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CHAPTER 32 A
Dinner was finished and they sat around the living room. Liam held Patrick, while Patricia held Caitlyn. Both babies slept in their grandparent's arms.
"We will be at another planet in a week or so. When will you be returning to duty?" Kate asked.
"She will be going back on Monday." Natalia stated. "She is starting to get restless so it is time she got back out there with her pilots."
"Looks like I am being kicked out."
"Not kicked out, but admit it you are getting restless."
"So what happens if I am out there and you need me?"
"I contact Kate and she can call you back. Kacey if we were alone, then I would like you close by. But we are not alone. We have family nearby that I can call for help. I am sure they will come to my rescue if I asked."
"Tis exactly right lass." Liam stated.
"All right. I will put my name on the flight roster for Monday." Kacey said. "Will you be wanting to use the rovers on the next planet?"
"We have them, we might as well use them." Kate stated. "When you go back out, will you use that flyer Queen Dyan gave you?"
"No. They are not designed for deep space. Maybe once we have landed I will take it out. Besides it has no video equipment. You would not be able to keep an eye on me. I will use my shuttle. It is better suited for longer flights, plus it has some special equipment in it." Kacey told her. "Would you like me to put the squeakers down?"
"It is the noise they make just before they wake up. They sound like little mice."
"Did not take you long to give them nicknames." Kate joked.
"Like I said, it is the noise them make just before they turn into howlers. I can not call them howlers, Talia would kill me."
"I would not kill you, but definitely put a hurting on you." Natalia replied.
"See what I mean? Anyway would you like me to put them down?"
"We are fine lass." Liam said to which Patricia nodded.
"It is good to be able to hold babies again. Unless you girls decide to have more children, these will be the last babies until Erica and Erin are old older."
"Way older mom." Kate corrected. "At least twenty five."
"In that case Kate, you have seventeen years before you start to panic." Kacey teased.
"Yeah well you have children now also." Kate shot back.
"All right you two." Anya interrupted. "Stop this before you start arguing."
"We will not argue over this Anya." Kacey stated. "There are closer things we can argue over."
"Kate said we will be at another planter in a week or so, would you like to schedule an argument for two days after we arrive? Will that work for you?"
"Why argue at all?" Natalia asked.
"There will be no reason to argue if my little sister does not turn into a tyrant again."
"A tyrant, Kate? All you have to do is everything I tell you to do. That is not being a tyrant." Kacey stated with a shrug. "You do that and there will be no reason to argue."
"Let it go Kacey." Kate ordered.
"Not going to happen, Kate."
Kate stared at Kacey with a scowl while Kacey just smiled a dare at her.
"That is enough girls." Patricia ordered.
Both turned to her and said together, "yes mom."
"Were they always like this?" Natalia asked.
"Not at all. If I were to pinpoint a date they started to get testy and challenged each other, I would say it would be when Kacey started at the Marine Academy.
Kacey laughed. "What is so funny?" Natalia asked.
"I was just remembering the first time I was able to go home for a weekend. I thought mom was going to have a stroke."
"Incoming freshmen have to report six weeks before the semester starts for basic training. One of the first things they do is get a hair cut."
"Kacey had beautiful long thick dark hair before she left." Patricia added.
"It all got chopped off. Shorter than the way I wear it now. After basic training was completed we were allowed a four day weekend. I walked into the house , mom took one look at me and cried."
"Hell I seem to remember her grounding you until it grew back." Kate joked.
"I think you are right. In fact I think I just might still be grounded because I keep it short."
"Is there a reason they cut it so short?" Natalia asked.
"The main reason is to take emphasis away from the way a person looks to how they preform. That and we were only allowed a five minute shower in the morning. Long hair takes time that I did not have. The woman who cut my hair braided it first then cut the braid off. I still have it somewhere."
"Why not let it grow again. You are not limited to five minutes in the morning anymore."
"It is much easier to care for short. Our flight helmets are fitted and do not allow for much chair in the way of hair styles."
"You don't wear a helmet in your shuttle."
"True, but in a pinch, if I had to take one of the smaller ships, I need a helmet. Plus now with the babies, there is less hair for them to grab onto to. Baby drool is not a good conditioner. Took Kate a long time to learn that lesson." Kacey joked. I hope I have been able to learn from her mistakes and know enough to keep my hair away from grabby little hands."
"We will see little sister. We will see." Kate stated.
The rovers were on the planet surface. The four crews headed off into different directions to check if it was safe for Andromeda to land. Stingers flew above all the Rovers as they explored the terrain. From the second Kate climbed into the shuttle, for the short flight to the surface, Kacey entered Marine Mode, to Kate's growing aggravation.
Every stop they made to collect samples, Kacey allowed Kate to leave the Rover only after their Marine escorts went to Kate's side. Her anger grew with every stop they made. Kacey walked a short distance from the group while Anya collected water and plant samples. She scanned the area around them.
Kate reached the end of her patience and started to walk toward Kacey. Anya grabbed her arm and shook her head to stop her. "Do not do it Kate." Anya warned. Kate pulled her arm away from Anya's grasp which earned her an angry look from her spouse. "Kate stop." Anya ordered. "I mean it leave her alone."
"Damn it Anya." Kate said angrily. "This has got to stop."
"Leave Kacey alone." Anya said again. "She is dealing with this the best way she knows. She need to keep you from getting hurt again. Leave her alone. I mean it Kate."
"Damn it." Kate stated and stormed back to the Rover.
"Thank you Anya." Kacey said as she walked towards her sister in law.
"Do not thank me. Kate is right to a certain extent. I understand what you are doing and I agree with you. We all have to keep Kate safe, but you have taken protecting her to an extreme."
"I have to Anya. I can not let her get hurt again."
Anya finished collecting her samples and packed up her kits for testing back at the shuttle. "You have to let go of that last bit of guilt and relax a little. You will drive you both crazy. If you do not back off Kate will blow. She is very close to that now."
"Anya, if anything were to happen..." A look from Anya stopped her. "Look I can not make any promises. I will let her decide what to do next." A raised eyebrow was her answer. "All right, I will try to give her some breathing room."
"That is a start." Kacey picked up one of the sample cases and helped Anya up the small embankment. They walked together until they reached the Rover.
"Ready Kate?" Kacey asked.
"Do I have a choice?" Kate snapped.
Kacey looked from Kate to Anya and back to Kate. She bit the inside of her cheek to keep from snapping back.
"You always have a choice, Kate."
"Since when exactly." Kate demanded. "You are like a jailer. Why can't you just leave me alone."
"Is that what you want? To be left alone? Fine. You choose what the fuck you want to do. You have three choices. Go back to the shuttle, stay here or keep going. You can tell me your decision when I return. I am going to go scout that area." Kacey said angrily before she turned and ran toward the forested area in the distance.
"KACEY COME BACK HERE." Kate yelled at her back. "FOLLOW HER."
Major Anderson unhooked his safety harness from the back of the Rover and got into the driver's seat. They followed the route Kacey took.
"Kate you were out of line." Anya stated.
"What are you talking about?" Kate snapped which earned her a raised eyebrow. "I noticed you talking to her. Care to explain?"
"I talked her into backing off and giving you a little space."
"So she runs off by herself? How is that..."
"Drop it Kate." Anya warned.
"Andromeda to Rover one."
"Damn it." Kate swore and picked up the radio. "Go ahead Andromeda. Tell me you did not see what just transpired."
"The whole Bridge witnessed that. Katie, scanners are picking up life forms heading towards ye. So ye need to be finding your sister."
"Life forms? Are you sure? Our scanner are quiet."
"Aye lass. They are under the ground and all around ye."
Within seconds the ground opened and many subterranean beings blocked their path.
CHAPTER 32 B
The subterranean aliens continued to climb out of the ground. Their dark skin was covered in dense hair. The over large heads were supported by thick necks and rose up from broad shoulders. Barrel chests and stomachs rested on thick muscular slightly bowed legs. Their long arms were well muscled and held weapons that were all pointed at them. The rover stopped.
"This does not look good, Captain." Major Anderson stated.
"Shit, that is quite an understatement." Kate replied.
"Katie we are sending help."
The stingers above them stopped and held position over the ground crew.
"Affirmative, dad." Kate said. "Major send a Stinger to find Kacey."
"Stinger one, break off and locate Colonel O'Malley."
"Roger Major." The Stinger sped off over the heads of the aliens, clearly startling them. They pointed to the aircraft and grumbled.
Kacey kept her pace at full speed and soon was at the boundary of the five kilometer search area. "Damn it." She said out loud. "I try to do Anya a favor and backed off, give Kate the choice and she jumps down my throat." Kacey sat down on a large rock and took a long drink from the water bottle she carried with her.
She heard the Stinger approaching and looked around for the rover. She was surprised when the Stinger landed.
"Colonel we have a problem." The pilot shouted as soon as the bubble opened.
"What is going on?" She demanded.
"The rover is surrounded by aliens."
"Why didn't anyone call me?" Kacey said as she reached for the radio that she normally carried on her belt. Then remembered she left it on the seat in the rover. "Idiot."
"Not you Private. I am the idiot. I left my radio in the rover."
"I have another with me, Colonel."
"You just earned yourself a promotion. Get me back to the rover." She ordered.
"Do you want to take the Stinger, ma'am?
"No that would leave you alone and unprotected. I will get up behind the bubble and you will drive us back. Stop about a half kilometer from them and we will go the rest of the way on foot." Kacey climbed up behind the bubble and grabbed the sides. "I am ready."
The stinger started to move. In a short time they arrived. They walked to where they could see what was going on. They could only see the aliens and not the rover, which was completely surrounded. Above them more Stingers arrived.
"We need to tell the crew we are here." She whispered.
"Do you want to use the communicators?"
"No, I do not want to spook those beings into attacking. Radio the stingers. Have them tell Kate we are here."
The crew of Andromeda faced off against the aliens. The Stingers above them seemed to agitate them.
"Major, the Stingers seem to be spooking the aliens. Tell them to land." Kate ordered.
"Captain are you sure?"
"Do it Major."
"Yes ma'am." He picked up the radio. "All stingers land, but stay in your flyers."
"Major we have just received word that Colonel O'Malley and Stinger one are just a short way behind the aliens."
"Does she have any sort of plan?"
"She said to use the radios and not the communicators."
"That will be a big help. She does not have hers." Kate said sarcastically.
"I heard that Kate." Kacey's voice sounded. "Do not do anything to provoke them. Those weapons are not just for show."
"No shit, Kacey."
"Listen Kate we can argue later, just do what I tell you. Please."
"All right. What should we do?"
"Do not draw your weapons. They look like a very primitive race. They will not know we have weapons which will give us an advantage. See how they calmed down when the Stingers landed? That was a good call."
"Thanks a lot."
"I mean it Kate. You made the right call. Do they look like that are going to attack?"
"How the bloody hell would I know that? They are standing there staring at us."
"Look at their weapons. Are they pointed at you?"
"The spears are. Arrows are knocked in the bows. Those with what look like axes are holding them across their chests."
"Damn, I need to get over there."
"Negative Kacey. Stay where you are. They don't know you are there, so stay put." Kate ordered.
"Sorry Captain, I can not obey that order." Kacey said and turned off the radio.
"Take the Stinger, Colonel."
"That would leave you here alone. If they see you, you would not have a chance. We will both get over there. This is what we are going to do. You are going to fly me over their heads and drop me down next to the rover."
"Colonel, that is suicide."
"Listen at most you will be fifteen meters in the air. I will hold onto the step and drop down on the other side. Get into your Stinger and rise up five meters. I will grab on then. You will fly me over their heads."
"The Captain will kill you for this stunt."
"Nah, put me on report, chew me a new ass, maybe even throw me into the Brig but she would not kill me. Let's go before our friends decide to turn around and find us and attack."
"Yes ma'am. Please do me a favor and hold tight until we are over."
"I will. Just take it nice and slow and we will both make it over. Once I am on the ground land your Stinger and await further instructions."
The pilot climbed into the cockpit, got into the harness and lowered the bubble. He started the Stinger and lifted off the ground. He hovered until Kacey grabbed hold of the step. The stinger rose higher and carried them both over the heads of the aliens. Kacey released her hold and dropped down next to Kate. The Stinger landed. Kate's eyes flashed with anger. She grabbed Kacey's arm.
"Are you fucking crazy? What sort of crazy stunt was that?" Kacey smiled at her. "I ordered you to stay put."
"And I told you that was not going to happen, Kate. My place is by your side."
"Don't go getting a big head, but I am glad to see you." Kate stated. "We will discuss your entrance later."
"I am sure we will." Kacey stated. "Are the translators able to decipher what they are saying?"
"So far. From what they are saying is that we are very ugly and frail looking and that we are very strangely dressed. They are waiting for someone or something called Govan. I think that is the name."
"You have me there."
"Kate look at them. Do you know what they remind me of?"
"How the Hell am I supposed to know what you are thinking. Your brain is too strange a place for me to ever want to visit."
"Sorry wrong phrasing. Think back to Ancient History. They resemble the descriptions of Neanderthals we learned about in school."
"You are kidding me right?"
"Look at them, Kate. The barrel chests, brow ridges, bowed legs and thick arms."
"I think Kacey is right, Kate." Anya stated.
"Andromeda to rover one."
"Go ahead Andromeda."
"Katie, we can see you. What is going on?"
"Not much at this time. They seem to be waiting for someone."
"Can ye get through them in the rover?"
"I think dad means to drive at them and see if they get out of the way."
"They might take that as an act of aggression and attack. Our best course of action right now is to wait."
"Perhaps ye are right. Tell Kacey we will be needing a wee talk about her entrance." Liam stated. "We have the rest of the Stingers waiting to go."
"Hold off for now. The technology seems to aggravate them." Kate told him. "Wait something is happening."
The aliens started to grumble and spoke the same word over and over. "Govan, Govan, Govan." The aliens parted. An older male walked through the crowd. He carried a large heavy staff. He held his arm up. They stopped.
"I am Govan. I speak for the Brin."
"I am Captain Kate Jensen of the ..." Kacey nudged her. "Kate. I am Kate. I speak for the humans."
He looked at Kacey. "I am Kacey."
"Why you here?
"How do I explain this is simple terms" Kate whispered. "To look at new worlds. We come in peace."
"You no fight the Brin?"
"We are not here to fight the Brin."
"You welcome here Kate."
"Thank you Govan.
"Will be dark soon. Wild ones come out in dark."
"Wild ones? He must mean animals." Kacey stated.
"What do the wild ones look like?" Kate asked.
"Very big, have big teeth. Thick hide. Spear make no mark. Sound like," He made a roaring sound.
"Sounds like big cats, Kate."
"Come back this place in the light. We talk then."
"We will come back here to talk."
"We go." The Brin turned and went back underground.
"Let's get back to the shuttle and decide what to do." Kate said.
They climbed back into the rover and headed back to the shuttle. "Nothing like an unscheduled first contact to put and end to your temper tantrum."
"First you yell at me because I was protecting your ass, so I backed off. Then you accuse me of throwing a tantrum."
"What exactly would you call running off like you did." Kate stated.
"I was leaving you alone, just like you wanted me to." Kacey argued.
"Sure seemed like a tantrum to me." Kate stated.
"When we get back to the shuttle, set shock sticks around the rovers and turn them on." Kacey told the Marines, changing the subject. She picked up the radio and repeated her orders. "No one will be allowed to stay on the surface overnight. All extra Stingers return to Andromeda."
"That order includes you also correct?" Kate asked.
"Of course it does. I will not go against my own orders."
"Just checking. You certainly like to ignore my orders."
"Do you really want to get into this now?"
"You are right. As soon as we get back to Andromeda, I want to see you in my Ready Room."
"As you wish Captain." Kacey replied.
They arrived back at the shuttles and helped carry the sample cases on board. They set up the shock sticks around the rovers and turned them on before climbing into the shuttles. Kacey keyed the mike. "All ships return to Andromeda."
"Yes ma'am. Stingers are in the air. Shuttles three and four are already on their way back. Shuttle two lifting off now."
"Roger shuttle two. Everyone strap in." She ordered and she got into her harness and started her shuttle. They lifted off the planet.
To be continued...
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