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than two months. How can they possibly..."

"When the bosses say jump, we jump."

But she knew it wasn't possible. Even if there was pressure to rush, which wouldn't be smart. After all, as exciting as this find was, the ruins weren't going anywhere. IPX had to have been prepping this mission for some time. Perhaps they'd only told Chang about it now. Or perhaps he'd only told her about it now. She wondered if the rush had anything to do with the explosion of the mouse.

"I'd need you to start prep work for me right away. Your vacation would be shot."

"I understand."

She'd get more from Chang in person. He was telling her all he could for now.

"Does that mean you accept the position?"

She made her monkey face, as if deliberating.

"Of course I accept! How could I pass up an opportunity to be a part of history?"

Chang nodded, and she could have sworn his chest slumped.

"I thought it was an offer you couldn't refuse."

He held up a data crystal.

"I'll transmit the specs to you for follow-up. The crew is set, but I need you to give the equipment manifest a thorough going-over and coordinate with Captain Hidalgo of the Icarus. I'll give a mission briefing as soon as I arrive."

Anna nodded.

"Thank you for including me. I won't let you down."

Chang's final comment could have been taken as a compliment, though it somehow sounded more like a warning.

"If I didn't need you, Sheridan, I wouldn't bring you."



* * *



Whoever had written the inspection manual had been a sadist, at least as far as John was concerned. The inspection began in the zero-gravity sections at the aft end of the ship-the cargo bay, aft laser cannons, en gins-then down through the zero-gravity center of the ship, following the central laser tube and electronics
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