Eudaemonia lifts a shaking hand to wipe more blood out of her eyes. She’s not sure how much of it is hers. At least some of it was that poor commander’s, the one who was standing next to her when he took a laser carbine bolt to the face.
She continues to crouch in the shelter of some rubble. Chaos surrounds her and floods her senses: laser flashes blind; explosions and screaming pound her eardrums. The air smells and tastes of smoke and blood. The ground beneath her shakes from repeated cannon barrages.
She has never been so terrified in all her life.
Over half the squad she left the barracks with is dead. The remainder is pinned down by that damned New Prussian cannon. So far, they’ve barely been able to hold position… but that won’t last. And once the enemy smashes through what meager Hussar defenses are left, they will be able to enter the city within hours-- to destroy it, and all the lives within.
Her husband. Her children. Her friends. Her world.
Yet how can the bastards be stopped now? What’s left of her troop are wounded, low on ammunition, profoundly demoralized. There’s no way they could take the Cuirassiers head-on–
If one were to use that burned-out tank as cover, then down into the trench that morning’s bombardment created, then crawl through the ruins of the factory, then… it just might be possible to sneak up on the cannon crew from behind-- take them out-- either destroy the cannon or use it as their own-- split what forces were left, half laying down covering fire as distraction, half to make the sneak assault–
–and almost certainly, a suicide run for everyone involved.
But their current course was assuredly fatal. Not just for themselves, but for all of Weatherby.
For just a moment, all the old self-doubts and fears rise, trying to hold her back. How can I, I’m not possibly capable–
I can. I will.
She takes a brief moment for herself, picturing her family-- Jasper, Euphrosynia, Jeremiah-- enfolding in them in her heart with all the love she held within her. She thinks of her friends-- Mr. Rounder, the Duchess, Jean-Rhys-- and wishes them well. And in that quiet moment, the fires of love and duty burn away for all time the doubts, the fear, the shackles of obligation and propriety she’d brought with her when she arrived in Weatherby. And with all restraint gone, she finally embraces all the courage, iron-willed resolve and cunning of the woman she has become.
Lifting her flamethrower high, she lets out a fierce and joyful cry. “Hussars! To me!”
“Let’s send them back to Hell!”