from the mind of Bobby Nash
Lance Star and the Crown of Gengis Kai
A serialized novella by Bobby Nash
There aren’t many men that Lance Star would drop everything and fly halfway around the world for, but a cryptic letter from his old friend asking to meet was enough to pique the air ace’s interest.
An hour later, Lance, accompanied by his trusty chief of staff, Buck Tellonger, was airborne in one of their unmarked cargo planes.
“Any particular reason we’re not taking the ol’ Skybolt this time around?” Buck asked, referring to Lance Star’s most famous creation and the plane everyone associated with the air ac and his crew.
“We have to keep this one under the radar,” Lance said. As usual, he was doing the flying while Buck kicked back and enjoyed the ride. Normally, he would have served as navigator, but his friend hadn’t told him where they were going yet.
“Ah, one of them deals,” Buck said around a toothy grin just before popping one of those big, cheap, smelly cigars he loved so much into his mouth. “A favor for the general again?” General Walter Pettigrew, in addition to being a longtime friend of the Star family, was also the liaison between the United States Air Corp and the Sky Rangers. On occasion, the general called on the Sky Rangers for a mission or twelve.
“Not this time, Buck.”
Buck leaned back in his seat and puffed on his charoot.
“Do you remember me mentioning Simon Prentiss?”
Buck rubbed his chin as he tried to recall the name. “It does ring a bell, but I can’t place him. He’s an old school chum, right?”
“That’s him,” Lance said. “We were roommates for a couple of semesters. We got on all right, but then he went off to study abroad and I joined the Air Corp.”
“What did he end up studying?”
“Simon got his doctorate in archaeology. He discovered some pretty old treasures in all parts of the world.”
“Agreed,” Lance said. “He sent a telegram saying that he was onto something big and asked me to meet him.”
“Any idea why?”
“None, but he said it was urgent,” Lance said.
“And that worries you?” Buck stated matter-of-fact.
“And that’s what worries me,” Lance agreed.
“You think he’s in trouble?”
“I really don’t know, Buck. The boy sure does like digging in the dirt. Not sure how much trouble that can get you into.”
“Depends on whose dirt he’s digging around in,” Buck said.
“We’ve all got our quirks. Your friend likes digging in the dirt. We like getting elbow deep in mechanics grease and burnt oil. It takes all kinds, huh?”
“And we’ve been known to get into trouble without even trying, is that what you’re getting at?”
“Who, me?” Buck said, feigning innocence. For all of the big man’s bluster, he was a thinker. More than one man has had a bad day because he underestimated Buck Tellonger. Buck sat up straight and plucked the cigar from his teeth. “Maybe it’s time you told me where we’re headed,” he said.
“Of course, Buck. It’s no big secret. We just have to be careful is all. Simon asked that we keep this meeting under the radar. He doesn’t want to attract any undue attention.” “Hence, no Skybolt.”
“Exactly. We fly the Skybolt into this place and everyone will know who we are and it won’t be long before our friends with the cameras show up and start snapping our photos.” “Damn reporters,” Buck muttered.
“Exactly,” Lance said. As a celebrity, whether he thought of himself that way or not, Lance was a well-known public figure and his movements were newsworthy. Staying off the press’ radar was the only way a man like Lance Star could move around freely.
“The trials and tribulations of being the universally beloved Lance Star: Sky Ranger,” Buck joked, returning the cigar for another puff.
“There are enough guys who have tried to kill me to disprove that universally loved bullpucky,” Lance said. “But I take your point. That’s why we’re arriving in this unmarked model. She’s nothing anyone will give a second look at, but she’s still fully loaded with all the usual goodies just in case we need to shoot our way out of there.”
“Now that you’ve danced around that answer, I’ll ask again… where are we headed, Lance?”
“Are you familiar with the island nation of Magnapor?”
Buck nearly choked on his cigar. He coughed up a puff of noxious smoke. “I see you’ve heard of it,” Lance said, enjoying his friend’s discomfort.
“Yeah. You could say that, chief. Magnapor is a cesspool. It’s full of thieves, murders, and despots. Not the kind of place nice, civilized folks like you and me should be messing about, if you get me drift. This place makes Scavenger Quay look like an old folk’s home, for goodness sakes.”
“So, you are familiar with it then?” he said.
“I may have made a pit stop there once or twice back in my wilder days,” Buck admitted. “That’s not something I usually brag about, but you asked me specifically to come along on this trip so how did you know I knew the lay of the land?”
“You like to talk when you drink, Buck.”
“I do not!” the burly bulldog said with so much authority that his handlebar mustache all but stood at attention.
Before entering the service as a combat pilot back in the Big War, Buck had worked the private sector as a cargo pilot. Even though he handled legitimate cargo runs, Buck had also dabbled in less than legal enterprises to make ends meet. Times were tough and he couldn’t afford to be choosy with his clients. Those smelly cigars of his might have been cheap, but Buck Tellonger had a voracious appetite, as his expanding waistline demonstrated. He had also grown accustomed to living indoors.
It was this story he had once told Lance after a night out on the town. When the party died down, the flyboys took the party on the road and ended up drinking as they sat around a
campfire near Lance’s cabin at Star Field. Buck had mentioned his time flying in and out of Magnapor sland. Lance tucked the tidbit away for a rainy day.
Today’s forecast called for intermittent showers.
After the war, instead of returning to the business he had left behind, Buck came to work for Lance when the younger pilot started up his new business, a company simply named Lance Star, Incorporated. Like Buck, Lance Star was an air ace himself, having flown numerous missions both on and off the books. His goal for peacetime was to build a line of cargo planes for civilian clients and fighter planes for the United States government.
Utilizing his family’s land, left to Lance when his father passed away, they broke ground their second day back home from the fighting. The first day back, they got hammered as they roamed from one welcome home party to end of the war party, and back again.
An only child, Lance inherited the land that was now home to Star Field, a small, fully functioning private airfield in upstate New York. Once the airfield was built, Lance and his team went to work constructing a manufacturing space and several hangars to park the planes once they were completed. Small cabins lined the far end of the field, homes for Lance and his team, known across the world as the Sky Rangers. Some of the Sky Rangers kept homes outside of Star Field, but Lance made sure they each had a place to crash on those long nights when heading into the city after work was the last thing they wanted to do.
Lance Star, Incorporated and Star Field each proved successful and self-sustaining. Lance was the boss, but he wasn’t a meetings and boardroom kinda guy so he made Buck Tellonger his chief of staff. They then offered the day to day running of the place to Walt Anderson. Walt was a pilot himself, but could no longer fly due to an injury he received in combat with Baron Otto Von Blood, an old enemy of the Sky Rangers and a constantly recurring thorn in their side.
With Walt sidelined, Lance appointed him operations manager. It was a tough job, but Walt took to it like a duck to water. Before long, he had things running at peak efficiency and kept the cogs moving. As far as Lance was concerned, the position was Walt’s as long as he wanted it.
With Walt Anderson running things, that left Lance and Buck with time to do what they loved, build and fly airplanes.
Magnapor was roughly the size of Hawaii. The small island country was a patchwork of clashing ideologies. One side of the island was comprised completely of farmland, forest, and jungle. Several types of livestock were raised as well as crops planted and cultivated year-round, thanks to the island’s tropical climate. There was never a fear of a winter freeze, but the odd hurricane was a legitimate concern.
The other side of the island sported a modern city about half the size of Chicago. Skyscrapers stretched high into the sky, offering those who could afford to live and work in them expansive views of the island and the sea that surrounded them. The locals called it the Emerald City, an obvious comparison to the city from The Wizard of Oz, one of Lance’s favorite books. The green glass on the tallest skyscrapers only amplified the appellation.
From the outside looking in, Magnapor was paradise incarnate. For those who lived there, however, Magnapor was a struggle for survival. The Black Market surged on the island. Smuggling had become a bigger export than the island’s many varieties of fruit and vegetables. Many of the inhabitants, especially in the urban areas, were poor, hungry, and living in the streets under the shadows of half a million-dollar high rises.
The government was no help. Magnapor was ruled by a prince, who lead, not by example, but with an iron fist. A cabinet of ministers governed in name only. The prince kept
them on a short leash so he could continue to profit of the hard work and misery of his subjects living below. Nothing happened on the island that did not kick back a cut to the throne. Everyone knew better than to get on the prince’s bad side.
Lance lined up on approach and stared at their destination. In front of him stood a major metropolitan city surrounded by jungle. One building stood far taller than the others, it’s green glass sparkling against the sunlight.
“Would you look at that?” Lance said.
“That, my friend, is the home of the islands Overlord. He lives in the penthouse and likes to look down on his subjects from on high,” Buck said. “It would be in our best interest to avoid him and his flunkies.”
“I’ll do my best, Buck.”
“You need to take this place serious, boss. Magnapor ain’t Hell, exactly, but it’s pretty darn close.
“I read ya.” Lance pointed. “And that?”
“The volcano? Yeah. That’s a nice conversation starter. A volcano in the heart of a jungle. Impressive, no?”
“Sounds like something out of a storybook,” Lance said. “I take it, it’s…” “Oh, it’s active,” Buck confirmed. “But has not erupted in a long time. It should be safe.” “Should be…” Lance started. “When have we ever set foot on a volcano and it not erupt? Our luck doesn’t fly that way, Buck. You know that.”
“First time for everything, boss.”
Lance shot his friend a dirty look, but before he could say anything, Magnapor’s control tower chimed in.
“This is Magnapor tower to incoming aircraft. Please state you call numbers and destination.”
“Magnapor control, this is NG-387, request landing clearance.”
Long seconds ticked by as they waited for the tower chief to get back to them. Lance had landed in more airports than he cared to count and none of the tower controllers ever seemed to be in any sort of rush to get the planes on the ground.
“You are cleared for landing, NG-387,” the tower finally said. “Follow to runway two and stay on marker.”
“Copy that, tower. On marker. I have the stick.”
“See you on the ground, NG-387. Welcome to Magnapor.”
A short time later, Lance and Buck close and lock their rented hangar across from the landing strip. Lance had rented the space under the name of Rodney Knight. Once the plane was secured, they washed up, changed clothes, grabbed their gear, and headed toward the gate where they hoped to catch a taxi to take them into the Emerald City.
What neither of the air aces noticed was the man hiding in the shadows, watching them. He wore a dark suit, a frumpy jacket, a hat, and a dark tie. He would have blended completely into the shadows cast by the setting sun had he not decided to light a cigarette.
When the taxi picked them up a few minutes later, the man watched them go. A second later, an unmarked car pulled to the curb and he got inside.
“Follow them,” he told the driver.
LANCE STAR AND THE CROWN OF GENGHIS KAI
A serialized novella by Bobby Nash
“That’ll be five bucks,” the cab driver said once they arrived.
“Five dollars?” Buck Tellonger groused even as he pulled five crumpled one-dollar bills from his shirt pocket. “That’s highway robbery, pal!”
“Just pay the man,” Lance Star said as he opened the door and climbed out of the cab into the humid clime and immediately felt sweat begin to rise on his forehead.
“Many thank yous, sir,” the cabbie said as Buck passed over the cash. The local brandished a phony accent even as he flashed a crooked smile to his customers. In an exotic tourist trap like Emerald City, graft was everywhere, and prices were gouged to match. Had the cab driver known who they were, the price probably would have doubled.
“Five bucks,” Buck said for a third time once they were standing on the sidewalk outside. “That’s highway robbery. Why, I’ve half a mind to walk back to the airfield when we’re finished here.”
“In this heat?” Lance asked, wiping his forehead once more.
“Well… maybe not,” Buck agreed, dabbing a handkerchief against his own sweaty brow. Emerald City had looked like an island paradise from above the clouds. On the ground, it reminded Lance of a flea market or a bazaar out of an old Saturday serial with banners hanging everywhere and hucksters pushing their wares on unsuspecting visitors. He doubted the city was a safe place to be a tourist and instinctively touched his wallet to make sure it was securely zipped into shoulder pocket of his flight suit he wore beneath the flight jacket that he was roasting inside of at the moment. Despite the heat, the jacket stayed in place. Buck described the city bazaar as a den of thieves, a haven for ne’er-do-wells and Lance was beginning to see what his friend was talking about. At ground level, Magnapor’s Emerald City was filled with the poor and those who preyed on them. Meanwhile, the green-tinted glass of the Overlord’s tower stretched high into the heavens, towering over the city and its inhabitants.
Lance decided he didn’t care much for the Overlord. He was the kind of villain that the Sky Rangers routinely faced off against. However, as much as he might wish to introduce himself, Simon Prentiss’ message had advised discretion so he bit down on his anger and focused on the task at hand.
“I’m thinking we need a place with air conditioning,” Lance said matter-of-fact. He pointed toward the address they had been given.
“Good luck,” Buck told him. “I bet only a third of the buildings here have reliable electricity, much less functioning air conditioners.”
Lance gave him a look that asked if he was being serious.
“I told ya, pal. Magnapor ain’t Hell, but it’s darn close.”
“Let’s find this place and get out of the heat,” Lance said, pulling the name of the place his friend had set aside to meet.
The streets were still wet from an earlier rain storm that left tiny rivers flowing along the raised sidewalks. The sun was slowly setting behind the mountains to the west, casting the sky in a fiery concert of reds, oranges, yellow, blues, and purple that would soon slip silently into darkness. Like several large metropolises back in the states, Emerald City rarely slept. Colored
lights and tiki torches flared to life, casting colorful murals on the walls and makeshift bazaar shops.
It almost looked beautiful lit up in such a manner.
Lance pointed. Up ahead stood a rough and tumble dive bar with a flashing neon sign above the entrance that read Great And Powerful, another not-so-subtle nod to Baum’s classic tale. The e and r on the garish neon sign were burnt out so it read Great And Pow Ful in all caps. That was the place where Lance and Buck were headed.
“You sure this is the place?” Buck asked.
“That’s the address,” Lance said, handing over the telegraph to his friend. Shaking his head, Buck verified the address. “Not exactly the kind of place I’d expect to find a world-renowned archaeologist.”
Lance chuckled and took back the slip of paper and returned it to his inside jacket pocket. “Simon always said he would brave the gates of hell if it meant finding whatever treasure he was looking for,” the air ace said. “I guess he wasn’t kidding.”
“Visit scenic Magnapor,” Lance joked as he headed toward the front door. “Better watch your wallet,” Buck muttered and followed.
After slipping a couple of dollars a piece to the doorman who was built like a tank Buck had once fire-bombed during the war, they stepped inside the old Great and Powerful. The place was standing room only and loud music blared from the live band tucked away in the far corner. The air was filled with a mixture of sweat, booze, and old cigars that smelled worse than the el cheapo brand Buck smoked.
The club’s regulars were a who’s who of rough and rowdy sailors, smugglers, thieves, and assorted scoundrels.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” Buck asked. He was starting to get that old familiar tingle at the back of his neck that warned him he was about to get into a fight. “This is where Simon said he would meet us, Buck,” Lance assured his friend. “What can I say, his danger radar doesn’t work like yours or mine.”
“Obviously not,” Buck agreed. “Mine told me not to step foot inside this dump. I don’t like it, boss.”
“Too rough for you?” Lance asked with a snarky grin.
“I don’t mind a rough ‘n tumble pub, but this place reminds me of a powder keg. one wrong spark—” Buck snapped his fingers. “—and boom!”
“Lance!” a voice shouted from somewhere in the crowd.
Lance Star looked for his friend, but did not see him.
“Lance!” Simon Prentiss shouted again and this time he walked out of the smokey haze where his friend could see him clearly.
As always, Simon was all smiles. Lance could only recall a handful of times during college when Simon had gotten a little miffed, much less out and out angry. He was the happiest guy the pilot had ever met, unless hidden antiquities were involved. He took the stealing of historical finds very personal. Lance once broke up a fistfight between the young Mr. Prentiss and a college professor who he claimed was stealing and selling antiquities that the college museum had paid him to find to private collectors.
Lance reached out a hand and his friend shook it.
“Lance Star, you old sky jokey! How have you been, old buddy?”
“Still airborne!” Lance said and pulled the man into a bear hug, clapping him on the back. “Good to see you, pal!”
“You too,” Simon said loudly after pulling back from the hug. “It’s been way too long. Thanks for coming.”
“You called. I’m here,” Lance stated. He pointed toward his co-pilot. “Simon Prentiss, let me introduce you to Buck Tellonger. Buck is an ace pilot, second in command of the Sky Rangers, and all-around nice guy. I mean, he’s not as good a pilot as me, but who is?” Lance joked.
“A pleasure to meet you,” Buck said, offering a hand and a smile to the new acquaintance while offering side-eye to his boss.
“Likewise. Any friend of Lance’s is a friend of mine, Mr. Tellonger.”
“Buck, please,” he said, waving away the formality.
“Buck it is then. I’m Simon.”
Simon and Lance were about the same age, only a few months apart, at best, but years out in the sun and digging up ancient civilizations had prematurely aged Simon. He looked about five years older than his former college roommate. His skin was perpetually tanned from constant exposure to the elements, burnt like worn leather around the neck and forearms. His black hair was cut short, only a few centimeters all around, which made sense for someone who lived the bulk of his life outdoors where hair tended to get in the way.
“Come on,” Prentiss said. “I’ve got us a table in the back so we can talk.”
He ushered the pilots through the crowd to a small table along the back wall. The booth was a semi-circle with a table in the center. Bean-covered strings hung from the ceiling around the table. It was the closest the crowded pub could offer to a private booth. Simon held up a three fingers to the waitress, who nodded.
“Please…” Simon said and motioned for his guests to take a seat.
Before the could get comfortable, the waitress sat a pitcher of draft on the table along with three frosty mugs. She took away the glass Simon had been drinking from before his guests arrived.
“Nice place,” Buck offered.
“I’ve drank in worse,” Simon said as he poured a round for everyone.
“So have I,” Lance and Buck said in unison.
Lance took a draw off of his beer. It was cold. “Not that it’s not good to see you, Simon, because it’s damn good to see you, son, but what was so urgent you had to drag us halfway around the world?”
“I found it,” Simon said.
Lance’s smile faded. He sat his mug back on the table.
“I found it, Lance,” Simon said before his friend could say anything.
“I mean it this time, Lance. I found it!”
“You meant it last time too.”
“That was different, Lance, and you know it!”
“No! I don’t know it!” Lance said. “You know why I don’t know it?”
“Found what?” Buck asked.
The two old friends ignored him as they continued a very old argument.
“Don’t say it,” Prentiss warned.
“It’s a myth, Simon! The bloody thing doesn’t exist!”
“What doesn’t exist?” Buck asked.
“Why did you think I called you?” Prentiss asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe you missed me and wanted to catch up, talk old times?” Lance shouted. Some sailors from another table turned their direction and Lance waved them off. “What is it you’ve found? Buck asked again, a bit more forcefully this time. Simon looked at his old friend as if asking silent permission.
Lance sighed. “Go ahead,” he said and motioned for Simon to proceed.
“I’ve located The Crown of Gengis Kai.”
“I’m sorry. You’ve found the what now?” Buck asked.
“I’m not surprised you aren’t more familiar with Gengis Kai, Mr. Tellonger? His story is rarely told in the West.”
“We’re going to need more drinks for this,” Lance said, polishing off the last of the beer. He waved down the waitress.
“You never were much of a believer, were you?” Simon asked.
“In what?” Lance asked. “Simon, I admire your conviction, but Gengis Kai is nothing more than a legend, a story made up to scare kids. He’s a bogeyman, nothing more. He didn’t exist and neither did his crown. This Crown you’ve spent your whole life looking or is nothing more than a treasure hunt, a snipe. I’m sorry, pal, but there’s no evidence the guy or the crown ever existed.”
“History is rife with unproven theory, Lance. At least until it is proven true. The world was flat until someone proved it wasn’t. Earth was the center of the universe until someone proved it was not. Dinosaurs did not exist until someone dug up the bones of once. Man was never meant to fly until someone proved they could.”
“He’s got you there, boss,” Buck said, needling the point.
“Simon, I admit, it’s a great story, but that’s all it is, a story. If there was any truth to it, don’t you think you would have found it by now.”
Simon Prentiss smiled.
“Sonuvabitch,” Lance said. “You actually found something, didn’t you?” “Maybe.”
“Let’s see it!”
“Perhaps a little context for those of us who haven’t a clue what you’re talking about would be nice,” Buck Tellonger said.
Lance summoned the waitress again.
“We are definitely going to need more drinks.
The two men who followed Lance Star and Buck Tellonger from the airfield took a seat not far from the pilots and their friend. From their table, they couldn’t hear what the men were discussing, though the occasional word or two floated by loud enough to discern. Whatever they were talking about, the discussion grew heated for a moment before their voices returned to neutral.
In a city like Magnapor, a place where only a few laws existed, these men were the law. They were agents of The Overlord, the man who ruled the island with an iron fist most of the
time, but with a boot when excess force was required. Working for The Overlord was a privilege, one only open to a select few.
These two men, Agents Smith and Jones, obvious aliases, were part of that select number. They were ruthless, like their boss. Agents carried out the whims of The Overlord. His will was law.
Magnapor locals knew better than to cross these men. An Agent had full authority to do whatever they wanted, so long as it did not contradict or cross the man who lived above int eh emerald tower. The locals gave them whatever they wanted and tried to stay out of the line of fire.
Getting into club Great and Powerful was child’s play with their badges. When they picked out the table they wanted, the group who had been sitting there, vacated it quickly. “Are you certain that is him?” Jones asked, watching their quarry.
“Yes. There can be little doubt,” Smith replied.
“Yes,” Jones said. “He is the target.”
Lance Star had heard this story before.
He did not relish the idea of hearing it again, but he knew it was inevitable. It was Simon Prentiss’ favorite tall tale, after all. Lance had never believed a word of it, though he was in the minority when Simon and Lance’s late father got together. The elder Star had also been a believer.
Sometimes, Lance wondered if his resistance to accept the story at face value was because his father had so readily done so. Even now, with everything he had seen, and the Sky Rangers had encountered more than their fair share of unnatural events, things that strayed outside the norms, or out and out should not have existed.
Why was this flight of fancy where he drew the line?
“You’re not familiar with Gengis Kai, Mr. Tellonger?” Simon was saying. “Not surprising. His story is rarely told in the west. Kai was a mystic warrior. Legend has it that he tamed these islands by fighting back not only hordes of hostile locals, but also standing against the gods of fire and lava as well.”
“Fascinating,” Buck said, clearly caught in the same spell that had captured the imagination of Simon and Lance’s father.
“As the myth goes,” Simon continued. “Kai was the only mortal to ever best the Warriors of Hades in combat.”
“I’m not familiar with them.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to be,” the professor said. “Long ago, they ravaged these islands and beyond, terrorizing the inhabitants…”
Long ago and not so far away…
Gengis Kai stood on the deck of his ship and surveilled his kingdom. A tall, muscular man, he stood roughly six foot six. His long, black hair was tied into a tail and his thick beard was similarly woven on his face. His dark hair stood out in stark contrast to the crown of gold that adorned his head. The crown was rumored to contain powerful magic, controlled by the
wearer through the amethyst gem embedded in the golden band. Several large leaves added an impressive plumage to the covering he wore beneath the crown, itself a velvety purple to match the shine of the powerful gem that sat on his forehead, an inch above his eyes.
For years, Gengis Kai had pillaged the tiny island nations of the South Pacific. He had even ventured to the mainland where he had aced down his enemies in their strongholds. He had amassed treasures greater than any pirate before him and had conscripted armies into his service to protect those baubles and the land where they were kept for the day Gengis Kai might return to claim them.
His real name lost to the mists of time, the man who gave himself the name Gengis Kai became a legend. His name was known from one corner of the globe to the other, even in lands where he had not stepped foot, his legend preceded him.
A legend built on fear.
Gengis Kai was the boogeyman that parents warned their unruly children about and it was a role he relished playing. The world, he believed, required a ruler with a strong fist to run it. He planned to be that strong fist.
To most who had encountered him, Gengis Kai was a tyrant, stealing what he needed and taking things he wanted, whether it me food, gold, mead, property, men, or women. Kai denied himself nothing. He worked hard to claim the territory he owned, and he enjoyed the spoils of those victories. Kai was a man of great appetites.
The men and women who served under his iron rule were well taken care of, which bought their loyalty and fealty. Their bellies, purses, and beds remained full, as did their appetite for new conquests. There were always new challenges to face and overcome. Gengis Kai loved a good challenge.
Battling against mere mortals no longer amused him. He began to believe that he was truly unbeatable, as the legends about him told. He needed a new enemy to vanquish, new lands to conquer, and new adventures to feed his wanderlust. He sought excitement. He was not disappointed.
A stranger washed up on the shores of the island that would later become the emerald city of Magnapor. Barely alive when discovered, the man whose name was lost to time, much like Kai’s birth name, told a tale so tall that at first no one believed it.
No one save the man looking for new worlds to conquer.
Gengis Kai believed.
Hanging on the stranger’s every word, the adventurer’s heart beat faster with each new detail. The newcomer told stories of a mysterious chain of islands nearby where the sailing ship upon which he served crashed.
The islands did not appear on any of the maps in the possession of his captain. They were large, craggy spindles growing up from beneath the ocean. Barely inhabitable by man, these islands were home to all manner of creature, bizarre beasts both large and small. These creatures populated the island, but they did not rule it.
The islands were ruled by the Warriors of Hades.
It was Gengis Kai himself who hung the label on these fabled rulers who he described as massive human-like creatures with dark, flaming skin burning beneath rock-like shells. Everything they touched burned like lava.
Many scoffed at the lone survivor’s fantastic story, laughing at the absurdity of it, but not their monarch. Gengis Kai listened with rapt attention, taking in every detail as the man spoke, weaving a tale that grew more outlandish as it continued.
“Surely, sire, you do not believe this man’s lies?” one of his trusted aides asked when he had a moment alone with the Kai.
“Have we not seen great beasts on the open sea, my brother?” Kai said, his voice rising so all could hear. “Have we not overcome obstacles that no mere mortal men could have faced and survived? Have we not met the enemy in all its forms? Tall, short, wide, size matters not. Have we not witnessed things in our travels, my friends, things that would make lesser men shudder and soil themselves?”
Gengis Kai’s followers nodded, muttered agreements.
“Have we not discovered things that were merely myth until we held them in our hands?” “YES!”
“And have we not feasted on the sweetest meat torn from great beasts the likes of which have never before been seen?”
“Then why, my friends… why do you doubt our new friend’s tale? Why is his adventure not as believable as our own?”
“I tell you, my brothers and sisters, if I thought that those who were told of our exploits did not believe them, I would take proper offense. Would you do any less?” “No!”
“Then why do you disrespect our honored guest so?”
The room fell quiet. Many of Kai’s followers stared at their feet, embarrassed and properly chastised.
“I say we continue the festivities tonight for tomorrow we set sail!”
The crowd erupted in a roar.
“Adventure awaits, my friends,” Gengis Kai said, smiling. “Who are we to disappoint adventure?”
The crowd cheered as the party blossomed into a full-blown celebration. A new adventure was on the horizon and Gengis Kai was the king of adventure. He was ready to once again face the unknown.
Leaving the islands in the hands of trusted lieutenants who would not try to steal his lands for themselves, Gengis Kai sailed off into the unknown at day break, with only the wind at his back and the strength of his indomitable will to spurn him onward.
His new companion, the sold survivor of a doomed expedition, stood nervously at his side. He would serve as guide and, if it turned out that his stories were works of fiction as opposed to a great truth, he would also serve as an example to anyone who even dared to lie to the mighty Gengis Kai.
Legend tells that Gengis Kai did find the island and faced off against the rock lava creatures who dwelled there and defeated them.
The story of Gengis Kai and the Warriors of Hades was passed down from generation to generation. Even as the volcano erupted all around him, Gengis Kai fought the rock lava creatures until there was nothing left of the island and the sea reclaimed it. Gengis Kai was gone.
“Wow,” Buck Tellonger said, interrupting Simon Prentiss’ story. “What happened to this Kai guy? Did he make it off the island?”
Simon Prentiss smiled. He knew he had the pilot’s attention.
“Many wondered if Gengis Kai escaped the island,” Mr. Tellonger. If so, where did he go? That is a question that has been posed by many. Still others believed that Gengis Kai still fights the Warriors of Hades in their home realm, keeping them trapped there for all eternity and away from the Earth, which Gengis Kai still believes belongs to him.”
“That’s amazing,” Buck said as he stubbed out his nub of a cigar and popped another into his mouth. Thankfully, the Great and Powerful not only allowed smoking, but also encouraged it. The smoke added to the club’s appeal. “Which version of the story do you buy?” “Here it comes,” Lance muttered.
“I believe that Gengis Kai survived the destruction of the mysterious island. Instead of returning to the life he had known, I believe he set aside the mantle and costume of Gengis Kai and roamed the earth, working in service to those he once enslaved.”
“Why would he do that?” Buck asked.
“No one knows for certain, and I can feel lance rolling his eyes as I say it, but I think the eruption of the volcano changed him. Maybe he experienced a vision like Saul in the Bible before he changed his name to Paul and dedicated his life to a new, worthy cause.”
“You think the volcano was Gengis Kai’s version of a burning bush?” Lance asked. “Why not? It’s as plausible as anything else.”
“It’s just a story, Simon,” Lance said, a little louder than he intended. “There is absolutely no evidence that this Gengis Kai existed. You’re still just chasing shadows like you always have.”
“Not anymore, Lance.”
Simon leaned in a bit closer to his friend, his annoyance showing through. He stabbed the table with a finger to emphasize his point.
“You never were a true believer were you, Lance? Not like your father. He understood the importance of the crown. He understood. Your father was a true believer.” “You leave dad out of this!” Lance shouted, angry. He pointed an accusing finger at Simon, the threat clear.
“You know as well as I do that Landon Star would have dropped everything to help me recover this treasure!”
“I’m warning you, Simon—” Lance said, pushing away from the table.
Lance walked away in the direction of the bar’s bathroom.
“Dammit,” Simon muttered, a fist bouncing off the table. “I thought I had him this time.” “I take it this is not a new argument,” Buck said.
“No. This is an old, old fight,” Prentiss said. “One I doubt we’ll ever finish.” “I don’t know about that,” Buck said as he lit the cigar.
“You heard the man. He doesn’t believe me.”
“Maybe not, but there’s one thing you need to consider,” Buck said as he blew a thick cloud of smoke around a friendly smile.
“And what’s that?”
“Whether he believes you or not,” Buck said. “Lance Star just flew halfway around the world to help you. That’s got to say something, don’t it?”
Now it was Simon Prentiss’ turn to smile.
“I like the way you think, Buck.”
“Smart chaps like yourself usually do,” Buck joked.
Lance was still steamed as he walked back to the table.
And another thing,” Lance started as he sat back down. He still had plenty of fight left in him, but didn’t want to have this particular battle with Simon yet again. Not today. It was an old argument, one that he knew would never be solved until either he or Simon gave in, even if just a little.
They were both equally stubborn men.
Sadly, that meant neither of them planned to give an inch and the disagreement continued.
Noting his friend’s rising ire, and not wanting to see two old friends start throwing punches, Buck Tellonger intervened by pouring each of them a fresh glass. “Ease off, mates,” Buck said as he handed each man their drink. “Professor Prentiss, we just traveled halfway around the world to meet with you. That should tell you just how good a friend you have here. And Lance, you wouldn’t have come if you didn’t want to help your friend, would you?”
The air ace shook his head.
“You’re right, of course, Mr. Tellonger,” Prentiss said. “I’m sorry, Lance. Forgive me for picking an old fight?”
“It’s okay,” Lance said after taking a sip of his beer. “No hard feelings?”
Lance and Simon shook hands as a smiling Buck looked on.
“It’s just… I’ve never been so close before, Lance,” Prentiss said, his excitement palpable. “The crown is on this island. I know it. I feel it.”
“Magnapor was one of the islands that Gengis Kai was rumored to have conquered during his conflict with the Warriors of Hades. The stories of his exploits say that the Kai exiled the monsters to the burning cauldron from whence they sprung.”
“These would be the rocky lava guys?” Lance said.
“Yes. I know how silly it sounds, Lance. Believe me, I do, but aren’t you the one who told me about flying into an alternate universe once or the time you fought Nazi’s riding pterodactyl’s? How is this any less believable than that?”
“He’s got you there, boss,” Buck said, unable to stifle a snicker.
With a sigh, Lance surrendered to the inevitable. He had never been able to say no to his friends and Simon was no exception. Buck was right. Lance already knew he was going to help his friend the minute he set a course for Magnapor island.
“Okay,” Lance said, holding up his arms in surrender. “You’ve convinced me. I’m in.” “That’s great! Now, the first thing we need to do is…” Simon started, but Lance silenced his friend with a gesture to calm down.
“Not so fast, Simon. he first thing we have to do is shake our friends over there.” “Friends?” Simon asked, confused. He started to turn away from the conversation and look for whoever Lance was talking about, but his friend grabbed his arm to keep him from moving.
“Take it easy,” Lance said. “You got ‘em, Buck?”
“Yeah. I clocked them earlier. They followed us in and have been trying hard not to stare at us ever since they sat down.”
“What friends?” Simon asked again. “What’re you talking about?”
“We picked up a tail. Somebody is following us… probably to get to you.” “Why would anyone be worried about me?” Simon asked. “I’m nothing special. No one would pay a ransom for me. Not even my family. Who would be interested in me?” “They would,” Lance said, nodding easily toward the table where the two agents sat. “Look, but don’t be obvious, okay?”
“Right,” Simon said and tried to play it casual, but a secret agent he was not. He peered through the smokey haze until he saw the two men Lance had pointed out and his eyes went wide.
“They’ve been tailing us since we left the airfield,” Buck added. “Any idea who they are?”
“Yes,” Simon said softly. “They’re The Overlord’s men.
“Those guys work for this Overlord of yours?”
“I’m afraid so. They’re part of his not-so-secret police force. I’d recognize his goons anywhere. Subtle they are not.”
“Remember what I told you,” Buck said. “On this island, The Overlord is the Big Kahuna, Lance. You don’t make a move on Magnapor without it getting back to him and if you step out of line, he sics the goon squad on you.”
“Please tell me you cleared your little treasure hunt with the local government before you started poking around in their back yard,” Lance asked Simon.
“What does that mean, not exactly?” Lance asked, once again growing annoyed. “The Overlord is not what you’d call a nice guy,” Simon started.
“Really? Did you expect a guy who calls himself The Overlord to be a sweetheart of a guy?”
“No, and that’s why I have been trying to, how it you say, fly below the radar.” “And a good job you’re doing of it too, Simon,” Lance said.
Before Professor Prentiss could say more, Lance noticed a third man join the two agents at their table. The odds were now one to one, but hardly even. Island security was stringent. After landing, Lance and Buck had both been searched. The only weapons they had were still on the plane. They were unarmed.
Lance doubted the same could be said for The Overlord’s secret police officers. “We cannot let The Overlord get his hands on the crown. With it his reach could exceed beyond this island. It would make him even more dangerous.”
“Easy now, mate,” Buck said, trying to calm Simon down before he drew even more attention toward their small table. “Professor, you make it sound like this crown of yours has bloody magical powers or something.”
“Not exactly, Buck. However, As a symbol it is very powerful indeed, one that the natives will understand. With the crown of Gengis Kai in his possession, The Overlord could–” “Better table that for now, Simon,” Lance said. Looks like your friends are on the move.”
Sure enough, Agents Smith and Jones got to their feet, accompanied by the new arrival, Agent White. Although none of the men they approached knew they names, which were no doubt aliases, Lance and Buck had dealt with their kind before.
Both Lance and Buck hated bullies and that’s what men like The Overlord and those who worked for him were… bullies. Landon Star had taught his son that the best way to deal with bullies was to give as good as they gave. A bully’s best weapon was intimidation. Lance’s father taught him to stand against such tactics and most of the time, the bully would back down. On those rare occasions when the bad guy stood his ground, Landon instructed his son to do the same. He also taught him how to throw a punch.
Lance Star had been standing up to bullies all his life.
These three men and their boss were nothing special.
“It’s covered, boss,” Buck said.
The three of them got to their feet, but made no attempt to run. So far, The Overlord’s agents kept their weapons holstered. Lance wanted to keep it that way. The last thing he wanted was for them to start shooting wild inside the crowded club.
Smiling, Buck stood and cupped a hand over his cigar as if to light it. He still held his beer. He looked more like a drunk than a threat.
The agents got closer.
“Hang tight, Lance,” Buck mumbled around the cigar between his lips.
Agents Smith and Jones stopped in front of Buck, who was paying them no attention. “Our employer wishes to speak with you,” Agent Jones said with authority. “He has questions for you.”
“You will come with us,” Agent Smith added.
“One of you chaps wouldn’t happen to have a light, would you?” Buck asked, still smiling and fumbling with his cigarette lighter.
“Stand aside,” Agent Smith said as he pushed past Buck.
“What the!” Buck started.
Buck stumbled, which caused him to spill his beer.
“Hey!” he shouted.
As if in a comedic play, Buck sent the sudsy brew flying with flourish. He managed to keep hold of the cigar in his teeth, but the beer splattered everywhere.
“Get out of the way, you bumbling fool!” Agent Jones shouted.
Seething, Buck Tellonger looked from the beer staining his shirt to the three men standing in front of him. His teeth tightened on the cigar clenched there until he almost bit it clean in two. A growl rose up from deep inside the bulldog of a man. Buck Tellonger was shorter than the agents by a few inches, but he was built like a linebacker and had the temper of an angry grizzly bear. Most people underestimated the pilot because he played the comic relief so often compared to Lance Star’s more serious tone. It was a dynamic that worked for them, especially in situations like the one they now found themselves in.
It was surprising to Lance how often these situations cropped up.
Before the agents could issue another command, Buck’s expression shifted from rage to something far more sinister. He smiled and his handlebar mustache rose comically as he showed teeth around his smelly five cent cigar.
With spilled beer on his shirt, Buck looked at the three men a, still smiling and ready to throw down if they gave him provocation. Spilling his beer fit the bill.
Buck loved a good bar fight.
“Oh, mate, you’ve gone and done it now,” he said. “This was my favorite shirt. My mother bought me this shirt for Christmas last year.”
“I don’t care,” Agent Smith said and tried to move Buck aside with a slight push. Buck pushed back.
“Where I come from, we mind our manners, sonny,” Buck said.
With a growl, the bulky air ace laid into the men, tossing a haymaker that knocked one of the agents off his feet and the other slammed into a nearby table, sending its contents crashing to the floor along with the agent and the table. He dropped to the hardwood floor with a loud THUD!
The other agent reacted quickly and moved toward the belligerent drunk.
The agents no longer seemed concerned about Lance Star or Simon Prentiss, which had been Buck’s intention all along. He would keep the agents busy while Lance got his professor friend out of there safely.
“Come on,” Lance said. “Is there a side door out of this place?”
“Yes,” Simon said, pointing. “That way.”
“Good. Let’s get you out of here.”
“What about your friend? Is he going to be okay?”
“Are you kidding? He’s having the time of his life,” Lance said, smiling as he cast a last look back into the bar where Buck was working his magic before walking through the door. Lance knew that the air ace could handle himself. Buck Tellonger had been scrapping for over twenty years and was a veteran of two big wars and a lot of smaller skirmishes. Just a week earlier, they had been in a dogfight with Japanese Zeroes near Espritos Marcos in the Pacific. He could handle himself in a fight.
Lance couldn’t say the same about Simon Prentiss. Simon had spent the last several years with his nose in a book, trying to find his missing treasure. He hadn’t met too many archaeology professors who could handle themselves in a fight. Except that one guy he met in Egypt. He had been able to protect himself well enough.
Buck threw a hard left into the jaw of Agent Jones.
The agent staggered, but somehow remained on his feet.
Before Buck could finish him off, Agent White came around to flank him. Buck had seen similar maneuvers before. The Overlord’s men were not well trained when it came to hand-to-hand combat. Not surprising. They were used to dealing with locals most of the time and the people who called Magnapor home had been conditioned to fear the agents. This was not a problem for Buck Tellonger.
Grabbing Agent White by the jacket collar, Buck pulled him in close instead of throwing a punch like the man expected. Off balance, he pitched forward into Buck’s waiting knee, which connected with the agent’s midsection, doubling him over.
Buck threw him to the floor.
“Who’s next?” Buck shouted.
Agents Smith and Jones were back on their feet and circled the pilot.
“You are under arrest,” Agent Smith shouted. “You and your friends!”
The agents had been so busy squaring off against the man they thought was a belligerent drunk that they hadn’t noticed the other two men sneaking away.
They had escaped.
“Where did they go?” Agent White shouted.
“Tell us where your friends went to or…” Agent Jones started, turning back to face their opponent.
That’s when they realized that the man with the handlebar mustache was also gone. “How did…? Agent Smith shouted.
The agents looked around the room, but saw no sign of their quarry. The denizens of the Great and Powerful stared at them, all eyes on the three agents who had just had their hats handed to them. The Overlord’s wrath was well known to the locals. Everyone in Magnapor understood that failure was not tolerated.
The agents had lost their targets.
None of them were eager to report their failure to The Overlord.
The mountains of Magnapor Island glowed as the sun set behind them, painting the dusky sky in shades of oranges and reds that turned purple the higher you looked until the inky black of nightfall started down to meet the dark waters of the ocean waves.
The Overlord’s tower glistened in the sun’s final light like sparkling green emeralds reflecting firelight. Everyone in the Emerald City below would be able to see the beauty of the island’s tallest structure. Surely, they would be in awe of its majesty, The Overlord thought of the peasants below.
To most, it was called The Spire.
To the man who lived in its uppermost levels, The Overlord simply called it home. Like so many other dictators in various corners of the globe, The Overlord was not a man of the people. Those who served under his pleasure on the island feared him. He ruled the island with an iron fist. If you stayed on his good side and kicked back your cut to his agents on time and paid in full, then the island of Magnapor offered safe haven. If you stepped out of line, there was no place you could hide on the island.
Though there were thousands of locals who were native to the island, most of them farmers and day laborers, the vast majority of Magnapor’s occupants were smugglers and thieves, ne’er do wells on the run from either the law or someone out to do them harm. The Overlord welcomed them all. They were his kind of people.
As the world fell apart around them, Magnapor stood apart from the warring nations whose squabbling and posturing threatened to plunge the world once more into a world-wide war. When nations unleashed their fury upon one another, small island nations like Magnapor and Scavenger Quay, to name but a few, were often caught in the crossfire and destroyed.
The Overlord was working all of the angles to keep his powerbase safe. That meant recruiting men and women with certain skillsets that could be used to protect the island and perhaps even turn the tides of war if it came to that.
While recruitment continued, The Overlord had his best and brightest researching weaponry, offensive and defensive strategies, tactics, and even unconventional methods of protecting his island in the event of an all-out conflict.
When word reached him that a world-renowned archaeologist named Simon Prentiss had come to his island unannounced, The Overlord became intrigued. The research his team dug up on the man showed him to be an expert on a dangerous artifact worn by a hero of legend. Even The Overlord had heard the stories about the legendary Gengis Kai, a man who folklore claims tamed a string off islands throughout the Pacific and the South China Sea, including the volcano The Overlord now called home—Magnapor.
Like anyone who had spent any amount of time in the region, whether born there or migrated, The Overlord had heard the story of Gengis Kai and the Warriors of Hades before. The legend had been passed down from generation to generation with Kai’s prowess growing with each new retelling. Many versions ended with the heroic Kai dying in a volcanic eruption to keep the Warriors of Hades trapped beneath the mantle. Gengis Kai fought these creatures from myth until there was nothing left of the island and the sea reclaimed it.
Lucky for The Overlord, the destruction of the island had not set well with the sea so it had to spit the island back onto to the surface in time for him to claim it as his own. It was all superstitious nonsense, of course, but there was one thing all of the stories of the great Gengis Kai had in common.
He was powerful.
The Overlord wanted that power. If there was even the slimmest of chances that Professor Prentiss could find it, The Overlord wanted to make certain he had it. He assigned a cadre of hand-picked agents to tail the scientist and learn all they could about his work and, if all went well, they could follow him to the crown.
So far, the professor had been a disappointment.
“Are you certain of the facts?”
The Overlord stood tall, easily six foot four with wide shoulders and a fighter’s physique. In his mid to late 40’s, he was moderately handsome, with a full head of jet-black hair that hung past his collar before the ends started to curl back upward. His short cropped black mustache and goatee covered a sharp chin.
The Overlord stood at the far edge of the room, flipping through several file folders filled with reports from various agents around the island. A man in his position had to keep on top of the goings on around him lest the riff raff, as he saw them, who lived below, got out of hand. The only reason he hadn’t run every last single one of them off of his island was because he needed them. The Overlord’s wealth was built on the backs of those who served him. He would never admit it aloud, but he needed the worked of Magnapor more than they needed him.
He dreaded the day they realized this to be true.
On that day, his great dream of a stunning emerald city would truly die.
And him right along with it.
Wearing a very expensive tailor-made suit and jacket, The Overlord stood before one of the floor to ceiling windows that filled two walls of his opulent office. The space looked more like a study that a working office. One of the advantages of being rich and owning the building was that you got to decorate your own way. The Overlord was a collector of rare items himself. Shelves along the walls were filled with statuary, baubles, paintings, and assorted treasures that he had picked up in his travels. He was rather fond of ancient antiquities.
“Yes, sir,” Agent Sunday said, nervous. Depending on the man’s mood, The Overlord was known to react badly to unhappy news.
The report Agent Sunday had handed over did not contain any positive news.
“The report is accurate.”
Closing the file, The Overlord tossed the stack of them onto his desk before turning to face his agent across the desk that separated them. A photo slid out of the folder on top.
“Are you certain of the newcomer’s identity, Agent Sunday?”
“I am, Your Excellence. I have a surveillance team watching them as we speak.” “Well done.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The Overlord stepped to the desk and slammed his knuckles into it, bending the photo that had slipped free of the file folder. It was a grainy photo of a blonde man with a big, bright smile. Agent Sunday recognized him as the man his squadron was following.
“What do you know of this man?” The Overlord asked.
“His name is Lance Star. He is a celebrity pilot from the United States. He signs autographs and flies stunt shows for his adoring fans.”
“So, you do believe him to be a threat?”
“I would not dismiss him so easily, sir. Although he is no longer a member of the United States Armed Forces, Lance Star flew numerous combat missions during the last war. It is also rumored that he still flies missions against the Axis for the US War Department as a reservist along with his squadron of reserve pilots. They call themselves the Sky Rangers.”
“That name rings a bell,” The Overlord said, rubbing a finger and thumb though his beard. “You probably saw them in a newsreel,” Agent Sunday said. “The world news loves to follow their exploits. Last year, he foiled a sabotage scheme in his own New York. They also disrupted a scheme by German scientists to weaponize indigenous wildlife in the Ring of Fire to use in an attack against the southern United States.”
“I remember hearing something about that. There was a volcano, if I remember correctly.” “That’s correct, sir. The island was all but destroyed in the ensuing eruption. Star and his confederates barely had time to escape in time.”
“But they did escape?”
“And now he’s here on my island.”
“Do we know why this famous American pilot would come here? Why did he come to my city?” “No, sir. I do not know for certain. However, after securing his plane at the airport, Lance Star hailed a cab. Upon his arrival in the city, Mr. Star and his companion, a man we have identified as Buck Tellonger, also an air ace circa World War One and a member of the Sky Rangers, met with the treasure hunter, Simon Prentiss at a bar.”
“Prentiss?” The Overlord repeated, almost spitting the word.
“Yes, sir,” Agent Sunday said, trying to keep his boss’ ire from turning to anger that could be aimed his direction.
The Overlords hands balled into fists around the files on the desk, crumpling them. He knew the name Simon Prentiss all too well. He had been suspicious of the man after his agents reported that the noted archaeology professor had come to their shores. The Overlord was not a fan of anyone who came to his island thinking they could dig up an old treasure and carry it home with them.
If there really was treasure hidden on Magnapor, The Overlord would be the one to keep it for himself. He would rather see it remain hidden before letting a stranger deliver it to some museum. He sighed.
“I should have killed that man when I had the chance,” he said through grit teeth. Agent Sunday started to comment, but thought better of it and remained silent. Nothing he could say or do would calm the man’s anger.
Like the flip of a switch, The Overlord’s mood changed. He stood straight, flexed his fingers, then turned back to stare out at the beautiful Emerald City stretched out below. Standing in front of the floor to ceiling window, hands clasped behind his back, The Overlord stared at his city, his island, and the volcano in the distance.
“Do you know where they are now?”
“Yes, sir,” Agent Sunday said. “I have three agents at the Great and Powerful Bar. The agents are under orders to keep all three of them there, forcibly if necessary.”
“Bring them to me.”
Agent Sunday bowed and left the office as quickly as he could. Before he became an agent of The Overlord’s secret police, the man who would become Agent Sunday was a warrior himself. Like Lance Star and many others in his command, Sunday had been boots on the ground during the waning days of the Word War, which they called the war to end all wars. He had seen more than his fair share of bloody
engagements. He had killed men in battle, watched them die through the sights of his rifle and close up on those occasions when he used nothing more than his bare hands.
War did not scare Agent Sunday.
However, this buried treasure that the professor claimed to be searching for, the mythical Crown of Gengis Kai, terrified him deep into his bones. As he hurried to carry out his order and bring Simon Prentiss and his American pilot friends to The Overlord, Agent Sunday couldn’t decide if he wanted to find the treasure or not.
Whatever happened next, Agent Sunday knew there would be bloodshed.
He only hoped the emerald city was not awash in it come the morning.