Chronicles of The Star Corps: Legacy
Part One
C.Steven Manley

Ferrous walked out of the high rise onto Steel Canyon’s clean, clearly lit sidewalks. Around him, skyscrapers reached into the cloudless night sky and what few pedestrians that were out at this time of night strolled past while trying not to look like they were staring. Ferrous was accustomed to this. Even in Paragon City, the sight of an eight-foot tall, heavily muscled, metal skinned man wearing jeans, t-shirt, and a leather jacket was enough to draw a glance or two.
The clothes were not his norm, really. As one of Paragon City’s five thousand or so protectors and the leader of The Star Corps, one of the oldest ‘Supergroups’ in the city, he could usually be found in his trademark black and yellow uniform representing his team wherever he went. Tonight, though, was different. Tonight, he was on his own time.
The average person considered the life of a “Superhero” (Ferrous didn’t care for the term) to be a series of epic battles, scantly clad damsels in distress, and standing around basking in the generous gratitude of an adoring public. To some extent, this was accurate, though incomplete. There were long (often boring) patrols, frequent hospital visits, very real danger pretty much all the time, and the constant fear of failure and the tragedy that would follow. Sometimes there was a big victory and all the good feelings that came with it but, most of the time, you knew for every crime you stopped there were five that you didn’t.
With those kinds of odds hanging over his head, Ferrous had often wondered what the point was. Why did he and all the others bother fighting for nothing more than to hold their own? Why not give the city to the scum and the villains and let them tear it and each other apart? Why not give up and start someplace else?
Whenever Ferrous was feeling that way he would hang up the uniform, put on some regular clothes (regular except for the miniaturized radio sewn into the collar of all his clothes), and walk down the street like a normal citizen instead of jumping from rooftop to ledge to rooftop. Tonight, he had attended a charity event for one of the local orphanages and spent the evening meeting children, taking photos, signing autographs, and giving displays of his incredible physical strength. The kids had loved the show and it had made him feel connected to the people he was protecting.
Besides that, Ferrous had a soft spot for the orphans, being something of one himself. While most of the kids he had met tonight had lost their parents in the Rikti war or some other supercriminal fueled tragedy, he couldn’t remember if he had ever known his parents or even if they were alive or dead. In fact, Ferrous had no memory of his life prior to the day that he was found chained to a wall in the sewers beneath King’s Row. He knew that his captors had been members of a group called The Lost. According to a number of doctors and scientists, he was undoubtedly a mutant whose body produced an organic iron that gave him both fantastic strength and invulnerability while adding very little in overall body mass. Beyond those two facts, he was a mystery even to himself.
Not that it mattered much anymore. Shatterstar and Nym, his rescuers and the late founders of The Star Corps, had taken him in, trained him, and given him a purpose. Now, walking down the city street with its chorus of conflicting sounds, deep shadows, and urban scented air, he couldn’t imagine any other life. He couldn’t imagine what it might have been like if the Corps hadn’t found him. He didn’t want to.
Ferrous crossed at the light and made his way into the section of Steel Canyon known as the Copper District. The Yellow Line Monorail wasn’t far from here and he could have jumped there in a quarter of the time it took to walk but it was a pleasant night and he was making himself relax and enjoy it. He stopped at a street vendor, bought a bratwurst with onions and a soda and continued towards the rail. He’d taken two bites from his dinner when all hell broke loose.
He heard the sputtering of automatic gunfire, the screech of tires on asphalt, and a chorus of sirens coming from the intersection that was perhaps a hundred yards to his right. With a glance, he surveyed the buildings that were nearby, chose a ledge that was next to the cross street, took three running steps, and launched himself into the air while the remains of his dinner spattered onto the sidewalk.
He sailed high into the night and landed on the ledge with practiced grace. Quickly, he surveyed the scene. A large panel truck was weaving in and out of traffic dangerously. A man was leaning out the partially opened back door firing wildly at the three Paragon City police cruisers that were trying to catch up. Bullet holes already riddled the front of the two lead cruisers and Ferrous could see at least three civilians lying on the sidewalks, wounded or worse. He quickly formed a plan and flexed his legs for another leap. Suddenly, a familiar low-pitched hum caught his attention and he relaxed.
Coming in from high and leveling off a few yards below his position, Ferrous saw the familiar gray and white form of his teammate Gunstar flying in on a pursuit course behind the PCPD cruisers. Ferrous keyed his collar microphone as Gunstar approached and said, “Gunstar, Ferrous. On scene, setting up a road block. Need EMS for non-coms.”
Gunstar’s even, electronic voice responded, “Acknowledged. EMS already en-route.”
And that was it. With those few words a plan was formed and Ferrous launched himself into the air again, leaping ahead of Gunstar, the cruisers, and landing on a lower roof top just ahead of the oncoming van. Another, smaller, jump and he was in the middle of the street between the van and one of Steel Canyon’s busier intersections. He landed with his feet set and his body leaning into the oncoming vehicle.
Ferrous had planned it perfectly. By the time the van’s driver realized that the person in the road wasn’t someone he could just run down, it was too late to stop. The truck hit Ferrous with his arms spread wide, as though he were trying to hug the engine compartment. The thunderous crash and screech of metal against metal quickly dispelled that illusion, though, as the cab wrapped around Ferrous’s braced body and pushed him back, digging deep ruts into the asphalt where he had braced his feet. He had hoped the impact would stall the engine but it hadn’t. Even though he was blinded by the truck’s grill and could not see the driver, Ferrous knew that the man was still conscious by the fact that the engine was revving louder, trying hard to push him back and run him down.
Ferrous could feel the cracked asphalt collecting around his boots as he continued to plow through the city street with the truck, though slowed considerably, pushing him closer to the busy intersection at his back.
The word crackled through his collar radio and Ferrous smiled. A second later, a lance of blue-white energy streaked in from the right and tore through the front of the engine compartment. Ferrous heard the engine begin to rattle and screech shrilly as the engine mounts shattered against the force of the attack. A cloud of steam boiled out from under the hood and the engine sputtered and died.
Ferrous took a moment to make sure the truck had completely stopped and then stepped back from the wreckage. The front end was indented with a twisted, smoking T shape where the truck had struck him. He heard the police cruisers squeal to halt somewhere behind the truck and Gunstar’s voice came through the radio again. “Are you injured, Ferrous?”
Ferrous looked down at his chest and arms. His jacket and shirt were ripped near to tatters but he felt fine. “I’m good,” he replied, “trashed another damn jacket, though.”
I will fly back to assist EMS with evacuation of any wounded that might require air transport.”
“Okay,” Ferrous said, “I’ll help the cops round up some bad guys.”
Ferrous heard Gunstar fly past overhead and quickly disappear down the street, He walked around to the driver’s side of the truck and, feeling more than a little irritated at having his quiet evening disrupted, reached out and ripped the door from the hinges, dropping it to the street with a clatter.
He leaned into the cabin and said, “You interrupted my dinner, you lousy…”
He stopped. The cabin was empty. Ferrous stood up with a confused look on his gray, metallic face and turned towards the back of the truck. Three PCPD officers were walking towards him shoulder to shoulder with a fourth behind. The center officer had a radio in his hand and was speaking into it while watching Ferrous closely. Ferrous was about to warn him to hang back, that something was wrong, when he overheard the cop speaking into the radio.
“…acquired. Deploying neutralizing agent.”
Suddenly, the three cops dropped to their knees and the fourth shouldered and fired a rocket grenade so quickly that Ferrous didn’t have time to brace against the attack. It hit him squarely in the chest and exploded with enough force to knock him down. Dimly, through the haze that had become his awareness, Ferrous noticed the thick, gray mist that was settling over him and burning into his lungs, making the world spin and blur before his eyes. He struggled to rise, felt another, smaller, explosion hit him in the back and then collapsed face first into the street.

Gunstar raced through the Steel Canyon night with his sensors sweeping the sidewalks below for signs of wounded. Gunstar was an android and one of, if not the, finest examples of artificial intelligence on the planet earth. As such, he could multitask like no organic being and even as his sensors picked up the cries for help from a woman lying bleeding on the sidewalk, his radio frequency scanners noted that there were multiple ambulances less than a block from her position and numerous other civilians coming to her aid with cell phones in hand. He was about to move further down the street to the next victim when his audio receivers registered the sound of a low yield explosion emanating from 1.16 kilometers behind him. The exact spot where he and Ferrous had stopped the truck.
Gunstar reduced the thrust in his boot jets enough to reverse direction and simultaneously radioed the exact location of the wounded civilians to the oncoming ambulances. His boot jets flared brightly and he rocketed through the night back the way he had come. His radio calls to Ferrous went unanswered as another, and then a third, explosion echoed among the buildings.
It took less than thirty seconds for Gunstar to get back to Ferrous. In that time, though, things had changed drastically. Ferrous was lying motionless on the ground. A dark mask with two small tanks on the sides was covering his face. Six police officers, obviously imposters, were strapping him into a harness that was attached to two floating machines that Gunstar instantly recognized as Steel Valkyries. The Valkyries were automated aerial attack drones armed with dozens of small but deadly rockets. As always, these bore the stylized winged skull markings of The Fifth Column. Gunstar had faced, and beaten, these villains before.
Gunstar brought two glowing fists around and sent rapid pulses of energy at the nearest imposter while simultaneously broadcasting a call for back up on the Star Corps emergency frequency.
The Valkyries holding Ferrous began rising into the air, easily carrying the motionless hero with them. Gunstar hovered in place and began targeting the nearest Valkyrie while allowing a massive charge to build in his combat emitters. One shot like this would destroy most obstacles but it took a few seconds to execute. Unfortunately, It was a few seconds too long.
His sensors detected the rocket’s heat signature an instant before it exploded against his back. The force of the blast knocked Gunstar from the air before he could release the attack he had aimed at the Valkyrie and sent him sprawling into the street. Three more rockets hammered into and around him and dug small craters in the asphalt next to him. Smoke and small chucks of debris rained down from the explosions as more rockets whistled towards him.
The first blast had knocked Gunstar’s sensory systems off line, the android equivalent of being stunned, but they had rebooted quickly enough for him to protect himself from the second barrage. Though he was durable, Gunstar knew there was a limit to the number of direct hits he could take and remain active.
Still on his back, Gunstar fired his boot jets and skidded across the ground, leaving a carpet of bright sparks in his wake. The rockets impacted with a deafening trio of explosions. He lifted off from the street and rose above the level of the smoke. In a microsecond, his targeting sensors acquired the three Valkyries that had ambushed him and calculated his range to each target. His left arm arced out in backhand motion that sent a wave of crackling blue-white energy sweeping through the air. It rolled over the three targets and sent them spinning backwards, out of control.
Gunstar extended both arms and released a sizzling bolt from each. Both shots struck true, hammering into two of the Valkyries. The weapons erupted into fireballs and crashed to the ground. The remaining Valkyrie rotated and fired at Gunstar.
Gunstar swept out another wave of energy and destroyed the rocket before it had halfway reached him. The Valkyrie dropped low, attempting to reacquire Gunstar through the smoke, and was hammered into the ground as Gunstar flew over the explosion and sent multiple bursts tearing through the Valkyrie.
The resulting explosion must have come from some short circuit that set off all the Valkyrie’s remaining rockets at once. Gunstar’s sensors were blinded by the blast as a bloom of fire grew suddenly above the street amid a chorus of shattering glass and terrified screams. The waves of heat and force swept over him and shoved him backwards through the air into an aluminum streetlamp that bent around him like wet clay. He struck the pavement hard and all his sensors went black.
Five point nine seven seconds later, according to his internal clock, Gunstar’s systems rebooted and he rose to his feet, sensors sweeping the immediate area. Though damaged, internal diagnostics told him he was operating at 73% of optimal and that his defensive systems ready for any threat he might detect. After five seconds of sweeping the area, he determined there was no remaining threat. He immediately took flight and streaked along Ferrous’s last known course at his highest velocity. He rocketed past the twentieth floor of a skyscraper and rounded the side of the building with the combat emitters in the palms of his hands glowing blue and ready.
Steel Canyon opened up before him. There were no skyscrapers beyond this point, merely a series of stores and brownstones that stretched all the way to the massive wall that separated Steel Canyon from Atlas Park. Gunstar extended his sensors to their maximum range and started searching for any sign of Ferrous and the Valkyries. As he continued his sweep, his internal radio activated.
Gunstar, Ame’thyst. Azurian and I are on scene. What is your status, Gun? Where’s Ferrous?”
Gunstar did not respond. He continued his sweep, combing every alley and doorway in range.
Gunstar, this is Ame’thyst, come in. Gun, Ferr,…one of you guys talk to me, Dammit!”
“Ame’thyst, Gunstar,” the android replied, “you and Azurian check for casualties, I am on my way back.”
What about Ferrous?”
“He is gone,” Gunstar said, “The Fifth Column has abducted him.”
There was a pause on the other end of the radio, as though someone were about to speak, and then silence.

To Be Continued
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