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set course for the Carutic jump gate, a Nam jump gate approximately ten hours away. From there they can jump to Babylon 5."

So far everything was developing by the numbers. The thing that bothered John the most was that on the scanners, the Homeguard cruiser had the signature of an Earthforce vessel. The friend-or-foe signal definitely marked this ship as friend, which meant either that the signature had been faked, which was supposed to be impossible and would carry very troubling implications if it were possible, or that the cruiser had been stolen from Earthforce, or that an entire faction of Earthforce was in collusion with the Homeguard.

"Is the Nam ship away?" John asked.

"Narras away," Corchoran said.

John turned to the other officers on the command deck. They had all shaped up nicely. They were a good crew. And they all looked a bit nervous knowing that this battle alert was not just another drill.

"All right, this is what they pay us for. Helm, bring us within weapons range. Weapons, stand by. Communications, it's time to let them know we're here. Open a..."

John's link chimed. He brought it to his mouth.

"Sheridan. Go."

"This is Ross, sir. The laser cannons are no operational. Repeat, no operational."

"How serious is it, Ross?" John asked.

Corchoran approached, his worry for once seeming totally justified.

"I think you should come down here, sir."

"Stand by."

John clenched his jaw, thinking.

"Helm, are we within visual range yet?"

"Almost, sir."

"Come around. Bring us back out to the limit of scanner range. Set a parallel course to the cruiser. Communications, maintain radio silence."

At this distance, radio silence was critical, since any external communications would be detected by the cruiser. John got up from
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