Terror at the magic show! The audience had already fled -- fled in abject fear of what they were witnessing on that eventful evening. However, if truth be told, they most likely later rationalised it as “just part of the act”!
It was all happening at a venue known as “Illusions Magic Bar”, located in the Federal Hill neighbourhood of Baltimore City in the State of Maryland. The establishment’s proprietor, an individual named Spencer Horsman, stood before me with a strange grey glow surrounding his person like an eldritch halo.
“You will not succeed, Algolite,” proclaimed the alien consciousness that had possessed Horsman. “The Ennolis will take over the people of this world as our new hosts, despite any effort to protect them!”
Spencer Horsman, a man in his mid-thirties dressed in a cheap knock-off make of tuxedo, was short and thin with a pale complexion and hair dyed bright red. He saw himself as a stage magician and illusionist, and used the tavern that he had inherited from his late father as a showcase for his hackneyed act. He had never known much else in life, and it is likely this inexperience that had made him such an easy target for the alien invaders known as the Ennolis.
You see, the Ennolis are a race of beings from the Ken-Zo Nebula. After a long war had devastated their planet, they had set forth into Space to find a new home. Unfortunately, the biological weapons to which they had been exposed during the conflict had left them without faces or other identifying characteristics. In response to this, their scientists had developed a method by which the Ennolis could take over the bodies of other humanoid beings, and it is with this in mind that they had targeted Earth. The Ennoli possessing Spencer Horsman and another of their species were the first to test this possibility, with the remainder of their race -- all four billions of them -- waiting in their orbiting spaceship for the signal to invade Earth en masse.
“Surrender, Ennoli,” I warned, clad in my usual finery (including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, and panama hat). “Leave these human beings alone and I promise that I shall assist you in saving your people.”
“No!” shouted the possessed Spencer Horsman. “We need no help from you! We are the Ennolis, and we have proven our worth by surviving the war upon our home planet! We will take over this species and make their bodies into ours!”
With this, the Ennoli sent forth a wave of energy -- forsooth, the bizarre grey glow that was a result of their weird biological science -- straight to-wards me. It hit me hard, and I felt myself being forced backwards against the brick wall of the building’s interior. …
Elsewhere in the tavern, Miss Millie Drake was in a similar predicament to mine. Millie -- a beautiful young girl with sun-kissed skin, luxurious chestnut hair, and enchanting violet eyes -- was wearing a short, tight, electric blue dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender, perfectly-petite figure. Facing Millie was a woman known as Caroline Gayle, a former street prostitute and current fiancée of the aforementioned Mr. Spencer Horsman. Bleached-blonde and chubby, Gayle was still clad in the sequined gown that she wore as the magician’s stage assistant. The grey glow surrounding her showed that it was she that had become the host of the other Ennoli.
“You will die, girlie!” screeched the alien-possessed Caroline Gayle at Millie Drake. “You will die for your interference with our conquest of this planet!”
As the Ennoli prepared to shoot its wave of energy, Millie stood still facing her.
“Kit-10,” stated the young girl, “now!”
Beside Millie Drake was what looked like nothing more or less than a small mechanical cat. At the girl’s call, the robot shot a beam of sharply-focused light directly at the Ennoli-possessed woman.
When the beam from Kit-10’s nose-laser made contact, Gayle jumped in pain and shock, her energies diverted for the moment.
“Good shooting, Kit-10!” exclaimed Millie Drake.
“Thank you, m--,” replied the robotic feline with a pleasantly-feminine voice.
(One of Kit-10’s catlike qualities is her total disability to openly show respect to anyone. The closest she ever comes to it is in referring to me by a slight “s--” sound, for “sir”, and to Millie by “m--”, for “ma’am”.)
“You will pay for that, you Algolitish child!” then stated Caroline Gayle the Ennoli as her grey energies began to again strengthen. “For that, you will be made to feel pain!” …
I fought against the wave of energy from Spencer Horsman enough to reach into the pocket of my jacket and retrieve the transonic turnscrew, an highly-advanced technological device resembling a writing pen. I pointed the instrument directly at him and activated it to a pre-programmed setting.
The Ennoli-possessed Horsman screamed in pain and outrage before his grey energy faded forever. Now spent of its alien power, the dead body of what had once been Spencer Horsman, Baltimore-based magician and tavern-owner, fell to the floor.
I ran over to where Millie Drake and Kit-10 were, and quickly performed the same manoeuvre on Caroline Gayle, silencing the other Ennoli forever.
“Come along, Mills, Kit-10,” said I, quickly taking the girl’s hand. “We have to disable the Ennolis computer bank before they can send further invaders to Earth!”
We hurried into the backroom of the tavern, in which the alien computer system had been set up. Indeed, it was our own instruments having detected the presence of this that had alerted us to the Ennolis presence on Earth to begin with.
I aimed the transonic at the strange wall of flashing alien machinery. There was a spark of fire from the Ennolis computer bank, after which it went dark.
“That will do it, love,” I assured the girl. “I have switched the polarisation of the neutronic stream, which will send the Ennolis spaceship into deep Space, between galaxies. They will not be able to reach any other planets -- or attempt to take over other species -- before their own kind has died out completely.”
“Wow!” exclaimed Millie with a smile. “That is awesome!”
“Indeed,” I mused. “I believe that it is known as ‘social distancing’.” …
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, preferring to live in elitist seclusion from the rest of the Universe and thus 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 Magister Don Wingus and his occult terrorist organisation, Spectral Paranormal; as well as alien invasions, mad scientists, and indeed all manner of menace. Assisted by my friends -- the beautiful Miss Millie Drake and our catlike robot, Kit-10 -- 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!!! …
Admiral Nicholas Murray (Royal Navy, retired) looked intently at us from across his desk. Heavy, grey-haired, and dressed in a conservative dark-blue business suit, he obviously had something of great import to relate. This was no surprise, considering the haste with which Millie and I had been summoned to the London office of MI9 -- that particular branch of the British Secret Service that deals with things occult and extraterrestrial.
We had been brought on a private overnight flight from Baltimore to London and barely given enough time to drop off our luggage at the St. James Hotel before the limousine ride to the building housing the MI9 headquarters, of which Admiral Murray was chief.
After our security clearances had been verified, we had been quickly ushered into the old man’s private office, with the short-skirted pink dress that Millie had worn for the occasion only receiving the requisite quick scowl of disapproval from the prim middle-aged receptionist.
“Thank you for coming on such quick notice, Dr. Rumanos, Miss Drake,” said the admiral. “I assure you we would not have interrupted your lives with anything that was not of the highest importance.”
“I am certain of that, Admiral,” I assured him, sitting in the comfortable leathern chair to which I had been waved. “MI9 has always had my highest respect.”
“Did you say that Buckingham Palace personally asked that we be informed of this case?” enquired Millie, who was seated beside me.
“Indeed, Miss Drake,” affirmed Murray. “The royal family is quite concerned about what has occurred.”
“Please fill us in, sir,” I requested. “We promise to help however possible.”
“Dr. Rumanos, it pains me to say it. It is an unprecedented crime in the history of the United Kingdom. The Coronation Stone has been stolen!”
“By the Triple Star!” I swore. “The actual Coronation Stone, also known as the Stone of Scone and the Stone of Destiny?”
“Yes, Doctor,” replied the old man. “It is usually only moved when a new monarch is crowned, and is otherwise kept under heavy security at Edinburgh Castle.”
“Wow!” exclaimed Millie. “So it is used in the coronation of kings and queens?”
“It was used for centuries in the crowing ceremonies of the kings of Scotland, Miss Drake,” explained Murray. “It has been used to crown the monarchs of Britain ever since the kingdoms were united.”
“It is even said to be much older than that,” I added. “According to legend, it is the very stone that Jacob, the biblical Patriarch, used as a pillow the night that he had visions of God. Because of this, it is said to be charged with immense power. It was later brought to the British Isles by the Prophet Jeremiah, who fled the Babylonian Captivity along with the daughter of the last King of Judah. She then became the ancestor of the royal lines of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England.”
“It is the possible supernatural powers contained within the Stone that concerns the Palace, Doctor,” stated Admiral Murray. “The amount of mathematical knowledge and criminal expertise that would have been necessary to so steal the Stone from Edinburgh could have been used to easily rob any bank in the world, so the thief is not likely to just be interested in selling the piece on the underground antiquities market.”
“Quite right, Admiral,” I agreed. “Anyone who has gone to this trouble has a much larger goal. Indeed, if the legends of the Stone of Scone have any reality at all to them, the power it contains -- if it is properly released -- could be used to rule over worlds!”
“Do you know of any possible suspects, Doctor?” enquired Murray.
“Just offhand, I can think of eight different individuals who have the requisite knowledge, skill, and criminal history. However, none of them are known to be currently operating -- on this planet, at least.”
“Then who could have done it?” queried Millie Drake.
“Admiral, allow me to think this over tonight,” I requested. “I want to do some research, and we will definitely have some answers to the mystery by this time tomorrow.”
“Fair enough, Doctor, Miss Drake,” agreed the admiral. “Be assured the Crown will cover any necessary expenses. They see this as possibly the most vital moment in our nation’s history.”
Millie and I left the MI9 offices and returned to our hotel, quickly unpacking the small amount of belongings we had had time to get together before our hasty trip to Great Britain. Then, after an excellent fish and chips lunch at the St. James Restaurant, we settled down in the sitting room of our suite for the afternoon.
“It’s too bad Kit-10 couldn’t come with us, Daniel,” said Millie Drake as she sat beside me on the luxurious sofa. “She probably has something about the Coronation Stone in her computer files.”
Indeed, the robot had not been able to come along due to strict weight restrictions on the aeroplane.
“I am sure she does, Mills,” I concurred, “but our little robotic feline friend’s presence, although greatly missed, should not be necessary. I will be able to access some files via the transonic turnscrew that can…”
I was suddenly interrupted by a scream from Millie Drake. She had seen something approaching us, across the room from behind me. Something big. Something horrific.
I whirled around to face whatever it was just as two huge hairy hands -- or paws -- found their way around my throat. Whilst the very life began to be choked out of me, I beheld what my attacker was.
It was nearly seven feet in height and incredible muscular. It was covered with shaggy reddish-brown hair and had a face of grotesquely-ugly simian visage.
It was a gigantic orang-utan!
Just as the blackness of unconsciousness began to overcome me from the enormous creature’s grip, I heard a crashing sound from behind it. Mille Drake had hit the giant ape with a large table lamp. Unable to reach as high as its head, she had struck it in the centre of the shoulder area.
Now, this was not enough to seriously injure the monster, but it did cause it to relax its hold enough for me to take a breath and rally my strength.
I immediately gave the orang-utan several blows utilising my Daemonian kung-fu techniques. The horrid thing roared in pain and outrage and, after several seconds of reeling about, fell to the floor in unconsciousness.
“Oh my goodness, Daniel!” shouted Millie as she ran to me. “Are you okay?”
“I am now, love,” I assured her. “Thanks for the help!”
I knelt down to examine the giant ape, which was now lying so incongruously on the fine carpeting of the five-star hotel.
“It is an ordinary orang-utan,” I said, “albeit a particularly-large one -- and one well-trained!”
“Where could it have come from?” shuddered Millie.
“Well, Borneo originally, judging by the species,” I decided, “but more recently it was likely stolen from some zoo. It is no coincidence that it showed up here. I am certain of that. The person who raided Edinburgh Castle and took the Coronation Stone knows that we are on the case!”
“So how can we find them?” enquired the girl.
“I have an idea. This animal’s mind should be exceedingly easy to read with my Algolitish mentalist abilities. Let me see…”
I pressed two fingers of my right hand against the orang-utan’s head and concentrated. Almost at once, images appeared to my mind’s eye; images of a large, Gothic-style church building, and of a stone passageway leading down beneath it.
“Of course!” I exclaimed. “Westminster Abbey, and the crypts below it. That is where the Coronation Stone has been taken. They must be planning to use the sacred energies inherent in that old house of worship in order to enhance and activate the powers of the Stone! Millie, we have no time to lose! We need to… !”
My voice trailed off in shock as I stood up and looked around. There was no sign of the girl. I quickly checked the other rooms of the suite and called her name several times, but to no avail. To my horror, I realised the hideous fact that I must now face: Millie Drake was gone!
I locked the big ape in the closet, pushing the sofa up against it, and then made a quick telephone call for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to come and fetch the thing. I then left the hotel and hurried through the streets of London to-wards my next destination: Westminster Abbey!
It was obvious that Millie had been kidnapped. Someone had used my having been occupied with reading the orang-utan’s mind in order to quietly abduct her; obviously someone who was an expert in such abhorrent outrages; the one who had sent the huge ape in the first place -- and, forsooth, the one who had stolen the Coronation Stone and who now intended to utilise it in order to gain power on the level only intended for divinity!
A light rain was falling upon London as I arrived at Westminster Abbey and found my way to the little-used entrance into the crypts that I had seen in the orang-utan’s memories. I followed the passageways through the deep gloom of the extensive series of catacombs that lie beneath the old church building, lit only by my tiny electric torch.
In my other hand I held the transonic turnscrew, having dialled up the setting to detect any near by energy emissions of otherworldly origin. I soon got a reading and followed it to its source, knowing that this would lead me to the Coronation Stone -- and, I prayed, to young Millie Drake!
The next all happened very quickly. I turned into one of the crypts and realised that it was lighted by candles. Pocketing my torch, I explored the old burial chamber and suddenly came upon the sight of the girl tied to a pillar that supported the ceiling.
“Millie!” I exclaimed. “Thank God! Are you all right?”
“Oh, Daniel,” replied the girl, “I knew you would come. Yes, I’m okay. They didn’t hurt me, but they took me from our hotel before I could even scream. I couldn’t see who they were because they were wearing…”
I had run over to free the lass from her bonds but now stopped short when I realised that we were not alone in the crypt. Several figures were emerging from the surrounding darkness. They were shrouded from head to toe in black, hooded robes and soon surrounded us.
“Predictable as ever, Rumanos,” came a voice from behind me. It was a man’s voice, a voice of highly-cultured mockery that I knew only two well. “We have been expecting you.”
I whirled around and faced him. He was clad in a finely-tailored suit of ebon-black satin. His appearance was as of one of middle years, his visage still quite handsome despite carrying the marks of lifetimes of extreme profligate wickedness. His hair was long and dark, and a thin moustache and goatee decorated his face. Most of all, his pale eyes shone with a glow of absolute hypnotic evil.
It was Don Wingus!!
“You!” I exclaimed. “I should have known. So you did escape from Rannil.”
“Greetings, old friend,” mocked the villain. “Now, do not get any ideas of attempting to interfere with what is going to happen here. We have your little girlfriend all wrapped up, as you can see. Just imagine what some of my associates her would like to do to her if I will only give them leave.”
“Wingus, you ungodly fiend!” said I. “I swear you manage to sink deeper into madness and iniquity every time I encounter you. Do you actually intend to attempt what I think you are? To release the powers of the Coronation Stone?”
“Of course, Rumanos,” affirmed Don Wingus. “The energies inherent in this old piece of rock are immense and thus-far untapped. I shall use them as to obtain that which is rightfully mine -- I shall use the powers of the Coronation Stone to make myself supreme ruler of all existence!”
With a flourish, Wingus removed a black cloth that had been covering a near by sepulchre. This revealed the Stone of Scone itself, it being an oblong piece of red sandstone about the size of a writing table.
“You are completely and utterly insane!” I said. “Even we Watchers do not know the full extent of the Stone’s power. Its very origin is disputed. It may be a relic of some unknown alien technology, or it may be from outside this Universe entirely. In any event, there is no reason to think you will be able to control the energy once it is released.”
“I will control it, as I will control all!” insisted the intergalactic criminal. “I am Magister Don Wingus, and my will shall not be denied!”
“But how will you know the proper invocations?” I queried. “Any information on how the powers of the Stone were activated -- if indeed anyone ever did so! -- are long-lost.”
Wingus reached into his suit coat and pulled out a small yellowed parchment scroll whilst a smile of utter depravity spread across his face.
“One of my agents found this on the black market in Cairo,” he said. “It is in ancient Hebraic, and is evidently from the time of the Exodus, when the Israelites took the Stone of Jacob with them in their journey to the Promised Land.”
“Really, old chap,” I mused. “Even if there is any truth to that, do you not think that those neo-Nazi types you tend to socialize with might object to you using a Jewish ceremony, hmmm?”
“Now is the time for the ritual to begin, and you will have the honour of witnessing it!” gloated Wingus, ignoring my criticisms as he turned to his cultists and gave them an order: “Bind him!”
The black-robed henchmen then tied me to the pillar beside Millie. Whilst this was being done, Don Wingus briefly exited the room, returning having changed into the vestments of an High Priest of Ancient Israel -- the pure white robes, the lofty mitre, and the golden breastplate studded with the jewels of the Twelve Tribes.
“There, that is much more appropriate,” mocked Wingus. “What do you think of it, Rumanos?”
“On you, it looks absolutely blasphemous,” I replied.
“Thank you,” grinned the villain, then turning to-wards the Coronation Stone and commencing to read the archaic Hebrew incantation from the scroll, whilst copious amounts of burning incense filled the air with narcotic fumes, and the black-shrouded cult members looked on in adoration.
It was then that the light began to rise from the Coronation Stone -- a light of pure white brilliance beyond anything seen in this world, a light with which came a musical sound as of the chanting song of myriads of choirs -- a light that then began to fill the chamber and to flow through the form of the evil one known to eternal infamy as Magister Don Wingus!
“Yes, the power is mine!” exulted the villain. “The power of divinity! The power to rule over all Time and over all Space! Nothing is now beyond me! I shall be worshipped by all of Creation! I -- Don Wingus of Algol -- do now achieve the very Power of God!!”
Do you behold the horror, indeed the supreme demoniacal terror of this situation, my dear friends? Magister Don Wingus, that renegade Watcher of Algol who has become the most dangerous and abhorrent criminal the Universe has ever known, was activating the most ancient and divine powers of the Coronation Stone -- powers that he intended to use in order achieve his grotesquely obscene goal of becoming dictator of all the Cosmos!
The light from the Stone continued to fill the old catacomb, and Don Wingus laughed his evil laugh of obscenely criminal euphoria -- in very sooth, his grotesque ecstasy of triumph as he felt the divine powers flowing inside him. There was with this the sound of thunder. The drizzle outside had turned into a storm, a storm of majestic strength and import.
I concentrated deeply and remembered something -- something old; something important; something powerful.
“Millie, close your eyes,” I counselled, still tied to the pillar. “Whatever you hear, whatever happens, do not look until I tell you it is all right!”
“Yes, Daniel,” agreed the girl. “Whatever you say!”
I closed my eyes as well, but could still see the luminosity from the holy light. It was a scarce few seconds later that I heard the sounds that I had been expecting. They were groans and shouts of pain from the cultists, and convulsions of terror from them as the divine power swept through them, its deific virtue destroying those who had dedicated their lives entirely to sin and evil.
I even heard the wicked Don Wingus scream in total abject fear at what was occurring.
Within a minute, it was all over. The sounds of anguish ceased and I knew that the blasphemous cult was no more.
When the light faded, I opened my eyes and saw that the cultists had indeed vanished, robes and all, along with their wicked master, the godless madman known as Don Wingus. They had been swept away as if they had never even been there.
I had by now freed myself from my bonds, utilising my extensive escapology skills, and proceeded to untie Millie as well.
“You can open your eyes now, Mills,” I assured her. “All is well.”
Indeed, the sounds of the storm from outside had also ceased, and all was quiet except for the far-off sounds of the normal life of the great City of London.
“What happened?” asked the young girl.
“What happened is that I realised the meaning of the old proverb,” I explained. “The one that counsels to close one’s eyes to evil. What it really means is to just let go and let the power of God do its work, which is to wash away all sin and iniquity. That is what happened here -- apparently in quite a literal way!”
As I spoke, I picked up the old Judaic scroll from where it had fallen to the floor, and securely secreted the antique parchment in my pocket. It would later be deposited in my own private archives for safekeeping.
“I think I understand,” said the lass. “Don Wingus and his cult were evil, and the holy power could not possibly have been meant for them. Is that it, Daniel?”
“Quite so,” I agreed. “All we need now do is contact Admiral Murray, and let him know where to retrieve the Coronation Stone.”
“Good,” spoke Millie Drake with a lovely smile. “Then we can get back to the hotel in time for tea.”
“Indeed, my love,” I approved, “but I certainly do hope that the RSPCA has collected that orang-utan, or we will need to order service for three!”
***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “THE FORTY”