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”

PEDEROSIS

The alien planet resembled a rock quarry with strange mists drifting across it, and an odd hum in the sky like an electronic battery. My companion and I walked across the landscape after having exited our Time/Space travel vehicle that looks like an old Roman column. I was clad in my usual finery -- including a frilled poet shirt and purple velvet dinner jacket. My companion was a young girl.

(Why are we here? Why are we not discussing the mission? Is there any message from the Kosmikos concerning our assignment?)

She was a brunette, tall and well-developed for her age, with large pale eyes and a wide, sensuous mouth. She was dressed in a blue and pink striped skirt and matching halter top. Her name was Victoria Wingus.

(What! Is not Victoria Wingus deceased? Surely, she died sacrificing herself to save Earth from an alien invasion, did she not?)

Suddenly, from over the horizon marched an army of tall, silver men, striding to-wards us in their efficient and emotionless way.

“Leknii Replicants!” said I.

I moved forward and raised my hands, releasing a wave of bright orange and blue Algolitish power. My energies hit the Replicants directly, quickly burning them out of existence.

(How do I have this power? Such energies can only be wielded by members of the Absolute Convention of the Watchers. I did indeed have them on loan for some time a while back, but that changed when… Well, never mind.)

Immediately after our first assailants had vanished, another group of creatures approached from over the horizon. They were about the size of an human torso, but that is where all similarity to sane creation ended. For each of these beings was as a mass of tendrils intertwined with electronic material. Their eyes, ebon-black slits showing a gaze of pure hate, could be perceived from deep within their grotesque forms. They hovered about a metre above the ground as they approached us.

“Eliminate!” they threatened in their harshly-enhanced voices. “Eliminate!!”

“Those are Mynverkossian Mutations!” I exclaimed.

(Why are both these races of evil beings, old enemies of mine, here on this same strange planet?)

Then, Victoria Wingus raised her arm and sent forth a bolt of energy from it, an ability she had acquired when she herself had been one of the Replicants of Leknii. The Mutations quickly fell to the ground when the blast hit them, broken into pieces.

(Since when are Mynverkossian Mutations that easily defeated?)

Nevertheless, the greatest horror was yet to come. For at that moment, appearing from over the horizon of that strange world was the figure of a man, forsooth a giant seemingly hundreds of feet tall. He was dressed in a black vestment robe, the hood down. I looked up into his face.

It was the countenance of a man of middle years, still showing marks of distinction despite being blemished with the signs of extreme profligate evil. He had long dark hair and his gigantic visage was decorated with a thin moustache and goatee. Most striking were his eyes, which shone with a bizarre hypnotic glow.

“Don Wingus!!” I shuddered, recognising this being, despite his great increase in size, as my oldest and bitterest enemy -- and as the estranged father of my young companion.

(But is Don Wingus also not dead? Was he not destroyed, utterly annihilated when one of his evil schemes failed? Or did he once again manage to escape? And how and why did he grow to this monstrous size?)

The giant Don Wingus then began to laugh, a sound without mirth, without happiness -- a noise of pure sin and unnameable iniquity beyond all imagining.

Then there were two of him. Then there were three of him.

Then I heard Victoria begin to scream… 

I awoke and sat up in bed, drenched in sweat. The room was dark except for an hint of moonlight shining through the draperies of a near by window.

“Are you all right, Daniel?” said a sweet female voice from beside me.

“No worries, Millie,” I assured her. “It was only a dream.”

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 a warm day, with intermittent clouds, as I drove my specially-modified, canary-coloured Edwardian Roadster -- affectionately known as “Lizzie” -- into the downtown area of Towson, Maryland. The Kosmikos had informed me that this area of Baltimore County was to be the site of my next mission, but had not given any further information. Apparently, the details of the matter were too dangerous to be broadcast on even the encrypted subspace transmission on which I had received the assignment.

In the passenger’s seat was my friend the Hollywood actress Millie Drake, who was visiting whilst awaiting news concerning a major film role for which she had recently auditioned. The beautiful tween starlet -- petite and perfect with luxurious chestnut hair, wondrous violet eyes, and luscious pink lips -- was wearing a short, low-cut dress navy blue in colour.

“So where are we going, Daniel?” enquired Millie. “This is so exciting!”

“Well, it actually could be quite dangerous, love,” I informed her. “I do hope you know and understand that.”

“Oh, I’m sure I’ll be safe with you,” she purred.

“Well, if you insist,” I acquiesced. “Nevertheless, even I am not certain what exactly we will be facing, so be prepared, eh?”

Then, as if on cue, something horrible came into view. It flew up from behind the buildings lining the street, its huge shadow blocking out the sun.

“Oh my God!” exclaimed Millie. “Daniel, what is that?”

I looked up at the thing and found it difficult to believe the evidence of my own senses. It was like a gigantic flying reptile, coloured slate-grey, and rather like an incredibly-oversized airborne crocodile with a wingspan about 200 feet wide. It soared high above the town and opened its mouth with a raucous squawking sound that echoed around the area.

“No, it could not be!” I exclaimed. “That is Nodar!!”

As I attempted to drive Lizzie to somewhere with a degree of safety, the creature started to flap its wings vigorously, causing wind gusts equal to hurricane proportions. The windows of the near by buildings began to shatter and the pedestrians on the sidewalk screamed in horror and ran for cover. Numerous automobiles went out of control and began to crash into the sides of the local shopping complexes.

And then, before I could even consider what to do to remedy the situation, another monstrosity came into view -- albeit one of a decidedly more colourful appearance, and in its way even beautiful. It was flying in from the other direction and looked liked nothing other than a gigantic butterfly, red and yellow in hue. It perched atop the roof of the Towson Town Centre mall and began to spray a type of silken webbing around the building.

“It is Monarka!” said I.

“You know what these monsters are, Daniel?” asked the girl, nervous with fright. “You know their names?”

We had by now taken shelter behind the new cinema complex and alighted from the car.

“Yes, I do, Millie,” I answered. “But they are not something I had thought to ever see here and now! They are monsters from the first period of Earth’s formation, before even the dinosaurs. In fact, before anything you would recognise as natural life existed on this planet. You see, the radiation of Earth’s creation caused the coming into being of numerous gigantic monsters, themselves distorted forms of what would later exist on the planet -- reptiles, insects, mammals, and so forth. They reigned alone on this world for countless ages, well-nigh immortal, before finally going into hibernation deep within the planet. They are only dimly remembered in obscure legends, like of what the ancient Greeks called the “Titans”. Perhaps the Japanese mythology knows them best, where they are known as ‘KAIJU’.”

“So you mean somebody has woken them up?” queried Millie.

“Apparently. Now we just need to find out who would do that and why!”

But the answer to this, at least in part, was to come sooner than I had expected. For at that moment, the large video screen over the Towson Circle, which is usually utilised for advertising and local news purposes, suddenly began broadcasting a message. It was the image of a person wearing an ‘Anonymous’ mask and a black jacket, though I could tell from her shoulders and her black-haired wig that she was a woman. Her voice was electronically disguised as she spoke the following:

“We are EARTHCLEANSE, and you are witnessing the beginning of the end of your civilisation. We will cleanse the Earth and bring it back to the pristine glory of its beginning. The human race will be annihilated except for our chosen ones.”

“‘Earthcleanse’?” I repeated. “Sounds like environmentalism gone mad! I will deal with these eco-terrorist types, Millie, and…”

A wave of horror then passed through me as I realised that Millie Drake was gone. Sometime during the brief moments that I had looked away from her, she had vanished. There had been no time for her to have sought shelter. The only explanation is that she had been abducted -- expertly snatched by someone adept at such atrocities.

“Doctor Daniel Rumanos,” suddenly addressed the voice of the person on the screen. “We have taken your young companion. She will not be harmed as long as you do not interfere. Be warned, however, if you attempt any action against our crusade, the child will immediately be executed!

“But there is more,” continued the voice, now once again addressing all and sundry. “Much more. For we have waited until now to present to you the Lord of All Monsters, the very being that will ensure our victory and the cleansing of this planet!”

And with this, there suddenly descended from high in the sky a terror beyond all that had been seen up until now. It was hundreds of feet high and its feet were two enormous claws. It flew down on membranous bat-like wings. It was completely black in colour and it had three horrid reptilian heads that were atop long, snakelike necks that writhed in a constant hideous motion. The thing landed in the middle of Towson Circle with force that sent the concrete cracking in all directions.

“Citizens,” proclaimed the person on the screen, “welcome your Armageddon; welcome the Bringer of Storms; welcome… KING WINGOSUS!!!” 

The gigantic eldritch terror known as King Wingosus hissed from its three horrid heads. The resultant exhalations were a poisonous gas that began to affect the people who had not yet managed to flee the area. Some were only sickened. Others were rendered unconscious. Some of them, especially the elderly and the weak, died as a result of inhaling the fumes of the monster’s breath.

The other two monsters, Nodar and Monarka, had ceased their activities and seemed to bow down in obeisance to the three-headed horror.

Fortunately, my Algolitish physique gave me immunity to the noxious exhalations of Wingosus. I walked over to Lizzie, attempting to appear fearful and dejected in case I was being observed by members of Earthcleanse. I did not want to do anything that would cause them to fulfil their threat against Millie Drake, but I had to take some action against the horrors they were bringing upon the world.

“There is only one creature in all of existence that can deal with King Wingosus,” I said to myself. “PEDEROSIS!”

I took the transonic turnscrew -- an highly-advanced scientific instrument resembling a writing pen -- from the pocket of my jacket, and aimed it to-wards my car radio. I was programming it to emit a signal, a call that could only be heard by one being. 

I looked at the small video screen upon Lizzie‘s dashboard. It showed a scene far out at sea. The waters began to become tumultuous, as if some gigantic thing were rising from the depths. From this, I knew that my signal had been received. …

Near by, at the top level of a tall apartment building, young Millie Drake was being held captive in a sparsely-furnished but well air-conditioned room. Her kidnappers were three, one the masked woman who had appeared on the large video screen, the others were big, heavy-set men of a rather plebeian type, dressed in black jeans and t-shirts emblazoned with the logos of trashy “heavy metal” bands. They both eyed the girl lustfully as she sat huddled upon a sofa, but made no move to molest her.

“Remember, both of you,” said the woman, “do not harm that child. We must give Rumanos no excuse to take action against us.”

“Yes, Madame Temacula,” said the henchmen in unified conformity.

“But, at the first sign of covert activity from him -- send her to her death!!” …

Outside, Wingosus had continued to unleash his poisonous fumes from the centre of Towson Circle. The area was by now mostly evacuated, and there were some signs of a military presence starting to form in response to the situation. I knew, however, that their efforts would be to no avail. No weapon on Earth could be effective against these ancient monstrosities. Nothing could be, except…

Then, there was a sound. A noise as of a long, earthshaking roar of challenge. Standing at the opposite end of the street from Wingosus was a monster thirty storeys tall and green of colour. A flash as of fire came from his breath. He was like a gigantic, thickly-muscled, bipedal lizard with row of spikes down his back and tail. His eyes, large but subtly slanted, bespoke of intelligence and determination.

“Pederosis,” said I.

The challenge made, these two monsters, Pederosis and King Wingosus, their heads seemingly as high as the very sky, began to rush to-wards each other. It would truly be a clash of Titans, a battle of giants -- a fight from which only one of these combatants could possibly emerge intact! …

Inside the headquarters of Earthcleanse, the masked woman was outraged.

“What has he done?!” she shrieked. “Only Rumanos could have called that thing! That is Pederosis, the very monster of which the Master warned us! He said it was the only thing that could possibly stand against King Wingosus!”

“I knew Daniel would find a way,” said Millie Drake quietly as she continued to huddle upon the sofa, though somehow less frightened than before. “I knew he would.”

“Why you insolent little brat!” screamed the woman, then turning to address her associates. “Kill that accursed child! Kill her now!!”

“Yes, Madame Temacula,” said both henchmen in unison.

One of the men opened the large window of the top-floor flat, whilst the other reached down and picked up Millie from the sofa. He leered wickedly, enjoying the touch of her warm young body as he carried her over. He enjoyed her struggles, her cries, her fear. He even enjoyed a feeling of climax as he released her, throwing her directly out of that window to-wards the hard pavement below.

Screaming in terror, Millie Drake plummeted from the height of the building!

Do you perceive the horror, the extreme demoniacal terror of this situation my friends? Not only was the town -- and possibly soon the entire Earth -- being besieged by gigantic monsters, but now the supposed environmentalist extremist organisation known as “Earthcleanse” was attempting to murder that young girl, Miss Millie Drake, just in order to take revenge on me for having opposed their nefarious plots!

The poor wee lass fell screaming to-wards the unforgiving concrete. Then, just before she would have reached it and perished horribly, a canary-coloured blur appeared just below her. It was my trusty roadster, Lizzie, and I drove the car there in haste, arriving just in time for Millie to land safely and softly in the passenger’s seat.

“Specially-modified shock-absorbent seats,” I explained. “I invented the technology for it myself. Are you all right, love?”

“I… I’m fine!” answered Millie in amazement. “It just feels so good to be back with you! Those horrible people who took me away -- who are they really?”

“They are not real environmentalists, of course,” I explained as I drove the car to a place of comparative safety. “When they introduced the monster, King Wingosus, they kind of gave it away. You see, Wingosus is not one of the ancient Earth monsters that I told you about. No, it is something else entirely. In actuality, Wingosus is an alien hybrid horror formed in Outer Space during the time of the Galactic Wars! What is more, he was created by my old archenemy, one who even had the unholy arrogance to name the monster after himself -- the renegade Algolite known as Master Don Wingus!”

“Oh my God!” exclaimed the damsel. “You mean those people work for that disgusting Don Wingus?!”

“Yes, although Wingus himself is still missing and presumed dead, his satanic disciples live on and act to continue his evil plans.”

“The woman is called ‘Madame Temacula’,” Millie informed me.

“‘Temacula’?” I repeated. “Why, that is yet another derivative of ‘Wingus’! Both are related to terms signifying the intoxication of wine. But of course! Now I have no doubt that this ‘Earthcleanse’ is actually only a front for his occult terrorist organisation -- Spectral Paranormal!!”

I had by now parked the car behind the Towson Town Centre mall, and from this vantage point we could view the battle of the monsters. Wingosus and Pederosis continued to exchange blows, with Wingosus continuously biting his opponent with the fang-filled mouths of all three horrid heads, in between flying upwards on its membranous wings and descending quickly to grasp at Pederosis with the horrid claws of its feet.

Nevertheless, Pederosis more than held his own, pummelling his foe with karate-type blows and lashing his long, spiked tail at the horrible Wingosus, At times, he would unleash a blast of his radioactive fire-breath at the unearthly terror, causing the thing to retreat several paces before it could recover and continue the battle. 

Amongst it all could be heard the challenging roar of the mighty Pederosis and the hideous answering hisses of the demoniacal creature known as King Wingosus!

“So that giant lizard is a good monster then?” enquired Millie from our observation point. “Can he really defeat that Wingosus thing?”

“If anyone can defeat Wingosus, it would be Pederosis!” I rejoined. “You see, Pederosis was the greatest and most powerful of the ancient monsters; the Titans or Kaiju! He gained his extra powers by feeding on the radiations from the early days of the formation of planet Earth! He is the original ‘alpha predator’ -- the most dominant monster in all of Earth’s history!”

“So how did you get him here, really?”

“I summoned him by utilising a signal especially programmed for only this type of emergency! Pederosis usually sleeps in profound hibernation in the deepest chasms of the ocean, but he can be called up in most urgent times -- by one who knows!”

“Daniel, if these monsters and things like them exist,” queried the girl, “how is it that most people never hear of them?”

“Do you remember the Zedgonnim gambit with the Chesapeake Bay Monster; or the Bigfoot in the Baltimore Metro?”

I could tell by the puzzled look on the girl’s face that she had no idea what I was talking about.

“You see?” I continued. “The human race seems to have an infinite capacity to forget things that would mess up their complacent worldview. They make excuses; they cover it up without even really realising what they are doing.”

“But this! It’s so huge! All these monsters! When all this is hopefully over, it couldn’t just be explained away, could it?”

“We shall see, sweetheart,” I told her “We shall see.”

It was then that something terrible happened. The other two monsters, Nodar and Monarka, had up until now taken no part in the conflict -- but now that suddenly changed. For it was then that Nodar, that flying reptilian horror, took to the sky and flew up behind Pederosis, attacking him from behind!

“It is just a thing of nature,” I explained. “Nodar currently acknowledges King Wingosus as his alpha, and feels compelled to aid it against Pederosis!”

Indeed, and this caused just enough distraction that Wingosus was able to increase its own attacks on the heroic giant lizard.

“Oh my God!” exclaimed Millie. “Daniel, it’s killing him! Look! Pederosis is dying!”

Bleeding and torn by the continued attacks of his now-two opponents, Pederosis began to fall down in defeat…

Can you see the terror in this, my friends? Pederosis, the last hope of Earth against the monstrous horror of King Wingosus, was beaten -- seemingly-defeated by the flying monster Nodar now having taken the side of the alien horror known as King Wingosus!!

It was then that something wondrous happened; in sooth something exceedingly delightful and amazing. For it was then that Monarka, the giant butterfly, suddenly flew up and began to spin her silken web-like substance around Wingosus! The three-headed monster was quickly covered by the silk, the substance hindering its movements.

“She is helping him!” I exclaimed. “Monarka is coming to the aid of Pederosis!”

“‘She’?” asked Millie.

“Yes, ‘she’ indeed,” I assured her, “and there is nothing better than having a beautiful lady by one’s side.”

With this, I put my arm around the lovely young girl, and she snuggled close to me as we continued the watch the battle of the monsters.

This interlude was enough time for Pederosis to begin to recover, and indeed the mighty monster used the moments well. He closed his eyes and seemed to concentrate, calling upon previously-unseen powers. His entire enormous body began to glow with a radioactive charge, a charge that healed and renewed him, and soon Pederosis was a glowing giant as of electric fire!

Pederosis then charged to-wards King Wingosus, bodily slamming the alien horror and burning it with the radioactive flame. Soon Wingosus was only a burnt, dying conflagration of matter, and its remains went soaring through the air.

The gigantic, burning cinders that were once King Wingosus wafted to-wards the buildings in which were the headquarters of the so-called “Earthcleanse”. The masked woman known as Madame Temacula watched in abject shock as the fire approached. Her two male henchmen had gone to the restroom to “relieve” themselves -- in actuality, the two redneck degenerates had gone to use each other’s bodies as surrogates for the sexual lust they had built up from having been in the presence of young Miss Drake!

The rest of the apartments had been evacuated. Madame Temacula was alone and there was no time to escape. All of the emergency alarms of the building were sounding in constant repetition.

“Master, please help!” she exclaimed, activating an hidden view-screen upon the wall. “King Wingosus has been destroyed, and… !”

The face of a man appeared on the screen. He was apparently of middle years, his countenance still showing signs of distinction despite being marked with the results of lifetimes of extreme profligate evil. His hair was long and dark, and a thin moustache and goatee decorated his visage. Most of all, his eyes glowed with a deeply-hypnotic effulgence.

“You have failed me, Temacula,” he said, his voice darksome and dripping with ungodly arrogance. “You have failed me, and the punishment for that is death.”

“No, Master Wingus!” she pleaded. “Please…”

“No excuses, you old bitch,” continued the villain. “I raised you up from being just a deformed hillbilly strumpet from the hills of West Virginia. I educated you and gave you the most supreme honour of being my servant, but now you have failed me and must perish!”

Madame Temecula then ripped off her mask to reveal a face of madness, of obscene inbred horror -- only one fully-formed eye, no nose, and a gaping, lipless mouth filled with only four very large, brown teeth.

Then the grotesque woman screamed one final shriek of unholy terror before the building went up in flames. …

Outside, the monsters Nodar and Monarka both bowed down before Pederosis, the latter (having now returned to his regular appearance) then unleashing a tremendous roar of triumph.

“Yes!” I exclaimed with delight. “Bow down all monsters, for PEDEROSIS is now Lord and King of the Kaiju!”

“Long live the King,” added Millie with a wonderful smile.

And with this, Nodar and Monarka flew away to find a way to go back into hibernation, and the mighty Pederosis stalked off into the distance, to return to his aeons-long sleep deep beneath the sea. …

A few minutes later, Millie and I sat in a near by parking lot, enjoying a boxed lunch of corned beef sandwiches and a big thermos of coffee that I had kept in Lizzie’s glove-box. A local television news broadcast was now being shown on the large Towson Circle video screen, which had somehow survived the carnage.

“Authorities are explaining the disturbance earlier today in the Towson area as an accident caused by a construction crew,” stated the rather dour African-American man, a well-known local newsreader. “It is all part of proposed plans to renovate and update the shopping complexes of that district, and…”

“You see what I mean?” I turned to the girl. “They have found a way to explain it all away already!”

Millie was not really paying attention. The little tweenage beauty was reading a text message that she had just received on her mobile telephone.

“Oh my God!” she exclaimed.

“What is it now, love?” I asked with some concern.

“I’ve been chosen for the part in that film!” she beamed. “It starts shooting tomorrow, in Las Vegas!”

“Well, congratulations, Millie!”

“Awww, but it means I’ll have to go! I don’t want to leave you, Daniel! But to get there, I need to get to the airport right away and catch a flight to Vegas!”

“Nonsense,” I told her. “I can get you to Las Vegas in Lizzie faster than any aeroplane.”

“Really?” she said with a lovely and welcoming smile. “All right!”

“Come along then, Millie, my little ‘waifu’,” I teased.

“Another Japanese word?” she giggled. “What does it mean?”

“I shall explain later, love,” I assured her. “And I think you will like it!”

And with this, after a quick kiss from the beautiful Millie Drake, I engaged my car’s specially-modified engines and we sped off to-wards the west.

***** DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN IN “THE CHEERLEADER EXPERIMENT”

DAUGHTERS

The image flickered and faded and then was strong. The transmission was shaky, but still incredibly-impressive considering the vast stretches of Space and Time over which it was broadcasting. It was clear and then snowy and then dark and blurred. Then, finally, it became and remained clear.

What the transmission showed was a man’s face. It was the countenance of a man seemingly of middle years, still quite handsome despite having upon it the marks of extreme profligate evil beyond all mortal imagining. He had long, dark hair, and his face was decorated with a thin moustache and goatee. Nevertheless, the most striking thing about the face of this man were his eyes.

His eyes were pale and shone with an hypnotic, phantasmally mesmeric glow.

“This transmission is from Controller to Leader Three,” he spoke, his voice dripping with an arrogant tone of command. “Controller to Leader Three, do you copy?”

The man’s eyes narrowed a moment, then again opened fully, his mesmerising gaze unabated.

“Ah, there you are,” he continued. “Your receiver is not as strong as it should be, but I shall be sending you the upgrade, along with several others. All will be improved, and this time you shall not be stopped. Everything will proceed as planned.”

“Yes, Controller,” answered an emotionless voice from the other side of the transmission. “This is Leader of the Third Collective. We are approaching the planet known as Earth, and instruments are boosting for conversion of its human population. All is proceeding according to expected parameters.”

“Excellent,” said the man. “Excellent indeed. I do swear to you, and to all the Collectives of your kind, that I will aid in bringing about the conversion of the human race. They shall be as you are.”

“And the other Algolite, the one who has become our mutual enemy?” questioned the emotionless voice.

“He will be destroyed. Completely and utterly annihilated. He shall no longer interfere in our plans. I have isolated his greatest weakness, and have prepared to exploit it in a way that he will not be prepared to face. Our enemy, the meddler known as Doctor Daniel Rumanos, shall at long last be destroyed!”

“Received and understood, Controller Wingus. As per agreement, Earth will be left as your domain when its people have become as we are and we have gone onward to convert the humanoid populations of other planets.”

“Most excellent, Leader Three,” announced Don Wingus, a chuckle of absolute malicious iniquity now entering his voice. “With my guidance, under the temporary command you have granted, the Replicants of Leknii shall add all the knowledge and resources of the people of Earth to your Collectives. You shall assimilate them, as you shall eventually assimilate all suitable humanoids!”

It was then that the other transmission achieved clarity. What it showed was a vast room filled with tall, silver beings; beings shaped like men but more machine than organic, more of metal than of flesh. The true number of them was unseen, but there were at least thousands.

Together, these cybernetic organisms, the horrid Leknii Replicants, all raised their emotionless voices in a unified declaration of loyalty to-wards the evil being who had become their collaborator, their co-conspirator, their Controller. They all indeed raised their horrible, soulless voices and proclaimed:

“BY YOUR COMMAND.” … 

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 as “magic” 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 group called themselves “The Brotherhood of Objectivists”. That such an organisation, obviously of rather extremist right-wing, crypto-fascists leanings, would suddenly be interested in so supporting a purely scientific enquiry seemed unlikely in the extreme. When I found out that, in reality, little was actually known about this so-called Brotherhood, my curiosity was further intrigued.

And so it transpired that I went, one evening, to investigate the area underneath Oak Lawn Cemetery, located as it is between Eastern Avenue and German Hill Road in the southeast part of the County. It is on this site that the Brotherhood of Objectivists had claimed, through a press release sent to all local news media, to have found evidence of ancient meteoritic activity that they believed gave what amounted to proof of extraterrestrial visitations to Earth. Some more tabloid-style accounts of the group’s claims had even said that they had uncovered a “crashed spaceship” along with the bodies of its alien occupants.

Ignoring the signs declaring “KEEP OUT. NO ADMITTANCE FOR UNAUTHORIZED PERSONS.”, I entered the eldritch system of tunnels that exists beneath that area of suburban Baltimore. I was clad in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt and purple velvet dinner jacket. I started to utilise my small electric torch for illumination, but soon realised that it was not at all necessary due to the phosphorescence found in they old caves of this region.

Using the transonic turnscrew (a scientifically-advanced device actually resembling a writing pen), I began to scan for any signs of alien technology as I progressed through the tunnels. To my surprise, it gave a quick and decisive reading as to what exactly I was about to encounter. Well, more or less.

“Leknii tech,” said I, unable to suppress a shudder as I read the results of the scan. “Replicants.”

As if on cue, a tall silver cyborg suddenly strode into the area before me. It raised its arm to-wards me, an arm I knew to be equipped with a potentially-lethal energy weapon.

Fortunately, my scan had already prepared me for this circumstance, and I quickly raised the transonic towards the Replicant, aiming it directly to-wards their one vital spot -- the respiratory grating in their chest area.

I activated the device to scramble the systems of the cybernetic man. It shuddered and shook as its power began to deactivate, then it suddenly disintegrated into countless microscopic shards; a safety measure of the Leknii Replicants in order to prevent cannibalising of their technology.

I knew that this Replicant would not have been alone, and that my destroying it would have caused an immediate upgrade to the systems of its comrades, making the setting I had used on the transonic turnscrew useless for disabling any more of them. Then, before I could even begin to ready myself for further encounters with the horrid alien cyborgs, I saw a shadow -- a silhouette approaching from down the dimly illuminated passageway of the tunnel before me. I then realised it was something completely unexpected, something other than the silver terror I was expecting, something in sooth far more pleasant -- but also having the potential to be infinitely more dangerous.

In other words, it was a girl.

She was a tall brunette, full-breasted and fourteen, with pale eyes and a wide, sensuous mouth, and dressed in a short skirt and halter top, both of a blue and pink striped pattern. She was not a great beauty, but there was indeed something attractively compelling about her -- something alluring and elusively familiar.

“Hello,” I said. “I am Dr. Daniel Rumanos, just here on a scientific enquiry. I must say I am quite surprised to see you here, Miss… ?”

“I do not know how I got here,” she said. “I just kind of woke up here, I guess. I do not remember much, as if I lost my memory. Amnesia or something. I can remember my name and a few other things. My name is Victoria -- Victoria Wingus.”

“’Wingus’?” said I, involuntarily shrinking back a bit in horror, “Victoria is a very nice name. Indeed, some very gracious ladies have been named ‘Victoria’. But your surname -- did you say ‘Wingus’?”

“Yes, that is my name,” she reiterated. “Miss Victoria Wingus.”

“If you do not mind my asking,” I countered, “who were your parents?”

“I… I do not remember anything about my mother,” she said. “But my father… Yes, I do remember his name now. Wait… I think I remember. Yes, that is it. I am the daughter of Don Wingus.”

DON WINGUS! The most evil being in all of existence!! Could this poor young girl, lost and alone and seemingly so vulnerable, really be his daughter?! I wondered…

“Did you really just say that Don Wingus was your father?” I enquired.

“Yes, I do remember his name, somehow,” she said. “But I do not know anything about him. I cannot even remember what he looked like. Do you, or… did you know him?”

“Oh, we have encountered each other on occasion,” I said.

“Really?” she queried, seemingly in complete innocence. “Can you tell me anything about him, about my family, about… me?”

“Victoria was indeed the middle name of Don Wingus’s daughter,” said I, revealing as little as possible to the strange girl, “but she died long ago.”

I took the transonic turnscrew from my pocket and scanned her.

“According to this,” I announced. “Your DNA is human, or mostly so. There is something else that is not reading correctly, but no sign of the Algolitish heritage you would have if Don Wingus were your father. Hmmm. You do indeed have a lot of Russian or Ukrainian blood. Interesting indeed. The woman he had the child with was indeed of Eastern European extraction…”

My thoughts were then suddenly cut short by the sound of marching feet; feet of metallic manufacture, many of them, echoing down the tunnel.

“More Replicants!” I ejaculated. “My, it indeed sounds like a veritable army. Run!”

With this, I took the girl’s hand and we hurried down the passageway. She followed my lead with no resistance, speaking no protest as we made our way farther into the tunnels.

“We cannot lose them with any definiteness,” I said. “The tunnels are far too much of a maze. Nevertheless, we should be able to slow them down some.”

With this, we stopped and I turned around to-wards our pursuers. We had by now come to a part of the tunnels where a small passage overlooked a large cavernous area. Below us, I saw the Leknii Replicants as they came into view.

“By the Triple Star!” I swore. “There are hundreds of them -- perhaps thousands! It is an entire Collective!”

I quickly again took the transonic from my pocket and turned it to-wards the outcropping of rock that bordered between the tunnel and the cavernous area. I activated the device to cause a small cave-in, just enough to fill the passage and block it as a means of egress.

“Will that keep them out?” enquired Victoria.

“Not for long,” I replied, “but this should bung them up a bit more.”

I them set the transonic turnscrew to a different function and aimed it to-wards the rocks blocking the passage. There was a slight sizzling sound that came immediately from them.

“Rock and Roll!” said I.

“What do you mean?” asked the young girl.

“You see,” I explained, “there is a lot of moisture in these caves. It is easy enough for me to use it as a conductor and thereby electrify this makeshift doorway. That should hinder them for a few moments a least. Come along, love!”

We journeyed along a bit farther down the passageway before stopping a moment.

“Those things pursuing us are known as Leknii Replicants,” I informed the girl. “They are originally from a planet in the distant Galaxy 8675309. Generations ago, their world began to be uninhabitable due to climate change caused by industrial pollution. The Leknii, originally an humanoid race, began to replace their organic components with cybernetic parts, eventually becoming more machine than man. They are now emotionless and unfeeling, and roam the reaches of Outer Space in their efficient ships, looking for others whom they can convert into their own kind. They have found the people of Earth to be suitable for assimilation. I must stop them before they continue their plan to convert this planet’s population! I have not seen evidence of one of their ships here, but it likely was taken apart by them and its parts reused for upgrades, as they often do following a long Space voyage.”

“Doctor, may I ask you something?” queried the mysterious girl known as Victoria Wingus.

“Yes, of course,” I assured her.

“You called me ‘love’ before,” she said, a look of confused wonder entering her heretofore rather blank expression. “What does that mean?”

“Well, it is an expression,” I tried to explain. “A term of affection, really.”

“Affection?” she repeated. “Love. Affection.”

“Yes, well, you see… Emotions, you know. Things that all truly-sentient beings feel for each other. Friendship. Love. Romance…”

“Romance?” she repeated. “Romance. Rumanos… Romance.”

“Yes, well, the humans say it has something to do with birds and bees as well, but I think they make it far too complicated. It is about desire. You see, biologically speaking, you are a girl and I am a man and there is something we can do together that causes great pleasure.”

“Desire?” she repeated. “Pleasure?”

“Yes, it is very pleasurable, you see,” I explained. “Leading to a climax of physical and mental ecstasy. It is called by many names, but most blatantly, it is…”

We were then interrupted by the sound of something scurrying across the floor of the cave. I turned quickly to face whatever it was, at the same time pulling the girl protectively into my arms.

Approaching us, pouring in from the numerous small crevices and openings around the walls of the tunnel, were a plethora of oval-shaped, metallic creatures rather like silver rodents. Having found their way to us blocked, the Leknii had sent their small service-robots in stead -- horrid things that I knew to be equipped with potentially-lethal poisonous stings!

“Oh no,“ said I. “Repli-Rats!”

These creatures, the Leknii service robots that have become known as Repli-Rats, and which zero in on brainwaves, swarmed around us. I knew I had to do something to disable them before any of the horrible little monsters could get close enough to jump and attach itself to either of our throats -- and then release its deadly poison into our bloodstreams!

I held up the transonic turnscrew to-wards them and activated it.

“I have been waiting to utilise this setting,” said I. “It will only work this once before the Leknii can automatically upgrade, but…”

A brief hum came from the transonic and, in sudden response to it, the roomful of Repli-Rats ceased to face us and in stead began to turn on each other. They leaped upwards and crashed together, unleashing their poison upon the metallic hides of their comrades.

“I have switched their polarisation,” I explained. “They now see each other as targets!”

Quickly, the horrid Repli-Rats began to fall down deactivated, their poison having corroded each other’s metallic systems. Then they all suddenly disintegrated into countless tiny shards.

“Pest control, indeed,” said I.

There was then the sound of a tremendous explosion echoing down the tunnels. It was immediately followed by the now-familiar but still terrifying sound of the marching feet of the Replicant army.

“Spires of Daemonia!” I swore. “They have broken through the rockslide already! In order to have so quickly deactivated the electrical charge I had set up, they must have some external control system here. But what could it be? I wonder…”  

“Doctor?” suddenly spoke Victoria. “Did you really know my father?”

“Yes, I must admit that I did.”

“Did you have… affection for him?”

“Never in the way I said before, about you,“ I tried to make clear. “He was my best friend once. A very long time ago. Actually, we were at school together. The venerable old Academy of the Watchers on our home planet. We grew up there and indeed learned so much together. We were truly like brothers. We were inseparable, it seemed, until…”

I hesitated.

“What happened?” Victoria queried.

“Well, things change after a while,” I explained. “Sometimes old friends find different paths, different destinies. At times, I suppose their differences drive them apart. They realise they are just too different from each other. Though really, I do think perhaps sometimes they actually realise that they are just too similar, too much the same…”

“But you have more affection for me?” she continued.

A thought then entered my mind. Forsooth, a wonderfully romantic thought. It was a thought of adventuring through the Universe with the daughter of Don Wingus by my side. With the child of my oldest and most bitter enemy as my friend and companion, travelling forever together and never looking back. That would be true freedom, freedom from the pain and harsh memories of an existence that had extended far too long. Freedom, indeed.

“Well, it is in a different way, you see, love,” I said in answer to her question. “As I started to say before, it is biologically an imperative. It is about attraction, chivalry, sexuality, and… Look, we have not the time to discuss this at the moment. The Replicants are making their way up the tunnel and…”

I peered behind us and beheld that the Leknii were indeed approaching. They entire army of them was marching directly to-wards us and within moments would be within range to fire their weapons.

“Victoria,” I said, turning back to her, “we need to run and find shelter until I can figure out a way to…”

I stopped short when I saw what was happening. The girl’s face was emotionless as she raised her right arm to-wards me. A sudden blast of energy shot forth from it, barely missing me. It burned a hole in the rock at my feet.

“You are an enemy of the Leknii Collectives,” she intoned. “Doctor Daniel Rumanos, your existence must be deleted. I have been programmed for your doom.”

“Oh my word!” I exclaimed as it suddenly all become far too obvious. “Victoria Wingus -- you are a Leknii Replicant!”

Do you behold the unnameable horror in this revelation, my dear readers? That young girl, Victoria Wingus, who claimed to be the daughter of my own archenemy, was actually a Replicant, a cybernetic organism that had been programmed to destroy me!

“I must kill you, Doctor,” said Victoria. “It is my programming and I must obey.”

“Don Wingus must have given a sample of his late daughter’s DNA to the Leknii,” I said. “I thought she was safely buried, but that would not hinder the old grave-robber, hmmm? He aided them in upgrading their technology so that you could be created. Of course, Algolite DNA cannot be converted, so that part of you was left out. He most likely did it back when he had the stolen powers of the Keepership of Mu at his disposal. He reached through Time and Space to connect with their subspace transmissions and negotiate with them. Amazing! As for that ‘Brotherhood of Objectivists’, it is just a front for Spectral Paranormal, the horrendous occult terrorist organisation founded by Don Wingus himself, hmmm? Its announcement of finding evidence of aliens underneath the old cemetery was just a lure to bring me here to my destruction. They knew that I would have to investigate such a claim. You were further bait to fascinate me and distract me from fighting the Leknii. But what an incredible upgrade of their tech you are! You appear to be so much more organic than the usual Replicants, but you are connected to the Collective.”

“They are in my head,” she said. “I hear them speaking, thousand of voices all as one. Nothing is individual. All must be the same. I hear… no, there is no I. We are the Collective. There are no individuals. There is no emotion, no feeling, no affection. There is no… love. No, how can that be? Doctor, how can that be? The voices say there is no love, but I feel it. I feel affection. I feel desire. I know that I feel it. I feel affection. I feel it… for you.”

The army of Replicants was advancing up the tunnel to-wards our location. It was a matter of mere moments before they would be there -- an overwhelming multitude of cybernetic strength that intended to do away with me, before then going on to convert the human race into their own soulless, unfeeling, emotionless kind.

It was then that something happened; something unexpected; something sad and tragic and heart-rending -- but at the same time something truly wondrous.

It was then that Victoria Wingus raised the palm of her hand and laid her cheek against it, tilting her head just like any young girl would whilst pondering, thinking of something that amused or intrigued or interested her.

“Victoria…" I said, in realisation of her intention, “Please, do not do that. If your human emotions have broken through the Leknii programming, then there is hope for you. We can find another way.”

I knew, of course, that the only other way to now defeat the Leknii invasion was to overload my transonic device and cause an explosion that would destroy the Replicants -- and likely me with them. But somehow, I knew I wanted to get Victoria Wingus to safety first. Without the connection to the Replicant Collective, would there be hope for her? Hope to live as a normal human being? I felt she at least deserved that chance.

None the less, it was not to be.

“Goodbye, my Doctor,” she said simply, as a sad and strangely-wistful smile touched her lips. “Goodbye… Love.”

With this, she unleashed the energy bolt into her head and it quickly passed through her. In a moment, her entire body disintegrated into countless microscopic shards.

The army of Replicants approaching down the passage suddenly halted and, in an instant, also disintegrated.

All was now silent. It was as if the threat of the Leknii invasion -- and the strange girl who called herself Victoria Wingus -- had never really existed. I was alone.

“She was connected to them,” I said to myself. “She was the secret power source. A kind of relay or sub-controller. She sacrificed herself to cause a chain reaction that reached the entire Collective.”

As I made my way out of that bizarre system of underground tunnels there in southeast Baltimore County, the threat of the Replicants now abated, I pondered several things.

I thought of the Leknii Replicants. They were a greater threat than I had ever before realised -- a threat to Earth, and to any other place in all the galaxies where humanoid life forms are found. There would be more of them, and I would need to relay this information to the Kosmikos as soon as possible.

I wondered about Don Wingus, the mastermind of evil who had this day almost succeeded in luring me to my death. Was he still alive? It seemed unlikely, given what I had seen in my last encounter with him. Nevertheless, the group known as Spectral Paranormal, his unspeakably-iniquitous cult and terrorist establishment, survived. I knew I would be dealing with them again soon.

Most of all, however, I pondered on the strange girl who called herself Victoria Wingus. I wondered just how much of her was real, how much was human, how much had found the possibility of overcoming the Leknii programming. For in that last moment, before she committed a profoundly-honourable act of suicide in order to save me and indeed the entire world, I swear I had seen something wonderful, something exemplar and indeed profoundly inspirational. Something that could give hope to a world of servile conformity; hope of breaking programming and achieving self-thought and awareness -- and, most of all, hope of finding love.

For in that last moment, I swear I had seen the moisture of tears in her eyes.

***** DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN IN “PEDEROSIS”