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 3 A
With out opening her eyes, Kacey jumped to her feet. Her hands held out in front of her.
"Open your eyes." Anya ordered. "Look at your hands." Kacey looked at the gun in her hands. Her grip strong and steady. No tremors visible. She looked at Anya. "We all will do what ever is in our power to protect those we love. Those who depend on us to protect them. That day you did that. Every day you continue to do that. Little sister you have a lot of people who depend on you to do the job you were brought on this mission to do. Every person on this ship feels safer because of the job you do and how well you do it. Not just those of us who love you, BUT. EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON." She emphasized each word. Anya placed her hands on Kacey's shoulders and turned her around until they were face to face. Kacey lowered the gun. "If you go through with your resignation, you will not only let down every person on this ship, but also yourself. Do not do that to yourself." Kacey remained silent as Anya spoke. "Now your family needs you to be the Marine that you are. What are you going to do?"
Kacey stood for a moment as she let Anya's words sink in. She turned and moved away. She walked to the gun holster that hung on the wall. She removed the phasic pistol and placed the gun in the holster. "You made the right decision, little sister." Anya said and hugged her.
"Thank you Anya." Kacey whispered.
"OH MY GOD. SHE DID IT." Kate shouted. "Anya did it. She managed to get Kacey past that road block."
"I owe you both big time for this." Natalia stated.
"No Natalia, you owe us nothing. We are family. Once you asked Anya for help, she would not have stopped until this worked. My beautiful wife is very tenacious when she wants to be."
"Is it all right to go down now?"
"Let's both go down. I need to make plans with her about tomorrow's mission."
They left the Ready room and headed to the lift. Kate flashed a smile at Liam and nodded.
He smiled back.
Kacey sat on the couch with another brandy. The emotional upheaval left her drained. Anya sat beside her as she processed the afternoon.
They were silent for several minutes. When Kacey broke the silence, her voice was soft. "Until today, I forgot how his eyes looked."
"Now that it is out in the open, you can once again be the protector, you are meant to be." Anya stated. "I do not want to give you a big head, but not one of us can do the job you do. Not your Marines, me, Rhea or her security can protect Kate the way you do. Nor do we want the job." Kacey started to protest. "No, do not even bring up her reaction to the hornet sting."
"I was not going to say that. Being Captain, Kate is a target where ever we go, I can not do that alone."
"We will all be with you, so that you will never have to be the only one guarding her back. She can not know that. I hope she and Natalia are not listening or else we will both be in trouble over our comments."
"It would not be the first time for either of us, Anya." Kacey joked, then turned serious. "Anya, I can not thank for enough for what you did today. If at any time you see me hesitate, just remind me of why I am here."
"I will." Anya promised.
Andromeda held orbit while Kacey looked around the docking port. She checked out the space reserved for the big ship and reported her findings. She held position as Andromeda approached the docking port. The large area held several ships of various sizes. Aliens of several species walked the piers between the ships. The ships were separated by wide docks that spanned at least forty meters to allow machinery to load and unload cargo. Separate docks were set aside for life forms to walk on, safely away from the machinery.
Kacey used the time while she waited for Andromeda to study the layout. She paid close attention to the ships already docked. One ship in particular caught her attention. The markings on the hull were distinct and she knew exactly where she had seen them. She reached for the radio to inform Kate, but stopped herself. Information like this had no place going over the radio.
The Bridge crew watched Lieutenant Minor skillfully bring the large ship into port. "Easy Rich. Nice and easy." Kate said.
"Yes ma'am." He replied without turning around. He brought the ship smoothly in and stopped a meter from the main dock.
Kacey flew into the Hanger as soon as Andromeda came to a stop. She parked and secured her shuttle. The Hanger doors closed behind her. Once she left her shuttle, she headed for the Bridge, then stopped and headed for the Hanger office. She picked up the intercom. "Lieutenant Colonel Anderson, please come to the Hanger office."
Mike walked in. "What is wrong?"
"There is a ship docked two spaces from us that have the same markings as those raiders on the Brin world."
"Are you sure?"
"Positive. Make sure every Marine is equipped with a regular as well as phasic side arm. Pass the word that no one is to go off alone or even in pairs. No group is to be less than four persons. Keep your eyes open out there. Mike I would appreciate it if you stayed closed to Captain Jensen as well."
"Of course Kacey. What will you tell the Captain?"
"The truth. I will get Rhea in on it also." Kacey left the office and headed for the Bridge. She stepped off the lift seconds later. "Kate, I need to see you in your Ready Room. Dad you and Rhea also."
"Certainly." They left the Bridge. "Is there a problem?"
"There could be. While I waited for Andromeda, I looked around at the other ships. One ship that is two spaces from us has the same markings as those raiders we fought."
"Are you sure?" Kate asked.
"Yes I am completely sure. I was up close and personal with those ships. I know the markings."
"They did not see Katie." Liam stated.
"That is true dad, but it is possible they have seen Andromeda. Which means everyone especially Kate could be a target."
"Kate we destroyed five of their ships. We helped the Brin fight them and took many hostages away from them."
"What do you propose?"
"As long as they allow side arms, no one leaves Andromeda without a weapon."
"No groups smaller than four people."
"Also agreed. Anything else?" Kate asked. At Kacey's look she continued, "Do not say it."
"Sorry Kate. I am afraid that whenever you leave the safety of Andromeda you will have extra protection."
"Who is my extra protection?"
"A squad of Marines." Kacey stated quickly.
"A squad? No absolutely not. I will allow one Marine besides you."
"That was easier than I expected." Kacey stated. "I have already assigned Mike as your extra guard."
"You had this planned?"
"Guilty. I knew you would freak at the idea of a squad and would insist on just one extra guard. So between Rhea, Mike and myself you will be protected."
"Kacey is right Katie." Liam admitted. "Count me in on the guards also."
"I think we can add Anya to that." Rhea stated.
"All right, Kacey. How long does this go on?"
"As long as that ship is here or we are. Kate for all we know this may be the raiders home world."
"She has a point Kate." Rhea said. "What about the Vernans we rescued? If they are spotted by the raiders, they will know definitely that we are the ones that freed them."
"Good point Rhea. We can not asked them to remain on board for the duration of our stay here. It would be like we are keeping them prisoners."
"They may voluntarily stay if we are explaining to them what ye saw." Liam contributed.
"That is true, dad." Kate admitted. "Any other rules you think we should implement?"
"Yes. No one is allowed to be off ship over night. I will also suggest that we have everyone sign in and out so we will know if someone is missing."
"Wouldn't that cause problems?"
"Not if we explain the need for the sign in. We could have a special computer set up on each deck to avoid a bottle neck at the ramps."
"All right. Set it up." Kate stated. " There will also be a curfew in place. Everyone must be back on board by zero hundred hours. No exceptions. I will put out a ship wide announcement before we open the ramps."
"Captain, we have an incoming message from the Port Chief."
CHAPTER 3 B
"On my way." Kate said. "On screen." She ordered as she walked onto the Bridge. "This is Captain Kate Jensen, of the United World Star Traveler Andromeda."
"Welcome to the city of Micari, Captain. I am Rakil, the Port Master and Head of Port Security." The alien that looked back at them was tall. Orange hair cascaded down the large head to his shoulders. He had large eyes and ears with a small nose. His dark green skin was smooth and his voice deep. "How long will you visit our city?"
"We are not sure. We are explorers and scientists from Earth. This is the third year of our journey to explore the galaxy." Kate said. "We hope to make new friends, learn about different cultures and if possible exchange technology."
"State the nationality of your crew and residents."
"Our crew and most of the residents are human. At this time we also have several Vernans on board."
"I am sending you a copy of the laws that will pertain to visitors as well as several questions that must be filled out before you will be allowed off your ship."
"We have them Captain." The communications officer stated.
"We have received them Rakil. Thank you."
"Once you are allowed off your ship, you will be careful to follow all our laws while you visit Micari. Be advised there are several areas of Terra which is the planet that are strictly off limits to visitors."
"I understand Rakil and I assure you we are not hear to break any laws."
"Expect a visit from our head Enforcer Jarel Adone. He will answer any questions you may have." The screen went dark.
"Put up the list of laws." Kate ordered.
The list filled the screen.
"That will take some time to go through." Kacey stated.
"Like I said, we are not hear to break any laws. We will go through the list and take care of the questions before this Jarel appears."
Kacey read the list of laws pertaining to visitors. "Interesting they actually have a law stating which areas of the city visitors can not visit."
"The bad sections?"
"Could be a possibility." Kacey replied. "Kate they want to know the number of residents on board. Also some of these questions are really suspicious."
"Number and types of weapons, technology that was not part of the original equipment, any recent battles, last planet visited."
"Why do they need to know all that?"
"I don't know. Should I be completely honest?"
"Of course. They could just scan us if any of the answers seem out of whack."
"We will play by their rules for the time being."
"All right, but I think some of these questions are funky."
Kacey continued filling out the questions that flashed on the console. After several minutes, she looked up and said "finished."
"Transfer a copy of the laws to every hand computer. I do not want anyone to claim they were not aware of any laws."
"Done. How do you want to run the lottery to see who gets shore leave first? I assume you want to leave a detail on board at all times?"
"You assume correctly. Also shields will be raised at all times while we are here. Being that it is so late in the day, shore leave will begin tomorrow morning at oh eight hundred hours. This will give everyone time to read the laws." Kate stated. "As for the lottery, run it the same way. The only ones who are exempt are those over the rank of Major or Lieutenant Commander."
"Captain," The view screen lit up. "I am Enforcer Adone. I request permission to come aboard."
"Permission granted Enforcer. I will meet you at our forward ramp." Kate stated. Kacey, Rhea, you are with me." The three women walked off the Bridge and headed to the ramp.
Kate and Anya stood between Kacey and Mike as the ramps opened to allow the residents their first shore leave in months. Liam, Patricia, Rhea and Natalia directly behind them. They walked off Andromeda together. The Port Master waited on the deck for them. Kacey and Mike scanned the area for anyone who resembled the raiders. Kate was aware of Kacey vigilance by the way she stood. She knew there would be no way she would be able to get Kacey to relax as long as the raider's ship was in port.
"Good morning Captain, welcome to the capital city of Micari."
"Thank you Rakil."
"You have had the time to review what I sent you yesterday?"
"We did." KAte answered. "We would only like to visit your world. As I stated yesterday, we would like to make new friends, learn new customs and if possible exchange technology. We are not here to start any sort of trouble."
"That is encouraging Captain. Enjoy your stay in Micari." Rakil stated. "Just follow this dock into the terminal. There are directions as well as maps inside." He turned and walked away.
They followed Rakil down the dock and into the terminal. There were indeed several maps and signs all around them. The terminal was a large crowded building. Aliens of many races hurried in and out of the doors. They left the busy terminal to the even busier city. Pedestrians walked through the street. Aliens of all shapes sizes and colors went about their business not paying attention to the humans. Anya held the hands of their daughters. They were fascinated by the variety before them. Natalia carried one of the twins in a chest carrier. Patricia held the other.
Kacey's eyes scanned the crowds around them constantly. Several times she caught sight of the raiders. Although none were close to them, she felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up. Someone was watching them. She looked at Mike and knew from his posture, he also felt eyes on them. Their eyes met over Kate's head. Kate felt the difference in Kacey's demeanor as she went deeper into Marine Mode.
"What is it?" Kate asked.
"We are being watched."
"Are you sure? How can you tell when there are so many around us."
"It is a feeling Kate. Mike feels it too."
Kate looked at Mike. His stance mirrored Kacey's.
"I may regret asking this, but what do you want to do?"
"Right now just act like nothing out of the ordinary is happening." Kacey and Mike both unsnapped their holsters.
"Is something going on Kate?" Anya asked.
"Kacey's goblin meter is in over drive."
"It is not just mine, Kate."
"Then we should all pay attention. What should we look for."
"Kacey three o'clock." Mike stated. Kacey looked casually around the crowd to the aliens leaning against a light pole.
"Got them." They continued walking, taking in the sights. She felt the eyes follow them. "So what do you want to do first?"
"Why not just take a look around to get the lay of the land."
"Does that include window shopping?" Natalia asked.
"Is there something you need that you can not get from the store level or the replicators?" Kacey asked, not taking her eyes off the aliens around them.
"Not really, but it is fun to just go into the shops and look around. Maybe we will find something interesting."
"Let's do it." Kate said. "It will get us off the busy street."
"All right." Kacey agreed. "Pick a shop and we will go in and look around."
They entered a shop that sold clothing. Kacey, Rhea and Mike headed to the racks that sat in front of the large windows. They needed to keep an eye on the aliens who were so interested in them.
"We have this, Kacey. Go be with the Captain."
"Thanks Mike." Kacey walked to the section where Kate and Natalia were looking through outfits for them selves. Natalia held an outfit in front of Kate.
"With your coloring, this would look great on you. Anya will love it" Natalia stated. "What do you think, Kacey?"
She looked over the multihued gold tunic. "That looks good, Kate. Where are the squeakers?"
"They are with your parents, Anya and the girls. They wanted to look at baby things. Why?"
"I hope they do not go overboard."
"This is mom and dad you realize. The same people who bought our girls outfits in every possible color."
"That is exactly what I hope they do not do."
"Are our friends still out there?"
"Yes. They moved so that they are now right across the street and watching this shop." Kacey told her. "They may not realize we know they are there. Mike and Rhea are keeping an eye on them."
"Sweetheart what do you think about this one?" Natalia asked as she held up another tunic cut along the lines of the one Kate like except in different shades of blue.
"That looks nice, but I think it would be way to big for you."
"Not for me silly, for you. Would you wear this?"
"For you? Of course I would." A whistle pieced the air. "Stay here both of you." She ordered and went to Mike's side.
"There are now eight of them out them. Two are walking this way."
"Rhea, take Kate and Natalia into the other room. Find the rest of the family and keep them together."
"Will do." Rhea hurried to Kate and Natalia and pushed them into another room. Kate looked at Kacey who pointed for her to go. Kate nodded. They left the front room as the door opened and two aliens walked in.
To be continued...
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