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into the plush purple seat beside the console.

"How about you? Are you here? How's the ship?"

"Yes, we're in space dock. They say it's only forty minutes to the hotel. The Agamemnon is incredible. You can hardly feel the transition into hyperspace. This ship can do things you wouldn't believe. The maneuverability, for a ship this size, is incredible."

His hand closed into a fist as if to capture his excitement, his voice rising like a boy with a new toy.

"There are a lot of new systems to learn, but I'm working on it. I'm going to learn every inch of this ship inside and out."

"I have something here that requires an equally thorough study, Captain."

John's mouth hesitated in mid-response as the meaning of the words caught up with him.

"I would be happy to help you in that endeavor, Doctor."

He looked down at something.

"I'm afraid I'm going to be a little late, though. I'm having a surprise inspection."

"I thought I was giving that to you."

"You're next. How's the room?"

"I've been trying out the bed," she said.

"It has a number of special features."

He laughed.

"Sounds like you don't even need me."

She gave him her husky voice.

"Oh, but I do."

"I'll call you if I'm not going to make it by tonight. I love you."

Although they always ended their calls this way, there was nothing automatic or perfunctory in the statement. He meant it every time he said it. As did she.

"I love you."

He disconnected, and she felt a silly smile on her face. Okay, so now what did she do? She could tour the station, but she was tired, and she didn't really feel like dealing with people, not after three days in the close quarters of a transport. She found herself digging the container with the mouse fragment out of her carryall. Liz had
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