The Scorpion in
by Howard G. Martin
About the author
Chapter Two - T he Test
“He’s got a gun!” yelled Wodowsky, bolting from his chair.
Wodowsky’s sudden, erratic movements earned him a dart in the side from the Scorpion’s gun. Wodowsky quickly slumped to the floor. The Scorpion remained as he had appeared, ready for whatever came next.
“Nice shooting, Scorpion,” said Commissioner Valentine as he leaned back in his chair.
“Obviously, you have me at a disadvantage, Mister--?”
“My name is Valentine. Police Commissioner of New York City. I’m honored to actually meet you, Scorpion.”
“I know Valentine, pal. Don’t think you can pull one over on me that easily.”
“The story we have to tell you is going to be hard for you to accept, Scorpion. You’re right. I’m not Lewis Valentine, the man you know as Commissioner of New York. I’m his descendent, Charles Valentine. Why don’t you come through the doorway, have a seat, and we’ll tell you why you’re here?”
“I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t you drop the weapon you’re holding and kick it over to me? Then I’ll sit down and you can tell me what the hell just happened to me and what this is all about.”
“Fair enough,” said Valentine, and he dropped the stun gun he was holding on the floor in front of him and kicked it over to the Portal’s entrance.
For the first time since his arrival, the Scorpion moved. He walked towards the two men, never taking his eyes or his gun off of them. He deftly scooped up the stun gun and placed it into a pocket of his trenchcoat as he went. Then, he grabbed the office chair that Wodowsky had been using, repositioned it so that he could see all three men, and sat down.
“You haven’t introduced me to the other two stooges--and there was a girl,” said the Scorpion.
“Stooges? Oh, you mean my friends here. Well, the man sleeping it off on the floor is Fred Wodowsky; he owns this facility and the equipment that brought you here. The fellow to my right is Professor Peter Barnum. Without the brilliant minds of Professor Barnum and Doctor Eve Kingston--that’s the girl you referred to--this little modern miracle would not have been possible.”
“Just what miracle would that be, Valentine, if that is your name?”
“I believe the Commissioner is referring to the device that I used to bring you here,” said a sultry voice reminiscent of a young Lauren Bacall.
The voice came from within the Time Portal, which was located directly behind the Scorpion’s chair. The Scorpion immediately spun his chair half way around so that he could see the entrance to the Portal while still keeping an eye on Barnum, Valentine, and Wodowsky.
Doctor Eve Kingston stepped through the Portal into the full light of the laboratory. She was still holding the weapon-like device, but pointing it at the ground. The Scorpion realized then that he hadn’t previously had time to take more than a quick look in the dark at her. Doctor Kingston had wavy golden hair of longer than shoulder length. The hair framed a face that seemed, to the Scorpion, angelic. For a moment, her beauty and tall, thin shapely form overwhelmed his senses like a roller coaster ride on a hot summer night.
“I know this will be hard for you to believe, but you’ve just made a journey of one hundred and forty years,” continued Doctor Kingston, as she placed the large device into a larger holster that was attached to the outer wall of the Time Portal structure. “You’re the first man to travel through time.”
“Assuming I believe you, Doctor, that would make you the first woman to travel through time.”
“Yes, it would. Quite a distinction, isn’t it?”
“Yes, yes, now let’s get back to that explanation I owe you, Scorpion. Why you’re here,” interrupted Commissioner Valentine abruptly. “To put it bluntly, my friend, this once great city is going to hell in a hand basket and the rest of the country is following close behind. We have fallen into a morass of decadence. It’s not just the usual criminal gangs or highly placed crime bosses either. Things have gone awry on a very basic societal level. These days, all politicians are self-serving crooks; almost all of the cops are on the take; and even the average Joes no longer seem to have any ethics or principles. The worst part, I believe, is that nobody seems to care. They’ve all just resigned themselves to living in a crumbling society.”
“I encounter people like that every day, Valentine,” said the Scorpion as he unconsciously spun his dart gun around in his hand like a western quick-draw artist and re-holstered it somewhere within the folds of his trenchcoat. “Doesn’t sound much worse than what I face on a Friday night.”
“Believe me, Scorpion, it is worse. Oh, as you say, for as long as there have been societies this sort of thing has been happening. Of course, you had some of it in your time. But it began to get significantly worse in the latter part of your century and we’ve been spiraling down ever since. Politicians no longer even make a pretense of being ethical people. Our current Mayor, for example, has a new mistress every couple of weeks. He doesn’t even try to hide it, and it’s become so commonplace that the press doesn’t even report on it anymore. Not that the press would report on anything that didn’t increase their own ratings or get people to buy products that their parent companies were selling. That same Mayor actually had a political opponent of his murdered last year. The whole city is aware of it. All charges were dropped and the case was dismissed because all of the State’s judges are in the Mayor’s pocket. And his story is by no means unique. The same thing is happening on a national level. Don’t even get me started about our current President. Our leaders have been so corrupt for so long, that the people have come to believe that’s just the way things are. They might as well act the same. Try to get help from someone on the street. If you’re lucky, they’ll just run away. If not, they’ll pull a weapon and blow your head off.”
“It sounds like you people have made a fine mess of your world,” said the Scorpion disgustedly. “That’s a shame. What do you want from me?”
Doctor Kingston walked over to where the fallen Wodowsky was just beginning to regain consciousness.
“We want your help,” she said as she assisted him to his feet and found chairs for the two of them to sit on.
“That’s right,” said the Commissioner. “We want you to help us take the city back. More than that, we want--no, we need, a hero. A shining example to this city that decency and integrity aren’t dead.”
The Scorpion stood up and turned away from the group. He stared at the Time Portal.
“I fought for ten years to keep my city from turning into a slime pit. Now you tell me that it happens anyway. Why should I bother to help you?”
The Commissioner pulled a flat, black device the size of a checkbook out of his coat pocket. He pushed a button on the device and then said, “Scorpion Creed.” A voice that sounded slightly mechanical began to emanate from the device.
“I am the Scorpion. I have come to show you that every man can make a difference. I am here to fight for what is fair, decent, and right. I am here because those who take from society must eventually pay society back. This is my city. Those who bring murder, mayhem, and injustice to this city will feel the Scorpion’s sting.”
“How did you know about my little calling cards after all these years?” said the Scorpion with a hint of amusement.
“In the Thirties, everyone in New York knew about your creed and admired it. My ancestor saved everything relating to you after you...disappeared. I have several of your actual calling cards, which you used to leave pinned to the lapels of the scum that you left for the police to haul in. And Scorpion, I notice that you’re beginning to believe in time travel.”
“This is just too crazy to not be true. What do you mean I disappeared?”
“You...just disappeared. Something happened. I don’t remember what, although I’m sure I used to know. Isn’t that odd? Anyway, we set the Time Portal to send Eve to get you at that particular time and place because that was your last recorded sighting. You were never seen or heard from again after that.”
“I know why,” said Professor Barnum, as he took off his shoe and scratched violently at the bottom of his foot. “I’ll bet you know too, don’t you, Eve?”
“Sure. The act of bringing the Scorpion here changed history. We no longer remember what happened to him because he did just ‘disappear,’ as the Commissioner says. Whatever would have happened to him had we not brought him through the Portal is lost now.”
“Exactly,” said Professor Barnum, taking off his other shoe. “We might have, and probably did, know everything there was to know about the Scorpion, including who he really is, right up until the moment that Eve hit him with the Portal beam. His previous future has been erased.”
“Technobabble,” barked the Commissioner. “Yet one thing’s for certain. You stopped fighting the good fight soon after that, for some reason, or else we wouldn’t have chosen that time-and-place to find you. The point is: we need you here and now. We need you to help this city and its people once again, maybe now more than ever. They need a hero, someone to remind them of what decency and principles are. I believe that the man who wrote the Scorpion’s Creed is the man who can save this city from itself. Will you help us, Scorpion?”
One could now see that the Scorpion had the lithe yet powerful body of a boxer. His mask had been altered as well. It was now silver in color and extended over his ears and around the back of his head. It still had the stylized Scorpion on it, but the mask was made of a different, thicker material, similar to that of his pants and tunic.
The mask included mirrored lenses that covered his eyes, and it was evident that there were devices built into the mask that covered his ears. His calf-high black boots were also made of a resilient-yet-armored material, and looked like a cross between a perfectly balanced distance runner's shoe and some futuristic worker’s boot. Black gloves that were both thin enough to provide great intricacy of movement, and tough enough to withstand a knife slash and remain intact, now covered his hands. The knuckle area of the gloves was armored. An armored silver utility belt and chest harness, which included four holsters and two knife sheaths, completed the uniform. The Scorpion stood still, poised like a panther, ready for anything.
High up on one wall of the warehouse was a large window that looked down over the entire room. On the other side of the window, the Scorpion could see the heads of the Commissioner, Eve Kingston, and Professor Barnum.
“All right, Scorpion, you’ve had a week to get familiar with the new equipment and tactics we’ve shown you,” said the Commissioner’s voice, seemingly coming from everywhere in the room, although the Scorpion could see no visible speakers. “Let’s put you to the test. Everything you’re about to see and encounter will either be a hologram or a machine, so don’t hold back. You won’t be hurting anyone. They, on the other hand, can hurt you, if you’re not careful. Good Luck.”
An instant later, the entire room was plunged into complete darkness. The Scorpion could no longer even see light from the observation window. Slowly, one at a time, holographic images of different pieces of a street scene began to appear all around him. Here a chain-link fence took shape; there a Dumpster formed. It was like an immense three-dimensional puzzle that was being put together before his eyes. The light images were so precisely formed that they appeared solid and real. Light from the hologram street lamps even caused the holograms of other objects below them to cast shadows.
The placement of holograms began to occur more and more quickly, until objects began to appear with machine gun speed. In a matter of seconds the process was complete, and the Scorpion was no longer standing in the middle of a huge warehouse. Now he was in the middle of a wide, deserted street adjacent to the docks. It was night, but the area was illuminated by streetlights.
The Scorpion whirled around at the sound of a door being kicked open. It was a door to one of the dockside warehouses. Seven men--or so they seemed--emerged from the building, one after the other. They were this era’s answer to what the Scorpion would have called street punks.
Each man who left the building was more bizarre and frightening than the last. Metal pierced their flesh in various places, and the ones that had hair had dyed it to some unnatural primary color. Two of them were impossibly huge and muscular. If they had been real people--and the Scorpion was aware that they were based on real, known criminals--they could have only attained that kind of musculature artificially, through chemical or bionic enhancements. They each held weapons that the Scorpion had been briefed on. They were all highly lethal smart weapons. They made the weapons that he had encountered in the Thirties look like popguns and penknives. If he had encountered a gang like this in his day, with his old weapons and equipment, the Scorpion knew he wouldn’t have stood a chance.
Again, the Commissioner’s voice came out of nowhere and everywhere at once as the seven artificial men began to advance on the Scorpion, some moving to try to get behind him.
“Remember what we discussed about the battle tactics of modern street gangs. They kill anything that moves, but they’re not extremely bright. Use that to your advantage."
The pseudo-gang had formed a semi-circle around the Scorpion. All of their weapons were drawn and trained on him. Instead of backing away or looking for cover, the Scorpion walked deliberately up to the Herculean synthezoid directly in front of him, his arms raised to signify surrender. A low humming sound began to emit from the vicinity of the Scorpion’s belt.
When he was within two steps of the barrel of the giant pseudo-punk’s huge gun, the Scorpion suddenly crouched and leaped, drawing two of his new Stinger guns as he did so. Every gang member opened fire on the spot where the Scorpion had been. Three of the synths on the edges of the semi-circle destroyed each other immediately in crossfire. The Scorpion had executed a vertical leap of eleven feet, somersaulted, and landed behind the gang, his Stinger guns blazing.
The Stinger weapons fired dart-like shells, similar to the Scorpion’s original dart gun. The difference was that in the rear casing of each shell was a miniature charge generator, which put 500,000 volts into an object on contact. The charge lasted long enough to put down, and keep down, just about anything on two legs. Each of the Scorpion’s four Stinger guns held twenty rounds. He used four on the remaining androids and the battle was over.
As he stood among the smoking remains of the blasted or electrocuted synthetic gang members, the Scorpion repeated his “quick-draw” gun spinning action and holstered both of his weapons.
A moment later the holograms disappeared and the warehouse returned, along with the window on the wall and the faces looking down at him. The remains of the destroyed synths were still there, lying on the concrete warehouse floor.
“Good God, Scorpion, that was amazing. But--I’m going to have to have the designer of those synths arrested. That was too easy,” said the incredulous voice of the Commissioner.
“Easy for you, maybe.”
“You handle guns like you were born with them, Scorpion,” said Eve Kingston, a hint of amusement in her voice.
“I practically was,” said the Scorpion as he sat cross-legged on the concrete warehouse floor. My grandfather taught me how to handle a gun from the time I was big enough to hold one. He’s the reason I became--this.”
“Was your grandfather a lawman?”
“For awhile he was. Then for the rest of his career he was...in the same way that I am. He roamed around the old west. Most people knew him as the Masked Marshal.”
“You are related to the Masked Marshal?” she asked.
“Yes. Like I said, he was my inspiration.”
“Amazing,” said the Commissioner. The two greatest American heroes of the past two centuries, and they’re related. Ha!”
“Not to change the subject, but did you have any trouble remotely activating your low gravity field generator?” asked Eve.
“No. I did it just the way you showed me. I touched the backs of my gloves together to activate the heads-up display. Then I used hand movements to drive the arrow around on the display until it was over the feature I wanted to use. I made a fist to activate the feature. Those walking tin cans didn’t notice a thing, although a real human might have.”
“We expected this scenario to really tax you, but you’ve only used less than a third of your new equipment features,” said Professor Barnum.
“I used the force necessary to whip the bad guys. Don’t worry. I’m just as proficient with the rest of my new geegaws and doohickeys.”
“Well, Scorpion, I’d say you’re ready to start taking
this city back,” said the Commissioner proudly. “When would you like
Next episode: The City
The Legacy of the Scorpion is copyright Howard Martin.