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That love can comfort them. Just as their love can comfort you."

The words seemed so empty. She felt like a bad pop psychologist.

"I'm afraid our interpretations, as well as our translations, differ, Dr. Sheridan."

Morden drank his tea, all in one long draft, and set down his mug, the smile back on his face, though in diluted form.

"You can just call me Sheridan," Anna said.

"We like to go by last names in our group. It distinguishes us from the IPX execs, who like to use first names as if they're your best friends."

"Then you can call me Morden. Let's get back to the expedition. Is there anything I can do to help prepare?"

Anna gave him a few jobs, and they talked some more about the expedition. By the time Anna left, she had decided to make Dr. Morden her secondary project. She would help him begin to move on with his life by the time they returned from the rim.



* * *



John stood in the entrance to the weapons bay. Just inside, to his right, the status monitor displayed battle alert. Another day, another dozen drills. But he'd decided to take the direct approach this time. Lieutenant Watley was the weapons officer on duty, assisted by four gunners whose names John was still trying to keep straight. When the ship's status had changed to battle alert, John had started his timer. At ten seconds, Watley had put down her book and called up to the command deck for confirmation of the battle alert.

After receiving confirmation, at thirty-two seconds she'd begun making the appropriate adjustments to the weapons control system. At fifty-three seconds Ensign Timmons, the youngest weapons officer and the only one who hadn't been brought from the Athena by Best, pushed his way past John in his haste to get to his post. As he stumbled into the
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