A grey dismal emptiness.
That was Themis, since the war began - since the asteroid family had split into two camps.
"Strike has breached the perimeter - I repeat, strike has breached the perimeter; we're up to our necks here."
"Roger Blue-4, this is command. We're tracking: target is due to land by shaft 5A4, nearest unit is ... 2nd Regiment, Company A.
This is command; standard counter-intrusion procedure, instructions on their way. Do you copy Major Gimjee?"
"Loud and clear, units are en route."
"Good, best of luck to you all."
There was nothing more to be said
"Unit 01 - sit rep."
"Preparing to engage," he silently hovered down the jagged corridor, only the faintest wisps of atmosphere lining the rocks. He was on point, fire team A behind him, B to follow for suppressive.
He gripped the Par67M, finger above the first trigger, .45 cal, thumb ready to throw off the safety. The Corporal had a 9mm SMG, the privates, a semi-auto shotgun, and two short UMR's - one with an underslung shotgun attachment, the other with a grenade launcher.
"At the ready - new breach dead ahead," he fanned B to set up with their Close Quarter Fire Support weapon, a particularly deadly combination of a light machine gun and a dedicated grenade launcher. In micro-G, only the foolish or extremely skilled would use a rocket launcher of any sort, especially in these enclosed quarters. Up on the dwarf-planet's surface it was a different affair, but down here the heaviest weapon one could get away with was a recoilless rifle.
Fire fanned through the fine dust particles that danced in the beams of light that penetrated the environment, filled with tones of gray. Shadows too clung to the paleness, darting beneath the void.
"Exo's - take them out!"
Something, something else was wrong here. Maybe it was they moved as they came out of their fog of cover, the way the edges of the breach warped and bent, like they were melting, the silence, LED's glowing beneath their faceplates - or the sensors blazing in his suit.
"Priority alert: Command vis all units - have flamers at the ready; hazards, BCNn, all red." A silence on the end of the line - then a voice, a voice rippling through the network as they pulled back, crimson gas streaming from every cut. The oncoming horde riddled with lead in equal numbers or more.
"All units commence operation Valkyrie," the blue AI intoned. "Young and wounded to evacuate immediately, all able bodied units to hold at all costs - operate as long as possible. The Rim War turns here - whether we live to see it is irrelevant. Unit 01 ... your squad must acquire a sample, it is our best chance."
They were looking at him now, eyes beating wide beneath their faceplates. "Sir, what she's asking is ... suicide by any other name," Corporal Kenwall spoke for them all.
"Understood," was his reply to both his orders, what was asked of them as he flung his body into the melee. They too understood the cost.
Through the sundered tunnel roof he could see the fireworks bloom: blue ball of death, spears of plasma, invisible lances of light and iron running across the heavens. Ships fell silent, their hulls parted into twisted remnants of what they were - if anything remained at all.
This was their final battle, or its beginning at any rate- all due to Pallas' madness.
Themis' fall began then, into two composite forms:
Icarus, and Thermopylae.
Their echoes were felt for centuries to come.