THE OMEGA MONSTER

Bill Bean had changed quite a bit since his early days. Self-described as “The Spiritual Warrior”, the native of Glen Burnie, Maryland had started out as a minister, specialising in what has become known amongst the Pentecostal set as “Deliverance” -- but which is known to other forms of Christianity by an older and decidedly more eldritch term: Exorcism.

It is this that had eventually led to Bill Bean’s downfall. You see, along the way he had gotten into mentalist contact with beings that claimed to be divine spirits offering to help him in his attempts to cast out evil in his congregation. What was unknown to Bean was that these entities were actually the Cacodemons of Andromeda, the now-disembodied essences of an ancient race of conquerors that had devastated that galaxy many generations ago before finally being defeated in a long war.

Influenced by the Cacodemons, Bill Bean found that the task of ministry was no longer of interest to him. In fact, he found that the planet Earth itself was no longer enough to satisfy his desires. Bill Bean now wanted bigger things. He wanted to rule the Universe!

Bean soon found himself informed by his “spirit” allies that something was drifting to-wards Earth that would be of use to him. It was the wreckage of an old Andromedan Warbird, the type of spaceship used by the Cacodemons during the war, when they were still beings of organic form. As soon as the ship came close enough, the psychic influence working though Bill Bean had been enough to reactivate its engines, and he had found himself taken aboard by a matter transmit beam.

The man once known as Bill Bean, deliverance minister, now found himself completely under control of the Cacodemons. They utilised him to repair the Warbird, and he had then announced that he was to be inaugurated as King of the Solar System!

It was then, of course, that I intervened, travelling in my own Time/Spaceship, the DiTraS (pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere) to intercept Bill Bean’s Andromedan battleship. Thus, I now stood on the engineering deck of the Warbird, clad in my usual finery (including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, panama hat, and one of my favourite opera capes) and facing down this once-human individual who had now become an agent of intergalactic horror.

Bill Bean unleashed a wave of ebony-black energy directly at me. It was the very force of the Cacodemons. I raised the transonic turnscrew, an highly-advanced technological device resembling a writing pen, before me and activated it to ward off the burst of darksome power.

“Give it a rest, Mr. Bean,” I mocked. “I have faced the Cacodemons before, and know the ways of defeating them.”

“Not this time, Doctor!” shouted Bill Bean in defiance, dressed incongruously in a suit more proper for a Sunday-morning church service. “The powers of the Rulers of Andromeda now flow through me, and I will use them to become like God!”

“Blasphemy will get you nowhere. I was there, you know. I was right there at the final battle of the Andromedan War when the power of the Cacodemons was broken forever. The dark force with which you are possessed is but an echo.”

Whilst I thus distracted Bean, another figure quietly crept around the engine system behind him. It was a beautiful young girl with luxurious chestnut hair and enchanting violet eyes, wearing a tight, short-skirted, magenta-coloured dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender adolescent form. When she reached the engineering control board, she hurriedly entered a series of command manoeuvres into the various dials and levers found thereon.

At this, the ship lurched a bit, causing Bill Bean to turn quickly to see what had caused the sabotage of his ship.

“Millie, look out!” I warned the girl, who had lost her balance slightly.

Before I could prevent him, Bill Bean cast another blast of ebon energy at me. I dodged it, but not before he had run over to grab my friend Millie Drake by the throat.

“Surrender now, Doctor,” he called back to me, “or I will crush the life from her!”

I was too far away to disable Bill Bean with any of my usual Daemonian kung fu techniques before he could harm the lass, but nevertheless the possibility of him attempting this had been prepared for. At that very second, a sharply-focused beam of light flashed across the room and hit Bill Bean directly in the centre of his forehead. He immediately let go of Millie and stumbled backwards into the engines.

“Good shooting, Kit-10!” I praised my mobile computer who resembles nothing more or less than a mechanical cat, and possesses the nose-laser that had disabled Bill Bean. “You deserve some catnip now, hmmm?”

“This unit is not a cat, s--,” replied the robot in her pleasantly-feminine voice.

(Despite her protestations, Kit-10 does have numerous feline characteristics, not the least of which is her total inability to openly show respect to anyone. The closest she can come is by referring to me by a slight “s--” sound, for ”sir”, and by Millie by “m--”, for “ma’am”.)

“Are you all right, love?” I enquired of the girl, having now run over to her.

“I’m fine, Daniel,” she assured me, “but what about him?”

I looked and beheld that Bill Bean had passed out from exertion mixed with a shock he had received from the engine. I quickly did a biological scan of him with the transonic device.

“It appears he has no human consciousness left,” I said upon checking the readings. “The Cacodemons have completely taken over his body, which is rotting from within due to the strain. We had best leave him here.”

I quickly programmed the self-destruct codes into the Warbird, then utilised the transonic again, this time to open a part of the engineering access panel, then reaching my hand in to transact a certain part.

“Is that it?” queried Millie.

“Forsooth,” I affirmed, looking at the piece of emerald-hued crystal I held in the palm of my hand. “The warp-core of an Andromedan Warbird, probably the last one in existence. Let us hurry away now, Mills, Kit-10. This ship will blow up in mere minutes!”

With this, I pocketed the warp-core and then ran from the ship’s engine centre along with the lass and the robot. In the corridor, we hurried through a porthole-type opening that had appeared in what seemed to be a “Roman column” -- in reality our aforementioned DiTraS.

A moment later, I had activated the DiTraS engines and the column faded from view, taking us safely away into the Space/Time Current.

There was soon after a great explosion in that region of Space, just outside of the Solar System, as the last of the Andromedan Warbirds was obliterated forever. …

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 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!!! …

Millie Drake had gotten into my collection of vintage teen magazines, which is why she now stood in the café-like control room of the DiTraS reading an article about Elvis Presley’s new movie deal. Kit-10 rested in the corner whilst her systems did their usual updates, the low sound of her motor sounding quite like a contented purring.

The interior of the DiTraS exists in a different dimensional reality, and so is much larger than the exterior form of the ship. The DiTraS is fitted with something called anole circuitry that usually would allow it to change the shape of its exterior so as to blend in with any surroundings. However, the circuitry in mine was damaged whilst the ship was visiting a “Roman Coliseum”-themed casino/hotel in Las Vegas some years before. I have never had a chance to properly repair it amongst the many adventures with which my life is filled.

As I stood at the control console, which resembles an upper-class coffee counter, an alarm signal suddenly went off on one of the safety indicators.

“What is that, Daniel?” enquired Millie, distracted from her reading about old-time rock and roll. “Is there a problem with the ship?”

“Not at all, love,” I assured her, “but we are receiving a distress signal. Hmmm! It is from the planet Xoas, halfway across the Milky Way.”

“What do you think could be wrong with them?”

“No way to tell without investigating,” said I, resetting the controls. “It is just a general distress call, but it is marked urgent. The Xoans are an humanoid race, with their society and technologies somewhat ahead of Earth’s.”

“Whatever it is,” stated the girl, “I hope we can help them.”

“So do I, Mills,” I agreed. “After all, that is what we are here for.”

The hum of the control system briefly grew louder, then lessened as the lights on the board changed colours.

“Ah, we have materialised in the Xoan city that is their capital,” said I. “Kit-10, stay with the ship whilst we go see what we can do for these people, hmmm?”

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

Millie and I exited the DiTraS and found ourselves in a well-appointed corridor of the type often found in government-type buildings of many cultures. We walked down the hallway until we came to an open door. Upon peering in, we beheld a man sitting behind a desk. He stood up and approached us.

“Greetings, friends,” he said. “Welcome to Xoas. How may I help you?”

He was tall and thin, dressed in a sort of futuristic tunic. His head was hairless and his skin had a golden hue.

“We have come in answer to your distress signal,” I told him. “I am Dr. Rumanos and this is Miss Drake.”

“Yes, we are familiar with your work,” said the Xoan man. “I am the Security Leader for our world, and we do indeed require some assistance.”

The Xoan motioned for us to sit in the chairs that surrounded his desk. We did so as he himself resumed his own seat behind it, and then turned a video screen to face us.

“It seems the problem we are having is showing itself right now,” he informed us. “You see, the cities of our planet have been under repeated attack by a gigantic creature, a thing which my people have termed ‘The Omega Monster’. It has devastated much of our world and threatens to destroy us utterly if not stopped.”

The monitor screen switched on and showed us a view of the city skyline. Flying down to-wards the buildings was an enormous shape -- a shape grotesque and hideous and (horrible to relate!) all-too-familiar. It was a being hundreds of feet tall and ebon-black of colour. It flew by the motion of two membranous, bat-like wings. The thing had two enormous claws for feet, and three hideous heads that writhed in constant motion atop long serpentine necks. From its horridly-fanged mouthed it exhaled noxious and poisonous fumes as the people of Xoas fled from it in terror through the city streets.

“By the Stars!” I swore, recognising the horrid monstrosity. “It survived, and has returned to ravage worlds!”

“That is the thing that threatens to end our civilisation, Doctor,” proclaimed the Xoan. “The thing that will wipe out all life on our planet if we cannot stop it.”

As we watched, a group of Xoan aircraft approached the monster, but their energy weapons did not even faze the thing.

“Daniel,” said Millie Drake, struggling to overcome the speechlessness that the horror of this sight had temporarily brought upon her. “It really is still alive! That thing… The Omega Monster… it is really…”

“Yes,” I affirmed, “it is Wingosus!!”

“So you do recognise this thing as the same creature that attacked Earth some time ago?” questioned the Xoan.

“It is indeed Wingosus,” I reiterated, “the monster created by the villainous Don Wingus during the Galactic Wars. It was fashioned to be the supreme bringer of chaos, the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, a creature of terror and extreme demoniacal horror -- with its very three heads being a diabolical mockery of the Stellar Trinity of Algol!”

“This is why we have summoned your assistance,” he said. “We wish to borrow the creature known as Pederosis.”

“Ah, of course,” I realised. “If you could bring him here to Xoas, he could then be utilised to defeat Wingosus.”

“Exactly the plan we devised, Doctor,“ affirmed the Xoan. “Our spaceships have the hyper drive capability to reach Earth, and to bring the other creature back here, but we need to make use of your ability to awaken him.”

“Pederosis is the most powerful of the Kaiju,” I pondered, “that most ancient order of titanic being that ruled the planet Earth before the current cycle of life even started. He exists now only in deep hibernation. To waken him is a great responsibility.”

“It is the only hope we have, Doctor,” pleaded the Xoan, switching off the monitor. “We need Pederosis to defeat the Omega Monster, or the civilisation of our planet will be annihilated.”

“So we would have to take the DiTraS back to Earth to awaken him?” asked Millie Drake.

“That would not be necessary,” said I. “We could have Kit-10 transmit the signal through a secure subspace channel.”

“Then you will help us?” queried the Xoan.

“Most certainly,” I agreed. “As a Knight of the Eternal Spires I cannot refuse such a request.”

“Our ships are ready to enter hyperspace to Earth immediately.”

I took the transonic turnscrew from my pocket and programmed it to synchronise with Kit-10’s software. …

At that same time, within the DiTraS control room, the robotic cat powered up her systems and connected the sensor from her forehead to the ship’s main console. …

“The signal has been sent,” I told the Xoan. “You should find Pederosis awakened in the centre of the North Atlantic Ocean by the time your spaceships arrive. Now, if Miss Drake and I can return to our own ship, we may be able to also provide some assistance in weakening Wingosus before…”

“That will not be necessary,” said the Xoan. “With the awakening of Pederosis, your usefulness to us has ended.”

It was then that two more Xoans came through the door, holding laser pistols on Millie and myself.

“Oh no!” cried the girl. “Daniel, what’s happening?”

“What is happening, love,” I explained, “is that we have been used and betrayed.”

“Take them to a holding cell,” ordered the head Xoan. “They have served their purpose, and we are not ungrateful. Secure them carefully, but do allow them to view our progress on subspace video. We will now have complete control over both King Wingosus and Pederosis, nothing can stand in our way, and we shall use both of these monsters to conquer the planet Earth!” …

Upon Earth, in the middle of the North Atlantic, a disturbance like unto a tidal-wave split the sea in twain. From there then arose something huge -- in sooth a creature whose height would perhaps be matched by a forty-storey building. It -- he! -- was green of hue and shaped like a bipedal lizard. Down his back and tail were three lines of sharp, serrated spikes. Incredibly muscular of appearance, he seemed to be made for fighting. Nevertheless, there was something about his large, subtly-slanted eyes that bespoke of an intelligence beyond that of any ordinary creature, gigantic or not.

The monster Pederosis had awakened!! …

Back on Xoas, Millie and I sat in the cell to which we had been taken, the video monitor they had supplied us showing footage (sent via subspace transmission to prevent the long delay otherwise necessary for a broadcast to cross the light-years) of the rising of Pederosis.

“So what are they doing, Daniel?” enquired the girl. “Are they taking Wingosus to Earth?”

“So it appears,” I answered. “The seem to have some type of control mechanism, probably a kind of sonic oscillation, that they can use to keep the monsters under their command.”

“Look!” exclaimed the lass, pointing to the monitor screen. “There it is!”

As we watched in horror, we beheld a cube-like Xoan spaceship enter Earth’s atmosphere. From it there extended an energy wave, in which was encased in a sort of bubble the terror known as Wingosus. As we continued to watch, another Xoan ship appeared and utilised a similar wave to capture Pederosis, who did not even put up a struggle.

“They now also have Pederosis under their control, and are taking both the monsters somewhere,” said I. “Somewhere where they can cause much damage.”

“Daniel, if only we could get out of here and go back to the DiTraS! Then we could go to Earth and warn them at least!”

“Well, some help should be arriving on that regard, hmmm? Ah, here we go!”

As I spoke, a laser light could be seen burning through the lock on the cell door. In a few moments, the door opened and our robotic cat friend glided through it.

“Kit-10!” exclaimed Mille. “How did you find us?”

“No problem, m--,” returned the mechanical puss. “I am attuned to your biological prints.”

“Quite right, Kit-10,” I approved. “So you did receive the coded information to come find us that I sent along with the call to Pederosis.”

“You knew somehow not to trust the Xoans?” enquired Millie.

“Yes, I suspected them as soon as that official introduced himself as their ‘Security Leader’. Such a term indicated that the Xoan government has been taken over by a fascist regime.”

“Daniel, look!” exclaimed Millie, who had briefly glanced back at the video screen.

What she had seen was terrifying indeed, for what it showed was the Xoan spaceship still towing the two monsters -- and they were approaching a skyline, which was easily recognised at that of New York City!

“We need to hurry, love!” I proclaimed. “Fortunately, the Xoans will be far too preoccupied with their operations on Earth to attempt stopping us.”

We hurried down the corridor, only briefly stopping at the now-empty office in which we had been before. I retrieved the transonic turnscrew from the desk, where I had seen it secured when they had confiscated it.

We soon entered the DiTraS and dematerialised, the coordinates set for Earth.

“Here, I should be able to get that transmission on our screen,” I said. “We can see how their attempt against Earth is progressing.”

The monitor came on and the scene that then appeared was one of absolute ungodly terror indeed. The monsters Pederosis and Wingosus, both completely under control of the Xoan invasion force, had been set down at opposite ends of New York City, and had proceeded to begin devastating it -- tearing down buildings and stomping on vehicles and causing crowds of people to run screaming in total abject fear!

Then we heard the Xoan voice that was being broadcast upon Earth. It spoke thusly:

“Attention, people of the planet Earth. We are the Xoans. We are your new leaders. The creatures now attacking one of your largest cities are under our control. All of your governments will immediately surrender to us or the destruction will continue. If you resist, we will use these monsters to destroy every city and major population area on your planet.”

“Oh no!” cried Millie as we viewed the scene in shocked horror. “We’re too late!!”

Do you even begin to perceive the supreme fear and unnameable terror of this horrific situation, my friends? Before we could make it to Earth, the Xoan invasion had begun, and they were using the monsters Pederosis and Wingosus to destroy the city of New York -- even this but a beginning of the threat of absolute horror they intended to use in order to blackmail all human governments into submitting to their domination of the planet!

I ran to one of the storage lockers at the side of the DiTraS control room. From it I took an object - an object like a green crystal.

“The Andromedan warp-core,” said Millie Drake. “Is there a way it can be used against the Xoans?”

“Peradventure, love,” I rejoined. “You see, Wingosus was originally created during a conflict with Andromeda, and has certain Andromedan components. In order to control it, the Xoans must be utilising a partially Andromedan-styled frequency, hmmm? If I can tap into it, and use the warp-core before it burns out completely, I may just be able to jam the signal.”

I set the green crystal down on the DiTraS control board. It was immediately surrounded by a myriad of multihued lights.

“Ah, the interface has been accepted,” I continued, adjusting some controls. “Now, if I can just send it in reverse along the transmission from Earth, watch what happens!”

Millie Drake turned to the monitor to view the results. Upon it could be seen Pederosis, who suddenly stopped his rampage through New York. He began to shake his huge head as if clearing it, and then roared a mighty call of challenge before charging forwards to-wards the alien horror known as Wingosus!

The two monsters clashed and began fighting, tearing at one another with teeth and claws. At first, Pederosis definitely had the upper hand, but Wingosus managed to cause his opponent to back off somewhat by unleashing a wave of the toxic fumes from his three hideous mouths. Hissing horridly, Wingosus then flew upwards and swooped back down upon Pederosis with all its weight behind it.

At the same time, the two Xoan spaceships joined in the fight, unleashing energy rays to-wards Pederosis. The noble giant lizard began to sink to the ground, as if in pain.

“Daniel, they’re ganging up on him!” shouted Millie. “Is there some way to stop those ships?”

“Yes, I believe so,” I stated. “Kit-10, can you ascertain the engine frequencies of those Xoan ships and transmit the proper jamming frequencies through the DiTraS?”

“Affirmative, s--,” stated the robot, who them attached her sensors to my ship’s control console. …

Back on Earth, Pederosis struggled to regain his footing in the fight against Wingosus, the rays from the Xoan ships continuing to pummel him. Then, as the jamming frequencies hit the ships, the two Xoan craft suddenly began to plummet downwards, spiralling in to crash into the near by buildings.

With this, Pederosis recovered and stood tall, facing the monstrosity of Wingosus. With another roar, he unleashed his own atomic flame breath directly at the three-headed alien creature, causing it to hiss hideously and to quickly back away.

The DiTraS had by now reached Earth, and we materialised atop the new World Trade Centre building, Millie and I quickly exiting the ship in order to view the battle of the monsters.

After well-nigh frying Wingosus with radiation, Pederosis then grabbed the thing in what appeared to be a sumo wrestling hold, then casting the monster to the ground.

“Omega Monster,” I said from our vantage point, “meet the Alpha!”

“Look at that, Daniel!” exclaimed the girl. “Wingosus is leaving!”

Indeed, the alien monster -- now burned and mangled from its fight with the giant lizard -- had now taken to the air, flying upwards.

“It has surrendered and is going into Outer Space to die,” I explained. “Pederosis has won!”

As if in response, the mighty monster known as Pederosis then let forth a final roar of triumph before turning and wading out to return to its ocean hibernation -- at least, until he is once again needed!

From atop the building, Millie Drake cheered and waved at the monster Pederosis as he disappeared over the horizon. Despite the destruction, from which I knew the great city of New York could recover, it was a great day.

“I will send a message to the Kosmikos right away,” I said. “I am quite certain that the Absolute Convention of the Watchers will agree to place a Time-loop around the planet Xoan, so their fascist government cannot again attempt conquest of other worlds.”

“That’s good,” said the lass. “They were horrible people to try something like that.”

“But most importantly,” I added, “Wingosus -- also known as the Omega Monster -- has been defeated, and Pederosis is still King!”

“Wow, Daniel, do you know what you’re saying?”

“Hmmm?” I queried. “What do you mean, love?”

The girl smiled beautifully as she made her statement:

“Pederosis is -- the Elvis of Monsters!!”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “VIRGINKILLER”

THE BRAIN OF SARTORIUS

The last of the mourners left the remote cemetery at sunset, with the shadow of the near by mountain having already cast a deep gloom over the area. After the gravedigger had finished his work and patted down the earth, he too exited the burial ground. There were several minutes of silence, with the only sound being the occasional caws of crows.

Then two men emerged from hiding in one of the crypts. They were carrying shovels and both were dressed in simple work clothes. The first of them was an hunchback, shambling of gait and hideous of appearance. The other, obviously in command, was a tall, lean, intelligent-appearing man of perhaps slightly less than forty years.

“We need to hurry, Fritz,” he stated. “The moon will rise soon, and they may then be able to see us from the village.”

“Yes, Herr Jakobs,” answered the hunchback in his thick German accent.

The pair hastened to their task of exhuming the new grave. The coffin had been buried deep, and it was more than an hour later when they finally managed to lift it up to the side of the hole.

“This will be the last one we need, Fritz,” said Jakobs. “He was the local clergyman; one of considerable intellect if of decidedly unattractive countenance. His head should be of the correct size to house the brain.”

“Yes, mein herr,” agreed Fritz the hunchback.

“Just think of it,” continued Jakobs in a sort of grotesque reverie, as his hand idly caressed the newly-exhumed coffin. “All of our work will soon come to glorious fruition. The brain that waits in my laboratory -- the greatest brain in the history of all Creation -- will live and thrive again in the new body that I have pieced together for it with my own hands. What I have done is beyond science. It is beyond the superstitions of these peasants. What I have done is nothing less than a work of divine power. It is a working by which I shall prove myself equal to God!” …

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 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!!! …

The clouds were dark and lowering over the mountainous region when, on a patch of level ground an odd moaning gasping noise was heard. With this, there came into view an object resembling a Roman column but which is actually a DiTraS (pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere) -- one of those incredibly-advanced combination Spaceship/Time-machines the technology of which is only available to my people, the Watchers of Algol.

In the supposed column there then opened a sort of porthole, from which emerged three figures. The first of these was myself, dressed in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, panama hat, and one of my favourite opera capes.

With me was a beautiful young girl, petite and perfect with chestnut-coloured hair, enchanting violet eyes, luscious lips and sun kissed skin. She was clad in a short, tight, powder-blue dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender adolescent figure. Beside her was a small metallic shape that resembled nothing more or less than a robotic cat.

“Are you sure we got the right time and place?” queried the lass, gazing around at the rather eldritch atmosphere.

“Quite certain, Millie,” I assured her. “Geneva, Switzerland. June, 1816. Exactly as the invitation said.”

“But you said you’ve had that invitation for a long time.”

“Indeed I have,” I acquiesced, holding out the yellowed parchment to which Millie Drake referred. “Not that this matters so much, with our Time-travel capabilities, hmmm? It will be nice to see my old friend Lord Byron again, and I hear Percy Shelley is visiting with his young bride. She is about your age, and apparently quite accomplished. I am sure you will be good friends. It should be quite a party!”

“So, I’m your ‘plus one’, then?” giggled the girl. “But what about Kit-10? Won’t she look kind of strange to them?”

“Oh, not really,” I answered. “Automatons were quite the rage in some social circles during this century. Besides, Byron is himself quite an admirer of the little pussy cats, I assure you.”

“This unit is not a cat, s--,” protested the computer in her pleasantly-feminine voice. Despite her claims, Kit-10 does indeed have numerous catlike qualities, not the least of which being her total inability to openly show anything resembling respect. The closest she can come is referring to me by a slight “s--” sound (for “sir”) and Millie by “m--” (for “ma’am”).

“We seem to have landed outside of town,” I said. “Should not be too far of a walk, though.”

“It looks like rain,” said Millie.

“Yes, quite common to the region, even in this season. I say, look at that!”

I pointed to the height of the mountain reaching up beside us, at what resembled an old medieval-style castle or fortress, framed against the grey sky.

“Wow!” exclaimed Millie Drake. “It’s huge! I wonder who lives there.”

“Probably no one by this time, love,” I explained. “It is only a relic of the feudal era, when…”

I suddenly groaned and grabbed my head. A strange pain had shot through my mind. I looked and saw that Millie felt it as well.

“Daniel,” she said. “What was that?”

“Some kind of quick psychic link,” I explained. “As if we as Algolites recognised a similar presence near by.”

“Another Watcher?”

“It could be, but if so he must be strangely damaged. In any event, it seems to have emanated from that very castle!”

“We should go see what it is, right?” enquired the girl.

“Forsooth,” I agreed. “It is our duty as Watchers to do so. Kit-10, do you mind going ahead to Lord Byron’s house and letting him know Miss Drake and I will be there as soon as we can? You have the address.”

“Of course, s--,” said the robot, then gliding off across the ground away from us.

Miss Millie Drake and I then set off in the opposite direction, taking a circuitous ascent up the mountain -- little suspecting the extreme and bizarre horror that there awaited us. …

At that very moment in the castle, the surgeon known as Jakobs stood in a type of laboratory that was furnished with equipment appearing far above the technology of the early Nineteenth Century. He was now clad in a white lab coat.

“An electrical storm is rising,” he said, examining some scanner. “It should be magnificent, and perfect for energising the body I have created to house your brain.”

“I sense something, Jakobs,” said another voice, a deeply-masculine one that seemed to be emanating from a disembodied source across the room. “Are you certain we are alone?”

“Of course we are,” answered Jakobs. “No one else is here except my servant, Fritz -- and I assure you he is of no mental capability whatsoever.”

“Then what is the source of the disturbance I am feeling?” queried the voice.

“It is likely just a side-effect of your long residence outside of an organic body. That will soon be rectified.”

“Do not fail me, Jakobs. I brought you back to this time for safety to continue your experiments -- the same experiments that got you expelled from the scientific community of Twenty-Second Century Earth. I saw in you the singular ability to work with me.”

“Yes, and I have been loyal to you,” Jakobs retorted, walking across the room. “When the Absolute Convention of Daemonia condemned you, was it not I who managed to save your brain? Have I not looked after you, setting up the apparatus that allows you to communicate?”

“Do not get above yourself, Jakobs. I am still your superior, even in this wretched state. Do your job well, and you will sit beside me when I take revenge on the Watchers and return to my rightful place as undisputed Universal Overseer. Then I will create and command new armies of my people, who shall grind the very Cosmos under our heels!”

“Yes, of course,” said Jakobs as he gazed to-wards the brain that grotesquely floated in a tank of chemicals, with sensors attached to a speaker that allowed it to speak. “We shall achieve the operation tonight, and you, Sartorius, shall once again rule the Watchers of Algol!” …

By the time Millie and I reached the top of the mountain, the rain was pouring down in sheets, and lightning was flashing in frequent intervals across the sky. I had removed my cape and draped it over the girl, its wide collar turned up to cover her head.

We got to the huge castle door and I utilised the iron doorknocker.

“What if there isn’t anybody home?” asked Millie.

“There must be,” I answered. “Remember the strange mentalist emanation we both experienced? There is someone here; indeed, someone of immense power!”

As if in humorous response to this, the door opened slightly and the figure of an obvious idiot looked out of it. It was an ugly hunchbacked man, clad in rough work clothes.

“Go away,” said the hunchback. “We’re busy here.”

With this, he slammed the door in our faces. I once again took the doorknocker and used it until he again opened the door.

“I told you to go away!” he insisted.

“Now listen, my good man,” I said. “I happen to have a young lady with me and you cannot leave us out in the elements, hmmm?”

The hunchback looked at Millie Drake, who had moved the collar back some so her face could be seen. His own expression softened some at the sight of the lovely girl.

“All right, all right,” he said. “You can come in, but if Mein Herr Jakobs gets angry it is not my fault!”

We entered the castle’s antechamber, which was lit by torches arranged at regular places along the walls. Millie handed me back my cloak and I put it on after shaking off some of the wet. The hunchback motioned for us to follow and led us up an huge staircase and down a corridor.

“We have visitors, Herr Jakobs,” the hunchback announced us as we went into a strange chamber indeed.

“Fritz, you fool!” exclaimed the man in the white lab-coat. “We can have no interruptions! We need to…”

Jakobs stopped speaking when he saw us, his mouth snapping shut in sudden surprise.

I looked around the large chamber. It was furnished like a scientific laboratory, its equipment far ahead of the period. On a table was what looked like a large cadaver covered by a sheet. At the far end of the room was a sort of glass tank, now empty save for the dregs of some chemicals.

“Our apologies for the interruption,” said I. “We are travellers and got caught out in the storm. My name is Doctor Rumanos and this is Miss Drake.”

“‘Doctor’?” repeated Jakobs. “Did you say ‘Doctor’? So you are a scientist?”

“Well, yes, after a fashion,” I acquiesced. “Though my companion here is a much higher form of life that is known as a ‘starlet’.”

“Fascinating,” replied Jakobs, coming over to shake my hand. “I knew at first sight of you both that I was addressing people of quality.”

“Well, thank you,” said Millie as Jakobs briefly took her hand as well.

“It will be nice to speak to someone of learning for a change,” he went on. “Not like that pathetic superstitious rabble from the village, or that ridiculous ‘artistic’ crowd over from England. You see, I am engaged in some important experimentation here. In fact, we were about to run a most crucial part of it just now. You are welcome to witness it if you wish, Doctor.”

“I would be honoured, Jakobs,” I told him. “The apparatus over the slab. It is for converting electrical power into biological impulses, hmmm?”

“You recognise it?” questioned Jakobs in wonder.

“Well, I have seen something similar before,” I admitted

“Incredible! I didn’t know anyone in this time had any inkling even of the theory, much less the practice.”

“Well, as I said, we are travellers.”

“Mein herr,” interrupted Fritz, “the storm is reaching its peak! You said to let you know!”

“Please, my friends,” said Jakobs, indicating some near by chairs. “Have a seat and observe.”

Millie Drake and I sat down and looked on as Jakobs and the hunchbacked Fritz got about their work. The table on which resided the body was raised up several metres and, as the storm reached its crescendo, volts of electricity surged through the machinery into it. After a minute or so of this, Jakobs threw a lever that shut off the conductors and caused the table to slowly descend.

Then Jakobs ran over to the subject upon the slab. The sheet had already been thrown off, revealing the thing to be swathed in bandages. As the scientist looked on, one hand of the body began to move, slowly at first, but definitely raising itself upwards of its own volition.

“He lives!” shouted Jakobs in exaltation. “He lives! I have done it! I have brought him back from oblivion! The greatest brain in all the Universe lives in the body I have created! He lives! Sartorius lives!”

“What!” I exclaimed, jumping up in sudden shock and realisation. “Sartorius?!”

“Sartorius?” repeated Millie Drake, standing up beside me. “I remember hearing that name at Daemonia Academy! Isn’t that… ?”

“Yes,” I said. “A renegade Watcher from more than an hundred generations before our time! After usurping the office of Universal Overseer, he led an army of militant extremists in an attempt to conquer all of Space and Time! Only the collective force of the Absolute Convention of Algol was able to apprehend him, and he was sentenced to the ultimate punishment -- total obliteration, with the remnants of both his physical and mental essence scattered to the farthest reaches of the Cosmos!”

“But Jakobs said his brain,” added Millie. “His brain must have survived and…”

The girl’s words were the cut off as she emitted a gurgled scream. I turned quickly to see what had happened to her. Enamoured at the sight of the beautiful girl, Fritz the hunchback had left the centre of the laboratory, his movements unnoticed in the excitement of the experiment. He had circled around and crept up behind Millie, then grabbing the unsuspecting girl and throwing her over his shoulder in an attempt at abduction!

I glanced back quickly before following them. The newly-awakened Sartorius creature was beginning to stand up from his table as Jakobs assisted in removing his bandages.

Turning again, I ran to give chase to the hunchback and to save Millie. Fritz had already carried the lass up another flight of huge stone stairs, and I hurried up them in pursuit. …

Back in the laboratory, Jakobs removed the bandages from the creature’s head, revealing the horrid face of the dead man who had been used for this purpose. The skin was grey and sunken, the texture of a corpse, but the eyes well-nigh shone with a look of dangerously-evil intellect. Across the forehead was a series of stitches where the brain had been inserted.

“Can you hear me, Sartorius?” queried the scientist. “Can you speak?”

“I hear you, Jakobs,” said the thing, his voice raspy but beginning to clear and to take on a definite tone of command. “There is another here. I sense his mind. No! Two of them, but one is only a child…”

“They are just visitors, Sartorius,” assured Jakobs. “The man is a scientist, but they are no threat. We can…”

“No, Jakobs!” roared the monster known as Sartorius. “They are Algolites! I feel their minds! They may be agents of the Convention of the Watchers, sent to destroy me! They must die, Jakobs! Do you understand?! They must die!!” …

I caught up with Fritz at the top of the staircase, leading as it did to a turret at the very height of the castle. The hunchback looked back at me, still carrying the girl, who had fainted from horror, across his twisted shoulder.

“No!” shouted Fritz to me. “You can’t have her back! I want her!”

With this, the deformed Fritz dropped the girl on the floor and turned to face me. We ran at each other and clashed.

Fritz was strong, but it was the strength of a desperate cripple. I soon overpowered him, and was about to give a blow to his skull which I knew would result in safely knocking him out when he suddenly jumped free of my grasp and, with a final show of defiance, leapt up atop the low stone parapet that surrounded the turret.

The hunchback then attempted a kick to my face. I dodged him, this action causing him to lose his balance. I heard him shriek in terror as he fell to his death, likely dashed against the rocks far below the castle.

"Looks like I gave old Fritz a sound thrashing," said I.

I turned to examine Millie. She was unharmed, but still in a swoon of fear. I picked her up gently in my arms and carried her back down the stairs. I did not like the thought of bringing her again to the horrors of that laboratory, but it was nevertheless far too dangerous to leave her there alone in the lofty upper tower.

I laid the still only semiconscious girl across the chairs before turning to face the bizarre scene within the chamber. 

The monstrous form that now housed the brain of Sartorius had been completely freed of his surgical bandages, and stood nude before me save for a brief leathern loincloth. His grey skin was marked all over with stitches where the parts had been sewn together from various corpses. In all, the creature was huge, nearly seven feet in height.

“Who are you, Algolite?” he bellowed to me. “If you come here to prevent my return, you will find your efforts to no avail.”

“I am Rumanos,” I answered, “an operative of the Kosmikos. It is long since your time, Sartorius. The Watchers do not practice any form of conquest or suppression of other life-forms. Such actions are repugnant to us.”

“Then the Watchers of Algol are more than ever in need of my leadership,” proclaimed Sartorius. “I shall return to Daemonia, and…”

“Sartorius,” interrupted Jakobs, who stood beside the monster, “I need to run tests to indicate if your brain is functioning properly in the new body. Until then, you should not interact with…”

“Quiet, Jakobs,” answered the thing, slapping the surgeon with one of its huge hands. “I have no further need of you!”

The blow sent Jakobs hurtling across the room to strike one of the stone walls, causing him to slip to the floor in unconsciousness.

“He is correct, Sartorius,” said I. “You are not what you once were.”

“You know nothing,” he retorted. “I am Sartorius, the greatest of all Algolites. Soon all the Universe shall kneel before me!”

“I think not. Sure, you have what seems like a new, tailor-made body, but it is actually just a bad conglomeration of spare parts, hmmm? Using it in an attempt to muscle in on governing others will not succeed, to put it kindly.”

“You are wrong! My mind, my will, my purpose is stronger than ever! I will build a new army, and we shall go forth in conquest of all planets across the Cosmos!”

“Rubbish, Sartorius,” I mocked. “Absolute rubbish. Why I wager you are not even up to an old fashioned game of mind-wrestling, hmmm?”

“What!” he roared. “You would pit your puny brain against mine? I am Sartorius! I have commanded legions!”

“Yes yes yes. I know, I know. Do you accept the challenge or not? We have the apparatus right here, hmmm?”

“Yes, you impudent upstart,” he replied. “I do accept. I will rip your mind to shreds!”

With this, we arranged the sensors from the futuristic electrical equipment so that their only input was the impulses of our two brains, attaching the wiring to our foreheads and standing to face each other in a challenge that I well knew only one of us could even possibly survive.

“Contact,” said Sartorius.

“Contact,” I agreed.

Pulses of energy began to surge down the wiring between our brains. An image formed in the air betwixt us. It was an image of the swirling grey mists and multicoloured spirals of the Space/Time Current. In the centre of this image then appeared a face. It was the face of the head in which currently resided the brain of Sartorius. Then this face faded, to be replaced by my face.

I concentrated as the bioelectrical impulses continued to rise in pitch and power. Sartorius stood immobile, staring directly at me as his mind struggled to hold mine in death-lock. My face faded from the floating image, to be replaced by, once again, the current form of Sartorius. Then this one transformed into the face of a noble Algolite of the elder type. It was a face that I knew to be that of the legendary Sartorius himself -- forsooth the original form of the insane intergalactic conqueror with whom I now grappled!

“You cannot win,” he stated. “I take you back, back, back to your beginning. You are inferior to me, as are all! I, Sartorius the Great, do conquer you as I do conquer all!”

With this proclamation from my foe, an huge surge of energy ran across the apparatus, and I gasped as I felt my senses leaving me. I was only just aware of my body beginning to slip to the floor in defeat…

Do you perceived the terror, the extreme abject horror of this situation? If I did not take immediate and extreme measures, I would soon find myself defeated by the insane intergalactic conqueror known as Sartorius -- who would then be free to go forth and enslave all of Creation!

In the last moment, before I would have found myself forever beaten, I sent a desperate burst of mental energy along the wiring. With this, the central image of the face of Sartorius faded, to be again replaced by my own face. Then the image of my face changed -- transformed into something else entirely; transformed into an image of a glorious being of bright-orange and blue power, of sparkling energy beyond the very forces of all that can be called life and death -- beyond all truth and falsehood, all good and evil, all reality and unreality.

“Who are you, Rumanos?” questioned my foe as his body began to shudder. “How old are you? How long have you lived?!”

Then Sartorius screamed in pain and ripped the sensors from his head. His huge form stumbled around until Jakobs, who had just recovered consciousness, approached him.

“Sartorius, listen!” said the scientist. “I am your creator! You should have listened to me, and…”

Sartorius, his mind broken, only bellowed in rage as he reached out his monstrous hands and seized Jakobs, breaking the man’s back with a quick jerk of grotesque strength.

I tore the sensors from my head and threw them to the side. The image had faded from the air, and I fell again to the floor in exhaustion, only barely able to see what was occurring there in that bizarre laboratory chamber.

The monster that was Sartorius, still holding the dead form of Jakobs, had stumbled against some of the machinery, causing it to spark and catch fire. The blaze soon reached his own body, quickly consuming him and the remains of his mad “creator”. From within the pain I was still experiencing from having stood against that hideous combatant, I beheld Sartorius die in a conflagration of flames.

“Daniel?” I then heard the sweet voice of Miss Millie Drake. “Daniel, are you all right?”

The lass had recovered from her faint and had come over to me. She took my hand and I rallied myself, shaking off the after-effects of my horrid grappling with the mad mind of Sartorius.

“Yes, I am all right, Mills,” I told her, standing up, “but we have to get out of here!”

Indeed the laboratory was now becoming consumed in flames; a fire that would in sooth wipe out all vestiges of the insane obscene evil that had happened there.

Millie and I hurried down the front staircase and out of the castle. The rain had subsided as we ran out into the night, pleased to put that horrid castle behind us.

“So what happened?” enquired the lovely lass. “I know you fought him, but it seemed so strange…”

“Sartorius is gone forever, love,” I assured her. “Along with the mad surgeon that brought him back.”

“That’s good,” said Millie as we stopped for a brief hug. “That was such a terrible place, Daniel. I’m just glad it’s over, and that you’re still with me.”

“I will be with you forever, my love. Worry not.”

“I could never live without you, Daniel. I love you so much!”

“I love you too, Mills,” said I. “Come along then, and we can hurry to join Kit-10 and the other guests at Lord Byron’s place -- and just think of the story we now have to tell them!”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “THE OMEGA MONSTER”

BLAZE OF GLORY

It was an informant who had revealed that the country club, located there in the Hampton area of Baltimore County, Maryland, was being used as a hideout for that horrid esoteric terrorist group known to eternal infamy as Spectral Paranormal. This informant, who remained anonymous in the message that he had sent to our downtown headquarters, had claimed outrage at the terrorist organisation for which he worked having kidnapped a girl named Lori Logan, daughter of a prominent local politician. It was presumably the intention of the evil agents to brainwash the young lady in order to have her available as an insider during her father’s upcoming bid to run for President of the United States.

I had made my way across the country club grounds that late-spring morning, dressed as I was in my usual finery -- including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, sunspecs, and panama hat -- and entered the central building of the establishment. All had seemed quiet, with no one about, but I knew it likely that Spectral Paranormal agents were watching me whilst maintaining the ruse that the club was not yet open for the day.

I found Miss Lori Logan tied to a bed in one of the rooms. She was quite pretty, with dusky hair and eyes inherited from her South Korean mother, and still clad in the uniform of the elite private school from which she had been abducted. As I began to untie her, she stirred from the hypnotic sleep in which she had lain.

“What… ?” she muttered. “What’s going on? Who are you?”

“Worry not, Miss Logan,” said I, helping the teenager to sit up. “I am Dr. Rumanos and I am here to rescue you. Your father knows about what has happened, and…”

I heard a noise and swung around to face a large man in black jeans and a matching t-shirt -- the horrid cult symbol of the three interlocked triangles that was printed thereon marking him as an operative of Spectral Paranormal. He was holding an old-style revolver on me.

With lightning-fast speed, I kicked his hand and sent the gun into the air. He recovered quickly, and began to reach out his hands as if to throttle me. I ducked under them and hit him with a barrage of Daemonian kung fu blows, ending with one to his head that sent him immediately to the floor in unconsciousness.

Whilst this was occurring, Lori Logan had reached under the mattress of the bed and had retrieved a long, vicious-looking dagger. As I concluding knocking out the criminal agent, the girl approached me and prepared to plunge the knife into my back!

“Daniel, look out!” I heard a familiar voice warn me.

I turned around just in time to see my assistant, Miss Millie Drake, grab Lori Logan around the waist and pull her back away from me. I quickly took hold of Miss Logan’s wrist and squeezed it hard, causing her to drop the knife. However, before I could further help Millie in subduing her, the kidnapped girl kicked me in the stomach with a strength that belied her size.

“Millie,” I groaned. “She is still under hypnosis and therefore has greater than normal strength! Be careful if she… !”

Nonetheless, Lori Logan had already broken free from Millie’s hold and was attempting to find the knife. Then, before she could proceed further, a beam of sharply-focused light came from across the room and hit her squarely in the middle of her chest. She fell backwards onto the bed, stunned by the nose-laser of my mobile computer.

“Good shooting, Kit-10!” exclaimed the exceedingly-beautiful Millie Drake, petite and perfect as she is with her luxurious chestnut hair, enchanting violet eyes and sun kissed skin. She straightened the tight, short, rose-coloured dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender adolescent figure.

“No problem, m--,” replied the pleasantly-feminine voice of the robot that resembles nothing more or less than a mechanical cat. In fact, one of Kit-10’s rather catlike qualities is her total inability to openly show respect to anyone. The closest she ever gets is referring to me by a slight “s--” sound (for “sir”) and to Millie by “m--” (for “ma’am”).

“So you were right, Daniel,” said Millie, “that this was a set up by Spectral Paranormal.”

“Of course it was, Mills,” I agreed. “The ‘informant’ was a loyal agent of theirs, and they hoped that luring us here to presumably save Miss Logan would lead to our assassination.”

“They hypnotised her to murder you!”

“Yes, but she is not responsible for her actions,” I explained. “We must take her back to headquarters and ‘deprogram’ her before returning her to her parents in Annapolis. I know some definite techniques that should bring her around.”

“Of course,” giggled Millie Drake. “If there is anyone who is the greatest expert at influencing the minds of young girls, it’s you!” …

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 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 short time after we had safely returned Miss Lori Logan to her parents that Millie Drake, Kit-10, and I were once again at our headquarters, located as they are in the golden trapezoidal roof of a Baltimore skyscraper, the ground floor of which is a pizza parlour.

Inside our secret HQ is a veritable museum of artefacts that I have collected during my long and storied career, including pieces of alien technology and obscure objects from numerous different historical periods. Nevertheless, by far the most amazing piece in this collection is something resembling a “Roman column” that is, in reality, my DiTraS (pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere) -- one of those incredibly-advanced combination Spaceship-and-Time-machines that are only useable by my people, the Watchers of Algol.

Also therein is a system of monitors and scanners that keep track of any possible threat to the planet Earth, and it was these that I was checking on during the day that our next adventure began.

‘By the Stellar Trinity!” I swore. “Millie, look at this.”

I was seated behind my worktable viewing some of the security relays. Miss Millie Drake came over beside me, now dressed in a flowered sundress of the tight, short-skirted type she favours.

“What is it, Daniel?” enquired the lass, then noticing the view-screen I had been examining. “Oh, it’s that asteroid!”

“Indeed it is,” I agreed. “The huge asteroid that has been detected approaching Earth. It has been determined that it will miss the planet and do no harm, but the astronomer who discovered the thing nicknamed it ‘Blaze of Glory’. A bit of dark humour, hmmm?”

“So what is it doing now?”

“It seems to be continuing its course, and is still far outside of the orbit of the Moon, but our instruments -- which, as you know, are much in advance of anything else on Earth -- have picked up something strange about it. Something strange indeed. Take a look.”

The girl gazed at the readout and let out a cry of surprise.

“Is that what I think it is?” she enquired. “There is some kind of machinery at the centre of the asteroid?”

“So it seems, love,” I informed. “We are definitely picking up signs of technology therein. Exactly what it is, or what is its purpose, we cannot tell from here.”

“So we should investigate, right?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” said I, quickly retrieving my hat and the opera cape I wear when travelling. “Millie, Kit-10, let us be off!”

A porthole-type aperture appeared in the DiTraS and we entered the machine. A few moments later, the odd gasping moaning noise of the ship’s engines was heard as it faded from view into the Space/Time Current.

Within the café-like control room of the DiTraS (which exists in a different dimension and is thus of a much larger size than the vehicle’s exterior), I stood at the main console.

“I have set the coordinates for the asteroid,” I informed Millie, who was standing beside me. “Ah, here we are! We have materialised inside of it. It is indeed an hollow cavity, in which is some advanced machinery and computer equipment!”

“But what could it be, Daniel?” queried the girl. “Who put it there, and why would it be inside this asteroid?”

‘”Well, there is only one way to find out. Our scanners are showing a breathable atmosphere.”

“Recommend caution, s--,” advised Kit-10.

“Of course, old friend,” I agreed. “We can stay near the ship, but we must find out the facts concerning this mystery!” …

Little did we know that we were being watched, monitored from the command deck of a silver rocket-ship flying through near by Space.

“He has arrived, Controller,” said a tall, silver being shaped like a man, its voice an emotionless electronic whirr.

“Excellent,” said the other, of the same type but even larger, and with bronze highlights on its metallic form. “All is going as planned. He will be destroyed. We will use the asteroid to wipe out the human race, but first we will kill Dr. Daniel Rumanos, that he will no longer be able to interfere with our programmes. We, the Replicants of Leknii, shall then be unstoppable.” …

My companions and I exited the DiTraS, and found ourselves within a circular chamber lined with computer banks, controls, and monitors.

“It looks like another spaceship!” stated Millie.

“Indeed it does,” I said. “Apparently, someone has decided to use this asteroid as a mobile device, hmmm? I wonder if…”

“Caution!” interrupted Kit-10. “Danger approaching!”

Millie Drake and I turned around to see what had startled the computerised cat. We soon beheld what it was. Entering the chamber via a sort of service duct were several small silver creatures resembling robotic rodents. They began to glide quickly across the floor to-wards us.

“Oh my goodness!” exclaimed Millie with a shudder of horror whilst huddling up close to me. “I know what those are!”

“Yes,” said I, as the metallic creatures approached us. “Repli-Rats!”

These things, known as Repli-Rats, are service robots of the Replicants of Leknii, that horrid race of cyborgs that seek to convert all humanoid life-forms to their own soulless and loveless kind. The Repli-Rats contain a kind of potentially-fatal poison and are thus used for defence of Replicant ships and bases.

Before the terrible mechanical rodents could approach us further, I reached into my pocket and retrieved the transonic turnscrew (an highly-advanced scientific instrument about the size and shape of a writing pen), immediately aiming the device at them.

Upon my activating the transonic, the Repli-Rats halted and began to shudder, with strange sparking sounds emanating from them.

“Kit-10!” I called. “You know what to do!”

With this, the robotic feline quickly blasted each of the Repli-Rats with her nose-laser. At its making contact, each of them shattered into countless microscopic shards -- this being a safety measure of all Leknii technology in order to prevent its parts being cannibalised.

“Good work, Kit-10!” I praised. “I always knew you would be a fine mouser!”

“This unit is not a cat, s--,” protested the robot.

“So it really is the Leknii Replicants behind all of this!” said Millie Drake.

“So it seems, love,” I acquiesced. “That kind of sheds a new light on things, hmmm? The Replicants would only so equip this asteroid for one reason -- they intend to divert its course and crash it into Earth in order to wipe out the human race!”

“But why would they do that? I thought they wanted to assimilate humans, not destroy them.”

“The Kosmikos has actually been suspecting something like this from them. The Leknii are aware that human soldiers from the future were successfully used against them in the Replicant Wars, and they are now planning to cleanse Earth of all human life in order to prevent that even happening!”

“Your transonic turnscrew,” said the girl. “It worked to help disable the Repli-Rats. Will it work against the Replicants as well?”

“It should be of some assistance, my dear. Remember the last time we faced them, on Saturn? They were attempting to destroy all shipments of that rare spice, vlooj, to which they are highly allergic. It gets in their respiratory systems and suffocates them. Well, I have programmed a setting of the transonic turnscrew to emit a type of synthetic vlooj. It is not as strong as the real thing, but it should work to disable any Leknii we may encounter. That is, until they find a way to upgrade and remove the flaw that makes them susceptible to it.”

“So is there a way to stop them from using the asteroid against Earth?”

“There is always a way, love,” I assured the lass. “Success is just a process of finding it and implementing it. I need to take a closer look at the machinery here, and then…”

Then a terror happened all at once. Within a moment, I beheld the form of a Replicant rocket-ship upon one of the view screens -- coming into sight right beside the asteroid -- I heard Kit-10 warn “Danger, s--!”; I heard Millie scream; and  saw a shimmering light as two silver Leknii Replicants appeared in the chamber via a matter transit beam.

Before I could react, one of the Replicants -- its bronze highlights signifying it as a Controller -- grabbed Millie Drake by the arm and pulled her away from me as the other one punched me squarely in the face with its huge metallic hand.

I went careening across the room, losing my grip on the transonic turnscrew. I heard it clatter across the floor whilst I struggled to keep my balance.

“You are finished, Rumanos of Algol,” announced the Replicant Controller as Millie trembled helplessly in its grasp. “You are finished, and the human race you are sworn to protect will now be destroyed.”

I recovered my footing and saw poor Millie faint from the horror of the situation as she stood in the Controller’s cruel hold. The other Replicant was just beside me, its huge silver hands held out menacingly.

“Do nothing to oppose us,” warned the Controller, “or I will end the life of this child. The controls are already set that will take this asteroid on a collision course with the planet Earth. They are locked and cannot be altered. You will be taken prisoner aboard our ship, after which your execution will be broadcast to all sectors of known Space, as a warning to others who would in any way stand in the way of Replicant domination of the Cosmos.”

“You cannot get away with this, Controller,” I retorted. “The Watchers of Algol will not allow your kind to convert all humanoid life-forms. We will…”

“The Watchers can do nothing to stop us,” interrupted the Leknii Controller. “It is only because your kind is not suitable for conversion that we have not already absorbed your society. When you are gone the Kosmikos will be crippled in this region, and the Algolites will not be able to move against us without exposing their violations of their own rule of non-interference.”

Whilst all this was occurring, Kit-10 had not been idle. She had activated a function that had magnetised herself, and the transonic turnscrew had moved quietly across the floor until it attached itself to her side.

“I implore you,” said I, continuing to stall the Replicants. “Stop this madness. Leave Earth alone. The humans of this time are not those who fought against you in the wars. They are innocent. Leave them be.”

“That will not happen,” replied the horrid Controller Leknii. “We will wipe out humankind and change the outcome of the wars. There will be no future Earthlings to fight against us. We will be victorious, and shall go on to assimilate all suitable humanoid life into our kind.”

It was just the that Kit-10 released the transonic turnscrew, sending the device flying through the air. I reached out and caught it, quickly activating the vlooj setting and turning it on the Replicant that was just beside me. The thing shuddered and sputtered, emitting a coughing sound as the synthetic spice entered the respiratory grating on its metallic chest. Unable to breath, the cybernetic horror shattered into countless shards.

At the same time, Kit-10 did as I had expected, turning her nose-laser against the Controller, aiming to-wards its head, well away from the unconscious Millie Drake. Even though my catlike robot’s blaster was not powerful enough to pose a serious threat to the Replicant, it was enough of a surprise to make the thing drop the girl from its grasp. She fell to the floor, now clear of its hold.

I turned the transonic to-wards the Controller, hoping to kill it with the vlooj. The Replicant raised its arm and shot a blast of its inbuilt energy weapon. It did not have sufficient time to aim, however, and the burst landed at my feet as I stepped quickly away from it. Then, before I could get a lock on the cybernetic terror’s respiratory grating, there was a blur of shimmering light as the Replicant Controller utilised the matter transit beam to return to its ship.

“Thank you, Kit-10,” I said as I hurried to check on Millie.

“No problem, s--,” replied the computerised puss.

The lass was recovering from her faint and I helped her to her feet.

“Are you all right, love?” I queried.

“I’m okay, Daniel,” replied Millie. “What is happening?”

I glanced at one of the monitor screens just in time to see the near by Replicant rocket-ship engage its warp engines and leave the area. Then there was a sound of machinery turning on within the asteroid, and I looked at another view-screen on which, at the centre of an eldritch dark, was a tiny blue-green disk that I knew to be the planet Earth. To my horror, I noticed the disk starting to become noticeably larger, nearer.

“The planned system is underway,” I said. “The asteroid is heading directly to Earth at near light-speed!”

“What can we do?” Millie cried. “It will destroy the human race!”

Do you recognise the terror, forsooth the unspeakable horror of this dilemma, my dear readers? That asteroid was heading on a collision course for Earth, with the machinery within it programmed to a trajectory that would wipe out all of mankind!

“The Replicant said that the controls are locked,” I said. “They were likely set remotely from the Leknii ship and cannot be reprogrammed from here.”

“But Daniel,” implored Millie Drake, “isn’t there some way to override them, and change its course so it misses the planet?!”

“Possibly,” said I, examining the control boards, “but even if I had the time to do so, we are going in too fast. If the asteroid were to suddenly reverse its course, or even swerve to the side, it would cause a gravity reversal that would cause the planet’s atmosphere to be sucked out into Space! All life on Earth would perish!”

I looked at the monitor screen as the planet grew closer and closer. The speed the asteroid was achieving was incredible.

“By the Eternal Spires!” I swore. “Of course! That is it! The speed we are reaching! If I can just…”

I started to quickly program a sequence into the control console of the asteroid’s machinery. In a few moments, a loud grinding sound was heard as the asteroid shook convulsively whilst the image on the screen faded and the swirling grey mists and multicoloured spirals of the Space-Time Current briefly appeared before the screen once again resolved into a view of the planet Earth.

“Yes!” I exulted. “That has done it!”

“But what have you done, Daniel?” asked Millie.

“I performed a modification on the engine, upgrading it to minimal Time-travel capabilities. Then I took us back to the Earth of just over sixty-five million years past, where the asteroid can crash without doing what the Replicants had intended. One thing, though… We need to get out of here before it reaches the planet’s atmosphere!!”

I hurried Millie Drake and Kit-10 into the DiTraS and activated the ship’s engines. With a gasping moaning noise, we dematerialised from the interior of the asteroid.

In the DiTraS control room, I guided us to a safe distance in near by Space, and activated a monitor to let us view the planet Earth. We saw a flash of light as the asteroid entered the atmosphere and caught fire -- followed by a tremendous shaking of the planetary sphere as it slammed into the world’s surface.

“A blaze of glory, indeed,” said I.

“But won’t it still do horrible things to life on Earth?” enquired the lass.

“Yes, it will indeed,” I concurred. “Its impact will send dirt into the upper atmosphere, blocking out sunlight and causing a long period of cold that will change the entire seasonal cycle of the planet. In other words -- it will do exactly what it always did!”

“What do you mean?”

“Think, Millie,” I counselled. “Sixty-five million years ago. What does that bring to mind? Something you learned of at school, hmmm?”

“Well, at the Academy, we learned about…”

“No, not at Daemonia Academy. I mean at regular old elementary school on Earth, before you knew that you were an Algolite.”

“Oh, of course!” realised the girl. “The dinosaurs! That’s when they went extinct!”

“Exactly, love,” I praised, “and that was the asteroid that caused it. You see, I realised that we could use the doomsday plan the Replicants had devised and turn it against them. In stead of destroying mankind, it wiped out the dominant saurians of the prehistoric ages, therefore allowing mammals to flourish and evolve into that very same human race!”

“That’s wonderful!” smiled the lovely lass. “But wait… Didn’t the Replicant Controller get away?”

“Unfortunately, yes, so we will be hearing from them again. We must be certain to be ready for them next time.”

“I love you so much, Daniel,” proclaimed the gorgeous Millie Drake as she threw her arms around me.

“I love you too, Mills, my little Daemon-Starlet,” I told her. “I always have, and I always will.”

As the girl and I embraced, we noticed a small whimpering noise coming from the floor. It was our catlike robot friend.

“Awww!” exclaimed Millie. “I think she’s feeling kind of left out.”

“Worry not, Kit-10,” I stated. “We both love you as well. Right, Millie?”

“Of course,” giggled Millie Drake. “Everybody loves Kit-10!”

And with this, the mechanical feline began a sound not unlike a contented purring, and I turned to programme the flight sequence of the DiTraS as we travelled on to new adventures.

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “THE BRAIN OF SARTORIUS”