CROSSTOWN TRAFFICKING

Ling-Cho looked up at the buildings in wonder. She had never been in a big city before. In fact, she had never been anywhere outside of her tiny village in rural China until now. The way the buildings seemed to soar up to-wards the sky fascinated the girl, as did the myriad neon lights and the bustling traffic of this metropolis.

Her flight had been delayed by several hours, and the jet aeroplane had finally arrived with her at the local airport just at sunset. Due to this change in schedule, Mr. Yueng had not had the time to send one of his private limousines to pick her up as originally planned, but had hired a city taxicab to drive her across town to meet him at his estate. The driver, an elderly man of obvious Hindu extraction, had not asked any questions.

Mr. Yueng, you see, was the man that young Ling-Cho was supposed to be marrying in a few days. Just in her teens, the girl was rather nervous about meeting this older gentleman. Nevertheless, she felt it would be fine. After all, Mr. Yueng was known to be descended from the most honourable and noble blood of the Imperial Dynasties of ancient China, and Ling-Cho had been chosen from her birth to be his bride. It was according to the oldest and most honoured traditions of her culture, and the girl had been warned to pay no heed to the decadent Westerners and their perverse talk of “child sex trafficking” and other such imagined atrocities.

Ling-Cho was a beautiful young girl, slender and svelte and clad in her simple powder-blue dress, with a matching ribbon in her long, shiny, liquorice-like hair. Her skin was honey-coloured, and her face was finely delicate with perfect elfin features, with lips like a sensuous red rose. The girl settled back in her seat, closing her lovely almond-shaped eyes and listening to the sounds of the late crosstown commuters whilst she thought of the life she had ahead of her as the wife of that wealthy and respected gentleman here in the United States of America.

None the less, little did Ling-Cho know -- in truth there is no way she could have realised -- that her idyllic future was to be opposed and challenged by forces beyond that of anything she (or indeed any sane human being) could possibly imagine; forces of extreme evil and of obscene eldritch darkness that would threaten to destroy all that she could hope or wish for. You see, the city in which young Miss Ling-Cho -- intended bride of the prosperous and respected Chinese-American investor Mr. Yueng -- had found herself was that which is known as Baltimore in the state of Maryland, and that is indeed a place in which there are quite often grotesquely unusual things afoot. …

My name is RUMANOS -- DOCTOR DANIEL RUMANOS, Extraterrestrial Espionage Agent and Intergalactic Man of Mystery. Even though I have the physical appearance of an human being, I am in fact several thousands of years old and do carry within my blood the vastly superior genes of the legendary Watchers of the Daemon-Star ALGOL -- the most intellectually-advanced race in all of the known galaxies, whose technology is so sophisticated it often appears to be “magic” and “miraculous” to lesser beings.

Whilst most Algolites tend to keep to themselves, preferring to live in elitist seclusion from the rest of the Universe and thus merely observing the goings-on of the myriad races of the vast reaches around them, I am an Operative for a secret organisation known as the KOSMIKOS or Cosmic Intervention Department, tasked with maintaining peace and order throughout the farthest reaches of Space and Time. You know, “plausible deniability”, and all of that sort of thing. It is our ongoing mission to defend the weak, the unfortunate, and the innocent from those who would harm or exploit them.

Currently assigned to Earth, I protect its people (both upon their planet and across the eternal void) from the hideous manipulations of the arch-villain known as Magister Don Wingus and his occult terrorist organisation, Spectral Paranormal; as well as from alien invasions, mad scientists, and indeed all manner of menace. Assisted by my friends -- the beautiful Miss Millie "The Girl From Beyond" Drake and our catlike robot, Kit-10 -- I am the living icon of Algol on this world. I am a Knight of the Eternal Spires. I am the sword of justice from the planet Daemonia. I am the stellar swashbuckler.

I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …

I stopped my canary-coloured Edwardian roadster (affectionately known as “Lizzie”), just outside of the gate of Yueng Estates there along Liberty Road in Baltimore. It was a warm, humid evening, and I was clad in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, panama hat, and one of my favourite opera capes.

“Mr. Yueng should be expecting us,” said I. “Ah, there is the announcement system.”

“It was nice of him to invite us to meet his fiancée,” said my companion, Millie Drake, “and to look at the finalised plans for the wedding. I’ve never seen a traditional Chinese ceremony before!”

Miss Drake is an exceedingly-beautiful young lady with luxurious chestnut hair, sun-kissed skin, enchanting violet eyes, and an invitingly-wide mouth. She was wearing a short, tight, hot pink dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her petite-and-perfect figure.

“It should be quite a sight,” I assured her. “Come to think of it, I myself have not seen a Chinese wedding since old Kublai Khan’s, hmmm? I was best man, you know. I fear that Marco Polo felt a bit slighted, since he made no mention of that in his memoirs.”

“Mr. Yueng is descended from the Khan, isn’t he?” enquired Millie.

“Indeed he is. I say, it looks like I have come full circle in my witnessing of traditional East Asian nuptials, hmmm?”

Whilst the girl giggled, I reached out and touched the intercom switch on the announcement system.

“Good evening,” I intoned. “This is Doctor Rumanos. Would someone please inform the honourable Mr. Yueng that Miss Drake and I have arrived?” 

There was no reply. I repeated my words but again to no avail.

“Well, that is odd,” I pondered.

“What could be wrong with the intercom system?” asked my companion.

I took the transonic turnscrew, an highly-advanced scientific device somewhat resembling a large writing pen, from my jacket pocket, utilising it the scan the system’s electric circuitry.

“According to this,” I announced, “it has been shut off from the inside, along with all other communications possibilities.”

“That’s weird,” mused Millie Drake. “Especially since Mr. Yueng was expecting us and everything. I hope he’s all right.”

“Weird it indeed is, my love. Weird indeed.” …

Inside the mansion at the centre of the sprawling estate, Mr. Yueng was doing his best to hide his concern and to maintain his traditional Oriental stoicism. A fit, intelligent-featured man of about fifty, Yueng was clad in an ornate dressing gown as he stood before a full-length, golden-framed mirror checking his hair. As with the rest of the house, the dressing chamber was filled with myriad antiques from throughout Chinese history.

“Chun,” he said to his valet and major domo, who stood near by, “are you certain the problem with the intercom system is not part of some greater fault? I would be displeased for my new bride to come into a home without proper security. She is on her way from the airport now, though her transport has been delayed due to traffic.”

“All should be well, sir,” said the servant, a tall Eurasian man in his late twenties, dressed in a dark business suit. “The system is likely only resetting itself, and should be fully functional again shortly.”

“My honoured friend Doctor Rumanos and his young lady should be here any time now,” announced Mr. Yueng. “Please do go see that they are escorted to the receiving room.”

“Yes, sir,” replied Chun. “Right away.”

At this, Chun exited the dressing room and walked down the corridor. He did not go to the receiving room, however. Neither did he go outside to ascertain if the expected guests had arrived. In stead, he entered another chamber, his own, and pulled aside a silk curtain that concealed part of the wall.

“All is now ready,” whispered Chun to himself as he gazed at a symbol that had been painted on the wall behind the curtain. “Tonight I shall receive the Most Ancient Power, and shall exalt the cause of the Tong of the Qi-Gwai to new heights of glory.”

Then Chun bowed deeply in reverence before the symbol, that horrid and terrible insignia that was upon the wall. It was a symbol made up of three interlocking inverted triangles. …

"Too bad Kit-10 isn’t here,” said Millie Drake as we stood before the high fence surrounding Yueng Estates. “She could cut through that with her nose laser.”

“Unfortunately, there is no traditional role for robot cats at these imperial-style weddings, hmmm?” I explained. “Only for Pekingese dogs.”

“We could say she was a Siamese,” joked Millie.

“She could never be persuaded to sing that song,” I grinned. “In any event, we should be able to get in without doing any damage. Ah, here we go!”

We had left Lizzie in front of the gate and walked several metres around the perimeter of the estate, with the leprous light of the gibbous moon lighting our way. There was now before us a gap in the fence that appeared to be just large enough for us to squeeze through.

“I should warn you, Mills,” said I whilst we stepped onto the lush gardens of the estate grounds. “Mr. Yueng is known to be quite the conservationist, even keeping several rare and exotic animals from remote parts of China on the estate.”

“Anything that could be dangerous?” queried the lass.

“Worry not, love,” I assured her. “I am certain anything that could be of concern is kept properly controlled.”

We were strolling across the perfectly-manicured grounds to-wards the mansion when we suddenly heard a strange sound. It was like unto an odd brutish muttering, or a chatter almost human.

“Daniel, what was that?” questioned Millie as we both stopped short in our tracks.

“By the Stellar Trinity!” I swore. “It sounded for all the world like a…”

It was then that my words were drowned out by Millie Drake’s scream. It was a scream of sudden fear and of absolute horror at the sight of what was approaching us. It was far larger and heavier than any man, and covered with dark-orange hair. Its simian face put forward a look of horrendous challenge as it reached out its long, heavily-muscled arms to-wards us.

“Millie!” I called to the girl. “Find shelter!”

I hurried forwards to shield Millie and thus to face the giant ape. I managed to grab the creature by its wrist before it could touch me, then I crouched down slightly and utilised the resultant leverage to heave the gigantic simian over my shoulder. It hit the ground with a resounding thud.

Nevertheless, the huge ape recovered its feet quickly and, before I could react, succeeded in giving me a blow to the midsection with one of its humongous hands. I staggered back and struggled to not give into the pain, then responding by delivering a roundhouse kick to the monster’s head. At this it bellowed with outrage and immediately responded with a similar move from one of its own large, hand-like feet.

I just managed to maintain consciousness when the horrid thing jumped up and over me, then grasping me around the chest from behind. I gasped for air as I realised that the ape’s intention was to utilise its incredibly-powerful arms to squeeze the very life from me. I immediately felt my air supply blocked off, and knew that I would be insentient within moments if I did not manage to somehow free myself from the ape’s grasp. In desperation, I hooked my foot around the beast’s ankle and, with a sudden jerk, managed to bring it to the ground with me on top of it.

I jumped up and, before the big brute could regain its feet, I gave it a quick double punch to the face and then, with my thumb and two fingers, applied pressure to a certain point on its nearly nonexistent neck. With a shudder and a low whimper, the giant ape soon was unconscious.

“It is all right now, Mills,” I assured the lass who had sought safety behind a near by tree. “It will be out cold for a quarter of an hour, at least.”

“Daniel, isn’t that thing a lot bigger than any modern ape?” asked Millie.

“Indeed it is, my dear,” I replied as I examined the now-unconscious creature. “It is a gigantopithecus, and they are generally believed to have gone extinct 300,000 years ago.”

“Then how is it here?’

“Well, there have been a smattering of unverified reports of sightings of them in the tropical rainforest found on the southernmost tip of China. It appears that a few of the prehistoric apes survived after all, hmmm? As I said, Yueng is quite the conservationist, though I am quite certain that he would usually keep this creature at a safe distance from any visitors.”

“Maybe the security system is faulty like the intercom,” offered the girl.

“That would seem to be the case,” I agreed whilst we continued to walk on to-wards the mansion. “That is a troubling thought, especially if he has imported anything else here from that same tropical forest. After all, it is said to be the home of…”

The Millie Drake again screamed at what was slithering into view before us. It was larger than any snake usually seen upon present-day Earth, and as it raised its head and opened its hideous reptilian hood it easily reached to nearly my own height. Its two ebon-black eyes were fixed upon us, and its huge fangs dripped with deadly venom as it reared back and prepared to strike.

It was indeed a member of a certain archaic species of reptile that the remote Chinese rainforest is said by some to retain. It was a giant cobra!

I again stood before Millie Drake, to guard, protect, and defend her as the gigantic serpent reared up before us. I knew that a dose of its burning venom could possibly be fatal even to our own Algolitish constitutions.

Carefully reaching into my pocket, I removed the transonic turnscrew and quickly changed its setting to emit a certain frequency, then raising the device in front of the huge cobra.

The big snake then began to sway back and forth with the movement of my own hand that was holding the transonic. Within a few moments, the scaly terror dropped to the ground and then quietly slithered off into the high grass.

“Gosh, Daniel,” said Millie, peeping around from behind me, “what did you do to it?”

“Oh, just a technological variation of an old trick I learned from a snake-charmer in old Calcutta, hmmm?” I explained, turning to her. “Reptiles respond to certain sonic frequencies, you see, and the rest is then just persistence and exerting one’s own will-power over them.”

It was at that moment that I noticed something else, something standing just a couple metres behind Millie Drake.

“Turn around slowly, love,” I warned her. “Be careful to not move suddenly.”

Millie obeyed me, and carefully turned to also behold what I had seen. It was a man in his late twenties, a man of apparent Eurasian descent, clad in a dark business suit. He was holding a beautiful young Chinese girl in front of him, his left arm cruelly curled around her neck from behind, a look of extreme unadulterated evil upon his face.

“Hello, Doctor Rumanos,” he sneered. “My name is Chun. Do not make any attempt to resist me or be assured that I am willing and able to end this child’s life immediately. You see, you are not the only one here schooled in certain old Asiatic techniques of life and death. I can crush her throat within a half-second.”

“The young lady whom you are so mistreating is, I would take it, Miss Ling-Cho, the intended bride of our host?” I queried.

“So it is,” affirmed Chun, “and he will also cooperate with me if he does not want her to meet an early death. Fortunately, her taxi arrived through the back way and, since I have disabled the security and announcement systems, I was easily able to apprehend her.”

“You are holding her hostage so Mr. Yueng will cooperate with you?” asked Millie Drake. “Cooperate how?”

“It has been revealed to me that Yueng is the guardian of a secret,” answered the villain. “It is a secret handed down to the descendants of certain Chinese Dynasties. It is a secret that could be used, in the right hands, to achieve power and domination over all physical reality. It is the secret of the Most Ancient Power!”

“Yes, I have heard those legends,” said I, “but the information on how to wield the supposed powers -- and even the truth of what they actually are -- is believed lost. Even if this is all true, and not just a charming old Chinese myth, you shall not be able to properly receive and control these forces.”

“In that you are incorrect, Doctor,” retorted the wicked Chun. “The procedures for using the Most Ancient Power have been revealed to the Masters of the Tong of the Qi-Gwai, and, as a chosen servant of  that most august and feared society, I shall use them to conquer this world, and to make myself emperor of the entire human race!”

“‘The Tong of the Qi-Gwai’?” I repeated. “By the Daemonian Spires! Millie, ‘qi-gwai’ is Chinese for ‘strange ghost’, or…”

“‘Spectral Paranormal’!” completed my companion, with a shudder of horror at this realisation. “My gosh, so he is one of their agents?!”

“Indeed so,” I replied. “It would appear that Chun here is an operative of that hideous occult terrorist organisation. He intentionally disabled the security and intercom systems, and set those animals upon us, hmmm?”

“You are correct, Doctor,” announced Chun with obvious criminal pride. “You are indeed correct, and you know too much to live!!”

Do you even begin to recognise the extreme horror, forsooth the ungodly satanic terror of this horrid situation, my dear readers? Chun, sworn agent of that grotesquely criminal secret society remembered in eternal infamy as Spectral Paranormal, also known as the Tong of the Qi-Gwai, was now holding that innocent young girl hostage, and threatening to brutally murder her if his bizarre and unholy demands were not met by our host, the wealthy Chinese-American investor known as Mr. Yueng!

“You will not oppose me, Doctor,” continued the villainous Chun, “or I shall kill not only this girl, but you and your young companion as well!”

I stood facing him, noting the extreme unmitigated wickedness and irrevocable madness in his dark eyes. It was then that I knew that there was only one slim chance, one small hope of remedying this exceedingly grotesque and indeed remarkably uncanny situation.

At that very moment, another voice was heard; the voice of one approaching from behind us. It was the voice of Mr. Yueng, who now strode into view clad in a golden-hued silken dress suit.

“You will do nothing of the sort, Chun,” he said in atone of command. “You will do no further harm to my guests or to anyone else. You will release my fiancée and stop this foolishness immediately.”

At the sight of his erstwhile employer, Chun flinched slightly, his attention briefly wavering and causing his grip on the girl to loosen. It was just enough for me to implement my plan.

I had kept the transonic turnscrew concealed in my hand, with the instrument partially obscured by the sleeve of my coat. I now reactivated it, quickly raising the device in front of me to-wards the evil Chun.

A mere second later, I saw Chun shiver suddenly in shock, thus fully releasing his hold on Ling-Cho. The girl dropped to the ground as Chun gasped and his eyes went wide with horror. The giant cobra had struck his shoulder blade, its huge fangs delivering a painfully burning dose of its deadly poison. Its serpentine anger now satiated, I beheld the reptilian monster now gliding away back into the darkness.

With a shriek of outrage and of pain, Chun now turned and ran off across the grounds and was soon out of our sight. I motioned to Millie Drake, who immediately ran over to see to the needs of other girl. Millie helped little Ling-Cho to her feet. The Chinese lass was weeping with emotion from her now-relieved fright, but was otherwise unharmed.

A few moments later, we all heard another shriek of terror from the now-distant Chun. This was followed by the sound of an enraged simian chattering, and Chun’s cries were soon cut off with a choking gurgle that was accompanied by the horrid cracking sound of an human backbone being broken clean in two.

“So, the gigantopithecus got him,” I said. “A more merciful fate than if he had survived long enough to have suffered the pain of the death-throes from the cobra’s venom.”

“Quite so,” agreed our host, Mr. Yueng. “Please, my honoured friends, let us retreat to the safety of my house and have some much-needed refreshments.” …

Later that evening, after I had aided Yueng in fixing the security system that Chun had sabotaged, and in disposing of the insane villain’s mangled corpse (in the unlikely event of any police enquiries concerning his whereabouts, they would be informed that he had suddenly left the country for destinations unknown), Millie Drake and I were enjoying tea in our host’s elegant sitting room. Miss Ling-Cho had, with the alacrity of the very young, recovered from the horror of her experience, and was now apparently settling in quite nicely to her new role as lady of the mansion. She spoke no English, but the words in Chinese that I had heard exchanged between her and Yueng were of mutual respect and devotion. She had insisted upon performing three elaborate ceremonial bows before Millie and me, in thanks for our help.

Whilst we relaxed in the comfort of that estate house, I noticed a look of questioning on Millie’s lovely face.

“What is it, love?” I enquired concernedly. “Is there something that is troubling you?”

“Oh, I’m okay, Daniel,” she replied sweetly. “It’s just that there is something that I still don’t understand.”

At this, Mr. Yueng made a statement.

“There are some things that are truly beyond all mortal understanding, Miss Drake,” he said wisely, “but if you will let us know what it is that causes your current wonder, then perhaps on this you can be enlightened.”

“Well, it’s just about the ‘Most Ancient Power’ that Chun so desperately wanted,” Millie said. “What is it? Some weapon? Some supernatural knowledge?”

“Ah, what the Most Ancient Power signifies,” explained our host, “is something that Chun, with his sadly disordered mind, could never truly receive. It is something that I am certain his wretched tong could know nothing of either, despite any pretensions to the contrary. It is a power of goodness, in truth an holiness before which no evil can exist. In fact it is something found in the truth of an old saying of our people: ‘An emperor is nothing without his empress’.”

At this (Yueng having repeated the quote in both Chinese and English), little Ling-Cho leaned over with a charming smile to-wards her intended imperial bridegroom, who affectionately took her hands in his.

“Oh, I think I am beginning to understand,” responded Millie. “Gosh, that is so beautiful!”

“And so it is,” continued Mr. Yueng. “The Most Ancient Power is at once the most basic and the most profound in all of existence. It is the power of love.”

At this, I looked into Miss Mille Drake’s beautiful violet eyes and smiled.

“‘An emperor is nothing with his empress’,” I repeated, taking my own companion’s dear little hand, “and a Doctor is nothing without his Millie.”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “ATTACK OF THE LEKNII”

LITTLE GAMES

I adjusted several levers on the control console of the DiTraS (which is pronounced “DYE-tress” and stands for Dimensional Transport Sphere), that amazing combination Spaceship/Time-machine of the type that is only available for the use of members of my own highly-advanced race, the Watchers of Algol. I was clad in my usual finery -- including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, and military-style boots - as I stood there in the café-like inter-dimensional control room. My panama hat and one of my favourite opera capes hung from a near by hallstand.

“So, my dear Millie,” said I to the young girl who stood near to me. “We are quite overdue for an holiday, hmmm? I have set the coordinates for the Galactic Centre Resorts!”

“Oh my gosh, that sounds great!” cooed Millie Drake. “I hear they have great beachfront planets there! It’ll give me a chance to try out my new swimsuit!”

The girl is exceedingly beautiful, petite and perfect, her hair a rich chestnut hue, her eyes an enchanting violet in colour, and her mouth sensuously wide. She was clad in a short, tight, cherry-red dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender teenage figure.

I moved around the control board, fine-tuning the settings. In so doing, I was careful to step around Kit-10, our mobile personal computer that resembles nothing more or less than a small mechanical cat. The robotic puss was busy monitoring certain interstellar communications channels via the ship’s radio receivers.

“I am quite certain you will enjoy the hotel I am booking for us there as well, Mills,” I went on. “An old friend of mine is a resident there and owns the place, hmmm? He is an Algolite expatriate, but you may have heard of him from when he spent some time on Earth years ago. His name is…”

“Transmission being received,” suddenly interrupted Kit-10 in her electronically-simulated but pleasantly-feminine voice. “It is encoded with several layers of Kosmikos security.”

“Spires of Daemonia!” I swore, as I decoded the message through the readout system. “It looks like our holiday will have to wait, hmmm? We have an assignment!”

“Oh well,” answered Millie with a giggle. “I guess that’s exciting, too!” …

My name is RUMANOS -- DOCTOR DANIEL RUMANOS, Extraterrestrial Espionage Agent and Intergalactic Man of Mystery. Even though I have the physical appearance of an human being, I am in fact several thousands of years old and do carry within my blood the vastly superior genes of the legendary Watchers of the Daemon-Star ALGOL -- the most intellectually-advanced race in all of the known galaxies, whose technology is so sophisticated it often appears to be “magic” and “miraculous” to lesser beings.

Whilst most Algolites tend to keep to themselves, preferring to live in elitist seclusion from the rest of the Universe and thus merely observing the goings-on of the myriad races of the vast reaches around them, I am an Operative for a secret organisation known as the KOSMIKOS or Cosmic Intervention Department, tasked with maintaining peace and order throughout the farthest reaches of Space and Time. You know, “plausible deniability”, and all of that sort of thing. It is our ongoing mission to defend the weak, the unfortunate, and the innocent from those who would harm or exploit them.

Currently assigned to Earth, I protect its people (both upon their planet and across the eternal void) from the hideous manipulations of the arch-villain known as Magister Don Wingus and his occult terrorist organisation, Spectral Paranormal; as well as from alien invasions, mad scientists, and indeed all manner of menace. Assisted by my friends -- the beautiful Miss Millie "The Girl From Beyond" Drake and our catlike robot, Kit-10 -- I am the living icon of Algol on this world. I am a Knight of the Eternal Spires. I am the sword of justice from the planet Daemonia. I am the stellar swashbuckler.

I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …

It was a lofty-seeming chamber, replete with multi-coloured lighting that flashed in odd patterns but offered only a dim level of illumination. The atmosphere was thick with a kind of fog, and there was the sound of low, sonorous music backed with a bass-heavy drumbeat. There were numerous posts or poles of varying thickness, reaching upwards to the unseen ceiling.

An odd gasping moaning noise was heard as the DiTraS, the exterior of which resembles a Greco-Roman Ionic or Corinthian column, materialised into view. A few moments later, a porthole type opening appeared in the ship and I stepped out (having now put on my hat and cloak), followed closely by Millie Drake.

“So Kit-10 should stay on board?” enquired the girl.

“Yes, for the time being at least,” I replied. “We do not know the origin of this fog, or if it might have a negative effect on her systems, hmmm?”

“So, what do you think could be blocking the scanners from giving us more information about where we are?”

“No idea,” I admitted. “The air and gravity are Earth-like, but the DiTraS systems were unable to provide us with any data as to our actual location in Time or Space. All we know is that it is the area in which Kosmikos intelligence reports had remotely detected trouble needing investigated.” 

I took the transonic turnscrew, an highly-sophisticated scientific instrument somewhat resembling a writing pen, from my jacket pocket and activated it to scan the area.

“Anything from the transonic?” asked Millie.

“Nothing we had not already known from the DiTraS and Kit-10. The only thing that could likely block our Algolitish technology, save for some natural anomaly that would be obvious, is a jamming frequency of incredibly advanced levels, along with knowledge of how to obstruct our own scanning abilities.”

“But who could do that?”

“One shudders to think, hmmm?” I mused, returning the device to my pocket. “However, let us not get ahead of ourselves. We need to investigate further before attempting any theorising.”

Having by now walked several metres away from the DiTraS, we both looked around the chamber in which we found ourselves.

“These lights, the fog, the weird music,” stated Millie. “It’s almost like we’re in the middle of some kind of futuristic war zone.”

“Indeed,” I agreed. “It is all quite strange, but at the same time, there is something rather familiar about it all.”

“You mean you think you’ve been here before?” queried the lass.

“Oh, maybe not here precisely,” I explained, “but somewhere quite similar, hmmm? I wish we could get an identification lock on the Time sector.”

“Well, if this is Earth, it couldn’t be before about the middle of the twenty-second century, could it?”

“That is just it, love. Whilst all this indeed does appear quite ‘futuristic’, there is something about it that rather reminds me of an earlier time. Say, the late 1980s or 1990s…”

“Daniel, look out!” suddenly interrupted Millie.

Indeed, immediately in front of us, the figure of a man had suddenly stepped out from behind a post. Before we could react, he raised a large gun-like weapon and fired a flash of light directly to-wards us!

Millie clung to me in fear as the gun fired, but then nothing happened. There was no actual discharge from the weapon, and the light did not shoot through the air at us.

The person who had fired then stepped forward where we could see him more clearly. He was a young man, dressed in the style of the late twentieth century.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said. “You aren’t players, are you? I mean, you don’t have lasers or anything. What are you doing out here on the gaming floor?”

I was then that the realisation hit me.

“By the Triple Star!” I swore. “Millie, do you realise where we are?”

“He said ‘gaming floor’, ‘players’,” returned the girl. “So we’re in some kind of arcade or something?”

“Quite right, love,” I smiled. “To be more precise, we are in a ‘laser tag’ centre!”

“Oh, okay! I’ve heard of them, but haven’t ever been to one. When I was growing up on Earth, I mean.”

(Even though she is a young lady of my own species -- an Algolite -- Miss Millie Drake did indeed spend the early part of her life disguised as an Earthling.)

“You people talk weird,” smiled the youth, “but it’s kind of cool.”

“Yes, I suppose we are rather ‘cool’, hmmm?” I rejoined. “I am Doctor Rumanos, and this is Miss Drake.”

“My name’s David,” he replied. “Nice to meet you. I’m just here to have some fun, since I don’t have any classes tomorrow. I’m a student at City College.”

“Hmmm,” I wondered. “What city?”

“Boston, of course,” laughed the lad. “You’re joking, right? How could you not know that we’re at the ‘Laser Challenge Zone’ at the East Boston Mall?”

“Oh, just indulge me, hmmm?” I continued. “Just for laughs, perhaps you could tell me what year it is as well.”

“1993!” he answered, obviously quite enjoying himself by now. “October 10, 1993, to be precise. So did you two just appear out of nowhere?”

“Pretty much,” answered Millie with a giggle.

“My assistant here and I have been engaged in some scientific research that involves travel, you see,” I attempted to explain.

“Oh, it’s all right,” replied David. “So you said you were a doctor, a scientist?”

“Yes, amongst other things, hmmm?”

“Cool!” he replied. “I’m hoping to transfer to Harvard next semester, where I can major in physics.”

“And well you should, my friend,” I approved. “I say, David, have you happened to have experienced anything unusual recently?”

“Unusual?” questioned the young man.

“Indeed, if you do not mind my asking. Any strange sensations, unexplained dizziness, loss of time?”

“Well yes, now that you mention it. Just after I got to here tonight, I had this strange feeling like the fog was surrounding me, just blocking off my sight for a few seconds. But it was all right then, I think.”

“Daniel,” said Millie Drake, “what do you think is going on? Why did the Kosmikos send us here?”

“I know not as yet, love,” I replied. “Nevertheless, I do have an idea. I believe there are several levels of deception going on here, hmmm? I also have another feeling -- a feeling that we are being watched!” …

Little could I know how correct my assumption was, for at that same time, we were indeed being observed upon a video monitor screen, one of several within a chamber in which were a group of humanoid beings. They were tall, hard-faced men, with grey skin and eyes of a cruel blue-black. All were clad in smart military uniforms of a deep brown colour.

“There are intruders in one of the testing areas, sir,” said one of these beings to another. “How is this possible? The technology that the Battle Master has given us blocks any possibility of intrusion from outsiders.”

“The Battle Master is an outsider himself,” replied the other, whose uniform designated his status as a superior officer. “We have given him his title, and granted him a certain amount of authority in exchange for his assisting us with the technology of his people, but we must not forget that he is an alien. There may be others, perhaps even of his kind, that can find a way to pierce our defensive cover. It will all work to our advantage, however.”

“How do you mean, sir?”

“Send word to the Battle Master that these intruders have been detected. It is his duty to deal with it. In so doing, he can prove his loyalty to our cause. He can serve us, the Battle Lords, by investigating and destroying these intruders -- even if they be his fellow Algolites!” …

Back at the supposed “Laser Challenge Zone”, our discussion with young David was suddenly interrupted by a shimmering light near by.

“Daniel!” cried Millie. “Isn’t that a… ?”

“Yes, my dear,” I answered, “it is a matter transit beam. It would appear that someone is joining us.”

When the light of the matter transmission had faded, we looked upon the now-present figure of the one who had utilised it. He was clad from head to toe in an ebony-black bodysuit, and held a sleek laser gun in one hand. His face was as of a man of middle years, his countenance still showing signs of handsome distinction despite being marked with the results of lifetimes of extreme profligate wickedness. His hair was long and dark, and his pale eyes shone with an absolutely hypnotic effulgence.

Of course, I recognised that face immediately. I recognised it as that of the renegade Algolite who had long hence become my own archenemy, forsooth as that of the most dangerous and prolific criminal in the Universe.

“Don Wingus!” I exclaimed. “I should have known. So you did escape from the Time-stalker.”

(It must be noted here that the last time we had encountered the villainous Wingus, he had been using an old Algolite weapon known as the Time-stalker in his continuing schemes to rule the Universe. We defeated him and the we weapon was destroyed, but nevertheless a certain side effect of this eventually resulted in his daughter Anastasia returning from the dead -- but that, as the saying goes, is another story.)

“Quite right, Rumanos,” rejoined the villain, aiming his weapon at Millie and me, “and I have here erected a scheme that shall ensure my ascendancy as Master of all Time and of all Space -- an ascendancy that you and the meddling Kosmikos will not succeed in preventing! You see, Rumanos, I assure you that this laser-gun, unlike the others here, is real -- and quite deadly!”

Then, just as Don Wingus was about to tighten his grip on the trigger, a thin beam of light shot through the air from the other direction, hitting the gun and sending it flying from his hand. The weapon, now warped and unusable, clattered to the floor a few metres distant.

“Good shooting, Kit-10!” cheered Millie Drake.

“No problem, m--,” replied the robotic feline. “I finished the analysis and discovered nothing in the surrounding atmosphere that would be harmful to my circuitry.”

(It should be noting here that, along with her other catlike characteristics, Kit-10 is possessed of a total inability to openly show respect for anyone. The closest she ever comes to it is by referring to me by a slight “s--” sound -- for “sir” -- and to Millie by “m--” -- for “ma’am”.)

“Well, we are certainly pleased to see you,” I told the mechanical pussycat. “Now, Wingus, you have some explaining to do, hmmm? I must warn you against any sudden moves. As you have seen, Kit-10’s nose-laser is perfectly capable of…”

It was at that moment that my speech was cut short, as the light of the matter transit suddenly returned and surrounded not only Don Wingus, but also Millie and me, and we found ourselves being transmitted out of the supposed laser tag “gaming floor” to another location!

When the light from the matter transit had cleared, I looked around and saw that we were in a metallic corridor from which several doorways led.

“Welcome to the command centre of the Battle Lords, Rumanos and Miss Drake,” sneered Wingus. “I pre-programmed the matter transit system to bring any Algolites here from the testing area, should I not return within a certain time frame.”

It was then that two humanoid aliens marched down the corridor to-wards us. They were wearing common soldier’s uniforms, and had grey skin and blue-black eyes.

“Guards, take the girl to a detention cell” ordered Don Wingus. “See that she is left unharmed until I give further instructions.”

“Yes, sir,” replied the soldiers.

“Wingus,” I interrupted, “you know very well that I shall not allow anyone to…”

“Worry not, Rumanos,” mocked the villain. “Little Miss Drake here will not be harmed as long as you cooperate. You see, you and I are going to have a discussion, in which I shall explain what is going on here, and how you are going to assist me.”

I glanced at Millie. It was a look that let her know that I would not allow any harm to come to her under any circumstances. The two uniformed guards then marched her into one of the doorways, obvious leading to the detention cells.

“Come along now, Rumanos,” Wingus continued. “We are alone now, and I can fill you in on certain details.”

I followed Wingus into one of the rooms. It was sparsely furnished, but contained some computer equipment and communications devices.

“So, Wingus,” I said, “I take it you have kidnapped numerous laser tag players from Earth? We are obviously on an alien planet. This area is in the centre, and is surrounded by zones were the battles are being played out?”

“Your deductions are correct,” admitted the villain. “I have made a deal with our hosts here, the Battle Lords. In exchange for a certain amount of authority found in the title of ‘Battle Master’, I have brought these human youngsters here for them to test and train, that they may begin to create an army of beings from multiple planets -- beings that will be predisposed to advanced battle technology and thus can be used as shock troops for the Battle Lords in their plans to subjugate the neighbouring galaxies.”

“Absolutely fiendish,” I shuddered. “How have you gotten these innocent gamers here?”

“I supplied the Battle Lords with several STraDi, the primitive type of DiTraS that expires after use. With these the Earthlings were taken from their own time and brought to the simulations in the testing areas. Any memories of the move are blocked from their brain patterns.”

“And you intend to let the alien Battle Lords use these people to conquer galaxies, and then sit by whilst they enforce a vast military dictatorship?”

“Oh, not precisely, Rumanos,” rejoined Don Wingus with an evil grin. “I have given them all they need to achieve their conquest, but I also know that these aliens are fools. They understand nothing but fighting and battle strategies. When they have conquered, they will soon find themselves unable to govern. It is then that I shall take over as supreme leader, subjugating the Battle Lords to my superior will along with all that they have subjugated. I, Magister Don Wingus, shall be the ruler of galaxies!”

“Leave it to you to turn harmless little games into something horridly sinister,” I admonished. “Using laser tag, of all things, to wage actual war and to establish iron heel totalitarianism. What is next, miniature golf rape gangs?”

“You are as flippant as ever, Rumanos,” returned the arch-villain. “You may begin taking this more seriously when you realise that you can join with me. Together we can fulfil our destinies as Algolites, the highest form of life in all the Universe. It is the only way I can guarantee Miss Drake’s safety, you understand. Just think of it. You and I -- and she -- as the triumvirate of rulers governing planets, solar systems, galaxies! Nothing could stand before us!!”

“You are mad, Wingus!” I admonished. “You are utterly mad! You know that I shall never join you in your criminal schemes, and neither would Miss Millie Drake!”

Just then, the door to the chamber slid open and three uniformed men joined us. They were again all grey-complexioned with cruel blue-black eyes. One of them was clad in what was obviously an officers uniform, the other two were soldiers of the lower ranks.

“It has been decided by Battle Lord High Command,” announced the officer as the two enlisted men raised their disintegrator guns. “Immediate and summary execution!”

“Oh well, Rumanos,” smirked Don Wingus as he moved a few paces away from me. “It appears this is where we part company. You should not have interfered.”

“The case of the two newcomers has not yet been presented before the High Command,” replied the Battle Lord officer. “It is you, Battle Master, who is now to be executed.”

“That is outrageous!” shouted Wingus, his eyes growing wide with fear. “I have aided you in your plans, even putting technology of the Watchers at your disposal!”

“Your discussion here has been monitored. We have heard your plot to ‘take over as supreme leader’. You have committed treason against the Battle Lords, and the punishment for that is death.”

“What! This is a violation of our agreement!” raged Wingus. “You promised I would be left free and unmonitored!”

“No honour amongst would-be fascist dictators, hmmm?” I quipped.

By this time, the three Battle Lords were paying no attention to me, so great was their indignation at having been played for fools by the evil Don Wingus. I accordingly began to slip to-wards the door.

“Fire!” ordered the officer.

I heard a final cry of rage from Wingus before the sound of the two soldiers’ guns rang out. By now I was in the corridor, and I saw a reflection on the metallic walls of the flash from the energy weapons the Battle Lords utilised in order to blast Don Wingus out of existence. Then there was silence.

I hurried down the passageway to-wards the detention cells where I had seen them taking Millie Drake. There were several cells, but only one of them was closed. I took out the transonic turnscrew and opened the electronic lock, carefully deactivating any attendant alarm system.

When I opened the cell door, Millie was seated alone on a sort of low shelf on the far side of it. She jumped up and immediately ran into my arms.

“Oh Daniel, I knew you’d come for me!” she cheered.

“Always, my dear,” I assured her. “Always.”

Just them, a noise as of a distant symphonic trumpeting started, and there was a change in the atmosphere. It was like unto a cold chill, but was felt in the mind rather than physically.

“It is the Kosmikos,” I stated. “Now that the Battle Lords have executed Don Wingus, the Algolitish blockages to detection he set up are no longer functioning. The crimes the Battle Lords have committed, in kidnapping innocent people to use in their testing areas, in an attempt to further their nefarious plans to conquer galaxies, can only have one punishment. The Kosmikos -- with full approval of the Absolute Convention in this case -- shall wipe the Battle Lords, along with all memory of them ever even have existed, out of Time and Space.”

It was then that, even as I spoke, the walls around us started to fade as the noise of the approaching Algolite justice system grew louder.

“So how do we get back to the DiTraS?” enquired Millie.

“It should be no problem, love,” I assured the lovely lass whilst I adjusted the transonic device and activated it.

“I have reversed the polarisation of the residue remaining from the transit beam that brought us here,” I continued. “It should succeed in taking us back to the place where we landed.”

And indeed, in a moment we found ourselves transmitted, in the shimmering light of the matter transmission system, back to the false ‘Laser Challenge Zone’.

“Hmmm, it appears that we are several metres distant from where we started,” I said. “It is just due to the interference of the other Algolite technology approaching.”

Whilst we walked through the fake fog, I filled Millie in on some more details of what had occurred.

“So what will happen to David, and the other Earthlings?” queried the girl.

“The Kosmikos will return them to their proper time and place as soon as we have left,” I explained.

“Daniel, do you think the Battle Lords really killed Don Wingus?”

“It is difficult to say, Mills,” I pondered. “He had to have had his DiTraS hidden around there somewhere. If he could have secretly activated the transit beam to vanish just as they fired upon him with their disintegrator guns, he could just possibly have escaped without them even noticing.”

“I guess we’ll find out if we have to deal with him again,” shuddered the girl.

“Quite true, my love,” I acquiesced. “Quite true. Ah, here we are!”

We had by now reached the area near to where we had left the DiTraS. David and Kit-10 were standing before one of the posts, which I noticed was now covered with scorch marks of the type that could have only been caused by the robotic cat’s nose-blaster.

“By the Stars,” I said, “what exactly is going on here?”

“Oh, it’s so cool,” replied the youth. “Kit-10 has been instructing me in the correct way to fire a laser.”

“Really, Kit-10?” I enquired. “Doing a bit of Space-Age gun safety training on the side, hmmm?”

“Of course, s--,” replied the mechanical cat.

At this I rolled my eyes, and Millie giggled.

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN "CROSSTOWN TRAFFICKING"

STALKING STACY

The man’s black-gloved hands moved deftly over the control dials. Clad in a one-piece bodysuit of ebon hue, he stood before the machine there in that darkened chamber lit only by the equipment readouts and several view-screens amongst the room’s various mechanisms and metallic cabinets containing electronic equipment.

He peered at the images upon the monitors. One was of a creature that seemed to be a mass of sallow tentacles intertwined with metallic enhancements. Another was of an huge apelike monstrosity, whilst a third showed two tall, silver men with expressionless, mask-like faces.

Nevertheless, it was what could be seen on a fourth screen that received most of the man’s attention. It was a slim, human figure, blurred and indistinct as if seen through a lens to the far past. Concentrating upon this form, the man manipulated the dials. In a few seconds, the figure vanished from the monitor screen.

Behind the man there was then a glow as of a bright orange and blue radiance. It only lasted a moment, and was accompanied by a sound like a far-off trumpeting. When the light faded, a new figure had appeared in the chamber: a slender, youthful figure that could be seen to tremble slightly from the affects of the machine.

It was a girl, full-breasted and teenage, a tall brunette with luminous blue-green eyes and a wide, sensuous mouth. She was wearing a pink halter-top and a blue miniskirt.

“Daddy?” she said, “Where am I? Daddy, is that you?”

With this, the man turned around to face her. He appeared to be of middle years, his face still showing signs of handsome distinction despite bearing the marks of lifetimes of extreme profligate wickedness. His hair was long and dark, and his visage was decorated with a thin moustache and goatee. Most of all, his pale eyes shone with an absolute hypnotic glare.

“Yes, Stacy, it is I,” returned Don Wingus, his voice a tone of command mixed with utter madness. “I have brought you here, my child, to witness my ascension to the office of supreme overlord of the Universe, and to aid in the destruction of our most hated enemy -- Daniel Rumanos!!”

My name is RUMANOS -- DOCTOR DANIEL RUMANOS, Extraterrestrial Espionage Agent and Intergalactic Man of Mystery. Even though I have the physical appearance of an human being, I am in fact several thousands of years old and do carry within my blood the vastly superior genes of the legendary Watchers of the Daemon-Star ALGOL -- the most intellectually-advanced race in all of the known galaxies, whose technology is so sophisticated it often appears to be “magic” and “miraculous” to lesser beings.

Whilst most Algolites tend to keep to themselves, preferring to live in elitist seclusion from the rest of the Universe and thus merely observing the goings-on of the myriad races of the vast reaches around them, I am an Operative for a secret organisation known as the KOSMIKOS or Cosmic Intervention Department, tasked with maintaining peace and order throughout the farthest reaches of Space and Time. You know, “plausible deniability”, and all of that sort of thing. It is our ongoing mission to defend the weak, the unfortunate, and the innocent from those who would harm or exploit them.

Currently assigned to Earth, I protect its people (both upon their planet and across the eternal void) from the hideous manipulations of the arch-villain known as Magister Don Wingus and his occult terrorist organisation, Spectral Paranormal; as well as from alien invasions, mad scientists, and indeed all manner of menace. Assisted by my friends -- the beautiful Miss Millie "The Girl From Beyond" Drake and our catlike robot, Kit-10 -- I am the living icon of Algol on this world. I am a Knight of the Eternal Spires. I am the sword of justice from the planet Daemonia. I am the stellar swashbuckler.

I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …

In a dimly-lit corridor, a strange gasping moaning sound was heard as an object materialised into view. It appeared to be a Greco-Roman “Ionic column”, but was actually much more. This was the DiTraS (pronounced “DYE-tress’” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere) one of those incredibly-advanced combination Spaceship/Time-machines only available to that mysterious race of beings known as the Watchers of Algol.

A porthole type of opening appeared in the DiTraS and three figures emerged from it. The first was me, Doctor Daniel Rumanos, clad as I was in my usual finery (including a ruffled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, panama hat, and one of my favourite opera capes). The second was Millie Drake, a beautiful young girl with luxurious chestnut hair, lovely violet eyes, sun-kissed skin, and luscious pink lips. She was wearing a tight, short, cherry-red dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender adolescent figure. The third was our mobile personal computer, known as Kit-10, who resembles nothing more or less than a small robotic cat.

“So what was it the DiTraS detected here again?” enquired Millie as we looked around the darksome corridor.

“I am not certain, love,” said I. “It seemed to be traces of Algolitish technology, but there was something odd about it. Something bizarre and elusive. What it could be doing here, in a barely-functioning and seemingly-abandoned Space-platform between galaxies, is rather troubling to contemplate.”

I took the transonic turnscrew, an highly-advanced scientific instrument somewhat resembling a large writing pen, from my jacket pocket, utilising it to scan the area as we walked along the eldritch corridor.

“The transonic is not showing anything,” I announced, returning the device to my pocket. “What about your sensors, Kit-10?”

“Negative, s--,” replied the little robot in her pleasantly-feminine voice. “There is definitely technology present, but no positive identification markers can be perceived.”

(It should be noted here that amongst Kit-10’s other catlike characteristics is her total inability to openly show respect to anyone. The closest she ever comes to it is by addressing me by a slight “s--” sound, for “sir”, and Millie by “m--”, for “ma’am”.)

“Do you think it could be another DiTraS?” queried Millie Drake. “Remember that Don Wingus escaped the last time we encountered him.”

“Yes, I am keeping that in mind, love,” I assured her. “However, he would surely have safeguards in place to mask the presence of his DiTraS. In any event, the technology our ship detected has to be something else, and, judging by the looks of this place -- something very old.”

The corridor was illuminated only by a series of blue lights along the wall near the floor, likely marking the entrances to a series of service ducts.

“But what could this place ever have been used for?” asked the lass. “I mean, if it really is an Algolite construction?”

“One shudders to think,” I admitted. “If this place is a relic of the dark times of our civilisation’s history, then there are several possibilities -- none of them at all pleasant.”

As if on cue, we then perceived something approaching us from far down the corridor. It was hovering about a metre from the floor and moving very fast. Millie grasped my arm in fear as the being approached.

“Daniel, is that really a… ?” gasped the girl.

It was about the size of an human torso, but that is where any resemblance to anything of sane creation ended. It was like unto a mass of sallow-hued tentacles intertwined with metallic materials, and at the very centre of the thing were two slits of ebon-black -- eyes that seemed to openly communicate the extreme fascist hate that was the obscene creature’s only emotion!

“You are enemies of the Mynver,” it announced in its harsh, distorted voice. “You must be eliminated!”

It was a Mynverkossian Mutation!!

I immediately threw my hat to-wards the thing, and it landed directly over the alien monstrosity’s eyes.

“Vision impaired! I cannot see!” screeched the Mynver. “Vision impaired! I cannot see!”

The Mutation then began randomly firing its crimson death-ray in all directions, as it continued to struggle in an attempt to free itself from my panama hat over its eyes. I moved in front of Millie to shelter her from being accidentally hit by the rays, and quickly took the transonic turnscrew from my pocket.

“Kit-10!” I called. “Concentrate your laser on the Mynverkossian’s middle, hmmm?”

I aimed the transonic at the horrid Mutation and activated it to a setting that was intended to overheat the thing’s metallic parts. At the same time, Kit-10 fired her nose-laser at the creature as I had instructed her. In a few moments, the Mynverkossian horror burst into flames and fell to the floor dead, the resultant movement freeing my hat and sending it spinning through the air. I reached out and grabbed it, then returning it to my head.

“Are you all right, Mills?” I enquired concernedly.

“Yes, I’m fine now,” answered the girl, although I could perceive that she was still trembling with fright. “Could the Mynverkossians be behind all of this?”

“I think not, love,” I said. “We saw them all destroyed, remember? I think that Mutation was brought here, abducted and forced through Time and Space. I believe that the technology the DiTraS detected is something that can do just that!”

“Wait, I know!” exclaimed the girl. “At Daemonia Academy we learned of something that existed during the dark times of early Algolite culture, a machine that could snatch beings from any point in Time and Space and then bring them to its location.”

“Yes, it was called the Time-stalker, and it was used to bring alien beings together for combat games during a very decadent time in our history. Eventually, the games were banned by the Absolute Convention and all the Time-stalking machines ordered destroyed.”

“But if one of them survived and someone is using it… ?”

“That could indeed explain things, love,” I agreed, “and as operatives of the Kosmikos it is our duty to find the machine and shut it down as soon as possible. In fact…”

“Danger approaching from behind!” interrupted Kit-10.

Millie and I looked back down the corridor to see what further horror we had to face. What was lurching to-wards us was like a monster out of legend. It was nearly eight feet tall and covered with coarse black hair, being like unto a missing link between ape and man.

“That…’” stammered Millie. “That looks like… Bigfoot!”

“It is Bigfoot, my love,” I told her. “Well, after a fashion. It is a robot of the type utilised by an extraterrestrial force known as The Intellect. If it has been Time-stalked here, it will be completely out of control!”

The apelike monster continued to bound in our direction, its bestial face and grunting growls showing that it indeed intended to kill.

“Millie,” I counselled, “when I say to run, you run!”

I pointed my transonic turnscrew to-wards the ceiling of the corridor and activated a certain setting. In a second, a sheet of metal detached itself from the ceiling and fell directly onto the robotic Bigfoot.

“Right, run!” I said, taking Millie by the hand and hurrying away, with Kit-10 close behind us.

As we ran down the corridor, we heard the monster howling in distress and indignation at the part of the ceiling that had fallen upon it. Eventually, the sound faded into the distance.

As we continued on, the corridor ultimately debouched into a large chamber that looked like a sports complex or gladiatorial arena.

“We were correct, love,” I said. “This is indeed one of the Space-platforms used for the games of the dark times! This is where alien races were forced to fight to the death for the amusement of the crowd!”

“But who is now operating the Time-stalker?” wondered the lass.

“I have a sneaking suspicion,” I rejoined, “but for now we have to contend with whatever other terror may suddenly appear.”

“Daniel, look!” screamed Millie, indicating the far side of the arena.

There now stood in that location what appeared to be two tall metallic men, their faces mask-like and expressionless. Of course, we recognised them immediately; we recognised them as members of that horrible race of cyborgs that we had fought before in hard-won battles that were indeed some of the most dangerous and perilous episodes of our career as agents of the Kosmikos.

“Oh no,” said I, “Leknii Replicants!”

The closer of the two cyborgs raised its arm and fired a potentially-lethal bolt of energy at me. It was only my superior Algolitish speed and reflexes that enabled me to dodge it, and the weapon blasted a groove in the part of the floor on which I had just been standing. I again moved over to shelter Millie from the attack.

Kit-10 fired beams of her nose-laser at the Replicants. They had little effect, only causing the cybernetic terrors to halt briefly as they began to stride to-wards us. Fortunately, however, the mechanical feline’s continued blasts at least kept them from being able to concentrate enough to again fire at us.

I hurriedly fetched the transonic turnscrew from my pocket and programmed it to the setting that emits a synthetic form of vlooj, the rare alien spice that is generally lethal to Leknii. I prayed that these Replicants were not from some earlier point in their history, before they had developed this allergy, or from a later period in which it had been overcome.

Kit-10’s laser was by now starting to weaken, and I aimed the transonic to-wards the nearest of the cyborgs, activating it at full-force.

The Replicant shuddered and then disintegrated into countless microscopic shards -- this being a pre-programmed response of theirs upon defeat, in order to prevent their technology from being cannibalised. In any event, the synthesised vlooj had been effective.

I then began to turn to-wards the other Leknii, but was not quick enough. It fired a bolt of its energy weapon that sent the transonic device from my hand to clatter several metres away upon the floor.

I heard Millie scream in horror at this predicament. Kit-10’s energy resources were now too low to utilise her laser anymore, and the transonic turnscrew was far out of reach. Forsooth, we were now seemingly defenceless as the remaining Leknii Replicant approached us!

Then something truly bizarre happened. We heard a growl of challenge from behind us and saw the cyborg halt as it beheld what had entered the arena. It was the Bigfoot, which by now had freed itself from the metal ceiling portion that had fallen upon it and had then proceeded to bound down the corridor in a rage.

The Replicant fired a bolt of energy at the robotic Bigfoot. This had little effect on the latter, only causing the thing to become still more intent on showing its dominance. It approached the Leknii and delivered a blow to its head with its massive fist!

“Millie!” I called to the girl. “You and Kit-10 return to the corridor! It is safer than here! I shall recover the transonic and join you presently!”

Millie obeyed and, along with the robotic cat, ran to the shelter of the corridor as the battle continued between the Leknii Replicant and the huge Bigfoot. The cyborg shot off another blast, missing its opponent completely to in stead hit the wall above the entrance to the passageway in which the girl and Kit-10 had just absconded. Terribly, this caused a fall of material from the wall that completely covered the entrance -- effectively separating me from my friends!

I looked back at the battling monsters. The Bigfoot had now gotten the Replicant in its grasp and seemed intent on squeezing the life out of it. The Leknii got off one last shot of its energy weapon, with its arm right up against the other creature’s chest, before it itself exploded into fragments.

The Bigfoot then shattered back, a gaping cavity in its midsection, then it fell motionless to the floor.

I ran over to the entrance to the corridor, which was now covered completely with debris. I knew that the Kit-10’s nose-laser could eventually cut through this, except that her energy reserves had to recently been weakened by firing at the Replicants.

“Millie! Kit-10!” I called to them. “Go back to the DiTraS and wait there. I will find another way back!”

“All right, Daniel,” replied Millie Drake. “I love you!”

“I love you too, Mills,” I affirmed.

“Come on, Kit-10,” I heard the girl’s voice.

“Of course, m--,” replied the mechanical pussycat as their voices receded into the distance.

I quickly retrieved the transonic and then immediately began a survey of the walls of the arena and, on the opposite side from which we had entered it, I found another passageway, this one smaller and leading down a short corridor. At the end of it, I entered a chamber in which was what I recognised as ancient Algolitish machinery.

“We were absolutely correct,” I said to myself. “The Time-stalker!”

It was then that I saw her. A young girl was standing at the other side of the control room. There was something oddly familiar about her.

“Hello, Doctor Rumanos,” she purred. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

“Of course,” said I in realisation. “Stacy Wingo -- the daughter of Don Wingus, who went by the name ‘Donald Wingo’ upon Earth. So he is indeed behind this outrage.”

I knew that Wingus had to have brought Miss Anastasia “Stacy” Wingo forward in time, because she had been dead for many years, murdered in an horrid satanic ritual of the Spectral Paranormal cult -- a ceremony intended to grant her father supreme power by using her as a sacrificial offering!

As the girl slinked to-wards me, I scanned her with the transonic turnscrew. I wanted to make certain that she was real, actually organic, because Wingus had at one time attempted to beguile me with a cybernetic duplicate of his late daughter, a duplicate created by utilising an enhanced form of the technology of the Leknii Replicants.

“By the Triple Star!” I swore, looking at the results of the scan, which showed the lass to be only a few weeks younger than she had been at the time of her death. “You are real enough, hmmm? This is no deception…”

“I want you,” said the teen temptress known to eternal whoredom as Stacy Wingo. “I want you so much.”

It could be said with some degree of truth that Stacy Wingo was not a great beauty, but there was nevertheless something intensely alluring and attractive about her. I thought of this as I stood across from her there in the control room next to the ancient Time-stalker technology.

It was then that Don Wingus entered the chamber.

“Oh bravo, Rumanos, bravo,” he mocked. “Nice to see you and my little cutie here together, you old satyr. I can now use this fact for blackmail purposes, if necessary.”

“So is that what all this was for, Wingus?” I retorted. “How cliché.”

“Oh hardly, Rumanos, hardly. This was all but a test; a trial run of my mastery of the Time-stalker technology -- a technology I shall now use to bring armies of extraterrestrial life-forms down through Time; armies that shall be under my command to use in my conquest of the entire Universe.”

“Daddy,” interrupted Stacy, “you won’t hurt Dr. Rumanos, will you? Please don’t hurt him, daddy. I love him!”

“Stop being ridiculous, Stacy,” replied Wingus. “You have served your purpose, and will be rewarded. I will now keep you with me in stead of sending you back to your death in that ritual chamber. As for Rumanos, he will be kept where he cannot interfere, and allowed no visitors. We have ways of extracting knowledge from him; knowledge I can utilise to further my plans.”

“Oh please, daddy, no!” begged the girl, grasping her evil father’s hand in supplication. “I would rather die than lose the Doctor!”

“Stacy, no!” I warned her. “Stay away from him, or he will… !”

“You little slut!“ bellowed Don Wingus as he viciously slapped his daughter’s face, sending her reeling to the floor. “How dare you disobey me!”

“Wingus, you fiend!” I said, springing to-wards him. “You ungodly fiend!”

None the less, before I could reach him, Don Wingus activated one of the dials on the Time-stalker control board. With a sound as of far-off trumpets, Miss Stacy Wingo then faded from view. I knew that she would have no conscious memory of what had occurred here. The helpless girl had gone back to that time, that time so long ago. In sooth, she had gone back to her scheduled doom!

I pulled Wingus away from the controls before he could do further harm. He struggled against me, but I managed to flip him up and over me, sending him hurling to the other side of the console. I jumped over it after him, only to find that he was no longer there. A brief search around the chamber yielded no evidence of his whereabouts. Had he escaped or found some place of concealment -- or had some other fate overcome him? There was no time to find out.

I then ran back to the control panel and manipulated the Time-stalker to find the DiTraS just after Millie and Kit-10 had gone aboard, about twenty minutes earlier. I then turned the dial and, with the same noise as of a distant trumpeting, my ship appeared beside me in the chamber.

I pointed my transonic turnscrew at the centre of the Time-stalker machinery, programming it to overload. There was a small explosion at the control board, and soon flames began to develop around the room.

The porthole appeared in the DiTraS and I passed through it. Then, with its odd moaning gasping sound, the ship dematerialised just as the control room erupted into a fiery conflagration.

Little did I know that, as soon as my ship had vanished, Don Wingus appeared from behind the machinery where he had been hiding, quickly escaping from the flames by passing through a porthole that opened in the side of a part of it -- a portion of the control room equipment resembling a tall metal cabinet that was in fact his own disguised DiTraS! Then, with the same sound of an Algolitish Time/Space engine, his ship also dematerialised into the void. …

I was in the inter-dimensional café-like control room of my DiTraS, together with Millie Drake and Kit-10, as we watched the monitor-screen, viewing Space-platform that had housed the horrid Time-stalker explode into worthless fragments there in the depths of intergalactic Space.

“Well, that is the end of that, hmmm?” said I. “I am not certain what happened to Don Wingus, however. He had been on the platform long enough to know any possible hiding-places, and may have escaped!”

“I’m just glad you’re all right, Daniel,” announced Millie, the dear little lass hugging me tightly. “Say, did Wingus bring anything else through the Time-stalker against you before you could stop him?”

“Oh, nothing I could not handle, love,” I assured her as I returned her hug and then turned to set the DiTraS coordinates for our next destination. “Nothing I could not handle.”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN "LITTLE GAMES"

TALES FROM THE PIZZA GATE

There are many strange and usual things to be found in the city of Baltimore, Maryland. Of that there can be no doubt whatsoever. That a city best known for its high crime rate and political corruption (notwithstanding its often-overlooked great historical importance and cultural value) is also home to some of the oddest things to be found on the entire planet is not something frequently addressed by the news media and others whose supposed job it is to report the facts to the public.

Just to put forward one example of this observation, there is a place along Howard Street, a well-frequented thoroughfare that is, as a matter of fact, the main corridor of the city’s light-rail train system, that contains something that would be considered quite bizarre if its existence was noticed by the general public. In fact, it would likely have certain groups of people rather up in arms and calling for an end to the immoral acts of which it is obvious proof.

Of what I am speaking is a sidewalk-level billboard promoting a near by charity organisation that raises money for the children of local impoverished families. This permanent poster includes the photographs of several smiling youngsters -- carefully chosen, of course, to represent both genders and different ethnic groups, so that said charity cannot be rightfully accused of practicing any type of bias.

None the less, if one takes a close look at this billboard (and it must necessarily be a closer look than that cursory glance taken by the countless commuters and other citizens who pass by this scene daily on the way to their various occupations), one will notice something that in reality is blatantly obvious, but which would no doubt be loudly denied by many even if they did consciously notice it.

It is this: the faces of the children are covered with dried semen splattered there by the many homeless men who masturbate to these photographs on a nightly basis.

That this would come as a shock to folks who claim that sexual attraction to young children is a rarely-encountered mental disorder also flies in the face (so to speak) of the fact that underage prostitution is easily-obtained on the streets of Baltimore. Any corner street hustler can quickly direct an enquirer to locations where one can obtain the favours of young courtesans for a price -- concubines teenage or younger, male or female, one or more, and just about any other variation that could be imagined. This despite the claims of conspiracy theorists that such things are part of some closely-guarded “child sex trafficking” and are only available through “elite paedophile networks” or via foreign “sex tourism”, and the like.

No, my friends, such things are indeed easily-obtained on the streets of Baltimore, as they are in any other large American city (and no doubt most small towns as well). That law enforcement for the most part ignores this is really no surprise. In an urban area where multiple murders are a daily event, and where individuals die of drug overdoses so frequently that most never even receive an obituary write-up, that someone may be enjoying a quick paid-for shag with someone below the legal “age of consent” is not really an issue worth taking up the time of an already overworked and beleaguered police department.

Of course, these things are only presented here as random examples, out of many that could be given, of the strangeness that goes on in the city of Baltimore. Nevertheless, none of these points even begin to approach the supreme weirdness of some of the things that happen in that same city. No, not by a long-shot. For there are things in Baltimore that venture far beyond anything of ordinary vice and crime. Things that are rarely even whispered of in the darkest tales of evil and grotesquery. Things of alien terrors and obscene eldritch horrors beyond all sane imaginings.

Gather round, my friends, and I shall give you an example of this as well. …

My name is RUMANOS -- DOCTOR DANIEL RUMANOS, Extraterrestrial Espionage Agent and Intergalactic Man of Mystery. Even though I have the physical appearance of an human being, I am in fact several thousands of years old and do carry within my blood the vastly superior genes of the legendary Watchers of the Daemon-Star ALGOL -- the most intellectually-advanced race in all of the known galaxies, whose technology is so sophisticated it often appears to be “magic” and “miraculous” to lesser beings.

Whilst most Algolites tend to keep to themselves, preferring to live in elitist seclusion from the rest of the Universe and thus merely observing the goings-on of the myriad races of the vast reaches around them, I am an Operative for a secret organisation known as the KOSMIKOS or Cosmic Intervention Department, tasked with maintaining peace and order throughout the farthest reaches of Space and Time. You know, “plausible deniability”, and all of that sort of thing. It is our ongoing mission to defend the weak, the unfortunate, and the innocent from those who would harm or exploit them.

Currently assigned to Earth, I protect its people (both upon their planet and across the eternal void) from the hideous manipulations of the arch-villain known as Magister Don Wingus and his occult terrorist organisation, Spectral Paranormal; as well as from alien invasions, mad scientists, and indeed all manner of menace. Assisted by my friends -- the beautiful Miss Millie "The Girl From Beyond" Drake and our catlike robot, Kit-10 -- I am the living icon of Algol on this world. I am a Knight of the Eternal Spires. I am the sword of justice from the planet Daemonia. I am the stellar swashbuckler.

I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …

In the heart of downtown Baltimore is a certain skyscraper building with a golden trapezoidal roof. The ground floor of this structure contains an Italian-style eat-in and takeaway restaurant known as “The Pizza Gate”, due to its entranceway being an ornate, stylised gate designed by the great early-Twentieth Century architect, IM Apeddo.

That the top floor of this building, in an area accessible only via a secret entrance, is my own headquarters on Earth -- containing as it does my laboratory and numerous extraterrestrial artefacts -- is not the focus of this account. No, dear readers, this story begins in the pizza restaurant itself, where my young assistant Millie Drake and I were enjoying a lunch break on that overcast city afternoon.

I was dressed in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, and military-style boots, with my panama hat and opera cape casually cast over the back of the booth in which we sat. Millie, a exquisitely-beautiful girl, petite-and-perfect, with luxurious chestnut-coloured hair, lovely violet eyes, sun-kissed skin, and a sensuously wide mouth, was wearing a short, tight, powder-blue dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender adolescent figure.

With us was Kit-10, our mobile personal computer that in sooth resembles nothing more or less than a small mechanical feline, resting under the edge of the table and with the slight whirring sound of her robotic systems sounding quite like a contented purring.

Millie and I were enjoying a large cheese pizza, and I also had ordered a foot-long steak submarine sandwich for myself. For drinks, I had an highly-caffeinated soft drink, whilst the girl was imbibing a diet version of the same.

As we continued our meal, I noticed a young lady at the next table. Perhaps in her mid-teens, tall and well-developed for her age, she was quite attractive, blonde and blue-eyed, with a complexion like the pure white of finest porcelain, and was wearing a white tee-shirt with a bare midriff, a pink miniskirt, and blue sneakers. She was sipping from a small bottle of fruit juice and seemed a bit distracted.

“Hello,” I said to her with a smile. “Nice day, hmmm?”

“Yes, I guess it is,” she replied, blushing slightly. “Hey, is that a robot or a cat?”

“This unit is not a cat,” protested Kit-10 in her pleasantly-feminine voice.

“That is Kit-10, our personal computer,“ I informed the lass. “She may not be a cat, but she does not object to being petted by pretty girls, hmmm?”

“Gosh, I wonder who she picked that up from?” giggled Millie.

With this, the young blonde walked over and scratched Kit-10 lightly behind her metallic ears, the robot’s system noise rising slightly in appreciation of the attention.

“I am Doctor Rumanos,” I said by way of introduction as I stood up, “and this is Miss Drake.”

“So you are the Doctor!” exclaimed the girl. “I thought you might be when I saw you. My cousins told me about you.”

“Your cousins?” I enquired.

“Yes, Heba and Peta,” she explained. “My name is Epheba. Epheba Filia.”

“Oh, all right,” I realised. “Yes, I remember the Filia sisters. That was before your time, Millie. So, how are they doing?”

“They are both away at college,” replied Epheba. “They say that knowing you inspired them to seek the best in higher education.”

“My, ‘tempus fugit’, hmmm?” I mused. “Well, it is nice to meet you, Miss Epheba Filia.”

“Just call me Pheebie,” said the lass. “Everybody does. Well, you know, I was really hoping you could help me with a problem I’m having.”

“Well, we will certainly do our best,” I assured her. “Right, Mills?”

“Happy to help,” agreed Millie Drake, “and nice to meet you, Pheebie.”

“You are both so nice!” said Pheebie. “It’s great to finally talk to people who should understand.”

“Please, have a seat at our table and tell us about the problem, hmmm?” I offered.

“Well, it’s about my boyfriend. His name is Arthur Douglas.”

“A fine name,” I said, “and a fortunate man to be the beloved of a lovely young lady like you.”

“Well, that’s it, you see,” continued Pheebie. “Arthur is some years older than I am, and my parents disapproved of our relationship. We kept seeing each other secretly, but I was afraid that my family might have Arthur charged with a crime or something. Finally, he told me he had heard of an idea that might help. He said he would be going away to take part in a research thing being done by a Professor Tamang at Miskatonic University in Massachusetts.”

“By the Triple Star!” I exclaimed. “I have heard of Professor Tamang’s research. It concerns the possibility of regaining youth in human subjects by way of hormone injections -- the material for which is taken directly from the sexual organs of bonobos!”

“Bonobos?” repeated Millie. “The great apes that are believed to be the closest related to humans?”

“Yes, indeed. Bonobos, you see, are the most neotenous or paedomorphic of primates aside from humankind. Tamang’s theory is that he can encourage a type of rejuvenation by injecting their hormonal secretions directly into the bloodstream of an human subject. Interesting, but fundamentally flawed. Of course, our own Algolite race perfected Rejuvenation ages ago via the reverse engineering of certain futuristic genomes.”

“So what happened to your boyfriend?” queried Millie, turning back to Epheba Filia.

“I didn’t hear from him for a while,” replied the blonde. “Then, one night, I heard a knock on my bedroom window. I opened it and heard Arthur starting to speak to me. He told me that the research had left him disfigured, and that he didn’t want me to see him until he could turn back the way he was. He stayed outside in the dark and we talked for a while. He said he still loved me and promised he would find a way for us to be together. He came back again the next night, and the night after that, but he soon seemed to be having a problem talking.”

“How so?” I questioned.

“It was like his voice was changing into a growl or something, and that he couldn’t form words right, you know?”

“Yes, I think I am beginning to understand. So, what happened?”

“He said he would have to go away and that I probably wouldn’t hear from him for a long time,” continued Pheebie. “I started crying and told him I loved him no matter what he looked like. Oh, I just wanted to see him so badly!”

As we talked, I began to become aware of a commotion outside the building. I wondered at it, but continued to concentrate on the girl’s story.

“Before he could leave,” Pheebie went on, “I took the flashlight I have in my room and shined it on Arthur. Oh, I just wanted to see him. When I saw what he had become, I screamed! When that happened, Arthur turned and ran away, and I haven’t seen him since. That was two nights ago. My parents heard me scream, but I just told them I had had a nightmare. I later called my cousins Heba and Peta and they told me where I might be able to find you, Doctor. Oh please, can you help me find Arthur, and... can you help him?”

“Before I can answer that, Pheebie,” I said, “you will have to tell me one more thing. You said that Arthur had ‘become’ something. Tell me what it was.”

“Oh, Doctor, it was terrible! Arthur… he had turned into an…”

Then, before young Miss Epheba Filia could utter that final word, there was a tremendous sound. It was the sound of broken glass as the large front window of The Pizza Gate was smashed from the outside. Both Millie and Pheebie screamed at the very sight of what entered, though Pheebie’s scream soon turned into a low sobbing sound.

“Arthur…” she wept. “It’s him. It’s my poor Arthur.”

What had crashed through the window was about the size and form of a man, but it had characteristics of something else. His body was covered with a dark brown hair, and his face was bestial and at best proto-human. He was incongruously wearing a pair of navy blue trousers on his bent chimpanzee-like legs, and the torn remains of a plaid shirt were on his long arms and muscular torso.

Before I could even react, the ape-man gave forth a bellow of animalistic fury and threateningly lunged to-wards us!!

“Kit-10!” I called, jumping up and standing to shield the two girls. “Nose-laser on stun!”

“Of course, s--,” replied the robotic puss.

(It should be noted here that along with her other catlike characteristics, Kit-10 is possessed of the total inability to openly show respect to anyone. The closest she ever comes to it is by addressing me by a slight “s--” sound -- for “sir” -- and Millie Drake by “m--” -- for “ma’am”.)

The thin bean of finely-focused light came from Kit-10’s nose and hit the ape-man. It slowed him in his bound to-wards us, but did not succeed in stopping him. 

“Oh, please don’t hurt him!” squealed Epheba Filia. “Please don’t hurt my Arthur!”

I moved forward to protect the ladies from the ape-man, but a resounding blow from his huge hairy hand soon set me careening across the floor. I struggled to maintain my balance and looked back at what was occurring.

Arthur the ape-man had by now reached out and grabbed the helpless Pheebie, who immediately fainted away in fear. Then, with another bellow of bestial rage, the primate threw the girl across his shoulder and exited the restaurant.

By now, I had recovered enough to run over to Millie Drake.

“Mills!” I called. “Are you all right?!”

“Yes, I’m okay,” she assured me with a hug. “He just took her and left! Gosh, do you think that is really her boyfriend?”

“I fear so,” I said. “It is results of the experiments he has undergone at Miskatonic University. The hormonal injections from the bonobos have caused him to regress to this primitive form. You stay here with Kit-10, love. I must go and stop him from in any way harming that girl!” …

Outside, numerous passers-by looked on in confused horror as the ape-man carried the helpless young girl away from the front of The Pizza Gate. He then looked up, way up, to-wards the gleaming golden roof of that downtown Baltimore building. As he gazed upon it and considered, a confusion of thoughts ran through his brain. They were human thoughts, memories of a life unconceivable to his now simian thought process. They were thoughts from when he had been a man -- an human being known as Mr. Arthur Douglas. …

He remembered the longing, the desire, the need to be with Epheba Filia. He remembered hearing of the research being conducted by a certain Professor Tamang at Miskatonic University; research that was said to cause bodily rejuvenation. Surely, this was the answer, Arthur Douglas had convinced himself. If he could become younger again, to appear to be Pheebie’s age, or even just a bit older, then her parents would not object anymore, would they? Then their would not be talk of statutory rape charges and protection orders and scandal, would there?

After quickly explaining his plans to the girl, Douglas had gone to Massachusetts and signed up for the research experiments, checking in to an old hotel in the town of Arkham in order to be near the university. The old professor had greeted him casually and kindly, and Douglas had only briefly wondered why this elderly gentleman had not attempted any sort of rejuvenation for himself.

Tamang had explained the mechanics of the experiments in layman’s term as much as was possible, talking of how the injections of hormonal extracts from the African bonobo ape would trigger certain reactions in the human physique that could lead to neoteny or juvenilisation. Arthur Douglas listened politely but did not really care in the long run. If it would help him to be with his beloved Pheebie, it was worth any risk.

At first, Arthur Douglas had noticed no particular effect from the injections. In any event, Tamang had assured him that there was no great risk, and that proper therapy with human blood plasma would work to reverse any side effects of the bonobo serum.

It was a full fortnight into the process when it started. Alone in his hotel room, Douglas began to notice that his body was becoming hairier; that his face was changing and becoming apelike. He also worried that his thoughts were becoming violent and animalistic, but hoped that this part was only his imagination at work.

His next appointment at the university laboratory being still three days away, Douglas had telephoned Professor Tamang with his concerns. The old scientist had told him once again that there was nothing to worry about. They would begin the plasma treatment soon to balance out the effects of the ape hormones.

That was when it all fell apart.

Upon going to keep his appointment at Miskatonic, Arthur Douglas had found that the entire project had been suddenly scrapped. Word of the nature of Tamang’s experiments had gotten out, and the university had ordered it shut down immediately. The possibility of outraged protests from local religious groups and animal welfare organisations alike was just too dire. The laboratory had been closed and cleaned out, all records of the research had been destroyed, and Professor Tamang been sent on an extended “sabbatical” in his native India. There was no word on how to contact him, or on if or when he would return.

Not knowing what else to do, Douglas had gone back to Baltimore. He was daily becoming less and less human in appearance, and so isolated himself in his city apartment, only venturing forth at night.

At first, he had only gone to Epheba Filia’s house and looked on in longing, but soon the desire to speak with her was just too strong. He had gone to her window and done so. He only wanted to be sure that she did not see him; that the girl did not look upon the beast that he was becoming.

Arthur Douglas was by this time finding it increasingly difficult to talk, to form words. His voice was devolving into a low growl with occasional outbreaks of an higher-pitched chattering sound. None the less, he managed to assure his dear Pheebie that he would find a way to help himself, to return to being a man. Perhaps, he reasoned, in time the effect would wear off on its own.

Whilst speaking to the lass, Douglas had struggled to control the thoughts that entered his confused brain -- the thoughts telling him to take her as his mate then and there, to rape and ravish her in pure unfettered jungle lust. He had managed to keep control, holding on to the shred of hope that his human dignity was stronger than all else.

Then, that last night had been the end of any civilised thought processes. When his beloved Pheebie had seen his appearance and reacted in horror, whatever remained of man in his brain had left him. He had run away a frightened animal, then living for two days hidden in one of the public parks of Baltimore, stealing food from a near by fruit stand, before he again picked up the scent of what he knew to be his mate. He had found her surrounded by others, but he had managed to take her, and now knew that he must find a place above all others, a place where he could defend what was his and win the right of “lex talionis” -- the law of the jungle -- the right to ravish the female that he had taken to be his and his alone! To do this, he knew that he could and would kill if necessary. …

I exited the front door of The Pizza Gate just in time to see the apelike Douglas make his decision. He had been gazing far upwards to the top of the building whilst clutching the fainted girl in one of his long, hairy arms. He had decided. It was time to take a place above all and to show his dominance.

Then, the ape-man that had been Mr. Arthur Douglas, still carrying the unconscious Epheba Filia on his hairy shoulder, began to climb to-wards the roof of the skyscraper!!

Can you even begin the perceive the unmitigated horror, in sooth the supreme and unbridled terror of this unspeakably bizarre and incredibly grotesque situation, my dear readers? Arthur Douglas, now more ape than man due to his participation in those bizarre experiments at Miskatonic University, had taken the helpless Miss Epheba Filia with him, carrying the poor girl in his climb to the top of that towering building in Baltimore City -- his intent being to show and declare his bestial dominance from that vantage point high above the urban jungle! As a man, he had loved her. Now, as a beast, he intended at all costs to take her as his mate!!

The ape-man found it easy to scramble up the building, his bare, hand-like feet grasping it easily. Seeing that he would reach the roof in a matter of seconds, I hurried into the skyscraper’s main entrance and took the lift to the official top storey, then going out the window in order to climb the remaining part to meet Douglas on the roof.

Utilising a variation on the rock-climbing skills that I had at one time learned from Aleister Crowley in exchange for teaching him Kabbalah, I fast made my way onto the golden trapezoidal top of the building and faced the ape-man. He had put the girl down on the centre of the roof and turned to-wards me. His eyes narrowed with hate and a snarl of challenge came from his mouth.

“Douglas,” I said. “Arthur Douglas. If any part of your consciousness is still human, think of who you are and what you are doing. You are a man, not an animal. I understand how you feel about Miss Filia, but realise that she does not deserve to be handled in this way. She is a young lady, not a possession to be taken against her will.”

As I spoke, the beast-man was slowly loping to-wards me, his head tilted slightly as if listening in interest to my words.

“I may be able to help you,” I continued. “I will need your cooperation, but we can run some tests and find out a way to reverse the process, hmmm? However, for this to happen, you have to stop behaving in this manner. You have to free the girl and come down from this place. You have to be careful to do no harm no anyone. My own laboratory is near by, and there we can…”

None the less, I then found out that my pleadings were to no avail. Mr. Arthur Douglas has receded too far into bestial savagery, and any civilisation within him had washed away. For, at that moment, as I spoke, he suddenly leaped forward and reached out his long arms to-wards me whilst uttering an howling cry of animal dominance.

I dodged to the side, narrowly escaping his grasp. I then responded with a kick to his stomach area, followed by several quick blows to his face and head. It was enough to have knocked out any human being, but its only effect on the ape-man was a slight retreat, followed by a screech of rage and a chattering challenge -- a challenge that had with it a message that could be understood without the benefit of language; a challenge that included the assurance that, one way or another, our fight would be to the death!

I was keeping my fists up to guard against any return blows from his hairy hands, when he suddenly did something unexpected. With a speed born of jungle hunting skills, he jumped upwards and came down on top of me, landing on my back from behind and wrapping his feet around the side of my head -- then utilising his horrid splayed toes in an attempt to gouge out my eyes!!

I intentionally fell backwards, hoping that the sensation of my weight so suddenly being shifted to his lower midsection would succeed in my escaping his grasp. Forsooth, it did not succeed completely, but it did manage to loosen his grip just enough that I was then able to grab his legs and to wrestle them off me.

I leapt to my feet, realising only then that we had by now moved to the very edge of the roof. I glanced and saw the city street far below. Then it happened. The apelike Douglas had also recovered and regained his feet and, before I could properly defend myself, he delivered a punch with one of his long hairy arms directly to my face. I staggered backwards and felt myself falling. There was nothing beneath me. I was hurtling off the side of the skyscraper! …

Back at the restaurant, Miss Millie Drake and Kit-10 had been watching what they could of the proceedings. They did not know of my peril at that precise moment, but they did realise that the ape-man had taken the helpless girl to the skyscraper’s rooftop, and that I had hurried there in an attempt to save her.

“Oh my gosh!” cried Millie. “This is all like some weird fairy tale, like ‘Beauty and the Beast’ or something. It also reminds me of some old movie, but I can’t remember which one.”

“Accessing cinematic databanks, m--,” replied the computerised cat. “Reference found. Incident resembles the climactic scene of the 1933 RKO Pictures film production of…”

“Never mind, Kit-10,” interrupted Millie Drake. …

I had reached out, barely in time, and had grabbed onto the edge of the rooftop. I now hung precariously by one hand as my foe again roared in apish fury before continuing his assault.

Indeed, the ape-man was just about to renew his attack, an attack that would have possibly resulted in him flinging me from the roof of the building to the streets far below, when something happened that diverted his attention from me entirely.

“Arthur…” came a weak female voice from behind him. “Arthur, no. Don’t… Don’t hurt anybody. Please, don’t.”

With this, the beast that had been Arthur Douglas turned away from me in order to look back at the girl, the girl named Epheba Filia, the girl that he had so dearly loved and cherished when he had been a man.

Whilst he was distracted, I managed to pull myself up back onto the roof. The ape-man did not notice, and I waited and watched what was happening.

I saw the apelike Arthur Douglas gazing at the young girl, and I noticed a realisation dawn in his eyes. It was a realisation of something not of the animal kingdom, but of that spark of nobility, of civilisation, which has enabled the human race to rise above its bestial origins.  I beheld that one final glimmer of humanity, of true manhood, had remained in that otherwise animal brain; for what I saw was a look denoting his feelings for that lovely young lady, feelings not dominated by unbridled lust and carnal desires, but rather feelings of affection, of devotion, of love.

Then, with one final cry, a cry more of human woe than of animal pain, Arthur Douglas turned and hurled himself from the rooftop to the streets far below.

Epheba Filia was trembling in fear and sorrow when I picked her up and carefully carried her to the window, then descending in the lift to the ground floor of the skyscraper. When we got there, she broke free of me and ran outside.  I followed at a distance, and was soon joined by Millie Drake and Kit-10. I quickly let them know what had occurred on the roof.

Millie hugged me and we watched as Epheba approached and knelt down beside the broken body of Arthur Douglas. As the last bit of life left him, his bestial appearance disappeared, and the face of an handsome gentleman appeared.

“Arthur,” sobbed the girl. “I love you. I love you so much.”

“I… love you too… Pheebie…” spoke the man Arthur Douglas with his last breath.

The Baltimore Police Department had by this time cordoned off the area, and representatives of the local news media were beginning to arrive. The story, as they understood it, was that a distraught man had committed suicide by jumping from the building. It was understood that it had something to do with a doomed love affair, but the minor girl’s name would be left out of any public reports.

Quotes of some onlookers who claimed to have seen an ape involved in the incident would, of course, be dismissed as hysteria.

I stood with Millie Drake, holding her hand, as we watched Epheba Filia crying over the now-lifeless body of the man that she loved.

“You did all that you could, Daniel,” said Millie sweetly. “I know that you did.”

“I just wish that I could have saved him, love,” I said. “There may have been a way of turning him back.”

“Daniel, he just didn’t want to possible hurt her any more,” continued Millie. “His love for her made him know that it was better to end his life than to do that.”

“You are wise beyond your years, Mills,” said I in wonder. “You truly are.”

“Oh, not really,” she blushed. “It’s something any child who has ever heard the old fairy tale understands.”

“What do you mean?” I quizzed. “What fairy tale?”

“You know,” said the girl, her enchanting violet eyes gazing up into mine. “The one that says: ‘It was beauty killed the beast’.”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN "STALKING STACY"