often, now that the twins had arrived. He would hold both and sing to them. The two rocking chairs that Queen Dyan had sent were put to good use. Patrick, or little Mac as his grandfather called him, readily allowed Liam to feed and cuddle with him, which made Liam happy.
Andromeda would be on Verna for another week. They had remained on the planet longer than expected. They remained to make sure the Vernans were sufficiently trained to defend themselves and that the shields they had installed were working properly. In exchange the Vernans traded merchandise for the shops, food for the storage area and medical technology. Dermal regenerators that would make stitches unnecessary. Bone knitters along with medicinal plants and information on their uses. Anya spent time with the scientists and navigators, to update their star charts and marked off areas they should avoid.
As a final parting gift, Queen Dyan gave Kacey one of their flyers as a thank you for training her people. The flyer now sat in the Hanger. It was delivered their last night on Verna when Queen Dyan and her remaining daughters were invited for dinner. Kacey with help from Laim and Kate, spent several hours moving furniture around to expand the dining room table Kate brought over extra chairs. Patricia, Anya and Natalia spent the day cooking to make sure everything was just right for their royal visitors.
The babies had been fed and were sleeping peacefully in their bassinettes that Kacey moved into the living room. Liam left to escort ther guests to Kacey's. They were in regular clothes and not their uniforms. It was to be an informal dinner that no one really felt like dressing up for. Kacey started the music discs after giving the girls an early lesson.
She took out glasses, and bottles of brandy, whiskey, wine and soda. Filled the ice bucket. She helped the girls set the table, before she set out the candles and pulled the floral centerpiece from the cooling unit. Liam walked in with their guests.
"Queen Dyan, Princesses, welcome to our home."
"Thank you Colonel. I am happy that even with everything Taki did you still welcome us into your home."
"You are not your daughter, Queen Dyan. I can not hold her behavior against you." Kacey told her.
"We have arrested all those involved in your drugging and abduction. Our laws strictly prohibit these acts. We have the video evidence you have given us and that is all our judges need. This sort of thing will never happen again."
"That is good to hear. Please make yourselves comfortable. Would you like a before dinner drink?"
"I would love a brandy. My daughters are allowed to have wine."
Liam handled the bartending duties and placed the drinks on a tray which Kacey carried into the living room. Kate joined her to entertain their guests.
"The rocking chairs you sent have been a blessing, your majesty. Both babies love the motion when we feed them. Especially our son, he eats and sleep better when he is rocked."
"He also loves listening to his mam play." Liam stated. "Little Mac has music in his blood just like Kacey."
"Tis true lass. Ye have to admit he will quiet as soon as he hears music."
"They both seem to like music, even as young as they are." Natalia offered from the kitchen.
"Colonel, I wonder if I may be able to impose on you to play after dinner?"
"I will. With everything that has been going on, there wasn't time before."
"What do you recommend for our pilots?"
"I drew up a schedule, where there would always be eight flyers in the air around the clock in four hour shifts for guard duty." The pilots are on a rotation where they would each have two days off. If they stick to that schedule you will be fine. My pilots had them doing drills in the event of an attack to see how long it would take them to get the flyers in the air Their response time was down to five minutes which considering they were coming from all areas of the city. That is excellent." Kacey explained. "With a central alarm, your security and communications people could turn it on to save time at the first sign of an attack."
"How can one so young has such a complete grasp on defense?"
"I am not all that young, your majesty. This was only one part of my training at the Marine Academy."
"Captain are you also so well trained?"
"At the Space Academy our training is slightly different. The Marines are more of an on the ground force. The Space Academy teaches us how to react in space."
"Can you also fly the smaller ships, Captain?"
"I can teach you how to fly the Stingers, Kate. You at least would fit in the cockpit."
"I will pass for now. Maybe once we are back on Earth I will take you up on that offer."
"Dinner is served." Natalia announced as she placed a bowl on the table. They all moved into the dining room. Liam held out the Queen's chair then Patricia's.
"Captain, how long will you be out here exploring?"
"That is entirely up to us. We have the clearance for a fourth year if we choose. If we decide that three years is enough we would head for home in the next few months. So far the crew wants to continue for another year." Kate stated. "The more we know about the Galaxy, the better we can help and increase our knowledge."
"There is a second Star Traveler heading in another direction. The hope is to eventually explore the entire galaxy and have all civilizations connected." Kacey added.
"That is a very ambitious task." Queen Dyan stated.
"That is true, but that is what Earth people do. The last war almost destroyed Earth. The death toll was in the hundreds of millions. Many areas are in what we call a nuclear winter and are uninhabitable and will remain that way for hundreds if not thousands of years. Part of our mission is to find planets that can sustain life. Planets that do not already have races living on them."
"Would you ever consider living on another planet, Captain?"
"If it meant my family's survival, yes, I would." Kate stated.
"I fully agree with Kate on that." Kacey stated.
"You could live without all the technology?"
"All I need is my family, my violin and coffee." Kacey said with a flyer. "Maybe add in brandy and a flyer." Then I could be very happy."
"When you start you return journey, I hope you will visit us again."
"Of course. We have to check to see how Verna is faring." Kate said. "Queen Dyan, if we happen to see any of your people, we will see about getting them back to you.
"Thank you Captain. I have never given up hope my people especially my sons will someday be returned.
CHAPTER 31 B
Andromeda was once again on its journey. After almost two months on Verna, they lifted off. The big ship held orbit until all the shuttles were safely in the Hanger. Kacey spent several days going over the flyer that Queen Dyan had given her as a thank you for training the Vernan pilots. The smaller ship unfortunately was not designed for deep space, but more of a fighter plane.
Kacey took herself off the flight roster in order to be close to help Natalia with their children. She had reports that she needed to work on. Every morning she went to her office to collect the files she would work on that day. Evaluations were due once again and would take time to complete. All her reports could be done right from their quarters.
Many of her troops were due for promotions. The lower ranks she had the power to promote without permission from General Millhouse. Promotions for her top three officers however had to be approved before the could be put through. She had submitted recommendations in several updates she had sent to Earth. So far the recommendations had not been approved. Would they want two Colonels on Andromeda.
Kacey threw down the pen and pushed away from her desk.
"Done for the day?" Natalia asked as she walked to the desk.
"As much as I feel like doing today beautiful." Kacey stated and pulled Natalia onto her lap. "Are the angels sleeping?"
"For now. What do you have in mind?"
"Seeing how the doctor has not cleared you for anything else, how do you feel about a nap? We should grab our sleep whenever we can. You know they will get us up a couple times during the night."
Natalia lay her head on Kacey's shoulder. "A nap sound heavenly. Will you join me?"
"I would love to." Kacey stood up and carried Natalia into their bedroom. They spent several minutes listening to the little noises their children made while they slept. They fell asleep.
Kate sat in her command chair and watched the stars zoom past in the view screen. They had left Verna behind ten days before. She had reports she knew she should be working on, but decided to leave them for another day. According to the information from the star charts, the area they travelled through was home to several civilizations. Not all of them were friendly. Shields were up on all the flyers.
Kate noted that Kacey had increased the number of smaller ships that flew around them. She also noted that Kacey had not yet returned to the flight roster she was sent each morning. Kate also knew that Kacey only left their quarters for short periods of time that it took her to go to her office and return since their children were born. A move Kate agreed with. Kaye knew from personal experience that those first few weeks was a time for special bonding with their children.
There were many changes in Kacey's behavior since the birth. She smiled more, especially when she was holding one of the babies.
"How long do ye think Kacey will be keeping herself off the flight schedule?" Liam asked.
"I have no idea. I asked her that yesterday and all she did was shrug her shoulders." Kate responded. "I don't think she wants to be away from the babies yet."
"Can not say I am blaming her. You were the same way Katie."
"That is very true, dad. One of the many discoveries we have made on this trip is how much alike at times we are. We have both grown on this mission. We have learned to compromise. Something I really did not think was possible for us."
"Tis true, Katie." Liam agreed. "For a long time, I was thinking of having more sound proofing put in your Ready Room or have ye mother wash your mouths out with soap. Such cussing from the two of ye." Kate laughed. "What is next on the agenda, lass?"
"What do the sensors show?" Kate asked.
"Sensors are quiet. Some old propulsion signatures about half of which are masked. They are several days old. Scanners are showing a planet eleven million kilometers away. The star charts have it listed as an M class planet called T7432." Anya stated.
"What are the stats on it?"
"Breathable air, vegetation, plenty of water, it also has twin moons and a dwarf sun. There are animals."
"At our present speed, how long will it take us to get to this planet?"
"Ten days to two weeks.:
"That would put us there before our second anniversary." Kate said. "Lieutenant Minor set our course for our next stopover and increase speed to warp seven. Advise the Stingers of our course change and speed increase."
"Couse laid in, Captain. Speed increased to warp seven."
"Stingers notified, Captain."
"Good. How are we set for erecting relay towers?"
Liam pulled up their inventory. "We have enough materiel for seven more towers."
"Seven more towers." Kate repeated. "We could easily stretch that number if any civilizations we come across are friendly and have existing communications towers and allow us to tie into them."
"Aye." Liam answered. "Without wanting to be kidnapping one of me daughters for payment."
Kate laughed again. "It has to be her blue eyes." She joked.
Kacey heard the first whimper and sat up in bed. Natalia was still asleep. She ran a hand over her face in an effort to chase away the cobwebs the afternoon nap had filled her brain with. She was able to get out of bed without waking Natalia and went into the bathroom where she threw cold water on her face to finish waking up.
She checked on the children to see which one would wake first. Kacey pulled their bassinettes into the living room and closed the bedroom door. She went into the kitchen where she warmed a bottle for whichever baby woke up first and poured herself a coffee. She checked the time. The family was due to come over after their duty shifts in less than thirty minutes. She pulled snacks out of the storage area and brought down trays. Then brought out glasses and drinks before she filled the ice bucket and put everything on the counter.
Kacey took a few minutes to sit and drink her coffee while she waited for the children to wake up demanding attention. They had been making little squeaky noises for a few minutes. She knew it would not be long before those cute squeaks turned into full blown howls for attention.
The door chimed. Kacey checked the monitor and went to open the door to admit Kate, Anya and their children. She put a finger to her lips.
"You are just in time. The squeakers are about to wake up and turn into howlers." She said.
"Is Natalia laying down?" Anya asked.
"We both were, seeing as the children were sleeping." No sooner had she said that then one of the babies demanded attention.
"Without looking, which one is crying?" Kate asked.
"That sounds like Patrick." Kacey answered. She smiled when she picked him up and walked into the nursery to change him. Kate stood in the doorway and watched how quickly Kacey changed his diaper.
"Wow twenty seconds. Trying for the diaper changing record?"
"It is all a matter of staying dry. Do you think you could get his bottle out of the warmer instead of picking on me?"
Kate laughed and went to get the bottle. Anya took the boy from Kacey as Caitlyn woke up, and took the bottle from Kate. She sat in the rocking chair to feed him. Kacey picked up her daughter and took her into the nursery to change her. "Want to time me again Kate?" She asked.
Natalia came out of the bedroom as Kacey changed Caitlyn. She took the baby so that she could nurse her. "Thank you."
"Anya has Patrick. I was hoping to let you sleep a little longer." Kacey said as she kissed the top of Natalia's head.
"Thank you for trying. I need to nurse one of them every feeding. If I slept any longer, I would not be able to sleep tonight." Natalia stated. "Go keep Kate company. I will be out shortly."
"All right sweetheart." Kacey kissed her again and left the nursery. She pulled the door closed. "Talia will be out shortly." She watched Anya with Patrick. "How is he doing?"
"Took a bit of coaxing, but once he starts he sure does not want to stop." Anya stated.
"He is always like that." She said and went into the kitchen to heat water to make Natalia a cup of tea. Kate handed her a brandy.
"How many times did he get you?"
"Twice. The first time I was half asleep and he surprised me. He has perfect aim."
"Where did he get you?"
"Right in the eye. Damn that stung." Kate laughed harder. "Laugh it up Kate. You can do the next change if you think it is so funny." Kacey told her.
"Kate." Anya warned as she moved Patrick to her shoulder to burp him. She rubbed his back. "Kacey, she will be more than happy to do the next change. Correct Kate?"
"Yes I am sorry I laughed and I will do the next change." Kate said contritely.
"Knock yourself out, Kate. He just ate so make sure you have a mask because that boy is toxic." Kacey said as she brought an empty bottle in to Natalia. She would need it after she finished feeding Caitlyn and used the pump. Several minutes later she carried Caitlyn out and handed her to Kate who held her arms out. Kate held the baby close and inhaled the clean baby scent.
"What time are mom and dad coming over?"
"Eighteen hundred hours."
"Then there is time for a little practice before they get here. All right rug rats take your positions." The girls sat behind the keyboard and started the warm up exercises before they practiced.
Natalia came out of the nursery and handed the bottle to Kacey who placed it in the cooling unit. She handed Natalia a cup of tea.
"Thank you sweetheart." She stood on tiptoes and kissed Kacey's cheek. They watched their sisters with the children. Patrick finished the bottle and was once again on Anya's shoulder. "How did he do?" She asked.
Anya held up the empty bottle. "Finished it all." She handed the empty bottle to Kacey who placed it into the sterilizing unit.
"That's my boy. He knows the good stuff when he tastes it." Kacey stated. "Kate has volunteered to do the next diaper change."
"Did you fill her in on the dangers?" Natalia asked.
"She thought it was funny that he got Kacey wet so I encouraged her to volunteer."
"Okay. I understand."
"Speaking of which," Anya sniffed. "I think it is time Kate."
Kate handed Caitlyn to Natalia, took a large drink of her brandy and took Patrick from Anya. She carried him into the nursery. Before she set him down she looked around for everything she would need. Kate unsnapped his sleeper and gathered the necessary items before she unhooked his diaper. She pushed the sleeper out of the way, picked up the wipes and cleaned the boy before she moved the dirty diaper out of the way. She tossed it into the garbage chute. She went to place the clean diaper under him when she felt the warm wetness soak her tunic. Kacey laughed from the doorway.
"Looks like he got you Kate."
Kate finished the task, put Patrick back into his sleeper. She picked him up and carried him back to Anya. "I am going to change my clothes." She said and left with Kacey still laughing.
To be continued...
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