“Well, yes and no,” said Gutierrez. “We have a compliment of Marines, it’s true, but all the officers were killed or wounded in the blast. All that’s left is members of the band.”

“So what’s the problem?” McPherson said. “Every Marine a rifleman, right?”

“You don’t understand. These band members were on loan from The President’s Own. They’re recruited from concert halls, not barracks; they’re literally the only Marines with no basic training and are never posted to combat.”

McPherson’s face flushed with shock. “You mean to tell me,” he said, “that the only thing between the Secretary and those rampaging hordes are 25 of the only Marines who don’t know how to hold a gun?”

“Rifle,” Gutierrez corrected testily. “And I am personally confident that, trained or not, they will do their duty to the best of their ability.”

“I hope you’re right,” McPherson muttered, looking at the rubble and ruin choking the street. “I certainly hope they wind up playing us a march rather than a dirge.”

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