The image flickered and faded and then was strong. The transmission was shaky, but still incredibly-impressive considering the vast stretches of Space and Time over which it was broadcasting. It was clear and then snowy and then dark and blurred. Then, finally, it became and remained clear.
What the transmission showed was a man’s face. It was the countenance of a man seemingly of middle years, still quite handsome despite having upon it the marks of extreme profligate evil beyond all mortal imagining. He had long, dark hair, and his face was decorated with a thin moustache and goatee. Nevertheless, the most striking thing about the face of this man were his eyes.
His eyes were pale and shone with an hypnotic, phantasmally mesmeric glow.
“This transmission is from Controller to Leader Three,” he spoke, his voice dripping with an arrogant tone of command. “Controller to Leader Three, do you copy?”
The man’s eyes narrowed a moment, then again opened fully, his mesmerising gaze unabated.
“Ah, there you are,” he continued. “Your receiver is not as strong as it should be, but I shall be sending you the upgrade, along with several others. All will be improved, and this time you shall not be stopped. Everything will proceed as planned.”
“Yes, Controller,” answered an emotionless voice from the other side of the transmission. “This is Leader of the Third Collective. We are approaching the planet known as Earth, and instruments are boosting for conversion of its human population. All is proceeding according to expected parameters.”
“Excellent,” said the man. “Excellent indeed. I do swear to you, and to all the Collectives of your kind, that I will aid in bringing about the conversion of the human race. They shall be as you are.”
“And the other Algolite, the one who has become our mutual enemy?” questioned the emotionless voice.
“He will be destroyed. Completely and utterly annihilated. He shall no longer interfere in our plans. I have isolated his greatest weakness, and have prepared to exploit it in a way that he will not be prepared to face. Our enemy, the meddler known as Doctor Daniel Rumanos, shall at long last be destroyed!”
“Received and understood, Controller Wingus. As per agreement, Earth will be left as your domain when its people have become as we are and we have gone onward to convert the humanoid populations of other planets.”
“Most excellent, Leader Three,” announced Don Wingus, a chuckle of absolute malicious iniquity now entering his voice. “With my guidance, under the temporary command you have granted, the Replicants of Leknii shall add all the knowledge and resources of the people of Earth to your Collectives. You shall assimilate them, as you shall eventually assimilate all suitable humanoids!”
It was then that the other transmission achieved clarity. What it showed was a vast room filled with tall, silver beings; beings shaped like men but more machine than organic, more of metal than of flesh. The true number of them was unseen, but there were at least thousands.
Together, these cybernetic organisms, the horrid Leknii Replicants, all raised their emotionless voices in a unified declaration of loyalty to-wards the evil being who had become their collaborator, their co-conspirator, their Controller. They all indeed raised their horrible, soulless voices and proclaimed:
“BY YOUR COMMAND.” …
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!!! …
The group called themselves “The Brotherhood of Objectivists”. That such an organisation, obviously of rather extremist right-wing, crypto-fascists leanings, would suddenly be interested in so supporting a purely scientific enquiry seemed unlikely in the extreme. When I found out that, in reality, little was actually known about this so-called Brotherhood, my curiosity was further intrigued.
And so it transpired that I went, one evening, to investigate the area underneath Oak Lawn Cemetery, located as it is between Eastern Avenue and German Hill Road in the southeast part of the County. It is on this site that the Brotherhood of Objectivists had claimed, through a press release sent to all local news media, to have found evidence of ancient meteoritic activity that they believed gave what amounted to proof of extraterrestrial visitations to Earth. Some more tabloid-style accounts of the group’s claims had even said that they had uncovered a “crashed spaceship” along with the bodies of its alien occupants.
Ignoring the signs declaring “KEEP OUT. NO ADMITTANCE FOR UNAUTHORIZED PERSONS.”, I entered the eldritch system of tunnels that exists beneath that area of suburban Baltimore. I was clad in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt and purple velvet dinner jacket. I started to utilise my small electric torch for illumination, but soon realised that it was not at all necessary due to the phosphorescence found in they old caves of this region.
Using the transonic turnscrew (a scientifically-advanced device actually resembling a writing pen), I began to scan for any signs of alien technology as I progressed through the tunnels. To my surprise, it gave a quick and decisive reading as to what exactly I was about to encounter. Well, more or less.
“Leknii tech,” said I, unable to suppress a shudder as I read the results of the scan. “Replicants.”
As if on cue, a tall silver cyborg suddenly strode into the area before me. It raised its arm to-wards me, an arm I knew to be equipped with a potentially-lethal energy weapon.
Fortunately, my scan had already prepared me for this circumstance, and I quickly raised the transonic towards the Replicant, aiming it directly to-wards their one vital spot -- the respiratory grating in their chest area.
I activated the device to scramble the systems of the cybernetic man. It shuddered and shook as its power began to deactivate, then it suddenly disintegrated into countless microscopic shards; a safety measure of the Leknii Replicants in order to prevent cannibalising of their technology.
I knew that this Replicant would not have been alone, and that my destroying it would have caused an immediate upgrade to the systems of its comrades, making the setting I had used on the transonic turnscrew useless for disabling any more of them. Then, before I could even begin to ready myself for further encounters with the horrid alien cyborgs, I saw a shadow -- a silhouette approaching from down the dimly illuminated passageway of the tunnel before me. I then realised it was something completely unexpected, something other than the silver terror I was expecting, something in sooth far more pleasant -- but also having the potential to be infinitely more dangerous.
In other words, it was a girl.
She was a tall brunette, full-breasted and fourteen, with pale eyes and a wide, sensuous mouth, and dressed in a short skirt and halter top, both of a blue and pink striped pattern. She was not a great beauty, but there was indeed something attractively compelling about her -- something alluring and elusively familiar.
“Hello,” I said. “I am Dr. Daniel Rumanos, just here on a scientific enquiry. I must say I am quite surprised to see you here, Miss… ?”
“I do not know how I got here,” she said. “I just kind of woke up here, I guess. I do not remember much, as if I lost my memory. Amnesia or something. I can remember my name and a few other things. My name is Victoria -- Victoria Wingus.”
“’Wingus’?” said I, involuntarily shrinking back a bit in horror, “Victoria is a very nice name. Indeed, some very gracious ladies have been named ‘Victoria’. But your surname -- did you say ‘Wingus’?”
“Yes, that is my name,” she reiterated. “Miss Victoria Wingus.”
“If you do not mind my asking,” I countered, “who were your parents?”
“I… I do not remember anything about my mother,” she said. “But my father… Yes, I do remember his name now. Wait… I think I remember. Yes, that is it. I am the daughter of Don Wingus.”
DON WINGUS! The most evil being in all of existence!! Could this poor young girl, lost and alone and seemingly so vulnerable, really be his daughter?! I wondered…
“Did you really just say that Don Wingus was your father?” I enquired.
“Yes, I do remember his name, somehow,” she said. “But I do not know anything about him. I cannot even remember what he looked like. Do you, or… did you know him?”
“Oh, we have encountered each other on occasion,” I said.
“Really?” she queried, seemingly in complete innocence. “Can you tell me anything about him, about my family, about… me?”
“Victoria was indeed the middle name of Don Wingus’s daughter,” said I, revealing as little as possible to the strange girl, “but she died long ago.”
I took the transonic turnscrew from my pocket and scanned her.
“According to this,” I announced. “Your DNA is human, or mostly so. There is something else that is not reading correctly, but no sign of the Algolitish heritage you would have if Don Wingus were your father. Hmmm. You do indeed have a lot of Russian or Ukrainian blood. Interesting indeed. The woman he had the child with was indeed of Eastern European extraction…”
My thoughts were then suddenly cut short by the sound of marching feet; feet of metallic manufacture, many of them, echoing down the tunnel.
“More Replicants!” I ejaculated. “My, it indeed sounds like a veritable army. Run!”
With this, I took the girl’s hand and we hurried down the passageway. She followed my lead with no resistance, speaking no protest as we made our way farther into the tunnels.
“We cannot lose them with any definiteness,” I said. “The tunnels are far too much of a maze. Nevertheless, we should be able to slow them down some.”
With this, we stopped and I turned around to-wards our pursuers. We had by now come to a part of the tunnels where a small passage overlooked a large cavernous area. Below us, I saw the Leknii Replicants as they came into view.
“By the Triple Star!” I swore. “There are hundreds of them -- perhaps thousands! It is an entire Collective!”
I quickly again took the transonic from my pocket and turned it to-wards the outcropping of rock that bordered between the tunnel and the cavernous area. I activated the device to cause a small cave-in, just enough to fill the passage and block it as a means of egress.
“Will that keep them out?” enquired Victoria.
“Not for long,” I replied, “but this should bung them up a bit more.”
I them set the transonic turnscrew to a different function and aimed it to-wards the rocks blocking the passage. There was a slight sizzling sound that came immediately from them.
“Rock and Roll!” said I.
“What do you mean?” asked the young girl.
“You see,” I explained, “there is a lot of moisture in these caves. It is easy enough for me to use it as a conductor and thereby electrify this makeshift doorway. That should hinder them for a few moments a least. Come along, love!”
We journeyed along a bit farther down the passageway before stopping a moment.
“Those things pursuing us are known as Leknii Replicants,” I informed the girl. “They are originally from a planet in the distant Galaxy 8675309. Generations ago, their world began to be uninhabitable due to climate change caused by industrial pollution. The Leknii, originally an humanoid race, began to replace their organic components with cybernetic parts, eventually becoming more machine than man. They are now emotionless and unfeeling, and roam the reaches of Outer Space in their efficient ships, looking for others whom they can convert into their own kind. They have found the people of Earth to be suitable for assimilation. I must stop them before they continue their plan to convert this planet’s population! I have not seen evidence of one of their ships here, but it likely was taken apart by them and its parts reused for upgrades, as they often do following a long Space voyage.”
“Doctor, may I ask you something?” queried the mysterious girl known as Victoria Wingus.
“Yes, of course,” I assured her.
“You called me ‘love’ before,” she said, a look of confused wonder entering her heretofore rather blank expression. “What does that mean?”
“Well, it is an expression,” I tried to explain. “A term of affection, really.”
“Affection?” she repeated. “Love. Affection.”
“Yes, well, you see… Emotions, you know. Things that all truly-sentient beings feel for each other. Friendship. Love. Romance…”
“Romance?” she repeated. “Romance. Rumanos… Romance.”
“Yes, well, the humans say it has something to do with birds and bees as well, but I think they make it far too complicated. It is about desire. You see, biologically speaking, you are a girl and I am a man and there is something we can do together that causes great pleasure.”
“Desire?” she repeated. “Pleasure?”
“Yes, it is very pleasurable, you see,” I explained. “Leading to a climax of physical and mental ecstasy. It is called by many names, but most blatantly, it is…”
We were then interrupted by the sound of something scurrying across the floor of the cave. I turned quickly to face whatever it was, at the same time pulling the girl protectively into my arms.
Approaching us, pouring in from the numerous small crevices and openings around the walls of the tunnel, were a plethora of oval-shaped, metallic creatures rather like silver rodents. Having found their way to us blocked, the Leknii had sent their small service-robots in stead -- horrid things that I knew to be equipped with potentially-lethal poisonous stings!
“Oh no,“ said I. “Repli-Rats!”
These creatures, the Leknii service robots that have become known as Repli-Rats, and which zero in on brainwaves, swarmed around us. I knew I had to do something to disable them before any of the horrible little monsters could get close enough to jump and attach itself to either of our throats -- and then release its deadly poison into our bloodstreams!
I held up the transonic turnscrew to-wards them and activated it.
“I have been waiting to utilise this setting,” said I. “It will only work this once before the Leknii can automatically upgrade, but…”
A brief hum came from the transonic and, in sudden response to it, the roomful of Repli-Rats ceased to face us and in stead began to turn on each other. They leaped upwards and crashed together, unleashing their poison upon the metallic hides of their comrades.
“I have switched their polarisation,” I explained. “They now see each other as targets!”
Quickly, the horrid Repli-Rats began to fall down deactivated, their poison having corroded each other’s metallic systems. Then they all suddenly disintegrated into countless tiny shards.
“Pest control, indeed,” said I.
There was then the sound of a tremendous explosion echoing down the tunnels. It was immediately followed by the now-familiar but still terrifying sound of the marching feet of the Replicant army.
“Spires of Daemonia!” I swore. “They have broken through the rockslide already! In order to have so quickly deactivated the electrical charge I had set up, they must have some external control system here. But what could it be? I wonder…”
“Doctor?” suddenly spoke Victoria. “Did you really know my father?”
“Yes, I must admit that I did.”
“Did you have… affection for him?”
“Never in the way I said before, about you,“ I tried to make clear. “He was my best friend once. A very long time ago. Actually, we were at school together. The venerable old Academy of the Watchers on our home planet. We grew up there and indeed learned so much together. We were truly like brothers. We were inseparable, it seemed, until…”
“What happened?” Victoria queried.
“Well, things change after a while,” I explained. “Sometimes old friends find different paths, different destinies. At times, I suppose their differences drive them apart. They realise they are just too different from each other. Though really, I do think perhaps sometimes they actually realise that they are just too similar, too much the same…”
“But you have more affection for me?” she continued.
A thought then entered my mind. Forsooth, a wonderfully romantic thought. It was a thought of adventuring through the Universe with the daughter of Don Wingus by my side. With the child of my oldest and most bitter enemy as my friend and companion, travelling forever together and never looking back. That would be true freedom, freedom from the pain and harsh memories of an existence that had extended far too long. Freedom, indeed.
“Well, it is in a different way, you see, love,” I said in answer to her question. “As I started to say before, it is biologically an imperative. It is about attraction, chivalry, sexuality, and… Look, we have not the time to discuss this at the moment. The Replicants are making their way up the tunnel and…”
I peered behind us and beheld that the Leknii were indeed approaching. They entire army of them was marching directly to-wards us and within moments would be within range to fire their weapons.
“Victoria,” I said, turning back to her, “we need to run and find shelter until I can figure out a way to…”
I stopped short when I saw what was happening. The girl’s face was emotionless as she raised her right arm to-wards me. A sudden blast of energy shot forth from it, barely missing me. It burned a hole in the rock at my feet.
“You are an enemy of the Leknii Collectives,” she intoned. “Doctor Daniel Rumanos, your existence must be deleted. I have been programmed for your doom.”
“Oh my word!” I exclaimed as it suddenly all become far too obvious. “Victoria Wingus -- you are a Leknii Replicant!”
Do you behold the unnameable horror in this revelation, my dear readers? That young girl, Victoria Wingus, who claimed to be the daughter of my own archenemy, was actually a Replicant, a cybernetic organism that had been programmed to destroy me!
“I must kill you, Doctor,” said Victoria. “It is my programming and I must obey.”
“Don Wingus must have given a sample of his late daughter’s DNA to the Leknii,” I said. “I thought she was safely buried, but that would not hinder the old grave-robber, hmmm? He aided them in upgrading their technology so that you could be created. Of course, Algolite DNA cannot be converted, so that part of you was left out. He most likely did it back when he had the stolen powers of the Keepership of Mu at his disposal. He reached through Time and Space to connect with their subspace transmissions and negotiate with them. Amazing! As for that ‘Brotherhood of Objectivists’, it is just a front for Spectral Paranormal, the horrendous occult terrorist organisation founded by Don Wingus himself, hmmm? Its announcement of finding evidence of aliens underneath the old cemetery was just a lure to bring me here to my destruction. They knew that I would have to investigate such a claim. You were further bait to fascinate me and distract me from fighting the Leknii. But what an incredible upgrade of their tech you are! You appear to be so much more organic than the usual Replicants, but you are connected to the Collective.”
“They are in my head,” she said. “I hear them speaking, thousand of voices all as one. Nothing is individual. All must be the same. I hear… no, there is no I. We are the Collective. There are no individuals. There is no emotion, no feeling, no affection. There is no… love. No, how can that be? Doctor, how can that be? The voices say there is no love, but I feel it. I feel affection. I feel desire. I know that I feel it. I feel affection. I feel it… for you.”
The army of Replicants was advancing up the tunnel to-wards our location. It was a matter of mere moments before they would be there -- an overwhelming multitude of cybernetic strength that intended to do away with me, before then going on to convert the human race into their own soulless, unfeeling, emotionless kind.
It was then that something happened; something unexpected; something sad and tragic and heart-rending -- but at the same time something truly wondrous.
It was then that Victoria Wingus raised the palm of her hand and laid her cheek against it, tilting her head just like any young girl would whilst pondering, thinking of something that amused or intrigued or interested her.
“Victoria…" I said, in realisation of her intention, “Please, do not do that. If your human emotions have broken through the Leknii programming, then there is hope for you. We can find another way.”
I knew, of course, that the only other way to now defeat the Leknii invasion was to overload my transonic device and cause an explosion that would destroy the Replicants -- and likely me with them. But somehow, I knew I wanted to get Victoria Wingus to safety first. Without the connection to the Replicant Collective, would there be hope for her? Hope to live as a normal human being? I felt she at least deserved that chance.
None the less, it was not to be.
“Goodbye, my Doctor,” she said simply, as a sad and strangely-wistful smile touched her lips. “Goodbye… Love.”
With this, she unleashed the energy bolt into her head and it quickly passed through her. In a moment, her entire body disintegrated into countless microscopic shards.
The army of Replicants approaching down the passage suddenly halted and, in an instant, also disintegrated.
All was now silent. It was as if the threat of the Leknii invasion -- and the strange girl who called herself Victoria Wingus -- had never really existed. I was alone.
“She was connected to them,” I said to myself. “She was the secret power source. A kind of relay or sub-controller. She sacrificed herself to cause a chain reaction that reached the entire Collective.”
As I made my way out of that bizarre system of underground tunnels there in southeast Baltimore County, the threat of the Replicants now abated, I pondered several things.
I thought of the Leknii Replicants. They were a greater threat than I had ever before realised -- a threat to Earth, and to any other place in all the galaxies where humanoid life forms are found. There would be more of them, and I would need to relay this information to the Kosmikos as soon as possible.
I wondered about Don Wingus, the mastermind of evil who had this day almost succeeded in luring me to my death. Was he still alive? It seemed unlikely, given what I had seen in my last encounter with him. Nevertheless, the group known as Spectral Paranormal, his unspeakably-iniquitous cult and terrorist establishment, survived. I knew I would be dealing with them again soon.
Most of all, however, I pondered on the strange girl who called herself Victoria Wingus. I wondered just how much of her was real, how much was human, how much had found the possibility of overcoming the Leknii programming. For in that last moment, before she committed a profoundly-honourable act of suicide in order to save me and indeed the entire world, I swear I had seen something wonderful, something exemplar and indeed profoundly inspirational. Something that could give hope to a world of servile conformity; hope of breaking programming and achieving self-thought and awareness -- and, most of all, hope of finding love.
For in that last moment, I swear I had seen the moisture of tears in her eyes.
***** DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN IN “PEDEROSIS”