The General's President

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

Book: The General's President by John Dalmas Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Dalmas
Tags: Fiction, General, Science-Fiction
he might accomplish would matter.

    The next morning at almost precisely 0700, Cromwell, in civvies again, knocked at Haugen's door, to be let in by Sergeant Kearney. Haugen had just finished knotting his tie—something he seldom wore.
    "How'd you sleep last night?" Cromwell asked.
    "Pretty well, actually."
    They looked at one another for several seconds. "Well?" Cromwell said at last.
    Haugen grinned. "The answer is yes; why the hell not? I'm bound to do as well as a lot of possible selectees would, and better than some. Present company excepted."
    He laughed then, and Cromwell's eyebrows raised. "I'm remembering a conversation a few days ago," Haugen said. "An old friend of mine said I ought to run for president next time, 'if there is a next time.' He was joking, of course. I told him, 'No way. And if I did, people wouldn't have me.' I'm half a liar already, it looks like. We'll have to see about the other half."
    Cromwell grunted. He wasn't up to having humor this morning. He felt like a man reprieved, but there was no joy in it; merely relief. The country was still in deep shit. Kearney picked up Haugen's larger bag, and in a few minutes they were in another plain gray GSA sedan, this one larger and better appointed than last night's. Haugen asked himself, not seriously, if Cromwell would have brought a limousine if he'd said yes the evening before.
    There was more traffic than Haugen had expected—government employees going to work, he presumed—but for far less than there'd have been a year earlier. And no traces of past street fighting along the short route between airport and Pentagon; apparently neither mobs nor urban paras had reached this part of the city.
    It was his first look at the Pentagon, a vast building reminding him of some mesa in New Mexico. They got out in front of a broad, colonnaded entrance and went in. An elevator and corridor took them to an outer office, where a female master sergeant with caramel complexion had them wait for a moment while she buzzed her boss.
    "General Cromwell is here, with a gentleman," she said. She nodded at Cromwell then. "General Hanke says to go right in."
    They did. Hanke was on his feet, waiting for them.
    "General," said Cromwell, "I'd like you to meet Arne Haugen, of Duluth Technologies. Arne, this is General Fred Hanke, Army Chief of Staff." As the tall general shook hands with the broad older man, Hanke's pale blue eyes examined Haugen openly.
    When they'd finished the courtesies, Cromwell said, "Hanke, Arne has given me a yes on my proposition. Now I'm taking him to see the president. If I'm not back in time, I'd like you to chair this morning's meeting."
    "Fine. Anything you want me to tell them?"
    "Tell them I got a 'yes' from Arne."
    When they'd left, they paused at Cromwell's office for just a moment while Cromwell called the White House and spoke to someone named Charles; they'd be there in ten minutes, he told him.
    In the corridor again, Cromwell said, "I wanted Hanke to meet you. It's good PR, and Hank's a hell of a good man. Best man on the JCS, in most ways; better than me, better than Carmody."
    Which left two chiefs of staff unmentioned, Haugen noted. A small helicopter waited for them on a helipad outside; Cromwell had arranged for it in advance, he supposed. From the air, he saw what had not been apparent while driving to the Pentagon—the widespread damage and destruction north of the river. There was no smoke though; the evening's heavy rain had seen to that. Trucks were out, along with front-end loaders, clearing away the remains of dozed out barricades. That suggested that the sniping had ended, or nearly enough for whoever had made the decision.
    Haugen had visited the White House once, nearly forty years earlier, as a tourist. Now there were no tourists, only marines, and he was met on the lawn by the president's military aide, General Hammaker, and Charles Milstead, chief of the White House staff. Cromwell made the introductions; then

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