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CHAPTER 33 A
Kacey's shuttle held position until all other craft had landed. Once inside the Hanger, she backed her shuttle into her spot and waited for the atmosphere to be returned before she shut down the engine. She opened the ramp. The Marines helped Anya carry her cases off the shuttle. Kate waited for Kacey to secure the shuttle.
"You really do not have to wait for me Kate."
"I think I should. You might just forget the way to the Bridge and not make it to my Ready Room."
"Whatever. I will be a few minutes."
"Take your time. I am not in any hurry."
"Before you rip me a new ass, do you mind if I call Talia?"
"Not at all. Should I wait in the Hanger?"
Kacey just looked at her, and pushed the private call button. "Talia?"
"Hi sweet heart. Are you done for the day?"
"We are. I am securing my shuttle now, but I am not sure when I will be done. Kate wants to yell at me."
"I will tell you when I get home. How are the squeakers?"
"They have been good all day. Your mom is here with the girls so tell Kate not to yell too long."
"Yeah. I am not sure that will work. See you later. Love you."
"Love you back." Natalia said.
"I am finished, Kate. Want to go to my office. It's closer."
"Lead the way." Kate said, as they left the shuttle and headed to the office. Kacey put in the code and opened the door. The lights came on. Kacey went behind her desk.
"Want a coffee?" Kacey asked as she went to the replicator. Kate nodded and sat in front of the desk. Kacey handed the cup to Kate, took one for herself and sat down. "All right let's have it before you explode."
"WHAT THE HELL DID YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING DOWN THERE? FIRST YOU RUN OFF ALONE, WITHOUT A RADIO, THEY YOU PULL THAT STUNT WITH THE STINGER. HAVE YOU COMPLETELY LOST YOUR MIND?" Kate yelled.
"Look Kate, you told me to leave you alone so I did. You did not want me to watch your back, so I left. I knew there were others to guard you."
"Kacey I will always feel safer with you by my side, but not to the point that I feel like a prisoner." Kate said. "YOU CAN NOT PULL THE SHIT YOU PULLED TODAY. YOU RAN OFF ALONE ON AN ALIEN WORLD. YOU HAD NO IDEA WHAT WAS OUT THERE. YOU LEFT YOUR RADIO AND SCANNER BEHIND."
"I know I did. You made me so damned angry, I forgot to take them with me. Luckily the pilot had a spare in his Stinger. Look Kate, Anya asked me to back off and give you some space. I did. You jumped down my throat so before we got into a knocked down dragged out fight for everyone and their pets to see, I decided to scout ahead."
"ON A GOD DAMNED ALIEN WORLD WHERE ANYTHING COULD HAVE HAPPENED."
"KATE, I HAD WEAPONS. I CAN DEFEND MYSELF."
"WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF GOVAN'S PEOPLE WERE DANGEROUS AND HAD SURROUNDED YOU INSTEAD OF US. YOU WERE ALONE."
"YOU HAVE SAID THAT THREE TIMES. YES I WAS ALONE. I AM A FULLY TRAINED MARINE. I CAN HANDLE MYSELF IN A FIGHT. I HAVE BEEN IN SITUATIONS BEFORE WHERE I WAS ALONE, WITH JUST WHAT I WORE AND MY WITS. I COULD HAVE ESCAPED."
"YOU WERE ON EARTH AT THAT TIME, NOT ON AN ALIEN WORLD WHERE ANYTHING COULD HAVE HAPPENED. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT SORT OF ANIMALS ARE HERE. ALL YOU HAD WAS A PHASIC PISTOL. NOT EVEN A RIFLE, A PISTOL. WHAT WILL THAT DO? YOU NEED TO START CARRYING A REGULAR SIDE ARM."
"I CAN NOT DO THAT, KATE. I HAVE A HARD ENOUGH TIME JUST PICKING ONE UP. I WILL NOT WEAR ONE." KACEY YELLED. "I can not understand that. I have always carried a weapon before. Now I can not even pick one up with out breaking into a cold sweat and my hands start shaking. Why Kate?"
"It all has to do with the memory we left in limbo." Kate said. "All right, Kacey. I will not insist you carry a regular side arm."
"Are you done yelling at me now?"
"HELL NO I AM NOT DONE YELLING AT YOU. WHAT EVER POSSESSED YOU TO PULL THAT STUNT WITH THE STINGER?"
"I was on one side of the aliens, you were on the other. I needed to get to your side. I could not just walk through them."
"YOU COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED DROPPING FROM THE STINGER."
"Would not have happened. We were only twelve meters up. The drop might have broken or sprained an ankle if I had landed wrong, but not killed."
"IT WAS AN EXTREMELY STUPID MOVE. HOW COULD YOU HAVE DONE SOMETHING THAT STUPID?"
"It worked, Kate. It was not stupid. You have to realize that I would have done anything to get to your side."
"I appreciate that, Kacey, I really do." Kate stopped yelling. "You have to remember that you are not alone anymore. You have a family that relies on you."
"That is a fact that I would never forget. May I remind you that you also have a family to think about."
"I AM NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY." Kate yelled.
"Actually you are Kate." Kacey stated. She reached into her desk drawer and pulled out an envelop. She held it in her hands. "The very first order I received from General Millhouse and Admiral Tacher was to protect you. I was given these sealed orders" She handed the envelop to Kate.
"What? When did this happen?" Kate read the orders.
"Right after I finished my training for piloting Andromeda. I was called to the Joint Chiefs and was given that envelop with the orders. I was also told not to inform you of that order until absolutely necessary. So if I do something that in your eyes is reckless or stupid, there is a reason."
"Does Natalia know about this order?"
"She does. No one else does, however. Now you also know why I can not let go of the guilt over your being hurt."
"They had no right to order you to do that, to put that on your shoulders."
"Who better to do that Kate. If they had put someone else in my position, they would not have the vested interest that I do. Oh they would have tried. Maybe even succeeded to a certain extent, but they would not be related to you."
"I wish you would have told me about this before."
"It was not absolutely necessary before. That is why I enter what you call Marine Mode on the last few planets we have landed on."
"I need to apologize for all the times I got testy with you."
"Testy? Hell Kate, there were times when you were down right bitchy. I came close to hauling off and slugging you a time or two."
"What stopped you?"
"That would have gone against my orders to make sure you were not hurt." Kacey laughed. Kate joined her laughter.
"If you had not been given those orders would you have slugged me?"
"To be perfectly honest Kate, I don't know." Kacey admitted. "What time to you want to return to Govan's world"
"Will ten hundred hours work for you?"
"Yeah. I can help Natalia with the squeakers before we leave.
CHAPTER 33 B
The shuttles returned to the surface. All the rovers converged on the area where the Brin had appeared and waited. Within a short time, the ground opened and the Brin came to the surface. Govan carried his staff as he led the way to the humans. Kate with Kacey at her side walked towards the Brin. Anya, Rhea and several Marines lined up behind them.
While they waited Kate ordered, "Do not draw your weapons unless attacked."
"Welcome Kate." He bowed in her direction.
Kate returned the bow. "Thank you Govan."
He turned towards Kacey. "Welcome Kacey."
She returned the gesture. "Thank you Govan." She said as she followed Kate's actions.
"Kate you say you come in peace."
"That is true, Govan. We are only here to meet new people and look at new worlds."
"So few to be so far." Govan stated.
"We have many people in a large ship."
"The ships that soar like birds?"
"Yes we soar." Kate said.
"What are the boxes that carry you called?"
"The boxes are called Rovers. We use them to look around new worlds." Kacey told them. "Govan why do you live under the ground?" She asked.
"Many things come out in the dark. Many Brin died. To protect the Brin we left the ground and live under it."
"More than the wild ones you told us about?"
"Many dangers in the dark." Govan stated. "Underground also protect Brin from dangers in the light also."
"Animals? Wild ones?"
"Strangers come. Kill many Brin. Take many more."
"Raiders." Kate told Kacey.
"There is not a damn thing we can do to help. They are a primitive race."
"Maybe there is." Kate replied. "Govan we may be able to help your people protect yourselves."
"Bear with me." Kate stated. "Rhea, call Andromeda. Have them replicate as many phasic pistols as possible and bring them here."
"Kate that might work. Each phasic pistol can deliver a thousand stunning shots per charge. Five hundred killing shots. The batteries are solar rechargeable. It will just be a task of teaching the Brin how to use them."
"What about shock sticks? You said they can stop anything smaller than an elephant and are also solar powered."
"They can, but you can not blanket the whole planet with shock sticks."
"Not the whole planet, but we can give the Brin a safe area from raiders and animals."
"I will have Rhea add them to the replicator request."
"Govan, we are going to get you more protection than your weapons." Kate told him.
"How you do that." Govan asked.
"We have special weapons that will help against the raiders and wild ones."
"The weapons will be replicated and brought down." Rhea stated.
"Good. Kacey I would like you to do a demonstration of the pistols and shock sticks."
"Sure. I will find a suitable target." Kacey walked away searching for targets to use. She returned several minutes later with an armful of wood. The largest piece was placed fifty meters away. She returned to Kate's side and drew her pistol. She took aim and fired. The electrical charge hit the log. Splinters flew off and smoldered. The Brin became agitated at the results. "That was at the lowest setting." She told Kate. "Do you want another at full?"
"Yes, Goban that was the smallest damage. What Kacey will show you now is the largest amount of damage that could be done." Kate nodded to Kacey to continue.
Kacey adjusted the setting, took aim and fired again. The wood exploded when the charge hit it. Kacey returned the pistol to the holster at her side."
"The light will keep the pistols working." Kacey told him.
"You will give Brin these pistols?"
"Yes along with other protection. Kacey would you set up some of the shock sticks and show the Brin what they can do."
"Okay." Kacey put pulled several shock sticks from the Rover and put them into the ground then turned them on. She picked up the wood she gathered and threw them between the sticks. The electrical charge from the sticks sizzled and threw the wood back towards them. She picked up the wood and showed Govan the scorch marks.
"Sticks protect Brin?"
"The sticks will protect the Brin from very big animals, the wild ones." Kate stated.
"Kate we need to see how big these wild ones are before you make that sort of statement. For all we know they are the size of elephants. We need to see these wild ones ourselves."
"Stop right there. You are not spending the night down here." Kate ordered.
"That was not my plan. We can set the cameras to record the animals. We can also set up lights around the lake and keep the cameras going. That way we will know exactly what we are up against."
"Sorry. That is a great plan. Do it." Kate stated.
Kacey turned to the Marines. "Get the emergency lights set up around this area and the lake. Turn them on so that we can see how big these wild ones are."
The Marines rushed to follow her orders. "Colonel, I can stay here and get them turned on. Just leave me a stinger to get back."
"We will wait for you. No one will be allowed here alone." Kacey told him. "Govan we are going to take pictures of the wild ones once the dark comes."
"Pictures? What are pictures." Kacey took a photo from her pocket. She handed the picture to Govan. "How people get in there?"
"That is a picture. It is taken with a camera. That is my wife and our children."
"Picture stop wild ones?"
"It will not stop them. It will show us how big they are."
"It is good." Govan stated and handed the picture back to Kacey.
"As soon as the lights are set up, we can help get the pistols replicated."
"How high do you want the lights, Colonel?"
"Why so high?" Kate asked.
"If they were closer to the ground, the lights could scare the animals away from the water." Kate nooded.
"That makes sense." Kate stated. "Govan as soon as it is dark, we will be able to see the wild ones and be able to help you more."
Govan nodded. "You eat before you go to big ship." He said and motioned for food to be brought to them. Several Brin women carried large platters of food to the visitors. They all sat on the ground and helped themselves to roasted meats and grains. The women handed them wooden plates to use. Like the Brin they ate with their fingers. Throughout the meal, the Brin brought wooden cups filled with a fermented beverage. After the first sip of the beverage, the crew sipped sparingly. The meal was delicious. They complimented the Brin many times during the meal.
After they finished eating, women collected the used plates and took them to the lake to clean them. As soon as that was finished, the Brin stood up. Kate and the Andromeda crew stood also.
"Will be dark soon. Come light we will visit again."
"Govan, thank you for that delicious meal. We will return torrow." Kate said as she bowed to Govan.
The Brin returned to their subterrean home. The crew headed to the Rovers after the lights were turned on. Back at the shuttles they turned the shock sticks on and climbed into the shuttles.
CHAPTER 33 C
Kacey waited until all the other ships had lifted off before she did. She had waited for Mike to turn on the lights and shock sticks. He climbed into the shuttle.
"All set Colonel."
"Andromeda, we are lifting off now. Turn the video on."
"Aye lass. Be careful."
Kacey sighed. "Will do dad." The shuttle lifted off the surface and headed back to Andromeda. "Kate if the shock sticks keep the animals away, will we bring Andromeda to the surface?"
"I would like to. Everything depends on the Wild Ones, how prevalent they are, and if there are any that come out during the day light. There are also other items to take into consideration."
"Water and plants are safe, Kate." Anya stated.
"The maps show several large clear landing areas." Rhea added.
"Something got your Goblin meter running?"
"I am not sure. Something just does not feel right. Not all animals are nocturnal. We have yet to see any animals during the day."
"That does not mean they do not exist."
"Have the Stingers reported seeing any animals?" Kate asked.
"Mostly grass eaters and several species of small animals."
"Why do the wild ones only go after the Brin?"
"Do you want me to have the Stingers out overnight? They will not be able to do any mapping, but with the landing lights, they might be able to do a low level fly over and watch for activity."
"That is a good idea. How low would they have to fly to make use of the landing lights?"
"No higher that two hundred meters."
"Wouldn't the lights spook whatever there is out there?" Rhea asked.
"Good point Rhea." Kacey admitted. "But..." She stopped.
"BUT?" Kate demanded. "What is flying around in that brain of yours?"
"We have thirty five ships equipped with cloaking devices. They can use infrared cameras and night vision goggles instead of the landing lights. They could be as low as twenty meters."
"How many pilots are trained for using night vision goggles?"
"We all are, Kate. Before you order me not to go out, I want to reassure you that I will remain on Andromeda. No matter how much I want to see what comes out at night."
"Will you give me your word?"
"You have my word Kate. I will not leave unless there is an emergency. I would like to spend some time with Natalia and the squeakers."
"Thank you. Send your pilots out. Make sure they are fully cloaked with shields up at all times."
"I will have them go out nine at a time in four hour shifts once it gets dark."
"I will get the roster set up, Colonel." Mike offered.
"Thanks Mike. Who are the Gamma shift flight leaders?"
"Lieutenant Chen and Sergeants Callahan and Mitchell."
"Make sure they are fully briefed. If they have any questions they can page me."
Kacey landed the shuttle. As soon as it was safe, they all left the shuttle and made their way out of the Hanger. Kate, Anya and Rhea went directly to the Bridge. Kacey to her office to log off duty before she headed to her quarters.
She entered the code into her door. The cries from the children surprised her. Natalia walked the floor with Patrick while Caitlyn screamed her outrage in her bassinette. Kacey quickly picked up her daughter and changed her. She took a bottle out of the warmer. The baby took the bottle readily and quieted. Patrick continued to scream. Natalia looked like she was ready to cry.
"Put him down for a minute and sit." Kacey said.
"He has been like this for the past three hours. No matter what I did he just cried. I just don't know what to do at this point."
"Take Caitlyn and finish feeding her. I will walk with Patrick." Kacey told her. "You should have called me or even mom. Sounds like he has colic." Kacey pushed the private call button. "Mom?"
"Kacey is something wrong?"
"I think Patrick has colic. What did you give Anya for that when the girls went through this?"
"I can tell by his cry that he is not happy. I will be right over." Patricia said.
"How do you know it is colic?"
"See how he is pulling his legs up to his stomach, his fist are clenched and his face is red. The sound of his cry tells me he is in pain." Kacey told her.
"How do you know these things?"
"The rug rats went through a bout or two when they were babies. The first time both had it at the same time. Kate and Anya were at their wits end. Mom walked in, took one look at them, went back to her house and came with several items that she mixed together. She gave each of the girls a few drops of the mixture and within minutes they both quieted."
"What were you doing while all this was going on?"
"Seeing how I was staying with them while my place was being renovated, I took my turn walking the floor with them." The door chimed. "Come in mom." She called out.
"From the sound of that cry, you made the right call, Kacey." Patricia stated. "Give me a couple minutes and we will help him." Patricia went into the kitchen and mixed the ingredients. Within minutes she filled an eye dropper with the mixture. Kacey held Patrick while Patricia squirted the mixture into Patrick's mouth. "Lay down on the couch. She told Kacey. Patricia lay Patrick on his stomach on Kacey's chest. Within minutes Patrick quieted and was soon asleep on Kacey's chest.
"That is a beautiful sound." Natalia said.
"You should have called me." Patricia stated.
"I did not want you to think I was not a good mother."
"Nonsense dear. Colic is in a class by itself. We all need help when babies have colic." Patricia reassured her. "Asking for help does not mean you are a bad mother. Just the opposite."
"Will this happen again?"
"It could, or this could be the one and only time it happens. I left more of the mixture in the kitchen. Just give him or Caitlyn a dropper full and lay them on their stomachs. Keep them warm"
"I can never thank you enough, Patricia." Natalia said.
"That is what families are for, Natalia." Patricia stated. Do not hesitate to call in the future. Kacey knew who to call. Now you both relax. I will bring dinner by for you both. You should be safe to lay him down now."
"Thanks mom." Kacey said as she sat up slowly and held Patrick close. She lay him on his stomach and pulled his blanket up. Then kissed her mother's cheek.
"Try to get Natalia to lay down for a bit."
"I will try." Kacey said as she walked her mother to the door. She turned and looked at her family. Caitlyn was peacefully sleeping against Natalia's shoulder. Kacey gently took the sleeping infant and lay her down. She took a pillow and blanket from the closet and held her hand out to Natalia to lead her to the couch. "Mom's orders. Rest for awhile. I will watch over the little ones."
Natalia nodded and quickly fell asleep.
To be continued...
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