from the mind of Bobby Nash
LANCE STAR AND THE CROWN OF GENGIS KAI
A serialized novella by Bobby Nash
Buck Tellonger was all smiles when he stepped into the alley.
He couldn’t remember the last time he had been in a dust up like the bar fight inside The Great and Powerful club. The three goons in their trench coats and their stormtrooper tactics put forth an intimidating look, but Buck had been fighting the good fight for years, possibly longer than some of the men he had put down.
It wasn’t that he loved violence. Buck preferred to calm tensions with a good joke and a round of beers, but not all situations worked out that way. His run in with The Overlord’s men was one such encounter.
A part of him wished he could have stuck around long enough to right and fully trounce his opponents, but Buck was a tactician. Every move he made was deliberate, unless he’d had one too many at the local pub. Then, he could be a bit careless, but never ever on the job.
All he had to do was keep the agents busy long enough for Lance and his friend, Simon Prentiss to slink away unnoticed. Once they made their way out of the line of fire, Buck started planning his escape as well. Those who opposed him were often left surprised. Buck was a short, bulldog of a man who always seemed to be in need of a haircut and a shave. Not that he would ever consider losing the handlebar mustache. He was convinced that women loved the look, especially on a war hero pilot such as himself. To an outsider, he did not appear to be much of a threat. When the fight was over, Buck had happily schooled them on the truth. He was a scrapper with fists that hit like a sledgehammer. A lesson the agents following them had learned all too well.
Getting away from the agents was the easy part. They might have worked as official state police for their boss, The Overlord, but it didn’t take Buck long to size them up. They were bullies. They weren’t trained. When dealing with the locals, the idea of the agents was probably enough to end whatever trouble had started. The Overlord ruled by fear and they relied on the despot’s ruthless reputation to keep the natives in line.
Once he had the agents off kilter, which wasn’t that hard, truth be told, Buck ducked into the kitchen instead of heading toward the club’s front door. Only a fool would think that escape was possible through that crowd. The kitchen was crowded, but unguarded. The club’s security was focused on the front entrance and the areas occupied by customers, not their employees.
Buck used that to his advantage.
Minutes later, the air ace pushed his way through the alley door to freedom.
The first thing he noticed was the stench. Against the wall stood two dumpsters. Two additional dumpsters sat at the far end of the alley as well, each set used by different businesses. Buck vaguely recalled a restaurant in the building that shared the alley with The Great and Powerful. The smell told him he was in the right place, but Buck tried not to get ahead of himself.
One of the tenets of growing older is that wisdom accompanies age.
When he was younger, Buck Tellonger had the unfortunate habit of leaping without looking. This had a tendency to lead the young man astray. He often found himself in some rather hot water more times than he cared to admit. Even his parents, God rest their souls, had all but given up on him. His father had once told Buck that he “would be lucky to reach thirty.”
Buck couldn’t disagree.
After enlisting, he was all but certain his lifespan would be short.
His reckless abandon was an asset as well as a curse. Buck turned out to be one hell of a soldier and he came home from the war with a box full of medals and twice as many disciplinary reports. He knew how to fight the enemy and he took it to the mat every time. The problem was, Buck didn’t know who his friends were. To him, everyone was the enemy.
Then he met a gangly American pilot named Lance Star.
Lance did not stand for Buck’s reckless behavior. They clashed a few times in those early days, but eventually the two became friends. Fighting side by side against the enemy only served to strengthen that bond and when Lance Star returned to the states at the end of the war to start up his own aviation manufacture business, he asked Buck to join him on a new adventure.
To his own surprise, Buck said yes.
Years later, Lance would tell Buck that he considered the older pilot a mentor. Buck also thought the same of his friend, though his pride rarely allowed him to speak the words out loud. Working with Lance and the other Sky Rangers was one adventure after the other and he was having the time of his life. Since joining up with his friend, Buck had seen more of the world than he ever believed possible. Many cases, they managed to visit exotic locales without getting shot at, though that wasn’t always the case. The Sky Rangers had made many an enemy in their time and danger was just as much a part of their charter as action and adventure.
The alley was clear, save for heaps of trash scattered about. Once he was sure there was no need to duck back inside The Great and Powerful’s kitchen, Buck allowed the door to close and latch behind him, automatically locking when closed.
“Okay, where are ya, Lance?” he muttered.
The alley was open at both ends. To the left was another restaurant. To the right was a highway. Both ways could be used to circle back around to the front of the club.
Or from the club, Buck realized when one of the agents stepped around the corner to the right. Their eyes locked.
Before the agent could sound the alarm and alert his companions to their target’s whereabouts, Buck bit back an expletive. The fight had simply paused and changed venue. The agents were more resourceful than he had first expected.
Buck bolted toward the left side of the alley as fast as he could, leaving the agent shouting after him. Without looking back, Buck ran as fast as he could, hearing the agent’s shoes slap the asphalt behind him. The pilot was beginning to regret that last pitcher of beer.
At the entrance to the alley, he slowed long enough to make sure there were no surprises waiting for him around the corner of the building.
The coast was clear.
Buck ducked around the corner then stopped.
Like the other streets he had seen in Magnapor’s major city, the sidewalks were filled with vendors and hucksters hawking their goods and services on the populace. The streets were over-crowded, which made it difficult to get anywhere in a hurry, but it was great if you needed to disappear into the crowd.
Buck wasn’t a man prone to running. Walking away from a fight rankled his sensibilities, but the air ace also understood that sometimes the mission, which is what their little trek to an island paradise, was turning into. Whatever Simon Prentiss had gotten himself into was obviously worse than he let on. Surely the secret police had not been sic’d on him because of an ancient legend about a magical crown worn by a man who fought lava monsters. Surely, there had to be something else. Simon had to have uncovered something else, some long-buried secret that could hurt The Overlord.
“Damned legends,” Buck muttered as his gave fell upon a small broken pallet leaning against the wall. It had once held one of the many street vendor’s wares.
Now, it was a weapon.
Buck snapped off a board from the pallet and hefted it easily. The wood was hard, thick enough to survive on a cargo ship at sea. It was more than up to the task the pilot had in mind for it. His back against the brick wall, Buck settled into his best baseball stance.
He held his breath and listened as the footfalls got closer.
Buck swung for the bleachers.
The flat piece of timber caught the agent in the gut, bending him forward at the midsection in a fit of pain. The agent held his stomach even as he crumpled to the pavement.
Buck pulled the man back into the alley and sat him next to the dumpster. He was out light a light, but Buck decided it was best to stash him out of sight if anyone from the street looked into the alley. The longer his friend stayed out of sight, the better it was for Buck and his friends. He pulled the belt from the trench coat and used it to tie the unconscious agent’s arms behind his back. Moments later, now wearing the agent’s fedora, Buck stepped out of the alley.
He turned left and blended into the crowd.
Buck stuck to the plan.
After a few disastrous visits to strange lands, like Magnapor, the Sky Rangers had developed a sure-fire system in case they ran into local trouble and had to split up. Usually, the best course of action was to head back to the plane they arrived in. That way, whoever arrived first could protect the aircraft and secure their flight back home.
It was a tried and true strategy.
There were times when adjustments were required. This struck him as one of those occasions. Buck knew that Lance was intent on helping his friend, Simon. Escape wasn’t at the top of the professor’s to do list, however. No matter what else he knew about Simon Prentiss, Buck recognized the man’s single-minded pursuit of the Crown of Gengis Kai. Finding the crown was why he had called Lance and asked him to fly to Magnapor.
There was no way he would leave without finishing what he started.
That meant Lance would not make a beeline for the plane after escaping the ambush at the club. Instead, Lance would head to wherever Simon had been staying or working so they could collect his research. From there, they would seek out the crown and try to retrieve it before escaping the island.
Unfortunately, for Buck, he had no idea where Professor Prentiss lived or worked. In fact, he had no idea where to start looking for the hidden treasure they sought. Simon had kept the details private, even from his friend who had flown halfway around the world to help him.
Simon was an archaeologist, but Buck also sensed that he was true believer. The crown’s historical significance was valuable, but if you believed the stories that the crown bestowed untold power onto the person who wore it atop their head, it was priceless.
If you believed in that sort of mumbo-jumbo.
Buck wasn’t sure what he believed.
All he knew was that he needed to find Lance and soon.
By the time he reached the outer fence of the airfield, he could clearly see that the hangar they had rented was dark and apparently undisturbed. There was no sign of Lance either. That all but proved his theory.
Three options were open to him and Buck wasn’t sure which was the best course to pursue. He could wait until Lance and Simon showed up and hope all was well. That option did not sound appealing at all. He could call in reinforcements and hope the Sky Rangers would arrive in time. The flight time all but guaranteed that their friends wouldn’t be able to reach them in time. The last option was to head back into town and look for Lance and his friend.
None of the options were exceptionally helpful, but Buck wasn’t prone to waiting around. He hoped the fence and headed toward the hangar. If Lance had stopped there first, he would have left word on their next move. If not, Buck would help himself to the weapons stored in the plane’s hidden compartments.
Either way, Buck would be on the move soon.
“Hang on, boys,” the air ace said as he slipped a handgun into his belt. “Your wingman’s on his way.
Lance Star found an out of the way corner and ducked inside.
The smart course of action was to keep moving. The Overlord’s men were no doubt dogging their trail. The only way to stay safe was to keep moving. Unfortunately, Lance’s passenger was slowing things down. Simon Prentiss was a professor and archaeologist. He was used to slow, intricate dats spent focused on studies or a swath of earth.
Running for his life while being hunted by a tiny island nation’s secret police was a little outside his field of expertise. The man had already started to struggle for breath before they made it out of the alley. Now, his breathing was labored, heavy, so much so that Lance had begun to fear his friend might have a heart attack.
Lance pulled Simon into the tiny alcove at the edge of the Emerald City’s bazaar, one of the largest outdoor markets in the entire South Pacific.
As soon as Buck Tellonger had tossed the agent to the floor, all eyes were on him. Lance seized the opportunity his friend had created and promptly pushed Simon Prentiss toward the kitchen. On the outside, Buck might look like a schlub, thanks to his unkempt nature, mussed hair, and thick mangled cigar clutched in his teeth, but he was a bulldog in a fight. Dangerous, quick to anger, and tenacious. He wouldn’t stop brawling until his opponents were on the floor or he was and that was something you could take to the bank.
Lance knew the old warhorse could take care of himself, even with the three to one odds. Simon Prentiss, on the other hand, had never been in a fistfight his entire life, which seemed odd considering how often Lance himself had found himself in a scrap or twelve since they were almost always together growing up.
Simon was a natural born scholar. He looked at the world like a giant jigsaw puzzle that needed to be solved where all of the pieces were supposed to fit together perfectly to form a fully realized whole.
That was not the world Lance Star lived in.
As a man who had been involved in two wars and more battles than he cared to count, Lance held a more cynical view of the world. He knew there were evil men out there whose sole purpose was to watch the world burn. There was no rhyme or reason to it. The planet was large enough for everyone, but for some of the would-be tyrants he and the Sky Rangers had taken down, the world was not enough. They wanted to either rule it all or watch it go up in cinders.
As long as those people existed, Lance Star and his team would stand up and fight., before…
Lance looked around. They blended in with the thick crowd congregating in the bazaar, but it wasn’t safe to stay in one place too long. If the word hadn’t gone out about them, no doubt with accompanying photographs, it wouldn’t be long before they started circulating them. Lance had to get them out of the city fast before…
That’s when he saw it and realized it was too late.
Lance’s gaze drew skyward when he heard a loud horn sound. It reminded him of the air raid alerts back home, though not quite as urgent. On the side of the tallest buildings, the ones controlled by The Overlord, were projection screens. The best Lance could tell was that
projectors inside the building pushed the image outward so it could be seen from the street. There was no sound, but the pictures told the story.
Images of a bar fight danced across the large screens. With no sound they could not hear the report, but a man in a tailored suit read from a sheet of yellow paper while photographs of Lance Star, Buck Tellonger, and Simon Prentiss floated behind him with their names emblazoned beneath each image. On an empty corner of the screen was information stating that these men were being sought for questioning by Island Police and a call for Magnapor’s citizens to report any sightings of these dangerous men to their local authorities as quickly as possible.
The message ended with Your cooperation will be rewarded in white on a field of black. Seconds later, the news report repeated.
“Simon, we’ve got to get moving,” he told his friend. “It won’t take them long to find us now. We’ve got to go!”
“How are you not out of breath?”
“Clean living,” Lance said with a chuckle.
He offered a hand.
“I gave up cigarettes and got back into the routine of a daily run like we used to do back in the service. You’d be amazed how much it helps.”
“You run on purpose?”
“You ever see me running, there’s probably something chasing me,” Simon said as his friend helped him back to his feet.
“So, where to?” Simon asked.
“The way I see it, we’ve got two choices. We can make a break for the airfield and get the hell off this island.”
“Or we go find this treasure of yours so we’ll have some leverage against The Overlord and then we get the hell off this island.”
“I vote plan B.”
“I thought you might,” Lance said. “Where to?”
“It’s on the other side of the island.”
“Of course it is,” Lance muttered. “Okay, the hangar it is then.”
“No. We have to go back to my hotel.”
“Bad idea, Simon. If there’s one place we can expect to find the bad guys, it’s at your hotel.”
“You don’t understand,” Simon said as they moved deeper into the crowd. “All of my research is there. I need it.”
“Of course you do.”
“If they haven’t torn your room apart yet, they will soon. What are the odds we get there and collect your notes before they do?”
“Pretty good, actually.”
Simon smiled. “I hid them.”
This brought the pilot up short.
“You hid them?”
“Of course,” Simon said, still smiling. “I’m not a complete idiot, you know.” “I guess not. Okay, so where are they?”
“I hid a waterproof bag behind the fountain in the lobby,” Simon said, proud of himself. Lance stopped and stared at his friend. “This is one of the poorest places on Earth, but your hotel has a lobby fountain? Where exactly are you staying, Simon?” Simon pointed to the tall green building that sat next door to the tall green skyscraper where The Overlord lived.
“Oh, that’s just great,” Lance said.
“And you’re sure you can’t find this crown of yours without that research?” “Positive.”
“Okay. Come on,” Lance said, changing course and heading straight toward the lion’s den. “Let me state, for the record, that I think this is a horrible idea.”
Lance Star sighed and pushed forward, disappearing into the crowd.
Buck Tellonger’s patience had neared its end.
He had been waiting what felt like forever for Lance and his professor friend to show up at the airfield. He had exited the club well after they had so there was no good reason for them not to have made it back before he did.
There were plenty of bad reasons though and each one of them danced around inside his brain. The most likely scenario was that had gotten caught by The Overlord’s thugs. Lance could take care of himself, Buck knew, but even the best scraper could go down when the odds were stacked against them.
The Overlord definitely had more men at his disposal than the three of them could easily take on. Not that Buck wouldn’t mind trying. He liked a good fight as much as the next man. Speaking of The Overlord’s thugs…
Buck ducked back beneath cover when the headlights from a car pulled into the airfield. The car made a beeline for the hangar he and Lance had rented for their stay. Another car pulled in only seconds behind the first and also parked near the hangar.
Well, this can’t be good, he thought as he watched the four men huddle together. Two got out of the first car. Two more exited the second. They were each dressed in the uniform of the island’s secret police.
Uh oh. Guess our secret’s out, Buck thought as he moved into a better position to spy on the agents outside the hangar.
When he heard the faint SNAP! Of a twig snap behind him, he knew he was in trouble. Buck spun hard just in time to the see the business end of a slapper hurling toward him. He tried to dodge, but it was too late.
The pilot slumped to the ground, dazed and off balance.
Blood poured from the gash on his forehead.
The second hit, this one to the back of the head.
Buck Tellonger collapsed, unconscious.
The two agents standing over him grabbed the air ace by the arms and dragged him across the grass to the airfield where they summarily dumped him next to one of the cars. “Any sign of his friends?” Agent Sunday asked.
“Too bad,” Sunday said. “Get him in the car. He has an appointment with his fate. And The Overlord does not like to be kept waiting.
“I don’t like the look of this,” Lance Star said.
The Emerald Grand Hotel wasn’t the most heavily fortified place he had ever had to break into, but security was impressive nonetheless. The lobby was massive and sported a large open ceiling where large chandeliers hung below a mural of a crisp, blue sky dotted with tiny, pleasant clouds. Near the reservation and check in counter at the rear of the lobby was a rock wall with a waterfall that trickled over layers of rock to the large pool that stretched out into the middle of the lobby. Chairs and tables were arranged along the perimeter of the pool for guests to eat, talk, or do business in peaceful surroundings.
“This is where you chose to hide out?” Lance asked.
Simon Prentiss shrugged.
“We really need to teach you how to blend in,” Lance told his clueless friend. “What’s your room number?”
“Fourteen Oh One,” Simon said while pointing off to the left. “The elevator is over there.”
“Please tell me you have the room key on you?”
Simon shook his head. “I always leave it with the front desk. I have a tendency to get lost in my work and misplace things like keys. This way I’m never locked out of my room and I can collect my messages when I return.”
“Terrific. Who else knows you’re here?”
“No one. Not this time. I left word with the university that I was going on sabbatical. They’ve begun to frown on my trips in search of the crown.”
“What a shock,” Lance said. “Maybe you should take the hint. No one but you believes this bloody crown exists.”
“I don’t understand why this bothers you,” Simon said. “All I have to do is ask for it and they’ll give me the key.”
“I…” Lance grunted, reigned in his annoyance. He understood why all of this was getting to him. Simon’s earlier crack about Lance’s father had cut deep.
Simon Prentiss had always been a little dense when it came to understanding the reality of how the world worked. This was not news to the ace pilot. They had grown up together. Their parents were friends who sometimes worked together. Landon Star was himself a pilot, a strong man whose ideals young Lance Star had grown up to admire. Landon was the kind of man that Lance hoped to measure up to. They were very close.
Simon Prentiss and his father were also quite similar to one another. Professor Simon Prentiss Sr. was also a seeker of lost treasures. Unlike his son, however, his pursuits were more selfish in nature. The elder Professor Prentiss looked for treasures he could sell and cash in on whereas his son donated the vast majority of his finds to universities and museums for a small finder’s fee worth only a fraction of the items real value.
Landon Star often teamed up with the elder Professor Prentiss on his excursions. Both Lance and Simon would sit and listen to their father spin their tall tales of adventure, intrigue, dangers that followed them as they sought out the world’s greatest treasures. Lance often
assumed that the men exaggerated their stories, making them much more exciting in the eyes of their children.
Now that he was older and had faced his own share of adventures, Lance wondered how many of those old tall tales were actually true. He wished more than anything that his father was still alive so he could ask.
When Simon had mentioned the Crown of Gengis Kai, Lance of course remembered it. Their fathers had gone on many an excursion in search of that elusive treasure. Each time they thought they had a lead, they would head off with the promise of new stories when they returned.
Lance remembered the disappointment in his father’s eyes each time they came home without the crown in their possession.
Eventually, they gave up.
It wasn’t long after that Professor Prentiss passed away. A heart attack took him in his sleep. It was a peaceful end. Simon, of course, took it hard. In the days and weeks that followed, as he poured through his father’s papers, thoughts of finding and recovering the Crown of Gengis Kai consumed Simon Prentiss Jr. as it had his father.
In an effort to help his friend’s son put his demons to rest, Landon Star agreed to rejoin the search for the crown. They had both assumed that young Lance would happily leap into the adventure with them.
They were wrong.
Lance watched the search for the mythic doo dad kill his friend’s father. The professor had died of a heart attack, but it was his defeat over not finding his prize that ultimately did him in. Lance feared that the same fate awaited his father and his friend and he decided to have no part of it.
It caused a rift between Lance and Simon that took many years to heal. It was another mutual friend, Red Davis, who helped the boys bury the hatchet.
The division between father and son was less deep, but they eventually got past it and the Star boys had many adventures of their own seeking the lost treasures of the world. It was on one of those trips where Landon, Lance, Simon, and Red met Buck Tellonger. They had come to Bangladesh following a lead on a major artifact. Though they all almost died at least once on this caper, they returned home with a valuable treasure and a new friend in Buck Tellonger. They became fast friends and shared several other adventures over the years.
Then war broke out and the world fell into chaos.
With what would later come to be called World War I heating up, Buck returned to military service for his country while Landon and his son, now a teenager, returned home to the United States. It would be a few years before Buck would meet up with Lance again, but sadly he never saw his friend, Landon again.
Once again on the trail of the Crown of Gengis Kai, the latest information he had collected pointed toward Cairo. Landon loaded the plane and flew off in search of his greatest find alone.
He did not return.
Learning of his friend’s disappearance, Buck Telonger returned to the United States where he became Lance’s guardian, as stipulated in Landon’s will. He never tried to replace his father, but Buck Tellonger was the closest thing to a parent Lance had in this world. Once he was of legal age, Lance started Lance Star, Inc. and started construction of Star Field. Buck accepted a generous offer from him to join the family business as Vice President and second in command of the Sky Rangers.
And now, once again, the Crown of Gengis Kai had put Lance and his friends in danger. Lance pulled his friend over to a less traveled section of the lobby and they each took a seat. Lance then pulled a large potted plant that sported a plant with big leaves closer to block them from full view.
“Why are we waiting?” Simon asked, breaking Lance’s trip down memory lane. “We are probably the two most wanted people in this country right now,” Lance said softly. “You do understand that, right? If they aren’t here already, and if they aren’t, then I’ve really underestimated The Overlord, then they will be here shortly.”
“How would they know to look here?”
“Did you sign in under your own name? Did you pay in cash and use an alias or did you put it under the university’s name?”
“Doesn’t matter,” Lance said. “Your hotel room isn’t going to be hard to find.” “I don’t understand,” Simon started to protest.
A lifelong student, Simon had never had to live in the real world as it existed outside of his safe, university-controlled bubble. The only time he was off campus was when he went on a dig, but even there he was surrounded by university personnel and security. He had no real understanding of how things worked.
“We’ll take the stairs. Come on.”
“But we need the key,” Simon said.
“We’ll manage,” Lance said and ushered his friend into the stairwell.
The fourteenth floor was empty.
Lance eased open the stairwell door and looked for any sign of guards or agents on the prowl. So far, they had managed to remain a few steps ahead of the agents after them. It was only the narrowest of leads and Lance did not want to hang around any longer than necessary. “Let’s go,” he whispered.
They walked to Simon’s room.
“Fourteen Oh One,” Simon said as he pointed to the closed door. “If we only had a key.” Lance tried the door handle.
It was locked.
He pulled a small leather pouch from his back pocket and removed two small black pieces of metal.
“What are those?” Simon asked.
Lance smiled. “They’re for unlocking locked doors without a key. A friend of mine taught me how to use these a while back. I’ve been looking forward to trying it out in the wild.” “Interesting,” Simon said, leaning in close to watch.
“You’re in my light,” Lance said.
It only took a minute or two, but eventually there was a soft click and the door unlocked. Smiling, Lance turned the knob and pushed the door open slowly.
“Impressive,” Simon said.
“You’d be amazed how often I find myself needing to get inside a locked room,” Lance joked as they went inside. “Now, where are your notes?”
“In the closet. Over there.” He pointed.
“Okay. Good. Grab them and let’s get moving.”
“You really think they’re going to come after us here?”
“Oh, I’m quite sure of it,” Lance said as soon as he saw the room’s primary entrance open again. Unlike Lance and Simon, the new arrival had a key.
The man charged into the room the moment he saw Lance standing there. From his trench coat covered suit and tie and the sunglasses and hat he wore, the man was obviously an agent of The Overlord. The three men they had squared off against inside the Great and Powerful club wore similar outfits.
This man was bulkier than the other three Lance and company had encountered. He was a fighter.
Lance barely had time to move before the big man slammed into him. He pivoted, trying his best to dodge and attack simultaneously. It was a move he had employed before. Sometimes it worked.
Then there were times like this one.
The agent hit lance with all the severity of a bull plowing into a matador. The impact pushed Lance off balance and he and the agent fell over the bed in the center of the room, crashing to the floor on the far side, tangled together in a mess of arms and legs. Both men kept fighting, punching and kicking at their opponent.
Lance was able to land a punch to the big man’s nose, snapping the thick plastic frames of his dark glasses and breaking the man’s nose.
The agent tried to stand with the bed serving to steady him.
Lance had no plans to offer him time to recover.
Still on the floor, Lance brought his knees close to his chest then kicked out hard, pushing the agent backward over the corner of the bed, blood splattering across the wall. Lance was on his feet in a shot.
Before the injured agent could recover, the pilot grabbed a fistful of the man’s coat and lifted him bodily from the floor.
The agent spat blood.
Lance punched him in the face.
Now unconscious, Lance lowered the agent back to the floor.
“Are you okay?” Simon said from near the closet door. He held a satchel filled with his notes.
“I’ll live,” Lance said. “Time to move, Simon! There are most likely more on the way!” Simon started toward the door that led to the hallway.
“Not that way,” his friend shouted.
Lance pointed toward the double doors that lead out onto the balcony overlooking the city and the mountains beyond.
After throwing open the doors, the American adventurer stepped out cautiously. He wanted to make certain there were no snipers lying in wait to take either of them out. So far, as best he could tell, they wanted Simon alive. Lance wasn’t sure what his status was with The Overlord.
He had run afoul of men like the one who ruled this tiny island nation before. They were also slick talkers, bullies with a little money and influence to keep them in power. To defeat men
like The Overlord, all you had to do was remove their influence and they could be taken down easily enough. Bullies were only effective until the one being bullied fought back. Lance and the Sky Rangers were known for standing against bullies. They usually did so on a global stage, but Lance Star was no fan of bullies wherever they resided. “How do you plan to get us out of here?” Simon asked.
“Remember that time you, me, and Red got into a scrape in Cairo?”
“Ah, yes,” Simon said. “Jasmine.”
Lance chuckled at the memory.
“Remember how we got out of her room in the palace?”
“I’m too old to jump off a balcony,” Simon said. “And we’re fourteen stories up. Jasmine’s room was on the fourth floor. There’s a big difference there!”
“Yeah. A bit. Trust me, okay?”
“Why stop now,” Simon said.
Lance pointed to the balcony for the neighboring room.
“It’s an easy step over. Then we go to the next. From there, it’s an easy drop to the next building over.”
“For a pilot, you know a lot about getting out of tight spots on the ground,” Simon joked as he climbed over to the next balcony.
“You’d be amazed how often this sort of thing happens,” Lance quipped as he followed. ###
“Did you see which way they went?”
“I’m sorry, sir. I did not.”
When Agent Sunday had arrived at the hotel room rented to archaeologist Simon Prentiss, he had expected to find the good professor and take him into custody. Barring that, the hope had been to collect the man’s research and return it to The Overlord as ordered.
Walking in to find one of his agents unconscious did not leave the best impression. “What happened, Agent Monday?” he asked, his exasperation with the man’s performance shining through.
“When I came to check out the room, as instructed, I found a man in the room already.” “Simon Prentiss?”
“No,” the agent said, pinching his nose to stop the blood flow. “It was the other man. The one who fled the club with the professor.”
“I believe that is his name, yes, sir.”
“And he did this to you?”
“He got lucky, sir,” Monday said. “Caught me off guard, but I gave as good as I got.” “No doubt,” Sunday said with disdain. “Not enough to stop him, but perhaps enough to slow him down.”
“Maybes are for the uninitiated, Agent Monday. As a member of The Overlord’s police force, you should always know. Maybe is not acceptable. You should know this by now.” “I apologize,” Monday said.
“You still have a chance to redeem yourself,” Sunday said.
“I have been recalled to The Overlord’s office. I am leaving a small detachment of soldiers here, under your command. Your only concern right now is to find Simon Prentiss and bring him to The Overlord.”
“And if Lance Star intervenes again?”
Buck Tellonger hurt all over.
Between the bar fight, crouching in the bushes outside the airfield, and getting popped in the face with a slapper, he had taken a good bot of punishment and he was starting to feel all of it. He remained still, hoping that the pain would ease if he didn’t move. He even kept his eyes shut. The last thing he wanted was to tip off the men who had taken him that he was no longer out cold.
“Wake him,” he heard an unfamiliar voice say.
So much for that plan, Buck thought.
There was a small pop followed by the familiar sharp ammonia sting of smelling salts. It was impossible to fake being out once the ammonia vapors hit the sinuses. Buck coughed and sat up.
He shook the cobwebs from his brain and took in his surroundings.
The room was an office. Not the small, cluttered eight by ten-foot box he called an office back at Star Field that was only big enough to hold a desk, two chairs, a filing cabinet, and a coat rack. No, this was the office of a head of state, which made sense when he realized who the man standing at the far end of the office was, even before he spoke.
“Welcome back to the land of the living, Mr. Tellonger.,” the man wearing the expensive tailor-made suit and jacket said without turning. Instead, he continued staring out the window at the city below.
“If it’s all the same to you, I could have used another couple hours of shut eye,” Buck said as he struggled to stand. His legs were still asleep and refused to cooperate. Two of the agents lifted him up and pushed him into a chair across from a large, antique desk. They were less than gentle.
“Easy,” Buck said, defaulting to obstinate as he shot the agent nearest him his dirtiest look.
“Settle down,” the agent grunted.
Before Buck could stand back up, the agents pushed him back into the cushioned chair. He struggled against them, but they had the advantage in numbers and leverage. “Mr. Tellonger, please. There is no use in attempting to flee,” the well-dressed man said as he turned to face his prisoner. “There’s nowhere to run to, I assure you.” “Who’s running?” Buck sniped back. “I was planning to teach your boys here some manners. That’s all.”
“I’m sure,” the man said. “I take it you know who I am?”
“You’re the big man around these parts. Like to call yourself The Overlord. A bit pompous, if you ask me, but an accurate moniker, I suppose.”
“You’re fairly glib for a man this close to oblivion,” The Overlord said. “Surely, you realize the depths of the danger you’re in.”
“What I know is that your goons picked a fight earlier. Then, later, they hit me upside the noggin. That tells me they aren’t good enough to take me in a fair fight.”
“What’s a fair fight?”
“You got me there,” Buck said around a sly smile. “I can play just as dirty as the next guy.”
“I’m sure you can.”
“Hey! I just realized something,” Buck exclaimed. “You’re not from around these parts, are you? You’re not Magnapor-born. You’re an American.”
“Can’t sneak anything past you, can I, Mr. Tellonger?” The Overlord said around a chuckle.
The Overlord was tall and handsome, with chiseled features. His dark hair was just starting to streak through with a stray gray hair or three, just enough to make him look distinguished. Buck understood. He had been seeing more and more of those stray white hairs in his own mustache of late and did not like it one bit. The Overlord didn’t seem to mind, but he clearly had a few years on the pilot. Perhaps he had simply gotten used to them. “You are correct. I am an American. John Mason, at your service.”
He held out a hand, but Buck made no move to reach out to shake it. He wasn’t convinced the agents would have let him even if he tried.
“I was born in Montana and eventually migrated to New York,” Mason said. “That’s where I attended college and started my first business. Within five years I made my first million. The world, as they say, was my oyster.”
“I’m guessing that oyster must have been hot if you had to hightail it out of the states.” The Overlord grimaced, which only spurred Buck’s taunts.
“Let me guess… Drugs? Weapons? Were you running girls or maybe booze during prohibition? Come on, Mason. I’m honestly curious. What kind of criminal are you?” “Land, Mr. Tellonger. I was in real estate. Acquiring land is my skill.”
“Buying and selling land isn’t illegal?” Buck reminded him.
“It depends on who you buy the land for and then how it is then used.”
“And the best you could do was buy a volcano and plant a city on it?” Buck said. “That’s not really all that smart, is it? I mean, it sounds like something a villain out of an old pulp novel might try. Is that the kind of villain you are, Mr. Overlord?”
The Overlord smiled.
“Magnapor is my little slice of paradise. Of all the properties I own, this place is where I think of when I think of home. Volcano aside, Magnapor is paradise.”
“Unless you’re one of the poor people who was here first.”
The Overlord’s smile faded. “I am not to blame for their lot in life. If you cannot become successful on your own, then you deserve whatever fate befalls you.”
“Uh, huh,” Buck said. “When you announced yourself Overlord of this island, those people became your responsibility. You tax them, don’t you?”
“Of course. No one lives on my island for free.”
“Then you’re the government here. Last time I checked it was the government’s job to help its citizenry.”
“Are you really so naive, Mr. Tellonger? When I decided I wanted this island, I paid off the government that was already in place. They were a cruel regime. Citizens were rounded up in the night and shot at dawn. There were people dying in the streets. Starvation was epidemic.” “You helped them, is that it?”
“In exchange for what?”
“Loyalty,” The Overlord said. “I bought this island furnished, as we like to say back in the real estate game. That means I bought the dirt, the rocks, the buildings, the volcano, and yes, even the people. They all belong to me.”
“They must be so thrilled.”
“I eliminated the firing squads. I shut down the debtor’s prison and made sure everyone had a way to earn their keep. Many own their own businesses. I assume you’ve seen our excellent bazaar?”
“As flea markets go, it ain’t bad,” Buck snorted.
“Those who do not share the entrepreneurial spirit of their fellows are given other options. They can go to work either in the fields that grow our food or take civil service positions working in government offices, sweeping the streets, collecting garbage…”
“Gestapo agents?” Buck said, chucking a thumb over his shoulder to the two government agents behind him.
“You’re a funny man, Mr. Tellonger.”
“Laughing’s easy when you’ve got stupid people to make fun of, herr Overlord.” “Droll,” The Overlord said.
“I figured a man with your background… that’s right, I did my research on you, Mr. Tellonger. Before the war turned you into a hero of the Allies, you were a bad boy. Smuggler, thief, muscle. If you had been more successful at any of those jobs, who knows, you might own your own island.”
The Overlord shrugged.
“But the war did happen and I changed,” Buck said matter-of-fact. “In fact, I fought a war against men just like you, Mr. Mason. The uniform is different, pin stripes instead of jodhpurs, but that doesn’t make you any less a bad guy, now does it?”
“You’re correct, Mr. Tellonger,” The Overlord said as he lit a cigarette. “I am, as you say, a bad guy. You would do well to remember that fact.”
“I’m not afraid of you,” Buck said plainly. “Do your worst. You can only kill me once.” “On any other day, I might take you up on that challenge,” The Overlord said. “However, you caught me on a good day. I will let you and your friend, the hero pilot, Lance Star leave this island alive and healthy. Perhaps with even a bit more coin in your pocket than when you arrived.”
“You think you can buy Lance Star?” Buck said, nearly choking on the words. “Boy, if you think that’ll work, you’re in for a big surprise. I’ve never met a more honest person that Lance. He’s the ultimate Boy Scout.”
“Lucky for me, I have a Plan B.”
“And that would be?”
“Do you really expect me to tell you my plans, Mr. Tellonger?”
“I think you like to hear yourself talk, Mason. See, I think you’ve bought into this fantasy you’ve concocted around yourself.” He raised his voice as if announcing a new movie serial. “The Overlord! Dread pirate kind of the Seven Seas! Ruler of deadly Magnapor!” “It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?”
“I think you like to see yourself as the villain, a dangerous man who holds the lives of every man, woman, and child on this island in the palm of his hands. It makes you feel powerful… untouchable.”
“Have you seen anything to dispute that description?”
“No,” Buck said, not bothering to hide his disdain. “It sounds like you’re looking for some hero to beat. You want to show all comers that you are the biggest, baddest man in these waters. What better way to do that than to go up against a world-wide celebrity like Lance Star? If you take him down, your reputation would be solidified.”
Buck leaned back in his chair and waited.
“Who’s aiming their sites at you?” Buck asked. “Have you made an enemy out o someone who isn’t afraid of you?”
“Look round, Mr. Tellonger. The entire world stands on the brink of another blasted war. The last one nearly destroyed us. You were there. You saw first-hand what this kind of chaos creates. I fear that the fuse has already been lit. War is on the horizon and when massive nation states go to war, small islands like mine are gobbled up in the carnage and men like me…” The Overlord turned and looked back out the window.
“Men like me are lined up against a wall and shot.”
“Heavy is the head that wears the crown,” Buck joked.
The Overlord spun back and gave him a dirty look.
“So that’s it. You’re after the professor’s little crown, aren’t you? Please don’t tell me you believe tat nonsense.”
“The Crown of Gengis Kai may or may not be magical in origin, but that doesn’t matter. The power of the crown is in its legend. The crown holds sway over those who believe, Mr. Tellonger, and you are standing on an island full of superstitious believers. If I hold the crown, not only do I solidify my role as leader of the people of Magnapor, but outsiders will think twice about tempting fate.”
“You’re an idiot.”
The Overlord moved quickly.
Buck barely had time to brace himself before the businessman’s punch caught him on the cheek. He spit out a small amount of blood. He’d bitten his cheek.
“Thanks for proving my point,” Buck said around a pained wince. “You’ve been keeping tabs on the professor so he can lead you to the treasure.”
“That was the plan. Yes.”
“Then why bring us here?”
“Sadly, that was not part of my plan. My agents were directed to intercept any communications off the island. I did not want him talking to anyone outside of the island. My agents failed to follow my instructions. They have been dealt with… harshly.” “Good help is so hard to find these days.”
“That’s where you come in,” The Overlord said.
“What? You might want to lay off smoking whatever the local blend is around these parts, pal.” Buck said. “You know I’m not going to help you track down my friend. You can threaten, bribe, and even cajole, but I can guarantee you this much, you will get absolutely no help from me, Mason.”
“Good thing for me that your help is not why I had you brought here.”
“It’s not?” Buck asked, puzzled. “Then what the hell do you want from me?” “You are leverage, Mr. Tellonger. You see, I already know where your friends are going. In fact, you and I will be joining them shortly.”
“From your reputations, I can safely surmise that neither you or Lance Star would willing surrender the crown. I also suspect that you would both lay down your life for the other. Am I correct?”
“You’ve not said anything to dispute that description,” Buck said, parroting back the man’s own words.
“And that is why you are here. Your partner will not stand idly by and allow you to die. Once he and Professor Prentiss find the Crown of Gengis Kai, Lance Star is going to trade it to me in exchange for you, Mr. Tellonger.”
“I wouldn’t bet even money on that.”
“You underestimate yourself, Mr. Tellonger. The two of you are in the newsreels so often that it’s hard not to get the sense of who you are. Lance Star will give me what I want or you, he, and Simon Prentiss will never leave this island alive.”
Lance Star knew something was wrong.
The hangar was empty. It was also being watched.
Lance had spotted one of The Overlord’s secret police nearby. He was concealed well enough that Lance might not have noticed him. Then he lit a cigarette and revealed his position to anyone on or near the airfield hangars.
Lance told Simon to head for the hangar while he took care of the agent. Simon Prentiss was many things, but stealthy was not one of his many talents.
As bait, however, that was a role he was perfectly capable of handling.
As soon as he reached the door and went inside, the agent moved in to follow him. He tossed his cigarette onto the pavement and reached for the door.
That’s when Lance made his move.
The agent did not see him coming and the fight was ended before it even begun. Lance pulled the unconscious agent into the hangar by his arms, the heel of his shoes scuffing the concrete as they were pulled along. Once he was locked in the tiny utility closet, Lance ushered his childhood friend on board the cargo plane.
“This isn’t what I expected,” Simon said as he strapped into the co-pilot’s chair. Lance climbed into the pilot’s chair to his left and started pre-light warm-up. “What exactly were you expecting?”
“This seems a little common for you is all. I’ve seen the newsreel footage. You build some pretty birds in that manufacturing plant of yours.”
“You wanted to see the Skybolt II, didn’t you?”
“I really did.”
“You’re the one who asked for us to come in stealthy and whatnot so, if you want to take a ride in the Skybolt, you’re going to have to come by Star Field in New York. I’ll give you the best view of the city, guaranteed.”
“Once the crown is safely locked away, you’ve got yourself a deal.”
“Are we not going to wait for your friend, Mr. Tellonger? I thought he was supposed to meet us here?”
“He was,” Lance said, trying not to worry. “That guy was watching our hangar. It’s a good bet Buck might have had another run in with them. If he’s not here, there’s a good reason for it.”
“You think he’s in trouble?”
“Maybe. Look, Buck is a bulldog. It takes a lot for him to be in trouble. Let’s go find your treasure and then we’ll go looking for Buck. With any luck, he’ll meet us on the way.” “If you’re sure.”
“Too late to do anything about it now.”
Lance Star pushed the throttle and the cargo plane rolled slowly out of the hangar into the open sky. A quick turn put him on the airstrip’s hardtop. Another quick push and the plane accelerated faster and faster toward the end of the runway.
“We’ve got company!” Simon shouted as two cars bearing the official seal of the Magnapor police pulled into the airfield.
“Too late now,” Lance called out as the plane lifted off the ground and soared toward the heavens. They were home free.
For the moment.
“Okay, Simon. It’s your show. I need coordinates or a direction.”
Simon Prentiss flipped through the pages of his notebook, nodding and humming as he scanned the pages.
“North. Our landing coordinates are on the other side of the volcano.”
“Of course, it is,” Lance mumbled.
Once again, Lance Star felt a queasy sensation tighten in his gut.
“For a second there, I almost forgot about the volcano,” he said as he flew straight toward it.
“Where are we going, Simon?”
Professor Simon Prentiss flipped through his notes. “According to my research, the crown was placed in a chamber inside a fortress that was enveloped by lava during the last great eruption over a few hundred years ago.”
“So, you’re saying it’s inside a cooled lava flow?” Lance Star asked, trying to keep his frustration from spilling out. “Over half of this island is a lava flow, Simon! You got any way of narrowing that down some?”
“Would coordinates help?”
“Yes,” Lance said, hopeful.
“Well, I don’t have coordinates,” Simon said.
The pilot sighed.
“Oh, come on, Lance. You know how this works,” Simon said. “Neither archaeology nor treasure hunting is that easy. There’s never an easily comprehensible map leading right to it. X never marks the spot.”
“Don’t remind me,” Lance said. “I remember following you and dad all over hell’s north forty in search of one trinket or another. A map definitely would have been helpful.” “But how can there be a map to something that’s lost?” Simon said, smiling. “Besides, that would make it too easy.”
“Well, we can’t have that.”
“Where would be the fun in that?”
“You and I have very different ideas about what constitutes ‘fun,’ my friend.” “Noted.”
“Can you at least narrow it down?”
“Now that I can do,” Simon said, unfurling a map in his lap. “The war between Gengis Kai and the Warriors of Hades was fought on the north end of the island. Eyewitness testimony from Gengis Kai’s men on their sailing ships reports that they were battling atop the mouth of the volcano when it erupted.”
“On top of…”
“Don’t start. You know how legends are, Lance. They’re full of metaphors and romanticized versions of the truth to make the story more appealing.”
“Let’s not forget that they get more outlandish with each telling,” the pilot reminded his friend. “You know that urban legends are almost as often fiction as they are facts, even if it’s romanticized fiction.”
“I know, but they all have their roots in reality,” Prentiss countered. “We know for a fact that the volcano did erupt here around the same time that Gengis Kai was reportedly active here. We know that a battle of some kind was fought here.”
“Against lava monsters?”
“Maybe not,” Prentiss relented. “That could have been a combination of factors from armor type to a trick of the light.”
“Or it could be exactly what it sounds like. Tell me, Lance, honestly, in all your many adventures, have you never run across something that couldn’t be easily explained away?” Lance shook his head. “I can’t say that. We’ve seen some out there things. Some of them I still can’t wrap my head around. There are unexplained events.”
“Then why can’t the Warriors of Hades also be true?”
“I wish I had an answer for you, pal,” Lance said.
It wasn’t the smoothest landing he had ever made, but Lance Star put the plane down with minimal issues. The ground was uneven in places. Not uncommon considering that most of the surface was made of cooled molten lava with a dusting of topsoil on top that allowed grass and weeds to grow. Even under such harsh conditions, life found a way to thrive. Lance and Simon Prentiss grabbed their gear and exited the plane.
“The view is breathtaking,” Simon said.
The old friends looked out over the Pacific Ocean below as white frothy waves crashed against dense rock formations that had once been molten lava before it cooled. In their travels, these two, along with Lance’s late father, found themselves in some of the world’s most interesting locales. Sometimes, like now, they were surrounded by beauty, but usually, there was danger lurking around every corner, evil hiding in every shadow.
Sadly, Magnapor was more the latter. Danger was all around them. Lance could feel it closing in on them, but the view was beautiful. There was no denying that. “The intense cold of the ocean and the heat of the lava flash-solidified the lava into rock,” Simon explained. “With each new eruption, the island’s perimeter grows a few meters.” “Fascinating,” Lance said. “Not my first active volcano, Simon. Remember?” “Right. Sorry.”
“Do we have any idea when this one is expected to blow?” Lance asked.
“No idea,” Simon said. “This region is unstable so it could be any time… or it could be never.”
“Well, me being here certainly ratchets up the odds against us,” Lance said, only half joking. “I’ve never stepped foot near an active volcano that didn’t erupt while we were there.” “Seriously?”
Lance shrugged. “I swear, you’d think my life is a pulp novel some of the crap we run into.”
“I follow your exploits. Your life is a pulp novel, pal,” Simon snorted.
“All the more reason to pick up the pace. Let’s get this crown of yours, find Buck, and get the hell off this island.”
“I’m for that.”
“Lead on, Professor,” Lance said, motioning for his friend to take the lead. With a nod, Simon Prentiss moved ahead, checking his compass, folded map, and his hand-written journal notes to lead him toward the cavern entrance.
“That way,” he pointed.
“On your six,” Lance said and fell into step behind him.
The search lasted the better part of an hour. Professor Prentiss’ notes were extensive, but they were also based on the island of Magnapor as it existed a few hundred years earlier. Ever the romantic, Simon Prentiss incorporated legend and folklore into his studies along with
historical facts. He wanted to believe that the fantastical was as real as the rest. Lance was more the pragmatist, an odd position to take considering all of the things he had witnessed firsthand in his travels.
Lance remembered dogfighting with a Nazi-controlled pterodactyl, for heaven’s sake. He knew the fantastical existed. Why was he finding it so hard to believe what his father and friend believed in regards to Gengis Kai and his super-powered crown?
Compared to things he’s witnessed, was the story of the crown really that far-fetched? Lance couldn’t argue the point so decided to stop arguing with Simon and back his friend’s play. If they found the crown, Lance would be the first to eat crow. “There it is!” Simon shouted.
Lance followed his friend’s wild gestures toward a large outcropping that bulged over the edge of the island. As they made their way closer, Lance could see the opening of a cave hidden by the off shape of the lava flow. From a distance, you couldn’t tell it was a cave. “My, my, my,” Lance said. “Hidden in plain sight.”
“The best treasures usually are,” Simon said with pride. “Come on.”
“Now, hold on there, Pecos Bill. Let’s not rush in blindly.”
“You’re right,” Simon said, though he showed no signs of slowing down. Igniting his lantern, Professor Prentiss entered the cave.
Lance turned on his flashlight and followed.
The cavern was remarkable easy to navigate, a detail that gave Lance pause. Like his friend, the pilot had also visited his fair share of caves, caverns, and hidden tunnels. He had even been inside the lava tubes of a volcano once, just minutes ahead of an eruption. All of them were far more harrowing than this cave.
“You’re imagining things, Lance,” Simon said when his friend mentioned his misgivings. “Sometimes we get lucky.”
“Well, usually not this lucky, I admit, but I try not to look good fortune in the mouth.” “Then let’s be cautious, if nothing…” Lance started as the cave in front of them opened into a larger chamber.
“…else,” the ace pilot said, his voice trailing off.
At the far edge of the chamber sat a throne carved out of molten rock and polished until it glistened like black glass. Their lights reflected off the shiny surface.
Sitting on the throne was the mummified remains of a man, a very tall man. Dried skin clung to old bones under tattered cloth remains. Whoever the man was, he had died elsewhere and was posed in the seated position on the black throne.
In his lap sat a box, a chest carved out of pure silver and adorned with gold and jewels, each of which were as polished as the throne. Dust filled every corner of the room except the throne.
“You believe me now?”
“I have to admit, I had my doubts.”
Simon held his lantern high and the light reflected off the gold crown that sat atop the mummified warrior’s head.
“Is that…” Lance asked.
“Right where they said he would be,” Prentiss said.
“Where who said?”
Simon Prentiss ignored his companion and stepped closer to the throne.
“Right where who said, Simon?”
“Gengis Kai’s men,” Simon said. He tapped the pages in his notebook. “A couple of years ago, I found the remains of a wrecked ship that was rumored to be part of Gengis Kai’s fleet. In the captain’s quarters was a journal that described the burial site of Gengis Kai. What was missing was the logbook that showed where they had been. I always assumed Magnapor was the beginning of the search to recover the crown. I never expected to find it here.” Simon reached out to touch the crown.
“And so well preserved.”
“Wait,” Lance shouted, blocking the professor from his find.
“What is wrong with you, Lance?”
“Does this not seem too easy to you?” the pilot said.
“Look at how clean this is, Simon. Either someone else knows about this place and visits often or it’s booby trapped.”
“You’ve seen too many movie serials,” Simon said.
“And you’ve read a lot of books, Simon. You know as well as I do that traps to keep out graverobbers are far more common than most people think.”
“But it’s right there! All I have to do is…”
Simon pulled the crown from the mummified head.
Simon let out a laugh, relieved.
“I can’t believe you did that,” Lance said, trying to slow his rapid heartbeat. “I can’t believe it worked,” Simon said, smiling as he stared at his prize.
“You know, I really can’t believe it either,” a deep timbered voice called out from behind them.
Lance and Simon spun at the sound of the new arrival’s voice.
They were met with another sound, this one far more familiar, the sound of weapons chambering rounds.
Standing at the entrance to the chamber was a tall man in an expensive suit. Surrounded as he was by men in trench coats matching the ones worn by The Overlord’s secret police, Lance could easily guess his identity.
“The Overlord, I presume?”
“Right the first time, Mr. Star.”
“You know my name. I’m flattered.”
The Overlord smiled. “Your friend, Mr. Tellonger, has told me all about you. I feel as though I already know you and Professor Prentiss so well.”
“What have you done with Buck?” Lance said, taking a step forward.
“I assure you, he’s quite unharmed,” The Overlord said, snapping his fingers. Seconds later, Buck was escorted in under guard, his hands bound behind his back. “You okay?” Lance asked.
“Touching,” The Overlord said. “Now that the niceties are concluded, I have come to collect my prize.”
“Your what?” Lance asked.
“Professor Prentiss, bring me the Crown of Gengis Kai.”
To Be Continued…
Lance Star Sky Ranger And The Crown of Gengis Kai will continue in January.