"Lady, take my hand!"
She's scared, and she has every right to be. Even if New York City wasn't going to Hell in a handbasket at this particular moment, and even if she hadn't seen two of her companions torn to pieces in front of her, she would probably still be nervous at the site of me just two feet away from her.
Of course, with my luck, she probably would have just started hitting me with her purse while screaming for help.
But right now, I'm her only option, and I'm screaming for her to grab my hand so I can get her out of this mess.
Something scrapes at the back of my suit. Through the quilted fabric, it feels like someone pushing a lint roller along my spine. I can afford to ignore it for the moment, because right now, it's all about this lady is huddled up in the corner of the bedroom, pushing as far away from me and the things behind me as she can get.
"Lady, it's me or these guys, and I ain't going to bite you in the butt, now come on!" Maybe it's my intimidating voice. Maybe it's my shiny silver metal gauntlets. Or maybe it's because the series of moans in the next room mean several more guests have just crashed this party. Whatever the case, she reaches out; mumbling a few words in what I think is French. When she's close enough, I grab her hand, holding it tightly and making sure she can't run away, before turning to deal with whoever is scraping at my back.
I register a form, an outline in the dark bedroom. It's lunging for me, which, as far as I'm concerned, makes it fair game. My free hand comes up, and I push the trigger with my thumb. It's a small level-one blast, but it's enough to catch him square in the face and send him flying backwards. I watch it flip over the bed, its legs catching on the mattress, and land with a thump on its side. Any other situation, the bastard could be sleeping. The lady screams at the sound of my gloves firing, but she doesn't let go of my hand.
The light of the fire burning across the street lets me see several more forms trying to push through the narrow doorway. The thing I shot in the face is motionless on the bed. With any luck, I scrambled its brains for good. Without turning, I say, "come on, we're going out the window." I have to yank slightly, but the French woman stumbles along without too much trouble.
The fire escape outside the sixth-floor window is clear. "Go," I said. I'm not sure she understands the command, but she sees me pointing with my gauntlet, and that's enough for her to climb out slowly. I don't rush her, because I don't know what the hell is out there. If she starts screaming, I'll deal with it. But, luckily for us, she doesn't. Two of those forms had made it into the bedroom before I climb out the window after her. I make sure to slam it behind me before leaning over the railing to look down. The alley looks clear, lit up by the fire raging in the building across the way. There's a few forms lying face down on the ground amidst the scattered bags of garbage, but they ain't getting back up after getting a direct blast right in the face.
The Frenchwoman is staring at me, and I get my first good look at her. She's blonde, winsome in form, and her eyes are wide with what can only be a case of pants-wetting fear. I can't blame her, really. On the other side of that window are a bunch of psychopathic murderers. And even though I'm the guy who saved her life, I'm wearing what amounts to a form-fitting quilt and shiny metal gloves and boots.
But she's from France, so she probably doesn't know who I am anyway. Maybe she thinks I'm one of the good guys.
Well, lately, I have been one of the good guys. One of the stupid, righteous, chivalrous, good guys. Go figure.
I step in front of her, going down the metal steps, moving slow enough to keep her right behind me. I can make out 10th Avenue through the end of the alleyway. Looks clear enough for me. I use my tongue to turn on my mask's two-way radio. "Aleksei, I got one more for you."
"Nice work, Herman!" Aleksei's voice is full of way more joy then the global situation calls for, but considering the potential for one little victory here, I'll let it slide. "You far from the subway? We're all still here, and no more of those creeps have shown up."
"Two, three blocks. We can..."
The sound of shattering glass causes me to whip around. We were on the second floor, passing the final window on this side of the building, when the gray hands came smashing through. On reflex, I wave my arms to shield myself from the flying shards of glass. The Frenchwoman picks right now to start screaming, and I raise my voice to make sure my friend hears me over her. "We can make it to Houston Street, keep an eye out!"
There are about three arms reaching through the broken window for us. One of them, the forearm has gotten stuck on one of the shards of glass sticking out of the frame, and the efforts of its owner is causing the glass to slice it open. The red blood that comes flowing out is in sharp contrast to the color of the skin. The Frenchwoman has backed against the railing, trying to push past me and get away from the reaching digits. I take a step forward and shove both fists towards the pane. I can't make out what or who is inside, but a level two blast should clear the nearby schmucks. It would be easy to just ignore them and shove past, but it wouldn't hurt to give a boost to this woman's morale.
The grabbing hands disappear. Immediately, I grab the woman's arm. "Come on, move, move!" I know she probably can't understand me, but in a stressful situation like this, actions count for more than words, especially with a barking American accent behind them. Part of me thinks I should drop into German, but that would just be rude and crass. Good guy, remember?
I let her climb down to the alleyway first before dropping down behind her. I was originally going to go towards 11th Avenue and see if there was anyone else in that direction, but I had gotten lucky rescuing the one civilian. I wasn't about to push my luck and risk her life. Houston Street was over on 7th Avenue, three blocks away. I still had a good charge in my gauntlets, and the suit was intact. We just had to be aware of our surroundings. I knew we'd run into more of those fucks along the way, but as long as I saw them coming, I wasn't too worried. I wasn't invulnerable by a long shot, but I could definitely outthink and out-react anything short of a howling mob.
Right. And if you believe that, I got a bridge to sell you, heads right over the river to Brooklyn, and it's currently being secured by S.H.I.E.L.D. and Uncle Sam's Misguided Children.
I point towards 10th Avenue. "Safety," I tell the Frenchwoman. She gives me a bit of a blank stare. After a few seconds, I tried words that had been on everyone's lips since that very first night. "Rescue Station?" It wasn't a rescue station I was taking her towards, because from what I saw, those places were death traps. But it was close enough, admit. No longer occupying private residences my ass.
That phrase got to her. She lit up a bit, nodding. "Rezcue," she said. "Rezcue station, yes." I nodded in response. Taking her hand, I began to lead her down the alleyway before I felt a tap on my padded shoulder.
"I am Marie," she responded when I turned around, tapping her chest.
I nodded again. "Marie."
She pointed at me. "You are...Avenger?"
That word caused me to laugh out loud. I knew, tactically, it was a bad mistake, since any sound made by a human seemed to attract mobs of the things that had swarmed over the Big Apple in the past week. But I couldn't help it. To be associated with that bunch of Boy Scouts was absolutely absurd...
Then again, wasn't I being a Boy Scout right now? I could be hiding out in a secure undisclosed location, letting it all fall down around me and a few select friends (ok, three or four select friends, and definitely a few "I'll sleep with you because it's the end of the world" female friends) and waiting for someone else to pick up the pieces. But here I was, risking life, limb, and quite literally my ass to rescue some blonde who doesn't even know who I am from nearly certain death.
I pointed to the yellow-and-brown uniform. "Non...no Avenger."