(This is the third part of my epic battle with Baron von Blitzkrieg. Sorry about the delay.)
Baron von Blitzkrieg’s zeppelin Donar floats like a huge basking shark over the financial district of Evergreen City. Twin strands of balloon bombs lazily drift overhead, each balloon carrying a tidy little package of explosives. The electro-probe thing that blew up poor Leslie Milton’s helicopter hangs below the control car, sparking and crackling with power. Dozens of cables extend down from an open bomb bay in the blimp; about five minutes ago a platoon of scarlet troopers rappelled down into the city, and in about five minutes they’ll start hoisting loot from the city’s banks up into the airship. Another dull explosion echoes through the canyons of the city – another bank vault blown open by these strange retro invaders.
Wombat and I are crouched behind some HVAC hardware on the roof of the Pacific County Courthouse, in the shadow of the zeppelin, which hovers in place with the aid of four rotating fans. It’s huge, we’re about 200 yards away and the thing just fills the sky. Kestrel is out over the Bay somewhere. I could look for him with the binocular setting on my goggles, but I’m kind of busy preparing for my violent and futile death.
“All right, Wombat, I think this is as close as we get,” I say. “You know what to do?”
“Yeah, I go down there and beat up as many of those guys as I can,” Wombat says.
“That’s about it, yeah.”
“How are you getting up there?” Wombat says, pointing up at the Donar.
“You ever read X-Men?” I ask.
“You know it,” he says. “I always liked the Beast.”
“…that’s not cool, Wombat.”
“What?” he says. “What’s wrong with Gambit?”
“I’m just saying…” he says glumly.
“I had a point with the X-Men thing. We’re gonna do a Fastball Special.”
Wombat looks at me blankly.
“A Fastball Special? Colossus would pick up Wolverine and throw him at the bad guys like a spear. You’re going to throw me at the blimp.”
Wombat looks up at the zeppelin. “Did Colossus ever miss?”
“I’ve got glider wings, dude. I’ll be all right.”
“Okayyy…” he says skeptically.
I key the mike in my communications suite. “Kestrel, are you online?”
His voice crackles in on our headsets. Good thing we all get our gear from the same weapon smith, huh? “Yeah, just waiting on you girls,” Kestrel says.
“Okay, give me ten seconds,” I say. “Wombat, cup your hands like this and throw me alley-oop style.”
Wombat kneels down, cupping his big mittens together. I step backwards into his hands and bend my knees a little, tensing. Man, I hope nobody’s taking a picture of this.
The Baron’s huge blimp hovers overhead like a dark cloud. The electro-probe glistens and crackles, waiting to strike. Through the large windows of the control car I can see scarlet figures stalking the bridge, perhaps the Baron himself. I can see men with guns moving around onboard. The invisible hand of terror clutches my chest and squeezes.
This all has to happen at the same time, or we fail, and by “we fail,” I mean the city gets firebombed and lots of people die. Suddenly I’m not convinced that this is a good idea. I have to attack the blimp’s control car, Kestrel has to take out the balloon bombs, and Wombat has to attack the bank raiders – all at the same time. I’m gripped with the conviction that my plan relies entirely too much on luck. It’s something that you would do in a comic book, not real life. I’ve doomed everybody because I want to play hero.
We are so fucked.
“Marauder,” Wombat says.
“Nah,” I say. “You ready?”
Wombat swallows and nods. I tense, ready to go.
“Three… two… one… Go!”
In my ear Kestrel says, “I’m going.”
With a mighty grunt Wombat just fucking catapults me up at the airship. I’m not ready for how fast he throws me – Wombat is about as strong as I am – and it’s like getting launched from a cannon. The Donar looms, a huge scarlet and gold filigree hulk growing before me. Then the yawning mouth of the bomber bay is in front of me and I smash like a torpedo into the airship.
I shoot right through the open bay doors on the bottom of the Donar’s long passenger compartment, rebound off a thick tangle of cables and gears, then slam against a wall.
Looking around, I find myself in a fairly large loading bay, decorated in the same baroque motif as the rest of the blimp. Crates of supplies and barrels of oil are stacked in an orderly way, and a tool shop lines one wall. Cranes, gears, pulleys, hooks, and massive cable spools hang over the open bay doors in the floor, through which I can see the city, my vulnerable city. Thick cables run from the spools out the open loading bay, a lifeline to the raiders below.
And staring at me as I pick myself up off the floor are six brawny engineers, dressed in baggy scarlet trousers and striped red and white shirts. They wear dorky little tams and have mutton chops, but the fact that they’re wielding pipes and wrenches makes them considerably less goofy.
We all stare at each other for a second.
“You guys look like a bunch of little girls,” I say.
I’m not sure if they understood me or not, but I think I got the point across. Collectively the engineers scream and charge me.
I’ve got about two seconds before they slam into me with all their wrenches and tools and shit. What are my goals here? I’ve got to get to the bridge ASAP. Do I take the time to beat these guys up? Do I sabotage the cable gears? Do I –
The first of the Baron’s engineers is on me, swinging a rod of metal at my head. I block the rod with my left arm then reverse punch the guy in the face. I twist the rod out of his hand as the guy slumps back, toothless, then spin around and swat another attacker in the chest with it. That guy’s out of the fight, too.
Then somebody smacks me in the head with a wrench or something, which staggers me. I don’t care who super-tough you are, if somebody hits you in the skull with a metal object, it smarts. I sink to one knee, ears ringing. The four guys jump on me, kicking and smacking me. I don’t bother resisting -- it doesn’t hurt, and I need a second to clear my head.
“Okay, enough of the pummeling,” I say.
I punch somebody in the crotch. He drops.
I take a kick in the ribs from another striped-shirt goon so I can grab his leg. I twist hard and feel his knee pop. The guy screams as I twist harder, slamming him into the deck face first. He’s out, too.
There are two left. One punches me in the jaw, a solid right cross. Doesn't hurt. The other guy is running for an intercom panel, presumably to sound the alarm.
First things first: I fire a Marauderang at the fleeing engineer’s back, which catches him in the base of the spine. He falls short of his goal and writhes around like a goldfish, clutching his back. But then the last guy jumps on my back and grabs me from behind in a chokehold. I reach over my head, grab hold of his fancy striped shirt, then bend forward and flip the guy over my shoulders.
He falls screaming out of the open hatch.
I run to the edge of the bay doors and look out. The engineer is already a rapidly shrinking red and white striped doll, plummeting hundreds of feet to the street far, far below.
I just killed that dude…
Two riflemen in scarlet tunics and black forager caps burst into the bay. I turn just as they raise their guns and shoot me.
The bullets both hit my mid-section like tiny meteors, impacting against the suit’s layers of ballistic nylon, Kevlar, and plastic, and ultimately against my thick, injury-resistant flesh. It hurts, but not excruciatingly so. It’s like getting shot with a paintball gun for me. Anyway, I get shot and the impact knocks me backwards, out of the open bay doors, falling, falling towards the city far below.
“Shit!” I scream, more pissed than anything else. I clip my wing tips in place on my gauntlet’s hard points and extend my arms. My glider wings snap into place and I pull up, looping around the mass of cables extending from the blimp.
I’m under the airship now, gliding in a big arc. Wow, I’ve never been up this high.
I can hear the guys in the cargo bay shooting at me from the bay doors. I don’t see Kestrel anywhere, but I only see one of the two strands of balloon bombs. Maybe I should try to dismantle the other strand, maybe Kestrel was shot down or something. Blitzkrieg could drop those explosives any second now.
Then the electro-probe device, the big rod and donut weapon hanging on the bottom of the control car, springs to life. A tendril of blue electricity snakes out, growing.
They’re going to shoot that thing at me.
I think to myself, “Oh shit.” I have a limited repertoire of expression during stressful events. Although I’m really trying to work some more wit and banter into my fights, right now it’s pretty much “shit” and “fuck.” As Charles Barkley would say, “I am not a role model.”
I arch my back and twist into the wind, pulling as tight a curve as I can.
The electro-probe fires.
A crackling shaft of lightning bursts out of the device, ripping towards me as I swoop behind the cables and back up towards the Donar. I must be too close for it to get a good bead on me, because the lightning misses me and strikes the landing party cables instead. For a moment I see the cables sparking and writhing with electric fury, and then I am swooping back up towards the undercarriage of the airship.
I fly up to a window just aft of the bridge. It’s a big circular portal with a gilded frame. Looks like a hallway on the other side. Clinging to the side of the airship with my gauntlet spikes and boot cleats, I make a fist, pull back, and smash through the window. I hop inside.
Looking around, I find myself in a short hallway that runs the width of the Donar’s cabin. The place looks like the inside of a fancy 18th century sailing ship as imagined by Walt Disney, with baroque gold trim, a deep red rug, and ornate wall lanterns. In front of me, the main corridor that runs the length of the ship’s long cabin. I must be right next to the bridge.
A guard comes around the corner. He’s got a wicked looking weapon that looks like a cross between an Uzi and a nail gun. When he sees me, he freezes.
I spring on him like a panther, stuffing my fist into his face.
The guard lies crumpled at my feet, barely conscious, as I inspect his nail gun. It’s actually a dart gun, and it’s cool. It carries nasty little flechettes in a drum clip and has a wooden pistol grip. I wonder –
“Intruder!” Two riflemen yell at me from the other end of the long corridor.
Almost instinctively I fire the dart gun at them. Phut phut phut. It sounds like a silenced submachine gun. The guys at the end of the corridor dive for cover from the hailstorm of darts. One of them screams and drops his rifle.
I think those are the same dickheads that shot me!
Behind me is the door to the bridge. I may already be too late. A shot ricochets down the corridor. I fumble with my utility belt. An alarm bell above my head goes off. I hurl a sepia bomb at the riflemen. Its inky blackness envelops the entire corridor. Hopefully that will hold those guys for a minute.
I open the door and jump out on to the bridge, into the midst of a whole bunch of armed men.
The Donar’s bridge is a two level semi-circular arrangement, with the bridge staff working at stations on the lower level and the command staff working on the smaller balcony-type area. The whole place is brass and polished teak. The door I stumbled through comes out in the middle of the terraced room. The multi-paned spherical window on the bridge is huge, and offers a spectacular view of the airship’s target – Evergreen City.
I catch a glimpse of Kestrel streaking under the blimp like a rocket, just a blur. Man, he is shit-fast!
Below me in the pit, one of the bridge staff says, “I have the flyer on the Omni-Scanner! He may be heading for the other chain of balloon bombs, m’lord!”
Behind me, I hear a familiar Teutonic voice thunder, “Release the bombs!”
From behind me on the balcony, somebody yells, “Intruder on the bridge!”
I spin. On the command terrace, Baron von Blitzkrieg himself stands, flanked by two officers with drawn swords. Blitzkrieg snarls beneath his waxed moustache and points a gloved finger at me.
“You’ve doomed the city with your hubris, Marauder!” Blitzkrieg yells. “Release the bombs!”
Think fast: one of these guys below me is the guy in charge of releasing the bomb. Which one? I claw at my utility belt again and produce an egg bomb, then another.
The Baron’s men leap down on either side of me, wielding sabers.
I squeeze the nitrocellulose shells, cracking them. Air mingles with the chemicals inside the eggs, and a reaction begins. They start fizzing. I toss them down into the pit, on to the workstations of the bridge staff.
“Have at you, blackguard!” one of the officers screams.
The Baron’s men attack. These officers are wearing scarlet tunics festooned with medals, black sashes on their waist, and death’s head shako caps. And of course, hideously dated facial hair.
Twin explosions rip through the bridge as the egg bombs detonate.
The officers are momentarily distracted by the thunderous explosion, the shattering bridge windows, and the screaming bridge crew. I, on the other hand, am not distracted. The Velvet Marauder machine - zero defects baby. I body check the guy on my right, flattening him against a wall. His breath leaves him in one huge moan and he’s down.
The other guy remembers what he’s getting paid for and charges me, sword high.
I parry the blow with my reinforced forearm, then palm strike the guy in the face. Another one down. I am on fire! I wish somebody was filming this.
What feels like a really big hot needle pierces my left shoulder. I hear this noise in my ear as my left arm goes numb. It sounds like an electric toothbrush. There is groaning; I remember groaning, then “Schweinhund!” and I am pushed –kicked- forward into the pit, on to one of the burning bridge stations.
That fucker stabbed me.
I roll myself over with difficulty. My shoulder burns. All around me, dazed and injured bridge crew sprawl painfully. Their shattered machinery burns. Outside, the city skyline tilts. Am I high, or is the blimp listing to one side? I smell burning Kevlar. I think that’s me.
Baron von Blitzkrieg strides forward out of the black smoke that swirls around the bridge. He leers down at me, black eyes sparkling with hate. Playfully he swings a buzzing sword around.
“I can cut through anything I like with my chainsword,” Blitzkrieg says, then points the sword at me. Sure enough, it has thousands of mini chainsaw teeth whirring around the edge of the sword. “But some things are more enjoyable to cut through than others, ja?”
I cough. Man, what if I have internal bleeding and shit? “Game's over, pal. Give it up.” I don't sound very convincing.
The Donar shudders, and another alarm bell goes off somewhere. The Baron looks out the window. “Your winged friend has cost me another engine. He’s been quite a bother,” he says, and I lunge at him.
Before I even clear the pit area, the Baron has produced a Mauser type pistol in his free hand and fires. I feel the bullet plow into my left shoulder, right into a soft spot between two plates of ballistic ceramic. I stumble on my face, clutching my burning shoulder.
There’s a click in my ear. The Baron’s Mauser.
“Goodbye friend,” he says.
A big stone gargoyle crashes through the bridge window, ripping into the control cabin like the figurehead of a ramming ship. With a terrible racket a giant wedge of stone follows the gargoyle, tossing me off my feet. It takes a second before I realize that the Donar has crashed into the top of the old Pacific Lumber tower.
I lose Baron von Blitzkrieg in the chaos as the huge rock iceberg destroys our Titanic.
I leap for the doorway, make it. I tumble down into the main corridor, where a couple of redcoats are hanging on for dear life as the ship pitches and yaws. From the cargo bay area there’s a huge explosion, and the Donar shakes violently.
Time for me to get the hell out of here.
With my gauntlet's claws I grip the walls and make my way towards the window I broke to get inside. Outside the world spins crazily. The ship slews to one side with a grinding noise, and it feels like we’re off the Pacific Lumber tower, but sinking fast.
I lunge for the window.
Of course, Baron von Blitzkrieg comes shrieking out of the wreckage of the bridge and attacks me.
“Meddling pimp! Strutting pretender! I’ll gut you like a trout!”
Blood streaks down his enraged face from a forehead cut – he looks like a bloody screaming specter as he slashes at me with his chainsword. I duck beneath his blow, then pop up and give him an armored backhand, sending him flying.
Outside the broken window I see water. We’re over the Bay.
The Baron spits blood, holds his broken nose. “I’ll see you burn for this, sir! I’ll see you burn!”
“Big talk from the guy with the broken nose,” I say.
Another explosion rocks the ship. I’m out of here.
I turn at the window before I jump and look at him.
“I’m too sexy for your blimp,” I say.
The Baron screams in rage as I bail out of the blimp 300 feet over the Bay. I try to click my glider wings in place but I can’t… move… my left arm far enough. Pain shoots through my shoulder where I got stabbed. Shit, I can’t do it.
The cold salt water of the Bay rushes up to meet me. I’ve never dropped into water from this height; I imagine it will hurt. Peripherally I am aware of the Donar, burning, all scarlet and gold and flame, sinking towards the Bay on a much slower trajectory.
As I fall, one thought is foremost in my mind:
“I’m too sexy for your blimp?” What the fuck kind of thing to say is that?
Then I hit the water.
I was right, it does hurt.