Beware the Stalker of the Stars!
The room reveled with cheers and excitement.
Ariel decided to make this one a scary tale. Maybe if the children had a sense of what danger is beyond the underground haven, they would be better suited to survive instead of herd fodder for any aggressor or invader. "Not too long ago Thundarr, Ookla and I were traveling in the frigid tundras of the North. We agreed to pass on a settlement data shard to a far outpost there. We had to move the area quickly on our way to a settlement called Joonew."
The children, who ranged from 8 to 12 years old by a glance, settled down. A few stragglers hung out by the entranceway. Ariel took a deep breath "..Based on our readings from the directions; we had reached the last landmark called the Icy Knuckles. The outpost is reported to be in those hills. "UFO detected." Ariel gave her best female Siri impression to describe Ooklas faulty translator.
A few boyish giggles erupted in the room. Ariel was glad to hear a few picked up on her humor attempt. "I know, Ookla sounds like a girl robot! Silly, isn't it?"
She pointed upward in dramatic fashion to move the scene ahead. "..Thundarr looked up and pointed to the sky. "There!" he said. Off in the distant skyline, A bright ball of fire came into view plunging towards the Icy Knuckle mountain range. I remember we glanced at each other in amazement. Was it another piece of the Starship? It has been over a hundred years! How can this be? The fireball passed beyond our view into the heart of the Icy Knuckles. However, we heard no impact explosion, and there was no aftershock.
Ookla shrugged and then let out a rash of hacking coughs. "Hello!".. "Go Ahead.." "Say that again?" the Siri thing hiccupped.
Thundarr rolled his eyes, but he did show that he was worried about the villagers. They could have been affected by the falling star, so we made haste to the outpost. It was rough going up the mountain. The snow and ice were getting deeper as we ascended, and soon the horses could go no further. Ookla smelled like a wet rat and was visibly shivering. We needed to find shelter for Ookla.
"I am afraid I can't understand you. Can you say that again?." his little device was chatty tod.
That got a few chuckles from the audience.
Ariel picked up her pace while she had them entertained. "Thundarr always looked out for us, "Soon, old friend. We will get you to a warm fire and a hot meal."
Ookla nodded and blasted out another wet trumpet. Just then a snow beast leaped from a wintery mound on the unsuspecting Mok. The white fur of the giant wolf mutant blended well with the surroundings and Ookla never saw him.
"Demon Dogs!" Thundarr dismounted and fired up his Sunsword. I was about to save Ookla from his attacker with my magic, but I was knocked off my horse from another beast! They were Winter wargs! These were no ordinary wolves. They were the size of a hippo, with fangs of a sabretooth tiger and a sharp horn protruding from their head.
"How did you survive?" A young male teen in the audience propped against the wall said incredulously. "We should not be here; I will say that!" Ariel quipped.
As luck would have it, the snow hid a nearby ledge, and when the beast pounced on Ookla, they rolled right off the cliff! Thundarr was closest to me, so he was focused on protecting me. He swung his blade in front of the other warg. The Sunsword singed some of its hair and the creature yipped in pain, backing away. I got up and carefully moved to the edge to see if Ookla was ok. There he was hanging on to a lower tier of slippery rock and frost-covered slabs. His assailant was nowhere in sight. Worse, It looked like Ookla was losing his grip!
The other starving Warg was planning another attack. It was pacing around Thundarr as best it could so it could outflank him and get to me. It lunged after me again. Thundarr was not fast enough to kill it, but he did manage to shove its flank, so its momentum slipped off the ledge and down it went. Thundarr breathed a sigh of relief, but I screamed as I saw the Warg landed on the ridge - next to Ookla.
I had to control my panic and concentrate. My magic only works if I focus. So I imagined a long rope and raised my hands. I thought of every aspect of the line. It was 100 feet long. It was tightly wound. It was sturdy. It had to be..."
A little girl sitting at Ariel's feet shot a glare at the boy in defense of her storyteller. "Did you see the wargs again?" another boy, a grubby looking thing nestled in some moth-eaten blankets spoke up.
Unfortunately, it was not the last time we saw them. We marched on through the snow to a nearby cavern. At least the chilly wind wasn't sapping our strength every moment. I was about to ask Thundarr if we could rest when he pointed down a dark tunnel. "I hear someone!" He found some nearby sticks and branches and let them up with his Sunsword. We all had some makeshift torches now. We finally did hear someone, and it was a matter of minutes when we met up with an outpost scout. He listened to our battle and went to investigate. The scout led us back to the settlement and finally, we got to rest. Thundarr asked the scout to help him bring the horses back as well until we all were safe. Joonew must have been a sight to visit before the impacts. Most of the caverns preserved old buildings, cars, and incredible sculptures of crystalline ice. When we emerged from the other side of the cavern, a valley of green fields and evergreens were everywhere. A platoon of riders escorted us to the wooden fortress. Once there we were to wait until the outpost leader, Kaskae, would summon us. We knew who he was because of his harsh treatment of the returning guides. "Did you see any blood on them?" He probed us intently, and he interrogated the scout. "What about signs of a struggle? Did they fight recently?" The young guide shrugged.
Thundarr took a step forward, and two gruff guards raised their spears at him. "Indeed, Kaskae, we fought with some hungry wargs. what of it?" "Wargs, you say? Are you sure? You didn't butcher our men?"
Kaskae was upset about the fact that some of his scouts were lost. One was missing, and another left a pile of dragged organs and blood into a mysterious hole. The reason he accused us was that the guide was boasting to others of Thundarr's Sunsword and how it could melt a frozen wall of ice. I reminded him that if we were murderers, we would have no interest in talking to them. He begrudgingly saw my logic and let us stay.We handed him the data disc to see if he could copy and add to it. The technology was ultra-rare up there, but one of the younglings commented that he might know of an old computer drive in the cavern village that he thought could be tweaked into a functioning unit.
I couldn't help but notice that Ookla was nodding off as the conversation went on. He was exhausted, and we asked to stay the night to regain our strength. Kaskae still didn't trust us. So he posted a guard as we slept. Our sleep was dreadfully abrupt as he heard a muffled shout for help outside our door. Thundarr snapped up and burst the door open.
"Lords of Light,"
One guard was on the floor in an unconscious heap. Another was being pulled headfirst into the earth. His legs were kicking, but a brown-black cable fiber was winding around them. A moment or so later whatever it was wrapped the poor guard in a thick cocoon and dragged him down through its tunnel. Thundarr hacked at the hard earth, but he was too bulky to follow the abductors narrow circular trail. We called for help for the other guard.
If the other guard didn't come back to his senses, I would have little doubt Kaskae would have skewered us, but the sentry saw it all happen. He said the earth underneath them rumbled and two eyestalks grew out of the rising mound. He managed to yell before a blast knocked him down and out cold. Thundarr took it from there. "Wizards!" Thundarr hissed. I offered up the notion that Wizards usually don't operate like this. They are mass murderers and brutal to humans, yes, but they are not assassins. Why bother taking out two sentries when you can dig under an outpost and go after leaders? "Mutants or robot assassins?" Siri voiced Ookla chimed in. Thundarr shook his head. "I have seen much of this world, and I tell you, I have not seen that before."
Kaskae dropped to his knees. "We are helpless. Who will be next? Can anyone stop this demon of the earth?" Thundarr offered a plan. Trap the creature. Call all people to stay off the ground. Maybe sleep on the roof until we can determine how this thing targets us. We should take shifts. No less than three per patrol. Sound an alarm if another strike occurs.
Kaskae consented to the idea, and we rested as best we could. Over the next week, our troubles did not improve. Three more people went missing. Thundarr caught a glimpse of the creature, and it was a nightmare to behold. The beast was feeding off its cocooned victims. It drained them like a giant mosquito. Thundarr's Sunsword could not cut or burn the fibers the Stalker used to wrap its prey. Ookla was weak, and he was the latest victim.
"Oh no!" a gasp in the audience. A little fan of the Mok.
"And your magic?" a chirp from behind.
Magic did not affect it. The Stalker had foot log eyestalks on its head that blasted any magic I threw at it. Ookla managed to beat it back with some brute force, but the Stalker tunneled away until it would catch us off guard again. It was devious and cunning. It went after Ookla because it knew Ookla was the only one who could harm it.
"But now he was taken, too." the teen was no longer a skeptic observer, he hung on every word.
"That's right. He was gone." Ariel pulled up a chair and straddled it. The crowd huddled in closer for more. The Stalker didn't realize Ookla had cybernetic implants. One of those implants had a distress beacon. If we could hone in on that frequency, we could track down our friend. If Ookla remembered to activate it.
"The computer!" the teen bubbled with anticipation.
"Right again!"Ariel smiled. Kaskae was able to find an old type of computer that could track the device on Ookla. He did remember to turn on his beacon.
We traveled through a network of tunnels and caverns to discover the Stalker had a spaceship. We didn't see an old fragment of the Ship fall to the earth; it was the Stalker landing here to find new prey! Sadly though we still were not sure how we could save Ookla and not become Alien monster food. Thundarr had a plan. Barge through the starship hull and swing the Sunsword around. Well, that's always his plan.
The epic battle followed the creature was feeding off one of the winter warg carcasses when we found it. The stalker stored its cocooned prey in a nearby room. The beast was surprised we saw it, and Thundarr threw a slab of the hull to knock it down. The Stalker wailed in agonizing pain and released a disintegrating blast to pulverize the heavy metallic slag pinning it down. I tried to stun it with a series of energy blobs, but none of them had any effect. One blob did hit a cocoon, and it dissolved the fibers! Save Ookla! Thundarr yelled at me as he kept the Stalker busy. A ran into the storage zone and just unloaded what energy I could at the dozens of victims. I could hear Thundarr mocking the creature and some odd shrills and clacks behind me. Ookla freed himself after I weakened the fibers at least. Then I felt the whole room shake.
The ship was taking off. The Stalker was not going to let us escape.
I could hear Thundarr taunting the Stalker. The battle sounded it was coming from another room. More sword on ship scraping noises. More explosive discharges and fibers snapping. When we arrived at the bridge area, Thundarr was using pieces of the vessel to block the fiber strands and energy attacks. The stalker was falling on to its console and appeared to be fading in strength! I yelled to Thundarr that the ship is leaving we have to get out! I called to him and pointed to the gaping hole he made earlier. He agreed it was a good idea. We jumped the rising alien craft. As a final gesture, Thundarr sealed the bridge off by closing the door and melting it shut with his Sunsword to entrap the menace for good. The Stalker went back to the Stars without humans - for now.
"Why did the Stalker get so weak?" the youth was sharp. Ariel smiled. "Thundarr noticed the creature was hacking and sneezing in battle. It caught Ooklas cold!"