Zator leaned back in his seat and cracked his knuckles contentedly. So far, his plan appeared to be working. Ninjaman Nick was completely alone and isolated. Most importantly of all, he was vulnerable.
He stared about the unusual surroundings of the room about him. These Earthen dwellings were not as bad as he had thought they would be. This complex was especially well constructed and almost as comfortable as his own ship now that his engineers had built in the new systems.
He turned in his chair and tapped a few keys upon the panel in front of him to contact one of his spies on Earth. He needed to know how close he was to succeeding.
“Zator?” a voice said as an image flashed up on the screen.
“How is our plan progressing?” Zator asked.
“Everything is working perfectly. We’re wearing him down. It won’t be long before he breaks and then Ninjaman will no longer be a threat to you,” the Ersnai disguised as Howie replied.
Zator smiled satisfactorily to himself. Finally he was going to get what he wanted and neither Nick nor his friends could stop him anymore. “Excellent!”
“But there is one problem,” Howie said timidly.
Zator froze slightly. He leaned further towards the screen. “A problem?” he repeated, his voice quiet yet threatening. “I thought you said that everything was going ‘perfectly’?”
“Almost perfectly!” Howie defended. “But he got to Kren – the one disguised as your daughter Zanell – and destroyed him! He now has an extra amulet.”
“You mean you haven’t actually seized his amulet yet?” Zator roared, slamming his hands down upon the desk in front of him. “I should never have trusted you treacherous mercenaries with this!”
“We’ll get them!” Howie said. “Hoyley is going to get them both tonight! Like I said, he’s almost at breaking point! He can’t cope alone without his friends!”
“I grow weary of waiting,” Zator snarled. “I gave the amulets in my possession to you to help you, but now I find you have already lost one of them! Instead of just one, I must wait for two! I want those amulets!”
“He’s weak! It’ll be easy for us to beat him!”
“Don’t underestimate him!” Zator snapped. “He’s the strongest out of all of the Backstreet Boys and he will not give up easily! You should have taken the amulets when you first fought him! Now he knows about you, he’ll be determined to rescue his companions!”
“We can handle him!” Howie protested.
“You’d better!” Zator threatened. “I certainly couldn’t. It was hard enough to get the basketball player! The droids had to pursue him for miles before they caught him!”
“We will not fail you,” Howie said.
“Good, because if you do then your lives will pay the consequences.”
Zator smacked another panel to terminate the communication and then picked up an electronic pad from his desk and hurled it at the wall in frustration. Every time, the Backstreet Boys had managed to foil his plans but this time he was determined that it would be different. He had already reduced his enemies to one by isolating Nick, but the strengths of that one still haunted his mind.
He pushed his chair back and angrily rose to his feet, his hands clasped into fists. He would not allow everything to be ruined now. Not when he was so close to finally having all six amulets. Not even the ninja was going to stop him this time. Nothing was.
He strode down the corridor to the block of prison cells he had had his crew install when they had first arrived at the complex, believing that it would be useful to have a base on Earth as well as his own ship in orbit.
The two guards beside the door saluted him and stood to attention before one of them tapped a remote control to open the doorway. Zator pushed past them and into the blocks of cells beyond. Each cell was protected by bars made of pure energy which glowed yellow in the gloom and would burn anything that touched them. After all, he was not prepared to let a single one of his prisoners go.
He stepped in front of the nearest cell and paused for a moment as he peered inside. A pretty girl with long, dark red hair was sat upon a small bench, her knees clasped to her chest and face buried in her arms. “Zanell?” he asked.
His daughter raised her head from her lap and stared up at him, tears in her eyes. As usual, the sight of Zanell was accompanied by the waves of disgust and betrayal. His own daughter had deserted him to band with the rebels on Zophacia that resisted his reign. Ruthlessly, he had dragged her away from their home planet, determined that she would not fight against him. But just when he thought he could trust her, she had committed the ultimate betrayal by stealing his precious amulets and giving them to the Backstreet Boys to stop him from invading Earth.
“What have you done to him?” she whispered.
“To who?” Zator asked innocently. “Nick!” she said desperately.
Zator smiled slightly, wondering what he could tell her. That he was dead perhaps? No, it would be far better to keep her in suspense and allow her own thoughts do the emotional torturing for him.
For the hundredth time he wondered why she had decided to fall for a human when she had stubbornly resisted every suitor he had found for her when she was younger.
“Please tell me,” she begged.
“He is about to fall into my hands,” Zator said. “It won’t be long before I have him and his amulet.”
Zanell shook her head. “You’ll never capture him. Brian gave you enough trouble and Nick is even more powerful than him.”
Zator clenched his fists again, tired of the way everyone told him how powerful Nick was. “Nick is not as quick as his speedy companion. He will give me little trouble.”
“He’ll beat you!” another voice said. “He’s stronger than you and you know it, that’s why you didn’t capture him along with us!”
Zator eyes narrowed as he turned around to peer into the cell opposite Zanell’s. The dark haired Backstreet Boy, Howie stared back at him defiantly.
“I can take him whenever I want!” Zator hissed. “But I wanted him to suffer! And believe me, he is suffering! He thinks you all despise him!”
“He knows we would never hate him! He’s our friend and not even you can break that friendship!” another of the Backstreet Boys said, moving closer to the energy bars of his own cell.
“AJ’s right! Nick knows that those monsters on Earth are not us! We would never ever abandon him!” Howie said.
“Yeah! You knew you could never defeat him and that’s why you captured us!” a third added.
Zator turned in irritation and saw the three dark haired members of the band, Kevin, Howie and AJ staring back at him.
“He can’t fight me,” Zator said. “Not alone.”
“Yes he can! He’ll fight you till the death and he’d be the one still standing!”
Zator turned to the next cell which contained the Top Speed member of the super hero team that had given Zator’s droids so much trouble when they tried to capture him. Zator drew closer to the cell and to his pleasure he saw that Brian’s arms were covered in ugly red burns caused by the yellow energy bars. He glanced back at the others and similar marks upon them too.
“That’s what you think!” he said.
“Nick will come for us!” Brian replied, inching as close to the bars as he possibly could.
“Don’t you wish that?” he said. “He thinks only two of you are monsters and you are not one of them. He thinks that you hate him. He won’t come to save you.”
“He’s not stupid enough to fall for that!” Brian replied.
“He will come!” AJ added.
“And then you’ll see how strong he really is!” Kevin said.
“And once their back as a team, they’re unbeatable!” Zanell said.
“Nothing is unbeatable!” Zator snapped. “He’s not as strong as you think he is! And he is nothing without you boys by his side!”
“But we’ll be back by his side when he rescues us!” Howie pointed out.
“He’s not getting his friends back,” Zator hissed. “I’ll kill you all before I let Nick rescue you! Your deaths would destroy him totally and then I will crush him like a fly!”