?Ready with that charge?" the call came above the slam and; rattle of machinery.
Phil Burke, Captain of the National Guard, sat in the swinging operator's chair with his hands on the controls and his eyes on the depth gauge.
"All set!" Page Russell, top Sergeant, sat in the swinging chair beneath him. A metal box rested on his lap, clutched tightly in sweaty, blackened hands. Sixty times in the last three days he had squirmed out the front of the machine to place the charge. But his nerves still recoiled from the touch of that box of concentrated murder.
Three days ago they had started out from the bank of the Hudson, working under the nerve-pinching pressure of terror and determination. Seventeen miles of fresh brown mounds, zig-zagging into the woods, showed how far they had come. At the bottom of each shaft reposed a charge of' explosive. Gamma rays made it impossible for a Borer to pass within three hundred yards of any charge without setting it off.
In a great arc that had New York City for its center, other National Guardsmen and army regulars labored in similar machines. Desperation kept them battling to complete the zone of death that it was hoped would protect the nation's temporary capital from the hordes of Borers working day and night beneath the ground.
There were severe lines, graven deep about Phil Burke's mouth and eyes, that told of a grueling fight with fear and fatigue. The hammering of the engine pounded on his bruised nerves. Every time the gauge caught his eye, with its two needles making a flat V, he saw the grinning red mouth of a Borer.