What's gone before: Mr. Amazing fails to save Professor MacCreary from being kidnapped by racketeers in the employ of Nazi spies, but gains an unexpected ally in another of the Professor's creations: Roberta, a robot. Meanwhile, the Silhouette's attempt to secret away a report on MacCreary's "super-man" formula from an army base has led her into contact with a group of Nazi covert agents, including some with super-powers. Just then, Blacklight shows up...
THE SUCCESS OF FAILURE
Unable to maintain her shadow form, the Silhouette "re-appeared" in the darkness by one wall, unobserved by the rest of the men in the room. Blacklight stood in the gap the German agents had made in the wall, while Major Strauss, dabbing at his bloody nose with a silk hankerchief, began to grin.
"You are the one called Blacklight? You I was briefed about." Without taking his eyes from the man in black blocking their escape, Strauss directed his next words behind him. "You see, Blitzkrieg? That is our answer. Our fleet-footed friend stole the woman away from you, you overrated snail. Stole her too fast to be seen."
"Nein," growled the man in yellow, Blitzkrieg. "No one is as fast as I."
Suddenly a couple of the plainly dressed Germans, not realizing Strauss' plan, stepped forward and their machine guns started spitting fire, deafening in the confined space of the army base office. Blacklight moved like a streak of light, ducking, twisting, avoiding the hail of bullets.
At least, so the Silhouette assumed. He moved too quickly for her to entirely follow.
Suddenly a machine gun went flying against one wall, and its owner against the other. The second German abruptly spasmed, as though in a epileptic fit. Then her eyes slowly began to make out a blurred form before him, as Blacklight rained a dozen blows in the time it took to blink. The German's legs gave out from under him, and he slumped unconscious against the desk.
"So much for Uncle Adolf's Master Race," remarked Blacklight. "Larry, Curly and Moe would've put up more of a fight."
She wanted to scream, to warn him. He had not yet noticed the two oddly dressed men, he had no idea that Blitzkrieg was also a speedster, and gifted with the ability to electrocute things with a touch. She wanted to, but the scream froze in her throat.
She was scared.
Trembling, knot in her belly kind of scared. All she had was her ability to turn into a silhouette, and not even that if she couldn't concentrate better. What was that against the power she had seen demonstrated by Blitzkrieg and the other man, against the cold, clinical cruelty she'd seen in Major Strauss' eyes. Worse, what would they do to her if they discovered she was a Jew? The S.S. would not have sent agents with even an ounce of ambivalence to Hitler's perverse dream of racial purity on a mission such as this.
For a moment she hesitated...and hesitating, Blacklight was lost.
The man in red and black with the swastika on his chest stepped forward. "Dumkoff," he sneered. "Ich bin Der Mut von das Vaterland...und du bist nichts!"
"I don't know what you just said, fella, but if you insist on going toe-to-toe, don't say I didn't- Owww!" His punch had been too fast to see. Not so its abrupt halt against the unyielding stomach of the self-described "Spirit of the Fatherland".
Suddenly Das Vaterland grabbed Blacklight about the throat and hefted him into the air as easily as a doll. He said something in German, and Blitzkrieg laughed.
Shaking off her paralysis, cursing her cowardice with every iota of her being, the Silhouette lurched to her feet. The sound of her steps on the crumbled masonry caused Strauss to start to turn in her direction...then back as Das Vaterland cried out. Blacklight was in the process of boxing his pink ears...with a dozen blows in a second. Das Vaterland instinctively released him. Blacklight hit the ground, delivered one parting kick to Das Vaterland's groin (with little effect) then turned and raced out the gap in the wall. Raced, but not too quickly.
He was obviously hoping to draw them out into more open ground.
"After him," Strauss roared, forgetting the sound behind him. He and Blitzkrieg raced outside. Still nursing his sore ears, Das Vaterland followed. Unnoticed, so did the Silhouette.
Outside, the Germans stopped. A black van was canted on its side, two tires laying beside it. Another man was slumped on the grass, unconscious.
"Oh," said Blacklight innocently, "did I neglect to mention that, before I crashed your little party, I took the liberty of disabling your getaway car?"
"It will avail you nothing, fool," sneered Strauss. "Quickly, Blitzkrieg, this has gone on too long."
The Silhouette cocked her head. She could hear the sounds of commotion, of jeep engines. At last, the army regulars had figured out where the sound of the explosion had come from and were on their way.
"Operation: Failure must be implemented before they get here," continued the major.
Operation: Failure? she wondered. That was the second time Strauss had made such a cryptic reference. It was a curious code name...and the ambiguity of it bothered her more than a little.
Blitzkrieg flashed toward Blacklight. The man in black hesitated a fraction of a second, taken completely off guard by the German's display of super-power -- it was a second that almost cost him. Then he bolted away and Blitzkrieg followed, the two men playing a bizarre game of tag as they raced around each other, little more than streaks of black and yellow light.
There was nothing the Silhouette could do anymore. No way she could warn Blacklight about Blitzkrieg's as-yet undemonstrated electric power. So, closing her mind to the looming catastrophe, she refocused on something else. The secret file Strauss carried in one gaunt hand. The file, and his cigarette.
Leaping forward, closing her fear off in a little corner of her mind, she kicked out, catching Strauss in the left kidney. He groaned, stumbled, and file and cigarette hit the ground. She scooped them up and ran a few steps, putting distance between herself and Strauss and, more importantly, between herself and Das Vaterland. Stopping, she puffed on Strauss' cigarette, disgusted by having to taste his spittle. The end flared and she put the edge of the file to the head of the cigarette. The file, thankfully, was old, and dry. It caught easily.
Suddenly arms like concrete grabbed her from behind, hoisting her into the air. Strauss came at her from in front, reaching desperately for the burning file. She kicked out with both feet, catching him in the chest. Enraged, Das Vaterland flung her away. She hit the grass hard, knocking the wind out of her. She was lost, she knew. But the file? She looked.
It was still burning, not yet fully consumed. No! she wanted to scream as Strauss reached it, made to stomp out the flames.
Then there was a flash of light, and a scream. Strauss turned instinctively as Blacklight tumbled across the grass, his costume torn and smoking. That distraction was enough. By the time Strauss turned back, the MacCreary file was ashes. He stared at the heap of black cinders a moment, uncomprehending. Then, slowly, rage burned red across his gaunt features. He turned on the Silhouette as Das Vaterland yanked her to her feet.
"You think you've won?" Strauss roared. "We have standing orders to bring in any super-humans for examination...and dissection. Yes, my pretty, we'll see how you tick, one way or the other."
"You're forgetting something," she sneered weakly. "No car, and the troops are almost here."
"We never intended to use the car to escape." Turning, he pulled a Luger from his coat and dispassionately fired one bullet into the unconscious German slumped by the disabled vehicle. The Silhouette stared, horrified. Then he pulled a small device from his pocket and depressed a button. The general's office exploded outward, the shockwave almost knocking Strauss from his feet, though Das Vaterland barely flinched.
The Silhouette gawked, uncomprehending. His unconscious men had still been inside!
"Mein Gott!" exclaimed Blitzkrieg.
Strauss turned. "What?"
The man in yellow stood over Blacklight, the fallen man's costume torn, exposing the skin beneath. The skin of a black man.
"It's a trick!" screamed Blitzkrieg, almost hysterical. "Like ven that verdammt schwarz Amerikaner bested the Fatherland's finest in the Olympics. A trick!!!"
Weak, terrified, and horrified by Strauss' casual brutality all at the same time, the Silhouette managed one final sneer. "And he was beating you...we'll all beat you, you Aryan bas-"
Strauss' fist finished her sentence...and sent her spiraling into unconsciousness against Das Vaterland's brick-hard chest. The last thing she remembered was the sound of a droning engine, unlike anything she could identify. And then, most peculiarly, a sensation of rising into the air.
Her last thought was a realization that, though the two of them had successfully destroyed the MacCreary file, the soldiers would arrive too late to save them...
Dennis Welbeck paced furiously across the deep carpet of his living room. Things had gone rather less well than he had anticipated. He stopped. Actually, one thing had not been anticipated at all. He glanced over at the gleaming metal woman standing by Mr. Amazing.
Roberta, she had said was her name. Roberta the robot. Welbeck had seen Karl Capek's play, "R.U.R.", some years before -- in the original Czech, naturally. And Roberta was the closest he had ever seen to a realization of that cautionary tale. At first glance, she looked like a beautiful young woman, save for the metal sheen of her skin. Even her hair was fashioned of thin strands so that it really behaved like hair. She even wore clothes -- essentially a one-piece shift of a silver fabric. He momentarily found himself speculating on whether the suit was simply an affectation, and on just how anatomically accurate MacCreary had made her.
Then he shook his head. Not the sort of thoughts a gentleman engaged in about a young lady, he chastised himself. And she was a young lady, it seemed. Human in many ways. Certainly she seemed upset by the kidnapping of her creator.
He frowned, that thought reminding him of the failure of his plan. Yes. They had lost the professor. No doubt he had been hustled out of the car when it disappeared around that corner she had told him about. The professor was, doubtless, already in the hands of Nazi spies.
He fingered his unlit pipe. They could do nothing further until the others returned to report the success, or the failure, of their assignment.
He turned to see Mr. Amazing standing by his radio. The music had faded -- he had been too lost in thought to notice. An announcer's voice was grimly detailing the events, just recently learned, of an incident at a military base.
"..a massive explosion. According to military sources, it seems clear to have been sabotage. Just as clear, it seems the saboteurs were caught in their own deviltry. A getaway vehicle and the bodies of four men were found at the scene. One of the bodies -- the only one in a condition that could be identified -- was that of Gunther Von Bach, a German citizen apparently assigned to a trade mission in New York. The damage will not affect the war effort, a military spokesman assures us, and, one thing's for sure, neither will the saboteurs...now. We now return-"
"Damn!" snarled Welbeck, twisting the off-dial savagely. "Double damn!"
"I don't understand?" said Mr. Amazing. "We can assume they were after the MacCreary file...just as we can assume they didn't get it."
"Don't be a fool," snapped Welbeck. Then he stopped and put a hand to his head. "I'm sorry. I'm just upset. I don't know what happened, but it's clear some of the Nazis got away."
"But the bodies, the getaway vehicle?"
"A clever, and appallingly ruthless, red-herring," he said grimly. "We're supposed to think the Nazis failed, that way no one will be looking for them, or suspect they were after MacCreary's file. But if they were all destroyed by their own bomb, then why haven't Blacklight and the Silhouette reported back by now? They weren't caught in the blast, otherwise the radio would have reported a woman's body among the wreckage. The only possible answer is there were more Nazis, and they escaped with our friends. We can only pray the MacCreary file was destroyed somehow in the blast." He looked from Mr. Amazing to Roberta. "Come on, I'll change on the way. Miss, ah, Roberta, you are welcome to stay here, or..."
"If you are hoping to rescue my father, then I am coming with you," she said, her voice suggesting no room for debate.
Welbeck allowed himself a small smile. "I thought you'd feel that way."
"Where are we going?" asked Mr. Amazing.
"To the airport...and my private plane. They're bound to try and get out of Toronto, and air would be the best way. We must hurry if our friends, if the world, is to have any hope for tomorrow!"
Next: The Man-Fly Cometh...'nuff said! (You just knew he wasn't going to simply disappear after Act I, didn't ya?)
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