THE HORROR AT MONTAUK

“Computer laryngitis,” said I. “An unfortunate diagnosis, but not a serious one. She should get over it completely in a few days.”

“Awww! Poor Kit-10,” said Millie Drake, reaching down to pet our catlike robot friend. “I miss hearing her voice.”

We were in the café-like control room of the DiTraS (pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere), our Time-machine/Spaceship. I was dressed in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, and leathern boots. Millie, a beautiful young girl of my own race, the Watchers of Algol, is petite and perfect, with luxurious chestnut hair, enchanting violet eyes, and luscious pink lips. She was clad in a tight, short, flowered dress that only served to highlight the slender curves of her wondrously-pubescent figure.

An odd gasping, moaning noise came from the near by control console. I went over to check the monitor readings.

“We have materialised,” I announced.

“So, where are we?” queried the young lady. “Oh, and when?”

“Earth again,” I replied. “Specifically, the eastern tip of Long Island, New York, in the year 1983. By the Stars! We are at Montauk!”

“Montauk?” repeated Millie.

“A small town that is the location of Fort Hero, a former United States military station that was decommissioned just a few years previous to this time,” I explained. “There have been persistent rumours that it was used, during the 1980s, for certain experiments.”

“What kind of experiments?”

“Well, experiments in Time travel for one thing,” I mused. “Also with possibilities of manipulating the human genome, in attempts to create some kind of superhuman race or alien hybrid of some sort. There are myriad conspiracy theories concerning Montauk. I had always meant to come here at this time and have a look around, just to see what, if anything, was actually going on.”

“I looks like we are going to have a chance to do that, Daniel,” smiled the lovely lass.

“Indeed we shall, my dear Mills. Indeed we shall.” … 

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 Master Don Wingus and his occult terrorist organisation, Spectral Paranormal; as well as 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!!! …

We exited the DiTraS (the exterior of which resembles a Roman column and which is much smaller than the interior, the latter existing in another dimensional reality) and found ourselves in a corridor of what appeared to be a quite clean and sanitised building.

“Are you sure Kit-10 will be all right if we just leave her on board, Daniel?” queried Millie with concern.

“Of course, love,” I assured the girl whilst adjusting my panama hat. “She can just power down for a while and sleep off her electronic illness.”

I took the transonic turnscrew, an highly-advanced technological device resembling a writing pen, from my pocket.

“Hmmm, we are indeed inside the old Montauk military station,” I said. “The transonic is detecting one person here at the facility. This way…”

We strolled down the hallway until we came to a large doorway.

“This looks like the door to a laboratory, hmmm?” I mused. “With experience, one finds that they become quite easy to recognise.”

I opened the door and entered the room with Millie close behind me. It was a large chamber, indeed a laboratory of sorts, with a plethora of computer equipment -- some of which looked to be state-of-the-art for the era, along with other things that looked experimental and rather cobbled-together.

At one corner of the room was a man in a swivel chair. He had been examining some instrument readouts, but turned to face us. He was in his sixties, grey and balding and with intelligent blue eyes, dressed in a lab-coat over a casual suit.

“Oh, sorry,” he said, “I didn’t know anyone had entered the building. I’m Major Svehla. Are you the new lab assistants?”

“Well, yes we are, more or less,” I lied, thinking it best to play along and to not start any controversy. “I am Dr. Rumanos, and this is Miss Drake.”

“‘Doctor’?” he repeated. “So the agency has finally sent someone with actual qualifications? Excellent!”

“Something like that, yes. Pleased to meet you, sir.”

“Did you say you were a ‘major’?” enquired Millie. “As in military?

“I’m a physician and a scientist,” explained Svehla. “Shortly before I would have taken a position doing research at Harvard, I found myself drafted into the Korean War. I served in a MASH unit and then stayed with the army afterwards. After all the destruction and carnage I had seen, I just couldn’t see myself returning to the polite world of academia.”

“I know the feeling,” I related with some sympathy. “So how did you end up here at Fort Hero?”

“After the station was decommissioned,” continued the Major, “I was assigned here to do research by a national security think-tank connected with, I think, the CIA.”

“Research involving Time travel, genetics, and extraterrestrial technology, I take it?”

“Ah, so you were briefed concerning the work here?” queried Major Svehla.

“Not in detail,” I offered.

“Maybe you could fill us in some?” added Millie with a smile.

“Oh, of course,” agreed Svehla, warming some with the beautiful young girl’s interest in his work. “I’m the only one who has stayed here for any length of time, but there have been numerous types of experimentation in this facility. Most of it, I fear, is a bit ‘outside the pale’. The most recent thing involves Time travel. The theory has arisen that it can be achieved through the use of certain electromagnetic impulses utilised as a power source.”

“Interesting,” I said. “Have you had any success in the matter?”

“That’s just it, Doctor,” announced the Major. “Incredibly enough, we have! Several times, when I have engaged a certain sequence upon this machinery, there has appeared a sort of image at the centre of the room!”

“An image of what?” quizzed the girl.

“It is what I believe to be some kind of future technology that has detected our signal and is trying to come through. Here, let me show you!”

Svehla then immediately began to activate some dials upon the laboratory equipment. The entire chamber began to buzz and spark with a sound indeed quite otherworldly.

‘Wait, Major Svehla,” I implored. “First, I think we should…”

However, I was too late. The electromagnetic signal that was being sent out had already been detected. Detected… by something.

“Daniel!” cried Millie Drake. “Daniel, look!”

At that moment, at the very centre of the room, something was materialising into view. It was a disk-shaped object about the size of an helicopter. I heard the sound of an oddly-groaning engine as it came into view.

“That sound…” whispered Millie to me.

“Yes,” I said, swallowing down a gruesome wave of trepidation as the sudden realisation hit me. “It is a Time/Spacecraft exiting the Inter-Dimensional Current.”

“That’s it, Doctor,” announced the Major, who had not heard my comment, “and this is the clearest that it has ever come through!”

It was then that the terror was multiplied, multiplied indeed beyond anything that could be imagined by anyone outside of a state of total obscene and unholy madness. For it was at that moment that a porthole opened in the side of the disk-shaped craft and several of its occupants exited -- occupants of supreme and unnameable alien terror.

They were approximately the size of an human torso, but that is where all resemblance to anything of sane creation ended. Hovering approximately one metre above the floor, each of the things was made up of a quivering mass of sallow flesh -- basically a group of tentacles intertwined with strands of metallic technology. At the centre of each was a pair of oblique black eyes, glowering from deep within the being with a look of complete and unmitigated hate.

With the sight of these hideous monstrosities there came to me memories; memories of battles and terrors of the past -- forsooth, memories of my former encounters with these obscene and unholy creatures and the unspeakable evil that they represent.

“Daniel!” exclaimed Millie. “Are those what I think they are? Are they really… !”

“Yes,” I said as a shudder of extreme horror went through me. “They are Mynverkossian Mutations!!”

“Incredible!” exclaimed Svehla, jumping up and walking over to where the Mynverkossian things hovered.

“Major, no!” I warned -- but my voice, if heard, was ignored by the old army scientist.

“I am Major Svehla,” he said, bravely addressing the alien Mutations. “On behalf of the United States of America, I would like to welcome you to our time and…”

“We are the Mynver,” returned one of the things, its electronically-enhanced voice harsh and grating and filled with hatred. “We are the Supreme Race of the Universe. You are inferior. You must be eliminated. Eliminate!”

“Eliminate! Eliminate! Eliminate!!” answered back the other Mynver in an absolute chorus of hate.

Then there was a flash of blood-red light as each of the hideous Mutations turned its inbuilt energy weapon upon Major Svehla. The man had not even time to cry out before he crumpled to the floor in agonised death.

By now, I had taken the transonic device from my pocket and -- knowing it would have no useful effect on Mynver technology -- had in stead aimed it at one of the computer banks in the room. I activated it to cause a small explosion that distracted the Mynverkossians for just a moment. This was barely long enough for me to grab Millie’s hand and run out one of the doors leading to another corridor. Unfortunately, the Mynver had been in the way of us returning the way we had come, and thus to the DiTraS.

“The Mutations?” queried Millie as we ran along. “From the planet Mynverkoss? This is really them?”

“Yes,” I affirmed. “Creatures of extreme racial hatred and fascist tyranny. Mutated by generations of nuclear war on their home-world, they now seek only to enslave or eliminate all other life-forms.”

Then the horrid voice of a Mutation interrupted my thoughts.

“There is no escape this time, Rumanos of Algol,” announced the voice.

To my horror, I realised that the Mynver voice was not coming from behind us.

“Daniel, we’re trapped!” screamed Millie Drake, now trembling with fear as she sheltered herself in my arms.

The Mynverkossians were gliding down the corridor from both directions. One of them had detached itself from the others and approached us. Before I could react, it ejected something, a sort of gas, directly to-wards us. I immediately felt a sense of nausea and realised what it was.

“Daniel…” said Millie as we sank to the floor. “What was that? What is happening to… ?”

“Evaerlium,” I answered as consciousness left me. …

We awoke in a metallic chamber. It was dark except for a few flashing lights of numerous psychedelic-type colourations. I stood up and helped Millie to her feet.

“So that was really evaerlium?” queried the lass. “I thought it was fatal to Algolites.”

“It is potentially so, in large enough doses,” I explained. “They have a diluted gaseous form of that rare element that they used on us as a sedative.”

“But why? I thought the Mynver only believed in eliminating all other life-forms. What are they going to do to us?”

I looked around the strange chamber and with a pang of extreme and unmitigated dread I then realised where we were.

“By the Eternal Spires!” I swore. “This is the Mynver ship! We are being taken through Time and Space!”

It was then that the terrible voice of a Mutation came over a loudspeaker. 

“You will be taken to our planet for experimentation,” it announced. “You will be taken to meet our Imperator. You will be taken to Mynverkoss!”

Do you perceive the terror, indeed the unhallowed eldritch horror of this situation? Millie Drake and I were captives of the horrid Mynverkossian Mutations, and were being taken through the Time/Space Current itself -- our destination being the very home planet of those alien fascist monsters, the distant world known as Mynverkoss!

I heard the sound of the Mynver ship materialising and a previously-unseen entrance opened in the room. Several Mynverkossians entered and ushered us out of the ship.

We had landed in the centre of a wide and lofty chamber. It was a Mynver control room, filled on all sides with their incredible and bizarre technology, and lit by strangely-flashing strobes of truly grotesque colouration.

The Mutations had forced Millie and me apart, and I noticed they seemed to be surrounding her in a way quite menacing, but had thus far made no move to harm her.

At that time, my attention was suddenly riveted by what was stationed at the far wall of the chamber to which we had been taken. For it was there that something lurked that was beyond the levels of even the horrendous madness and extreme extraterrestrial terror to which we had already been subjected.

It was a Mutation, but larger than the others. The strands of technology attached to its intertwined tentacles looked more advanced, and continuously flashed with multi-hued colours. Some of them extended to a bank of computerised machinery that reached from the floor to a ceiling far above the sight of any normal being.

The thing’s eyes were like gashes of ebon-black, glowering from deeply within its quivering mass of horrid sallow flesh with a supremely hideous and grotesquely unholy look of total and unchecked hate.

Then it spoke. Its voice was like the other Mynver, harsh and grating and enhanced by technology, but it was deeper and more sonorous. It was a voice showing the presence of extreme intelligence, of a being plotting and commanding.

“Rumanos of Algol,” it said. “I am the Imperator of the Mynver. You have been brought to our planet according to my plans.”

“Spires of Daemonia!” I swore. “The entire Montauk Project was a trap, hmmm? All the rumours, the stories about it that circulated down through the decades? It was all a long game played by the Mynver in order to lure me in, so that you could capture me and bring me here!”

“That is correct,” replied the monstrous Mynver Imperator. “You have been brought here to our capital city for the purpose of experimentation. You will show no resistance. If you fail to comply with us in any way, your companion will be eliminated.”

“‘Experimentation’?” I repeated. “What by the Stellar Triplicity do you mean?”

“You have interfered with the conquest of all Space and Time that is the rightful due of the Mynver Race,” explained the Imperator. “You have shown yourself to have a unique ability against us. Now that we have you, your knowledge and abilities will be taken from you and added to us.”

“You mean you want to take from me all that I have used to defeat you so many times, hmmm?” I realised.

“Connect them,” ordered the Imperator of the Mynverkossians.

Two of the attendant Mutations began to attach strands of metallic technology to my head. They then attached the other ends of them to another Mynver that was hovering near by.

“Daniel, no!” cried Millie Drake. “Don’t let them do this to you! Please, no!!”

Nevertheless, I dared not move. The Mynver had their weapons trained upon Millie, and I knew that the slightest sign of resistance on my part could and would be used by them as a provocation to fire upon her. I realised that I could not let that happen, even to save the Universe; for I knew then that I truly love the beautiful young lady known as Miss Millie Drake and that I could never endure existence without her. I stayed still and let the Mynverkossian Mutations follow the orders of their Imperator and connect me for the experiment -- the experiment that intended to add my knowledge and abilities to that horrid race of ungodly fascist horrors, an experiment that could very well result in their being rendered unstoppable in their determination to enslave or eliminate all other species of the Cosmos!

“The one constituent that is within you that has caused our defeat will now be ours,” said the Imperator with a tone of mockery. “We will be invincible! With your abilities now part of us, we will achieve total victory!”

“Victory!” repeated other Mynverkossians. “Victory! Victory!”

With this, the machinery was activated, and a stream of bright orange and blue energy began to drain down from me into the hideous Mutation to which I was attached.

“In time, all the knowledge of the Watchers will also be added to ours,” continued the Mynver Imperator, its voice rising in horrid intensity. “We will use it as you never have. We will use it to conquer all. We, the Mynver, shall be the supreme rulers of all Eternity!!”

The data transfer was over quickly; being in essence the sending of a copy of whatever part of my personality had led to my having so often defeated the Mutations of Mynverkoss. The strands of technology that had connected me to the Mynver fell away as soon as the transfer was complete.

I felt a note of expectation in the room, as the Imperator and his subjects all turned themselves to-wards the Mynver that had received the data from me. Even the ones guarding Millie turned away somewhat.

The Mynverkossian to which I had been attached then moved slightly. It turned and focused itself upon the Mutation that was closest to Millie.

“Eliminate!” it cried. “Eliminate!!”

The Mynver then unleashed its weapon upon the one that had been most threatening the girl, destroying it in a blast of blood-red light. The others near to her quickly reacted by approaching it and firing back, and soon the one that had so briefly been in possession of a part of my essence ceased to exist.

I hurried over to Millie Drake, who half-fainted in my arms.

The Mynver Imperator had been silent for a few moments, as if in shock at what it had only just witnessed.

“What is this?!” it bellowed. “What is this outrage?!”

“You have failed in your experiment, Imperator,” I mocked. “You only succeeded in giving the test subject a sense of chivalry, for that is the element that is missing in you, the thing that shall always lead to your being vanquished!”

“This is an outrage!” continued the Mynver Imperator.

“Outrage!” repeated his subjects. “Outrage! Outrage!”

“You have now become irrelevant to us, Rumanos of Algol,” declared the Imperator. “Your existence ends now. You are an enemy of the superior Mynver Race and you must be… !”

Nevertheless, the Imperator’s order to eliminate me was never to be spoken, for then was suddenly heard a voice transmitting itself into the Mynver city. It was, strangely, the voice of another Mynver.

“You have betrayed the supremacy of the Mynver Race,” it announced. “You have attempted to bastardise our kind with the genetic material of inferior beings. You must be eliminated!”

“Rebel ships approaching!” announced an attendant Mynverkossian to the Imperator. “Rebel ships approaching from the other side of the planet!”

‘Fire upon them!” ordered the Imperator. “Eliminate them! Eliminate!!”

The entire Mynver city began to quake as the approaching ships commenced to rain down thermonuclear firepower upon it. The Mynverkossians under command of the Imperator fired back in what quickly became a continuous reciprocal barrage of mutually-destructive force.

“Daniel, what is happening?” asked Millie as she trembled in my arms. “Other Mynverkossians are attacking these?”

“Indeed they are, love,” said I. “It sounds like an entire fleet! There is another faction of Mutations on Mynverkoss; a faction that oppose the Imperator’s experimentation with other life-forms as being against their beliefs of total racial superiority. They oppose the idea of any other creature’s essence being mingled with theirs in any way! Millie, we are witnessing a Mynver civil war!”

The barrage continued. The sound was deafening, and the city -- forsooth the entire planet! -- shook with horrible intensity as the horrid weaponry of two Mynver factions pummelled each other with totally relentless force. I felt a jolt, a jolt as if the planet Mynverkoss had begun to crack open, indeed to be fractured from its very core.

“Those are mega-nuclear weapons they are unleashing!” I informed Millie. “They have compromised the integrity of the very planet!”

“The two Mynver factions will destroy each other!” said the lass. “They will destroy themselves!”

“Indeed they will,” I agreed, “and us as well, if we do not get away quickly!”

I noticed that the Mynverkossian Time/Spaceship in which we had been brought was still close by, and generally being ignored in the melee. Millie and I ran aboard it and I activated the controls for it to dematerialise, taking us away from the incredible destruction of the Mynver Civil War!

“Do you know how to fly this ship through the Time/Space Current?” asked Millie as we stood at the ship’s control area, its bizarre lights flashing all around us.

“I believe so,” I rejoined. “The interface is alien in appearance, but in essence it is quite similar to that used on some of the older Algolitish ships. I should be able to utilise its inbuilt quick return system to take us back to Montauk. Hold on!” …

Back in their city, the Mutations were being consumed in an enormous conflagration. They were indeed destroying each other, unleashing the full fury of the amazingly futuristic weapons of mass destruction that were at their disposal.

“Prepare my escape shuttle!” ordered the Mynver Imperator in desperation. “Prepare my escape shuttle!”

All around, the flames had risen higher, high above the very city of the Mynver, high above all the remaining life upon that planet that had birthed the greatest fascist evil that the Universe had ever known. …

From within our stolen ship, Millie and I watched the video screen and beheld the planet Mynverkoss disappear in a massive ball of flames as we entered the Current.

We arrived safely back in the laboratory of the centre at Montauk in the year 1983 and exited the Mynver ship.

“Stand back, Millie,” I said. “I programmed the ship to dematerialise again and thus move to the upper atmosphere, where it will then safely self-destruct.”

The sound of the Mynverkossian ship’s engines was again heard as it faded away. A few moments later, the noise of a far-off explosion indicated that my plan had succeeded.

“That is it, Mills, my love,” I assured the girl. “The Mutations of Mynverkoss have been defeated. Now we just have to disassemble the equipment here, so that no one else can ever find it and use it, and it will be safe for us to return to the DiTraS and leave.”

“But how can we be sure, Daniel?” questioned Millie Drake. “About the Mynver, I mean. If any of them survived, how can we be sure they will not just try again?”

“Millie, I checked the Time readings on that ship,” I revealed. “We were on Mynverkoss many millions of years in the future. That civil war -- it was later in the Cosmic history than the Mutations have ever been encountered.”

“So, you mean that was really the end of them?”

“Indeed, those were the last of the Mynverkossians. Their entire civilisation, that horrid racial supremacist philosophy that was the hate the Mynver represented, was never heard from again. It, and the Mutations themselves, were utterly annihilated. Millie, my dear, we have witnessed their final destruction!”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “RAIDERS OF THE CORONATION STONE”

SEED

“ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION: September, 1930” declared the stencilled lettering on the side of the crate. Mike Hooper had found the box hidden amongst the usual items in a far corner of the Mil-Mart department store stockroom.

Mike, a young man with sandy-brown hair and spectacles, had accepted employment as a stock-boy at the local branch of the great American retail chain in order to earn enough money to keep attending college. An intelligent, inquisitive boy from a somewhat impoverished family, he had endured the jabs and jokes of both his college peers, who thought it humorous that someone would have to work a labour job in order to achieve an higher education, and the blue-collar types of his neighbourhood, who naturally hated any thought of learning.

Clad in his Mil-Mart overalls, young Hooper had entered the cavernous stockroom at the back of the shop that morning, when the floor manager had ordered him to fetch some items to replenish the knickers display in the ladies’ department. Out of the corner of his eye, Mike Hooper had noticed a crate that did not seem to look as if it belonged with the others. Perhaps it had been delivered here by mistake. The store was, after all, just down the street from a scientific research centre, and they had gotten strange things accidentally left here before, including a shipment of test-tubes that had baffled most of the employees as to their possible use.

Nevertheless, this was something stranger still.

Fascinated, Mike opened the top of the crate. The inside had a musty odour, and the young man wondered if it had actually not been opened in all those decades. Inside, he beheld an object, something about the size and general shape of a soccer ball, packed amongst rotting excelsior.

Mike Hooper reached in his hand and removed the object, hoping to examine it in the large floodlight that shone from the high stockroom ceiling. The thing was a mottled green in colour, its surface rough and somewhat of the texture of a leaf.

“It almost looks like… ” said Hooper to himself, “a large seedpod!””

It was then that Mike moved the object closer to his face in an attempt to ascertain of what exactly it was made. This was a mistake on his part, forsooth, a mistake indeed, and one that was going to lead to incidents of extreme eldritch madness and egregious horror beyond all sane imaginings. For it was at that moment that the contact of Mike Hooper’s exhaled breath upon the object caused a portion of it to crack open.

Before he could further react, young Mike Hooper found himself attacked by something -- something green and growing, something like a creeping vine that shot forth with numerous tendrils from the interior of the object and immediately attached itself to his face, breaking his eyeglasses. The tendrils then plunged into his mouth and nostrils, stifling any scream that such an attack wouldst normally cause.

It was then that Mike Hooper, Mil-Mart department store employee and struggling college student, sank to the floor of the stockroom, overcome by the powers of an unknown alien horror that was entering his body! …

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 Master Don Wingus and his occult terrorist organisation, Spectral Paranormal; as well as alien invasions, mad scientists, and indeed all manner of menace. 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 only a few days after our encounter with that horrid renegade Algolite, known to eternal damnation as the Nemesister, when Millie Drake and I decided to go shopping. A young lady of my own race, the Watchers of Algol, Millie had nevertheless spent much of her earlier life upon Earth and thus has the typical girlish love of browsing retail shops.

It was thus that we arrived that sunny day at the huge Mil-Mart department store -- located in the Timonium area of northern Baltimore County, Maryland -- in my canary-coloured Edwardian roadster, affectionately known as “Lizzie”. I was dressed in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, and panama hat.

Millie is a ravishingly-beautiful young girl with luxurious chestnut hair, enchanting violet eyes, sun-kissed skin, and luscious pink lips. She was clad in a short, tight, cherry-coloured dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender, wondrously-adolescent figure.

With us was Kit-10, our friend and personal computer that resembles nothing more or less than a small metallic cat.

“It really is such a nice day today, Daniel,” said Millie whilst we walked across the parking lot, hand-in-hand, “and it is so sweet of you to bring me here.”

“It is my pleasure, Mills,” I replied. “Hopefully we can spend some quality time away from our usual work, hmmm?”

Nevertheless, little did we realise, as we entered the large Mil-Mart department store that day, that we were about to face one of the strangest and most bizarre alien threats ever to be known.

Mil-Mart is a place that has become a staple of American society. Founded several decades previously by a Midwestern businessman by the name of Sam Milton, the chain of massive department stores is known for its reasonable prices and far-reaching assortment of goods for sale. Equally popular amongst impoverished folks and penny-pinching rich misers, it has continued to grow in popularity over the years. Even the encroaching competition of internet-based retail has done little to effectively challenge the Mil-Mart domination of the retail sales scene. The store’s offering of everything from clothing to electronics to major appliances to toys to jewellery to pharmaceuticals to groceries has made them the go-to establishment for the everyday needs of countless individuals and families across the land. Indeed, the continued success of Mil-Mart has served as an inspiration for many upcoming and hopeful would-be entrepreneurs, and shows no signs whatsoever of abating anytime soon. That it also, on a darker tone, has become a symbolic byword for capitalism gone mad is also of interest and, in truth, a subject for another time.

We strolled around the shop for a while, looking at the featured items with little Kit-10 following close behind. The other shoppers did not pay much attention to the robotic feline, except for a couple of inquisitive children who giggled at the sight of her.

“I say, look at that,” I exclaimed upon seeing a special display at the gentlemen’s accessories department. “Those are quite nice indeed, hmmm?”

It was a display of colourful silk handkerchiefs, brightly-hued and shiny, and I walked over to get a closer look at them.

“I bet they are not as good as those ones you have, Daniel,” stated Millie. “You know, the ones with built-in healing powers.”

“True, these are not quite up to that level,” I agreed, “but they are still quite nice for more common purposes, hmmm? I rather like the colours, especially these with the flower designs. Why, they look rather Hawaiian!”

“Hey, I am going to look at a few things in the girls’ department, okay?” asked Millie with a quick kiss on my cheek.

“Sure, my love,” I acquiesced. “We can meet later at the store café. Kit-10, be a good kitty-cat and go with Miss Drake, hmmm?”

“This unit is not a cat, s--,” complained the robot in her pleasantly-feminine voice, but then gliding off behind Millie. Despite her denials, Kit-10 does indeed have numerous catlike characteristics, one of which is her dislike of openly showing respect for anyone. The closest she can come to calling me “sir” is that slight “s--” sound. Similarly, she tends to call Millie “m--”, for “ma’am”.

I continued browsing through the handkerchiefs for a few moments until I noticed one of the shop’s employees near by. It was a young man with sandy-brown hair, his overall-type uniform looking more appropriate for the stockroom than the sales floor. His nametag said “Mike”. Then I noticed something else about him. His skin was showing a strange hue, indeed, a decidedly greenish tinge.

“Pardon me, young man,” I said, “but are you feeling all right?”

He did not answer, but then took a step closer, fixing his eyes directly upon me. I noticed they were now glowering with the same green colouration, which grew more darksome and oddly menacing as he again moved in my direction.

It was then that the horror, in very sooth the supreme and ungodly otherworldly menace that my friends and I were fated to face that day suddenly became manifest, and manifest it did in a show of hideous and utterly-grotesque fear far beyond all sane imaginings. For it was then that, from the young man’s mouth, nostrils, ears, and yes, even from his eyes, a mass of quivering green tentacles shot forth and headed directly to-wards me!!

I quickly took the transonic turnscrew (an highly-advanced technological device resembling a writing pen) from my pocket and aimed it to-wards the ceiling of the shop, activating a certain sonic tone directly at one of the large track-lighting fixtures. It shattered, and a shower of red-hot sparks came down upon the writhing mass of aggressive greenery that had once been a department store stock-boy.

The thing quaked in pain and quickly backed away from me. I saw that it had by now overcome with its grotesque vegetation anything that had remained of Mike. The unfortunate lad’s body had just served as a host and feeding source for the extraterrestrial plant creature that had usurped it.

The monster then suddenly sprouted forth in all directions, fast building up a veritable wall of quivering greenery right down the centre of the Mil-Mart sales floor.

“By the Stellar Trinity!” I swore. “It appears that the plant-life is revolting.”

“You got that right,” said a man’s voice behind me. “It’s downright sickening.”

It was one of the customers, a middle-aged man of the working-class sort, wearing a t-shirt and dungarees. He was rather heavy-set, with reddish-grey hair, blue-grey eyes, and a florid complexion.

“My name’s Bill,” he announced with pride. “What’s yours?”

“Rumanos,” I told him. “Dr. Daniel Rumanos.”

“Nice to meet you,” he said, insisting upon shaking my hand. “Where did you get your doctor degree?”

“A place called Daemonia.”

“Can’t say as I’ve heard of it,” he wondered. “Is it in Canada or something?”

“Quite likely so,” I lied.

“So you got any idea what’s going on here, Doctor?” enquired Bill.

“Yes, it appears that one of the employees has been taken over by a species of alien vegetable life. I believe it is of the type known as a Kloryphoid.”

“So he’s some plant monster from Outer Space, is he?” asked the man. “One of them UFO alien things?”

“More or less,” I agreed. “The Kloryphoid is a floral species totally opposed to all animal life. On planets where they become established, they overgrow everything, destroying all fauna-type life forms.”

“Sounds like something them damned democrats would like,” he said. “It’s all just un-American if you ask me.”

I looked at the wall of foliage that had grown up in the middle of the sales floor, effectively blocking off the remainder of the shop

“My friend is in there, and I need to get to her,” I stated.

“Your friend?” asked Bill. “A man or a woman?”

“A young girl,“ I said. “Her name is Millie. No relation to Mil-Mart.”

“A little girl? By God, we gotta save her even if she is a Canadian! Well, I know something that will help,” announced Bill. “Wait, I’ll go get it!”

Then, without another word, Bill disappeared around a corner of one of the displays. …

Millie and Kit-10 were in the cosmetics department when the grotesque wall of greenery had suddenly appeared. Of course, the girl then immediately enquired of Kit-10 as to what was occurring.

“Accessing database,” replied the robot. “Sensors seem to match with records of a type of alien plant life known as the Kloryphoid. Invades planets via seedpods ejected through Space. They grow by digesting animal life as fertilizer.”

“Fertilizer?” shuddered the lass.

“Affirmative,” answered the mechanical cat. “The Kloryphoid will eventually overgrow completely any planet on which they can become established.”

“Oh my goodness!” exclaimed the girl. “Is there any way to stop it?”

“Insufficient data,” returned the robot.

“Is there a way to get through it and find Daniel?” pleaded Millie.

“Sorry, m--,” replied Kit-10. “No information available.”

It was then that a truly unspeakable horror occurred. For at that moment the horrid alien plant-life that had grown up around the girl and the little robot suddenly became quite animated, reaching out countless tendrils in its search for more unmentionable sustenance -- for something on which to feed its ongoing and unholy growth.

Millie Drake screamed as the wall of grotesque greenery closed in upon them!! …

I programmed a certain sequence into the transonic turnscrew, activating it to send a signal, a type of radio transmission or broadcast. I then returned the device to my jacket pocket.

The remainder of the shop’s employees and customers had already fled the building, and I remained seemingly-alone on this side of the wall of green until the man who had introduced himself by the name of Bill reappeared from around the corner. He was carrying a very large-calibre gun of the type used in hunting big game.

“Lucky they had one of these left in sporting goods,” he said.

“An elephant gun?” I exclaimed with astonishment. “They actually sell them at Mil-Mart?”

“Of course, Doctor!” announced Bill. “It’s my right as an American to carry any kind of firearm! You got something against the Second Amendment?”

“Nothing in particular,” I rejoined. 

“Good!” he proclaimed. “Because I want to help you save that kid you say is over there on the other side of that thing, but I wouldn’t want to think I was helping some damned commie!” …

Back in the makeup aisle, Millie Drake was screaming in extreme unmitigated fear as the dreadful grasping tendrils of the horrible Kloryphoid closed in upon her and Kit-10.

Do you see the unhallowed fear in this, readers? The horrid eldritch terror of the Kloryphoid was now threatening the safety and wellbeing -- forsooth, the very life -- of that beautiful young girl! Its horrid tendrils could use her in order to feed upon in its continued growth as it went on to spread over and conquer the planet!

Then, the mechanical cat suddenly went into action. She quickly pivoted around and shot a beam of highly-focused light from her metal nose. The laser hit the surface of the green Kloryphoid wall and caused the eldritch alien horror to shake and wobble. Kit-10 then hit the thing with several more blasts of her inbuilt weapon on different parts of its hideous surface.

The disgusting tendrils then retreated. The Kloryphoid was not seriously harmed, but it had suffered pain from the beams of Kit-10’s nose-laser and had, at least for the moment, halted its intention to devour young Millie Drake.

The lass was about to offer her gratitude to the robotic feline when she noticed that Kit-10 was emitting a sound, a noise like the interference sometimes heard when one radio broadcast crosses and interferes with another.

“What is happening, Kit-10?” asked the girl.

“Receiving a transmission,” announced Kit-10.

“Is it from Daniel?” queried Millie Drake expectantly.

“Affirmative.”

“What does he say?”

“Encoded message to be rebroadcast to pre-programmed recipients.”

“Do you mean he is sending a radio signal to someone for assistance?”

“Insufficient information, m--,” answered the metallic puss. …

Bill raised the elephant gun to-wards the wall of creeping foliage that was part of the body of the Kloryphoid -- that terrifying plant-creature that so horribly and grotesquely threatened to overwhelm and destroy the human race and, in full and unmitigated truth, all animal life upon the planet!

“Go to hell, you Goddamn liberal plant monster!” the man shouted as he pulled the trigger.

With an humongous bang the gun discharged its shell, putting a gaping hole in the horrid alien greenery. The Kloryphoid shuddered with such intensity that it shook the department store building, but then, with amazing rapidity, there suddenly shot forth myriad tendrils that surrounded Bill, taking its unmentionable revenge by choking the life from him within mere seconds. I saw him fall to the floor when the bizarre vines parted.

Nonetheless, I realised that his sacrifice had not been in vain, for the hole he had made would be just large enough for me to get through to Millie and Kit-10. I ran to it at top speed, regardless of all other danger in this effort to save my friends.

As I hurried through, I beheld the strangled corpse of Bill, lifeless and mangled upon the floor.

“Poor fellow,” said I. “Oh well -- at least he died a good American.”

I managed to get through the gap and soon found Millie Drake and the robotic feline.

“Oh, Daniel!” cheered the girl, running into my arms. “I am so glad to see you! I knew you would come!”

“Of course, my love,” said I. “Here, we have no time to lose!”

I then picked up the beautiful young Millie Drake and held her close as I ran back to-wards the gap.

“Come along, Kit-10!” I encouraged our robotic friend who was gliding along just behind us.

“Danger, s--!” warned the metal cat.

Kit-10 had noticed that the hole was closing, and that it would quickly become too small for us to fit through. In response, she deftly fired off her laser in a circle, burning the edges all around the gap and thus causing the Kloryphoid to again shudder.

“Good shooting, Kit-10!” I praised. “You deserve some catnip for that!”

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

The hole had now stopped lessening, and we all managed to slip through it unharmed.

“Millie, that thing is a creature called the Kloryphoid,” I explained as we continued along, “and it…”

“I know,” she interrupted. “Kit-10 told me.”

I carried Millie out of the store, holding the lass close in order to shield her from the horrible writhing tendrils of the hideous Kloryphoid. Kit-10 followed close behind, utilising her nose-laser as necessary in order to aid in holding off the green monstrosity.

None the less, a greater horror was still to occur, indeed a terror of proportions beyond all that we had thus far encountered on that bizarre day of totally unmitigated and indeed dreadfully ungodly fear.

It was just as we got outside that it happened. The monstrous Kloryphoid, that deadly plant creature that threatened to destroy all life upon Earth, burst through the top of the building, the grotesque thing towering far above the parking lot as its form continued to grow larger and larger!

Do you comprehend the supreme and ungodly horror, in truth the most extreme and deadly terror of this situation, my dear readers? The Kloryphoid, that alien monster, that insane and obscene thing that should not exist in any sane world, the same horrible extraterrestrial plant-being that threatened to overgrow the entire planet Earth, in such wiping out all other life upon this unsuspecting world, had for now grown to a size bigger than the Mil-Mart department store, and was now beginning to reach its horrid grasping tendrils out across the parking lot!

We ran to Lizzie and I helped Millie into her seat in the trusty old roadster. Then with Kit-10 sitting beside us, I jumped in the driver’s seat and activated the car’s engine, gunning the petrol pedal to escape the hideous Kloryphoid tendrils that were even then reaching out for us.

“We need to get away, Mills,” I told her, “but the Kloryphoid must be stopped. It will continue to grow until it overwhelms the entire planet, feeding upon all animal life until nothing remains. Then, when it is fully established, it will eject numerous seedpods into Space. Most will drift harmlessly forever in the void, but there is a chance than some of them will invade other fertile worlds, continuing the cycle of hideous and unholy vegetation that is the way of the Kloryphoid!”

“So what can be done to stop that thing, Daniel?” returned the girl.

“I have hopefully set up something that could do the job if all goes well,” I answered.

It was then that I heard the most welcome sound of jet engines far above us and indeed quite fast approaching.

“Yes!” I cheered. “Help is on the way! Look!”

As we drove away from the parking lot, a squadron of sleek fighter planes suddenly came into view, quickly advancing to just above the horrible Kloryphoid and letting loose with a barrage of advanced weaponry sure to firebomb the alien horror into total oblivion.

“Daniel, is that… ?” enquired Millie.

“Yes, my love,” I replied. “That is the United States Air Force!”

“Wait… I think I understand now!” cheered the girl. “That was the message Kit-10 received! You sent it to her to relay to the Air Force!”

“Quite right, Mills,” I affirmed. “I sent an encoded message to the USAF, utilising the encryption given me by my old friend General Alexander Gorton-Steward, head of the elite United Sates Military Special Forces Unit that is secretly charged with fighting all extraterrestrial and otherwise-unusual threats to the peace and safety of this great nation -- and, indeed, if his mandate means anything at all, to the entire world!”

I heard the sound of massive explosions from behind us, and looked into the rear-view mirror to view the incredible conflagration as the Air Force jets razed Mil-Mart -- along with the horrid alien terror of the Kloryphoid -- to the ground, burning out the evil, the extreme unhallowed horror, of that extraterrestrial invader!

“That will take care of it, Mills,” I assured the lovely lass. “The planet Earth is saved, and the horror of the Kloryphoid is no more.” …

Later that day, Millie and I relaxed over a meal of takeaway Chinese food at our headquarters, located as it is in the golden trapezoidal roof of a downtown Baltimore skyscraper. Kit-10, as catlike as ever, had already powered down and put her systems in hibernation mode for the evening.

“So, Daniel, I was wondering,” said the girl. “Is it kind of weird that we just happened to be at Mil-Mart when the Kloryphoid appeared?”

“Oh, I really do not think it was a coincidence, love,” I admitted between sips of my tea.

“The Kosmikos again?” she questioned.

“Possibly, my dear, quite possibly. Although I must say that it is indeed not at all unusual to run into strangeness in the Baltimore area, hmmm? The entire region was built over what was once an outpost of Atlantis, and vestiges of the advanced technology of that lost civilisation tend to be an attraction for otherworldly phenomena.”

“Sounds like we are going to have a lot of work to do then -- and in a lot of places!”

“Indeed we shall, my love.” I agreed. “Indeed we shall.” 

As for that Mil-Mart location, it was rebuilt and reopened within a few months. Of course, no mention of man-eating extraterrestrial plant-life was ever made in any legally-circulated report. The official story was that it had all just been closed due to a particularly virulent outbreak of some “coronavirus” amongst its employees. In order to cover this, the governments of the world fabricated the story of a pandemic of the same disease that lasted for some time and -- as almost-inconceivably strange as this is to relate -- was barely questioned by the public at large. Just another example of the total nonsense that people are so unbelievably willing to immediately accept as fact.

***** DANIEL RUMANOS  AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “THE HORROR AT MONTAUK”

MARK OF THE NEMESISTER

Of the many threats to the safety and peace of the Universe that I have faced in my long and storied career -- including the fascist terror of the Mutations of Mynverkoss and the horrible dreadfulness of the cybernetic Replicants of Leknii -- by far the most execrable is, of course, that notorious renegade of my own race, the evil Don Wingus. His wickedness is proverbial, his crimes endless, and his soul as one blasted beyond all hope of redemption.

At one time, Wingus altered his DNA and lived for some time amongst the people of Earth, calling himself Donald Jay Wingo and engaging in an extraordinary criminal career that spanned decades. This included a grave-robbing incident with a group of teenaged would-be “Satanists” in the area of Damascus, Maryland, which the then “Don Wingo” had perpetrated in order to achieve further power by utilising the ancient super-technology found hidden in an old “black magic grimiore”. Some time after this, Wingo had kidnapped and raped a six-year-old boy, again as part of a “magical” exercise involving sexual energies focused to-wards the achieving of certain nefarious goals. An innocent local man was charged and convicted of that crime, spending the rest of his life in prison whilst Wingo went free.

Don Wingo also became involved in the narcotics trade, smuggling illegally-obtained prescription drugs out of West Virginia into Maryland, once again as part of a far-larger plot -- in this case utilising the affects of the drugs to create an army of zombie-like followers who would obey the villain’s very command.

It was around this same time that Don Wingo founded Spectral Paranormal, that hideously-debased terrorist organisation that first gained recruits by preying upon the fears and superstitions of the uneducated blue-collar populace, particularly targeting their beliefs in the supernatural and the then-current “ghost hunting” fad.

Wingo eventually moved his headquarters to the town of Harpers Ferry in the previously mentioned state of West Virginia. There, he took up with an elderly woman by the name of Mary Adams, who ran a local junk jewellery shop. Don Wingo, finding that contact with the post-menopausal female was not in any way offensive to his innate homosexuality, accordingly traded his favours to the lonely old hag in exchange for the protective front she offered for his continued criminal activities.

Along the way, Don Wingo had become a father, artificially fertilising the womb of a drug-addicted Russian-American woman by named Diane Rizak in order to breed from her a daughter, who was then antichristened Anastasia Victoria Wingo. Rizak herself eventually went completely insane, dying of an intentional overdose of barbiturates in a trailer park just outside of York, Pennsylvania.

It was then that Wingo began making use of his daughter, instructing twelve-year-old Stacy Wingo to make obscene telephone calls to adult men and to set up illegal sexual relations with them. Don Wingo would then blackmail the men thus affected in order to ensure their cooperation with his wicked schemes. These include a certain politician in the Baltimore area, who shall here remain nameless, the failed carny stage magician Vince Wilson, and a certain Detective Garcia of the Howard County Police Department.

Nevertheless, Wingo soon found another use for his unfortunate daughter, one that led to her doom. In a secret satanic ceremony designed to contact the dreaded eldritch power of the Cacodemons of the Andromeda Galaxy, Don Wingo sat on an unholy throne and looked on in diabolical glee as a group of men, his cult members, did continuously rape young Stacy until the poor girl bled to death upon the horrible altar of obscene devil worship!

Soon after this, Wingo reclaimed his identity as Master Don Wingus of Algol, and it is then that our battles across all of Time and Space began in earnest -- battles that have forsooth formed a large part of these chronicles detailing my own career.

At this juncture, one may well ask: Could anyone exist, in all of the Cosmos, more evil, more ruthless, indeed more hideously sinful, than he who is known as Don Wingus? To this I must say, despite the unnameable shudders of extreme horror that the very thought brings about, that there indeed is one who could quite possibly outdo even the wickedness of Wingus -- if not in criminal ambition, then in calculating coldness and complete unfeeling disregard for the consequences of the actions she takes in her ungodly experiments.

That is correct; I said SHE. …

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 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 Master Don Wingus and his occult terrorist organisation, Spectral Paranormal; as well as alien invasions, mad scientists, and indeed all manner of menace. 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 man ordered a beer and one could tell from the tone of his voice that he wanted it. Florid-faced and still dressed in his rather bedraggled work uniform from the Rubicon warehouse, he was tired after a long shift, his muscles aching from carrying heavy boxes across the warehouse floor.

“Right away, sir,” said the bartender, a somewhat-elderly, bald-headed man, dressed in a short-sleeved shirt (with a nametag that said “Tom”) and slacks. He drew a pint from the tap and slid it in front of the customer.

The bar area was decorated in a rather old-fashioned style, with reproductions of Regency-style paintings and tables and chairs of the same era. An old grandfather clock was against one wall.

“Ah, that’s good,” said the man, drinking deeply of the sudsy beverage. “Nothin’ like a cold beer after a long day’s…”

The man stopped his sentence short and lifted his hand to his forehead, blinking his eyes several times.

“What… What’s wrong with me... ?” he muttered, his voice weakening. “I feel like I’m gonna fall asleep…”

With this, the man’s head dropped down to the bar.

Tom the bartender walked over to a side door and knocked twice upon it.

“He’s out,” said the bartender simply, raising his voice only enough that it could be clearly heard from the next room.

A few seconds later the figure of a woman emerged from the door, dressed as she was in a long black dress that well-nigh resembled a shroud. A heavy veil covered her face.

The woman felt the pulse of the man at the bar. Then she took a small syringe-like object from a hidden pocket in her clothing. She held the device against the man’s right temple and activated it, the electronic needle then emitting a low humming sound as it filled up with a clear liquid substance.

“He will recover,” said the woman, her voice dripping with an haughty arrogance that was tinged with madness. “Put him in the alleyway as you have the others. When he awakens, he will only think he has indulged in too much alcohol. He will likely not even notice the slight mark the transonic hypodermic has left on his skin.”

The barkeep nodded in acquiescence as the woman disappeared back into the other room. He had already washed the glass the man had used, then drying it and efficiently setting it back on the shelf. …

“The Sparrows Point area of Baltimore County, Maryland” said I. “Once the home of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, which shut down as the Industrial Age that birthed such industries came to its close. The old buildings of the steel mill are now used as warehouses and shipping centres for Rubicon, the world’s largest internet-based retail business.”

I was dressed in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, and panama hat. I parked Lizzie, my canary-coloured Edwardian roadster, and alighted along with my companions.

The first of these was a beautiful young girl, petite and perfect with luxurious chestnut-coloured hair and enchanting violet eyes. She was clad in a short, tight dress of electric blue that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender, barely-adolescent figure.

The other was a small robot resembling nothing other than a mechanical cat.

“Rubicon,” I went on, looking around at the complex of looming warehouse structures on that warm spring day. “Interesting name for a company, hmmm?”

“Rubicon: signifies the ‘point of no return’,” stated the robotic feline in her pleasantly-feminine voice. “A point at which any action taken commits the person taking it to a further course of action that cannot be avoided. After the stream in northern Italy that Julius Caesar crossed illegally with his army in the year forty-nine BCE, making civil war inevitable within the Roman republic.”

“Quite right, Kit-10,” I praised. “The name was adopted by this company to signify that they should retail so many different items that everyone would have to order from them eventually.”

“Well, it seems to have worked,” added the girl. “I hear that the founder of Rubicon is now worth hundreds of billion of dollars.”

“Is he really, Millie?” I reacted. “That should make him quite popular amongst Earthlings, then. Their obsession with riches seem to know no bounds.”

“So why are we here?” enquired Millie Drake. The girl is a young member of my own extraterrestrial race who has become my apprentice as an agent of the Kosmikos. “We left headquarters so quickly to rush over here that you have not even had a chance to explain our mission.”

“My instruments picked up a brief murmur in the dimensional stability of the area,” I explained. “It was as if the Time-Space Current briefly opened.”

“You mean like if a DiTraS materialised here?” asked Millie. (Pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere, a DiTraS is a combination of spaceship and time machine only useable to our people, the Watchers of Algol.)

“Possibly,” I said. “If so, it was well-masked. The disturbance was so slight; it was probably nothing like that. It would take an absolute scientific genius to do such a thing.”

“Daniel,” said Millie with a shudder, “you do not think it could be Don Wingus again?”

“Not this time, love,” I consoled her. “I have the temporal signature of his ship saved in all our sensors, and it was not that. No, it was likely only a very tiny black hole passing through this area of the planet or something along those lines. Nevertheless, it is our duty to investigate and find out for certain.”

I took the transonic turnscrew, a technologically-advanced device resembling a writing pen, from my jacket pocket, then setting it to scan the area for alien technology.

“Nothing is showing up near by,” I said whilst viewing the instrument readout.

“But didn’t you say it could be masked?” queried the lass.

“Yes, but as I said, the intelligence it would take to hide something like a time-ship from our Kosmikos-enhanced tech would be immense. Why, even amongst Algolite families I only know of…”

“Be on alert, s--,” suddenly said Kit-10 (one of her catlike tendencies being her dislike of openly showing respect to anyone, the slight sound of “s--” being the closest she can get to addressing me as ‘”sir”, or “m--” to calling Millie Drake “ma‘am”). “Several human beings approaching quickly from behind.”

Millie and I whirled around just in time to see several working-class type men indeed hurrying to-wards us, all of whom were clad in uniforms signify them as employees of the warehouse. The lead one of them was wielding a large crowbar. Before we could even react, another one of them grabbed Millie and began to drag her off. She screamed and struggled but was unable to escape the man’s muscular grasp. I braced myself to spring after them and rescue her but was prevented from doing so by a sudden blow to my shoulder. It was the crowbar.

I fell to the ground and looked up to see the man lift the weapon, his obvious intention being to bring it down on my head!

I lifted my foot with a lightning-fast kick to the man’s stomach area. The crowbar clattered to the ground beside me and, before he could recover, I administered a Daemonian kung fu hold that cased him to sink into unconsciousness.

I jumped up and saw the other man who was attempting to abduct Millie. He was already several metres away, but I noticed my mechanical cat in pursuit.

“Stun him, Kit-10!” I called.

With this, a sharply-focused light shot forth from the nose of the little robot, hitting the man on the back of his head and causing him to sink to the ground.

I ran to Millie. Thankfully, she was unharmed. The other men had run away when they had beheld our particular self-defence techniques.

“Daniel, what happened?” stammered the girl. “Why did they attack us?”

“I do not know, love,” I admitted. “Apparently, we have somehow crossed the Rubicon.”

I went and examined both of the now-unconscious men.

“That is odd,” I said. “Both of them have a mark on their right temple area. It looks like the type made by a very highly-advanced hypodermic syringe.”

I took out the transonic turnscrew and scanned both of them.

“By the Triple Star!” I swore. “Both of these men have had their brains drained of the chemical that suppresses violent impulses! It is no wonder they have no self-control!”

“Who would do such a thing?” enquired Millie Drake.

“I wonder. Why, I have not seen experimentation of that kind since…”

I caught myself, not even wanting to consider the eldritch possibility that had entered my mind.

“I say, Millie,” I pondered. “Look over there. The local public house, hmmm? What say we have a drink and ask a few questions?”

Just off the edge of the Rubicon grounds, the place was called The Sparrows Point Inn and had a sign on the door declaring that it was `”Under New Management”. Millie, Kit-10, and I entered to find it a small but well-ordered establishment, decorated in a rather old fashioned style.

“Eighteenth Century?” wondered Millie. “Or early Nineteenth?”

“Regency, to be precise,” I declared. “British Regency, of course. This clock is a bit different, however.”

I examined the grandfather clock that was standing on one side of the room. My eyes briefly went wide with astonishment as I put my hand upon it and detected a vibration coming from within, a vibration of technology far beyond the clockwork gears one would expect to find in such an antique. I then put my ear to it and heard the definite sound of machinery -- forsooth, of an engine, an incredibly-advanced engine running in idle.

I took the transonic from my pocket and activated it, briefly aiming the device to-wards the clock.

“Can I get you folks something?” interrupted the bartender’s voice. He was a rather elderly, bald-headed man wearing a short-sleeved shirt and slacks. His nametag said “Tom”.

“Quite so, my good man,” I answered, going over to the bar. “I shall have a cherry-vanilla cola, and a ginger ale for the young lady.”

“Right away,” said the barman, then going to prepare our drinks.

“You seemed very interested in that clock,” whispered Millie to me. “Is there something the matter with it?”

“Only that it is not a clock,” I informed her. “It is really a…”

“Here’s your drinks, folks,” announced Tom the bartender.

“Thank you much, my friend,” I said whilst handing the man some cash, which included a substantial gratuity. “Please keep the change.”

“Thank you, sir,” he returned with a smile.

“Should we get Kit-10 a saucer of milk or something?” joked Millie.

“This unit does not consume beverages, m--,” retorted the metal cat.

“I could not help noticing that this place is under new management,” I stated to the bartender. “Hence the décor?”

“Yeah,” said Tom. “It’s that woman that took over the joint. Think she might be English or something. Likes this old-timey stuff.”

“How did she ever come to own the pub?” I questioned

“Don’t know really,” answered the barkeep. “The old owners just kind of disappeared. Retired, I guess. One day she just came in and announced she was the new boss. I like my job, so I don’t ask questions.”

“Any idea where she got that old clock, hmmm?” I asked. “I am sort of a collector myself, and have been looking for something similar.”

“I’m not really sure,” he said. “Come to think of it, she just kind of seemed to have it with her. It was just suddenly there when she said she was now in charge of the bar.”

“Daniel, look!” suddenly exclaimed Millie.

I turned around and beheld what I had most dreaded to see. It was a woman emerging from a doorway leading from the back room of the inn. She was wearing a long black dress that had about it the horrid air of a shroud. Whilst I looked at her, she lifted the heavy veil that had obscured her face.

She was of undetermined age, with noble aquiline features. Her hair was dark, and her eyes ebon-black with a look of command mixed with unspeakably-dangerous madness.

“As inquisitive as ever, I see,” she said, her voice highly-cultured and full of haughty pride. “Well, are you not going to introduce me to your friends?”

“Millie Drake, Kit-10,” I said, swallowing hard to control my voice from trembling, “meet -- The Nemesister!!”

“Ummm, hello,” said Millie, then turning to whisper in my ear. “Daniel, is that really her? I heard stories of her on Daemonia, but I never thought that we would…”

“It has been a long time, brother,” said the one known as Nemesister. “Nice to meet your little girlfriend and your ridiculous mechanical pussy.”

“This unit is not a cat,” retorted the robot.

“Kit-10 is my personal computer,” I added, “Millie is my apprentice and companion, and you are not to ever again address me as ‘brother’.”

“Always so sensitive,” sneered the Nemesister. “Just like back in our days at Daemonia Academy. Why, I remember that one time you went crying to the teacher about…”

“About the way you used my pet guinea pig in one of your experiments,” I retorted. “You filled the poor thing full of inter-dimensional radiation in order to see if organic matter could transcend temporal limitations without resorting to non-organic technology. The animal went mad and attempted to attack the Citadel of the Absolute Convention by shooting radioactive rays out of its eyeballs. It took the entire Conventioneer Guard to put the little cavy down.”

“Yes, I remember,” laughed the Nemesister. “Fun times.”

“So you two were actually at the Academy together?” enquired Millie.

“Of course, child,” replied the villainess. “I was a grade ahead of him.”

“Only because you are older than I am,” I quipped.

The woman winced briefly at my words then resumed her usual look of haughty insanity.

“So, why have you been experimenting on these men from the Rubicon warehouse?” I enquired. “You have been removing the chemical from their brains that allows human beings to have any control at all over their impulses. Obviously, doing this greatly increases aggression.”

“I need the chemical to administer to my subjects on Lerych,” she replied.

“Ah, the planet Lerych,” I said, “where you rule despotically as Supreme One. Have some of your subjects threatened a revolution? Is that it?”

“There are certain upstarts there who must be silenced. I can take this chemical and artificially enhance it, then release it into the water supply there, hence securing the complete and total servitude of all the citizens of Lerych.”

“You old she-devil!” I shuddered. “Not only are you experimenting on sentient beings without their consent, you do not even care about the affects that the increased levels of violence could have locally!”

“Oh, I do not think about things like that,” the Nemesister replied offhandedly.

“You have been drugging these men here at the bar in order to extract the chemical?”

“Of course. Just a bit of a sleeping drug in that silly lager drink they always order.”

“The people of Lerych are an humanoid race,” I wondered, “but not from Earth. How are you going to get this Earthling brain chemical to synchronise properly with their DNA?”

“Oh, I have a deoxyribonucleic acid manipulator,” she replied.

“What!” I reacted. “That is old Algolite technology from the dark times. How did you ever get your hands on one?”

“I took one that was on display as an antique in the chambers of the Absolute Convention.”

“Spires of Daemonia!” I swore. “What idiot could have been in charge at the time, that you could ever get away with that?”

“You were,” she grinned.

“You cannot be allowed to continue this outrage,” I changed the subject. “As an Operative of the Kosmikos, I am immediately placing you under arrest. You will be taken back to Daemonia to stand trial. The Watchers have ignored your crimes for far too many centuries, and…”

“Really, do you think that is going to happen?” replied the evil Algolite woman. “You only need look behind you to see that is not the case.”

“Look behind me?” I chuckled. “Do you really think I would fall for that old trick?”

“Daniel,” interrupted Millie, “she’s telling the truth! Look!”

“Danger, s--,” added Kit-10.

I whirled around and, to my horror, saw that Tom the bartender was aiming a shotgun directly at me!

Do you recognise the horror, the unspeakable terror of this situation, my friends? That evil Algolite woman, known to eternal infamy as the Nemesister, had that man in her employ, the bartender who was now threatening me with a very dangerous firearm!

Then something unexpected happened, something truly inspiring and of hope to the well-being of humanity itself.

“Stand out of the way, friends,” said Tom. “This is between me and her.”

We moved aside as the barman trained his shotgun on the Nemesister.

“You traitor!” she scorned. “You useless human barbarian!”

“I don’t care if you do own the place now,” announced Tom. “I won’t see you hurting these people.”

“Why, you worthless Earthling filth!” screeched the evil woman, as she prepared to leap forwards to-wards Tom, obviously with murderous intent.

With this provocation, the bartender fired the gun. It was a warning shot, and buckshot scattered at the feet of the Nemesister.

The wicked woman then turned away in disgust and leaped to-wards the grandfather clock. A type of portal opened in its side as she approached.

“Kit-10!” I called.

The robotic cat fired her nose laser at the Nemesister, but it was too late. The villainess had already vanished inside the supposed clock, and the blast was neutralised by an energy shield on its surface.

“The clock!” Millie realised. “It is really her DiTraS!”

“Indeed it is,” I agreed, holding up my transonic device to-wards the ship. “Worry not, Mills, I did some sabotage to it earlier. Watch!”

I activated the transonic and there was the sound of an explosion from within the clock just before, with the odd gasping, moaning noise of its inter-dimensional engines, the disguised DiTraS dematerialised, fading from view as it entered the void.

“She will not get away so easily,” I told Millie. “Do not worry, love. I shall explain later.”

We turned to look at Tom the barman, who was returning his shotgun to its place hidden under the counter.

“Thanks for your help,” the girl said to him.

“Quite right, Tom,” I added. “You have done a great and heroic deed.”

“I just couldn’t let her get away with what she was doing,” declared the bartender. “I mean, I really didn’t understand all of it, but I guess she was harming some good, decent, hardworking people.”

The telephone behind the bar rang, and Tom answered it. He hung it up again after exchanging a few words.

“That was the old owners,” he said with a smile. “They said they’ve just been away on a vacation they won in some sweepstakes, and will be back tomorrow!”

“Something she had set up?” whispered Millie to me. “To keep them away while she used this place for her experiments?’

“No doubt,” I replied. …

In the dark control room of her spaceship, the Nemesister was examining the readouts on her instrumentation whilst the ship quaked and lurched, seemingly in every direction at once, as it moved through the swirling grey mists and multi-hued spirals of the Time/Space Current.

“That bastard has disabled my directional control!” screeched the Algolite villainess in outrage. “I can no longer control my DiTraS! I am hurtling unstoppably to-wards the eternal blackness of non-existence!” …

“The Nemesister will not be able to regain control of her ship before it takes her far away from anything that could be termed ‘reality’,” I told Millie Drake and Kit-10 as I drove my car away from the area of the Rubicon warehouse. “I scrambled its systems with a special formula utilised by the Kosmikos. We will not be hearing from her again for quite some time -- if ever!”

“What about those poor men that she experimented on?” enquired the girl. “What will happen to them?”

“Without her influence, the chemical will naturally replenish itself in their brains,” I assured her, “and they will soon return to normal.”

“That’s good to hear, Daniel,” said Millie. “Say, is it all right if I ask you something else?”

“By all means, love,” I said.

“When she called you ‘brother’, is that just because you went to the Academy together or something? Or because you are both Watchers? Because I have never heard our people use the term that way. I mean… or is she really your… ?”

“I say, I am feeling a bit peckish, hmmm?” I quickly interrupted, changing the subject. “What do you say to us going to pick up some lunch?”

“Sounds great!” exclaimed the lovely lass.

“Indeed it does, Mills, my dear,” said I to the wonderful young lady. “I know of a nice take-away place near here, and we can get some pizza.”

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