This side-story contains scenes of violence.
* * *
(side-story contemporaneous to Generalplan Suden)
Deep in the seedy back alleys of Rhinea, under a snowfall darker than the devil’s abode, all manner of Bastardry And Terror unfolded unseen, and only one man had the moral conviction to bring justice back to the bad quarter. With his wits about him, his trusty silver Zwitscherer pistol at his side Johannes Jager hurtled down the the dreaded Mort street like a runaway train. For every ordinary man’s step he took three — because He Had To.
He prayed to God almighty that she was still safe, that there was still time.
Mort was a mean, run-down part of the city in the old quarter, where thieves hauled their loot, dames would kiss ya for a buck, and every hand had a gun or a knife. You wouldn’t find a man like Jager, an Upstanding Man, caught dead in this place. Not under normal circumstances. It was not place for a man with a conscience. He looked every which way and saw nothing but obscured hands and grinning faces, looking at him all calculating-like.
In his all-white trenchcoat and fedora and his silver mask he stood out among the Villains, as he intended to. He wanted them to know that he was an invader, an interloper.
He was not one of them — he was a Man With A Mission and they couldn’t stop him.
He wouldn’t let them take her. Not again. He had a Debt to Pay.
In front of the rough-looking Höllemund bar, two gents two meters tall each stood before the doors. Johannes Jager had no time for such Crooked Company.
He circled around the alleyway, climbed atop a garbage can, and reached into his coat for the gas-powered hookgun he had prepared before leaving the precinct. Such things were becoming more common and compact in 2040, especially for police departments. Thank God for his Real Identity as the unassuming beat cop Frederich Freiden — Jager needed only to aim for the roof, and he put a hook right around the television aerial.
He walked up the wall to a second floor window, punched the glass with his Silver Knuckles, and entered a dark room that smelled of hemp! He felt the packages in the dark.
“Disgusting,” Jager thought to himself, “Guess nobody told them…dope’s no joke!”
Johannes Jager withdrew an electric torch and scanned the packages, packed full of grass that would fry your brain the instant you lit up the weed-cigar. All kinds of terrible drugs like these got into Nocht, and ruined innocent young men and women who could have stood a chance otherwise. What monster dealt in these Mind-Altering Monstrosities?
No sooner did he consider this that he found the red seal of the many-headed Hydra on all of the bags. Of course, it could have been no other group of fiends!
(The Hydra was the mark of Elite Communist Terrorists — his old nemesis!)
Pistol in hand, he forced open the door and pounced on the lone guard in front of it, quickly disabling the stout man with a precise strike on the neck from the hard metal of his Zwitscherer. Thundering loud music from below masked their quick scuffle.
It wasn’t his kind of song — but this was His Kind Of Dance.
He picked through the downed man. He took his gun, unloaded all the bullets, and gave it back. This was a Lachy man, he could just tell from his Profiling Training. Lachy gangs were notorious for their cooperation with terrorists. They probably pushed guns and dope for the communists. Feeling a righteous fury in his chest, Jager rushed up the empty hallway toward the staircase to the third floor, where the Leader likely awaited.
He couldn’t let these folks have Sylvie! They would ruin her completely!
Johannes Jager stepped to the third floor and found a long hallway to a door decorated in purple feathers. He threw himself into a roll as a pair of men guarding the door drew their pieces on him! Fully automatic pistols blared across the hall, Illegally Modified.
Bullets boomed and banged and pitted the floor and made holes in his coat! A Storm Of Metal sliced the hemp-smelling air in the hall. Any ordinary man would have been intimidated, but Jager was too quick for them. As he came out of his roll his Zwitscherer screamed with justice, and the knees of his foes exploded, and they fell back in great agony!
He charged past them, kicked the weapons from their hands, and broke through the door to the lair of the villain! On a plush red couch in the center of a luxurious room, a mountain of a man, bald and white as a sheet, laid back on the seat, his arm around Sylvie’s shoulder. She gasped at the sudden Noise And Blood, and she looked like she wanted to bolt. Her blonde hair was perfectly straight, her green eyes staring with burning hatred at the burly neck and head of her captor. Her white dress was pristine and fashionable, and she looked thankfully unharmed. It was plain to see she didn’t belong in this lair of thugs.
“I’m here for the girl and the hemp, Krieg.” Jager said, scowling with rage at the kingpin.
Krieg’s barrel-like head twisted as he smiled. He laughed hoarsely.
“Johannes Jager. We finally meet. I don’t know if you’re a cop or just an idiot, but I got use for both. Join me, Jager! I’ve got work for a man with your skills! I’ll make you rich!”
“Listen pal,” Jager shot him a glance sharp as a steel knife, “I got no time…for crime.”
“You think I care for the girl, Jager? I don’t care about girls. I care about money! I got this girl because I know you’ve been protecting her! I know you’ve been talking to the Lieutenant! Stop what you’re doing for those clowns at the precinct, and be my right-hand man, Jager! I have eyes and ears everywhere. You can’t run from me. If I have you in my gang, I’ll be invincible! Give up this foolishness. Together we can even take out the communists!”
“You’re small time, Krieg. The Reds are playing you like a trumpet!”
To punctuate his foul words Kingpin Krieg pushed Sylvie off the couch and laughed.
“Shut up! I’m playing them, boy! I got it all figured out!” Krieg shouted. Then he drew a pistol!
Johannes nearly shook, more with rage than fear. He remembered all too well the fate of his precious Gerda.
“Join me, Johannes Jager! Put down your gun or I will kill the girl!” Krieg shouted.
“Don’t do it Johannes! I would rather die than see you working for the men you hate most!” Sylvie shouted defiantly, and she spat on Krieg’s boot. She wouldn’t have known him in his Secret Identity, but she knew of him all the same. What a feisty lass, just like her dad; he owed it to the Lieutenant to get her back safe. He couldn’t endanger her.
But a man like Jager would never Compromise His Beliefs and work with a thug like Krieg!
Jager raised his pistol, but when he shot he fired his bullet aside at the wall!
“What was that, Johannes? A shot of surrender? You gonna work for me?”
Krieg let his guard down — he hadn’t even watched the bullet!
In an instant, the ricochet burst through his foul head, deflating it like a balloon!
Sylvie screamed as Krieg fell aside like a rock! Johannes rushed out, and picked her up, carrying her in his arms. She smiled at him and laughed girlishly at their position.
“To think I would be dragged in here in a bag, and come out in the hands of Johannes Jager! Those men kidnapped me from my father’s own home, Jager! They said if I tried to escape they would kill him, so I waited patiently here. They did all of this to lure you out. I’m glad you are safe!”
She reached up to his cheek with her lips, and pressed a red mark just below his mask.
Jager laughed. “Sorry gal, but you’re too innocent for a rough man like me. You need to find a quieter man to dote on, and stay away from these hemp-smoking types, okay? Promise me that.”
Confident in his final victory over his nemesis, Jager started out of the bloody room; but then he heard an explosion, and the wall bursting behind him! Jager ducked out into the hall, and found several figures abseiling down from the roof into the room — several men and, shockingly, women too, their skin brown as a puddle of oil, their hair long and dark, in a stark contrast with their bright red and gold uniforms! It was the communist KVW!
Brandishing submachine guns, the men and women, had come down from a gyrocopter hovering outside! The Communists had even penetrated Rhinea’s air defenses! But how? How had the Communists achieved this level of power and technology in their tyrannical society? Jager felt equal parts fear and fury seeing his True Foes before him! He could have run, run somewhere with Sylvie and been safe, but he knew that they had gotten this far, then they had everything plotted out. Sometimes, Good Men had to Stop Running.
They were really using Krieg all this time — to get to him. And now they Had Him.
“Sylvie, you better run.” Jager said heroically. “I got a score to settle with these spooks.”
Jager set Sylvie down, and despite her protestations, he walked calmly back into the room. Dead-eyed, the thoroughly brainwashed communist troopers stared him down. Then from the roof abseiled their commander — a woman over 2 meters tall, a fierce grin on her face. Was this the Blood-Red Commissar of the dreaded land of Ayvarta herself?
“Oo know tew much, I’m afoo-raid. Eet is tie-em for oo to die, meestur yay-gur.” She said, her Nochtish thickly accented. Did they know of the Red Spy in the Citadel that had Turned?
Whatever they knew or didn’t know didn’t matter. Destiny Called for them all.
Sylvie screamed out his name, and huddled out of sight at the doorway.
Jager showed no fear as the submachine guns wildly sprayed before him.
* * *
“Huh? You can’t just cut it off there! That was barely worth a chapter, the type was so big! I’ve been falsely advertised to!” Karla Schicksal shouted, turning the pages rapidly and desperately to find that the story truly ended there, on a cliff-hanger, for the month. She couldn’t believe this! All that build up and the conflict with Krieg was resolved so quickly!
She searched the pages for some kind of an answer. After the last page of story text there was a form one could fill out to get a real Johannes Jager mask in the mail; then a full-page cigarette advertisement seemingly aimed at the younger readers; and the next story in the Astonishing Tales! paperback was not related to Johannes Jager at all, but was instead a new installment of Secret-Man, back from its short hiatus.
Schicksal wistfully returned to the cover, which had advertised the longest and most suspenseful Johannes Jager story yet — and had accomplished this by increasing the size of the typeface and doing nothing more. There was probably even less story than last issue.
She growled a little in anger. Writers and their low word count and awful cliffhangers!
From the cupola of the Befehlspanzer, General Dreschner looked down at his radio officer with disdain. They were waiting in the command tank for orders to advance.
“What on Aer is wrong with you?” He said. “Are you reading those books again?”
Schicksal froze up. She nodded her head stiffly. “Sir! Yes sir! They uh, they help my morale!”
Dreschner grunted, shook his head, and raised himself out of the tank once again.
Once he was well away, Schicksal sighed and flipped the pages. She didn’t like Secret-Man as much. He was not complicated like Johannes Jager. Dreschner was just too much of an old fogey to understand the appeal of a riveting tale of adventure and beautiful dames. She returned to the Johannes Jager chapter, and started filling out the form for her own Jager mask. Maybe someday she would save the day and get a hero’s reward.