by Travis Perry -
Ernsto grabbed the third pipe bomb, its fuse half burnt and still burning. The contents of the first, the one he’d opened, had caught fire, adding to the flames without exploding. He frantically searched for the knife to cut the fuse of the bomb in his hand, his eyes not picking it out among the flaming and shrapnel-pitted carnage of his cubical room.
A glance at the pipe showed the fuse down to only two centimeters. He jammed the end of the pipe between his lips and bit off the fuse with his teeth. Its flaming end singed his tongue.
Spitting it out, he finally glimpsed the knife blade reflecting a yellow glint of fire and snatched it up, pocketing it. Glancing at the damaged metal mattress frame, one of the legs caught Ernsto’s eye. The blast had nearly detached it from the bed.
He wrenched it free, put the pipe bomb under his arm, and charged the door with the bed leg held to his chest like a battering ram. He dove forward and smashed into the concave door curve left by the exploded bomb. The impact of the leg hurt his ribs and pectoral muscle more than the shrapnel wounds in his back had hurt. But the already-damaged metal at the bottom of door split open about ten centimeters.
His ears, still ringing, heard a faint shout from the other side. He spun back and lit the short-fused pipe bomb in the nearest piece of flaming mattress and threw it through the opening in the door. He flinched to the side but didn’t have time to plug his eardrums before the blast. This time, at least, he did not black out.
He stood up, aware that fluid poured down his left earlobe, the side of his face that had been closest to the door. His lungs ached from the smoke but he’d responded without thinking by taking shallow breaths and living without gulping air as long as he could.
The door had split open down the middle from about the height of his chin to the gash he already made near the floor. With the bed leg he pried the gap open and slipped out of his room. Right at the doorway were the fragmented pulpy remains of two cyborgs, who had a mostly intact metallic tank with them of some kind, of the gas they’d been pouring into his room, perhaps nitrous oxide. Apparently one of the cyborgs had shut it down before death, maybe because N2O is an oxidizer—not safe around flames.
Ten meters away, Nasir lay on the couch of this common room that adjoined his sleeping area. His eyes were open and glazed over, a look of surprise permanently pasted onto his dead face. His chest and neck were punctured with shrapnel wounds.
Ernsto took the plasma pistol clutched in Nasir’s still-warm right hand. Hobson, who might have been near his door at one point, was nowhere in sight now.
Deliberately projecting a bloodthirsty determination, he said out loud, “Stay away from the angel, old man. Or I will kill you.”