Rather than relief, Captain Henry felt increasingly concerned about the invisible killers who were following him. Swallowing his worries Captain Henry dashed forward in a crouch using the barricades and the slumped hulks of Panzer Kommandos as cover from whatever lay in the room beyond the arch.
The room had once severed as the largest diplomatic chamber of the Presidential Palace. Frescoes of Mexican history decorated the walls. The high buttressed ceiling was almost cathedral-like in its complexity and gilt. The floor was a circular pattern of white marble and rings of hundreds of uniquely painted tiles with imagery rendered by the great artists of Mexico. Crystal chandeliers hung down low, their lights dimmed so that the room took on a yellow color that gave a feeling of homeliness in contrast to the room's size and splendor.
It was obvious that there had recently been a great deal of activity here. The floors were scuffed and marked with black smears of shoe rubber and loops of heavy industrial cabling snaked out of walls that had been broken open to gain access to the central wiring. Packages, plastic and paper wrappers, and even a few wooden crates littered the room.
"American, Ja?" Captain Henry started at the sound of the voice uncomfortably near to him.
A man emerged from behind one of the closer support columns. He was fat-faced and powerfully built despite a protruding stomach that strained the fabric of his white sleeveless shirt and suspenders. What immediately stood out was that most of his face was lobster red and rough-textured as though he were suffering from terrible sunburn. Damp and bloody bandages were taped to his neck and formed lumps down his back. Even his arms looked charbroiled. His hair was matted and missing in patches, obviously burned away unevenly by whatever fire had been set upon him.
"Damn straight, I'm an American." Captain Henry turned to present the thick front of his armored vest. "And you're a frigging nazzy."
"When it suits me," the man continued to pace, tracing a circle around Captain Henry. "Tell your friends to lower their weapons."
"Buddy, I got no control over them." Captain Henry looked around, trying to see where his murderous guardian angels were concealed.
"Kill me and you will never find Haushofer." The man shouted past Captain Henry.
"What if we're not after that old cripple? What if we're out to bring you down?" Captain Henry spit, almost as homage to his old drill instructor that did it whenever he wanted to disrespect a recruit.
"Me? Right." The man replied sarcastically. "I'm a lackey. A mercenary lackey, at that. I assume the old crone sent you? I seem to recall you being in her asset pool."
"Fritz, the president sent me here." Captain Henry brought his gun up slowly. "Now get talking before I decide what a damn nazzy has to say isn't worth hearing."
"Ja." The disfigured man nodded. "Haushofer plans to escape in a rocket. Its launch vehicle is concealed inside the adjacent office tower. However, I have a feeling he is still in this building. He is obsessed with Raylene's trophy girl Tara and will likely want to coax her to join him on his moronic flight to certain death."
The man pointed towards an archway behind him.
"Down there, take a right. Third door on the left side. Are we done?" The man glanced down at the fingernails of his charred left hand and blew away an invisible piece of dust.
The words were still forming on Captain Henry's lips when the assassins attacked. A thrown knife whistled from over Captain Henry's shoulder straight into the man's forehead, only it connected instead with the German's bare forearm. The blade sunk deep into the flesh. The man was already swinging up a tiny automatic pistol in his other hand and firing. Captain Henry felt the hammer of rounds on his front trauma plate and fell backwards, pulling the trigger on his Casull an instant too late and shattering a chunk from a marble structural column. A whipping white and tan robe fluttered past his vision and Captain Henry looked up. Half-dazed, he saw a tall Arab man with a long hooked nose batting aside pistol shots with the flat of a scimitar.
A second man appeared as if conjured from shadow and swung his own scimitar down on the German's neck. The man dodged, but a bit too slowly, and the long blade bit into his shoulder and cleaved diagonally through his arm. In a flash the pistol came around and the German fired again and again into the chest and face of the Arab who had maimed him. The other man, now completely unguarded against, swung his scimitar in a powerful arc that cut through the German's neck with a wet "thunk" sound. The man's muscles were already running on signals sent from his suddenly absent brain. He pivoted and swung the pistol halfway around back towards the Arab before his body joined his head on the ornate tiles below.
After years of being misunderstood, I had hoped we finally had "our" story. I was wrong.
He had a yellow inflatable tube around his waist, the kind with a comical duck head. There was a tiny fish in one of his hands, and a trident in the other. In the background a squirrel wearing shades was water skiing.
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