MAGIC CARPET RIDE

On the glorious planet Daemonia, ninety-three light-years from Earth, two grey-haired and venerable members of the Absolute Convention of the Watchers of Algol stood in one of the secret observatories from which that godlike race keeps benevolent vigilance over the vast reaches of Space and Time. They were replete in the splendour of their brightly-hued ceremonial vestments, since the discussion they were having, despite its secrecy, concerned a matter of extreme importance to this ruling body of the Algolites.

“The office of Universal Overseer remains vacant,” said the first Watcher, a look of concern showing only slightly through his calm expression. “We have been unable to decide upon a worthy candidate.”

“Surely this is unprecedented in the billion annals of our history,” said the second. “With no Overseer, the link to the Outermost Barrier is compromised. That could lead to certain breakdowns of order throughout our systems.”

“It already has, Master Conventioneer,” replied the first. “Just recently a Dimensional Transport Sphere was seen to have gone missing from one of the temporal garages.”

“By the Stars, Master Conventioneer!” swore the second, his self-control slipping a bit at this news. “That is unheard of, is it not?”

“Not entirely,” rejoined the first Watcher. “It has happened from time to time, when one of our people has gone renegade. Most well-known is the one that was stolen from the repair shop some time ago.”

“You mean the one now belonging to Master Rumanos, the Kosmikos agent?”

“Indeed, Master Conventioneer, he is known there as Operative #MAP/GL/AOA8-17, and it is only because of his service to that covert organisation that he has been immune to prosecution for the offence.”

“Master Conventioneer, do you believe that the old prophecy may be true?” enquired the second. “The one claiming that the Kosmikos will one day give us one who will take the supreme office, leading to an era of thus-far-unseen history?”

“It is possible,” affirmed the first. “It is possible, but all prophecies are open to interpretation.”

“So what of this Master Rumanos? Has not his more recent use of the Mynverkossian Time Destroyer opened him to charges of infraction against the First Temporal Law?”

“There has indeed been some contention about that between the Convention and the Kosmikos. Nevertheless, we have felt it best to let things stand as they are, at least for now. We must continue to observer the actions of Rumanos, that he may be tested and it found if he is worthy or not.”

“And if not?”

“Then he will be destroyed,” stated the first Watcher. “His essence will then be scattered to the farthest reaches.”

“These are strange times in which we exist, Master Conventioneer,” said the second. “Strange times, indeed.”

“Indeed, they are. Nevertheless, we shall see in time what the outcome shall be. As we do with all things throughout the Cosmos, we shall see.” …

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 “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 DAEMON-STAR!!! …

I was at a fish and chips shop in the Fell’s Point neighbourhood of Baltimore, having lunch with my friend Jasira Ibrahim. I was clad in my usual finery, including a frilled poet-shirt and purple velvet smoking jacket.

“So, how have you been, love?” I asked the girl. “I have not seen you since that night we discovered the Jegrodis at that disco, hmmm?”

“I’m doing okay, Doctor,” replied the girl with a smile. “It’s nice to see you again.”

Miss Jasira Ibrahim was looking as beautiful as ever, with her gorgeous honey-coloured skin and her wide, sensuous mouth, her lips like luscious ripe cherries. Her hair sparkled in the light like shiny licorice. She was wearing a short, magenta-coloured dress that wonderfully showed off the soft curves and lovely legs of her slender adolescent figure.

“So, Jasira,” I said, “what was your parents’ reaction to that change in your appearance?”

You see, the last time I had seen Jasira Ibrahim, her eyes had changed colour after she had seen the flash of an alien spaceship blowing up. They were now an enchanting shade of blue, unusual to one of her complexion yet exquisitely lovely.

“They were a little shocked at first, but they are now happy about it,” replied the lass. “They think it is a sign that Heaven has accepted and blessed their marriage!”

Jasira’s parents were Turkish Arabs, her farther Muslim and her mother Christian, who had been forced to leave their native country due to religious persecution.

“Fantastic!” I said delightedly. “I believe they are correct, in a way. After all, only a union truly blessed by divine powers could lead to them having such a beautiful and wonderful daughter as you.”

“Awww!” exclaimed Jasira. “That’s so sweet for you to say, Doctor! I have been kind of worried about my mom and dad, though, for a different reason.”

“What reason would that be, love?” I enquired with concern.

“It’s just that they have recently been attending seminars from this mystic called ‘Halit’. He has some strange teachings that claim to be above all religions.”

“Probably just some con artist,” I replied. “As long as they do not give him all their money or something, it should be just an harmless diversion.”

“But that’s just it, Doctor,” rejoined the lass. “He isn’t asking them for anything, but he seems to have a strange control over them, and over everyone who attends his talks.”

“So, what exactly does he teach?”

“I’m not sure. I’ve only overheard Mom and Dad talking about it. I think he says he has powers from having contact with some kind of spirits or something. Anyway, they’ve become so devoted to him that it kind of scares me.”

“‘Spirits’, did you say? Perhaps I should look into it,” I decided, sipping my iced tea. “When is his next seminar?”

“He’s giving a talk this afternoon at the Marriot Hotel Ballroom. My parents are upset that they can’t make it since Dad has to work today.”

“Sounds like an opportunity. I will go and see what he has to say.”

“Oh, can I go with you?” pleaded Jasira. “I really want to see if I should be so worried about it all.”

“I suppose that will be all right, love,” I affirmed. “There is probably nothing to worry about. This ‘Halit’ character will probably just turn out to be some scam after all, and…”

I was suddenly interrupted by Jasira’s scream at what she beheld. The girl was looking up to just above my head. I whirled around to face whatever was behind me and saw an horror indeed.

It was an huge, shapeless mass. A grey shape as of something that existed in between the limits of the corporeal and the non-corporeal. From it emanated a feeling -- a feeling as of an intellect ancient and vast, a mind or group of minds replete with a superior yet disincarnate intelligence.

The thing lurched to-wards me with a movement of definite menace!

I took the transonic turnscrew (an highly-sophistically technological device resembling a writing pen) from the pocket of my jacket and aimed it at the horrid thing. This was a mere show of bravado on my part, for I as yet had no idea what this entity was, far less what I could do to defend against it.

The grey mass moved to-wards me and, just as we would have made contact, suddenly vanished. I looked around the restaurant, but there was no sign of it. Some of the other diners had looked our way during the disturbance, but were now returning to their meals. I assumed they had not seen the thing clearly from their further-away perspective.

“Doctor, what was that thing?!” queried Jasira as she hurried to the safety of my arms.

“I am not certain, love,” I confessed, “but it seems to be gone now.”

“Do you think it could have anything to do with what we were talking about?”

“You mean this Halit and his supposed ‘spirits’?” I pondered. “It does seem too close to be a mere coincidence. I would say that you should stay out of this and thus remain safe, but it is possible that we have both been targeted. It is best for you to stay where I can protect you. We should get to this seminar of his then, and perhaps we shall learn the facts!”

I quickly paid our lunch bill, leaving a substantial gratuity for our server, and we left the restaurant. My canary-coloured Edwardian roadster (affectionately known as “Lizzie”), was parked outside. I drove us to the Marriot Hotel in the near by Harbour East area, and we soon found the ballroom in which the mysterious Halit was scheduled to speak.

The room was already well-packed with an audience, a mixture of local “hipster” types and Asian immigrants. The latter attracted, I assumed, by Halit’s supposed Middle Eastern origins, the former by the curiosity about “spiritual” novelties that seems to be common among their type. All were seated in the folding chairs that had been placed in the ballroom, giving the proceeding a bizarre “churchlike” atmosphere that seemed odd in a venue usually given to dancing and related social pleasures.

Jasira and I took our seats and waited. I briefly mused that it was indeed odd that we managed to find two unoccupied chairs together, and indeed in the front row, considering how crowded the room otherwise was. Forsooth, it was almost as if we had been expected.

Finally, the curtain opened and a pre-recorded background sound of vaguely “oriental” music began playing. A man then walked out upon the stage. He was somewhat hunched over, and was dressed in colourful robes on which were embroidered various golden and silver stars and astrological symbols. He had a large turban on his head and a long beard of iron-grey hue. His skin was a deep brown and his eyes the darkest pitch-black.

“Greetings, my friends,” he intoned, his voice possessing an accent of indeterminate Eastern derivation. “I am Halit, and I come here today to show you wonders. You have heard of the ‘magic carpet’ of storied Arabia? Well, look and see!”

Halit then made a pass with his hands to-wards the side of the stage and, from this same area, there then came forth an object like a Persian rug floating about a metre above the stage.

“See, my friends!” continued Halit as the spectators gasped in astonishment. “See the powers that I have gotten!”

He then stepped up and stood upon the “magic carpet”, which continued to float as before.

“Doctor,” whispered Jasira in my ear, “that’s all a fake, isn’t it? Just a stage magic trick?”

“I believe so, love, but…” I said. “I cannot help but to think that there is something familiar about this ‘Halit’. It is almost as if I…”

“And now, my friends,” said Halit, “I shall introduce you to the source of these wonders. The mighty spirits I have contacted. They are like unto the Jinn or Genies of old. They are known as… The Niddalas!!”

It was then that an eldritch grey mist seemed to form around Halit and his magic carpet, and there then issued forth from it an host of entities, strange wraithlike entities like the one I had encountered earlier. They drifted upwards and floated in the air above the mystic, soon filling the entire stage area with their bizarre, ghostly forms.

I leapt up from my seat and stood in front of Jasira, hoping to shield the girl from what I sensed was to come.

“The power of the Niddalas is here, my friends,” Halit went on. “For it is here that they shall reward you if you believe. For all believers shall have their place as servants of the Niddalas when they have taken over this world and left me to rule it! As for unbelievers… behold, for this shall be their fate!!”

With this statement, Halit indicated me, and the hoard of Niddalas suddenly surged to-wards me. Before I could even react, they struck. I felt a ghastly wave of cold, a cold beyond all fleshly sensations -- a feeling like unto as if I had been touched by something from beyond all sane existence, and I felt myself crumple to the floor in pain at the psyche-physical sensation of this.

I struggled to look up at my attackers. The grey, ghostlike forms of the Niddalas where now hovering over me, and I looked beyond them to the figure of the strange mystic known as Halit. He was still floating above the stage on his supposed magic carpet, but had now straitened up to his full height. As I looked, his face suddenly flashed several times, a strange light playing across it as it changed to a different countenance entirely -- in sooth, a visage now all too familiar to me.

It was the face as of a man of middle years, still showing signs of distinction despite being marred with the marks of lifetimes of absolute un-holiness and extreme evil. His features were decorated with a thin moustache and goatee, and his eyes shone forth with an absolutely hypnotic glow. As he perceived my recognition of him, he laughed with a mirthless sound of complete and utter wickedness.

It was Don Wingus!!

“You!” I exclaimed. “I should have known! So you did escape from C’sem 6!”

“Indeed, Rumanos,” returned Wingus, his voice now in its usual tone of mockery. “Thanks for attending my little ‘spiritual seminar’. I would offer you something from the refreshments table, but I see you have likely already shared a cream pie.”

This last comment he gave with a glance to-wards Jasira, who was huddled in her chair in fear.

I faced the evil Don Wingus directly as the host of entities continued to hover about the stage area.

“The name ‘Halit’,” I pondered. “It means ‘Eternal’, hmmm?”

“Indeed it does,” returned Wingus with a sinful smile. “A fitting alias for an Algolite, if I do say so myself.”

“So, Wingus,” I challenged, “what are these ‘Niddalas’? I can see they are largely non-corporeal, and you are using them in one of your schemes to subjugate this planet to your totalitarian rule, but what are they?”

“The Niddalas are the psychic essences of an alien species now otherwise extinct,” he explained. “They were wiped out when their planet was caught in the crossfire of the last Galactic War.”

“Ah, yes!” I realised. “The planet Niddala; one of the mysterious inner worlds of the Alpha Centauri system. I remember now.”

“They were a race with highly-developed mentalist abilities,” Wingus added, “and managed to continue their now-bodiless existence out in the depths of Space. They have remained there for nearly two million years, and that is where I encountered them soon after I acquired my new ‘flying carpet’ here.”

“Of course!” I realised. “That is actually the very DiTraS that was stolen from Daemonia recently! By the Triple Star, Wingus! It would have been damaged when you blasted through the temporal shields that surround our home-world. Finding its abilities then limited, you made a pact with these Niddalas to utilise their psychic powers in order to repair it, hmmm? You even used the spiritual devotion of the people who attended your seminars to strengthen further the aliens’ attachments to this world. You could not manage to keep control at a distance, though. The one you sent against me at the restaurant faded before it could do any harm.”

“Oh bravo, Rumanos, bravo,” sneered Wingus. “As always, you think you have it all figured out. As hopelessly full of yourself as ever, I see. Nevertheless, it will avail you nothing. The Niddalas’s powers are here supreme, and they will aid me to subjugate your beloved Earthlings whilst my ship is being repaired. In return for this, I have agreed to use my new DiTraS to return them to their own planet. It is once again habitable, and they can eventually reclaim their physical existence by mentally influencing the life-forms that are currently developing there.”

I glanced around. Incredibly, the audience were still looking on in wonder at what they assumed was all part of the scheduled presentation!

“A well-thought-out scheme, Wingus,” I admitted. “Utterly mad, of course, but still well-thought-out. None the less, it shall not succeed. The Kosmikos shall not allow…”

“The Kosmikos will do nothing!” Wingus spat back. “You are their only Operative upon this planet, and the Niddalas will now destroy you… and your little girlfriend!!”

I had taken the trembling form of young Jasira Ibrahim into my embrace in one final attempt to protect her from the horrors surrounding us. She fainted from fear just as the mass of Niddalas rushed upon us.

Do you behold the unnameable terror of this situation, my dear readers? The grotesque conglomeration of the now semi-corporeal forms that were once the alien race known as Niddalas had rushed upon us -- under the command of that unspeakably-evil Intergalactic villain, my own archenemy and most bitter rival, the notorious Master Don Wingus!

We were quickly surrounded by what appeared to be a thick cloud of greyness. It was totally opaque, shutting out all around us. The hotel ballroom, its attending audience, everything that belonged to the world of normal physical existence seemed to be blotted out as the phantasmal forms of the Niddalas enveloped us inside that grotesque accumulation of their ghostly being.

I held on to the now-unconscious figure of poor Jasira, still trying to keep the girl safe as a strange feeling of dizziness began to overcome me…

It was then that I heard a voice. It was deep and sonorous, filling the space around me with a vibration as of its origin being a collective gestalt of the beings in which I was enveloped.

“Why have you done this?” enquired the voice. “Why have you lied to us? We are the Niddalas. We only want to return to our world.”

“What do you mean?” I rejoined. “I am Dr. Daniel Rumanos of Algol. I have done nothing to harm your people.”

“The other who is of your kind,” continued the voice, which I now fully recognised as being indeed that of the very collected consciousness of the Nidallas. “He has used us, exploited our current lack of physical form in order to make us do harm to others. This is not our way. The Niddalas are a people of peace. Our race was destroyed because we refused to take part in war. Now we only wish to return home and live in peace. The other of your kind has made promises to take us there, but he has deceived us, caused us to do things that are against our ways.”

“He is a renegade,” I informed. “He does not represent the ways of our Algolite race. He only does harm and evil. He wishes to rule others and subjugate them to his will. It is my mission to stop him.”

“On our world we occasionally had such people,” admitted the Niddala voice. “They were imprisoned, kept safely away from others in a place where they could do no further harm. We do perceive that you are not like him. The tenderness you feel to-wards this little one. Your protection of her. It is a thing of goodness and integrity, unseen in the other.”

“That gives me an idea, Voice of the Niddalas,” I said. “Listen to me, please. I have a suggestion that will help you to achieve what your people want…”

 A few moments later, the grey mass of the Niddalas parted around me. Still holding Jasira, who was now stirring back to-wards consciousness, I took the transonic turnscrew from my pocket and aimed it above the stage -- the stage were Don Wingus was still standing upon his ‘magic carpet’-disguised DiTraS.

Above the stage, the large spotlight that illuminated it suddenly shattered, sending sparks and shards of broken glass around the area. In reaction to this, Wingus naturally raised his hands to shield his face, blocking his view of what I did next.

I then aimed the transonic to-wards the “magic carpet”-- in truth, a Dimensional Transport Sphere with its ability to travel throughout the vast reaches of Space and Time.

The grey mass of Niddalas then began to rush to-wards the DiTraS, disappearing into the other-dimensional interior of the ship -- and dragging Don Wingus along with them.

“What!” shouted the villain. “Rumanos, what have you done?!”

“I had a little talk with the Niddalas,” I informed him. “They are a good people, and you should not have tried to exploit them. They are now aiding me in switching the polarisation of your DiTraS engine. It will return them to their home-world, the planet Niddala itself -- and you with them! There you will be kept prisoner, jailed for life where you can do no further hurt to anyone! I am sending you to your fate, Wingus, old chap -- by way of a ‘magic carpet ride’!”

“No, Rumanos! No!” pleaded Wingus as he vanished into his DiTraS along with the Niddalas. “NOOOOOOOO!!”

Then was heard the odd gasping and moaning sound of the temporal engines as the “magic carpet” spaceship faded from view.

Jasira was now awake, and I put the young girl safely down in her chair.

“Worry not, love,” I whispered to her. “The one who called himself ‘Halit’ is gone, and all is well.”

Then, to my surprise, the entire audience stood up and began applauding. Without the hypnotic influence of Don Wingus affecting them, they now all just assumed that they had been attending a theatrical performance! Humans. …

The Marriot Hotel, believing that Jasira and I were all part of the show that had been such a big hit in their ballroom venue, offered us their absolute best luxury suite for the evening absolutely gratis, with all the available amenities. Therefore, it was that -- after an excellent dinner of steak and shrimp, served with baked potatoes and side salads along with highly-caffeinated iced coffee -- we relaxed on the suite’s large four-poster bed, enjoying chocolate truffles and a wonderful twelve-year-old champagne.

“So, Doctor, where were those aliens from again?” enquired Jasira as she laid her pretty head back on the bed’s big fluffy pillows.

“Oh, two stars away from here,” I said. “Their planet was once decimated by a war they had no part in. Now it will be reborn.”

“Thanks to you!” smiled the girl.

“Not entirely, Jasira,” I answered. “In fact, it could be said that it is much more thanks to you.”

“Me?” she laughed. “How could that be? I had fainted, you know!”

“Indeed, and it is the Niddalas’s psychic apprehension of the feelings of affection I have for you that convinced them to trust me, leading to us defeating Wingus and to them finally returning to their own world. They are, at heart, a people of love and peace and joy, hence their aversion to war and crime and unnecessary conflict. An interesting species, the Niddalas. I shall have to visit their planet someday and see how they are getting along.”

“You are so wonderful and sweet, Doctor,” said the beautiful little lass. “I just love you.”

“You know what, Jasira?” I said as I took the lovely young girl into a passionate embrace. “I love you too.”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN IN “ALESSANDRA’S SMILE”