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The smallest insect can bring down the biggest tree…


Freedom Square

Makely crawled against the cracked wall and stared at the sunlight beaming through the collapsed doorway. He clutched his M-27 and huddled against his four comrades. Nothing was said. Nothing had to be. The only sound was their strained breathing.

His nostrils stung from the acrid stench drifting into the gutted room, a toxic brew of cordite, charred wood, and roasted human flesh. He’d never forget that stench. He’d remember it to his dying day.

His fingers dug into the M-27. Dying day? Quit dreaming, marine. The way things are, you’ll be dead before noon.

He dragged off his helmet and rested his head against the wall. Hard to believe everything was so quiet. Forty minutes ago, the ground shook from artillery blasts and rocket hits. Debris rained down from the night sky. Star shells ignited the darkness, accompanied by bursts of small arms fire.

And there was that other sound, barely audible through the explosions and sniper fire. A terrifying sound. A heart-wrenching sound. The muffled screams of men, women, and children.

He glanced at the four men crouched beside him. Forty minutes ago, there were seven. Yesterday, nine. A month ago, twenty-six. Now just Joey, Edgar, Rafael, and Terell. Four marines trying to survive another day.

He heaved a nervous breath and wiped the sweat off his face. Twenty–two men snuffed out like candles, their surviving brothers cowering on the floor of a gutted house in the middle of hell.

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