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.It’s been expensive.We could have done better things with that money.We could have, but we didn’t get the chance.And that’s the USA’s fault.”Inside, he was laughing.Here he was, blaming the United States for what he’d most wanted to do anyhow.The black guerrillas had given him the perfect excuse for rearming.Even the USA hadn’t squawked much about it.Had the guerrillas been white, he thought the USA would have.But the United States loved Negroes hardly more than the Confederate States did.They’d made it very plain they didn’t want the ones who tried to flee to the north.He didn’t know whether the United States were arming the guerrillas.He knew he would have if he were in charge in Philadelphia.But coming up with U.S.-made weapons and putting them in the hands of dead Negroes so photographers could snap pictures of them was the easiest thing in the world.“President Smith says the United States want peace.They act like they want trouble.We would rather have peace, too.But if they think we can’t handle trouble, they had better think again.”That was a bluff, nothing else but.If the United States pushed hard against the Confederate States, he hadn’t a prayer of resisting.But the USA had seemed ever more reluctant to hang on to their conquests.If they couldn’t even manage that, they weren’t very likely to do anything more.In the control room, the engineer held up a hand, fingers spread: five minutes.Jake nodded to show he’d seen the signal.He’d had a good notion of what the time was, but he wanted to make sure everything ran smoothly.“North America is a big place,” he said.“We’re not all crowded together, the way they are in Europe.There’s room on this continent for two great countries—maybe even for three, if the United States ever bother to recollect what they’ve done up in the north.” A smile that was half snarl flitted across his face.He enjoyed nothing more than sticking a needle in the USA.“If the United States think the Confederate States can’t be great again, if they think we shouldn’t be great again, then they had better think again about that, too.“All we really want is for them to take their noses out of our affairs, to take them out and to keep them out.That’s what good neighbors do.Bad neighbors get doors slammed in their faces, and they deserve it, too.But I don’t really expect we’ll have any trouble.If they’re just reasonable, we’ll get on fine.”To Featherston, if they’re just reasonable meant if they do what I want.That the phrase could mean anything else never occurred to him.He’d just said the last word when the engineer drew a finger across his throat and the red light went out.Jake got to his feet and stretched.As usual, Saul Goldman waited for him right outside the studio door.Goldman’s title—director of communications—didn’t sound like much, any more than the little Jew looked like much.But it meant that Goldman was in charge of the way the Freedom Party and the Confederate States presented themselves to the world.“Good job, Mr.President,” he said now.“Thank you kindly, Saul,” Jake answered.He spent more politeness on Goldman than on most people, a recognition of how valuable he thought the other man was.The Party and the CSA could get by without a lot of fellows who brought only fanaticism.Losing somebody with brains would have hurt much more.Brains were harder to come by.Goldman said, “You do remember you’ve got the rally tonight? That’s going to be the speech about agriculture and about the dams and electricity.”“I remember,” Jake said indulgently.“Got to talk about what’s going on inside the country.That’s what most folks worry about first.Wouldn’t want anything to go wrong with my reelection.” He laughed.Nothing would go wrong.But saying the word felt good.Up till now, no elected Confederate president had, or could have, been reelected.Now that the amendment had repealed those seven nasty words, though, Jake could go on about his business without worrying about leaving office after only six years.He clapped Goldman on the back.“You did real good with the campaign for the amendment, too.”“Thank you, Mr.President,” Goldman said.“You’re the one who will have to make it worthwhile.”“And I intend to,” Featherston said.He was feeling pretty cocky as he strode out of the studio and got into his armored limousine.“Back to the Gray House?” the driver asked.“That’s right, Virgil,” Jake answered.Virgil Joyner had been driving him for years—ever since the Party struggled for survival after Grady Calkins assassinated President Hampton.Featherston trusted him as far as he trusted anybody.Outriders on motorcycles pulled away from the curb before the limousine got going.Featherston didn’t believe in taking chances he didn’t have to.He wanted to make sure he got to enjoy his second term.The limousine glided past Capitol Square.Everything there was clean and tidy and orderly.No more shantytown right at the heart of the CSA.All the hungry squatters had been cleared away well before the Olympics, and they hadn’t come back.Freedom Party stalwarts made damn sure they didn’t come back.But instead of turning left to go up Shockoe Hill to the presidential residence, the driver hit the brakes.“What the hell?” Jake said.“There’s a wreck up ahead,” Joyner answered.“We’ll have to go around.”Sure enough, not just two but three autos had tangled at the corner of Twelfth and Capitol.Steam jetted from smashed radiators.Drivers and passengers stood by the wreckage arguing about who’d done what to whom.Joyner blew his horn, which did no good at all.Featherston’s outriders descended from the motorcycles to push the wreckage out of the way, which was a lot more practical.Another big motorcar raced down Twelfth Street.It screeched to a stop on the far side of the accident.Three men in the white shirts and butternut trousers of Freedom Party stalwarts got out.Jake didn’t think anything about that till they raised submachine guns and started shooting.“Get the hell out of here!” he shouted as his guards started falling.The men who were dressed like stalwarts—or, worse, really were stalwarts—ran forward, shooting as they ran.One of them fell, which meant they hadn’t picked off all the outriders, but the others came on.Virgil Joyner put the limousine in reverse, but it could only limp—the assassins had shot out the two front tires.Their bullets starred the windscreen.Pretty soon, they’d punch through; even bulletproof glass could take only so much.Rifle rounds would have smashed through the glass right away.Featherston and his driver both had.45s—not the best weapons to use against submachine guns, but a hell of a lot better than nothing.A heartbeat before the windscreen finally blew in and sprayed fragments of glass all over the passenger compartment, Jake threw himself flat in the back seat.Bullets thudded into the upholstery just above his head.And then the stream of bullets punishing the limousine stopped [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]