The Rugged Explorer
They waited there, his body pressing hers against the wall as the machinegun spat death all around them. She spoke, her lips so close to his ear that he could feel her breath even though he could barely hear her words. He couldn’t understand what she said—it was all Greek to him—but her tone was clear enough: cajoling and courageous, the kind of talk he had exchanged with his buddies in the trenches of the Great War. He decided that she had probably just acknowledged his saving her life, which made them even. The game wasn’t over, though: they still had to get out the arena alive.
He grabbed her hand and led her back the way they had come, praying that they could find another exit. They darted back around the corner of the entrance hallway and into the arena, but a towering shadow looming up to block their way.
“Ah, there are ze trouble makers,” rumbled a low voice. It was Sergeant Schmidtt, covering them with his luger. His face was scuffed and his grey jacket was torn completely away, exposing his massive, granite-hard chest and shoulders.
Jack’s hand twitched towards his machinegun, but Schmidtt’s eyes tracked the movement. The gun was only a few inches from his fingers, but the luger was already in his enemy’s hand, ready to kill with the twitch of his trigger-finger. With a sigh of resignation, Jack lowered his machinegun to the floor by its strap and then kicked it away.
Schmidtt smiled and put his own weapon into its holster, the muscles bunching and sliding under his skin with each motion. Then he brought his fists up into a boxer’s stance and gestured an invitation to fight. Jack wondered if they wouldn’t stand a better chance against his pistol than against his scar-thickened knuckles.
The Amazon darted in with a wrestler’s grab at his legs, but the boxer’s heavy fist crashed into the side of her skull with the force of an avalanche. She tumbled to the dirt and tried to sit up, but it was clear that it would be more than a ten-count before she could focus her eyes.
Jack had followed her in, attempting to use the Amazon’s sudden attack as a distraction while he went for Schmidtt’s holster. But the big mad moved like mercury, fluidly shifting his hip so that it moved the pistol out of Jack’s reach while at the same time powering a left uppercut that drove deep into Jack’s side.
Time seemed to stop for Jack as he hovered, both feet lifted slightly off the ground, the fist deep into his abdomen. He could see his hot, spittle-flecked breath floating front of him like a cloud and he could hear his own wheezing exhalation as the last of the oxygen left his lungs. It felt like his lungs had collapsed and he had a moment of panic that he would suffocate before his feet even touched back down. The spell was broken only by Schmidtt’s right fist hammering into his face. Hot, red sparks flashed through his vision and Jack stumbled back, barely keeping his feet.