OUT OF THE TOY BOX

“So then I said to old Homer, ‘Homer, leave out the part about the horse. It makes Odysseus look like a cheat.’”

Millie Drake giggled at this part of my relating to her my adventures in ancient Greece. The girl is exceedingly beautiful, petite and perfect with luxurious chestnut-hued hair, enchanting violet eyes, sun-kissed skin, and luscious cherry-red lips. The tight, short, bright orange dress she was wearing only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender teenage figure. Millie is a young lady of my own race, one of the Watchers of Algol, but she spent the earliest part of her life on the planet Earth in the Twenty-First Century. Upon learning of her Algolite heritage, she matriculated to one of my own alma maters, the august educational institution upon our home-world that is known as Daemonia Academy. She is now in training as a Junior Operative of that intergalactic espionage organisation for which I am myself a long-time Agent, the Kosmikos or Cosmic Intervention Department of Algol.

On the day in which the bizarre events that I am about to relate to you began, Millie and I were relaxing in the café-like control room of the DiTraS (pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere), the combination Spaceship/Time-machine produced by the incredibly-advanced technology of our people. We were out on a routine galactic patrol mission for the Kosmikos, but had thus far encountered nothing that would be of any concern to that special operations agency of our world.

I was dressed in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, and military boots. My panama hat and opera cape hung on a near by coat-rack.

“I guess it‘s too bad that Kit-10 is so little,” mused Millie, “or in stead of the Trojan Horse, there could have been a Trojan Cat!”

“This unit is not a cat, m--,” rejoined the little robot from near by, speaking in her simulated but pleasantly-feminine voice.

Despite her protestations to the contrary, the mobile personal computer known as Kit-10 does have numerous catlike traits in addition to her appearance. One of these is her total inability to show respect to anyone. The closest she can come to it is referring to me by a slight “s--” sound (for “sir”) and to Millie by “m--” (for “ma’am”).

“Well anyway,” I went on, “after that I decided to pay a visit to Hercules and Hebe. I thought it would be interesting to see how married life was treating them, hmmm? Well, let me tell you…”

Suddenly, my reminiscences were interrupted by an alarm from the counter-like control console of the ship. I jumped up from my chair and hastily ran over to it.

“By the Stellar Triplicity!” I swore whilst scanning the readouts. “We are being intentionally pulled off-course!”

“What is it, Daniel?” enquired the girl concernedly. “Who is doing it?”

“The power behind it is immense,” I said. “It is even able to hide the data on where we are being taken! According to the identification matrix, the only thing that it resembles is… one of the Infinitals!”

“The Infinitals?” returned Millie Drake. “I remember learning about them at the Academy. Aren’t they believed to be distantly related to the Aeternusians?”

“Yes indeed, love,” I told her. “Nevertheless, whilst having many of the same godlike powers as our own most ancient forbears, the Infinitals are quite different in temperament. They only use their abilities to play games. Just eternal gaming with no end in sight.”

“Do they play with other Infinitals, or…,” Millie broke off with a look of horror on her lovely face.

“That is what I hope we do not find out,” said I. “Perhaps I can recalibrate the controls in time and break free of the influence.”

I attempted numerous combinations upon the console, but to no avail.

“It is no use, Mills,” I said. “The Infinital has taken control! We are materialising!”

“But where, Daniel?” queried the lass. “Where?” …

A few minutes later, we emerged from the porthole-like opening of the DiTraS, the outside of which resembles a Greco-Roman “Ionic column”. I was first (having now donned my hat and cloak), with Millie close behind me, and Kit-10 following.

We found ourselves in a large room decorated in numerous colours, with toys of every make and description scattered all about.

“Greetings, my honoured guests.” came a boisterous male voice from behind us. “Welcome to the Game Room! I am your host, Mr. Tinkertrain!”

We turned and beheld him. He appeared to be an humanoid male of late middle age, tall and somewhat portly, with grey hair, intent blue eyes, and an eternal smile on his wide face. He was incongruously dressed as an old-style train conductor, and indeed had the air about him of a television children’s show host.

“You are going to have some fun here,” he continued. “So much fun that I hope you will want to stay a long time. In fact, I am sure you will be staying here with me… forever!!” …

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!!! …

“Are your systems showing any information on where we are, Kit-10?” said I as an aside to the mechanical feline.

“Negative, s--,” replied the robot. “No information available. Also, my defensive capabilities have somehow been disabled.”

“So no nose-laser, then?” said I. “Just like the DiTraS engines have been shut down.”

Millie huddled close to me and gripped my hand tightly as we faced the uncanny Mr. Tinkertrain. I reached my other hand in my jacket pocket and retrieved the transonic turnscrew, an advanced scientific instrument somewhat resembling a writing pen.

“Is the transonic off also?” whispered Millie to me.

“So it appears, love,” I answered her, returning the device to my pocket. “So it appears.”

“Now, my friends,” continued our Infinital host. “Let us see what theme has come out of the toy box for you here today!”

With this, a toy train came along a track near him. He bent over and picked up a slip of paper that was resting in one of the freight cars.

“Oh, this is a good one!” he exalted. “Oh, it really is a good one! You have gotten Arcade Time!”

“Now you just wait a minute, Mr. Tinkertrain.” I protested. “I happen to be Dr. Daniel Rumanos, Operative of the Kosmikos of Algol. My companions and I have no time to play your games, and I must demand you release us and our ship immediately!”

“Oh this is great!” laughed Tinkertrain. “Such enthusiasm! We are going to have a good time today! Now, let me explain what is going to happen. You will be allowed to play a series of games. If you lose any of these games, you will be made to stay here forever, yourselves as game-pieces! Haha! Is that not great?!”

“But what if we win?’ enquired Millie.

“Oh, we will get into that later,” rejoined the Infinital. “No need to complicate matters by telling all right away, now is there?”

“Now you listen to me, Tinkertrain,” I again attempted. “We know that you are an Infinital, and that this world you have created is all just a projection of your mind. Your powers are immense, but that does not give you the right to kidnap travellers in order to utilise them for your amusement. We will under no circumstances take part in your ridiculous…”

Then, with a loud popping sound, Millie Drake and Kit-10 suddenly vanished from the room.

“What!” I exclaimed. “Where have they gone? Why, if you hurt them, I shall…”

“No worries,” interrupted Mr. Tinkertrain. “Your friends have simply gone to play their own games. They will be granted challenges according to their level. As for you, something more advanced -- and, of course, much more violent! You know, since you call yourself ‘Doctor’!”

“Tinkertrain, you will return my companions immediately! You will stop this foolishness and allow us to leave peacefully!”

“Now, it is time for your game challenge to begin, Doctor!” he announced in his booming voice, completely ignoring my protests. “Enjoy!!”

Then, whilst the loud laughter of the Infinital known as Mr. Tinkertrain echoed through my head, I found myself quickly transported to what seemed to be another place entirely. I was seated in the cockpit of an high-tech fighter jet aeroplane, which appeared to be flying high over the surface of a planet much like Earth.

I then looked out the front window of the plane and beheld an horror; forsooth, a terror indeed. It was a veritable flying army of grotesque alien creatures like big deformed insects, each of them being about the size of my aeroplane. They were all swooping directly to-wards my position, locked in tight formation.

Before I could react, the closest of these hideous monstrosities fired off an energy weapon from its very body -- the power of this hitting my jet plane with a resounding explosion!! …

Elsewhere, Millie Drake and Kit-10 found themselves in a strange corridor. On the floor on both sides of them were lines of white lights like small pellets.

‘What has happened?!” exclaimed the girl. “Where is Daniel, and where are we?”

“Insufficient information, m---,” answered the mechanical puss. “It can only be assumed that we have been brought to the virtual location of the first of the games in which we are supposed to be taking part.”

“So, what are these things on the floor?” asked Millie, walking forwards to them.

As the lass stepped on one of the light-pellets, it disappeared with a beeping noise. At this, Millie could not repress a giggle.

“So I guess this is the game,” she reasoned. “It looks like we’re in some kind of maze, and I think that we are supposed to walk around and step on all of these pellet things!”

“It does seem logical, m--,” said Kit-10, “but caution is advised.”

Millie Drake then continued to walk around the maze, followed closely by Kit-10. As they had expected, whenever the girl stepped on one of the light-pellets, it disappeared with a beeping sound.

“Well, this is easy!” exclaimed the lass. “I hope Daniel is all right, wherever he is.”

“Danger approaching!” suddenly exclaimed the robot cat. “Danger approaching!”

“What is it, Kit-10?” questioned the girl, whirling around. “Oh my gosh!”

Millie had seen what the danger was, for fast approaching behind the pair were four shapes like multicoloured ghosts.

“Advise running, m--,” counselled the computerised feline.

The girl needed no further warnings, and began to hurry around the maze along with Kit-10, with the bizarre “ghosts” in close pursuit.

“What can we do?” cried Millie Drake. “They’re getting closer, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to escape them!”

As she spoke, she and the robot continued to pass over the vanishing pellets. Then, they approached one that was much larger. When Millie stepped on it, there was a triple beeping sound and the four ghosts suddenly changed to all blue in colour.

“Those ghosts things are running away from us now!” observed the lass.

With this, the girl and the robot continued around the maze, continuing to make the strange light-pellets disappear. They only had a few more to go when the four ghosts suddenly changed back to their usual hues and again began pursuit.

“We’d better hurry!” cried Millie.

Then it happened that when the girl stepped in the final pellet, the ghosts disappeared and an electronic victory tune was heard.

“Kit-10, I think we won!” exclaimed the lass.

“It appears so, m--,” answered the robotic puss.

Then, the raucous voice of Mr. Tinkertrain was heard from overhead.

“This game is ended,” announced the Infinital. “Congratulations! Now, it is time for you to pass on to our second challenge here today. Have fun!”

It was then that the entire scene suddenly changed. Millie Drake and Kit-10 suddenly found themselves in the middle of what appeared to be a busy eight-lane highway, with numerous motor vehicles moving at high speeds in both directions.

“Kit-10, what happened now?” cried the frightened girl. “How can we get away from all this, and…”

Then Millie Drake screamed, indeed the poor wee lass screamed in absolute abject terror as she stood there beside the little robot. For, at that very second, barrelling straight to-wards them was an huge eighteen-wheeler lorry!

Attempting to evade the oncoming truck, Millie jumped forwards and, to her surprise, was propelled much farther than she had expected. At the same time, Kit-10 had moved to avoid the collision in her own usual gliding fashion, but had similarly found herself jumping high and far away from the vehicle.

“What happened, Kit-10?” called the lass. “How did we jump like that?”

“It appears that for this part of the gaming sequence,” explained the catlike computer, “we have been given the ability to leap rather like certain amphibious batrachians found on the planet Earth.”

“You mean we can jump like frogs?”

“Affirmative.”

Therefore, Millie Drake and Kit-10 then continued across the freeway, jumping to avoid the various oncoming motor vehicles.

When the duo managed to reach the far side of the highway, they found themselves overlooking a river, wide and running quickly. In the water was evidence of something, something that inhabited it, something large and dangerous and reptilian -- for every now and again could be seen a glimpse of a massive thrashing tail or an enormous armoured back.

“I guess we’re supposed to cross this river now,” reasoned the girl. “But how? We can’t swim across with those things there! They look like alligators!”

“Affirmative,” agreed Kit-10. “They definitely have the appearance of creatures of the crocodilian order, m--. However, if you will observe farther upstream, you will see that what is likely our intended conveyance is now approaching.”

Indeed, swimming to-wards them were several large, friendly-appearing turtles. There were more of them at regular intervals across the width of the river.

“Okay, if you say so,” pondered the lass. “Here goes!”

Millie then jumped and landed on the back of one of the turtles, followed by Kit-10 who landed on the one next to her.

Giggling at the ridiculousness of it all, the girl again leapt and propelled herself right over one of the menacing alligators. She again landed on a turtle’s back, with Kit-10 joining her there a moment later. None the less, the young lady’s luck was not to hold out, for with the very next jump she miscalculated, falling short of the intended landing-place on another turtle, and in stead splashing down in the water.

“Danger, m--, danger!” the girl heard Kit-10 warning from atop a turtle.

Moreover, in sooth, at that moment a gigantic alligator rose from the river and swam quickly to-wards the helpless Miss Millie Drake. The girl screamed in total hopeless fear as the huge carnivorous reptile opened its enormous jaws and prepared to snap them shut upon her!! …

Whilst Miss Millie Drake and Kit-10 had been dealing with the bizarre games that the insane Infinital known as Mr. Tinkertrain had set up for them, I had continued to take part in that strange aerial combat against supposed alien invaders.

The blast from the eldritch alien rocked my jet aeroplane but did not destroy it. I looked at the controls in front of me.

“SHIELD 1 DOWN,” announced a readout. “SHIELD 2 REMAINING.”

I then looked up and saw that another of the attackers was firing at me. I hurriedly reached out and grabbed the plane’s joystick, using it to quickly dodge the blast. I knew that another direct hit would take down my final shield, and that any after that would presumably blow up the aircraft -- and me with it!

I noticed that next to the joystick there was a button. Feeling that I now had nothing to lose, I reached out my hand and pressed it.

With this, a burst of energy was emitted from my aeroplane. It shot through the sky and hit one of the alien monsters, obliterating it immediately.

“Yes!” I exclaimed, becoming enthusiastic in spite of myself.

I continued to dodge the alien fire, whilst at the same time returning my own energy blasts to them. Eventually, I found that I had wiped out the entire squadron of monstrous invaders.

“First Wave completed,” came the loud voice of Tinkertrain. “The Second Wave now will commence. Have fun, Doctor!”

With this announcement, another entire army of aliens appeared. They were stronger and faster than before, and there were many legions more of them this time.

Despite my efforts at avoiding and destroying them, I was eventually hit by another blast.

“SHIELD 2 DOWN,” announced the readout. “NO SHIELDS REMAINING.”

The alien force around me seemed to continue to grow, and was beginning to become overwhelming. Suddenly, several of them broke away from the squadron and began to dive directly to-wards my fighter plane -- intending to make a kamikaze-style collision that could in truth blow my jet to smithereens!!

Can you even begin to recognise and to comprehend the most extreme satanic horror, indeed the incredibly obscene phantasmagorical terror of this unspeakably diabolical situation, my dear friends and always-loyal readers? Though we were in in different places, and playing vastly different games, Miss Millie Drake, Kit-10, and myself had all similarly now come to the end of our endurance. I knew that if the mad gaming challenges of the grotesque and bizarre Infinital who called himself by the name of Mr. Tinkertrain were not ended immediately, we would lose and, though we would likely survive what were after all merely simulations, we would then be condemned to stay at the uncanny Game Room with him forever and ever!

Realising that the games were so set up so that no one could actually, in the long run, win them, it then finally occurred to me how I could succeed in overcoming Tinkertrain’s control. I realised that a certain “hack” was possible of this system that, though it was actually a projection of the Infinital’s profoundly-powerful mentalist capabilities, in truth resembled nothing more than an advanced computer program.

Then, just before the supposed alien invader would have crashed into my aeroplane, I did it.

“The game is now over,” said I in a loud, boisterous, obstreperous voice that sounded exactly like that of Mr. Tinkertrain the Infinital. “The beings known as Miss Millie Drake, Kit-10, and Dr. Daniel Rumanos shall now be set free from any further gaming, and allowed to depart.”

Immediately, the simulation ended and I found myself back in the Game Room. I turned and beheld Mr. Tinkertrain standing near by with a look of astonishment on his face. He was momentarily speechless. …

Just as the massive jaws of the alligator would have snapped shut on poor Millie Drake, she suddenly found herself and Kit-10 returned to the Game Room. Seeing that I was also now there, she ran and flung her dear sweet little arms around me.

“Oh Daniel!” she squealed. “I’m so happy to see you again! What happened?”

“Worry not, Mills,” I told her. “The situation has been dealt with and we will now be able to get away from this horror.”

“I must say that you people turned out to be no fun at all,” complained our Infinital host, “but you should know I cannot allow you to leave. You have to stay and play more games! You have to stay with me and have fun!!”

With this, there suddenly appeared in the Game Room the figures of numerous things rushing straight to-wards us. These included the alien monsters from the game that I had played, along with the ghosts, lorries, and alligators from the ones Millie and Kit-10 had endured.

“He has set them free from the simulations to harass us here!” said I. “Kit-10, your nose-laser should work now!”

And indeed, the mechanical feline started firing off blasts that hit the game figures approaching us. At the same time, I retrieved the transonic turnscrew from my pocket and aimed it at the things, setting forth an energy wave that further drove them back.

“Now, we need to escape before he manages to come up with something else!” I instructed my companions. “Hurry into the DiTraS!”

Millie Drake, Kit-10 and I ran through the porthole opening of our ship. Just as it closed behind us, we heard the voice of Mr. Tinkertrain, that insane eternal being that had kidnapped us and forced us to take part in his strange games.

“No! No! No!” he bellowed. “This is not fun! Come back and play my games! Come back and have fun! Come back and play my games and have fun forever!!” …

A short time later, I had dematerialised the DiTraS and taken us safely away through Space and Time. I had then explained to my companions what had happened, and had listened to the story of their own experiences. I now stood at the ship’s control panel entering some code terms into the messaging system with Millie Drake and Kit-10 standing near by.

“Fortunately, that experience seems to have had no permanent effect upon the DiTraS engines,” I announced. “I have sent a message to the Kosmikos, advising that warning buoys be set up around that area of Space. Then hopefully nobody else will ever be trapped in Mr. Tinkertrain’s Game Room.”

“There was no real way to win those games, was there?” asked the girl.

“I think not. No matter what, he would have thought of a way to keep us there forever. The Infinitals are immortal, their powers beyond anything that would allow them to interact with other beings in any normal fashion. I suspect that playing such games is the only way they have to relieve the loneliness, the ennui.”

“Daniel, did you really end the games by imitating his voice?”

“Yes, I knew that he was obviously controlling the games by psyche-sensitive voiceprints,” I elucidated, “and so knew that the system would mistake me for him and obey my commands. As for being able to do the imitation, it is an old Algolite technique. I learned it from an old Algolite, hmmm? Nevertheless, it is usually only a party trick. I fear that my using it in this matter may be considered a bit unethical. It appears that I am, after all, a bit of a cheat.”

“No, you're not,” said Millie Drake with a playful smile. “You are an Odysseus!”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “SURFER GIRL”

VIRGINKILLER

“Whatever you say, Mayor Kirby,” stated the big, mentally-challenged man as he stood before the desk of the town’s top politician. “You know I is loyal to you and all you wants to do.”

“I know it, Gage,” returned the mayor as he sat behind his desk. “Now we need to get others around to our way of thinking. What I am now planning will do just that.”

“So you is gonna do it at the town fair this year?” asked Gage.

“Definitely,” answered Mayor Kirby. “When all the citizens of our town of Clawfoot have seen the power that will be given me, they will bow down and follow in all things. Now, go back to your janitorial duties. The fair is this weekend, and I need to finish some preparations.”

“Okay, Mayor,” obeyed Gage, then loping out of the office.

Looking quite satisfied with himself, Mayor Kirby stood up and stretched. He was a man of about fifty, with brown hair and cold grey eyes, clad in a blue business suit. He walked over to a door at the back of his office and opened it. The chamber he then entered was small and sparsely-furnished, its only adornment being a sort of altar draped in a black cloth that was embroidered with the symbol of three interlocked triangles. Upon the altar were six votive candles, and above it was a photographic portrait set in a bejewelled frame.

Mayor Kirby gazed at the image of the man in the portrait with a look of extreme adoration. It was the image of a man of middle years, his face decorated with a thin moustache and goatee, and still showing signs of handsome distinction despite being marred with the marks of lifetimes of profound profligate wickedness. His hair was long and dark, and his eyes -- even in a still photo -- shone with an absolutely hypnotic power.

“Oh, Master,” intoned Kirby. “Though you are gone from this world, we feel your spirit with us and know that you will someday return. You will return to take your rightful place as supreme dictator of all. In the meantime, we do your work to make all in preparation for you. It is for this reason that I, as Mayor of the town of Clawfoot, Maryland, will soon call forth a power that shall enable me to bring many great and mighty things to your cause. It is the power of one who has waited on this land for so many years. It is the power of a spirit of darkness, of a being that through me shall once again walk the earth. It is the power of VIRGINKILLER, and it shall soon be mine!

“Hail Spectral Paranormal!” concluded Mayor Kirby in sick satanic ecstasy. “Hail Magister Don Wingus!!” …

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!!! …

“‘Clawfoot’?” giggled Millie Drake, “That’s a funny name for a place!”

“Quite so, love,” said I, as I drove my canary-coloured Edwardian roadster (affectionately known as “Lizzie”) down that rural route. “It was named that after an inbred genetic deformity found in the family that founded the town nearly a century and a half ago.”

“I wish that Kit-10 could have come along,” stated Millie.

“I know,” said I, also missing the presence of our beloved mechanical feline, “but she needed to remain at headquarters in order to complete the system updates that were interrupted by our recent encounter with the Xoans.”

“So, what kind of energy was it that was detected here by our instruments at Baltimore HQ?” enquired the lass.

“Alific,” I told her. “At least that is what it seemed to be. The Alif were a race of interstellar beings that existed around the time of the formation of the Solar System. They are believed extinct, but it could be that the essence of one of them got trapped in this area when the land was formed.”

“Could it be dangerous?”

“Possibly, but not likely. The Alif were mostly a peaceful lot, just wanderers with no actual planetary home. There were one or two troublemakers amongst them, but they have not been heard of in ages. If they still exist after all this time, they could not be as powerful as they once were. Well, unless… but that possibility is far too horrible to contemplate! Still, it is important that we check it out, hmmm?”

We rode into town and found a parking space near the town square. It was easy to locate, with the signs pointing out that the annual fair was now underway on that bright Saturday morning.

Millie and I left the car and made our way to-wards the square. The girl -- petite, perfect, and exquisitely beautiful with her luxurious chestnut hair, enchanting violet eyes, luscious pink lips, and sun-kissed skin -- was wearing a tight, short-skirted purple dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender pubescent figure. I was clad in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, panama hat, sunspecs, and one of my favourite opera capes.

The fair was of the usual type of local festival, with various displays and stands run by area merchants and such. The attendees were largely older folks, but there were a few teenagers playing the various carnival-style games, and some cute little children running about. The refreshment stands offered funnel cakes, hot dogs, pizza, and so on.

There were, of course, booths representing the town’s three churches -- Baptist, Lutheran, and Catholic -- but they were sadly more engaged in ignoring one other’s existence than in proclaiming the Gospel. A small stage featured an acoustic bluegrass combo, and there was a wrestling ring set up with a sign promising an upcoming bout.

As Millie and I browsed about the event, I took the transonic turnscrew (an highly-advanced scientific instrument somewhat resembling a writing pen) from my pocket and activated it to perform a scan of the area.

“Any reading on that Alific energy?” enquired the lass.

“Forsooth, there is,” I answered. “It is strong but thus far intermittent. No definite information on the exact location, but it is somewhere near by.”

My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a male voice approaching us.

“Hey, aren’t you Millie Drake,” he said, “the movie star?”

The speaker was a man of about fifty, with brown hair and cold grey eyes, dressed in a conservative business suit. You could tell from his attitude that he was someone of local importance.

“You really are her!” he continued. “Welcome to Clawfoot! It’s an honour to have you visiting our little town. I’m Mayor Kirby.”

“Oh, thank you,” blushed Millie.

He had obviously recognised the young girl from her former career as an Hollywood actress. He did not seem to notice my presence at all, but I pocketed the transonic as a safety precaution.

“That last film you did,” he went on, “that science fiction thing. It played our one local cinema longer than any other feature ever has. The kids just couldn’t seem to get enough of it!”

A crowd was beginning to gather around us and I was about to intervene when I was suddenly grabbed from behind and thrown to the ground by somebody or something quite powerful.

I heard Millie Drake scream and then go silent. I knew she had fainted from the horror of what she had just suddenly witnessed.

“Do away with him, Gage,” ordered Mayor Kirby. “I’ll take the girl. She will be perfect for the ceremony.”

“Okay, Mayor,” said a rough voice.

I looked up to behold the speaker, the same one who had thrown me to the ground. It was an hugely-built man, obviously suffering from an extreme case of mental retardation, clad in a rough pair of jeans and a shirt from which the sleeves had been intentionally torn out. Before I could react, he reached down his gigantic hands and grabbed me by the throat! 

I immediately found myself bodily tossed into the wrestling ring, my assailant stepping over the ropes to join me there. I forced myself to stand up before he could again reach me, and succeeded in throwing him over my shoulder with a Daemonian jujitsu technique.

I heard various calls and taunts from the crowd that had gathered around the ring.

“Get him, Gage!” shouted one of the onlookers. “Do the town proud!”

“My money’s on the new guy!” proclaimed another. “He dresses cool!”

They obviously were all convinced that this was the advertised wrestling match. Strangely, I felt a certain assurance that it indeed was just that.

My opponent, Gage the hulking servant of the evil Mayor Kirby, made up for in size and strength what he lacked in intellect. Nearly seven feet in height and hard-muscled due to his constant labour work, his grip on me had been like a vice. If I were going to defeat him, it would certainly be better if I could prevent him from again getting a hold upon me.

Gage soon recovered from my throw, and again advanced to-wards me. I quickly removed my cape whilst dodging aside, and tossed the garment over him. I attempted to grab him before he could get free of it, but he managed to strike me with one of his huge flailing fists. I went careening and bounced off the ropes of the wrestling ring whilst the monstrous Gage succeeded in removing my cloak from his hideous person.

We stood facing each other as the crowd continued its taunts and cheers. I ducked when my gigantic foe again attempted to grasp me, returning an open-handed blow to his chin that barely fazed him. He again punched me, intentionally this time, and I struggled to stay conscious as I whirled around and the pain started to bring on a sense of black insensibility.

Suddenly, the horrid Gage came up behind me and grasped his huge arms around my chest. He began squeezing and I realised that I could not breathe. I only had seconds before I would go down in final defeat. Rallying my strength, I moved my foot back and hooked it behind his heel, then with a sudden jerk a took him off his feet to fall down backwards -- careful to keep my full weight on top of him.

Before the giant could recover from this, I turned over and applied a jujitsu technique to pinch the nerves in the side of his neck, immediately rendering him unconscious.

I stood up and, as I was obviously the victor, the crowd reacted appropriately, some cheering and some booing, before they began to all just wander off to the other amusements of the fair. I re-donned my cape and looked around, the raised wrestling ring giving me a vantage point that revealed most of the area of the small town.

To my horror, I realised that Millie Drake was nowhere in sight. I struggled to think clearly and concentrate on the situation. I knew I had no time for mistakes or miscalculations. Where had the girl been taken, and to what ungodly fate? Most of all, how could I find her and prevent the committing of whatever grotesque evil for which she had been so abruptly kidnapped? …

In the secret ritual chamber behind his office, Mayor Kirby was laying the still-swooning form of Miss Millie Drake down upon the horrid altar. He had secured her hands and feet with rope and had stuffed a cloth into her mouth to prevent her screaming for help.

“She is here, Master Wingus,” announced Kirby whilst worshipfully gazing at the framed photograph of the missing criminal mastermind who is the founder and guiding force of Spectral Paranormal. “Mistress Drake of Algol. My servant, Gage, will vanquish the meddling Dr. Rumanos, or at least keep him occupied until it is too late to interfere with our purpose, and his little girl-child here -- being as a Watcher eternally celibate despite any supposed sexual activity in which she may have taken part -- shall be an acceptable offering for the one that shall now bless me with thus-enhanced power! She shall now be my sacrifice to the last of the Alif, the one known as -- Virginkiller!! …

I knelt down over the unconscious form of the hulking servant, Gage. My only hope to reach Millie in time was to apply an Algolitish mentalist technique upon him. I hoped that his challenged brain was coherent enough to give me some useful information.

I pressed three of my fingers against his sloping forehead and concentrated deeply, making the psychic contact necessary for me to probe the hideous man’s thoughts. I only saw jumbled flashes of anything that might be of use. Amongst these was the face of Mayor Kirby, whom Gage obvious loved rather as a father figure, even though the politician treated him only as the lowliest of servants. Finally, I beheld what I needed. It was the image of a room, one amongst the many that Gage had so frequently been a told to clean. Nevertheless, this was a room unlike any of the others. It was relatively small but obviously of great importance. I could not make out the details, but it had a black-draped altar against one wall that marked it as that most bizarre and unnameable of all horrors -- a chamber dedicated to the blasphemous rites of satanic worship!

In Gage’s thoughts, I saw that the horrid chamber was located in the back of the mayor’s office. I immediately left the area of the fair and set out to-wards the town-hall building in which I knew this incongruous terror had to be located. …

In the chamber, Mayor Gage had donned a black ceremonial robe and had chanted the opening invocations of the demoniacal ceremony -- the ceremony in which he intended to summon the ancient horror of the last of the Alif -- the eldritch thing known as Virginkiller!

Upon the altar, Millie had somewhat regained consciousness, and now lay shivering in terror as she realised what was occurring, her cruel bonds preventing any attempt at escape, the gag in her mouth keeping her from crying out.

“Come to me, O Great One!” intoned the wicked Mayor Kirby. “Come to me, last of the mighty Alif, and do grant me power! Come to me and make thy presence manifest, O Virginkiller!!”

With this, a force of deepest crimson suddenly rose up in the room, a swirling cacophony of sight and sound that denoted the presence of a force of obscene spiritual evil. It was a noise as of the howling of a thousand infernal curs, coupled with screams and wails and laments as of the legions of the damned. With this was the gruesome sight of blood-red unhallowed energies -- a mere beginning of the manifestation of the diabolical powers that the evil mayor intended to take for himself, and for the service of that horrible occult terrorist group known to eternal infamy as Spectral Paranormal!

Kirby smiled with a look of triumph as he took a long ritual knife from a sheath at his side, then raising it on high as he continued his unholy prayer.

“Receive the sacrifice that I have prepared for thee, O Virginkiller!” chanted the madman. “As thou hast received thy name from the many innocent maidens that have been offered thee throughout the millennia, so do I give thee this girl-child! Take the blessing of life from her, that I may receive thy power!” …

As I approached the town-hall building I was suddenly beset with another obstacle, howbeit one of incorporeal form. I felt a force as of extreme spiritual darkness, a profound energy of wickedness beyond all sane imaginings. It seemed to rise against me, to place itself in my way in order to prevent my advancement to-wards my goal of saving Miss Millie Drake from an horrid fate, and of preventing the calling of the renegade Alif known as Virginkiller by the insane politician.

Whilst I struggled against the strange power, it began to appear around me as a swirling storm of crimson-red energy, combined with the sound of howling and weeping and lamentations eternal. It surrounded me, blocking out the light of day and plunging me into increasingly deeper levels of demonic horror.

I concentrated deeply in my efforts to break free of the bizarre energies. I thought of that which is most dear to me. I thought of the one a must save. I thought of my friend, my companion, my beautiful one -- I thought of Millie Drake and found in this the strength to loosen myself from the surrounding evil.

Forsooth, I overcame the obstacle by the very power of Love!!

I fought and the crimson force lessened around me enough that I was able to open the door and enter the town-hall. As I did, I did not notice the figure of the servant Gage about a an hundred yards behind me. He had recovered more quickly than I could have expected, and had followed me to this location.

I ran through the town-hall corridor until I found the mayor’s office and then located the door -- the locked door that I had seen in the mind of the mentally-retarded servant; the door that I knew to lead into the satanic ritual chamber in which the evil Mayor Kirby had taken the girl and was at that moment performing the ungodly rite to call up the thing known as Virginkiller!!

I quickly managed to houdinise the lock and opened the door, rushing into the chamber. The sight that met my eyes removed all question as to exactly what I was dealing with.

The crimson energy of the evil Alif was here as it had been outside, but stronger, filling the chamber with an absolute tempest of phantasmagorical terror. There lay young Millie Drake upon the hideous altar, surrounded by several burning candles. To my extreme relief, I saw that she had not as yet been harmed, though cruelly bound and gagged.

Above the altar was a framed portrait, a blasphemous icon. It was the face of the intergalactic criminal mastermind known as Don Wingus, founder and guiding force of that unholy organisation to which the mayor of this town belonged, that same organisation the horrendous symbol of which was embroidered as three interlocked inverted triangles upon the altar-cloth -- the satanic terrorist network known as Spectral Paranormal!

Before the altar stood Mayor Kirby, clad in his black ceremonial garment. I beheld that his feet were now bare, in order to better receive the current of power that he wished to take into his very being. To my disgust, I saw that his left foot was made up of only two large toes, and realised that Kirby was himself a scion of the family of genetic mutants for which the very town of Clawfoot had been named!

So intent was he in the performance of the unhallowed ritual that Kirby had not noticed my arrival. He raised the gleaming dagger above the helpless figure of the lass and started to plunge it downwards to-wards her!

With lightning fast speed, I aimed the transonic turnscrew to-wards the horrid knife and activated a setting that made the instrument jump with a sudden electric shock. Mayor Kirby dropped the dagger upon the floor with a cry of pain and outrage before turning to face me.

“Dr. Daniel Rumanos,” he spat in disdain. “Yes, I know who you are. You may have delayed the sacrifice, but you have not stopped it. For I, fortified with what we of Spectral Paranormal have learned from the Master Wingus, have succeeded in calling up Virginkiller, the last and greatest of the Alif! He knows that I am the one destined to receive his power, and shall now take his revenge upon you for your attempt to rob him of his proper offering!!”

Moreover, with this, the crimson energy in the chamber began to rush to-wards me. I staggered backwards upon its impact, and indeed felt myself sinking to the floor as a paroxysm of pain engulfed my body.

“You are finished, Rumanos,” mocked the evil mayor. “You are defeated, your girl-child shall now die, and the power of Virginkiller shall be mine!!”

Amidst the chaos of the Alific power, I heard his mad laughter as the darkness of oblivion started to overcome me.

Can you even begin to perceive the most extreme and unspeakable terror, in truth the phantasmal horror of this unnameable situation, my dear friends and readers? The evil Mayor Kirby of Clawfoot, Maryland, that hideously-depraved Agent of Spectral Paranormal, had called forth the power of the being known as Virginkiller, and this same ungodly energy now again threatened to overcome me in a way that could possibly prevent me from saving my dearest friend, my companion, the beautiful Miss Millie Drake, from being sacrificed in that satanic ceremony!

Then, just before unconsciousness would have completely overcome me, an huge figure burst through the door. It was the servant Gage, and he rushed headlong to-wards Mayor Kirby, ignoring all else in the chamber.

“Mayor!” he shouted, blubbering with tears. “Mayor Kirby! He hurt me! I wasn’t able to beat him! I’m sorry, Mayor! I’m sorry!”

It was the that Gage proceeded to grasp Kirby in supplication, whilst at the same time loudly weeping in sorrow at having failed in his mission.

“Gage!” returned the politician. “Gage, you moronic fool! Let go of me! Let go!!”

However, Gage heard none of this over his own loud crying, and Kirby started to struggle in a vain attempt to free himself from the giant’s grasp.

Whilst the villain was thus occupied, the Alific energies that had been all around me seemed to lessen somewhat, being no longer under any control, and I managed to stand up. I then hurried to the altar and freed Millie from her bonds.

“Oh, Daniel,” she gasped as I removed the gag from her mouth. “Thank God! Thank God you’re here…”

I lifted the dear girl in my arms and began to carry her away from the altar. Just as I did so, Kirby and Gage crashed into it in their struggles, upsetting the lit candles and causing them to fall to the side and catch fire to the black cloth that draped that unholy table of infernal worship.

I glanced around briefly before hurrying from the chamber. The alien force of Virginkiller was still lessening and beginning to dissipate. Both the crimson-hued phantasm and the cacophony of diabolical noise were dispersing, as if dissolving into non-existence. I knew that without a sacrifice or the concentration of the one who had summoned it, whatever was left of the ancient creature would simply fade away, back into the obscure inter-dimensional void from which it had been called.

Whilst I ran from the town-hall, still carrying Millie Drake in my arms, I heard Mayor Kirby and Gage both screamed in anguish as the flames consumed them along with the rest of the room. The conflagration would soon spread to the remainder of the building, destroying all evidence of what had occurred before the local fire department could succeed in extinguishing it.

I sprinted around the area of the fair, now largely ignored by the crowd of townspeople who were beginning to notice the flames that were starting to consume their town-hall building. We got to where I had parked Lizzie, and I then carefully put the girl in the passenger’s seat before I got behind the steering wheel.

I revved the car’s engine and sped away, relieved to put the strange town of Clawfoot behind us. Millie moved over and put her dear little head on my shoulder, still trembling slightly from the grotesque eldritch horrors that she had experienced.

“Worry not, Mills,” I comforted her as we rode down the highway back to Baltimore. “You are safe now, and that terror is all over. Mayor Kirby is dead, and the last of the Alif will never again have enough energy to manifest. Their time is now long past, and the power of Virginkiller is no more!”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “OUT OF THE TOY BOX”

THE OMEGA MONSTER

Bill Bean had changed quite a bit since his early days. Self-described as “The Spiritual Warrior”, the native of Glen Burnie, Maryland had started out as a minister, specialising in what has become known amongst the Pentecostal set as “Deliverance” -- but which is known to other forms of Christianity by an older and decidedly more eldritch term: Exorcism.

It is this that had eventually led to Bill Bean’s downfall. You see, along the way he had gotten into mentalist contact with beings that claimed to be divine spirits offering to help him in his attempts to cast out evil in his congregation. What was unknown to Bean was that these entities were actually the Cacodemons of Andromeda, the now-disembodied essences of an ancient race of conquerors that had devastated that galaxy many generations ago before finally being defeated in a long war.

Influenced by the Cacodemons, Bill Bean found that the task of ministry was no longer of interest to him. In fact, he found that the planet Earth itself was no longer enough to satisfy his desires. Bill Bean now wanted bigger things. He wanted to rule the Universe!

Bean soon found himself informed by his “spirit” allies that something was drifting to-wards Earth that would be of use to him. It was the wreckage of an old Andromedan Warbird, the type of spaceship used by the Cacodemons during the war, when they were still beings of organic form. As soon as the ship came close enough, the psychic influence working though Bill Bean had been enough to reactivate its engines, and he had found himself taken aboard by a matter transmit beam.

The man once known as Bill Bean, deliverance minister, now found himself completely under control of the Cacodemons. They utilised him to repair the Warbird, and he had then announced that he was to be inaugurated as King of the Solar System!

It was then, of course, that I intervened, travelling in my own Time/Spaceship, the DiTraS (pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere) to intercept Bill Bean’s Andromedan battleship. Thus, I now stood on the engineering deck of the Warbird, clad in my usual finery (including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, panama hat, and one of my favourite opera capes) and facing down this once-human individual who had now become an agent of intergalactic horror.

Bill Bean unleashed a wave of ebony-black energy directly at me. It was the very force of the Cacodemons. I raised the transonic turnscrew, an highly-advanced technological device resembling a writing pen, before me and activated it to ward off the burst of darksome power.

“Give it a rest, Mr. Bean,” I mocked. “I have faced the Cacodemons before, and know the ways of defeating them.”

“Not this time, Doctor!” shouted Bill Bean in defiance, dressed incongruously in a suit more proper for a Sunday-morning church service. “The powers of the Rulers of Andromeda now flow through me, and I will use them to become like God!”

“Blasphemy will get you nowhere. I was there, you know. I was right there at the final battle of the Andromedan War when the power of the Cacodemons was broken forever. The dark force with which you are possessed is but an echo.”

Whilst I thus distracted Bean, another figure quietly crept around the engine system behind him. It was a beautiful young girl with luxurious chestnut hair and enchanting violet eyes, wearing a tight, short-skirted, magenta-coloured dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender adolescent form. When she reached the engineering control board, she hurriedly entered a series of command manoeuvres into the various dials and levers found thereon.

At this, the ship lurched a bit, causing Bill Bean to turn quickly to see what had caused the sabotage of his ship.

“Millie, look out!” I warned the girl, who had lost her balance slightly.

Before I could prevent him, Bill Bean cast another blast of ebon energy at me. I dodged it, but not before he had run over to grab my friend Millie Drake by the throat.

“Surrender now, Doctor,” he called back to me, “or I will crush the life from her!”

I was too far away to disable Bill Bean with any of my usual Daemonian kung fu techniques before he could harm the lass, but nevertheless the possibility of him attempting this had been prepared for. At that very second, a sharply-focused beam of light flashed across the room and hit Bill Bean directly in the centre of his forehead. He immediately let go of Millie and stumbled backwards into the engines.

“Good shooting, Kit-10!” I praised my mobile computer who resembles nothing more or less than a mechanical cat, and possesses the nose-laser that had disabled Bill Bean. “You deserve some catnip now, hmmm?”

“This unit is not a cat, s--,” replied the robot in her pleasantly-feminine voice.

(Despite her protestations, Kit-10 does have numerous feline characteristics, not the least of which is her total inability to openly show respect to anyone. The closest she can come is by referring to me by a slight “s--” sound, for ”sir”, and by Millie by “m--”, for “ma’am”.)

“Are you all right, love?” I enquired of the girl, having now run over to her.

“I’m fine, Daniel,” she assured me, “but what about him?”

I looked and beheld that Bill Bean had passed out from exertion mixed with a shock he had received from the engine. I quickly did a biological scan of him with the transonic device.

“It appears he has no human consciousness left,” I said upon checking the readings. “The Cacodemons have completely taken over his body, which is rotting from within due to the strain. We had best leave him here.”

I quickly programmed the self-destruct codes into the Warbird, then utilised the transonic again, this time to open a part of the engineering access panel, then reaching my hand in to transact a certain part.

“Is that it?” queried Millie.

“Forsooth,” I affirmed, looking at the piece of emerald-hued crystal I held in the palm of my hand. “The warp-core of an Andromedan Warbird, probably the last one in existence. Let us hurry away now, Mills, Kit-10. This ship will blow up in mere minutes!”

With this, I pocketed the warp-core and then ran from the ship’s engine centre along with the lass and the robot. In the corridor, we hurried through a porthole-type opening that had appeared in what seemed to be a “Roman column” -- in reality our aforementioned DiTraS.

A moment later, I had activated the DiTraS engines and the column faded from view, taking us safely away into the Space/Time Current.

There was soon after a great explosion in that region of Space, just outside of the Solar System, as the last of the Andromedan Warbirds was obliterated forever. …

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!!! …

Millie Drake had gotten into my collection of vintage teen magazines, which is why she now stood in the café-like control room of the DiTraS reading an article about Elvis Presley’s new movie deal. Kit-10 rested in the corner whilst her systems did their usual updates, the low sound of her motor sounding quite like a contented purring.

The interior of the DiTraS exists in a different dimensional reality, and so is much larger than the exterior form of the ship. The DiTraS is fitted with something called anole circuitry that usually would allow it to change the shape of its exterior so as to blend in with any surroundings. However, the circuitry in mine was damaged whilst the ship was visiting a “Roman Coliseum”-themed casino/hotel in Las Vegas some years before. I have never had a chance to properly repair it amongst the many adventures with which my life is filled.

As I stood at the control console, which resembles an upper-class coffee counter, an alarm signal suddenly went off on one of the safety indicators.

“What is that, Daniel?” enquired Millie, distracted from her reading about old-time rock and roll. “Is there a problem with the ship?”

“Not at all, love,” I assured her, “but we are receiving a distress signal. Hmmm! It is from the planet Xoas, halfway across the Milky Way.”

“What do you think could be wrong with them?”

“No way to tell without investigating,” said I, resetting the controls. “It is just a general distress call, but it is marked urgent. The Xoans are an humanoid race, with their society and technologies somewhat ahead of Earth’s.”

“Whatever it is,” stated the girl, “I hope we can help them.”

“So do I, Mills,” I agreed. “After all, that is what we are here for.”

The hum of the control system briefly grew louder, then lessened as the lights on the board changed colours.

“Ah, we have materialised in the Xoan city that is their capital,” said I. “Kit-10, stay with the ship whilst we go see what we can do for these people, hmmm?”

“Of course, s--,” replied the mechanical feline.

Millie and I exited the DiTraS and found ourselves in a well-appointed corridor of the type often found in government-type buildings of many cultures. We walked down the hallway until we came to an open door. Upon peering in, we beheld a man sitting behind a desk. He stood up and approached us.

“Greetings, friends,” he said. “Welcome to Xoas. How may I help you?”

He was tall and thin, dressed in a sort of futuristic tunic. His head was hairless and his skin had a golden hue.

“We have come in answer to your distress signal,” I told him. “I am Dr. Rumanos and this is Miss Drake.”

“Yes, we are familiar with your work,” said the Xoan man. “I am the Security Leader for our world, and we do indeed require some assistance.”

The Xoan motioned for us to sit in the chairs that surrounded his desk. We did so as he himself resumed his own seat behind it, and then turned a video screen to face us.

“It seems the problem we are having is showing itself right now,” he informed us. “You see, the cities of our planet have been under repeated attack by a gigantic creature, a thing which my people have termed ‘The Omega Monster’. It has devastated much of our world and threatens to destroy us utterly if not stopped.”

The monitor screen switched on and showed us a view of the city skyline. Flying down to-wards the buildings was an enormous shape -- a shape grotesque and hideous and (horrible to relate!) all-too-familiar. It was a being hundreds of feet tall and ebon-black of colour. It flew by the motion of two membranous, bat-like wings. The thing had two enormous claws for feet, and three hideous heads that writhed in constant motion atop long serpentine necks. From its horridly-fanged mouthed it exhaled noxious and poisonous fumes as the people of Xoas fled from it in terror through the city streets.

“By the Stars!” I swore, recognising the horrid monstrosity. “It survived, and has returned to ravage worlds!”

“That is the thing that threatens to end our civilisation, Doctor,” proclaimed the Xoan. “The thing that will wipe out all life on our planet if we cannot stop it.”

As we watched, a group of Xoan aircraft approached the monster, but their energy weapons did not even faze the thing.

“Daniel,” said Millie Drake, struggling to overcome the speechlessness that the horror of this sight had temporarily brought upon her. “It really is still alive! That thing… The Omega Monster… it is really…”

“Yes,” I affirmed, “it is Wingosus!!”

“So you do recognise this thing as the same creature that attacked Earth some time ago?” questioned the Xoan.

“It is indeed Wingosus,” I reiterated, “the monster created by the villainous Don Wingus during the Galactic Wars. It was fashioned to be the supreme bringer of chaos, the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, a creature of terror and extreme demoniacal horror -- with its very three heads being a diabolical mockery of the Stellar Trinity of Algol!”

“This is why we have summoned your assistance,” he said. “We wish to borrow the creature known as Pederosis.”

“Ah, of course,” I realised. “If you could bring him here to Xoas, he could then be utilised to defeat Wingosus.”

“Exactly the plan we devised, Doctor,“ affirmed the Xoan. “Our spaceships have the hyper drive capability to reach Earth, and to bring the other creature back here, but we need to make use of your ability to awaken him.”

“Pederosis is the most powerful of the Kaiju,” I pondered, “that most ancient order of titanic being that ruled the planet Earth before the current cycle of life even started. He exists now only in deep hibernation. To waken him is a great responsibility.”

“It is the only hope we have, Doctor,” pleaded the Xoan, switching off the monitor. “We need Pederosis to defeat the Omega Monster, or the civilisation of our planet will be annihilated.”

“So we would have to take the DiTraS back to Earth to awaken him?” asked Millie Drake.

“That would not be necessary,” said I. “We could have Kit-10 transmit the signal through a secure subspace channel.”

“Then you will help us?” queried the Xoan.

“Most certainly,” I agreed. “As a Knight of the Eternal Spires I cannot refuse such a request.”

“Our ships are ready to enter hyperspace to Earth immediately.”

I took the transonic turnscrew from my pocket and programmed it to synchronise with Kit-10’s software. …

At that same time, within the DiTraS control room, the robotic cat powered up her systems and connected the sensor from her forehead to the ship’s main console. …

“The signal has been sent,” I told the Xoan. “You should find Pederosis awakened in the centre of the North Atlantic Ocean by the time your spaceships arrive. Now, if Miss Drake and I can return to our own ship, we may be able to also provide some assistance in weakening Wingosus before…”

“That will not be necessary,” said the Xoan. “With the awakening of Pederosis, your usefulness to us has ended.”

It was then that two more Xoans came through the door, holding laser pistols on Millie and myself.

“Oh no!” cried the girl. “Daniel, what’s happening?”

“What is happening, love,” I explained, “is that we have been used and betrayed.”

“Take them to a holding cell,” ordered the head Xoan. “They have served their purpose, and we are not ungrateful. Secure them carefully, but do allow them to view our progress on subspace video. We will now have complete control over both King Wingosus and Pederosis, nothing can stand in our way, and we shall use both of these monsters to conquer the planet Earth!” …

Upon Earth, in the middle of the North Atlantic, a disturbance like unto a tidal-wave split the sea in twain. From there then arose something huge -- in sooth a creature whose height would perhaps be matched by a forty-storey building. It -- he! -- was green of hue and shaped like a bipedal lizard. Down his back and tail were three lines of sharp, serrated spikes. Incredibly muscular of appearance, he seemed to be made for fighting. Nevertheless, there was something about his large, subtly-slanted eyes that bespoke of an intelligence beyond that of any ordinary creature, gigantic or not.

The monster Pederosis had awakened!! …

Back on Xoas, Millie and I sat in the cell to which we had been taken, the video monitor they had supplied us showing footage (sent via subspace transmission to prevent the long delay otherwise necessary for a broadcast to cross the light-years) of the rising of Pederosis.

“So what are they doing, Daniel?” enquired the girl. “Are they taking Wingosus to Earth?”

“So it appears,” I answered. “The seem to have some type of control mechanism, probably a kind of sonic oscillation, that they can use to keep the monsters under their command.”

“Look!” exclaimed the lass, pointing to the monitor screen. “There it is!”

As we watched in horror, we beheld a cube-like Xoan spaceship enter Earth’s atmosphere. From it there extended an energy wave, in which was encased in a sort of bubble the terror known as Wingosus. As we continued to watch, another Xoan ship appeared and utilised a similar wave to capture Pederosis, who did not even put up a struggle.

“They now also have Pederosis under their control, and are taking both the monsters somewhere,” said I. “Somewhere where they can cause much damage.”

“Daniel, if only we could get out of here and go back to the DiTraS! Then we could go to Earth and warn them at least!”

“Well, some help should be arriving on that regard, hmmm? Ah, here we go!”

As I spoke, a laser light could be seen burning through the lock on the cell door. In a few moments, the door opened and our robotic cat friend glided through it.

“Kit-10!” exclaimed Mille. “How did you find us?”

“No problem, m--,” returned the mechanical puss. “I am attuned to your biological prints.”

“Quite right, Kit-10,” I approved. “So you did receive the coded information to come find us that I sent along with the call to Pederosis.”

“You knew somehow not to trust the Xoans?” enquired Millie.

“Yes, I suspected them as soon as that official introduced himself as their ‘Security Leader’. Such a term indicated that the Xoan government has been taken over by a fascist regime.”

“Daniel, look!” exclaimed Millie, who had briefly glanced back at the video screen.

What she had seen was terrifying indeed, for what it showed was the Xoan spaceship still towing the two monsters -- and they were approaching a skyline, which was easily recognised at that of New York City!

“We need to hurry, love!” I proclaimed. “Fortunately, the Xoans will be far too preoccupied with their operations on Earth to attempt stopping us.”

We hurried down the corridor, only briefly stopping at the now-empty office in which we had been before. I retrieved the transonic turnscrew from the desk, where I had seen it secured when they had confiscated it.

We soon entered the DiTraS and dematerialised, the coordinates set for Earth.

“Here, I should be able to get that transmission on our screen,” I said. “We can see how their attempt against Earth is progressing.”

The monitor came on and the scene that then appeared was one of absolute ungodly terror indeed. The monsters Pederosis and Wingosus, both completely under control of the Xoan invasion force, had been set down at opposite ends of New York City, and had proceeded to begin devastating it -- tearing down buildings and stomping on vehicles and causing crowds of people to run screaming in total abject fear!

Then we heard the Xoan voice that was being broadcast upon Earth. It spoke thusly:

“Attention, people of the planet Earth. We are the Xoans. We are your new leaders. The creatures now attacking one of your largest cities are under our control. All of your governments will immediately surrender to us or the destruction will continue. If you resist, we will use these monsters to destroy every city and major population area on your planet.”

“Oh no!” cried Millie as we viewed the scene in shocked horror. “We’re too late!!”

Do you even begin to perceive the supreme fear and unnameable terror of this horrific situation, my friends? Before we could make it to Earth, the Xoan invasion had begun, and they were using the monsters Pederosis and Wingosus to destroy the city of New York -- even this but a beginning of the threat of absolute horror they intended to use in order to blackmail all human governments into submitting to their domination of the planet!

I ran to one of the storage lockers at the side of the DiTraS control room. From it I took an object - an object like a green crystal.

“The Andromedan warp-core,” said Millie Drake. “Is there a way it can be used against the Xoans?”

“Peradventure, love,” I rejoined. “You see, Wingosus was originally created during a conflict with Andromeda, and has certain Andromedan components. In order to control it, the Xoans must be utilising a partially Andromedan-styled frequency, hmmm? If I can tap into it, and use the warp-core before it burns out completely, I may just be able to jam the signal.”

I set the green crystal down on the DiTraS control board. It was immediately surrounded by a myriad of multihued lights.

“Ah, the interface has been accepted,” I continued, adjusting some controls. “Now, if I can just send it in reverse along the transmission from Earth, watch what happens!”

Millie Drake turned to the monitor to view the results. Upon it could be seen Pederosis, who suddenly stopped his rampage through New York. He began to shake his huge head as if clearing it, and then roared a mighty call of challenge before charging forwards to-wards the alien horror known as Wingosus!

The two monsters clashed and began fighting, tearing at one another with teeth and claws. At first, Pederosis definitely had the upper hand, but Wingosus managed to cause his opponent to back off somewhat by unleashing a wave of the toxic fumes from his three hideous mouths. Hissing horridly, Wingosus then flew upwards and swooped back down upon Pederosis with all its weight behind it.

At the same time, the two Xoan spaceships joined in the fight, unleashing energy rays to-wards Pederosis. The noble giant lizard began to sink to the ground, as if in pain.

“Daniel, they’re ganging up on him!” shouted Millie. “Is there some way to stop those ships?”

“Yes, I believe so,” I stated. “Kit-10, can you ascertain the engine frequencies of those Xoan ships and transmit the proper jamming frequencies through the DiTraS?”

“Affirmative, s--,” stated the robot, who them attached her sensors to my ship’s control console. …

Back on Earth, Pederosis struggled to regain his footing in the fight against Wingosus, the rays from the Xoan ships continuing to pummel him. Then, as the jamming frequencies hit the ships, the two Xoan craft suddenly began to plummet downwards, spiralling in to crash into the near by buildings.

With this, Pederosis recovered and stood tall, facing the monstrosity of Wingosus. With another roar, he unleashed his own atomic flame breath directly at the three-headed alien creature, causing it to hiss hideously and to quickly back away.

The DiTraS had by now reached Earth, and we materialised atop the new World Trade Centre building, Millie and I quickly exiting the ship in order to view the battle of the monsters.

After well-nigh frying Wingosus with radiation, Pederosis then grabbed the thing in what appeared to be a sumo wrestling hold, then casting the monster to the ground.

“Omega Monster,” I said from our vantage point, “meet the Alpha!”

“Look at that, Daniel!” exclaimed the girl. “Wingosus is leaving!”

Indeed, the alien monster -- now burned and mangled from its fight with the giant lizard -- had now taken to the air, flying upwards.

“It has surrendered and is going into Outer Space to die,” I explained. “Pederosis has won!”

As if in response, the mighty monster known as Pederosis then let forth a final roar of triumph before turning and wading out to return to its ocean hibernation -- at least, until he is once again needed!

From atop the building, Millie Drake cheered and waved at the monster Pederosis as he disappeared over the horizon. Despite the destruction, from which I knew the great city of New York could recover, it was a great day.

“I will send a message to the Kosmikos right away,” I said. “I am quite certain that the Absolute Convention of the Watchers will agree to place a Time-loop around the planet Xoan, so their fascist government cannot again attempt conquest of other worlds.”

“That’s good,” said the lass. “They were horrible people to try something like that.”

“But most importantly,” I added, “Wingosus -- also known as the Omega Monster -- has been defeated, and Pederosis is still King!”

“Wow, Daniel, do you know what you’re saying?”

“Hmmm?” I queried. “What do you mean, love?”

The girl smiled beautifully as she made her statement:

“Pederosis is -- the Elvis of Monsters!!”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “VIRGINKILLER”