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Chapter Forty-Two

Sirens continued to wail as the raiders decelerated towards Elysium. There had been no communication from the "Fleet" ships, and that, in light of what had just occurred, was more than sufficient proof of their purpose.

The governor sat in his communications center and watched his staff coordinate Elysium's mobilization. The planetary militia-such as it was and what there was of it-was marshaling with gratifying speed … for whatever good it might accomplish. The militia was considerably stronger than it had been as little as a single standard year earlier, but he'd launched his effort to recruit it up to strength as a backup for the single reinforced Marine company of the planetary garrisons purely as a morale-booster to prove he was Doing Something. He'd never anticipated that it might actually be called upon, and the rest of his careful plans were a shambles. The evacuation centers were already madhouses, and the background crackle of reports from their managers grew more frantic with every second.

A dedicated screen lit, and Captain von Hamel, Elysium's senior Marine, looked out of it and saluted. His eyes were level despite the strain in them, and he already wore his battle armor.

"Governor. My people are heading for their initial positions. We should be at full readiness well before the bandits launch their shuttles."

"Good." The governor tried to put some enthusiasm into his voice, but he knew as well as von Hamel just how little chance the Marines had.

"Brigadier Ivanov tells me his people are running a bit behind schedule, but I anticipate they'll be ready by the time anyone hits their local perimeters," von Hamel continued, and this time the governor simply nodded. Even von Hamel, who'd supported the militia recruiting drive strongly from the beginning, had trouble sounding confident over that, and he leaned closer to his pickup.

"Sir, I've heard some strange reports on that battlecruiser, and-"

"They're true." The governor cut him off grimly and von Hamel's face went even tighter. "Orbit Command confirmed she was Fleet-built, and we caught a last-minute transmission from Hermes just before she rammed. They definitely identified her as HMS Poltava. According to the records, she went to the breakers twenty-two months ago; apparently the records are wrong."

"Shit." The governor, normally a stickler for decorum, didn't even frown at von Hamel's expletive. "That means these other bastards are probably real Fleet designs … with a real ground element." The captain was thinking aloud, his eyes darker than ever. "We can't hold the capital against that kind of attack, and they've got the orbital firepower to take out any fixed position. I'm afraid Thermopylae's our only option, Sir."

"Agreed. We're trying to evacuate now, but we expected at least six hours of lead time. We're not going to get many of them out."

"I'll buy you all the time I can, Sir, but it won't be much," von Hamel warned, and the governor nodded his thanks.

"Understood, Major. God bless."

"And you, Sir. We're both going to need it."



* * * | In Fury Born | * * *







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