PURSUIT TO PLUTO

Bresi the Chill crawled over the motel bed to-wards the girl. The hideous Plutonian crustacean and gangster, known as “The Chill” due to his particular cold-heartedness when sent by the Syndicate on hit jobs, had picked up the blonde Neptunian prostitute at a near by bar here on the moon of Pluto known as Charon. Bresi liked the girls from Neptune. They were humans who were descended from colonists from an ancient Earth-based civilisation called Atlantis, and he found them so much softer and warmer than the females of his own crayfish-like race.

This chick was particularly hot, thought Bresi, what with her long, fair hair, her white skin, her blue eyes, her red lips, and her tall, statuesque figure. He particularly liked her full, firm, mammalian breasts.

“What did you say your name was again?” asked Bresi.

“Honoria,” she replied, managing a stage smile for the horrid alien.

“Classy,” he said. “I’m Bresi. You been on Charon long?”

“Not really,” replied Honoria. “I’m kind of new to this.”

“Oh, I like that,” said the Plutonian. “You are some young stuff, you are.”

By now, Bresi was really getting into the bizarre interspecies encounter. He did not notice her hand reaching below the pillow, into the handbag that she had secreted there when they had first entered the motel.

“Oh yeah!” cried the human-sized crayfish. “You're a good one, girlie! I might set you up on Pluto so I can see you all the time.”

“Sounds good,” replied the girl. “What part of Pluto are you from?”

“Oh, Yuggoth, of course,” answered Bresi. “My boss has his work right there in the big city.”

“Oh, is he a politician or something?”

“No,” laughed the Plutonian. “No, nothing like that. He’s a… businessman, y’know. He runs a lot of business in the Solar System, and it’s getting bigger everyday.”

“What’s his name?” queried Honoria.

“Cuevas,” replied Bresi. “We call him Capo Cuevas. The Big Boss. Oh yeah!”

With this, the crustacean was just about to crawl away from the girl when she suddenly pulled a small energy gun from under the pillow and fired it at close range right between his fishy eyes. Bresi screeched in pain and rage and slipped off the bed onto the floor.

Honoria then quickly went to work. She took another device from her handbag. It was a small scanning system, and she ran it over the Plutonian’s body and then looked at the readings.

“Yes,” she said to herself. “That should do.”

The girl then attached the scanner to a communications device and spoke into it.

“This is Agent Honoria of Neptune Planetary Security speaking over a secure channel,” she said. “I’m sending you the  bio-scan of the Plutonian, and have verified that he is part of the Cuevas Syndicate.”

Nevertheless, when she was talking Honoria failed to notice that Bresi was still stirring. The blast from her gun had not quite yet killed him. He reached one of his clawed hands out and grasped the laser pistol from the clothing he had earlier left next to the bed. With his last burst of strength, he raised the gun and fired at the girl before himself expiring on the floor.

The laser hit Honoria right between her breasts, killing her instantly. She fell back lifelessly with the gaping hole in her chest still smoking, and dropped the communicator onto the bed.

A man’s voice came from the communicator. It was the voice of the NPS Chief.

“Good work, Agent Honoria,” he said. “We’ll get this info to our allied Kosmikos Operatives right away. Oh, and someone will be right there to help you dispose of the corpse. Are you there? Agent, are you there?” …

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 own 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 young starlet Miss Millie "The Girl From Beyond" Drake and our catlike robot, Kit-10 -- I am the living icon of Algol on this world. I am a Knight of the Eternal Spires. I am the sword of justice from the planet Daemonia. I am the stellar swashbuckler.

I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …

“The ravioli on Pluto is quite good,” said I, as Millie Drake and I sat in the booth examining the menus. “Of course, everything here is served cold and made from the various forms of fungus that grow in the ice swamps.”

We were at a small establishment, Tassio’s, located in the city of Yuggoth. I was clad in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, jungle boots, panama hat, and one of my favourite opera capes.

Millie is an exceedingly beautiful girl, petite and perfect with luxurious chestnut hair, a sun-kissed complexion, enchanting violet eyes, and a wide, sensuous mouth. She was wearing a short, tight, cherry-red dress that only served to accent the soft curves of her slender teenage figure.

Also with us was Kit-10, our mobile personal computer that resembles nothing more or less than a small mechanical cat. The little robot sat quietly next to our booth.

We had come to Pluto as part of our continued pursuit of the Cuevas Crime Family, having already dealt with their attempts to smuggle and distribute the horrible narcotic drug cadebium on the planets Uranus and Neptune.

“I’ll try the ravioli then,” agreed Millie. “So Daniel, did you hear from the NPS?”

“Yes I did, Mills,” I answered, checking the small communication device that lay on the table before me. “They sent it by encrypted message, of course, but it says that Agent Honoria gave her life to get the information we needed. Now if the Neptunians can just get the Plutonian government to agree to action being taken against the criminal syndicates here, it would be a great help to us. The gangs have secretly controlled so much business on Pluto for so many long years, that the government has unfortunately learned to just look the other way, hmmm?”

“Don’t the orbits of Neptune and Pluto cross each other?” enquired the girl.

“Indeed they do, love,” I affirmed. “Because of this, the fate of the two worlds has always been someone intertwined, despite their vast differences in culture.”

The waitress, a fat Plutonian crustacean, shuffled over to our table.

“You two ready to order?” she asked, holding a pen and small pad of paper in two of her clawed hands.

“Yes,” I said, “we will both have the… ”

I stopped when I looked up and saw the sudden expression of horror in the waitress’s fishy eyes. She had glanced out the large front window of the diner and seen something. She immediately shrieked in terror and scuttled back to-wards the relative safety of the kitchen area.

Without wasting a moment, I grabbed Millie and pulled her with me under the table. We got there just before the window shattered into countless pieces and the noise of energy machinegun fire filled the air. Millie held tight to me in fear whilst the gunfire continued. When it finally ceased, we heard the front door of the restaurant open and the sound of numerous crustaceous feet upon the waxed floor.

Millie and I came out from under the table. There was no hiding from our assailants. There were three of the crayfish-like gangsters, and one of them was holding the machinegun. None the less, it was the fourth figure that drew most of my interest. He was humanoid, and strode into the establishment with a stride of haughty arrogance. He was dressed in a black suit topped with a flowing cape of the same ebon hue.

His face was like unto that of a man of middle years, still showing signs of handsome distinction despite being marked with the look of seeming lifetimes of obscene profligate wickedness. Of course, I recognised him immediately. I recognised him as the most notorious criminal in all of Space and Time, my oldest and most bitter enemy, that renegade of my own race who had devoted his very existence to evil.

It was Don Wingus!

“You!” I exclaimed. “I should have known. So you did escape from Shenaskah.”

“Well, Doctor Rumanos and your little learning curve,” mocked the villain as he eyed me standing with the girl. “Sorry to interrupt your meal, but we had some business to carry out.”

“An attempted double murder, you mean,” I replied. “We already knew that this diner was being used as a front for the operations of the Cuevas Syndicate, and that they had made some highly secretive connections of late, but why by the Triple Star would you be working with these lowlife Plutonian mobsters, Wingus?”

“You underestimate them, Rumanos,” he grinned evilly. “With the distribution of cadebium, the Cuevas Family will create a gangland empire like no other. They will subjugate and enslave all the planets of this Solar System -- including Earth, the people of which you are most sworn to protect!”

“So that is it,” I said, being careful that neither Wingus nor the hideous gangsters saw what I had hidden in the sleeve of my jacket, and was even now sliding into my hand.. “You are helping the Plutonian criminals just to annoy me? To discredit me as a Kosmikos Agent?”

“Oh of course,” affirmed Don Wingus. “You have harassed me across the Universe for far too long. It is about time to see you suffer some disgrace, in stead of being treated like some ridiculous gigachad saint. When this system becomes known throughout the Milky Way Galaxy as being filled with hopeless drug addicts, your failures here will be something you shall never be able to live down!”

As he spoke the final word of his tirade, I activated the device in my hand. It was the transonic turnscrew, an highly-advanced scientific instrument that rather resembles the shape of a writing pen.

At this, the Plutonian gangster that had been holding the machinegun yelped and suddenly dropped the weapon.

“What the… ?!” he stammered. “It got hot!”

Before anyone else could react, I leapt forward and kicked the firearm away from us. It slid under one of the tables at the far end of the diner.

“Kit-10!” I heard Millie cry out. “Stun the Plutonians!”

The robot cat, who until now had been standing to the side, realizing the danger of any sudden reaction when the gangster had had the machinegun trained upon us, now shot out three quick blasts of her nose laser, one by one causing the crustaceous criminals to fall unconscious to the floor.

“Good shooting, Kit-10!” cheered the girl.

“Of course, m--,” replied the robotic puss in her simulated yet pleasantly-feminine voice.

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

At the same time, Don Wingus had run over and started to wrestle me away from the others. We grappled and ending up crashing into the counter of the restaurant. He had his hands around my throat and was attempting to throttle me, but I managed to deliver a blow to his forehead with the heal of my hand. At this, he lost his grip and staggered backwards, but soon came back with a punch to my face. I responded in kind, and then added a kick to his midsection. At this, Wingus reached over and picked up a knife, of the type utilised for slicing large loaves of bread, from behind the counter. I quickly dodged as he came at me with the serrated blade, then reaching my foot out behind his heal to cause him to trip over backwards. He lost his hold on the knife, which then clattered to the floor.

Before Don Wingus could again gain his feet, I applied a Daemonian jujitsu hold to the side of his neck that caused him to slip into unconsciousness.

My fight with Wingus was over just in time for me to hear Millie Drake scream.

I whirled around to see what was happening. Millie had been clasped from behind by another Plutonian; one who had apparently come up from a trapdoor that had opened in the floor of the diner. Kit-10 was near by them, but obviously dared not fire on the assailant, who was now using the helpless young girl as a shield.

I looked at the creature holding Millie. He was indeed another of the human-sized crustaceans, but looked somehow more intelligent, more sly and cunning, than the others.

“Hello, Doctor Rumanos,” hissed the hideous Plutonian. “I am Capo Cuevas, and your latest attempt to interfere with our Family is finished. I’m taking this little girlie of yours as insurance!”

With this, the horrid criminal crayfish stepped back and jumped through the hole in the floor, taking the girl with him. The trapdoor began to shut behind them.

Without an instant of delay, I rushed forward and jumped through the opening, getting through just before the trapdoor banged shut above me. I fell far, finally hitting ground in what felt like mud.

After a moment to catch my breath, I stood up and looked around. I was in a large underground chamber, obviously built out of the very swamps of the dwarf planet. There was a ladder made of vines reaching up to the now-closed trapdoor. Amongst the fungal growths were various items of technology, computer systems and monitors with which, I quickly realised, the hideous Cuevas creature ran the daily operations of his criminal empire!

“Well now, Doctor,” I heard the Plutonian say, “you do tend to drop in unexpectedly, don’t you? Welcome to the headquarters of the Cuevas Syndicate. I trust you will not enjoy your stay.”

I turned to face Capo Cuevas. He was seated on a sort of throne made from the trunk of some dead marsh tree. Close by was a cage made of brambles in which he had imprisoned Millie Drake.

“You have failed, Algolite,” sneered Cuevas. “You will not stop us as we spread cadebium throughout the Solar System. Soon I will be Boss of All Bosses over every civilisation orbiting the Sun! As for this girlie of yours, she will be properly conditioned and then employed as an escort, or at one of our massage parlours. A fitting cap to your shame and defeat, don’t you think, Daemonian?”

I looked at the sickening crustacean with unhidden disdain and disgust as he laughed his mirthless laugh of triumph.

“Oh, and don’t bother to try anything with that transonic device of yours,” added the crustaceous crime-lord. “It has been safeguarded against your Algolitish technology here thanks to our mutual acquaintance, Underboss Wingus.”

“‘Underboss’?" I repeated, not being able to repress a chuckle at this, despite the situation which we were now in. “Figures you would welcome him into your wretched mob. You and he are two of a kind. In fact, I would not be surprised if…”

I was then interrupted by something that, in truth, I had been expecting. It was the sound of artillery striking very near above our location.

“What!” exclaimed Cuevas. “What is that?!”

“That is the Neptunian Space Navy,” said I. “It appears they have accomplished their negotiations with the government of Pluto and are now fully authorised to wipe this world clean of your filthy crime family once and for all. They will be bombing this location according to the coordinates that we have supplied them.”

It was then that Capo Cuevas suddenly drew a laser gun and fired at me. His quickness made his aim unsure and the blast missed me, albeit by a mere fraction of an inch. This, however, was enough to distract me whilst he suddenly scuttled away, heading for the ladder to the trapdoor.

“Daniel!” Millie shouted. “He’s escaping!”

I quickly pulled the transonic turnscrew from the pocket of my jacket and aimed it at the Plutonian gangster. He had just reached the foot of the ladder when I activated my device. Capo Cuevas shrieked in pain and outrage at the power that then hit him.

“What is this, Algolite?!” he bellowed. “What have you done?!!”

“Well you see, Cuevas,” I rejoined, “your equipment here may be shielded against our technology, but you are not. Your biology, I mean. Bresi the Chill was your cousin, hmmm? Thanks to the body scan that Agent Honoria got just before her unfortunate death, we managed to isolate your DNA and create a setting for the transonic that scrambles your specific bodily functions. Hurts, hmmm? Now of course, this sort of thing only works on lower forms of life like, well, crayfish for example.”

As I spoke, the form of the crustaceous criminal shook and shuddered, as he screeched in agony, Finally, his body just burst open and fell to pieces into the mud of the eldritch swamp.

By now, the very ground was rocking with vibrations from the bombardment above us. I ran over and freed Millie Drake from the cage and we ran over to the ladder.

“My gosh, Daniel!” exclaimed Millie. “This reminds me of that air raid we were in on Earth that time! Remember that?”

“Quite so,” I affirmed. “The Kaiser’s zeppelins were indeed an infernal machine, but the Neptunians are on our side. We just have to get out of the way so we are not caught by ‘friendly fire’! Ladies first.”

With this, Millie began to climb the ladder with me close behind her.

“But Daniel,” said the girl back to me, “what about the trapdoor? We don’t know the code he used to open it.”

“Worry not, love,” I assured her. “We can be certain that Kit-10 has figured out that little problem by now.”

And indeed, by the time we reached the top of the ladder, the trapdoor had opened as the mechanical cat had managed to decode and remotely activate the lock mechanism.

“Good work, Kit-10!” I praised when we had emerged from the aperture.

“Of course, s--,” replied the computerised kitten.

By now, parts of the diner were beginning to fall in from the bombing the area was receiving from the Neptunian Space Navy. I ushered Millie Drake and Kit-10 to the door with me slightly behind them.

Then, just as they had gone out I suddenly found myself being pulled backwards. Something or someone had grasped onto my cape and was bringing me back into the diner. I managed to turn around enough to see that it was Don Wingus. He had recovered consciousness and was now attempting to drag me to my death in the fiery collapse of the building.

I wrestled with him, and we fell down to the floor just as the roof itself caved in!

Do you recognise the horror, in truth the supreme and unholy terror of this situation, my dear friends and loyal readers? The arch-villain Don Wingus, forsooth my oldest and most unspeakably dangerous foe, was attempting to bring about my death -- even if it also meant his own -- amidst the flaming conflagration of that military barrage!

“Not this time, Rumanos,” he scorned as the building started to collapse around us. “You will not get away from me this time. You will die amongst the bedlam that your damned chad crusader meddling has brought about!”

“Spires of Daemonia!” I swore whilst we continued to grapple.. “Did you actually just call me a ‘chad’? Yes, I do believe I heard you say that earlier, as well. I say, old chap, have you now picked up incel slang from those pathetic Spectral Paranormal followers of yours on Earth?”

My speech managed to distract Wingus just enough that I could step back a bit and bring my knee up into his stomach. I then delivered a fist to his face that sent him reeling. He fell backwards a few metres away from me, just as a large portion of the ceiling fell in upon him and he was engulfed in flames.

I turned and fled from the burning diner just in time to run into Millie Drake and Kit-10, who were returning to see what had happened to me. The sight of me now running out of the building turned them back around and together we escaped, running to a safe distance from the area of the bombardment.

The sky was full of spaceships, a good portion of the fleet of the Neptunian Space Navy. As we watched, the entire area of what had been the headquarters of the horrible Cuevas Family Crime Syndicate went up in the massive conflagration.

I heard a signal and then pulled the small communications device from my jacket pocket. On the video screen of the communicator was the image of a man. Resplendent in his naval uniform and his iron grey beard, he was strong and handsome of aspect despite his somewhat advanced years.

“Doctor Rumanos and Miss Drake,” he said, his voice one of firm and noble command. “It is good to see that you are safe. As prearranged, we began the attack as soon as we were authorised to do so.”

“You have our thanks, Admiral Lartheun, for your important role in ridding the Solar System of that criminal gang,” I told him, “and congratulations on your much-deserved promotion.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” he replied. “The people of Neptune, indeed the entire Solar System, have a great debt of gratitude to you. A shuttle will be arriving to transport you off Pluto. May the gods bless you always.”

And with this, the admiral’s image faded from the screen.

I stood with Millie Drake and Kit-10, watching the smoke rise from the ruins of the late mobster’s headquarters.

“Daniel,” said the girl as I took her hand, “do you think we’ve really seen the last of the Plutonian gangsters?”

“For a while, anyway,” I told her. “The Cuevas Syndicate is finished, but organised crime is, unfortunately enough, a longstanding tradition in the lower echelons of Plutonian culture. Eventually, others will attempt to gain a foothold on the system -- or perhaps I should say a ‘claw hold’!”

“Well, we will be ready for them, right?” queried the lovely lass.

“Indeed, we must be, love,” I affirmed. “We must be!”

A small spaceship was now landing near by. It was our shuttle.

“I say, Mills, my dear,” I mused, “we never managed to get lunch, did we? What do you say to us visiting one of the finest restaurants in New Atlantis when we get to Neptune? We should just have time for a fine repast before then returning to Earth.”

“That sounds nice!” cheered the girl.

“Indeed, I must say I am very much looking forward to it,” I added as we went to meet the space-shuttle. “The Neptunians have a type of flatbread pizza that is quite fantastic!”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN "PEDEROSIS AGAINST THE HAIR MONSTER"

THE NEPTUNIAN CONNECTION

Concerning the origins of the drug known as cadebium there is much legend mixed with fact. The substance is said to have been presented as a gift from certain dark “deities” to the early inhabitants of the outer Solar System. That it was originally distilled from certain fungal plant life found on some of the dwarf planets of the Kuiper belt is scientifically proven, albeit the exact timeline of when the use of the narcotic developed is apparently lost to history.

Cadebium is ingested by either eating it or smoking it, and indeed an entire culture of how to thus partake of it has arisen amongst its users. The particular glass pipes preferred for its use by its more formal devotees have been made illegal in the systems belonging to the four outer planets. This has, of course, led to a thriving black market for such pipes and related paraphernalia with the accompanying high prices that addicts gladly pay in order to obtain their coveted utensils. Those who cannot regularly afford the prices turn to petty crime, and many of the muggings and pick-pocketings that are all-too-frequently seen in the shopping districts of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are attributed to this.

The effects of cadebium -- which is known to be highly addictive on both the psychological and physical levels -- cause a certain pleasurable lethargy upon the user that is known to open the person to being easily influenced by outside control. It has thus become popular not only as a recreational drug, but also as an horrid sacrament amongst some obscure cults. One of them, the “Titan Sect” (so called due to its centre of operations being Saturn’s moon of that name) even went so far as to commit mass suicide, with each of their members ingesting such a large amount of the substance as to cause their bodily function to permanently shut down. When they were found by the planetary police, each of the cultists was said to have had an absolutely horrid smile upon his or her face; a smile of sickening contentment caused by the effects of the grotesque narcotic.

My own experience in the fight against cadebium includes my assignment on Uranus, in which I discovered that a certain business conglomerate known as The Corporation was indeed using the drug in order to assure the cooperation of their employees -- this being part of their plan to eventually expand their powers to that of political control of the planet. At this The Corporation was exposed and shut down, but the revelation of their use of cadebium led to certain intelligence concerning the source of the drug’s distribution.

It was indeed determined by the Kosmikos that the hideously dangerous narcotic known as cadebium was being smuggled and distributed by the notorious Crime Syndicate of Pluto, a long-standing criminal enterprise headed by the crustacean-like beings of that dwarf planet. We managed to find out that the Plutonian mobsters intended to eventually push the drug throughout the Solar System, thus creating an Outer Space gangland empire that would possess power unlike anything else in the Galaxy.

It was this nefarious plot that I, now authorised to use any methods necessary, had to stop. …

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

I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …

We were on board the Trident, a ship belonging to the Neptunian Space Navy. The vessel was at cruising speed as it approached that particular planet, which appeared through the front viewport as a distant, bright blue disk.

I was clad in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military-style jungle boots, panama hat, and one of my favourite opera capes. Beside me, also viewing the planet as we stood on the bridge of the spaceship, was Millie Drake. The girl is exceedingly beautiful, petite-and-perfect with luxurious chestnut hair, enchanting blue-violet eyes, sun-kissed skin, and luscious, cherry-red lips. She was wearing a tight, short, cream-coloured dress that only served to accent the soft curves of her slender young figure.

Also with us was Kit-10, our mobile personal computer that resembles nothing more or less than a small mechanical cat.

The Trident was commanded by Captain Nis Lartheun, a quite capable officer with an iron-grey beard, handsome and strong of aspect despite his advancing years.

“We should be reaching Neptune in a couple of hours,” the captain informed us. “We don’t want to go to top speed and start any local rumours.”

“Quite understandable, Captain,” said I. “Our particular mission, in conjunction with Neptune Planetary Security, must remain undercover. Our very presence in your system is unknown to anyone outside of your crew and some personal advisors to your King Poseidon.”

Millie was still staring at the approaching planet, a look of wonder in her lovely eyes.

“I’ve never been to Neptune before,” she said. “I’ve heard so many stories about it. About how it was settled by people from ancient Atlantis who left Earth in a fleet of spaceships.”

“Quiet so, love,” I told her. “The Atlanteans had indeed developed Space travel and other advanced technologies, many thousands of years before the usually-recognised civilisations on Earth. The ones who came to Neptune had the wisdom to foresee the coming decadence and degeneracy that sadly preceded the end of the human civilisation of Atlantis. They came to Neptune and established a glorious planetary government that has endured ever since.”

“Hopefully our world will continue to endure,” added Captain Lartheun, thoughtfully fingering the lapels of his uniform. “Though with the effects of that drug filth and what it’s doing to our society, I’m starting to have doubts.”

“Yes, we have the reports of the many amongst your citizens who have become addicted to cadebium,” I sympathised. “It is a terrible menace, but the Kosmikos and NPS have acquired intelligence that the drug is indeed being shipped to your world by the Cuevas[*] Crime Family of Pluto. Hopefully with this information we can now do what is necessary to end that narcotic threat.”

[*“Q’vahzz” in the original Plutonian.]

“Tenaith,” said the captain, turning to his first officer, “see that our arrival estimate has been cleared by the planetary defence forces.”

“Right away, sir,” said Tenaith, a slim, dark man of rather youthful appearance who then hurried off to confer with the communications officer.

“So, Daniel,” said Millie Drake, “you’ve had to deal with these Plutonian gangsters before?”

“Indeed I have, love,” I answered. “The current Capo Cuevas is the third of that name, and both of his predecessors were involved in criminal operations that included attempts to end my life. In both cases, the plots backfired upon them. The first was on Saturn, and involved a supposedly-defecting citizen from that world’s then-communist government who was secretly employed by the Plutonian mob. The second was an attempt to establish a foothold upon Earth by the Cuevas Family.”

“But if both of those ended by the death of the gang leaders,” said the girl, “they really should have learned their lesson.”

“Criminal types always seem to find new aliases and other things to hide behind, despite their cowardly ways. Since that time, the gangs of Pluto have developed a particularly-dangerous form of this drug cadebium, and are using it to increase their influence in the Solar System. We managed to stop them on Uranus, but now they seem to have targeted Neptune as a possible connection they can utilise to spread their nefarious power.”

“Signals being received, s--,” suddenly said Kit-10 in her simulated yet pleasantly-feminine voice. “Numerous small craft approaching.”

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

“Captain!” then exclaimed the helmsman. “We have ships on visual, coming in fast!”

“By the gods!” swore Captain Lartheun as he turned and saw what was speeding to-wards us through Space. “Those look like…”

I beheld the squadron of perhaps two dozens ships approaching. They were small craft shaped like fighter jets and bristling with turrets that I knew were dangerous energy weapons. They had no insignia, but I recognised the design immediately.

“Plutonians,” I said, completing the captain’s thought. “Those are Plutonian fighters. We are under attack!”

“But how?” queried Millie.’ “Daniel, who could have told them we were here?”

Then, before any further action could be taken, the approaching fighter ships began firing upon us. There were flashes of light in the darkness of Space, and the Trident began to shake and shudder as the energy beams started to pummel its outer hull!

“Evasive manoeuvres!” ordered the captain. “Return fire!”

Within a second, a spray of light beams came out of the front of the ship. They blasted through the eldritch dark of Space to-wards the attacking fighters. None the less, despite the obvious power and sophistication of this defence, only one of the enemy ships was hit by it.

“That type of weaponry is just not meant for this kind of attack, hmmm?” said I. “Those small ships can too easily scatter and avoid it.”

“The Trident is indeed a warship,” explained the captain, “but we carry limited armaments during peacetime. We don’t even have the usual torpedoes.”

“Surely there must be some other defence,” I pondered. “Something that can more precisely target such small craft.”

“We have battlements on the starboard and port sides of the ship. I can man one of them personally -- I had some experience during the Centaurian Conflict --but we have no other trained gunners on board.”

“Perhaps I can help, Captain,” I offered. “You shall find that my Algolitish reflexes may be beneficial to utilising such weaponry.”

“I was hoping you would volunteer, Doctor! Follow me. The turrets are accessed by way of service ladders.”

As we were speaking, the ship was still being continuously fired upon by the enemy. There was suddenly a shower of sparks from some machinery on one side.

“Captain!” called the helmsman. “Slight hull breach to forward! Automatic repairs underway.”

Then I heard Millie Drake shout.

“Kit-10!” she said. “Oh no! The sparks hit her!”

I ran over to our robotic cat. She was motionless and not apparently functioning, but had no visible damage.

“It is just a systems overload caused by the shock,” I explained. “She has shut down to perform a reboot.”

“Will she be all right, Daniel?” enquired Millie.

“She will be fine, love,” I assured the concerned lass, “but it will take some time for her to fully self-restore her functions.”

“Doctor,” interrupted Captain Lartheun as the ship continue to rock and shake from the enemy fire, “we need to get to the turrets.”

“Right away, Captain,” I agreed.

“Tenaith, take the bridge until I get back,” order Lartheun.

“Yes sir,” said the first officer.

“Daniel,” cried Millie, “be careful.”

I kissed the girl quickly and then hurried after the captain to the gun turrets. He took the starboard one whilst I climbed the ladder to the port gun. It was a standard laser cannon mounted on a swivelling mechanism underneath a window with a view of Space. It included a small computer screen with a targeting machine along with ammunition readings.

I heard Captain Lartheun from the other turret.

“Be ready, Doctor,” he said. “Enemy incoming!”

Indeed, at that very moment, six of the attacking fighter ships began to speed directly to-wards me. Then, before I could even react, they all fired at once!

I quickly reached for the trigger and fired the laser cannon. The blast went out and met those coming from the enemy fighters. When the energy collided, the opposing forces caused them all to dissipate harmlessly in the void of Space.

Some the blasts from the attacking ships were still rocking the Trident, and I concentrated in order to target and aim at the fighters, attempting for the moment to put all else from my mind in my endeavour to defend the Trident from attack. Several of the ships were within my range, and I fired upon one of them. It was a direct hit, and I beheld the craft explode into fragments.

The other fighters near to me then began to swerve evasively, darting in and out and around each other whilst continuing intermittent volleys of blaster fire upon our ship’s hull. I fired again and missed a couple of times, before once more scoring a hit against any of the enemy craft.

As I continued to concentrate on defending our position, I had no way of knowing the grotesque and unspeakably vile treachery, in sooth the repugnant act of treason that was even then being enacted at the very command centre of the Trident. …

Back on the bridge, Millie Drake was clinging closely to the still not functioning Kit-10. Near by, First Officer Tenaith eyed her strangely, then reaching into the side pocket of his belt and extracting a small blaster gun. He began to inch closer to the unsuspecting young girl. …

I went on firing on the attacking Plutonian fighter ships, as Captain Lartheun valiantly did the same from the other gun turret. We had managed to destroy several of the enemy, but they continued to speed around us, firing blasts upon our ship and the quickly moving away in attempts to avoid our return fire.

“Keep at it, Doctor!” I heard the captain calling from the other gun-bay. “That type of small fighters have a limited fuel supply. If we keep them moving, the others will have to retreat even if we don’t manage to blow them all away!”

“Understood, Captain!” I replied.

Then turning back to my gun, I fired again upon the attackers. I succeeded in destroying two of them in fast succession, and a third was damaged by colliding with the resultant fragments. It started to spin in to-wards us, threatening to smash into the Trident’s hull. A mere moment before this would have happened, I managed to hit it with a laser blast and the craft then exploded in the darkness of Outer Space.

The Trident was still suffering hits from time to time, but the enemy fighters were by now concentrating more deeply on avoiding the laser fire from Captain Lartheun and me. We succeeded in destroying several more of them before the few remaining then suddenly turned and sped away into the void.

“We’ve done it!” I heard the captain shout. “They’re in retreat! Let’s get back to the bridge!”

I quickly climbed down the ladder to the turret and met Captain Lartheun.

“Good work, Doctor,” he said, exultantly clapping me on the shoulder as we turned back to the command centre. “We showed those Plutonian swamp-dwellers they can’t mess with the Neptunian Space Navy -- or our allies!”

By now, we had gotten back to the bridge, and the scene that met us there fast annihilated any feeling of joy we were experiencing from our victory. Several portions of the deck had now been damaged by the enemy fire, and parts of machinery hung loosely from the walls and ceiling in numerous places. Nevertheless, things were much worse than this. Much worse, indeed. For, standing before us as the rest of the crew looked on helplessly, was First Officer Tenaith. He was holding Millie Drake cruelly with one hand around her throat -- whilst the other hand held a laser gun to her head!

“By the gods, Tenaith!” swore the captain. “What in Hades are you doing?!”

At this, Tenaith snarled a look of utter disdain and disrespect at Captain Lartheun, then tightening his grip on the poor girl and pressing the gun against her temple.

“You will order this ship turned around,” he said. “Your mission against the Syndicate of Pluto is over, or I swear I will kill this girl!”

“Of course,” I said, controlling my anger. “You are the informant. The one who gave our location and mission information to the Plutonians.”

“Tenaith, you traitorous dog!” shouted Captain Lartheun. “Let that young lady go immediately or I will have your worthless backside thrown out into Space!”

“You’ll do nothing but exactly what I say,” replied Tenaith, “or I’ll blow this little girl’s brains out all over your command chair. Your mission is over. The Plutonians will not let you stop the distribution of our wonderful cadebium.”

“Captain, he cannot be reasoned with,” said I. “He is an addict; no doubt one of many the Pluto gang have employed within your government and military, as spies and saboteurs.”

“That’s correct, Algolite,” returned Tenaith. “We are everywhere. We will help the Plutonians in spreading the ecstasy of cadebium throughout the Solar System. We will then know its wonderful effects forever.”

As he spoke, I noticed the burly security officer standing near by. He was readied, but dared not attempt to apprehend Tenaith as yet due to the danger to Millie.

“The Plutonians do not care about you or your drug addiction, Tenaith,” I rejoined, playing for time though I knew that any attempt at logical reasoning with the addict was hopeless. “The are only concerned with building their criminal empire.”

“They will bring us cadebium and that’s all that matters,” answered Tenaith, “but you are right about one thing, Watcher of Algol. The Plutonian Syndicate will do whatever it can to rule the planets of this system, even making deals with individuals and groups that will be able to oppose the interference of the Kosmikos. Yes, we have allies of our own, Algolite!”

Whilst Tenaith was speaking, I noticed a particular part of the damaged bulkhead that was hanging precariously a bit over a metre behind him. Just then, a piece of it broke away and crashed loudly to the floor.

The sudden noise distracted Tenaith just enough for me to spring forward and kick the gun from his hand, at the same time pulling Millie Drake safely away from him. Captain Lartheun rushed to-wards him as well, and gave Tenaith a fierce blow to the jaw with his fist, sending the traitorous officer to his knees.

The security guard picked up Tenaith and quickly manacled his hands behind his back.

“Throw him in the brig!” ordered the captain. “He has a court martial to face when we get back to Neptune!”

I stood holding the trembling girl in my arms.

“It is over now, my love,” I assured her. “You are safe.”

Captain Lartheun had now walked back over to us whilst security escorted Tenaith to his cell.

“Is she all right, Doctor?” enquired Lartheun.

“She will be, Captain,” I told him.

“I... I’m okay now,” said Millie.

“Good to hear,” said the captain. “I’m an old Space sailor, and I wouldn’t want to hear that a lady had ever come to any harm on my ship!” …

The next morning, Millie Drake and I sat at breakfast in our suite at the New Atlantis Hotel in the capital city of Neptune, located as it is within the cloud layer of that giant planet. Our meal consisted of a kind of flatbread and the thick, tasty yogurt for which the planet’s cuisine is so justly famous.

“This is good, Daniel,” said the girl, “and I’m glad that Kit-10 is okay.”

“Quite right, love,” said I, then turning to our catlike computer who stood near by. “I say, Kit-10, would you care for some yogurt?”

“This unit does not consume edibles, s--,” returned the robotic puss.

Millie giggled. “I guess she really is back to normal!”

“There is also other important news,” I added, consulting a small communications device I had on the table beside my breakfast plate. “In exchange for the promise of a more lenient sentence, Tenaith has given up the names of several others within the Neptunian government and military who were secretly employed by the Plutonian Syndicate.”

“Then it’s over, isn’t it?” said Millie. “The Plutonians are finished on Neptune, aren’t they?”

“For a while they are, love,” I answered. “Remember, however, that the Plutonians are a powerful criminal enterprise, and also that the addictive qualities of that terrible drug will make its popularity continue. The Pluto mob will try again if we do not find a way to stop them entirely!” …

Little did we know that, at that same time, an event was taking place that would make our necessary work of breaking the alien gangsters much more difficult than we could even realise. On the dwarf planet known as Pluto, in a municipality known as Yuggoth, founded in the horrible ice swamps of that darksome world, a kind of council meeting was taking place in a dimly-lit chamber. Around the central table of this strangely-shaped room sat several Plutonian crustaceans, all of them gazing with obvious obeisance at the one seated at the head of the table.

“The attack on the Neptunian ship has failed,” announced the leader of the human-sized, crayfish-like gangsters with a gurgle of outrage. “The military forces of that planet are being aided by that Kosmikos Agent.”

“Capo Cuevas,” said one of the other Plutonians, “the new associate has arrived for the meeting with you.”

“Excellent,” replied the hideous alien crime boss. “Send him in.”

A silent signal was made amongst the crustaceans and a man then walked into the chamber with a stride of arrogant authority. He was dressed in a sort of elegant tunic topped by a long-flowing cape -- both ebon black of colour. His countenance was like unto a man of middle years, indeed still showing signs of distinction despite being marred with the effects of seeming lifetimes of extreme profligate wickedness. His hair was long and dark, and his face was decorated with a thin moustache and goatee. Most of all, his eyes shone with an absolutely hypnotic gaze.

“Greetings, Capo Cuevas,” he said, his voice a drone of haughty conceit, “I have come, as per our agreement, to aid in protection of your distribution of the substance known as cadebium.”

“You will also work with us to destroy the one known as Daniel Rumanos?” queried the Plutonian gangster. “He is of your own Algolitish race.”

“Oh yes,” replied the black-clad man with a dark chuckle. “I can assure you that I will take great pleasure in helping you to destroy that crusading white knight Rumanos.”

And with this, the obscene intergalactic villain known as Don Wingus then smiled a smile of complete and utter evil.

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “PURSUIT TO PLUTO”

BALTIMORE VICE

Owly screamed in pain as he hit the brick wall. I immediately reached out and grabbed him again by the throat, yanking him back and threatening to again bash him against the unyielding pavement of that dark Baltimore city alleyway.

“One more chance, scum,” I warned him. “Tell me the name of the organisation you work for or I swear by the Stellar Trinity you shall die in extreme pain.”

“No!” he screeched. “No! I can’t tell you that! I can’t! They’ll kill me!”

The man known as “Owly” -- so nicknamed due to the wide, staring eyes of his pale, pockmarked face -- was thin and about forty years of age. He was clad in a black t-shirt, ripped blue jeans, and sneakers. I had already lifted the small handgun he had concealed in his waistband and deposited it in a near by sewer grating.

I was of course dressed in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, panama hat, and one of my favourite opera capes. That very night I had tracked Owly, a local street hustler and pimp, to his usual neighbourhood hangouts in the city’s red-light district known as “The Block”. Owly was himself unimportant, but word on the street was that he had over the last few months become a contact for a much larger group, a criminal syndicate that intended to control all vice in the city of Baltimore. More so, it was an organisation that was also said to have a shadowy connection to the area’s infamous occult underground and to be empowered to conjure certain extraterrestrial forces as protection.

“It is either them or me, filth,” I informed Owly. “I guarantee that if you do not give me their name, then your death will be agonising beyond belief.”

With this, I cast him down hard to the pavement. He gasped and shuddered until he got his breath back enough to speak.

“They have powers,” he groaned. “Powers to call up… things. Terrible things.”

“And you think that I do not?” I rejoined, again lifting him up and throwing him back down. “I am growing quite impatient with you, scum. Tell me their name, now!”

I then kicked him hard in the stomach. By now blood was flowing profusely from his nose and mouth, and his voice was growing weak. He was obviously suffering from numerous ruptured internal organs as a result of my efforts as well as from his years of drug use, and I knew he was not long for this world. Knowing I needed to get the information from him forthwith, I bent down to listen closely to his answer.

“Okay…” he murmured. “Okay… I’ll tell you…”

He then paused, obviously attempting to overcome the fear inside him; the fear of the obscene criminal society to which he had sworn loyalty.

“Well?” I said, lifting him up again and looking straight into his grotesquely wide eyes. “What is their name?”

“FKR,” he gasped. “They’re called FKR… eff-kay-arr…”

“Your use to me is now ended, you ungodly filth,” I informed him.

“No!” he screamed, seeing my intention. “You promised! You promised if I told you that you would let me live!”

“I made no such promise, Owly,” I answered him. “I simply said you would not suffer much pain.”

Then, with a lightning-fast karate chop to his Adam’s apple, I mercifully ended his life.

I left Owly’s corpse in a rarely emptied garbage dumpster there in the alley. As I left the area, I briefly mused as to how many rats would feed from it before the remains were taken to the incinerator, unnoticed, with the rest of the trash. …

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

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

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

I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …

Returning from my questioning of Owly, I parked my canary-yellow Edwardian roadster (affectionately known as “Lizzie”) in the garage beneath the downtown Baltimore skyscraper in which is my headquarters. I took the lift to the official top floor of the building, then triggered the hidden switch on the wall that opens the door to the small spiral stairway leading to the secret suite of rooms hidden within the structure’s golden trapezoidal roof.

I entered the main room of headquarters, a chamber filled with computer equipment along with numerous alien artefacts that I have collected in my long and storied career. Seated behind a near by table, idly thumbing through a pop-music magazine, was a beautiful teenage girl with luxurious chestnut-coloured hair, lovely violet eyes, sun-kissed skin, and luscious red lips. She wore a tight, short, royal blue dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her enticingly petite-and-perfect young figure.

“Hi, Daniel,” she smiled, looking up from her magazine. “Did you get the information?”

“Indeed I did, Millie,” I informed her. “It took a bit of persuading, but fortunately I was up to the task.”

“I bet you were,” giggled the girl, Millie Drake, she who is my assistant and indeed so much more. “So, what are they called?”

“They are known as FKR. I have heard whispers of that name before, but the connection was not made until now.”

“‘FKR’?” repeated the lass. “Does that stand for something?”

“Not actually,” I responded. “It is supposed to appear to be an abbreviation for some German title or some such, but in reality it is just used as a vaguely-obscene cover moniker.”

“So what do we know about them?”

“We now know from Owly’s activities that they are interested in taking over all prostitution, illegal pornography, and related vice crimes in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area. That would be bad enough, hmmm? Nevertheless, what really concerns us is FKR’s alleged connections to the occult underground. That would explain why they are interested in Baltimore. As you know, the area is built over the ruins of a certain outpost of the lost city of Atlantis, and the energies lingering here from the ancient Atlantean technologies are an aid to the conjuring of certain alien forces.”

I then looked over to Kit-10, our mobile personal computer that resembles nothing more or less than a small mechanical cat. As usual when we are not out and about on assignment, she was resting near by the computer banks.

“Kit-10,” I said, “please access the main computer system and extract all data on the criminal syndicate known as FKR, along with all pertinent connected information.”

“Of course, s--,” replied the robotic feline in her simulated but pleasantly-feminine voice. “Accessing information now.”

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

“Just condense the data, Kit-10,” I told her. “We only need to know some facts concerning the group’s origins and actual purpose.”

“The criminal syndicate known as FKR,” said the computerised kitten, “has its origins in several occult societies that once flourished in northern Europe. They are also rumoured to have ties with white supremacist and neo-Nazi ideologies.”

“Oh my gosh!” exclaimed Millie Drake. “Nazis!”

“FKR is also said to be especially dedicated to the ancient Germanic god known as Loghe,” continued Kit-10. “The syndicate leader is said to have certain superhuman powers due to being partially possessed by this pagan deity.”

“Loghe?” said I. “That is an heathen god of fire that was remembered in the Norse mythologies as Loki, the god of evil.”

“But does it really even exist, Daniel?” queried Millie.

“After a fashion, love,” I explained. “You see, Loghe was one of the ruling class of the Wotan Star System, and they did indeed come to Earth and visit the northern part of the European Continent at one time, very long ago. Loghe’s older brother, Torr, was leader of the expedition, and there was apparently some sibling rivalry between them. The other Wotanians left Earth, but Loghe stayed behind to continue their research into certain seasonal changes. He is said to have been able to warm the atmosphere and trigger an early thaw, hence his being remembered as a ‘fire god’, hmmm?”

“So what happened to him?”

“Eventually, Loghe, without the other Wotanians to supervise him, became rather a dictator. He enslaved the Nordic people for several generations. In time, his influence faded as his physical form decayed, but he is said to have never really died. The Wotanians, like most advanced Space-faring races, have a strong psyche-mentalist presence.”

“So do you think these FKR people will be trying to revive him?” shuddered the lass.

“It seems likely that that is their purpose,” I pondered. “The sexual energies of the vice crimes are probably being stored for utilisation in a conjuring of Loghe. Kit-10, do we have information on the current leadership of FKR?”

“We do, s--,” returned the robot. “It is unverified but there are photographs available.”

“Put them up on the main view screen.”

A photo then appeared on the monitor. It showed a decidedly ugly, bald-headed man who yet seemed to have a certain intelligence in his hard unyielding gaze.

“This man is known as Goring,” announced Kit-10. “He is said to be the current leader of the FKR syndicate, with a long criminal history in sex trafficking, distribution of illegal pornographic material -- for the which he operates the ‘dark web’ internet sites known as LayPal and NetFux -- and related vice offences. He has made himself immune to prosecution by payoffs, blackmail, and intimidation.”

The picture then changed to one of what appeared to be a very large, dark-haired man, his face one of utterly cruel brutality.

“This one is called Maximilian,” continued the robotic puss. “He is rumoured to be the organisation’s top-level security officer and enforcer, personally responsible for the deaths of over two dozen men.”

As the photo then faded from the screen, I thought deeply on the information received, and about what steps needed to be taken.

“We need to get on this right away,” I said. “There are a few places around town where I can ask if anyone has seen these two individuals. If they are indeed here, they would have had to do business in certain sectors.”

“Can I come with you, Daniel?” pleaded Millie Drake. “I’d really like to help.”

“Of course, love,” I acquiesced, “but be careful and stay close to me, as this could be a quite dangerous mission. You had better tag along too, Kit-10. We could have need of you.”

“Of course, s--,” agreed the little robot.

“Come along then,” I said as I headed to the door. “It is almost sunrise, so we can stop for some breakfast before continuing our investigation, hmmm?” …

On that same eldritch night, in a secret location somewhere in the city, two men sat in a furnished office having a discussion -- forsooth a discussion that would be of extreme importance to my attempts to destroy the obscene criminal organisation for which they were the leading agents.

“I appears we have a new enemy,” said the first -- a short, bald headed man of decidedly ugly visage, yet obviously possessed of a keen intelligence. He sat behind a large wooden desk and was dressed in a rather outdated style of business-wear. His voice betrayed a German accent, and on his lapel was a pin on which was engraved the horrid symbol of the swastika. “We need to eliminate him. Your size and strength will come in handy, Maximilian.”

“Whatever you say, Goring,” replied the other, himself an hulking monster of a man, black-haired and cruel of countenance, clad in a dark polo shirt and slacks. His voice was like unto a sepulchral Teutonic growl.

“The one we serve has revealed the information to me,” announced Goring. “Our new enemy is the Algolite agent known as Doctor Daniel Rumanos. The one we serve will guide us to his location that he may be destroyed.”

“I look forward to choking the life from the meddler,” grinned Maximilian. 

“He will be destroyed, and then nothing will stand in the way of FKR dominating the Baltimore underground,” said the man known as Goring, standing up in pride from behind his desk and glanced at an antique sword displayed on the wall behind it. “Then we can reveal our true purpose -- to perform the final conjuring that will bring back the power of Loghe himself, so that we can spread our influence and our control over the entire planet Earth!”

As he spoke, Goring’s eyes began to glow with a strange, otherworldly radiance -- a blood-red effulgence of obvious alien origin! …

The morning sunlight was somewhat obscured by a cloudy, low-hanging haze as I drove Millie and Kit-10 to a diner in the Inner Harbour area and found a parking space for Lizzie in the lot just outside of it. We left Kit-10 in the car and entered the restaurant.

We then ordered breakfast. Millie had the blueberry pancakes, whilst I enjoyed the Belgian waffles along with side orders of scrambled eggs, turkey bacon and hashed brown potatoes. We both drank orange juice and shared a large pot of highly-caffeinated coffee.

“This is so nice, Daniel,” smiled the girl. “The food is good here.”

“Quite so, Mills,” I agreed. “One thing these all-American diners know how to do well is a big full breakfast, hmmm?” …

Outside, a black automobile of late-model German manufacture entered the parking lot. Its windows were darkened and its occupants were unseen until they emerged from the vehicle. The driver was the hulking Maximilian, and with him was Goring, that leader of the FKR syndicate himself.

As the two men went into the restaurant, they did not notice Kit-10’s catlike head turn slightly from her vantage point in Lizzie. …

I had just paid the bill for our meal and was leaving a generous gratuity for the waitress. Millie had gone to the ladies’ room and I settled back in my seat to await her return.

Then suddenly he was upon me. A man grabbed me by my collar and lifted me up from the seat, quickly throwing me to the floor before I could even react. I looked up to see the giant looming over me, and recognised him as Maximilian, the notorious FKR enforcer.

“Hi there, Algolite,” he sneered with a sadistic gleam in his eyes. “The one we served helped us to track you down, and I have orders to break you.”

I have often pondered how the seeming need to boast whilst one should be fighting is an oft-encountered failing of such types as this. When he was delivering the final word of his announcement, I delivered a kung fu kick to his groin, causing him to retreat a couple of steps and to bellow in pain.

He recovered very quickly, and lurched to-wards me in anger. Fortunately by then I had regained my feet, and I swerved to the side, executing a quick wrestling move to send him over my shoulder. He crashed into a near by table that was fortunately not in use.

Maximilian again recovered with amazing speed, and ran directly at me with his huge hands outstretched.

By now Millie Drake had emerged from the powder room, and she screamed in horror when she saw what was happening. The other patrons of the restaurant had scattered and stood off to the sides in fear and confusion. No one was then in the way when Goring suddenly picked Millie up and threw the petite lass over his shoulder.

Maximilian had managed to grab at my throat, and only my thumb to his left eye had prevented him from choking me. We now stood grappling, my strength against his. From across the diner I could see Goring attempting to abduct the furiously struggling girl.

Kit-10 then entered the establishment and, seeing my predicament first, began to move over to-wards where my fight with the huge Maximilian was occurring.

“Kit-10!” I called to her. “Help Millie!”

This distraction was just enough for my opponent to gain an advantage, and he delivered a fist to my face that sent me flying to the back of the diner. I landed on the floor just short of the plate glass window overlooking the harbour.

Kit-10 had turned to pursue Goring as he abducted Millie Drake. The poor wee lass had by now fainted away from fright as the villain exited the front door of the diner with the robotic cat in pursuit.

Outside, Goring hurried to his car whilst carrying the now-unconscious girl. Kit-10 emerged from the restaurant and fired a blast of her nose-laser at him. Of course, she was careful to not hit Millie, and this necessary precaution caused her to miss striking Goring, the laser ray hitting the pavement just below his feet. Before Kit-10 could again fire, Goring tossed the girl into the automobile and took the driver’s seat, slamming shut the door and immediately starting up the car and turning it to exit the lot.

As the vehicle zoomed away, Kit-10 fired another laser shot at the car. It seemed to strike underneath, but did nothing to stop the automobile from racing away at top speed into the city, soon losing itself amongst the traffic.

Millie Drake had been kidnapped!! …

I was prepared when Maximilian leaped over the table on top of me. I had my foot ready and kicked him hard to the chin as I slid out from underneath him. Then, before he could recover, I reached down and heaved up his huge bulk, propelling it through the plate glass window. He smashed through the windowpane with a resounding noise of shattering glass. His form then hurtled through the air and soon fell with a gigantic splash into the harbour. I do not know if the man had been rendered unconscious by my efforts, or if he just could not swim, but he soon sank under the water to his death in the deeps.

“Maxed out,” said I.

I then ran out into the parking lot and hurried over to Kit-10, quickly sizing up the situation.

“Did you get the license number of their car?” I enquired of her.

“Of course, s--,” responded the mechanical kitty, “but I have already checked it according to all available records and it appears to be fraudulent.”

“By the Eternal Spires!” I swore in disgust. “It would be. We need to find a way to track down that vehicle and save Millie.”

“My laser did manage to do some damage to the automobile’s underside,” announced the little robot. “The vehicle should now be leaking motor oil.”

I peered out across the parking lot to the street. There was indeed what appeared to be a broken line of oil stretching away into town.

“Excellent work, my dear friend!” I told Kit-10. “Now, we must hurry!”

The robot cat and I then boarded Lizzie and sped away, following the line of leaked motor oil through the winding streets of Baltimore City. …

Having soon arrived at the secret lair of FKR, Goring had deposited the still-swooning Millie Drake on his desk, quickly tying up the girl’s wrists and ankles with shipping cord. He then took the ancient sword from the wall and stood over her.

“A shame,” said Goring as he gazed at the beautiful young girl. “You would fetch quite a price on the street market. But the one we serve, the mighty god Loghe, will have you as a blood sacrifice in stead. That will enable his power to become completely manifest, that I may use it to rule this world!”

With this, the evil Goring raised the sword up and pointed its cruel blade directly to-wards the helpless girl, whilst chanting an horrid heathen prayer in an archaic proto-Germanic tongue.

As he proceeded with this the room around him began to be filled with a blood-red radiance -- this denoting the presence and growing power of the terrible alien god! …

I parked Lizzie out front of the small office complex to which the trail of motor oil had led. The black car was parked just outside of an unmarked but obviously occupied suite. I pondered that Goring must be planning some incredible show of power in order to not hide his whereabouts any better than this.

I hurried to the entrance with Kit-10 close behind me. The lock yielded quickly to my escapology skills and we entered the building. There was no one in the outer room, but I heard the sound of a low chanting coming from the adjoining chamber. It then became obvious to me what was occurring.

Then, just as I was about to rush into that room in my attempt to save Millie Drake from an unknown but obviously horrible fate, I suddenly found myself blasted off my feet by a wave of heat -- forsooth a surge of rushing fire of not completely physical origin.

“It is the power of Loghe,” I muttered as the blood-red psychic flame enveloped me. “The fire god is being summoned!”

Whilst the searing paranormal heat continued to surround me, I felt my consciousness beginning to slip away.

Do you see the complete and total terror, in truth the utter and absolute horror of this situation, my dear readers? Miss Millie Drake, my assistant and my love, was about to be sacrificed to the alien deity known as Loghe -- in an attempt by the international felon known as Goring to gain superhuman abilities that he could then use to create the greatest criminal empire of all time -- and I was being prevented from stopping this mad outrage by the extraterrestrial power of the supposed god; an immensely heated psychic fire that even now was surrounding me and causing me to lose conscious awareness!

“You must retain consciousness, s--,” said Kit-10, who had retreated slightly so the fire would not overheat her circuitry. “The force of the fire does have a degree of heat, but it is manifest by way of a mentalist projection, not a physical reality.”

The sound of my robotic friend’s voice was just enough for me to focus on, enough for me to use to break through the heat and flame and to force myself into the office chamber. I entered just in time to see Goring with the horrible ancient sword poised over the frail, helpless figure of Millie Drake. The girl had recovered from her faint and now screamed in absolute mortal terror at realisation of the peril she was experiencing.

The robotic cat had now entered the room and stood beside me.

“Kit-10!” I called to her. “The sword!”

The computerised feline aimed a blast of her laser and hit the horrid weapon, sending it flying through the air, out and away from Goring’s grasp. Whilst this was happening, I vaulted over the desk and then gave him three hard punches to the gut, nose, and jaw. He stumbled backwards and collided into the red flame that was still surrounding the chamber.

I heard Goring shriek in pain and outrage as the psychic fire covered him.

“No, Loghe, no!” he bellowed. “I am your servant! I am… !”

It was then that Goring, that horrible criminal, international pimp, and top syndicate crime boss, died in agony. His charred remains fell to the floor as the flames then faded away to nothing. Within seconds, it was as if he had never existed.

I turned and quickly released Millie Drake from her bonds, then taking the trembling little lass into my embrace.

“All is now well, my love,” I assured her. “Goring has failed in his service to Loghe, and the alien god has claimed the right of revenge.”

“Oh Daniel,” sobbed the girl in relief. “I’m so glad you made it! I was so afraid, but knew you would be here!”

“Always, my dear little Mills. Fortunately, I had Kit-10 to help me track down where you had been taken -- and to help me get through that psychic flame!”

“Thank you too, Kit-10,” added Millie.

“Of course, m--,” returned the metallic pussycat.

From outside we now heard the sound of approaching sirens.

“Sounds like the Baltimore Police Department has arrived, hmmm?” I said. “They will have traced us from the diner via the city’s security cameras, and will no doubt have quite a few questions about what has been going on. I shall talk to our old friend, Captain Hurley, and explain matters. I am sure they will then be quite relieved to hear that the horrible vice crime syndicate known as FKR has now been broken."

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “THE NEPTUNIAN CONNECTION”

COMING TO URANUS

The man ran down the city street in haste, glancing behind him to ascertain if he were being pursued. For now, he saw no one.

He was tall and blue-skinned, as is the appearance of most inhabitants of the planet Uranus. He wore a business suit not much different from the type found on many worlds. Around him the floating capital city of his world was quiet, and far above several of its moons were visible in the night sky.

Suddenly, a beam of light hit near the man’s feet, barely missing him. Realising he had indeed been detected, he quickly altered his course, ducking down an alleyway.

“Run all you want, you miserable traitor!” called a rough voice from behind him. “You can’t escape The Corporation!”

The alley the man was running through soon debouched into a main thoroughfare. Seeing a metal post-box on the street corner, he took a large envelope from his jacket and deposited it therein, then continuing his fleeing in a different direction.

When his pursuers -- three men in dark clothing all carrying blaster-pistols -- emerged from the alleyway, they saw him running across the street. They spread out and hurried to ambush him from all sides, and he soon found himself surrounded.

The man stopped and stood still, resolving himself to his fate as the others approached with their guns aimed directly at him.

“This is it, traitor,” said the first of his pursuers. “The Corporation has ordered your execution.”

“It does not matter now,” said the man. “What your wretched Corporation is doing to our planet will be exposed, and your degradation of Uranus will be avenged.”

“Not going to happen,” replied the other with a smirk. “We have protection. The Corporation has something that will assure our dominance over this planet. The government will bow before us, and the people will tremble in fearful obedience when they see what we have. Kill him!”

And with this, all three of the pursuers activated their blaster guns, and the man only let out a brief shout of pain before the energy beams completely obliterated him. …

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

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

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

I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …

It was to a shimmering area on the outer reaches of the Space/Time Current that I had been summoned, having first heard the far-off trumpeting sound that signified the calling of a secret meeting between Agents of the Kosmikos, that espionage organisation of my people, the Watchers of Algol. I was dressed in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, panama hat, and one of my favourite opera capes.

A moment later, a rather elderly gentleman with grey hair and lean aesthetic features suddenly appeared before me. He was wearing a silver coverall garment on his thin but commanding frame.

“Greetings, Master Emmos,” said I, recognising him as our Chief Operative.

“Greetings, Master Rumanos,” he replied. “I trust you are well.”

“Quite so, sir,” I replied. “I pray you are the same.”

“I am well. The Kosmikos has received intelligence concerning certain occurrences on the planet Uranus. There is a group known as ‘The Corporation’. It conceals itself as a business conglomerate, but its leadership has plans to incite a violent overthrow of the planet’s government and then to establish a dictatorship. An envelope containing documents exposing this plot was mailed to the Uranian Chancellor. It is believed that the Corporation employee who sent the information was then murdered.”

“Understood,” I said whilst pondering this information. “Could not the agencies of Uranus deal with the problem?”

“Not directly," replied Emmos. “There are certain political controversies involved, and the Chancellor needed to make sure that the operation was not revealed to the public. It is feared that a subculture of radical sympathisers to The Corporation could aid them in violent acts of sedition. That is why we are now involved in the case. We now need you to find out exactly what we are dealing with so the Uranians can take appropriate action before the situation escalates. You will be transported to the capital city of Uranus immediately after this meeting.”

“Will my trainee operative be assisting in this assignment?”

“You will find Mistress Drake nearby,” he assured me. “I trust you will be prepared to brief her quickly concerning the antecedents of this Uranus mission.”

“Of course,” said I. “I assure you I am quite adept at both briefing and debriefing her.”

“This is no time for levity, Rumanos,” admonished Emmos with a disapprovingly raised eyebrow at my perceived ribaldry. “Be sure you realise that this operation is imperative. Notwithstanding its own significance, it may have links to other matters of extreme importance.”

“Understood, sir.”

With this, Master Emmos vanished and I soon found myself standing on a city street corner. I looked around and beheld that the writing on the signs was of the Uranian language, and knew that I had indeed been immediately transported to the planet in question. Above me the Sun shone, much more dimly than it does upon the planet Earth, yet still brilliantly in the blue-green sky.

I realised I was in a sort of alleyway, and then immediately began walking to-wards the far end of it, from which I could hear traffic noises signifying it to be a more active thoroughfare. I hoped that it was indeed the correct direction where I would meet Millie Drake and fill her in concerning the details of our mission.

Suddenly, a beam of light hit the wall next to me. I recognised it as the flash of a blaster gun and it had missed me by mere millimetres. Someone was trying to kill me!

I ran quickly down the alley and turned the corner just as another blast hit near my feet. It was indeed a main street of the Uranian capital city, quite busy with automobiles and blue-skinned Uranian pedestrians. Buildings towered on both sides, the tallest of which was a skyscraper topped by a large radio antenna. On the building was a neon-type sign declaring it to be the central offices of The Corporation.

Several metres down the sidewalk I beheld Millie Drake. I knew that she would be considered a target just as I was.

“Millie!” I shouted as I ran to-wards her. “Look out!”

The girl is exceedingly beautiful, petite and perfect with chestnut-coloured hair, lovely violet eyes, sun-kissed skin, and a wide sensuous mouth with luscious cherry-red lips. The tight, short, hot pink dress she wore only served to highlight the elegantly-soft curves of her enticingly-slender and definitely very young figure.

I was very pleased to see that Millie had not been brought here alone. With her was Kit-10, our mobile personal computer that resembles nothing more or less than a small mechanical cat.

I grabbed the girl and shielded her from being caught in the blaster fire. I then quickly glanced back and saw my attackers. There were three of them, all of them being Uranian men in dark suits.

“Kit-10!” I called out. “Stun them!”

Before the men could again fire, the robotic feline went into action, hitting them with the beam from her nose-laser. Two of them quickly fell down unconscious, but the third then retreated, though Kit-10 did manage to hit his blaster-gun and send it flying from his hand. He quickly turned and ran around the corner, shouting behind him as he did.

“You cannot win, Kosmikos Agent!” he said as he disappeared back into the alleyway. “The Corporation has something prepared for you! Something big!!”

“Thank you, Kit-10,” I approved. “Good shooting as always. They should be out for  awhile, hmmm?”

“Of course, s--,” replied the computerised puss in her simulated yet pleasantly-feminine voice.

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

Millie was trembling in fear as I continued to hold her close.

“Daniel, what’s happening?” she cried. “Kit-10 says we are on the planet Uranus and that we were brought here by the Kosmikos, but that she wasn’t given any other information.”

I quickly informed the girl concerning the details of our mission, and of the intelligence the Kosmikos had received concerning the nefarious activities of The Corporation.

“So they murdered one of their employees for exposing them,” she said, “and now they’re trying to kill us?”

“Indeed so,” I replied. “They are completely dedicated to bringing about a dictatorship in which The Corporation will be unchallenged rulers of the planet.”

“But what could make them so crazy?” enquired the girl. “To go so far as that? It just doesn’t really make any sense.”

“Political extremists never do, but I suspect there is another factor involved here. Something from outside The Corporation’s immediate concerns that is helping them in their plans, though likely for reasons of its own.”

By now, we had walked over to the unconscious forms of the two men. I took the transonic turnscrew, an highly-advanced scientific instrument somewhat resembling a writing pen, from my pocket and set it to scan their biological systems.

“By the Triple Star!” I swore upon looking at the resultant readouts. “It is even worse than I feared! These men are under the influence of… “

“Danger approaching, s--,” warned Kit-10.

Millie saw the thing before I did. She saw it and screamed. I whirled around and looked. At first I saw nothing, for what was approaching was not a other mere danger on the city streets. It was in the sky. For at that moment, descending over the city was an horror unimaginable, a thing of nightmare and of utter irredeemable insanity, in sooth a being beyond anything seen in the darkest and most horrifying of nightmares.

It was like unto an amorphous blob, a sickly blue-green of hue, miles wide and covered all over with a sickly unwholesome mass of writhing tendrils. As we watched, for the moment transfixed in complete and absolute revulsion, the thing reached its disgusting feelers down to-wards the very streets of the capital city of Uranus. The people who were still on those streets then  began to shriek and bellow in supreme and unmitigated terror as they beheld this horror, this hideous and unholy monstrosity, this complete and absolute madness.

“Millie,” I said whilst taking the girl’s hand, “run.”

Millie Drake and I hurried into one of the street’s other side alleys with Kit-10 close behind us.

“Just stay still back here, love,” I warned the girl. “I need to assess this situation carefully if we are going to find a solution.”

“Daniel, what is that thing?!” queried the frightened lass.

“It is what is known as a Uranusite or Elder Thing,” I informed her. “They were the original indigenous inhabitants of this planet, gigantic beings that ruled this world for aeons until their society irrupted into civil wars. The resultant conflicts were so extreme, as the giant monsters battled each other for supremacy, that they are what led to the orbital axis of Uranus being shifted sidewise as it is to this day. The wars led to the end of Uranusite civilisation, as such things so often do. Modern Uranians, as you have seen, are an humanoid race descended from Saturnian colonists. The Elder Things are now largely extinct, although a few of them are indeed rumoured to still exist near the core of the planet. They have lost their intellect and are now just mindless animals.”

“But why is it here now?”

“It is what the Corporation employee warned us about,” I explained. “You see, the Uranusites respond to certain radio frequencies, so The Corporation has used a signal to bring it here, both against us and as a show of power.”

“Of course!” exclaimed Millie. “That radio tower! They’re broadcasting something from there that brought it here!”

“Indeed,” said I.

“Is there a way to shut it down?”

“We will have to get closer. I may be able to utilise the transonic to…”

Then my words were interrupted by Millie Drake’s screams. The Elder Thing had lunged its tendrils under the city by using the sewer system, and now one of its horrid feelers had suddenly burst forth from and quickly wrapped itself around the girl’s waist and was now dragging her away from me to-wards the gutter! …

At that same time, in the building housing the business office headquarters of The Corporation, the Chief Executive Office of that particular body was engaged in a conversation from his office -- forsooth, a conversation with something that spoke to him from a video screen.

“Those agents of the Algolite Kosmikos are here as you said would happen,” said the blue-skinned Uranian CEO as he sat in his desk-chair clad in his finely-tailored business suit. “The Elder Thing has been sent to deal with them.”

The thing on the screen was like unto a crayfish just over a metre in length. It sat in a metallic chair and its horrid red eyes glared evilly as if to pierce directly through the monitor.

“Those meddling Daemonian spies!” spat the creature. “They have interfered with the business of our Five Families of Pluto in the past. The one called Rumanos is himself personally responsible for the assassinations of my own father and grandfather. We must not let them succeed in stopping our plans.”

“I am sure there is no need to be concerned, Capo Cuevas” replied the CEO, vainly attempting to reign in his nervousness. “I am certain the Elder Thing will be able to take care of them.”

“If the Uranusite does not stop them then our deal is ended,” announced the Plutonian. “Do you understand me? It is ended! We cannot have your incompetence leading to things like this. We have supplied you with the cadebium to aid in assuring the obedience of your employees, yet the information still leaked out!”

“That could not be helped. He was apparently immune to the effects of the drug. But we did manage to eliminate him before he could do any further damage, and…”

“I will not listen to excuses, Uranian! We made the deal with you to aid in your taking over your planet’s government, that in exchange our own activities in the system would go unbothered by the Uranian authorities. Shipments of cadebium have been coming to Uranus long enough that many members of the population, including your employees, should have been completely under its thrall. This would have assured the success of your planned insurrection. In stead, you have failed in aiding its distribution and now we see the outcome. This is the last chance you are getting. Destroy the Daemonian meddlers or we will leave you to face all alone the consequences of your sedition and terrorism against the government of your own planet!!” …

I aimed the transonic turnscrew at the tendril that was dragging Millie away. The setting slowed the thing down just slightly but did not stop it.

“Kit-10!” I called.

The little robot was already in position, and fired a blast of her nose-laser that hit the tendril, causing it to quickly let go of the girl and retreat into the sewer.

I ran to Millie Drake and she fell into my arms still shaking with horror.

“Oh my goodness!” sobbed the girl. “That was so horrible! Thank you for saving me, Daniel.”

“Always, my love,” I assured her.

“Thank you too, Kit-10,” added the lass.

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

“Now is there a way we can get to the radio antenna?” queried Millie.

“We can but try, love,” I answered. “The Uranusite seems to have been brought here mostly as a sign of dominance by The Corporation -- a ploy to bring fear. Fortunately, that tendril was only a small part of it. Neither the transonic nor Kit-10’s blaster would have much effect on a larger section of that monster. If we can get down the street to the Corporation Tower without being again detected by it, we might have a chance. Mills, hold on to my hand and stay close, and we shall see if we can go down the sidewalk without attracting the thing’s attention, hmmm? You keep close by, Kit-10.”

We indeed continued on the sidewalk after emerging from the alley, attempting all the while to stay in the shadows, hopefully away from the awareness of the horrible Uranusite --- that hideous Elder Thing that even now loomed gigantically in the planet‘s sky, with its terrible tendrils thrust under the city through every available orifice. We had just reached the building next to the tower belonging to the corporation when all hell suddenly broke loose.

With the sounds of concrete bursting, an huge horrid mass of the Elder Thing’s feelers quickly broke through the pavement directly beneath us. Before we could even react, Miss Millie Drake, Kit-10, and I found ourselves shoved upwards, propelled to-wards the sky amidst the grotesque conglomeration of alien tendrils!!

Do you perceive the most extreme and completely unadulterated terror, in sooth the most supreme and totally unmitigated horror of this situation, my dearest friends and indeed most loyal readers? The young girl, the robotic cat, and I were now being raised upwards by the horrible writhing tendrils of the Uranusite -- that supremely hideous Elder Thing that is feared and shuddered about in the absolute darkest and indeed most horrifying tales that are to be found in that planet’s ancient history; in truth, that giant monstrosity and creature of complete and all-encompassing fear and terror, the very existence of which seems to speak of the total screaming madness and utter unhallowed insanity that all-to-often seems to underlie -- like an unsanctified basis upon which more wholesome things were then constructed -- the very foundation of Creation itself!

We continued up and up, until we had almost reached the height of the roof of the skyscraper next to the one on which was the radio antenna. Little Millie Drake was screaming in absolute total fear as I desperately held onto her in my attempts to keep her safe.

“Millie,” I said to the girl, “hold on tight and when I say ‘jump’, you jump with me.”

“I will, Daniel,” replied the lass.

“Kit-10, stay with us. Now, Millie -- jump!”

We then suddenly propelled ourselves across the space between the tendrils and the top of the building, landing on the rooftop roughly but none the less safely.

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

“Yes, I’m fine,” replied Millie Drake, still trembling but bravely controlling her fear.

“What about you, Kit-10?”

“Systems undamaged, s--,” responded the little robot.

For the moment the Elder Thing, its animalistic instincts confused, had again forgotten of our existence. I looked across to the building next to us, the Corporation skyscraper on which was the antenna. The gap between the buildings was just too far to attempt crossing.

“Daniel,” began Millie, “are we close enough to change the frequency like you said?”

“We should just barely be,” I answered as I fetched the transonic turnscrew from my jacket. “We can but try.”

I aimed the device directly to-wards the radio antennae and activated it. In a few moments, a slight alteration of tone could be detected in the slight current from the antenna.

“That should do it,” I pondered. “Just… now!”

Suddenly, the hideous Uranusite began to shudder and shake and to withdraw all of its feelers from the city streets.

“Millie! Kit-10!” I called. “We need to get down the fire escape!”

We ran quickly down to street level just as the Elder Thing wrapped all it tendrils around the building that housed the business offices of The Corporation. …

Inside the building, the Chief Executive Officer of The Corporation shrieked in fear as the room around him -- in truth the entire edifice -- began to violently quake. He had no time to even rise from his chair before the roof fell in on him and ended his life. …

As Millie, Kit-10, and I watched from the comparative safety of street-level, the Uranusite gripped the skyscraper in its horrible feelers, causing the structure to totally collapse into a pile of dust and rubble, on top of which were the warped and twisted remains of the radio antenna.

It was then that the Uranusite, that horrendous Elder Thing from the planet’s darkest times, moved away from the city and then, with a sudden flash of eldritch blue-green light, the monster disappeared over the horizon.

“It is going back to its home in the planet’s inner atmosphere,” I explained. “We must pray that it and its kind are never again called up to threaten the people of Uranus.”

“What did you do to it exactly?” asked Millie Drake.

“I used the transonic turnscrew to switch the polarisation of the radio transmission. In stead of calling the Uranusite, the signal became a challenge to fight, causing the thing’s animalistic instincts to make it reach out and destroy the source.”

“So The Corporation’s plans are finished,” said Millie. “Everything is okay now, isn’t it?”

“It is true that their evil plot to become dictators of this world is now stopped,” I rejoined, “but there is still another factor threatening this and other civilisations within the Solar System.”

“What do you mean, Daniel?” queried the girl.

“You see, when I scanned those unconscious employees of The Corporation, it showed that they were under the influence of cadebium, a very dangerous narcotic drug that is ingested by the user either through smoking it or eating it. Cadebium is both physically and psychologically addictive, and opens the user to easy domination by outside influences. It is exported to the outer planets by criminal elements headed by the Crime Syndicate of the dwarf planet Pluto.”

“Oh my gosh!” exclaimed the lass. “So The Corporation were using this drug to make people follow them so they could take over Uranus?”

“Indeed so,” I affirmed. “I really need to have to have a talk with Master Emmos about taking the activities of the Plutonian gangsters under serious consideration for future surveillance and possible sabotage. As for now, we shall have to go and speak to the Uranian Chancellor. After he is informed as to the facts of the matter, I am certain the planetary government will be able to handle things here from now on. Then our mission on this planet will be complete.”

“What are we going to do then?” queried Millie Drake with a look in her beautiful eyes that I know so well.

“Then, my dear little Mills,” said I whilst pulling the giggling girl close to me, “we can signal the Kosmikos to return us to Earth -- where it is almost Valentine's Day, and I indeed have a quite necessary debriefing for you, hmmm?”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS  AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “BALTIMORE VICE”