332 JR/2217 CE
"Phuong!" Finch bellowed over the havoc his Texans were creating with their gifts from the Republic. "Watch the left!"
An Imperial unit was circling to the Texans' left, trying to flank them, but Finch had been getting plenty of experience in tactics lately - he didn't see it coming so much as he felt it. The Imperials came around a clump of brush and charged right into fire from Navapanthong's squad. Their captured Imperial rifles chattered and snapped, and the enemy flanking force dissolved.
Poorly-aimed Imperial rifle and machinegun fire kicked up dirt around Finch's position. He dove behind an overturned utility car. Eunice Haskell's squad, to his right, opened up and cut down the Terran gunners with flanking fire. Finch stuck his head above cover and snatched it back down, gave his brain a moment to process what it had glimpsed, then charged around the wrecked car, bellowing, "Advance! Advance!"
Finch's platoon leapfrogged another fifty meters toward the objective, an Imperial Information Service transmitter. If they could capture it intact, even for a few minutes-
An Imperial gunboat appeared in the distance, then dove toward them, automatic cannon thumping. The Texans dove for what cover they could find, not all of them in time - Haskell vanished in a spout of dirt and fire. Gloria Barnes instantly took over her squad, shouting directions as the gunboat streaked overhead, toward the woods from which Finch had staged his attack. It banked into a climbing turn, preparing for another strafing run.
The Jeffersonian Rangers lurking somewhere in Sol System had visited again, bringing more supplies, equipment, and weapons. From the woods behind Finch a sound like ripping canvas erupted; he spared a moment to turn and look as a stream of hypersonic slugs from the portable half-centimeter mass driver cut the enemy aircraft in two. The pieces tumbled to earth, trailing smoke, fire, and debris.
After that the remaining Imperial defenders lost heart. Many broke and ran, while a few surrendered; Finch detailed Lawrence's squad to take them away as Conklin ran up to the door of the transmitter building, planted a charge, and dove for cover.
With a flat bang the door swung wide. Imperial fire poured out through the darkened opening but was silenced by Alice Sorensen, three hundred meters back with a new infra-red sight on an antique single-shot hunting rifle, the kind that was forbidden by the United Nations more than a century before. Her grandmother, who proudly traced her bloodline to a soldier in General Houston's Army of Texas at San Jacinto, had prepared her for this day.
Finch charged inside, dropping and rolling to give a poor target to any survivors. There were none. He came up and looked around quickly - the equipment was intact.
Devin St. John, who a very long time ago had worked in a similar facility, entered the building and went straight to the control console, grinning widely - he had been dreaming of this moment for longer than Finch had been alive. With a surge of almost sexual pleasure he slid the data cartridge into its slot and activated the transmitter.
Finch paid little attention to the recording - they'd had to make so many takes of it he had the entire speech memorized. Commander Dmitrieva said it was based on an ancient speech by an American general of the Second World War - Finch couldn't remember the name exactly, and the Empire discouraged the teaching of that sort of history. What was that name? he wondered idly while scanning the field around the transmitter for more Imperial troops. Mac-something? On the screen, Aaron Johnson's recorded face and voice urged their fellow Texans to rise up and "For your homes and hearths, strike! For future generations of your sons and daughters, strike! In the name of your sacred dead, strike!"
Hours later, there was no more immediate Imperial activity in the area, according to reports from his scouts. Seizing a rare moment to relax, Finch looked up, into the deep blue sky, darkening into night. Lights were flashing up there - a fleet action, the Battle of Terra. The Republic Navy had arrived and was methodically knocking out Terra's planetary defenses and the remnants of the Imperial Navy. Some of the ships were so big he could almost make out their shapes. That really big one there must be one of the new Republic class super-battleships Commander Dmitrieva was lusting after, he thought. The Travis must be up there somewhere, too, linked up with other destroyers and frigates in an astronomical cavalry squadron, running back and forth to plug gaps and exploit breakthroughs, darting behind enemy formations, raising every kind of hell in three dimensions, sometimes four.... Finch's head began to hurt when he tried to wrap his mind around the tactics and strategies of FTL-capable space combat.
I hope Juliet is being careful, Finch thought. I'd very much like to see her again.
It had been two days since they'd seized the transmitter. Supplies and heavier weapons had been found in underground barracks, and the position was highly defensible - they could stay here for weeks, especially with the Jeffersonian Ranger platoon orbital-dropped days before in preparation. Those troops were from Second Legion, New Texas - the subdued black-and-olive flags on their shoulders were identical in form to the Lone Star now flying above the transmitter bunker. Finch had thought he was a good shot with a rifle, but these Jeffersonians had taught him more about real riflery in six days than he'd learned in a lifetime as a resistance fighter, and their rifles were hugely powerful compared to the Empire's - he'd seen these Rangers drop Terran soldiers with single shots at well over 400 meters. He doubted the Imperial 4.6mm could even reach that far. Their physical prowess was amazing too - they were fantastically strong, never seemed to tire - they explained they'd trained in the higher gravity and thinner atmosphere of Monticello, the Republic's capitol world, and maintained those conditions aboard ship. They also said - if Finch understood them - if they couldn't hit a man-sized target with a standard-issue rifle at 500 meters, they lost the right to vote.
Finch looked out across the field to where the Imperial troops were forming up for another assault, and knew that he and his fellow Texans could repel them.
"Come on," he said, softly. "Come on."
He looked at their tanks - two of them, the ubiquitous AMX 104-E, and knew that he and his comrades could destroy them.
"Come on, come on!"
He looked at the still-smoking wreckage of the last three aircraft the Imperials had sent to destroy him, or the transmitter, or both, and knew that they would - could - send no more.
Finch stood and climbed to the top of the berm the Texans had thrown up around the transmitter building. The enemy did not bother to fire at him; their marksmanship wasn't that good and they knew it. He raised his rifle over his head, filled his lungs, and bellowed at the Imperial soldiers, his rich voice rolling across the field:
"COME ON, YOU BASTARDS!
"I'LL SHOW YOU WHY THE BRITISH LEFT!"