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"You have something to say, Lieutenant?"


It sounded like a curse.

"We always leave the tube hatches closed. There's no need to check them. The four of us have been working together for a long time, and we know how to handle things."

"And that makes you think you can disregard procedure?"

"Sir, Captain Best never found our work less than satisfactory."

John's patience reached its limit.

"And what if one of your fellow weapons officers was servicing the tube when we went to battle alert, or if a gunner was doing maintenance, or one of the weapons officers was sick and had been replaced-then would you remember to follow procedure?"

John looked down the line, making eye contact with each one of them.

"Every captain has his own way of running a ship."

And Captain Best's was, by all the evidence, one of the shoddiest in the fleet.

"My way is not Captain Best's way. A ship can only operate efficiently if every member of the crew does his job. I want things done by the book, and I want orders followed to the letter. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir," Spano said.

It was days like this John wished he'd become a professional baseball player. His link chimed. He responded with relief.

"Sheridan. Go."

"Captain, we just received a message from General Lochschmanan."

John recognized the voice of his first officer, Corchoran.

"He advises us that he will conduct an inspection of the ship upon our arrival at Station Prime."

John stared down at the link on the back of his hand. As usual, command had impeccable timing. The Agamemnon would be arriving at Station Prime within the hour. And they'd been scheduled for shore leave.

"Understood, Commander."

He faced the four weapons officers and the ranks of gunners behind them.

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