David Weber

Empire from the Ashes



Chapter One

The huge command deck was as calm, as peacefully dim, as ever, silent but for the small background sounds of environmental recordings. The bulkheads were invisible beyond the projection of star-specked space and the blue-white shape of a life-bearing world. It was exactly as it ought to be, exactly as it always had been—tranquil, well-ordered, as divorced from chaos as any setting could possibly be.

But Captain Druaga's face was grim as he stood beside his command chair and data flowed through his neural feeds. He felt the whickering lightning of energy weapons like heated irons, Engineering no longer responded—not surprisingly—and he'd lost both Bio-Control One and Three. The hangar decks belonged to no one; he'd sealed them against the mutineers, but Anu's butchers had blocked the transit shafts with grab fields covered by heavy weapons. He still held Fire Control and most of the external systems, but Communications had been the mutineers' primary target. The first explosion had taken it out, and even an Utu-class ship mounted only a single hypercom. He could neither move the ship nor report what had happened, and his loyalists were losing.

Druaga deliberately relaxed his jaw before his teeth could grind together. In the seven thousand years since the Fourth Imperium crawled back into space from the last surviving world of the Third, there had never been a mutiny aboard a capital ship of Battle Fleet. At best, he would go down in history as the captain whose crew had turned against him and been savagely suppressed. At worst, he would not go down in history at all.

The status report ended, and he sighed and shook himself.

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