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lurched, and John felt the familiar falling sensation as the gravity lessened. A series of explosions ran through the ship like a shudder. John was thrown to the floor. He climbed to his hands and knees. Still the gravity seemed uncertain, his weight varying by the moment.

"Damage report!" he yelled.

Ving had climbed to his feet and was clutching the console.

"Several major hull breaches . . . sections of decks one through three. Fore starboard cannon destroyed."

John climbed to his feet next to Ving.

"Casualties?"

Ving studied the data he was receiving.

"Preliminary readings show the hull breaches limited to the evacuated areas."

They stood quiet for a few moments, waiting for further concussions. The gravity stabilized at its normal level. The crew of the command deck all watched John, their expressions gradually changing from fear to relief. Reports began coming in from the different sections to Ving. John hit his link.

"Lieutenant Ross."

"Ross here."

"What's your status, Lieutenant?"

"Fore starboard cannon destroyed, Captain. Other three cannons still operational. Lieutenant Spano has-subdued Commander Corchoran. Minor injuries to them both. Security arrived soon after."

John nodded.

"Good shooting, Lieutenant."

"Thank you, sir," Ross boomed.

As soon as they had a clearer picture of the condition of the ship and the crew, and they were sure they had all systems under control, John put through a call from the command deck to General Lochschmanan.

"The Homeguard cruiser has been destroyed, General."

"You had us worried, Captain. We'd been expecting to hear from you much sooner."

"We had some difficulties, sir."

As he explained what had happened, John realized he'd never been prouder of a crew. Despite all the
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