THE CHALLENGERS

AND

THE HORROR OF DARKON

Number 2 in The Challengers Series

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Notes about The Challengers and the Horror of Darkon
This was 63 handwritten pages on ordinary (not college ruled) spiral notebook paper, in pencil.
When I started to type this, I realized that there were pages missing from the original manuscript. The page numbering skips from 5 to 9, though 6 is a blank page. And the first sentence from the introduction seems to be a continuation of a thought. I have no idea what became of the missing pages or for how long they’ve been missing. There are eraser marks throughout the work and I’m unable to discern what the original text was.
It is stated in the introduction that this is the second adventure. This story was actually written first and the word “second” was changed from “first” as is evident by the eraser marks. From what I can tell, the introduction had originally introduced the characters Troy Star and Sandy Berckley and the spaceship, the Starbird Avenger all in about 5 pages. The story “The Challengers and the Mission” creates a whole new introduction story and changes the mythos of “The Challengers” entirely but was written after “The Challengers and the Horror of Darkon.” The introduction here is struck through since “The Mission” became effectively the first story.
It should be noted that this is the second version of “The Horror of Darkon.” The first was started probably within the year before but I don’t remember if it was ever finished. I had been writing it on sheets of folded notebook paper that were stapled in the middle to create a “book.” A friend had offered to either type or re-write what I had written and bring it back to me. He moved that summer and I never saw him or the story again.
The character name Sandy Berckley changed to Joanna, though this wasn’t consistent throughout the story. I decided to leave at as it was written rather than try to unify it.
There are places where I erased references to this being the first adventure and I began inserting references to the Starbird Avenger being a TARDIS. This would have been after having written “The Mission.” It’s obvious, though, that the original idea was for it to have been a spaceship.
When we meet Rensloth, he has two bodyguards. When we get to the museum, they are gone without explanation. Rensloth is never seen again.
Something was erased and rewritten on page 28 in reference to the name of the ship.
Joanna is a freelance reporter in this book whereas she was a teacher in “The Mission.”
On page 43, Troy has the Starnix Sword in his hand, used for killing the Thackra. It’s forgotten until page 48 when he has to surrender it.
On page 61, I forget to change Starbird to TARDIS. I’ve left it as it was written.
On the back cover, I mention that Darkon was an Earth scientist. In the text, Darkon has never heard or Earth.
From doodles in the text, apparently “Naivrotta” comes from a combination of Atlantis and Minerva.
There is a list of future Challengers books at the back of this work. Only three of those titles actually came to fruition: “The Mission,” “The Horror of Darkon,” and “The Scetza Invasion of Earth,” though the last one was shortened to “The Scetza Invasion.” “The Scetzas,” “The Realm of Death,” and “The Return to Earth” were never written.

There is some struck through text from a story called “The Knights of Death” at the end of this work. That story was never written.
SHORT STORIES
POETRY
NOVELLAS
ILLUSTRATIONS
PHOTOGRAPHY
INCOMPLETE
ABOUT ME
CREDIT
LINKS
 

The Challengers and the Horror of Darkon
By Van Turner, writing as Allen Turner
Illustrations by Van Turner

Began: September 16, 1983
Completed:  November 28, 1983

For:  Jimmy O’Neal, Michael Easterling, Chris Smith, and John Kelly; my best friends and critics.

Contents
Introduction                                               
Part 1                       
            1.   Prologue                                               
            2.   Naivrotta                                               
            3.   To the Castle                                   
Part 2
            4.   Face to Face                                   
            5.   Attempted Sabotage                       
            6.   Dinner With Darkon                       
Part 3
            7.   Escape from the Creature                       
            8.   Prisoners of Darkon                       
            9.   Interrogation by Darkon                       
Part 4
            10. Escape from the Castle                       
            11. The Destruction of Darkon           
            12. The Destruction of Nokrad           
            13. Epilogue           
                                   

Instead, he was shocked to see no pilot, copilot or navigators in the cockpit.
            The girl walked in behind him. She looked around, equally shocked. There was a sliding sound. And a click from behind caused her to jump. She turned around to see the door had closed.
            “Hey, you,” she said excitedly. “The door closed.”
            The man walked over to the door. There wasn’t a knob. He banged on the door. It wouldn’t open. There were some buttons beside it. Before he could press the open marked ‘OPEN’ he was thrown backward onto the girl. He got up and looked out the window.
            “We’re taking off!” he shouted.
            Sure enough the spaceship was up in the air and flying.
            “Let’s get out!” he screamed.
            This is how Troy Star, the man, obtained the Starbird Avenger.
            After introductions between Troy Star and Sandy Berckley, Troy sat down in the pilot’s chair and set about reprogramming the Starbird Avenger. This took no time since Troy was, and still is, a computer whiz. He reprogrammed and re-activated the Starbird Avenger. And now he had to fly it back to Earth.
            He, with the help of Sandy, would get back to Earth, one way of the other. But not without some hair-raising experiences. This would be their second exciting adventure into space with a spaceship that stole them. In this adventure, the encounter the deadly evil wizard Darkon.

Part One
Prologue (Chapter One)

            Five thousand years ago, Darkon was a simple scientist with dreams of immortality. He was doing experiments with controlling radioactivity when his experiment exploded. Radioactive chemicals spread all over his body. But it took its worst affect on his face, distorting it from a human face to a face with fangs and a badly misshaped nose and cheekbone. Instead of hair on his head he now had horns and hair all over his face and body.
            But he developed a special mask; a mask he believed would help him restore his old face. Along with the mask, he developed a special cloak that he believed would restore his old body. He stole the mighty Starnix Sword, believing it would help. It gave him great magical power and the immortality he dreamed of.
He has waited five thousand years and the mask hasn’t helped. But he was determined. He used his power to overthrow other planets and claim them as his own.
His real name is Theoron Wrenthez. Now he has changed it to Darkon or the Dark One, Lord of Darkness and Evil. He used his power to create his own planet of Nokrad. But he didn’t like it so he conquered others with his mighty Starnix Sword and Eagle Fighters, a group of expert flyers. Spaceships, of course.
Now Troy Star and Joanna Berckley must face Darkon in quest of the sword.

Chapter Two
Naivrotta

            On board the Starbird Avenger, in truth a TARDIS, Troy was thoroughly enjoying his second trip into outer space and time.
            “I think I’m getting the hang of this thing,” announced Troy rejoicingly.
            “Then get us back to Earth,” said Joanna reproachfully.
            “I can just about fly it,” said Troy, “but I don’t know the starchart.”
            “Then I suggest you get one!”
            “Where? We’re in space, remember? You can’t just stop at the local filling station, ask for a chart of the Tegrat Galaxy, you know.”
            “I know,” said Joanna. I just want to go home.”
            “Have patience,” said Troy. “I’ll get us there.” Under his breath he said, “someday.”
            “It had better be soon. We’re running low on oxygen,” said Joanna, looking at a digital gauge on the massive control console. Or, as she put it, dashboard.
            The beeping of a dash (short for dashboard) alarm broke the silence.
            “What’s wrong now?” asked Troy.
            “Generator’s running on one-fourth power,” answered Joanna, glancing at another digital gauge on the dash.
            “We’ll have to land somewhere to let it build back up.”
            “Where are we going to land?”
            “On that little planet of there, I reckon,” he answered, pointing to a small, cloud covered planet on the scanner screen.
            “On an alien planet?” Joanna, looking at Troy as one might a madman. “There may be little green men with two heads and eight arms down there,” said Joanna hysterically.
            “Or it may not be inhabited at all,” reassured Troy.
            “Alright. So I overreacted. But how are you going to land if you don’t know how?
            “I’ll figure it out. The controls are marked so it shouldn’t be too hard.” Troy punched a sequence of buttons. A whirring noise started up as the landing gear came down. The TARDIS (disguised as the Starbird Avenger) swooped down out of the sky like a giant eagle and landed on the bumpy clay surface of the planet. Water splashed on the tire of the TARDIS’s landing gear as it skidded through a mud puddle. The TARDIS finally stopped and the ramp came down. The door opened and Troy stepped out on to the ramp, blaster in hand.
            Joanna stepped out from behind.
            “Put that thing away,” she said. “You don’t even know how to use it.”
            “It’s easy,” said Troy, pointing the gun. “Just aim and …”
            “Shoot the other way,” interrupted Joanna pushing the gun away from her face. It wasn’t until then did Troy realize which way he was pointing the gun. He holstered the gun.
            “Sorry about that,” he said, a little embarrassed.
            “Oh, any time, hear?” said Joanna sarcastically. “Don’t mention it. Just being of service to the public.”
            “I’ve set the oxygen tanks on automatic,” said Troy, ignoring her sarcasm. “As soon as they’re full they’ll turn themselves off. Let’s see if we can find someplace to stay.”
            “That won’t be necessary,” said Joanna nervously.
            “What do you mean?”
            “Look.” She pointed over his shoulder. He turned around to face a small man with a blaster pointed straight at Troy.
            “I take it we’re being invited for tea?” asked Troy carefully.
            “You have no reason to fear us,” said the little man. “I am Rensloth Darro, Mayor of Naivrotta. And these are my bodyguards, Hank and Arrond Prescott. We are the welcoming committee of Naivrotta.” He put the gun in his holster.
            “I’m Troy Star. This is Joanna Berckley. The ship is called a TARDIS. Time And Relative Dimensions In Space.”
            “Is Naivrotta the name of this planet?” Joanna asked nervously.
            “No,” said Rensloth. “It is the name of the city, or town more than a city, not far from here. Nokrad is the planet’s name. Come. We’ll go to Naivrotta.” They began the long walk to Naivrotta.


•            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •


            In a castle, high above Naivrotta, a cloaked and shrouded figure paced back and forth impatiently.
            “When will it be ready, Croath?” asked a raspy, muffled voice.
            “In eight days. Or just about,” answered a short, bald man in a white lab coat.
            “Eight days!” shouted the cloaked figure furiously. “Can’t you work any faster?”
            “The chronic trioset isn’t ready. It will take a week to prepare it.”
            “You must have it ready in two days time,” said the figure calmly.
            “Two days time?” asked Croath, hiding his rage, in fear of being killed like the three scientists before him. “It would take all my strength to remain awake.”
            “Then use it,” said the raspy voice.
            “It would kill me, Lord Darkon. I have been awake all week without even blinking.”
            “If you do not have the chronic trioset completed in two days, I shall kill you!”
            “Very well, Darkon. I’ll have the chronic trioset ready in two days time,” Croath said wearily.


•            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •


            In the small town of Naivrotta, Rensloth was giving Troy and Joanna a conducted tour. Troy and Joanna had never been so bored.
            “Over here,” concluded Rensloth, “is the famous Naivrotta Museum. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.”
            “No,” said Joanna, “we haven’t.”
            “Oh, really. Well, let’s go in and see what you’re missing.” With that, he grabbed Joanna’s arm and took her in the huge, dome shaped building.
            Inside was a maze of glass cased exhibits. Joanna noticed a large painting of the Mona Lisa (a copy of course). She also noticed a rather large sword in an exhibit case. She walked over to the table it was set on. The sword was three and half feet long, three inches wide, with a one foot wide hand-guard, and a three inch hand-guard below the handle. The sword was solid white with black ropes holding the hand-guards in place.
            She read the plaque below. This is what she read:


            THIS IS THE ONLY WEAPON CAPABLE OF UNITING THE STARFIRE AND PHOENIXES IN WAR. IT IS A MAGICAL SWORD OF GREAT POWER IN THE UNIVERSE. ONCE STOLEN BY THE EVIL BARRAKS, NOW IT BELONGS TO THE NAIVROTTA INTERGALACTIC MUSEUM.
CLASSIFICATION:  MYTHICAL.


            “It’s a shame to keep such a beautiful sword under a glass case,” she said.
            “I thought you hated weapons and violence,” said Troy. The sword caught their interest.
            “I do,” she said. “But look at it. It’s beautiful, though.”
            “Yes. It reminds me of a man and woman I read about.”
            “It does?”
            “Yes. Beautiful but deadly. Just like the woman. Her name was ‘Delilah’.” He shuttered at the thought of her.
            “And what’s wrong with Delilah?”
            “Nothing,” said Troy. “Nothing at all, said Delilah to Sampson.”
            She knew what Troy meant and decided to shut up.
            “I see the Starnix Sword has caught your attention,” said Rensloth. “It does that to everybody. A masterpiece of wizardry, if I may say so myself.”
            “Extraordinary,” said Troy. “Quite extraordinary.”
            “Yes. Quite unusual texture as well. It’s had our best metallurgists stumped for years,” commented Rensloth.
            “Could I have a look at it?” asked Troy.
            “Do you know anything of metallurgy?”
            “Well, geology. But I can identify metals by touch.”
            “I’ll unlock the case so the alarm won’t go off.” He unlocked the case and turned off the alarm.
Troy picked up the Sword by its handle. He felt a tingling sensation all over. Then he felt suddenly dizzy. He stumbled a bit.
“You feeling alright?” asked Joanna.
“Yeah, sure,” answered Troy raspily.
“You sure? You don’t look so good.”
“I feel fine.”
“It’s the power of the Sword,” explained Rensloth. “It ran through you. Now you have the power of the Starnix Sword.”


•            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •


           A flashing button on the lab table broke the monotony in the Nokradian Castle.
            “Someone has touched the Sword!” screamed Darkon. “It approves him and has given him its power! You told me it wouldn’t! You guaranteed it! You lied to me, Croath! Now you must die!”
            “No, Darkon,” pleaded Croath. “I did not lie to you. It must have broken free of my will. I didn’t guarantee I could hold it. Please, give me another chance, Darkon. Please let me live.”
            “Stop your whimpering, fool. You may live. But I want the person who has the Sword’s power. And I want him here, alive, and now! Do you understand?”
            “Yes, lord. I’ll send the guards.” He walked into another room and sent the Nokradian Castle guards to arrest the man with the Sword:  Troy Star.

Chapter Three
To The Castle

            “Definitely not diamond,” said Troy. “Too smooth. I’ve got no idea what the Sword’s made of.” He put the Sword back in its case. Rensloth locked the case and reactivated the alarm.
            “You’re stumped, too, huh?” he asked.
            “Alright. So I’m stumped.”
            A guard walked in and saluted the mayor, Rensloth. “Sir, there is a spacecraft parked in Project Zone Six, Sector Nine. It is in violation of the Naivrottian Ordinance Code, page five hundred ninety-seven, paragraph eight, section six. It states that if there is an object in a classified area, that object will be either moved by tomorrow or it will be taken by Nokradian Castle Council as a commission. Is it yours?” he asked Troy.
            “Yes, it is.”
            “You’ll need to come to the Castle and verify it. Come on.”
            The guard, Troy, Rensloth, and Joanna started off toward the Castle.


•            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •


            In the Castle laboratory of Croath, a radiotelephone (R/T) came to life.
            “Patrol Four to Base, do you read?’ said a voice.
            Croath jumped. “Base to Patrol Four, I read you,” he said.
            “We found your man. It seems that the spaceship is his. Shall we bring him in?”
            “Is he the Chosen One?”
            “Yes he is.”
            “Bring him.”
            “Very well. Out.” The R/T went dead.
            “Darkon,” called Croath. “They have found him. I instructed them to bring him here.”
            “Does he have the Sword?” asked Darkon.
            “I don’t know. I didn’t ask.”
            “You should have asked them, Croath. You will not be punished. I did not expect you to ask. And certainly don’t expect you to know,” he said sarcastically.
            “Thank you, lord, for sparing my life.”
            “You are welcome.”
            “Do you want me to tell them to get the Sword?”
            “No! If they tried, it would certainly kill them.”
            “Yes, lord.” A light flashed on the lab table. Croath answered it. “Yes.”
            “The man you wanted in here. Lower the drawbridge,” said a voice.
            “Lowering,” Croath said.
            “Thank you,” replied the voice.


•            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •


           Standing on the drawbridge, Troy asked, “Where exactly in the Castle are we going?”
            “To see Senator Darkon,” said the guard.
            “Who,” asked Troy, “is Darkon.
            “You don’t know of Darkon?”
            “Never heard of him.”
            “You so will,” laughed the guard. “And you’ll be sorry for touching the Starnix Sword.”
            “What do you …” Troy stopped in mid sentence. He remembered the tingling sensation and the dizziness. He remembered what Rensloth said about the sword giving him its power.
They stepped in the lab where Croath awaited. Troy ran up to him and shook his hand.
“You must be Senator Darkon,” he said excitedly.
“No, he is not,” said a raspy muffled voice. “I am Darkon.” Darkon stepped out from behind a curtain.


Part Two
Chapter Four
Face to Face

“You’re the famous Darkon?” asked Troy.
            “Yes I am. Is there something wrong?”
            “Well, no. Not really. This sort of what I expected.”
            “I am told that your spacecraft is parked in a government held area.”
            “I’ll gladly pay any fines, if there are any.”
            “There are no fines until twenty-four hours are up. And then we take it in for commission.”
            “I see.”
            “Good. Then we understand each other?”
            “Yes. I’m quite sure we do.”
            Darkon pulled Croath over to a corner.
            “Are you sure he is the Chosen One?” Darkon asked.
            “Yes, lord, he is definitely the Chosen One.”
            “I want that sword in my hand by tomorrow.”
            “How?”
            “I want him to steal it.”
            “Steal it, lord? How? He is an honest man.”
            “Then you will make him.”
            In another corner, Troy and Joanna were discussing their suspicions.
            “Have you noticed there aren’t any insects on this planet?” asked Joanna.
            “Or house pets?” commented Troy.
            “Or any kind of animals?”
            “The flowers have no smell either.”
            “And there’s something else I’ve noticed. Nokrad said backwards is Darkon.”
            “That’s not right. Darkon said backwards is Nokrad.”
            “That’s what I said.”
            “No. You said Nokrad backwards is Darkon.”
            “What’s the difference?”
            “Darkon was here first.”
            “I don’t get it.”
            “Neither do it yet. Unless the whole planet was man made.”
            “That’s ridiculous!”
            “But it explains why there aren’t any animals or why the flowers have no smell. Doesn’t it?” asked Troy.
            “Yes it would, except for one minor detail.”
            “What’s that?”
            “Why isn’t the planet metal?”
            “That’s the part I haven’t gotten to yet. Unless it was made by sorcery.”
            “That’s crazy!” Joanna exclaimed.
            “It explains why the planet isn’t metal.”
            “But sorcery doesn’t exist.”
            “Maybe not in our galaxy. But what about in this one?” asked Troy.
            “I guess it’s possible. It would explain what the guard meant when he said you’d be sorry for touching that sword. Do you think Rensloth was serious about the power of that sword flowing through you?”
            “I don’t know,” Troy answered, looking toward Rensloth, who seemed to be forgotten at the moment. “He looks serious enough. I just wish I knew something of Darkon’s past.”
            Just then Darkon and Croath approached them.
            “We understand each other as far as there are no fines,” said Darkon. “But you will have to verify your ship.”
            “As far as I know,” began Troy, “it is a Type 15A… Or so it told me.”
            “It speaks?” asked Croath.
            “It gave me some information about itself on a printout.”
            “How large is it?” asked Darkon.
            “About forty feet long, thirty-five feet wide, and sixteen feet high, counting the back cannon.” Troy didn’t mention the inside size.
            “A rear cannon?” asked Croath with interest. “What color is it?”
            “It’s black with red trim.”
            “Does it have a name?”
            “The Drymiss called it Starbird Avenger.”
Starbird Avenger?” asked Darkon. I take it you had another ship named Starbird?”
“No,” said Troy. “Not really. You see, it’s a TARDIS. Time And …”
“I know what a TARDIS is.”
“Then you must know the Time Lords.”
“Did they send you?” asked Croath suspiciously. He pulled Darkon over to a corner.
“I think they are from PMC.”
“What is PMC?” Darkon asked.
“Planetary Mining Corporation. They send a surveying group to a planet and the company robs the planet’s resources,” explained Croath.
“Do you really think they’ll try to mine this planet?”
“If they do, they’ll get a big surprise.”
“Yes they will. Seeing that this is an artificial planet, they will go back and tell their superiors of the artificial planet called Nokrad! We must stop them, Croath!”
“But he is the Chosen One. This may be our last chance to steal the original Starnix Sword. We can’t risk losing this chance.”
“We can’t risk the discovery of Nokrad either.”
“Then I’ll sabotage their ship.”
“Yes. A marvelous idea. Sabotage their ship and they’ll never leave Nokrad. Go to it!”
Croath scurried off to sabotage the TARDIS.
“He has something to do,” explained Darkon in total honesty. “I hope will excuse his absence.”
“Certainly,” said Joanna sweetly. “Being a scientist, I imagine he has a lot to do.”
“Yes, he certainly has a great amount to do. Most of the townspeople believe in astronomy and archeology. Everyone’s a scientist. Oh, please forgive my cold. It seems to be affecting my voice.”
“We understand,” said Troy. “We’ve got to move our ship. Come on, Joanna.”
He set off toward the door. Darkon held out a restraining hand and grabbed Troy by the shoulder. Troy tried to walk toward the door but found he couldn’t. Darkon held him back with one hand. Troy tried to walk but found he couldn’t move. He tried again and still couldn’t move. He felt a mild electric shock shoot through him. It came from Darkon’s restraining hand. Troy tried to struggle. He felt a stronger electric shock. He gave one last try before being hurled to the ground by a very strong electric shock. The shock sent him sliding across the floor until he hit a small lamp table. The lamp fell to the ground and shattered into a thousand pieces.
Troy got up. He looked a bit tired.
“It seems that his clumsiness has caught up with him. I really must apologize for Troy,” said Joanna angrily. “How could you be such a klutz?” she asked angrily, dragging him over to a corner.
“It wasn’t me,” he said reproachfully.
“I suppose you want me to believe he tripped you?” she said in an excited, hurried whisper.
“Not exactly tripped,” said Troy. “He shot an electric current through me.”
“You expect me to believe that?”
“No, but it’s the truth.”
“How?”
“By the Horns of Minotaur, it’s the honest truth.”
“What’s a Minotaur?”
“I don’t know. I just like that quote.”
“You’re crazy! An absolute idiot! You trip and break a lamp. Then you blame it on him,” she pointed to Darkon. “I don’t think you came from Earth. I think you were born here on this so-called artificial planet, built a spaceship, came to Earth and kidnapped the closest person you could find! That person just happened to be an innocent freelance reporter named Joanna Berckley!”
“That’s how you see it?” said Troy reproachfully. “Is that your side of the story?”
“Yes!”
“Fine! Just see if you leave this planet alive! Just see if leave this planet period! I personally don’t care!”
Darkon overheard that last part of their conversation. “Please don’t be angry with him,” he said. “It was just an old lamp.”
“See,” said Joanna, “you broke an antique!”
“T’was not an antique,” said Darkon soothingly. “T’was not new either. T’is nothing to worry about. Trust me. Now I must see what’s holding my scientist. Excuse me please.” Darkon was beginning to worry about his little scientist.
“See it was nothing to worry about,” said Troy.
“I know,” said Joanna. “You said you didn’t care if I got off this planet. Did you mean that?”
“Of course not,” reassured Troy. In total honesty, he really liked Joanna. He kissed her on the forehead.


Chapter Five
Attempted Sabotage

“Ouch!” shouted Croath, clutching his foot. For the tenth time he had kicked the door of the disguised TARDIS. Each time he got the same results, an aching foot.
“Get the neutron cannon over here!” he shouted. “Now!” Under his breath he cursed. “Damn that crazy bird!”
“The cannon’s in line, sir,” said a soldier looking figure.
“Then fire it!” shouted Croath.
“You’ll have to move away so we can,” the soldier said nervously.
Only then did Croath realize that he was in the way of the neutron cannon. Quickly he moved out of the way. The soldier fired the cannon. It made a buzzing, groaning sound and the round tip glowed red. The TARDIS door turned red.
            “Okay!” shouted Croath. “Shut it off.!”
            The cannon stopped buzzing. The door stopped glowing.
            Croath kicked the door again. And again he shouted “Ouch! I’m damn tired of this!”
            “Now, now, Croath,” said a raspy voice.
            “Lord Darkon.” He bowed low.
            “No reason to be so impatient. I’m sure I can open the door. Just stand aside.”
            Darkon aimed his gloved hand at the TARDIS door. A red ray of light shot from his fingers. The ray hit the door. It bounced off, leaving no mark.
            “What’s this?” screeched Darkon. He fired again. He got the same result.
            “Why don’t we combine the energy of the neutron cannon and your powers?” suggested Croath.
            “An excellent idea, Croath,” commented Darkon. “Tell your soldiers.”
            Croath told the captain of the motley group of soldiers.
            “It’s aimed, sir,” called the captain.
            “Good,” said Croath. “Fire when I say.”
            “I am ready, Croath,” said Darkon.
            “Fire!” shouted Croath. The captain fired the cannon at the same time Darkon fired.
            Nothing happened. The door didn’t glow, the ray didn’t reflect – nothing. They stopped firing. Darkon looked at the captain. The captain looked back. Croath inspected the door.
            “Didn’t even chip the paint,” he reported.
            They all turned and stared in disbelief and amazement at the small spaceship.


•            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •


           “They’ve been gone a long time.”
            The speaker was Joanna Berckley. She and Troy had been given room in the Nokradian Castle. “I wonder what they’re up to?”
            “I don’t know and I don’t care,” said Troy. “I just want to get out of here.”
            “On an empty stomach? We’ve been invited to supper, remember?”
            “Yes,” said Troy impatiently. “I remember quite clearly.”
            “Good. Then go wash up.”
            They went over to the small dressing table. On it was a mirror, a brush, and a pitcher of water set in a clay bowl. Troy poured some water into the bowl. He made his hands into a cup and dipped some water. Then he splashed his face. He dried himself off and looked into the wall-mounted mirror in time to see Joanna in fresh radiant clothes.
            She was wearing an ankle length ball gown, pink and blue satin, with pretty white lace. Instead of her braided ponytail, she let her hair down. It came to the middle of her back. She never looked so beautiful, thought Troy.
            He was still wearing his blue denim jeans, white tennis shoes, brown plaid shirt and thigh length, light tan corduroy coat.
            “You look absolutely beautiful,” said Troy.
            “You had better change,” said Joanna.
            “I will. In due time,” he lied.
            The door flew open and Darkon stepped in.
            “Too late to change now,” said Troy.
            “What was keeping your scientist?” Joanna asked.
            “He was, and still is, working on an experiment.” There was a glint in his eyes. “Going to supper?” he asked.
            “We were just about to leave,” said Troy

Chapter Six
Dinner With Darkon

            Troy, Joanna, and Darkon descended a long flight of stairs. At the bottom Croath stood waiting.
            “Lord Darkon,” he cried, “we’ve tried everything and still we cannot get in.”
            “Then give up,” said Darkon.
            Croath was shocked by this answer. Usually Darkon didn’t give up. Croath was taken aback.
            Troy sat down at the incredibly long table. On it was an amazing array of foods. Fowl of the field, animal meat of all types, soups, stews and sauces.
            After the prayer had been said Troy took what he thought was a chicken leg.
            “Going to for the broishneck are we?” asked Darkon daringly.
            “Broishneck?” asked Troy. “I thought it was chicken.”
            “Try coating it with legmrick sauce,” suggested Darkon, tongue-in-cheek.
            “Okay.” Troy pasted the broishneck with the legmrick sauce and took a bite out of it. It tasted better than chicken. “Delicious,” he said with a mouth full.
            “I’m glad you like it. They tell me it was a monster to catch.”
            Troy sipped some of the red wine. “Marvelous wine,” he commented – lying of course. Actually, he thought the wine was horrible.


•            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •


            After dinner, Troy and Joanna went back to their room. Troy was dressed for bed. He was laying on the floor (stomach down). He pushed himself up, breathing and let himself down, breathing out. Proper steps for doing push-ups. He did this four times by the time Joanna walked up, dressed for bed,
            “Do you do this every night?” she asked.
            “Every night since I was fifteen.”
            “Impressive.”
            Troy stopped his exercises and climbed into bed.


•            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •


           In the lab, Darkon was discussing a new plan with Croath.
            “I said no!” screamed Croath in horror.
            “We must,” said Darkon coolly.
            “There must be another way!”
            “There is no other way. We must get Troy Star to let us in that ship.”
            “He’ll never agree to your terms. He is too honest.”
            “Then we must make him let us in that ship. After we have entrance we can conquer the Universe.”
            Neither one of them knew that Joanna was eavesdropping on them.
            She ran back up the stairs and into the bedroom. As soon as she was in the bedroom she dressed herself and woke Troy, or tried to.
            “Wake up you overweight airhead!”
            “Who are you calling an overweight airhead?” asked Troy reproachfully.
            “Nevermind. Just get dressed and let’s get out of here!”
            “What changed your mind?’
            Joanna quickly explained what she’d heard.
            “They want to steal the TARDIS, do they? Interesting,” said Troy, tongue-in-cheek.
            “Yes! Now let’s go!”
            “Let’s see. We can’t go down the stairs or through the servants’ quarters. That leaves the window.” Troy opened the shutters and looked out. It was dark outside but he could see the wide moat. Which was about a hundred feet down
            “It’s a long way down to the moat.”
            “How deep is it?”
            “I don’t know.”
            “Are you a good swimmer?” asked Joanna.
            “I guess.”
            “Good. Then jump!”
            “Now let’s talk this…” Troy started. Sandy pushed him out the window. “…out!” He landed in the water with a splash. Sandy splashed in beside him.
            “What now?” she asked.
            “I said let’s talk this out! Or at least I tried to! But you never let me…”
            A loud, deep, huge roar cut him off.
            “What in the hell was that?” asked Sandy horrified.
            Her question was answered as a huge, greenish-brown, brontosaur looking creature with razor-sharp teeth swam toward them.


Part Three
Chapter Seven
Escape From the Creature

 

            “What is that thing?” screamed Joanna.
            “How should I know?” Troy screamed back. “I really don’t care! Try to swim to the bank! And let’s hope it doesn’t follow us.”
            As soon as they reached the bank, the creature swam toward them. They climbed the steep embankment with the creature on their trail. Troy and Joanna ran toward Naivrotta hoping to find shelter.
            When they got there, they were shocked to see there was no city. Just desert.
            The creature, still following them, reared its huge head to see where its prey had gone. It spotted Troy and Joanna. The creature moved slowly and as quietly as it could.
            Troy heard the creature anyway. He wished he had a weapon. His right hand glowed and the Starnix Sword appeared out of thin air.
            “Where did you find that?” asked Joanna.
            “I don’t know said,” said Troy. “It just – appeared.
            “What?”
            “Nevermind. This will have to do!” Troy ran under the creature’s huge, ugly head. He remembered that swords don’t fire. He wished he had a weapon that would. The Starnix Sword glowed blue and a blue ray of light shot out and hit the creature. The creature turned a backward somersault in mid air and landed flat on its back – dead.
            “How on Earth did it do that?” asked a very much frightened and astonished Joanna.
            “That’s just it. We’re not on Earth – remember?”
            “You don’t have to tell me. I know, I had my doubts; I’m not so sure now.”
            “Come on. Let’s get out of here, quick!”
            “Where to?”
            “TARDIS,” Troy and Joanna set off toward the spaceship.


•            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •


            “They’ve gone!” screamed Croath, coming down the stairs.
            “Gone?” screeched Darkon, raspy. “How?”
            “Through the window. Come and I’ll show you.” They raced up the stairs and into the bedroom.
            “If they went through the window,” said Darkon reqretfully, “the Thackra got them.”
            “Then we’ll never gain access to that ship,” said Croath.
            “You were the one that didn’t want access,” scolded Darkon. He felt a tingling sensation in his back. That meant someone was using the Starnix Sword. That someone could only Troy Star. “If you’ll excuse me, I have important business to attend.” With that as his last words, he shimmered and disappeared.
•            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •
            “Hello!” called Troy. He and Sandy were still looking for somebody – anybody from the City of Naivrotta.
            “There’s nobody here,” said Joanna. “Not even the city.”
            “How could an entire city disappear?’ asked Troy.
            “Does this answer your question?” asked a raspy voice out of nowhere. The air shimmered and the City of Naivrotta appeared out of nowhere all around Troy and Joanna. The air shimmered again and Darkon appeared before Troy,
            Troy clapped his hands. “Very good,” he said in mocking tones. “How did you do it?”
            “Simple,” said Darkon. “I’m a wizard.”
            “A wizard?” said Joana doubtfully.
            “A wizard, warlock, warlord, witch, sorcerer, soothsayer, astronomer, whatever you want to call it.”
            “How’s phony bologna,” said Joanna.
            “No,” said Troy. “It’s not phony.”
            “Well then how did he…” She stopped herself in midsentence and thought that maybe he was a sorcerer, a wizard.
            “I see you killed the Thackra,” said Darkon wonderingly. “I’m impressed. How did you now how to use the Starnix Sword?”
            “I didn’t know how,” said Troy honestly. “But I think I’ve figured it out. It works by thought waves.”
            “I don’t get it,” said Joanna.
            “If I wanted to kill you, which I don’t, I would aim it you and think of a laser hitting you and it would fire,” explained Troy. “Of course, I would have to aim it perfectly and concentrate very hard, or else it wouldn’t fire. If you were running, I could aim it you and it wouldn’t fire until there was a perfect line of fire.”
            “You mean it won’t fire unless the aim is perfect? Or until the amount of concentration is great, right?”
            “You’ve got it.”
            “I am even more impressed to see that you have sorted out the Starnix Sword,” said Darkon, who seemed to have been forgotten.
            “Are you?” asked Troy. “Are you really surprised?”
            “Yes,” said Darkon in total honesty. “I am truly surprised to see humans can use logic.”
            “You mean you’re not…” Joanna began.
            “Human?” completed Darkon “Of course I’m not.”
            “But you study human nature?” said Troy.
            “Yes, I do. I study the humans to see if I could become human again.”
            “Again?” asked Troy.
            “At one time I was human,” explained Darkon. “I was the first man to discover the neutron cannon. When I fired the cannon, it exploded, sending ion radiation all over my body and face. I was weakened, greatly.
            “I now search for a way to become whole again, but to live throughout eternity.”
            “To be immortal,” said Troy. “How old are you, Darkon?”
            “5750,” said Darkon.
            “5750!” explained Joanna. “That’s impossible!”
            “Not if you’re not human,” Troy.


Chapter Eight
Prisoners of Darkon

 

            “You will accompany me back to the Nokradian Castle,” said Darkon.
            “No, we won’t!” shouted Troy. “Run, Joanna!”
            It was a useless attempt to escape. As soon as they turned to run, four guards materialized in front of them, blocking their way.
            “Bad idea, Troy,” said Joanna dully.
            “Definitely,” agreed Troy.
            “Move!” growled a guard. He shoved Troy with his laser rifle.
            Another guard reached for the Starnix Sword. As soon as he touched it he was thrown back onto the ground.
            Darkon grabbed Joanna by the neck with his long-taloned, claw-like hand and began choking her.
            “Give the guard MY sword, Star, or you’ll never see her again until her funeral!” he said venomously.
            “Don’t do it!” choked Joanna.
            Troy realized he had a decision to make. He could, if he chose, fight off Darkon and the guards and let Joanna be killed, or he could give the sword to the guard and be captured.
            Joanna choked for air.
            “Alright!” Troy screamed. He gave the sword to the guard. “Now let her go!” he said threateningly.
            “Let’s go!” said the guard.
            Darkon let Joanna go. She ran to Troy. Darkon closed his eyes. Then he, along with Troy, Joanna, and the guards shimmered and disappeared.
•            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •
            They all, with the exception of the guards, materialized in the castle dungeon.
            “You will remain here until I am ready for you,” said Darkon flatly.
            “What are you going to do with us?” asked a very afraid Joanna.
            “It was a gift,” said Troy. “I hardly know how to fly that thing.”
            “You are lying, of course,” said Darkon. He turned and left the cell, closing the barred door behind him.
            “I am not!” screamed Troy.
            Darkon was already out of earshot.
            Troy sat down on the wooden bench that projected from the stone wall. Joanna sat down beside him and began to cry again. Troy took her in his arms and put her head on his shoulder.
            “There, there now,” he said comfortingly. “We’ll get out here.”
            “Just think!” cried Joanna, “twenty-five and in a prison on a man-made planet. We’ll never get out!”
            “Yes we will,” said Troy, trying to comfort his crying friend. To himself, he thought that maybe Joanna was right.


Chapter Nine
Interrogation by Darkon

            “No, no, no!” screamed Croath. He was screaming at Darkon. “A thousand times no! I will not be in any part of this hellish plot of destruction!”
            “I offer you money and you refuse.” said Darkon calmly. “I offer you the planet Lepthread – and you still refuse to help me conquer or destroy the cosmos.”
            “Why?” asked Croath as bravely as he could. “Why must you, a deformed scientist, be ruler of the universe?”
            “It is not right!” screamed the frightened, little scientist. “Again, I ask you, why, why, why?”
            “How dare you even think of questioning me!” screamed Darkon, enraged by Croath. “You shall die if you don’t help me!”
            “And you shall die if you kill me!” screamed Croath.
            “I will never die, fool! I am immortal.”
            Croath looked horrified. “You’re mad!” he said. He turned to run but was electrocuted by a deadly bolt of lightening from Darkon’s fingers. The little scientist was dead.
            Darkon turned to a young soldier. “You, fetch the prisoners! Take them to the torture chamber!”
            The young soldier, a captain, ran out of the room and to the cell where he released Troy and Sandy. He took them to the torture chamber where Darkon was waiting. A huge man with an ugly scar on his left cheek was hooking up some wires to a battery and a chair.
            “You, girl,” said Darkon to Joanna threateningly, “will sit in that chair.” Darkon pointed to the chair. “You, Star, will sit in this one.”
            Troy sat down in the small metal chair with a battery under it and a black box with some controls set in it on the back. Attached to the black box were small electrode wires.
            The huge man with the ugly scar attached the wires to Troy’s forehead and pressed a button on the black box.
            “You will answer my questions truthfully, precisely and carefully,” explained Darkon. “If you fail to do so, your friend here will pay for the penalty. Let us begin. Where are you from?”
            “The city of Le Fluer in the nation of Atlantis,” said Troy.
            “What?”
            “The United States of America,” said Joanna.
            “Where are these places?”
            “Earth,” answered Troy. “The planet Earth of the Milky Way Galaxy.”
            “Milky Way Galaxy?” asked Darkon doubtfully. “Is the polygraph working, Ron?”
            “Yes, sire,” answered the man with the scar. “He is giving truthful responses.”
            “Do you know the coordinates?” Darkon asked Troy.
            “Yes,” Troy answered.
            “Can you take us there in your ship? What are the coordinates?”
            “I won’t tell you!” screamed Troy.
            “You lie!” Darkon screamed back. “You don’t know!”
            “No, sire,” said Ron, the man with the scar. “He is telling the truth.”
            “How do I get in?” asked Darkon.
            “Push the button that says ‘open’,” answered Troy.
            “You are lying!” screamed Darkon. “We used our neutron cannon on the door of that ship and it wouldn’t budge! It’s got to be more complicated than that!”
            “He is telling the truth,” said Ron. Ron felt sorry for Troy and Joanna. Since he wasn’t one of Darkon’s creations he had his own thoughts and feelings. Ron had an idea. He pulled the cord connecting the battery to the black box out of both sockets. Then he unlocked Joanna. “What luck!” he thought. “Darkon never saw me.” He gave Joanna a wink of comfort and resumed his business.
            Joanna fully understood this mean when he said go she had to run for her life. Whoever said twenty-five was “sweet” should get hit in the face.
            “Since he is telling me the truth, I want one of the soldiers to test it,” said Darkon. He started to leave the room. He stopped at the door. “Stay here, Ron. I will return in a moment.”
            As soon as Darkon had left, Ron released Troy.
            “Now I’ll show you out of here,” he said. He pushed a brick in the wall. A section of the wall slid back revealing a small ledge leading to the drawbridge.


Part Four
Chapter Ten
Escape From the Castle

            Troy stepped out onto the ledge. He remembered the Thackra and stepped back into the room.
            “Are there any more of those creatures?” he asked.
            “You mean the Thackra?” asked Ron. “No. You killed the only one. It, like this planet, Naivrotta, the other guards, this castle, and the citizens of Naivrotta, was created by Darkon. Now go! Hurry!”
            Just as Joanna stepped out onto the narrow ledge, Darkon walked in, saw Ron closing the door and electrocuted him. Darkon ran to the door just as it closed. He pounded on it with his fists. It didn’t occur to him to look for the door lever. He ran from the room back up to the entrance hall.
            Troy and Joanna ran out of the castle and raced across the drawbridge.
            “Where are we going?” Sandy asked.
            “To the TARDIS,” answered Troy. “And when we get there, we’ll leave this planet.”
            “But what about Darkon and that sword? He’ll use it for evil, won’t he?”
            “Yes. I’m quite sure he will.” Troy thought for a moment as he ran. “Go on to the TARDIS without me. If I’m not back in an hour, leave without me.” He turned and ran toward the caste. “Run as if your life depended on it. Because it does!”
            “Where are you going?”
            “To the castle! I’ve got to get that sword!”
            Joanna kept running toward the TARDIS. Troy ran toward the castle where Darkon would be waiting for him.


•            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •


            Troy raced across the drawbridge and into the castle. He ran into the entrance hall where he almost ran into Darkon. Troy was right. Darkon was waiting for him. Troy stopped running and was catching his breath.
            Darkon took an old broadsword from the mantle piece above the fireplace and handed it to Troy, who had caught his breath by now.
            “Why not give me that one?” Troy asked sarcastically, pointing to the Starnix Sword.
            Darkon drew the Starnix Sword from his sheathe and swung it about his head like an expert Ninja.
            Troy laughed inside. “This’ll be a cinch,” he thought. He lunged at Darkon. Their swords clanged together and the swung their swords in every direction, clanging them together.
            Darkon knocked the sword from Troy’s hand. Troy did a neat cartwheel and got it back. As soon as he had it, he lunged at Darkon again, knocking the Starnix Sword from his hands.
            Troy picked up the Starnix Sword and threw the broadsword to Darkon.

Chapter Eleven
The “Destruction” of Darkon

            This time Darkon charged Troy who thrust the Starnix Sword out in front in Darkon’s legs. Darkon had anticipated this and jumped over Troy and did a neat somersault, kicking the Starnix Sword out of his hands.
            Unfortunately for Darkon, Troy got to it first. Darkon landed on his back with a thud. He jumped up and charged at Troy at breakneck speed.
            Troy, in turn, charged back at him and fell to the ground, sliding with one leg out in front of him and the other tucked under him. Like a baseball player sliding into home. Troy’s out-thrust leg tripped Darkon causing him to fall on his chest, taking the wind from him. Darkon got up and charged Troy again.
            Troy swung the Starnix Sword like a baseball bat. Darkon ducked and Troy missed, throwing the Starnix Sword. It sliced into the solid brick wall up to the wide hand guard.
            Darkon tried to get the sword. Troy grabbed Darkon by the shoulder, turned him around and hit him in the face. Darkon fell to the ground, stunned. Troy winced and clasped his fist in pain. Darkon wore a metal mask over his own face. Troy never knew until now. (He would forget that face.)
            Troy pulled the sword with all his might. It wouldn’t come free. Troy didn’t see Darkon get up. He grabbed Troy by both shoulders and threw him across the wide entrance hall.
            Troy hit the wall opposite the one holding the sword. After Troy got his breath back, he charged at Darkon who had the Starnix Sword and charged back.
            Troy fell to the ground, stuck his feet up in the air, hit Darkon in the midriff, and threw him against the wall opposite himself. Darkon hit the wall and fell onto a small table, breaking it under his weight and dropping the Starnix Sword.
Troy ran and picked it up. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the sword. He imagined it as a mental picture instead of a solid object. The sword shimmered and vanished.
Darkon raised his arm and fired a deadly laser bolt at Troy. It missed and hit the wall behind him. The wall exploded. When the smoke had cleared the wall wasn’t there.
Troy closed his eyes and concentrated on the sword. The sword appeared in his hand and he held it high above his head.

Chapter Twelve
The Destruction of Nokrad

Troy brought the sword down on Darkon. Darkon exploded into a mass of flames. Troy had killed Darkon. He realized what would have happened if he hadn’t. He also realized what evil must lie in the universe. It was up to him to stop it, at any cost.
He noticed a quaking beneath him. “Earthquake!” he thought. He looked at the clock on the mantle. Thirty minutes to get to the Starbird was all he had left. He’d never make it.
The quaking was more violent now. The ceiling was falling in. Troy ran across the drawbridge and toward the Starbird.


•            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •


            Troy reached the City of Naivrotta just in time to see in vanish. He looked back. He saw the castle vanish. He raced on across the desert toward the Starbird. By now he only had fifteen minutes. Sandy would definitely leave with him. 

          
•            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •            •


            Troy stopped running. He saw the TARDIS sitting where he and Joanna had left it. He raced up the ramp and closed the door. He looked at the clock on the dash. Joanna should have left five minutes ago.
            “Why didn’t you leave?” he asked.
            “I didn’t know how to start this thing.”
            “I forgot about that. Strap yourself it. We’re leaving.”
            “What’s happening?” asked Joanna, frightened.
            “The planet’s breaking up,” said Troy.
            “Why?”
            “I destroyed Darkon.”
            “Hurrah!” shouted Sandy excitedly. “Are we going home?”
            “I hope so!”
            The TARDIS made a rather grotesque noise and disappeared just as Nokrad exploded in a huge mass of fire. Like a supernova.
            “Is that the end of Darkon?” Joanna asked.
            “Yes,” answered Troy. “And Nokrad.”
            “Let’s go home, then!”
            “Earth 1985?”
            “Where else?” asked Joanna.
            Troy got Joanna to 1985 Earth but not before one more adventure.
            This one will deal with the deadly robots called Amris on the planet Arbegla in the year 3111. And only heaven know what happens then.

Chapter Thirteen
Epilogue

            Neither Troy or Joanna saw the small gold colored, triangular spaceship flying off into the distance at a rapid pace.
            Could it be Darkon had escaped after all? No one will ever know.
            “Or will they..? Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh! I shall have my revenge, Troy Star! Be warned!”
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
            “Now, Troy Star, you shall die!” screamed Zecose. He held Troy high above his head.
            Joe knew what Zecose was going to do. He didn’t want Troy to be a permanent pancake and the bottom of a canyon. He charge at Zecose.
            Zecose threw Troy and moved aside. Joe couldn’t stop. He ran right off the cliff.
            Trina and Melissa looked in horror from the cave as Troy and Joe fell further down into the canyon. What would happen to them?
            Find out in “The Challengers and the Knights of Death.”


THE CHALLENGERS

  • The Mission
  • The Horror of Darkon
  • The Scetzas
  • The Realm of Death
  • The Return to Earth
  • The Scetza Invasion of Earth

THE
CHALLENGERS
AND
THE HORROR OF DARKON
BY
VAN TURNER
No. 2 in The Challengers Series

On their second adventure, Troy and Joanna meet the deadly Darkon, a once famous Earth scientist, whose experiment backfired, giving him immortality and power of the mythical Starnix Sword
When the sword gives its power to Troy, Darkon becomes very unhappy and tries to kill him with a huge water monster.
Read “The Challengers and The Horror of Darkon,” by Van Turner.

 

           

 

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