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Chapter 23

General Salabast was an imposing figure indeed. After introductions were completed, there was a small change of command ceremony, in which Scott formally surrendered command of his task force to General Salabast. The general wasted no time in settling in and meeting his new staff. Of course, there were almost none aboard who didn’t know of him by reputation.

“Geron was my junior lieutenant before he betrayed me. He was so talented, so I just gave him more and more responsibility. Always got the job done, too. But he bided his time and waited until I had built my palace on Jasconia III before he brought his own task force down on me. When everyone thought I was dead, he became the new general,” Salabast explained as they walked to the flag bridge.

“But thanks to your men Agron and McKenzie, I find myself back in command. I never thought it would happen,” he said as he lovingly stroked the leather on the back of the dreadnought command chair. He gazed around the flag bridge before taking his seat.

“Admiral Pearson, I appreciate the position you find yourself in, and I will offer you a commission if you want it. What’s your decision?”

“It is time for me to return home, sir,” Scott said confidently.

Salabast nodded. “Well, I hope you find what you’re looking for. You have a fine crew on that Orion ship, if a little odd. But be advised: the shooting’s about to start. If you swap sides and help out Geron, I am not the kind of man who forgets.”

“That won’t be in my hands, sir. Once I board the Adamantine, I’ll merely be a guest, as you were.”

“I understand. In that case, I’ll have a few words with your blond captain before we set out to Tarandi. She’s a sharp one.”

Scott clasped hands with the burly general for what he hoped was the last time. As he turned to leave, Salabast fired off a final remark.

“Remember, Admiral,” he said. “Once this thing is over and I’m in command of the dominion, you had better get to wherever you’re going. If I find your ship in my space, you will be under my law. Understand?”

Scott nodded slightly and then left the bridge.

* * *

As Salabast brought his fleet out of hyperspace, the blue Tarandi star appeared on the monitor in its blistering fury. Traci had decided to trail his fleet as she made her way back to the Valdi star. She had intentionally made herself busy, so as to avoid having to help Scott get settled in. Without Agron aboard, she found no reason to extend the same courtesy to the first marshal as he did. She had instructed her new exec and her marine colonel to make sure he found his quarters comfortable for the journey home.

Traci sipped her coffee as she watched her crew efficiently take care of the day’s business. She had decided to wait in the Tarandi system under cover of her cloaking device until they could be sure the last of the fermion leakage was gone. She could not risk leading even so much as a single Terran shuttlecraft to the rift location. She remembered the last Valdi ship that had inadvertently done that, and it had nearly cost all of them their lives.

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