His Magnificence

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 215hrs, 6 January.

 For the first time in the history of the Chamber of the Divine Power, dark brown curtains obscured its windows.

 The eight remaining members of the SAA and Francis Stewart could not even enjoy the snow globe-like flurries falling outside.

 Nor could they.

 They all sat silently as they watched the holographic images hovering over the Table of History, suppressing any instinct to react to the events unfolding.

 Minutes prior, Stewart provided the final green light for Operation Seattle Slewfoot, delivering a blunt message to Lt. McFerry, in the most gravelly voice he could produce: “smoke that Knat out!”

 Nightvision cameras attached to assorted invisibility-cloaked steel grey suits displayed Platoons 809 and 140 crawling through a sewage pipe, in single-file formation, distanced ten feet apart.

HK-86 super-lasers, thin, three-foot-long reinforced carbon fiber blasters, were slung over each soldier’s back, and their black gloves clasped lightning bolt sidearm pistol, which emits electric shocks of 100,000 volts at distances of up to 500 yards.

 As the minutes passed, Stewart kept his eyes closed as he smudged his hands on the Table of History, silently praying under his breath.

 Meanwhile, as Platoon 809 reached a an edge five hundred feet from their first destination, Jesse waived his troops around the corner, but two remained behind.

 “Yo, Jess,” Matt mumbled to him as Mary kneeled to his left. “You want to know what that joke was that McFerry wanted to kill me for?”

 “Not really,” Jesse whispered. “Come on cuz, let’s focus on the task at hand!”

 “An HK-86 and a Lightning Bolt pistol have a baby. What do they name it?”

 “Matt, no one cares,” Mary growled.

 Undeterred, Matt smiled and replied, “A laser blast sixty-nine.” He clasped his gloves behind his visor and over his hands and chuckled. After an awkward pause, Jesse cracked a smile.

 Mary, meanwhile, rolled her eyes. “That’s the dumbest joke I’ve ever heard,” Mary whispered. “Even at your level, Matthew!”

 “Sis, it’s the only way I can cope with the fact we’re about to die,” Matt replied while creasing his eyebrows to suggest a seriousness he rarely exhibits.

 Mary huffed, then smiled. “You won’t die,” she replied. “We’ll make it through this. But all I ask is that you crack no more stupid jokes?”

 “No promises,” Matt quipped.

 “You have to admit it was pretty funny,” Jesse added.

 “Well, not me!” Mary growled. “I have an offbeat joke for you! What are two dead Platoonmates?”

 Matt and Jesse’s motor functions ceased. They were statue-like, unable to decipher whether to laugh or cringe.

 “Um,” was all that Matt could retort with.

 The Maiths uncomfortably stared at each other for the next few seconds, but their silence suddenly ceased when a bright red glow appeared in front of them, and their eardrums were rattled to its cores by the crash of an explosion in the distance.

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