"Demons in New York," he says.
I give him the once-over spit-shine lookee-see-here-mister.
"Well, just the one," he says.
"I take it this, creature, ate the rest of your lance, Corporal Kiljoy?"
He says it again, only slower. Like I'm a tour junky.
"Demons. In New York," he says.
"I'm sending you rearwise, Corporal,"
"I''m fit to fight Sargeant," he says.
I shrug and point my thumb over my shoulder. He trots back behind our lines. good soldier, follows lawful order. Make note of his barcode, stand him a round when this is over.
I lower my smartscope and wipe the sweat from the strap of plastic at my forehead. My orders say this is your typical summer riot in New York.
Ever since they shot that boy and his mother back in '15 the hot heads and hop heads have been marching up and around Washington square and each year, somebody gets rough. Well this year, they got a little too rough I guess and the governor called out the guards, but they mucked it up, I don't know how, I wasn't there.
I got the call just as I'd knocked off my moonlighting gig taking newbies, FNG's and tour junkies past the knees of liberty over on Staten, right where the beam weapons of the Mormons had sliced her into the harbour in their bid for supremacy.
Fucking Mormons, nobody saw 'em coming.
My musing gets interrupted by a sudden billow of smoke up the avenue. My nose burns from a rotten egg stench.
"Gas!" I call out then clip my mask to my helmet and purge.
Out of the smoke come smoldering red eyes. One horn is damaged.
"Huh," I hear myself say as I take a knee and fire a short burst before taking a new position further back.
"Demons in New York." I say into the throat mike. My voice sounds flat even to me.
Keeping calm, communicating calm, has suddenly become my second highest priority.
My number one is barrelling down on my position.
I run. I take a sick comfort in noticing I am alone. The rest have bugged out ahead of me.
Then something I don't see every day comes out of the smoke which by now has totally engulfed the street.
Corporal Kiljoy, masked up, strides towards me with a Carl Gustav anti-tank bazooka on his shoulder and level with the lumbering nightmare at my back. There is a crude white cross painted across his uniform in what looks like house paint.
The ground trembles.
Kiljoy drops to one knee and takes aim. He's shouting something but the roaring behind me drowns him out.
I hug asphalt.
I hate guessing games but this time I guess right.
Behind Kiljoy, the fireball silhouettes him in black and orange.
Behind me, the HE round explodes dead centre of mass.
I'm sprayed with demonic blubber.
Corporal Kiljoy helps me up. I make a show of wiping myself off. The Corporal is staring behind me.
"Didn't think it would work," he says.
"Which part?" I ask.
"The paint. Tried Carl before, it ate my lance."
"The paint is what did it?"
"Demons can't abide holy weapons weilded by men of faith."
"Corporal, are you saying you blessed your bazooka? I ask. He nods.
"Any action at the right time is better than the best action when it's too late," he says. Chapter and verse from our own rules and regs.
"G--" I catch myself "--hmm, Good gosh durn it." I say.
"Come on Sarge," he says, "Let's go find another one."
"Certainly," I say. "Just show me where you got the paint first.