BLAZE OF GLORY

It was an informant who had revealed that the country club, located there in the Hampton area of Baltimore County, Maryland, was being used as a hideout for that horrid esoteric terrorist group known to eternal infamy as Spectral Paranormal. This informant, who remained anonymous in the message that he had sent to our downtown headquarters, had claimed outrage at the terrorist organisation for which he worked having kidnapped a girl named Lori Logan, daughter of a prominent local politician. It was presumably the intention of the evil agents to brainwash the young lady in order to have her available as an insider during her father’s upcoming bid to run for President of the United States.

I had made my way across the country club grounds that late-spring morning, dressed as I was in my usual finery -- including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, sunspecs, and panama hat -- and entered the central building of the establishment. All had seemed quiet, with no one about, but I knew it likely that Spectral Paranormal agents were watching me whilst maintaining the ruse that the club was not yet open for the day.

I found Miss Lori Logan tied to a bed in one of the rooms. She was quite pretty, with dusky hair and eyes inherited from her South Korean mother, and still clad in the uniform of the elite private school from which she had been abducted. As I began to untie her, she stirred from the hypnotic sleep in which she had lain.

“What… ?” she muttered. “What’s going on? Who are you?”

“Worry not, Miss Logan,” said I, helping the teenager to sit up. “I am Dr. Rumanos and I am here to rescue you. Your father knows about what has happened, and…”

I heard a noise and swung around to face a large man in black jeans and a matching t-shirt -- the horrid cult symbol of the three interlocked triangles that was printed thereon marking him as an operative of Spectral Paranormal. He was holding an old-style revolver on me.

With lightning-fast speed, I kicked his hand and sent the gun into the air. He recovered quickly, and began to reach out his hands as if to throttle me. I ducked under them and hit him with a barrage of Daemonian kung fu blows, ending with one to his head that sent him immediately to the floor in unconsciousness.

Whilst this was occurring, Lori Logan had reached under the mattress of the bed and had retrieved a long, vicious-looking dagger. As I concluding knocking out the criminal agent, the girl approached me and prepared to plunge the knife into my back!

“Daniel, look out!” I heard a familiar voice warn me.

I turned around just in time to see my assistant, Miss Millie Drake, grab Lori Logan around the waist and pull her back away from me. I quickly took hold of Miss Logan’s wrist and squeezed it hard, causing her to drop the knife. However, before I could further help Millie in subduing her, the kidnapped girl kicked me in the stomach with a strength that belied her size.

“Millie,” I groaned. “She is still under hypnosis and therefore has greater than normal strength! Be careful if she… !”

Nonetheless, Lori Logan had already broken free from Millie’s hold and was attempting to find the knife. Then, before she could proceed further, a beam of sharply-focused light came from across the room and hit her squarely in the middle of her chest. She fell backwards onto the bed, stunned by the nose-laser of my mobile computer.

“Good shooting, Kit-10!” exclaimed the exceedingly-beautiful Millie Drake, petite and perfect as she is with her luxurious chestnut hair, enchanting violet eyes and sun kissed skin. She straightened the tight, short, rose-coloured dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender adolescent figure.

“No problem, m--,” replied the pleasantly-feminine voice of the robot that resembles nothing more or less than a mechanical cat. In fact, one of Kit-10’s rather catlike qualities is her total inability to openly show respect to anyone. The closest she ever gets is referring to me by a slight “s--” sound (for “sir”) and to Millie by “m--” (for “ma’am”).

“So you were right, Daniel,” said Millie, “that this was a set up by Spectral Paranormal.”

“Of course it was, Mills,” I agreed. “The ‘informant’ was a loyal agent of theirs, and they hoped that luring us here to presumably save Miss Logan would lead to our assassination.”

“They hypnotised her to murder you!”

“Yes, but she is not responsible for her actions,” I explained. “We must take her back to headquarters and ‘deprogram’ her before returning her to her parents in Annapolis. I know some definite techniques that should bring her around.”

“Of course,” giggled Millie Drake. “If there is anyone who is the greatest expert at influencing the minds of young girls, it’s you!” …

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

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

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

I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …

It was a short time after we had safely returned Miss Lori Logan to her parents that Millie Drake, Kit-10, and I were once again at our headquarters, located as they are in the golden trapezoidal roof of a Baltimore skyscraper, the ground floor of which is a pizza parlour.

Inside our secret HQ is a veritable museum of artefacts that I have collected during my long and storied career, including pieces of alien technology and obscure objects from numerous different historical periods. Nevertheless, by far the most amazing piece in this collection is something resembling a “Roman column” that is, in reality, my DiTraS (pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere) -- one of those incredibly-advanced combination Spaceship-and-Time-machines that are only useable by my people, the Watchers of Algol.

Also therein is a system of monitors and scanners that keep track of any possible threat to the planet Earth, and it was these that I was checking on during the day that our next adventure began.

‘By the Stellar Trinity!” I swore. “Millie, look at this.”

I was seated behind my worktable viewing some of the security relays. Miss Millie Drake came over beside me, now dressed in a flowered sundress of the tight, short-skirted type she favours.

“What is it, Daniel?” enquired the lass, then noticing the view-screen I had been examining. “Oh, it’s that asteroid!”

“Indeed it is,” I agreed. “The huge asteroid that has been detected approaching Earth. It has been determined that it will miss the planet and do no harm, but the astronomer who discovered the thing nicknamed it ‘Blaze of Glory’. A bit of dark humour, hmmm?”

“So what is it doing now?”

“It seems to be continuing its course, and is still far outside of the orbit of the Moon, but our instruments -- which, as you know, are much in advance of anything else on Earth -- have picked up something strange about it. Something strange indeed. Take a look.”

The girl gazed at the readout and let out a cry of surprise.

“Is that what I think it is?” she enquired. “There is some kind of machinery at the centre of the asteroid?”

“So it seems, love,” I informed. “We are definitely picking up signs of technology therein. Exactly what it is, or what is its purpose, we cannot tell from here.”

“So we should investigate, right?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” said I, quickly retrieving my hat and the opera cape I wear when travelling. “Millie, Kit-10, let us be off!”

A porthole-type aperture appeared in the DiTraS and we entered the machine. A few moments later, the odd gasping moaning noise of the ship’s engines was heard as it faded from view into the Space/Time Current.

Within the café-like control room of the DiTraS (which exists in a different dimension and is thus of a much larger size than the vehicle’s exterior), I stood at the main console.

“I have set the coordinates for the asteroid,” I informed Millie, who was standing beside me. “Ah, here we are! We have materialised inside of it. It is indeed an hollow cavity, in which is some advanced machinery and computer equipment!”

“But what could it be, Daniel?” queried the girl. “Who put it there, and why would it be inside this asteroid?”

‘”Well, there is only one way to find out. Our scanners are showing a breathable atmosphere.”

“Recommend caution, s--,” advised Kit-10.

“Of course, old friend,” I agreed. “We can stay near the ship, but we must find out the facts concerning this mystery!” …

Little did we know that we were being watched, monitored from the command deck of a silver rocket-ship flying through near by Space.

“He has arrived, Controller,” said a tall, silver being shaped like a man, its voice an emotionless electronic whirr.

“Excellent,” said the other, of the same type but even larger, and with bronze highlights on its metallic form. “All is going as planned. He will be destroyed. We will use the asteroid to wipe out the human race, but first we will kill Dr. Daniel Rumanos, that he will no longer be able to interfere with our programmes. We, the Replicants of Leknii, shall then be unstoppable.” …

My companions and I exited the DiTraS, and found ourselves within a circular chamber lined with computer banks, controls, and monitors.

“It looks like another spaceship!” stated Millie.

“Indeed it does,” I said. “Apparently, someone has decided to use this asteroid as a mobile device, hmmm? I wonder if…”

“Caution!” interrupted Kit-10. “Danger approaching!”

Millie Drake and I turned around to see what had startled the computerised cat. We soon beheld what it was. Entering the chamber via a sort of service duct were several small silver creatures resembling robotic rodents. They began to glide quickly across the floor to-wards us.

“Oh my goodness!” exclaimed Millie with a shudder of horror whilst huddling up close to me. “I know what those are!”

“Yes,” said I, as the metallic creatures approached us. “Repli-Rats!”

These things, known as Repli-Rats, are service robots of the Replicants of Leknii, that horrid race of cyborgs that seek to convert all humanoid life-forms to their own soulless and loveless kind. The Repli-Rats contain a kind of potentially-fatal poison and are thus used for defence of Replicant ships and bases.

Before the terrible mechanical rodents could approach us further, I reached into my pocket and retrieved the transonic turnscrew (an highly-advanced scientific instrument about the size and shape of a writing pen), immediately aiming the device at them.

Upon my activating the transonic, the Repli-Rats halted and began to shudder, with strange sparking sounds emanating from them.

“Kit-10!” I called. “You know what to do!”

With this, the robotic feline quickly blasted each of the Repli-Rats with her nose-laser. At its making contact, each of them shattered into countless microscopic shards -- this being a safety measure of all Leknii technology in order to prevent its parts being cannibalised.

“Good work, Kit-10!” I praised. “I always knew you would be a fine mouser!”

“This unit is not a cat, s--,” protested the robot.

“So it really is the Leknii Replicants behind all of this!” said Millie Drake.

“So it seems, love,” I acquiesced. “That kind of sheds a new light on things, hmmm? The Replicants would only so equip this asteroid for one reason -- they intend to divert its course and crash it into Earth in order to wipe out the human race!”

“But why would they do that? I thought they wanted to assimilate humans, not destroy them.”

“The Kosmikos has actually been suspecting something like this from them. The Leknii are aware that human soldiers from the future were successfully used against them in the Replicant Wars, and they are now planning to cleanse Earth of all human life in order to prevent that even happening!”

“Your transonic turnscrew,” said the girl. “It worked to help disable the Repli-Rats. Will it work against the Replicants as well?”

“It should be of some assistance, my dear. Remember the last time we faced them, on Saturn? They were attempting to destroy all shipments of that rare spice, vlooj, to which they are highly allergic. It gets in their respiratory systems and suffocates them. Well, I have programmed a setting of the transonic turnscrew to emit a type of synthetic vlooj. It is not as strong as the real thing, but it should work to disable any Leknii we may encounter. That is, until they find a way to upgrade and remove the flaw that makes them susceptible to it.”

“So is there a way to stop them from using the asteroid against Earth?”

“There is always a way, love,” I assured the lass. “Success is just a process of finding it and implementing it. I need to take a closer look at the machinery here, and then…”

Then a terror happened all at once. Within a moment, I beheld the form of a Replicant rocket-ship upon one of the view screens -- coming into sight right beside the asteroid -- I heard Kit-10 warn “Danger, s--!”; I heard Millie scream; and  saw a shimmering light as two silver Leknii Replicants appeared in the chamber via a matter transit beam.

Before I could react, one of the Replicants -- its bronze highlights signifying it as a Controller -- grabbed Millie Drake by the arm and pulled her away from me as the other one punched me squarely in the face with its huge metallic hand.

I went careening across the room, losing my grip on the transonic turnscrew. I heard it clatter across the floor whilst I struggled to keep my balance.

“You are finished, Rumanos of Algol,” announced the Replicant Controller as Millie trembled helplessly in its grasp. “You are finished, and the human race you are sworn to protect will now be destroyed.”

I recovered my footing and saw poor Millie faint from the horror of the situation as she stood in the Controller’s cruel hold. The other Replicant was just beside me, its huge silver hands held out menacingly.

“Do nothing to oppose us,” warned the Controller, “or I will end the life of this child. The controls are already set that will take this asteroid on a collision course with the planet Earth. They are locked and cannot be altered. You will be taken prisoner aboard our ship, after which your execution will be broadcast to all sectors of known Space, as a warning to others who would in any way stand in the way of Replicant domination of the Cosmos.”

“You cannot get away with this, Controller,” I retorted. “The Watchers of Algol will not allow your kind to convert all humanoid life-forms. We will…”

“The Watchers can do nothing to stop us,” interrupted the Leknii Controller. “It is only because your kind is not suitable for conversion that we have not already absorbed your society. When you are gone the Kosmikos will be crippled in this region, and the Algolites will not be able to move against us without exposing their violations of their own rule of non-interference.”

Whilst all this was occurring, Kit-10 had not been idle. She had activated a function that had magnetised herself, and the transonic turnscrew had moved quietly across the floor until it attached itself to her side.

“I implore you,” said I, continuing to stall the Replicants. “Stop this madness. Leave Earth alone. The humans of this time are not those who fought against you in the wars. They are innocent. Leave them be.”

“That will not happen,” replied the horrid Controller Leknii. “We will wipe out humankind and change the outcome of the wars. There will be no future Earthlings to fight against us. We will be victorious, and shall go on to assimilate all suitable humanoid life into our kind.”

It was just the that Kit-10 released the transonic turnscrew, sending the device flying through the air. I reached out and caught it, quickly activating the vlooj setting and turning it on the Replicant that was just beside me. The thing shuddered and sputtered, emitting a coughing sound as the synthetic spice entered the respiratory grating on its metallic chest. Unable to breath, the cybernetic horror shattered into countless shards.

At the same time, Kit-10 did as I had expected, turning her nose-laser against the Controller, aiming to-wards its head, well away from the unconscious Millie Drake. Even though my catlike robot’s blaster was not powerful enough to pose a serious threat to the Replicant, it was enough of a surprise to make the thing drop the girl from its grasp. She fell to the floor, now clear of its hold.

I turned the transonic to-wards the Controller, hoping to kill it with the vlooj. The Replicant raised its arm and shot a blast of its inbuilt energy weapon. It did not have sufficient time to aim, however, and the burst landed at my feet as I stepped quickly away from it. Then, before I could get a lock on the cybernetic terror’s respiratory grating, there was a blur of shimmering light as the Replicant Controller utilised the matter transit beam to return to its ship.

“Thank you, Kit-10,” I said as I hurried to check on Millie.

“No problem, s--,” replied the computerised puss.

The lass was recovering from her faint and I helped her to her feet.

“Are you all right, love?” I queried.

“I’m okay, Daniel,” replied Millie. “What is happening?”

I glanced at one of the monitor screens just in time to see the near by Replicant rocket-ship engage its warp engines and leave the area. Then there was a sound of machinery turning on within the asteroid, and I looked at another view-screen on which, at the centre of an eldritch dark, was a tiny blue-green disk that I knew to be the planet Earth. To my horror, I noticed the disk starting to become noticeably larger, nearer.

“The planned system is underway,” I said. “The asteroid is heading directly to Earth at near light-speed!”

“What can we do?” Millie cried. “It will destroy the human race!”

Do you recognise the terror, forsooth the unspeakable horror of this dilemma, my dear readers? That asteroid was heading on a collision course for Earth, with the machinery within it programmed to a trajectory that would wipe out all of mankind!

“The Replicant said that the controls are locked,” I said. “They were likely set remotely from the Leknii ship and cannot be reprogrammed from here.”

“But Daniel,” implored Millie Drake, “isn’t there some way to override them, and change its course so it misses the planet?!”

“Possibly,” said I, examining the control boards, “but even if I had the time to do so, we are going in too fast. If the asteroid were to suddenly reverse its course, or even swerve to the side, it would cause a gravity reversal that would cause the planet’s atmosphere to be sucked out into Space! All life on Earth would perish!”

I looked at the monitor screen as the planet grew closer and closer. The speed the asteroid was achieving was incredible.

“By the Eternal Spires!” I swore. “Of course! That is it! The speed we are reaching! If I can just…”

I started to quickly program a sequence into the control console of the asteroid’s machinery. In a few moments, a loud grinding sound was heard as the asteroid shook convulsively whilst the image on the screen faded and the swirling grey mists and multicoloured spirals of the Space-Time Current briefly appeared before the screen once again resolved into a view of the planet Earth.

“Yes!” I exulted. “That has done it!”

“But what have you done, Daniel?” asked Millie.

“I performed a modification on the engine, upgrading it to minimal Time-travel capabilities. Then I took us back to the Earth of just over sixty-five million years past, where the asteroid can crash without doing what the Replicants had intended. One thing, though… We need to get out of here before it reaches the planet’s atmosphere!!”

I hurried Millie Drake and Kit-10 into the DiTraS and activated the ship’s engines. With a gasping moaning noise, we dematerialised from the interior of the asteroid.

In the DiTraS control room, I guided us to a safe distance in near by Space, and activated a monitor to let us view the planet Earth. We saw a flash of light as the asteroid entered the atmosphere and caught fire -- followed by a tremendous shaking of the planetary sphere as it slammed into the world’s surface.

“A blaze of glory, indeed,” said I.

“But won’t it still do horrible things to life on Earth?” enquired the lass.

“Yes, it will indeed,” I concurred. “Its impact will send dirt into the upper atmosphere, blocking out sunlight and causing a long period of cold that will change the entire seasonal cycle of the planet. In other words -- it will do exactly what it always did!”

“What do you mean?”

“Think, Millie,” I counselled. “Sixty-five million years ago. What does that bring to mind? Something you learned of at school, hmmm?”

“Well, at the Academy, we learned about…”

“No, not at Daemonia Academy. I mean at regular old elementary school on Earth, before you knew that you were an Algolite.”

“Oh, of course!” realised the girl. “The dinosaurs! That’s when they went extinct!”

“Exactly, love,” I praised, “and that was the asteroid that caused it. You see, I realised that we could use the doomsday plan the Replicants had devised and turn it against them. In stead of destroying mankind, it wiped out the dominant saurians of the prehistoric ages, therefore allowing mammals to flourish and evolve into that very same human race!”

“That’s wonderful!” smiled the lovely lass. “But wait… Didn’t the Replicant Controller get away?”

“Unfortunately, yes, so we will be hearing from them again. We must be certain to be ready for them next time.”

“I love you so much, Daniel,” proclaimed the gorgeous Millie Drake as she threw her arms around me.

“I love you too, Mills, my little Daemon-Starlet,” I told her. “I always have, and I always will.”

As the girl and I embraced, we noticed a small whimpering noise coming from the floor. It was our catlike robot friend.

“Awww!” exclaimed Millie. “I think she’s feeling kind of left out.”

“Worry not, Kit-10,” I stated. “We both love you as well. Right, Millie?”

“Of course,” giggled Millie Drake. “Everybody loves Kit-10!”

And with this, the mechanical feline began a sound not unlike a contented purring, and I turned to programme the flight sequence of the DiTraS as we travelled on to new adventures.

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “THE BRAIN OF SARTORIUS”

THE FORTY

The gloom of the temple’s one chamber was relieved only by the illumination from the stone door that I had forced open in order to enter. The thick surrounding forest shut out most of the light from the planet’s blue sun. I stood staring at the central pedestal and the odd object that rested upon it.

It was a thing of cylindrical shape, smaller than the breadth of my hand. It was entirely covered with jewels and coloured stones.

Dressed in my usual finery -- including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, and panama hat -- I continued to look at the object. It was not attached to anything, yet I knew that there would be some type of security around it.

“Well,” I said to myself, “now or never.”

I reached out and quickly picked up the object, straightway wrapping it in my large, canary-yellow handkerchief and secreting it in one of the voluminous pockets of my jacket. I was somewhat surprised that there was no immediate reaction. All remained silent in the temple, the only sounds being the cries of strange birds and far-off beasts from the forest.

Then it happened. I heard a low grating sound coming from above and looked up. The temple’s stone ceiling -- all one-hundred-plus tonnes of it -- was descending to-wards me! I turned to sprint outside just in time to see the door slam shut with a loud crash. All became dark in the temple as the ceiling continued to descend in its course to-wards its goal of crushing the very life out of me.

I continued to run in the direction of the doorway, whilst fetching the transonic turnscrew (an highly-advanced scientific instrument resembling a writing pen) from my pocket. I aimed the device to-wards the door and activated it, the resultant small glow of bright-orange light giving me some illumination as it, along with a whirring sound, indicated that the transonic was indeed at work.

I glanced upwards and beheld that the ceiling was barely more than a metre from my head and still descending. Then the door suddenly sprang open.

I hurried out into the forest, hearing a tremendous boom behind me as the temple’s stone ceiling made contact with its floor.

Continuing through the wooded area, I realised that I heard the sounds of raised voices from some distance behind me. Glancing back, I saw them. It was a war party of the planet’s natives -- a primitive, dark-complexioned humanoid race dressed only in colourful jewellery. The were advancing to-wards me carrying strange spears that glowed with effulgent light.

Quickening my pace to stay out of their range, I entered the clearing in the centre of which was my goal -- something resembling a “Roman column” that was, in reality, my DiTraS (pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere), that incredible type of Time/Space travel machine usable only by my people, the Watchers of Algol.

A round, porthole type opening appeared in the DiTraS as I approached. I could still hear the enraged voices of the natives and new that they were gaining on me.

“Hit it, Millie!” I shouted as I jumped into a dive forwards through the opening.

A skidded to a stop on the floor of the ship’s large inter-dimensional control room just as the beautiful young girl standing at the controls activated the ship’s engines.

Outside, an odd gasping moaning noise was heard as the DiTraS faded from view. The very instant that it vanished into the void, a barrage of glowing energy spears hit the ground where it had been. …

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

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

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

I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …

In stood up and brushed off my clothing, there in the café-like control room of the DiTraS.

“Good work, Mills,” I told the girl. “We dematerialised just in time.”

“Did you get the relic?” enquired Millie Drake, absolutely ravishing with her luxurious chestnut hair, sun kissed skin, and enchanting violet eyes. She was clad in a short, tight, hot-pink dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender adolescent figure.

“No worries, love,” said I, taking the handkerchief from my jacket and unwrapping it. “Here it is. The last remaining Gimwinkle Control Tube from the planet Gee-Cee. A relic of their once highly-advanced technology, before corruption reduced them to the primitive savagery in which they now live. I found it in the stone temple in which they had enshrined it as a religious icon.”

I placed the relic on the counter-like control console of the DiTraS and took a step back.

“Now,” I continued, “all we have to do is remove the various ornaments with which they adorned it to show their holy reverence, hmmm?”

I activated the transonic turnscrew and utilised it to begin pealing off the layer of multi-hued stones that covered the old cylinder.

“So this can really be used in our mission against The Forty?” queried Millie.

“I believe so,” I returned. “If the information is correct about what is their actual leadership, this should be of immense assistance.”

The Forty were a business conglomeration made up of representatives from forty different star systems within the Messier-13 Globular Cluster. Their activities had come to my attention some time before when they had hired Martian mercenaries to invade the planet Venus, in order to make that world give up the rights to its extensive mineral wealth. The plot had been stopped, but stealth investigations had uncovered that the corporation known as The Forty was indeed committing similar crimes elsewhere. It is thus that Miss Millie Drake and I, as Agents of the Kosmikos, had journeyed to M-13 in an effort to deal with the situation.

“Ah, here we go,” said I, having removed the ornamentation from the cylinder. It appeared of the colour of brass, and a mass of wiring and computer chips could be seen through a tiny transparent portion of the object. “What do you think, Kit-10?”

I held the old control device down to the catlike robot that stood near by, and a sensor extended from her metallic forehead.

“Systems show the device to still have some power in its electronic functioning,” answered Kit-10 in her pleasantly-feminine voice. “However, technology is too alien to determine if it is functioning within necessary and intended parameters.”

“Yes, well, we shall just have to hope for the best, hmmm?” I said. “Thanks for the expert analysis, old friend. You are a good kitty.”

“This unit is not a cat, s--,” replied Kit-10.

Despite her protestations to the contrary, Kit-10 does indeed have several catlike qualities, not the least of which is her total inability to openly show anything resembling respect to-wards anyone. The closest she can come is to refer to me by a slight “s--” sound (for “sir”) and to Millie by “m--” (for “ma’am”.)

There was a signal from the DiTraS control console and I examined the readings.

“We seem to have materialised,” I announced.

“So where are we?” queried Millie.

“At a space station near the centre of Messier-13,” I revealed. “It is the corporate headquarters of The Forty, as well as housing numerous shops and apartments.”

A few minutes later, I exited the ship along with Millie Drake and Kit-10. We were in a large corridor not unlike what would be found in a shopping mall. There were numerous patrons of the establishment browsing the shopping areas. The civilised inhabitants of the M-13 Cluster are mostly of humanoid shape, and would be indistinguishable from Earthlings should any of them ever visit that particular planet.

“The executive office of The Forty is at the top level of the station,” I told my companions. “Come along then, but be wary. I attempted to mask our arrival, but we may be recognised by the security systems.” …

Indeed, unknown to us, we were being watched on a video screen at that very moment by a rather nondescript man in a grey suit of clothing.

“They have arrived and are on one of the retail levels,” he said to someone behind him.

“Is it him?” came a bizarre, booming voice from the other side of the room. “The one who interfered with our plans on Venus?”

“Yes it is, Boss” replied the man. “It is Dr. Daniel Rumanos, the Algolite agent, along with his assistant and some type of service robot.”

“You know what to do,” announced the voice.

“Should we do it now or wait until they are in a less public place?”

“Do it now, Yoreee. Wipe them out, and let it serve as a warning to any others who would move against The Forty!”

“Yes, Boss,” obeyed the man known as Yoreee. “Right away.” …

As Millie, Kit-10, and I proceeded through the sales area of the space station, we suddenly found our path blocked by two enormous men in blue security uniforms. 

“Worry not, love,” I whispered to Millie, who was huddling close to me in trepidation. “I do not think they will…”

None the less, before I could complete my statement, one of the guards removed his ray-gun from its holster and pointed it directly at us. To my surprise, I then saw his finger begin to tighten on the trigger!

Kit-10 immediately activated her nose-laser, and a sharply-focused ray of light struck the security man’s gun just as he fired it. The harsh ray from the guard’s weapon harmlessly hit the floor near my feet.

I had just managed to take the transonic turnscrew from my pocket, and I aimed it to-wards the other security guard, who had by now taken out his own ray-gun. The setting I had chosen on the transonic caused the gun to overheat, and it clattered to the floor as the guard shouted in pain from his burnt hand. 

The two guards then proceeded to advance forward in an attempt to bodily apprehend me. I quickly pocketed the transonic and readied my hand-to-hand defences. …

Back in the office, the booming voice of The Boss bellowed an order to Yoreee:

“Do it now! While he is distracted! Take the female and secure her here. Just be certain that she is unharmed, so we can use her as a bargaining chip.”

“Right away, Boss,” obeyed the underling as he watched us on the view screen. His hands moved to some controls and programmed a certain sequence.

“If he somehow survives, this will lure him here,” continued the Boss. “We will pretend to make a deal with him for his assistant’s safety. Then we will kill them both!” …

I utilised a Daemonian jujitsu technique in order to flip the first of the two security guards over my shoulder. The man hit the floor with such force as to immediately render him unconscious.

Whilst this was happening, the other guard had managed to come up behind me. He twisted my arm behind my back and pulled it tightly. Ignoring the pain, I bent forward with such fast velocity as to send him over my head to land in front of me. Unfortunately, the haste with which I had been forced to do this had prevented me from putting much power into it, and the man recovered quickly, standing up and hitting me in the jaw with a blow from his fist.

It was then that, unseen by either Kit-10 or me, a shimmering light surrounded Miss Millie Drake, who then vanished from sight.

I returned the guard’s attack with a blow to the centre of his face, quickly adding a kick to his midsection. He stumbled backwards several paces.

“Stun him, Kit-10!” I shouted.

The mechanical feline’s nose-laser again flashed forth, hitting the security man square in his chest and leaving him as unconscious as his associate.

“Thank you, my good friend,” I told the robot. “Excellent work.”

“No problem, s--,” she replied.

I turned to survey the corridor. The patrons had all fled in fear as soon as the guards had begun to draw their weapons. No one was in sight. No one. Not even my young companion.

“Kit-10, where is Miss Drake?” I asked with concern. “Did you see anything that could give us a clue where she has gone?”

“No precise information available, s--,” replied the robot, “although sensors are showing the residue of a matter transportation beam. She was likely taken when we were distracted by the security guards.”

“By the Stars!” I swore. “It appears that agents of The Forty have kidnapped her!” …

In the executive office of The Forty, the man known as Yoreee was handcuffing Millie Drake to a post that reached to the ceiling.

“Do not worry, little one,” sneered Yoreee. “The Boss wants you unharmed -- for now!”

The girl had stayed silent, as she had been instructed to do in any such situations. However, as she was being bound, she was turned to face to-wards what was seated behind a large desk that dominated one wall of the office. Her eyes grew wide with terror at what she beheld there.

Despite her training, young Miss Millie Drake could not stifle a scream of absolute abject horror at the sight of that thing -- the one known as The Boss. …

Do you recognise the unspeakable dread, forsooth the unholy fright of this situation, my dear friends? My beautiful companion, Millie Drake, had been abducted by The Forty, that unspeakably-evil business consortium. I could only imagine what unmentionable eldritch horrors she was facing.

Of course, Kit-10 and I immediately went into action in an endeavour to find and rescue her. We made our way to-wards the top level of the space station, the level on which were to be found the executive offices of The Forty.

I found it odd that, along the way, we encountered no resistance. I attempted to remain positive as the thought nagged the back of my mind as to just how ominous this actually was.

On the top level, we found the large doorway that was the entrance to the office of The Forty. It was closed but unguarded, and I examined it closely before we made any attempt to enter.

“There is an unseen lock here, Kit-10,” I announced. “Can you do a scan to ascertain its parameters?”

The robot’s scanning sensor again extended from her forehead and touched the wall just beside the door. There were several seconds of electronic beeping noises as she studied the system.

“Parameters found,” relayed Kit-10. “Locking mechanism is of the electro-duality variety.”

“Ah, of course,” I realised. “So it takes at least two individuals to operate it, one of which must remain behind in order for the other or others to get through.”

“Affirmative,” said the mechanical puss.

“Kit-10, can you open the lock and remain here whilst I look for Miss Drake?” I queried.

“Of course, s--,” replied the robot.

A moment later, the door slid open and I hurried through. It closed quickly behind me, leaving Kit-10 on the other side. I was alone in the headquarters of The Forty.

I walked cautiously down the interior corridor to-wards the rather obvious office room at the end of it. I again received no resistance as I entered the office.

Everything of note was along the far wall as if in a tableau. To one side was Millie Drake, shackled to a post. Beside her was a rather nondescript man in a grey business suit who was holding a ray-gun to her head.

Millie gasped with a mixture of relief and trepidation at seeing me. I did not speak, but gave her a quick wink before turning my attention to the thing that dominated the room. It was a thing of nightmares beyond all sane imaginings.

It was seated behind a big metal desk. It was like an huge amorphous blob, grey and green and blue of hue. It sat in a puddle of viscid slime that was at once both its excrement and its sustenance. It had something like two grotesquely-small black eyes that peered at me with a mixture of hate and insane humour. Then it opened its long, grotesque slit of a mouth and spoke.

“Hello, Dr. Rumanos of Algol,” said the thing, its voice a booming mockery. “Welcome to the executive headquarters of The Forty. I am The Boss, and the person caring for your female is my office assistant, Yoreee. Now, do be careful to keep your hands where we can see them. We would not want my associate to get the wrong idea and think it necessary to execute your friend here, now would we? No, we have a little negotiation to make in stead -- a little business deal that will prove beneficial to us both.”

“What exactly did you have in mind?” I enquired, struggling to stay calm as I felt disdain seething within me.

“I have the documents already drawn up,” said The Boss, indicating some papers upon his desk. “As an Agent of the Kosmikos you have certain powers of negotiation. You will sign this form to agree that the Watchers of Algol will leave The Forty alone to pursue and expand our dealings throughout the Galaxy as we see fit. You will not move against us further. You will sign this agreement now, or Yoreee here is fully authorised to immediately end the female’s existence!”

“Daniel, no!” cried Millie Drake. “Don’t do it! Don’t let this thing continue to plunder the Galaxy!”

“Be quiet, girl,” said Yoreee. “There will be no further outbursts of that sort.”

I ignored them both and moved forwards to the desk. The Boss guffawed as I approached.

“A wise choice, Doctor,” it said. “A wise choice indeed. You will find a writing instrument to the side of the document. Please just affix your signature, along with your authorisation code number as an Operative of the Kosmikos, and our deal is done.”

I reached forward as if to grasp the pen that lay beside the papers, but then raised my hand slightly to-wards The Boss. It was then that a low vibrating sound was heard. With this, the horrid creature suddenly shuddered and groaned. I had activated the control device that I had taken earlier from the Gee-Ceean temple. It had been hidden in the palm of my hand since before I had entered the office.

“What!” bellowed the monstrosity in pain and outrage. “How did you know to use such a thing as that? I am The Boss! I am… !”

“I know exactly what you are,” I told the thing. “You are the last of the Gimwinkles, a form of animal life once found on the planet Gee-Cee. They were kept as pets by that world’s humanoid population, who had developed a technology that rendered you docile, such as is found in this old Control Tube. Nevertheless, by the time Gee-Ceean society entered its decadent period, the Gimwinkles had begun to evolve and develop intelligence. They soon overthrew the Gee-Ceeans, reducing them to the savagery in which they exist to this day. Then the Gimwinkles left that planet in the prototype spaceships the Gee-Ceeans had invented and abandoned. You spread throughout the Cluster and became business moguls, eventually forming The Forty. Along the way, your species developed some genetic defect that decimated your population. You are thus the last Gimwinkle in existence, and now…”

I touched the Gimwinkle Control Tube with my thumb and the vibration noise went up in volume. The creature shook violently and began to split open in several places.

“The device was only meant to keep your kind docile,“ I went on, “but I managed to make a little adjustment on my way up here. It is an adjustment that increased the power of the device in its effect upon your Gimwinkle nervous system. You see, your abducting Miss Drake crossed the line. This is no longer just a mission to stop your corporation from controlling all local business. Now this has become personal -- and now I bring your end!!”

By now, the thing known as The Boss, last of the Gimwinkles, had split open and oozed out its viscera like so much rotten fruit. Soon its convulsions settled, and I knew that the horrible monster was dead forever. I deactivated the control and slipped it into my pocket.

Meanwhile, Yoreee had put his gun in its holster and had removed the shackles from Millie Drake. The dear girl ran over and threw her arms around me.

“It is fine now, darling,” I assured her. “You see, I recognised Yoreee as soon as I entered the office, and knew he would not harm you.”

Yoreee came over and shook my hand.

“Excellent job, Doctor,” he said. “I will send a message to the Association right away, and they will surely be quite pleased.”

The man left the room and proceeded down the corridor, leaving me alone with Millie.

“So he was on our side all along?” queried the lass.

“Indeed he was,” I informed her. “Yoreee is a spy for the local Small Business Association, and has been working undercover to foil The Forty’s attempts to control all business in the Cluster.”

Millie then glanced over and shuddered at the sight of the putrid remains of the Gimwinkle, that horrid creature known as The Boss.

“So The Forty won’t be able to survive without that thing?” she asked.

“Indeed they will not, my dear,” I explained. “The power of The Forty was wholly bound up in the bizarre and unscrupulous business sense of the last of the Gimwinkles. Without it, they shall cease to function, and commerce here in the M-13 Globular Cluster should quickly return to normal.”

“We will return the control device to the planet Gee-Cee, won’t we?” questioned the girl.

“Of course we will, love,” I agreed. “We will also rebuild their temple for them. After all, we would not want the Gee-Ceean natives to lose their faith and become a lot of hopeless drug addicts or something, hmmm?”

By now, Yoreee had opened the outer door and allowed Kit-10 to enter. He was close behind her, having sent the message to his Association with information on how to contact me.

“It looks like your mobile computer has already received word from my superiors,” announced Yoreee. “They have received my encoded message concerning your success and wish to show their appreciation.”

“Really?” said I. “What do they say, Kit-10?”

“A message has indeed been received from the Cluster’s Small Business Association,” explained the metal cat. “They say that in respect of having stopped the monopoly of The Forty on the local commerce, Dr. Daniel Rumanos and company are hereby invited to a special banquet to be held in your honour.”

“Oh, they’re having some kind of awards dinner for us,” said Millie Drake. “But Daniel, are we supposed to attend something like that as Operatives of the Kosmikos?”

“Mills, my love, I suppose we need to get used to things like this,” I counselled. “After all, we are the most famous secret agents in the Universe!”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “BLAZE OF GLORY”

RAIDERS OF THE CORONATION STONE

Terror at the magic show! The audience had already fled -- fled in abject fear of what they were witnessing on that eventful evening. However, if truth be told, they most likely later rationalised it as “just part of the act”!

It was all happening at a venue known as “Illusions Magic Bar”, located in the Federal Hill neighbourhood of Baltimore City in the State of Maryland. The establishment’s proprietor, an individual named Spencer Horsman, stood before me with a strange grey glow surrounding his person like an eldritch halo.

“You will not succeed, Algolite,” proclaimed the alien consciousness that had possessed Horsman. “The Ennolis will take over the people of this world as our new hosts, despite any effort to protect them!”

Spencer Horsman, a man in his mid-thirties dressed in a cheap knock-off make of tuxedo, was short and thin with a pale complexion and hair dyed bright red. He saw himself as a stage magician and illusionist, and used the tavern that he had inherited from his late father as a showcase for his hackneyed act. He had never known much else in life, and it is likely this inexperience that had made him such an easy target for the alien invaders known as the Ennolis.

You see, the Ennolis are a race of beings from the Ken-Zo Nebula. After a long war had devastated their planet, they had set forth into Space to find a new home. Unfortunately, the biological weapons to which they had been exposed during the conflict had left them without faces or other identifying characteristics. In response to this, their scientists had developed a method by which the Ennolis could take over the bodies of other humanoid beings, and it is with this in mind that they had targeted Earth. The Ennoli possessing Spencer Horsman and another of their species were the first to test this possibility, with the remainder of their race -- all four billions of them -- waiting in their orbiting spaceship for the signal to invade Earth en masse.

“Surrender, Ennoli,” I warned, clad in my usual finery (including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, and panama hat). “Leave these human beings alone and I promise that I shall assist you in saving your people.”

“No!” shouted the possessed Spencer Horsman. “We need no help from you! We are the Ennolis, and we have proven our worth by surviving the war upon our home planet! We will take over this species and make their bodies into ours!”

With this, the Ennoli sent forth a wave of energy -- forsooth, the bizarre grey glow that was a result of their weird biological science -- straight to-wards me. It hit me hard, and I felt myself being forced backwards against the brick wall of the building’s interior.  …

Elsewhere in the tavern, Miss Millie Drake was in a similar predicament to mine. Millie -- a beautiful young girl with sun-kissed skin, luxurious chestnut hair, and enchanting violet eyes -- was wearing a short, tight, electric blue dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender, perfectly-petite figure. Facing Millie was a woman known as Caroline Gayle, a former street prostitute and current fiancée of the aforementioned Mr. Spencer Horsman. Bleached-blonde and chubby, Gayle was still clad in the sequined gown that she wore as the magician’s stage assistant. The grey glow surrounding her showed that it was she that had become the host of the other Ennoli.

“You will die, girlie!” screeched the alien-possessed Caroline Gayle at Millie Drake. “You will die for your interference with our conquest of this planet!”

As the Ennoli prepared to shoot its wave of energy, Millie stood still facing her.

“Kit-10,” stated the young girl, “now!”

Beside Millie Drake was what looked like nothing more or less than a small mechanical cat. At the girl’s call, the robot shot a beam of sharply-focused light directly at the Ennoli-possessed woman.

When the beam from Kit-10’s nose-laser made contact, Gayle jumped in pain and shock, her energies diverted for the moment.

“Good shooting, Kit-10!” exclaimed Millie Drake.

“Thank you, m--,” replied the robotic feline with a pleasantly-feminine voice.

(One of Kit-10’s catlike qualities is her total disability to openly show respect to anyone. The closest she ever comes to it is in referring to me by a slight “s--” sound, for “sir”, and to Millie by “m--”, for “ma’am”.)

“You will pay for that, you Algolitish child!” then stated Caroline Gayle the Ennoli as her grey energies began to again strengthen. “For that, you will be made to feel pain!” …

I fought against the wave of energy from Spencer Horsman enough to reach into the pocket of my jacket and retrieve the transonic turnscrew, an highly-advanced technological device resembling a writing pen. I pointed the instrument directly at him and activated it to a pre-programmed setting.

The Ennoli-possessed Horsman screamed in pain and outrage before his grey energy faded forever. Now spent of its alien power, the dead body of what had once been Spencer Horsman, Baltimore-based magician and tavern-owner, fell to the floor.

I ran over to where Millie Drake and Kit-10 were, and quickly performed the same manoeuvre on Caroline Gayle, silencing the other Ennoli forever.

“Come along, Mills, Kit-10,” said I, quickly taking the girl’s hand. “We have to disable the Ennolis computer bank before they can send further invaders to Earth!”

We hurried into the backroom of the tavern, in which the alien computer system had been set up. Indeed, it was our own instruments having detected the presence of this that had alerted us to the Ennolis presence on Earth to begin with.

I aimed the transonic at the strange wall of flashing alien machinery. There was a spark of fire from the Ennolis computer bank, after which it went dark.

“That will do it, love,” I assured the girl. “I have switched the polarisation of the neutronic stream, which will send the Ennolis spaceship into deep Space, between galaxies. They will not be able to reach any other planets -- or attempt to take over other species -- before their own kind has died out completely.”

“Wow!” exclaimed Millie with a smile. “That is awesome!”

“Indeed,” I mused. “I believe that it is known as ‘social distancing’.” …

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

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

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

I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …

Admiral Nicholas Murray (Royal Navy, retired) looked intently at us from across his desk. Heavy, grey-haired, and dressed in a conservative dark-blue business suit, he obviously had something of great import to relate. This was no surprise, considering the haste with which Millie and I had been summoned to the London office of MI9 -- that particular branch of the British Secret Service that deals with things occult and extraterrestrial.

We had been brought on a private overnight flight from Baltimore to London and barely given enough time to drop off our luggage at the St. James Hotel before the limousine ride to the building housing the MI9 headquarters, of which Admiral Murray was chief.

After our security clearances had been verified, we had been quickly ushered into the old man’s private office, with the short-skirted pink dress that Millie had worn for the occasion only receiving the requisite quick scowl of disapproval from the prim middle-aged receptionist.

“Thank you for coming on such quick notice, Dr. Rumanos, Miss Drake,” said the admiral. “I assure you we would not have interrupted your lives with anything that was not of the highest importance.”

“I am certain of that, Admiral,” I assured him, sitting in the comfortable leathern chair to which I had been waved. “MI9 has always had my highest respect.”

“Did you say that Buckingham Palace personally asked that we be informed of this case?” enquired Millie, who was seated beside me.

“Indeed, Miss Drake,” affirmed Murray. “The royal family is quite concerned about what has occurred.”

“Please fill us in, sir,” I requested. “We promise to help however possible.”

“Dr. Rumanos, it pains me to say it. It is an unprecedented crime in the history of the United Kingdom. The Coronation Stone has been stolen!”

“By the Triple Star!” I swore. “The actual Coronation Stone, also known as the Stone of Scone and the Stone of Destiny?”

“Yes, Doctor,” replied the old man. “It is usually only moved when a new monarch is crowned, and is otherwise kept under heavy security at Edinburgh Castle.”

“Wow!” exclaimed Millie. “So it is used in the coronation of kings and queens?”

“It was used for centuries in the crowing ceremonies of the kings of Scotland, Miss Drake,” explained Murray. “It has been used to crown the monarchs of Britain ever since the kingdoms were united.”

“It is even said to be much older than that,” I added. “According to legend, it is the very stone that Jacob, the biblical Patriarch, used as a pillow the night that he had visions of God. Because of this, it is said to be charged with immense power. It was later brought to the British Isles by the Prophet Jeremiah, who fled the Babylonian Captivity along with the daughter of the last King of Judah. She then became the ancestor of the royal lines of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England.”

“It is the possible supernatural powers contained within the Stone that concerns the Palace, Doctor,” stated Admiral Murray. “The amount of mathematical knowledge and criminal expertise that would have been necessary to so steal the Stone from Edinburgh could have been used to easily rob any bank in the world, so the thief is not likely to just be interested in selling the piece on the underground antiquities market.”

“Quite right, Admiral,” I agreed. “Anyone who has gone to this trouble has a much larger goal. Indeed, if the legends of the Stone of Scone have any reality at all to them, the power it contains -- if it is properly released -- could be used to rule over worlds!”

“Do you know of any possible suspects, Doctor?” enquired Murray.

“Just offhand, I can think of eight different individuals who have the requisite knowledge, skill, and criminal history. However, none of them are known to be currently operating -- on this planet, at least.”

“Then who could have done it?” queried Millie Drake.

“Admiral, allow me to think this over tonight,” I requested. “I want to do some research, and we will definitely have some answers to the mystery by this time tomorrow.”

“Fair enough, Doctor, Miss Drake,” agreed the admiral. “Be assured the Crown will cover any necessary expenses. They see this as possibly the most vital moment in our nation’s history.”

Millie and I left the MI9 offices and returned to our hotel, quickly unpacking the small amount of belongings we had had time to get together before our hasty trip to Great Britain. Then, after an excellent fish and chips lunch at the St. James Restaurant, we settled down in the sitting room of our suite for the afternoon.

“It’s too bad Kit-10 couldn’t come with us, Daniel,” said Millie Drake as she sat beside me on the luxurious sofa. “She probably has something about the Coronation Stone in her computer files.”

Indeed, the robot had not been able to come along due to strict weight restrictions on the aeroplane.

“I am sure she does, Mills,” I concurred, “but our little robotic feline friend’s presence, although greatly missed, should not be necessary. I will be able to access some files via the transonic turnscrew that can…”

I was suddenly interrupted by a scream from Millie Drake. She had seen something approaching us, across the room from behind me. Something big. Something horrific.

I whirled around to face whatever it was just as two huge hairy hands -- or paws -- found their way around my throat. Whilst the very life began to be choked out of me, I beheld what my attacker was.

It was nearly seven feet in height and incredible muscular. It was covered with shaggy reddish-brown hair and had a face of grotesquely-ugly simian visage.

It was a gigantic orang-utan!

Just as the blackness of unconsciousness began to overcome me from the enormous creature’s grip, I heard a crashing sound from behind it. Mille Drake had hit the giant ape with a large table lamp. Unable to reach as high as its head, she had struck it in the centre of the shoulder area.

Now, this was not enough to seriously injure the monster, but it did cause it to relax its hold enough for me to take a breath and rally my strength.

I immediately gave the orang-utan several blows utilising my Daemonian kung-fu techniques. The horrid thing roared in pain and outrage and, after several seconds of reeling about, fell to the floor in unconsciousness.

“Oh my goodness, Daniel!” shouted Millie as she ran to me. “Are you okay?”

“I am now, love,” I assured her. “Thanks for the help!”

I knelt down to examine the giant ape, which was now lying so incongruously on the fine carpeting of the five-star hotel.

“It is an ordinary orang-utan,” I said, “albeit a particularly-large one -- and one well-trained!”

 “Where could it have come from?” shuddered Millie.

“Well, Borneo originally, judging by the species,” I decided, “but more recently it was likely stolen from some zoo. It is no coincidence that it showed up here. I am certain of that. The person who raided Edinburgh Castle and took the Coronation Stone knows that we are on the case!”

“So how can we find them?” enquired the girl.

“I have an idea. This animal’s mind should be exceedingly easy to read with my Algolitish mentalist abilities. Let me see…”

I pressed two fingers of my right hand against the orang-utan’s head and concentrated. Almost at once, images appeared to my mind’s eye; images of a large, Gothic-style church building, and of a stone passageway leading down beneath it.

“Of course!” I exclaimed. “Westminster Abbey, and the crypts below it. That is where the Coronation Stone has been taken. They must be planning to use the sacred energies inherent in that old house of worship in order to enhance and activate the powers of the Stone! Millie, we have no time to lose! We need to… !”

My voice trailed off in shock as I stood up and looked around. There was no sign of the girl. I quickly checked the other rooms of the suite and called her name several times, but to no avail. To my horror, I realised the hideous fact that I must now face: Millie Drake was gone!

I locked the big ape in the closet, pushing the sofa up against it, and then made a quick telephone call for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to come and fetch the thing. I then left the hotel and hurried through the streets of London to-wards my next destination: Westminster Abbey!

It was obvious that Millie had been kidnapped. Someone had used my having been occupied with reading the orang-utan’s mind in order to quietly abduct her; obviously someone who was an expert in such abhorrent outrages; the one who had sent the huge ape in the first place -- and, forsooth, the one who had stolen the Coronation Stone and who now intended to utilise it in order to gain power on the level only intended for divinity!

A light rain was falling upon London as I arrived at Westminster Abbey and found my way to the little-used entrance into the crypts that I had seen in the orang-utan’s memories. I followed the passageways through the deep gloom of the extensive series of catacombs that lie beneath the old church building, lit only by my tiny electric torch.

In my other hand I held the transonic turnscrew, having dialled up the setting to detect any near by energy emissions of otherworldly origin. I soon got a reading and followed it to its source, knowing that this would lead me to the Coronation Stone -- and, I prayed, to young Millie Drake!

The next all happened very quickly. I turned into one of the crypts and realised that it was lighted by candles. Pocketing my torch, I explored the old burial chamber and suddenly came upon the sight of the girl tied to a pillar that supported the ceiling.

“Millie!” I exclaimed. “Thank God! Are you all right?”

“Oh, Daniel,” replied the girl, “I knew you would come. Yes, I’m okay. They didn’t hurt me, but they took me from our hotel before I could even scream. I couldn’t see who they were because they were wearing…”

I had run over to free the lass from her bonds but now stopped short when I realised that we were not alone in the crypt. Several figures were emerging from the surrounding darkness. They were shrouded from head to toe in black, hooded robes and soon surrounded us.

“Predictable as ever, Rumanos,” came a voice from behind me. It was a man’s voice, a voice of highly-cultured mockery that I knew only two well. “We have been expecting you.”

I whirled around and faced him. He was clad in a finely-tailored suit of ebon-black satin. His appearance was as of one of middle years, his visage still quite handsome despite carrying the marks of lifetimes of extreme profligate wickedness. His hair was long and dark, and a thin moustache and goatee decorated his face. Most of all, his pale eyes shone with a glow of absolute hypnotic evil.

It was Don Wingus!!

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

“Greetings, old friend,” mocked the villain. “Now, do not get any ideas of attempting to interfere with what is going to happen here. We have your little girlfriend all wrapped up, as you can see. Just imagine what some of my associates her would like to do to her if I will only give them leave.”

“Wingus, you ungodly fiend!” said I. “I swear you manage to sink deeper into madness and iniquity every time I encounter you. Do you actually intend to attempt what I think you are? To release the powers of the Coronation Stone?”

“Of course, Rumanos,” affirmed Don Wingus. “The energies inherent in this old piece of rock are immense and thus-far untapped. I shall use them as to obtain that which is rightfully mine -- I shall use the powers of the Coronation Stone to make myself supreme ruler of all existence!”

With a flourish, Wingus removed a black cloth that had been covering a near by sepulchre. This revealed the Stone of Scone itself, it being an oblong piece of red sandstone about the size of a writing table.

“You are completely and utterly insane!” I said. “Even we Watchers do not know the full extent of the Stone’s power. Its very origin is disputed. It may be a relic of some unknown alien technology, or it may be from outside this Universe entirely. In any event, there is no reason to think you will be able to control the energy once it is released.”

“I will control it, as I will control all!” insisted the intergalactic criminal. “I am Magister Don Wingus, and my will shall not be denied!”

“But how will you know the proper invocations?” I queried. “Any information on how the powers of the Stone were activated -- if indeed anyone ever did so! -- are long-lost.”

Wingus reached into his suit coat and pulled out a small yellowed parchment scroll whilst a smile of utter depravity spread across his face.

“One of my agents found this on the black market in Cairo,” he said. “It is in ancient Hebraic, and is evidently from the time of the Exodus, when the Israelites took the Stone of Jacob with them in their journey to the Promised Land.”

“Really, old chap,” I mused. “Even if there is any truth to that, do you not think that those neo-Nazi types you tend to socialize with might object to you using a Jewish ceremony, hmmm?”

“Now is the time for the ritual to begin, and you will have the honour of witnessing it!” gloated Wingus, ignoring my criticisms as he turned to his cultists and gave them an order: “Bind him!”

The black-robed henchmen then tied me to the pillar beside Millie. Whilst this was being done, Don Wingus briefly exited the room, returning having changed into the vestments of an High Priest of Ancient Israel -- the pure white robes, the lofty mitre, and the golden breastplate studded with the jewels of the Twelve Tribes.

“There, that is much more appropriate,” mocked Wingus. “What do you think of it, Rumanos?”

“On you, it looks absolutely blasphemous,” I replied.

“Thank you,” grinned the villain, then turning to-wards the Coronation Stone and commencing to read the archaic Hebrew incantation from the scroll, whilst copious amounts of burning incense filled the air with narcotic fumes, and the black-shrouded cult members looked on in adoration.

It was then that the light began to rise from the Coronation Stone -- a light of pure white brilliance beyond anything seen in this world, a light with which came a musical sound as of the chanting song of myriads of choirs -- a light that then began to fill the chamber and to flow through the form of the evil one known to eternal infamy as Magister Don Wingus!

“Yes, the power is mine!” exulted the villain. “The power of divinity! The power to rule over all Time and over all Space! Nothing is now beyond me! I shall be worshipped by all of Creation! I -- Don Wingus of Algol -- do now achieve the very Power of God!!”

Do you behold the horror, indeed the supreme demoniacal terror of this situation, my dear friends? Magister Don Wingus, that renegade Watcher of Algol who has become the most dangerous and abhorrent criminal the Universe has ever known, was activating the most ancient and divine powers of the Coronation Stone -- powers that he intended to use in order achieve his grotesquely obscene goal of becoming dictator of all the Cosmos!

The light from the Stone continued to fill the old catacomb, and Don Wingus laughed his evil laugh of obscenely criminal euphoria -- in very sooth, his grotesque ecstasy of triumph as he felt the divine powers flowing inside him. There was with this the sound of thunder. The drizzle outside had turned into a storm, a storm of majestic strength and import.

I concentrated deeply and remembered something -- something old; something important; something powerful.

“Millie, close your eyes,” I counselled, still tied to the pillar. “Whatever you hear, whatever happens, do not look until I tell you it is all right!”

“Yes, Daniel,” agreed the girl. “Whatever you say!”

I closed my eyes as well, but could still see the luminosity from the holy light. It was a scarce few seconds later that I heard the sounds that I had been expecting. They were groans and shouts of pain from the cultists, and convulsions of terror from them as the divine power swept through them, its deific virtue destroying those who had dedicated their lives entirely to sin and evil.

I even heard the wicked Don Wingus scream in total abject fear at what was occurring.

Within a minute, it was all over. The sounds of anguish ceased and I knew that the blasphemous cult was no more.

When the light faded, I opened my eyes and saw that the cultists had indeed vanished, robes and all, along with their wicked master, the godless madman known as Don Wingus. They had been swept away as if they had never even been there.

I had by now freed myself from my bonds, utilising my extensive escapology skills, and proceeded to untie Millie as well.

“You can open your eyes now, Mills,” I assured her. “All is well.”

Indeed, the sounds of the storm from outside had also ceased, and all was quiet except for the far-off sounds of the normal life of the great City of London.

“What happened?” asked the young girl.

“What happened is that I realised the meaning of the old proverb,” I explained. “The one that counsels to close one’s eyes to evil. What it really means is to just let go and let the power of God do its work, which is to wash away all sin and iniquity. That is what happened here -- apparently in quite a literal way!”

As I spoke, I picked up the old Judaic scroll from where it had fallen to the floor, and securely secreted the antique parchment in my pocket. It would later be deposited in my own private archives for safekeeping.

“I think I understand,” said the lass. “Don Wingus and his cult were evil, and the holy power could not possibly have been meant for them. Is that it, Daniel?”

“Quite so,” I agreed. “All we need now do is contact Admiral Murray, and let him know where to retrieve the Coronation Stone.”

“Good,” spoke Millie Drake with a lovely smile. “Then we can get back to the hotel in time for tea.”

“Indeed, my love,” I approved, “but I certainly do hope that the RSPCA has collected that orang-utan, or we will need to order service for three!” 

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