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is unacceptable, and a disgrace to Earthforce."

"Yes, sir."

Nothing could make John feel any worse than he already did.

"We put you in command of the Agamemnon because we thought you could handle the increased responsibility. We thought you were worthy of her. If you can't get your crew to function competently under these calm conditions, how can you ever expect them to react well in a crisis?"

The general paused, glancing at Corchoran, and clasped his hands behind his back.

"I know you inherited a number of problems here, John, but we cannot afford to have the Agamemnon out of service. We need her back in fighting shape now. Consider this a test of your leadership abilities. If you can't be an effective leader, then your command will always be inferior. We need a strong leader in charge of the Agamemnon. Prove to me that we have one. In the meantime, I want you running this crew day and night until they get it right. If you need a limited number of transfers, I'll give them to you. Just get results."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."

Lochschmanan's hands returned to his sides.

"The technicians should be over shortly to begin the systems upgrade. Make sure you give them full access."

"General, may I ask the nature of the upgrade?"

"You're being outfitted with a new stealth technology. I'll be back tomorrow to check on their progress, and I'll give you a full briefing at that time."

"Yes, sir."

Lochschmanan nodded and made a smart turn out the door, followed by his grave-looking aide. John took a deep breath, determining to accomplish what the general had asked. He turned to Corchoran.

"I want you to set up a drill schedule. I want it hard and I want it heavy."

His hand punctuated each instruction with a short, chopping motion.

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