The planet Onyx has long served as a refuge for the scum of the universe. Criminals, underlings to would-be conquerors and dictators, and other barbarous aliens consider the desert world a safe haven. Some visit for a temporary reprieve from the tasks put on them by their masters, others to conduct illicit deals free from the watch of intergalactic law enforcement like Space Patrol Delta. Of course, safety is never guaranteed in a world of anarchy, and several visitors often find themselves in worse situations than those they were trying to escape from with no hope of help.
Miles away from any signs of what could charitably be called a civilized outpost, as the sun was setting, an alien dashed across the sandy dunes. He was dressed in ragged leather, had scaly gray skin, a stubby snout, a row of green spikes running down the center of his head like a mohawk, and a look of pure terror in his beady black eyes. The chilling winds whipped sand in his face as he ran, stinging his eyes. His muscles were burning after running for hours, desperately trying to escape the monster that had been chasing him. The strain soon took its toll as he stumbled and collapsed, exhausted. As the alien desperately tried to lift himself up, only managing to flip himself over onto his back before he froze in fear as a primal howl echoed across the desert. His pursuers had caught up to him.
A figure carrying a bayonet slowly came over one of the dunes. Tall and slender, his face was as white as ivory with a thick pair of goggles covering his eyes, gill-like slits in place of a nose, and a pair of tusks with a metallic sheen to them. He was wearing a large conical helmet that looked as though it had been carved out of bone, khakis, black leather boots, and a fancy red jacket bearing a creature’s skull where the lapels converged. He was Nialis, the hunter. Another creature came bounding over the hill after Nialis, a canine-like humanoid covered in sharp, spiky armor. The beast ran alongside its master and knelt down, snarling as it glared at the helpless alien.
Nialis lifted up his goggles, peering at the alien with narrow red eyes. He tsk-tsked lightly. “Bad show, Bowzock,” he admonished, speaking with a refined voice reminiscent of a British accent. “Given your reputation I was certainly hoping you would have lasted a bit longer.” He sighed, disappointed. “Shame really, I truly was enjoying this at the start.”
Bowzock held up his hand, his desperation evident. “Wait! Please, don’t do this. I… I can show you where I’ve hidden everything from the jobs I pulled. Hundreds of thousands of zanabitars. It… it’s all yours if you let me go!” It was an odd turn of a situation for Bowzock – usually he was the one threatening others and ignoring their pleas for mercy while he was committing his violent robberies.
Nialis chuckled coldly. “Oh, you poor naive sod. I have no need for money. All I wanted was a satisfying hunt.” He raised his bayonet and aimed it at Bowzock’s head. “And since you failed to provide me with one, there’s no need to keep the game going.” He pulled the trigger. Bowzock’s arm fell as his corpse went limp. Nialis looked over his victim with another twinge of displeasure. “Not even worth keeping the trophy. Ah well,” he said as his fortitude returned, “can’t let one poor expedition diminish my enthusiasm for the next.” He pulled a communicator from his coat pocket and spoke into it. “Morcha, the hunt has ended. Would you be a dear and come for us?”
“Certainly, darling,” a woman’s voice responded from the other end in a tone as posh as Nialis’. “I have your coordinates. Be there in a tick.” Minutes later, a cylindrical red spacecraft descended from the sky above Nialis and his pet. A beam of light emitted from the ship’s underside, teleporting them inside.
On the ship, Nialis’ wife Morcha was busy in the kitchenette of their elegantly decorated lounge pouring tea. Her husband always enjoyed a cup after a hunt, particularly those made with the leaves of Mercuria’s hydrarga trees because of their their piquant metallic flavor. Like Nialis, Morcha’s face was a pale white, though she wore a brilliant gold mask over the upper part of her face to show her status. Her hair was done up in an elaborate beehive and she wore a flowing green silk gown with a silver collar sticking out around her neck The door to the lounge slid open as Nialis and the creature entered.
“Welcome back, dearest,” Morcha cooed as she went over to her husband with his tea. She kissed him on the cheek as he took the cup, being sure to avoid bumping against his tusk. “I hope you had an enjoyable day.”
“Regretfully it proved to be rather anticlimactic in the end, my love,” Nialis mused before taking a sip of his drink. “Given Bowzock’s reputation in this sector of the cosmos, I felt he would put up more of a fight. It must have all been rumors and exaggerations. He was too quick to run. Like the rest of his class, he simply wasn’t worth my time. At least Shuck was entertained.” He rubbed his pet’s scruff, causing it to growl contentedly.
The hunter finished his drink and sat down in an ornate leather chair. Placing the cup on an end table, he looked over the trophies that lined his lounge. The head of a dragon-like beast with a long mane he’d killed on Rikas 3 hung on the wall next to his bookshelf. Below that was a stuffed, mounted specimen from the marshes of Wameikle that resembled a seven-foot tall fanged bipedal eel. By the fireplace was a truly grotesque creature encountered on Columb-Lambda, the result of a mutation brought on by ecological disasters. The mutant had warty purple skin, large elephantine ears, multiple bony spikes protruding from its back, tentacles for arms, and, as Nialis could attest from the encounter, an incredibly aggressive temper. It took more than a dozen shots to pierce that monster’s thick hide and bring it down. They were but a handful of the hundreds of trophies he’d acquired over the decades.
Nialis was obsessed with hunting. He gained this fervor as a child going on safari to different worlds with his father, and the vast family fortune he’d inherited allowed him to pursue it freely as his life’s passion. He lived for the chance to track down the rarest species, the most elusive and dangerous of wildlife from across the universe, and preserving their remains as a testament to his fortitude. Every now and then, however, he sought a greater challenge – prey that could think, that could match him on a greater level than simply relying on strength and animal instinct. They still needed to be unique to satisfy his urges: celebrities, notorious criminal, prominent politicians. He’d added many to his collection and still had yet to be caught, making him all the more brazen.
Morcha pulled a slab of raw meat from their refrigeration unit and gave it to Shuck, who gnawed on his meal ravenously. “Where shall we be going next, Nialis?” she asked while washing her hands. “I do hope it will be to a planet with more variety than this drab desert.”
“Still undecided, I’m afraid,” Nialis responded, somewhat lost in thought. “After today’s wash I want something truly invigorating. Prey that will put me to the test; keep my blood flowing and my nerves firing. A true warrior. But who would be worthy? An athlete, a military hero, perhaps…” he paused as the realization came to him, his eyes lighting up with malicious glee. “Of course. I know exactly what my next target will be.” He bolted up from his chair. “We’re setting course for the Milky Way galaxy, Morcha. Our next destination is Earth.”
“Mmm, I’ve heard that planet is always buzzing with excitement,” she said, rubbing her hands together in anticipation. “What, or whom, I should ask, will you be hunting?”
“Legends, my love. No less than legends.” Nialis could barely contain his murderous enthusiasm as he went towards the door, glancing at his wife before he left. “My next trophy will be a Power Ranger.”