“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.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

“You don’t understand me,” Brown cried. “This city’s about to fall! She’ll be killed if she stays! I’m just trying to do my job!”

The bartender sighed. “Listen to me, Marine. Perhaps you are right; perhaps when the rebels come they will kill Ms. Anne. But perhaps not. Perhaps the rebel at the very front of the column was a schoolmate of hers. Perhaps the soldiers that burst in here know her from playing in the streets. She grew up here, and cannot believe the land would allow any harm to come.”

“But…”

“I have survived several coups, Marine. I will survive this one as well. The men are always thirsty. They are thirsty for other things as well, and if Ms. Anne wishes to wait, to see her old school friends’ faces when the men come for her, who are you to deny her? Go. Ms. Anne does not want to leave, and I will shoot you if you try and take her.”