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:
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.
“Just a few more digits, senpai” said the girl.
“We need to get to cover, Eiko,” I went on. “Come on!”
“All right,” she replied. “Just a couple, more…”
“Eiko!” I said, laying my hand on her shoulder.
“There!” she said. “I have finished the redirect, senpai.”
“Come on then,” I answered. “We need shelter from the blast!”
I grabbed her and ran for one of the metal storage lockers, quickly slamming it shut when we were both inside.
“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.”
Despite her brave show of stoicism, I felt Eiko Toshiba’s young form trembling with fear as I wrapped my arms protectively around her.
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”