INTO THE NIGHT

Through the swirling grey mists and multicoloured spirals of the Time/Space Current spun the object resembling an old Roman column -- actually, a DiTraS (pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere), one of the incredibly-advanced travel vehicles of that enigmatic race of beings known as the Watchers of Algol.

The interior of this vehicle exists in a different dimension, and its main room is constructed to resemble an Earth-style coffee shop or tearoom. It is here that I stood at the control panel, clad as I was in my usual finery (including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military-style boots, and panama hat), idly viewing some of the readouts highlighting my ship’s course through the void.

A door opened leading from a corridor deeper into the ship, and a beautiful young girl skipped into the control room. The petite lass had luxurious chestnut hair, lovely violet eyes, sun-kissed skin, and luscious pink lips. She was wearing a tight, short-skirted purple dress that showed off the soft curves of her slender, early-adolescent figure. She was also eating a banana.

“Ah, Millie,” said I. “Good to see you have been availing yourself of the ship’s extensive larder.”

“I almost got lost in there, Daniel,” she giggled. “It’s huge!”

“Well, there is nothing like having a well-stocked pantry, hmm?” I rejoined. “I remember once when I encountered an interstellar traffic jam near Galactic Centre -- it was during the tourist season, you know -- I would have gotten absolutely famished if not for that… ”

Suddenly, a wave of pain interrupted my thoughts, a feeling that seemed to be tearing through my very mind. I clutched my head in agony and started to crumple to-wards the floor.

“Daniel!” exclaimed Millie as she rushed over to me. “What’s wrong?! What’s happening?! Are you okay?!”

“Yes… ” I said, struggling to regain my feet. “Yes, I think so. The sensation seems to have passed.”

“What was it?” enquired the concerned girl.

“It was a psychic disturbance,” I explained. “It must have travelled through the Current and entered through the control console. Incredible! To do that, and to then affect an Algolite mind… !”

“Who could have done such a thing?”

“I dread to think!” said I, adjusting the controls. “Nevertheless, we must find out!”

A series of numbers appeared on the security readout, detailing the coordinates from which the disturbance had emanated.

“Ah, according to this, it was from a planet known as Rannil,” I announced, adjusting the controls to immediately head to-wards this location. “Little is known of it, even by our people. It orbits a red giant in one of the dark galaxies, an area known to some of the local old legends as ‘The Night Sector’!”

Upon the view screen above the DiTraS console then appeared the image of the world to-wards which we were now heading -- a darksome planet of deeply-cratered rock lighted only by the dim red glow of its gigantic sun.

“So we are going to investigate it?” asked Millie with excited expectation mixed with a tinge of fear in her voice.

“We have to, love,” I said. “Anything with that kind of power could be a danger to the entire Cosmos! So hold on, Miss Millie Drake, my dear! We are going -- into the night!!” … 

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 Earth, I protect its people (both upon their planet and across the eternal void) 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 in this world. I am a Knight of the Eternal Spires. I am the sword of justice from the planet Daemonia. I am the stellar swashbuckler.

I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …

Millie and I exited the DiTraS after it materialised upon the planet Rannil. We found ourselves in a stone tunnel, lit as it was by a dim phosphorescence.

“According to the readings on the DiTraS console system,” I said, “these tunnels rather extensively honeycomb the planet.”

“Was there any sign of life?” questioned the girl.

“It was inconclusive, Mills” I informed her. “Almost as if something were masking whatever it was that sent out that psychic wave.”

We walked farther on into the tunnel until Millie noticed something.

“Daniel, look!” she exclaimed. “On the ground!”

I bent down to examine what the girl had seen. It was like a trail of black slime leading on down the corridor. I took the transonic turnscrew, an highly advanced scientific instrument resembling a writing pen, from the pocket of my jacket.

“According to this,” I said, reading the information provided by the device, “it is indeed some sort of organic matter. Its origin is still inconclusive, however.”

“Can we just follow the trail and find out what made it?” suggested Millie.

“Flawlessly logical, my dear,” I approved. “Let us attempt exactly that.”

We traced the trail of slime down the tunnel, following its turnings and windings for quite some time until it debouched into an huge chamber, its lofty ceiling perhaps a mile high. Nevertheless, it was what was found in the chamber that immediately commanded our attention. The room was filled with countless piles of globular objects, each of them just over a metre in width and covered with the same viscid black slime that we had followed there.

“Daniel, what are those things?” asked Millie with a decided shudder. “They almost look like… eggs!”

“It appears that is exactly what they indeed are,” I announced, scanning them with the transonic. “This is apparently an enormous hatchery of sorts. However, the question remains: what laid these eggs, and what does all this, if anything, have to do with a psychic emanation that was strong enough to travel through the Time/Space Current and enter my Algolitish mind? Even if something on this planet has some kind of natural mentalist ability, in order to enter my consciousness someone would have to have…”

Whilst I was speaking, Millie had turned around to face the direction from which we had entered the enormous chamber. Suddenly, I heard her scream.

I whirled around to face whatever it was that had so frightened the girl. There were several large creatures looking like creeping black slugs, eyeless and quivering and as big as horses, entering the chamber.

“By the Triple Star!” I swore. “Could these things be what sent the psychic force through… ?”

It was then that another wave of pain entered my consciousness. I fought against it and managed to remain on my feet.

I heard Millie again scream and turned to her just in time. The psychic wave had now entered her mind as well, and she had fainted from the pain. I caught her in my arms and held her close as the slug-like monstrosities surrounded us, dripping their nauseous black slime thickly upon the floor of the room.

“We are the Rannils,” said a bizarre, highly-pitched voice within my mind, “and we have you now, Watchers of Algol!”

I struggled against the pain and raised the transonic turnscrew to-wards the chamber ceiling, having quickly programmed it to emit a sound-wave at a certain frequency. It did so, the result being the loosening of some rocks above the slug-like creatures. When the stones fell upon them, the psychic pain in my mind ceased and, as quickly as possible, I lifted Millie from her feet and, cradling her in my arms, ran from the chamber into the adjoining tunnel.

I ran at full speed down the twisting corridor until I came to a place where there were two adjoining tunnels. Having never seen this before, I knew that the way back to the DiTraS was, for the time being, lost. I glanced behind me and beheld, at a distance, the Rannil slug monsters pursuing us. They had recovered all-too-quickly from the rock-fall and were barrelling to-wards us at an incredible speed.

I lifted the transonic turnscrew to-wards the top of the tunnel and caused more rocks to fall, this time blocking the way of the alien creatures as I turned and, still carrying the swooning girl, continued fleeing down the winding stone corridors.

Do you recognise the absolute unholy horror, forsooth the unspeakable eldritch terror and grotesque ungodly fear in this bizarre situation? There on that strange alien world, I was running from an hideous group of huge slug-like alien monstrosities -- creatures that had the uncanny ability to enter my mind and to thus cause excruciating waves of horrendous pain!

I felt Millie Drake stir in my arms.

“Daniel…” she whispered. “Daniel… what’s happening? Those things… They hurt me… They…”

“I know, love,” I reassured her, slowing down and stopping, “I know. They entered your Algolite mind as well. Here… can you stand?”

“Yes,” said the girl as I put her down on her feet. “I think so. Yes, I’m okay now.”

We continued onwards, with me holding Millie’s hand.

“The rockslide that I caused back there should still hold them up for a while,” I explained. “What we need to do is find out how they know about Algol to start with. There has been no known contact between our people and the Rannils.”

“Could someone else have told them?” asked the lass.

“Possibly, but for them to even know the proper sequence to enter an Algolitish consciousness would require training -- training that only an Algolite could give them!”

“Daniel, look!” suddenly exclaimed Millie.

The girl indicated another chamber somewhat like that which we had just encountered. It was not as large as the hatchery, but it was similarly filled with the nauseous black slime of the Rannils.

I cautiously peered into the room and beheld something bizarre beyond imagining. In the very centre of the pool of slime was a figure as like unto a man clad in a dress suit of ebony satin. The slime seemed to flow and caress his body, creeping and ebbing in constant motion around him.

I took a step closer, cautioning Millie to stand behind me.

The man, who had been looking in the other direction, slowly turned his head to face us. I felt a tingle of ungodly dread as I recognised his countenance. It was the face as unto that of a man of middle years, still showing signs of handsome distinction despite being marred with the effects of seeming lifetimes of extreme profligate wickedness. His hair was long and dark, and his face was decorated with a thin moustache and goatee. Most of all, his eyes shone with a look of absolute hypnotic evil.

It was he. The most evil being in all the history of the Universe. The one I had so hoped and prayed to all that is holy that I would never have to deal with again.

It was Don Wingus!!!

“You!” I exclaimed. “I should have known! So you did escape from the Niddalas.”

“Yes, I most certainly did,” answered Don Wingus, “and I see that when I was in jail, you were in jailbait. Wait… I sense something… Something about this girl… Rumanos, she is an Algolite!”

“Indeed she is, Wingus,” I admitted. “Mistress Millie Drake, meet Master Don Wingus.”

“Ummm… hello,” said the girl warily. She had heard of my previous encounters with this intergalactic arch-criminal.

“Millie here was brought up on the planet Earth,” I explained. “But she is biologically of our own race. It is believed that she is descended from the Lost Spies of Draco.”

“Bravo, Rumanos, bravo,” mocked the villain. “So you have finally found yourself an eternal twelve-year-old. Ah, the pleasures of infinite hebephilia, eh, Rumanos? I knew you would achieve this some day. You certainly practiced it enough. So, how did you find her? Oh, let me guess. I suppose you detected her Algolitish ancestry as the result of having splattered your own DNA all over her or something like that, did you? Is that it? I should have guessed you were searching for something in all those centuries of introducing young girls to your extraterrestrial manhood and all that. Purely scientific research, of course. Again I say, Bravo!”

“So it was you after all, Wingus,” I pondered, ignoring his sarcastic taunts. “You are the one who introduced the Rannils to your own Algolite mind, and taught them the proper mentalist sequences to enter others.”

“Of course I did, Rumanos,” boasted the villain. “These Rannils are really quite advanced psychic beings, despite their appearance. When I escaped from that planetary prison in which you had so futilely hoped I would be incarcerated forever, I already felt them calling to me through the Time/Space Current. I used the controls of my DiTraS to follow their influence to this planet. Their power runs along this slime, empowered by it and from thence emanating outwards, and I have taught them to use their abilities to merge with Algolitish consciousnesses.”

“But why?” enquired Millie. “Why would you want to ‘merge’ with those things?”

“Power, no doubt,” I said. “I strongly suspect that he has some plan to use the Rannils to aid him in ruling the Cosmos.”

“Oh, it is more than a plan,” countered Wingus. “It is a total and absolute definite. You see, there are Rannil eggs deposited all over this planet, just like the ones you encountered. Countless millions and millions of them. I have completely merged my mind with that of the Rannil race. I shall use the powers of Algolitish DiTraS technology to cause this planet to rush to-wards its sun. The result of this will be to scatter the Rannil eggs all over the Universe -- and my influence with them! The Rannils will in time enter the minds of every conscious being in existence, and I shall then teach all to accept me as supreme ruler!”

“Spires of Daemonia!” I swore. “I have said it before and I will say it again. You, Don Wingus, are utterly mad!”

“But why did he use them to contact us?” queried the girl.

“Yes, that is indeed a very good question,” I said. “The Rannil power could already fully enter my Algolite mind by the time they contacted our ship when we were yet within the Current. Ah! Of course, Wingus! Your DiTraS is still damaged from when you stole it from Daemonia! You have not as yet had a chance to repair it, and so did not have the full capability needed to properly send this planet to-wards it sun and scatter the eggs. You needed more power, and reached out to find it. What you got was my DiTraS, and now you hope to utilise it in your endeavour to bring about this absolutely insane scheme of yours.”

I heard a slithering sound behind us. The Rannils had broken through the rockslide and had followed us to this chamber. I quickly pulled Millie Drake closer in an effort to protect her as the monsters crept up nearer to us.

“Now is the time, Rumanos!” cackled Wingus. “Now is the time! The Rannils are here and my consciousness is indeed fully merged with them through the medium of the slime! You cannot resist us! Both you and Mini Baby Belle here will be forced to join us and to complete the psychic connections to our DiTraSes!”

It was then that an immense and excruciatingly-painful wave of the mentalist force suddenly shot through the brains of both Millie and me. We crumpled to the floor in each other’s arms, fighting against the agony of this, and just barely able to maintain our own consciousness.

“It begins!” continued the madman. “It begins, Rumanos! It begins! The planet now begins to move in its course to-wards the giant red star! When it has achieved the correct velocity, the combined DiTraS engines shall give them entrance to the Time/Space Current and therefore assure that the Rannil eggs are scattered throughout the Universe itself!”

“That is correct,” spoke the bizarre gestalt voice of the Rannils.

“Then it is that I -- Master Don Wingus of Algol -- shall spread my own influence throughout the Cosmos and, through my connection to the Rannil power, shall take my rightful place as supreme ruler of all existence!!”

With this, Wingus let loose with a long peal of sick insane laughter -- a sound of utter unsanctified evil that was only interrupted by another statement from the voice of the Rannils:

“That is not correct.”

It took Don Wingus a moment to realise the import of what he had just heard.

“What!” he shouted. “What do you mean? I am Don Wingus, the Master of all! I have given you the power to fulfil your purpose, and you will obey me!”

“That is not correct,” reiterated the voice. “We are the Rannils. We have connected to the consciousnesses of three Algolites and yet maintain our own. We have the will to use your technology in order to achieve our purpose, after which you shall be discarded. It is the Rannils that will spread throughout the Universe and overcome all.”

“No!” bellowed the evil Don Wingus in anger. “No no no no!!”

We all then found ourselves surrounded by the putrescent black slime, a substance that now seemed to be quite a world of its own, a world of dark viscid horror in which pulsated the hideous Rannils, a world in which we could feel the very movement of the planet as it was propelled to-wards its own sun!

“Daniel!” sobbed Millie Drake in fear. “What is this place? Where are we? What’s happening?!”

“It appears to be another plane of existence, a world engendered by the Rannil slime!” I said. “It is the manifestation of the psychic consciousness! We have entered another dimension!”

Can you even begin to perceive the supreme and undeniable terror of this situation, the extreme and absolutely unmitigated total horror of it, my dear friends and readers? Don Wingus, Millie Drake, and I were all trapped within the bizarre alien consciousness of the strangely slug-like Rannils -- forsooth a consciousness indeed so shockingly powerful that it had managed to overcome our Algolite ones and had then proceeded to take us all into a weird trans-dimensional world -- a world commanded only by the ebon black power of their horridly living and mentally-pulsating slime!

“Wingus!” I shouted, reaching out my consciousness in an attempt to break through the intense blackness of the psychic slime. “Wingus, listen if you can hear me! Concentrate and try to break through! Your plan has failed, but maybe we can still do something to prevent the Rannils from expanding across the Cosmos!”

“I hear you, Rumanos,” returned Don Wingus from out of the darkness. “I will not -- I cannot allow these filthy slug things to steal this Universe from me! They have betrayed me, and they now shall feel the merciless and all-encompassing wrath of Algolite mind power! They shall feel the vengeance of Master Don Wingus! They shall quake in fear and know my total and undeniable superiority before they are blasted out of existence forever!”

“Concentrate, Wingus,” I told him. “We need to stop the planet from continuing its course to-wards the star! Then, if we can break free of them just long enough to separate our ships from their consciousness, we can prevent them from accessing the Current! Then the planet Rannil, having left its proper orbit, will completely break up and the eggs will perish in the void of Space!”

I concentrated deeply, fighting against the influence of the Rannils, knowing I had to prevent them from completely reaching the psychically-attuned controls of my DiTraS. I felt the mind of Don Wingus similarly fighting through the darkness of the mental slime. Amongst this was also the will of little Millie Drake, her influence small compared to the far older, infinitely more experienced minds of Wingus and myself. None the less, it was the presence of this young Algolite girl that was the inspiration, the impetus, the very reason and hope that finally allowed me to break through the hideous power of the Rannils.

I heard the slug creatures scream shrilly as the darkling view of the slime dimension fell from around us. Millie was huddled against my arm, and I beheld Don Wingus from across the chamber, standing erect but with his feet still immersed in the pool of slime.

“Go now, Rumanos,” he insisted. “Get out whilst you can, you and your sweet little friend. Take your DiTraS and leave this world so that there will be no further danger of the Rannils utilising it.”

“But what of you, Wingus?” I questioned.

“I will stay here long enough to wreak vengeance upon these creatures! I will cause them a psychic pain beyond anything they could have ever known! Then, I will make certain that their planet -- along with their filthy eggs -- is destroyed, and that the Rannils are never heard from again!”

I took Millie’s hand and we ran from the chamber, proceeding down the corridors hastily.

“The recent psychic link should make it easy for us to locate the DiTraS,” I informed her as we ran. “It cannot be far.”

Indeed, we soon saw the welcome shape of the “Roman column” before us and entered the DiTraS control room. I quickly activated the controls and our ship dematerialised, leaving the hideous dark planet of the Rannils behind.

I put the live image of that ebony world back up on the monitor view-screen. It hung in space for a brief moment before exploding into countless rocky fragments.

“That will have done it,” I breathed. “The Rannils and their eggs cannot have survived that explosion, and, with our DiTraS gone, there would not be enough power for them to enter the Time/Space Current.”

“Daniel, that dark world we were in,” shuddered Millie. “That dark world of the psychic slime. Could it have been… ?”

“The reason that this region of the galaxies is called ‘The Night Sector’ in the ancient legends?” I answered, shutting off the monitor screen. “Yes, I thought of that. It is quite probable, my dear, it is quite probable.”

I then adjusted some controls on the DiTraS consol and peered closely at the resulting readouts.

“What are you doing, Daniel?” enquired Millie Drake. “You seem to be searching for something.”

“I was just trying to see if there was another Algolitish engine signature leaving the planet,” I answered her. “That does not seem to be the case, but it is just slightly possible that the energy from the explosion could have masked it.”

“Oh,” realised the girl, “so you mean that you think it’s possible that Don Wingus could have escaped?”

“Well, his DiTraS was indeed hidden on Rannil somewhere. If he could have gotten to it before the planet blew up, it should have had enough power for him to escape, so it is just possible.”

“Don’t worry, Daniel,” soothed the beautiful young girl. “If he shows up again, I’m sure you’ll be ready for him.”

“I hope so, love,” I answered. “I hope so.”

“He really was your best friend once, wasn’t he?” said Millie, laying her dear little hand on my arm as a show of sympathy. “I can tell.”

“Say, my love,” I said, quickly changing the subject\, “perhaps we could have a little holiday getaway, hmmm?”

“That sounds great!” approved the lovely lass. “Where will we go?”

“Oh, just an old seaside resort on Planet Earth,” I teased as I set the DiTraS controls for the famous destination that I had in mind. “I shall give you a hint as to which one it is, Mills. It is in North America, and this is a beachfront vacation spot that also has -- casinos!”

***** DANIEL RUMANO AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “ATLANTIC CITY”