Published on December 4, 2014
I T HE first thought Anderton had when he saw the young man was: I'm getting bald. Bald and fat and old. But he didn't say it aloud. Instead, he pushed back his chair, got to his feet, and came resolutely around the side of his desk, his right hand rigidly extended. Smiling with forced amiability, he shook hands with the young man. "Witwer?" he asked, managing to make this query sound gracious. "That's right," the young man said. "But the name's Ed to you, of course. That is, if you share my dislike for needless formality." The look on his blond, overly-confident face showed that he considered the matter settled. It would be Ed and John: Everything would be agreeably cooperative right from the start. "Did you have much trouble finding the building?" Anderton asked guardedly, ignoring the too-friendly overture. Good God, he had to hold on to something. Fear touched him and he began to sweat. Witwer was moving around the office as if he already owned it -- as if he were measuring it for size. Couldn't he wait a couple of days -- a decent interval? "No trouble," Witwer answered blithely, his hands in his pockets. Eagerly, he examined the voluminous files that lined the wall. "I'm not coming into your agency blind, you understand. I have quite a few ideas of my own about the way Precrime is run." Shakily, Anderton lit his pipe. "How is it run? I should like to know." "Not badly," Witwer said. "In fact, quite well." Anderton regarded him steadily. "Is that your private opinion? Or is it just cant?" Witwer met his gaze guilelessly. "Private and public. The Senate's pleased with your work. In fact, they're enthusiastic." He added, "As enthusiastic as very old men can be." Anderton winced, but outwardly he remained impassive. It cost him an effort, though. He wondered what Witwer really thought. What was actually going on in that close-cropped skull? The young man's eyes were blue, bright -- and disturbingly clever. Witwer was nobody's fool. And obviously he had a great deal of ambition. "As I understand it," Anderton said cautiously, "you're going to be my assistant until I retire." "That's my understanding, too," the other replied, without an instant's hesitation. "Which may be this year, or next year -- or ten years from now." The pipe in Anderton's hand trembled. "I'm under no compulsion to retire. I founded Precrime and I can stay on here as long as I want. It's purely my decision." Witwer nodded, his expression still guileless. "Of course." With an effort, Anderton cooled down a trifle. "I merely wanted to get things straight." "From the start," Witwer agreed. "You're the boss. What you say goes." With every evidence of sincerity, he asked: "Would you care to show me the organization? I'd like to familiarize myself with the general routine as soon as possible." As they walked along the busy, yellow-lit tiers of offices, Anderton said: "You're acquainted with the theory of precrime, of course. I presume we can take that for granted."