“How many victories do you have, General?” Rochester remained cool and poised, his hands tucked neatly behind his back.
“I don’t call that a victory.”
The room shook, and a burst of white fire flashed through a doorway, smashing the door against the far wall. A soldier ran into the command room, his eyes wild.
“I said, get out of my fucking way!” Xander stepped through the smoke, sword in hand, a crooked smile splashed across his face. He bowed, sheathing his sword, and extending a hand toward the center of the room. “Esteemed leaders, may I present Fin?”
Rochester’s eyes narrowed. “What is the meaning of this, Xander?”
Xander sauntered over, motioning for Fin and Grace to follow. “You see, Magister, someone ordered that soldier not to let anyone in or out of this room. Even when that someone, or someones,” he motioned behind him, “might have information of great importance about the enemy.”
“And you felt it necessary to blow open the damn door and almost kill one of my men?” General Matthias held a pistol at Xander.
“Gentlemen, please.” Rochester gently lowered the General’s arm and glared at Xander. “We have enough trouble fighting a virtually unkillable enemy. Let’s not take out our frustrations by killing each other.” Rochester looked back and forth between the two, and seeming them nod, turned back to the table. “What sort of information do you have?”
Fin walked up to the table and threw the book onto it. He flipped to the section on Soulless, and stepped back while Rochester read through it.
“Where did you find this book?”
“It was in the archives.”
Rochester’s brows furrowed and then were passive again. “I see. We’ll discuss this further. But for now, this information seems worth trying. General? I think you were just discussing a plan of yours?”
“Uh, yes.” Matthias straightened out his uniform. “Yes, I was. As I told Commissioner Wallace, it’s too late for evacuation. Most of the city has been destroyed, and we have not been able to estimate civilian losses. But it looks grim. At this point, we’re not even sure if it’s a valuable allocation of resources to call for an evacuation. All of our troops are tied up just trying to survive against the bastards.” He tapped the screen, and it zoomed into Times Square. “We heard multiple reports of a large gathering of Soulless. We tasked a satellite, and should have a feed soon to confirm. But,” he looked around the room. It was silent, and everyone was watching him, “if there is indeed a large gathering of Soulless here, we need to strike quickly and decisively. I already have our entire air force on standby and ready to initiate a full scale airstrike.”
“Wait,” Grace leaned closer to look at the map. “You want to bomb Times Square? What if they scatter?”
“Then we follow and terminate them.”
“What about collateral damage?”
Matthias chuckled. “Ma’am, have you seen the city? We’ve already lost New Brooklyn. Now we’re just trying to take the bastards down with us.”
“General, your plan is not going to work.” Fin’s eyes were narrow slits.
“Excuse me, son? How many military operations have you planned and executed?”
“How many Soulless have you killed?”
The General swallowed, and adjusted the collar of his shirt. “That’s not relevant.”
“It’s completely relevant. I almost killed myself because I used too much magic, and I only killed a handful of them. A handful! What makes you think missiles will be any different?”
Matthias smiled, his eyes twinkling darkly. “I think our missiles have a little more kick.”
“You watched the feed of New Harlem. You saw what I did. Do you really think your missiles have more “kick” than that?”
The General was silent.
“Don’t send this airstrike. Use your resources to get who you can out. If you really think New Brooklyn is lost, then retreat! Regroup! Don’t go for one last stand. It’s not worth it. It’s our sole purpose here to save lives. Not waste them needlessly. I’ve seen firsthand what the Soulless can do. Have you?”
General Matthias shrugged and sat down. “It’s not up to you. We don’t have Soul magic. We have tech and big guns. And this is happening. The strike is fifteen minutes out.”
Fin slammed his fist into the table, cracking the glass and shorting the display. “You damn fool! You’ve sent all those men to their deaths!”
Rochester grabbed Fin’s shoulder, pulling him close and whispering, “Don’t get yourself killed.”
Fin brushed Rochester’s hand off, but nodded, and walked out of the room, motioning for Grace and Xander to follow.
Once outside of the command room, Grace grabbed Fin’s shoulder and stopped him. “What was that all about?”
“It’s a chance to try and stop people from doing what I’ve done. Dive headfirst into a suicide mission.”
Xander crossed his arms. “And Rochester?”
“We’re good. Want to risk teleporting?”
Grace pursed her lips, creasing her forehead. “We’re going to have to, if we want to get there in time.”