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had received little attention beyond a few minor attacks on their outer planets. Over the last months, the Centauri had pulled many of their troops back to strengthen the defenses around Centauri Prime. The Kaikeen had, optimistically, interpreted the withdrawal as sign of impending victory, and struck a blow against a Centauri colony in disputed territory. Apparently that had shot them to the top of the list of Centauri priorities. For the Centauri Republic's allies, the Shadows, had arrived to deliver the counterattack.

A fleet of Shadow ships cut down through the atmosphere of the planet, their spidery silhouettes stark against the gray stone of the major continent. The Kaikeen defense platforms fired at the ships, but their blasts had no effect. Only a handful of Kaikeen ships were in the air, and those were quickly being sliced apart. The Kaikeen had been taken by surprise.

From high in the atmosphere, the Shadow ships released bombs, just as they had done on Soom. Far below, great clouds of destruction spread over the land. Ten billion lived there.

Here he was, with his tunnel vision, on his narrow-minded mission to kill three people, when the entire galaxy was in flames. Was he supposed to ignore that?

Perhaps John Sheridan had found a weapon against the Shadows; perhaps he could win a battle or two. But he did not have the power to defeat them. With Galen's help, though, maybe he would. With Galen's power on his side, at least John would have a chance.

Galen could go to the Kaikeen capital planet right now. All he need do was select a course change on the menu of options before him. He could be there within an hour-perhaps not in time to save its inhabitants, but in time to catch the Shadow ships, in time to engage them.

When the Shadows struck
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