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until now, performing poorly, unwilling to initiate a direct confrontation. If there was a direct confrontation, perhaps the issues could be resolved and the need for resistance would disappear.

"I mean that I have to look at all my highest ranking officers and ask why? What did they do for Captain Best to get promoted?"

He extended a hand.

"Let's look at you as an example. You started out with Captain Best nine years ago as an ensign third class. Now, here you are a lieutenant and the weapons chief. When I look at the state of your section, Ross, and at your own behavior-your negligence, your resistance, your failure to follow procedure, your poor motivation-I wonder what criteria Captain Best was using when he recommended you time and again for promotion."

John tilted his head.

"What criteria do you feel he judged you by?"

John saw the decision happen on Ross's face, the catastrophic decision to throw a punch at his superior officer. Ross's sharp features twisted, and then his right shoulder dropped as his huge right hand closed into a fist, his elbow drawing back like a piston. This wasn't the kind of breakthrough John had been hoping for. As he raised an arm in defense, Ross's windup fizzled, his aborted punch shooting down in a jagged arch to his opposite hip. Ross's head had jerked nervously from John to the doorway.

"Captain?"

General Lochschmanan said. His aide was with him. John lowered his arm.

"We-were just running a drill, General. What can I do for you?"

"A drill."

John's link chimed.

"Excuse me, sir." John brought the link near his mouth.

"Sheridan. Go."

"Captain," Corchoran said, "you have an incoming call from your wife."

John glanced at the general.

"Tell her I'll call back. I'm busy."

Relaying a personal
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