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 9 A
Kacey stepped off the treadmill and went to the music machine. She ignored Kate and turned the music back on. She returned to the treadmill. Kate shut the music off again. Kacey pulled the headphones from her ears and stalked back to Kate. Her fists clenched.
"WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT?" Kacey yelled. "DID YOU THINK OF A FEW MORE INSULTS YOU WANT TO THROW AT ME? WAIT I WILL GATHER A FEW STRANGERS SO THAT YOU CAN INSULT ME MORE."
"KACEY STOP." Kate ordered.
"YOU STARTED THIS KATE. YOU TOOK IT UPON YOUR SELF TO INSULT ME IN FRONT OF NOT ONLY STRANGERS, BUT PEOPLE WHO WORK WITH US. THEN YOU WALK INTO MY QUARTERS UNINVITED AND UNWANTED AND PROCEED TO GIVE ME ORDERS. I WILL ASK YOU AGAIN, WHAT THE FUCK TO DO WANT?"
"I came here to apologize again."
"FINE YOU APOLOGIZE. NOW THERE IS THE DOOR. DO NOT LET IT HIT YOU IN THE ASS ON YOUR WAY OUT." Kacey turned the music back on again, put her headphones on and turned from Kate. Kate turned the music off again. Kacey pulled the headphones off and tossed them onto the chair. her eyes blazed with anger. "WAS THERE SOMETHING ELSE?"
"How about a drink."
Kacey sighed. She went into the kitchen, where she took out the brandy and two glasses. She put ice in one and poured a generous amount in each glass. She took a large swallow before she brought a drink to Kate. The familiar burn helped calm her anger. She handed the glass to Kate and continued into the bedroom.
Kate sat on the couch. She heard the shower turn on and waited for Kacey to return. She finished her drink and poured herself another. She brought the bottle with her and placed it on the coffee table. The shower turned off. Kacey walked out of the bedroom dressed in sweats. She stopped when she saw Kate still there.
"You had your drink. Why are you still here?"
"How about a little sisterly chat?"
Kacey finished her drink and poured herself another before she sat across from Kate.
"You want to talk, then talk." Kacey stated.
"What is going on with you? We have teased each other for years. Why are you so angry today?"
"Yes we have teased each other, but we have never done it in front of outsiders. Today you went over that line. What must Jarel think of me?" Kacey snapped. But the big question here is, do you really think that little of me?"
"I admit I went over the line today. I apologize. What do you want me to do get down on my knees and beg your forgiveness?"
"That might be a start. You did not answer my question."
"Do you honestly believe that?"
"At this point I don't know what to believe anymore."
"Well believe this. As I have told you before, you are probably the bravest most honorable person I know. You impressed the Hell out of me by how prepared you were when we were locked in that room. You kept your head and got us all out of there. I have the utmost respect for you and your abilities." Kate stated. "Is anything bothering you besides this? Are you, Natalia and the children all right?"
"We are all fine. Why?"
"You usually are not that sensitive or touchy. Why now? Something on your mind?"
"Nope." Kacey said quickly. "Wait." She sighed. "That is not true. There is."
"Feel up to telling your big sister all about it?"
"Older sister, Kate." Kacey shot back. "Natalia and I talked about this the other night after everyone left."
"The night we were drugged?"
"It has to do with life or death situations."
"Care to elaborate?"
"Since this journey began, there have been what, half a dozen times when I was in a life or death situation?"
"Half a dozen? Try doubling that number." Kate said.
"I can pull each and every one up on the computer."
"That is not necessary. The fact is Kate," she paused. "The fact is that eventually the luck will run out. There will come a time when I am not as prepared as I should be and the consequences of that would be something I would not be able to handle."
"I really do not think that will ever happen. You are too good at your job"
"Kate all it would take is one slip, one misstep, one lapse in concentration. I told Natalia that I think I will resign when we return to Earth. Try my hand a being an ordinary citizen. My whole adult life so far has been tied up with the Marines. I think it is time to concentrate on just being Natalia's spouse and mother to our children."
"That is funny. Any and I discussed the same thing that night."
"You? You would leave the service? You have given twenty years of you life to the service. What did you decide?"
"To hold off making that decision for awhile. We all need time and distance between us and that day. That little sister is exactly what you should do also." Kate advised. "If you did leave the service, what would you do?"
"Take six months off and spend time with Talia and the children."
"Six months? You would not last one month before you started to get restless." Kate joked. "Say you are able to make the six months, then what? How would you support your family?"
"I could give music lessons, or go back to raising and training horses. Both pay very well. Or even become a civilian contractor to the Marines to train pilots."
"What does Natalia say about that?"
"She said as long as we are together it does not matter if I am a Colonel or a street sweeper. My house is paid for. Even with all the credits, we have spent, that is just a small dent in the amount in my account. Between that and what I could earn, we could live quite comfortably."
"Kacey do not make any decisions yet. Give it a few months. We have over a year before we get back to Earth. This is not a decision you have to make before then. You are not yet thirty years old. You have plenty of years ahead of you. You have accomplished so much since the day you entered the academy. Look how far you have come since you graduated. You made it to full Colonel before you were even twenty eight." Kate stated. Kacey looked at her over the rim of her glass. "Is this because you will turn thirty in three weeks?
"No. Well not entirely. It hit me the other day that I am quickly approaching thirty and it threw me." Kacey admitted. "How did you handle it?"
"Turning thirty did not really bother me." Kate stated. "Thirty five on the other hand scared the Hell out of me. Now I am waving at forty and I am not sure how I feel about that. I know there is nothing I can do to stop it." She admitted. "Kacey what I am trying to say, is don't waste your time worrying about your age. Concentrate on your life with Natalia, your children and family. Take each day as it comes. Meet each challenge head on and count your blessings."
Kate's communicator beeped. "Kate?"
"Are you still at Kacey's?"
"Good stay there. We will bring dinner by in about twenty minutes." Anya stated. "And Kate, take it easy on the brandy."
"How did she know we were drinking?"
"She has a very special sense."
"A sense that when we are at odds we always make peace with a couple drinks."
"We do, don't we." Kate joked. "Kate is there any way we can get around the Magistrate's direction that we are not to pay for anything? It just does not seem fair to me or the businesses. How do we know they will receive their money?"
"We have to trust that the Magistrate is an honorable man."
"What is to stop the business owners from padding the bills?"
"If either were to happen, there really is nothing we can do about it. Besides I do not believe for one second that Jarel will let one side cheat the other. Do not go looking for goblins under the bed. It is called trust, Kacey."
CHAPTER 9 B
The stage was erected on the steps of the Legal Building. Colorful banners hung from all the buildings around the city square. Chairs and benches were set up for the invited guests. The stage held a podium and several rows of chairs for the officials and special guests.
The officers waited for their escorts to arrive. Dressed in their formal uniforms, they stood out among the finely dressed citizens. Natalia held Kacey's hand. They left their children with the day care workers. Natalia worried about leaving the children and wondered if they left enough milk and diapers for them. At five months they were not as dependent on Natalia's nursing them. They both drank a special formula in addition to nursing.
"They will be fine, Talia."
"I know. I am just being silly."
"Not silly. You are a mother and this is the first time we have both been off the ship without them. You should have seen Kate and Anya the first time they left the rug rats. They called every fifteen minutes to check on them. Drove mom and dad right up the wall. If it will make you feel better we can leave right after the ceremony."
"No way. I want to dance with you. Especially with you in those fancy duds. Have I told you how much I love the way you look in that cape?"
"You have." Kacey replied. "It is a boost to my ego."
The transports arrived. Kacey climbed in first and checked every inch on the inside. She made sure the windows opened before she allowed Kate to climb in. She lowered one of the windows before she sat down.
"For now." She replied. Her posture told Kate that she would not let her guard down while they were away from the ship.
"Leave her alone, Kate." Anya stated. Kate nodded.
"Jarel, what is security like?"
"Every Enforcer is on duty today. In addition, the Premier also has a special security force that is around at all times." Jarel told her. "Are you wearing your special uniform today?"
"Not completely Jarel." Kate reached down and lifted Kacey's trouser leg a short ways. Enough to see that she wore dress shoes instead of boots. "Did not want to take a chance of banging my heal and have the blade pop out and cut someone. Mike has his on though." Kacey responded.
"When we arrive at the square, you will be brought up onto the stage to be among the official witnesses to the swearing in ceremony. I promise I will keep my speech short. After the ceremony, there will be a banquet. I can assure you the food and drinks will be drug and poison free." Kacey laughed. "Then there will be an inaugural ball. That will run until an hour before the new day begins. The festivities will be recorded and shown in all the homes on Terra and in Micari." Jarel stated. "The Magistrate as approved my suggestion in extending the time you are allowed to remain."
"Thank you Jarel. We can not stay for too much longer. We need to start our return journey within the next few weeks."
"Jarel Adone, the residents of the city of Micari on the planet Terra, give you their trust and allegiance that you will rule with compassion as well as strength. That you will govern with fairness to every citizen. Do you accept this responsibility you are being entrusted with?"
"I Jarel Adone, accept this responsibility."
"Congratulations Premier Adone." The Magistrate shook Jarel's hand. Jarel turned towards the crowd.
"Magistrate, honored guests, citizens of Micari and Terra, I promise our guests that my speech would not be long. I do not want to start leading you by telling a lie." The crowd laughed. "We have come to the end of many dark years. The sun once again shines on us all. With the help of each person, together we will work to make our city a safe and prosperous place to live." Applause stopped his speech. "I want to thank every citizen for the trust and allegiance they have placed in me. I will try to never betray that trust. Thank you." Jarel finished his speech and took a step away from the podium. He picked up several slim boxes from the shelf inside the podium. "As my first official act, I would like to honor a few people who helped bring this change about. I ask that they stand when I read their names. The first of those we are honoring put their lives in danger in order to infiltrate Tott's inner circle. Enforcer Katin, Enforcer Lanis, Enforcer Golit." The Enforcers stood. "The next names I will read off were instrumental in bringing about Tott's downfall. Captain Kate Jensen, Colonel Kirsten O'Malley, Lt Commander Rhea Torino, Lt Commander Anya Jensen." The women stood. Jarel went down the line. He shook the hands of the recipients and handed them the medals.
The music began. Jarel and his wife started the dancing. Soon the dance floor was crowded. Kacey stayed close to Kate at all times. She held Natalia close. Natalia could hear the strong steady heart beat under her ear. She could also hear the soft rumble as Kacey hummed along with the music.
"How do you do that?"
"Do what Talia?"
"This is the first time you hear this music yet after a minute you are able to hum along with it."
"I guess it is just my musical training. You just have to pick up the similarities."
"Easy for you to say. Tell me Colonel, what would you like for your birthday?"
"There is nothing I need. I have everything. You, the children, our family, I need nothing else."
"I did not ask what you needed, I asked what you wanted."
Kacey smiled and without a pause to think, whispered, "you in a whipped cream bikini."
"Are you kidding?"
"That could get messy." Natalia said. "We will need to get new sheets because the whipped cream will certainly make a mess."
"Not if I lick it off fast enough." Kacey whispered. Natalia felt her knees get weak. "Are you okay?"
"Oh yeah, I am fine." Natlaia let out a breath. "I think my libido went into overdrive."
"That was my plan, sweetheart."
"Can we leave yet?"
"If Kate is ready to leave." Natalia groaned. "I promise I will make it up to you."
"That is something I will definitely hold you to. Now I really need something cold to drink."
Kacey walked Natalia off the dance floor and to the bar. She ordered their drinks. She kept Kate in sight and relaxed just a little when Kate and Anya joined them at the bar. Many others took the break in the music to head to the bar also. Liam and Patricia joined them. Kacey felt someone bump into her back as she stood facing Kate. She had her arm around Natalia's shoulders.
"It is good to see Kacey relaxing for a change." Patricia said softly to Kate.
"She is not relaxed in the least mom." Kate told her.
"How can you tell?"
"Look at her eyes." They watched as Kacey continuously scanned the crowd around them. That is one thing I hate about these events. Even when someone is talking to her, her eyes are never looking at the person. Watch." Kate stepped closer to Kacey. "What are you drinking?"
Kacey's eyes did not move away from the crowd. "Water."
"Why what?" The blue eyes continued to scan the crowd around them.
"Why just water?"
Kacey felt another bump. "Let's go where it is less crowded."
Mike stood a few meters from Kacey. He noticed the alien bump into Kacey for the second time. After the bump he watched as the alien pull a long wicked knife from his tunic and reacted.
"KACEY BEHIND YOU." He watch Kacey react and half turn as the alien thrust the knife into her side. She stiffened.
To be continued...
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