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on our behalf, you'll just have ours."

"Thank you, I guess," said Vir, uncertain whether he should be flattered or insulted by the observation. "And may I ask what your, uhm ... 'behalf ... consists of?"

"We want Sheridan to listen to us."

"He doesn't listen to you now?" asked Vir in confusion, certain that he remembered Sheridan always willing to make time for whomever needed to speak with him.

"No. He hears us. But he doesn't listen," the Drazi said.

"How do you know he's not listening?"

"Because if he were," the Brakiri said reasonably, "then he'd always do what we asked him to."

Vir rubbed the bridge of his nose, coming to the realization that the day was not going to get any better. And those fantasy sultry women who could ease his cares seemed very, very far away indeed.



Chapter 2



No boom today... boom tomorrow... there's always a boom tomorrow....

Those words of wisdom went through the mind of Commander Susan Ivanova, who was ensconced in the cockpit of her Starfury and staring down the gun barrels of the Raider ships, which were swarming around the transport vessel like remoras around a shark. She hoped that tomorrow had not chosen to incarnate itself as today, although with her typical Russian bleakness of mind, it was half what she expected. But expecting something at fifty percent does not automatically translate to accepting something at one hundred percent. Ivanova had no intention of going quietly into that good night. There were too many people-a quarter million, to be precise, to say nothing of her own squadron-who were depending upon her.

At the moment, the Starfuries, their dramatic open-X configuration distinct despite the chaotic flurry of ships, were deftly keeping the Raiders at bay. She supposed she should count
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