SUGAR AND SPICE

“So it really was a dinosaur?” enquired Millie Drake with a look of wonder on her lovely face. “Not a Titan or an alien monster, but an actual real living breathing dinosaur?”

“Yes indeed it was,” I assured her. “An allosaurus. The Reptilians were using it as a guard for their secret lair, from which they had intended to launch an invasion -- a total assault with its ultimate goal being to destroy the entire human race and to retake the planet Earth for their own!”

We were standing in the control room of the DiTraS (pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere), my Time and Space travel vehicle, the interior of which resembles an old coffee shop or tearoom. Dressed in my usual finery -- including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military-style boots, and one of my favourite opera capes -- I was regaling the girl with accounts of some of the adventures I had experiences before we met; whilst at the same time doing some minor repairs to the control panel.

“Of course, you defeated them,” said Millie with a sexy smile, “like you always do!”

“Indeed I did, my dear,” I returned. “Indeed I did. I managed to overload the advanced but rather antiquated equipment that the Lemurian Lizard-Men were using, and their entire operation went up in flames.”

“Oh my God,” exclaimed Millie, “that’s so hot!”

“Yes, I suppose it was,” said I. “Literally!”

With this, Millie Drake laughed at my joke. The girl was absolutely gorgeous, with sun-kissed skin, luscious pink lips, luxurious chestnut-coloured hair and enchanting violet eyes. She was dressed in a short, tight, electric-blue dress that highlighted her slender pubescent figure.

You see, Millie had only recently discovered that her heritage was Algolitish, as is mine, and had been spending some time studying at the Academy of the Watchers on our home planet of Daemonia, ninety-three light-years from Earth.

“Daniel, I’m so glad you showed up to take me on this trip in the DiTraS during my break from classes at Daemonia Academy,” she said. “It always makes me so happy to be with you.”

“I feel the same about you, love,” I replied, returning the transonic turnscrew (an highly-advanced technological device resembling a writing pen) to my pocket after having used it to affect the repairs. “In fact, I wanted to ask you something.”

“Yes?” spoke the lass expectantly. “What is it?”

“Well, Miss Millie Drake,” I went on, “I was wondering if you would…”

Just then, my words were interrupting by a sound; forsooth, a sound as like unto someone knocking upon a door.

“What is that?” queried the girl.

“It sounds like we have a delivery,” I replied.

“A delivery? How could that be? Aren’t we out in Space?”

“Indeed we are,” I pondered. “Ah, of course! I know what it is!”

I went over and opened the porthole-like doorway of my ship. From the eldritch blackness beyond there floated in a box-like object. I reached out and it settled in my hands as the opening closed behind it.

“So what is it, Daniel?” asked the lass.

“It is a box, Millie,” I informed her.

“I can see that,” giggled the girl. “But what’s in it?”

As if on cue, one side of the box opened and a piece of yellowed parchment floated out from it. I put the now-empty box down on the control console (which looks like the counter of the coffee shop) and unrolled the parchment.

“It is a mission from the Kosmikos of Algol!” I told her. “Ah, and it looks like I have to go somewhere and take care of it right away!”

After I had read the message, the parchment and the box floated away from me, hanging in the air for just an instant before -- with an odd popping noise -- they both vanished out of existence.

“Oh, Daniel,” cooed Millie, “can I go with you on the mission, please? Please?”

“Of course you can, love,” I acquiesced with a grin. “I promised the Academy I would not let you out of my sight, hmmm?”

“Awww, thank you so much!” she said. “So, where are we going?”

“Mills, my dear,” I said as I started to program the proper coordinates into the panel, “we are going to Saturn!” …

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 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 stellar swashbuckler.

I am -- THE DAEMON-STAR!!! …

On the command deck of the Saturnian cargo spaceship a strange gasping and moaning sound was heard as the DiTraS appeared, looking as it does exteriorly like an old Roman column. The porthole opened and Millie Drake and I stepped out.

We looked around at the small crew of blue-skinned Saturnian humanoids as they worked at the advanced controls of the ship. From the craft’s large front window could be seen the enormous ringed planet itself as the spaceship settled into orbit around it.

A tall, somewhat older Saturnian man walked over to greet us. He was clad in the green-and-red uniform and cap of an agent for his planet’s government, and had a ray-gun in his side-holster.

“Dr. Daniel Rumanos,” he said with a slight bow. “It is excellent that you could join us. I am Agent Sszmulszder of the Saturnian Bureau of Investigation.”

“Always glad to help out the SBI, Agent Sszmulszder,” I assured him. “This is my companion, Miss Drake.”

Millie and the agent briefly nodded in greeting to each other. I could see that the girl was in wonder at encountering people from Saturn for the first time, but she showed good decorum and respect.

“So, Agent Sszmulszder, please fill me in on what this is all about,” I said. “The message from the Kosmikos just informed me that you had requested our assistance concerning possible sabotage.”

“Admittedly, all the evidence is a bit vague,” the Saturnian informed me, “but it appears that there have been attempts to break into the cargo hold. During the last routine inspection, oddly-shaped holes were found in some of the crates. That is when the SBI was called in to investigate.”

“It seems a bit outside of your usual jurisdiction, hmmm?” I asked. “Is this not a civilian cargo ship with its own security staff?”

“It is,” returned Sszmulszder, “but some members of the crew, including all of their security guards, have fallen ill from some sort of sickness.”

“A sickness?” said I, a chilling feeling of familiarity beginning to creep up my spine. “What are the symptoms?”

“Unconsciousness and some discolouration of the skin, along with a certain wasting. Our physician said it was similar to what Earth medicos call ‘influenza’.”

“Interesting,” I pondered. “I would like to talk with your physician if possible.”

“Unfortunately,” informed the SBI agent, “he has apparently contracted the illness himself. All of those who are ill have now been removed from the ship to the nearest hospital.”

“So, since this is a cargo ship,” chimed in Millie Drake, “what’s the cargo?”

“Food preparation condiments imported from outside the Solar System,” answered Sszmulszder. “Sugar and spice.”

“Two of my favourite ingredients,” said I. “The crates that had been found with holes in them… did they all contain something in particular?”

“Yes, they were all from a shipment of vlooj.”

“Vlooj! Of course!” I exclaimed. “A rare spice only found on a few of the outer rim planets. It is usually just used to add taste to some types of meat preparation, but was found to have another use during the Replicant War!”

“Daniel, do you mean the Leknii Replicants are behind this?” enquired Millie concernedly.

“That would indeed seem to be the case, love,” I said.

“But Doctor,” said Agent Sszmulszder, “accounts from the Replicant War are so vague on the matter. What exactly was the use of vlooj?”

“It was found that the Leknii Replicants, that horrid race of cyborgs who only exist to convert all humanoid races to their own soulless kind, are severely allergic to vlooj. It clogs their respiratory systems and suffocates them within a few seconds.”

“But there have been no signs of Leknii ships near Saturn of late,” said the agent.

“There would not be,” I informed him. “Replicant energy-cloaking technology is far beyond anything currently in use in this solar system. They could be…”

Just then, the ship lurched and quaked, the deck rocking from side to side for a second before the artificial gravity system could catch up to it.

“What by the Rings is that?” swore Agent Sszmulszder.

“We are being hit by an energy weapon!” I said. “Look!”

I indicated the window of the ship. Outside it could now be seen an advanced silver rocket-ship, quickly approaching us through Space. As we watched, it fired another bolt of energy, rocking the cargo ship even worse than before.

“Daniel!” exclaimed Millie as she clung to me in fear. “Is that… ?!”

“Yes,” I said. “The Leknii Replicants.”

“This is only a cargo vessel,” said the SBI agent as the remaining members of the crew rushed to keep the ship on course. “It has only a few minor defensive capabilities. Its shielding cannot take much more pummelling.”

“Can you get your government to order a missile strike from the planet?” I offered.

“Yes, I can directly radio the Office of the Premier of the Saturnian Union, but it may take some time for approval.”

Another blast then hit the ship. Millie held onto me for support, and I had to put my arm around her to keep the petite lass from being bashed against the wall.

“Time is something we do not have, Agent Sszmulszder!” I insisted.

“Yes, I will get on it right away!” he replied, then hurrying over to the communications panel.

“Daniel, doesn’t this ship have any guns or anything?” queried Millie.

“Perhaps a small one,” I answered, “but nothing that would be useful against that Replicant rocket-ship. If the shields hold up until the Saturnian government bureaucracy can agree to launch an atomic missile from the planet, that should take care of them.”

“Couldn’t we put everyone on board the DiTraS and escape?” offered the girl.

“Peradventure,” I said, “but that would not alleviate the threat the Replicants are posing to Saturn. Besides, I doubt if we could get the good Agent Sszmulszder here to abandon his post.”

“Yes, he does seem really dedicated to his work.”

“There is something else about this that is bothering me as well.”

“What is it, Daniel? The illness?”

“Yes,” I said. “I have a bad feeling about exactly what is behind it.”

We were just then hit by another blast from the Leknii ship. An alarm started to go off.

“It is the shields,” I said. “They can only take a couple more blasts like that before being permanently compromised. Agent Sszmulszder, any progress on that missile launch?”

“I put through the information to the Premier’s Office, Doctor,” said the Saturnian, returning from the radio console. “Now we just have to wait for the chain of command to approve it.”

“Government blue tape,” said Millie. “I mean RED tape. Oh, I’m sorry… no offence!”

“None taken, Miss,” replied the blue-skinned alien.

Then an emotionless, electronically enhanced voice began broadcasting from the Replicant ship.

“We are the Leknii,” it intoned. “You and your world will be converted. You now only exist to service us. All forms of resistance are futile.”

We were all looking at the Replicant rocket-ship through the front window. As we watched, it blurred and seemed to disappear.

“What happened to them?” asked Millie. “Have they gone?”

“No,” I informed her. “They have just activated their cloaking device. Fortunately, they will not be able to fire upon us for as long as it is thus engaged.”

“But neither will our missile be able to find them,” added Sszmulszder.

“Indeed,” I agreed. “That is part of their ploy, but there must be something else; some additional plan they have. Perhaps they…”

Whilst discussing this with Agent Sszmulszder, we had turned away slightly from Millie Drake. Our discussion was now interrupted by the girl’s scream. We both whirled around and beheld an horror.

A small, oval-shaped object had scurried across the floor to-wards the girl. It was silver in colour and resembled nothing more than it did a robotic rodent. The thing suddenly jumped up at Millie, gliding through the air and then attaching itself to her throat!

I straightway took the transonic turnscrew from my pocket and aimed it at the thing that was attacking Millie. Upon my activating my device, the little monstrosity fell away from her and slid a few paces across the floor before it suddenly disintegrated, shattering into countless microscopic shards.

I ran over to Millie Drake and caught the poor girl in my arms just as she fainted away.

“Doctor, what was that thing?” enquired Agent Sszmulszder.

“A Repli-Rat,” I informed him. “They are service robots of the Leknii, and carry a form of poison that can be injected into the bloodstream of their targets. That would be the source of the illness that was plaguing this ship’s crew. It was also likely what had been attempting to break into the shipment of vlooj.”

By now, I had laid the unconscious Millie down on the floor of the ship, putting my cape over her for a blanket. I began to examine the unconscious lass.

Do you recognise the horror, in sooth the unnameable terror of this situation, readers? My beloved companion, the beautiful Miss Mille Drake, had been infected with an illness by the horrid rodent-like Leknii service robot!

“Her skin is beginning to discolour,” I said. “Grey blotches. She is breathing but her heartbeat is somewhat erratic. Agent Sszmulszder, please have someone bring me some of that vlooj, hmmm?”

“Right away, Doctor,” said the SBI agent, then communicating my request to a member of the crew.

“I should be able to devise an antidote,” I explained. “The poison carried by the Repli-Rats is based upon substances originally found on the Replicant home-world. If the vlooj is fatal to them, it should also have some negative effect upon the venom.”

A fair-sized crate was brought and opened for me. I took a bit of the multi-hued spice in my fingers and tasted it.

“Yes, this should work,” I said. “As she is an Algolite, it will work quickest if mixed with a bit of our own DNA.”

I put a larger sample of the vlooj in my mouth and held it there whilst I knelt down beside Millie Drake, then bending over to kiss her fully on her lips, passing the vlooj mixed with my own saliva into her mouth.

Agent Sszmulszder, who had until now been viewing the proceedings with much interest, looked away embarrassedly when he perceived what I was doing.

‘Mmmmm…” moaned Millie as consciousness returned to her. “Yes… Oh, yes.”

The grey discoloration disappeared from her skin and she then opened her wonderful violet eyes.

“Daniel…” she said as I began to help her back to her feet. “What… what happened?”

“You were attacked by a Leknii Repli-Rat,” I explained. “I managed to prepare an antidote to its poison, and you should be fine again now.”

“Doctor, will that also work on the Saturnians who have been infected?” enquired Sszmulszder.

“Absolutely,” I said whilst re-donning my cape. “Worry not, my good man. Your hospital medicos can just mix the vlooj with Saturnian plasma and then inject it directly into the patients’ bloodstreams. I only did it this way with Millie because she is an Algolite and we have a sort of… special connection.”

“So I perceived,” returned the agent. “Doctor, can you use that device of yours against the Replicants?”

“Not anymore,” I answered. “Since I used the transonic to destroy the Repli-Rat, it would have immediately transmitted the information to their entire Collective, causing an instantaneous upgrade against my device’s tech.”

“How did it cause that thing to completely disintegrate?”

“All Leknii mechanisms are programmed to do that whenever they are forcibly deactivated or otherwise compromised, or order to prevent anyone from cannibalising their technology.”

“Daniel, look!” exclaimed Millie, who was looking through the window. “They’re back!”

The Leknii rocket-ship had indeed reappeared and, as we watched, it fired another blast at the cargo ship, again rocking us from side to side.

“This ship cannot take much more of that, Doctor,” announced Sszmulszder. “We will be blasted to pieces.”

“I know,” I agreed. “Perhaps if I can use your transmission systems, I may be able to hack into their ship’s controlling computer. I probably cannot completely disable them, but it should slow them down if I…”

I then noticed something horrible. Something frightful indeed. Something that showed I was not going to have the time or opportunity necessary to implement the plan of which I had just been thinking. For at that moment a shimmering light appeared a few metres distant from us and the forms of two Leknii Replicants -- looking like very tall men made of metallic silver -- began to come into view.

“They are using a matter transmission device,” I explained. “The Replicants are boarding the cargo ship!”

As soon as they fully appeared, one of the Replicants raised its arm and fired an energy weapon charge from the gun built therein. It hit one of the crew members who then immediately crumpled to the floor in agonised death.

Whilst we reacted in horror at this, the Replicant then turned its weapon and set loose another blast of its energy directly at Millie and me!!

I grabbed the girl and we straightway ducked behind the crate of vlooj, just barely missing being hit by the Leknii’s energy burst, which left a scorch-mark upon the floor of the ship.

Agent Sszmulszder drew his ray-gun from its holster and fired on the Replicant. The cyborg shuddered and sparked, and then disintegrated into countless shards.

“He got it!” exclaimed Millie from our vantage point behind the crate.

“It will not work again,” I informed her. “They will upgrade against the gun immediately. Look!”

Sszmulszder now fired his weapon upon the other Replicant. It was not even fazed by the ray and started to raise its arm to fire back at him.

By now, I had reached into the crate and grabbed a handful of the vlooj. I then jumped out and threw the spice directly at the respiratory grating upon the Replicant’s chest. It shuddered horribly, then making a sound like a deep hacking cough before it shattered to metallic pieces.

“Yes! That is the answer!” I announced. “The Leknii are still highly allergic to the vlooj spice! It is directly toxic to their small organic component, so they will not be able to upgrade against it!”

The Saturnian agent had by now returned to the radio transmission panel and was desperately attempting to contact his government about the missile strike. I went back over to Millie.

“We should expect more visitors!” I told her as I filled both of my hands with vlooj.

Indeed, at that very moment two more Replicants materialised into view. I cast an handful of the spice at one of them and the thing shuddered and was destroyed. Millie then ran out from behind the crate and threw some vlooj at the other, having the same effect.

Just then, the ship quaked again as the Leknii rocket-ship resumed firing upon us.

“Our shields are now down!” shouted Agent Sszmulszder into the radio. “We cannot take another hit from them! We need that missile strike now!”

At the same moment, two more Replicants appeared before us. I tossed my other handful of vlooj at it and the cyborg shattered just as the girl and I again sheltered ourselves behind the crate.

“There may be thousands of them aboard that ship,” I said. “They know we will run out of vlooj before it can infect them all.”

“Don’t worry, Daniel,” said Millie as she touched my face with her hand. “There will be a way to defeat them. I know there will be -- because YOU are here! You… you inspire people!”

I gazed into Millie’s beautiful eyes and thought of this wonderful lass; forsooth, this fantastic and beautiful young Algolite girl whom I had come to so love and care for.

Just then, we all noticed a flash of light and turned to the ship’s front window. The enemy ship was breaking into pieces!

“The atomic missile from the planet has arrived!” proclaimed Sszmulszder. “A direct hit -- and not a moment too soon!”

The crew of the cargo ship cheered as the remaining Replicant then disintegrated, its connection to the Leknii Collective broken. …

A short time later, Millie Drake and I stood just outside of the DiTraS as we prepared to take our leave.

“The Saturnian Union owes you a debt of gratitude,” said Agent Sszmulszder. “We could not have defeated the Replicants without your assistance.”

“Your people are quite welcome, old chap,” I assured him. “The Kosmikos will be in touch with the SBI right away with the proper frequency codes for you to be able to detect any cloaked Leknii ships if they ever try again.”

“Very good. I have already sent the formula you gave us to the hospital, along with a supply of vlooj. They say the patients are recovering well.”

“Excellent to hear!” I approved. “Oh, and thanks for allowing me to take some of the vlooj as well.”

“Of course, Doctor,” said the SBI man, looking at the sealed plastic container of the spice that I was holding, “but why did you want it? Are expecting more trouble from the Leknii?”

“Not at all,” I replied with a smile. “Actually, I wanted to try it as a seasoning for hibachi grilled steak! Goodbye, Agent Sszmulszder.”

“Farewell, Doctor.”

“Bye,” said Millie.

“Farewell, Miss Drake,” said the Saturnian with a bow.

With this, the girl and I entered the DiTraS and an odd gasping and moaning sound was heard as our Space/Time ship faded from view. …

Inside the DiTraS control room, I programmed the console to take us away from Saturn into Deep Space.

“Well, Mills,” I said, “we still have some time before you have to return to the Academy. I am certain we can find a nice holiday spot for a little getaway, hmmm?”

“So, Daniel,” said the gorgeous girl with a playful smile, “didn’t you say before that there is something you wanted to ask me?”

“Indeed there is,” I said, taking her dear little hand in mine and kissing it softly. “Millie Drake, my love, I want to ask you if you would…”

Suddenly, a sound like an old church-bell began ringing out in the control room, and a light began flashing around the walls.

“What is that?!” asked Millie.

“It is the DiTraS alarm signal,” I informed her as I hurried back over to the control panel. “Our course through the Space/Time Current has been altered by an unknown outside influence! According to the readout, we are being…”

Millie screamed as the interior of the DiTraS began to shake violently from side to side, as if within a sudden storm of great turbulence.

“Hold on tight, love!” I warned the girl. “The DiTraS is being taken out of the Cosmos as we know it! We are being pulled into a completely different universe!”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “YOUNG BLOOD”