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. . . Standing, Maccabee activated another com channel. “Samara,” he said. “I think it’s time for my hull inspection.”

“Sir,” was all she said over the com channel, and Maccabee felt a surge of affection for her, for the fact that she knew him so well she didn’t so much as hesitate an instant, despite the fact that she had no idea what he was talking about.

“You think Sel and Czerney would like to come along?” Maccabee asked, as casual as if he were asking if they wanted a cup of coffee.

“Don’t forget Pinzon,” Samara said cheerfully. “You know how much she likes the inspections.”

Don’t push it, Maccabee thought, but all he said was, “Too many to fit in the shuttle. I’ve invited the commander to join us.”

“Sounds great,” Samara said. “I’ll get the others and meet you at the vehicle bay.”

“Thank you,” Maccabee said, shutting down the link. He turned to the commander, who was looking well confused by now, and said, “Shall we?”

“After you, sir,” Brenner said.

“Lieutenant Ganda,” Maccabee said, heading for the hatchway. “You have the bridge.”

“Aye sir,” came the reply. . . .

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