The General's President

The General's President by John Dalmas Read Free Book Online

Book: The General's President by John Dalmas Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Dalmas
Tags: Fiction, General, Science-Fiction
time enough to do a big search. And beyond that, it seems to me you're as good a choice as any."
    Haugen frowned. "Jumper, supposing I say no. You've sure as hell got an alternative in mind. Who is it?"
    Cromwell exhaled gustily. "The option is... The option is me . Donnelly named me as vice president. I asked him for two days to find someone else. I don't think the people would go for me as president; not with this kind of power. People would be remembering every damn military dictator they'd ever heard of, most of them bad.
    "Besides, the idea of it scares me silly. I wasn't that scared jumping behind Communist lines in Laos, twenty-five years ago."
    SubliminaJly, Haugen's mind was sorting factors; he could feel it working. "And you actually think I can handle it?"
    The general nodded soberly. "I really think you can."
    "I've got no experience in government. Or politics."
    "You're going to find government a lot less complicated to work with, with these emergency powers. And I'll get Donnelly's staff and cabinet to stay on long enough to brief you and teach you the ropes. Then you can bring in your own people if you want. Besides, like I said earlier, not having been involved in politics should be an advantage with the public. You can make it one, anyway.
    "But you don't have to decide tonight. Sleep on it. I'll get your answer in the morning."
    Cromwell had remained standing. Now he turned and disappeared into a dressing room. Haugen heard a refrigerator door close, and the general reappeared with a pint of Cutty Sark on a tray, along with two glasses and ice. "I remember you liked Scotch," he said, then put the tray down and poured two short drinks.
    Silently they sipped. Then Cromwell got up again and gestured toward a closed door. "That's your bedroom in there." He stepped over to it, opened it, and spoke. "Sergeant Kearney, come out here."
    Haugen stared, puzzled. A man emerged, of rather ordinary size and wearing civilian clothes, but Haugen knew at once this was no one to pick a fight with. Even in his youth, he told himself, he'd hardly have had a prayer, fighting Kearney.
    "Yes sir, general," Kearney said.
    "Meet an old friend of mine, sergeant. Arne Haugen. Arne, this is Sergeant First Class James Kearney."
    Haugen took the proferred hand and shook it. "Glad to meet you, Jim," he said.
    "Glad to meet you, sir." Haugen doubted the man's words meant anything beyond military courtesy.
    "Sergeant Kearney will be your bodyguard tonight," Cromwell went on. "I'll come by at 0700. If it's a yes, we'll go to the Pentagon for breakfast; it's only about a mile from here. After we've eaten, we can go see the president from there."
    Cromwell shook Haugen's hand and left, Haugen staring at the door as it closed behind him. Then, saying nothing more, he picked up the tray and went into the bedroom, coming back a minute later for his suitcases.
    "Have a good night, sergeant," he said, and disappeared into the bedroom again.
    Arne Haugen didn't go straight to bed however. Or have another drink right away. Instead he dialed long distance. Lois answered.
    "Babe," he said, "they've offered me a job here.... That's right, in Washington. A house goes with it, and it won't last longer than a year, maybe less.... I can't tell you on the phone, honey; it's top secret. But it's important, and I have to say yes or no in the morning, so I need to know if you'd be willing to live here for a while....
    "Well, I'm not sure. I think I might. It sounds really interesting.... Good. Thanks, Babe. I'll call you sometime tomorrow and tell you what I've decided.
    "And Babe, I love you.... You do, eh? I kind of thought so. Talk to you tomorrow."
    He hung up then, poured another drink, and leaned back thoughtfully in the chair. Controlling the violence, he thought, would be the easy part. If he took the job. It seemed to be pretty much controlled already. The hard part would be getting things running right again. If he couldn't do that, nothing else

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