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carry their good wishes with you."

She draped the necklace around him so that the name of the god inscribed into the stone faced his chest, and fastened the clasp. She sat down beside him again. The shadows on his face were off. His features had failed to align into their old familiar facade and seemed unsettled, uncertain. She had ripped the wound open, and it would take some time for it to heal over. Perhaps, right now, there was a chance. A chance to make a real human connection intemperate by politics or secrets. She leaned closer.

"Tell me about Mars," she said.

And he did.


General Lochschmanan turned away from the weapons control system, his aide following without making a notation on her comp-pad. John held in his smile and gave a tight nod in Ross's direction. Ross stood stiffly at attention, but there was a certain set to his shoulders that told John he was proud. John felt the same thing in his own stance. Beside Ross, Spano stood with hands clenched. He remained a problem, but John wanted to give Ross a chance to handle him. The general and his aide preceded John and Corchoran out of the weapons bay, the inspection completed, and they returned to John's office.

"You have my congratulations, Captain. The inspection was outstanding."

The smile broke over John's face.

"Thank you, sir."

Lochschmanan reached into his jacket.

"I have some more information on your mission to share with you at this time. You may fill in Commander Corchoran after I leave. This data crystal contains the scheduled time and place and the few other pieces of information we have regarding the explosives buy. It will occur in approximately thirty hours. You will make way to that location as soon as I leave. The plan of this Homeguard faction is
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