Lance Star: Sky Ranger Chapters 11-15

From the mind of Bobby Nash

LANCE STAR AND THE CROWN OF GENGIS KAI


A serialized novella by Bobby Nash

click here to read Chapters 1-5

click here to read Chapters 6-10

CHAPTER 11

“I will take my prize now,” The Overlord said. 

“It doesn’t belong to you,” Lance Star said, stepping between The Overlord and Simon  Prentiss. “Now, you let my friend go and maybe we can talk this out.” 

“I don’t think so, Mr. Star.” 

“Posturing won’t help you,” Lance said. “I’ve gone up against much bigger bad guys than  you. You may call yourself The Overlord, but at the end of the day, you’re just another  egomaniacal jerk in a tailored suit.” 

The Overlord chuckled. 

“I don’t think you grasp the full picture,” The Overlord said, taking a couple of leisurely  steps forward. “It’s not the fact that my men have you surrounded, which they do. It’s not even  the point that I have your friend in custody, but I do.” 

He motioned toward Buck. 

The agent of Magnapor’s secret police guarding Lance’s friend kicked the pilot behind  the knee, sending Buck Tellonger crashing to the floor, hands tied behind his back and a gun  pointed at his head. 

“The concept you seem to have trouble grasping, Mr. Star is that this…” 

His gestured to take in everything around them. 

“All of this, this entire island, belongs to me. Lock, stock, and barrel, Magnapor Island is  mine. Not only do I own the earth beneath your feet, but everything on this island belongs to me  as well. This cave is my property. These men are my property. The Crown of Gengis Kai is mine  as well.” 

The Overlord smiled. 

“In fact, you, Mr. American hero, became my property the moment you illegally set foot  on my island.” 

“That’ll be the day, pal!” 

Clucking his teeth, The Overlord waggled a finger in front of his opponent. “No. No. This is not the time for your macho American theatrics. Oh, yes. I know all  about you, Mr. Star. I have seen you and Mr. Tellonger there in the newsreels. You two, along  with your squadron of, what do you call them? Ah, yes, Sky Rangers, no? I see you wave to the  cheering crowds and accepting the accolades of your government for flying all around the world  and imposing your imperialist American agenda on tiny, innocent nations such as mine.” “Are you insane?” Simon Prentiss shouted. 

“Easy, Simon,” Lance warned. 

“And now, you have come here to steal from me,” The Overlord continued, pulling a gun  from his shoulder holster and pointing it at Lance and Simon. “I’m afraid I cannot let that stand.” “Simon’s right. You are crazy!” 

“No. Not crazy. Poor people are crazy, Mr. Star. I am the leader of my people and  absolute ruler of this island. I decide what is or is not considered crazy on this island.” “Okay, so insane it is then,” Buck said. 

The agent kicked him in the side and Buck fell over onto his stomach, face in the dirt. He  groaned under the impact.

The agent kicked him once more for good measure. 

“Stop it!” Lance shouted, taking a step forward. 

Another agent stepped forward and pointed a cocked gun at the pilot’s forehead. “I wouldn’t do that, if I were you, Mr. Star,” The Overlord said as if admonishing a child. Lance stopped, both eyes focused on the gun pointed at him. 

“Professor Prentiss, I will have the crown now,” The Overlord commanded. “No!” 

“Step back, gentlemen,” The Overlord said, motioning them away from the polished  thrown and the mummified remains of the man history knew as Gengis Kai. “You don’t understand,” Prentiss started, but The Overlord silenced him quickly. “Not another word, Professor. I will not warn you again.” 

“You heard the man, Simon,” Lance said, easing his fried away from the throne. “But, Lance…” 

“Just do it,” Lance muttered. “Don’t argue.” 

The Overlord stood before the throne where Gengis Kai and his crown had been placed at  the time of his death. He returned the gun to his holster and then examined the remains, running  a hand over the dark, polished stone. 

“Simply remarkable,” he said. “To think, this powerful relic has been right here, hidden  in plain sight all this time.” 

The Overlord reached for the crown. 

“No!” Simon Prentiss shouted. He took a step forward, but Lance held him back. “I warned you, professor…” 

The Overlord’s fingers wrapped around the crown and he lifted it gently off of its  owner’s petrified scalp. 

“At least,” The Overlord said, a wide smile cleaving his face. “The power! It’s mine!” “You fool!” 

“Not the time, Simon,” Lance warned. 

“You don’t understand!” 

“Oh, I understand all too well, professor,” The Overlord said. 

Entranced, he held the crown in front of him as he admired its simplistic beauty. In all of  the historical documents Simon Prentiss had studied, in all of the stories he had listened to  spoken aloud, the look of the crown was constantly evolving. Some described it as an ornately  decorated crown made of solid gold while others purported it to be platinum or any other rare  metal. 

The truth, by comparison was a letdown. 

The crown was gold, though a thin sheet of gold, unpolished, and scuffed by years of  abuse and the ravages of time. Large palm fronds from some local plant were woven into the  crown, giving it the appearance of a tiki statue. There were no jewels decorating the crown. 

In modern terms, it was worth whatever small amount of gold could be melted from it,  which wasn’t much. The crown’s real power came from the legend that surrounded it. Neither  Lance nor Simon suspected there was true supernatural power in the crown. The greatest value it  held was from a historical perspective. It was proof that a man calling himself Gengis Kai truly  existed. 

“The crown isn’t magic,” Lance said, trying to get through to The Overlord. His words fell on deaf ears. 

Before he could try again, a tremor ran through the ground beneath the pilot’s feet.

Lance looked down and saw small pebbles dancing across the cavern floor. “Oh, crap,” he muttered. 

“What is…” The Overlord started. 

“It’s boobytrapped, you moron!” Simon shouted. 

Cracks splintered through the hard stone, sending gouts of steam into the cavern and  throwing tiny slivers of rock in all directions. 

A large explosion happened far below, sending everyone to the ground. 

The Overlord lost his grip on the crown and it slid across the cavern floor, bouncing  along its uneven surface. 

Buck Tellonger took advantage of the chaos. He swiped a leg out and knocked the legs  out from under the agent who was guarding him. 

The man hit the deck hard. 

Buck was on him in a shot with a knee on the man’s neck until he passed out. As soon as  the man stopped struggling, Buck pulled the knife off the agent’s belt and cut his bonds. His hands free, Buck looked for his friends. 

Lance was pushing Simon to safety, not that Buck saw too many safe spots in the cave.  Cracks continues to break open across the floor and ceiling. Some pieces of rock fell from the  ceiling and shattered when they hit the bottom. 

“Time to go, boss!” Buck shouted as he ran over to join them. 

“No one leaves!” The Overlord shouted. The crown was once more clenched in his  white-knuckled grasp. 

“You don’t understand,” Simon said. 

Before The Overlord could respond, the rumble beneath their feet intensified, sending  everyone to the ground, no longer able to stand on the violently shifting ground. Somehow, The Overlord kept his grip on the crown. 

“Boss! Look!” Buck Tellonger shouted. 

Lance Star followed his friend’s gaze and his heart fell into his stomach. 

“We’ve got a new problem,” he whispered. 

“What are you…” Prentiss started, but then he saw what worried his friend so and his  eyes grew wide in shock and terror. 

Molten lava poured from the cracks in the stone walls as if the tomb of Gengis Kai was  bleeding. The temperature rose exponentially as the fiery liquid began pooling around the risers  in the uneven cave floor. 

“Oh, how I hate it when I’m right,” Lance muttered. “Time to go, Simon,” he said,  grabbing his friend by the arm. 

“But the crown…” 

“Lost cause, pal! In a choice between us and the crown, I choose us each time! We have  got to go!” 

Simon wanted to pull away, to argue, but he knew Lance was right. Their fathers had  both lost their lives in search of the Crown of Gengis Kai. Neither of them had been able to  prove its existence, much less bring it home. At least Simon Prentiss could say that he had seen it  with his own eyes. 

“Damn! I wish I had a camera!” 

“So, do I,” Buck said, pointing toward the lava bleeding from the walls. 

The flow had slowed. 

“What could cause that?”

“Oh, Simon. I wish you hadn’t asked that,” Lance said. 

“Why?” 

Lance pointed as the cracks widened, the sharp pop and crack of shattering stone echoing  off the cavern walls around them. 

“That’s why!” Lance shouted. 

“Holy…” Buck said, his voice fading in the din of crushing rock. 

“Is that?” Simon asked, unable to completely comprehend what he was seeing. “My God…” Lance muttered. 

Lance Star had dismissed the legends out of hand. He had seen many things that defied  explanation in his short career, but never had he seen anything like the strange scenario playing  out in front of him. It wasn’t the lava. This wasn’t his first time standing on a volcano as it  decided to erupt. In fact, this was his third active eruption. 

It wasn’t the collapsing ceiling or enemy agents with guns. No. Lance and his crew had  faced these type of threats before and thrived. 

What he saw in front of him now, challenged the air ace’s beliefs to their core and he felt  shame. He felt deep shame for not believing his father or his friend when they first told him the  legend of Gengis Kai. The story was preposterous and grew only more so with each retelling.  Lance could not believe that sentient beings made out of molten lava were real. That defied all of  the laws of nature he understood. 

Walking, talking rock men was a flight of fancy too far. 

But yet, as he watched those very same creatures he had denied could truly exist step out  of the cracks in the wall with molten hot lava rolling off of their rock-encrusted forms like water  rolled off the back of a duck, Lance Star could no longer deny the truth. 

The Warriors of Hades were not just creatures of legend. 

They were real. 

And they were standing right in front of Lance Star and his friends.

CHAPTER 12

LANCE STAR AND THE CROWN OF GENGHIS KAI 

A serialized novella by Bobby Nash 

CHAPTER 12. 

Lance Star couldn’t believe his eyes. 

Over the years, he had witnessed some truly remarkable events. Some of them were even  hard to rationalize to himself, much less explain to others. His definition of normal changed on a  regular basis these days. Lance knew that monsters were real. He had fought more than his fair  share of beasties in his travels, both human and inhuman alike. 

Still, despite everything he had experienced, it was not impossible to shock him. He thought he had seen it all. 

Then rock creatures bleeding molten lava walked out of the walls right in front of him. They were terrifying. Blackened rock cracked and popped with each move the creatures  made. Lava as fiery red as a hotrod and hot like the volcano they stood upon. Technically, inside  of as they were in a cave. The lava boiled beneath the surface as it was compressed between  moving stone limbs, dripping to the cavern floor with tiny sizzling plops. 

The temperature inside the cavern continued to rise. 

“I knew it,” Simon Prentiss muttered next to Lance. 

“No time to take a victory lap,” the pilot told his childhood friend, wiping the pouring  sweat out of his eyes. “We have got to go!” 

“No place to go, boss,” Buck Tellonger said, pointing toward the cavern’s entrance where  three rock creatures stood, lava dripping from their bodies and pooling around their feet. “Well, this day just keeps getting better and better, don’t it?” Lance said. “I’m open to  suggestion.” 

“Retreat,” Buck offered, pointing toward an opening in the wall the rock creatures were  building around them. 

“That’s not out, buck! That’ll take us deeper into the cave!” 

“Anything’s got to be better than here, right?” 

“I wouldn’t count on it!” Lance said. “Still, we don’t seem to have many other options,  do we?” 

“Nope.” 

“Damn.” 

“What about The Overlord and his men?” Buck pointed toward the men nearby. Two of The Overlord’s agents were down, presumably at the hands of the Warriors of  Hades. They were covered in lava, dead and scorched. The other two agents were firing on the lava men as they retreated toward the cavern entrance, but to no effect. 

The Overlord, himself, had backed up behind them, also shooting aimlessly at the  creatures out of myth. If they could stay ahead of the rock men, they had a chance to escape. The Crown of Gengis Kai had slid to a rest on the cavern floor, the lava moving around it  as though to keep it safe or in fear of getting too close. 

“We need to get the crown,” Simon said. 

“Not in this lifetime, pal,” Lance said pointedly. “We’ve got to get moving!” “But we can’t just abandon it!” 

“Oh yes we can,” Lance said. 

“But…”

“Lead the way, Buck,” Lance told his co-pilot. “Time to go, Simon!” 

Grabbing Simon by the arm, Lance led him through the only escape hatch they had, which wasn’t much of one. The heat off of the rock creatures was intense. The nearest one  reached for them, as if to grab them and halt their escape. 

It missed, but Lance Star felt his arm begin to blister. 

“Go!” he shouted, pushing them onward. 

The tunnel was dark ahead. The only light came from the reflected red off of the lava that  was oozing out of the walls. The heat was tremendous and only getting worse. When they reached a bend in the tunnel, they understood why. 

Before them sat a giant pool of lava. 

Unlike the molten earth behind them, this lava stood stationary in a pool with small fires  scattered across its surface and ripples of heat radiating above it. 

“Dead end,” Buck said. 

“Poor choice of words,” Lance said. 

“But accurate. What do you want to do, boss?” 

“No way around it,” Lance said of the lake of fire. “Two choices.” 

“Both bad,” Simon said. 

“We go back… or we die here,” Lance said. 

“Perhaps I can propose a third option,” a gravelly voice said from the darkness. ### 

Lance was wrong. 

There were still plenty of things in this world that could surprise him. 

This was one. 

The rock creature stood in front of them. It made no move to threaten or stop them from  backing away. If he had to describe it, Lance would have said that the creature was patient,  almost demure. At least so much as a rock creature with lava for blood could be. “Who are you?” 

The rock creature chuckled. The sound was rough, like two rough stones grinding against  one another. 

“My name is unimportant,” the rock man said. “You have trespassed on our sovereign soil. This is in direct violation of our treaty.” 

“Treaty?” 

Lance was confused. He looked from Buck to Simon, who both shook their heads. They  were as lost as he was, although he could see Simon’s wheel begin to spin. “Simon?” 

Simon snapped his fingers. “You’re one of the Warriors of Hades, aren’t you?” “Warriors of Hades?” The rock man ran a granite hand along the side of his head, adding  more rock grinding on rock noise to the echo. “Your words are strange.” 

“Don’t you see?” Simon told Lance, grabbing his friend by the arm. “The stories about  the crown. In every version of the story I’ve ever heard, Gengis Kai used the crown to fight the  Warriors of Hades.” 

“This is no time for myth, Professor,” Buck said, his eyes focused on the rock creature.

“It’s the perfect time,” Simon countered. “There are variations in every story about the  battle between Gengis Kai and the Warriors of Hades, but there are constants in ever telling of  the legend. One of those constants is the battle on this island. They fought here… on Magnapor.” “But it wasn’t called that then, was it?” Lance offered. 

“No. In those days, this island was basically just the volcano,” Simon explained. “Where  we’re standing now is the original island. The rest of it is built upon the cooled magma from the  volcanic eruption that started all those hundreds and hundreds of years ago.” “So?” 

“These guys made this island,” Simon exclaimed at the discovery. “In every version of  the legend of Gengis Kai, the volcano erupts while he’s fighting these guys.” “Your friend speaks true,” the rock man said. “My people are responsible for this place.  We have a great responsibility.” 

“What responsibility?” 

“Removing the sentry has released the enemy.” 

“Okay, this is getting too out there even for me,” Buck said. “We need to go. Now!” Lance held up a hand to stop his friend. 

“Hold up, Buck. I think I understand.” 

“You do?” 

“Maybe. Hang tight a second,” Lance said. 

“Is this island… this volcano… your home?” 

“This place is where I exist,” the rock man said. 

“But you haven’t always existed here, have you?” 

“No.” 

Lance looked at Simon. “You said something about this Kai guy sailing across the ocean,  looting and pillaging. He was a pirate, no?” 

“That’s always been my belief,” Simon said. 

“Gengis Kai came here after hearing about a powerful enemy, creatures he described as  large and human-like with lava burning beneath rock-like shells. Everything they touched  burned.” 

“That sounds right.” 

“These guys?” Lance said, pointing. 

“Yes.” 

“Does the name Gengis Kai mean anything to you?” Lance asked the rock man. “It means key.” 

“So, you knew him?” 

“The name is… familiar.” 

“He fought your people, this key?” 

“Yes. At first.” 

“And after?” Lance pushed. 

“After?” 

“What happened when your fight finished?” 

“The key’s eyes were opened.” 

Lance looked to Simon and Buck, who both shrugged. 

“I don’t understand. His eyes were opened to what?” 

“The greater enemy. Once he saw the true enemy, the key joined my people to save this  place.”

“You worked together?” 

“We became allies against a greater threat.” 

“I know I’m going to regret asking this,” Lance said. “But what greater threat?” “The enemy who lies beneath us.” 

“Are you buying any of this garbage, boss?” Buck asked. 

“It makes as much sense as anything else I’ve heard today.” 

Simon snapped his fingers again. 

“You’re sentries, aren’t you?” 

“We are guardians of the key.” 

“Simon?” Lance asked. 

“I think I’m starting to get a clear picture,” Simon said. “All of the writing about the  battle was either second hand, stories repeated over and over through the centuries, but they all  started from a distance. Kai’s pirates watched the battle from the sea, remember? What if they  weren’t watching Kai die fighting? What if they saw him working with these guys? Warriors of  Hades was a name given them by the pirates. No one who told the stories ever met them.” 

“Are you telling me these Rock Men from the Earth’s Core are the good guys?” Buck  said, clearly not buying it. 

“Tell us what happened,” lance said. 

“The great enemy awoke from its long imprisonment. As the guardians, our responsibility  was to keep the enemy at bay. The key’s arrival caused our concentration to shift and the enemy  awoke.” 

“The volcano erupted,” Simon said, filling in the blanks. 

“And that’s how the enemy escaped?” Lance added. 

“Yes.” The rock man nodded. “This is the only way in or out for the enemy.” “It’s the crown,” Simon said. “The crown is the key. Not Gengis Kai.” 

Both Lance and Buck looked at him to continue. 

“Don’t you see?” Simon said. “He called Gengis Kai the key and we found him sitting on  that polished throne out there. He was still wearing the crown.” 

“The crown was boobytrapped,” Buck said. “When The Overlord moved it, the lava  started pouring in.” 

“Boobytrapped?” Simon asked. “Or a key keeping an eruption at bay?” 

“You think the crown is what’s keeping the volcano from erupting?” Lance said. “It’s  keeping the enemy, the lava, at bay! Is that even possible?” 

“Last I saw, Kai’s remains were still sitting on the throne. The crown was the only thing moved. The Overlord removed the key to this prison and the prisoner is ready to make a break  for it.” 

“Is that it? We get the crown back in place and the shaking stops?” Buck asked. “If the enemy has not escaped its fiery prison, the key will once more seal the exit.” “Then why didn’t you just put it back instead of coming after us?” Buck asked. “Good question. Simon?” 

The professor shrugged. 

“The key is a construct of your world,” the rock man said. “It is as deadly to my kind as it  is to the enemy beneath. We can no more touch it than he without becoming trapped by its  power.” 

“Well, that’s just terrific,” Buck muttered.

“And if we return the key, you’ll let us walk out of here?” Lance asked, ignoring his co pilot’s sarcasm. 

“You will be free to return to your world.” 

Lance blew out a breath while he weighed their options, of which there were surprisingly  few. Hands on hips, he nodded. The decision was made. 

“Let’s go grab ourselves a key, gentlemen,” Lance said as if it were the most normal of  tasks. 

“I hope nobody changed the locks,” Buck muttered as he fell into step behind his friend.