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CHAPTER 39 A
Two weeks had gone by. All the generators had been brought on line and tested. The Brin were taught how to turn them on and off. They were also instructed how to use the phasic weapons. Outside the shield, shock sticks and lights were set up to further protect the Brin. With the generators finished the engineers worked on erecting a communication tower that would also hook into the generators.
Their second anniversary arrived. Andromeda's crew set up a stage for the orchestra and laid down a dance floor. Food laden tables we set up. As well as tables for the crew and their guests to sit and enjoy the party. The crew and Marines were in their formal dress uniforms. The Brin were in their version of dress clothes.
Since Andromeda had arrived and defeated the raiders, more and more Brin had moved back to the surface. Govan and several high ranking Brin sat with the officers. They understood what a party was as they held special celebrations throughout the year. The women brought several dishes to add to the meal.
Govan and his spouse, a woman he introduced at Dinee shared the family table. There was still tension between Kate and Kacey. They were cordial to each other. Their conversation cool and stilted. They had yet to sit down and talk of the problem between them. Only protocol kept Kacey from changing their seats for dinner.
Once dinner was over, the dancing would begin. She would have a legitimate excuse not to be at the table. The orchestra took their positions. Kacey pulled on her gloves and placed her hat squarely on her head. She offered her hand to Natalia who accepted her offer to dance. Kacey led her to the dance floor. Her parents, Kate and Anya, Govan and Dinee started off the dancing. Soon the dance floor was crowded. The Brin were quick learners and soon were fully enjoying the party. They showed crew members some of their dance steps.
Kacey and Natalia danced in a small corner of the dance floor. Anya tapped Natalia on the shoulder to cut into their dance. Kate stepped in to dance with Natalia and steered her away from their partners.
"Decorations really look nice."
"Thank you. Kacey you really need to end this."
"End what? The party, the dance?" Kacey asked innocently.
"Do not play games. You know exactly what I am talking about. You and Kate have to talk to each other."
"We have been talking to each other."
"I said do not play games. Not with me. You need to sit down and clear the air between you." Anya stopped dancing and pulled Kacey away from the dance floor. "Take a walk with me." She ordered as she kept a firm grip on Kacey's arm.
Kacey allowed Anya to pull her to a quiet area away from everyone. "I thought the family was going to keep out of this."
"We have tried, but neither of you want to give. This trouble between you has to be fixed. And fixed soon. You can not let it continue. I am telling you this to give you fair warning that we are ready to lock the two of you in a room until you end this." Anya stated. "We all know how glacially slow you are in letting go of your anger."
"How many months did it take for you to forgive Patricia and stop being angry with her?"
"Totally different set of circumstances."
"Really? How do you figure that?"
"Mom was right. Kate is not. My orders are to protect the Captain."
"Kate told me about those orders. How does taking chances with your life protect her?"
"It draws the attack away from Andromeda and Kate."
"Let me ask you this, did you think those orders mean that you are dispensable?"
"Why the Hell would I think that?"
"You tell me. Do you think that because your orders are to protect Kate that you are not equally important to this mission?"
"No, why would you ask that?"
"Are you sick or hurt in any way?"
"No. What is with all the questions?"
"You pulled yourself off the flight schedule weeks ago and you have not flown since. Why?"
"Did Kate put you up to this inquisition?" Kacey asked angrily.
"Answer the question." Anya demanded.
"I have had a lot of work to do on the ground. So I have been concentrating of getting that done."
"Have you been taking shrink lessons again? You are like a dog with a bone. You will not stop."
"Answer my question."
Kacey sighed. "All right. I voluntarily pulled myself off before Kate did. She threatened me with that often enough." Kacey stated. By doing that I control when I resume flying."
"If Kate were a vindictive person, she could still do that the second you climb into the pilot's seat."
"I have thought about that, but like you said, Kate is not a vindictive person. Look Anya as interesting as this conversation is I need to get back to Natalia."
"She is fine and working on her own project."
"You two have some sort of conspiracy going."
"Do you know what the biggest problem is?"
"No, but I imagine you are going to tell me." Kacey said sarcastically.
"Do not be impertinent Kirsten." Anya ordered. "The problem with you and Kate is that the two of you are so much alike. Neither of you wants to give in."
"No way in Hell, Anya. You are so wrong on this."
"Really do you honestly believe that?"
Kate and Natalia watched their spouses walk off the dance floor. Natalia asked Kate to take a walk with her.
"Looks like you and Anya have had your heads together." Kate stated.
"Maybe. I really need to talk to you about Kacey."
"What is wrong with her. Is she hurt or sick?"
"She is very healthy."
"If that were true, why has she not flown in weeks?"
"I suggested she remove herself from the schedule before you did."
"But she is completely all right?"
"Yes Kate. I need you to... wait let me rephrase that. Please do not give up on her."
"I would never do that."
"Then talk to her."
"Natalia, I have tried everyday for the last two weeks to talk to her. She just walks away."
"What if you were in a situation where she could not walk away?"
"We lock the two of you into a room until you are able to put this latest crises to rest."
"You forget Captain's Privilege allows me to override any lock."
"Only if you want to Kate. We all know this needs to be settled before we get back into space."
"Natalia I am more than willing to talk to her." Kate stated.
"If we can arrange that, would you promise not to stop Kacey from flying when she decides to get back into the pilot's chair?"
"I would only do that if she were sick or hurt. You have my word." Kate told her. "If you can arrange a way for us to sit and talk, do it. I will not invoke Captain's Privilege."
"Thank you, Kate. Now I think we should rejoin the party and see if Anya has succeeded."
"You know Kacey will be pissed over your part in this."
"That is a possibility, but for the good of the ship, it is a chance I am willing to take."
"Natalia if Kacey is willing to talk to me without resorting to locking us together, we can leave the lock up for Plan B." They started to walk back to the party. "There are times when you sound like Kacey."
"I will take that as a compliment."
"It was." Kate said as she looked over the crowd. "I do not see either of them."
"Kacey may need a more firmer hand."
"Believe it? Hell yes I believe it. We are similar in some ways, but we are different people with different temperments." Kacey stated. "Anya I love you like a sister so I am going to ask you nicely to back off. I will talk to Kate when I am ready to talk to her. No amount of interference from the family will change that."
"We will see about that little sister. Lets go back to the party." Anya took Kacey's arm and led her back to the party. She spied Natalia first and caught her attention. She shook her head.
"Looks we have to use plan B, Kate." Natalia stated.
"Set it up, Natalia." Kate stated. "Mom and dad will help you. I do not want to know any of the particulars."
The four women got together on the dance floor. Kacey took Natalia back to finish their dance.
"When do you want to leave." She asked.
"Soon the babies will be waking up and demand to be fed."
"Then let's say good night and leave. Everyone will understand. Once the kids are fed and taken care of, we can put our feet up and relax. Or we can put some music on and dance without bumping into anyone."
"I really do like that idea Colonel."
CHAPTER 39 B
Kacey was up and gone early the next morning. She had a sleepless night after the babies woke to eat. She was unable to shut her mind off. Anya's words replayed in her mind. She gave up trying to go back to sleep. After a quick shower, she dressed in her flight suit, left a note for Natalia and left their quarters. She went directly to her office where she filed a flight plan, grabbed a coffee and gathered all her equipment. Water, weapons and radio which she placed in her shuttle. She checked the outside of her shuttle checking out all the repairs. She climbed on the roof and made sure there were no small holes that could rob the ship of precious oxygen in space.
She looked underneath the shuttle to make sure her crash landing did not do any damage. She nodded at the quality of the repairs. Kacey climbed into the shuttle. She went through her preflight checks before she got into the safety harness, put on her head phones, closed the ramp and stated the shuttle. She listened to the sound of the engine. Satisfied there were no suspicious sounds, she lifted off.
Kacey needed to think and the best time to think was when she flew. She flew over the planet and checked the work the engineers and crew had completed. She sipped her coffee as she flew. Kacey hovered over the area of the last battle. The hulls of the damaged ships were in the process of being cannibalized by the crew and Brin alike. The Brin used parts to build their homes above ground.
The Vernans who had been held prisoners by the raiders were all treated in Sick Bay and assigned quarters until they could be returned to their home world on the way back. They were able to provide valuable information on which areas to avoid. Kacey continued on her inspection trip. Stingers returned to their assigned posts after the party. The area of the dilithium mines were barren with no sign of life for several kilometers.
She flew over the hills and valleys. Kacey took time to admire the beauty of the planet until the nagging voice returned.
"Why are you so afraid of sitting and talking to Kate?" The voice asked.
"I am not afraid of Kate. I have never been afraid of Kate." She spoke softly to the voice.
"You most certainly are. It is time you admit it to yourself. The night of the battle when you were hit by the fireball you were scared."
"All right I was scared. Damn scared I would never see Natalia's beautiful face again or hold her or our children in my arms. I was afraid of not being with my family again or even arguing with Kate again."
"Finally, you have admitted it to your self. Now it is time to get your head out of your ass and admit it to Kate."
"No one can know. No one can ever know. It is bad enough I can not pick up a gun and do not know why. I sure as Hell can not admit to yet another fear. I am a Marine." She continued to argue with herself. Kacey did not see the video camera turn on.
"Then act like a fucking Marine. You know who has the answers. Go talk to her. It is time to throw that never admit to any sort of weakness Marine bull shit right out the window. Until you sit down and talk to Kate and admit your fears to her, you are a coward."
"I AM NOT A COWARD." She yelled at the voice.
"Kacey no one has ever accused you of being a coward." Kate's voice sounded in her ears. She looked up to see the red light on the video camera.
"Care to tell me who you were yelling at?
"With all due respect, Captain, I do not."
"Well then how about a report?"
"It is very quiet. The generators are blended in with the landscape. The engineers did a fantastic job of getting the units to blend in. Unless you know where they are, they can not be seen."
"That is good to hear." Kate stated. "Now how about returning to Andromeda?"
"Is that an order Captain?"
"Just a request from one sister to another. Please come home Kacey." Kate asked.
Kacey hesitated. "On my way. ETA forty minutes."
CHAPTER 39 C
Kacey did a fly over to make sure the landing area was cleared before she brought her shuttle down. She took her time shutting down and securing her vessel to organize her thoughts. She could see Kate waiting for her at the top of the ramp. Kacey released her harness and removed her headphones. She made her way down the ramp. Kate met her at the bottom.
"Can we talk?" Kate asked.
"Come into my office." Kacey said. The two walked side by side through the Hanger to Kacey's office.
Kate used the walk to notify the Bridge. "I am in Colonel O'Malley's office. Do not disturb us for any reason."
"Aye Katie." Liam said.
"Coffee?" Kacey asked.
"I would love some." Kacey poured them each a cup. She handed one to Kate and moved around her desk to sit next to Kate rather than across from her. "I was surprised to see the flight roster this morning."
"I had some thinking to do. That is something I can do best when flying."
"Did you come to any conclusions?"
"Care to tell me about them or are we going to continue to be polite to each other for the rest of our journey?"
"We can talk about what I have been avoiding."
"Tell me, who dared to call you a coward? Are they still able to walk?"
"Yeah. It was only my conscience." Kacey admitted. "It has been fairly vocal the past few weeks."
"Since the attack? Kacey during that battle you were anything but a coward. Why would you ever think differently?"
"Well according to you, I was foolish, idiotic and reckless during that battle."
"I said your actions were."
"How can you differentiate between them. I control my actions."
"That is true. Kacey you are perhaps the bravest person I know. You are not afraid to rush into any situation to protect your people or even strangers. There are times when I wished you would take a back seat. Be the sort of commander who directed a battle instead of being right in the middle of one. But that would be asking you to be someone you are not. When that raider exploded and blew you out of the air, I admit I was scared. Then I could not reach you. I thought you were dead."
"To be carefully honest with you Kate, when that fireball came at me I..." She hesitated. Kate waited for her to continue. She placed a comforting hand on Kacey's arm. "Kate I was never so scared in my life. Then my shuttle was hit and I lost all my systems. I was on fire with no way to control my descent. I came face to face with my own mortality. The thoughts of never seeing or holding Natalia and our children, never being able to argue with you filled my head. It is not true you know."
"What isn't true?"
"My life did not flash in front of my eyes. Everything seemed to slow down although I know in reality it did not. I had no steering control. I could see the ground coming at me. Then I was able to get control of the steering. I knew it would be a hard landing. My shuttle was still on fire. I still could have died even on the ground because of the fire. I was very afraid at that point."
"Is that why you took yourself off the flying roster?"
"Not at all. After our argument, when you threatened me with revoking my flying privileges, Natalia suggested I remove myself from the roster before you did. Then I would have control of when I returned to flying." Kacey stated. "So are you so completely pissed at me that you will clip my wings?"
"No. Why should I. Have you done something to merit that?"
"I hope not. I just figured you would be pissed that I did not give you that chance."
"Do you really think I am that vindictive a person?"
"Hell we were so mad at each other at that time. Then I blew you off several times, crossed the line with insubordination a few times, I expected to at the very least be grounded, if not thrown in the Brig."
"Few times? Try seven times."
"But who was counting? Right?"
"Right. Kacey, please do something for me."
"I will try, if you will do something for me in return."
"Agreed. I know this is going to be asking a lot of you. If we get into any more situations where we are under attack, please think before you act. Think of your family. Think how much we will all be lost with out you. No one will think any less of you, if you... if you..."
"Become more of a desk jockey instead of a pilot? Send my people into a situation but not go myself?" Kate nodded. "As a Marine Colonel, I can not do that. As your sister, I will however say that I will fully assess the situation for alternate means. To try not to put my self into situations like the last battle we had."
"I can accept that. Now what can I do for you?"
"Tell me why I can no longer pick up a gun. What memory prevents me from doing that? What happened?"
"This is going to take more than coffee to get through." Kate said. Kacey went to the replicator and requested a brandy for each of them. She handed one to Kate before she resumed her seat.
Kate was silent as she ordered her thoughts. She took a long pull of her drink before she started. "Does the name Barry Castor mean anything to you?"
"Castor? I have heard that name before. Who is he?"
"He was one of three men you were ordered by General Eden to take on this mission. He cut their orders." She took another drink. "Before the first week had passed, Castor sexually and physically harassed then Private Hastings. He was arrested and thrown in the Brig. We held a court martial once you had recovered from the injuries you received on Marcus Prime. He was found guilty, stripped of all rank. Before the Tribunal convened, we were able to find some information on him. He was not only General Eden's son, but also a rapist and murderer. His last victim was a thirteen year old girl who died under his assault. General Eden forced him on this mission to get him off Earth to avoid punishment. He was confined to the Brig, but managed to escape. He made his way to Private Hastings quarters where he broke in, beat her and was in the process of raping her." Kate paused again and emptied her glass. Kacey got them each another and waited for Kate to continue. "You had not yet been cleared to return to duty, but you managed to talk the doctor into letting you help with the search. You were the one who figured out where he was. Once you found the blown code pad you informed me. I told you to wait for back up. However..."
"I didn't did I?"
"No you didn't. You went in alone and pulled Castor off Private Hastings. You argued and he rushed you."
"What does that have to do with my inability to pick up a gun?"
"You had a gun in your hand when he rushed you. You fought over the gun and it went off."
"Oh God." Kacey said and covered her face with her hands. "I killed him."
"He died as a result."
"I killed him." Kacey said again.
"In self defense, Kacey. In self defense and in defense of Private Hastings." Kate put her hand on Kacey's arm. "Say something." Kacey remain silent. "When you were under hypnosis, I told the doctor to leave that memory alone. She agreed. You were not ready at that time to remember that episode. That day he left you no choice. It was either him or you. I for one am certainly glad it was Castor who died that day." Kate took another drink of her brandy. "It was not something you were able to get over without out help. Dr. Dimarco, dad, Natalia, the whole family pulled together to help you past that. It took a few months before you were able to look at it rationally and without guilt. At your insistence, we held a military tribunal where you were absolved of any responsibility."
"What about the other two? How does General Eden fit in with them?"
"As I said, Castor was his son. The other two are his nephews. Castor was put on this ship not only to escape prosecution, but also to undermine your command. If the General could prove that you were unfit for command before we were too far out, he could have replaced you with his son. General or should I say former General Eden was arrested, stripped of his rank and thrown in jail for his part in covering up his son's crimes. The other two are the ones you call the Whiz Kids. They have kept their noses clean and are doing a fantastic job."
"How did you manage it Kate?"
"How did you manage to get everyone to keep this secret? Executive order? That is one Hell of a secret to keep, yet until today I was totally in the dark."
"It was not easy. Every day I worried that someone would let something slip. Then that day when we were on that Hell planet, you had flashes, I thought the memory was returning. I knew the day was coming when you would have to be told."
"I resigned my commission."
"You tried to resign. I refused to accept it. I knew once you had a chance to process those events, you would come to the conclusion that you were left with no choice." Kate stated. "Eventually you did. Kacey I am going to tell you something, that if you ever repeat it, I will deny it." That brought a smile to Kacey's face. "You came into my Ready Room the next morning in your full dress uniform complete with saber. I was impressed. You do look very good in your formal duds."
Kacey laughed for the first time since they entered her office. "Kate, thank you for filling in that hole for me."
"You are very welcome little sister."
To be continued...
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