He clicked open his Communicator, "Over on the right field line. Watch the guy in the red cap. Nothing yet, just watch him," he commanded a cadet. The cadet answered in the affirmative and changed positions slightly. Whoever the guy in the red cap was, he was a little too close to Tommy for Doug's comfort. Maybe it was nothing, but he didn't want his younger son to be in any unnecessary peril.


 "All right and we're back," Announced Jeff.

"More synthbeer," Slurred José Torres to Lili.

"Yes, sir."

"The Conquistadors are still up. Now, Hunters pitcher Alan Foster has a chance to continue his march toward the record today, Ted."

"Ha, I don't think so. There's no score yet but you'd be a fool to bet against the Conquistadors. Have we got the link set up with Arashi? Good. Arashi, what's the point spread today?" asked Ted.

"Arashi, can you hear us?" asked Jeff.

"Yeah," he said.

"So tell us about the spread," Jeff said.

"Ah. Today it's four runs. So we're running good odds on the Conquistadors beating the Hunters by four or more runs. If our final score is ten and the Hunters' score if five, we've beaten the spread, because the differential is more than four runs."

"It's too bad about you striking out the first time up."

"Well, at least Empy's on base," Arashi said, "I dunno how she'll slide in that skirt, though. Anyway, gotta get back to the game."


No kidding, thought Lili. The skirt was as high as yesterday's number. At least her daughter had on some sort of tights. The boys, in contrast, wore more traditional types of uniforms.

Joss and Tommy were up, and Joss connected. The crack was loud; possibly there was some sort of microphone in the barrel of the bat. The ball sailed far but not far enough. Ah, well. Then it was Kirin and Takeo's turn, and Takeo struck out, and Empy was tagged.

"And now for a word from ...."


"Ensign Pike, how soon until we are within transporter range of Lafa II?" he asked.

"About ten minutes, Captain Reed," she said.

"Keep me posted. Thank you," he sat back in the Captain's chair, a place that was uncomfortable, and not just because of his physical condition. He just felt strange in command, particularly with as much authority as he'd been given in the past few years. He'd been thrown into the fire, or the deep end of the pool – either metaphor would do – and was flailing half the time. Anyone else would call him brilliant and improvisational, but he felt he was pedaling as fast as he could or fighting to dance in front of an angry audience as the scenery behind him came crashing down.

"Message coming in for you, sir."

"I'll take it in the Ready Room. Just a moment," he got up – that was usually better than sitting – and walked stiffly to his Ready Room, fingering the cuff as he went. Almost there, he said to himself. Almost.


 "And the Conquistadors are up again," Jeff said, "Now, this time we've got Joss and Kirin, apowerful one-two punch. If Foster's gonna march toward his record, he could really do some damage here."

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