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his eyes opened wider.
 Uh& terrible, sir! He tried to sit up, and failed. He was pinned to the bed
by a labyrinth of tubes, conduits, and data feeds.
 At ease, at ease, the apparition said.  I m General Alexander. They told me
they were bringing you out of medical cybe-hibe this morning. I wanted to stop
by and see you.
 Uh, yes, sir. He blinked. The last thing he remembered&
 You have every right to feel terrible. I gather they ve been practically
regrowing you from scratch. Right now, I think you have more medical nano
inside you than you have cells, snipping out the bad bits and weaving together
the good!
 I& was going to kill myself. I was trying to kill myself& .
 I know. Your platoon AI told us all about it. Alexander folded his arms.  I
suppose I should chew you a new one for trying to destroy government property.
But under the circumstances, you had every right.
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I m just glad you didn t carry it through.
 I tried, sir. I really did. But I couldn t find the catch on my helmet.
He grinned.  Yeah. I heard, Achilles said when you shut him out, he couldn t
freeze your arm actuators any longer, but he could still overload the sensory
feedback circuits in the sleeve of your armor. Not lock them, but feed extra
energy through them, burn them out. You thought you were reaching for the
release lever, but you couldn t control the arm of your 660 well enough to
find it.
 I& know. I kept hitting my helmet, scraping at the side. Couldn t figure why I
couldn t hit it. Such a simple thing. Then& then I heard a thump on the ship s
hull. I thought God was knocking.
 Almost, Alexander said, nodding.  Gunnery Sergeant Warhurst. Now Staff
Sergeant Warhurst, by the way. He s in the next compartment over, next to
yours. You ll be able to thank him in person in a day or two, I m told.
  Next compartment? Where are we, anyway, sir?
 You re on board the medical ship Barton. You ve been a long time healing. So
has he, though he wasn t nearly as burned to a crisp as you were!
 How& long?
 About a month. It s now 15 January, in this, the Year of our Corps 1103.
 A month! And& did it work? The mission, I mean.
 Perfectly. Complete success. You followed your mission profile down to the
letter, the star blew, and as near as we can tell, every Xul in the system was
vaporized. His face showed a sudden sadness.  We lost a lot of ships before
it was all over. A lot of people. But most of the MIEF came through.
 So& what happens now, sir?
 Operation Gorgon continues. We rest, we refit. We make up our losses, both in
men and ships. And we plan where to hit the Xul next.
 We have a weapon that can kick  em right where it hurts, General.
 And allies, Alexander added.  Damned if I know how we re going to
incorporate them into a Marine unit, but we have allies. The Eulers,
definitely. And maybe some others as well.
 Uh, where are we now, anyway? Back at Earth? Or at Puller 659?
 Actually, we re in Aquila Space, though we have pickets rotating out at
Starwall, watching for the Xul.
We ve been in contact with Earth, though, with QCC& and with Aurore, too, and
there s been some ship traffic back and forth. You ll be interested to know
that we might have some unexpected reinforcements coming through the Gate
soon. The PEs are joining us. The Rommel and some of the other ships at Puller
have already come through. I guess the PanEuropeans were rather impressed by
your little escapade at Starwall. Or&  He shrugged.  Maybe they just don t
want us to have the technology for blowing up stars all to ourselves. The
politics of this are going to be damned interesting.
 Shit, sir. Who the hell needs them? We can take on the Xul ourselves!
Alexander grinned.  That s the spirit, Marine. Bending over, he clapped
Garroway s shoulder, then reached into a belt pouch.  Oh, by the way. I ve got
something for you here& .
He pulled out two felt-covered gray cases, and opened them one after another,
then set them on the pillow by Garroway s head. Garroway turned his head,
trying to focus on them.
 The Purple Heart, Alexander said.  And the Medal of Honor. There ll be a
formal ceremony later, when you re recovered, but I wanted to be the one to
let you know.
 I& I don t know what to say, sir.
Alexander shrugged.  What is there to say? You earned them both.
 But it wasn t just me, sir. I was just stupid enough to volunteer.
 You re right, of course. But, well& you and I both know it s not about
 No, sir.
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He gestured at the Medal of Honor, gold star gleaming beneath a blue silk
ribbon, a design a millennium old.  I did some checking. I gather you re not
the first Garroway to win that little blue ribbon.
 No, sir. Sands of Mars Garroway had won the coveted award some eight
centuries before.
 Thanks for coming after me. For looking for me. I& I guess I kind of lost
faith out there. I didn t think you would find me.
 Hey, Marines never leave their own behind. Never.
 I& know.
 Semper fi, Alexander told him.  Semper fi, Marine.
My special thanks to David Plottel, friend, programmer, mathematician, and
ubergeek, for his insights into Leonhard Euler and the God-equation known as
Euler s Identity.
About the Author
IAN DOUGLAS is the author of the popular military SF series The Heritage
Trilogy and The Legacy
Trilogy. A former naval corpsman, he lives in Pennsylvania.
Visit www.AuthorTracker.com for exclusive information on your favorite
HarperCollins author.
By Ian Douglas
Books in the Inheritance Trilogy
Books in the Legacy Trilogy
Books in the Heritage Trilogy
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