“Down!” Yankee Pride lunged at the man. The door disintegrated into pieces under a barrage of azure energy beams. The concussion was terrific; it shredded the clothing and skin off the guard, who died instantly. It threw Yankee Pride into Ramona. They tumbled back down the corridor in a heap. Ramona’s ears rang.
“You should buy me a drink first,” she said, trying to push him off her. He shook his head to clear it. “Get up, YP, damn it. They’re coming.”
They were kicking out the remaining chunks of steel-reinforced concrete with metal-shod boots. Any doubts she had about Eisenfaust vanished.
A dozen armored troopers stepped into the cellblock. The chorus of howls from the prisoners was that of trapped animals. Yankee Pride rolled to a crouch and aimed his gauntlet. Energy lashed out at the lead trooper, toppling him. One trooper stopped his advance to lift his comrade back to his feet, seemingly unharmed. The rest moved towards them.
Ramona decided to obey her urge to run for it. She levered herself to her feet. Ahead of her, Eisenfaust had come out of his cell. He had pressed his face against the grill of the cell door across from his and was whispering fiercely. Despite her fear, the detective inside her wanted to know what he was saying.
“We have come for Eisenfaust,” a voice boomed. “Ah, there he is now.”
The voice summoned images of evil, cruelty, and a weary, jaded impatience with the uncooperative world. The man possessing it wore jet-black armor with no blast helmet. Long blond hair cascaded down to his shoulders, like an Aryan warrior of old.
“He’s made new friends, I see.” The tall woman who stepped forward was dwarfed by the armored giants around her. Her black leather outfit evoked a fetishist’s version of a Nazi uniform, complete with cape and fishnets. “Heinrich,” she cooed in a mocking singsong.
Yankee Pride dodged back as the troopers grabbed for him. Their long strides carried them past him. Surrounded, he yelled and struck out with his gauntlet. Their own metal fists rose and fell with wet impacts until he stopped moving.
Ramona, alone, stood between the Nazis and their quarry.
The troopers raised their weapons. I deserve one last cigarette, she thought wildly.
“Allow me,” the Nazi woman said, drawing a wicked-looking pistol. A classic pistol: a Luger, in fact.
“Effi, nein!” Eisenfaust shouted.
Valkyria fired at Ramona’s heart with deadly accuracy. Ramona crumpled. She lay still as the metahuman woman stood over her to gloat. “America has grown fat and complacent,” Valkyria said. “You should have chosen your allies more carefully, darling.”
The nanoweave vest Ramona wore under her blouse had absorbed most of the bullet’s force. Her rib cage had taken the rest, and from the shards of pain when she took a shallow breath, she guessed she had a cracked rib.
Eisenfaust turned again to the cell door. Ramona thought she heard him say, “You must tell them.” Valkyria and the Commandant bellowed at him in harsh German, calling his name. He ignored them and spoke rapidly to the occupant of the cell.
The Commandant barked a command. The troopers directed their cannons at Eisenfaust and powered up with a cacophony of whines. As one, a dozen energy beams filled the air.
The blue beams tore up the walls, the cell door and the floor around Eisenfaust. Several hit him straight on; he made no effort to dodge. The force sent his broken form skittering across the floor. Ramona had a vision of his striking blue eyes and earnestness.
Valkyria cursed in German. Then the Commandant laid a familiar hand around her shoulders and pulled her close. She folded into him, leaving no question about her new choice of man.
The stray beams had destroyed a few cell doors. The prisoners peeped out, unsure whether they had a chance at escape. The troopers opened fire on the prisoners. One was too slow; his head vanished in a blue cloud. On the Commandant’s orders, the troopers went from cell to cell, blasting down the doors and shooting or pummeling the occupants.
The Commandant led a detachment of troopers to the cell of the prisoner to which Eisenfaust uttered his last words. Ramona tensed as the armored giants stepped over her still form.
“Come out,” the Commandant ordered the prisoner.
“The hell with that,” the man said. “You come in here and get me, sucker.”
Valkyria had reached the pulverized cell door. “Ach! Disgusting. What is that thing?”
A black, shadowy form slipped through them with a strangely casual motion, as if excusing himself from a crowd. Ramona recognized the prisoner, a petty thief who called himself Slycke.
He had chosen his nickname well; the troopers grasped at his frictionless, inky black skin without success. He paused before the Commandant, who goggled at him in surprise.
“Ain’t it funny that I get sprung from Echo by punk-ass Nazis?” He laughed in the Commandant’s face. “Echo’s gonna slap you sideways for this crap. Me, I’m outta here!” He spun on a heel and slid down the corridor like an ice skater. Within seconds he was gone.
“Stop him!” the Commandant bellowed. Blue beams followed the jet-black metahuman out the door.
Ramona kept still and prayed they wouldn’t check their handiwork. If I get out of this alive, she swore, I’m going to find that Slycke and have a nice long conversation with him.