“Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched travellers, twice or many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as ‘nymphets.’”
(Vladimir Nabokov) …

In my long and varied career, I have met countless individuals that could be described as “grotesque”, but it is indeed true that no one could better qualify for the term than Fay Lamartine. Hideously aged and decrepit of countenance, the hag wore dresses decorated with bright floral motifs and other accoutrements that would only be appropriate to one much younger than she. Like so many elderly women, the crone just did not seem to realise just how horribly revolting she indeed was.

“I’m going to kill you, Daniel Rumanos!” screamed the old woman as she hovered above my car whilst I drove along a deserted predawn stretch of Interstate-95 just outside of Baltimore, Maryland. “I am Bubbe La, and I’m going to have revenge for your having murdered my son!”

Dressed in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt and purple velvet dinner jacket, I deftly drove my canary-coloured Edwardian roadster along that highway, swerving to avoid the blasts of darksome kinetic energy that Fay Lamartine shot to-wards me from her hands.

Oh, did I neglect to inform you, dear reader, that the old hag was actually dead, and only animated due to being possessed by a non-corporeal alien life form? My apologies.

Fay Lamartine, you see, was the mother of the late Baltimore-based “micro-budget filmmaker”, practicing Satanist, and serial rapist Mr. Christopher Lamartine. When he had died mysteriously in his cell at Baltimore Central Booking some time previously, his mother had blamed me due to my investigation of his horrid and obscenely-criminal activities. Finding one of her son’s old books on “black magic”, Mrs. Fay Lamartine had set about to utilise its incantations in order to find a way to harass and ultimately destroy me. In so doing, she had contacted an extraterrestrial life form known as the Zellno, and had then committed an act of ritual suicide in order to allow these creatures to fully possess her wrinkled old body. Her last conscious thought before plunging the occult ceremonial dagger into her saggy chest had been just how “artistic” it all was.

You see, the retired schoolteacher known as Fay Lamartine fancied herself an artist, and had indeed even managed to get some of her horrendously bad landscape paintings (a four-year-old girl could do better, and I can say so with some authority, having known quite a lot of four-year-old girls on very close and indeed deeply pleasant terms) exhibited at local galleries through her son’s connections in the Baltimore hipster community. Her work was shown under the name of “Bubbe La Art”, Mrs. Lamartine having once heard a Jewish child refer to his grandmother by the Yiddish term “Bubbe” and immediately appropriating the title for herself.

“I am Bubbe La, and I will now kill you, Rumanos!” reiterated the horrid crone before launching another burst of ebon energies at my car.

Fortunately I have done some advanced and important modifications on my automobile (affectionately known as “Lizzie”), and was therefore able to avoid the blasts through lightning fast manoeuvres that would be beyond the ability of any ordinary motor vehicle.

Then, before the truly grotesque dead woman known as Fay “Bubbe” Lamartine could ready another blast of Zellno energy, I quickly retrieved a small round crystal from the pocket of my jacket and held it up whilst intoning the ancient formulae against inhabitants of that darksome area of the Cosmos in which they Zellno originate:

“Allah-Yoshua-Hashem! Anthropropolagos!”

Following my pronouncement, I heard “Bubbe La” scream in pain as the power and consciousness of the Zellno left her deceased body. The dark powers streamed quickly into my crystal, being totally absorbed and stored within it before I put the stone away in my pocket.

As I drove onward that early morning, I glanced into my rear-view mirror just in time to see the corpse of Mrs. Fay Lamartine hit the pavement, an huge “eighteen-wheeler” lorry then coming along to crush her remains -- forsooth leaving then perfectly smooth upon the highway. 

“Flat as a johnnycake,” said I, turning off I-95 to-wards a rest-stop area I knew to have a decent restaurant. “Reminds me, I should try to have a good breakfast.” …

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 or Cosmic Intervention Department, 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!!! …

After breakfast, I had gone to the research facility, located as it was in a disused community centre building in the Kernewood neighbourhood of Baltimore. I rang the doorbell and waited a few seconds. I was quite surprised when the door opened.

“Dr. Rumanos?” the beautiful young girl enquired. “Amber Alerte.”

“I beg your pardon?” I rejoined.

“Oh, it’s my name,” she smiled sweetly. “Call me Amber. Everyone calls you ‘Doctor’, I’ve heard.”

“Yes, that has indeed become a thing.”

She looked no older than ten or twelve years of age, petite and perfect, sunny-haired and azure-eyed, with a full, sensuous mouth and skin white as the finest porcelain. She was dressed in a simple pink blouse and a powder-blue skirt.

“You’re here to see Professor Ahuja about the Gravitech?” she queried as she showed me into the well-furnished welcome room of the facility.

“Yes, indeed,” I affirmed. “My… Department is quite interested in it. Seeking the truth and all. It seems like it could be a revolutionary accomplishment for Earth spacecraft. An artificial gravity machine on board to avoid the effects of weightlessness.”

“Yes, Professor Ahuja invented it himself. They say he is quite a genius.”

“‘They say’? So you have not yet met him?”

“Only for a moment when I got here early this morning,” she answered. “Oh, I should explain. I was sent here as part of the accelerated science programme from my school. It’s part of the curriculum to spend a day at a research centre.”

“Ah, I see. You must be quite a prodigy, Amber.”

“Not really,” she blushed. “Oh, I have always been interested in science, but I only got in the programme because my uncle helped. He’s a US Senator, you know.”

“So, this Professor Ahuja,” I enquired. “He is from India, eh?”

“Yes, he is,” responded the girl. “They say he is on staff at some university there, but I don’t know the name of it. There is something odd about him, though…”

“Odd? In what way?”

“I don’t really know how to say it. Oh, I don’t want to insult him or anything. He just has… strange eyes. They seem to not match his face, and they seemed to look right through mine, you know. Like right into my mind, if that makes any sense. I had to force myself to look away from them…”

“Really?” I pondered. “Well, I should be meeting him soon in any case.”

“Yes, let me see…” she said, pushing a button on the intercom system. “Professor? Dr. Rumanos is here.”

“Excellent,” answered a thickly-accented masculine voice. “I shall be out to meet him shortly.” …

In the control room of the centre, in the middle of a large bank of advanced machinery and computer terminals, the man who had spoken shut off the intercom and chuckled wickedly, then lifted his head to reveal his face. It was a face of horror, a face of scarred skin stretch tightly over the skull, with only a few strands of hair upon the pate and chin to show that it had once been a quite handsome countenance. It was lipless, revealing a mouthful of grotesquely-mottled teeth. From its centre glowed two wickedly-hypnotic eyes. It was indeed the face of that arch-villain, Master Don Wingus!

“Predictable as ever, Rumanos. I knew you would be enchanted by the silly little child, you old girl-lover. Fortunately, her uncle is in my employ, as an increasing number of human politicians are…”

Don Wingus then picked up a rubber face mask and began to slip it on. …

“Would you like some coffee while you’re waiting, Doctor?” enquired Amber.

“Yes please, if it is not too much trouble,” I said.

“None at all,” she affirmed and then busied herself at the small side snack service area.

Just then, there was a sound from behind the door leading to the interior of the centre. It sounded like a set of something strangely metallic pounding upon the wooden floor.

“I say, Amber, what is that sound?”

“I don’t know, Doctor,” she answered, looking up from the brewing coffeepot with a look of wonder. “I’ve never heard anything like that before!”

“But I think I have…” I said in horror. “Oh no…”

Suddenly the door was knocked down by an heavy blow that sent it completely off the hinges, and a figure strode into the room. It was tall and silver, like a large metallic man, and it lifted one of its arms directly to-wards me, forsooth an arm that I knew to be equipped with a potentially-lethal energy weapon.

I heard Miss Amber Alerte scream when she beheld this alien terror. The thing was a Leknii Replicant!!

Utilising the superior speed that I can achieve due to my practice of Daemonian kung fu, I dived to the side just as the Replicant unleashed the energy from its weaponry. The flash opened a gaping hole in the floor of the room.

I grabbed Amber and, whilst shielding the damsel as much as possible, picked up the glass coffeepot and threw it at the metallic cyborg, aiming directly for the respiratory grating on the thing’s chest area. The coffeepot smashed on impact, the boiling hot water within it splashing into the Replicant’s systems, causing it to momentarily shudder. This halt in the cybernetic creature’s functions lasted just long enough for me to take an object from the pocket of my jacket. It was the transonic turnscrew, an highly-advanced scientific device about the size of a writing pen. I aimed the device at the Leknii Replicant, activating its setting to scramble the thing’s life support system. In a few seconds, the cyborg shattered into countless microscopic shards.

“Doctor!” sobbed the girl in my arms. “What is happening? What was that thing?!”

“That was what is known as a Replicant,” I explained. “A type of cybernetic man from a distant planet known as Leknii in Spiral Galaxy 8675309. Many generations ago, their world began to become uninhabitable due to industrial pollution and climate change. In order to cope with this, the people, originally an humanoid race, began to replace their body-parts with metallic devices until they became more machine than man. They eventually left Leknii and now roam the Cosmos in their small but efficient rocket-ships, looking for other human type races that they can convert into their own kind.”

“But what happened to it? It just exploded and disappeared.”

“The Leknii are designed to shatter like that when deactivated by violence, so that no one can cannibalise their parts.”

“Oh no!” suddenly exclaimed the girl. “Look!”

I turned to the security camera view-screen and saw an image of the outside of the facility. There were several more Replicants surrounding the building!

“We are under siege,” I said. “It is obviously the preliminary scouts of a Leknii invasion force.”

“But what about Professor Ahuja?” enquired Amber. “Is he… ?”

“I’m here, Miss Alerte,” said the professor as he entered the room. “Greetings, Dr. Rumanos. I see you have met our young lady visitor.”

“Indeed I have, Professor,” I retorted, “along with something far less pleasant. I assume you know this facility is under siege from alien invaders?”

“Of course,” said the scientist. He was tall but somewhat stooped over, dark-complexioned and with thick black hair, and wearing tinted eyeglasses. He spoke with a deep Hindi accent. “They are our benefactors here.”

“This Gravitech thing is Leknii technology, hmm?” I offered. “They plan to use it to conquer Earth, so they can assimilate the human race into their own kind?”

“Indeed they do,” answered Ahuja. “The Gravitech will be utilised to disable all Earth technology until its governments can be turned over to me as supreme ruler. In exchange for this assistance I will aid the Replicants in converting the human race. My, you are quite astute, Dr. Rumanos. A shame you are on the wrong side and must be destroyed.”

With this, the professor drew a sleek weapon from the pocket of his lab coat, a weapon that I recognised as a ray-gun I had seen before.

“You can stop the stereotypical Hindu scientist routine,” I told him. “Have you not heard that cultural approbation is not nice? Besides, I do know who you are, you know.”

“Ha! Astute indeed, Rumanos,” he said, using his free hand to remove the spectacles and then to begin to lift away the cunning rubber mask. With this motion, he revealed, as I had expected, the mutilated face of my old archenemy.

Amber Alerte trembled and covered her face with her hands at this gruesome sight.

“I don’t understand,” she sobbed. “Doctor, what is happening? That’s not the professor! Who is it?!”

“That, love, is Don Wingus,” I informed her. “Also known as Wingo or Wunjo or, to some, SATAN. Forsooth the most evil being I have ever encountered.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere, Rumanos,” mocked Wingus, now with his usual voice, “but I do know how you like to impress the little girls by playing the hero.”

“So you escaped from the Mechanicans,” I said. “Some matter transmission device you had hidden upon that spaceship that was disguised as a replica of the Titanic?”

“Precisely,” he rejoined. “Oh, bravo, Rumanos, bravo. Your famously annoying powers of deduction haven’t failed you. I say, when that ‘Titanic’ blew up, apparently with me in it, did you say something like, “Hopefully his heart will not go on’?”

“Certainly not,” I told him. “That would be a bit mean spirited, eh? Not to mention terribly cliché.”

“No matter,” he said, “For I have indeed gone on, and am now aiding the Replicants in their invasion of Earth, indeed in their endeavour to convert the entire human race -- the very people that you are sworn to protect! Then they have agreed to leave this world, that I may use it as a base of operations to conquer the rest of the Galaxy!!”

“I will stop you, Wingus!” I retorted. “I swear by the Spires of Daemonia that I shall…”

“Not this time, Rumanos,” chuckled the villain. “You see, not only is this building surrounded by Leknii Replicants, but there is an entire fleet of Leknii ships, currently entering the orbit of this planet!”

“You are mad, Wingus! Utterly mad! The Replicants have no emotions, no feelings. They will…”

“Oh, and by the way,” he continued, ignoring my protests, “they have given me other guards as well.”

Amber swooned at what then entered the room, the poor wee lass falling into my arms as Don Wingus let forth with a peel of wicked, totally-insane laughter. For gliding across the floor to-wards us were numerous small beings like oval-shaped metallic rodents that I recognised as the potentially-deadly service robots of the Replicant invaders.

“Repli-Rats!” I said. “Wingus, you fiend!”

I was then than one of the small metal things jumped upwards and flew directly at me in an attempt to attach itself to my throat!!

Do you behold the horror, the obscene satanic terror of this situation, my friends? The metallic creature was gliding through the air to-wards me, in an endeavour to fill my bloodstream with its own lethal poison!

I did what I could to protect Amber, holding the maiden close and sheltering her slender form in my arms. She was almost fully unconscious from the absolute terror if the situation, but none the less I felt her move in order to cling to me more tightly.

That was the last thing I remembered…

I awoke strapped to one of two nearly-vertical tables, on the other of which, a couple of metres to my right, was the young girl. She was now completely in a faint.

“Ah, so you’re awake,” said the mocking voice of Don Wingus. “I hope you slept well.”

He was standing at the centre of the control room, filled as it was with machinery and computer banks. Several of the Repli-Rats were stationed as guards on the floor, and two large, gleaming silver Replicants stood near by.

“Wingus, you bastard,” I said. “If you have hurt that girl, I swear I shall…”

“The little cutie is unharmed, Rumanos,” rejoined Wingus. “She just passed out entirely when you received that dose of poison. What entered your bloodstream was enough to kill any human being, you know.”

“Aye, indeed it was. However, my Algolitish system naturally rejected it. How long was I out? An hour or so?”

“Merely fifteen minutes,” he answered. “Quite remarkable, I must admit. Those straps are specially reinforced with Evaerlium, by the way. You cannot escape them. I have been granted temporary command of these Replicants, and all is proceeding on schedule. Nevertheless, I still cannot help but to think of the things we could do together if you would only join my side, old friend…”

“Oh, do not start that nonsense, Wingus! You know I shall never be a part of your cult of ungodly evil! Pack it in! I suppose you plan to use the Gravitech to hold the planet hostage or something, eh?”

“Something like that,” he gloated. “It will be activated in order to disable all technology on Earth, allowing the Leknii to easily take over and convert the humans.”

“And then leave you here as master of a dead world? How poetic.”

“Oh, but that’s not the end of the game, Rumanos. No, not by any means. For I will then utilise the energy that the Gravitech has drained in order to spark the Rejuvenation of my body. No more of this wretched deformity… I, Master Don Wingus, shall be reborn! I shall be reborn, and then will go on to conquer all!!!”

“By the Triune Star!” I swore. “It just gets madder and madder by the moment with you, hmm?”

“Oh well,” he chuckled darkly, “you will see, old chap, you will see. In fact, look!”

I glanced upwards at the large video screen. Upon it was a live image of the fleet of Leknii rocket-ships, heading to-wards Earth.

“They will be here within a few brief hours,” stated Wingus. “And they shall find this planet ready for conversion!”

I heard Amber take a breath and looked over at her.

“Doctor,” she breathed softly, “Doctor, please… Help me…”

“Wingus, let her go,” I said. “At least do that, eh? It will not make any difference to your plans, but for just once in your lives do something halfway decent and let the innocent child go…”

“Oh well, let me think…” mocked the villain. “Umm… No. No, I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to do that because the girl there is going to play an important part in our plans.”

“Oh no,” I gasped, struggling uselessly in my bonds. “You do not mean that you would… !”

“Oh yes. I do mean exactly that. She is going to become the first. The first of the humans to be converted by the Leknii. Prepare her!”

“By your command,” intoned one of the Replicants in its emotionless electronic voice.

“Don Wingus, you unholy horror!” I shouted. “You cannot do this! You cannot do this to that poor wee lass! That dear little girl! That… nymphet…”

Ignoring my protests, Don Wingus and the Replicants set about their horrid deed. They attached several wired sensors to the girl’s head and wrists. She only whimpered softly in her semi-consciousness as Leknii energy from a near by device began to enter her helpless figure -- energy that was intended to destroy all that made her truly human, and to leave her as a soulless unfeeling cybernetic organism like themselves!!!

I continued struggling with my bonds, but it was useless. They were indeed laced with a radioactive substance that could effectively resist my Algolite strength. The Replicants had finished connecting the wiring to Amber Alerte’s body, and had activated the system to cause her conversion. At the same time, I heard Don Wingus laugh -- a laugh of unmitigated mirthless evil.

Nevertheless, it was then that something happened -- something beyond all that one could hope and pray for. Something wondrous. For it was then that a sudden surge of power went through the systems of the Leknii Replicants that had been set up in that old facility; a surge of power that was not from them, but rather from that beautiful little lady known as Amber.

The surge was as of a bright orange and blue energy that flowed outwards from the girl and entered the conversion machine. It, along with the two guarding Replicants, then suddenly shattered into countless tiny shards. They, along with their service robots, were no more.

“What!” shrieked Wingus in outrage. “You did not… You did! You activated it, Rumanos! You activated the ancient covenant!”

“Indeed I did, Wingus,” I said, as I was now freed from the straps. “Indeed I did. In fact, I activated it earlier, when the girl was in my arms.”

“The covenant…” continued the villain in shock. “The ancient covenant of genetic manipulation that the earliest Watchers of Algol called…”

“The Nymphet Code,” I stated, standing up to face my foe. “The special synchronicity that exists between certain noble-blooded Algolites and some of the young girls of Earth. Oh, it can only really be activated at certain very special and important times -- but this was quite obviously an appropriate time!”

“Daniel Rumanos, you girl-loving piece of… !” shouted Wingus as he sprang to-wards me.

Maintaining a better amount of self-control, I was able to avoid his attempt at physical assault by a sidewise manoeuvre. Flipping him over with a Daemonian kung fu technique, I then reached into the pocket of my dinner jacket, taking from it the crystal I that had deposited earlier there.

Don Wingus quickly recovered and stood up, removing his ray-gun from its side-holster.

“I can still kill you, Rumanos!” he snarled. “Even your knowledge of the ancient testaments will not save you from a blast of energy from this gun and…”

But then, before Don Wingus could complete his boast and shoot a burst of the lethal death-ray of which his weapon was capable, a stream of darksome force erupted from the stone. It was as the amalgamation of a myriad of ebon souls, as of spirits of eldritch darkness that flew directly to-wards Wingus.

“These are…” he said, dropping the now-useless gun as the black mass of beings surrounded him. “These are the Zellno!”

“Yes, that is exactly what they are,” I admitted. “You see, I acquired them earlier from a family member of one of your late disciples. Remember Chris Lamartine, the Baltimore-based would-be movie director? Well, these Zellno had reanimated his late mother, feeding upon her sorrow and anger from the death of her son, and gaining from her the desire to have vengeance for it!”

“Rumanos, you mean that they are… !” stammered Wingus as the Zellno began to activate the dimensional shift that would take him out of this world -- out of this world and into their own reality of suffering and pain and damnation.

“Oh yes, quite. For it was not I who ended the life of Christopher Lamartine, it was you! My work was done when I saved an innocent young actress from his horrible ‘casting couch’. It was later that night that he died, murdered for having failed in his attempts against me -- attempts utilising methods of the horrid Spectral Paranormal cult of which you are Magister!!”

And with this, I heard Don Wingus scream one final time before he disappeared into the darksome dimension of the Zellno -- hopefully forever.

By now, Miss Amber Alerte had fully awakened from her swoon and I aided her to her feet.

“What happened, Doctor?’ enquired the lovely little lass. “Are those cyber things gone, and that fake professor?”

“Yes, all is well now, love,” I said. “All is well, except… Oh my word!”

“What is it, Doctor?”

“I almost forgot about the fleet!” I exclaimed, turning back to-wards the remaining machinery at the centre. “The invasion force is still on its way!”

Upon the large view-screen was indeed still the image of the Leknii fleet of rocket-ships, continuing their approach to Earth!!

“Doctor, what can be done?” squealed the girl. “Is there a way to stop them?!”

“Ah, of course!” I realised as I began to adjust various controls upon the computer consoles. “I knew there had to be a reason why the Leknii had to employ Don Wingus to help them. Their systems are affected by the force of the Gravitech. If I can just switch the polarisation of its neutronic stream, it should… Yes! Here we go!”

On the view-screen, we could now see the Leknii fleet reversing course, moving backwards away from Earth and into Deep Space. 

“I connected the reversed Gravitech to their engines by subspace remote control,” I explained. “The Replicant ships will be driven far away from this planet, indeed countless light-years into Intergalactic Space, where they can do no harm!”

“Wow!” exclaimed the lass, with a look of wonder on her beautiful face. “Doctor, the human race owes you so much and… so do I!”

With this statement, the gorgeous young girl, Miss Amber Alerte ran into my arms and kissed me.

“All in a day’s work, love,” I said as I held her close. “And worry not about your extra school credit, eh? I can assure you that I have more influence in the educational system than that so-called ‘Professor Ahuja’.”

“Awww, thank you so much!” she beamed.

“I say, would you care to join me for lunch? This kind of work does always work up an appetite, hmm?’

“Of course!” she agreed with her loveliest smile.

“What kind of food would you like?” I queried. “Italian? Chinese? Saturnian?”

“Chinese,” she decided.

“An excellent choice! I shall take you to Paul Chung’s Hong Kong Restaurant.”

“Sounds good,” she approved. “Is it really in Hong Kong?”

“No,” I said. “Actually, it is in Charles Village.”

“Oh well, that’s fine too. It’s just obvious that sometimes you go to some far-off places.”

“Indeed I do, love,” I affirmed as we exited the facility, strolling hand-in-hand to-wards my waiting car. “Indeed I do.”