THE ETERNAL QUEST

“Voila!” said I whilst revealing the bouquet of roses as if from out of thin air. I was dressed in my usual finery (including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, and military boots) as I stood in the café-like control room of that combination Spaceship/Time-machine known as the DiTraS (pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere).

Millie Drake cheered and then smiled sweetly as I handed her the flowers. The girl is exceedingly beautiful, petite-and-perfect with luxurious chestnut hair, lovely violet eyes, sun-kissed skin, and a sensuously-wide mouth. She was clad in a tight, short, magenta-hued dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender young figure.

“An old legerdemain routine but still a good one, hmmm?” I boasted. “One of the greatest secrets of stage illusion, handed down through the generations to only the absolute best of…”

“Harry Blackstone, Earth, 1937,” said Kit-10 (our mobile personal computer that resembles nothing more or less than a small robotic cat) in her pleasantly-feminine voice. “The trick is achieved by misdirection, slight of hand, and the hiding of the…”

“Quiet, Kit-10!” I admonished whilst Millie giggled.

There was suddenly a sound from the control console. I recognised it as a change of speed for the DiTraS engines.

“Spires of Daemonia!” I swore. “We are not yet materialising and are still in the Space/Time Current, but someone seems to be contacting us directly through the system! Why, only the Absolute Convention of the Watchers could possibly… Ah, of course!”

On the monitor view-screen above the control panel, an image appeared. It was of a venerable, grey-haired gentleman resplendent in robes of pure white and gold. I recognised him, of course, as the Universal Overseer of Algol, the highest office of our incredibly advanced race.

“Greetings, Master Rumanos and Mistress Drake,” he intoned. “I must apologise for contacting you in such an unorthodox manner, but the reasons are indeed quite urgent.”

“Salutations, Master Overseer,” I replied with a bow. “To what do we owe the most exalted honour of receiving a personal communication from your most august self?”

“It concerns that which is known as the Eternal Key,” replied the old Algolite. “The device that was utilised by Sesom, the first to hold the office of Universal Overseer, to ensure the continued equilibrium of the Cosmos whilst we Algolites achieved the power of Time and Space travel.”

“Gosh, we learned of the Key of Eternity at the Academy, Master Overseer,” stated Millie with a curtsey, “but I thought it was more legendary than real.”

“It is indeed real, young Mistress Drake,” assured the Overseer. “However, due to the dangers of this object falling into the wrong hands, it has been split into three segments, disguised, and hidden at different locations throughout the history of the Universe.”

“Yes,” I replied. “I remember that it is necessary to collect the pieces and reassemble them from time to time, hmmm?”

“Indeed it is,” affirmed the Watcher, “and one of those times is now upon us. The Eternal Key must be made complete, so that the Absolute Convention can assure that the cosmic forces are saved from plunging into never-ending chaos. It is the task of locating these three segments to which you are now being assigned.”

“But how will we know where to even look for them?” I enquired.

“With this,” replied the Overseer as an object resembling a crystalline wand appeared upon the control board, with a flash of light indicating that it had just travelled to us via the Time/Space Current. “It is the core, the connector of the Key. Calibrated with your DiTraS controls, it should take you to the three locations in which the segments can be found. Taken with you, it will reveal the true nature of the objects that are the disguised portions of the Key of Eternity.”

“I assure you we shall do our best to bring the Eternal Key to you as soon as possible, Master Overseer,” I assured him.

“There is one other thing, Master Rumanos,” stated the old man. “As you know, the Replicants of Leknii have been attempting experiments with Time travel. They have heard some whispers of lore concerning the Eternal Key, and have made it a priority to search for it. Their technology will be able to detect that you are doing the same, and they will likely attack you. It is most imperative that, at all costs, the Key not be allowed to fall into their hands.”

I noticed Millie Drake visibly shudder at the thought of the horrible race of cyborgs known as the Leknii Replicants. We had already undergone several terrifying adventures together in which we had encountered that species of soulless horrors. I put my arm around the lass to comfort her.

“The Replicants, hmmm?” I sneered. “That bunch of grotesque tin soldiers skulking about the galaxies shall not…”

“The Leknii have advanced greatly even since your last encounter with them,” said the Overseer. “They have overcome their weakness to the alien spice known as vlooj.”

“I assure you,” I told him, “we shall not, under any circumstances, allow the Eternal Key to come under control of that group of cybernetic monstrosities.”

“May the blessings of the Stellar Trinity be with you both in your quest,” stated the venerable Algolite, and his image then faded from the screen.

I quickly inserted the crystalline core into an appropriate port in the control console, immediately feeling the engines of the DiTraS become reprogrammed into the new sequence.

“Hold on tight, Millie, Kit-10,” I told my friends. “We have work to do!” …

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 "The Girl From Beyond" 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!!! …

A strange gasping, moaning sound was heard as the DiTraS (the exterior of whish resembles an old Greco-Roman “Ionic column”) materialised into view there in the darkened museum room. The establishment was obviously closed for the night, and was only illuminated by a few subdued security lights.

A porthole type opening appeared in the DiTraS, and I emerged from it accompanied by Millie Drake and Kit-10. I had now donned my panama hat and one of my favourite opera capes.

“So where are we again?” queried the girl.

“The Municipal Museum of the capital city on the planet Merrold,” I told her. “It is a society much like Earth in the late twentieth century, at least technologically speaking. The Merroldians are an humanoid race, their society largely peaceful but rather legalistic.”

“Won’t there be museum guards?” asked Millie.

“More than likely,” I acquiesced. “Kit-10, keep a watch out, hmmm? Make sure your blaster is set for stun.”

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

(It should be noted here that, along with her other catlike characteristics, Kit-10 is possessed of a total inability to openly show respect to anyone. The closest she can ever come to it is addressing me by a slight “s--” sound -- for “sir” -- and Millie by “m--” -- for “ma’am”.)

We began searching around the museum room, looking at the various displays, many of which were secured under glass.

“Daniel, a lot of these things look like crown jewels,” said Millie. “Royal vestments, regalia.”

“Indeed,” said I. “These are relics of the old Merroldian Monarchy, from before their society became one large republic.”

“So will that core thing enable us to find what here is the first segment of the Eternal Key?”

“It should indeed, Mills,” I said, taking the crystalline wand from my jacket pocket and holding it to-wards the display cabinets. “Let us see.”

The core began to glow when I pointed it to-wards a glass cabinet containing a particularly diverse assortment of antique jewellery.

“Ah, here we go,” I pondered. “That topaz-like stone seems to be it.”

“But how do we get to it?” questioned Millie Drake. “Kit-10’s nose-laser?”

“I think not. I should be able to do it without damaging the glass if I use the transonic turnscrew. That will also serve to automatically disable any alarms, hmmm?”

I handed Millie the crystalline core and took the transonic, an highly-advanced scientific instrument somewhat resembling a large writing pen, from my pocket. I activated the device and set to work loosening the fastenings of the glass cover to the display case.

“There are so many jewels on this display,” I said as the low whirring sound of the transonic turnscrew signified its working, “and they do not appear to be labelled. I doubt if it will even be noticed if one goes missing.”

I then returned the transonic instrument to my pocket and carefully lifted the glass with one hand, whilst using the other to extract the stone. I then slowly replaced the glass and felt it lock back in place.

“So that’s really the first segment of the Eternal Key?” pondered Millie.

“Let us be certain, love,” said I, retrieving the crystalline wand from her.

I touched the jewel with the wand and there was a quick flash of white light as the topaz stone transformed into an irregular crystal about the size of a baseball.

“Wow!” exclaimed the lass. “It’s beautiful!”

“Forsooth, it is,” I agreed, placing both the segment and the wand in my jacket pocket. “Beautiful and unspeakably powerful.”

“Danger approaching!” suddenly interrupted Kit-10.

I looked up just in time to perceive a man hurrying down the corridor to-wards the museum room. He was short and stocky and wearing an uniform.

“The guard!” Millie cried out.

“Yes, he must have just noticed the light whilst on his routine ‘beat’ around the museum,” I said.

“You two!” the guard then shouted, starting to take his gun from its holster. “Hands up!”

“Stun him, Kit-10!” I said as Millie and I hurried a retreat to-wards the DiTraS.

A beam of light shot from the nose of the robot cat, hitting the guard in the chest and sending him crumpling to the floor, unconscious.

“I doubt if that chap will even report this when he awakens,” I mused. “His superiors would probably just think he had been drinking on the job!”

Millie and I entered the DiTraS, followed by Kit-10, and the odd gasping moaning sound was heard as the ship dematerialised from the museum.

Inside the control room, I set the first segment down on the console and inserted the crystalline core back in the instrument panel.

“One down,” I stated, “two to go!”

“My gosh, Daniel,” said Millie Drake, her eyes wide with wonder, “where will it take us next?” …

At that same time, a small-but-efficient rocket-ship was blasting through Space near the planet Merrold. Inside this craft, in a sort of centralised computer room, stood several large cybernetic men. They were all a metallic silver in colour, but the largest of them had a sort of bronze piping highlighting his form and signifying him as the leader. One of the others approached him.

“Algolitish ship detected, Controller,” it reported, its voice an emotionless, electronically-enhanced drone. “It is the ship belonging to the Kosmikos Agent known as Doctor Daniel Rumanos. They have the first segment of the Key of Eternity.”

“Excellent,” returned the Controller in its similar but deeper tones. “Continue to follow their course, but keep our presence cloaked. When they have ascertained the location of all three segments, we shall destroy them and take the Key for ourselves.”

“Yes, Controller,” said the other.

“Soon the Eternal Key shall be ours, and we, the Replicants of Leknii, shall achieve complete mastery over all of Space and Time.” …

We soon heard the DiTraS engines again initiate the materialisation sequence. I went over and examined the readouts.

“So, where are we?” asked Millie.

“We have landed on the planet Gudubuch,” I informed her, “which is found in one of the most primitive galactic clusters. The entire planet is one steaming-hot prehistoric swamp.”

“But the second segment of the Eternal Key is here somewhere?”

“Yes, according to the core it is indeed near by,” I said, picking up the crystalline wand. “As for you, Kit-10, it is best that you stay behind this time. Far too much dampness out there for your circuitry, hmmm? Nevertheless, there is something you can do whilst waiting for our return. Do you think you can do a scan of the first segment, and prepare a perfect mathematical survey of its dimensions? Just an idea that it might be of interest, hmmm?”

“Of course, s--,” acquiesced the metallic pussycat.

Millie Drake and I then exited the ship to begin our exploration of the planet, in search of the second segment. The heat and humidity of Gudubuch were absolutely sweltering and oppressive, with the thick, jungle-like growth of the swampland creating an uncomfortable darkness even under the planet’s bright midday sun.

“Gosh,” exclaimed the girl, “when you said ‘prehistoric’, it wasn’t an exaggeration!”

“Indeed not, love,” I agreed. “The highest forms of life here are some amphibious and early-reptilian species. We need to be careful, though. They can grow quite large in this tropical environment.”

“Any ideas yet what the segment is disguised as?”

“The core seems to indicate it is quite close in that direction. Remember that it could be anything: a rock, a tree, anything!”

We continued on and soon came to a wide marsh, filled as it was with masses of floating greenery and with occasional breakouts of bubbling denoting the presence of various types of archaic animal life beneath the surface.

“Well, that is odd,” I said, looking at the crystal core as it glowed whilst I held it before me. “Odd indeed.”

“What is it, Daniel?” enquired the lass.

“According to this, the second segment is directly in front of us, but then -- down!”

“You mean it’s under the water?”

“Yes, but the problem is more than that,” I explained. “It seems to be spread over quite a wide area, and to be apparently mobile. In fact, it appears to be almost as if it is…”

I was suddenly interrupted by a tremendous splash of uprising swamp water as something very big quickly rose up from the swamp. I heard Millie Drake scream in absolute abject horror as we both beheld what it was that was so suddenly threatening us.

It was an huge, snakelike reptile, quite like a water-going anaconda but far larger than anything found on present-day Earth. Its head alone was about the size of an elephant. It bellowed a roar that shook the ground like a planet-quake. Then, before we could further react, the monstrosity opened its gigantic jaws wider and lunged directly to-wards us!!

I stood in front of Millie to shield her as the serpentine terror attacked. Then I realised something.

“Ah, of course!” I exclaimed.

Just before the giant reptile’s horrid mouth would have closed upon us, I tossed the crystalline wand into it. When it made contact, there was a flash of light and the large prehistoric snake disappeared. The core and another irregularly-shaped crystal fell to the ground at our feet. I bent down and picked them up.

“So that was it?” said the still-trembling Millie. “That monster was the second segment?”

“Quite so, love,” I said as I safely deposited the segment and the wand in my pocket, then taking the girl’s hand comfortingly. “I said it could be anything, hmmm?”

We then heard another roar, this of some far-off, but undoubtedly humongous creature.

“Umm, shouldn’t we get back to the DiTraS before any more monsters show up?” suggested Millie. “Any real ones, I mean?”

“I think that is a fine idea indeed, love,” I agreed, and we quickly returned to our ship.

On board the DiTraS, I placed the new segment with the other.

“Any idea how they fit together?” questioned Millie Drake.

“According to the old stories about the Key of Eternity,” I remembered, “they will automatically assemble when all three segments have been collected together with the core. So, let us find the third segment and see what happens, hmmm?”

I activated the console, returning the core to its place, and we again travelled through the Time/Space Current. When we landed, I immediately examined the readouts.

“We have materialised on the ice planet Hith,” I said “It is in a remote portion of the Milky Way Galaxy, and became popular, soon after its discovery in the twenty-third century, amongst a movement of Earth people who wanted to go there to live like old-time ‘mountain men’.”

“‘Ice planet’?” repeated Millie Drake with a nervous giggle. “So after sweating it out in that swamp, we are going to freeze ourselves here?”

“Oh, hopefully not, love,” I winked. “It is actually quite like the old Canadian wilderness. Here, let me put up the view-screen and we can see exactly what is outside.”

A picture appeared on the monitor above the control board. It showed the rough but cosy interior of a dwelling.

“By the Stars!” I exclaimed. “That looks like a sort of log cabin, hmmm? Look, there is even a fire burning in the fireplace, so it should be warm enough.”

“Do you think it belongs to one of those settlers from Earth you mentioned?” queried the lass.

“More than likely,” I answered, retrieving the crystalline wand from the controls. “Come along Mills, Kit-10. I hope that the owner of this house is friendly, and will not mind us looking for the segment in their abode. Who knows, they may even invite us for tea!”

We exited the DiTraS into the cabin. It was small and rustic but well-furnished with several chairs and a small table. I took the core from my pocket and began to scan for the third segment.

“Ah, there it is!” I said, crossing to where the wand had indicated.

I touched to crystal core to a wooden candlestick and, with the flash of light, the same was transformed into the third segment of the Eternal Key.  I was just about to pick it up when I was interrupted by a scream from Millie Drake.

“What is it, love?” I whirled around. “What happened?”

“Over there,” she said, pointing to the far side of the cabin. “Look!”

I ran over and saw what had so upset the girl. It had previously been hidden from our view by the furniture. It was the body of a man.

Dropping the core in my pocket, I bent over to examine him. He was clad in winter clothing, looking as if he had just re-entered the cabin from outside. His long hair and beard signified that he was one of the self-styled “mountain-men” of which I had previously spoken.

“Is…” stammered Millie, who had kept somewhat away. “Is he dead?”

“He is indeed, love,” I informed her, examining the gaping but bloodless wound in his midsection. “He appears to have been killed by some kind of energy weapon!”

“But who could have done that?”

“That is the question, Mills,” I pondered. “No one on Hith would have such a device. The entire reason they migrated here was in order to live simply, without dangerous technology. Someone else must be here. Someone whom this poor chap interrupted upon returning home, who then…”

“Danger!” suddenly exclaimed Kit-10. “Incoming matter transmissions detected!”

I stood up and whirled around just in time to witness an outrage. There were shimmering lights on the other side of the room that resolved themselves into three figures -- tall silver figures that I knew all too well.

“Leknii Replicants!” said I. “So they are responsible for this murder!”

Then, before I could further react, it all happened. One of the Replicants took the third segment of the Eternal Key that I had left on that side of the room, whilst another grabbed Millie Drake by the arm. I had just started to hurl myself to-wards them when the third raised its arm and fired its crimson-hued energy weapon at me. It narrowly missed, burning a hole in the floor.

I heard Millie cry out in terror, and I knew that Kit-10 could not fire her nose-laser without the possibility of hitting the girl. Then the glow of the matter transit beam briefly returned, and the three Replicants vanished -- taking Miss Millie Drake and the third segment with them!

I ran into the DiTraS along with the mechanical cat.

“The Leknii ship must be in orbit around Hith,” I said whilst setting the controls to dematerialise. “They likely have a cloaking screen up, but if I can calibrate the sensors to detect the residue of their engines, we should be able to ascertain their location.”

The DiTraS had by now re-materialised in open Space. I put up the monitor to view the area around the planet, opening all communications possibilities in order to find the ship in which I knew Millie was being held hostage.

Then a voice came over the communications system. It was the emotionless voice of a Replicant.

“Doctor Rumanos of Algol,” it began, “we have your companion. You will surrender the first two segments of the Eternal Key to us immediately, or her life will be terminated.”

Do you see the terror, the unmitigated horror of this situation? The Replicants of Leknii were holding Millie Drake hostage -- their demand being that I should give them all that they needed to construct and activate the Key of Eternity and use it to achieve powers thus far only available to the Watchers of Algol!

“The Key is far too dangerous,” I told them. “Its misuse could forever destroy the very balance of Creation. It could…”

“The subject is not open to discussion,” countered the Leknii. “We will utilise the Eternal Key to achieve mastery over all of Time and Space. We already have the third segment. You will surrender the others to us now, or your young friend will die.”

“You promise to return her here in exchange for the segments and the core?” I queried, gazing closely at the pieces of the Eternal Key that for now rested on my ship’s control board.

“She will be returned to you via our matter transit as soon as the complete Key is received.”

“Daniel, no!” I heard Millie Drake’s voice cry out. “Don’t give it to them! I’m not important! Please don’t… !” …

On board the Leknii ship, the Controller turned to-wards Millie, who was trembling in fear.

“Be silent, you Algolite child,” it said. “The affection that Doctor Rumanos feels for you will be his undoing. We have eliminated all emotion from ourselves. That is why we are superior and shall prevail over all of Space and all of Time.” …

In the DiTraS control room, I heard the voice of the Controller again on the speaker:

“We need your decision now, Algolite. Surrender the segments to us.”

I glanced over to one of the tables near the control console, and saw the bouquet of roses that I had given Millie earlier. She had placed them in a vase of water. As I looked at this scene, I knew what I had to do.

“All right,” I said. “All right. The DiTraS does not have matter transmission technology because our people consider such things to be antiquated junk. I will lower the inter-dimensional dampers so that you can transmit the segments to your ship and return the girl here.” …

A few minutes later, the crystalline wand and two segments transmitted unto the Leknii ship. The third segment already stood on their central control console.

“Excellent,” proclaimed the Controller. “The girl will be returned to you when the Eternal Key has been assembled.” …

The Leknii had lowered their cloaking shield, and I could see the rocket-ship on the DiTraS monitor. I was making some quick adjustments to the control circuitry. …

The Key assembled itself, the core taking the three segments together with itself as the Replicants watched.

“We have it,” stated the Replicant Controller. “The Eternal Key is ours, and now the Leknii shall be masters of all reality.”

Then a strange white light began to play from the Key. It only lasted a moment before it happened -- one of the segments suddenly caught fire and burned away into a charred black lump of ash!

“What?” queried the Controller. “What has happened?”

The Replicant ship then began to shake and shudder, as if it was being torn to pieces.

“Controller,” said one of the Replicants. “All of our systems are failing. We are losing all power.”

At that same moment, the glow of a matter transit beam surrounded the form of Millie Drake, and she disappeared from the Leknii ship. …

Back on board the DiTraS, I saw Millie appear with the glow of the matter transmission. The lass quickly ran into my arms, sobbing with sudden relief from the horrid fear she had been experiencing.

“Oh, my Millie,” I said. “My sweet little Millie. An eternity of chaos would be more tolerable for me than a life without you!”

“Leknii ship critical,” interrupted Kit-10.

Millie and I looked up at the monitor. The Replicant rocket briefly held still in the eldritch black of Space before it suddenly exploded into countless microscopic shards.

“But… what happened, Daniel?” asked the girl. “I don’t understand.”

I reached into my pocket and took out an irregularly-shaped crystal about the size of a baseball.

“This is the real first segment,” I said, placing it back upon the console. “I gave them the core and the second segment, but the first one they got was a fake.”

“I get it now!” exclaimed Millie. “The mathematical survey you asked Kit-10 to do! That was to get the dimensions so you could make a copy of the segment! Good job, Kit-10!”

“Of course, m--,” returned the robotic puss.

“Quite right,” I agreed. “I indeed used the results of her survey to construct a physically-identical duplicate out of plain glass, and employed a bit of ‘slight of hand’ to replace it. When the Replicants attempted to activate the powers of the Key, the resultant feedback overloaded their systems and destroyed them. I got you back by hacking into their computer and reversing the polarisation of their matter transit device, then easily finding your Algolitish DNA amongst them, and the rest was easy, hmmm?”

“But the Eternal Key?” wondered Millie. “What will happen to it?

“Take a look,” I said, motioning to-wards the control board.

With a flash of pure white light, the second and third segments, along with the crystalline core, appeared next to the first segment that I had left there. As we watched, the three segments assembled themselves around the core, and formed into an object in sooth somewhat resembling a key. This was soon surrounded by scintillating lights, bright orange and blue in colour, which swirled and grew in intensity whilst a sound as of distant symphony filled the air. Within a few moments, it was all over. The light and sound faded, and the Key of Eternity had vanished.

“The Eternal Key is indestructible,” I explained. “I knew the rest of it would automatically return here to assemble, and would stay just long enough for the Absolute Convention of Algol to remotely restore equilibrium to the Cosmos. Now it will be again scattered and disguised in new forms throughout all of Space and Time, whilst the crystalline core is returned for safekeeping to Daemonia City.”

“That’s good!” cheered Millie. “So the Replicant ship was completely destroyed along with its crew, and that horrible Controller?”

“Yes, but there will be more of them spread out across the Universe,” I instructed. “The Leknii Replicants are intent upon conquering the secrets of Time travel. We must be on the lookout for any sign of their presence -- and we must always be prepared to stop them!”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “TALES FROM THE PIZZA GATE”

NO TIME TO CRY

Underneath the waters near the town of Havre de Grace, Maryland was something horrible. It had been there for many years, but had not yet in any way shown itself to the citizens of that small but historically-important city.

Havre de Grace, located as it is on the junction between the head of the Chesapeake Bay and the mouth of the Susquehanna River, was at one time a major contender for the honour of becoming the capital of the United Sates of America. It is known for its well-preserved old lighthouse and for being the hometown of Orioles baseball superstar Cal Ripken, Jr. Historical personages ranging from George Washington to Al Capone are known to have stayed in the town at various times.

Nevertheless, despite whatever interest this information may have, it really has nothing to do with our story. In stead, our story involves an alien menace, an extraterrestrial terror that threatened to utilise Havre de Grace as a base of operations from which it believed it would eventually wipe out the human race and take over the planet Earth. It is an alien menace capable of disguising their appearance, of seemingly being a friend, a servant, or a co-worker.

In truth, it was something that had hidden itself in a local hotel, the Grace Inn, and was using this place as a training ground for absolute unholy horror beyond any type of what could ever be considered sane imagining.

Forsooth it is an alien menace that I had encountered before in my long and storied career, in fact, in what was actually an experience that in its way was much larger than this one, but which none the less was not so full of possible consequences -- consequences that now threatened to take away from me that which I have come to know as the most important thing in my life, indeed something that is to me the very essence of life itself.

This is that story. This is the tale of a terror I faced that could have ended everything. It is also the story of the unexpected help that I received from a source that I never knew to be possible; a source that revealed to me a presence beyond that of any scientific denial, a presence that seems to exist outside the latitude and longitude of what is generally thought to be reality.

I do not really expect this story to be believed, much less completely understood. I simply present it here as it happened, as part of this ongoing series of memoirs concerning my life and times in the particular milieu in which I have my continued existence. …

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!!! …

I drove my canary-coloured Edwardian roadster, affectionately know as “Lizzie”, into Havre de Grace on that overcast day. I was dressed in my usual finery, including a ruffled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, panama hat, and one of my favourite opera capes. Beside me was Millie Drake, an exceptionally beautiful teenage girl with luxurious chestnut hair, lovely violet eyes, and sun-kissed skin. The tight, short, electric-blue dress she wore only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender young figure. Also with us was Kit-10, our mobile personal computer that resembles nothing more or less than a small robotic cat.

As we entered the town, we passed near to the gates of Angel Hill Cemetery, and certain thoughts long buried arose in my mind. They were thoughts of the past, of the home, the family, the loved ones that I once had. Persons taken from me by the forces of darkness, in horrible tragedies so very long before. With this, I thought of how, despite the long years of my particular life, there has in sooth been little chance to weep, in truth nearly no time to cry over that which I have lost.

We checked into the Grace Inn. The attendant at the front desk was a thin young man with brown hair, very professional and efficient, albeit a trifle effete.

“I’m Scott,” he said. “Welcome to the Grace Inn, one of Havre de Grace’s oldest and most historic hotels. We hope you will enjoy your stay.”

“Thank you for the hospitality, Scott,” said I whilst signing the registry. “I am Doctor Rumanos, and this is my assistant, Miss Drake.”

I noticed he was staring at Kit-10.

“Oh, that is our personal computer,” I added in explanation.

“That’s funny,” he said. “It looks like a robot cat.”

Millie giggled.

A man then walked through the lobby, coming in from outside. He was middle-aged and heavy of build, clad in conservative business attire He entered the office labelled “Manager” and closed the door. I noticed Scott visibly shudder.

“That man gives me the creeps,” he said.

“Your manager?” enquired Millie.

“Oh, he’s not the usual boss,” explained Scott. “Our regular hotel manager is on vacation, and Mr. Wutt there just took over for two weeks. This is his last day, anyway, thank goodness. There is just something so creepy about him. I don’t know what it is. Oh, never mind, I shouldn’t be saying these things. Anyway, we have full room service in agreement with the restaurant next door and you’ll find a menu in your suite. Just call if you want anything.”

We thanked him and took the lift to the rooms that we had booked. They were quite nice, somewhat antique but well-maintained.

“So, Daniel,” said Millie Drake, “this is near where the alien emanations were detected?”

“Yes, they seemed to be centred in the waters quite close by to this hotel,” I answered. “We will look into them soon, but let us order a good meal first, hmmm? I have always found it best to be well fuelled before facing some extraterrestrial menace.”

We ordered room service. It was delivered quickly and was indeed quite good. I had the porterhouse steak, medium rare, along with a baked potato and a side of peas and carrots, whilst Millie enjoyed the house salad with roast chicken. We had a large pot of highly-caffeinated coffee for the beverage, as is our wont.

For desert, we enjoyed a good serving of chocolate mousse.

“Sorry they did not have any of that fancy cat food for you, Kit-10,” I joked.

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

It should be noted here that despite her frequent protestations to the contrary, Kit-10 does indeed have numerous catlike characteristics, not the least of which is her complete inability to openly show respect to anyone. The closest she can come to it is by referring to me by a slight “s--” sound (for “sir”) and to Millie by “m--” (for “ma’am”).

As soon as we had finished our meal, I took the transonic turnscrew (an highly-advanced scientific instrument somewhat resembling a large writing pen) from my pocket and put it on scan mode.

“This is definitely verifying the presence of alien technology,” I said upon looking at the transonic readouts. “It is indeed near by, in fact underwater at the very head of the Chesapeake Bay. Kit-10, can you scan as well and transmit your results through my device? It should strengthen the signals and perhaps enable us to detect what type of extraterrestrial force with which we are dealing.”

“Of course, s--,” agreed the mechanical puss, then activating her scanner with a low whirring sound.

As I continued to read the now-boosted information on the transonic turnscrew, I suddenly recognised the sequence of numbers I was seeing, realising that they indicated the presence of something that I had encountered before in what was truly one of the most hazardous experiences of my entire career.

“By the Daemonian Spires!” I swore. “This is worse than I had supposed!”

“What is it, Daniel?” queried Millie concernedly.

“The alien technology under the bay,” I explained. “It is a spaceship, and it is Zedgonnim!!”

“Zedgonnim?” repeated the girl. “Oh gosh, I remember now! You told me something about what happened when you faced them before.”

“Yes, indeed,” I went on, “and an horrible experience it was. They intended to wipe out the human race in order to claim the planet Earth for themselves. You see, their own planet, called Zedgonnimium, was wiped out many many years ago by solar flares -- well, at least that is the official story…”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, there were rumours. Just rumours, mind you. Rumours that the Absolute Convention of the Watchers had secretly ordered the destruction of the planet Zedgonnimium. It seems that the Zedgonnim race may have possibly been a threat to the security of the Cosmos. They are very long-lived, at least when compared to most species other than ours, and their bodies have a certain type of symbiotic relationship with their technology, which is in itself partially organic. It was therefore apparently feared that if they began to develop inter-dimensional and inter-temporal technology, they could indeed prove themselves to be troublesome.”

“But some of them escaped?” queried the lass. “When their planet was destroyed, I mean?”

“Indeed, it is said that possibly thousands of Zedgonnim spaceships managed to escape the conflagration of their home-world,” I explained. “They spread out across the Universe looking for new planets to inhabit, with no moral qualms about wiping out any races already established there if it served their purpose.”

“I remember learning a little about the Zedgonnim as part of a basic alien races class at Daemonia Academy. Aren’t they supposed to be shape-shifters of some kind?”

“Yes, indeed they are,” I affirmed. “Only the more advanced members of their kind have to any extent perfected it, but they can take upon themselves the forms of some other species -- including human beings. It is when they are in their own alien form that they are most physically dangerous, however. You see, at the end of their tentacle-like arms is a sting, an inbuilt weapon that emits a sort of bioelectrical shock, like a poison or venom that can indeed prove fatal to most other beings.”

“Tentacles,” shuddered Millie Drake. “Why does it always have to be tentacles? So they are an undersea species?”

“Originally, yes, but they have adapted themselves to life on land. Anyway, love, we need to get down to the waterfront and investigate the facts concerning a Zedgonnim ship being hidden there. Kit-10, you had better stay here. Remember that water does not tend to agree with you!”

Millie Drake and I then left the hotel and walked across the field separating it from the waterfront. As we approached, we beheld what looked like unto a man standing on the shore. At first, he appeared to be occupied with peering down into the water, as if in communication with something that did lie beneath it. However, as we approached he turned to face us.

“Daniel,” whispered Millie, “isn’t that… ?”

“Yes, it is,” I returned. “Mr. Wutt, the temporary manager of the Grace Inn.”

As he gazed at us, a look of utter hatred entered Wutt’s eyes and I saw him clench his fists as if in anger as we continued to-wards him.

“Our instruments have detected your presence, Watchers of Algol,” he said. “You will not succeed in preventing us from establishing ourselves on this planet. The time of the human race is now finished. We, the Zedgonnim, shall establish ourselves here. We shall be the new rulers of Earth!”

Millie and I stopped walking several metres away from him. A strange dark light quickly played across his form, and an hideous transformation took place. Within moments, the human form of the being known as Mr. Wutt had vanished and he had changed into his true one. It was tall and bipedal, with deeply-set black eyes and its slimy green skin covered all over with horrid suckers like an octopus. Its tentacle-like arms ended in claws that I knew to contain the horrid electro-poison of which I had warned Millie.

Forsooth, the worst and most horrible of possibilities was now affirmed to be true beyond all possible doubt. It was indeed the horrible alien form of a Zedgonnim -- a representative of the terrible extraterrestrial species that threatened to annihilate human kind -- that now stood before us!!

“The human race is now finished,” reiterated the Zedgonnim, his voice now (like his form) no longer human, but in stead a low-pitched, grotesquely-gurgling sound. “I am Wutt of the Zedgonnim, and we shall now achieve our long-awaited goal and will establish ourselves as the new rulers of Earth!”

“But why?” asked Millie Drake. “Why do you have to destroy the human race? Gosh, can’t you just find a place to live in peace?”

“The young lady is correct, Wutt,” I agreed. “There are many quite nice but currently-uninhabited planets you could find. Why, we could even help you to locate a suitable…”

“No!” interrupted Wutt in anger. “We will not listen to your Algolitish lies! It is your kind that destroyed our original home-world of Zedgonnimium, and not even in an honourable war, but by trickery and subterfuge! Since then we have wandered throughout the Cosmos in search of new homes. My ship has waited centuries beneath the waters as we repaired our systems in preparation for the invasion. Now the time has come. We will first rise up and annihilate the capital cities of this planet, and then we will begin the systematic extermination of the humans as we establish our own communities across the globe.”

“I beg you to reconsider, Zedgonnim,” I insisted. “The governments of Earth have weaponry that they will not hesitate to use against you. These include nuclear armaments. Your attempted invasion could very well provoke a war that would lead to the planet Earth becoming a wasteland totally uninhabitable by either of your species!”

“Your speeches are of no use, Algolite! No weapons of this planet can stand against the might of the Zedgonnim! Behold and see the power of our ship, the very one that shall go forth to conquer this entire world!”

It was then that the rumble of the Zedgonnim engine began to be felt. It increased in sound and strength as the spaceship rose from its place of long rest beneath the Chesapeake Bay. Millie was clinging to me in terror, and even I watched in astonishment as the power of the alien ship was revealed.

There was the sound of an immense rushing of waters when the thing broke the surface of the bay. A brackish spray filled the air as the huge shape of the Zedgonnim spaceship rose upwards above the Chesapeake. It was perhaps the size of a football stadium, green of hue and shaped rather like an enormous crab-shell. The sound of its alien engine became a cacophonous electronic whine as it continued to rise, eventually halting when it reached the height of nearly a full kilometre above the waters.

Then, before we could in any way react to this horror, the Zedgonnim spacecraft emitted another sound, a loud cracking bang accompanied as it was by a sort of energy wave that flew through the air. It hit Millie and me with full force, sending us sprawling apart upon the ground.

“Did you feel that, Algolite?” scorned Wutt. “That is the effect of a Zedgonnim cleansing surge. Its purpose is to assure that none who are not of our kind may interfere with the flight of our ships. Only we are immune to it. It extends to all within the vicinity of the craft, and the effect remains for long enough that we may leave the area. From here we intend to go forth to the city of Washington, DC. We will destroy the residence of the President of the United States, and the meeting houses of the Senate and the Congress. The Zedgonnim invasion has begun!”

I struggled to move, but found myself paralysed from the effect of the energy wave that had passed through my body. I could see poor Millie lying on the ground a few metres distant. The dear little girl had been knocked unconscious by the blast and was entirely defenceless.

“Now, Algolites,” sneered the evil Zedgonnim known as Wutt, “now I shall do that which is necessary in order to assure that you do not further attempt to interfere with our plans. Now I will end both of your wretched lives!”

I saw Wutt then lift up his arms, those horrid tentacles the ends of which were now glowing with the power of his venomous electric claws. To my complete and utter horror, I realised that -- likely for reasons of utter spite -- he intended to extend their fatal touch first to the unconscious form of young Miss Millie Drake!

“No…” I muttered feebly, still unable to make any attempt to help. “No… please… Millie…”

Wutt by now was standing directly over her. I was, for the moment, still paralysed and unable to move as the Zedgonnim reached out its deadly tentacle-arms to-wards the helpless girl!

Can you even commence to recognise the most supreme and utterly ungodly horror, forsooth the undeniable demoniacal terror of this devastating situation, my dearest friends and most loyal readers? Miss Millie Drake -- my friend, my companion, in truth my very love and the true centre of my existence -- was being menaced by an alien terror that could very well bring about her death, and I was for the moment completely unable to interfere, to do anything to protect her, to save the poor wee lass from the lethal touch of that poisonous extraterrestrial horror!!

None the less, it was then that something unprecedented happened. It in fact was something that, to some, would be called a miracle, or a divine intervention, or perhaps an apparition. It was also something that could be, by some, easily dismissed as delirium -- had its affect not been one that immediately and fully changed the very outcome of that incredibly fateful day. In sooth, it was something the true purport of which shall only fully be revealed in the day that heralds the coming of that eternal understanding, that holy wisdom, that godly philosophy in which the reconciliation of science and faith is found.

For it was then that another figure appeared between the unconscious Millie Drake and the threatening Zedgonnim, though the latter seemed completely oblivious to its presence.

The figure was translucent, indeed well-nigh transparent, yet I could see it clearly. It was as unto the form of a beautiful girl, tall and slender, with ginger hair and azure eyes and a complexion like as unto the finest pure white of alabaster. She seemed to be surrounded by a scintillating vermillion and violet flame. As I watched, she floated over and grasped Millie, taking her safely away from the Zedgonnim just before the alien monster could have reached her.

I had by now somewhat recovered, thanks to my superior Algolitish physique, and so took out the transonic turnscrew and turned it to-wards the Zedgonnim ship. The craft began to shudder.

The Zedgonnim that had been Mr. Wutt approached me. I managed to get to my feet and quickly gave him a kung fu kick to his head, sending him careening backwards before he could touch me with his poisonous tentacles, then I hurriedly returned to the task of disabling the spaceship with the transonic setting. With a tremendous boom, the alien craft soon broke apart and crashed in pieces into the water. As for the Zedgonnim himself, he bellowed in pain before then falling to pieces upon the ground, pieces that resembled nothing more than dead barnacles, squid parts, and broken crustacean shells.

I ran over and held Millie in my arms. The other figure had by now vanished, the sun had gloriously broken out from the clouds, and all was silent except for the cries of a few annoyed seagulls near the bay.

“Daniel, what…” gasped the lass when she returned to consciousness. “What happened?”

“All is well, my dear Mills,” I assured her. “All is well. The Zedgonnim menace is no more. Fortunately, after the last time I had encountered the Zedgonnim, I managed to succeed in programming a setting into the software of the transonic that manages to disrupt the organic-tech structure for their ships. I should have used it at once, but I wanted to give them a chance to see reason. As they indeed do have a psyche-physical symbiotic attachment to their technology, the setting affected Wutt as well, along with any other of them in the area. When the actual manager of the Grace Inn returns, he will just find out that his replacement left unexpectedly.”

We returned to the hotel and went up to our suite. Millie Drake was still exhausted from the horror that she had experienced. I helped the girl into bed and then watched her as she drifted off into a profound sleep.

“Look after her, Kit-10,” I whispered. “If she happens to awaken before I return, let her know that I have not gone far and will be back soon.”

The mechanical feline silently nodded her head in agreement and I left the room, carefully locking the door and then making my way downstairs. Scott was still on duty at the front desk, and I knew that all would be well with the Grace Inn.

I walked from the hotel to the location of Angel Hill Cemetery, with the shadows lengthening around me as dusk approached. I entered the old graveyard and looked for the gravestone I remembered, soon finding it amongst the many others.

I knelt down before the grave and lightly touched the lettering engraved upon the tombstone -- the lettering proclaiming the wonderful name of the most lamented and forever-beloved one that I had lost so long before. The one with whom I had shared so many amazing adventures before she was taken from me by the forces of evil. The one whom this very day had somehow reached forth from beyond to prevent my losing another whom I have come to love and cherish as a companion, friend, and partner. It was, and is, a name worthy to be remembered by all who honour any notions of romance and truth and justice. It is this most sacred name:

“KATRINA RUMANOS”

It was then, as I pondered these profound and infinite truths there in the peace and quiet of Angel Hill Cemetery, that I finally took time to cry.

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

U15 STRIKES BACK

Just a few miles north of the limits of the city of Baltimore is the location of the Timonium Fairgrounds, that particular area where, each year from late August through Labour Day, is held that gathering and celebration known as the Maryland State Fair.

On the year in which our story takes place, it seemed that the fair would go on as always, with the usual eleven days of carnival rides, games, live music, food stands and other attractions for the entertainment of the populace. Nevertheless, this was going to be a fair like no other -- in truth, an event of phantasmagorical horror and of unnameable terror born in the eldritch black gulfs of Outer Space.

It was the early morning of the day in which the Maryland State Fair was scheduled to begin. The grounds had not yet been opened to the public, and the only bustle of activity was that of last-minute preparation. At this time, behind the large building housing the old horse stables, in the fairgrounds’ back lot in which were at this time numerous carnie caravan vehicles, a strange noise was heard -- a kind of gasping moaning noise as another object materialised. It appeared to be just another trailer of the type utilised to transport travelling show equipment, but was in reality a disguised DiTraS (pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere), one of those incredibly-advanced combination Spaceship/Time-machines only useable by the Watchers of Algol.

On this object, a porthole type opening appeared and a figure stepped forth from it. He seemed to be a man of middle years, dressed in a black suit of elegant Nineteenth-Century style. His hair was long and dark, and his face, decorated with a thin moustache and goatee, showed signs of handsome distinction despite being marred with the marks of seeming lifetimes of extreme profligate wickedness and evil beyond all mortal imagining. Most of all, his pale eyes shone with a glare of absolute hypnotic authority.

“Excuse me, sir,” said another voice from near by, that of a heavy-set man in a sport jacket and blue business-wear. “I don’t think I know you. How did you get on the fairgrounds?”

At this, the darkly-clad stranger turned and faced the one approaching him.

“Greetings,” he intoned; his voice suave and perfectly-pitched in its pronunciation. “You are Carl Walken, the fairgrounds manager. I am here to speak with you about a change of plans in your events list this season.”

“Oh, I get it,” smirked Walken. “You’re another stage magician or fake psychic here for an audition. That explains your clothes, anyway. I’m afraid it’s too late for that. All our gigs are booked up. Try back next year.”

“No,” rejoined the other. “It is much more than that. Much more, indeed. I have a proposition for you. You will play a part in what is about to transpire here. You will aid us in the conquest of this planet.”

“Now look here, you… !” exclaimed Carl Walken, his words trailing off into sudden silence as the dark stranger’s eyes met his own.

“You will obey me,” continued the stranger, his hypnotic gaze boring a mentalist beam of power into the other’s mind. “You will do as you are told, and will aid us in the invasion.”

“I… will… obey you,” repeated Walken, his will now fully influenced.

“Yes, you will obey me in all things, as in time shall all. I am Master Don Wingus, and all upon this planet shall soon obey me!” …

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!!! …

General Alexander Gorton-Steward, resplendent in his US Army officer’s uniform, sat behind his desk in the secret headquarters of the Military Special Services Unit -- located somewhere in the area of Washington, DC -- to which we had been summoned. The General, still a strong and handsome gentleman in his sixties, had already experienced decades of work in counter-terrorist operation before being assigned to his current duties in dealing with extraterrestrial and otherworldly threats to the security of this great nation (and indeed, the entire world) -- his work in this field being answerable only to the direct authority of the President of the United States.

“We got here as soon as we could upon receiving your summons, General,” said I. “We were on assignment in one of the outer spirals.”

I was dressed in my usual finery as I sat beside Millie Drake in General Gorton-Steward’s office, including a frilled poets shirt, purple velvet suit, and military boots. I twirled my panama hat in my hands whilst I spoke.

“Thanks for coming back right away, Doctor,” said the General in his usual strongly authoritative manner. “The equipment you left at our science office detected the radiation from that Goddamn U15 thing sooner than expected. Oh, excuse my language in front of the little lady.”

Millie blushed and smiled at the gruff-but-gallant old General. The girl is exceedingly beautiful, petite and perfect with a sun-kissed complexion, luxurious chestnut hair, lovely violet eyes, and a sensuously-wide mouth. She was wearing a tight, short, purple dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender adolescent figure.

“If the U15 Consciousness has returned,” I considered, “it must have made contact with someone to act as a liaison, and it that has to be someone who could have conversed with it in Outer Space.”

“Daniel, shouldn’t that narrow the possibilities down some?” enquired Millie.

“Indeed, but we should not speculate before we have all the facts, hmmm?” I rejoined. “What we do know is that the U15 Consciousness has a particular affinity for plastic, so it will position itself in such a way as utilise that. General, do you have a location in which the radiation was detected?”

“Yes, we do,” he answered. “It seems to be in the Lutherville/Timonium area of northern Baltimore County. In fact, it looks like the damn thing has centred right on the fairgrounds!”

“Oh my gosh!” exclaimed the girl. “Isn’t the Maryland State Fair going on there right now?”

“Indeed it is, love,” I affirmed. “We need to look into this right away. The U15 Consciousness spread itself unchecked across the galaxy for which it is named. We must do all that is within our power to prevent that from happening here.”

“I’d like to send some backup with you,” added Gorton-Steward, “but we’ll have to clear that with the President. Damn it! He and the Governor of Maryland don’t exactly get along, you know.”

“I heard about that,” mused Millie.

“Worry not, old chap,” I told the General. “We shall go to the Timonium Fairgrounds and investigate. Fortunately, we are not restricted by political intrigues.”

“Thank God for that,” said Gorton-Steward as we stood up and shook hands, “but I promise we’ll work it out and get you some military support ASAP. In the meantime, Doctor, Miss Drake, good luck!” …

Millie Drake and I arrived at the Timonium Fairgrounds in the early afternoon of that partly sunny day, accompanied by Kit-10, our mobile personal computer that resembles nothing more or less than a small robotic cat.

The fair was by now well underway, with the sounds of happy children and others creating a joyous din across the area along with the mixed music of the rides and a local rhythm and blues band upon the stage at the far end of the field.

My mind briefly thought back to a time, so many years before, when I had fought the evil Ron Mershon, Satanist and agent of Spectral Paranormal, on these very grounds. That however, was so very long ago, and I quickly dismissed the memories of that horrid individual from my thoughts.

I took the transonic turnscrew, an highly-advanced scientific instrument somewhat resembling a large writing pen, from my jacket pocket, and activated the setting to scan near by.

“Hmmm,” I considered upon reading the results upon the device. “There is present some radiation like that of the U15 Consciousness, but it seems strangely elusive.”

“Is there a way to better track it down?” enquired Millie.

“Kit-10,” said I, returning the transonic to my pocket. “You have the ability to detect the presence of the U15 Consciousness programmed into your system, hmmm? Would you take a quick survey around the fairgrounds, and let us then know if it seems to be centred in any particular area?”

“Affirmative, s--,” agreed the pleasantly-feminine voice of the mechanical feline, who then moved off across the grounds to begin her survey.

(It should be mentioned here that included amongst Kit-10’s catlike characteristics is her absolute inability to openly show respect to anyone. The closest she ever comes to it is by addressing me as “s--” -- for “sir” -- and Millie Drake as “m--” -- for “ma’am”.)

“Say, Daniel,” said the girl, “look at those.”

Millie was pointing to a group of statues, seemingly made of plastic, that represented several historical figures from America’s past in a kind of patriotic tableau.

“By the Stars!” I swore. “Could those be… ?”

My words were the suddenly choked off as something grasped me from behind. I felt the form of something small but amazingly strong land upon my shoulders. I then heard Millie Drake scream in total abject horror as two hairy, apelike arms wrapped around my throat and endeavoured to crush my windpipe!

Using my skills at Daemonian jujitsu, I managed to flip my assailant up and over my head. He hit the ground several yards in front of me and I then saw for certain what he was.

My attacker was a dwarfish man with brown skin, covered with black bristly hairs. His face was absolutely bestial, more simian than human.

“Daniel!” exclaimed Millie. “What is that?!”

“That, my dear, is Juan Dingo Junior,” I explained. “I have heard of him, but did not until now believe that he actually existed. He is a proto-human from the deepest jungles of the Philippines, part of a degenerate lineage that has retained certain aspects of the homo erectus. Apparently, he was being proclaimed as an upcoming exhibit at the fair, and someone has hired him in an attempt to assassinate us!”

The subhuman had quickly recovered from his fall and was now again approaching me, chattering grotesquely in his prehistoric patois. I gave him a sharp blow to his face that sent him careening to hit against the machinery behind the Ferris wheel. I then hurriedly aimed the transonic turnscrew to-wards it and activated a setting to redirect the system’s electrical flow.

With this, the horrid jungle-man known as Juan Dingo Jr. exposed his hideous homo erectus teeth in one final snarl at me before this same reaction turned into a shriek of agony as the power surge took the life from him. He then slipped to the ground, now nothing but a charred and lifeless husk.

During my battle with the ape-man, I had endeavoured to keep him away from Millie and so was now several metres distant from her. Before we could then reunite, I heard another voice from behind me; forsooth, a voice all too familiar. I turned to face the one I knew to be my archenemy, Don Wingus.

“Well well well, Rumanos,” mocked the villain, aiming a sleek ray-gun directly at me. “How nice of you and the representative from The Itty Bitty Titty Committee here to attend the fair.”

“You!“ I exclaimed, nobly ignoring his obscene taunt concerning the girl. “I should have known. So you did escape from Lysithea.”

“Oh, of course,” grinned the evil Algolite, “and I have made a pact here that shall give me mastery over this planet, and over the pathetic human race that you are sworn to protect. A shame about Juan, though. He had such an enjoyable anus.” 

“Spires of Daemonia!” I swore. “You mean to tell me that you have made a deal with the U15 Consciousness? This is beyond madness, Wingus! That monstrosity only cares about expanding its influence by replacing the populations of entire worlds with plastic duplicates!”

“And so it will,” returned Don Wingus. “Soon the U15 Consciousness will fully manifest itself here at the Maryland State Fair, after which we shall begin to replace this human race with Plasticon duplicates -- over which I shall be supreme ruler. The Consciousness has agreed to then cooperate with my using the Plasticons to conquer the entire planet Earth!”

“The Plasticons have been defeated before and will be defeated again,” I retorted.  “That horrible U15 abomination will not be allowed to… !”

“Oh no, Rumanos,” he interrupted with an evil smirk. “You will not interfere. Not this time. Look!”

With this, Wingus motioned in the direction where Millie Drake had been standing. I glanced over and saw that a man had approached the girl from behind, and was now holding her with his arm around her throat.

“That is Carl Walken,” explained the wicked Wingus, still pointing his gun at me, “manager of the Timonium Fairgrounds and my obedient servant. You will surrender at this instant, Rumanos, or he will seriously hurt that little girlie of yours. Walken is an old circus strongman, you see. He is still quite capable of breaking her neck with very little effort, should I give the command.”

“Daniel,” gasped Millie, struggling for air under Walken’s grasp, “don’t listen to him. Don’t worry about me. Just stop the U15 Consciousness. Stop the Plasticons. Look at what is happening!”

I then looked around and beheld a further horror. The plastic figures from the patriotic tableau had started to move and were even now stalking around the fairgrounds. The crowd had only looked at them in wonder -- at these walking representations of Lincoln and Washington and Jefferson and, most grotesquely, Susan B. Anthony -- thinking it was all part of some bizarre show for their amusement.

“By the Stellar Trinity!” I exclaimed. “I had hoped it was not true! Those figures really are Plasticons!”

“Yes,” said Don Wingus after a chuckle of insane mirth, “and each of them is perfectly ready to begin slaughtering these innocent people. You are finished, Rumanos. The second U15 invasion is now underway, and you have no choice but to surrender!”

Just then, a flash of finely-focused light hit the ray-gun that Don Wingus was holding, sending it flying from his hand to clatter against the ground. It was, of course, from Kit-10’s nose-laser. The little robot had returned from her survey and immediately aided against the difficulties that we were facing.

“Thank you, Kit-10!” said I. “Excellent shooting, as always.”

“Of course, s--,” replied the metallic kitten.

Before Wingus could recover from his surprise at this, I leapt over and freed Millie from the clutches of Mr. Walken, knocking the man out with a blow to his head. I knew that he was just under the control of my old arch-foe, and would not harm the lass as long as I succeeded in getting to him before Don Wingus could give him orders. He sunk to the ground, now harmlessly unconscious.

Millie Drake was by now in a swoon from the terror of the situation. I set her down under a near by tree.

“Guard her, Kit-10!” I said. “I shall deal with him!”

Whilst the mechanical cat saw to Millie’s relative safety, I turned and approached the villainous Don Wingus.

“Your theatrical heroics are of no avail, Rumanos,” mocked the interplanetary miscreant. “The Plasticons are spread out across the fairgrounds, and now the U15 Consciousness itself shall manifest to all!”

“By Daemonia!” I swore at him. “You would have that monstrosity, the very amalgamation of the alien gestalt mind that seeks to spread itself across the Universe, to show itself here?!”

“Oh indeed,” chuckled the evil one. “In fact, it will come forth any moment now.”

“S--,” interrupted Kit-10. “Survey of the area shows the U15 radiation to be strongest inside the building housing the stables.”

“Of course,” I realised. “The old fairground stables. That is were the U15 creature has been housed.”

By now, Millie Drake had recovered from her faint and was standing beside the robotic feline.

“Daniel!” she suddenly exclaimed. “Look! There it is!!”

Several huge, horrid tentacles had suddenly emerged from the near by stable building, and in sooth the structure itself soon exploded outwards under the weight of the expanding extraterrestrial monster. The thing was green of hue and replete with myriad writhing tentacles in constant grotesque motion. It was like an octopus and a crab and a lobster and a sea-centipede all at once, and covered with a viscid slime that was like unto an obscene combination of diseased saliva and seminal fluid. As I watched in horror, that alien terror that is the physical manifestation of the U15 Consciousness continued to quickly grow in size, soon reaching a height of fifty feet and a similar width.

“Wingus,” said I, “you cannot actually think that thing will remain an ally of yours! It only seeks to replace the entire human race with its Plasticon duplicates, therefore adding the planet Earth to its expanding consciousness!”

Nevertheless, the villain only looked at the growing abomination and laughed a laugh of ungodly triumph as he looked back at me. Behind him, the monstrosity that was the physical manifestation of the horrid U15 Consciousness continued to writhe and expand in its own unnameable eldritch manner, there on the very grounds of the Maryland State Fair!

“You have failed, Rumanos!” exalted the evil Don Wingus. “You did not foil the invasion plans after all! It was a mere setback, a temporary retreat whilst I met with the U15 Consciousness in Space and made a deal to aid its conquest of this world. Yes, Rumanos, you have failed miserably! You have failed, and now -- U15 strikes back!!”

Do you have the capacity to even begin to realise the complete and utter, horror, forsooth the total and unmitigated abject terror of this unprecedented situation, my dear friends and loyal readers? There we were; Millie Drake, Kit-10, and myself, facing that horrendous gigantic monstrosity known as the U15 Consciousness as it -- along with its terrible Plasticon minions -- readied its invasion of the planet Earth, an invasion in which it sought to wipe out and replace the entire human race with only its own horrid gestalt mind. In addition, all the while this alien abomination was being aided and encouraged by my own archenemy -- the unspeakable intergalactic criminal known to eternal satanic infamy as Magister Don Wingus!

“Again I say, you have failed!” reiterated Don Wingus. “You have utterly failed in your attempts to defend this pathetic planet, Rumanos! You have failed, and the U15 Consciousness will now conquer Earth, with me as commander of the Plasticons!”

“By the Stellar Trinity, Wingus!” I retorted. “You have been in such a hurry to humiliate me that you have completely overlooked the inconsistency, the complete contradiction in your plans. Think about what it is that you are saying. Do you really believe that the U15 Consciousness, an alien horror that only exists in order to spread itself across the Universe, will allow you to live, much less to be in control of anything? Think about it, Wingus. Look at that unspeakable monstrosity and think about it!”

I saw a light of realisation dawn in the eyes of Don Wingus as he contemplated the creature now menacing the Timonium Fairgrounds and -- forsooth! -- the world. For the first time, I beheld a look of open fear upon his face; fear of what he had helped to unleash upon the world -- an horror that would show him no more mercy than it would anyone else in its intention to conquer, to destroy, to replace.

“Rumanos,” he finally stated, “what can we do?”

“The U15 is a gestalt consciousness,” I considered. “If we could link our minds together against it…”

“Yes, I see,” said Wingus. “The combined mentalist power of two adult Watchers could indeed prevent the monster from expanding itself further -- but for how long?”

“Hopefully for long enough. At least until a way to destroy it presents itself, hmmm? So, are you willing?”

“Yes, Rumanos. I am.”

With this, Don Wingus and I stood shoulder-to-shoulder and faced to-wards the unspeakable horror of the alien U15 Consciousness.

“Contact,” said I.

“Contact,” responded Wingus.

The temporary melding of our two Algolitish minds then happened, and we focused our thoughts upon the U15 monster. The thing at first shuddered, then it became perfectly still, ceasing all writhing of its grotesque tentacles, ceasing all growth and expansion as it felt the force of the combined will-power of Don Wingus and myself.

Then was heard a sound, the sound of United Sates Air Force jet aeroplanes streaking across the sky.

“Look, Kit-10!” cheered Millie Drake, who was still watching from close by, “The General came through! It’s a squadron of bomber jets!”

“Affirmative, m--,” agreed the robotic pussycat.

The jet fighters then began a dive down to-wards the now-immobile U15 creature, unleashing their full firepower upon it. The horrid thing was soon aflame, and then quickly crumbled away into nothing, unable to retaliate due to the mental block that two Algolite consciousnesses had placed upon it. Within a mere minute, it was as if the horrible monstrosity had never been there.

Around the fairgrounds, the Plasticon figures ceased from motion, now, without the influence of the U15 mind, nothing but harmless plastic statues.

As soon as our mental link stopped, Don Wingus roughly shoved me to the ground and ran quickly for the back-lot of the fair. I glanced up and saw him from afar, entering what appeared to be a carnival trailer parked amongst others. Then, with the unmistakable noise of a Daemonian Time/Space engine, the “trailer” faded from sight -- dematerialising, I knew, into the inter-dimensional current only accessible to our superior technology.

I stood up and brushed myself off whilst Millie Drake ran over to me with Kit-10 close behind her.

“Fear not, my love,” I told her. “The U15 Consciousness has been banished from this planet, its physical manifestation and influence shattered beyond repair.”

Seeing the creature destroyed, the fighter jets had now left the area. As for the crowds attending the fair, they where by now already returning to normal. To them, it all now seemed as if what had transpired was no more than an illusion intended for their idle amusement. Perhaps it is indeed best for them to think that way, for if humankind were to have any actual idea concerning the truth of the darksome horrors that peer at this planet with eyes of alien evil from across the cosmic gulf, those cruel and unfeeling extraterrestrial terrors that wait and plan and plot and would destroy or enslave this world without a thought of ethical conscience, it would quite likely send the populace screaming into complete and unredeemable madness.

“So Don Wingus escaped?” asked Millie.

“He did,” I acquiesced. “One of the carnival trailers was his DiTraS. We will have to deal with him again. When and where, we know not. Nevertheless, the U15 Consciousness and the Plasticons have indeed been defeated and, for today, our work is done. I say, Mills, let us spend some time enjoying the fair, hmmm?”

“I was hoping you would say that!” giggled the beautiful lass as she gave me a warm hug.

And with this, Miss Millie Drake, Kit-10, and I strolled off to join the crowd of merrymakers.

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “NO TIME TO CRY”

TIME AND THE NEMESISTER

"You have done nothing wrong and I would urge you to start acting like it. Go outside, head high. Not as an escaping convict. Go to parties. Deal with it." (Jeffrey Edward Epstein) ...

Millie Drake stood in the café-like control room of the DiTraS happily munching on an apple. The girl is exceedingly-beautiful; petite and perfect, with sun-kissed skin, luxurious chestnut hair, lovely violet eyes, and a wide, sensuous mouth. She was wearing a short, tight, purple dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender young figure.

The DiTraS (pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere) is one of the incredibly-advanced combination Spaceship/Time-machines only available to our people, the Watchers of Algol. The interior exists in a different dimension and is much larger than the exterior, which resembles a Greco-Roman “Ionic column”.

I stood near by at the control panel, clad as I was 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.

“Well, the Kosmikos needed us to do a check on this area of the Universe,” I said, “but so far there does not seem to be anything of concern here.”

“Where are we exactly?” queried the girl between bites of her fruit.

“The Tian-Sipes Spiral,” I told her. “Hmmm. Why does that ring a bell? Something I wanted to remember about it. Something that is not on any of the official records.”

“Maybe you can ask Kit-10,” suggested Millie.

“By the Stars, my memory is getting terrible lately,” I continued. “I cannot remember what I was supposed to remember, hmmm? Kit-10, do you have any relevant information of the Tian-Sipes Spiral in your database?”

“Negative, s--,” replied the pleasantly-feminine voice of our mobile computer who resembles nothing more or less than a robotic cat. “Only the galaxy’s size and Spacial coordinates.”

(It should be noted here that amongst Kit-10’s other catlike characteristics is her total inability to openly show respect for anyone. The closest she can come is by addressing me as “s--”, for “sir”, and Millie as “m--”, for “ma’am”.)

“Was it something dangerous?” enquired Millie.

“Oh, I hope not,” I confessed. “These occasional memory blockages are common for Time travellers, but still quite annoying. You know, I really think that we should…”

Suddenly, I was interrupted by a warning signal from the control console.

“What!” I said. “According to this, the DiTraS is experiencing dimensional disassembly!”

“Gosh, Daniel!” cried the girl. “Doesn’t that mean we will… ?”

“Yes, the ship will be torn to pieces! I am shutting down the aethereal link in order to minimise damage to the cognisant circuitry, but hold on, Mills! We are in for a bumpy ride!”

With this, the DiTraS began to shake and shudder, and the very air around us seemed to begin to rip apart. Millie held onto the console, whilst I continued an attempt to stabilise the controls and Kit-10 magnetised herself to the floor.

“Spires of Daemonia!” I swore. “I just remembered what it was about the Tian-Sipes Spiral! It is the location of the planet… !”

It was then that the pressure of the forces causing the dimensional disassembly overcame me, and I lost consciousness.

Millie Drake fell to the control room floor, as did I, whilst the inter-dimensional construction of the DiTraS was apparently torn to pieces. …

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!!! …

I awoke lying on the floor with a splitting headache. I attempted to look around but my eyes were bleary and blurry. It was impossible for me to tell if I were still on board the DiTraS or elsewhere.

“Millie?” I gasped. “Can you hear me? Are you all right? Kit-10, are you here?”

I saw a figure approaching me. It was vaguely feminine in shape, as far as I could ascertain with my blurred vision.  The figure seemed to have chestnut-coloured hair, but it seemed taller and heavier than Millie Drake, and was wearing a dress that seemed darker.

“Yes, Daniel, it is me” said a voice (was it actually Millie’s? There was something different about it, albeit something familiar). “It’s me. It’s Millie. Your mind is confused from the dimensional disassembly, since you were in closest contact to the controls when it happened, so things might look and sound a bit strange to you. But gosh, it really is me!”

I attempted to stand up, but was not as yet able to do so.

“So we are still in the DiTraS control room?” I enquired. “Where is Kit-10?”

“Oh, she was damaged in the crash, but you can repair her later. We need to get the DiTraS fixed first. Daniel, I need you to give me the complete access codes so I can initiate the sequence to reverse the damage.”

“The access codes?” I stammered. “Why would you need… ?”

“Quick, Daniel, tell me the codes!” she insisted. “Oh my gosh! I need to enter them right away before the disassembly becomes a Temporal fact!” …

Elsewhere, the real Millie Drake regained consciousness upon a rocky landscape. She stumbled to her feet and glanced around, then up at the blue-green sun of this alien world.

Then Millie looked around again and noticed several figures approaching her. They were men dressed in garments rather like those of Europe’s Middles Ages.

“Greetings,” said the one who seemed to be in the lead. “You need to get to shelter before the Pingatos attack!”

“The Pingatos?” asked Millie. “What are they?”

Before the girl could receive an answer to this query, the sound of animals roaring was heard and she turned her head to see several grotesque, hairy creatures approaching. They were taller than any human being and deep red in colour, with hands and feet ending in long talons, and each of them had five horridly-staring eyes set just above the level of its hugely-toothed jaws. …

“Oh gosh, you should hurry and tell me the codes, Daniel!” the woman who claimed to be Millie Drake continued. “Hurry before the DiTraS is destroyed!”

By now, my vision was clearing and I looked around the chamber. It was large and filled with scientific equipment, including parts of a DiTraS of a different design than mine.

I then looked back at the woman. I could see her clearly now, and it certainly was not Millie. This was a woman of indeterminate age, with noble aquiline features, clad in a black dress that resembled a shroud. As I looked at her, she removed the wig she had been wearing to reveal her own dark hair. Her ebon eyes glared at me with a look as of hatred mingled with bemusement.

“So we meet again… brother!” she sneered, her voice now in its own mocking tones, an admixture of authoritative command and absolute unholy madness.

“Oh no…” said I as I rose to my feet. “The Nemesister!” …

Back outside, the horrible creatures continued to menace the locals whom Millie had encountered.

“Pingatos!” said the man as the monsters approached the group. “We must run!”

He grabbed Millie by the arm and took her along with the group to a near by hut, located as it was on the outskirts of a small village.

“Those things!” said the lass. “What are they?”

“Those are Pingatos,” the man said again. “They are her servants. She sends them to harass us when we go looking for food; to frighten us into continued obedience to her. They have killed any of our people who have not run away from them.”

“She? Who do you mean?’

“How do you not know? I mean, of course, she who is the Supreme One of Lerych!”

“Lerych?!” cried Millie Drake in astonishment. “Oh my gosh, that’s what Daniel was trying to remember! The Tian-Sipes Spiral is the location of Lerych -- which is the planet ruled by the Nemesister!”

“Quiet! Please be quiet!” responded the Lerychian man. “It is forbidden to speak the other names of the Supreme One. How do you not know this?”

“I’m not from around here. I’m from… another world.”

“That is impossible. Only the Supreme One is from another world. That is why she is the Supreme One.”

“No, that’s not true,” corrected Millie. “She is lying to you to keep your people servile. My name is Millie Drake. Dr. Daniel Rumanos and I are from the same planet as the Nemesister. She is a renegade of our people, a criminal. We thought she was defeated once, but she must have found her way back here. We know she uses your people as subjects of horrible experiments. She must be stopped!”

“These are dangerous things you say,” said the Lerychian. “If our people knew this, they might think we could rise up and resist the Supreme One.”

“Well then,” said Millie with a cunning smile. “Maybe we should tell them.” …

In the chamber that was the Nemesister’s laboratory, I continued to confront the villainess.

“So that is it, hmmm?” said I. “You had disassembled your own DiTraS in order to utilise parts of it in some experiment. It is coming into close proximity with this that caused mine to give out false readings and then crash. I was separated from the ship as a side effect of the supposed dimensional shift, hmmm? But what happened to Millie and Kit-10, and where is my DiTraS itself?”

“Oh, we would know all those things by now if you had given me the access codes, brother,” responded the evil Algolite woman.

“Do not refer to me as ‘brother’!” I shouted. “Of course, you attempted to trick me into giving you the codes so you could use your Temporal and Spacial circuitry to draw my DiTraS to yours -- no doubt only so you could then utilise my ship to add extra power to whatever criminal experiment that you are here conducting!”

“As irately judgmental as ever, I see. The extra power of your ship would have helped to quicken it, but that is not a necessity.  The experiment I am here conducting is a thing of exquisite beauty. It is an unprecedented opportunity to alter the nature of Time itself!”

“By the Stellar Trinity!” I swore. “What wretched insanity are you babbling about?”

“Have a look,” responded the Nemesister with unabashed pride whilst she activated a view-screen over one of the computer terminals. “That is an asteroid that is passing close to Lerych.”

I looked at the object on the monitor. It was a typical asteroid or planetoid, rocky and barren, except for one incredibly different thing. It was glowing with a strange multicoloured shine that sparkled and glittered in the darkness of Space.

“Is that what I think it is?” I enquired in astonishment. “It looks like what is only referred to as ‘weird matter’.”

“Yes, that is exactly what it is,” affirmed the evil woman. “An extremely rare element. In fact, this may be the only sample of it in existence that is not under the direct supervision of the Absolute Convention of the Watchers.”

“Weird matter is indeed said to have particular properties that aid in the manipulation of Time,” I said. “Nevertheless, it is unstable and too difficult to control.”

“Nonsense! I have the means to control it right here.”

“Of course! That is why you disassembled your DiTraS. You intend to use its power to somehow affect the weird matter.”

“Oh much more than that,” smiled the Nemesister evilly. “Much more indeed. I will utilise the power of my DiTraS engines in a certain juxtaposition that shall send a temporal wave to shatter that asteroid into non-existence.”

“By Daemonia! But that would cause the weird matter to explode outwards across the Time-stream and… !”

“Yes, exactly! It will send the Universe back to the beginning and recreate it in my image!”

“Madness!” I shouted. “Absolute screaming madness! You know, of course, that as an Operative of the Kosmikos I cannot allow this!”

“Oh, of course,” she mocked, “but I already have prepared for any ridiculous show of heroism. Pingatos! Come to the aid of your mistress!”

And with this, several of the huge, hairy monstrosities strode into the room and came directly at me!!

“Some example of the local fauna that you have mutated and made into your servants, hmmm?” I mused as the creatures surrounded me.

“Quite right,” agreed the Nemesister. “Oh, I usually only employ them to keep the natives in check, but they are also useful against a meddling Kosmikos agent. Do not worry, though. I do not intend for them to kill you. They are only here to assure that you do not interfere with my experiment.”

“Ha!” I exclaimed. “Are you now pretending to be merciful? Do not bother. I know such things are not in you. You have been nothing but evil since the day of your birth, and there are very few beings I would say such a thing about!”

“Mercy? Oh, of course not. Mercy is for fools and weaklings. No, I want you alive for another reason. I want you to watch; to watch helplessly whilst my experiment is undertaken. To watch and be constrained from interfering when I -- the Supreme One; the Mistress Nemesister -- recreate the Universe and become the One True Goddess!!” …

In the village of the Lerychians, Millie Drake had become quite the welcome guest. Realising she was another of the race of their own “Supreme One”, they had quickly grown in admiration of the young lady. Her beauty and her youth, along with her obvious intelligence and profound kindness had forsooth impressed them beyond measure.

“You need to rise up and be free,” Millie had told them. “You are not meant to be slaves, not to the Nemesister or anyone else. Together your people can overcome her and take back Lerych as your rightful planetary inheritance! You should go and deal with it now! I will go with you, and we can conquer all obstacles!”

(Much later, Millie told me that she felt my presence on the planet, and knew that she would find me with the Nemesister, ready and willing to aid the Lerychians against the villainess. That is what gave the wee lass such courage and conviction to thus inspire an attempt at a great revolution on Lerych.)

Therefore did the people of Lerych assemble an army to cross the wasteland to the strange stone and steel structure that housed the hideous laboratory of the Nemesister. Millie Drake indeed went with them, she being their source of inspiration. It was all she could do to keep them from carrying her on a litter as token of their extreme admiration of her. In stead, she marched along with them, protected on all sides by the Lerychian men who were now determined to end the tyranny of the so-called “Supreme One” -- that horrid mad scientist and renegade Watcher known to eternal villainous infamy as the Nemesister!!

Then, as the army approached the Nemesister’s location, a large group of Pingatos came forth from it and charged directly to-wards them. How could they possibly stand before such monstrosities? Indeed, it appeared that the great revolution of Lerych would be halted before it had even properly begun! …

There inside the laboratory, I stood under guard of the Pingatos whilst the wicked Nemesister readied her experiment -- in sooth, an experiment that I realised could indeed very well succeed in destroying the Universe as we know it, and then in recreating it with all of Time and Space under the despotic control of that horrendously-evil Algolite woman!

“All is now prepared!” she announced in utterly-insane exaltation. “The focusing mechanism is in place, and all I need do is press this button and the energy wave shall be unleashed; the energy wave that will streak across Outer Space to shatter the asteroid, and thus unleash the weird matter that shall recreate the Cosmos in my image!!”

Whilst I watched in absolute abject horror, unable to interfere (I had left my transonic turnscrew in the DiTraS), the Nemesister focused the machinery on the asteroid as it appeared on the monitor, and her hand moved to-wards the firing button.

“Now is the time!” she continued, her voice a cackling cacophony of madness. “Now I shall become the Creator -- the Supreme One indeed -- the One True Goddess!!!”

Is it even possible? Is it possible for you to comprehend the extreme demoniacal horror of this situation? As I stood there, seemingly helpless in the custody of the monstrous Pingatos, the Nemesister prepared to consummate the experiment that would destroy the Universe as we know it!

She continued to concentrate on the focusing mechanism. It appeared to be more complicated than she had let on, keeping the system aimed directly to-wards that small asteroid that was hurtling through Space past the planet. Nevertheless, she then once more stretched forth her hand and prepared to press the button that would fire the energy wave to destroy the asteroid and forsooth take all of Time and Space with it!

Just then, as her finger touched the button, there was a disturbance in the building, as if a large group of people -- in truth an army -- had suddenly entered. It was too late for the Nemesister to withdraw her hand. She pressed the button and the energy was unleashed. I heard the crackling sound as it shot through the atmosphere.

“What was that?” shouted the Nemesister as she turned away from the controls in anger. “What was that noise that distracted my concentration?! This is unacceptable! Someone must suffer for this outrage!”

I glanced to-wards the view of the asteroid on the video monitor. As I looked, the bright orange and blue Algolitish energy that she had unleashed streaked by the asteroid -- missing it to then dispel harmlessly in the emptiness of Space.

It was then that the Lerychian army charged into the room. I was both amazed and relieved to see young Miss Millie Drake amongst them -- along with a group of Pingatos that were marching beside the army obediently!

When the Pingatos that had been guarding me beheld this, they moved over and joined the others, standing along with the army of Lerych in revolution against the unspeakable tyranny of that villainess, that madwoman, the Nemesister!

I hurried over and thrust the evil Algolite woman away from the firing mechanism, then quickly programming a sequence to disable the system so it could do no further harm.

Millie Drake broke from the army’s formation and ran into my arms.

“Oh Daniel!” she cried with tears now gushing from her beautiful violet eyes. “I knew you would be here! I came with the Lerychians when they decided to revolt against her!”

“Of course, my love,“ I said to her, “and I see that the Pingatos also recognised you as a far better example of the Algolitish femininity that they had been mutated to obey.”

The Nemesister herself was cornered and, for the first time, I saw a look of fear enter her eyes.

“No, you cannot do this!” she shrieked. “I am the Supreme One! The Nemesister! You cannot rebel against me!!”

Whilst saying this, she had taken a small device like a remote control from a pocket of her dress. She activated it and suddenly several pieces of the scientific machinery from around the chamber popped out of existence and another object appeared, looking rather like an old upright clock from Earth’s British Regency era.

“It’s her DiTraS!” said Millie.

“Yes, she has reassembled it,” I added. “Look!”

The Pingatos had now separated from the ranks of the Lerychians and were rushing to-wards the Nemesister, obviously with the intention of ripping that grotesquely-wicked woman to shreds!

The Nemesister ran to-wards her Time-Spaceship and disappeared through the porthole-like opening that had appeared in it. None the less, before she could close the aperture, the horrid Pingatos rushed in after her.

Whilst the sound of the ship’s engines engaged, we heard the Nemesister shouting in terror from within, along with the savage roars of the Pingatos.

“No! No!” she screamed. “You cannot do this to me! I am your mistress! I am the Supreme One! I am… !”

Then, after one final gurgling shriek of pain and outrage, there was silence as the Nemesister’s DiTraS faded away, taking her to her doom.

This was immediately followed by another sound, this also the noise of an Algolitish engine. It was, however, now the familiar gasping moaning tones of my own Time/Space machine as it materialised in its usual disguise as an Ionic column.

“The DiTraS!” happily exclaimed Millie. “Ours, I mean, this time! But where is Kit-10?”

“Worry not, Mills,” I consoled her. “The ship’s automated safety programmes moved all living organic matter -- that being us -- out of its immediate danger. Kit-10 would have been kept there as part of the machinery, so I am certain we will find her safely on board.”

Millie and I spent some time speaking to the people of Lerych, urging them to create a free, independent society for themselves, and promising to return and visit them some day. We then entered the DiTraS and I activated the controls to take us back into Outer Space.

“I knew you would find us, Kit-10,” I said to our catlike computer friend “The DiTraS was not really torn apart. It was an illusion caused by being in such close proximity to the Nemesister’s ungodly experiments. The ship stayed in Space, and you, Kit-10, were able to continue its course to reunite with the DNA readings of Miss Drake and myself.”

“Oh my gosh!“ exclaimed Millie. “It’s just like those old stories of lost cats always finding their way back to their owners, even when they’ve moved far away!”

“This unit is not a cat, m--,” complained the little robot.

I was by now busy entering some instructions into the DiTraS communication system.

“I have sent a coded subspace message to the Kosmikos to collect that asteroid and to secure its weird matter under safekeeping,” I then explained. “It should be no more trouble, so we can safely go on about or business, and…”

I was then suddenly interrupted by a signal from the console.

“Oh gosh, not again!” cried Millie Drake. “What is it this time?”

“Why, it is a message from Earth,” said I, checking the display. “In fact, it is from General Gorton-Steward, hmmm? I left him an interstellar relay mechanism with instructions to contact us in case of a certain emergency.”

“Daniel,” said Millie concernedly, “does this mean what I think it does?”

“I fear so, love,” I replied as I reset the DiTraS directional coordinates, “and we need to get back to Earth right away!!”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “U15 STRIKES BACK”