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"Bernardus!" Dame Estelle Matsuko swept across the room to greet her visitor. "Thank you for coming!"

"Madam Governor, anything I can do to be of service is, of course, yours for the asking," he said graciously, and actually bent over her hand to bestow a kiss upon it.

The old boy's got the chivalrous courtesy bit down cold , Helen Zilwicki thought admiringly, trailing along behind the rest of the party as befitted her astronomically junior status.

"That's very good of you," the Provisional Governor said much more seriously. "Especially since I know how badly you wanted to get away from Spindle."

"That was a tactical decision, Madam Governor, not a reflection of any desire to quit the fray before the annexation's completed."

"Good," she said, "because 'the fray's' gotten progressively uglier since you left, and I need you." She waved her hand at another door, through which Helen could just make out an enormous conference table and at least half a dozen more people, including Rear Admiral Khumalo. "Please, come join us. We have a lot to talk about."



Chapter Thirty-Five | The Shadow of Saganami | * * *







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