STARTROPICS: FOLLOW THE SOUTHERN CROSS
PROLOGUE: THE UNLIKELIEST OF HEROES
June 15th, 1990
Vacation was a concept that never excited me much. My summer was typically spent on the baseball beam for the most part, and the rest was done at home. Routine and more routine, one might say…And then of course, something happens that shatters routine. Destiny? Fate? Nah, I'm a simple guy. Let's call it life.
To clarify, let me identify myself. My name is Mike. Michael Dennis Jones. I'm 15 years old(Technically, but I'll have you know my birthday isn't THAT far off!!), and Seattle Washington is where I hang my hat. Or home, for the rest of you. I'm betting you didn't know Seattle had baseball, considering how much it rains.
And like I said. Routine. All that changed the moment I received a message from my Uncle, Steve Jones on Coralcola Island. For those of you globally challenged, look in the South Seas. Or the Coral Sea specifically, you'll find Coralcola. Surrounded by such other places as Bellcola, Miracola, Tunacola, Howduyadocola…
Anyhow. I was invited to spend the remainder of my summer vacation participating in some of the best summer fun ever created. Which means, ON A TROPICAL ISLAND. Now for me, this was a Godsend. It got me out of the rain at least.
This is where Murphy's Law drops in. Where things go wrong because they can, remember? Well, THEY DID. Badly.
Coralcola's a real 'out in the middle of nowhere' sort of place. In fact, it's so remote I had to be helicoptered to it. And the trip was long. By the time I got there and rubbed the jet lag sleep out of my eyes, I was looking forward to some fun in the sun. Cracking coconuts, drinking fruit punch, kicking back and doing some fishing…Of course, things can never go as planned. Especially if it involves me.
Everybody on Coralcola was as friendly as all getup. Seemed like real nice people. About the only big difference is their reliance on a little quirkier religion…
See, around the islands of the Coral Sea, they lean more towards astrology…believing in the power of the stars to guide their lives. Especially the Southern Cross. I was vaguely familiar with it from school…Sailors used it to traverse the seas at night, kind of like people North of the Equator used the North Star. But the Southern Cross to the people down here was more than a way to get around. It was their primary religious symbol.
The Island Chief was a friendly enough(and rotund enough) fellow that went by the name of Hapo Omoy. His sister, Bana Omoy, was the Island Shaman. And the gist of matters went like this.
Before I'd arrived, my Uncle had been abducted. And by aliens, no less. At this point, I began to wonder what they were putting in the water. But even though it sounded crazy, the both of them were serious. DEAD serious. So it fell on me, it would seem, to track my Uncle down and save the day. And, intrigued, if not overly zealous, I agreed. So I got a 'special island yo-yo', and instructions to face the 'test of island courage' by traversing Coralcola's tunnels.
Fun. No, really. There's nothing I enjoy more than having to face hordes of leeching slugs and verminous rats and poisonous snakes. It's my whole day!! And if you couldn't tell I'm being sarcastic, please step on the giant red x. Why? Pull this lever and find out.
For the rest of you who don't have an anvil dropped on your heads, I think you're beginning to see my point. I'd been given a very powerful weapon(That's right, the yo-yo had kick) and had been told to go save my uncle. Hooray.
Three hours and one dead sea serpent later, I crawled my way out from the bowels of Coralcola's tunnels. I remember turning around and seeing Coralcola village a mile off, then screaming "WHY DIDN'T I JUST WALK?!"
But I'd done it, at least. By Bana Omoy's judgement, I'd passed the test of island courage.
My Uncle is a world renowned archaeologist and scholar. Supposedly, he and my dad look a lot alike. Of course, I didn't get the pleasure of seeing Uncle Steve in person. In the center of Coralcola Island, he put up his laboratory. I've been inside of it, and let me tell you it's an absolute mess. Chock full of historical artifacts from everything he's ever done or found. And eventually, I muddled my way through the mess.
I'd met up with my Uncle's lab assistant, an 18 year old local boy by the name of Baboo outside. He told me where to find Sub-C, but little else. Poor guy seemed scared out of his wits. And he was afraid of something he refused to tell me about.
"Sub-C?" I remember thinking to myself in disbelief. "Since WHEN did Uncle Steve score himself a submarine??" But he had. And at least it was pretty.
Well, all right, more than pretty. Drop dead gorgeous. Ladies, don't ask us men what our thing about machines is. All we know is that good ones make us drool, whether it's a Camaro, Mustang, B-52 Bomber, F-14 Tomcat, or my Uncle's Sub-C.
Probably some scientific grant or other. But Sub-C was pretty all right. Sleek, yellow, symmetric, and curves that would make a supermodel jealous. (Big talk from a 15 year old…READING. Reading helps.)
I met Sub-C's onboard navigational computer…a silly little robot that went by the name of Nav-Com. Now THERE'S an original name…and the goof even looked like one of those R.O.B. Units. You know, the stacker robot that came with the NES when it first came out? Aah, the NES…good times, good times…
Nav-Com offering assistance, I revved up the engines and soared out of there on the waves. Now it was time to take this quest into hyperdrive.
I was gonna find my Uncle…and then we were going to have a very long talk about all of this.
A lot of things happened in the two weeks that followed my departure from Coralcola. I saved a baby dolphin from an evil, ink spurting Octopus(with my yo-yo), survived a summer squall, fought hordes of the undead(with my yo-yo), woke up Miracola's Island Chief's daughter Bananette from a deep sleep using the Scroll of Obob, which I'd gotten by fighting my way through Miracola's mountain full of monsters(with my yo-yo)…
All right, this is just getting dicking refuculous. Let's just state for the record that I used my yo-yo a lot. And the Morning Star mace and chain that I got from the queen of Shecola. Imagine, a situation where cross-dressing paid off…And forget the rumors. The Queen of Shecola is as ugly as Monday morning.
I got swallowed by a whale. Met up with Baboo again, where he made a full confession about how the aliens had taken Uncle Steve. The good part about my Pinocchio experience was that I finally learned the code that responded to Uncle Steve's radio beacon, which he always kept with him.
I thought I was ready for anything then. Most people go their entire lives without a true adventure. And in two weeks, I'd had enough for three lifetimes.
Nav-Com tracked Uncle Steve's signal to a section of the tropics east and north of Howduyadocola…And it was there that Nav-Com and I came to the conclusion we had to dive. Underneath the waves, we found plenty.
It was an underground cavern…no, a LOT of underground caverns. There were enough archaeological wonders to last anyone. By all appearances, a civilization had existed in the caverns…an ancient one, probably forced under sea level by time and other circumstances. Even stranger than the ancient ruins was a large, solid, lumpy melted mass of metal. It had strange markings on the side…writing of some sort, and three holes on the left side of the writing. Something had been in those holes.
I'm almost 16, fine. Criticize me on that. I'm certainly no expert in archaelogy, but I knew then that the asteroid was unreal. Something about it seemed off.
But I kept going.
And eventually, I found my Uncle Steve.
I'd faced the undead, evil fire spirits, and even an Easter Island head with an attitude. But nothing helped me for what came next. The aliens had kidnapped my uncle because of his decrypting abilities. Uncle Steve had enough smarts and knowhow to stare at the symbols and figure out a part of what they meant.
Uncle Steve told me that he'd been forced to show the aliens how to remove three objects from the asteroid…where the three holes were. He told me those objects needed to be brought back.
Three cubes. My Uncle had been able to decipher the message that went with them. Apparently, there was a planet off in the reaches of space that was called Argonia. Or, at least, there HAD been a planet called Argonia. Its inhabitants, the Argonians had battled evil aliens. And they'd lost miserably, all but destroyed. They sent their last escape pod to Earth. That was what the melted mass of metal in the ruins had been. The escape pod. And the three magic cubes had been with it then. They were very important. The aliens had followed the pod to Earth to get the cubes. Uncle Steve had found the ruins. That's how he'd gotten mixed up in the whole mess.
And now it fell on me. It fell on me to get the cubes back from the aliens. But how could I do it?! Why not call in the Marines?? I didn't fight off alien invaders, I pitched for the baseball team!!
My Uncle Steve was beyond doubt, though. Maybe he saw my true abilities more accurately than I did. And so I went. The aliens weren't immortal, he told me. Just like everything else I'd faced…there was a way.
And so I went on. I left the ruins, left Sub-C. I was finally, truly, at the pinnacle of this quest. This crazy, incredible, unbelievable quest.
I made my way onto their spaceship, which was parked and unsecured as they were preparing for takeoff. Lax security…but who in their right minds would try to get aboard an alien spaceship? Most people would run! Most people.
Now, try making your way through a technological nightmare full of people who want to see you dead, and who have laser blasters on top of it all. But somehow I did. I came across a fantastic thing I labeled Vitamin X…it pepped me up and gave me enough vim to push on.
And then I got the first cube. Imagine it like this: Instant upgrade.
Remember I told you about my Morning Star mace? The one I got from Shecola?? Well, it became something more then. I can't explain how, I didn't know why…but it transformed itself. When I grabbed that red magic cube, my Morning Star glowed brightly, and then turned a brilliant silver. The chain got longer, it swung easier, faster…I took only a moment before I decided, considering my surroundings, this new weapon should be called the Super Nova. It was almost an overpowering whisper in my mind…One that couldn't be denied.
The second cube, a blue one, was found after I finished off a gigantic two legged metal freak. No matter what I threw at him, I couldn't damage him. But I could most definitely push him off the narrow walkway. That spelled the end of 'Ostroid' right then and there. And the second cube granted me newfound energy. Like the biggest sugar rush ever.
Maybe the aliens got smart then. Maybe they realized that the kid running around scot-free in their spaceship was more of a danger than originally thought. Whatever the reason, I felt a low rumble as the spaceship shuddered. By turning to a nearby access panel, I realized why. We were orbiting the Earth then, keeping in synch with the islands of the Southern Cross.
And then he showed up. Zoda.
I'll never forget his name, his features. They're forever burned into my memory, and no matter how badly I want to be free of that scarring recollection, I can't be rid of it.
He called himself the Prime Invader. Zoda. Even as he laughed at me with that dark scowl, there was something more to it. As if he was screaming straight into my mind. I know it'll sound silly to you, but I did what I thought would stop the pain. I jammed bananas in my ears. It worked.
Using my newfound strength and a laser blaster lying in the corner of Zoda's audience chamber, I overcame him and put an end to his shape-shifting madness. Or so I thought…
Moving on, I found the spaceship's power core and blew it apart. Why? To stop them. These aliens would do anything to get the cubes back. By blowing up the power core, I made sure their spaceship would never go anywhere.
But I also blew the power out. The emergency lighting was dim to nothing, and the corridors I ran through weren't helping matters.
And then we met again. In a second audience chamber, larger than the first. Only now, it was different. He was different. Zoda had changed.
He was now 'Nightmare Zoda'…
The Final Battle between Mike Jones and Zoda the invader was one that nobody would ever recall. Fighting in an oversized room high above the plummeting doom of the ship's lower decks, the weary and fatigued child of humanity faced a reborn spawn, slowly losing.
"Foolish human boy!!" Zoda rasped, his voice more reptilian and ominous than anything ever on Earth. "You thought you could defeat me?! ZODA?!" The lights flickered on and off, emergency power failing as the demands of the ship began to overtax the supply. "You will not escape this ship alive, MIKE!!" Zoda warbled, taking a massive leap across the chasm and drawing ever nearer to the battered almost-16-year old.
Mike stumbled backwards in shock as the new Zoda came close. He stopped only when one foot tottered precariously into the open air.
"You're NUTS!!" Mike screamed at Zoda, reasserting their surroundings and the warbling alien klaxon. "Your ship is doomed, it's gonna crash!!"
"My ship is going to explode and disintegrate, yes." Zoda cackled, snapping his grotesquely proportioned mouth shut. "Thanks to YOU. But that is not important now, is it? No, by the time that happens, I will have taken back the two Argonian stasis cubes from your lifeless body and will have made my exit in my escape pod and the final stasis cube." He said it so confidently, so darkly, that terror filled Mike's mind.
"NO!" Mike screamed, taking a leap across the endless chasm and finding a foothold on a less precarious walking ledge. Pulling his Super Nova close, he waited for the lights to flicker on again, for that indication of where the misshapen Zoda stood.
His heart seemed to pound in his chest with more intensity than anything in the alien ship. Its interior had been menacing and nightmarish before. Now with the main power reactor shattered to pieces by the fury of his Super Nova, Mike found that the lack of the spaceship's steady thrum and lighting did more to unnerve him than anything ever before.
"Your fear is delicious." Zoda's voice echoed about the chamber. "You may have stopped my ability to influence your mind, but your thoughts are still open. I know your fear and terror, Mike Jones. I grow stronger by them!!"
Zoda's incessant rambling provided a source, a focus in the darkness for Mike to attack. Keeping his Super Nova ready in one hand, he reached for the laser blaster on his belt that was fully charged.
"I said it before, and I'll say it again, Zoda…GET OUT OF MY MIND!!" Mike pulled the trigger of the futuristic gun, hearing the familiar whine as a searing blast of photons leapt from the barrel and slammed straight into the bulky frame of Zoda. It also provided enough ambient light Mike could properly aim his main weapon. Squinting his eyes against the sight of Nightmare Zoda being fried by his previous blast, Mike hurled the wicked ball and chain, feeling the sickening impact as the Maces' head slammed into soft and yielding flesh. In response, Zoda screamed an alien warble that made Mike recoil in horror.
The lights flickered on for the briefest moment, then shut off again, robbing the boy of what little night vision he had.
"You KYRCHAI!!" Zoda hissed, the expletive so alien it couldn't be translated. Mike lifted his laser blaster again, doing his best to keep his trembling hand from dropping the weapon. "You inchaben KYRCHAI!!" Zoda rasped more forcefully.
"What, is the big bad Invader Zoda losing his cool?" Mike egged, another flash from his laser blaster slicing forth into Zoda's forehead. He quickly jumped to another section of ledge as a furious Zoda stumbled forward with a roar.
"I destroyed the Argonians, BOY!!" Zoda screamed in his unsettling voice. "I can do the same to you!!"
Perhaps it was the power of the cubes in his pocket. Or maybe Mike Jones just snapped. Whatever the cause, the two opponents found themselves staring each other down with hatred in their eyes, just as the lights finally flickered to full life.
Zoda spit out a slimy, woebegotten spawn from his face and Mike raised his laser blaster again. He fired only three more times, but three was enough. Two destroyed the spawn, and the third shot continued on and bored clean through the unholy right leg of Zoda. Screaming in pain, Zoda lowered his gaze down until he was staring straight into Mike's face.
Angry resolve shone clear through the fatigue, the grime, and the sweat on the battered boy's face.
"It…can't be…" Zoda wheezed, his leg starting to quiver as his balance unsettled itself. Mike was beyond words, beyond even screaming as he hurled his Super Nova one final time.
The ethereal mace flew straight and true, slamming into the side of Zoda's head and jarring him off the side of the platform. With a final defiant scream that rivaled the mythical banshee, Zoda toppled from his precarious perch and plummeted into the chasms below.
Zoda had been defeated, and as he fell to his doom, his screams continued to echo about, even drowning out the klaxons for a few brief moments.
Mike stood for a few seconds before the last of his adrenaline faded and he collapsed onto his knees. Gasping for air, Mike limply let his laser blaster clatter onto the platform. It bounced for a moment, then fell into the chasm as well. Only the two cubes in his pocket, his trusted island yo-yo in his other pocket, and the Super Nova remained in his grasp then.
"I destroyed the Argonians, BOY!" Zoda's message screamed, still fresh in Mike's mind. "I can do the same to you!!"
Somehow finding the strength to stand again, Mike Jones looked down into the abyss below.
"Not today, you alien scum." Mike rasped, turning about and walking for the exit. "Not today."
The lights began to flicker again, and Mike picked up the pace as the alien klaxon reasserted itself. But he couldn't escape yet…
There was still the final cube he had to find.
The cubes seemed to lose their power somewhat as Mike trudged onwards through the final maze of corridors. Their minute objective finally achieved, the magical objects seemed content to return to their normal, translucent state.
Ignoring the uncounted scrapes and scratches he'd suffered in the horror of the spaceship, Mike pushed himself onwards, his mind racing on uncounted thoughts, nightmares, anything to drown out the fatigue and pain in his body that threatened to cause his collapse.
"No time…no time…" Mike wheezed, his eyes staring into the unending darkness of Zoda's spaceship. The klaxons continued to wail, as if connected to a separate power source. He stumbled around, jarring into walls as he went. No further forces stood in his way, and Mike didn't blame them. The spaceship was falling apart from underneath them all, and whatever plans they might have had was sinking with the rest of their equipment.
"I can't give up…" Mike shuddered, pulling himself off of the wall. Only inky blackness met his stare.
He knew the third cube had to be near. Zoda had to have stored it close, within striking distance of the escape pod. But it was out of sight, the completion of his mission, and his only chance of escape perhaps inches, perhaps hundreds of feet away.
Uncle Steve…I can't do it…I'm sorry, but I can't do it…
If Mike had the energy to scream in desperation, he would have. But he barely had enough to stand…
Here…A voice seemed to echo suddenly. Mike lifted his head up in wonderment, feeling the two cubes safely tucked in his jeans pocket begin to resonate and glow a warmth into him. The two cubes he held also gave him a slight rejuvenating boost…one that made him alert of the surroundings once more.
I'm here…The voice echoed. Please…Help me…
Mike's dried mouth now burned as his pace quickened. A strange pale green light filtered through the corridors, and at last Mike could make out the direction he needed to travel. He ran. He ran for his life…And for the final cube that might have threatened ALL life.
And there it sat, beside Zoda's escape pod hatch. Drawing to it, Mike felt the other two cubes begin to thrum in excitement.
Mike pushed aside the final vestiges of his despair as he reached down and clasped on to the final cube…and he found the energy to shout then, triumphantly,
"I'VE GOT IT!!"
I can't recall exactly that next space of time after I found the third cube. Somehow I got into the escape pod and ejected from the spaceship. No sooner had I than Zoda's prized spaceship exploded.
Aside from ejecting the pod, I wasn't able to figure out its workings. The end result was I had escaped the spaceship, but was plunging to the seas below at the whims of gravity. Frantically, I watched the altimeter…I was plunging rapidly.
I was beyond worn out, I was exhausted…
But moving to safe my life, I managed to punch the right switch…the ejection switch…just as the pod slammed into the seawater.
I was taken up to the surface by a bubble of air, but still my lungs were screaming by the time I broke into the bright light of the sun.
Disoriented and exhausted, I tried to start swimming in the direction of where I hoped C-Island was located. Of course, I didn't make it far. I couldn't swim.
I would have died out there on the open seas, all my exertions for naught…
Except I didn't. The Southern Cross, it seemed, was still watching out for me.
When Mike finally opened his eyes again, he was still met by the glaring tropical sun. But it seemed calmer, less grating. The gentle noise of seagulls and softly rolling surf met his ears, and for a few moments, he laid still, not caring about anything.
He just lay there, the sun coming down and baking him into a deeper calm. After everything he'd gone through in the ruins and the spaceship, just being able to lie still became the greatest panacea.
But something jarred him away from that tranquil moment. It was the loud and insistent chittering of a dolphin. Forcing himself up, Mike Jones saw a dolphin off the shore, bobbing its head at him and chirping for attention.
Mike scratched the back of his head for a moment, wondering what it was doing. Then, in a bolt of recognition, he realized why. He should have drowned. But he didn't…because that dolphin saved him. A dolphin…a mammalian sea creature that was sometimes called an angel.
Mike grinned and waved at the dolphin, realizing it could only be either the mother or the child he'd met up with at the island with the lighthouse. He recalled Nav-Com's translation of the mother's chitter.
We'll never forget you!!
At long last, the dolphins had been able to return the favor. Mike waved at the creature, not failing to notice how it chittered even louder before plunging back into the calm waters and racing off.
Mike turned about and started walking, a powerful thirst finally making its presence known. His feet made deep imprints into the golden, yielding sand as he kept on.
"Well, I'm alive…" He checked his pockets. All three cubes were still safely tucked away, as was his yo-yo, and his Super Nova mace was dangling from a peripheral loop of denim on his jeans. "And I still got all my stuff." Then came the most important of his announcements. "But where am I?" As he pushed his way up off the beach and reached bright green grass, he noticed a helicopter landing pad in one direction, a village in the other, and to the watery center, an unmistakable peninsula with a laboratory on it. Mike was grinning from ear to ear as he walked toward the village. He was back where he'd started…
Somehow, everybody in the village knew what Mike had gone through. More importantly, as he approached, they began to cheer. He'd noticed Sub-C docked out by his Uncle Steve's laboratory as he came walking in. After being gone for so long, the archaeologist had probably been grilled with questions. At least this feat of heroism, which was by now, public knowledge, resulted in Mike getting a very satisfying drink of cool liquid. Milk or Cola, Mike wasn't sure.
After some hearty pats on the back and chortles of "Bet you showed them aliens a thing or two!!", Mike finally managed to trudge into the Island Chief's oversized hut. Hapo Omoy, Bana Omoy, Uncle Steve, and even Nav-Com were all waiting.
"Mike, you made it back!!" Dr. Jones exclaimed, his usually inscrutable face full of happiness. Mike shook his head back and forth, then pulled out his Super Nova and held it in the light.
"I wouldn't have, if I didn't have this thing." Dr. Jones stared at it for a moment, shaking his head and whistling finally.
"That must truly be a nasty weapon."
"It looks far more destructive than the island yo-yo I gave you." Hapo Omoy added.
"You men could stand to silence your quibbling every now and then." Bana Omoy, the female shaman added sternly. "Besides, I must speak to Mike further." Mike tucked the Super Nova back away, but not before Dr. Jones whispered that he wanted to examine the weapon later. Mike gave his Uncle a small salute, then turned expectantly to Bana. The old woman closed her eyes for a moment, then began to speak.
"Mike, I know it was hard for you. You almost gave up…" Her eyes snapped open finally, surprising them all. "But I'll tell all! You battled like a true hero under the Southern Cross!!"
Nav-Com chose to chime in at that moment, its mechanical, unnatural voice a stark contrast to the sage wisdom contained within Bana's tone.
"Nav-Com here, captain! Circuits indicate success! Circuits indicate success!!" Of course, Nav-Com's excitement was just as artificial as his voice, and an exhausted Mike found himself turning to the little robot in annoyance.
"Nav-Com, shut up." Mike tucked his hands back into his pockets, realizing that he still had the cubes as his fingers brushed up against them. Carefully, he pulled them out and held them in the palm of his hand.
"I did all that for these…??" He mumbled. Dr. Jones nearly jumped for joy in excitement as he laid eyes on the red, blue and green cubes.
"You DID succeed!" Dr. Jones exclaimed, his eyes glittering in wonderment. Mike looked at his Uncle.
"Yes. And you were right about them. They are powerful. The first cube morphed my Morning Star mace into the Super Nova, and the second one gave me an unbelievable energy boost."
"What did the third one do then?" Hapo Omoy asked. Mike shook his head.
"Not much. I got to it just as the spaceship was starting to blow itself up, so I didn't get to see its effects in action." Mike looked up, frowning. "Still…"
Bana looked over. "Still what?" Mike shook his head, putting the thought out of his mind.
Still…the cube called to me…
"Nothing." He finally admitted. "But I crossed paths with the alien leader, Zoda. He called these things 'Argonian stasis cubes."
"Stasis cubes…" Dr. Jones mused, rubbing his stubbled chin. "Interesting! That might well be a clue to what powers the cubes hold!"
"And these cubes…they're supposedly the only thing that survived the destruction of Argonia?" Mike asked gently. Dr. Jones nodded sadly.
"I'm afraid so." He pulled the cubes from Mike's hands and cleared his throat. "After you left, I went back and looked at the cipher again. I managed to understand a little more about what it said…and if Zoda wasn't lying, I have an inkling to what the cubes contain…something of great importance and power."
Hapo Omoy blinked a few times. "But what do we do now?" Dr. Jones smiled back at the Island Chief.
"Simple. We activate the cubes." He moved out farther into the middle of the hut, giving himself plenty of room. "I'll need some room for this. I also learned how these cubes worked." Nobody spoke then, all waiting for Doctor Jones to finish.
The archaeologist arranged the cubes in a specific pattern, then stepped back and nodded.
The cubes slowly began to respond, shifting their colors from one to the other at a snail's pace. But then they began to speed up, and an unnatural whine filled the air. Transfixed, the hut's occupants watched as the colors began to blend, causing the cubes to shine a deep white that slowly expanded, threatening to engulf them all.
And just as quickly as it had begun, it ended. In a thunderclap, the cubes vanished. And in their place stood seven children.
Seven very humanlike, but alien children…
To tell you the truth, by then I was expecting some sort of Doomsday weapon. I mean, HELL. The whole concept of three alien magic cubes…I was getting flashbacks to the Legend of Zelda. I could have seen that cube containing tablets, artifacts, an unbelievable power source…
Nope. It was kids. And that's what surprised me. That all along, Zoda had been after the cubes. When the cubes were little more than the packaging for the real deal. Them.
Their clothes were all maroon and dark blue, with a hint of a rustier blood red. And they truly did look as if the world had come crashing down on them. All of them were kids. Aside from two of them. A girl that looked my age in the front of the group, and an older boy behind her. The rest of them looked to be twelve and below…
If time even applied to them.
The oldest girl spoke up. And somehow, she knew how to speak English. Somehow…
All right, back up. A lot of things were happening in a very short time period, and THIS WASN'T HELPING ME. But I couldn't stop it. What, do you think I could ask them to just get back into the cubes and leave me alone? Not hardly.
The oldest girl's name was Mica. Mica Argos, the daughter of 'The Argonian leader Hirocon.' All right, fine…so her name was Princess Mica, the daughter of King Hirocon. Suuuuure.
Apparently, 20 years ago by our standard, Argonia was attacked by the evil alien forces under Zoda. And they'd been wiped out. Well, I knew that much from what my Uncle Steve had translated. So that didn't exactly provide any new bombshells in my life.
The seven of them were the only survivors of that tragedy…And that was only because Hirocon had stuffed them in the time frozen magic cubes and shipped 'em off. My question of course was, WHY SEND THEM TO EARTH?!
But that was a question that would have to wait.
One year ago, the escape capsule that they'd been on had crashed to Earth, in the middle of the buried ancient ruins my Uncle Steve had been exploring. And that certainly explained the massive hole I'd climbed out of to get to the alien spaceship.
One month ago, my Uncle Steve had finally come across the thing and begun to translate the cipher…and that's when he'd invited me to the island. Well, now it all fit together.
Mica went on then. Their planet was gone, she said. "But we'll not weep for the past!!" Even though her voice carried courage, there was a sadness in her eyes as she said it. And somehow I knew she wasn't over the pain of her loss yet. Maybe I was psychic. (As if. After everything that had happened to me, it was more likely I was PSYCHOTIC.)
Zoda and the alien invaders were gone. I'd seen to that. The Argonian children didn't have anything left to fear. They were alive, they were revived, and they were safe on the planet that Mica's father had sent them to.
So many things could have gone wrong. They could have crashed into the middle of somewhere more populated, like the United States. I could just imagine FBI agents crashing that party…Not a good thought.
This was Coralcola Island. Seven kids? No problem. The Islands could take them in. So Coralcola became their new home, under the sun and surf and Southern Cross.
And I finally got to go fishing.
And then that wraps up the summary of my first fantastic adventure. What began with a search for my uncle resulted in me becoming the savior of the final remnants of an alien civilization far away. I'd begun in the tropics, and my quest had taken to the stars. So in a way, if I were to categorize those two odd weeks, I'd have to call them the Trials of Startropics.
But that's only a part of the story, then. What happened during the rest of my summer vacation at Coralcola Island? There was still a lot of unsolved problems left to us then, even if the aliens were gone and the Argonians were safe.
Why had the Argonians been sent to Earth? And why had the escape pod crashed into the middle of a bunch of ancient ruins?
Just what exactly DID lead to the fall of Argonia? And if there was nothing in those Argonian stasis cubes but kids, how come I gained the Super Nova and an energy boost?
And just what would happen now…I didn't know.
For one thing, there was that celebration. All of Coralcola Island's inhabitants met in the village and partied like never before. Even the Argonians did some partying. There was plenty of food, plenty of drink, and plenty of revelry. And then things calmed down, the villagers went to bed, the Argonians went off with the villagers, who welcomed them with open arms and tried to fit in.
But somehow I couldn't sleep. There was one very important question that just wouldn't leave me alone.
I asked Bana that question later that night, after everyone else had dozed off and it was just me and her gazing into the tribal campfire.
"Bana…What's going to happen next?" I asked, looking through the flickering embers at her. She had looked at me with those wise eyes, then calmly shrugged.
"Only the stars know, Michael Jones." I turned away from the fire, said good night and walked off.
The beach by my Uncle's laboratory on the North interior side of the island was large enough you could walk a fair distance without bumping into someone else. But I met someone else then, somebody who also found themselves staring at the stars.
Mica Argos, the Princess of the annihilated planet Argonia stood on the shore, her ceremonial cape draped over her shoulders, gently waving in the night breeze in time with her shoulder length deep red hair.
She turned about, hearing my approach. I was startled for a moment, then realized, considering how much more elfin her ears were, it was natural she should have sharper hearing.
There was nothing casual about her dress that first night. Even her pants were of the same color and culture. But if her clothing suggested she was royalty, the look on her face and how she stood there certainly didn't give credence.
The Mica that I'd seen standing in front of her people earlier that day had stood proud, even a little uppity. She hadn't been impolite or anything like that then, she'd just…well, put on airs.
That wasn't the same Mica I met on the beach that first night. This Mica was saddened, defeated.
"Mica, what are you doing?" I asked. Quickly, she turned her face about to hide the tears. But I'd already seen them. The moonlight made them glow like gems cascading from her eyes.
"Just…Remembering." She finally said.
I went over and sat beside her, drawing my hands up over my knees. Then I looked out over the waves…let myself be lulled to sleep by them.
"It's over. Zoda's gone. The alien pirates are gone. And you're safe." I said softly, not bothering to look up at her for a few seconds. But I did eventually.
We locked gazes, because she'd already been looking down at me. And she shook her head, as if all the weight of the world rested on her shoulders.
"Do you honestly believe that?" She prodded gently. Somehow, the depth of that stare in her bright green eyes made me feel transparent. "It isn't over yet." The both of us blinked a few times, then nervously stared up at the sky. "Michael Jones, it is far from over."
A seagull cawed in the distance…Another shooting star streaked across the heavens in front of us.
And she was right, of course.
Saving the Argonians had only been the beginning.