A PRINCESS OF VENUS

I stood at the counter-like control console of the DiTraS (pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere), my incredibly-advanced Space and Time travel vehicle, the interior of which resembles an old Earth-type of cafĂ© or coffee shop.

“I am setting the controls now,” said I. “We should be getting back to pick Millie up from her graphology studies.”

I was dressed in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, and military style boots. My panama hat was hanging from a near by coat-rack.

At my feet was a sort of robot that resembled, in general shape and form, a small cat. This is Kit-10, actually an highly-sophisticated personal computer.

“Graphology:” repeated Kit-10 in her pleasantly feminine voice, “The technique of supposedly identifying certain information of an individual by examination of their handwriting. It is usually classified as a pseudo-science, and…”

“Correction, Kit-10,” I interrupted. “It is usually classified as a pseudo-science amongst Earthlings. Algolites, such as Millie Drake and I happen to be, have more highly-developed mentalist abilities, allowing us to…”

Suddenly, an alarm went off within the control room.

“By the Stars!” I swore whilst examining the console readouts. “We are receiving a transmission. It is encoded as a distress signal, and thus scrambled so its origin is masked in case of interception. Ah, it will be taking the form of a pre-recorded hologram. Here it is!”

Appearing before me then came into view the shimmering form of a young and exquisitely beautiful girl. The hologram was life-sized and fully three-dimensional, making the young lady appear tall and slender, with blonde hair and blue eyes. Her featured were perfect and of a decidedly noble mien. She was dressed in a long white gown, adorned with gold jewellery that matched the tiara upon her head.

“Kit-10,” I enquired, “can your face recognition software identify this person?”

“Accessing, s--,” answered the robot (one of Kit-10’s catlike qualities being her dislike of openly showing respect or subservience to anyone, the “s--” sound is the closest she can come to addressing me as “sir”). “Affirmative. Records identify as Her Royal Majesty FREYA, Imperial Princess of the Planet Venus.”

“A princess of Venus?” I wondered. “Of course! The people of that world do rather resemble humans of the Nordic or Scandinavian type. Let me tune in the audio so we can see what she has to say.”

“Doctor Rumanos of Algol,” said the hologram of Princess Freya, her voice steady yet obviously with an hidden tone of desperation, “I request your assistance with a great tragedy that has threatened to overwhelm the imperial house and the people of my planet. We have been targeted by forces that would strip our world of its wealth and would reduce our population to degradation and slavery. You are implored to arrive as soon as you can, and please do not tarry if the cause of freedom and truth means what I have been told it means to you. Please help us, Dr. Daniel Rumanos. You are our only hope.”

With this, the hologram ceased to appear.

“Well, Kit-10,” I said as I began to reprogram the control board, “it appears Millie may have to be left to her studies a bit longer than expected, but I am certain she will understand. We have a princess to rescue!” …

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 tend to keep to themselves, living in elitist seclusion from the rest of the Universe and merely observing the goings-on of the myriad races of the vast reaches around them, 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. You know, “plausible deniability”, and all of that sort of thing. It is our ongoing mission to defend the weak, the unfortunate, and the innocent from those who would harm or exploit them.

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 on 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!!! …

With an odd gasping and moaning noise, the DiTraS (the exterior of which resembles an old “Roman column”) materialised in an ornate corridor lit by hidden sources along the walls. A portal appeared on the side of my ship and I stepped out, followed by the mechanical cat.

I took the transonic turnscrew, a scientific instrument resembling a writing pen, from the pocket of my coat and examined its readout.

“According to this,” I announced, “we are indeed within the Venusian Imperial Palace. We are near the council chamber, where the Princess Freya herself should be waiting to speak with us. Come along, Kit-10!”

We soon entered the chamber, at the far end of which was an ornate chair on which sat the Princess Freya. Four tall, muscular bodyguards were stationed around the walls.

“Approach, Doctor Rumanos of Algol,” intoned the princess, who looked even younger and lovelier in person. “We of Venus welcome you.”

I walked to-wards her with Kit-10 close behind me, and bowed in the appropriate fashion.

“Your Majesty,” I said. “I am honoured by your summons, and do swear to assist the Imperial House of Venus in any way I can. This is Kit-10, my personal computer.”

Princess Freya briefly gave a delightfully girlish smile at the robotic feline, before again returning to her serious countenance.

“Before we begin to explain why you have been called here, Doctor,” continued the royal lady, “a special security delegate from the League of Planets will be joining us. I believe that you and he are already acquainted.”

A door at the side of the chamber slid open and a tall man in a green-and-red uniform and cap stepped out. He was blue-skinned, and indeed familiar to me.

“Agent Sszmulszder of the Saturnian Bureau of Investigation!” I said. “What an interesting surprise! I hope all is well on your home-world.”

“Greetings, Doctor,” said the alien agent. “All has been well on Saturn since you helped us to end that Replicant invasion. I was recently summoned here, as were you, to assist the Venusian government with what currently threatens them.”

“Please,” I said, “can you enlighten me as to the details concerning this threat to Venus?”

“Agent Sszmulszder,” said Princess Freya, “Please do repeat to the Doctor all that I have told you.”

“According to numerous sources, including our own intelligence findings” began Sszmulszder, “Venus has been contacted recently by an encoded message threatening the planet with a thermonuclear attack if they do not immediately turn over all rights to the world’s mineral wealth to an organisation known as ‘The Forty’.”

“The Forty?” I queried. “That is a business consortium so named because it is made up of representatives from forty different star systems within the Messier 13 Globular Cluster. So they have set their sights on the mineral wealth of Venus, hmmm?”

“Yes, they have” affirmed the SBI man, “but The Forty are not the ones directly making the threat. We have found that a certain force of invaders have already been hiding on Venus for some time -- right here within the precincts of the Imperial Palace -- and are assisting The Forty to obtain their goals. In addition, a member of the Venusian Senate has recently been assassinated -- murdered in cold blood by an energy weapon whilst sleeping in his private chambers.””

“They have also disabled the security cameras on the lower levels,” added the princess.

“Yes, they indeed have,” agreed Sszmulszder, “but we managed to get one of the cameras briefly working again just before you arrived. This is what we saw…”

A video screen in the corner of the chamber lit up with some blurry pre-recorded footage. It only lasted a scant few seconds before again going black, but that was long enough. Long enough forsooth for me to see several copper-coloured insect-like creatures, rather like human-sized earwigs, dressed in military armour and helmets, with sidearm ray-guns in their holsters.

Of course, I recognised the grotesque creatures immediately.

“Spires of Daemonia!” I swore as I beheld the footage. “Ma’am, the ones threatening your planet -- the ones secretly working with The Forty -- are Martians!”

“Martians?” returned the princess. “That is impossible. There exists a treaty of peace between Venus and Mars. For their government to violate it would lead to a war that could devastate the Solar System.”

“If I may say so, ma’am,” spoke Sszmulszder, “it is not likely that these Martians represent the interests of their planet’s government. For some time, there have been rumours in our intelligence surveys of a rebel faction on the red planet -- a force that intends to subvert the cause of peace, at any cost, in order to return their society to the ways for which it was known and so utterly feared in times past: the ways of total and non-stop war!”

“Then these Martian rebels have invaded Venus?” shuddered Princes Freya.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said. “That indeed appears to be the case. They are apparently the ones assisting The Forty in enforcing their demands that the Venusian government turn over all mineral rights. This is terrible. Martians of the old style will stop at nothing to conquer, and, in exchange for their assistance, The Forty have no doubt offered to financially back them in order to obtain the weapons and other things necessary to become overlords of this planet!”

“Then what can we do?” pleaded the lovely princess. “Agent Sszmulszder? Doctor? What can we do to save my dear planet from this outrage?”

“Agent Sszmulszder,” said I, “we need to get down their immediately and face these Martian invaders before they have any idea that we have detected their presence.”

“Agreed, Doctor,” said the Saturnian. “Unfortunately, the invasion force has already hacked part of the Venusian defence system. The Imperial Army will not be able to enter the palace and help us, and all of their spaceships are temporarily grounded. I did manage to get a subspace transmission out to the League of Planets. They will be sending reinforcements, but it will still be some time before they can arrive.”

“Then let us be on our way below,” I insisted. “Kit-10 will be of help -- unless it would be better to allow her to stay and help to protect you, ma’am. She is quite the guard-cat, I can certainly say.”

“This unit is not a cat, s--,” retorted the robot.

“Quiet, Kit-10,” I admonished.

“That will not be necessary, Doctor,” decided Princess Freya. “I have my loyal bodyguard here. Please do all that you can to preserve the peace of our planet, Doctor.”

“I swear to do so, ma’am,” I bowed to the beautiful lady before Agent Sszmulszder, Kit-10, and I exited the council chamber.

We descended into the lower levels of the Imperial Palace via a series of ramps that are a standard part of Venusian architecture, and soon found ourselves in the dimly-lit corridors of the structure’s service area. They were all silent and seemed abandoned.

“We can complete this search more quickly if we separate, Doctor,” said Agent Sszmulszder.

“Agreed, but be mindful,” said I. “Martians of the old style can be treacherous. Nothing is taboo to them in the service of warfare.”

“Understood,” returned the Saturnian. “I have my ray-gun with me, and am authorised to use it at my own discretion.”

Sszmulszder took the left corridor, whilst Kit-10 and I proceeded along the one to the right.

“Keep your sensors open, Kit-10,” I counselled. “We need to know right away if there is anything else lurking in these passages.” …

Agent Sszmulszder walked cautiously down the corridor, his ray-gun already drawn. He started slightly when he noticed something in the passageway ahead of him, but then his mouth came open in surprise when he saw what it was.

It was a ravishingly-beautiful adolescent girl of the Saturnian race, blue skinned and with bright orange hair. Her eyes had that dazzling golden hue found in the young of the ringed planet’s people. She was completely nude, and her slender figure moved enticingly to-wards the SBI agent.

Sszmulszder put his gun in its holster and reached out to the girl, pulling her to-wards him with a look of extreme, uncontrollable lust on his face. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and lifted one of her long, shapely legs around his hip and lower back.

Their forms pressed hard against each other, the Saturnian man then began to kiss the girl deeply and passionately on her mouth. …

Kit-10 and I had proceeded about an hundred metres down the eldritch passageway when the robotic cat suddenly spoke a word of alarm.

“Danger, s--,” she said. “Sensors detect another presence.”

“What is it, Kit-10?” I queried.

“Am detecting something roughly of human height, but of insect biology.”

“A Martian!” I exclaimed. “Where is it?”

“In the passageway to our left,” answered Kit-10.

“The one Agent Sszmulszder is exploring alone! We must hurry to him!”

I ran back up the passage, with the mechanical feline close behind me. We then turned down the other way and rushed to help the Saturnian. When I caught sight of him, what I beheld filled me with horror and disgust. It was a scene of utter grotesquery, a thing beyond the pale of anything that could be termed sanity.

I beheld Agent Sszmulszder in the six-legged embrace of an insectoid Martian!!

I took the transonic turnscrew from my pocket and aimed it to-wards the Martian, having set my device to scramble the brainwaves of an insect. The thing immediately released Sszmulszder and fell backwards upon the floor of the passageway.

“Kit-10!” I called out. “Blast that thing!”

A beam of sharply-focused light immediately shot forth from the nose of the little robotic puss, causing the Martian to burst open and viscid insect vital fluids to spew forth from it. The horrid thing shrilly buzzed and convulsively wriggled its legs before finally expiring.

“Sszmulszder!” I said. “Agent Sszmulszder, old chap! Are you all right?”

“By the Rings!” swore the Saturnian. “I… I could not resist. That thing… It… It made itself look just like my daughter… ! Oh, by the Rings, Doctor! I have felt lustful desires for my own child! I could not control myself… I wanted her so much! I just… Doctor, please tell me… What… What have I done?!”

“Snap out of it, Agent Sszmulszder,” I insisted. “Get a hold of yourself. Martian pheromones are incredibly strong, and they have long used them, in a technologically-enhanced form, as tools of war. You have absolutely no responsibility for your actions whilst under their influence. Make yourself forget it, but be on guard against any further attempts as we continue our mission.”

“Of course, Doctor,” agreed the stalwart Saturnian as he forced himself to regain his composure. “Let us go on.”

We continued to explore the corridors together, but there were no further incidents. They seemed especially deserted, completely abandoned, and well-nigh phantasmagorical in their profound and eerie silence.

“Am now again detecting something, s--,” suddenly proclaimed Kit-10.

“Not more Martians?” I enquired.

“Negative,” replied the robot. “My sensors are detecting the signatures of several molecular transmission devices that were activated in this area just minutes ago.”

“Doctor!” exclaimed Sszmulszder in terrible realisation. “If these invaders have that kind of technology with them, they could enter any area of the palace -- even…”

“Princess Freya’s council chamber!” I realised. “We need to hurry!”

Sszmulszder and I ran at full speed back up the corridors and ramps of the Imperial Palace, with Kit-10 close behind us. I knew that we had no time to lose. If these horrible insect Martians had indeed made their way to the princess herself, I knew that they would not hesitate to take any action that would serve their goals. Holding her hostage, torturing her, assassinating her openly -- they would do whatever they felt was necessary to ensure their establishment of domination upon the planet Venus, and to further the purpose of turning the world’s mineral wealth over to their partners, that hideously immoral interstellar business consortium known as The Forty!

“Will the princess’s bodyguard be able to protect her?” wondered Sszmulszder as we hurried along.

“Unfortunately, I fear they will not,” I admitted. “You have seen what these Martian horrors can do. The men of the Imperial Bodyguard will likely be helpless in their hideous alien snares.”

To my supreme horror, I was soon to discover that it was truly as I had feared. The rebel Martian faction had indeed made its way to the council chamber, and the horrid insectoid invaders would in very sooth not halt at the idea of threatening the beautiful Princess Freya herself.

We rushed into the council chamber just in time to hear the princess scream in horror at what was occurring. There were three Martians there, and they had surrounded her on all sides. One of them had wrapped two of its appendages around her and was using a third to hold a ray-gun to her head. The other two aimed their guns at Sszmulszder and me as we entered the room.

All of the members of the royal bodyguard were now unconscious, overcome by the Martian pheromones and moaning softly to strange, grotesquely ecstatic dreams as they lay on the floor of the chamber.

“You will surrender now, Doctor Rumanos of Algol and Agent Sszmulszder of Saturn,” buzzed the horrid Martian insect that was threatening the helpless little lady. “You will surrender to the glory of Mars, and be sure that all our demands are immediately obeyed, or the Princess Freya will die!”

Do you perceive the horror, the supreme unholy terror of this situation, my dear friends? The rebel Martians were holding that beautiful young princess hostage, threatening to assassinate her if their demands -- which included my own surrender -- were not immediately met!

“Did you hear me?” repeated the insect invader. “You will surrender to us immediately, and you will now kneel before us and accept the rightful rule of Mars, or we will not hesitate to kill the princess!”

“Let the young lady go, Martian,” I replied. “I know that those guns and matter transmit devices you are using are not standard Martian issue. They do not originate even in this solar system, and have been given to you by others. You are working for The Forty. You have betrayed the government of your own planet and have no backing other than that business conglomeration. The Forty do not share your archaic warrior’s sense of supposed honour. They only wish to strip Venus of its resources and leave its people impoverished and despondent. They will leave you nothing to rule here.”

I could tell that the Martians were someone concerned at this, but none the less, they kept their places.

“We work only for the glory of Mars,” retorted the insectoid alien holding the girl. “We will use this planet as a base from which we will work to return our own world to its original splendour. We will raise up the elder military institutions of Mars, and shall then go forth to conquer the Solar System and beyond! Now, obey our commands and surrender to us, or I will kill this female immediately!”

Whilst the Martian insect had been talking, I made an almost-imperceptible gesture with my left hand at Kit-10.  The robotic feline had moved ever-so-slightly, placing her position to directly face the Martian that was so heinously threatening the helpless young Princess Freya.

“Now, Kit-10!” I shouted.

The laser-beam fired from Kit-10’s metal nose and hit the gun that the Martian was holding to the head of the princess, causing it to fly out of its grip and go clattering across the floor of the chamber, damaged beyond repair. The insect immediately let out a loud droning buzz of offended outrage.

I already had the transonic turnscrew concealed in my right hand, and now activated it to scramble the senses of the Martian insects. The one aiming at me got off one shot before dropping its ray-gun, but its sights were off. The potentially lethal energy ray left a groove of torn floor tiling immediately beside me.

The Martian that had been holding the princess now stepped away from her, writhing in disconcerted pain from my sonic bug-zapper. By now, Agent Sszmulszder had drawn his own gun, and easily blasted the three alien insects. The Martian horrors then expired, dying in twitching arthropod agony upon the floor of the council chamber.

“Good work, Sszmulszder!” I cheered. “Excellent shooting by you as well, Kit-10! You are a true marksperson, and a good kitty-cat.”

“This unit is not a cat, s--,” rejoined the robot.

With the death of the Martian horrors, the guardsmen immediately recovered consciousness and returned to their duty. The princess quickly recovered from her fear, as befits one of noble lineage.

I heard the alert sound of an incoming signal. Agent Sszmulszder was receiving a message on his subspace communicator.

“The reinforcements from the League of Planets have arrived,” he announced. “Combined ships from loyal Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune have found and captured a rebel Martian fleet hiding in orbit around Venus. The remainder of the rebel Martians are now in custody, and their ships have been disarmed of the thermonuclear weapons they had aimed to-wards the planet.”

“The Kosmikos of Algol will be interested in investigating the involvement of The Forty in this,” I added. “We will definitely be keeping a watchful eye upon them, and promise they will be held responsible for this outrage, as well as any further nefarious deeds they may be planning.” …

“Our planet has been saved from a terrible threat,” said the lovely Princess Freya at a special ceremony that was held shortly thereafter, as she stood before us in her full royal splendour holding an ancient sword, “and there is only one way we have to show our thanks to you. It is with a designation that has never before been granted to any non-Venusian. I delight to say that I, as Princess of the Planetary Empire and by the symbolic power of this weapon by which my earliest imperial ancestor won the ruler-ship of our beloved world, do name you both as Holy Knights of the Realm.”

Agent Sszmulszder and I both bowed at this profound honour as the assembled crowd of Venusian people, along with delegates from the League of Planets, cheered and applauded.

“As for you, Kit-10,” continued the princess, “I can only offer you our most sincere thanks. I regret to say that the customs of Venus are quite old and perhaps rather prejudiced. Unfortunately, we have no traditional ennobling ceremonies for computers or for pets. What was that the Doctor, Sir Daniel, called you? A ‘cat’?””

“Negative,” said the robot. “This unit is not a…”

I hastily interrupted Kit-10 by delivering a slight kick to her side.

“What Kit-10 wishes to say, ma’am,” I told the most noble lady, “is that she is honoured to receive anything that the Imperial House of Venus deigns to give to her.”

With this, the beautiful Princess Freya of Venus smiled and laughed joyfully at the antics of my little mechanical feline.

***** DANIEL RUMANOS (AND MILLIE DRAKE) SHALL RETURN IN “MARK OF THE NEMESISTER”