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CHAPTER 37 A
Kacey sighed. She knew Kate was about to blow. She was also surprised she waited several days to call this meeting. Kacey helped herself to another cup of coffee. She sat back down in the chair she occupied during the meeting. Kate stayed behind her desk.
"No bull shit, Kacey, how are you feeling?" Kate asked.
"Pretty good. My muscles no longer scream for mercy when I move. I think the last time my muscles felt like that was that time I was thrown from a horse." Kacey joked.
"DO YOU THINK GETTING BLOWN OUT OF THE SKY WAS SOME SORT OF GOD DAMN JOKE? Kate yelled.
"NO I DO NOT THINK IT WAS A JOKE." Kacey yelled back. "WHEN I SAW THAT SHIP ESPLODE WITH MIKE UNDER IT, THEN THAT FIREBALL COMING AT ME, I WAS SCARED. DAMNED SCARED I HAD NO CHANCE TO GET OUT OF IT'S WAY. THEN ALL MY SYSTEMS CUT OUT ON ME. I HONESTLY DID NOT THINK I WOULD LIVE TO HOLD NATALIA OR OUR CHLDREN AGAIN. MY SHUTTLE WAS ON FIRE. I DID NOT REGAIN STEERING CONTROL UNTIL I WAS A FEW METERS FROM THE GROUND." Kacey stopped, took a breath to calm down before she continued. " I knew I would have a very hard landing. My hope at that point was that my people would be able to get the fire out. I could not open the ramp, which at that point was a good thing."
"Kacey Stop." Kate ordered. "Why? Why did you take that chance?"
"It is my job, Kate. What I was trained to do."
"I HIGHLY DOUBT THE MARINE CORPS TRAINED YOU TO PULL IDIOTIC STUNTS." Kate yelled.
"IDIOTIC? IS THAT WHAT YOU THINK OF ME?" Kacey yelled back.
"OF COURSE NOT. I DO NOT THINK YOU ARE AN IDIOT. JUST THAT STUNT YOU PULLED. EVEN AFTER YOU ALMOST GOT TRAPPED UNDER THAT FIRST SHIP, YOU WENT RIGHT BACK AND DID IT AGAIN."
"THE FIRST SHIP SHOWED ME THOSE SHIPS WERE VUNERABLE IN THE SAME AREA WE USED TO BE, THE EXHAUSE PORTS."
"OF COURSE YOU COULD NOT HAVE ANY OF YOUR PEOPLE GO AFTER THOSE SHIPS."
"WE HAVE BEEN THROUGH THIS BEFORE. I CAN NOT AND WILL NOT SEND MY PEOPLE INTO ANY SITUATION I AM NOT WILLING TO GO INTO MYSELF."
"YOU PROVED THAT POINT WITH THE FIRST SHIP, YET YOU WENT BACK A SECOND AND THIRD TIME."
Kacey took a deep breath to gain control of her temper. "After the orders were cut for this mission, do you know what my pilots and I did for several weeks before the launch?"
"What does that have to do with this?"
"We spent several weeks perfecting the moves we would use in the event we were attacked. They had their job, I had mine. Their's were to keep the larger ships busy while I looked for weak areas we could target. They have their jobs, I have mine. Do you expect me to stop doing my job?"
Kate was silent while she looked at Kacey. "No I do not expect you to stop doing your job, however you pull a stunt like that again and I will clip your wings with out a second's hesitation."
"You have got to be kidding me."
"No I am not. Kacey you can not continue to take chances with your life. You have a family to think about."
"I wondered how long it would take you to play the family card." Kacey said sarcastically. "So if we are attacked again I should do what exactly? Should I go and hide?"
"Of course not. That is not what I am saying."
"THEN EXACTLY WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?" Kacey demanded.
I DO NOT WANT TO ORDER YOU NOT TO GO OUT, BUT I WILL IF I HAVE TO. YOU CAN GET PISSED AT ME, BUT KNOW THIS, I WILL DO WHAT EVER I HAVE TO DO TO KEEP YOU FROM KILLING YOURSELF AND LEAVING NATALIA A WIDOW."
Kacey jumped to her feet. "DO YOU HONESTLY THINK I HAVE A DEATH WISH? THAT I AM RECKLESS?"
Kate also jumped to her feet. "YES AT TIMES I THINK YOU CAN BE VERY RECKLESS. YOU MAY THINK YOU ARE INDESTRUCTIBLE, BUT I CAN ASSURE YOU, THAT IS NOT TRUE."
"SO FIRST I AM AN IDIOT, THEN FOOLISH, NOW RECKLESS WITH A JUMPED UP GOD COMPLEX."
"I SAID YOUR ACTIONS WERE NOT YOU."
"WHAT IS THE FUCKING DIFFERENCE, KATE?"
"KACEY STOP" Kate yelled. "THAT IS ENOUGH."
"OR WHAT KATE. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO? YOU WANT TO CLIP MY WINGS THEN DO IT. I AM NOT ABOUT TO CHANGE WHO I AM OR WHAT I DO SIMPLY TO PLEASE YOU."
"YOU ARE LEAVING ME NO CHOICE."
"THEN YOU DO WHAT THE FUCK YOU HAVE TO DO, KNOW THIS I WILL CONTINUE TO DO WHAT I WAS TRAINED TO DO." Kacey walked rapidly to the door.
"DO NOT GO THROUGH THAT DOOR COLONEL." Kate ordered. "WE ARE NOT FINISHED."
"I BELIEVE WE ARE, CAPTAIN." Kacey shot back and left the Ready Room. She quickly left the Bridge and entered the lift. She walked through the Hanger. On the way she called Natalia. "Talia, I will be out for awhile."
"Is the meeting still going on?"
"No the meeting is over. Kate and I just had a blow up and I need to clear my head a bit."
"Be careful. Please?"
"I will. Love you."
"Love you back."
Kacey checked her shuttle first but found it was still being repaired. She went inside and removed several smoke sticks, water and a pistol. She went back into the Hanger and checked out the Vernan flyer. She did a quick preflight exam before she climbed into the cockpit. Her communicator beeped on the private channel several times which she ignored knowing it was Kate.
Kacey closed the bubble after she started the flyer and taxied to the Hanger doors. She stopped to make sure there was no one near the door. She pushed the thrusters to raise the flyer. She then nudged the throttles forward. The ship flew slowly from the Hanger.
"Kacey." Kate's voice came over the communicator. Kacey ignored the hail. She flew slowly away from Andromeda. As soon as she was cleared she pushed the thrusters again to gain height, then shoved the throttle all the way forward. The flyer sped off.
"Colonel O'Malley return to the Ready Room." Kate ordered. "Colonel respond." Kacey continued to ignore the hails. She flew over the planet.
CHAPTER 37 B
Kate sat behind her desk as she tried to contact Kacey. Her hails were still being ignored. She called for several crew members and Marines to be looking for her. Finally she called Natalia.
"Natalia, is Kacey there?"
"No she said you had an argument and she was going out to clear her head."
"Thank you. If she contacts you would you tell her I need to see her?"
"She may not contact me, but if she does I will tell her." Natalia said. "Is there anything else I can do?"
"Not at this time." Kate said and ended the call. "Computer locate Colonel O'Malley."
"Colonel O'Malley is not on board at this time."
"Damn it Kacey, where are you." She said out loud as she left her Ready Room. "Commander Rhea Torino, meet me in the Hanger."
"On my way Captain." Rhea said.
Rhea was waiting for her when she stepped off the lift. "What is going on Kate?" She asked.
"We need to locate Kacey. She took off after we had an argument." They walked outside. Kate stopped when she noticed Kacey's shuttle still grounded. She turned back towards the Hanger. "The Flyer. She took the Vernan Flyer. Damn it. We have no video in that thing."
"What do you want to do?" Rhea asked. "There are Stingers still on patrol."
"You are correct. Captain Jensen to Stinger leader."
"Stinger leader, what can I do for you Captain."
"Be on the look out for Colonel O'Malley. She is in the Vernan flyer."
"Roger Captain. What should we do if we find her?"
"Just follow her and relay your position."
"Copy that Captain."
"That will really piss her off, Kate."
"At this point Rhea, I really do not care what pisses her off."
"Captain?" Major Anderson spoke as he walked slowly down the ramp.
"Major, how are you feeling?"
"Very well. The Docs used the bone knitter and dermal regenerators to fix all my injuries. Almost as good as new."
"That is good to hear."
"I overheard you tell the Stingers to find the Colonel."
"That is correct. Any advice how?"
"Captain, if the Colonel does not want to be found, no one will find her. I know that from experience. She will be found when she is ready to be found."
"Damn it." Kate swore.
Kacey was aware of the shadow the second she pick up the tail. She knew who sent the Stingers and she also knew how to elude her shadows. She turned the flyer towards the forest and sped up. The Stingers followed her as she weaved in and out of the trees. She doubled back several times until she was behind the Stingers. She pulled back on the throttles and slowed the flyer allowing the Stingers to get far ahead of her. She changed direction and flew away from the forest.
"Stinger leader to Captain Jensen."
"Go ahead Stinger leader."
"Captain, we had the Colonel in sight, but she must have realized that and did some of that fancy flying she does. We lost her ma'am."
"Keep searching. That ship she is in is not designed for deep space so she is near the planet." Kate stated. "Major are you cleared to fly?"
"Unfortunately no, but I can be a passenger."
"Can you find Kacey?"
"Not until she is ready to be found ma'am. I can help you look however."
"Good, we will need your help."
"I will get your shuttle ready." Rhea stated. Kate nodded and pushed her communicator.
"Anya get to your console and check the scanners and sensors. See if you can locate Kacey. She is in the Vernan flyer."
"I am on my way, Kate" Anya responded.
"We will be in my shuttle searching for her. Rhea and Major Anderson are with me."
"Be careful, Kate. She is very angry with you right now."
"I know. Before this is over she will be a lot angrier."
"I am on the Bridge now Kate. Sensors show the flyer is in the North west sector about eighty kilometers away from Andromeda."
"Is she still flying?"
"No the flyer is on the ground. Sensors show her by the lake."
"Keep us informed if she takes off again." Kate said. "Anya is there anyone or anything around her?"
"She is alone and safe. The nearest animals are several kilometers away from her. No humanoid life forms at all."
"We are taking off now Anya."
Kacey leaned against a large boulder and skimmed stones over the still surface of the lake. Her anger was extremely slow is lessening. She continued to throw the stones until the sun started to set. The vapor from her smoke stick created a wreath around her head. Her communicator continued to beep which she continued to ignore. She crossed the line by not answering Kate's hails. Eventually she knew a lot of smelly stuff would hit the fans.
Another blow up was coming. They both knew it. There was nothing they could do to prevent it. It was who they were. There were two out of control high speed trains on a collision course.
"What fucking right does Kate have accusing me of being reckless or foolish." Kacey said out loud. "I was doing my God Damn job. What the fuck does she expect me to do, run and hide? She knows damn well I can not do that. I will not ever do that. This is who I am. She needs to understand I can not be any one else just to please her."
"No one is asking you to be less than you are." Kate said as she walked to Kacey's side.
"Shit I knew I stayed here too long." Kacey stated.
"I am glad you did."
"Really Captain? Ready for round two?"
"Does there have to be a round two?"
"Of course there will be. Tell me Captain did you bring a spare pilot with you or will I be allowed to fly myself back before you clip my wings?"
"You can fly yourself back." Kate stated.
"So how did you find me? I know I was not on Video lock. I left before you had a chance to put it one me."
"Once you ditched the Stingers, we had to use the sensors and scanners to find you. According to Major Anderson, that was the only way we would have been able to."
"I would say that is true, but I would not want you to add egotistical to the list of names you called me today."
"I did not say you were foolish or reckless. I said your actions were."
"There is a difference?"
"Of course there is, damn it." Kate stated angrily "I can not allow you to continue to take chances with your life."
"YOU CAN NOT ALLOW IT? YOU CAN NOT ALLOW IT? HOW DARE YOU? YOU HAVE NO GOD DAMN RIGHT." Kacey yelled.
"I AM THE CAPTAIN. THAT GIVES ME THE RIGHT." Kate yelled back. She took a deep breath and a step back to bring her anger under control. "Let's just get back to Andromeda and take the night to calm down. We can talk this over rationally in the morning."
"Do you really think that will help? That anything will help at this point?"
"Hell I don't know, but I am willing to try. We are both too angry at this time to even try to talk to each other."
"What ever. As you are fond of stating, you are the Captain." Kacey stood at attention. "Permission to return to Andromeda, Captain."
"Permission granted Colonel." Kacey saluted and started to walk away, but stopped.
"Are you here alone?"
"Rhea and Major Anderson are just beyond those trees."
"Come on I will walk you back"
"That will not be necessary."
"You forget my orders, Captain."
Kate walked away from the lake. Kacey fell into step beside her until they reached Rhea. Kacey saluted again, turned and went back to the flyer.
CHAPTER 37 C
"Time to get back to Andromeda." Kate stated. "Captain Jensen to Andromeda."
"Go ahead Katie." Liam's voice came over the radio.
"Dad we are on our way back."
"Did ye find Kacey?"
"Yes we did. She is on her way back also."
"Tis good to here lass. Be careful."
"Roger dad." Kate said. "Let's go."
The shuttle lifted off. They were able to see the flyer ahead of them. Kacey had landed the flyer and secured it before the shuttle approached. She hurried inside before it landed to avoid another confrontation with Kate. Even though she said to take the night to cool down. By the time Kate with Rhea and Major Anderson walked into the Hanger, Kacey was not in sight.
Kacey let herself into their quarters. "Hi honey I 'm home." She said. Natalia walked out of the bedroom with Patrick at her breast. She kissed Kacey.
"How are you doing? Did Kate find you?"
"I am fine sweetheart. Kate found me. How is little Mac?"
"His appetite has increased. They both are drinking more."
"Has Caitlyn been fed?"
"She has but she just might want to spent time with her mom. Get yourself a brandy then go get your daughter."
"Yes ma'am." Kacey said and kissed Natalia. Before she poured a drink she moved the rocking chairs closer together. Kacey put her drink on the coffee table then went to pick up their daughter. Natalia sat in one chair, Kacey in the other. "Talia I am sorry I ran out of here today. I really did need to clear my head."
"Sweetheart I understand. Was the fight with Kate that bad?"
"It was. Talia do you think I am reckless idiotic or foolish?"
"Of course not. Why would I ever think that?" Natalia asked. "I worry about you when you are in a dangerous situation. Did Kate say that?"
"She said my actions were."
"Do you think that?"
"Hey she just smiled at me." Kacey marveled.
"She likes the sound of your voice. Now answer my question."
"I don't know. I see a situation like with the raiders, try to find any weakness and go for it. Does that mean I am reckless foolish or idiotic?"
"What made you decide to go for a much larger ship from underneath?"
"I found their exhaust ports and went after them, hoping their shields did not cover the ports." Kacey told her. "I figured if I could knock out their engine, that would put the ship out of commission and end the battle faster."
"That does not sound reckless or foolish. Do you know what caused the explosion?"
"The trilithium they were mining is highly corrosive and explosive. They used it as a fuel which weakened their hull. When Mike's shots hit the weakened hull, the trilithium exploded."
"What are the chances it will explode in the ground."
"None as long as it is not disturbed it is inert, harmless. It hits the air and releases what ever makes it dangerous."
"Were you and Kate able to come to some sort of an understanding?"
"No. She found me, we are argued some more. Then she suggested we table everything for the night and attack it in the morning."
"Attack? Did she actually say attack?"
"No, the words she used were talk it over rationally."
"Hell, Talia. I am not sure we can. She may even clip my wings. If that happens I..." She faltered.
"What if you pulled yourself off the flight roster before that happens?"
"Why would I want to do that?"
"If you take yourself off voluntarily, you choose when you return to flying. If you wait for Kate to do it, she controls when you can fly again."
"Have I ever told you how much I love your brain?"
"My brain? I do not recall you ever saying that. The rest of me yes, but not just my brain."
"Maybe I can correct that after we put the little ones down."
"That is absolutely the best offer you have made in several weeks. Do you want to eat first?"
"Nope. All I want is you."
"Then Colonel give me a few minutes to fix a bottle and clean up.." Natalia said and went into the bedroom.
"I will put Caitlyn down, take myself off the flight roster before Kate does and grab a quick shower" Kacey stated
"You have fifteen minutes Kacey to meet me in bed."
Kacey went to her computer. She pulled up the flight rosters and placed a "U" for unavailable after her name for several days. She finished her brandy and headed into the bathroom. She quickly shed her clothes and took a quick shower. She hung her towel on the hook before she pulled the covers down on the bed. She lay down and waited for Natalia.
To be continued...
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