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

Gunstar flew through the morning air above the war torn section of Paragon City known as Boomtown. His sensors scoured the rubble that comprised the zone but found little of interest. Rival gangs clashed with one another around small fires that seemed to burn perpetually, Clockwork robots scavenged among the twisted remains of collapsed sky scrapers, and here and there, groups of The Lost were gathered to listen to one of their leaders pontificate about a future where humans would live in fear and they would be in charge.
Gunstar ignored them all.
According to the android’s internal clock, it had been ten hours and twenty-seven minutes since Ferrous had been abducted. Speculative calculation was that he could have been taken anywhere within the city or well beyond its borders. Still, Gunstar had organized six teams of two Star Corps members each with orders to hunt down and interrogate any Fifth Column members they could find. The search had been going on all night and had uncovered little more than rumors but each one had to be investigated. When Azurian had radioed in his findings, Gunstar had decided to join the search.
He zeroed in on Azurian’s location and boosted power to his boot jets. Gunstar streaked through the remains of a partially collapsed high rise and landed gently next to Azurian. They were perched on a stable jut of concrete perhaps seventy feet above the ground. Azurian pointed towards a pile of rubble at ground level where four homeless men were huddled around a barrel that blazed brightly in the fading morning mist.
“My source says the entrance is there and that those men are actually 5-C. I spotted one of them securing a weapon out of sight so I am inclined to believe that. I don’t know what kind of early warning system is in place so I think surprise is our best option. Is your stealth mode up and running?”
“It is.”
Even as Azurian nodded, his skin began to shift colors until he blended in with the surrounding environment like a chameleon. Simultaneously, Gunstar faded until he was only visible as a slightly blurred outline.
“I’ve got the two on the right”
“Affirmative,” Gunstar replied and jumped from the ledge.

Awareness returned to Ferrous like the sun rising after a stormy night. The muffled sound of men’s voices, the hum and ping of machinery, and the faint scent of freshly turned soil were the first things to filter through his stupor. As his eyelids slowly opened, bright lights flooded his vision and he reflexively flinched. He heard someone speak and the blinding light was suddenly gone.
“There, Eisenmensch, that should be more comfortable for you.”
Ferrous opened his eyes and tried to blink away the grogginess that seemed to be making his thoughts flow like mud through a straw. His throat was dry and a sharp bitterness filled his mouth. After a moment, he tried to turn his head to look around but discovered that he couldn’t. He flexed his neck muscles to lift his head and there was a sudden hiss. A cloud of gray vapor shot into his face, choking him and stealing the strength from his limbs. It took him a moment to cough away a sudden wave of dizziness and nausea. Once he had, he said, “That was just plain rude.”
There was a small laugh from somewhere to his right. The restraints that held him in place kept him from looking that direction. “Perhaps, so, Eisenmensch, but you are a formidable prisoner and we must be cautious, no? You are fully restrained. If you struggle even a little, you will be automatically dosed with the neutralizing agent. Judging from the reaction we just witnessed, I would guess that to be an unpleasantness you would wish to avoid.”
Ferrous could see well enough now to recognize the ceiling of rough stone reinforced with steel cables and interlocking girders. He was underground, in some sort of bunker. “It’s not so bad,” he said. “You should try it.”
Ferrous heard the small laugh again. “Herr Wolven, give Eisenmensch a look around if you would.”
There was a series of muffled voices and suddenly the surface that Ferrous was secured against shifted upwards, effectively standing him up and giving him a better view. The scene was familiar. He had fought in places just like this many times and against the same uniformed fascists that now milled about the cavern walking patrols and performing whatever other duties it was that kept an underground bunker functioning. Fifth Column banners and insignia were everywhere, intermingled with glowing consoles and view screens.
“You know,” Ferrous said calmly, “if I ever get my hands on the guy that keeps building these rabbit holes for you losers, I’m gonna have to hurt him. A lot.”
“Shut up, freak,” a voice growled from the shadows.
“Now, Wolven, there is no need to be rude.” The speaker stepped in front of Ferrous. He wore the black and red uniform of a Fifth Column commander and a small mask covered his mouth and nose. Pale blue eyes stared at Ferrous from over the mask.
“And who are you supposed to be?” Ferrous asked.
“I am Doctor Todesfaelle, Eisenmensch. I am your father.”
Ferrous heard the words, took a moment to process them, and then responded as honestly as he could.
“Aw, crap.”

The rough tunnel twisted hard to the right and opened into a large cavern reinforced with steel and concrete supports. Fifth Column banners were hanging motionless on every wall. The hum of electric lights joined the vibrato whine of the dozen or so Steel Valkyries that were flying slow patrol routes a few dozen feet above the cavern floor. Five Mech-Men, the Fifth Column’s robotic infantry, were closely guarding a large, concrete door in the far wall.
“ It is most probable that our stealth capabilities will not prove effective against their sensors,” Gunstar said quietly.
“I agree,” Azurian replied. “I will distract them while you fly overhead, stealthed, and continue on. After I have dealt with these, I will follow.”
Gunstar did a split second count of the opposition. “Are you certain, Azurian? The odds against you are…”
“Odds are for gamblers. I am a warrior. Go, I won’t be far behind.” With that, he broke from his hiding spot and sprinted into the room, his stealth power fading as stone began to cover his skin in a protective layer. He reached down and tore a large boulder free from the earth and sent it flying towards the nearest Valkyrie. It impacted the flying weapon and caused an explosion of sparks that sent the Valkyrie spinning into the wall.
Azurian spread his arms wide as stone seemed to flow like water from the ground, over his armored body, and into his right hand where it took the form of a massive club. Missiles were already streaking his way and just before the first one impacted he shouted, “Never surrender!”
Hearing his cue, Gunstar started moving.

“There is no way in hell I’m calling you ‘Dad’,” Ferrous said.
Todesfaelle laughed his small laugh again. “Perhaps ‘father’ is not accurate. I’m more your creator than your father.”
“I’m not sure that’s any better.”
“Doc,” the voice from the shadows said, “maybe we should put him out again until we get him shipped.”
“Shipped?” Ferrous said. “Are we taking a trip? I didn’t really pack for one.”
“No one’s talking to you, freak,” The voice said.
“Okay, now see, that’s the second time you’ve called me a freak. Pretty ballsy for a guy who won’t even look me in the eye.”
A moment later, another uniformed man stepped into view. He had yellow, compassionless eyes. His skin and hair were dark and his face was rough with beard stubble. Thick brows hung above his eyes to the point that they had almost grown together at the top of his nose. When he spoke again, Ferrous could see that his teeth were sharpened. His breath smelled like rotting meat. “Is this better, freak?”
“No, actually. If I’d known you were so butt ugly, I’d have told you to stay over there, dog boy.”
The man growled, literally, and took a step forward before Todesfaelle said, “Herr Wolven, perhaps you should check on our security measures once more.”
Wolven stared hard at Ferrous and then said, “Yes, Sir. Yell if you need me.”
After he was gone, Ferrous said “What pound did you get him from?”
“Wolven is good at many things. Keeping his temper is not among them.”
“Yeah, not a common trait among Warwolves.”
Todesfaelle smiled. “You recognize his breed. Good. Unlike you, he is not one of a kind.”
Ferrous smiled, “Okay, I’ll bite. What’s that mean?”
Even behind the mask, Ferrous could tell Todesfaelle was smiling. “Do you have any idea what went into creating you, Eisenmensch? I spent years searching for two people with the proper DNA and years more steering their lives towards one another. When they finally mated, I was ecstatic. It was unfortunate that the first child was born with the meta-gene dormant, but then you came, and all was right.”
Ferrous showed no outward reaction despite the tremble building deep in his belly. “You manipulated my parents into meeting and giving birth to me?”
“It was necessary. You were to be the first of an army of Eisenmensch that would sweep over the land and bring the Fifth Column to its rightful glory. It would take years, yes, but that glory was the legacy that I intended to leave you. A legacy of victory and order.”
Ferrous’s fists were clinched so tight in his restraints that the gas jets pointed at his face issued a barely audible hiss. Todesfaelle didn’t notice.
“Unfortunately, the mutagen that accelerated your growth and the stability of your mutant DNA was only accessible through The Lost. They assured us that the preprogrammed weakness you had in resisting mental retasking would make you an easy subject to deal with. We did not plan on interference.” Todesfaelle sighed and shrugged as though helpless.
“But,” he continued, “that is all history. Soon you will be shipped to our reprogramming base and then you will take your rightful place among the Fifth Column elite.”
“Names,” Ferrous whispered.
Todesfaelle turned back. “What was that?”
His eyes locked on to Todesfaelle’s and he poured as much of his hatred into that stare as he could. “My parents. What were their names?”
“They are no one that matters. I am your family now.”
“Like hell you are.”
“Eisenmensch, they believe you dead. They have…”
“Doctor Todesfaelle!” Wolven’s voice echoed through the cavern. “Valkyrie and Mech units have engaged The Azurian in the north chamber! We have to move the prisoner now!”
Todesfaelle clinched his fists in frustration and then relaxed. “Very well. Reinforce the Mech units with rifle and force support. Wolven, gather a small unit and come with me to cover the transfer. I will…” Todesfaelle paused and cocked an ear towards the ceiling. “Do you hear that? What…”
Ferrous heard the sound and had just enough time for a small smile before a sizzling bolt of blue energy ripped through the air and severed the cables connecting Ferrous’s restraints to the gas and nozzle assembly that was keeping him subdued. Sparks showered from the severed cables as another, wider, arc of energy swept past Ferrous and sent Todesfaelle flying backwards into the cavern wall. In the few seconds it took for this to happen, Ferrous had torn himself free.
Gunstar faded into view near the ceiling and said, “Are you injured, Ferrous?”
“Injured? No. Pissed? Absolutely.” His eyes fell on Todesfaelle and Ferrous started moving towards him. He hadn’t gotten three steps when an explosion bloomed above him and Gunstar spun almost comically in the air, smoke rising from the section of his back where the rocket had struck him.
Ferrous shouted his friend’s name and looked for the source of the attack. He saw Wolven charging down a small ramp towards him while a dozen or so men armed with rifles and rocket launchers continued to fire at Gunstar. He heard Gunstar begin to return fire and turned his attention to Wolven.
Even as he ran, Wolven was changing. He shed his uniform jacket as his muscles rippled beneath the thick layer of fur that was growing unnaturally fast over his body. His fingers thickened as claws erupted in a bloody spray from their tips. His face, no longer human, ended in a long, canine snout that revealed sharp, yellow teeth.
Ferrous braced his feet and shouted, “Yeah, that’s right, Lassie! Come get some!”
Wolven launched himself into the air and hit Ferrous with his claws raking furiously against his chest. Teeth snapped at the hero’s face with enough force to splinter a normal man’s bones. Ferrous caught the beast and held him while the claws raked painfully against his stomach. He turned his head from the snapping jaws and charged forward, plowing through the table he had been strapped to and into the cavern wall beyond. They collided with the wall and, though the Warwolf issued a surprised yelp, he continued to snap and rake at the hero.
Ferrous could smell the stink of the creature he held mixed with the ozone smell of the energy bolts that Gunstar was throwing at his attackers. The sounds of explosions, rifle fire, the pop and hiss of shattered electrical components, and the snarls of the Warwolf all descended on him at once. This was a waste of time. He had to get Todesfaelle. He had to get the man who could tell him who his parents were.
He flexed his arms and tore the Warwolf free, leaving small, bloody scratches across his metal skin in the process. He slammed Wolven into the wall hard enough that the creature yelped again. Ferrous raised him above his head and drove him into the ground. He was sure he’d heard bones snap but he didn’t let up. He raised the Warwolf over his head and hammered him into the ground once more. Wolven was struggling weakly now and Ferrous looked up.
Of the dozen men that had attacked Gunstar, five were still standing. Ferrous grabbed Wolven by the ankles and, with a single discus thrower style spin, launched the Warwolf at the remaining attackers like some huge, misshapen Frisbee. Wolven’s body collided with the nearest four and they all went down in a heap amid a chorus of grunts and misfiring rifles. The remaining rifleman, seeing this, turned and ran. Gunstar released a burst of energy and brought the man down before he had gotten fifty feet.
“An impressive throw, Ferrous,” Gunstar said.
Ferrous didn’t hear him. He was staring hard at a single, empty spot on the cavern floor.
Todesfaelle was gone.

When Gunstar and Ferrous found Azurian, he was sitting atop a large pile of shattered Steel Valkyries and the twisted remains of Fifth Column Mech-Men. He had bent the metal into a crude seat and, though some of the Mech-Men still twitched and hummed, was reclining comfortably. He saw Ferrous and smiled. “Made myself a chair,” he said, “Like it?”
Ferrous laughed as Gunstar said, “I thought you were to follow me in.”
Azurian shrugged and climbed down from his resting place. “As soon as I heard Ferrous shouting, I decided to hold here. I thought he might have some stress to work off. Are you well?”
Ferrous nodded.
“What did they want with you?” Gunstar asked.
Ferrous thought about what Todesfaelle had said about leaving him a legacy. He was about to tell his friends about it when he saw the Star Corps symbol on Azurian’s chest and his thoughts turned to the two dead heroes that had rescued him years before. With a smile, he said, “They wanted to give me something I’ve already got.”
Even the android managed to look confused by this.
Ferrous chuckled and said, “C’mon, I’ll tell you about it over a burger. I didn’t have dinner last night and I’m starving.”

The End
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