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to see that you pay it, in duty and honor."

Ross's head was inclined.

"Hand over the gun, Lieutenant."

John extended his hand. Ross raised his head, his sharp, fragile features like a lost child's. He straightened, handed the PPG to John.

"Yes, sir," he said uncertainly.

"Come to attention, Lieutenant Ross."

Ross pushed himself to the edge of the bed, setting the bottle of bourbon carefully on the floor. He stood.

"I have processed Watley's request for a transfer, and I expect she'll be off the Agamemnon within a month. But that still leaves you with Spano and some of the more difficult gunners to handle. Will you be able to deal with them?"

After a few moments Ross's lost look began to fade. His body straightened, his shoulders squaring, the mountain rebuilding itself on firmer ground. His sharp mouth hardened again into a line, though it seemed now not resistant, but determined. When he boomed out his reply, the uncertainty was gone from his voice.

"Yes I will, sir."



CHAPTER 9



Anna typed in her access code again. No answering spouse came from the probe. She cursed, her voice dampened in the cramped confines of the probe control module. Claustrophobia was building. She checked the instrument settings, typed in the access code again:

HOME-RUN ANNIE. Her nickname in college.

The probe made no response.

SEND TEST SIGNAL TO PROBE, she typed. The test signal should simply be bounced back by the probe, whether her access code was working or not.

TEST SIGNAL NOT RETURNED, the computer reported. SEND TEST SIGNAL TO ORBITER, she typed.

TEST SIGNAL RETURNED. ORBITER IN POSITION.

So it wasn't a problem with the orbiter. The problem was definitely with the probe. Perhaps the weather was disrupting communications. The probe's
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