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The ten days of waiting were the longest for Kacey. The first blood and urine test came back negative. So they had to work at not letting their hopes fade.
Two weeks later, Natalia's period did not show up, so they had to wait again. Each day they hoped the dreaded monthly would not make an appearance. Each time the tests came back negative. Even the ten days after Natalia's period, had passed.
During that period, the storm had left. Cleanup of the storm damage was completed, as was the mapping of the entire planetoid. Any damage to the ships was repaired. Before they lifted off the planet, which they named Athena, they erected a temporary relay tower to send information they had been able to gather back to Earth. Towers that would be replaced with permanent ones by future flights.
Andromeda's computers recorded all their progress as the ship continued to forge new paths with each passing day as they flew into the unknown. Star clusters, nebulas, anomalies, planets and planetoids were abundant as they travelled. Many of the masses they came upon were not suitable for landing.
Andromeda would go into a low orbit on those times as the stingers and shuttles mapped the area to add them to the computers star charts. They followed propulsion signatures but had no success with establishing contact with other civilizations. Meteor storms and asteroid fields presented a constant challenge to Andromeda.
The shuttles were able to get close enough to the asteroids to record their behavior. The drones landed and collected samples for the scientists and geologists to study.
Natalia went for her weekly visit with Dr. Amstall for her blood and urine tests. Four weeks after the procedure the test came back positive. Natalia was pregnant. She fairly bounced out of the doctor's office, when she found out. For the first time, Kacey was unable to be with her for the test. She was out with Kate, Anya and Rhea, in the shuttle as they investigated a mass that had shown up on their sensors. She took her position behind the science and navigation boards as the computers tracked the shuttle's progress.
Liam turned as she took her position. He smiled at her. She flashed a smile back at him. Her eyes twinkled. Liam pulled his command console towards him and typed.
Thank you Liam. Please do not say anything. I want to tell Kacey before we tell the family.
With that smile lass, you will not have to say anything. I will not be the one to steal your thunder.
"Shamrock to Andromeda."
"Go ahead Shamrock."
"Be advised, we will be landing to take a look around, dad."
"Aye lass. Be careful down there."
"We will. We have a squadron of Marines with us. So far we have not found an area large enough for Andromeda to land, but we are still looking. Shamrock out."
Kacey landed the shuttle and waited until all the stingers with them were on the ground. She left her seat and opened the ramp before she headed to the storage area. Kate helped her hand out the equipment they would need. Water, scanners, phasic rifles and regular side arms. Kacey shook her head and passed over the regular side arm Kate tried to hand her, to reach for a phasic unit. She placed the holster around her waist, reached for their survival packs, which she handed out. With Kacey's back turned, Kate met Anya and Rhea's eyes and saw the look of concern reflected back at her. Kacey clipped a radio to her belt.
The Marines gathered around Kacey as she gave them their orders. Kacey placed her cap on her head and held her sunglasses in her hand.
"Two of you come with us. The rest split up in groups of six. Pick a direction and go out five kilometers. Take samples if you can. Make sure your scanners and radios are working. If we can find a clear and large enough area for Andromeda to land, we will not have to run taxi services, if this planet is deemed safe. No one is to go off alone. Check in every fifteen minutes. Be on the look out for life signs, humanoid or animal. Be careful. We do not know who or what is out there. Dismissed." Kacey stated.
The Marines grouped together and started off. Kacey's group walked East. The Marines took positions off to the side and a few feet from the women. Kacey led the way with Kate at her side.
"Any news on the baby front?" Kate asked.
"Not yet, but Natalia had an appointment this morning. This is the first time I could not be with her."
"Why didn't you say something earlier. One of the other pilots could have brought us down."
"I was going to. I talked to Natalia about it last night. She told me that no matter how much she wanted me with her, my place was with you, by your side."
"Please don't get all sappy on me Kate." Kacey said.
"Heaven forbid, little sister, we can not let that happen in front of your troops."
"Younger sister, Kate, younger sister." The scanners at her side started beeping. Anya checked her read out.
"There are life forms about two kilometers from us in the forested area." Anya said. "Kacey it looks like some sort of animals of the canine species."
"Canine? As in dog?" Kacey asked.
"As in wolf like. They are heading this way."
"Wolves? All right everyone, be on your toes." Kacey stated, as she pulled the radio from her belt. "Keep those distances coming, Anya. All units check in" She ordered.
"Squad two, headed North. Everything is quiet, Colonel. We have some bug samples for Commander Jensen to check over. No other life forms seen."
"Squad three headed West. Found a large body of water that scanners show large quantities of fish."
"Squad four headed South. Scanners show several large animals of the Feline species."
"Kacey the wolves are less than a kilometer away from us still headed in our direction." Anya stated.
"All squads return to your ships immediately. Double time. That includes us. Head back to the shuttle. Kate you take point, I will cover the rear." Kacey ordered.
"Colonel, we will cover your retreat." The Marine stated.
"Kacey listen to them." Kate stated.
"Follow quickly. Do not be heroic." Kacey ordered. "You heard the men. Ladies, double time to the shuttle."
The women started off running. Kacey led the group with Kate close by her side. They could hear the sounds of snarls from the wolves and the sounds of phasic fire.
The radio at Kacey's side crackled. "We are about fifty meters behind you Colonel. We were able to stun those animals. Not sure how long they will stay down."
"Roger." Without breaking stride, Kacey returned the radio to her belt. "How are you doing, Kate?"
"I still spend way too much time behind my desk." Kate said her breath tight in her chest.
"Anya, Rhea, how are you doing?"
"We are fine, Kacey."
"We have about another kilometer to go, Kate. do you think you can make it?"
"I think so." Kate said.
"Want me to insult you?" Kate shook her head, no. "When we get to the shuttle..."
"Absolutely not, Kacey. We arrived together, we will leave together." Anya stated.
"Colonel, we have company." One of the Marines shouted.
The Wolves that were stunned were once again chasing them.
To be continued...
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