LOVE AND ROCKETS

At the north Baltimore headquarters of the “child advocacy group” known as Maryland Children’s Alliance, a strange tableau was being played out. Around the table in the conference room of this organisation were seated a dozen or so individuals, men and women, most of whom were wearing conservative business suits. A couple of them were in police uniforms.

Nevertheless, it is the person seated at the head of the table who is of most interest to us. He was clad in a satin-black suit of a style resembling that of the 19th Century. His hair was long and dark and his face was decorated with a thin moustache and goatee. His countenance showed him to be apparently of middle years, quite distinctly handsome despite showing the undeniable effects of lifetimes of extreme profligate wickedness. Most of all, his pale eyes shone with an absolutely hypnotic glow.

“I am glad to welcome all of you this day,” he stated, his voice dripping with intense arrogance. “It is a pleasure indeed to have you here, for the first time, as both disciples of Spectral Paranormal and as members of the Maryland Children’s Alliance. The pact that we have made will assure that we shall be enabled to protect our children, the most precious commodity, from the grasp of the predatory sexual offenders that prowl and lurk about, seeking to coerce them into situations that they can then use to satisfy their own perverted lusts. It is these monstrous individuals, the chief of which being the one known as Dr. Daniel Rumanos, against whom we must go on crusade.”

“We hear and obey, Master,” spoke the assembled persons in slavish unity. “We must protect the children!”

At this time, a thin young man of obvious homosexual leanings appeared beside the table, dressed in tight black slacks and a matching short-sleeved shirt and carrying a tray upon which was a large pitcher and numerous glasses. The pitcher contained some liquid of an hideously blood-red colour.

“As I have previously made known to you, to assure the success of our crusade against Rumanos will require more than human strength,” continued the one addressed as Master. “It is for this purpose that I have prepared this elixir. It will infuse you with powers beyond anything you have ever before experienced. Powers to fight, powers to win, powers to succeed.”

As the speech continued, the servant poured the liquid into the glasses, placing one before each of the assembled parties.

“So now, my friends, my disciples, my crusaders for the protection of our children,” continued the Master, “drink deeply of this potion. It tastes only like fruit punch, but is really so much more. Receive its powers into your bodies, into your very beings. Allow it to strengthen and inspire you; take it inside, that it may strengthen and inspire you to battle and to defeat the notorious paedophile and child predator known as Daniel Rumanos! I, Master Don Wingus, do promise and proclaim it! We must protect the children!”

“We hear and obey, Master Wingus,” repeated the assembled company as they raised the liquid to their lips. “We must protect the children! We must protect the children!” ...

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 “miraculous” to lesser beings.

Whilst most Algolites live in elitist seclusion from the rest of the Universe, 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. “Plausible deniability”, and all that.

Currently assigned to Planet Earth, I protect its people from the hideous manipulations of the arch-villain known as Master Don Wingus, as well as alien invasions, mad scientists, and indeed all manner of menace. I am the living icon of Algol upon this world. I am the sword of justice from the planet Daemonia.

I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …

It was one of the most eventful days in human history, but most people who remember it at all only remember it as being partly sunny. I had gone that morning to the Warfox Research Installation, located as it was in the East Towson area of Baltimore County, to gather information on the ultra-secret missile system that was being developed there.

The installation was a large, grey, rather faceless affair, with a prominent and obvious rocket silo in its centre. I went to the front door and pushed the buzzer.

“Yes?” came a woman’s voice over the system.

“It is Dr. Daniel Rumanos,” I informed her. “I am here to see Dr. Ignow. He should be expecting me.”

The door opened automatically and I walked in. The entrance chamber was stark and furnished with only a couple of rather uncomfortable-appearing chairs. A woman was entering the room from the other doorway. She was middle-aged and frumpy, with greying hair and dressed in a business suit.

“Good morning, Dr. Rumanos,” she said. “Welcome to the Warfox. I’m Ms. Denton.”

“Thanks for letting me in, Ms. Denton” I replied. “Dr. Ignow should be expecting me.”

“He is,” she said. “We have been informed of your arrival.”

I noticed that her manners were rather overly-efficient and decided to query her a bit.

“So, Ms. Denton,” I began. “Are you part of the team working on the new rocket? I already know it is government funded, and is supposed to be the most precise mathematically-controlled missile system ever. I am certain that, given that, they would not allow anyone access to this facility without proper scientific clearance.”

“Oh, I’m qualified to be here,” she informed me. “I’m from the Maryland Children’s Alliance.”

“That child advocacy group?” I enquired. “I hear they do good work, but what does that have to do with the new rocket system?”

“The team has a member who is still a minor. A young girl from Japan who is said to have a genius-level ability in mathematics. I was assigned here to keep an eye on her and to assure that she was not exploited or abused in any way.”

“Ah, of course,” I rejoined, attempting to not allow the woman to see me roll my eyes.

“So,” I continued, “what about Dr. Ignow? I was hoping to get a chance to discuss the missile system with him. Scientist to scientist, you know.”

“Dr, Ignow is currently at the centre of the facility,” she went on. “Being the one who designed the system, he is making some last minute adjustments.”

“‘Last minute’?” I repeated in surprise.

“Yes, we’re doing a test-firing later today.”

“But that is impossible,” I said. “There has been no authorisation for a test-firing!”

“Dr. Ignow has decided that we need no authorisation,” she announced. “We hear and obey him.”

A cold chill of dread went through me as I heard these words; and as the true import of them filled my mind with memories of horror and battles against forces of extreme evil in this world and beyond.

“Stand aside, Ms. Denton,” I demanded. “I need to see Dr. Ignow this very moment. I cannot allow him to go through with an unauthorised test-firing of the Warfox Rocket. That would be considered an act of war by several foreign powers, especially considering the peace conferences currently going on in Washington. It could plunge America -- indeed all of mankind -- into the beginning of Word War III!”

It was then that something of eldritch otherworldliness occurred. Ms. Denton looked straight at me and I beheld that her eyes were glowing with an horrid blood-red effulgence. Before I could even react, there burst forth from them a blast of alien energy, a crimson discharge that hit me with an incredible and painful power.

As I crumpled to the floor in anguish, I heard Ms. Denton utter two words:

“Silence, paedophile.”

Do you truly perceive the horror, the unnameable terror of this event, my friends? That woman, the “child advocate” known as Ms. Denton, was possessed, completely taken over by an alien force, an extraterrestrial creature that had granted her otherworldly powers that were now being wielded against me!!

Whilst I struggled against slipping into unconsciousness, I vaguely beheld a thin figure coming up behind Ms. Denton. I could tell from the shape that it was a young girl and that, with a lightning-fast series of martial arts moves, she quickly sent the older woman sprawling across the floor.

I stood up and attempted to shake off the effects of the blast. Fortunately, my Algolitish constitution gave me a degree of immunity to an attack that would have likely been fatal to most human beings.

“Eiko!” I shouted to the girl. “Be wary! She is infected with an alien mind parasite!”

“Yes, senpai,” returned the girl obediently, taking a position slightly to the side and behind mine.

I quickly took the transonic turnscrew (a technologically-advanced scientific instrument physically resembling a writing pen) from the pocket of my jacket. After a quick adjustment, I turned the device to-wards Ms. Denton.

By now, the woman had regained her feet and was preparing another blast of the extraterrestrial energies, her eyes still glowing with an hideous crimson radiance.  I managed to activate the transonic before she could attempt it, however, and her body started to shudder. 

“I have programmed the transonic to the wavelength of the parasite,” I said as an aside to Eiko. “It should be able to speed up the thing’s life-cycle, leading to an early death. Unfortunately, this woman has been completely taken over by the creature, so it will not be a pleasant sight!”

As I spoke, Ms. Denton began to age rapidly, her skin cracking with the fast-oncoming of wrinkles and drying skin. She shrivelled and fell to the floor, then giving the final gasp of death before her now-corpse began to decay quickly away, soon becoming no more than a pile of dust.

I deactivated the transonic turnscrew and ran over to the young girl.

“Good work, Eiko!” I praised her. “Your use of the Daemonian jujitsu moves I taught you was the best I have ever seen in an human.”

“Thank you, senpai,” said the lass with an humble bow. “You do me too much honour.”

Eiko Toshiba, age thirteen, was my latest protégée. An exceptionally-gifted student from Tokyo, we had met some time before when she had assisted me to unravel the cause of a mysterious death at a local Asian restaurant in the Charles Village neighbourhood of Baltimore -- this being a particularly odd affair that is found in my secret files under the title of “Murder at the Orient Express”. The girl was ravishingly-beautiful, with hair like shiny liquorice and a wide, sensuous mouth with luscious lips the colour of ripe strawberries. The “sailor” type of school uniform she wore perfectly accented her slender, gorgeously-pubescent figure.

“So, have you met this so-called ‘Dr. Ignow’?” I enquired.

“Not yet, senpai,” said the girl. “He is said to be busy at work on the rocket. He sent me some work to do on the computer. Some mathematical formulae having to do with the rocket launch. There does not seem to be anybody else here.”

“The alien creature that so thus possessed this Denton woman gives credence to my theory that Spectral Paranormal is involved in this. However, what operative of that intergalactic terrorist organisation could Dr. Ignow actually be? With his advanced knowledge of rocketry, I would almost think…”

“Senpai!” interrupted Eiko. “Look!”

I whirled around to face the person who was now coming through the door that led further into the facility. It was a man in a white lab coat with a nametag declaring him to be the supposed “Dr. Ignow”. Despite this, both the sleek laser gun he was holding and his face revealed his true identity, for it was a countenance all too well known to me, a visage that brought back memories of so many hard-won battles against the evil that it represented -- forsooth, the supremely-infamous evil of the most wicked and iniquitous criminal in all of Space and Time!

It was the face of one I had thought dead; an individual I had hoped that I would never have to face again. It was DON WINGUS!!!

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

“Oh indeed,” rejoined Wingus with a wicked chuckle. “I have been back for quite a while, and you shall find my plans far too in advance to be easily dismantled by your interference. No, not this time. By the way, I cannot say I did not pretty much expect you when the Nipponese nymphet here suddenly showed up. Whenever there is a young teen beauty, Dr. Daniel Rumanos is right there behind her -- or in front of, or on top of, or underneath, as the case may be.”

“So you are now infecting your disciples with mind parasites, Wingus?” said I. “Nearly microscopic but unspeakably dangerous creatures like the ones from the outer planets of the Centauri systems? Horrible things that attach to their hosts’ brainwaves and manifest extraterrestrial powers through them. Even well-meaning people, like this Ms. Denton, whom you have corrupted with your hypnotic abilities and taught how to hate.”

“Oh, indeed,” returned Wingus. “These human crusader types have always been quite easy to influence. I only need convince them that my authority will help with whatever ridiculous ‘social justice’ cause to which they have so dedicated their worthless lives.”

“But how did you introduce the mind parasite into them?” I enquired. “Those things must be taken internally, and willingly.”

“Just an infusion via a draught of fruit punch,” he grinned.

“Oh, of course. It figures you would be giving your cultists the ‘Kool-Aid’ eventually! So, I suppose your intentions now are to blackmail the entire planet by threatening to launch this Warfox Rocket?”

“Oh hardly, Rumanos, hardly,” rejoined Don Wingus. “Even after all these centuries, you continue to underestimate me. I fully intend to launch the rocket.”

“You fiend!” I told him. “You godless fiend! What do you intend as the target?’

“Why, the White House, of course. The President is meeting with several world leaders there today for a peace conference. When they are all killed, the nations will all blame each other and threaten war. The ensuing chaos will cause the disenchanted people of America to seek and choose a new leader, which will of course be me. I will become President of the United States, then Emperor of Earth. Then I will augment the technology of this planet to build a fleet of Space-going warships that shall overrun the Galaxy! I shall in time make myself supreme ruler of all existence!!”

Whilst speaking to him, I had surreptitiously been moving closer. So slowly had I crept that Wingus, overcome as usual by his own egotistical arrogance, had not even particularly noticed.

“Senpai, look!” shouted Eiko at the prearranged moment, indicating a direction to the side of the room.

This caused Don Wingus to flinch for just a fraction of a second, distracting his attention just long enough for me to give him a short series of jujitsu blows. His laser-gun went clattering to the floor as he slipped into unconsciousness from the effects of my pummelling.

“He will not be out long, Eiko,” I said. “We need to find a place to secure him whilst we work on dismantling the missile.”

“There is a group of storage lockers in the rocket silo, senpai,” the girl informed me.

“Excellent idea, love,” said I has I hoisted the unconscious Don Wingus onto my shoulder. “Show me the way.”

Eiko Suzuki then led me down a corridor to the centre of the facility. It was an huge launch-pad upon which sat the gigantic red missile known as the Warfox Rocket. I went to the adjoining storage area and secured Don Wingus in one of the lockers.

“Now, we have to find a way to disarm the rocket,” I said to the girl. “If only we had the mathematical codes for the ignition sequence, or at least for the trajectory.”

“I have them, senpai,” said Eiko. “The trajectory codes.”

“You have the trajectory codes, Eiko?” I stammered in surprise. “Where?!”

“In my head, senpai,” she explained. “As I said, when I first arrived, Dr. Ignow sent me a radio message saying that there was a last-minute adjustment to the trajectory, and he was too busy to make it. He had me do it for him. He gave me both the old and new trajectory codes, as I had to enter the first to access the computer.”

“Of course; that is a basic security measure, not programming the true trajectory sequence until near launch time,” I realised. “I am sorry you have been exposed to so much danger, but it is good for the future of the human race that you were assigned to this project, Eiko. So, you actually remember them? The trajectory sequence code numbers?”

“Of course, senpai,” returned the lovely Asian lass. “I always remember all numbers exactly.”

“Ah, so that will be something that ‘Dr. Ignow’ -- actually Don Wingus! -- did not count on,” I reasoned. “Obviously, the new trajectory is the one to the White House. The computer will be locked to accept no other than one of the two codes that Wingus originated. Eiko, you need to reprogram the computer to the old trajectory. That will redirect the rocket. We cannot know to whence it will then send it, but at least we will save the President and the other world leaders!”

“IGNITION SEQUENCE INITIATED,” announced a voice.

“By the Stellar Triplicity!” I swore. “That is the launch sequence! He had it pre-programmed to start now! We have only minutes at most!”

Eiko Suzuki ran to the computer terminal and began entering a series of digits.

“PLEASE CLEAR THE LAUNCH PAD AREA,” said the automated voice.

“Quickly, love!” I urged. “We need to get away from the blast! If we are here when the missile launches, the heat could burn us into oblivion!”

“I am working on it, senpai,” answered the girl, still entering numbers into the near by terminal keyboard.

“COUNTDOWN INITIATED,” proclaimed the pre-recorded voice of the automated launch sequence. “IGNITION IN TWELVE… ELEVEN… TEN…”

“Eiko, come on!” I insisted.

“NINE…”

“Just a few more digits, senpai” said the girl.

“EIGHT…”

“We need to get to cover, Eiko,” I went on. “Come on!”

“SEVEN…”

“All right,” she replied. “Just a couple, more…” 

“SIX…”

“Eiko!” I said, laying my hand on her shoulder.

“FIVE…”

“There!” she said. “I have finished the redirect, senpai.”

“FOUR…”

“Come on then,” I answered. “We need shelter from the blast!”

“THREE…”

I grabbed her and ran for one of the metal storage lockers, quickly slamming it shut when we were both inside.

“TWO…”

“Close your eyes, and put as much of your body against me as you can,” I explained, turning my back to the coming blast and pulling the girl close, putting as much of my jacket around her as possible. “It is the only way you might just possibly be saved from the heat of the launch.”

“ONE…”

Despite her brave show of stoicism, I felt Eiko Toshiba’s young form trembling with fear as I wrapped my arms protectively around her.

“ZERO…”

After the countdown ceased, there was a pause of less than what could likely be called an instant. Yet it seemed like an eternity. An eternity of waiting and bracing for the coming of the heat and the noise that I knew would accompany the missile launch. Then it happened.

The noise of the blast was beyond imagining; a sound so loud that it was well-nigh impossible to believe, for the moment, that anything else existed in the world. Nothing else could be. Nothing but that all-encompassing and omnipresent noise. It was only when the heat hit us that we knew otherwise.

Even within the cramped, metal-lined storage locker, the heat was immense, searing, otherworldly. Its intensity cut through my body and caused me to grind my teeth together to prevent myself from screaming. I felt Eiko’s body slump into a swoon, but held all the tighter to her in order to shield the poor girl from the blast.

Then, more quickly even than it began, it was over. There was no sound, and the relative coolness of the air seemed downright cold by comparison. The rocket had launched and was on its way. But to where?

I reached back and opened the locker door, still cradling the unconscious girl in my arms as I stepped out onto the now-bare launch pad. A large scorch-mark and the scent of burnt fuel were the only signs that the Warfox Rocket had ever even been there.

I quickly lay Eiko Suzuki on the floor and began to work to awaken her. I only knew of one way to do it as quickly as was necessary. I kissed her.

When I pulled back, I saw a smile on her lovely lips. Then she moaned slightly as if with pleasure, and her beautiful eyes flew open.

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

“Yes, senpai,” she replied. “I feel like… I feel like I am.”

Fortunately, being shielded from the blast by my Algolitish physique had saved her from suffering any permanent damage.

“We need to find out where the rocket is going,” said I whilst helping the young girl to her feet.

“If it was going anywhere near by, it will have already reached it, senpai,” Eiko informed me. “The Warfox was optimised to reach ‘mach five’ speed within a quarter-second of launching.”

“Then we need to see what has happened,” I insisted. “If it has hit any government or military installation, we must immediately inform the powers that be as to the facts.”

“I will find out, senpai,” said the girl as she removed her mobile telephone from the hidden front pocket of her schoolgirl uniform.

Eiko quickly found a live-stream from a local news outlet. The rather dour bald-headed and moustached African-American anchorman was making an announcement.

“We repeat,” he said. “An explosion has taken place at the headquarters of the Maryland Children’s Alliance in northern Baltimore City. It is unknown as yet if anyone was in the building when the explosion occurred. Fire department officials have announced that they believe the incident to be the result of a gas leak at the ageing building. The earlier reports of some onlookers, that a projectile was sighted approaching the building just prior to the explosion, have been discredited. The President has sent his condolences to the child advocacy group from himself and on behalf of the others currently taking part in the Washington peace conference. In other news…”

“So that is it,” I said. “Of course! Wingus rigged the rocket so that, if his plans failed, it would destroy all evidence of the location he was using as the temporary headquarters for Spectral Paranormal!”

“Look, senpai!” interrupted Eiko. “He has gone!”

I turned and saw that the storage locker in which I had left Don Wingus had been forced open, its lock broken.

“So, he did indeed manage to get out,” I said. “But did he leave the facility in time, or was he caught in the rocket blast? There is no sign of him here, but that incredible heat could have burned his body into nothingness!”

“How can we find out, senpai?” queried the lass.

“Only the future will tell, love,” I answered. “We will know if either Wingus escaped or if any of his cultists survived if and when they continue their terrorist ways. All I know for now is that I must be prepared to face them at all costs!”

“I am sure you can do it, senpai,” said Eiko Suzuki. “You are powerful and filled with wisdom.”

“You know what?” I said to her. “You are truly a beautiful young lady, Eiko.”

“Thank you, senpai,” bowed the lovely Japanese girl in modesty. “But I do not know that. Some say that my mouth is too wide.”

“Well,” I said with a wink, as I embraced her, “I must say that it looks to be just the right size for me.”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN IN “ALICE DAY”

GARGOYLES JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN

Atop a skyscraper in the downtown area of the city of Baltimore, Maryland, is a building with an oddly-trapezoidal shaped roof. The said rooftop is golden in colour, and within it, in a secret chamber accessible only by a hidden stairway, is a room filled with oddities.

These oddities are items that I have collected during my long and varied career. They include things from other worlds, alien artefacts and bits of technology from incredibly advanced civilisations. They also include things invented by Earthborn scientists with unusually advanced minds; often geniuses driven to madness by their own intellectual superiority to the masses of humanity.

Nevertheless, it was not any one of these objects that was the subject of my interest on this day. What I was doing was adjusting the controls of a comparatively-prosaic monitor screen on a modern computer terminal, optimising it for a video chat with a special friend.

Upon the screen appeared the face of a beautiful young girl with wondrous violet eyes and luxurious chestnut-coloured hair. Her skin was sun-kissed, and her lips were a luscious shade of pink.

“Good morning, Millie!” I said, waving to her from my desk-chair; dressed as I was in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt and velvet dinner jacket.

“Good morning, Daniel!” answered the girl with a lovely smile. “How are you doing?”

“I am doing fine, love,” I replied. “Even though I miss you.”

“Awww! I miss you too,” returned Millie Drake, the talented tweenage actress with whom I have already had several amazing adventures.

“So how is Hollywood treating you, beautiful one?” I enquired. “I hear you’re doing some final shots for that ‘occult detective thriller’.”

“Yes, we are, and everything’s going well; but it is hard work!”

“I am certain you are doing a fantastic job as always, my dear,” I assured her.

“Thank you,” she blushed.

“I say, how do you like the food out there?”

“Oh, it’s great! Taco stands everywhere! Oh my, I hope I don’t get fat!”

“Worry not, Mills. The infusions of Algolite DNA that I have given you will prevent any negative effects you could get from Earth foodstuffs.”

“Good to hear!” giggled the lass.

“So what is the film like, then?” I asked.

“Oh it’s really cool!” she replied. “But, you know, not as cool as those adventures you have! Hey, could you tell me about one of them? I miss hearing about them.”

“Of course I could, but you have experienced some yourself, like that time here in Baltimore with the monster Pederosis!”

“I know, but I mean one of those you had in Outer Space!” she insisted. “Oh, I would love to go there with you some day!”

“Well, perhaps you shall, love,” I said. “Though I must warn you it can be incredibly dangerous. Here, I shall tell you about an experience I had on a mission in Space not long ago! It started like this…” …

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 “miraculous” to lesser beings.

Whilst most Algolites live in elitist seclusion from the rest of the Universe, 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. “Plausible deniability”, and all that.

Currently assigned to Planet Earth, I protect its people from the hideous manipulations of the arch-villain known as Master Don Wingus, as well as alien invasions, mad scientists, and indeed all manner of menace. I am the living icon of Algol upon this world. I am the sword of justice from the planet Daemonia.

I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …

In what looked like the cargo-hold of an old sailing ship [I told Millie Drake], was heard a strange gasping, moaning noise. With this, there appeared as of out of nowhere an object resembling a “Roman column” -- an object which is actually the incredibly-advanced Space/Time travel vehicle known as the DiTraS or Dimensional Transport Sphere.

A round portal appeared on the DiTraS and from it stepped two beings. One was myself, Dr. Daniel Rumanos of the Daemonian Kosmikos. The other was like a small man, his skin the colour of limestone, with pointed ears and prominently arched eyebrows. He was clad in a gold tunic and, despite his grotesque appearance, he had with him an air of wisdom and of peace.

“So, Gorschlitz,” I said. “I hope you are certain this mission will in no way interfere with your duties as Prime Minister of Mu. I would not want my old friend the Keeper to have to have someone fill in the position on a temporary basis. It just would not appear proper, you understand, and certain forces are always spying in an attempt to detect any weakness.”

“A problem it shall not be, Doctor,” Gorschlitz assured me. “Holiday leave I have received. That I am a few days off to a Space resort visit the official story is.”

“Gargoyles just want to have fun, hmm?” I joked. “Fantastic!”

As you may have ascertained, my associate Gorschlitz is no ordinary being. He is, in fact, an high-ranking representative of the Gargouellios or Gargoyles -- forsooth, a member of that legendary race of artificially-generated beings that ruled the Continent of Mu, which existed in what is now known to you as the Pacific Ocean during a time countless and untold ages before the earliest ancestors of the human race even existed. For many millennia, the Gargouellios protected the planet Earth from threats like the Ancient Ones of primordial Leng, the Lizard-Men of Lemuria, the Shaitans of Eblis, the Cult of Kuthalu, and indeed other eldritch horrors.

Gorschlitz had contacted me concerning some intelligence information that Mu had received concerning a disturbance in the future, and so we had taken my DiTraS to this Space station, orbiting in the very outskirts of the Solar System during what you would term the 22nd Century.

“Doctor!” suddenly exclaimed the Gargouellio, his eyes sparkling with multi-coloured lights. “Something from the corner of my eye I saw. Across the floor it seemed to dart.”

“Probably just a mouse,” I said. “Human Space travel has inadvertently brought them everywhere. It seems to be gone now, though.”

“Of course,” replied the Gargoyle. “We did not yet have that exact species in my time.”

“Well, it appears that we have materialised on the lower levels,” I said, looking around at the low-lit chamber. “The doors to the lift appear to be sealed. No worries, though.”

I took the transonic turnscrew (an advanced scientific instrument resembling a writing pen) from the pocket of my jacket and programmed it to unlock the sliding doors to the elevator mechanism. Soon enough, Gorschlitz and I were riding the lift quickly upwards to-wards the inhabited areas of the Space station. …

Little did we know that the station itself was, at that very moment, being closely viewed from a near by spaceship. The ship was small and efficient, and of a type that has wandered the Galaxy for centuries, bringing horror to humankind everywhere. Inside this ship, a tall being resembling a silver man was accessing the information being transmitted through a computerised security system.

“Intruders detected,” said the Leknii Replicant in its emotionless electronic voice. “Analysis confirms Algolitish physiology. It is an enemy and must be destroyed.” …

The Gargouellio and I exited the lift and continued down a hallway of the Space station.

“Odd that we have not as yet encountered anyone,” I said. “These stations are usually rather busy. It must be the result of the undefined disturbance your people perceived, Gorschlitz.”

“If only the facts of it we could find, Doctor,” returned the Gargoyle.

“Perhaps we can locate a restaurant or pub or something,” I suggested. “That is where humans tend to congregate and talk about local issues. If anyone is on board, we should certainly be able to find them there. Ah, here we go!”

The sign on the door said “Kuiper Kafé”. Gorschlitz and I entered this establishment, which was decorated to resemble an old Earth-style coffee shop or tea room. A video screen on the wall was showing some daytime soap opera type of programme. Only one of the tables was occupied, and it by two men in yellow security officer’s uniforms sitting before a repast of donuts and hot java. The both carried laser guns in their hip-holsters. We took the table next to them.

“Good day, officers,” I said to our neighbours. “I am Dr. Daniel Rumanos, but many people find that a bit lengthy, so I am usually just known as ‘The Doctor’. This is my friend, Gorschlitz.”

“Howdy!” said the older of the two officers, an heavy-set, florid-faced man with greying red hair and piercing grey eyes. (By the mid-22nd century, humans had begun to become accustomed to meeting various alien species, so my Gargoyle companion did not really register as particularly strange to the seasoned policeman.) “I’m Sergeant Brown of the Outer Solar System Security Department. This is my partner, Officer Eli. Haven’t seen you two before. How’d you get on board?”

“We just arrived,” I said. “Our transport is on lower decks.”

“Oh, OK,” replied the Sergeant. “I guess you’re the medical team we radioed for. Your ship is one of those new-fangled matter transmission things, I guess?”

“Something like that, yes.”

“Well, I wouldn’t be caught dead in one of those. I hear they can end up scattering your body cells all over Space!”

 “I say, so what exactly is going on here?” I enquired. “We have not encountered anyone else on board the station until now.”

“It’s those rodent things all over the damn place,” rejoined Sgt. Brown. “Most of the people have been evacuated. Some others have actually died from the bites of those rats or whatever they are. It causes some disease that just rots them away. Somebody needs to send us a damned exterminator, if you ask me!”

 “Rodents? Really?” I said, a chill of all-to-familiar horror creeping up my spine. “What exactly do these rodents look like?”

“We have no idea,” said the other officer, Eli, a youth whose complexion showed him to be of Middle Eastern origin. “They move too fast and nobody can get a real look at them.”

“At least nobody who lives long enough to tell about it,” added Brown. “Most of the cameras and other security systems have been shut down by those things getting into the machinery. They’ve gotten to the weapons system, too.”

By now, the waitress had arrived with our menus. She was very young and quite pretty, with strawberry blonde hair and enchanting emerald eyes. The tight, short-skirted, white waitress’s uniform she wore did an excellent job of highlighting her slender, youthful figure. Her nametag said “Primrose”.

“Welcome to the Kuiper Kafé at Station 78, gentlemen,” she said with a lovely smile. “What can I get for you today?”

“I shall have an extra large iced vanilla latte, love,” I told her, “and a couple of scones.”

“What flavour scones would you like, sir? We have blueberry and cherry.”

“I shall have your cherry, love,” I replied.

“And you, sir?” Primrose said, turning to Gorschlitz.

“The same shall I have, Lady Primrose,” returned the Gargouellio, himself being rather unaccustomed to human foods and terms of address. 

“OK. Four cherry scones and two XL iced vanilla lattes,” repeated the girl. “I’ll get those for you right away…”

However, young Primrose’s summary of our order was cut short when she suddenly let out a piercing scream at what she had seen. The café door had opened and something was entering the room -- forsooth something that filled the poor wee lass with terror beyond belief.

Gorschlitz and I quickly stood up to face what was coming, as did the two officers. The waitress fainted into my arms.

What was entering the room were dozens of small, metallic creatures indeed like silver rodents. They quickly glided to-wards us and I could not repress a shudder as I fully realised the truth of what these creatures that had so infested the space station actually were.

“By the Stellar Trinity!” I swore. “These are Repli-Rats! It is a Leknii invasion!”

Do you recognise the horror, in sooth the unspeakable terror of this situation, my friends? Space Station 78, a remote outpost on the outermost edge of the Solar System, was infested with Repli-Rats -- obviously the advanced scouts for an invasion of the horrid Replicants of Leknii, for whom they function as service robots and killers of anyone that would get in the way of the Replicant forces; forces whose ultimate goal is to convert all suitable humanoid races to their own emotionless and soulless kind!

It was the two security officers, Sergeant Brown and Officer Eli, who immediately took action. They drew their laser guns and began firing upon the Repli-Rats. I could have told them it would be to no avail.

True, they did manage to hit two or three of the horrid metallic creatures, which immediately disintegrated into countless microscopic shards. Nevertheless, the Repli-Rats soon enough upgraded themselves, as is the goal of all Leknii technology, and could then easily avoid the beams of light from the officers’ weapons.

Then, before any further action could be taken, one of the small mechanical horrors suddenly jumped up and attached itself to Officer Eli’s throat. He made a brief cry of pain before falling to the floor; the Repli-Rat then gliding away from him.

“Do not approach him, Sergeant!” I warned. “He has been infected with their poison; an incredibly virulent venom which could spread to you! It is already too late for him!”

Indeed, within moments the young officer’s body was consumed by what appeared as a wasting sickness, a leprous decay that quickly erased all traces of his existence.

I noticed that the Repli-Rats had not attempted to attack the Gargoyle or myself -- perhaps realising that our non-human origin gave us a certain immunity to their poison.

“Gorschlitz, do you think you can you do it?” said I, holding the unconscious girl safely in my arms. “My hands are a bit full right now.”

“My best I shall do, Doctor,” replied the Gargouellio.

With this, I saw Gorschlitz close his eyes and concentrate, raising his arms as if in an attitude of crucifixion. Then, from his form emanated something truly wondrous to behold; forsooth, as a shower of myriad multi-coloured lights -- red and blue and green and argent and golden and purple and purple beyond purple; in truth, all the colours of spectrums known and unknown, seen and unseen -- a display that highlights the exercise of that power which is only wielded by the legendary Gargouellios of Mu!

The lights settled on the Repli-Rats and affected their systems, causing them all to shatter into shards. Within seconds, the room was clear of them.

“What happened, Doctor?” enquired Sgt. Brown. “What did your friend’s energy weaponry do to them?”

“It just scrambled their engines, Sergeant,” I explained. “None the less, all Leknii technology is designed to self-destruct if it finds itself disabled, in order to avoid allowing their enemies any cannibalisation of their parts.”

“Sickening little things,” spat the security chief. “Eli was a good man.”

"Sergeant, what exactly is the purpose of Space Station 78?” I asked him. “I mean, what is its actual function?”

“The station monitors Space radio transmissions from throughout the Solar System,” he replied. “It has the most advanced receiver available.”

“Of course!” I realised. “The Replicants want to use this station to gather information as to the defences available to Earth and the other planets. Then they can know what to expect and perform the required upgrades on their own weaponry. This is indeed a prelude to an invasion of the entire Solar System!”

By now, I had gently put Primrose down in one of the chairs. The girl was beginning to recover from her swoon. I knelt down and looked into her eyes.

“How do you feel, love?” I enquired softly. “We are safe for the moment, so worry not. I shall take care of you. I am a Doctor, after all.”

“I… What’s happening here?” she enquired. “What were those things?”

“Sorry to say, it is an alien invasion,” I confessed. “We are under siege by a race of cyborgs known as the Leknii Replicants. They are from a planet in the distant Galaxy 8675309. Their world was at one time quite similar to Earth, and they themselves were originally much like human beings. Then, generations ago, the planet Leknii began to become uninhabitable due to climate change caused by industrial pollution. In order to survive, the Leknii began to replace their body parts with cybernetics. They are more machine now than man, and roam throughout Space in their rocket-ships looking for any humanoids that they can make into their own kind.”

“That’s horrible!” answered the girl.

“Nevertheless, we will fight it,” I assured her. “I am sorry you had to be here for this, but I promise to protect you. In fact, you really do inspire me to face danger and win, you know. Never have I more desired to go down the ‘Primrose Path’.”

I was pleased to see her smile at this. She then reached over and took my offered hand.

“If you do not mind my asking, love,” I said. “What exactly is a beautiful young lady like you doing on a Space station like this?”

“You are so sweet,” she replied. “I ran away from home. I was just so bored living on my parent’s farm in Iowa. I stowed away on a cargo ship going to Ultima Thule. Then when I got there I realised I would have to earn some money, so I ended up working here. When they evacuated, I just had no place else to go.”

We were then interrupted by a noise. It was as if something had hit the side of the station. This was followed by another, then another.

“Doctor!” I heard Gorschlitz exclaim. “A view of this you should have!”

I stood up and whirled around. The Gargoyle and the Sergeant had gone over to the video screen. It was no longer showing daytime entertainment shows. In stead, it showed a silver Leknii Replicant seated on the bridge of their spaceship.

“They have hacked into the transmission,” I said.

“Attention, inhabitants of Space Station 78,” intoned the Replicant in its emotionless, electronically-modulated voice. “We are the Leknii. All of humankind will be converted, and all interference will be terminated. You will be as we are. Resistance is useless. You will surrender the station to us now, or it will be destroyed.”

The view on the screen them changed to one from just outside the Space station. A number of large rocks were hurtling to-wards it.

“Incredible!“ I exclaimed. “They have engineered a meteor storm!”

Then the noises began again as Space Station 78 began to be pummelled. We felt the entire station shudder and quake as the meteors began to take their effect.

“Meteors? They’ll break the station apart!” exclaimed Sergeant Brown. “Doctor, what can we do?!”

I took the transonic turnscrew from my pocket and aimed it to-wards the video screen.

“If I can catch a hold on the residue of their transmission wave,” said I, “I should be able to hack into the system controlling the meteors… Yes! There it is!”

The pummelling of the station then stopped, and the view upon the screen now showed the huge Space rocks changing their direction away from us.

“What did you do, Doctor?” enquired Primrose.

“I switched the polarisation of the neutronic stream,” I explained, “thus causing the meteor storm to reverse course and go harmlessly out into Space. I just had to do it quickly, before the residue of the transmission from their ship faded.”

Then the view upon the video screen again changed. It now showed the Leknii ship.

“Approaching they are, Doctor,” stated Gorschlitz. “Within minutes they will arrive if not done something is.”

“Damn it!” swore Sgt. Brown. “Those meteors will have weakened the force shields. If those Replicant things attempt to board the station…”

“If they get that far, there will be no stopping them,” I shuddered. “They could take over Space Station 78 and utilise it as a base to then invade the Solar System!”

“Doctor, please!” exclaimed the girl. “Do something!”

Then an idea entered my mind. Something I remembered the security officers saying suddenly came back to me.

“Sergeant Brown,” I addressed him, “did you mention something earlier about a weapons system? Does the station have one?”

“Space Station 78 is equipped with a laser cannon for defensive purposes,” he replied. “But it was disabled by those robot rat things!”

“I should be able to fix it,” I suggested.

“It’s controlled from the security centre,” continued Brown. “We can go over there and I can enter the access code.”

“We have no time for that!” I informed him. “The Replicants will be aboard before we could even get to the lift.”

“Doctor,” said Gorschlitz, who was watching the video screen. “Entering docking distance they are!”

“Sergeant, I need the security code,” I insisted. “I should be able to access the laser cannon control by hacking through the video system into the station’s main computer, but I need the security code!”

The officer hesitated.

“Sergeant! I need the security access code now!!”

“Yes, of course,” he said. “Sorry; my security training. It is ‘alpha432beta285gamma062delta105epsilon382billieboy’.”

“‘billieboy’?” I enquired whilst programming the code into the transonic turnscrew.

“My grandson’s nickname,” explained the security man. “I programmed the code myself. It changes whenever a new security chief is assigned to the station.”

“Doctor!” interrupted Gorschlitz. “Preparing docking-clamps the Leknii are!”

I again pointed the transonic to-wards the video system and activated it. From deep within the station, we heard the sound of a large mechanism initiating.

“That’s it!” said Sergeant Brown. “You’ve repaired and activated it!”

“Now if I can just get it to target the Replicant ship…” I said. “Ah… here we go!”

There was then the further sound of a tremendous energy blast and upon the video screen could be seen a beam of finely focused light hitting the spaceship of the Leknii Replicants. After a moment, the ship exploded, completely disintegrating into countless tiny metallic shards.

“You did it!” exclaimed Primrose. “You blew them up! We’re saved!!”

Then the lovely young girl ran into my arms and started kissing me.

“Well,” said Sgt. Brown. “It looks like you have! Good work, Doctor! I need to get over to the security centre and run a systems check. If all is well, should it be okay for people to return to the station?”

“It should be fine, Sergeant,” I replied, having to somewhat break away from the girl‘s show of affection in order to do so. “The Replicants are defeated.”

“And no sign in the vicinity is there of another Leknii spaceship,” added Gorschlitz.

Sergeant Brown then hurried from the room to get to his duties, leaving me there with the Gargouellio and the enthusiastic young beauty.

“Complete our mission is,” said Gorschlitz. “Return to the DiTraS we may.”

“You are such a hero, Doctor!” said the lovely girl as she again started to cover my face with warm kisses. “You saved us all!”

“All in a day’s work love,” I told her.

“Work…” she said. “Oh, I don’t want to go back to work here after seeing all this! It would be as boring as the farm! I wish I had… somewhere else to go.”

She then looked up into my eyes and gave a pleading smile.

“Are you saying you would like to go with us?” I queried with a smile. “Because I think that could be arranged.”

“Oh yes!” she squealed. “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Then the gorgeous little lass hugged me tighter and kissed me even more warmly. As pleasant as this was, I had to admit it was getting a bit embarrassing, and it had come time that the three of us should be departing Space Station 78.

“Please, Primrose,” I teased as we all began to exit the café. “Not in front of the Gargoyle.”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN IN “LOVE AND ROCKETS”

THE CHEERLEADER EXPERIMENT

Don Wingus, the most evil and corrupt being in the history of the Universe, is missing and presumed dead, killed when one of his wicked plots to establish his dictatorship over all of existence backfired upon him. Nevertheless, his disciples live on in the form of the horrid occult terrorist organisation known as Spectral Paranormal.

Evil thrives in concealment, and for some time the location of the headquarters of Spectral Paranormal was unknown to me. Recent events had changed that.

First, there was the disciple of Wingus named Joseph Wilson. When I had dealt with this hideous (and thankfully now deceased) individual, he was entrenched as a tour guide at the Baltimore Aquarium. As it turns out, this position had been secured for him by Don Wingus himself, both for purposes of infiltration and because Wingus found it expedient and amusing to indulge his perverted underling’s fetish for fish. Indeed, the administration of the Aquarium never realised that part of the froth found at the top of their tanks was, for a time, actually Mr. Wilson’s semen.

Before Joseph Wilson had been employed at the Baltimore Aquarium, however, he had had another job. He had been a disc-jockey and sound technician at The Depot Tavern, a Baltimore dive-bar so named due to its close proximity to the city’s main train station.

Further evidence was revealed after the death of the grotesquely-deformed woman known as Madame Temacula. A long-time Wingus disciple and Spectral Paranormal agent, Temecula herself had been from the mountains of West Virginia, but had been given two henchmen who had also been frequent patrons of The Depot Tavern, being would-be “heavy metal” musicians in some god-awful band.

The information concerning the identity of Temacula and her two deceased servants had been obtained for me with the help of my old friend Professor Clarence Quiltey, a forensics expert at Johns Hopkins University.

Therefore, I journeyed to The Depot Tavern one evening, entering the marihuana-smoke filled establishment and bracing my ears to the ridiculous onslaught of cacophonous garbage that is known as “Doom”, or some such nonsense.

I was dressed in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt and purple velvet dinner jacket. As I approached the bar I was recognised by the bouncer, a large, disgustingly-plebeian type of the kind most usually seen at this place, dressed in the seemingly-requisite black t-shirt and dungarees. He grabbed me by the shoulder roughly.

“You’re that friggin’ Rumanos guy, ain’t you?” he spat. “You ain’t comin’ in here, you friggin’ paedophile weirdo!”

I wasted no time with this worthless individual, grabbing his wrist and flipping him over utilising my own mastery of Daemonian Jujitsu. He hit the wall and slipped into unconsciousness.

Before any other of the joint’s regulars could also accost me, I took the opportunity to fulfil my mission. Taking the transonic turnscrew (an highly-advanced scientific instrument resembling a writing pen) from my pocket, I proceeded to point it to-wards the row of sound equipment being used by the band. I had already programmed the transonic to overload the electric musical equipment, and now activated it.

Sparks of flame immediately erupted from the amplifiers and I heard the band’s lead guitarist scream in pain as an electrical current took the life from him. Fire began to burst from all sides of the tavern as the building’s rather-antiquated electrical system helped to spread it. Some of the patrons began to scatter and attempt to flee from the carnage, but it was too late for them. Spectral Paranormal operatives or supporters all, they had sold away their rights to be treated as human beings and it was now time for them to indeed face their doom!

I had by now left the building, having used the transonic turnscrew to seal the locks on the doors so that none could escape. Earlier, I had done a radar scan that had uncovered a hidden room underneath the bar -- a room that I knew had to be the secret lair previously used by Don Wingus as a place to plan and plot his evil schemes. I had made certain that the electrical conflagration that I planned to cause would reach to it, thus destroying the headquarters of Spectral Paranormal forever.

As I sped down that street in Baltimore City, driving my canary-coloured Edwardian roadster (affectionately known as “Lizzie”) to-wards the downtown area in hopes of finding a late-night restaurant, I heard The Depot Tavern explode into fire and flame with a sound not unlike the clashing of steel.

“Heavy metal, indeed,” said I. …

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 “miraculous” to lesser beings.

Whilst most Algolites live in elitist seclusion from the rest of the Universe, 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. “Plausible deniability”, and all that.

Currently assigned to Planet Earth, I protect its people from the hideous manipulations of the arch-villain known as Master Don Wingus, as well as alien invasions, mad scientists, and indeed all manner of menace. I am the living icon of Algol upon this world. I am the sword of justice from the planet Daemonia.

I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …

The tortured man screamed one final scream of absolute horror, of terror and pain and anguish, before expiring. He was clad in a blue worker’s uniform, complete with a name-tag that declared his moniker to be “Fred”. Somewhat elderly of appearance, with greying hair and the deeply-lined face of a lifetime labourer, he lay on a table with his wrists and ankles held down by clamps.

“Useless,” spoke the creature standing over him. “Completely useless.”

The creature was like a short, squat man wearing a silvered coverall garment over his obviously thickly-muscled form, his head covered by something resembling a diving-helmet. He held a large, triangular device in one gloved hand, switching off the eerie light that had shone from it. He then raised his other hand and began to speak into another device upon his wrist:

“This is Adjunct Major Ttyffe recording. The Earth creature ceased living shortly after experiment began. Little or no resistance to fear. Body system seems weak and underdeveloped for facing conflict. Will do further tests on others, but must begin to conclude that this species is of no foreseeable opposition. Our conquest of this planet should be of no difficulty.” …

The young girl walked slowly down the steps into the basement. She had thought she was alone in the building. Her coach and the other members of the Parkville Middle School Cheerleading Squad had already left, and she had just been waiting for her older brother to arrive in his car to pick her up (and had just about concluded that he had decided to go gaming with his friends and had forgotten all about her) when she heard a noise.

“Oh my,” she had said to herself, her beautiful eyes wide with concern. “What could that be? I hope somebody isn’t hurt.”

It was a noise like a cry, a far off scream, as of someone in agony, seemingly coming from the school basement. Remembering the requisite Rescue/CPR training she had taken the year before, the girl had swallowed her fear and gone to investigate.

The lass was slender and beautiful, still clad in her short-skirted, bare-midriff cheerleader outfit, resplendent in its violet-and-cherry school colours. Her hair was like liquorice, her eyes the deepest shade of blue. The girl’s complexion was as the finest and purest white of alabaster, and her mouth was wide and sensuous.

The basement was dark, the only light coming from near by streetlamps shining obliquely through the high up windows. The girl crept along warily, careful to not trip over the various types of classroom equipment kept here in the dusty basement storerooms, and which she could barely see in the dim illumination.

The girl heard footsteps coming from an adjoining room and she quickly ducked behind a stack of old transparency-projectors. She carefully peered from behind them and her mouth opened in wonder at what she then beheld.

A short man in a strange coverall garment and helmet stalked out petulantly from a doorway. He continued over to where a breeze of air was wafting down from upstairs and began to remove the helmet. There was just enough light from the windows for the girl to observe his face.

What was revealed was to the girl a thing of complete eldritch horror and total otherworldly madness. The creature’s head was dome-shaped and hairless, with a thick spiny ridge reaching from his forehead to the back of his almost non-existent neck. He had three eyes, deep red in colour, and his small, cruel mouth seemed set at a perpetual snarl. His skin was coloured a dark grey.

Overcome by fear, by extreme terror and disbelief at this suddenly bizarre and unexpected situation, the young girl started screaming.

The alien creature whirled around at the sound and, in his haste, upset a store of gymnasium equipment. He was briefly distracted whilst a dozen or so soccer balls bounced around him.

The girl turned and ran, hurrying up the stairway into the darkened central corridor of the school. …

I had just arrived at Parkville Middle School (part of the Baltimore County Public School system) that evening, it being the night following my raid upon the headquarters of Spectral Paranormal. I was at the school to investigate, as a mission for the Kosmikos, reports that a Dojjolye was using it to perform experimentations upon human subjects. I had already ascertained that the alien warrior had left his spaceship concealed in a near by wooded area, and had then made my way to the school post haste.

Parkville Middle School seemed abandoned at first, as I used the transonic turnscrew to open the lock on the main doorway and enter the front hall. I proceeded down the corridor, which was illuminated only by the night-time security lights. Finding nothing, I was just about to begin a scan for alien technology when I saw someone running to-wards me.

A few seconds later, a beautiful young girl in a cheerleader’s uniform flew into my arms.

“Oh, I’m so glad you’re here, whoever you are!” she exclaimed. “There’s something here, in the basement, something terrible!”

“Try to relax, love,” I consoled her. “I am Dr. Rumanos.”

“Doctor who?” she enquired.

“No, Dr. Rumanos,” I corrected her. “I have no idea why people so often make that mistake. But you can indeed call me ‘Doctor’.”

“I’m Dolly Byrd,” she introduced herself.

“You most certainly are,” I said. “Now, this thing you saw, would it happen to be a short, bald-headed alien soldier type?”

“Yes! How did you know?”

“Well, actually, I know all sorts of things, Miss Byrd. You see…”

“Dolly.”

“I know all sorts of things, Dolly. You see, I am here looking for that alien. He is one of a space-going warrior race known as the Dojjolye. Forsooth, the Dojjolye are a clone race, bred only for war, and expertly-trained in all aspects of fighting and battle strategy. They are currently attempting to conduct a series of experiments on the people of Earth, in order to ascertain what level of resistance this planet could offer against them. Actually, the Dojjolye Star Empire has been at war with another alien race, known as the Jegrodis, for centuries. They now feel that this planet is in a good tactical position for them to use as a field command centre, but wanted to see what kind of opposition they might first have to face from its inhabitants. They are using a device called the ‘Adverse Thought Transmitter’ that causes the unfortunate subject to experience the emotions of extreme and uncontrollable fear by preying on whatever inherent phobias he or she may have, and making them appear to be real. Three of the Dojjolye, armed with these horrid devices, were sent to different regions of the planet, and I took care of the other two last week. One was in Scotland; the other was cruelly experimenting on a native tribe deep in the jungles of El Salvador.”

“El what?” she enquired.

“Salvador, Dolly. It does not surprise me that the third would be in the Baltimore area. This region seems to attract violence. By the way, I like your school colours.”

“Thanks,” she said, smiling sweetly at my attempt to calm her fears. “You like the cherry?”

“Very much,” I assured her. “Now, this Dojjolye -- where was he when you saw him last?”

“He was right behind me.”

“What!” I exclaimed.

I was then hit sidewise by the searing heat of the energy weapon upon the Dojjolye’s wrist device. I saw Dolly Byrd faint away in fear as I myself slipped into unconsciousness from the effects of the weapon. The Dojjolye strode into view and looked down upon our prostrate forms.

“Another two test subjects,” he sneered. “The experiment will now continue.” …

I awakened with a terrible headache, and found myself chained to a wall in what appeared to be the school basement. Dolly Byrd was near by, lying upon an examination table to which her hands and feet had been clamped. She was just recovering from her swoon.

I looked around the room. The Dojjolye was there, doing some adjustments on a triangular device about a half-metre long. I recognised it as that horridly cruel apparatus known as the Adverse Thought Transmitter.

Crumpled and discarded against the far wall was the corpse of a man, grey haired and clad in a janitor’s uniform.

“I see it’s too late to do anything to help that poor chap,“ I said.

“Oh my God!” cried Dolly in recognition. “That’s Mr. Fred, the school custodian! He was such a nice old man! He used to always sneak in pizza for the football team after practice…”

“The subject proved to be of an inferior type,” announced the Dojjolye. “This female of the species is much more interesting.”

“Well, I do agree with you there,” I said, “though I am certain that you impotent clones could ever truly appreciate the charms of a young lady,”

“I am Adjunct Major Ttyffe of the Dojjolye Imperial Army,” sneered the alien. “You know of our kind, Earthman?”

(So the Dojjolye had not as yet had a chance to perform a bio-scan on me, and still mistook me for an human. I decided to attempt using this to advantage.)

“Oh, I can assure you the Earth authorities know quite a bit about you, Ttyffe,” I lied. “We are prepared for your invasion, and the United Earth Space Fleet is prepared to blast your kind out of existence.”

“That is impossible,” rejoined the Dojjolye. “No one can stand against us. We are the most perfect military force in the Universe.”

“Nonsense!” I returned. “You have been at war with the Jegrodis for generations, and have not been able to prevail.”

“We will emerge victorious over the octopoid scum of the Jegrodis soon, just as we will prevail against your kind, Earthman,” insisted Ttyffe. “Our experiments will assure that.”

“‘Experiments’?” I mocked. “Since when do Dojjolye value science?”

“Science is only useful as a tool of war,” he replied. “War is the way of the Universe, and all that aids it is useful to us.”

With this, the Dojjolye held his Adverse Thought Transmitter device over the helpless Dolly Byrd and activated it, the effect of its eerie light sending thoughts of fear and phobia into the beautiful young cheerleader’s mind -- thoughts of snakes and of spiders and of falling and of darkness and of being alone. The girl screamed and I saw tears burst from her eyes.

Do you recognise the unspeakable and ungodly horror of this situation, readers? The Dojjolye soldier known as Adjunct Major Ttyffe was tormenting that helpless young girl, causing her to experience the loathsome terror of every dreadful nightmare usually held in the deepest depths of the human mind!

“Stop it!” I shouted. “Stop torturing that poor child, you unspeakable abomination!”

Ttyffe was turned away from me. In his haste to ignore my pleas, he had not noticed that I had managed to free myself from the chains utilising an advanced escapology method. I hurried over and gave him a jujitsu blow, flooring him, and sending the horrid torture device to smash to pieces against the far wall of the basement chamber.

I went over to Dolly and quickly used the transonic turn-screw to release the girl from her bonds.

“Dolly, can you hear me?” I whispered in her ear. “It is the Doctor.”

She nodded her head in recognition, weak but already beginning to recover from her fright with that alacrity that only exists in the very young.

“All will be fine if you just listen to me, love,” I continued. “Listen to me…”

Nevertheless, the Dojjolye known as Adjunct Major Ttyffe, bred and trained for battle of all kinds, had managed to recover quickly and rose up to face me. I knew I only had a matter of second before he would activate his energy gun.

“Ttyffe!” I confronted him. “These people upon which you have been experimenting are nothing. It is I who represent the true warrior race of this planet. As such, I now challenge you to unarmed, hand-to-hand combat. As an honourable warrior of the Dojjolye Space Empire, you cannot refuse!”

“Your challenge is accepted, Earthman,” returned Ttyffe. “But you do know that such a battle can only be to the death?”

“Of course, Dojjolye. I would not have it any other way.”

And with this, after a brief ceremonial bow akin to that performed by noble combatants everywhere, the Dojjolye warrior and I rushed upon each other to clash in a fight, a battle, a violent conflict from which I knew only one of us could possibly emerge alive!!

I was much taller than the Dojjolye, but he was bulky and incredibly hard-muscled. Our fight consisted of wrestling holds and blows and martial arts manoeuvres -- in sooth, it seemed to be a mixture of every type of hand-to-hand, one-on-one, unarmed combat known to civilisation.

Ttyffe would pummel me hard with his fists, and I would respond with a chop to his midsection that sent him briefly staggering. When I attempting to use this moment to gain the advantage, he would come back with a sudden barrage of kicks that necessitated my protecting my head area until I could return a roundhouse punch that temporarily stopped him.

Then, the alien soldier suddenly grasped me around the chest area and attempted to squeeze the life from me. The pain was intense and extreme as I struggled for breath, but I managed to reach out from the anguish and give Ttyffe a blow to the face with my elbow that caused him to relax his hold; to relax it just enough for me to hook my foot around his ankle and send us both crashing to the floor.

I leaped up quickly and stood facing the Dojjolye as an honourable fighter should, when he suddenly activated the energy weapon on his wrist device. Nevertheless, in stead of firing on me at point blank range, as was his intention, the gun backfired, causing a blast that enveloped his entire arm and caused him to cry out in pain.

“You have lost, Dojjolye,” I announced to him. “Your attempt to trick me and use your weapon was not the way of a worthy soldier. Your actions have proven that your people have no right to occupy this planet! Besides, it appears that you are now, well… ‘unarmed’.”

Ttyffe stood up, cradling his now-lifeless left arm in his right hand, and began to make his way to-wards the doorway.

“You have won nothing, Earthman!” he snarled back. “The great Dojjolye Star Empire will yet conquer this world!”

And with this, the alien warrior quickly stalked away. I soon heard his heavy footsteps echoing down the school corridors to-wards the outside.

Dolly Byrd then skipped over and handed me back the transonic turnscrew before then throwing her dear little arms around me. 

“Did I do it right, Doctor?” queried the lovely lass. “Did I push the right button?”

“Miss Dolly Byrd,” I told her. “I can assure you that you indeed push all the right buttons.”

“Umm, so how did you know he would do that?” she asked. “Try to use his gun, I mean?”

“The honour of the Dojjolye Imperial Army has always been that they are a purely military force, dedicated only to war,” I explained. “When I saw that they are now using scientific experiments as part of their strategy, I realised that they had compromised their own principles. Besides, no civilised being, even one dedicated to a life a wartime slaughter, would ever resort to torture, as they have now done! I thus realised that it would only take a little impetus for him to commit such a cowardly act as attempting to use his energy gun in what was supposed to be a barehanded combat. Not being able to do it myself without him noticing, I slipped the transonic to you and whispered what to do to make it cause his weapon to overload -- and you did it quite well, love; quite well indeed!”

With this, the gorgeous young cheerleader smiled and blushed and we shared a quick but especially warm kiss.

We were then interrupted by the sound of an explosion coming from the distance outside.

“What was that, Doctor?!” enquired Dolly.

“Oh, that was just Ttyffe’s ship blowing up,” I explained. “I paid a visit to it earlier, before I got here, and programmed the engine to self-destruct if he tried to engage the lift-off sequence.”

Dolly Byrd glanced then at her mobile telephone, on which she had just received a text message.

“It’s my brother,” she explained. “He says his car broke down and he can’t pick me up. Our parents went to some theatre thing tonight. How am I going to get back home? I can’t walk home in the dark!”

I looked at the girl, young Miss Dolly Byrd. She was exquisitely beautiful, a true nymphet, made for love.

“Worry not, sweetheart,” I assured her. “I shall get you home safely, but I do sincerely hope that you will do me the honour of joining me for dinner first. I know an excellent seafood establishment near here.”

“Yes!” she exclaimed. “I would love it!”

“Fantastic! I suppose you would indeed be in need of a ride, since you apparently do not have a ‘Dolly Llama’.”

“A what?”

“Never mind. Come along then, Dolly, and I shall introduce you to Lizzie.”

“‘Lizzie’?” repeated the girl disappointedly. “Is that your girlfriend?”

“No, nothing like that,” I explained. “Lizzie is my car.” 

“Oh, okay!” Dolly Byrd said, flashing another lovely smile as she took my hand. “That’s good to hear!” …

A few days later, a strange figure walked into the North Baltimore headquarters of the “child advocacy” organisation known as the Maryland Children’s Alliance. He was tall and dressed in a black suit of Nineteenth-Century style. His face showed him to be apparently a man of middle years, his countenance still showing marks of distinction despite being marred with the signs of lifetimes of great profligate wickedness. His hair was long and dark, and his visage was decorated with a thin moustache and goatee. Around him there seemed to be an absolute aura of satanic darkness and acute decadent iniquity.

“May I help you, sir?” said a thin, pale, and obviously-homosexual young man serving as the group’s office receptionist.

“Yes, you most certainly can,” said the man in black, his voice replete with a tone of arrogant authority. “I am here to see the director of this organisation. We need to speak about some changes that will be immediately implemented.”

“I’m sorry, sir,” answered the receptionist. “You’ll need to make an appointment if you want to speak to the Director.”

“I need no appointment,” said the other as stared down at the receptionist with eyes glowing hypnotically. “I am Master Don Wingus, and you will obey me.” … 

***** DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN IN “GARGOYLES JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN”