When last we saw Blast Schafter, All-American, the dreaded Nazi Stormbots of Doktor Deniz Vice had him in a tight spot in the Windy City. Blast having re-recovered the secret plans for the Flying Tank, the nefarious Doktor Vice dispatched the Stormbots from his hidden roving submarine lab beneath Navy Pier, catching Blast in a desperate attempt to get the plans and his reporter/songstress fiancee, plucky Elaine Ecdysiast, to the Aragon Ballroom in time for her broadcast performance and a rendezvous with the G-men.
Now, the CHICAGO IN 2012 bid is proud to bring you the next thrilling installment of BLAST SCHAFTER: ANVIL OF VICTORY.
Episode Six—Elevated to Destruction
Sparking current lit the dark alley with blue fire as it surged down the Stormbot's black arm, across the three mechanical fingers, and into Blast's straining neck. Blast danced in its iron grip like a jitterbugger on benzedrine to the music of Elaine's anguished scream.
The smell of boiled rubber and burning hair filled the wet lakefront air. Blast sagged limp in the Stormbot's iron grip.
A brown leather trenchcoat hanging over what was left of a gaunt man wrapped within loomed out of the shadows. Doktor Vice took in Elaine's horrified pose—biting the back of her hand, eyes wide and white—as though savoring a classical statue.
The other mechanical monstronazi clanked into a fascist salute as the grim scarecrow approached. Its glistening form, dripping condensation, reminded Elaine of an animated collection of radiators and cookware.
"I am sorry, fraulein," the Doktor said. "First your father, now your fiance. Your blundering man made you a vidow even before your trip down ze aisle. Ahh, you must miss ze music of our beloved Wagner zis year. But nothing must stand in ze way of my mission. Not even the famous athlete Blast Schafter."
Elaine didn't believe the Nazi's plasticized face capable of a smile, but one corner of his mouth turned up as he spotted the battered Army Air Corps briefcase Blast had dropped.
"Nummer Zwei, werfen den toter aus," he said to the robot. It beeped and the backlight swastika on its forehead flashed red and white as it processed the order. It tossed Blast, limp and smoking from the neck, toward the rubbish bins behind the Pump Room.
Rats, cats, bottles, and rotting vegetables scattered as the former footballer struck the sulfur-colored brick of the alley wall and landed among the cans.
The Doktor took a step toward the dropped briefcase.
Elaine kicked out of her shoes and lunged for it—she could handle the Doktor. The Stormbots, while fast and implacable once engaged with a target, might be dodged.
"Nummer Eins, Fass!"
White light and pain. She didn't hear the Stormbot's strike.
Blearily, she looked up from her position, suddenly and remarkably flat on her back in the alley beneath a pair of metal legs. Gears in the ankle clicked as it straightened. She stared up into the Doktor's face.
It reminded her of a melted El Greco. She felt something sticky on her lip, tasted blood.
The Doktor picked up the briefcase, opened it and checked the lines of manila envelopes, angling is so the streetlight opposite the the alley shone inside. "Your injuries will heal. Young, schone, built for children. You will find another man. A vinner this time, no? Perhaps an educated man, for a change. Have I told you of my future estate in the Crimea? I intend to build a resort spa near Theodorichshafen."
"Hold your hassenpfeffer, doc," Blast Schafter, All-American said. The former tight end emerged from the refuse bins. He ran his hand through his bristling black hair, extracting a curley-cue of potato peel. It landed on a vast shoulder and lay there like an epaulette. "I'm not out of action yet."
"Lieber Gott! But how? My Stormbots are proven lethal!"
"Ever since I saw what happened to Dr. Tsuris in Reno, I've been wearing a rubber." Blast pulled down the collar of his singed navy turtleneck. Gleaming Goodyear showed against his suntanned skin. "A dickey in hand is worth two in the bush."
Elaine sagged in relief, not just that her fiance was still alive, but that Blast's recent rubber mania was evidently just a precaution. A light spanking and a pair of handcuffs now and then was one thing, but she'd draw a line at getting strapped into a diving suit.
Elaine tore off one stocking—it was ruined anyway—while the Doktor and the Stormbots confronted Blast.
"Nummer Zwei, Angriff!"
The clockwork nazi lurched toward Blast.
"You forgot one detail about your goosestepping Model-T's, Herr Doktor," Blast said. "They're weak at the knees."
The former All-American tight end lashed out with a foot, catching the robot at the knee. The impact of the crunch sounded like a hot walnut exploding. Blast's eyes bulged.
"Ankles, Blast!" Elaine shouted, braiding her stockings. "It's the ankles that are vulnerable."
Blast, clutching his foot and hopping, topped over, as the Stormbot swung and missed. He spun and kicked out with the other foot. Gears scattered as the Stormbot's ankle gave way. It wobbled and fell.
"Right you are, Sid," Blast said, vaulting to his feet.
"Nummer Eins, Angriff!" Doktor Vice shrieked.
The Stormbot stepped forward, tried to catch itself, and fell on its face. Its ankles were tied together with Elaine's stockings. She heard a vaccuum-tube blow from somewhere within.
Thank you, intimates counter at Marshall Field's! You just did your part for the war effort, Elaine thought.
Blast, somewhat hindered by a limp, grabbed the backpedaling Doktor. "Kiss your party pins goodbye, kraut."
"Kill me, and ze Stormbots will self-destruct. Two city blocks will fall," the Nazi threatened.
Blast hoisted the Doktor by his leather trenchcoat and hung him from a convenient fire-escape. The hamstrung Stormbot took an ineffectual swipe at him.
"Dried German sausage is on sale," Blast hallooed. "Last chance before it's discarded."
Elaine retrieved the briefcase as the Stormbot flopped like a landed fish. She looked at the Doctor, frantically turning the winding mechanism on his pocket watch.
"I think he's calling for help," Blast said. "We'd better skedaddle."
She daubed at the mud on her wool skirt. "I can't appear at the Aragon like this. Let's go back to my hotel so I can change. Can't disappoint our boys in uniform."
Blast raised an eyebrow. "Might start a new trend, Sid. Gutter-chic."
"It's pronounced 'sheek' Blast."
Chicago's residency hotels came in all prices, sizes, and levels of insect infestation. Elaine, between her slice of the family's money and the small Domestic Operations Government Secret Service expense account, had selected decently clean lodgings with a compact kitchen.
"Be a dear and get a glass of hot water and put a tablespoon full of honey in it," she called as she hurried into the bedroom.
Blast found the honey, ran some hot water. . .
"Just bring it in here."
He limped into the bedroom, finding her down to what his mother used to call her "frillies." Elaine in a not-quite-closed robe not really covering a black bra, panties, and garter belt froze him for a moment.
"Turn your back, mister," Elaine said.
"Right you are, Sid." "You just remember that."
Remembering his poor choice in Reno, he about-faced and walked over to the vanity and set the glass down next to the mirror. Thanks to a makeup mirror on the stand and the larger one for the vanity, he enjoyed a show that you usually needed a pocket full of nickels to see. Elaine's frillies did more to highlight her curves than cover them.
The vanity had a leather folio on it, the sort of thing lawyers used to keep their yellow pads ordered. He recognized his name on a piece of paper and, curious, opened the folio.
"You can turn around now."
Blast read the paper with his name on it. He was at the bottom of a list of names, all crossed off.
"I said you can turn around," Elaine repeated.
"What's this?" he asked, holding up the paper.
"Blast, you snooped!"
She looked lovely in her ball gown. Wartime fashions had simplified their lines, but the lack of frippery just highlighted Elaine's beauty, the way a simple white vase supported the flower within.
"I am a DOGSS-man, you know. Tell me about this list for the project we're protecting."
"Blast, that's the list I drew up of DOGSS agents to be on the Staten Project. We needed the best of the best protecting it, or the Nazis might not come after it."
"Why would you want the Axis to go after it? Wouldn't it be better if they didn't even know?"
Elaine folded her arms and tapped her fingers against her elbows.
"There's something much more important going on in Chicago, Blast. Even I don't know what they're working on, but there are scientists and technicians from all over the country here. To make it tougher on the Axis, we brought in a second set of eggheads, very obviously working on a project at Northwestern University, and in their off time being easily seen and followed. The Flying Tank plans are just one of their imaginary creations."
"Imaginary creations? You make it sound like the Flying Tank—"
"Won't fly," Elaine said. "Unless you park it on top of a blockbuster bomb and set it off. Look, we've already uncovered those three Italian agents posing as opera singers, trying to get into the Staten Project labs. Now the Herr Doktor and his Stormbots have shown up where they failed. The Abwehr is burning agents chasing shadows."
"The Shadow's crossed off—"
She walked over and snatched the list from him.
"Derek Dark, the Shadow With A Cause, is in a Sarasota Springs drunk tank. Opium again. The Rocket Ranger's getting treated for third-degree burns to his calves. Logan "Lash" Lautrec's in San Francisco working out personal issues and is officially discharged. Colonel Falcon's getting over another round of shock treatment. He's able to feed himself with a spoon again, but it'll be some months before he can be trusted with a knife and fork. Flash Gordon's missing and believed dead in Poland and Crash Corrigan was last seen off the Florida Keys grenade fishing with depth charges. The rest of the DOGSS are overseas making life difficult for the Nazis and Japs. You were signing footballs on a bond tour. Easy decision."
"You said I was the only man for the job."
"Well, the only man left for the job, yes. Very true."
Blast swallowed. Pride was tougher to get down than Coach's old salt tablets. "I'm the goat of the DOGSS."
She smiled, stepped over to him, managed to get her arms over his shoulders and around his neck. "Blast, forget the list. If I could do it over again, I'd put you nearer the top."
"Well, I've been crushing on the Rocket Ranger since he helped sink the Bismark. But Blast, I do love you. Maybe, when the war's over and we're married, I'll have the time to figure out why."
He leaned down to kiss her.
"Just one more, darling," she breathed. "Then we've got to hop the El to the Aragon."
Over the clatter of the northbound El, Elaine Ecdysiast tried a few bars of her opening number:
Are you happy in your work?
Do you never, ever shirk?
Not too bad. If her throat gave out, she'd tease Blast about it. He'd been such an insistent lover—
The train lurched and jumped, as though it had struck Mrs. O'Leary's cow. The lights flickered and died.
"What gives?" Blast asked, clutching the Air Corps briefcase more tightly to his side.
Dreeeeeeee! metal shrieked, as sparks showered into the elevated car.
Screams from the other passengers. The swastika light of a Stormbot smashed through a window and into the car. Another Stormbot climbed in from the back.
The Stormbot widening the train window lifted an arm. On it, a saucer of razor-edged steel whined faintly as it spun at airplane-motor RPMs.
Doktor Vice entered from the intercar passageway.
"More and more tired of the sausage jokes I become, Blast Schafter. So I have upgraded my Stormbots with these meat slicers. Your term in Doktor D. Vice's School of Hard Knockwursts will be a brief and bloody one, I assure you."
"Not so fast, Doctor Dumkopf," Blast said, aiming down the barrel of a shining, lamprey-like cylinder. "What you fail to realize is that not all of Professor Ecdysiast's work was lost. I grabbed the Experimental Decomposition Ray before escaping the fire your mechanical munchkins started."
"Blast," Elaine said. "That's not a Decomposition Ray. You grabbed my father's electric razor."
Looks like our heroes have their cuts worked out for them! Don't miss BLAST SCHAFTER: ANVIL OF VICTORY Episode Seven: Train of Death. Remember, buy bonds and support Chicago in 2012.