ALESSANDRA'S SMILE

I must admit that I had not quite expected to encounter a monster during this assignment. Still, I suppose I should not have been surprised. It was in West Virginia, after all.

I had journeyed to that ridiculous excuse for a state in order to sort out a problem related to the fact of nearly three-hundred coalminers having been trapped by a cave-in near the town of Farmersville. It was after having descended the mineshaft several hundred metres -- whilst rather incongruously clad in my usual finery (including a frilled poet shirt and purple velvet suit) -- that I had encountered the thing.

The first sign of its presence was a grotesque chattering sound echoing around the shaft. I held on tightly to the safety rope, remembering the rock-climbing techniques I had once learned as an exchange for having taught Kabala to Aleister Crowley, and looked around, illuminating the area with the battery-powered light I had earlier attached to my orange-coloured fedora.

It was then that I beheld the thing. It was climbing deftly up the mineshaft as if such an ascent took no effort whatsoever. It was like a dwarfish man, its skin ghostly-white with patches of thick yellow hair. It looked at me, and I saw that its eyes were of a sickly pinkish hue, with its face an almost nose-less parody of an human countenance. When it opened its mouth to emit its chattering noise, I saw the horrid rodent-like teeth that filled its disgusting, saliva-dripping jaws.

I knew, of course, what the hideous little monstrosity actually was. It was obviously the result of inbreeding amongst the degenerate inhabitants of the surrounding West Virginia mountains; the unnameable albino product of unholy and unchecked passions that had gone on for generations amongst some local family.

The creature snarled at me and made obvious its intention to attack. After all, I had entered its domain, and it felt it had the right of defence. It scurried to-wards me across the stone wall as its chattering snarls rose upwards in volume into an howl of berserk rage.

I quickly reached into my jacket pocket and retrieved the transonic turnscrew -- an highly-advanced piece of technology resembling a writing pen. Just before the subhuman grotesquery could reach me, I aimed the device to-wards it and activated the setting to give forth a sound that would loosen the rocks to which it was clinging.

There was the noise of breaking stone before the creature lost its grip and fell screaming, plummeting to its death in the eldritch darkness of the depths below.

“Looks like I gave it the shaft,” said I.

After this, I then returned to my mission -- sabotaging the machinery that the would-be rescue crew had set up in their attempts to save the trapped coalminers. They had been down there for over a week, and would thankfully soon be running out of air. Thanks to my noble effort, the human gene-pool would thus be delivered from the continued influence of these plebeian hillbilly types, these terribly low-intelligence and lowly-bred commoners with their violent impulses and warlike demeanours.

I climbed my way out of the mine and escaped safely into the night, avoiding the near by camp of the rescue crew and the news media who had retired for the evening. My service to the future of the planet Earth -- as far as it could be currently played out here near by the town of Farmersville, West Virginia -- was complete. …

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 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 and his occult terrorist organisation, Spectral Paranormal; 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 stellar swashbuckler.

I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …

Following my adventure in West Virginia, I returned to the area of Baltimore, Maryland, in my canary-coloured Edwardian roadster (affectionately known as “Lizzie”). After stopping by a local diner for a quick breakfast of Belgian waffles with hot maple syrup -- served with turkey bacon, scrambled eggs, and hashed brown potatoes (along with a large glass of orange juice and several cups of hot coffee) -- I drove to the location of my next assignment.

I had an appointment to meet with a science teacher at Cockeysville Junior High School, there in Baltimore County. The gentleman had contacted me via email concerning some type of supposed alien life-form that he believed he had discovered. He had not given many details, and I had not had the time necessary to enquire further before meeting with him that day.

It was overcast, with dark clouds obscuring the sky, when I arrived at the school and left Lizzie in the parking lot. It was a Saturday, and so class was not in session, but I had been told that the teacher’s assistant would be meeting me at the door. I approached and pressed the doorbell, finding myself pleasantly surprised a few moments later when the door was opened for me by a ravishingly-beautiful young girl.

“You’re the Doctor?” she enquired.

“Yes, I am Dr. Rumanos,” I affirmed. “I am supposed to be meeting with the science teacher here.”

“Yes, I know,” she said. “Mr. Thrash is expecting you. I’m his assistant, Alessandra.”

The lass was absolutely gorgeous, slender and perfect in a white V-necked blouse and blue-and-red striped leotard. She had wonderfully-freckled skin, ginger hair, and eyes like pale sapphires. Her lips were like unto the colour of ripe cherries, and her wide, sensuous mouth opened into an enchanting smile as she introduced herself.

“I must say you are not what I expected,” I confessed, returning her smile. “Are you a student here?”

“Yes, I am,” she answered. “I’m one of the Cockeysville Blockers.”

“I beg your pardon?” I said.

“Oh, the Blockers are the girls’ volleyball team,” she explained. “I’m just working with Mr. Thrash for extra credit.”

“Ah, of course. I say, is ‘Mr. Thrash’ his actual name?”

“Yes, it is,” she replied.

“Well, he certainly missed his calling to start an ‘heavy metal’ band then, hmmm?” I joked.

At this, the girl giggled delightedly, her beautiful face lighting up with mirthful glee.

“So, what of this ‘alien life-form’ that he has found?” I queried the girl as she led me down the school corridors.

“Oh, it’s so creepy!” she replied. “He keeps it in the science lab and he’s gotten it to move around and talk!”

“Really? So it is showing signs of life. Interesting. What does it look like?”

“Oh, I can hardly stand to even look at it!” shuddered the lass. “It’s just like a bunch of... Well, I guess they are tentacles!”

“Tentacles?” I wondered. “Unfortunately, that does not narrow it down enough. It could perhaps be something I have encountered before, however.”

“You mean you really have seen aliens before?” enquired Alessandra.

“Oh, from time to time,” I acquiesced. “Has it shown any signs of aggression?”

“No, it hasn’t tried to hurt anybody, if that’s what you mean. Mr. Thrash thinks he can turn it into his servant or something, I think.”

“Where exactly did he find this thing, again?” I asked.

“In a ditch next to the schoolyard,” she informed me. “Some of the boys were messing around back there, and saw it. Nobody believed them except for Mr. Thrash.”

“Scientific curiosity,” I mused. “It is a good thing, but it can be taken too far.”

We had just then reached the science lab, as the sign over it indicated. The door was open and, before we could enter, something came through it. Something of extreme otherworldly horror. Forsooth, something I indeed recognised.

The thing hovered about a metre from the floor as it came through the doorway to-wards us. It was about the size of an human torso, but that is where all resemblance between it any anything of sane creation ended. Its sallow flesh was like a mass of ever-quivering tendrils intertwined with strands of metallic technology. From deep within it glowered two narrow eyes of ebon blackness.

It was a Mynverkossian Mutation!!

I jumped in front of Alessandra in an attempt to shield her from the horror. Then, before I could further react, a man’s voice came from the lab.

“Come back,” he said, in a kindly tone of command like one talking to a beloved pet. “Come back in and let them enter.”

To my surprise, the Mynverkossian did exactly as told, gliding back into the room. The man then came to the door. He was about forty-five and of medium height, bespectacled and with brownish hair. He wore a plain grey long-sleeved sweater and navy-blue slacks.

“I’m sorry if my friend there startled you,” he said. “I’m Mr. Thrash, head of the science department here at Cockeysville JHS. You would be Dr. Daniel Rumanos?”

“I am, sir,” said I whilst shaking his proffered hand. “It appears we have a lot to talk about.”

“Well, I’m glad you could come by,” he continued as we entered the room. “I’ve heard something of your work from my old professor at Hopkins.”

The room was a typical small laboratory, with test-tubes and related equipment on several tables. To one side was a desk on which there was a large computer with keyboard and monitor. I looked over and saw that the Mutation had by now retreated to a far corner of the lab, where it continued to hover, facing us.

“Mr. Thrash,” I began, “I really need to inform you concerning a thing or two about exactly what it is you have here.”

“So you do know what it is?” he enquired excitedly. “I didn’t dare hope that you would, Doctor!”

“Oh, I know what it is, indeed, my good man,” I returned. “That thing is one of what are known as the Mutations of Mynverkoss, beings from a distant planet that…”

“Incredible!” he interrupted. “So I was correct that it’s origin is not of this Earth!”

“Indeed, you were,” I informed him. “You see, Mynverkoss is a planet far distant from your own. Many generations ago, the two Mynverkossian races fought a long nuclear war that led to the devastation of the planet. The resultant radiation caused one of the races, known as the Mynver, to mutate into what you see here, joining itself with the technology they used to prolong their existence. The Mynver Mutations have since developed Space and Time travel capabilities, and have gone on in an attempt to destroy or enslave all other beings of the Universe. They are creatures of pure hate, their only emotion being fuelled by racism and fascism.”

“Well, I haven’t seen anything like that here,” said Thrash. “It has been completely docile. I have even gotten it to talk. Listen.

“What are you?” Thrash then asked the Mynver. “Tell the Doctor here what you told me before. What are you?”

“I am your servant,” replied the Mutation, its harshly-enhanced voice nevertheless indeed showing a tone of servitude and supposed benevolence. “I am your servant.”

“This is insanity!” I exclaimed. “The Mynver are an extraordinarily-dangerous extraterrestrial menace! They believe themselves to be the supreme race of all the Cosmos, and that all others are inferior and unworthy of existence. Their only goal is to conquer all planets, all the Universe, and to totally eliminate all other life-forms!”

“But this one has been so docile,” answered the science teacher. “If they are inherently as you describe them to be, how is it that it has shown no signs of aggression?”

“That I must confess I do not as yet know. It is a mystery how this Mutation ever got here to begin with. They do not travel alone, but only as part of an invasion force. Perhaps it became damaged and got separated from its cohorts somehow. I could perhaps scan it and find out, but I did not want to make any sudden moves that could cause it to have a violent reaction and…”

“Doctor! Mr. Thrash!” suddenly exclaimed Alessandra. “Look out!”

The schoolteacher and I had been debating near by his desk, and had inadvertently turned away from the Mynverkossian Mutation. As we talked, the thing had hovered over to-wards us, getting steadily nearer and nearer. It was now barely two metres distant, and the young girl had noticed a red glow that had begun to form along its horrid tendrils.

I whirled around and faced the monster just as it again began to speak. Its voice was more forceful than before, and gained in volume and intensity as it continued.

“You are the Doctor,” intoned the alien horror. “You are an enemy of the Mynver Race! You must be eliminated!!”

“No,” stammered Thrash as he realised the truth concerning that which I had informed him. “No… I…”

“Eliminate!!” screeched the harsh voice of the Mutation. “ELIMINATE!!”

Then I heard Alessandra scream as the creature fired its crimson-hued energy weapon directly at me!!

Mr. Thrash had jumped in front of me, standing directly before the hideous alien Mutation as it unleashed its firepower. He stood transfixed for a moment whilst the horrible red glare of the energy ray enveloped him, and then he crumpled to the floor in death.

By now I had fetched the transonic turnscrew from my pocket, and I quickly aimed it directly at the Mynverkossian. When I activated my device, the creature shuddered and emitted a harsh bellow of pain before it suddenly fell into a motionless heap upon the floor.

Alessandra then hurried into my arms.

“Are you all right, love?” I asked the girl.

“I guess,” she replied, trembling with fear. “That thing… ! It… It killed Mr. Thrash!”

“Yes,” I said. “It appears that he found out it was not his servant after all.”

“Is… Is it dead now?” queried the frightened lass.

“I believe so,” I said as I moved over to examine the motionless Mynver. “Fortunately, I was able to use the transonic to overload its mechanical parts. I had realised it must have been running on a lower power than most of its kind. That is the only way it could have lessened the total hate inherently found in the Mynver enough to pull off such a deception.”

“But is it the only one?” enquired the girl. “You said there might be more of them.”

“That is exactly what I need to determine, love.”

I held the transonic turnscrew over the dead Mynverkossian Mutation, doing a complete scan of both its biological systems and technological enhancements.

“Ah, very interesting,” I said. “Very interesting, indeed. According to this, the Mynver was a scout, a decoy of sorts. Its purpose was to infiltrate and eliminate the strongest threat to an upcoming invasion -- which would be me! They knew that I would be called into this case as the only person on the planet who would have any idea what it even was. They had hoped to pique the scientific curiosity of Mr. Thrash long enough that he could distract me from recognising the threat.”

Then I felt a premonition of terror as I read the remainder of the transonic readout -- as I realised what it was telling me about the Mynverkossians and forsooth, of their current plans.

“By the Triple Star!” I swore. “There are indeed more of them; a lot more -- and they are near by!!”

I then hurried over to the late Mr. Thrash’s desk, with Alessandra following close behind me.

“If I can manage a quick upgrade to the system of this desktop computer,” I explained as I aimed the transonic to-wards it, “we should be able to see exactly where they are.”

Then the computer monitor suddenly switched on, and we both beheld an horror indeed. At first it was the image of a disk-shaped spacecraft, entrenched as it was deep within a cleft in the earth. Then the scene changed to the ship’s interior, in which we saw the horrifying forms of numerous Mynverkossian Mutations hovering and working amongst the bizarre, otherworldly technology of their ship’s interior.

“Doctor!” exclaimed Alessandra. “You were right! There are so many of them!”

“It is indeed an entire invasion force,” I affirmed, “and they are very close to this location!”

“But where are they hiding?” asked the girl.

“You spoke of a ditch near the school. That must be it. They most likely landed there some time ago, secretly, utilising energy-cloaking technology to hide their presence as they plotted their attack. They undoubtedly plan to invade your planet in order to use it as a place to increase the numbers and power of the Mynver Race! They will also seek to eliminate all life on Earth!”

“What can you do, Doctor? You can stop them, can’t you?”

“I will do everything I can, Alessandra,” I assured her. “First, I need to find a way to get to them and -- Oh, my word!”

Upon the monitor screen, we then again saw the Mynverkossian ship. It was rising upwards, gliding into the sky above the ditch. We then beheld it moving directly to-wards the very building in which we were, the location of Cockeysville Junior High School!

“Doctor!” screamed the horrified lass. “Doctor, they’re right outside!”

Suddenly, we heard the horrid voices of the Mutations from their ship. They were broadcasting over the speakers of the computer.

“We are the Mynver,” came the harsh, grating, artificially-enhanced tones of the monsters. “We are the superior beings. This planet will be subjugated to the supreme rule of our race. All of its life-forms will serve us or will be destroyed. You have opposed us and will be eliminated! You will be eliminated! You will be eliminated!!”

The alien ship was now hovering directly over the building!!

Do you even begin to comprehend the horror, the extreme ungodly terror of this situation, my dear friends? The huge disk-shaped spaceship, with its commanding crew being that horridly fascist and racist species known as the Mutations of Mynverkoss, was directly above us there at the location of Cockeysville Junior High School! Unless something could be done -- and quickly -- they would unleash their terrible red death-ray, which would eliminate both that innocent girl and me. Then, there would be nothing left to stop them from going on to invade the planet Earth, and to fulfil their intention of wiping out the very existence of the human race!

I sat down at the computer keyboard and straightway began to enter a progression of complex coding sequences into it.

“I did manage to extract some information from the dead Mynver about the security codes for their ship,“ I explained as I worked. “It has a centralised power source to which all the Mutations are attached. If I can hack into it… Ah, there it is! "

I stood up and pointed the transonic turnscrew to-wards the computer monitor.

“Now I just need to reverse the polarisation of the image broadcast,“ I continued. “Alessandra, we will have to get out of this building fast. When I say ‘run’, you run!”

Just as I activated the transonic setting, the horrid voices of the Mynverkossians continued their chorus of fascist hatred:

“Eliminate! Eliminate! ELIMINATE!!”

On the screen, the gun turret of the spaceship glowed red as it readied the emission of its lethal death-ray over the school.

“Right!” I turned to the girl. “Run!!”

I took Alessandra’s hand and we hurried down the corridors of the school. We could hear the engine of the Mynverkossian ship hovering directly above the building. Before we reached the front door, I activated a different setting on the transonic.

“We do not have much time left,” I told the lass as we ran down the hallway. “But I have programmed the remote control so my car will meet us at the door!”

Just then, there was the sound of a tremendous explosion, far louder than any sonic boom could ever be.

“Doctor, is that… ?” panted Alessandra.

“Yes,” I affirmed. “The Mynver ship exploding, and they are right over top of us. We need to get away!”

We then burst through the front door of Cockeysville Junior High. Lizzie was there waiting for us, her engine running. I quickly helped Alessandra into the passenger’s seat and then jumped behind the steering wheel.

“Good girl, Lizzie!” I said as we sped away from the building. “And you too, Alessandra!”

There was then another tremendous sound behind us, the noise of a gigantic crash. I looked into the rear-view mirror. What remained of the Mynver spaceship had fallen onto the school, soon engulfing both in a gigantic conflagration of flames.

“Thankfully, no one else was in the building,” I said. “The Mynver are destroyed. Not even they could survive that heat and impact. Their threat to the planet Earth is finished, the invasion is over, and the human race is safe!” …

Soon afterwards, the Sun was now shining whilst lovely Alessandra and I sat in Lizzie at the parking lot of a take-away restaurant, having procured a good lunch. I was having a foot-long cheese-steak submarine-sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, hot peppers, and mayonnaise; whilst the girl enjoyed a chicken salad sandwich on wheat bread. We shared an order of fried mushrooms (although I must admit that I ate most of them).

“So, you’re sure those horrible Mutation things are all dead?” enquired the lass.

“I am certain of it, love,” I assured her. “I did a scan with the transonic turnscrew and there is no sign of Mynverkossian biology or technology left anywhere near by.”

“Well, that’s good,” she said. “They were terrible, and I’m so glad they’re gone!”

“I am sorry about the school, though” I said. “The Mynver were right over it, and fell directly down when their engine exploded. I did leave their shields on, however, in order to contain the nuclear energy of the engine.”

“Doctor, won’t people wonder how the school blew up?” asked Alessandra.

“Oh, of course,” I answered, sipping my soft drink, “but they will no doubt find some rather prosaic explanation about the whole thing; they will blame it on a gas-leak or something along those lines. I am very sorry that your volleyball team won‘t have a place to play anymore, love.”

“Oh, that’s okay, I guess,” announced the girl. “I don’t really want to be a Cockeysville Blocker anymore. I was thinking I might start to study science instead, anyway.”

“I think that is a wonderful idea, Alessandra,” I approved. “In fact, it would be my honour if you would allow me to be your new teacher.”

“I would love that!” exclaimed the lass. “I didn’t know you were a teacher, too!”

“Oh, I have found it to have its benefits,” I teased.

Then I saw Alessandra’s luscious lips curve into that smile, the same lovely look that had so enchanted me when we had first met.

“You know what?” said I. “You really have a gorgeous smile, love. Of course, you are a beautiful young lady in every way.”

It was then that the wonderful young girl leaned over and kissed me, our lips meeting in what I knew would be the first of countless acts of love and enjoyment.

“I’m so happy I met you, Doctor,” said the little lady with a sigh as she laid her lovely head on my shoulder. “I mean, I’m happy the world is safe from those monsters, too, but I’m even happier I met you.”

“I am happy I met you as well, Alessandra,” I said, putting my arm around her. “Quite happy, indeed.”

Whilst we sat there on that eventful day, I pondered the fact that the world was now safe from the horrid fascist tyranny of the Mynver. The world was safe for freedom and life and love and joy and all things that make existence a truly wonderful thing. Most important of all, I appreciated, it was now safe for Alessandra’s smile.

***** DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN IN “SUGAR AND SPICE”