"What about enemy movement? Are they breaking their orbits?" Raylene looked to one of the Princeps standing ready nearby.

"Canberra tracking reports routine orbital realignments, some ship to ship traffic…the uh…" The Princeps paused to whisper something into an earpiece. "What we believe to be their assault force is continuing its reentry course."

"Fine. Good." Raylene said, almost to reassure herself. "Get the updated telemetry on the big screen."

The dark haired technician nodded and hurried over to the laptop sitting on top of a stack of encyclopedias and linked to a plasma TV hanging from the library's wall. She crouched and tapped at the keys for several seconds, bringing a crude 3D model of the globe up onto the television. Red dots, dozens of them, hung in orbit above the earth. Blue dots rising slowly towards them from the wireframe sphere represented the missiles, each trailing a yellow dotted line back to their point of origin. It was obviously a rush job piece of software and lacked the aesthetics Raylene was used to, but it seemed to be doing the job.

The woman clicked a few more times on the keyboard and tiny countdowns appeared next to each blue missile indicator. It was difficult to read with so many active launches, but when Raylene walked closer she could make out a "-00.06.13.54" next to the first missile launched. Six minutes.

When Raylene turned to walk back to her position at the rear of the monitoring teams she found herself face to face with her young aide Eliza.

"Only 71% away in Russia, ma'am." Eliza whispered, not wanting the information to spread. "Ivanov is claiming mechanical failures. It's possible, but I talked to Maenka at the Kursk silos and she is reporting orders to leave one in four fueled and ready."

Raylene put an arm around Eliza's shoulder and pulled her close to whisper directly into her ear.

"Tell Ivanov to inform the honorable President that if he doesn't make it to 85% in the next three minutes I will be wearing his ears as a necklace in the next three days." Eliza nodded, fully believing Raylene meant what she said.

Raylene did not mean it. She would have him tortured and killed, alien invasion allowing, but ear necklaces were far too "showy" for her tastes.

***************

Alarm klaxons sounded on the bridge of Party Up just as Fleet Admiral Regel was daintily lifting a cup of Vorian bitter tea to the sipping proboscis of his armored suit. The sound startled him and he practically flung the tea across the spherical cockpit dome. It splashed across the transmet walls and, more importantly, across the face of the Chimopteran who was just turning to explain the klaxon. The creature wailed in pain, a high-pitched ululation that was extremely distressing, and clutched its face with clawed hands. One of the two Imperatrixian bridge arms men standing nearby silenced the creature with a regulation combat knife through the side of its skull.

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