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CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE A Gathering Fury

"I spoke to Admiral Al-Sana at BuPers about you, Andy," Howard Anderson said.

"You did, sir?" Ensign Mallory looked at him in some surprise.

"Yes. You'll be a full lieutenant next week, and he's promised you a transfer to BuShips or Second Fleet-your choice."

"Transfer?"

"Personally," Anderson said, peering out the ground car window, "I think you'd probably learn more with Admiral Timoshenko, but if you go to Second Fleet, you should arrive in time for the Theban invasion, and combat duty always looks good on a young officer's record, so-"

"Just a minute, sir." Young Ensign Mallory had matured considerably, and he broke in on his boss without the flustered bashfulness he once had shown. "If it's all the same to you, I'd prefer to finish the war with you."

"I'm sorry, Andy," Anderson turned to him with genuine regret, "but it just isn't possible."

"Why not? When you get back from Old Terra and-"

"I'm not coming back," Anderson said gently. "I'm resigning."

"You're resigning now? When everything's finally coming together?" Mallory looked and sounded shocked.

"As you say, everything is coming together. The production and building schedules are all in place, the new weapons are a complete success-" Anderson shrugged. "Admiral Timoshenko can manage just fine without me."

"But it's not fair, sir! You're the one who kicked ass to make it work, and some damned money-gouging industrialist'll grab the credit!"

"Andy, do you think I really need the credit?" Mallory blushed and shook his head. "Good." Anderson reached over and squeezed the young officer's knee. "In the meantime, there's something I have to do on Old Terra, and I can't do it as a member of the Cabinet."

Mallory glanced at him sharply as the car braked beside the shuttle pad. Then his brow smoothed and he nodded.

"I understand, sir. I should have guessed." He got out and held the door. Anderson climbed out and thrust out his hand, and Mallory took it in a firm clasp. "Good luck, sir."

"And to you, Lieutenant-if you'll forgive me for being a bit premature. I'll expect to hear good things about you."

"I'll try to make certain you do, sir."

Anderson nodded, gave his aide's hand a last squeeze, and climbed the shuttle steps without a backward glance.



* * * | Crusade | * * *



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