Men of Iron
C. Steven Manley

The Skyway City night rang with the stuttering thunder of automatic gunfire. It echoed and bounced among the raised highways, sidewalks, and bridges of the city like a chorus of tiny explosions that seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere all at once. Far beneath the skyways, though, down amid the dirt and the trash that was the ground level of Skyway City, the target of the gunfire hardly noticed the sound.
Neither the thunder of the machine gun or the dull pop of hundreds of lead slugs hitting his metallic skin like raindrops on a tin roof broke through his anger. No sound could drown out the whisper in his memory that echoed like a shout. “I won’t move. You can’t have her.”
The mutant known as Ferrous used the words to move him forward, used them to fuel the anger he felt towards these glorified junkies who called themselves the Trolls. There were two of them, one with an assault rifle and a second wielding a pump shotgun with a barrel sawed off so short that it was barely noticeable. Each was firing madly at him. Lead slugs thudded against his eight foot frame and fell to the ground until his heavy black boots were covered in them.
The gunfire slowed for a moment as the one with the assault rifle paused to reload. Ferrous burst into motion and effortlessly jumped the fifteen feet that separated them. He landed in front of the Troll and grabbed the barrel of the rifle. It folded like paper in his grasp and the Troll, his skin and eyes tinted a sickly green from his addiction to the drug Superadrine, released the weapon and hit Ferrous hard on his left cheek.
Ferrous felt the blow, even more so than he had the gunshots, but it amounted to little more than a slap. He dropped the ruined rifle and drove both his massive fists into the Troll’s chest, breaking ribs and sending the thug flying backwards. A trio of plastic garbage cans scattered and bounced through the alley when the troll slammed into them and lay still.
He turned and faced the final Troll. The thug’s eyes were wide with panic. He pumped two more shots into Ferrous’s chest and then clicked a third time onto an empty chamber. Ferrous didn’t seem to notice.
The thug threw the shotgun at Ferrous, turned, and ran. Ferrous sidestepped the flying shotgun and, with a single leap, cut off the Troll’s escape. The troll stoppedso suddenly that he slipped and fell on his butt. Ferrous towered over him and said, “I’m in just the kind of mood to beat on somebody, so feel free to ignore my questions.” His voice was calm, low, and dangerous.
“What you want, metal man?” the troll said franticly, “Me not even know you!” As much as Superadrine enhanced the body, it drained the intellect.
“I’m looking for a boss named Trovold.”
“Trovold? Trovold big strong! Stronger than you, metal man!”
“Where is he?”
“Hide Park!” the troll shouted, “Him boss in Hide Park! Old brown building beside Island Tunnel!”
“Thanks.” Ferrous kicked the Troll sharply in the chin and watched him slump backwards, unconscious. He made the short jump to the nearest rooftop and, once he had his bearings, leapt high into the night sky towards Hide Park.
I won’t move. You can’t have her.”

Ferrous found the building with no problems. After spending a few minutes checking for guards and hidden security, none of which he found, he quietly opened the front door and went in.
The building had once housed a shop of some kind. There was a small antechamber with an old, partially destroyed counter, and a narrow hallway leading into a larger back room. From that room, Ferrous could hear the muffled sound of a television playing. There were voices laughing at the program and making comments Ferrous couldn’t understand. Yellow light spilled from under the closed door. The whole place stank of sweat and warm beer.
I won’t move. You can’t have her.”
He took three steps and with both fists sent the door flying into the room amid a storm of splinters. “Trovold!” he shouted. “You’re coming with me!”
The four trolls that were in the room reacted like seasoned professionals. Three immediately went for pistols while the fourth and largest, obviously Trovold, snatched up a massive sledgehammer that was leaning against one wall. Three pistols fired at once and Ferrous felt bullets impact his chest and neck. He took two steps and grabbed one of the shooters. The frantic Troll started firing round after round into Ferrous’s belly but the mutant ignored them. With a vicious shout, he hurled the troll at one of his partners. They both crashed into a wall and went down.
Something shattered across the back of Ferrous’s neck. He turned and saw the remaining shooter holding what was left of a chair in his hands. Ferrous smirked and hit him hard in the belly, then the jaw and, finally, shoved him across the room and into the television. “Trovold!’ he shouted.
“Right here, hero,” came a guttural voice from behind him.
Ferrous turned just in time to catch the upward swing of the sledgehammer with his jaw. The sound of the blow was louder than the gunshots had been and sent Ferrous flying. His metal body hit the wall separating the back room from the antechamber and crashed through it. He was dazed but struggled to his feet. Trovold hit him again, sending Ferrous sailing through the front widow of the building and into the street.
“Stupid cape,” Trovold growled as he stepped through the ruined window. “Stupid hero come to Trovold’s house to fight! Stupid hero must want to die!” The sledgehammer pounded into Ferrous’s side, sending fresh waves of pain through him. Ferrous watched through dazed eyes as Trovold raised the hammer high for a killing blow.
I won’t move. You can’t have her.”
The hammer fell. Ferrous caught the heavy head of the weapon with one hand and held it. Trovold struggled to wrench it free of Ferrous’s grip. Ferrous climbed to his feet, still holding the hammer. His eyes never left Trovold’s. He twisted hard on the hammer and the steel head broke off in his hand. He dropped it as Trovold stared in disbelief at the splintered handle.
“Give it up,” Ferrous growled.
Trovold dropped the useless handle and raised both fists over his head as though they could replace the hammer. Ferrous caught his wrists as they descended and pulled them wide, drawing Trovold closer. He rammed his forehead into the Troll’s face once, twice, and then a third time. Trovold staggered as Ferrous released him. With a mighty backhanded slap, Ferrous sent the Troll sprawling. “Give it up,” he repeated.
Trovold rose on shaky legs, took a deep breath, and charged towards Ferrous. Ferrous met the charge with one of his own, sidestepped at the last second, and hit Trovold with a clothesline blow that caught the Troll on the tip of his jaw and sent him back-flipping though the air. He landed hard, face down on the asphalt, and didn’t get up.

There was more than the usual amount of commotion when Ferrous exited the Lagrange Medical Center. Trovold and his men had been taken into custody and Ferrous had come to the hospital to let the victims know that. He wasn’t in the mood for the gang of reporters that swarmed over him with questions as soon as he stepped out.
“Ferrous, is it true you found Tommy Bryant after the assault?”
“Did any other members of The Star Corps assist you in the arrest?”
“Ferrous, was there any property damage?”
“Was Tommy’s girlfriend injured at all?”
“Did Trovold put up much of a fight?”
“Do you ever get tired of being the hero, Ferrous?”
Ferrous looked hard at the reporter that had asked that last question. Lights reflected off his metallic face and masked the anger there. “Hero?” he said. “I went into a situation where I knew I had a better than even chance of walking out of it. Tommy Bryant, an eighteen year old kid, stood his ground against a guy he knew could kill him with a single punch. He did it because he was protecting his girlfriend, someone he cared about more than himself. He took the beating that put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life so that she could get away. Now, you tell me who the hero is.”
Ferrous pushed gently through the crowd and was about to jump away when a woman asked, “Ferrous, did Tommy Bryant say anything to you when you found him?”
Ferrous looked back, with the echo still in his mind, and told her.

C.Steven Manley
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