Home » AC Comics Home » AC Comics News » Mystery on Taragonia by Richard Paulk

Mystery on Taragonia by Richard Paulk

chapter one

IS THERE A ‘DACTYL IN THE HOUSE

On a remote island just off the coast of Florida, known as Jungle Island, Tara Freemont, environmentalist and owner of the island, is laying prone on a beach towel sun-bathing. She’s always loved the island for it’s year round warmth and isolation but, she loves it mostly for the animal reservation in which close to extinct animals are protected.

As she lays there daydreaming and enjoying the cool breeze blowing off the ocean the sun is suddenly blotted out if only for a second. She rolls over to look, confused as to why a plane would be so far off course (Jungle Island is a no-fly-over zone), and is astonished to see a 30 foot long leather behemoth.

“Wha…? A pteradactyl! And it’s headed for the main land,” Tara stammers as she quickly jumps to her feet, slipping her skimpy top back on. “The only place pteradactyls still exist are on Taragonia where I left the ‘girls of wildside’ to study the strange and prehistoric flora and fauna. But the purple haze that surrounds the island was supposed to prevent anything from leaving the island through the air. I’d better call the Femforce to track the ‘dactyl before it causes a lot of damage to Florida. Then I’ll hightail it over to Taragonia to find out whats going on.”

From the offices on Jungle island Tara enters a special code into the vid-monitor and contacts the Femforce, finding the She-cat on monitor duty. “And if you can take care of the problem state-side, I’ll call as soon as I know what’s happening on Taragonia,” Tara finishes explaining.

“Right,” She-cat says. “I’ll contact Ms. Victory. She should be in the vicinity your calculations showed the pteradactyl will be arriving on shore. Good luck, and if it turns out you can’t handle your end just let me know and the Cat will come bail your backside out—again.”

“Uh-right. Thanks!” And with that Tara switches off and prepares for her flight to Taragonia.

Landing her helicopter on the patch of barren land that has been designated as a landing field, Tara is met by Nyoka Gordon, Cave Girl, and Tygra. These four women, along with Princess Pantha, were sent to Taragonia to figure out what, if any, effect governmental nuclear testing had on the island. What they found was a lot more than anyone expected.

The ecological system had gone haywire. They found prehistoric creatures, mythological beings, man-eating plants, and all manner of strange phenomenon. They also dicovered, with Nightveil’s help, that the island was a nexus of an evil occult power and a dimensional gateway to the Earth’s past and future, as well as other dimensions, created by Doctor Shinduu and his magical concubines. Doctor Shinduu was destroyed when he tried to fly through the strange atmosphere surrounding the island but the concubines, led byVarushka, remain on the island.

“Hi, girls!” Tara calls as she steps from the ‘copter. “Where’s Pantha?”

“Not sure,” Cave Girl, the large Jungle beauty replies in her usual broken English. “Not seen for some time.”

Tygra, the scantily clad biologist of the group joins in,”Yeah, we hardly ever see her anymore. She started showing more and more interest in the strange animals on the island and we started seeing less and less of her. It’s almost as if she isn’t even here anymore. She doesn’t even come back to the complex at night to sleep anymore.”

“If you want, I’ll help you guys find her later, but first we’ve got to figure out how a pteradactyl could have possibly left the island without dying!” Tara says, not wanting to wait on niceties.

“Oh, no!” Nyoka exclaims shaking her head. “I was afraid of something like this. At first, I thought I might just be seeing things, but I thought I could see some faint, almost imperceptable lines in the purple atmosphere. I did a few studies, and sure enough, there were gaps in the protective zone, and they’ve been getting more noticeable. Look for yourself.”

Sure enough, after having it pointed out to her, Tara thought she could also see the lines. “But… why? What could cause this to happen? Why would the barrier have lasted all these centuries and all of a sudden dissipate now?” “Well, I have a theory about that, as well,” Nyoka continues. “The lines are straight and seem to follow patterns. I think that every time a plane or some other mechanical structure flies through the atmospheric layer that looks purple to us, it cuts a line through whatever it is in the ozone that keeps everything in. Then if something, say the pteradactyl you mentioned, would by chance follow one of the tunnels it would get free to the outside world.”

“That seems as plausible as anything else, I guess,” Tara admits, “but right now we need to figure out what we’re going to do to prevent this sort of thing from happening again!”

Nyoka pauses and then tells Tara, “It sounds nuts, but I think I know where all the strange beings on this island come from. Maybe we can cut off the source instead of just containing the problem.”

“Nothing about this island will surprise me anymore,” says Tara. “What have you found?”

“During your absence, I became bothered by the fact that so many different eras and dimensions could be represented in such a confined area. So I started tracing all the different atmospheric and dimensional disruptions I could find. For a while they would show up anywhere at anytime, but then they started congregating at one place.”

“And that place is?”

“The core of the inactive volcano that sits directly behind our home complex. There are strange swirling patches of darkness scattered all over the interior walls that I believe to be dimensional doorways. Any time someone or something accidentally steps through the portals, whether they did so before or after the doorways were in the volcano, they wound up here. I really can’t verify any of this as I haven’t dared so much as to even touch one until my studies are completed, but I have thrown rocks and sticks at them and they’ve disappeared.”

“We better go take a look,” Tara asserts. “It may be time to take the risk and enter one.”

* * *

Hearing the situation from She-cat, Ms. Victory immediately heads for the Florida coast in the general direction from which the pteradactyl was predicted to come. She spots the coastline and the pteradactyl at just about the exact same moment. So much for having time to work on a plan of action, she thinks to herself.

Figuring that a direct approach would be best with a populated city so close by, she angles her flight pattern directly for the beast, arms outstretched, and prepares for the collision. To her surprise just before contact the pteradactyl changes course just enough that it caught just a glancing blow and then continued on toward the city.

Man! How could something that big move so fast! Ms. Victory wondered as she banked for another blow at the creature.

Closing in at bone-jarring speeds she prepared herself for another quick maneuver by the pteradactyl. Watching for a shift in direction Ms. Victory shot right past the pteradactyl as he came to a sudden dead stop. She didn’t so much as touch it. There’s definately something wrong here, she thinks, pulling up to a stop. This thing’s much too smart for being a mere dinosa—

From behind, the behemouth smashes full force into her back, knocking the breath from her. Becoming temporarily disoriented, Ms. Victory begins plummeting toward the ground. She tries desperately to regain her composure before she hits the gound but unfortunately she hadn’t been very high to start with. She hits the ground with such force that she leaves a furrow behind her twenty feet long before coming to a stop. Oooh, that hurt. I sure wasn’t expecting that. I’ve got to pull myself together. That was a planned maneuver the likes of which a dinosaur with normal intelligence would be incapable of. Also, to be able to beat me around like that, I’m not real sure that there wouldn’t have to be some kind of magic involved. Where’s Nightveil when you really need her? Well, no time for that kind of thinking. We’re right by the city, I’ve got to stop him now.

Taking to the air, Ms. Victory realizes they are closer than she even thought. And to make matters worse–the pteradactyl is nowhere to be seen!

* * *

The old, burned-out volcano has so many cracks and crevices running through it that gaining access to it’s core poses no problem what so ever for the girls. But once inside, Tara is totally unprepared for what she sees. An eerie green luminence radiates from the walls giving plenty of light, but the truly captivating sight is that of the portals all over those self same walls. There has to be hundreds of them and they are so completely black that they seem to suck any light in the immediate vicinity into them, while at the same time, they contradictingly swirl at a mind-numbing pace.

“I tried to tell you there were a lot of them,” says Nyoka.

“I know,” Tara says in a hushed, almost reverent tone, “but seeing it is deffinately different than hearing about it.”

Even speaking quietly, the cavernous interior of the volcano was so large, that echoes seemed to go on for several seconds (as did any sounds of steps or rustling noises caused by any of the four girls).

“What we do now?” asks Cave Girl in her deep but incredibly sexy voice.

After a slight hesitation, Tara responds, “I guess the only thing we can do. If we’re going to check Nyoka’s theories, one of us is going to have to enter one of the portals. I’ve never been the kind to ask someone to do something I’m not willing to, so I’ll go first.”

“I don’t think so,” protests Tygra, barely able to contain her feline enthusiasm.

“I didn’t ask,” says Tara, “and it’s my island. I make the calls. Thanks for the concern but if we’re right about this thing there’ll be plenty of doorways for everyone.” Warily she closes in on the first black hole. “We’ll see what’s on the other side of each doorway. If it’s a harmless enough place we can simply mark the wall as to what’s over there. But if it contains something dangerous we’ll have to try to find a way to close or block the passage way.”

“What if I’m wrong?” asks Nyoka. “What if the second you touch that swirling mass you’re torn atom from atom?”

With a forced smile she answers, “Don’t think that hasn’t crossed my mind but it’s something we have to know. I’m sure I’ll be right back.” She picks up a rope. “I’ll leave this rope I brought sticking through the portal just in case it can’t be seen from the other side.”

As she gets right up next to the portal, electrical static causes her hair to stand out from the head. She’s still nervously talking as she inserts her upper body into the doorway. “Boy, does this feel weir….”. Immediately Tara pulls herself out of the window, coughing and gagging. She’s soaked from the waist up. “I was expecting (cough, cough) air on the other side (cough) not water. I feel like I swallowed an ocean full!”

Walking toward the portal Tara just tried Nyoka says, “It looks like this one is mine then.”

“And why would that be?” inquires Tara, wringing water from her hair.

“Because I’m the only one here that can breathe underwater.” Seeing the confused look on Tara’s face she continues. “Oh, that’s right. You haven’t heard. Shortly after we got here I almost drowned off shore and the mermaids rescued me by enabling me to breathe in or out of water. I’ll tell you all about it sometime but for now, I have a job to do.” And with that statement, she disappears through the portal, trailing the rope behind her.

chapter 2

WHAT’S BLACK AND BLUE AND WET ALL OVER

Immediately upon passing through the portal, Nyoka finds herself immersed in water. There is plenty of light so she doesn’t figure she is too deep, but there is no dry land in sight. Of course that doesn’t mean anything she thinks. If you entered Earth in the middle of an ocean there wouldn’t be any dry land in sight either.

Nyoka starts swimming north (because that’s just as good as any other direction when you don’t have a clue what you’re looking for) and starts shedding her clothes down to her ‘civvies’. I’ll probably lose my clothes but that’s what I get for not thinking ahead enough to change into some kind of swimwear.

Topping an embankment, Nyoka sees her first signs of life. An overwhelmingly large city, built right on the ocean floor, with no apparent protection (be it a protective dome or visible guards or any of the things she had preconcieved she would see, if she found anything at all). That certainly didn’t take long. In fact, I….

“Halt,” comes a loud, deep voice from behind as Nyoka feels a knife point (spear point?) jab her in the back. She jumps just enough to draw blood from the weapon at her back.

“Oww! What the crap do you think you’re do….,” Nyoka fades out as she turns and sees a huge, muscular mer-man, long red hair and beard floating around his stern face, holding an extremely large and deadly looking spear directly at her.

“You don’t belong here. What are you doing, spying on us?” he asks.

Feeling a little of her resolve coming back, Nyoka snaps back, “I’m not a spy. You hurt me with that thing. You ought to be a little more careful waving something like that around at people before you know the situation.” She slaps the spear aside but it is immediately retrained on her with a little jabbing motion for emphasis. “Didn’t you hear me?”

“I heard you, Little Minnow, but you’re the tresspasser, and since I’m the one with the spear, maybe you should be a little careful,” the mer-man asserts, a deffinate threat in his voice.

You best back off, Nyoka she thinks to herself. “Point well taken. I honestly meant no harm or disrespect. My name is Nyoka. I’m from another place. I really don’t know how else to explain it. Any way, there’s a type of dimensional doorway from your world to mine. Where I’m from ‘mer-people’, or whatever you call yourselves, only exist in mythology, except on the one island where we found the doorway leading here. I figure this is where those mer-maids came from. Except there were only women there. No men. So I’m not really not sure that this is where they come from after all.”

“By Poseidon’s beard, Little One..”

“My name is Nyoka!”

“Fine. Nyoka. Do you always talk so much?

“Only when large fish-men…”

“My name is Volstaff!”

“Fine. Volstaff. Only when extremely sharp weapons are being pointed toward my throat.

“Oh,” Volstaff blushes slightly and chuckles, lowering the spear but, Nyoka notices, he stays ready to snap it back to position if the need arises. “Sorry, Nyoka, but we are a people always at war. And since I truly do not know you, it is only wise to first assume that you are the enemy.”

“I can understand that,” Nyoka conceeded. “What I don’t understand is why you accepted my story so readily. If I heard a story like that I’m not sure I’d even begin to believe it.”

“We’ve known of the ‘reality hole’ for all of recorded history. Like I said, we are a people of war, but every once in a while one of those weak scientist types, almost always a woman, opposes the natural order and tries to stop the fighting. When found out, in order to stop the persecution, they try to escape through the hole. We’re usually able to kill them before they get through but on occassion one will make it. I’m sure that’s who you encountered.” Raising his spear slightly again, Volstaff asks, “They didn’t send you here did they?”

Holding her hands out in supplication Nyoka denies the allegation. But before the conversation can proceed a laser bolt strikes a rock mere inches from Nyoka’s head, a splinter of stone cutting a paper thin slice across her cheek. Volstaff grabs her by the arm throwing her behind an outcropping, safe from the sniper’s fire.

Rubbing her face as a thin wisp of blood oozes from her cheek, Nyoka starts feeling a little irritable, “You know, Volstaff, I’m getting a little tired of losing small chunks of flesh, what with everybody stabbing me, shooting at me and throwing me around. I don’t even belon…”

“Zounds, woman,” Volstaff yells,beginning to lose a little patience himself. Don’t you ever shut up? We’re under enemy fire here. Let me think, will you?”

“Uh, Volstaff,” starts Nyoka.

“I said shut up!” growls Volstaff.

Nyoka points, “But, Volstaff…!”

Volstaff looks up, finding them surrounded by twenty five heavily armed and angry looking mer-men. And every weapon is pointed directly at them.

“By Poseidon’s Golden Trident!” Volstaff mutters softly as he drops his spear and raises his hands.

* * *

Ms. Victory flies through the streets as fast as she dares, looking for the pteradactyl. There’s no way something so big could just disappear like that. It’s got to be around here somewhere.

And indeed, just a few blocks away in a section of town just a little less savory than the one Ms. Victory finds herself looking, the pteradactyl is confronting a homeless man in a shadow darkened alley. The look of fear on the man’s face exceeds even the smell of booze on the man’s breath and the stink of urine in his clothes.

Do not be afraid, mortal the pteradactyl communicates directly into the wino’s mind. This will be over soon and I have much better plans for your body than you obviously did.

As the great creature closes in on him, the man suddenly wraps his arms around his head and starts screaming and writhing as if being torn to pieces. And rightly so, as his soul is being ripped from his body. Making a last desperate effort to hang on to his humanity, his soul grabs just a little tighter before losing the last of it’s grip. Then with a shriek that totally drowns out the previous screams, it’s over. The displaced soul dissapates leaving behind an empty husk. But before the empty body can fall it is reinhabited. The eyes now hold the evil malice previously held in the eyes of the pteradactyl. And in the pteradactyl’s eyes, nothing but the confused , animalistic rage of a beast, wounded and backed into a corner. As it takes to the sky to vent it’s primal fury, the only thing remaining in the alley is the cold maniacal laughter of a man no longer there.

Ms. Victory turns in mid-flight as she hears the screams of someone in exquisite pain. But before she can get there she hears an ungodly shriek followed a few seconds later by new screams of pain and terror just a block further on. She seems to hear a laugh echo from the direction she had been heading but disreguards it as being the wind, whistling between the buildings. Arriving at her destination, Ms. Victory goes numb with horror.

A large camp for the homeless has been rent from end to end. Body parts are strewn the length of the alley. What appears to be more blood than could have possibly come from the assorted bodies laying around covers everything, including the only thing left living in the alley. The blood and gore splattered pteradactyl picks through the remaining pieces of flesh left laying around it, swallowing gobbets of the meat.

Feeling the need to throw up, Ms. Victory takes a stumbling step forward, the sound alerting the creature to her presence. It spins and for a split second locks eyes with her. Something about the pteradactyl looks different but her current sence of shock fails to allow her to acknowledge the fact. The beast takes flight as Ms. Victory gathers herself, fighting both the nausea and the coldness thathas claimed her since first arriving on the scene.

Taking to the air, Ms. Victory realizes she has given the behemoth quite a lead but has resolved to make up the distance, however quickly it takes, to prevent the last scene of horror from ever happening again. But then the pteradactyl pulls up and just hovers. Floating directly in it’s path is Paragon, one of the most powerful paranormals in the universe.

“My gosh, Joan!” exclaims Paragon, taking in the gore-encrusted pteradactyl and the shocked, pallid look on Ms. Victory’s face; the haunted look in her eyes.

“This…this abomination,” she stammered, trying to control her emotions, “just massacred an alley full of people!” Unable to stop them, tears begin flowing down her face and her body shakes in great sobs. “He was eating them, for God’s sake!” she screamed.

The pteradactyl jumps when she yells but otherwise doesn’t move, not knowing what to do.

“Let me handle him real quickly and then I’m taking you out of here,” Paragon tries to soothe her.

“No, Chuck, wait! He’s really intelligent and he’ll allow you to get in real close and then he’ll duck under your attack and escape,” Ms. Victory says, almost within herself.

But it’s too late. Paragon is already rushing full speed toward the beast, his arms outstretched, fists closed. Without so much as a flinch, the pteradactyl takes the blow directly on it’s beak and falls like a rock to the pavement below.

“No! I don’t understand. He is really smart,” Ms. Victory cries. “He dodged me everytime I tried to hit him. Really! He’s smart!”

“It’s okay, Joan,” Paragon tries to comfort her. “We’ll work everything out.”

But Ms. Victory won’t stop, “No, Chuck. Don’t you get it? If he’s not as smart as I thought, if he really wasn’t able to trick me, then I just allowed all those innocent people to get killed!”

* * *

Back in the volcano, the girls are all staring at the portal that swallowed Nyoka. Each is unconsciously holding her breath, hoping to hear quickly from their friend. Tara suddenly speaks, startling everyone and causing them to remember to breathe. “If we just stand here waiting like this it’ll just drive us crazy. The old ‘watched pot never boils’ syndrome. She won’t return any quicker with us waiting like this so let’s find something to do until she get’s back.”

“Like what?” inquires Cave Girl.

Tygra intercedes, “Actually, there are some plants right outside the volcano that I’d like some help collecting to study. They are unlike any plants I’ve ever seen anywhere else and I’ve been meaning to examine them for quite some time.”

As the girls go outside to help Tygra , inside the volcano a figure seperates itself from the shadows. I didn’t think they would ever leave long enough for me to do what I have too. Under no circumstances can I allow them to close off any of these doorways. The figure grabs the rope sticking out of the portal and tosses the whole thing through. Now they can’t close this one or they’ll be stranding Nyoka on the other side.

* * *

With their hands bound behind them, Nyoka and Volstaff are led toward the city of the ‘dark-hairs’. “You mean to tell me,” asks Nyoka astounded, “that the only reason you and your enemies have for killing each other is the fact that they have black hair and your people have red?”

“Yes,” answers Volstaff in short fashion, apparently not in the mood for conversation.

“And this is worth having a war over?” continues Nyoka, anyway.

Volstaff gives her a tired look, understanding any attempt at getting her to stop talking to him would be futile. “Is there a point to any of this?”

“No wonder those women tried to escape this insanity.”

“Look, wench,” Volstaff explodes. “I’ve had just about all of you that I….OW!” A spear point in the side settles him back down.

Nyoka smiles, “You see. That doesn’t feel too good, does it?”

“That’s it.” Volstaff says quietly to himself. Then, with a deep breath, he emits the loud, high-pitched screech of a dolphin. He throws himself down, taking Nyoka with him.

Suddenly the water blackens and screams of dying men fill the area, as a sixty-foot monstrosity of an octopus comes around an underwater embankment and begins tearing the unsuspecting mer-men to pieces. Volstaff pulls Nyoka into a small, camoflaged cave to wait out the carnage.

The screams continue on and on, and Nyoka is forced to close her eyes against the massacre, even though it cannot be seen from their safe haven. Slowly the dying cries fade and the two slowly emerge from the cave. Nyoka sees it was really not much more than a small indention in the side of the mountain. “What just happened?” she asks, visibly shaken.

“It’s one of our prearranged contingency plans,” explains Volstaff. We have several traps around in case the Dark Ones attack. I signalled with the dolphin cry and the octopus was sent in.”

“But how?” Nyoka is clearly confused and still shaken. “Do you possess some kind of telepathy or something that it obeys?”

Volstaff laughs, “No, Little One. We have no such powers. I guess it’s all right to let you know, now. The women I mentioned, the scientists, have a device they created that allows them to control all the creatures of the sea.”

“And there was no other way? I mean, these men were mutilated beyond recognition. Couldn’t we have…?”

“There was no other way,” interrupted Volstaff. “Believe me. What they had planned for us was at least that bad.”

“Yeah, but….Hey! Wait a minute. Why would the scientists let you have their machine if you persecute them?” Nyoka wants to know.

Nyoka whirls around as she hears giggling behind her. Seven beautiful mer-maids are swimming toward her and Volstaff. The nearest one, obviously the leader of the group says, “Okay, Volstaff. You’ve played the ‘bad fish’ long enough.” Then to Nyoka, “Volstaff has been secretly helping us to escape for years, despite a sure death sentence if he’s caught. I’m not sure any of our sisters would have been successful in their escape attempts without his help. Despite his demeanor, he’s really a big, old softie!”

Volstaff mumbles something unheard under his breath and turns a bright red, obviously not appreciating the mer-maid’s assessment of him (at least not outwardly). It’s all Nyoka can do not to laugh in the big mer-man’s face as all the pretty mer-maids start oohing-and-aahing over him. This adds even more to his discomfort and embarrassment.

Trying hard to not think of the slaughter she was just surrounded by, Nyoka tries to smile. “While all this has been great, I think I’d better be getting back home now.”

As they approach the area where the portal leads to her own world, Nyoka notices the rope laying on the ground. “Oh, no! I had that rope marking the way out of here.”

“Not to worry, friend Nyoka. Our nexus locator will have you on your way before yoy know it,” says the mer-maid who had started the teasing on Volstaff. She produces a small device (Nyoka has no idea from where, considering her lack of clothing) and as she turns a centralized knob, the dimensional doorway seems to materialize from thin air. “We have more, so please take this,” she says handing the box to Nyoka. “If you should ever return, you can use it to find your way home.”

“Thank you all, very much. I hope to visit again soon. I have some very powerful friends who would be more than happy to help you with your situation here,” offers Nyoka.

“Well, girlie,” Volstaff growls, trying to regain some of his stolen dignity, “if you want to check back later that would be greatly appreciated, but for now I feel like we need to handle this ourselves.”

Nyoka grins, “Between these resourceful young women and yourself, I’d bet on your side everytime, Volstaff. Waving as she passes through the portal, Nyoka disappears from the dimension of the mer-people.

* * *

Nyoka is greeted by her friends, who have gathered back inside the volcano after gathering the strange plants that Tygra wanted.

Rats thinks the hidden figure as it slowly fades back further into the darkness. I don’t know how she found her way back out without the rope but now I’ll have to do whatever I must to prevent them from closing the doorway.

Completely unaware of the person’s presence in the shadows, the girls rush up to Nyoka, a thousand questions on their lips. “I’ll tell the whole story after I get a shower and get dried off,” Nyoka says, dripping on the cavern floor. “But, there are some brave people on the other side whose very lives depend on this doorway staying open. We absolutely can not close it.”

Yes! I won’t have to intervene after all thinks the figure as it disappears completely in the stygian depths of the tunnels. At least not yet.

chapter three

JUNGLE FEVER

Having just passed through a portal, Cave Girl, wearing the nexus locator on a belt Nyoka made for it, finds herself in the lush, humid atmosphere of a dark jungle. Cave Girl like already she thinks to herself. The thick undergrowth would make it next to impossible for a normal person to walk through but Cave Girl handles it with ease. Just as the heat and humidity of the jungle would sap almost anyone else’s strength in a matter of minutes, Cave Girl seems to thrive in it. Makes me miss home. The roars and rustles heard both near and far visibly relax her even though, until her arrival, Cave Girl didn’t realize how tense civilization had made her.

A loud roar sounds directly behind Cave Girl and she turns just in time to avoid a giant claw from cutting her in two. A saber-toothed lion with back arched ready to pounce, teeth bared in a feral snarl, a deep growl rumbling from it’s chest, and saliva flowing from it’s mouth, is staring her in the eyes. Cave Girl, an extremely tall woman in her own rights, barely has to look down to meet the creatures eyes, even with it being on all four legs.

Without skipping a beat, Cave Girl falls back into her old role of jungle girl. Faster than the saber-tooth can follow, she executes a perfect forward flip with a half twist to land astride the beast’s neck. Easily avoiding the maddened swipes of the lion’s claws, Cave Girl presses the temples of the cat’s massive head causing it to scream in pain. It’s efforts to claw her away increase ten-fold until slowly they diminish and the creature falls to the ground unconscious.

Barely breathing hard from the exertion, Cave Girl walks away from the struggle as if battling a two-ton cat is nothing out of the ordinary. She had heard a clamor to the south during the last few seconds of the wrestling match and her curiosity over-rides any second thoughts she might have given the saber-tooth.

The jungle is so dense, Cave Girl is almost on top of the scene before she sees it. A tall, lean, muscular man, clothed in nothing but the smallest of loin cloths, is holding a velociraptor at bay with a very crude looking spear. Gorgeous is Cave Girls only thought as she looks the jungle man over. She starts to call out some advice to him on how to bring the dinosaur down but decides, under the circumstances, distracting the man might not be the best of ideas.

As it turns out, she didn’t need to worry. Snapping the spear in two with it’s incredibly strong jaws, the velociraptor slowly approaches it’s prey, feeling the man is now helpless against it’s superior strength. Then with a movement so swift that neither the ‘raptor nor Cave Girl sees it, the jungle lord pulls a foot long dagger from the strap of his loin cloth and plunges it into the dinosaurs throat. The velociraptor fights on for a few seconds not realizing that it is already dead, then it’s eyes glaze over and it falls to the ground.

Cave Girl steps into the clearing, too quiet, she thinks, to be heard. But the man turns with the same quickness he had used to dispatch the velociraptor, and brings his spear up, ready to defend himself. Seeing the beautiful woman (instead of the imagined male of a foreign tribe attempting to steal the newly won meal his tribe desperately needs) the tension leaves his body and he lowers his spear. “Very dangerous to sneak up on Kazan while still under battle-lust,” the large man says.

His long blond hair, tangled with sweat and blowing in his face, gorgeous was still the only word Cave Girl could think of to describe him.

“Cave Girl not sneaking, just quiet,” explains Cave Girl.

Kazan turns back to the dinosaur. Not recieving a reply, Cave Girl asks, “Would Kazan like help carrying your meat?”

He snears at her, “Kazan does not need the help of a woman!” He bends and wraps the legs of the velociraptor around one shoulder and the arms around the other. Being careful not to cut himself on the creature’s claws he lifts the dinosaur with a mighty heave. “See woman, Kazan needs help from no one,” he says, clearly showing off. But just as clear is the strain Kazan is under from carrying such weight.

Cave Girl can not resist a smile st the display of machismo and the apparent hurt Kazan is putting on himself. Then, after a few struggling steps Kazan can not help but drop his catch. Cave Girl breaks out laughing, at the obvious displeasure of Kazan, despite an all out effort not to.

“Go ahead and laugh, woman,” the last word meant in a derrogatory manner. “At least Kazan is powerful enough to lift such a beast. Not a weak woman like yourself.”

“Cave Girl not a weak woman,” Cave Girl says brushing past Kazan. She easily lifts the beast over one shoulder. “Cave Girl strong woman. Now, which way we go?”

Kazan is stunned to see such strength in a ‘mere’ woman. He just nods and points south. “That way,” he says quietly, barely able to find his voice.

* * *

Walking through the alleyways, the former wino gloats over the ease of his escape from Taragonia. To think those Bimbos thought me destroyed so easily. When my body was rent asunder by the atmosphere surrounding their island, I merely transported my soul into the body of a nearby flying beast. Then all I had to do was bide my time until opportunity presented me with a means of escape. As lines were cut through the sky by various means I seized the chance to fly through one of the tunnels created in the purple heavens so that now I, Doctor Shinduu, have returned to once again conquer all I survey! Evil laughter once again fills the canyon like alleys of the city as Doctor Shinduu disappears into the darkness.

* * *

After delivering the stunned pteradactyl to the Orlando Zoo for safe-keeping. Paragon takes a no-longer hysterical, but still distraught Ms. Victory back to Femforce headquarters. Nightveil, having taken over monitoring duty from She-cat, meets the pair as they enter the compound. Emotionally drained, it doesn’t take Ms. Victory long to fall asleep once in the comfort of her own bed.

“So, what’s wrong with Joan, Paragon? I’ve gotten several reports of her subduing a pteradactyl but I didn’t get any specifics,” says Nightveil. “What gives?”

“What gives,” Paragon turns on the witch for what he mistakenly percieves as a cold, uncaring attitude directed at the woman he loves, “is that Vickie arrived too late to save a community of street people from that creature. For some reason she’s blaming herself for the whole slaughter and quite frankly I don’t appreciate your flippant attitude toward her after all she’s been through!”

“Wait a minute, Paragon! I didn’t mean anything by…”

But Paragon is in no mood to listen to anyone, “I really couldn’t care less what you meant. I don’t have time for this right now. Joan needs me.”

Controlling her temper with a great deal of effort, Nightveil isn’t about to be pushed aside without a second thought. “C’mon, Chuck! You’ve known me way too long to believe I’m any less concerned for her than you are. But right now she needs sleep far more than she needs you and there’s obviously a problem here that needs to be dealt with. Please…calm down and tell me, as the friend I’ve always been able to depend upon, exactly what’s going on.”

* * *

“Hello? Cave Girl? Is anyone here?” The girls, again waiting inside the volcano for Cave Girl to re-emerge from a portal, immediately recognize the deep, resonant voice of Strong Man. The loin-clothed muscle man commonly known as ‘the world’s strongest human being’ has been coming to Taragonia more and more often to spend time with Cave Girl.

Tara sticks her head out of the crevice they’ve been using to enter the volcano, and spotting him outside their island compound, waves him in. “Over here, Strong Man.”

As he enters the cool interior of the cavern he notices that Cave Girl is not with them. “Have any of you ladies seen C.G.?”

“We felt the need to explore the worlds beyond these dimensional doorways,” Tygra volunteers, “and right now Cave Girl is in that one right there.” She points to one of the swirling gateways.

“Why her?” Strong Man wants to know, despite his earnest effort not to slip into a natural protectiveness of the woman he has come to care so strongly for. He understands that this is the nineties, but he is from the fifties where believing the man is always needed for protection was not just accepted but expected.

“I went into the first doorway,” Nyoka says placatingly. Now totally dry, you wouldn’t know she had just been through any kind of ordeal if not for the occasional bruise and cut.

Ignorring Nyoka completely, he turns to Tara. “And you condone this recklessness? You are in charge of this island, aren’t you?”

Not wanting to feel like she owes an explanation for her actions, Tara gives one anyway. “We’ve encountered some pretty strange things while on this island, as you well know. One of the more dangerous ones escaped and we decided it was time we did something about it!” Even as she says it the explanation sounds kind of weak, even to her. She doesn’t suppose it sounds any better to a love-smitten hero from the fifties. She is real glad as Strong Man slowly nods his head, contemplating what he was just told.

“How long has she been in there?” he asks, edging closer to the specified hole.

“Not long. About fifteen minutes,” Tara guesses.

“Maybe I should check on her,” Strong Man says.

Tara shakes her head, “I really don’t think that’s a very good idea. She has a nexus locator to find her way back. If you should happen not to find her, you could be trapped there forever.” She tries to take his arm and lead gently lead him from the gateway.

Having none of it Strong Man pulls his arm from Tara’s grasp. “I’ll find her. And if not, she’ll come back for me.” Without another thought he steps through the doorway.

* * *

“That’s some story,” exclaims Nightveil after Paragon relays the recent events as best he could piece together from Ms. Victory’s ramblings. “And I fear she’s right.. Something just doesn’t sound quite right about that kind of behavior from a pteradactyl.”

“I just hope there really is something to her story and it’s not just some kind of mental lapse due to her inability to cope with the disaster,” says Paragon.

Nightveil’s voice takes a slight cold tone, “Really, Charles! You should know better than I, that Joan is made too tough for such foolishness. No! Something is amiss and I have a feeling it’s something we best not ignore. Mind the store for me, will you Paragon? I have some investigating to do.” Without waiting for an answer, Nightveil waves her cape around herself with a flamboyant flair and disappears with a slight wisp of smoke.

“Sure thing, Nightveil,” Paragon answers, though no one is listening.

* * *

The first thing Strong Man hears upon clearing the portal is the sound of Cave Girl’s voice, “Now, which way we go?”

Not believing his incredible luck he starts to call out to her but hears another, deeper (although decidedly more quiet) voice , “That way.”

Quietly, Strong Man makes his way toward the voices just in time to see Cave Girl and a muscular, barely clothed man leave a clearing and head into the jungle, a dinosaur in tow. Curiosity setting in, and not just a small amount of jealously, Strong Man decides to follow the pair for awhile. He doesn’t go far bfore he is able to see Cave Girl again and is almost ready to call to her for a second time when the man accompanying her suddenly grabs her and pulls her around to face him.

“Kazan like powerful woman. Want you for mate.” He kisses her with such force and passion that Cave Girl is temporarily stunned into inactivity.

She didn’t even try to stop him, thinks Strong Man. Maybe I’ve waited too long to let her know how I truly feel abut her. He starts to turn and leave when the sound of the velociraptor being dropped causes him to look back in the direction of the couple. Expecting to see more of what he just witnessed, Strong Man is shocked when Cave Girl curls her fist and delivers a haymaker to the jaw of Kazan, lifting the large man a full eight inches off the ground.. He lands hard, holding his jaw and looking at Cave Girl in disbelief.

“What you hit Kazan for!” he wants to know.

“Sorry,” Cave Girl says, honestly not having meant to hit him. “You caught me by surprise. Should not kiss Cave Girl, anyway. I already have man that I love.”

Hearing Cave Girl’s declaration causes Strong Man’s heart to soar, but he also realizes she must tell him when she’s ready. He decides to slip away, back to the vicinity of the portal and hopefully find it, but as he happily turns he comes eye to eye with what appears to be a six foot tall Tyranosaurus Rex. A small roar comes from the dinosaur’s throat as a set of very powerful jaws snap in his direction.

If that’s what I think it is, they’re not nearly as big as I was lead to believe. As the T-Rex takes another bite at Strong Man he swings a powerful blow into it’s snout staggering the beast, even if only for a moment. Shaking it’s head, the T=Rex becomes enraged and lunges at the muscle man, claws slashing and teeth clashing. Strong Man barely has time to avoid the attack, but answers it instinctively with the same ferocity. Before he realizes he’s doing it, Strong Man has hold of the dinosaur, upper teeth in his right hand, lower teeth in his left and pulls until the sound of bones breaking signifies the end of the battle has arrived. I didn’t even hardly work up a sweat, he thinks dropping his prey. What a disappointment. I was expecting a little more from a dinosaur from listening to Cave Girl’s description of them.

He turns to find himself looking at the thigh of an exact duplicate of the dinosaur he just fought, only three times the size. “Oh, no! Cave Girl!!!” Strong Man yells as he jumps to the side, missing being bitten in half by the narrowest of margins.

* * *

“Strong Man?” Cave Girl calls, rushing toward the cry for help. What’s he doing here? she wonders. Rounding a bend in the trail she has been following, she sees Strong Man laying on the ground, trying to keep out of harms way as a Tyranosaurus Rex takes several bites at him. She sees the dead baby rex and immediately understands the situation. There will be no stopping the mother from exacting revenge short of killing her.

Heedless of her own danger, she launches herself at the T-Rex, landing astride it’s snout, looking it square in the eyes. Momentarily forgetting Strong Man, the dinosaur emits a deaffening roar, easily heard throughout the entire valley. Undeterred by the noise, or the violent shaking of it’s head, Cave Girl pulls her dagger from the belt holding the nexus locator, and plunges it into the beast’s left eye.

The dagger is not long enough to reach the brain or to cause any fatal damage. The pain sends the Tyranosaurus into a feral, mindless thrashing, dislodging Cave Girl, sending her to slam solidly into the base of a tree.

Cave Girl’s interference has given Strong Man time to regain his feet, but seeing his beloved thrown into the tree, maybe severely hurt (maybe even dead) sends him into a bloodlust like he’s never known before. Yelling like a maddened beast himself, Strong Man charges headlong toward the creature. So intent is he on retribution, he fails to notice the slashing tail until it is too late. The tail catches him solid in the chest, knocking the breath from him and breaking a few ribs. Horror overcomes him as he realizes the dinosaur is turning toward the (hopefully) unconscious form of Cave Girl and he is unable to get up in time to prevent it from getting her.

Suddenly, from somewhere behind him, a crude looking spear flashes by, burying itself three feet into the ruined eye that Cave Girl’s dagger is still sticking out of. As the Tyranosaurus falls forward, pushing the rest of the spear through it’s already impaled brain, Strong Man whirls his head around to see Kazan. A bruise is already forming on his jaw.

Finding his feet, although he has never hurt nearly as much as he does now, Strong Man rushes to Cave Girl’s side. She is already stirring as he arrives but it is clear she is badly hurt. Gently picking her up, Strong Man walks over to Kazan. “I owe you more than I can ever repay,” he says, grasping one of Kazan’s hands, being careful not to jostle Cave Girl too much. “But my lady is badly hurt and I have to take her back where we came from for help.”

Without so much as a backward glance, Strong Man takes the nexus locator from Cave Girl’s belt and turns the switch. (Luckily there is only one switch.) Going back to the area he first entered this dimension, he finds the swirling blackness and carries them through.

* * *

Tara, Nyoka, and Tygra are all waiting as Strong Man arrives, Cave Girl craddled in his arms.

“What’s wrong with her?” cries Tygra.

“She needs help, NOW!” Strong Man heads for the infirmary, the three girls following closely on his heels. Tara calls ahead on her cellular phone to make sure the medical staff is ready.

As soon as Cave Girl is being taken care of, Strong Man relays their adventure as best he can considering his difficulty in keeping focussed on anything but the medical proceedings.

The girls depart the infirmary, leaving Strong Man behind to stay with Cave Girl. As they re-enter the volcano, all are in agreement that this particular portal definately needs closing. “So the only question now is, how do we go about closing it?”

“The answer to that is simple, my friends,” comes a voice they all know well but have not heard for awhile. They all turn in unison to find Princess Pantha stepping from the shadows of a tunnel, gun in hand, “you don’t.”

chapter four

ANOTHER FINE MESS

Following the trail of evil, eminating from the alley where the slaughter occurred, Nightveil is sure she is closing in on the end of the trail. The sense of wickedness has become so strong I must be veritably on top of the vile perpetrator she thinks. But just as the aura of evil is just about to overcome her, it suddenly ceases. In it’s place words seemingly begin to form from thin air, right in front of her.

Nightveil – I knew you would come searching for me so I left this message for you (No one else has the ability to see this). Since learning of your incredible powers I have long since desired to match sorcerous abilities with you. But not now. I’m tired from the transformations and the chase your friend gave me. But remember this! When you least expect it you will find yourself challenged like no challenge you have ever faced before. So swears the mighty Dr. Shinduu!!

The words slowly fade leaving Nightveil without any traceable path to follow. But she swears she can hear an evil laughter echoing over and over again in the back of her mind.

* * *

“So, what’s with the gun, Pantha?” Tara asks.

Not being able to percieve any concern from Tara’s attitude (as well as Tygra’s and Nyoka’s) Pantha visibly becomes a little edgy, not truly wanting to have to use the gun. “That’s Princess Pantha, little miss rich girl. Although I can undertand how you can forget that considering the state of my country.”

Clearly confused, Nyoka questions her. “What in the world are you going on about?”

“I wouldn’t expect you to understand,” spits Pantha. “You’ve never been the ruler of a country. Well, I have and it was a country with a proud, rich heritage. But then I was frozen in that cursed vault of Dr. Weir’s. Sure, I was given the country back but it sure wasn’t how I left it. There is no money, and no pride left. The villagers are down trodden, living in filth, barely being able to find enough to eat. And it breaks my heart to see my once proud people living in such squalid conditions!”

Hurting for her friend, Tara exclaims, “Why didn’t you let us know the situation. We’ll do anything we can to help.”

“If you truly cared, you would have seen it for yourself,” Pantha yells, her rage growing with her story. Do you truly think we need help from the likes of you? I have the matter well in hand on my own. I used to own a zoo with all the wild animals from my country. People would come from all over to see them. But zoos have become common place and people are no longer interested. So to build the riches of my land back, I’m creating a zoo like no one has ever seen before. I’ve already gathered mer-maids, monkey men, dinosaurs, alien life forms of all kinds and many other wonderful sights that people will be willing to pay a fortune to see.”

“Mer-maid and monkey men?” asks Nyoka.

“You can’t be serious,” continues Tara. “Their sentient beings. Surely you wouldn’t incarcerate innocent people for self gain?”

“They aren’t real people,” says Pantha. From the strain in her voice it is obvious she hasn’t completely convinced even herself of what she is saying. “But the people of my tribe are.” Tears begin to run from her eyes as her need to comfort her tribesmen totally overwhelms her. “They need me to help them to overcome their lives of poverty – to be able to be a strong and proud people once more.”

Tara shakes her head, “Knowing the inherant goodness of your tribe, I know in my heart that they would never wish harm on others just to help their own plight. Listen, there are other ways to…”

“There are no other ways!” she screams, tears now flowing down her face. “All of you just shut up. I have to help them and that’s just how it is. SO JUST SHUT UP! If anyone says anything else to confuse me I promise I’ll shoot you all. Just leave the portals open so I can get more specimens, and leave me alone, and everyone will be okay.”

“Sorry, but Princess need help,” comes a voice from behind her. Princess Pantha turns just in time to see the huge fist of Cave Girl smash her across the jaw, bringing unconsciousness. “You not well.”

“Cave Girl? But how?” Nyoka wants to know.

Strong man enters the cavern. “It seems like my lady is not only beautiful but resiliant as well. After laying down a few minutes she insisted on coming back out here with you. I tried to stop her but there was no way.”

Cave girl says, “Cave Girl fine, but what we do with Princess?”

“The only thing we can do,” says Tara. “We get her help. Dr. Weir should be able to help her. He knew all along it would be hard for some of his vault heroes to cope with a life, forty years past their own time. One thing she said is right though. We can’t close the portals.”

“And why is that?” Tygra wants to know.

“Because we have to find the people and things she captured and try to return them to their own places and times. Then after things settle down, maybe we can figure out what to do with the portals. But for now, I think we’ve explored enough,” says Tara.

“Amen to that sister!” agrees Nyoka. And for the first time in a while they take the time to laugh a little.

2 Responses to "Mystery on Taragonia by Richard Paulk"

  1. Jim Johnston  November 12, 2011 at 12:09 am

    Great to see this story again. Thanks for Putting this one ,and all the other fan stories together in one easy to access space
    One question-the original publication of this story-back in the (hardcopy)Fan Club Newsletter(Sept/Oct 1998-May/June1999)featured excellent art which is not present here Is it all no longer available?Can it be restored?
    Another question- Can we post our own F F fan fiction at this part of the site?
    Jim J

  2. JohnJG  November 12, 2011 at 12:18 am

    If anyone out there has the hardcopy they can send scans to me or Mark and we can put it online. If you have original art or fan fiction of your own to submit, you can also send that to me or Mark and we can post it.

    Also if any writers or AC historians out there want to submit better FF character profile write ups or histories or articles or anything like that, feel free to send them in! We need all the help we can get!

Comments are closed.