Chapter 1: Anthem

The parade rounded the corner like a glittering, cacophonous serpent, the veterans at its head. They ranged from middle aged to ancient, male to female, and human to alien. Some wore crisply pressed new uniforms and kept perfect step with the echoing beat of the marching band. Others wore their threadbare vintage service issue with equal pride, and followed no step but their own. A smiling human man strode with his peaked cap tilted at a jaunty angle, waving some sort of riding crop at the restless crowd. Shining medals on brightly colored ribbons bounced against his chest with each step. The people gathered on either curb did not know or care whether he was a general or simply an overdressed private. Behind the dapper human marched an Aldren fellow in a wrinkled olive uniform that smelled as if it had been in a damp attic since the end of the war. He was both shorter and leaner than the human, with a rounded, hairless cranium and skin the color of a summer storm. His wide blue eyes sparkled like a troubled sea, revealing an inner turmoil. He marched rigidly, unaware of the fanfare about him. A close observer might have noticed that his long, slender fingers clenched often, as though they longed for the comfort of the weapon they once held. He stared straight ahead, as if he were marching to the sounds of gunshots and screams instead of music and ovation.

Behind the strolling, shambling, and occasionally marching veterans rumbled a ground tractor with a Martian flag mounted next to its shaking smokestack. The growling machine towed a wide flat trailer festooned with the national colors. Veterans who had lost arms, legs or their minds to the war sat on precariously balanced chairs that wobbled every time the tractor lurched forward, threatening to dump their occupants. The leathery hands of the veterans dipped into buckets of treats, which they showered liberally on the delighted crowd lining both curbs. Children darted out onto the street to collect the candy, toy badges and small Martian flags, but retreated just as quickly from the sharp crack of the firecrackers that fell from the back of the trailer. A whole box of the small explosives sat in the lap of a one-legged Lieutenant who sang and shouted as he lit and tossed his miniature warheads. He had spent the war behind a desk, and lost his leg in a factory accident years later. The veterans who had seen combat, or had at least been shelled a few times, revealed themsleves by involuntarily flinching each time a firecracker exploded. But not a man or woman among them made any attempt to dampen the desk warrior’s spirits. Though the veterans may not have had two matching uniforms among them, they all wore an identical smile.

Behind the flatbed marched a color guard of fresh Martian recruits in matching red-trimmed olive uniforms. They marched in perfect step with serious looks upon their faces. They were mostly young, male and human, lacking the diversity that necessity had forced upon the Martian forces during the war. The color guard held aloft the flag of the Martian Republic, a red sphere trimmed in blue and set against a black background. Next came a series of variations on that theme, each representing the army, space navy and home guard units that had served. A few of the units were still recruiting, but many had been disbanded during the years of peace. The last few men of the color guard carried flags captured from Terran units, tilted down across their chests to trail on the pavement. Behind them, a garishly overdressed military band struck up the Martian Anthem.

Red for our soil and Blue for our sky,
Black for the honor of heroes who died,
Never to forget those spirits who roam,
Who gave all for family, planet and home.

From her office window on the second floor of the Terran Embassy, Lady Lince Voorhaven watched with interest. She had heard the Martian Independence Day parade every May Second since she had been assigned as Earth’s ambassador to Mars. But this Independence Day, the twentieth anniversary of the Treaty of Towns’ End, was the first time the parade had marched past the Embassy. The crowd of revelers lined the street as far as the eye could see, except for the sidewalk in front of the Embassy.

The entire planet had once been the domain of the Earth, but now only these two acres remained under Terran control. As such, they were an unwelcoming place for displays of Martian national pride. A tall fence surrounded the embassy’s lawn, and a pair of grey-uniformed guards faced eachother across the only gate. They wore round caps with black bills and held rifles with chromed bayonets gleaming in the midday sun. As Lady Voorhaven watched, the flatbed full of disabled veterans crawled past the gate. The firecracker Lieutenant made a rude gesture towards the guards, and lobbed one of his noisemakers in their direction. It landed a few inches away from the polished boots of the soldier on the left, who did not so much as blink when the firecracker burst. Lady Voorhaven imagined his thoughts. You go right ahead, sir. March along waving your flags and singing your anthem. In less than five years, the Terran army will land in overwhelming force, and blasts more formidable than a firecracker will herald our arrival. We’ll march down this very street dragging your flags in the dirt. Like the grey uniforms, such sentiments were issued to all Terran soldiers who enlisted. Since the Anthro Socialist Party had come to power five years ago, earth had started a program of mass rearmament.

Turning her chair away from the window, Lady Voorhaven glanced at the portrait of Lewis Themond, the Domnus of the new government. He had handpicked her for this job for two reasons. The first, as he had told Lady Voorhaven personally, was that as a diplomat, she had a very light touch. She seldom spoke much above a whisper, and made no demands of the Martian government. Her mannerisms were regal and refined, but without the overbearing attitude that often accompanied nobility. She was tall and slender, with blond hair formed neatly into a bun just above the back of her neck. When she was at a conference, she wore linen robes of soft neutral colors. The fine facial lines of middle age completed the image of a kind but resolute ancient Roman matron. The second reason that Domnus Themond had sent her to Mars was her ability to quickly and accurately judge the character of her professional opponents. If she found any weaknesses in Mars’ diplomatic team, she could pass them on to her successor. For the moment, her objective was to placate the Martian government, and perpetuate the lie that Earth was still in full compliance with the Treaty of Towns’ End.

In many ways, she felt that she was the last hope for reconciliation between the worlds. She had made some progress toward that goal. Trade between the two planets was at an all time high. Lady Voorhaven had helped persuade the Martian Parliament to reduce tariffs on goods imported from Earth. She had convinced them that they simply could not afford to withhold trade with Earth. What other market did they have that was only a fraction of a light-year away? Despite the mutual economic dependence between the worlds, today the Martian people were making a clear demonstration that they were proud to be independent from Earth.

From somewhere in the sky over the parade, red, black and blue pieces of confetti began to fall on the crowd like discolored snow. It landed on the embassy’s finely cut lawn, and on the hats and shoulders of the motionless guards by the gate. Everyone along the street craned their necks and waved at the sky. Lady Voorhaven had to leave her chair and lean out the window to see what they were waving at. It was an old Martian escort tempest, spewing confetti out of a hatch on its bow that had once been a gun port. Suspended in the air by its lift-gas system, the armored war machine floated along with an ease that belied its seventy-ton weight. Like most tempests, it was built along the lines of a water-borne ship. Its underside was smooth and rounded, featureless but for some hatches that had been painted shut years ago. Their original purpose had been to drop explosives or other nasty things on the ship’s hapless victims below. Lady Voorhaven could not see the top of the tempest, but she knew that it featured either a smooth armored shell, like a turtle, or an open deck arranged to house mortars or other large equipment. The retired warship’s current paintjob was a friendly candy apple red, and she could see through the chips and scratches that it had been a bright yellow before that. But she also knew that somewhere, beneath all the cheerful civilian coats of color, was the cold, neutral gunship grey that the tempest had started its life with. That sort of paint could never be removed.

As the vessel’s shadow passed over the crowd, so too passed a shiver of nervous energy. For the young, it was the grisly thought of the meaty pancakes they would surely become if somehow all six of the tempest’s lift-gas tanks lost their pressure. For the old, it was the memory of the terrible purpose the machine had been built for, and the fate of those who fell beneath the shadow of a tempest twenty years ago. With a hissing blast from the propulsion jets in its stern, the vessel coasted past the embassy. Lady Voorhaven could see a banner hanging from its stern, wishing everyone in the crowd a Happy Independence Day, and reminding them that for a reasonable rate, the Vogelman moving company was at their service to move entire houses wherever they wished. Above the banner was an open deck sporting large cranes and spools of thick cable.

In a strange way, Lady Voorhaven found the sight comforting. She remembered her last official visit to a Martian army base near the city of Harlanding. Most of the weapons and equipment that the Martians carried and trained with were of the same sad vintage as that now harmless tempest. The parade was a hollow display, touting a military might that no longer existed. With all her work on disarmament treaties, Lady Voorhaven supposed she could take a bit of credit for that.

After the tempest passed, a squadron of ground-rolling street sweepers filled the air with the whine of their vacuums. As if disheartened by the noise, the crowd began to disperse. The confetti, burst fireworks and uncollected candy vanished in the wake of the shining white machines of civil cleanliness. The street cleaners were so thorough in their ministrations that little evidence of the parade remained in their wake. Only the Terran sentinels were still generously flecked with the confetti, but true to their nature, neither man made any move to brush it off. Perhaps to them it was just like snow or rain, a natural element that existed only to be stoically ignored.

The more professional elements of her mind recalled the stack of extradition requests on her desk that needed to be individually read and approved, and she was about to leave her window when an unusual sight caught her eye. As if they had been a part of the parade, but couldn’t keep up, a horse and rider rounded the corner.

Out in the Martian countryside a horse would have been a familiar sight. But whether used for work or recreation, most horses that Lady Voorhaven had seen were well-groomed and fed. Even from this distance, she could see the poor creature’s ribs. The dapple grey ambled down the street swaying as if drunk. It was still too far to tell, but Lady Voorhaven could imagine that its hide was mangy, flea-bitten, and surrounded by a perpetual cloud of flies. The rider didn’t appear to be in much better shape. He looked as though he may have been a tall man at one time, now hunched over and humbled by age or sorrow. He wore a round hat with a wide brim that extended out to his shoulders, concealing his face from her second story vantage. The hat may have been brown once, but the sun had faded it to the color of sand. The atmosphere of Mars was thinner than that of Earth, and the effects of solar radiation on clothing and skin much stronger. Lady Voorhaven herself never so much as crossed the street without a parasol during the day.

The rider’s long coat was patched with mismatched material on the elbows and shoulders, and frayed along its bottom edge. Like his hat, it had been bleached from black to a pale gray. Beneath it hung a pair of leather boots, caked in rust-colored mud that was quickly baking in the midday sun. Must have gotten lost, she thought to herself as the rider approached the embassy. Curiously, he did not pass by. Instead, he seemed to be guiding his sorry steed directly to the gate. He swung himself down easily from the dingy saddle and turned to face the building. He looked up directly at Lady Voorhaven and pinched the brim of his hat. She pretended not to notice, but her mind recorded the image of his white beard and sharp brown eyes. The man then turned his attention to the guards at the gate. He asked the man on the left a question and was predictably ignored. He repeated his question with a few gestures, pointing towards the embassy. When he was again rebuffed, he turned to the second guard. Looking the soldier up and down, he remained quiet, unwilling to waste his breath. He took the horse’s reins in one hand and looked about for a place to tie them up. Not seeing any hitching posts handy, the man looped the reins over the soldier’s shining bayonet. With a precise, mechanical motion, the sentinel removed the filthy leather strap from his rifle. As he did so, a flurry of confetti fell from his arm and shoulder. The homely man peered closely at the guard. He reached out and brushed some more bits of paper from the man’s shoulder, shaking his head and muttering as if he were a drill sergeant scolding a private for a dirty uniform. The neglected horse wandered up onto the curb, and began helping itself to some much needed nourishment from the section of lawn that extended past the embassy’s formidable fence.

Lady Voorhaven lifted the heavy receiver of her office phone, and dialed her secretary. Legend suggested that long ago on Earth, men made phones so advanced that they fit inside your ear, and let you talk to anyone in the world just by thinking about them. Lady Voorhaven didn’t have much faith in these legends. Such stories also held that ancient man walked on Mars, and found it a dead planet with nothing to drink or breathe. After one and a half rings, the man in the next room picked up.

“Terran Embassy, Rafe Skinar speaking,” He had been her secretary for over a year now.

“Mr. Skinar we seem to have a beggar at the front gate. Would you please go direct him to the shelter over on Eighth Street?” She didn’t need to tell him that the guards wouldn’t do it. Their function was almost purely ornamental. The real security for the embassy was stationed inside the building.

“I’ll go take care of it, Madam.”

This wasn’t the first time that a Martian passerby had failed to take the hint from the stony countenance of the guards at the gate. Lady Voorhaven placed the first of the extradition requests in the middle of her desk and began reading. She was working on the third page when the phone rang.

“This is ambassador Voorhaven.”

“Madam, it’s me again. We may have a problem with the beggar.” Rafe Skinar sounded very unsure of himself when he spoke.

“Am I to understand that security can’t resolve the problem?”

“Well, I could have them haul this, uh, gentleman, away, but I’m not sure it would be a good idea.”

“Rafe, speak freely.”

“The man at the gate says that he’s an emissary. I asked him whom he represents, and he wouldn’t say. But he handed me an envelope labeled ‘Terran Violations of the Treaty of Town’s End’ and asked me to give it to the ranking security officer. So, I turned it over to Lieutenant Vaughn. He started reading it and his face turned red. Vaughn told me to tell you that we may have an intelligence crisis.”

Krikor Vaughn is an intelligence crisis, she thought to herself. “So, shall I assume that Lieutenant Vaughn is wiring a copy of this letter to the capital?”

“He didn’t say. You know how these TerSec boys operate.”

“Did this ‘emissary’ make any demands?”

“No Ma’am. But he said he wants to speak to you. I suppose he intends to take his conspiracy theories public if you refuse to see him.” That was no surprise. Threat of scandal was always a good way to gain attention. Lady Voorhaven decided that the man’s list must be taken seriously for now, until Terran Security could get a look at it.

“Rafe, have the man escorted up to my office.” Rafe didn’t answer right away.

“You’re sure you want to see him?”

“Yes. I want to size him up. I can smell a lie at thirty paces. And, Rafe?”

“Madam?”

“Make sure he wipes his boots before he comes in.”

***

Lince Voorhaven took a quiet moment to gather her thoughts. If this man really was a serious threat to the Terran State, she would soon know. She had made a few mistakes in her life — her marriage, for one — but misjudging the character of an opponent had not been among them. She put the extradition request on her desk back on the stack it came from, and put the entire stack in one of the cavernous drawers on her oversized desk. The desk had come with the office. Her predecessor must have been a man who felt that size matters when it came to furniture.

She heard the muffled squeaks of footsteps on the hallway carpeting. Here we go. There were two heavy knocks on the door.

“Come in.”

The first thing she noticed was his pure white hair, gathered into a single ponytail that terminated somewhere beneath the back of his collar. His beard was the same color, but more conservatively trimmed. The man held his hat in his hand, displaying fingers that looked like no amount of washing would ever get all the dirt out of the cracks. His brown eyes sparkled from darkened sockets under a heavy, wrinkled brow. His complexion was very dark, but whether his heritage or the merciless effects of Martian sunlight caused that, she could not tell. She met his gaze, and immediately made up her mind that whatever else he may be, he was not a foolish man.

He spoke first.

“Lady Lince Voorhaven, Terran Ambassador to Mars.” His voice was low and gravelly, and the tone was not quite correct for either a statement or a question. She decided it must have been a question.

“Yes, I am the ambassador.”

“Ah, good!” The man helped himself to one of the chairs in front of the desk and propped his feet on the other chair. Lady Voorhaven could see that he hadn’t wiped his boots very well.

“And you are…?”

“Tired! It’s a long ride from Planum Town for an old man. Anyway, I suppose you’d like to know why I’m bothering you.”

Her first instinct was to say that it was no bother, but since that really wasn’t the truth, she simply replied, “Indeed.”

“I need you to arrange a nice civil-like meeting between myself and General Naka of the Human Improvement Division.”

That was it, then. He wanted to skip the representatives and public relations and go straight to the boss of Terran government research. Lady Voorhaven knew things were never that simple with the Anthro Socialist Government, and she was sure that this man knew so as well.

“I see. You mentioned that you are an emissary. Whom shall I tell General Naka you represent?”

“Some folks who wish to remain anonymous.” He smiled. His teeth may have been the only clean items he possessed.

“Sir, if you won’t tell me who you represent, could you at least tell me what you wish to discuss with General Naka?” He nodded and spread his hands in a gesture of conciliation.

“I’m not giving you much to work with, am I? I want to see General Naka about the release of a certain prisoner of war.”

The diplomatic answer to that was one that Lady Voorhaven had memorized. It came out sounding almost rehearsed. “The Terran government is not currently holding any prisoners of war. In accordance with the Treaty of Towns’ End, all prisoners were returned—”

“Actually,” he interrupted, “earth does have a bunch of prisoners that it has no right to hold.” He withdrew a few folded sheets of paper from his coat. “It’s all right here. Murders, sabotage operations, informants and spy rings. Prisoners are on page two, I believe.”

She unfolded the paper and took her first look at the list of allegations. It read:

Partial List of Illegal Activities Carried Out by the Pact Anthro Government of Earth:

1    Martian Parliament minority leader Lew Sahak kidnapped by Human Universal Nationalist agents on April 12th. Shot twice in the head and buried under the corner of 77th and Dornis street in the city of Harlanding.

2    Second Class General Jaroslav Treminsky of the Martian Army’s Forty-Second Infantry division is a Terran sympathizer, whose parents were loyalists during the war. He has used his own base radio to transmit military secrets too other Terran agents both on Mars and in orbit.

3    Lieutenant Commander Emile Dachiross of the Human Universal Nationalists will be leading a mission on Martian soil sometime this month. The objective of his unit is to destroy the battle cruiser Ares’ Wrath which is currently under construction at the Holman shipyard.

If any these allegations were true, they could could be easily investigated. She set the list on the desk and returned her attention to the man, who was examining his fingernails.

“So if you are not granted audience with General Naka, you intend to take this list to the press?”

He raised his eyebrows as if the thought had not occurred to him. “I suppose I could do that. But if I don’t get in touch with Naka, I plan to give the complete list to the Martian Internal Security Bureau, and a copy to the Galactic Union.”

The moment of silence that followed was tense enough that when the phone rang, they both jumped.

“Please excuse me for a moment.” Lady Voorhaven picked up the receiver. The white haired man rose and gave a stiff-backed bow before ambling to the other side of the office, his boots leaving a trail of crumbled red dirt on the carpet. He came to rest next to the portrait of Domnus Themond, and appeared to study it with distaste. It was Lieutenant Krikor Vaughn on the phone.

“What do we know?” she asked him in a low voice as she watched the old man out of the corner of her eye.

“The capital wired back. TerSec Master Command has authorized the immediate arrest of the supposed emissary for questioning.”

Her mind raced as the security chief spoke. Whether completely accurate or not, the list was an indicator of a serious breach in TerSec’s communications. If she could keep the white haired man talking, she may learn more. She lowered her voice further and cupped a hand over the receiver. “May I remind you, Lieutenant, that all emissaries on embassy property are under the protection of diplomatic immunity?”

“Has he told you who he represents?”

“No, he has not.”

“Well then, the Terran State is not required to recognize him as an emissary. Is the man still in your office?”

“Yes,” she said as quietly and calmly as possible. She hadn’t given much thought to her personal safety up until this point.

“We’ll come get him, just stay calm.”

He needn’t have told her that part. She raised her volume and casually said, “Very good, thank you.” She returned the phone to its receiver, and the man turned and walked back towards her, with a quizzical expression upon his weathered face. He raised his arms and spread them wide with open palms to the ceiling.

“‘That list of his is a big hoax! Throw that filthy bum back out on the street!’ Is that what he told you?” Lady Voorhaven was taken aback by the man’s sudden theatrics, and simply stared at him with her mouth half open. He continued forward until he was leaning over her desk with his wrinkled hands on the polished wood. Much more softly, he continued, “Or did he tell you that every word is true, and there will be hell to pay if it falls into the right hands?”

Before she could think of an answer, he turned his head sideways. They could both hear the muffled thuds of heavy, booted feet pounding down the hallway. The man straightened up to his full height, which was a few inches more than Lady Voorhaven had estimated. With his shoulders back and feet squared, he assumed a posture not at all unlike that of the stone sentinels at the embassy’s gate.

“Ma’am, that simply will not do.” He reached towards the back of his neck, under the collar of his coat. He gripped something and began pulling upwards. It’s a weapon, she thought, didn’t security think to check him for a weapon? A black cord-wrapped handle with what looked like a small flask at its end rose from behind his white mane. Then a blade emerged, the color of a coal mine at midnight. The cutting edge gleamed a dull titanium color under the office lights. She was beginning to think that diving under her desk would be an excellent idea, if only her nerves could convince her muscles to make it happen. But the man whirled on his heel to face the door, and arrived there in the time it took her to blink. She expected him to charge into the hall with sword raised, to meet the tide of Terran Security men head on. Instead, he pushed the door shut and locked it with his free hand. Taking a step back, he raised the wicked looking weapon above his right shoulder in a ready position. The tip of the blade hit one of the hanging lights, which swung crazily. Lady Voorhaven noticed a small nozzle near the tip of the sword, facing away from the cutting edge. She had seen a demonstration before with a similar weapon. She couldn’t remember what that type of sword was called, but she did remember to cover her ears. As the man began his downward swing, his thumb pressed a trigger on the weapons’ hilt. With a terrific report, a gout of blue-white flame issued from the nozzle on the back of the blade. Aiding the man’s effort, it burned an arc of light into Lady Voorhaven’s retinas. When she opened her eyes, she saw that the sword had buried itself deeply in the thick wood of the door and the doorjamb. A thin wisp of smoke curled from the weapon’s ignition nozzle, and the acrid smell of combusted metoline filled the office. She realized that she was trapped in here with him.

As the ringing in her ears subsided, she could hear shouts in the hallway, and the thumps of rifle butts hitting the heavy door. The man straightened up and turned to face her, his face dancing in the glow of the still-swinging light fixture. She half expected to see a gun in his hand as he advanced on her, but instead he pointed an accusatory finger in her direction. His took a slow, deep breath before he spoke.

“Lady Voorhaven, I fully expected you to be rude or condescending. But I would not have come here if I thought you were stupid. I specifically told you that I am here representing certain persons. These certain persons are even now awaiting my return. If I don’t report back to them within the hour that I have a meeting with General Naka, they will convey the complete list to the Martian Government. I know you think that Earth can lick the whole galaxy one planet at a time, but you’re not ready for everyone all at once!” He was shouting now.

Threats and rhetoric were familiar territory to Lady Voorhaven. She leaned over her desk and returned his cold-eyed stare.

“You are bluffing.”

He seated himself in the chair that he had started in.

“That’s possible. But what if I’m not bluffing? That, Ma’am, is a chance that a woman in your position simply cannot afford to take.” He reached to the desk and slid the phone a few inches closer to her. “It’s your call, Ma’am.” With that, he folded his hands in his lap and studied them.

He’s right, she thought as she dialed her secretary. Damn him for it, but he’s right. When Mr. Skinar answered the phone, he naturally assumed that she was being held hostage. It took several minutes of patience and some carefully repeated code phrases before he agreed to pass on Lady Voorhaven’s orders to the Security Chief. The voices in the hall dwindled to murmurs and the door pounding ceased. She put the phone back on its hook. She allowed her contempt to show as she addressed the man.

“You’re holding a knife to the throat of Mother Earth, and all you want is to speak with General Naka? What are you really after?”

“I want a certain prisoner released into my custody. On Earth’s continent of Merca, there is a vast desert in the southwest corner. In the center of that desert is a geological mystery known locally as the Sea of Glass. I will meet General Naka there at noon on Friday. I’ll be coming alone. He can bring an army if he wishes to, but those I represent will expect me to return unharmed.”

Lady Voorhaven pulled a scheduling form out of her desk and began filling it out.

“If you won’t tell me your name, whom shall I tell General Naka he is to negotiate with?”

The man stroked his beard thoughtfully. “Truth be told, I’ve never been good with names. Just make up something mysterious sounding.” He glanced at the wall clock. “I’d better get going before they get anxious. I hope we meet again under more pleasant circumstances.”

He rose from his chair slowly, almost regally. For a moment, Lady Voorhaven thought that with the excitement over, his age had caught up with him. But he moved with ease to the door and put his shoulder under the handle of the sword to pry it loose. The weapon squeaked as it came free, dropping splinters onto the carpet.

“Sorry about your door, Ma’am.”

It would have been civil for her to say something by way of parting, but she couldn’t think of anything appropriate, and this encounter had not exactly inspired civility. As the door swung open, she saw the security men lining the hallway, leveling their clean, modern machine pistols at the white haired man. They parted like the Red Sea as he passed through and disappeared around the corner.

A peculiar numbness manifested in the base of Lady Voorhaven’s neck, and began spreading upward from there. She put her elbows on the desk and her head in her hands. She could feel her pulse pounding in her temples.

Krikor Vaughn had entered the office unnoticed, and finally decided to speak. “You’re going to tell me we can’t follow him either, aren’t you?”

Lady Voorhaven peeked out from between white knuckled fingers, looking at the paternally stern portrait of Domnus Themond. “We had to let him go. There was no other option. That information could destroy everything we’ve worked so hard to build.”

Lieutenant Vaughn folded his arms. “TerSec will be howling for that man’s blood. I am not taking responsibility for releasing him.”

“Nobody’s asking you to. I’ll fill out the reports myself. We did the right thing. You don’t have to like it.”

He followed her gaze to the portrait.

“I’m more worried about whether or not he likes it,” muttered Krikor Vaughn, mostly to himself.

E N D   O F   C H A P T E R

__________________________

Born in 1980, Grant Anderson came home from the hospital in a 1975 AMC Pacer. His parents tried to give him a normal life. However, when Grant began to drive this car on a daily basis upon his 16th birthday, all chances of normalcy were forsaken. Grant was raised in Norfolk, NE. After a brief respite in Lincoln, he now resides in Louisville with his wife, Sarah, their beautiful daughter, Rose, and their Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Lucas. In his spare time, Grant is an avid reader and a military history enthusiast.  More than anything else, he is a loving husband and adoring father. At least, that’s what his family says.


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