Year three in the Voyage of Andromeda. The adventure that started in Among the Stars, and Beyond the Farthest Planet continues in Far From Home.
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CHAPTER 2 A
Andromeda was a day away from the planet. The propulsion signatures increased the closer they were. They could see the planet on the view screen. Sensors recorded an atmosphere most like Earth's along with seven continents, five oceans, salt and fresh water lakes and rivers. Air quality and gravitational pull were equal to Earth's. Temperatures ranged from tropical to moderate. Scanners recorded massive amounts of technology and life forms.
The stingers remained close to Andromeda as they approached the planet. The Bridge crew watched the planet grow bigger every minute. Kate and Liam sat in their command chairs, as they prepared for another first contact.
"Colonel O'Malley to the Bridge." Kate called.
"On my way."
"Does Kacey have any idea about her party?" Anya asked.
"I do not think so." Natalia answered.
"Planning her party has been easier that planning your anniversary party, dad."
"I believe you. I have been noticing ye are not calling her to the Bridge as often, these last couple weeks."
"She has been busy with reports, so I did not want to bother her."
"That has never stopped ye before, Katie."
The lift opened. Kacey, in her flight suit, walked off and took her seat.
"What's up Kate?"
"We are about to try to contact the planet. I thought you would like to be here for it."
"You thought right."
"Open channel all sub space frequencies." Kate ordered.
"You are good to go Captain."
"This is Captain Kate Jensen of the United World Star Traveler Andromeda."
"State your business, Andromeda."
"We are explorers and scientists from Earth on a peaceful mission to explore new worlds."
"What are your intentions on Micari."
"We only wish to visit with distant neighbors. We come in peace to meet new people, learn about new civilizations and share technology."
"You have weapons."
"Yes, we have weapons. We are a long way from home and will protect ourselves if attacked. We request permission to look for a place large enough to land our ship."
"What of your smaller ships?"
"We will recall them. We use the smaller ships to looks for areas large enough to land and to map out new planets for our star charts."
"There is a large docking area three kilometers from our capital city. We will allow you to land, if you power down your weapons." Kacey started to protest. Kate held up her hand to stop her.
"Will you allow our shuttles to look over the docking area to make sure it is large enough?"
"We will allow one shuttle to examine the docking area before you arrive. We are sending the coordinates to the docking area."
"We have them Captain."
"We have received the coordinates. Thank you." Kate stated. "What about side arms and personal weapons?"
"Those are allowed and encouraged. Only large scale weapons are forbidden on Micari. When you are closer we will open our shields for you."
"We will contact you around this time tomorrow." Kate stated. "Close channel."
As soon as the channel was closed, Kacey jumped to her feet. "You are not seriously considering powering down our weapons." She said angrily. "That will leave Andromeda defenseless. You can not allow that, Kate."
"Are you finished?" Kate asked.
"Not by a long shot." Kacey responded.
"Ready Room now." Kate ordered. They both walked off the Bridge.
Before the door had fully closed, Kacey yelled. "WE HAVE NO WAY OF KNOWING WHAT IS WAITING THERE. FOR ALL WE KNOW THEY ARE A WARRING CIVILIZATION WHO VIEW ANDROMEDA AS A GREAT PRIZE. THEY COULD BE RAIDERS OR SLAVERS."
"STOP." Kate ordered. "SIT DOWN."
Kacey paced the room. I DO NOT WANT TO SIT DOWN." She yelled back.
"DO IT ANYWAY." Kate ordered again. "I AM NOT ABOUT TO GET DIZZY WATCHING YOU PACE." Kacey stopped pacing and sat in front of the desk. "They are allowing side arms."
"What the hell good will side arms do against larger weapons?"
"Weapons that we are not even sure they have. The shields will protect Andromeda."
"What about the people if we are off ship?"
"No one will be allowed off ship until we check everything out."
"Who is exactly is 'We'?"
"You, me Rhea, Anya and Mike Anderson. The five of us will take a look around after we dock."
"I don't like it Kate." Kacey stated. I do not like the idea of powering down our weapons."
"If we want to land here, we follow their laws. We are not out here to cause trouble. We follow their laws." Kate repeated.
"So what happens if they attack?" Kacey asked as she paced again.
"It takes less than a minute to power up all the weapons. This is my decision."
"Fine then I am invoking my right as ground force commander." Kacey stated.
"Accepted. You will be in charge once we dock."
"And I do not want to hear any bull shit about relaxing my guard. You will do what I tell you, when I tell you."
Kate hesitated. "Also accepted as long as you do not turn into a tyrant."
"You make the decision to shut off our weapons and you don't expect me to do everything in my power to protect you?"
"Then you had better stat carrying something other than a phasic pistol."
Kacey stopped pacing and glared at Kate. "THAT WAS FUCKING LOW, KATE." She yelled. "YOU SAID YOU WOULD NOT PUSH THAT ISSUE."
"IT IS TIME YOU PUT ALL THAT BEHIND YOU. IF YOU EXPECT TO COVER MY BACK YOU WILL BE BETTER PREPARED WITH A REGULAR SIDE ARM. FOR ALL WE KNOW, RESIDENT ON THIS WORLD ARE IMPERVIOUS TO ELECTRICAL WEAPONS."
With out another word, Kacey turned and quickly left the Ready Room, leaving a stunned Kate behind. She was gone before Kate recovered enough to attempt to call her back. She pressed the private call button. "Kacey return to the Ready Room." As expected her call was ignored. She threw her cup against the door. The door chimed. "WHAT?" She shouted. The door opened. Anya walked in.
"Are you all right, Kate?"
"I AM GOD DAMN FINE." She yelled. Then stopped. "I am sorry. No I am not fine." Anya put her arms around Kate who leaned into Anya's quiet strength.
"What happened, my Kate."
"I did the one thing I told her I would not do. I pushed her to carry a regular weapon. I told her it was time to put that behind her. That if she expected to cover my back, she had to carry a regular weapon."
"I was so damn insensitive."
"Do not be so hard on yourself, Kate. This push may be just what she needed to hear. We have all been dancing around this for way too long. No one wanted to push it, but it needed to be done. She accepted what happened and got past everything except to pick up and carry a weapon. I am no doctor, but it is what I think."
"You might be right." Kate admitted. "Darling I need to apologize for snapping at you."
"Kate we are alone. You are allowed to snap, once in awhile. Just do not make a habit of it."
"What am I going to do Anya? She stormed out of here and will not answer my hails."
"Do you think she will do something crazy?"
"Not crazy, but..."
"If you are worried about her, put her on video lock."
Kate pulled Anya's head down and kissed her.
CHAPTER 2 B
Kacey walked quickly to her office where she set the security lock. She went to the cabinet and removed a metal box that she placed on the coffee table. She sat on the couch and stared at the box for a long time. She reached for the box but pulled her hands away. She got to her feet and paced her office. After several minutes she returned to the couch and reached for the box again. Her hands shook. Kacey took several deep breaths to calm her nerves and reached for the box again.
She released the clasp on the box and started to lift the cover. She slammed the lid back down and resumed pacing.
"Come on O'Malley. Kate was right. You have to get past this. You need to get your head out of your ass, open that God Damn box, and pick up that gun. You can not fully protect Kate with a phasic pistol. That has been proven. Do you want to take that chance again?" Kacey spoke out loud as she paced. "You can not follow your orders. You can not protect Kate without that gun."
Kacey steeled herself and went back to the box.
Kate watched Kacey on the monitor and heard what she said to herself. Kacey reached for the box again only to stop again, her hands shaking.
"It is a gun. A God damn gun. You have been around guns most of your life. You are a fucking Marine. You managed a perfect score each and every time you had to do weapons certification. You did not do that with a phasic weapon. If you do not do this, you my as well resign your commission now."
Kate continued to watch Kacey agonize over picking up the gun. She began to regret her words. "Come on little sister, you can do this." She said to the monitor. "Do not let this defeat you. You are much stronger than that."
The door chimed. "Come in." Anya and Natalia walked in.
"I told Natalia. How is Kacey doing?"
"Not good. She has not yet been able to pick up the gun. She can not even open the box. She is having quite the conversation with herself. So far she has mentioned resigning if she can not, as she put it, pull her head out of her ass and pick up the gun." Kate stated. "Maybe I should go down and talk to her."
"No Kate. That would only make her more angry at this point. Natalia either. You are too close."
"Will you help her Anya?" Natalia asked. "Please?"
Anya nodded. "She may not let me into her office."
"But you will try. Help her Anya. She will listen to you."
"I will try." Anya said and left the room.
"Kate would she really resign."
"She might. If she can not get past this fear, she might, Natalia."
"You do not have to accept it though."
"I may not have a choice this time. She can not do her job if she lets this fear over whelm her."
"Were we wrong in leaving that memory buried?"
"I don't know." Kate shook her head. "She... I wanted to spare her. To postpone making her face this. I was so wrong in postponing the inevitable."
"You were not wrong, Kate. Nor were you alone in making that decision."
"Natalia, I was in that room that day. It was my decision. I told the doctor to leave that memory alone. Me."
"You may have been in that room, but Patricia and I both agreed with your decision."
"Anya is at Kacey's office." Kate said. They watched the monitor.
Anya rang the bell which was ignored. She rang it again. Kacey stopped pacing and looked at the monitor. She remained quiet in the hope that Anya would leave her alone. The chime sounded again.
"Kacey, I know you are in there. Please let me in." Anya called out.
"GO AWAY." Kacey shouted. "LEAVE ME ALONE."
"That is not going to happen. You can either let me in or I will have Kate come down and override your lock."
"Computer cancel security lock and open office door." The door opened and Anya walked in. "Kate send you down here to see me fall apart? Her watching me on the video was not enough." Kacey snapped.
"She did not send me. Natalia asked me to come down."
"THAT IS JUST FUCKING GREAT. WHY NOT JUST PUT IT UP ON THE GOD DAMN VIDEO SCREEN. HAVE THE WHOLE FUCKING CREW WATCH ME FALL APART." Kacey yelled. "HOW ABOUT THIS," She yelled at the camera. "WHY NOT PLAY MY BREAK DOWN THROUGH OUT THE WHOLE FUCKING SHIP."
"Kirsten stop. No one else will witness this. I came down here to give you sisterly support while you came to terms with what has to be done."
Kacey's anger deflated. She took a ragged breath. "I can't do it Anya. I can not even open that fucking box, let alone pick up that gun. There is just one thing I can do now and that is resign and turn the troops over to Mike. I only hope I can find something useful to do until we get back to Earth."
"If you do that it will be the worse mistake you could possibly make." Anya stated.
"How do you figure that. Kate will be happy that I will not be out there taking chances."
"Do you honestly think that Kate will be happy if you resign?" Anya asked. "If you resign, you are proving that Eden was right."
"Think Kacey. One of the reasons he forced his son on this mission was to undermine your command, so that he could put his son in your place. You give up now and you prove he was right when he said you were not fit for this command. DO. NOT. LET. THAT. BASTARD. WIN." Anya emphasized each word.
"He has already won, Anya. I killed his son. I shot him with the gun that is in that box."
"Explain something to me. How is his death any different from say the raiders in those ships you brought down on the Brin world?"
"There is a big difference. We were defending ourselves in battle. Defending Andromeda and the Brin."
"Seems to me that you were also protecting lives and defending yourself the day Castor died. Where is the difference?"
"There is a difference Anya."
"That answer is not good enough." Kacey closed her eyes as the memory of that day came back. She was silent for several minutes. She turned away from Anya. "I will not leave until you admit what is still bothering you about that day. What happened that you have not told anyone about?" "Drop it Anya." Kacey snapped. "That I will not do. What happened?" Kacey turned to face Anya, her fists clenched at her sides. "LEAVE IT ALONE. I AM ASKING YOU TO JUST LEAVE IT ALONE." "NOT GOING TO HAPPEN LITTLE SISTER. TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED THAT DAY? "I SAW HIS GOD DAMNED EYES. HE RUSHED ME AND GRABBED THE GUN. IT WENT OFF. I SAW THE LOOK OF SHOCK IN HIS EYES. THEN I WATCHED THE LIFE LEAVE THEM. DAMN YOU." She yelled. Kate and Natalia watched and heard the drama as it played out. Both said, "Oh my God."
"I have to get down there." Natalia said as she headed towards the door.
"No. Let Anya finish what she has started.
"Kacey is in pain. She needs me.."
"Computer lock Ready room door." Kate ordered.
"Lock on." The computer responded.
"Kate open the door."
"No. Natalia let Anya work on her. She has been able to get Kacey to admit something she has never mentioned before. Let her finish."
The went back to watching the monitor.
"DAMN YOU ANYA." Kacey yelled. YOU HAD TO MAKE ME REMEMBER HIS EYES. YOU WOULD NOT LEAVE IT ALONE." Kacey's anger deflated. "Why did you have to make me remember his eyes." She said softly and covered her face with her hands.
"No little sister, I could not." Anya walked to the replicator. "Brandy." She said. The glass materialized. She brought it to Kacey. "Drink." She ordered. Drained, Kacey took a large swallow of the brandy. Anya took Kacey's arm and led her to the couch. They sat next to each other as she finished the drink. Anya took the now empty glass out of Kacey's hand and placed it on the coffee table. "I want you to do something for me." Kacey nodded. "Close your eyes." Kacey looked at her. "Trust me. Close your eyes." Kacey did as instructed. Anya opened the box. "Think back to that day. You entered Hasting's quarters. You saw her beaten and bloodied with Castor still on top of her. Can you see them?" Kacey hesitated then nodded. "Can you see the bruises he put on her and the blood from the beating? That made you mad." Kacey nodded again. "Now look very closely at Hasting's face. That is not Hastings laying there beaten, bloodied and being raped. It is Natalia. What are you going to do?"
To be continued...
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