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that Spano was working harder than Ross had ever seen him, and that even Watley had been inspired to put in some effort. It seemed he'd finally solved his problems with them, though probably too late. Ross had been on standby on his link, and now his voice came through.

"Laser cannons back on line, Captain."

John licked his lips.

"Good work, Ross. Now get someone into that manual targeting system and we'll finish this."

"Manual targeting, sir?"

The uncertainty had returned beneath Ross's booming voice.

"Yes. You know the Homeguard ship has an Earthforce signature. Our targeting computer won't let us fire on it."

"With everything going on, Captain, I forgot."

John was acutely aware of time passing.

"Why don't you let Spano make the shot? You told me his work on the tube has been incredible."

"I'm the only officer here, sir. The others aren't back from the tube yet."

John's jaw clenched.

"Then get in there, Lieutenant. We don't have a minute to waste."

"Yes, sir," Ross said.

"Stand by."

John narrowed his eyes.

"Helm, I want you to bring us down right in front of that jump gate ahead of the cruiser. Best possible speed. Position the ship broadside, with its starboard side facing the cruiser, so that it will form the most effective blockade to the jump gate."

If Ross couldn't make the shot, they'd stop the cruiser. One way or another. Of course positioning the ship side-on not only created the most effective barrier, it also put the occupied section of the ship in the most vulnerable position, right in the path of the cruiser. But if that was the only way they could stop the cruiser, so be it. He thought briefly of Anna, longing for the warmth

and vitality of her presence, the sandpaper caress of her hands. He wondered if
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