THE CHALLENGERS 1: EXODUS
This is the first attempt at re-writing The Challengers series without the use of any devices from Doctor Who. The character of Troy Star is present, without a Starrius alter ego. New to this story are the characters Vanessa, Elizabeth and Joe. The language used here isn't suitable for children, continuing a bad habit from Thunderbird Warrior.
The story itself takes after the short story Dream Sequence but the Overlords have been replaced by the Shadow Lords. Beyond Troy discovering he is telepathic, there is no more story. This one had no futher development.
The story was the first that I can recall having written under the name Allen Turner.
The Challengers No. 1: Exodus
By the year 2000 the world’s superpowers had entered a new era of laser technology – weapons. But neither the US or USSR put them to use. Both superpowers notions - and all minor nations owning these – had gotten rid of their nuclear weapons.
Instead of fighting over who was the most powerful, the US and USSR signed a very restrictive treaty. In this treaty they – and all other nations – agreed that should the treaty be broken the offender would withdraw from the world as a nation.
With a new tension on the world’s superpowers, there wasn’t as much hostility as in the twentieth century.
By the year 2300 the world had begun to explore the universe. There were colonies on the moon and on Mars, as well as Jupiter’s moons. Interstellar travel was popular and possible less than half a million dollars. Speaking of money, the world had adopted a new monetary standard – the falmar. In terms of change: one-hundredths (fals), one-tenths (mars), one-fifths or one-twentieths (frans), one-twenty-fifths, or one-fourths (markens), one-fiftieths or one-halves (marfles) and a gold falmar pieces.
The value was very similar to that of a dollar in the 1950s. So was the worldwide economy.
The world had adapted to the metric system. They – the people – had advanced to hovercraft as common travel on Earth.
And as good as the people of Earth had it, people will always complain…
Three of the twenty-seven richest people in the twenty-fifth century were having a conference.
Two of them were American – a man and a woman – and the other was an English woman.
Actually, out of the top twenty-seven richest people in 2450, these three qualified as seventeenth, fifteenth, and twelfth. The English woman – Elizabeth Remington – was the richest. She had four hundred million falmars. The American woman was next. Vanessa Hamilton had two hundred million falmars. And Troy Star – the American man, obviously – was last at nine hundred five hundred thousand falmars.
All three were well known and had friends in high places – namely the prison colony on the moon. All three had huge estates.
At the time they were in Troy’s two hundred acre estate with its classic Victorian style home. This house was Victorian era all the way; with the exception of the fluorescent lights and fusion generator, telecom, holovision, and toaster.
“What haven’t we done in the last few weeks?” asked Liz.
Surprisingly enough, none of the multi-millionaires were stuck up.
“We haven’t been at the tennis club,” suggested Vanessa.
“Or traveling,” hinted Troy.
“Traveling?” asked the other two.
“Where to?” asked Vanessa.
“Let’s go to Titan.”
“Or Io,” said Liz. She was one of the few people who had the time to travel all over. But…
“Any idiot knows that Io is out of the question,” said Troy.
“Did you ever stop to wonder why?”
Troy was thirty-four years old and not looking bad at that. Six foot four with muscles all over; brown hair and eyes, light skin; wearing tan slacks and khaki shirt and black shoes.
“What was the reason?”
Troy thought for a moment. He finally remembered the reason Colonel Stevens had given him.
At the time, Troy was twenty-eight. It had been four years since he retired as a captain. He had flown on only two missions since he began as twenty-three.
“The reason they gave me was that Io’s gravity couldn’t hold a thing past salt down. That means no humans.”
Liz’s blue eyes turned from curiosity to slight anger. She had wanted to see Io for the longest time. Now she had been told she couldn’t.
“Besides, I could never con Joe into taking us. He’s straight now.”
Joe was shuttle-racer that Troy had known for some time – before he was a racer. His full name was Joseph Nimits III. Joe wasn’t rich, just semi-rich. With a sum total of five million falmars.
Liz was playing with her long blond hair, which hung down to her milky white shoulders. She was beautifully proportioned. Just as an English lady should be. Nothing “improper” about Elizabeth.
Liz was wearing a long dress with puffy sleeves. It was blue with white lace.
Vanessa was somewhat improper with large breasts, thin waist and hips. She was 38-22-35 with long legs and arms, and short curly brown hair. She wore tight fitting blue pants and a frilly pink shirt.
Both she and Liz wore high heels, making them taller.
Troy’s stocky body was six foot four.
The girls’ real heights were five foot eight for Liz and five foot six for Nessa.
“Who’s Joe?” asked Liz.
“He’s better known as the builder, designer of the fastest racing shuttle this side of the Smokies,” answered Troy.
“The what?” Vanessa asked.
“The Starfire,” said Troy.
“Oh,” said Vanessa. “What’s that?”
“A racing shuttle!” screamed Troy.
The girls looked hurt.
Unlike Troy, the girls had inherited their fortunes. They had no “hand-on experience.”
“Joseph William Nimits III is, or rather was, a shuttle racer.”
This announcement broke the confusion.
Joseph was, at one time, a close personal friend of the three rich people discussing him.
“Oh, him,” was all Liz said.
She strongly disapproved of Joe’s action in becoming a shuttle designer just to race. And, of course, she did nothing to hide it.
“Yes, him,” Troy responded.
“Did he say he would take us joy riding in the Starfire thing?” asked Liz.
“No, not yet.”
“Yet?” questioned Vanessa.
“Yes. You see, Joe gave up racing a few months ago due to a leg injury. But that won’t stop him from cruising the stars. I plan to be on his new ship when he takes it on a speed test.” Troy stood up and walked to the fireplace. Even though winter was three months away, Troy could help feeling its effect on him. Troy was very cold natured. But the fire wasn’t lit.
“I thought you said he gave up racing,” said Vanessa who was thoroughly confused.
“He did,” confirmed Troy. “But do you think that he’ll pass up the chance to test a new ship?”
The girls didn’t answer. They knew he wouldn’t.
A tall blond-haired, blue-eyed man of thirty-four wearing a white uniform with black and red trim walked to the huge metal expanse of hangar door.
Six foot tall, American Joe Nimits opened the left, then right door of the gray metal building.
The long rows of fluorescent lights, far overhead, went out as his assistant turned them off, possibly for the last time.
Joe walked over to a huge metal shape. A ramp going up the side was only entrance into the space shuttle type ship. Joe entered through the door at the top of the ramp.
Once inside, the ship was somewhat larger than the shuttles of the twentieth century. Instead of a cargo hold there was a walking space wide enough for two people and seven feet tall.
In the control room was technology that had surpassed the twentieth century by far. There were four seats; pilot, co-pilot, and two for men on second shift.
Joe had been a captain in NASA like Troy. But instead of using his drafting and computer designing skills for his country, he hogged them.
(Troy was in NASA for the money.)
Both had entered at twenty-eight as captains. Joe never flew on a mission. Troy had flown on two as a secondary co-pilot.
Joe sat down in the leather seat and buckled up. Then he put on his crash helmet with communications equipment built in. After hooking up to the ships booster system, Joe punched a few buttons, flipped a couple of switches and pulled two levers back half way.
The ship vibrated with power, then settled as the stabilizers kicked in. Joe released the landing gear brakes. The engines whined with power of the turbines. The ship began to move slowly.
As soon as the shuttle was out of the hangar, Charlie, Joe’s assistant, closed the doors – again; possibly for the last time.
Joe’s financial status would not allow for mistakes in design or for funeral expenses.
“Doors closed, Joe,” came Charlie’s voice over the communication system speakers.
“Thanks, Charlie,” said Joe.
“Thanks, again,” Joe turned the system off. “I’ll need it.”
Joe punched four buttons and pulled four levers, then three switches. The engines whined. The whine became a roar. Joe flipped the three switches back.
The ship raced down the runway. The pressure pushed Joe back in his seat for a second. Once the initial G-force stabilized, Joe pulled the contemporary jet-like steering wheel back. The ship’s nose came up, followed by the rest of it. All this in a matter of ten seconds.
As soon as he was in the official speed course of the Galaxy 2000 racing course, he reached for the levers besides his seat. He pulled them back, sending the shuttle into overdrive.
After running the track, Joe returned to the hangar. Charlie ran out to greet him.
“I came in a 3:28:14:06,” Joe answered.
“Three hours, twenty-eight minutes, fourteen seconds, and six hundredths. Amazing.”
Joe and Charlie turned to see a man and two girls standing beside the closed hangar doors.
“Charlie, why don’t you go register the ship with the Colonial Commission of Transport, Commutative Division,” Joe said slowly.
Charlie took a thick folder to own air car and left.
“Amazing,” said Troy again.
“What do you and your rich bitches want?” Joe hated beating aroung the bush. He had often told people to get to the point or get out.
Troy frowned and raised his eyebrows for a second. Then he decided to get to the point.
“We, the girls and I, want to go to Titan. Yours is the only ship that could get us there free of charge.”
“Bullshit!” Joe cried laughingly. “This ship ain’t going nowhere.”
“Except racing,” said Vanessa.
Joe stepped up to her.
“Not even racing.”
“Then why all the fancy stripes?” asked Elizabeth.
The ship was black with red trim and white racing stripes.
“I could never get use to drab colors.”
“And the speed test?”
“You know me better than that.”
“So why go through the trouble of testing the Starfire when you’ve won the Galaxy 2000 three years in a row with that ship?” Troy asked.
“Where’s the Starfire?”
“That’s why I quit racing.”
“It blew up. I quit because of a broken leg and three ribs.” Joe decided to explain. “It happened on landing. That control valve you were always worried about finally gave up.”
“I knew it.” Troy had an I-told-you-so look on his face Joe would have loved to have wiped off with a right hook.
“So how about?” said Vanessa.
“What?” said Joe.
They had forgotten the point.
“The trip to Titan colony,” she reminded them.
“No.” Monosyllable answers were Joe’s favorite. But not when they were questioned.
“Just to Titan?”
Joe thought for a moment.
“Okay,” he said.
“You’ll take us?”
Troy clenched his fists.
“You son of a bitch!” he growled through gritted teeth.
“Ah-ah-ahh,” chided Joe. “If you want to go to Titan, you’ll pay me.”
Troy turned to confer with the girls. After five minutes, they turned to face Joe. Troy held out his right hand.
“Deal?” said Joe, grinning.
“Deal!” scowled Troy.
Joe sat at the pilot’s controls, Troy was co-pilot, and the girls sat as replacements.
“This is how to activate the ship,” Joe began. “First, you start the engines by punching these four buttons.” He started the engines.
“Then, you pull the throttles,” Joe pulled the four levers back. “Activate the stabilizers.” He flipped a row of switches. “And last, brace yourselves, you release the landing gear brakes.”
Joe flipped the three switches. Again, the ship shot forward like a bullet.
Once they were out of Earth’s atmosphere, Joe set the autopilot coordinates for the Titan colony.
“How long will this take?” asked Vanessa.
“At this speed,” answered Joe, “two hours.’
“Can’t this crate go any faster?” asked Elizabeth.
“Crate?” asked Joe, feeling his temper rising. “Crate? You dare call the fastest ship in the Milky Way a crate?!” Joe was furious. “I’ll show you a crate!”
Joe turned the ship back to manual control and pulled the throttles back to full power. The engines whined as they strained to keep from exploding. The ship rocked as the stabilizers overloaded.
The girls were thrown from their seats. Troy and Joe, who were temporarily unconscious, didn’t see the universe streak past them. Nor did they see the little red and green planet with blue area all over, racing toward them.
None of the four travelers felt the ship hit the surface of the planet. Surprisingly enough, the first person to wake up was Elizabeth.
“What the hell happened?” she asked after she woke the others up.
“G-force knocked us out,” Joe explained. “And then, by the look of things, we crashed.”
“Scanners say we have crashed on a planet with ninety-four percent Earth normal oxygen,” said Troy looking at a digital display.
“And the log recorder says we’re not in our own galaxy,” Vanessa.
“Great,” growled Joe. “Just great.”
“Listen, Joe,” Troy began, “I’m going out to look around and check the ship over. The scanners say the planet has ninety-six percent Earth normal gravity.”
Troy pushed the button to open the door and expand the ramp. Nothing happened. Troy pushed the ramp out. It only fell half way down before resting on the ground.
He went out to discover that the ship was at an angle against a hill. The ship had dug a deep ditch with its nose over a hundred yards long. The nose itself was dented and bent beyond repair.
The rest of the ship, except for the spoiler on the right wing, which no longer existed, was intact.
Troy found that ship was on its right wing, which explained the spoiler.
“How bad is it?” called Joe from the ramp.
“The right spoiler’s missing,” answered Troy. “The nose is hopeless.”
“What?!” cried Joe. He ran to front of the ship to see the crumpled, half buried nose of the ship. “Oh no,” Joe whined. “Ahh shit! Damn!”
“And if you haven’t noticed,” Troy continued, “the landing gear’s up. We can’t take off without it being down. No telling what damage the underside suffered.”
“Oh, shit!” repeated Joe.
“What’s wrong?” asked Elizabeth.
“We’re in deep shit!” answered Joe.
“I think he’s over-summarized the situation,” said Troy. “The landing gear’s up. We’d have to build some kind of support and pulley system to get the Starfire up far enough to put the landing gear down. I don’t even know if we have the equipment.” He looked at Joe questioningly. Joe was sitting on the shamrock green grass, leaning on a tall thick white tree with red pine needle-like “leaves.” He was staring up at the aquamarine sky with its amethyst colored clouds and bright topaz sun.
“You realize that this is another planet altogether,” whispered Joe.
Vanessa had come out with Elizabeth. She sat down beside him.
“We know,” she said. “We ought to be recording this, examining things.”
“That’s a good idea,” said Troy. “Those in favor of putting Vanessa in charge of recording events on this planet say ‘aye’.”
All but Vanessa said “aye” who said ‘nay!”
“Listen everybody,” said Joe. “Something just occurred to me. There could be higher life forms on this planet than trees and insects.”
They had seen the butterfly-like insects fluttering about.
“What are you talking about?” asked Elizabeth.
“Think about it, Liz,” said Troy. “On Earth, in order to have plants, you must have insects. And something eats the insects. And something eats that and so forth to humans. When humans die we are eaten by different microorganisms and the whole food cycle starts again. It’s one of the laws of nature. Joe’s got a point. *Zehr gut, Herr Nimits.”
“Never mind the foreign languages,” said Vanessa nervously. “We’ve got company.”
They turned around to see about twenty midget-like figures holding metal spears or swords defensively in their direction.
They averaged about four feet tall with bulbous heads, thin arms, small bodies, and muscular legs. They had three fingers on each hand and hooves in the place of feet. The facial features were humanoid as well as the rest of the body. They had slanted eyes, one nostril, cat-like mouths, and pointed ears. The eyes, of which each figure had two, were either brown, blue, green or purple. They either had brown hair or no hair. Or so it seemed.
If Vanessa hadn’t known the creatures were alive, she would have played with them like the dolls they resembled.
Joe stood up slowly.
“Hi,” said Troy. “I hope we weren’t intruding.”
The creatures simply looked at him.
Troy put his hands on his hips and was about to tell them off. But Joe put a hand on his elbow.
“Don’t start anything,” Joe advised cautiously. He pointed up in the trees. There were some of the creatures perched on the huge limbs with crossbows pointed in the travelers’ direction.
“Point taken,” said Troy quietly.
One of the creatures broke through the crowd. It appeared to be male and of great age. “He” had wrinkled skin and long white hair as well as a long white Fu Manchu style beard.
Troy noticed he had been wrong about the hair. Some had black hair, some had red; others, blond.
“Lir mitz ohf?” said the creature.
“What?” asked Troy.
“What’d he say?” asked Joe.
“What language is that?” asked Liz.
“Huh?” was all Vanessa could come up with.
“Lir mitz ohf?” repeated the creature, who was obviously getting angry. “Mela los int Mystics.”
Troy approached it. The creature stared into his eyes.
“Mela los int Mystics,” it repeated. “Lir mitz ohf?” (Who are you?)
“We’re from Earth,” said Troy, not knowing he had answered its question. “Who are you?”
It turned and said something to the crowd. They lowered their weapons. The ones in the trees climbed down using ropes.
Troy said to the creature once more, “Who are you?”
And once more it answered, “Mela los int Mystics. Lir mitz ohf?’ (We are the Mystics. Who are you?)
Troy played it by ear. Stuttering, he managed to say, “Mela los int Earthlings.”
“Earthlings?” said the creature. “Welcome to Exodus,” it laughed. It had an old squeaky voice and, unbelievably, English accented.
Troy backed away.
“It spoke!” he cried.
“Of course, I spoke. I’m telepathic. I’ve had time to study and master your language.”
Troy, Joe, Vanessa, and Elizabeth came forward to get a better look at the creatures.
“I’m Krau, leader of the Mystics. Who are you?”
“I’m Troy,” said Troy. “This is Joe, Liz, and Vanessa.”
“Elizabeth, actually,” said Elizabeth.
“A pleasure,” said Krau (KRAY oo). He extended a three fingered hand.
Troy grasped it somewhat gently, then felt Krau’s reassuring grip and increased grip. The two beings parted hands.
“If you would follow us to our city, I will explain everything you need to know.”
The travelers looked at each other, then shrugged and fell in line with the Mystics.
The four travelers followed the Mystics to a large city. In comparison to the smaller towns of Earth, this city was still small.
Mystics of all types crowded around to see, or even touch, the aliens who had crashed on their planet.
The travelers could hear the language of the Mystics quite clearly as the asked Krau thousands of questions. He answered them all in his native language.
After walking for half an hour they came upon a small dome home. Krau told them it was his house.
They entered to find the house wasn’t metal or plastic but wood. Or at least it had a wood frame with wooden windowsills. The walls were like that of a wigwam – mud, sticks, and grass.
The travelers had noticed and were beginning to feel the effects of the mid-October type weather. The house was a great comfort. The windows were covered by thick thatched curtains.
The furniture seemed to be made of several pieces of wood, put together with nails or screws. On closer inspection it was discovered that the chairs were carved out of stumps and the couch of a huge tree trunk. The beds, dinner table, and desk were made of several pieces of wood joined with nails.
Lights were electric. The power plant, as it turned out, was several miles north.
After a hearty meal of an almost turkey size fowl, some kind of corn like vegetables, bread and a red wine tasting liquid, Krau sat down in the living room with his guests.
Krau lit up his pipe.
The couch had thick cushions, as did the chairs. The fireplace the couch faced was blazing. It was hard clay.
Troy and the others were drinking an after dinner “wine.”
“We of Exodus,” Krau began, “worship a god called Vengaral. He was the teacher of Vengu. He taught the first warrior of Vengu (VEN joo), a man called Santhek. He, Santhek, wrote the first book of the Landau of Journal. It was called Santhek. There are four Ichnips or Chronicle of the Journal. First, Second, Third and the Lost Chronicles. We are writing the new Landau to include the Lost Chronicles. But Vengu, or the Art of Vengeance is no longer taught.”
Krau sat up and propped his elbows on his knees, clasping his fingers after putting his pipe down.
“We aren’t allowed to.”
The others sat up.
“What?” said Troy.
“We are the slaves of the Shadow Lords. The Shadow Lords are more humanoid than we are. They are from Earth. Or their ancestors were. A hundred and fifty Earth years ago, three hundred Exodus years, they came to us. They claimed to come in peace. They used us as lab mice. We were forced to give them extra sensory perceptive powers. We gave them telepathy and psycho-kinesis. But we refused to teach them Vengu. Because they consider us a threat, they have a kind of psychic radar. If our psychic energy output goes ten points above normal, they’ll send someone to investigate. I pray that your presence here hasn’t caused too much psychic activity.”
“Krau,” said Troy standing up, “we’ll help you fight these Shadow Lords.”
“We’ll what?” screamed Joe, jumping up to stare Troy in the eyes. “Are you nuts?”
“No,” answered Troy. “Joe, do you remember your American history. The colonists fought for freedom from British rule. The Mystics are gonna fight for freedom from these Shadow Lords. And I’ll take no argument.”
“What are we gonna fight with, crossbows and spears?”
Troy turned to Krau.
“What kind of weapons do they have?”
“Crossbows, spears, swords, and long bows.”
Troy turned back to Joe.
“There you have it.”
“What about numbers? Have you considered the possibility that we might just be outnumbered or outmatched?”
Troy turned back to Krau.
“We have five hundred able bodied men. They’d be lucky to have fifty. Unfortunately, luck is with them. They have three hundred fifty men and two hundred women. Our women can’t fight.”
“How many able bodied women do you have?” asked Vanessa.
“Four hundred even.”
“You could teach them to use the crossbows and long bows,” said Liz.
“I can use a crossbow,” said Vanessa. “I’ll show your women how.”
“And I can help with the long bows,” said Liz.
They were fighting mad. They wanted to help the Mystics defeat the Shadow Lords. That is with the exception of Joe, who simply wanted to get his ship space worthy and go home.
Krau was happy enough to cry, but didn’t. His people would finally be free of Shadow Lord rule, or would they?
The four travelers hadn’t considered that even though the Mystics had the Shadow Lords outnumbered, the Shadow Lords just might be better fighters.
They talked for about an hour more then decided to go to bed. The four travelers found the beds to have feather mattresses and pillows. The cover was quite warm and not long after they had lain down, they dozed off into a deep comfortable sleep.
Troy woke to discover he had mastered the Mystic language. H almost fainted at the answer Krau gave him when he asked Krau about this new experience.
“You’re a telepath,” Krau said.
“I what?” screamed Troy.
“Shh,” shushed Krau. “Keep your voice down or you’ll wake the others.”
“Explain my being telepathic,” said Troy, who was sitting at the breakfast table.
“It was hidden deep inside your mind,” began Krau. “In the presence of other telepaths, the power reveals itself when they begin to probe into your mind. Your power of telepathy is very strong for a human. Develop it to Mystic standards. I’ll help you.”
“By teaching you Vengu. And by giving you copies of the Landau in all Ichnips to read daily.”
“Why would you do all this knowing I’ll have to leave as I can after the revolution?”
“We need a warrior to represent us. Vengu would take a Mystic seven weeks to learn. That’s four and a half months Earth time.”
“I’m not staying here that long,” said a voice.
They turned to see Elizabeth standing in the doorway.
“Neither am I,” said Troy.
“But why not?” asked Krau.
“But your telepathy,” began Krau.
“I would love to use it to the maximum. But not if I have to stay here four and a half months.”
“You don’t have to. I could help you improve your telepathy without teaching you Vengu.”
“Good. When can we start?”
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