GOING DOWN

The boat drifted slowly along into the outer harbour area of the city of Baltimore. Despite its aimless course, the craft was not actually unmanned. Its sole occupant was an individual known as Matthias Benecewicz. Of medium build and nearly thirty; with sandy hair and a perfectly-manicured beard; Benecewicz was clad in an off-white polo shirt and matching shorts. He wiped the perspiration from his forehead with the back of his hand and took another drag on his marihuana “blunt” as he lay back upon the side of the boat. It was nearly noon, and the temperature was already over ninety degrees on the Fahrenheit scale.

Matthias Benecewicz, partly of Polish blood and originally a native of Philadelphia, had come to Baltimore over a decade earlier on a scholarship, his supposed purpose being to “study art”. In stead, he had soon enough found himself outclassed by the numerous “hipster” kids from wealthy families that made up the largest faction of arts students in the city. It rankled him a bit to this day. For instance, any of them could have afforded a real yacht, in stead of the tiny fishing boat he used for his little cruises in the harbour. They also got younger and better-looking girls, unlike the old woman (she was over forty!) that Benecewicz had to sleep with in order to afford food and dope. In fact, he was only able to “rise to the occasion” with her by thinking of the hot little schoolgirls he often watched in their group visits to the Baltimore Aquarium. Even now, as his thoughts strayed to them he found his hand moving to-wards his crotch…

It was then that Matthias Benecewicz was suddenly distracted from his weed-and-lust induced stupor when his boat started to tilt strangely to one side.

“What the f… ?” stammered Benecewicz as he sat up and looked around. The water was calm, and no breeze stirred the hot, humid air under the blazing sun of that late-Spring day.

The boat lurched again, and Benecewicz forced himself to overcome his laziness and stand up to go see exactly what was the matter. It was then that he peered over the side of his boat and beheld a horror. It was then that he found himself unable to even scream -- so great was his terror when he found himself going down, indeed being dragged down forcibly into the harbour.

It was then that Matthias Benecewicz -- failed art-student, small-time gigolo, and pothead -- was dragged down to his death by the clawed, webbed, scaly-green hands of an hideous Reptilian horror! …

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

Whilst most Algolites live in elitist seclusion from the rest of the Universe, I am an Operative for a secret organisation known as the KOSMIKOS, tasked with maintaining peace and order throughout the farthest reaches of Space and Time.

Currently assigned to Planet Earth, I protect its people from the hideous manipulations of the arch-villain known as Master Wingus, as well as alien invasions, mad scientists, and indeed all manner of menace. I am the living icon of Algol upon this world. I am the sword of justice from the planet Daemonia. I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …

I had come to the area to investigate for a couple of reasons. To begin with, several boaters had gone missing near by, their vessels capsized, and the Coast Guard had found large claw-marks on the boats -- claw-marks that appeared to be caused by large reptilian creatures.

In addition, the highly-advanced instruments in my laboratory had detected an intermittent wave of energy -- forsooth, energy that could only come from some sort of technology unknown to present-day Earth.

Leaving my canary-coloured Edwardian roadster in a parking lot, I had walked about a mile to the Canton waterfront in southeast Baltimore City. The Canton area, so-called because of its early trading with the similarly-named town in China, had been a major shipping port in its heyday and later an industrial centre.

Therefore, I found myself entering a large, old building in an industrial area along the waterfront of southeast Baltimore City. It was from here that the energy emission seemed to be coming, and it was near by that a local man had gone missing whilst out for a jaunt in his small pleasure-craft a few days previously.

The day was overcast but very warm, the harsh humidity for which the Mid-Atlantic region is known already having settled over that early morning. As I entered the building -- dressed in my usual outfit, including a frilled poet shirt and a purple velvet smoking jacket -- numerous large cockroaches, the black “water bugs” so common to the locale, scattered in all directions.

The building was an old factory, a relic of the industrial age, now abandoned for decades. It was mostly one large, lofty room, lighted only from a line of windows high up in the structure, somewhat obscured by cobwebs. I took the small electric torch from my jacket pocket and turned it on.

There seemed to be little to see in the building. There was some scattered garbage, evidence of the location being used on occasion by the city’s homeless, and perhaps at times by others as a place to indulge in prostitution and illegal narcotics.

I turned my flashlight on a pile of old fast-food bags and containers, the sudden illumination causing a large rat to jump out and scamper away in to the shadows, complaining in its rodent squeaks that I had disturbed its slumbers.

It was then that I noticed a door upon the far wall of the room. It was the old office of the factory foreman or manager. Could this be from where the strange energy was coming? Wondering, I cautiously stepped forward to-wards the door.

It was the final moment I would experience that day of anything you would consider sane normalcy.

Suddenly, my torch illuminated two horrid yellow eyes of the thing that was rushing at me. It was bipedal and the size of a large man, but that it where its comparison to anything human would end. Even in the dim light, I could see its scaly green skin and its huge mouth filled with razor sharp teeth.

I backed away quickly as the Reptilian hissed and lunged at me, grasping with its grotesquely-clawed hands. I ran out the door of the old factory building back into the light of day with the creature in fast pursuit.

Outside, along the shoreline, abandoned as it was of any current human inhabitations, I beheld several more of the Reptilian horrors wading out of the waters of the harbour to-wards me. Here in the better light, I noticed that their hands and feet were webbed.

“Incredible,” I said to myself. “Seagoing Lizard-Men!”

The horrid green monstrosities continued to advance to-wards me, six of them in all, silent except for the sickening hissing sound of their breathing. I was surrounded by Reptilians!!

The first Lizard-Man, the one I had encountered inside the old factory building, was almost upon me. I quickly squatted down and grabbed it by the arm, utilising a method of Daemonian kung fu to propel the thing over me, where it landed on top of two of the others, causing them to sprawl along the shoreline.

Nevertheless, knowing that I could not so easily deal with this entire group of Reptilians, I took advantage of the temporary confusion to make a quick retreat up the shore, hoping to find a place to conceal myself whilst  coming up with a solution to this sudden outbreak of ravenous reptiles.

As I ran along the shoreline, the horrid Reptilians still in pursuit, I saw a figure ahead of me. It was a young girl dressed in a short, powder-blue dress, and she was walking along the waterfront apparently oblivious to the supreme unholy eldritch peril into which she had stumbled.

Do you perceive the horror, the extreme ungodly terror of this situation, my friends? As I ran from the Reptilians, here before me was a young innocent, in much more danger than myself, and very likely having no knowledge whatsoever of the threat that she was facing.

The girl yelped in surprise as I suddenly grabbed her in my arms and took her with me away from the Lizard-Men.

“I will not harm you, Miss,” I assured her. “Hold on and I promise to explain as soon as possible.”

We had by now zigzagged amongst several smaller buildings and I no longer heard our pursuers. I now thought it safe to at least take temporary shelter behind an outcropping of rock along the harbour shore.

I cautiously peered out and saw no sign of the Reptilians. Either we had lost them, or they had given up -- at least for the moment.

“Oh my God!” suddenly exclaimed the young girl. “It’s you! It’s really you! I mean, you’re him! You’re Dr. Daniel! Dr. Daniel Rumanos!!”

“You know me?” I enquired, looking the lass over to see if I recognised her. She was quite beautiful, slender and perfect with long auburn hair and sapphire-blue eyes.

“My name is Peta,” she said. “Peta Filia.”

“Amazing. I mean, I think I know your sister.”

“Yes, Heba still talks about you all the time. She told me all about all the adventures you had together! In fact, that’s what made me want to become an investigative journalist, and now I look for stories I can do about strange things and threats like the ones you fight!”

“An ‘investigative journalist’?” I enquired. “I mean no offence, but are you not a bit… young for that?”

“I work on my school newspaper,” she replied, undauntedly. “Well, it’s really just on the internet now, but we still call it a newspaper.”

“Ah, all right then.”

“So what’s going on here?” she went on. “I came out to investigate these boats disappearing! Is it aliens or a mad scientist or something? I saw somebody chasing you, but couldn‘t tell who it was.”

“Actually, it is Reptilians,” I explained. “Remnants of an ancient species that ruled this planet before the human race even existed. There are certain accounts of them the legends of Lemuria and Atlantis. Most of them, like these seagoing ones, have lost all their civilisation and are now just mindless animals or savages. They view mammals, including humans, only as food.”

“So how are you going to defeat them?” she queried. “Because I know you will, you know.”

“I appreciate your confidence, little sister Peta,” I smiled. “Nevertheless, it is a bit more complicated than that. There is some sort of energy emitting from that old factory building. Since these Reptilians have no technology, I believe that someone else may be controlling them. It would explain the sudden rash of attacks upon local boaters and so forth. It indeed seemed a bit bold for these Lizard-Men, who could more easily slake their desire for warm-blooded food by devouring the waterfront rats.”

“So it is really a mad scientist after all?” asked the girl.

“Could be,” I said. “But anyone who would conceive a scheme utilising the Reptilians would have to be mad indeed, and with an incredible grasp of biological interplay and interspecies psychology. I wonder…”

My theorising was suddenly interrupted when the telltale blast of an energy weapon instantly dissolved part of the rocky outcropping behind which the girl and I were crouched.

“It’s no use, Rumanos,” said a man’s voice -- in sooth, a voice all too familiar to me. “My Reptilian friends and I have you surrounded. There is no escape this time. Come out with your hands up.”

I looked out and beheld the speaker, who stood holding his energy-gun aimed directly at us with Reptilians flanking him like trained guards. He was dressed in an all-black suit and cape. He appeared to be of middle years, and had long brown hair streaked with grey. His features still showed signs of handsome distinction despite being marked by several lifetimes of ungodly sin and unimaginable wickedness. His face was decorated with a thin moustache and goatee, and his pale eyes glared hypnotically at all around him. Of course, I recognised him immediately.

It was DON WINGO!

“It’s him, isn’t it?” enquired Peta. “Isn’t that your archenemy, the evil Don Wanko?”

“Wingo,” I corrected her, unable to suppress a grin. “Don Wingo. We should do as he says for now. Worry not though, love. He will not try to kill us right away. He undoubtedly wants to gloat for awhile over his evil plans.”

The young lady and I stepped out from what was left of the rock.

“You, indeed,” I said as I faced Don Wingo. “So you did escape from the Gargouellios. I should have known you were behind those energy emissions. Only you would be so bloody mad as to ally yourself with cold-blooded Reptilians.”

“Now, no sudden moves, Rumanos,” warned Wingo. “This is a gun I picked up for my collection from an Andromedan flea market. It is an old wartime model, and burns like Perdition itself when it hits any organic matter. Imagine what it could do to the body of your sexy little friend here.”

“Leave the girl out of it, Wingo,” I countered. “Whatever insane scheme you are planning, let us keep it between us this time, eh?”

“Oh no,” he said with an fiendish chuckle. “I know your weakness for the little ladies. The girl stays as a hostage.”

And with this, one of the Reptilians came up behind the girl and slightly touched her on the throat with one of its horrid talons. She immediately fainted away in horror.

“Wingo, you fiend!” I shouted. “If you harm her, I swear… !”

“She is unharmed, Rumanos. She will be fine as long as you cooperate. You see, I require your assistance in a little experiment, and the little girl’s unexpected presence makes that all the easier for me to assure your cooperation. Come along, then, and remember -- no sudden attempts at your ever-so-tiresome acts of heroics!”

With the hideous Reptilian carrying the unconscious Miss Peta Filia, we were all led into the old factory building, back into the office space. 

 The inside of the office had been draped and furnished in Victorian splendour, with a large antique desk as the centrepiece. The docile Reptilian put the girl down on a settee and stood guard over her. Two other Lizard-Men waited at attention nearby.

“Good God, Wingo!” I exclaimed. “Vintage Nineteenth Century d├ęcor for the secret lair, I see. You always did have a penchant for that era, ever since those murders you committed in Whitechapel.”

“Quite so,” he replied, locking his gun safely away in a desk-drawer. “Would you care for some tea? I see you’ve already had a bit of crumpet.” This with a glance to-wards the young girl.

“As I remember, you even named your daughter ‘Anastasia Victoria’,” I said, ignoring his obscene implications against my chivalry.

“Yes, the ‘Anastasia’ bit was her Russian mother’s idea, the old bitch,” said Wingo. “So everyone just called her Stacy.”

“That is,” I taunted, “until little Stacy Wingo bled to death after being gang-raped by your ‘Spectral Paranormal’ cult followers in that Satanic ceremony. You know, the one where you acquired the powers of the Cacodemons of Andromeda, and then just left your own child there to die. That was when you were pretending to be just a human diabolist, but I see now you have fully accepted your extraterrestrial origins.”

“Of course, Rumanos,” he answered we a demonic smile. “I remember our past together at Daemonia Academy, when I was known by my true name as Master Wingus of Algol. Why, I can even remember that time they found you with the Universal Overseer’s granddaughter, you naughty boy. What a scandal that was!”

“Ah, yes; Shoshana Whovios,“ I reminisced. “Forsooth, I did wonder for a while how they over found us, since you -- supposedly my best friend -- were the only one who knew I was dating her.”

“It was just after that,” he went on, not replying to my exposure of his treachery, “that you assassinated my early disciple, Mordauntus, and were drafted as an agent of the bloody Kosmikos.”

“Mordauntus was conducting unauthorised experiments -- at your bidding, we now know. Nevertheless, that was all indeed a very long time ago. What I want to know now is this: How have you achieved control over these Reptilians?”

“Take a look for yourself, ‘old friend’,” he said, pulling a cord that caused a curtain to open.

Behind the curtain was a tall computer console that was emitting a low humming sound. It had no visible controls, but lights of various colours flashed intermittently over its surface.

“By the Stars!” I exclaimed. “That is technology from the First Human Empire of Lemuria, when they had a certain amount of mentalist power over reptiles. They only used it, however, to keep pet dinosaurs.”

“Indeed,” replied Wingo, “but it works on all saurian creatures that have not achieved technological awareness, or those who have reverted into an animalistic state like these Lizard-Men. I have enhanced the machine, attuning it to my Algolitish hypnotic abilities, and it has been enough to put this entire local colony of seagoing Reptilians under my control.”

“I have a feeling you are about to tell me you have larger plans than just sinking some local boats.”

“Oh, of course. Those were only tests; experiments with my ability to control the Reptilians. But there are more colonies of Lizard-Men, colonies all along the coast of this continent. Most of them are in hibernation. It is my goal to gain control of them all, and to use them to march across this country, to achieve domination over the most powerful nation on this planet, and then to announce my supremacy over this entire world!!”

“Madness!“ I said. “Absolute madness, Wingo.”

“Thank you,” he mocked.

“Wingo, this machine is not powerful enough to… ” I stopped as realisation hit me.

“Yes, Rumanos, that’s where you come into the picture. I knew, of course, that my activities here would attract your meddling ways. That’s why I did not even bother to mask the emission leak from my machine. The only problem would be convincing you to aid me.”

“Never!” I announced. “I shall never aid you! You want to use our combined mentalist energy in order to boost that machine so you can gain control over all the Reptilian colonies, then utilising them as your private army to conquer America! I shall never aid you in that! In fact, I shall do all in my power to stop you!!”

“Oh, I think not, Rumanos,” he chuckled. “You see, I had formerly thought I would have to resort to some type of torture to get you to comply, but chance has granted me a much better bargaining chip… ”

Don Wingo then looked across the room at the girl, sweet little Peta Filia, who was just stirring from her swoon as the hideous Reptilian continued to stand over her, its horrid crocodilian-like jaws gaping.

“No, Wingo!” I gasped. “Do not even think of that, you unspeakable abomination!”

“Oh, yes, Rumanos! Oh, yes! You see, it’s just about lunchtime for working-class Reptilian, you know, and that one could find no more choice morsel than the warm, tender flesh of that little girl. You will aid me right now in boosting the power of this machine, or I will allow that Reptilian to devour her!!”

And with this, Don Wingo then let forth with a peel of his unholy demoniacal laughter.

Can you recognise the terror, the extreme horror of this situation, dear readers? If I did not agree to aid Don Wingo in gaining control over an hoard of Reptilian soldiers that he intended to use to overrun and conquer the United States of America, he would allow that ravenous Lizard-Man to wholly devour the innocent young lady!

“You will comply, Rumanos,” Wingo continued. “You will aid me in boosting my machine now!”

“All right, Wingo,” I said. “As long as the girl is unharmed, let me know just what you need for me to do.”

I walked over slowly to the machine with him, as he smiled evilly with a look of triumph.

“Now, Rumanos, what we need here is for both of us to be making some adjustments to the machine simultaneously. The interface is rather unique, and cooperation is required to boost the system, with both participants intellectually articulate and manually dexterous. It should only take a few moments, but be warned: At the slightest sign of treachery, I will give that Reptilian leave to have that little lady for its luncheon!”

Just then, before we even began to interface with the Lemurian machine, there was the sound of an explosion, an explosion that shook the floor violently, and caused bits of plaster to fall from the ceiling.

“What is that, Rumanos?!” bellowed Don Wingo. “Is this some trick of yours? Because, if it is… !”

“That, Wingo,” said I, whilst a smile spread across my face, “is the United States Coast Guard. They had orders to begin razing this entire industrial area if they did not hear from me within a certain amount of time.”

There was another explosion, followed by the sound of an adjoining building falling to pieces. Don Wingo lost his balance for a moment, and whilst he was thus distracted, I made a quick adjustment to his machine. The Reptilian who had been watching Peta Filia turned away from her and began to approach Wingo, the two others soon following suit.

“What! No! No!’ exclaimed the villainous Wingo. “Rumanos! What have you done?!”

“Oh, only a minor adjustment,” I rejoined. “Nothing requiring assistance, old chap. Fortunately, I spent quite some time in Lemuria and am familiar with their technology. I just switched the polarisation of the neutronic stream so that the Reptilians, in stead of seeing you as their master, now perceive you as nothing more than a particularly-tasty food source!”

I heard Don Wingo screaming in terror as the three hissing, ravenous Reptilians surrounded him. I went over to the girl and picked her up in my arms.

“Dr. Daniel… What happened?” she breathed, still recovering from her swoon.

“Mr. Wingo is having a private lunch date with his scaly friends,” I said, “and it is time for us to go.”

Carrying the young lady, I ran at top speed form the old building. We had just barely gotten clear when the coast guard bombardment did its thing, and the old industrial complex went up completely in flames.

A few minutes later, Peta had recovered enough to walk, with my arm around her, and we were making our way to the parking lot. I was explaining the situation to her.

“The Coast Guard had been briefed on the Reptilian threat. From the telltale claw-marks, it was obvious the Lizard-Men that had been sinking the boats. The only real mystery was why they had suddenly become so aggressive, so I came here first to see who was behind it.”

“So now that Wanko creep is dead too?” she enquired.

“I hope so, love,” I assured her, not even bothering to correct her pronunciation of the miscreant’s abhorred name, “and there are very few people I would say that about. Even if he somehow managed to slip free of the Reptilians, the military bombardment is due to flatten the entire industrial area.”

“But won’t people hear it?”

“No doubt, but it will be reported in the press as just the routine demolition of disused structures -- although it is certainly fine with me if you want to hint at the truth in your school newspaper. In any event, my work here today is done. I say, when we find my car, I would quite like to go for an ice-cream cone. Care to join me?”

“Of course!” squealed the girl in delight. “I’ve heard you really like vanilla.”

“Indeed I do, my dear. Indeed I do.”

I went on to have other adventures with the lovely Miss Peta Filia; but that, as the saying goes, is another story.

***** DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN IN “BABES IN THE WOODS”