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CHAPTER FIVE "A khimhok stands alone, Mister President"

Howard Anderson switched off his terminal and rose, rubbing his eyes, then folded his hands behind him and paced slowly about his small study.

During his own naval career, courier drones had been the only way to send messages between the stars, but the slow extension of the interstellar communications relays was changing that. No com signal could punch through a warp point, but drones could, and deep-space relays could beam their contents across the normal space between warp points at light-speed. Their cost tended to restrict them to wealthier, populous systems, but the Federation had taken pains to complete links all along its frontier with the Khanate.

Which meant Old Terra had learned of the disaster in Lorelei ten times as quickly as it might once have . . . for what it was worth.

He looked around his study unseeingly. Eighty percent of the "Peace Fleet" had died, but Everest's Omega Drones had gotten off just before she blew her fusion plants. The data base download had included Chien-lu's log, and Anderson's fury had burned cold as he read the thoroughly illegal bootleg copy an old friend had passed him.

He picked up the message chip in age-gnarled fingers and wondered what the summons meant. Perhaps Sakanami had discovered he knew and meant to shut him up? If so, he was about to discover the limits of the presidency's power.

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