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”