The Scorpion in
by Howard G. Martin
About the author
Chapter One - A Blast From The Past
Standing near an open window was a tall man, dressed completely in black, with the exception of a silver cravat at his throat. The man’s face was covered from the top of his upper lip to the middle of his forehead by a black mask. The mask had a silver scorpion embossed on it. A black trenchcoat, gloves, and fedora completed his ensemble. Commissioner Valentine crossed the room and extended his hand to the man in black, who hesitated for a second, then took it and gave a solid, powerful shake.
“What’s this all about, Lew?” asked the man in black, with a faint hint of surprise in his voice.
“Tonight, it’s about you, Scorpion,” said the Commissioner, smiling. “You’ve been instrumental in helping the Police Department clean up this city over the last ten years. Oh, it’s true, we didn’t know what side of the law you were on at first, but you soon made that clear. You’ve been there for the city through the Depression, Prohibition, and the Rackets. Tonight it’s about giving something back to you. Scorpion, the New York City Police Department would like to present you with this, unofficially of course.”
The Commissioner handed the Scorpion a large silver plaque. At the top of the plaque was the graven image of a scorpion. The plaque read: Scorpion, for your unceasing vigilance against crime and criminals, and for your many contributions to this city and its welfare, we, the officers of the New York City Police Department, salute you. May you never lose your sting.
“You know we can’t give you any official sanction, Scorpion, but at least you’ll have this to someday show to your grandkids,” said the Commissioner with an uncharacteristic grin.
“I doubt if grandkids are in the picture, Lew,” replied the Scorpion, placing a hand on Commissioner Valentine’s shoulder. “My line of work doesn’t lend itself to longevity, let alone marriage and kids. I appreciate the gesture, though. Tell the rest of the Cops thanks for me. Well, I better get back out amongst ‘em. Crime waits for no man.”
With that, the Scorpion shook the Commissioner’s hand once more, turned, walked to the open window, stepped out, and disappeared from sight. The Commissioner walked to the window and looked down just in time to see the Scorpion on the sidewalk below, disengaging a lightweight, collapsible grappling hook from the brick lattice above the Commissioner’s window, with a tug. He watched as the Scorpion rolled up the thin, strong cord that was attached to the grappling hook. He stowed the hook and cord somewhere in the dark recesses of his trenchcoat. As the Commissioner turned from the window and walked to his desk, the Scorpion disappeared into the darkness of a nearby alley.
Thanks to custom-made rubber-soled shoes and years of practice, the Scorpion moved through the dark alley like a silent black cloud in the form of a man. He always left his specially armored black sedan in inconspicuous spots, usually a block or two from his true destination. He was about two hundred yards from his car when Patrolman David Kincaid drew a bead on him from the open window of a warehouse that looked out onto the alley.
“Two hours I’ve been waiting for a chance to finally punch that goddamn Scorpion’s ticket,” Kincaid muttered to himself. “Looks like tonight’s going to be my lucky night. King Solly’s gonna pay me well for this night’s work.”
As he silently and slowly clicked off the rifle’s safety, Kincaid saw something that immediately banished all thoughts of trigger pulling from his mind.
On the other side of the alley, hidden from the Scorpion’s line of sight by a concrete stairwell, a small light appeared. It seemed to float in midair. Slowly, the light grew larger and brighter until it took on the form of a human. A second later, the light was gone and Kincaid realized that there was a person, a woman, standing right in the spot where the light had been.
She was holding something that looked like a small cannon in her hands. She stepped around the stairwell and confronted the Scorpion. Kincaid was frozen with fear and incredulity. Surely this was impossible, magic even. What? What was she doing now?
The Scorpion had seen the light blaze and then fade behind the stairwell ahead of him. He was on his guard. He stopped walking and waited in the middle of the alley. The moment the woman stepped into view, the Scorpion instinctively drew his Stinger dart gun and leveled it at her. After all, she had come out of nowhere and was carrying a huge bazooka-like device, which happened to be pointed right at him.
“Drop the artillery, lady,” growled the Scorpion. “And you won’t get hurt.”
“I’m sorry,” was all she said before activating the device.
Immediately, the glowing effect that Kincaid had witnessed occurred again around the Scorpion, only this time it happened in reverse. He was enveloped in light. The light slowly diminished until it was just a dot floating in mid-air. Then it disappeared altogether and the Scorpion was gone. Kincaid watched, riveted, as the woman adjusted something on the device. Then, she activated it again. This time she was the one that glowed brightly and faded away. Kincaid passed out.
It was still November, still 2:00 AM, still wet, and still cold. It was also 140 years later.
Police Commissioner Charles Valentine, Fred Wodowsky, and Professor Peter Barnum had no idea that it had started raining again. For several hours they had been sequestered in an ultra-high security laboratory located somewhere inside the sprawling architectural wonder that was the New York City headquarters of the Quantamatic Corporation. Wodowsky, who was the President and CEO of Quantamatic, poured himself another cup of coffee from the coffee service against the wall and returned to his chair.
Wodowsky was, for all his corporate and financial success, a physical failure. He chain-smoked, ate three fattening meals a day, with Martinis, and considered exercise a four-letter word. It showed. He was a forty-five year old man who looked like fat, balding sixty.
The three men were now seated around a structure that resembled a large igloo. They were staring at the entrance to the structure, which was tall and wide enough to easily allow a person to walk in and out. Commissioner Valentine drummed his fingers on the tops of his legs impatiently. He was, in many ways, the antithesis of Fred Wodowsky. He was in excellent health, had all of his hair, although it was gray, and looked closer to forty while being closer to sixty. Finally, he slammed the arm of his chair with his fist.
“What the hell is taking so long? There shouldn’t be any delays. You told me the process would be almost instantaneous, Peter.”
Professor Peter Barnum, a thin, prematurely white-haired man with a ponytail hanging halfway down the back of his white lab coat, was the co-developer of the Time Portal process. He stared intently at the entrance to the device.
“Nothing happens instantaneously, Commissioner,” he said without diverting his eyes from the Time Portal. “Even time travel takes time.”
“Well, it better happen soon,” stated Wodowsky, glancing at the communication device on his wrist, which, among many other things, displayed the current time. “I can’t afford to have anyone else find out about this, not even the janitorial team, who should be here in about an hour and a half. By the time they get to this area of the building, we need to have everything shutdown, locked up, and be out of here. Or do I need to reiterate what would happen to each of us if anyone found out that we’ve created a Time Portal for the purpose of moving travelers rather than just gathering data?”
“Don’t worry about it Fred,” said Professor Barnum, whose eyes were still locked on the Time Portal entrance. “They’ll be along soon. The delay is for the good of the traveler, anyway. Thing is, the Time Portal can guess pretty accurately about latitude, longitude, and altitude coordinates in other times, but not about solid objects. There’s no practical way to know if we’ll be sending someone into the middle of a block of granite or the wall of a building that perhaps no longer exists in our time, or that we have no historical record of. So, to solve that little dilemma, Doctor Kingston and I included a failsafe into the system, one of many. The Time Portal is designed to send a probe to the time and coordinates requested, before sending the actual travel subject. The probe continually transmits a state of health trap or beacon, which the Time Control Unit receives. If the probe begins to materialize inside something, its state of health trap stops broadcasting. If that happens, a random location, very close to the desired coordinates, is reprogrammed automatically, and another probe is sent. You can configure the system to send as many advance probes as you want, but the default is five. If none of the five probes can find a decent place for the subject to materialize, the process cancels and the traveler will have to reprogram for another location and try again. This makes it almost impossible for a traveler to materialize in a rock or a hard place, but it also makes the process take a bit longer. Ah, I think I see him coming now. See that point of light in the middle of the portal.”
“Get ready with that stunner, Commissioner!” yelled Wodowsky.
“Here comes a blast from the past, and he may not be too happy.”
Next episode: The Test
The Legacy of the Scorpion is copyright Howard Martin.