A shackled Earth, ruled by an unstoppable tyrant
An exiled son, and a one-way trip across the galaxy
A perfect world, their last hope for survival

“This fast-paced starfaring adventure succeeds with a thrilling mix of space battles and tender emotions.”

Publishers Weekly Starred Review of Exile

Vice Admiral Isaac Gallant is the heir apparent to the First Admiral, the dictator of the Confederacy of Humanity. Unwilling to let his mother’s tyranny stand, he joins the rebellion and leads his ships into war against the might of his own nation.

Betrayal and failure, however, see Isaac Gallant and his allies captured. Rather than execute her only son, the First Admiral instead decides to exile them, flinging four million dissidents and rebels through a one-shot wormhole to the other end of the galaxy.

There, Isaac finds himself forced to keep order and peace as they seek out a new home without becoming the very dictator he fought against—and when that new home turns out to be too perfect to be true, he and his fellow exiles must decide how hard they are prepared to fight for paradise…against the very people who built it.

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Chapter 1

“The wormhole station is ours.”

The transmission from the Marine boarding parties that Vice Admiral Isaac Gallant’s people had spent weeks infiltrating onto the Eridani Wormhole Station echoed loudly across the flag bridge of the Confederacy battlecruiser Vigil.

“Do we have a stable communication wormhole?” the Vice Admiral asked calmly. If his Marines had seized the station, then the die was well and truly cast. The Rubicon was crossed.

Battle Group Vigil was now unquestionably in rebellion.

“Brigadier Zamarano has her people holding the line,” his communications officer replied.

“Put her on,” Isaac ordered. “Kira, what’s your status?”

“We have secured all key engineering and command segments of the EWS,” Kira Zamarano said crisply. “Resistance has been minimal. We have some casualties but no fatalities on either side. Overwhelming force pulled its usual trick.”

“Well done, Brigadier. Pass my regards on to the Marines of the 77th,” Isaac ordered.

EWS had roughly a battalion of Marines as security. Zamarano had infiltrated her entire 77th Brigade aboard the station. That kind of imbalance of forces was useful for avoiding losses.

“Inter-system communications?” he asked his Marine commander.

“Locked down. We now control all communication and travel out of Epsilon Eridani,” she confirmed. “What are your orders?”

“Move to Phase Two,” Isaac replied. “The Battle Group will be on our way momentarily. 35th Brigade will bring your transports with theirs. How many Marines will be needed to hold EWS?”

“By the time you get our transports to us, I’ll have everything locked down enough that we can leave a battalion behind and bring the other three to Sol,” she confirmed instantly.

“All right, Brigadier, we’ll see you shortly,” he told her.

He rose from his chair, striding up to the main holodisplay as his flag deck crew watched, waiting for him to say what they knew was coming.

“Rhianna, hit the Rebellion channels,” he told his com officer. “Inform Archangel that Bombardier is moving.”

It would take several hours for the message to percolate through the network of wormhole communicators that linked the Confederacy together, but that was fine. It would take fourteen hours for Battle Group Vigil to reach the wormhole station.

By the time they were ready to transit to Sol, the Rebellion would be activating cells across human space. Most of those were irrelevant to Isaac—he cared about the cells in Sol, the ones that were supposed to take over Earth Fortress Command.

“Cameron.” He turned to his operations officer. “Please inform all Captains that we are initiating Bonaparte. They are to set their course for the Eridani Wormhole Station, matching Vigil’s maximum flank acceleration.”

He smiled.

“Officers, it’s time to retake the Confederacy for her people.”

His orders set the entire flag bridge into motion—and thousands of people throughout the hull of the battlecruiser as well. The big holographic tank in the middle of the flag deck showed the icons of his battle group, twenty-five strong.

Eight of those icons were useless in a fight. Two hundred and twenty meters long and carrying a battalion of Confederacy Marines apiece, the Orbital Attack Transports technically weren’t under his command.

Brigadiers Zamarano and Michaels had thrown in with his rebellion long before, though. Eight battalions. Two brigades. A tiny force to fling against the might of the Confederacy, but it was what he had.

Ten ships, smaller than the OATs, moved around them. Those were his destroyers, speedy little ships that were designed to make high-speed attack runs at ships like his Vigil.

Two missile cruisers flanked the main formation, his snipers that would try to take out destroyers before they closed on the battlecruiser flagship.

Four warp cruisers led the way, their vulnerable drive rings making them the only ships in his rebellion that could outspeed light on their own. Everyone else required the wormholes, and the warp cruisers couldn’t carry the battle to come.

That would fall on Vigil herself, the four hundred and thirty-meter-long behemoth at the heart of the battlecruiser group. Two full battle groups guarded Sol, and while Battle Group Vigil out-gunned either of them individually, the fight to come would test them to their limits.

“Battle Group is in motion,” Commander Cameron Alstairs told him quietly. “Estimated time of arrival at EWS is sixteen hundred hours Greenwich Meridian Time, June fifth, 2386.”

There was no need for Alstairs to give him the full date, but the weight of the moment was on them all. Only once before had units of the Confederacy Space Fleet turned on their government.

The result of that was what Isaac Gallant was going to fix.

#

“We have confirmation from Archangel,” Rhianna Rose told Isaac. “All plans are now in motion, and Archangel has double-confirmed activation of Dynamite and their cell.”

A cell-based structure made sense to Isaac, but it made the kind of massive, multisystem plan they were executing cumbersome. As “Bombardier,” he was in the second tier of cells, but he didn’t know Archangel’s true identity—and all Archangel knew about Bombardier was that they were a battle group commander.

That would probably have been enough to get a lot of people killed. The Confederacy only had twenty-six battle groups, after all.

In many senses, though, Dynamite was even more key to their plan than Isaac. Dynamite was a division commander in Earth Fortress Command—there were only six of those, and Isaac was pretty sure he knew which one Dynamite was.

Dynamite would deliver the EFC to the rebellion and, almost more importantly, neutralize Liberty. Isaac would back Battle Group Vigil against any of the Confederacy’s other battlecruiser groups, but his force could not fight the Confederacy’s dreadnought.

“77th Brigade’s transports are rendezvousing at EWS,” Alstairs reported. “Brigadier Zamarano reports the last of her people who are going will be aboard in twenty minutes. Colonel Nguyen is retaining command of the station; he gives us thirty-three minutes to wormhole activation to Sol.”

“Have they had any problems with the communication lockdown?” Isaac asked.

“Nothing,” Alstairs replied. “No questions, even. That seems…odd.”

“That’s very odd,” the Admiral agreed. The Eridani Wormhole Station was responsible for all outgoing interstellar communications from the Epsilon Eridani System. It had been silent for over thirteen hours. The rebellion had an excuse and a reason for that, one that should have passed muster, but they hadn’t even been asked for it.…

“Sir?” Rose asked quietly.

The word hung in the sudden silence on the flag deck.

A moment later, Captain Lauretta Giannovi appeared on the computer screen tattooed into Isaac’s left forearm. His Italian-born flag captain looked…uncomfortable.
“I can’t put my finger on it, sir,” she told him. “But something doesn’t feel right.”

“I know,” he agreed. He rose from his chair, studying the holographic display.

“We’ve already initiated,” he told his flag deck crew. “We can’t abort now—if we do, thousands are going to die for nothing.” He shivered. “Once Archangel’s messages start arriving, half the Confederacy is going up in flames.

“We can’t stop now,” he echoed. He studied the position of his fleet. Currently, they were decelerating for a nice, calm wormhole transition. One that wouldn’t draw attention when they arrived in Sol for anything other than its size.

“In fact, Cameron—order all ships to cease deceleration. Bring up engines at full, straight at the wormhole target zone. Have Colonel Nguyen prep the wormhole for immediate activation. We’re going to hit it as fast as we can and punch clean through.”

“We’ll draw all kinds of attention when we come out,” Alstairs noted.

“Surprise would be nice, but the positioning of Sol’s battle groups is what we’re actually relying on,” Isaac reminded him. “Pass the orders. Let’s punch it.”

#

The warships and transports flipped in space, no longer slowing as they approached the wormhole station but blazing toward it. The smaller ships matched Vigil’s acceleration, keeping pace with the battlecruiser that would have to carry the heaviest fighting once they reached Sol.

In some ways, it was almost a relief to Isaac when the other shoe dropped.

“Admiral, we have wormhole energy signatures,” Captain Giannovi said flatly over the link from the bridge. “Dropping them to the tactical feed now.”

Signatures. Plural. That was definitely not good.

“How bad, Cameron?” he asked quietly as the data filled in on the display.

“No details on who’s coming through yet, but we have nine individual wormholes forming,” his ops officer replied. “Wait…I have emergence.”

The battlecruisers led the way. Enterprise, from Alpha Centauri with her overstrength battle group, the Confederacy’s other strategic reserve force.

Dante, the previous flagship here in Eridani.

Calypso, from Conestoga.

Athena, from Tau Ceti.

Zulu, from Erewhon.

Victoria, from New Soweto.

And Glorious from Sol itself.

Eight battlecruisers. Only Glorious was Vigil’s equal; the other ships were older, smaller to various degrees. Vigil could take any one of them—but there was no way she could take all of them.

“Sir, the last wormhole…” Alstairs trailed off as the data codes propagated.

Liberty. As long as the battlecruisers but eight times as wide and carrying six particle cannons to the battlecruisers’ one apiece. The Confederacy’s only dreadnought, with a ninth battlecruiser for escort and an entire battle group to support them.

“IFF codes confirm the First Admiral is aboard,” Isaac’s operations officer concluded. “What do we do?”

Ten capital ships versus one. Nine battle groups versus one. If they were here, Isaac could be almost certain that Dynamite had failed, and Earth Fortress Command was still in loyalist hands.

“Sir, Liberty is hailing us,” Rhianna Rose told Isaac. “…It’s the First Admiral herself.”

Of course it was.

They could run. They had enough of a velocity advantage that Battle Group Vigil might be able to pass through the gauntlet and make it into the outer system.

It wouldn’t help them. If Nguyen tried to generate a portal, Zulu and Athena were positioned to disable the station’s exotic-matter projectors. They couldn’t leave the system. Any other option was just…wasting time.

“Admiral Gallant is repeating her hail,” Rose told him. “What do we do?”

Isaac exhaled and nodded.

“Cameron, order the battle group to cease acceleration,” he said quietly. “Rhianna…put my mother on.”

The ships around him shut down their engines, coasting on inertia toward the entire fleet that was waiting for them as the image of First Admiral Adrienne Gallant, the unquestioned military dictator of the Confederacy of Earth, appeared in the main holotank.

Isaac had inherited his merely average height from his petite mother, even if his dark coloring took after his father, a native of New Soweto.

Adrienne Gallant was slightly built and pale-skinned, with hair that had faded from gold to silver over the course of the last twenty-plus years of dictatorship. She didn’t look like the bloodyhanded tyrant who’d ordered the deaths of hundreds of thousands to maintain her power base.

Looks were deceiving. Isaac’s mother had blasted her way into Earth orbit and “temporarily suspended” the office of President when the President and his cronies had become too openly corrupt for anyone to tolerate anymore.

Like most revolutions, she’d had popular support. When that had faded, she’d had the Fleet.

“Isaac,” she greeted him. “Are we going to play games about what’s happening here?”

“No,” he said stonily. “You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have enough information.”

“I would not,” she agreed. “Commodore Trevelyan was your mistake, if you wondered. He was doing such a good job, too, until he tried to co-opt the wrong person and panicked.” She smiled coldly. “In his place, I’d have made better arrangements to kill Captain Pratchett if she was uninterested.

“Instead, your entire house of cards has come crumbling down. So, tell me, Isaac, are you going to run the gauntlet?”

He was eyeing the math. Vigil was the newest battlecruiser in the fleet—there were perks to being the dictator’s only child—which meant he had a slight but measurable range advantage with his particle cannon over the rest of the Confederacy Space Fleet battlecruisers.

Vigil could potentially kill at least one, possible even two or three, of her older sisters.

But then Liberty would end Isaac’s revolt.

“No,” he finally admitted. “I’d ask you to guarantee my people’s lives, but we both know how often those guarantees have been ignored.”

That was probably a low blow, but it was true nonetheless.

“I have done what I must,” Adrienne Gallant said coldly. “I thought you understood that.”

“I did. It was everything else I objected to,” Isaac replied.

“Order your ships to stand down and prepare to be boarded,” the First Admiral told him. “Your rebellion is over.”

Isaac nodded and killed the channel.

“You heard her,” he told his people. “Stand them down. Stand them all down.”

He waited there, in his command chair on his flag deck. Watching the red icons of Confederacy assault shuttles swarm over the fleet he’d hoped to free his people with.

He waited there until the Marines came to arrest him.

2

“Miss Amelie! Miss Amelie! Can I get your autograph?”

There was something both precious and stereotypical about the girl running towards Amelie Lestroud down the street of Nouveau Paris. She was all of maybe twelve years old, probably hadn’t been allowed to see more than half of Amelie’s movies yet and had a mother closer to Amelie’s own age trailing behind her, desperately trying to impose decorum.

Amelie smiled at the girl as she stopped and turned to face her.

“Of course, miss,” she told the child. “Do you have something for me to sign?”

The girl blinked in confusion, but her mother managed to produce a flimsy copy of Stars of Honor, last year’s big blockbuster action epic, for Amelie to scrawl her signature across. The sheet of paper-like material contained the entire three hour-long three-dimensional production, but it was really only the size it was to allow for exactly this purpose.

“I’m sorry, she just loves your movies,” the mother told Amelie. “I’m sorry to interrupt.”

Amelie’s companion was manfully refraining from rolling his eyes, but Amelie had known Archie Dresden for a very long time.

“It’s not a problem,” Amelie assured the mother and daughter pair. “But we are in a hurry, so I can’t stick around.”

The mother offered profuse thanks as Amelie and Dresden moved on down the Nouveau Parisian street.

“In a hurry,” Dresden muttered. “That’s a bit of an understatement, isn’t it? Archangel?”

“Shut it, Artemis,” she replied out of the side of her mouth. The tall blonde actress had long since mastered the art of speaking without anyone hearing or seeing her lips move that she didn’t want. “None of this is that time-sensitive, not until Bombardier is actually in Earth orbit, and children like that are why we do everything.”

Movies. Appearances. Autographs. Armed multisystem revolution. All of these were things Amelie Lestroud did for the future and the children who would live in it.

Stepping off the street into the apartment building, they quickly reached their destination. Amelie lived in the penthouse apartment at the top of the seventy-three-story tower—and owned the building, so no one would ever question her arriving there.

Instead of her luxurious penthouse, however, she and Dresden entered a rundown apartment on the twenty-third floor. The security cameras on this floor had been glitchy for years. That they hadn’t recorded the two of them in the hallway wasn’t unusual, even if it was intentional. This time.

Amelie let the door close behind them and then tapped the light-control panel in a specific pattern. A piece of cheap plastic paneling slid aside, allowing a very modern communications setup to slide out of the wall as the blinds closed and the door locked behind her.

“What updates do we have?” she asked Dresden as she took a seat at the console.

Officially, Archie Dresden was her bodyguard. Anyone who’d noticed his earbud would have dismissed it as part of his job.

Unofficially, he was Artemis, the right-hand man of the leader of an armed revolution.

“All of the B-tier cells have reported in but one,” he told her. “I’ve heard nothing out of New Soweto. Buzzard hasn’t checked in.”

“Damn. What about the secondary?” she asked.

“I’ve thrown a note in the dead drop for Cherry Bomb, but I haven’t heard back,” he said grimly. “We may have to temporarily write off New Soweto, move in later once we’ve secured the other systems.”

“I’d be more okay with that if New Soweto wasn’t the CSP HQ,” she pointed out. The Confederacy Secret Police were exactly what they called themselves—and the biggest obstacle to Amelie’s revolution. “What about battle group tracking? Do we know who’s moving? Not that I’m really questioning Bombardier, but I’m curious who they actually are.”

“That’s the odd one,” Dresden replied. “We’ve got a lot of movement in the battle groups, more than usual but not entirely out of the norm…but the first to move was Epsilon Eridani.”

“Gallant’s son?” Amelie said. “That’s not a good sign. There’s no chance in hell that Battle Group Vigil is Bombardier.”

“Except Eridani’s wormhole coms also went down exactly on Bombardier’s schedule,” her bodyguard pointed out. “The Iron Bitch’s son might actually be Bombardier.”

“Great. Because we need more complications at this late an hour,” she snapped. “What about Dynamite? Have we heard from their control?”

“Final confirmation codes. Nothing more. We shouldn’t hear anything more until after it’s all over.”

Amelie nodded, drumming her fingers on the console. “So…what do we do now?” she finally asked.

Dresden laughed.

“Unfortunately, my dear Amelie, we wait,” he told her. “We’ve spent ten years arranging this, contacting the factions, assembling the Bravo cells and making sure the money and weapons went where they need to be.

“And you, Miss Lestroud, made it all happen. Which means now you wait to hear how it all comes out.”

She grimaced.

As one of the Confederacy’s top actresses, she had every reason to travel across star systems and meet with thousands of people. Her trips had been the perfect cover for meeting and negotiating with rebel organizations in every star system. She’d bribed and laundered and blackmailed and—though she didn’t like to think about it—murdered her way to assembling the largest prepared revolution in history.

Now it was time to throw the dice and see where her carefully assembled plans landed.

#

“Still no response from Cherry Bomb?” Amelie asked, checking the com systems.

“Nothing,” Dresden confirmed. “Our entire New Soweto network is down.” He shook his head. “With it being the CSP’s headquarters…”

“We’ve probably lost everybody,” the actress-turned-revolutionary half-whispered. The nature of a cell-based organization meant she had only the roughest notion of how many people they’d had on New Soweto…but Buzzard had been planning on assaulting the CSP’s main facility.

That meant hundreds, if not thousands, of armed volunteers. All of whom were now off her network, potentially arrested or dead. It wasn’t a good first step.

“Fleet movements are getting…hazier,” Dresden said as well. “Our contacts in the wormhole stations are saying that a lot of the interstellar Fleet coms are going black. Very black.”

That wasn’t good. They’d relied on their ability to see what Fleet was doing to keep Bombardier warned if the CSF was moving against him. But if the…

“Wait, what the hell?”

“Archie?” she snapped.

“I just got an emergency pulse from Chariot—and then the entire Sol network went offline,” he told her. “All Chariot said was that Bastard was down and they were compromised.”

Red icons started to flash up across Amelie’s system and she stared at them in horror.

“Our coms are down,” she said softly. “All of our wormhole station people just went offline.”

She now had no idea what anyone outside of the Nouveau Versailles System was doing. “Is it just us or did all communications go down?” she asked.

The Confederacy had only done that during the purges, when entire system governments had risen up against the central government. They’d shut down all of the communication wormholes.

“Everything is down,” he told her. “They’ve gone to full blackout. That should have taken hours to get into play. How?”

“They knew we were coming,” Amelie said flatly. “Someone fucked up. I don’t know if they’re ready for us everywhere, but they knew it was coming.”

She hit a button.

“Bartholomew,” she barked into a microphone. “Everything’s busted. Go now.”

Bartholomew was the primary cell leader on the planet of Cherbourg, the man charged with organizing the rebellion’s seizure of government houses and the planetary defense centers.

“We need to move,” Dresden said grimly. “Bartholomew” was also Barry Wong, Archie Dresden’s boyfriend. “We need to go to ground while our people try and pull what they can out of this mess.”

“I can’t abandon—”

“Yes. You can,” her minder snapped. “If they haven’t flagged you, your connections are the only chance of pulling anything out of this disaster.”

“And if they’ve flagged me?” she demanded. “They seem to be waiting for everything else.”

“Then my job is to make sure you get out alive,” Dresden told her. “That’s what you’ve paid for me for for fifteen years, Amelie Lestroud. It doesn’t change just because you dragged me into this revolt!”

She swallowed hard. The communications setup was worthless now. Worse than worthless, in fact, because if any of the Bravo cell leaders were compromised, the Confederacy Secret Police would be able to follow the trail back to it.

“You have a plan?” she asked meekly.

Dresden smiled brilliantly at her.

“Of course I have a plan.”

#

Amelie’s bodyguard went to the same lighting-control pad she’d opened the coms setup with and typed in a different sequence of lights—one she hadn’t been aware was in there.

A dusty bookshelf that had probably never seen a book in its lifetime swung away from the wall, exposing a man-high metal cabinet. Dresden crossed to it and plugged a code into the safe’s keypad to open it.

He pulled out a pair of armored vests and passed one to her. Somehow, she was unsurprised that it fit perfectly over the tank top she was wearing under her blouse and disappeared neatly when she put the blouse back on.

By the time she’d put on the armor, Dresden had finished emptying the cabinet. He passed her a small concealable pistol with a shoulder holster to go under her blazer as he strapped a slightly larger weapon to his own waist.

Amelie had starred in enough action movies that she recognized the final weapon he pulled from the cabinet.

“A pulse rifle?” she said softly. “Seriously?”

“The Confederacy Secret Police has access to every piece of gear that the Confederacy Marines do,” he pointed out. “If they come after you with battle armor or combat vehicles, we need to have some method of taking them down.”

She shook her head but didn’t argue. The pulse rifle was a vastly scaled-down version of the pulse guns that formed the main armament of warships these days—but those had entire fusion plants feeding them plasma.

The pulse rifle was disturbingly energetic for a hand weapon, but it could take down just about anything the CSP sent after them.

Dresden checked something in the cabinet as she was shaking her head at him, and cursed.

“We’re in trouble,” he said grimly. “CSP just sealed the front of the building. I guess they tracked us faster than I expected.”

Amelie went cold.

“They’re here already?”

The rebellion had been more compromised than she’d ever thought if the secret police were already there.

“Hopefully, they’ll go to your penthouse,” Dresden reminded her. “But I have an override on the elevators for just this occasion. We’re out of time; let’s go.”

It seemed Dresden had prepared for everything. They charged out of the apartment and into the empty corridor, and made it to the elevators uninterrupted. Her bodyguard checked his military-style tattoo-computer and then tapped a command on his wrist, activating the car without using the regular controls at all.

“They’ve got aerial coverage, too,” he said grimly. “I’m in the Nouveau Paris Police network…they’ll lock me out pretty quickly, but the back door should give me about ten minutes of oversight.”

“If they’re above us, where are we going?”

“Down,” Dresden told her as the elevator car lurched into motion. “One of the main storm sewers runs eleven meters from the basement of the building. I had a tunnel dug years ago.”

She was shaking her head at his preparations again when the elevator doors slid open and gunfire echoed in the confined space of the basement. Once again, the CSP was one step ahead of them.

“Stay here!” Dresden barked. She didn’t even have time to argue before he was out of the door, the terrifying hiss-CRACK of the plasma rifle overwhelmingly loud in the confined space.

The plasma rifle fired four times in rapid succession, and then the basement was silent.

“Come on,” her bodyguard ordered, his voice…strained.

Amelie was familiar, if nothing else, with how fake injuries looked in movies and she was expecting the horror she saw as she came out.

The secret police hadn’t been expecting a pulse rifle. Four plasma bolts had wiped out a ten-man squad, but not before they’d managed to shoot Dresden repeatedly. The body armor had stopped some of the rounds, but the CSP had used armor-piercing bullets.

“There’s nothing you can do for me,” he told her. “I’ll…cover you.”

Amelie didn’t think he was going to live long enough to make any damn difference.

“I can’t leave you,” she hissed.

“Yes. You can,” he replied, wincing at his wounds. “The tunnel is through there”—he gestured—“in the janitor’s lockers. Third locker from the left has a keypad. Code is five-five-five-six.

“There’s a hover-bike at the end of the tunnel, next to the storm sewer.” He coughed. There was blood in it. Dresden was fading fast. “Follow the storm sewer out of the city and head for Ile de Bonita.” He coughed again.

“Joey’s Marina,” he gasped out. “They…were never part of the rebellion. A backup. They’ll know where to go.…”

He was gone.

#

The hover-bike was a few years old, but someone—probably Dresden—had clearly been maintaining it.

Tears burned at the corners of Amelie’s eyes as she ran through an abbreviated start routine, bringing up the bike’s antigravity generators and fans simultaneously. It might not be safe or smart, but she was in a hurry.

And if she smashed herself to a pulp against the roof of the storm sewer, that might be better for everyone.

She dashed the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand and then slammed a helmet onto her head. There was a second bike, a harsh reminder that she wasn’t supposed to be alone. That she could never have made it this far on her own.

The sounds of shouting behind her focused her mind and she kicked the bike into gear, leaping off the ground and down the storm sewer. She was lucky it was midsummer there in Nouveau Paris and the spring snow melt and storms had passed.

There was enough space in the sewer for her to fly the bike, screaming down the tunnel at a speed that was insanely unsafe. She knew, in the back of her mind at least, that she was walking a fine line between taking unreasonable risk and being outright suicidal, but she didn’t care.

If the Confederacy Secret Police had known enough to come for her, then everything was doomed, and all her life’s work had achieved was to get tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of people killed. She’d watched some of the videos of the mass executions from the last round of purges.

That was what she’d led her followers to.

The storm sewer was perfectly straight, angling down toward the ocean at enough of a gradient to guide the water. She blasted through over twenty kilometers of tunnel in under six minutes before bursting out onto the open sea.

Ile de Bonita was almost five hundred kilometers away, just under two hours at the bike’s maximum speed. Now she was out in the open and above water, sustaining that was harder, but the bike’s screens protected her. Mostly.

They didn’t protect her hearing, however, and she missed the approaching aircraft until they flanked her.

Black-and-red assault shuttles, Confederacy Marine spacecraft pressed into duty as high-speed interceptors, flew on either side of her. She ignored them, trying to find the nerve to bite down on the poison tooth she’d had implanted without telling Dresden.

If they took her alive, they could end the entire rebellion…but it looked like they’d already done that.

She tried to evade, diving for the surface, only for an EMP blast from one of the shuttles to cripple her hoverbike.

Amelie Lestroud had enough time to realize that there were easier ways to kill her before she heard stunners whine and blackness swept over her vision…still at least three meters away from the water.

#

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