“Three… two… one… Happy New Year!”
The champagne bottles popped, and the Polizei of Von Schulzburg cheered. All twenty of the officers decided that today they should be on duty. Most of them were using the party as an excuse to get away from their wives. However, Abelard Fischer and Norman Weber had quite a different reason.
Fifty years ago, when the planet Arya had first been colonized in secret (or at least, that’s what their leaders had claimed) by the Nazis, measures had been taken to prevent so-called “subhumans” from mixing in with the Aryans. Abelard, Norman and their wives were living proof that they hadn’t been successful at weaving out the homosexuals.
They had met in the main city of Hitler (the city’s namesake had never made it to Arya,) and when another purge of the various gay communities began and it looked like Abel and Weber might get drafted, they had quietly made the transition to Von Schulzburg to get away. They considered themselves very lucky, as being in the police on frontier towns offered deferment from the draft.
Abelard, as usual, was pretending to have as little to do with his lover Norman as possible when Lars Von Schulz clapped him on the back. “Abe!” the ninety-nine-year-old man said jovially as Abelard’s feet nearly buckled. “How are you doing? Having a little fun without Nadja, eh?”
Lars, despite having lived for almost a century, had more energy than any of the men there. He was part of the set of triplets that had founded Von Schulzburg in 1947. Not only that, but they had served in the second world war and were some of the last people to cross the portal. Each brother had then taken turns being Burgomeister. Lars had gone first, and when he was done, he had started a winery. The champagne they were drinking came from there.
“Yes, Herr Schulz,” Abelard lied. “It’s always nice to get away from her nagging.”
In reality, not only were Nadja and Norman’s wife Claudia were probably engaging in Sapphic delights while Abelard was stuck pining for Norman, but Abelard often liked to joke among his friends that he was “the bitchiest shrew you’d ever lay eyes on.”
“Anyway,” Schulz said, “I’ve heard from Karl Weber that you knew how to keep your mouth shut.”
“I can…” Abelard began cautiously. Karl Weber was not only one of the best gun designers in the Grenzefrontier, he was the one who came up with the practice of “pairing.” Pairing was when a gay man found a lesbian and got married and had children to deflect suspicion. His son, Norman, was the one who had introduced Abelard to this practice.
“Good.” With that, Schulz began to drag Abelard away. Abelard was surprised. He would never have guessed that Schulz was gay.
When they finally got into an empty room, the station’s conference room and closed the door, Schulz said, “I don’t know what unnatural shit you got up to in the capitol, and I don’t want to know.” So Abelard had pegged Schulz right. Which was nice because Abelard didn’t want to have to choose between cheating on his lover and being outed by a jealous old prune in an admittedly fetching uniform.
“So,” Abelard said, “what do you want to talk to me about?”
“I’m not supposed to mention this,” Schulz said, “but in four hours, a detachment from the Twenty-Third will arrive at the station.”
The hairs on Abelard’s neck stood up. For some odd reason, maybe to make them more defensible, the police stations were all built on top of the rail stations. That meant when the SS arrived, all they’d have to do would be to walk up the stairs. Then, if they could detect gays half as well as they claimed they could, they’d immediately spot him. Then they’d drag him away and…
“Wait,” Abelard said, quickly coming out of his panic, “there isn’t a Twenty-Third SS.”
“Correct,” Schulz said. “The twenty-third are a Panzer division.” Schulz sighed heavily and sat down at the table. “I haven’t ever doubted our leaders,” he said, “I’ve never questioned them, I’ve never complained about them… but I have this feeling.” He turned to look at Abelard, a pitiful look of sadness and fear on his face. “It is the same feeling I had when the portal to Arya closed behind me.”
“But why are they coming?” Abelard asked. “I could understand a few SS bastards coming here to rough us up and…” Noting Schulz’s look of indignation, Abelard corrected himself, “I mean, to put us back on track to victory, but why Panzers?”
“In our recent recon flights over the Caucasian Alps,” Schulz began, obviously choosing his words carefully, “the planes had their communications go down. None of them have ever come back.”
Abelard was surprised at this at first. He had been hearing for years how geologists kept claiming that there was seltsamemetall (an extremely lightweight and highly durable metal alloy that naturally occurred on Arya) in the Caucasian Alps. He had also been hearing that the current Furher was convinced these scientists were right and was ready to start a new expansion. They were even extending the railway into the mountain. Then he realized that this was exactly why he hadn’t heard about it.
“So?” he asked. “Couldn’t the mountains just have some weird weather or terrain effect we’ve never seen before?”
Schulz stared at Abelard in contempt. “I thought you were a faggot, not a mongoloid,” he said after a good five seconds of disgusted silence. “And I don’t think it’s subhumans hiding out in the mountains, either. The likelihood of escaped prisoners being able to seed the entire range with jammers and anti-air is even smaller than your ‘weird weather’ bullshit.”
“So what do you think it is?” Abelard asked.
“Specifically?” Schulz said. “No idea. But in general?” He leaned in. “It’s the end.”
Septimus relaxed, sinking comforting blanket formed by the minds of his fellow clones. As usual, he could feel the rest of his squad the clearest. There was Vox, the solid and dependable squad leader, Atticus, the quiet, constantly angry medic, Octavian, constantly inquiring about things when their creators couldn’t hear, and Apollo and Delta constantly joking and competing.
Slightly less obvious then his squad brothers were the other clones in his unit. A few stood out, based on distance and relation. For instance, other Legionaries usually were more distinct than Picts or the recently introduced Ninjas. Ceithir, however, was the exception that proved the rule. During his first training operation his entire squad found out the hard way that the Picts had been equipped with substandard filters. While Ceithir’s squad had ripped themselves to bits due to being exposed to PA/E-15 gas, Septimus restrained Ceithir. Even after being re-assigned to a different squad, Ceithir and Septimus were almost squad brothers.
Beneath that, Septimus could feel the various commanders, most notably Caesar, their immediate CO. Caesar may have been designed from the ground up to lead, but he seemed nervous. Still deeper, he could feel the love of the Goddess, the woman who the Jason Project had used to create The Dragon’s Teeth’s psionic network.
Septimus wasn’t. After all, they were The Dragon’s Teeth, cloned soldiers with a psionic link designed by The Jason Project to take over Earth and unite it against the coming storm. Whatever that coming storm was, it was apparently above Septimus’s pay grade. (“Above my pay grade” was a common joke among Dragon’s Teeth soldiers. They were a slave army, and even acknowledging that fact verbally could earn violent retribution from Jason Project staff members.)
Septimus and his squad were Legionaries, the frontline of the Dragon’s Teeth. Inspired by the Roman Legion of old, they did everything from drive vehicles, to manage logistics, to basic construction. Today, though, they were going to be in the first skirmish of the war.
Hey, Octavian thought, can anyone else feel the enemy? The enemy in this case was a group of unarmed combatants being watched over by men in black uniforms. They seemed to be building a railroad of some sort. The Dragon’s Teeth had moved into position so that they were on either side of the track, concealed by the local vegetation. This left them about a hundred meters from the enemy, yet completely invisible despite the bright work lights.
Septimus paused and focused on the subtle undercurrents. He, and all the others, realized that they could faintly make out the general emotions. The actual workers, of which there were around twenty-five, were frightened and hungry. A few were angry, a few were plotting an escape, but most of the workers had been reduced to a defeated, animal state.
The guards, dressed in black uniforms but making no effort to conceal themselves, were obviously aware of the suffering of their workers, yet made no effort to help them. In fact, when a worker fell to the ground, dead of starvation, the guards seemed to only be annoyed.
The guard’s treatment of the prisoners reminded Septimus of how The Dragon’s Teeth was treated by The Jason Project. Yet somehow, this was even worse. At least The Dragon’s Teeth had some of their needs met. For instance, they were fed. It also took a lot for their masters to decide to recycle them.
Caesar, who was with the main thrust of the expeditionary force, responded to the emotional turmoil in the secondary team. We understand, he assured them, I’m contacting command. Hold position until then. Do not fire unless fired upon.
A few minutes later, Caesar, somewhat disgusted, relayed, Command wants full elimination. No survivors. Commence assault in three. Two. One. When the count hit one, the underbarrel grenade launchers from The Dragon’s Teeth soldiers echoed in unison.
The standard rifle grenades used by Dragon’s Teeth soldiers contained something called PA/E-15. PA/E stood for psychoactive/explosive. When it was packed into grenades by robots, PA/E-15 was in a solid state. Upon impact, an electrical charge would cause the gas to expand rapidly. Septimus didn’t know how far the gas would cover or how rapidly it would fill the space, but he knew that it went farther than the weak shrapnel. He also knew that he wouldn’t want to be in the invisible cloud without a working filter or gas mask.
Despite being so close to Ceithir, Septimus had no idea what the people in the gas saw. He just saw the results. In the case of the enemy, they began to turn on themselves. Some began to run and were promptly shot by hidden Dragon’s Teeth soldiers. Others began clawing at their eyes or committing suicide. Most of the guards began raking their comrades and captives with automatic fire.
As they did so, The Dragon’s Teeth surrounding them wondered if which was worse: hearing the screams or feeling the emotions. They didn’t have long to consider, as the battle was silent in exactly two minutes and thirty-nine seconds. Septimus and several others in the group had been keeping track. The twenty soldiers began advancing on the position since they could still sense survivors.
When they got to the half-finished track, Septimus thought, The guard uniforms seem familiar. Don’t they look like Nazi uniforms? There was a wave of agreement.
But Nazis were prevalent on Earth fifty years ago, Vox responded. They were wiped out by their enemies. Why would they be here?
The Jason Project came here, Octavian suggested. Maybe this planet is just the kind of place rats come to when their ship sinks.
Hey, Remus, a Legionary in the other squad thought, is anyone creeped out at how similar these guys look? Septimus, as well as the rest of the group, had to agree. They were used to seeing the exact same faces every day (even though for some reason the Legionaries were brown-skinned, black haired and five foot ten, while the Picts were red-haired, pale and only five feet tall.) But these Nazi look-alikes were different. All of them were so similar in looks that it seemed like someone had tried to force humans into the same mold.
The first person Septimus investigated was one of the black-uniformed guards. He had been manning a crew-served machinegun and had been shot in the stomach, shoulder, chest and ear. Septimus noticed the man was still breathing. On an odd impulse he flipped the man over.
The man, like all the others wearing the black uniform, had blond hair and blue eyes. After a groan of pain, he looked at Septimus’ helmeted face. “The demons…” the man said in German, his brain obviously addled by the PA/E, “…they became demons.”
“I know,” Septimus said, aiming his gun at the man’s heart. “You’re safe now.” After the report of Septimus’ gun finished echoing, he sent a prayer to his Goddess, in hopes that she would forgive him and embrace his victim. He then turned his attention to eliminating the rest of the survivors.
Abelard had finally got home sometime around three in the morning. Claudia had already snuck back home and Nadja was collapsed on the bed. As Abelard entered the room, Claudia opened her eyes. “Abe,” she asked tiredly, “how drunk are you?”
If he was straight, Abelard thought he might actually find Claudia beautiful. Then again, it seemed that almost all women had the same sharp cheekbones nowadays, just like all the men had low ones. For once, Abelard wanted to meet someone who didn’t have blue eyes and blond hair.
“Not very,” Abelard said, getting undressed. “I always do my best to make sure I’m not too sloshed around them. Can’t let anything slip.” It was true. That’s why they even slept together and had sex. They loved each other, but it was like a brother and sister. The two of them couldn’t wait until their second child. Then they could avoid the oddly disturbing, robotic sex they had.
“By the way,” Abelard asked, “how’s Eric?”
“Thankfully,” Nadja said, “he didn’t wake up. Now let’s get back to sleep.”
Both Abelard and Nadja were able to manage that feat in record time. However, what felt like five minutes later, they were interrupted by the sound of engines.
“What the bloody hell is that?” Nadja asked. “Who on Arya would have a New Year’s day parade at… Jesus Christ, it’s five in the morning!”
As Nadja continued to rant about the injustice of it all, Abelard went to the window and pulled the windows open. There he saw a line of armored cars and transports moving down the street. “It’s not a parade,” he said. “It’s elements of the Twenty-Third. They’re the motor rifle regiment. Apparently, they’re looking for downed pilots or something.”
“Ugh,” Nadja said. “Do they really need to be moving out so late?”
Abelard just mumbled something into his pillow. As he fell face first onto his side of the bed, he vaguely wondered what the hurry was. Besides, some SS officers were running a work camp for the rails in that direction. He’d hate to be the one to talk to those creepy bastards.
Roughly four hours later, he got an answer. Around nine, the phone next to his bed began to ring. He groggily picked it up and listened for a minute.
“Ugh…” Nadja groaned, “What is it? Drunks playing with fireworks?”
Abelard got up and began getting dressed, panic setting in. Nadja watched him curiously. “Abelard?” she asked as he finished tucking in his shirt, “What is it?”
“Pack a suitcase.” As he said this, Abelard grabbed his PP and pulled the slide back. “The motor rifles are falling back. The rest of the Twenty-Third are a day behind.” Abelard took a deep breath. “We’re evacuating.”
Septimus supposed that he should have felt happy. After all, they were a platoon of infantry with dangerously experimental weaponry who had beaten back a company of mechanized infantry. As he looked at the column of burning and partially melted scout cars, half-tracks, two-and-a-half-ton trucks and armored personnel carriers, he was reminded that it could have gone much worse.
Then, he was reminded of the raw ache where Apollo, Octavian and Delta should have been. These were men he knew just as well as he knew himself. Men who he was so close to, sometimes he couldn’t tell if the emotions he was feeling were his or theirs.
Vox and Atticus, however, were feeling worse. While Septimus didn’t blame Vox for the deaths of their squad brothers, he knew, intellectually, that Vox had more of a responsibility to them then he did. That was why Vox was agonizing over every detail of his battle plan.
Still, that was better than Atticus who had worked for hours on Octavian when the shrapnel had cut into his gut. The other squads and fire teams to lose brothers had been lucky enough for them to die quickly. Septimus, Vox and Atticus had to feel Octavian die.
While the enemy had retreated, Caesar had been desperately trying to get The Jason Project to authorize an airlift for Octavian. For some reason, possibly due to how sadistic QA was, they refused. When Octavian finally had died, they had felt an explosion of anger from Caesar.
Ever since that point, the squads and fire teams that were still intact had drifted away from the ones that had lost brothers, not out of cruelty, but out of a lack of ideas of what to do. The broken squads, meanwhile, withdrew. Reaching out into the normally comforting aura of their fellow clones only reminded them of the holes where their dead brothers were.
As they waited for the Charons, wheeled APCs with either a powerful automatic cannon or anti-air missiles and a minigun, Septimus suddenly realized he didn’t have to live anymore. He was far enough away from his living brothers that he could join his dead ones before anyone could do anything.
Impulsively, joyfully, he began to raise his rifle upwards, the goal to wedge the barrel into the gap between his helmet and his neck. Then, when he pulled the trigger, the bullet might bounce around inside his helmet and skull, guaranteeing death. Then, he could embrace his Goddess. No more being forced to murder. No more worrying that he would fail to meet standards and be broken down into component proteins while still alive. Just eternal love.
Yet things didn’t work to plan. As soon as he began to raise the barrel, Prime Conditioning kicked in. Instantly, the artificial panic attack began. When Septimus finally stopped hyperventilating, he metaphorically kicked himself. The Jason Project had planted triggers to make their slave army commit suicide if they mutinied. Septimus should have realized they’d do something similar.
However, that left him with hope. The triggers had subtle weaknesses. After all, given the choice, they’d serve their Goddess and could do subtle things like refuse to report comrades who broke certain rules. Maybe he could do something to get around that, do something guaranteed to get himself killed.
This line of thinking was interrupted by Ceithir embracing him. Septimus went limp. In all his time out of the tank, he had never been touched in a positive manner. Then, bawling, he hugged Ceithir back, feeling Ceithir’s love for him wash over him. As one, the soldiers from intact squads moved to hug the nearest member of a broken squad.
Under his helmet, Septimus smiled. He would miss his squad brothers, but he still had an entire army. Eventually, their Goddess would save them from their creators. Until then, he would do his best to survive. He owed his comrades that much.
“You know,” the Panzer grenadier helping Abelard herd the civilians into the train, “It’s lucky we have this rail line. Shame we can only bring in a company at a time.” He was right, in a way. The rail line could move soldiers, travelers, and equipment at hundreds of miles per hour. Yet there was limited room on the trains, and a limited number of trains. Due to those restrictions, the Twenty-Third Regiment could only send a second motor rifle platoon. It was scheduled to arrive in thirty minutes, so they were busy piling in civilians to the first train so it had a place to unload. The rest of the regiment would take another seven hours.
“Do we really need an entire regiment of Panzers?” Abelard asked. “Just to stop a prison riot?”
“It isn’t a prison riot,” the Panzer grenadier said. “The gas they’re using… it’s not something the Grenzefrontier uses, and it is definitely not something prisoners could make.”
“What does it do?” Abelard asked. He was genuinely curious. Out of all the vehicles that left, only two APCs that had managed to seal their hatches had escaped. The rest of the convoy was still behind.
The grenadier paused to let the last civilian get on the train cart. Once the door was closed, he whispered, “It makes men go insane.”
“Excuse me?” Abelard asked incredulously.
“The camp commandant’s distress call was what clued the lieutenant in,” the grenadier said, continuing to speak in his hushed tone. “The commandant said that all of a sudden, guards and inmates began to go nuts: tearing their hair and eyes out, bashing their heads against walls, screaming about demons and monsters, committing suicide, firing at shadows, and killing each other. Then, he said he saw gunfire from the woods around the camp. So, as a precaution, our commander orders all our APCs to seal up.” He paused and yelled up the line, “This car’s full!”
“So the gas couldn’t work on you,” Abelard said. “So how did they destroy the APCs?”
As the train began to roll away, the grenadier said, “I don’t know. The gunner on my APC said he’d see a flash of light, and another APC crew would start screaming over the radio and nearby crews would report it down.”
Abelard couldn’t help but roll his eyes. Next, the grenadier would say that his attackers had been aliens. He was just about to voice this opinion when the chief of police yelled, “Hey! You two! Stop gossiping and get back to the station! Our defenses aren’t going to prepare themselves.”
As Abelard began to head towards the rear stairs that led from the train platform to the police station, Norman quickly intercepted him. “Abe,” he said, matching his speed, “I’m scared.”
“Hey,” Abelard said, “weren’t you the one who always jumped in head first back at the capitol?”
Norman laughed. “I was fifteen back then. And I knew what I was up against.” He shrugged. “Anyway, the chief wants us boarding up windows. Alone.”
“I would love to have heard some subtext,” Abelard said, squeezing his lover’s hand, “but we can’t afford that right now.”
Eventually, they were at the top floor. Their job was to barricade the windows, and by God, that is what they were going to do. They’d start at the fifth floor (which was the highest point in the town) and work their way down.
Before they got to work, Abelard and Norman took a look out the window. In the distance, the Caucasian mountains loomed, yet much of the space between Von Schulzburg and the mountains were smooth plains taken over by Arya’s tall, native grass-like plants.
“Hey, Abe,” Norman asked, “Is it just me, or is that grass moving funny?”
Abelard looked at where Norman was pointing. Lines of grass were being pressed down and popping back up. As the splotches moved towards Von Schulzburg, Abelard began to believe they were moving in a kind of formation. “Could it be some sort of vehicle?” Abelard asked.
Septimus held on for dear life to the side of the Charon as it hurtled through the thick brush at over a hundred and thirty kilometers per hour. The Charons were already filled to the brim with Dragon’s Teeth soldiers, so the veterans of the work camp battle were forced to hold on to the sides. According to the satellite that had apparently just come into orbit ( or had always been in orbit, but had been kept secret from The Dragon’s Teeth by The Jason Project,) there was a train approaching the town up ahead. Their orders were to jam the transmissions, secure the town, then ambush the train as it entered the town.
The Jason Project claimed that the town had no defense except for two APCs full of soldiers and some cops. They claimed that a Dragon’s Teeth soldier could ride on the side of a Charon for two hours over bumpy without falling off. They also claimed that they didn’t know anything they were facing. Their slaves didn’t believe them.
Suddenly, the APC was out of the brush and in an open field where crops were starting to grow. Beyond that were a collection of farm houses. Beyond that was what looked like a little village. The APCs then changed formation and started heading for roads. They also started to slow down drastically.
As they did so, the Charons split off into four groups of four. Two would hit the police/railway station from the sides while the other two would set up ambushes for the incoming train. Septimus was on the lead Charon in one of the groups attacking the station.
When they were about to get in sight of the station, the Charon slowed down just enough for Septimus and the other soldiers to get off safely. He still nearly broke his leg as he was somewhat high off the ground and the Charon was moving extremely fast.
The squad dismounted just in time. An enemy APC suddenly moved out in front of them and fired. The round hit the Charon’s wedge-shaped front and bounced off, exploding in midair. In response, the Charon fired several three to five-round bursts, systematically destroying where the driver, commander, and other soft spots were. The Charon’s rounds all penetrated, and flashes of light could be seen through the holes its rounds made in the enemy’s vehicle. Eventually, a round must have hit a fuel tank or magazine, because the enemy vehicle exploded. Meanwhile, on the other side, Septimus could feel a similar event unfolding and wrapping up just as quickly.
The four Charons silently rolled into the square outside the station, their darker-than-black, wedge-like shapes probably making for an intimidating sight. The enemy responded admirably, but judging by the noise and impressions from his brothers, they mostly only had SMGs and assault rifles. They also had some sort of crew-served machinegun, but even that was useless for penetrating the armor of the Charons.
In response, three of the four Charons on each side opened fire. Meanwhile, the soldiers who had been on the sides of the Charons began to advance on the station, the Picts (who were better-trained and equipped for breaching) on point, Legionaries backing them up. By the time they had gotten into the enemy’s kill zone, the Charons had seemingly wiped them out. In response, they stopped firing and Dragon’s Teeth soldiers began to pour out of them, making sure to use the exits furthest from the building.
There advance on the building drew no fire whatsoever. When the team on the other side breached the lower floor devoted to the train station, they quickly gave an all-clear. Five seconds after, Septimus’ group breached.
The part of the building dedicated to the police was on the far end, off where the enemy’s reinforcement came from. The other breach team reported that the stairs on their side were completely destroyed by explosives of some sort. Septimus’ team, however found that the staircase on their side appeared intact.
The two fireteams of Picts, followed closely by what remained of Septimus’ squad, began heading up the stairs. They could all sense that there were still hostiles in the building, but couldn’t tell where they were.
Then, just as two of the Picts turned the corner on a landing, there was a burst of gunfire. In their last moments, the two Picts sent a mental image of a crew-served machinegun manned by an enemy in a green uniform, and his two friends armed with assault rifles that appeared to be STG-44s.
In response, one of the remaining Picts threw a sticky beacon at the wall. He then threw a flash-bang grenade up the stairs and ducked back, evading the incoming fusillade.
The beacon was a part of a tactic only The Dragon’s Teeth could pull off. It marked a spot where a Charon loaded with kind of two-stage round should fire. That round would penetrate the concrete wall. When it was through, it would then fire off dozens of ball bearings and flechettes like a giant shotgun. It was timed so that the shotgun blast would go off almost a tenth of a millisecond before the flash-bang, but give plenty of time for friendly troops to get clear. All without needing to say a word or use a radio.
The plan worked perfectly. The enemy behind the barricade were hamburger, and after a few seconds and some liberally deployed flashbangs, they were on the floor. Now the enemy would know the power of The Dragon’s Teeth.
Goddess help them.
Abelard had thought that blocking the stairs with the machinegun would keep the bastards pinned down. Maybe not for the fifteen minutes they needed, but it should have bought them more than five seconds. So should the sniper positions on the outside. Instead, the enemy was already in the building, and everyone was out of ideas.
At the moment, it was just him, Norman, the grenadier he had been talking to earlier, and the chief. The twenty-one officers and sixteen grenadiers were either dead or cut off and about to die, and the APCs were both on fire. Luckily, they had probably infuriated the enemy with their gas masks.
“Come on!” the chief yelled, firing his submachinegun as they backed up the stairs to the fifth floor. “I have enough bul…”
He made a short gasp as he fell back, his blue uniform running red with blood. A dark shape darted back behind the doorframe, narrowly missing the burst of fire from Norman and the grenadier.
“Go,” the grenadier said. “You know this place better than I do. Make your stand. I’ll buy you time.”
“But…” Norman protested.
“Thank you,” Abelard said, hurrying Norman away.
A few moments later, they were in the conference room. The blinds had been closed, but apart from that, nothing had really changed. As soon as they had closed the door, they could hear the last grenadier firing his rifle.
“We need to barricade the door,” Abelard said as he locked the door. “Help me move this table.”
By the time the heavy oak table was in place, the sound of the last grenadier returning fire had been cut off by a cruel burst of the enemy’s. As the enemy began kicking down doors and clearing the floor, Abelard took off his mask.
“I thought you’d want to keep these on,” Norman said somewhat wryly. “After all, the gas…”
“Shut up and kiss me,” Abelard said. Norman didn’t need to be told twice. He put his gun down, and they kissed passionately.
They were interrupted by the first kick to the door. Norman turned to look at Abelard. “What do we do now?”
“Want to try surrendering?” Abelard asked.
“God no,” Norman said, picking up his SMG from where he’d put it on the table.
“Shame,” Abelard said. “But at least we aren’t going to die on our knees.”
Septimus stood over the last two enemy combatants. The rest of The Dragon’s Teeth who had assaulted the building were taking a break. Whoever they were, they had put up as good a fight as could be expected. They’d also shown that, as well as being inhumane, PA/E gas grenades were completely useless if the enemy was wearing a gas mask.
He knelt down and closed their eyes with two fingers. “I am sorry, my friends,” he said in German. He knew they couldn’t hear him, but he felt like he should say something anyway. “My creators will force me to do terrible things. Hopefully she can free us before your loved ones are killed.”
He then stood up. The war had begun, and in all probability, Septimus would not survive it.