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its strong right hand.

The first transport to Babylon 5 didn't leave until 0730, so he had plenty of time. Time he didn't want. Departure couldn't come soon enough. The thing he hated most was the waiting.

Growling turbines shook the viewing platform as one of the transports fired its engines. A group of technicians scuttled to safety as the thrusters began to wind up. Steadily the transport lifted off, its hull engines blackening the plas-crete landing pad. It hovered for a few seconds, steadying itself, then the landing gear flipped up into the main bulk of the craft. Banking slightly, the transport lurched forward as its rear thrusters engaged, and it finally sailed off into the sky. At a safe distance, the auxiliary thrusters kicked in, and the ship was propelled skyward toward its destination.

Vance never took his eyes from the craft until it disappeared into the pale red sky. The digital readout told him it was 1847 hours. Best thing would be to get some shuteye before the difficult day ahead. One of the most important lessons EarthForce training taught was to take every opportunity for sleep, especially if your mission was uncertain; you never knew when you'd next get the chance to rest.

The deserted, spartan corridors echoed as Vance made his way back to his quarters. Rounding a corner near the gymnasium, he found a familiar figure blocking his way. There stood Randell, fully decked out in the red, padded bodysuit he'd worn that morning. Vance could barely stop himself from laughing. 'You must be kidding,' he said.

Randell bore a stern look. 'You can't leave without giving me one last chance to give you the hiding you deserve.'

'OK. You asked for it.'

* * *

He marched past Randell, straight toward the gym. As he flung the doors wide, a sudden
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