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CHAPTER 34 A
Kacey sat in her seat on the Bridge as she and Kate watched the video the Stingers recorded during the night. They had watched the computer replay on the so called Wild Ones. The videos taken by the cloaked Stingers showed large ships landing on the planet. Mechanical looking animals roamed the surface while machines bore into the planet and workers climbed into the holes.
"What is the make up of this planet that these drillers want so badly that they take advantage of a primitive race?" Kacey asked. "Those Wild Ones look like robots."
"The phasic pistols will not work on robots." Kate added.
"We need to find out what those drillers are after."
"Get a team of geologists together. We need to find out what is under the surface." Kate told Anya. "Launch all shuttles and Stingers." Kacey nodded and left the Bridge. "Lieutenant take the ship to the coordinates we sent."
"Yes ma'am." The ship moved towards the landing area.
Kacey walked into the Hanger. She went directly to the intercom. "Attention. In fifteen minutes we will be launching all shuttles. Alpha and Beta squadrons Stingers one through twenty, ready your flyers." She went to her shuttle and did the external inspection before she did the preflight. She checked her water supply, took the phasic weapons out of the storage lockers and checked to make sure they were fully charged. She checked on the other equipment they would need, before she sat in her seat and put on her harness and headphones. Once the ramp was closed, she started the shuttle and moved into position. The other flyers lined up behind her.
"Close air lock doors." She ordered. "All units do radio check." The craft lined up behind her and counted off. "Shamrock to Andromeda."
"Go ahead Shamrock."
"We are about to launch."
"Be careful. Andromeda will follow you down."
"Roger Kate." Kacey said. "Lower atmosphere and open launch doors." Kacey pushed the throttles forward and kept her foot on the brake. She heard the video camera turn on. She saluted and released the brake. The shuttle shot out of the Hanger. She moved out of the way until all ships launched. She grabbed a smoke stick while she waited. "All ships have been launched." Kacey stated.
"Roger Shamrock. See you planet side." Andromeda headed towards the surface. Once down the smaller ships landed around her. The ramps opened. Kate and Anya led the geologists to the outside. They gathered around Kacey and her troops.
"We need to know what those raiders want so badly from the ground that they force the Brin to live underground." Kate said. "Colonel, have four Marines go with each group of geologists to those coordinates we have. Also have Stingers flying over each group for protection."
"You heard the Captain." Kacey stated. The groups headed to the shuttles and rovers. Pilots headed back to their Stingers. "Kate how do you plan on explaining robot animals to the Brin?"
"I am open for suggestions."
"I have an idea. Let me get what I need." She ran off before Kate could say another word. She returned within minutes with a remote control vehicle. "This may help explain what a robot is."
"Excellent." Kate stated. "Anya brought up a point last night. How did the Brin cook the food they shared with us? Also what do they use for fuel, light or heat their homes?"
"How are we supposed to help protect them when we can not set up any sort of generator because they do not have any power."
"We will have to ask Govan when he arrives. For all we know they have a power grid underground. We are assuming that because they are appear to be a primitive people that they actually are." Kate stated.
"So if they do not have some sort of power supply, do you expect us to build a generator?"
"Kate we are Marines. As long as we can get the parts from the replicators, we can put as many generators together as needed."
"Is there a but in there?"
"Unfortunately there is. What sort of fuel to use? Will the Brin be able to keep the generators running? How big do we need to make them? How big an area they will have to cover?"
Kate held her hands up. "Okay, stop. What you are saying is we are taking on a Herculean task."
"It very well could be. We have to talk to Govan. Maybe I should make a list of what we have to ask?" Kacey joked.
"Getting old little sister?" Kate kidded her with an added elbow to the ribs. "The mind is the first to go."
"You should know, Kate. You are older than me." Kacey shot back.
"Govan is coming Kate." Rhea stated.
"Kate the great ship is down."
"Govan, we found out a few things about your wild ones." Kate said. "The wild ones are not real animals. They are robots that are used to scare you away from the surface when dark comes."
"What are robots?"
"Kacey, show them." Kate ordered.
"A robot is a mechanical object. I have this toy to show you how a robot works." Kacey turned the toy on and placed it on the ground. She operated the controller to make the toy move. The Brin were surprised and backed away. "This is how the wild ones are controlled. Govan you said that Brin were killed. Were they eaten or stepped on?"
"We not sure. Find Brin dead when light comes. Healers say many bones broke."
"That mean they were stepped on."
"Why robots step on Brin?"
"To keep you off the surface and underground during the dark. There are raiders who come to your planet in the dark and take something out of the ground."
"Govan, what do you use to cook, heat or light your homes? What sort of power do you use?"
At Govan's puzzled look, Kate said, "Too many questions at one time."
"Burning stones cook food."
"Burning stones?" Kacey asked. Govan picked a stone from the ground and handed it to Kacey, who in turn handed it to Anya. Anya turned it over in her hand and looked closely at it."
"This is coal." She stated.
"That explains how they cook and quite possibly heat their homes. What about light?"
"Many burning thing here." Govan stated. "Air can burn. Crystals make light bigger." It was Kate and Kacey's turn to be puzzled. "Would like to see?"
"I would." Kacey and Anya said together.
"Govan will show."
"Rhea, keep an eye on Kate." Kacey stated. Rhea moved to Kate's side when Kacey and Anya left with Govan.
"Kate, any other time you would have jumped down Kacey's throat for what she said. What is going on?"
"She told me about the orders the brass gave her."
"You know about those orders?
"We both received those orders. I am Kacey's back up."
"I could really be insulted."
"Don't be. Way too many Captains have been lost on missions. I know it might be hard to believe, but not everyone is cut out to be a Captain. You are a rare and special breed."
"Thank you." Kate said. They waited for answers to the many questions they had. Off in the distance Kate noticed their return. "That did not take long. They are on their way back already."
"They have pipes that funnel gas which burns. The crystals magnify the flame." Anya stated. "Kate the crystals are not just crystals." She handed Kate a large stone.
"Is this what I think it is?" Kate asked.
"If you are thinking it is a big ass diamond, you are thinking right." Kacey stated.
"So now that brings up the question. What are the raiders after? Coal, gas, diamonds or something else."
"Govan when did you have to move underground?"
"Four cold seasons. Brin lived on top ground, many seasons. Then wild ones come and force Brin to leave top."
"We can help you live on the surface again." Kacey stated. "Also keep the wild ones and raiders from killing the Brin."
"How you do this?"
"We can make a machine that can power protections for you." Kacey stated.
"What would you use for fuel?" Kate asked.
"Kate they have harnessed gas for light. That gas can run a shield generator."
"Brin live on top ground?"
"Yes the Brin will be able to once again live on the surface." Kacey stated. "Mike, pull up the schematics for making a gas powered shield generator. Then have the Whiz Kids start replicating the parts needed. It will have to be the biggest ones we can make."
"Got it Kacey." Mike ran back towards Andromeda.
"What sort of time frame are we looking at?" Kate asked.
"Several weeks to get the generators built and run gas lines, hook the shield matrixes into them." Kacey told her.
"In that case we might be able to discourage the raiders." Kate added.
"That would not be too hard to do. I will keep the overnight flights going. We can also set up lights around the areas they have been mining to discourage any visitors."
"Will you be part of the overnights?"
"I can, but I was not planning on it. Do you want me to?"
"No, I do not." Kate stated. "Set your flight rosters and whatever you need to do. I want around the clock flights. We need to do everything we can to help these people. Also set armed sentries."
Govan watched the two, while not really understand what they were planning. "Kate you will stay on top ground?"
"Yes, we will be safe, Govan."
"Brin will help."
"We welcome your help, Govan."
CHAPTER 34 B
Lights were set up around the around the affected area. Armed sentries walked the perimeter. Crew members, Marines and Brin walked side by side. Shock stick were set up at short intervals and turned on. Overhead Stingers flew protecting those who volunteered to stay outside Andromeda.
Many times the sensors showed large ships as they headed towards the planet. With the lights and presence of the stingers, the ships turned around and left. The geologists had filed their reports. Coal, gas, diamonds and a mineral they named trilithium were abundant under the surface. They were running tests on the mineral.
Kate stood at the top of the ramp and watched the activity below. Kacey spent several hours helping set up the defense. With crew outside, the Hanger ramp would be left open. The final chore was having an armed guard at the bottom of the ramp. Security, Marines and Brin made up their sentry force.
Once she finished Kacey started up the ramp to Kate's side. "What's up?"
"Just checking on how the preparations are going. Is everything set to go?"
"As well as we can be. Between your security, my Marines and the Brin, we are surrounded by armed protectors. Not to mention all the other crew members who have volunteered."
"Are you feeling guilty about not being out there?"
"Since when did you become a shrink?" Kacey asked. Kate just looked at her. "Damn it yes, I feel guilty. I know I am needed at home, but..."
"Let's walk little sister and you can tell Doctor Kate all about it."
Kacey smiled. "I think I need to take a very close look at your medical degree first." She joked. "How do you do it Kate? How do you balance your position and responsibility to the ship and crew with your responsibility to Anya and your children?"
"When we are in a situation like now, I feel guilty about spending time with my family. Yet when I am with my troops, I feel guilty about not being with my family. How do you do it?"
"It helps that Anya works five meters away from me, but when we worked in different areas, I did feel like you do."
"So what do I do?"
"There is no magical answer. My best advice is that when you are with your family, be with them one hundred percent. The same goes for your troops. When you are with them, be with them one hundred percent." Kate said. "Before this mission, there were times when I did feel like you do. Right after the girls were born, when I had to spend extra time at work. I knew Anya needed me at home. I had to choose between my family and my duties. It tore me apart at times because I knew I was neglecting the most important people in the world. That was the one and only time I came close to resigning."
"What did you do? What did Anya say?"
"There were days when she felt neglected and that she was not as important as my work. She never hesitated to make her feeling known. Has Natalia said anything?"
"No not at all. I think she understands."
"Never assume anything. Give her time. Don't forget she has been studying at the Anya Jensen School of keeping your spouse in line."
"Thanks for the heads up." Kacey said. "So what did I do to rate an escort to my quarters?"
"We need to do some planning for our second anniversary party." Kate stated. "And other things."
Kacey put in her code when they reached her quarters. The table was set for dinner. Anya was in the kitchen with Patricia. Liam was feeding Caitlyn. Natalia was in the nursery nursing Patrick. Anya handed each a brandy after they walked to the counter.
The day had come to a close. The ship quieted. Those crew not on duty, rested before their duty shifts. Kacey and Natalia lay with their arms around each other, lulled to sleep by the sounds of their children breathing.
With Marines out on the surface away from the safety of Andromeda, Kacey kept a radio by her side. It sat quietly on the table near the bed.
"May Day, May Day, May Day. We are under attack in section nine." Kacey jumped out of bed at the first crackle of the radio. She grabbed a flight suit and quickly dressed. She grabbed the radio and her boots and left the bedroom. She pulled the door closed.
"Stinger leader, reinforcements are on the way." The voice said.
"This is Colonel O'Malley, get as many stingers as possible to section nine. I am on my way." Kacey put the radio down and donned her boots. The bedroom door opened. Natalia came into the living room.
"Stingers in section nine are under attack." Kacey stated. "I have to go Talia."
"I know sweetheart. Please be careful."
"I will." Kacey finished getting dressed.
"What about Kate?"
"Shit. I will call her on my way to the Hanger. Go back to bed before the babies wake up." She kissed Natalia and headed to the door. She pushed the private call button. "Kate." She waited. "Kate" She said louder.
"Kacey it is oh two hundred hours."
"Sorry Kate. Stingers in section nine are under attack. I am on my way there."
"Wait for me."
"Can not do that, Kate there is no time. I will keep in touch." Kacey told her as she ran off the lift and into the Hanger.
She continued running until she reached her shuttle. She did the external exam and quickly went through her preflight. Next to her, Mike was doing the same in another shuttle. She strapped in, put on the headphones and started her shuttle. The shuttles headed into the battle, followed by the Stingers. The sky in the distance lit up with shots being fired. Stingers flew around the larger ships firing. The returned shots bounced off the Stinger's shields. Kacey and her reinforcements entered the battle. They flew around the larger ships firing looking for any weak spot they could target.
Kate walked onto the Bridge, where Rhea was already at her post. "Raise shields, go to red alert, get the battle on the view screen." She ordered. The communication officer hurried to her post. The view screen lit up with the battle.
Six large raiding ships did battle with the much smaller and quicker Stingers and shuttles. "Computer show me Colonel O'Malley's shuttle." The scene changed to Kacey's shuttle as she flew under the bigger ship. Her guns fired at the underbelly of the much larger ship. She laid down a steady stream of shots. She disabled first the guns and continued to fire. The ship started to fall to the ground, it's engines disabled.
The Bridge crew watched in horror as the ship fell. Kacey barely had time to move out from under the ship. Then her shuttle disappeared. Kate thought she had been caught under the ship. She stood and clenched the railing in front of her willing the shuttle to appear.
"Andromeda to Shamrock." There was no response. "Andromeda to Shamrock. God Damn it Kacey respond."
"Damn it Kate, I am a little busy right now."
"You disappeared. I thought that ship had taken you down."
"Nah. It was close, but I am fine. Turn on the internal camera and you will see me."
"Do it." Kate ordered. The scene changed to inside Kacey's shuttle. "Where are you?"
"Coordinates sent. Shuttle two watch your flank." Kacey ordered.
"It looks like she is going to try that maneuver again, Captain." Rhea stated as Liam and Anya stepped off the lift.
"Patricia is with the girls." She said as she went to her console.
"Is Kacey cloaked?" Liam aksed.
"Yes she sacred me spitless. She was under the first ship when it went down. We could not see her. You are right Rhea, it looks like she is going to try that same thing. They can not see her."
"She still has to uncloak to fire, they will see her then."
"Mike are you in position?"
"Time to take out the trash. FIRE." She ordered. The guns from both shuttles aimed at the weakest areas of the ships. The Stingers kept the attention of the raiders off what they could not see, as they flew around the ships like flies at a picnic.
The shuttles took out the bottom guns first then went for the exhaust ports which seized the engines. Two more raiders headed for the surface. One of the ships burning as it hit the ground. There were still three raiders left and no time to celebrate.
"Three down, three to go." Kacey said with a laugh.
"She sounds like she is having fun." Kate stated in disbelief.
"This is what she is trained for Katie." Liam said.
"I know that dad, but does she have to sound like she is at a party instead of a battle?"
"Kacey knows what she is doing, Kate." Anya responded.
"What do you think Mike? Ready to go again?"
"Right behind you Colonel.
"I will take port your take starboard." Kacey ordered. "Let's hit them again."
The two headed back to repeat their attacks on the larger ships. The Bridge crew could see Kacey on the view screen. Her good luck charm clamped between her teeth as she got into position to take on another raider. With deadly accuracy they repeated their attack.
"Can we get a clean shot at those raiders?" Kate asked.
"Not with the Stingers buzzing around. The way they are flying we could hit them."
"Damn there has to be something we can do to help them."
"Katie, I know ye are worrying about Kacey. So am I, but we have to have faith in Kacey and her troops. They know what they are doing." He placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.
"How can you be so calm, dad? That is Kacey out there."
"Aye lass I know that. Believe me I am far from being calm. The only thing keeping me on this Bridge is trusting you sister to know what she is doing."
They watched one of the raiding ships explode. A fireball headed for Kacey. "Oh my God." Anya exclaimed as the video feed from Kacey's shuttle cut off. The view screen showed only static.
"KACEY." Kate and Liam yelled
To be continued...
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