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CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR "It's what I tried to stop!"

Second Admiral Jahanak sat on Arbela's bridge once more, watching his repeater display confirm his worst fears. He'd hurt the infidels badly in Sandhurst, but not badly enough to stop them short of Lorelei. And they were being more circumspect this time; each carrier through the warp point was accompanied by a matching superdreadnought or battleship. If he'd cared to trade blows-which he emphatically did not-they had the firepower to deal with anything he could throw at them. But after the hammering his battle-cruisers and escorts had taken from those Terra-damned invisible carriers in Sandhurst, he was in no shape to contest their entry. With the newly revealed range of their heavy missiles to support their fighter strikes, any action beyond energy-weapons range would be both suicidal and pointless. It was going to require a full-scale, point-blank warp point ambush, with all the mines, fortresses, and capital ships he could muster, to stop them.

"Pass the order, Captain Yurah," he said quietly, ignoring the empty chair in which Fleet Chaplain Hinam should have sat. Hinam hadn't been able to contest his decision to retreat without a fight-he knew too much about what the second admiral would face in such an attempt-but neither had he been able to stomach the thought of further flight. With Fleet Chaplain Manak's death at terrorist hands, he'd found an out he could embrace in good conscience and departed for the planet with all the Marines Jahanak had been able to spare to join Warden Colonel Huark's hopeless defense.

And so Jahanak's surviving mobile units departed the system. Other than the necessary pickets, they wouldn't even slow down in Alfred. Of course, there wasn't much there now to slow down for. . . .

The thought worried Jahanak a bit, not that he intended to mention it to anyone. After all, Holy Terra would triumph in the end. No issues would ever arise concerning the People's sometimes harsh but always necessary acts on the occupied planets-planets they were endeavoring to bring back into the light against the will of the hopelessly-lost human souls that inhabited them.

Still . . . Jahanak also never mentioned to anyone his private hope that that dunderhead Huark would have the prudence to destroy his records.



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