RUNAWAY

In the heart of the downtown area of Baltimore City is a take-away restaurant known as The Pizza Gate. It is thus called due to its having been built within an ornate stone entranceway that was designed at around the turn of the Twentieth Century by the great architect I.M. Apeddo.

Now, I must state that our scene does not concern the various types of pizza, pasta dishes, and overstuffed sandwiches that are available at this fine establishment, tasty as they may be. It concerns something else about the skyscraper building in which The Pizza Gate is found. For far above the bustle of the daily lunch crowd, in a golden trapezoidal rooftop accessible only by a hidden spiral stairway from the building‘s official “top floor“, is something that I am certain most would find quite surprising.

In this large chamber, its walls insulated with advanced security technology protecting it from the attentions of the unknowing city, is a remarkable collection of scientifically advanced objects in various states of disrepair. Some of these objects are obviously of human origin, the result of the labours of genius minds driven to the brink of madness (and sometimes beyond it) by their own superiority to the dregs of common humanity. Others found here, however, are not from any source found on this planet, but rather are the products of extraterrestrial civilisations; far-flung alien societies from across the vast reaches of Interstellar Space. These include the deactivated head of an extraterrestrial cyborg, a collection of ancient and now-inoperative Martian weaponry, and a control device from the planet Mechanicus.

Also on a near by desk is found the manuscript for a Hollywood film I myself had worked on some years previously. I smiled as I remembered the synopsis: “In a world were men who like girls are considered ‘weird’, one alien secret agent fights for justice…”

Nevertheless, the particular object with which I found myself concerned on the day in which our narrative begins was none of these. It was, in fact, of human origin, but from the far future of this planet, a product of the period in which the people of Earth had begun to explore the possibilities of Temporal Engineering -- vulgarly known as Time Travel.

“Yes, indeed,” I said to myself. “The Temporal View Scanner. If I can get this working again, it could indeed aid in solving certain mysteries…”

Dressed in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt and purple velvet dinner jacket, I held my transonic turnscrew (an incredibly-advanced device resembling a writing pen) over the wide metallic box that was the Temporal View Scanner. I made several adjustments to the transonic, and was just about to conclude that the TVS was in need of much more extensive repairs, when the round video screen on the Scanner suddenly switched on.

“Fantastic!” I exclaimed. “Now, if I can adjust this correctly, it should be possible to look into any scene in human history. I could, at a safe distance, witness Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul, or Napoleon‘s defeat at Waterloo, or…”

“You ain’t nothing’ but a hound dog…” interrupted the sound from the Temporal View Scanner. On the screen I saw Elvis Presley, evidently from the 1950s, singing before a crowd of screaming teenage girls. Unable to reach him and tear his clothes off, as they obviously wanted to do, they were in stead tearing off their own.

“…or this!” I said as I sat down in front of the TVS with a smile.

I watched the concert for a few minutes, happily munching on a quite tasty slice of the hot cheese pizza that I had brought from downstairs, when I was suddenly interrupted by a warning signal from the Temporal View Scanner itself. You see, the TVS was built with a safety device that immediately warns the viewer if something is going on that requires attention, something important -- but forsooth only something more crucial than any historical event the individual could be viewing.

Concerned, I quickly adjusted the controls in order to view an image of what the Scanner had picked up. What was revealed was an horror indeed.

It was the image of the interior of a spaceship; a craft that was currently approaching Earth. It was the control centre, and seeing what was in control filled me with an unimaginable dread. They were several creatures about the size of an human torso, but that is where their resemblance to anything of sanity ended. They were each hovering about a metre from the floor of the ship, and resembled a mass of tendrils intertwined with strands of metallic technology. Their flesh was of a sickly dark-yellow shade, and from the centre of each two ebon-black, narrow eyes glared with a gaze of unmitigated and unholy hatred -- an hatred that I knew they indeed felt for all things, all beings, all of creation other than themselves.

“By the Triple Star!” I swore upon recognition of these creatures, knowing the unnameable horrors and dangers that now awaited me -- and the unimaginable peril that now faced the planet Earth. “It is the Mutations of Mynverkoss!” …

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

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

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

I pondered deeply as I drove in my canary-coloured Edwardian roadster, a specially-modified touring car affectionately known as “Lizzie”, through the heat of that late-summer day. I realised, of course, that the image of the Mynver was the residue of a subspace transmission, and that they had likely been established upon Earth for some time, perhaps weeks or even months. My instruments had detected no trace of Mynverkossian technology of late, but the aliens had no doubt carefully masked their presence, knowing of my work on this planet from our last encounter. So, the question remained -- where were they?

It was then that a series of strange events began, a bizarre sequence of actions that in time would lead to my solving this particular dilemma.

I was just passing underneath a grove of the overhanging trees surrounding one of Baltimore’s many public parks when I was accosted by a thing of horror, a creature that dropped from the foliage directly upon my head. It was a small, apelike man, brown-skinned and covered with course black hair. As he chattered loudly in his primitive patois I realised what and who he was.

I knew that to the north of Baltimore City, in the Hunt Valley area, a carnival known as the “Midway von Strange” had set up a few days previously. By far the most controversial of its sideshow exhibits had been a creature called Rodrigo. Said to be a native from deep in the jungles of the Philippines, this inbred relic of prehistory retained many of the aspects of the homo erectus and other proto-human types. Oddly, local liberals and activists had flatly refused to protest the fact that Rodrigo was being displayed as a freak, citing in stead his “right to work” and to “earn a living”. Go figure.

This then was the being that had accosted me so savagely as I drove along. My first act of defence was to quickly swerve the car into the near by brush and safely off the street. The jolt of this was too much even for the surprisingly-strong dwarf, and so served to dislodge the hideous Rodrigo from my head and sent him flying into the branches of a tree close by.

I jumped from the car and readied myself for the little monster’s next attack. He came at me quickly, his simian countenance distorted with rage and battle-lust as he bared his horrid homo erectus teeth at me.

Just as Rodrigo reached me, intending to attempt to put out my eyes with his splayed toes, I hit him with a Daemonian kung fu blow that sent him directly upwards, far above the tree level before he again plummeted to the ground.

The little subhuman horror landed headfirst, the fall having the final and fatal result breaking his neck and of his apelike visage being immediately buried in the dirt with his small, deformed body sprawled grotesquely above it.

“Another one bites the dust,” said I.

I was then just about the return to my car when I heard a voice. It was a man’s voice, a dark voice of unspeakable evil, unholy sin, and ungodly wickedness beyond imagining. In sooth, it was a voice I knew only too well.

“Turn around slowly, Rumanos,” he said. “Don’t try any sudden moves or it’s all over. I have you this time.”

I turned and beheld a figure. It was a tall figure in a black, hooded vestment robe, holding a sleek laser-gun in his gloved hand. He reached up his other hand to lower the cowl and thus reveal his face. It was face of horror, disfigured into a skin of scar tissue tightly stretch over his skull. It was lipless, revealing his mottled teeth, and only a few strands of dark-grey hair upon his head and chin gave evidence of his once-handsome appearance. From this face of disfigured terror glowed a pair of intense, balefully-hypnotic eyes. Of course, I recognised him immediately. I recognised him as my archenemy, in sooth the most villainous and incredibly-dangerous individual in all of Time and Space.

It was Don Wingus!!

“You!” I exclaimed. “I should have known! So you did escape from the Westport Incinerator. Well, parts of you did, anyway…”

“Indeed,” he spat back, “your continued meddling in my plans has left me scarred and disfigured. Nevertheless, I live. My right, my privilege, my destiny to rule this Universe keeps me alive.”

“Your hatred of ME does, you mean. You will never cease to exist so long as you can plan some petty revenge upon me, hmm? However, you disguised yourself as an Earthman for so long that you have lost the ability to Rejuvenate! Is that what happened, or is it because of that time you… ?”

“No matter,” he interrupted hastily. “I will gain the energy to take a new body when the time is right.”

“Using proto-human monstrosities as your agents in the meantime, eh?” I queried. “Typical.”

“Oh, it is a shame about little Rodrigo,” replied the arch-criminal. “He had such a fine furry fundament. Nevertheless, he served his purpose, and I have far greater associates with which I have formed an axis of power that will overrun this paltry planet and then go on to conquer the entire Galaxy. I will be reborn, and then continue onwards to take my rightful place as Most Supreme Master of All Existence!!”

“Give it a rest, Wingus,” I mocked. “You know I have heard it all before. For thousands of years you have…”

Just then, there was the sound of a beeping automobile horn as my car, Lizzie, hit Don Wingus from behind. I had utilised the setting on the transonic turnscrew (concealed in my palm and partially by the sleeve of my jacket) that turns it into a remote control device. I had thus manoeuvred Lizzie around behind Wingus, her specially-tuned whisper-quiet engine giving no evidence of the subterfuge. The villain was sent sprawling into the near by brush and, before he could recover, I jumped into the car and sped away down the road.

“Good girl, Lizzie,” I praised as I sped the car’s engine to-wards my destination. “I shall remember to give you a nice wax-job for a reward after we finish this assignment!”

After thus racing up York Road, I soon arrived at the large shopping complex known as Hunt Valley Town Centre and beheld the Midway von Strange carnival set up in its parking lot. A garishly painting sign heralded the attraction as “A Runaway Success!” -- thus presented in quotes in order to appear to be from some non-existent media review, and advertised something that appeared to be the show’s main attraction, something entitled “The Titanic Experience”.

Having parked the car, I strolled onto the midway area. It seemed to be a typical carnival, with the usual assortment of rides and games and concession stands. Nevertheless, I could feel an underlying aura of evil, as I am myself no stranger to what I already perceived as being the cause of it.

“Spectral Paranormal is behind this,” I said to myself, shuddering slightly at remembrance of the myriad past horrors perpetrated by that occult terrorist organisation. “The presence of its founder, Don Wingus, in the area makes that obvious; just as his boast of having created an ‘axis of power’ shows that he has aligned himself with the…”

“Hey, are you doing a magic act here?” said a sweet feminine voice from behind me.

I turned and beheld a beautiful young girl, petite and perfect, with rich auburn hair and eyes the deepest shade of blue, her skin the purest white of alabaster. She was dressed in a cream-coloured halter-top and powder blue miniskirt that only served to highlight the outline of her slender pubescent figure.

“I beg your pardon, Miss?” I said.

“Your clothes,” she giggled. “They’re so cool! You look like a magician!”

“Oh well,” I replied with a smile. “I suppose I am something like that. I am Doctor Rumanos.”

“Doctor?” she said, a look of wonder in her beautiful eyes. “Cool! I’m Kitty Parn.”

“Of course you are. Look, it is very nice to meet you, Miss Parn…”

“You can call me Kitty,” she blushed.

“It is very nice to meet you, Kitty,” I continued. “But I am here on a case, and…”

“A case?” she interrupted. “Oh, that’s cool too! You mean like a detective?”

“Not exactly. You see, I am a…”

Then, before I could complete my attempt at an explanation, I felt an energy wave. It hit the girl as well, and she fell into my arms just as we faded away from the reality of the shopping centre lot. There was a brief vision of a swirling grey mist, and then we found ourselves in another location entirely. It was dark, only dimly lit by unseen sources. The walls appeared to be made of stone.

“What… what happened?” stammered the girl. “Where are we?”

“We were hit with a trans-Dimensional travel wave,” I said. “Obviously one of the Spectral Paranormal agents recognised me and had been thus instructed by Wingus. But I wonder how far we have gone.”

“It looks like something out of an old horror movie,” offered Kitty.

“Indeed,” I agreed, eyeing the strange Gothic-styled chamber. “By the Stars! I hope he has not sent us back to the Middle Ages or something! If I can make scan of the area, perhaps I can tell…”

But then, before I could extract the transonic from my pocket, Miss Kitty Parn screamed in terror at what she saw behind me. I turned and beheld the thing just before it hit me with a blow that sent me to the floor. It was shaped like a man of nearly seven feet in height and dressed in ragged clothes. His skin was grey-green like a corpse, and his grotesquely-misshapen head had across it a series of stitches -- stitches as if where a brain had been transplanted.

“What!” I said in astonishment as I attempted to shake off the effects of the blow. “Frankenstein’s Monster?!”

‘Help!” I heard Kitty scream from across the room. “Doctor, help me!”

I looked and saw a further horror, a terror that should only exist in the imagination, standing before the helpless young lady. It appeared to be a man in evening clothes and a black cape lined in crimson red. His skin was deathly pale, his features alarmingly-handsome yet animalistic in their unbridled bloodlust. As he opened his mouth to speak, he revealed two long, hideously sharp fangs.

“I am Dracula,” he spoke in a deeply-accented Eastern European tone whilst reaching out for the girl. “Count Dracula…”

Do you perceive the horror, the fear, forsooth the unnameable loathsome terror of this situation, my dear readers? The innocent little girl and I were being menaced by creatures that appeared to be none other than those all-time great fictional fiends -- the Frankenstein Monster and Count Dracula!!

The Frankenstein creature growled and again reached out its huge hands to-wards me. Having already extracted the transonic from my pocket, I held up the device and activated it. I saw the monster shudder and a shower of sparks erupted from its chest area before it went completely immobile.

I quickly turned to-wards the other one, the vampire that was menacing Kitty. The transonic again caused that one to shudder and spark, and then to cease all motion.

“Doctor!” said the girl as she ran into my arms. “What are those things?”

“They are just robots, love,” I explained. “Androids made to resemble the great film monsters of yore. Look.”

I by now had found an electric light-switch and turned it on. The illumination immediately revealed the “Gothic chamber” to be pure artifice, obviously just the interior of an old carnival trailer.

“So it’s just a fake ‘haunted house’?” enquired the lass. “Part of the carnival?”

“Indeed it is,” said I. “Though these robots are a bit above the usual technology of such things. No doubt I could guess who is behind that.”

“But how did you know they were just robots?”

“I heard their gears. Ah, here we go.”

With this, I opened the door of the trailer and Kitty and I stepped out back into the midday sunlight of the parking lot.

“The Dimensional wave just sent us a few metres away,” I mused. “Why, that tricky old bastard! He had hoped to disorient me, make me think I had gone back in Time to some medieval torture chamber or whatever. Just long enough for those robotic ‘monsters’ to disable me.”

“How cute, Rumanos,” said an all-too familiar voice from behind and above us. “Showing your latest minor attraction around the carnival’s major attractions, are you? I would offer you some cotton candy, but you’ve obviously already found your sweets for the day.”

I turned around and looked up. We were indeed standing before the show’s main attraction, the so-called “Titanic Experience”. It was a made-to-size replica of the RMS Titanic, that great British ocean liner that sank after encountering an iceberg during its maiden voyage in 1912. Looking down upon us from the deck of the “ship” was a man in a smart naval officer’s uniform. His face, tanned and bearded, appeared to be that of none other than Edward Smith, the now long-deceased Captain of the Titanic!

“Hello again, Wingus,” I said. “Nice mask. So have you gone into the carnie business full-time or is all this just to annoy me?”

“Oh, this ‘Titanic Experience’ scheme has been quite useful, Rumanos,” he replied. “Useful to my associates as they gather knowledge of the Earth-people. Knowledge they will use to invade. Knowledge they will use to destroy and to build the axis of supreme power that I shall share with them.”

“Yes, these ‘associates’ of yours. I know what they are. How can even you, Wingus, be so utterly mad as to align yourself with such creatures?”

“My associates and I share a common goal -- and indeed a common enemy!” he shouted in response.

“Wingus, listen to sense for at least once in your miserable existence, hmm?” I attempted to reason with him -- although I knew any actual reasoning with this villainous madman to be a futile gesture. “They are not something you can trust, even to join you in your evil plans. They are beings of complete and utter HATE, hideous mutants from a world ravaged by generations of nuclear war, and…”

“Doctor, look around us,” whispered Kitty, who was clinging close to me in fear. “All these people…”

By this time a crowd of spectators had gathered around us, thinking that my exchange with the “Captain” was all part of a show, just some sideshow entertainment for their amusement.

“And now, ladies and gentleman, and children of all ages of consent,” pronounced Don Wingus, “I present to you your new leaders, that master race of the galaxies, THE MYNVER!!”

At this announcement, an hoard of Mynverkossian Mutations began to issue forth from the “Titanic”!

“We are the Mynver!” they began to announce with their harshly-distorted voices “We are now the Rulers of Earth! All who would oppose us will be eliminated! Eliminate!! ELIMINATE!!!”

And with this, as the insanely wicked laugh of Don Wingus echoed in the background, several of the Mutations swooped down and unleashed their horrid built-in energy-weapons directly at the girl and me!

I grabbed Kitty Parn and quickly ducked behind a series of tarps near by. The crimson-red Mynver weapon left a gaping crack in the concrete of the parking lot, just where we had been standing scant moments before.

“Keep quiet, Kitty,” I whispered to her. “The flash from the energy weapon should have covered exactly where we went. We should have a few moments before they figure it out.”

“Come out, come out, wherever you are, Rumanos,” mocked Wingus. “You and your little girlfriend need to stop hiding or the Mynver will begin to eliminate these people!”

Indeed, whilst some of the spectators had fled in fear upon seeing the Mynver, many remained crowded around, still convinced that the proceedings were all just part of the carnie amusement programme!

“Doctor,” whispered Kitty, her voice quivering with fright. “He says they will kill all those people. You… We can’t let that happen.”

“You are a good girl, Kitty,” I told her. “It really means a lot that you realise this. But worry not.”

“You mean you have a plan?” she asked, a slight smile appearing on her lovely lips.

“Oh, yes,” I assured her. “I do indeed.”

I reached into an hidden pocket of my jacket and took out another device. It was a metallic oval gadget that I could easily hold in one hand, a gadget I had taken with me earlier from my collection at the location far above the pizza establishment.

“What is that, Doctor?” queried the lass.

“It is a control device I acquired whilst visiting the planet Mechanicus,” I informed her. “Watch what happens.”

I held the device up to my face and spoke carefully into it:

“Mechanicans. Activate. Threat. Proceed.”

And with this, I tossed the metallic gadget aloft. With the noise of a shrill engine hum there issued forth from it numerous shapes --- shapes as of shimmering bronze ovals each about the size of a man. They flew upwards to-wards the Mynver, immediately surrounding them and the fake “Titanic”.

“Now, what are those things?” enquired Kitty.

“Those are called Mechanicans,” I explained. “They are a sort of advanced ‘personal assistant’ computer program, you see. Centuries from now, Outer Space travellers from Earth will send them ahead to planets planned for colonisation. One ship from Earth was lost in Space and never made it to the planet they had planned to colonise, and so the Mechanicans just stayed, upgraded themselves, and became masters of that world. It becomes known as ‘Mechanicus’, and they gave me one of their devices as a gift when I visited there. It is a one-use-only thing, but I thought this to be an appropriate situation.”

“You mean you’ve really been to that planet?” queried the lass in wonder, “And in the future?”

“Well, yes,” I replied. “You see, I…”

“Cool!” she approved.

By now, the Mechanicans had completely surrounded the Mynver, who had retreated on board the “RMS Titanic”. Any attempt to utilise their lethal weaponry had been met with the same from the Mechanicans, who are equipped with flashing bronze energy beams that immediately react against any threat.

The girl and I had stepped out from our hiding place, and I beheld the figure disguised as “Captain Edward Smith” rip the rubber mask from his face, briefly revealing what was indeed the disfigured visage of my arch-foe, the unspeakably-evil Master Don Wingus. He glanced at me briefly, his eyes glowing with extreme abject hatred, before turning to disappear into below-decks.

The Mynverkossian Mutations soon followed, all disappearing into the Titanic hold before, incredibly, the entire ship started to ascend, quickly flying upwards into the skies above Baltimore County.

“Of course!” I exclaimed. “That ‘Titanic’ is really a Mynver spaceship in disguise!”

With this, the Mechanicans attached themselves to the ship and it exploded into smithereens, safely far above the still-attentive crowd.

“The Mechanicans activated their self-destruct codes in order to destroy the Mynver,” said I. “The threat is over!”

“That is so cool!” exclaimed the little tween beauty.

To this I silently added my fervent hope that the wicked Don Wingus had perished with them…

“We should be going, Kitty,” I warned her, “before these people figure out it was not all just an entertaining carnival farce. That is, if you would wish to accompany me?”

“Yes, of course!” beamed the lovely lass.

By now, my canary-coloured roadster had appeared via remote control, and I gallantly assisted the young lady to her seat.

“Cool car,” she said.

“Her name is Lizzie,” I informed the girl as I took the driver’s seat, “and I am sure she approves of you as well.”

“How do you know that, Doctor?” laughed the girl sweetly.

“Oh, I know. I know. Lizzie has impeccable taste.”

“So, where are we going?” enquired Kitty as I drove us off into that sunny late-afternoon day.

“I say, do you like cheese pizza and ‘old-time rock and roll’?” I enquired.

“Yes, a lot!” she assured me.

“Then, my dear, I know just the place.”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN IN “THE NYMPHET CODE”