The Scorpion in
The Legacy of the Scorpion



A 7-Chapter Masked Hero Adventure!

by Howard G. Martin
About the author


Previously: In 1940, the Scorpion was seconds from being assassinated by a cop on the take when he was teleported into the future to the year 2080. In the future, New York had turned into a hive of corruption, even the cops are crooked. The only good cop is Commissioner Valentine who hoped to enlist the Scorpion's aid in setting things right. With a new, hi-tech costume, the Scorpion agrees to give it a try...


Chapter Three - The City


Interlude 1915

WHEN ALEX WAS TEN YEARS OLD, he and his older sister Jo (short for Josephine) and their mother spent the summer on his grandfather's ranch in Arizona. Alex's father was away at sea much of the time when Alex was young, and his mother realized that the paternal influence of their "Gramps," who they all loved dearly, would help to soften the blow of having an absentee father.

Consequently, they spent many summers and holidays there. Gramps--whose real name was Joshua Martin Campbell--was a tall, strong man, in excellent physical condition--despite his seventy years. His hair had been bright red, like Alex and Jo's, when he was younger. It was now a distinguished shade of silver. He had lived an exciting and adventurous life before retiring to his 160-acre spread near Sedona.

He was Alex and Jo's hero. Gramps taught them how to ride, rope, and shoot, and took them on long trail rides and camp-outs, during which he would regale them with tales of his many and varied adventures. The stories that Alex liked best were the hush-hush tales that Gramps would sometimes tell of his days as the Masked Marshal, a legendary hero of the old west.

Gramps would always make Alex and Jo swear not to reveal what he was about to tell them to anyone, not even to their mother. He would then explain that some of his old enemies might still be alive, and that if they ever found out who the Masked Marshal really was, they would try to exact revenge by hurting his family.

One morning Alex and Gramps got an early start, saddled the horses and went for a ride together. Jo had wanted to come, but had been asked by her mother to go into town with her and help her buy some supplies. Ostensibly, the reason for the ride was to make a thorough inspection of the ranch and ensure that no one was stealing Gramps's cattle or timber. The real reason was so that Gramps could tell stories about the Masked Marshal and Alex could hear them.

"So there I was, trapped in a dead-end canyon. The boy and his mother, who I had just rescued from the clutches of the Dutch Van der Beek gang, were riding behind me on the mother's mule. The only way out was straight through the entire gang!" said Gramps as he and Alex slowly wended their way along a shaded creek bed.

"Gosh, Gramps, how did you get out of that one?" asked Alex excitedly.

Before Gramps could answer, Alex's horse, which was in the lead, suddenly reared and then bucked. Alex was thrown over the horse's head. He somersaulted and landed flat on his back, too late realizing why the horse had reared. Alex had landed in a nest of scorpions.

By the time Gramps was able to rein in his horse, dismount, and drag Alex out of the nest, the boy had been stung several times. He was already fading in and out of consciousness from the pain minutes later as they headed back to the ranch house at a dead run, Gramps holding the boy in the saddle in front of him with one arm.

By the time a doctor could be brought back from Sedona, along with Alex's mother and Jo, Alex was sweating through the sheets of his bed, convulsing, and periodically vomiting from the pain. The doctor salved the areas of his back and arms where Alex had been stung and gave the family a powdered analgesic to give to the boy with water every few hours. By the following afternoon the pain and other symptoms had subsided and the boy fell asleep. The doctor told them that Alex would be fine, although weak for a few days, and that the itching and pain of the stings would gradually subside.

A few days later, Alex was up and around. He asked Gramps if he could talk to him in private. The two went out to the long, covered front porch, and each sat down in one of the two rocking chairs that seemed to have been made expressly for the purpose of contemplation and discussion. They sat staring at the majestic red rock cliffs of Sedona, several miles away.

"Gramps," said Alex, after awhile. "Those damn scorpions 'bout scared the life out of me."

"You're lucky to be among us, Boy. I've never seen a nest of 'em that big, not out in the open like that. If that block-headed horse had thrown you any other direction, you would have been fine."

"I--I've been having nightmares about 'em, Gramps. I know a man shouldn't talk about his problems, but I don't know what to do. They get worse every night!"

Gramps put his big hand on Alex's shoulder and looked at him with his serious look, a look he rarely used. You knew that Gramps meant business when he had that look.

"Alexander, every man suffers through something. Sometimes he suffers through many things in his life. You have two choices. You can let the experience and the pain rule you and be afraid for the rest of your life, or you can use them to show you the way."

"What way, Gramps?"

"Your way, Boy. I believe that everything that happens to us happens for a reason. That incident with the scorpions shouldn't scare you; it should wake you up and point you in a direction. It should help you think about things--about life--a little differently."

"So what am I supposed to do with that knowledge, Gramps?"

"Maybe nothing, right now, but someday the pieces will fit together and you'll know. I believe it's your destiny. A similar thing happened to me before I decided to become the Masked Marshal. Remind me to tell you about it someday."

***
New York City, 2080

It was 1:30 AM on a clear, moonless night, when the Scorpion took his first good look around the city.

Since arriving in this time, he had seen nothing but certain secret rooms inside the Quantamatic Corporation Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, where he had trained and lived for the past week. Commissioner Valentine suggested that he not hit the streets until he had both mastered his new equipment and been briefed on what the city was like these days.

The need to find out what had happened to his city in the past one hundred and forty years drove him to learn quickly. Not that the training was difficult. He had always been good at inflicting pain. He was a natural athlete, fighter, and marksman, who had never had any trouble getting in touch with the anger necessary to do battle. It became especially easy after what the Mob had done to his mother and sister back in '29.

They had been shopping. They walked past a certain restaurant on the wrong day. A bomb exploded and blew out the entire storefront. He still remembered seeing the shards of glass everywhere. They were both terribly lacerated by the flying glass and other shrapnel. His mother died instantly. His sister--what was left of her--lingered for twelve hours. Since then his sole purpose in life had been to even the score for them and for all of the city's victims.

He had done the job well for ten years. Now this. Time travel--a future New York, drowning in a sea of corruption? This was all outlandish, ridiculous, enough to drive an average man insane if he thought too much about it. But the Scorpion was not an average man. He put the fear and incredulity away in a deep hole inside himself and prepared to keep on doing the job. That had always been his way of coping with the really big problems.

Now, as he stood in the shadows of an alley in the East Village, the Scorpion watched and listened to the street scene that unfolded in front of him. He had learned that a child kidnapping and prostitution ring was being run out of this neighborhood. He had learned this, along with an endless stream of other information, from his mask's heads-up display and earphones, which picked up all transmissions from a place called Interspace. This particular piece of information had come from someplace in Interspace called the PoliceNet, which the Commissioner had gotten him access to. He didn't understand much about it, but he did know how to get information from it. For now, that was enough.

The PoliceNet had given him a mugshot and description of one of the men most likely to be involved. His name was Vegas Feral. He was a two-time loser; both times sent to Rikers; both times for dealing a drug called Utopia. Apparently this drug was so deadly that it had no real addicts. Most users died within a month of getting hooked on the stuff.

Feral knew how to play nice when he needed to, though. Both times he was released early for good behavior. Now he was, apparently, trying a new and even fouler racket. The PoliceNet even had an address for him. The sleazy apartment building, directly across the avenue from where the Scorpion now stood, was his last known dwelling. With all this information about Feral, why hadn't the police rousted him or even investigated his connection to these child kidnappers?

According to the Commissioner, the cops from most precincts would leave just about anyone alone for a monthly fee, unless they had a personal problem with that person, in which case the cop in question would most likely beat them to death and throw them in the East River. The Scorpion thought it interesting that the cops of the future behaved just like the racketeers and mobsters of his time.

The Scorpion began to run across the deserted, lamp-lit street, switching on the low gravity field generator as he went. As he reached the far sidewalk he crouched and sprang upward with all of his might. The leap carried him to the top of the three-story apartment building, where he landed softly on the roof. He switched off the device and walked to the rooftop door. The Scorpion jimmied a lock that looked old enough to have been from his time and slipped inside.

Thanks to PoliceNet information, he found Feral's apartment quickly. This door wouldn't be so easily broken into. It used a modern locking device, which consisted of many deadbolts arranged along the three unhinged sides of the door, all of which sprang into place in unison when activated. Fortunately, the Scorpion's highly placed benefactors had provided him with the most advanced defense and infiltration devices available to this twenty-first century world.

He knew he could get the door open, but not quietly, and the element of surprise was crucial to his plans. The Scorpion activated his heads-up display and selected an entry marked Sound Amplification/Heartbeat Scanning. He stood directly in front of the door and configured the scanner to sweep a 180-degree area, based on his position, with a radius of seventy meters. That would cover the entire apartment.

The Scorpion's mask earpieces immediately began picking up heartbeats. The heads-up display gave him a visual representation of where those heartbeats were located within the sweep area, an estimation of size, and an estimation of current state, whether sleeping, resting, or agitated, of the owners of those hearts. The display showed that three small bodies were sleeping close together near the back of the apartment. One large body was sleeping about two meters away from them. This was just what the Scorpion hoped to see. There was a good chance that Feral was there and that he was far enough from the door not to wake when the locks were opened.

The Scorpion removed a small square device, about the size of a box of raisins, from one of the many pouches on his silver belt. He pushed a button on the device and began to move it along the surface of the door until a display on the device read "Locking Mechanism Found." He pushed another button and the device adhered itself to the door.

Immediately, a smell of burning wood became evident, as a laser within the device quickly burned a hole through the door. Then, a low whirring sound was heard as a tiny extender arm within the device moved into place over the hole and telescoped through it to the central locking mechanism on the other side. Once the arm made contact with the locking mechanism, the display on the device read the words "Accessing Foreign CPU." Several seconds later the display changed to read, "Code found -- Unlocking Door." All the deadbolts unlocked in unison, with an audible clanking sound.

Quickly, the Scorpion pushed open the door and walked to the back corner of the apartment. The moment he entered the darkened room his mask's infrared mode was automatically activated. He moved easily through the pitch-blackness, his eyes glowing red.

The Scorpion stepped through the doorway to a large master bedroom with a tiny walk-in closet at one end and a huge, round, custom-made bed at the other. Feral was in the bed, alone. The Scorpion could see no evidence of the owners of the other heartbeats. He guessed they had been locked in the closet. There was a gun on the nightstand and Feral's hand was reaching for it. The Scorpion drew a small, perfectly balanced throwing knife from a scabbard on his belt and tossed it underhand. It stuck squarely in the back of Feral's hand, causing him to forget about his gun while he screamed in pain. The Scorpion walked to the bed, grabbed Feral's face, and slammed his head against the wall.

"What the hell? You son of a bitch, I'll kill you for that, you dirty bastard," said a furious, suffering Feral a second before a fisted glove smashed his nose.

"Shut your yap, you weasel," said the Scorpion as he flicked on the bed stand lamp and gave Feral his first good look at his tormentor. "People are trying to sleep."

The Scorpion could see that Vegas Feral's mugshot hadn't done him justice. He was even uglier-looking than that. A man of average height, according to his rapsheet, at this moment, lying in bed, covered with blood, he looked like a wounded ferret. Greasy, dirty blonde hair, nose, ear, and eyebrow rings, and two days growth of beard didn't improve the package.

"Who da fug are you?" asked Feral through the blood streaming from his nose.

"Someone who can't be bought. Now, you are going to tell me all about your operation or I am going to break all of the long bones in your body."

"Fug you! I'm not tellid you adytig but to ged fugged you--"

Feral's reply was cut short as the Scorpion dragged him out of bed by his throat, threw him down on the floor, picked up the nightstand, and smashed it down on his leg. The leg broke at the shin with an audible crunch. When Feral's screams died down, the Scorpion continued to talk.

"You're not a very bright boy, are you, Weasel? I'm a relatively tolerant guy, but people who prey on children disgust me. I think you'd better just answer my questions nicely, or your next stop will be the morgue instead of just a police station. Shake your bloody face if you understand."

Feral shook his head violently up and down, peeing on himself as he did.

"Where are the kids?"

"Id da closet."

"First, I'm going to go check on them. If they're not in tiptop shape, I'm going to come back here and break more long bones. Don't move while I'm gone, and don't even think about that gun. I'd hate to have to kill a fine, upstanding citizen like you. When I come back, we'll talk some more."

The Scorpion found two blonde girls and a brown-haired boy, all about seven or eight years old, all naked on the floor. They were huddled together for warmth. There were cigarette burns and bruises on each of them. None of them said a word, but one girl gave out an occasional whimper. The Scorpion found three blankets in a hallway closet and wrapped each of the children in one. He would call Child Services and give them this address. They would see to returning these kids to their parents, if they had any. But first he had to finish with Feral.

When the Scorpion walked back to the bed he noticed that the gun was still on the nightstand. Feral had fainted from shock and loss of blood. The Scorpion kicked him in the side. He began to moan. The Scorpion grabbed him by his dirty T-shirt and shook and slapped him awake.

"Alright Weasel, who do you pay off?"

"Wad?" said Feral groggily.

"I know the cops know about you because I got your rapsheet from their website. What I don't know is why even a crooked cop would let a piece of trash like you continue to operate. I don't know why and I don't know who. You're going to tell me."

"You godda ged me do a dogdor, mad," screamed Feral. "I'b dyid."

"Answer the question now or you won't need a doctor."

"Alrighd you bastard. Id's no secred--da Mayor's office. I give da Mayor a cud of da profids every week. Da cobs leave me alone."

"That's insane. Why would the Mayor and the cops condone this? Forget common decency for a second, some of them must have children, too. What's to stop slimeballs like you from kidnapping their children? Surely they can't want that?"

"No way, mad! Deir kids are off limids. We odly take kids from da lower classes. Da Mayor thigs id's a good way to whittle down deir numbers ad make sub dough ad da sabe tibe."

"Does the entire city government know about this?"

"Naw, jusd da Mayor ad da cobs."

"Does the Commissioner know about it?"

"Sure, he doesn'd like id, eider, bud whad cad he do? Da entire force is on da payroll. If he squawgs too loud, da Mayor will have him wasted. Jusd lige your godda be wasted, when he fides oud aboud dis, you fugger. Now, ged be to a dogdor!"

The Scorpion released Feral and stood up. He walked over to the nightstand that had recently served as a blunt instrument.

"If you survive, Feral, I want you to realize that I don't give slime like you a second chance," he said as he hoisted the nightstand over his head. "If I ever hear that you've even been seen near another child, I'll kill you immediately."

"No, you fugger, no!" screamed Feral as the nightstand slammed down on his other leg. The same wet crunch was audible. Feral passed out again.

The Scorpion searched the apartment and finally found the children's clothes. They dressed in silence while they stared at the unconscious Feral. The one girl's whimpering stopped. The Scorpion contacted the police about Feral, using the communication device that was integrated into his mask. It wasn't that he believed they would incarcerate Feral. It was more of a warning to the powers that be. The Scorpion wasn't going to play their game.

Then he told the children to follow him. They walked a block, to the alley where he had hidden the car that had been put at his disposal by the Commissioner. The car was black, bulletproof, and smart. They got in and he drove them to the home of a social worker that had been previously contacted. The children had been silent for the short time the Scorpion had known them, showing no emotion other than fear. When he turned to leave the Social Worker's apartment, however, all three children hugged him and wouldn't let go. They spoke for the first time.

"Don't leave us," said the boy.

"Don't go," repeated the girls.

"I, uh, I'm sorry kids. I can't stay," said the Scorpion as he nervously and carefully patted them on their backs.

"This man has other children to help tonight, kids," said the social worker, a kind-faced woman with gracefully graying hair. "Maybe he'll come back and visit you again sometime."

"Yeah, maybe," said the Scorpion uncomfortably as he extracted himself from the arms of the children with the social worker's help. "Be good, kids."


Previous episode: The Test

Next episode: A Monumental Task


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The Legacy of the Scorpion is copyright Howard Martin.