His Magnificence

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SEATTLE, PART 2.

SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEECCHHHH!!

 A deafening ring echoed through the sewer. As a result, the troops couldn’t hear, nor feel, portions of concrete collapsing near them. They also didn’t pick up the pinging noise of laser-fire piercing the pipe’s boundaries.

 As Jesse covered his ears and squinted in pain, he felt a yank on his left shoulder. It was Sarah, dragging her boyfriend away from the crumbling concrete and dripping water above his head.

 Moments later, he heard faint screaming and muffled shouting amid the chaos. Smoke clouds grew thicker, and piles of rubble obscured the path forward. 

 A faint voice screamed: “ARE YOU OKAY?!”

 Jesse didn’t respond.

 “ARE YOU OKAY?!”

 “I… I can’t hear…” Jesse stammered, then Isiah kneeled in front of him and Sarah.

 “We need to move!” he shouted. “The manholes are crumbling! They’re alerted to our presence!”

 Then, Matt pushed Jesse, and Sarah joined with them in pleading with Jesse to act. Meanwhile, five feet ahead, Mary, Gabriel, Peter, and Zachary were firing their HK-86’s toward the next turn.

 When Jesse pulled himself to his feet and regained his cognitive function, he led his Platoonmates toward the laser-fire. Dust was raining on the troops, and the ground continued to shake.  

 At the next corner, a laser blast knocked Jesse backwards. As he lay on his back, he leaned forward and noticed a stack of crumbled concrete blocks four feet high at the far side of the right turn ahead. Without hesitation, and with multiple rounds of fire flying his direction, he pulled himself to his knees, then belly-flopped toward the pile. Miraculously unhit, he found a small hole near the wall that provided him an unobstructed view of the origin of the trajectory of the laser trails.

 Five blasts later, the incoming fire from the New Alaskan army ceased. The ensuing silence came as a shock to the soldiers of Platoons 809 and 140, except to one.

 Jesse, brimming with hubris, winked at his cousins and girlfriend.

 Matt and Sarah’s jaws dropped, while Mary rolled her eyes.

 One reaction, though, was different.

 “How the hell did they know we were down here?!” Gabriel inquired in a whispering growl.

 “Did someone turn their cloak off?!” Isiah asked.

 “Maybe there were motion sensors that triggered the fire,” Pete suggested.

 “It doesn’t matter!” Zachary growled. “They still knew we were coming!”

 “We’re screwed!” Isiah said. “Fetisov’s guards will bomb us back to the American age! They’re going to send the entire New Alaskan army here to smoke us out!”

 Random bickering continued until Jesse intervened.

 “Guys!” Jesse growled. “Stop it! We need to keep moving!”

 “And what’s your plan with our cover blown… captain?!” Zachary growled.

 Incensed, Jesse grabbed Zachary by his collar and yanked him. Their face shields rubbed against each other as Jesse gritted his teeth. “Jerk! This is armed conflict! I thought you’d understand… THERE. ARE. NO. RULES! Did you actually think we’d make it into the complex unscathed?”

 Zachary’s eyes bulged. He knew Jesse to be assertive when he needed to be, but his show of militaristic bluster intimidated him.

But ever the God-fearing, vengeful warrior, Zachary squinted and gritted his teeth.

“Captain,” Zachary whispered.

“Private,” Jesse growled.

After another awkward pause, another blast exploded near them.

A nanosecond later, a deafening scream reverberated.

“PETE!” Gabriel cried.

Zachary immediately turned away from Jesse and lunged toward his comrade, who was desperately attempting to place pressure on a large, gaping wound near his shoulder.

“THEY SHOT PETE!” Isiah screamed.

Jesse produced a black handkerchief from his belt and handed it to Gabriel.

“Put this on his arm,” Jesse said. “Keep as much pressure on it as you can!”

“HANG IN THERE, PETE!” Zachary shouted.

As Pete moaned in agony, a multitude of laser blasts affected the walls and rubble. Platoonmates within view of the blasts began trading comeback fire. With the explosions, verbal communication became impossible.

As the rest of the Four pulled Pete to an obscure space, Jesse noticed Matt frantically waiving toward him. With his hears ringing, he could not hear the words of Matt’s cry, nor could he read his lips with thick smoke filling the surrounding air.

Frustrated and desperate, Matt nearly shot his right arm out of its socket as his waves became more frantic.

Reading between the lines, Jesse reiterated to the Four to keep pressure on Pete’s wound, then joined Matt at his side. As he arrived, the incoming laser fire appeared to double. Sarah soon joined them, kneeled, and returned fire.

“We’re sitting ducks!” Sarah shouted. Jesse and Matt could barely hear her. “It’s only a matter of time before the ceiling collapses on us!”

Then, as Sarah attempted to ascertain the attention of her boyfriend and his brother to no avail, Mary bolted in front of Sarah and ran forward.

“MARY!” Matt screamed. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?”

“NO!” Jesse barked, then abdicated his spot behind a fallen concrete slab and started running after Mary. No other platoonmates were in sight in the distance. “MARY! MARY!”

Mary dove in front of a crumbled I-shaped concrete obstruction as laser fire hit it. Jesse pulled up behind her shortly after.

“WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!” Jesse shrieked. “ARE YOU HIT?!”

“NO!” Mary replied, shaking off the ringing in her ears.

“HOW?!”

“DON’T THINK ABOUT IT! JUST KEEP FIRING!”

The platoons traded laser fire for an ensuing ten minutes. More concrete from the manholes crumbled, and sewage water began submerging their feet. They largely ignored the unbearable stench, for they knew they were running out of time before the ceiling collapsed on them, a strategy not lost on the New Alaskan army. The laser fire from their end now began targeting the top of the manhole. Larger quantities of concrete fell.

Fortunately for the Divine Army, they had a countermeasure prepared.

“PLATOONS!” Jesse screamed. “SET YOUR HK-86s to GRENADIER MODE!” Moments later, four simultaneous grenade launches disabled the incoming fire. A welcome bit of silence ensued, and after a moment of celebration, they forged forward and eventually reached a ladder that, according to Divine Army intelligence, would lead to an auxiliary closet next to the Ellipse, the main gathering space of the New Alaskan Capitol complex.

Jesse remained at the base of the ladder as his troops climbed up. Mary was the last to ascend. Suddenly, Jesse noticed something strange on Mary’s back; a red coloration sifting up her back.

When he realized what it was, his heart froze, but his instinct did not.

He yanked Mary off the ladder. One second later, a laser blast pinged the ladder rung parallel to where her head had been.

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