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we time these things more..."

Spano stopped when he saw John.

"Captain."

That word didn't sound a whole lot nicer than sir. Spano's opaque, flat eyes radiated contempt. John held up the timer.

"I'm sorry to have inconvenienced you, Lieutenant."

Spano continued to his station, beside Watley at the weapons control system, where he reset several controls. Spano made no effort to hide his bad attitude. His tone was insubordinate, his actions careless, lackadaisical. Ross got on the link to the command deck.

"Weapons bay battle-ready."

"Stand by weapons bay," Corchoran responded.

John stopped the timer.

"Three minutes forty-one seconds to battle-ready status. Timmons, how long does the manual say you have from the initiation of a battle alert to reach battle-ready status?"

"Two minutes, Captain."

"Two minutes. And yet you took three minutes and forty-one seconds. Three minutes and forty-one seconds during which an enemy ship could be blasting us out of the sky. Lieutenant Ross, what would you suggest caused the delay? Were there unforeseen hardships , such as damage to the ship due to a sneak attack?"

"No, sir," Ross boomed.

"Lieutenant Spano, what adversities kept you from reaching your post for three minutes and three seconds? I'd like to make the path as smooth for you as possible."

Spano shot a glance at Ross, said nothing.

"Spano!"

Spano's nostrils flared.

"I didn't hurry, sir, because I knew it was a drill, sir. And we're all pretty sick of drills, sir. We know there's really no point to it all. Everyone in the galaxy is our friend now, right? Whether we like it or not. It'll be a cold day in hell before we'll be using any of this equipment. We're just Earth's friendly envoys now. All we have to do is grin and keep our
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