Chapter 48: "Strive."

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"You've been discovered!" Dalian told Ella through her earpiece. "I imagine Captain Alain will seal off the palace. If you don't get out soon you won't have a chance."

Lance ran to the top of the stairs where Ella had led her team up moments before. It was empty, but she knew it wouldn't remain so for long. Her whole body tingled with urgency.

She felt foolish for not keeping the blaster with her. And vulnerable.

"Where are they mustering?" she asked Dalian. "Can you seem them on the security feeds?"

Dalian didn't answer.

"Dalian?" Lance urged. "What's going on?"

"I'm . . . not in my office anymore," he admitted. His breath came in short gasps. "I'm heading to the western wing. I think I can get out that way–"

"That's the chancellor's office," Ella pointed out. "Sarn's men are interrogating him and his staff up there. It won't be safe."

"None of Farsalt is safe, princess," Dalian said. "Your parents are being taken to Sarn's Star Destroyer even as we speak. He is about to instigate a massacre." His breathing calmed as he stopped. When he spoke again, he did so in a whisper. "The only choice you have is whether to accept it, or to fight back. If you fight, if you rally Farsalt as their princess, then the galaxy will be drawn to your aid."

Lance shook his head. "That's madness," he said. "Farsalt is in no state to resist–"

"There are thousands of rebel troops on Farsalt!" Dalian replied curtly. "The camps are full of them. Armed as well. Did you forget that they jammed the Reaver when it came here? They just need the code word to begin the rising. Princess Ella, you are the most senior person in Farsalt's government still at liberty. Only you have the power to command it. If you want to fight, get to a console. Broadcast on the reserve frequencies. The code word the planet is waiting for is 'Strive!'"

"I've got a bad feeling about this," Lance muttered.

"Sarn has declared war already," Dalian observed. "What choice do we have?"

Ella couldn't think. She didn't know what to do.

Her thoughts were drawn to the console in the armoury. She hastened back there as quickly as she could, Lance following.

"Don't do it!" he said. "You can't win."

"If my people are to die anyway, they may as well die fighting!"

She entered the armoury and stood in front of the console's screen. To her surprise, it responded to her identity.

"One of the benefits of people thinking you're dead or missing," she muttered. "No one will bother locking you out."

She found the reserve broadcast frequencies and activated a planetary-wide bulletin. It began to record.

"People of Farsalt, my name is Ella Malquet, heir to the throne of Farsalt and its governing party. Today the Empire has come. Today, due process and justice has died. Commodore Sarn intends to commit an atrocity upon us that will terrify countless worlds across the galaxy. Therefore . . ." she took a breath and licked her lips. "Therefore, we must each strive to do what we can to resist this murder. Every Imperial soldier who falls today leaves a better, newer hope for those of us who fight tomorrow. Rich or poor, citizen or refugee, we must strive together, or perish apart. There is no alternative, but to strive."

Ella terminated her broadcast and held her breath. Lance Dare shook his head angrily. "You had no right to do that," he said through gritted teeth. "You have forced Sarn into a position now. The Empire will have to strike back–"

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