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'Make signal to Admiral Podulski on Constellation: Olive Green.'

'Thank you, James.' Dutch Maxwell turned in his swivel chair and looked at the side panel affixed to his wall, blue aluminium from his F6F Hellcat fighter, with its even rows of red-and-white painted flags, each denoting a victim of his skill. It was his personal touchstone to his profession. 'Yeoman Grafton,' he called.

'Aye aye, sir.'

'We're going?'

'There is danger involved. You know that,' George warned. It was a struggle not to react, but now that Henderson was indeed swallowing the hook, he had to set it firmly.

'Aye.' The senior chief dropped the car into gear and headed for the river. He didn't know what it was all about, but he knew it was about something. The Old Man had a spring in his step like the chief's daughter heading out for a date.

Overtraining, he told himself. You should take it easier now. He stood erect and headed down the hill, surrendering to his instincts. He found the Marines training in small groups, miming the use of their weapons while Captain Albie consulted with the four helicopter crews. Kelly was just approaching the site's LZ when a blue Navy helo landed and Admiral Maxwell emerged. Kelly, by chance, was the first one there. He knew the purpose and the message of the visit before anyone had a chance to speak.

'Make signal to Admiral Podulski on Constellation: Olive Green.'

'Anacostia, Master Chief, the helo pad.'

'Anacostia, Master Chief, the helo pad.'

Vice Admiral Winslow Holland Maxwell, USN, rose from his desk and headed out the side door into the E-Ring corridor. His first stop was at the office in the Air Force's section of the building.

'No, Peter, you will not.' George walked down the stone steps towards Traitor's Gate. It required all of his considerable self-control not to laugh aloud at the mixture of what he had just accomplished and the thundering irony of the portcullised stone arch before his eyes. Five minutes later he stepped into a black London taxi and directed the driver to head towards Harrods Department Store in Knightsbridge.

'Anacostia, Master Chief, the helo pad.'

Overtraining, he told himself. You should take it easier now. He stood erect and headed down the hill, surrendering to his instincts. He found the Marines training in small groups, miming the use of their weapons while Captain Albie consulted with the four helicopter crews. Kelly was just approaching the site's LZ when a blue Navy helo landed and Admiral Maxwell emerged. Kelly, by chance, was the first one there. He knew the purpose and the message of the visit before anyone had a chance to speak.

Cassius, he thought. No, that wasn't right. Casca, perhaps. But it was too late to change it now, and besides, who would have have seen the humor in it? Glazov reached in his pocket for his shopping list.

'People like you need to be protected. You will be contacted when you get home.' George paused. 'Peter, I am a father. I have a daughter who is six and a son who is two. Because of your work, and mine, they will grow up in a much better world - a peaceful world. For them, Peter, I thank you. I must go now.'

'Yes, sir?' a petty officer appeared in his doorway.

At Sergeant Irvin's behest, chaplains came to the group. Consciences were cleared. A few wills were drafted - just in case, the embarrassed Marines told the visiting officers - and all the while the Marines focused more and more on the mission, their minds casting aside extraneous concerns and concentrating on something identified only by a code name selected at random from separate lists of words. Every man walked over to the training site, checking placement and angles, usually with his most immediate teammate, practicing their run-in approach or the paths they'd take once the shooting started. Every one began his own personal exercise regime, running a mile or two on his own in addition to the regular morning and afternoon efforts, both to work off tension and to be just a little bit more certain that he'd be ready for it. A trained observer could see it from their look: serious but not tense, focused but not obsessive, confident but not cocky. Other Marines at Quantico kept their distance when they saw the team, wondering why the special place and the odd schedule, why the Cobras on the flight line, why the Navy rescue pilots in the Q, but one look at the team in the piney woods was all the warning they needed to mute the questions and keep their distance. Something special was happening.

Vice Admiral Winslow Holland Maxwell, USN, rose from his desk and headed out the side door into the E-Ring corridor. His first stop was at the office in the Air Force's section of the building.

'See you, George,' Henderson said. It caused George to turn and smile one last time.

'Make signal to Admiral Podulski on Constellation: Olive Green.'

'You said you'd do it, sir,'

'Make signal to Admiral Podulski on Constellation: Olive Green.'

'No, Peter, you will not.' George walked down the stone steps towards Traitor's Gate. It required all of his considerable self-control not to laugh aloud at the mixture of what he had just accomplished and the thundering irony of the portcullised stone arch before his eyes. Five minutes later he stepped into a black London taxi and directed the driver to head towards Harrods Department Store in Knightsbridge.

'Anacostia, Master Chief, the helo pad.'

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