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Unformatted text preview: much running and shouting. Fires were burning and the ruined cases of buildings were piled up in mounds.
Framework leaned. The smoke bombs stood like matchsticks in the ground, filling the city’s lungs.
Hans Hubermann was in a group of four. They formed a line. Sergeant Boris Schipper was at the front, his arms
disappearing into the smoke. Behind him was Kessler, then Brunnenweg, then Hubermann. As the sergeant
hosed the fire, the other two men hosed the sergeant, and just to make sure, Hubermann hosed all three of them.
Behind him, a building groaned and tripped.
It fell face-first, stopping a few meters from his heels. The concrete smelled brand-new, and the wall of powder
rushed at them.
“Gottverdammt, Hubermann!” The voice struggled out of the flames. It was followed immediately by three
men. Their throats were filled with particles of ash. Even when they made it around the corner, away from the
center of the wreckage, the haze of the collapsed building attempted to follow. It was white and warm, and it
crept behind them.
Slumped in temporary safety, there was much coughing and swearing. The sergeant repeated his earlier
sentiments. “Goddamn it, Hubermann.” He scraped at his lips to loosen them. “What the hell was that?”
“It just collapsed, right behind us.”
“That much I know already. The question is, how big was it? It must have been ten stories high.”
“No, sir, just two, I think.”
“Jesus.” A coughing fit. “Mary and Joseph.” Now he yanked at the paste of sweat and powder in his eye
sockets. “Not much you could do about that.”
One of the other men wiped his face and said, “Just once I want to be there when they hit a pub, for Christ’s
sake. I’m dying for a beer.”
Each man leaned back.
They could all taste it, putting out the fires in their throats and softening the smoke. It was a nice dream, and an
impossible one. They were all aware that any beer that flowed in these streets would not be beer at all, but a
kind of milk shake or porridge.
All four men were plastere...
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- Winter '13