The last of the mourners left the remote cemetery at sunset, with the shadow of the near by mountain having already cast a deep gloom over the area. After the gravedigger had finished his work and patted down the earth, he too exited the burial ground. There were several minutes of silence, with the only sound being the occasional caws of crows.
Then two men emerged from hiding in one of the crypts. They were carrying shovels and both were dressed in simple work clothes. The first of them was an hunchback, shambling of gait and hideous of appearance. The other, obviously in command, was a tall, lean, intelligent-appearing man of perhaps slightly less than forty years.
“We need to hurry, Fritz,” he stated. “The moon will rise soon, and they may then be able to see us from the village.”
“Yes, Herr Jakobs,” answered the hunchback in his thick German accent.
The pair hastened to their task of exhuming the new grave. The coffin had been buried deep, and it was more than an hour later when they finally managed to lift it up to the side of the hole.
“This will be the last one we need, Fritz,” said Jakobs. “He was the local clergyman; one of considerable intellect if of decidedly unattractive countenance. His head should be of the correct size to house the brain.”
“Yes, mein herr,” agreed Fritz the hunchback.
“Just think of it,” continued Jakobs in a sort of grotesque reverie, as his hand idly caressed the newly-exhumed coffin. “All of our work will soon come to glorious fruition. The brain that waits in my laboratory -- the greatest brain in the history of all Creation -- will live and thrive again in the new body that I have pieced together for it with my own hands. What I have done is beyond science. It is beyond the superstitions of these peasants. What I have done is nothing less than a work of divine power. It is a working by which I shall prove myself equal to God!” …
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 from 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!!! …
The clouds were dark and lowering over the mountainous region when, on a patch of level ground an odd moaning gasping noise was heard. With this, there came into view an object resembling a Roman column but which is actually a DiTraS (pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere) -- one of those incredibly-advanced combination Spaceship/Time-machines the technology of which is only available to my people, the Watchers of Algol.
In the supposed column there then opened a sort of porthole, from which emerged three figures. The first of these was myself, dressed in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, panama hat, and one of my favourite opera capes.
With me was a beautiful young girl, petite and perfect with chestnut-coloured hair, enchanting violet eyes, luscious lips and sun kissed skin. She was clad in a short, tight, powder-blue dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender adolescent figure. Beside her was a small metallic shape that resembled nothing more or less than a robotic cat.
“Are you sure we got the right time and place?” queried the lass, gazing around at the rather eldritch atmosphere.
“Quite certain, Millie,” I assured her. “Geneva, Switzerland. June, 1816. Exactly as the invitation said.”
“But you said you’ve had that invitation for a long time.”
“Indeed I have,” I acquiesced, holding out the yellowed parchment to which Millie Drake referred. “Not that this matters so much, with our Time-travel capabilities, hmmm? It will be nice to see my old friend Lord Byron again, and I hear Percy Shelley is visiting with his young bride. She is about your age, and apparently quite accomplished. I am sure you will be good friends. It should be quite a party!”
“So, I’m your ‘plus one’, then?” giggled the girl. “But what about Kit-10? Won’t she look kind of strange to them?”
“Oh, not really,” I answered. “Automatons were quite the rage in some social circles during this century. Besides, Byron is himself quite an admirer of the little pussy cats, I assure you.”
“This unit is not a cat, s--,” protested the computer in her pleasantly-feminine voice. Despite her claims, Kit-10 does indeed have numerous catlike qualities, not the least of which being her total inability to openly show anything resembling respect. The closest she can come is referring to me by a slight “s--” sound (for “sir”) and Millie by “m--” (for “ma’am”).
“We seem to have landed outside of town,” I said. “Should not be too far of a walk, though.”
“It looks like rain,” said Millie.
“Yes, quite common to the region, even in this season. I say, look at that!”
I pointed to the height of the mountain reaching up beside us, at what resembled an old medieval-style castle or fortress, framed against the grey sky.
“Wow!” exclaimed Millie Drake. “It’s huge! I wonder who lives there.”
“Probably no one by this time, love,” I explained. “It is only a relic of the feudal era, when…”
I suddenly groaned and grabbed my head. A strange pain had shot through my mind. I looked and saw that Millie felt it as well.
“Daniel,” she said. “What was that?”
“Some kind of quick psychic link,” I explained. “As if we as Algolites recognised a similar presence near by.”
“It could be, but if so he must be strangely damaged. In any event, it seems to have emanated from that very castle!”
“We should go see what it is, right?” enquired the girl.
“Forsooth,” I agreed. “It is our duty as Watchers to do so. Kit-10, do you mind going ahead to Lord Byron’s house and letting him know Miss Drake and I will be there as soon as we can? You have the address.”
“Of course, s--,” said the robot, then gliding off across the ground away from us.
Miss Millie Drake and I then set off in the opposite direction, taking a circuitous ascent up the mountain -- little suspecting the extreme and bizarre horror that there awaited us. …
At that very moment in the castle, the surgeon known as Jakobs stood in a type of laboratory that was furnished with equipment appearing far above the technology of the early Nineteenth Century. He was now clad in a white lab coat.
“An electrical storm is rising,” he said, examining some scanner. “It should be magnificent, and perfect for energising the body I have created to house your brain.”
“I sense something, Jakobs,” said another voice, a deeply-masculine one that seemed to be emanating from a disembodied source across the room. “Are you certain we are alone?”
“Of course we are,” answered Jakobs. “No one else is here except my servant, Fritz -- and I assure you he is of no mental capability whatsoever.”
“Then what is the source of the disturbance I am feeling?” queried the voice.
“It is likely just a side-effect of your long residence outside of an organic body. That will soon be rectified.”
“Do not fail me, Jakobs. I brought you back to this time for safety to continue your experiments -- the same experiments that got you expelled from the scientific community of Twenty-Second Century Earth. I saw in you the singular ability to work with me.”
“Yes, and I have been loyal to you,” Jakobs retorted, walking across the room. “When the Absolute Convention of Daemonia condemned you, was it not I who managed to save your brain? Have I not looked after you, setting up the apparatus that allows you to communicate?”
“Do not get above yourself, Jakobs. I am still your superior, even in this wretched state. Do your job well, and you will sit beside me when I take revenge on the Watchers and return to my rightful place as undisputed Universal Overseer. Then I will create and command new armies of my people, who shall grind the very Cosmos under our heels!”
“Yes, of course,” said Jakobs as he gazed to-wards the brain that grotesquely floated in a tank of chemicals, with sensors attached to a speaker that allowed it to speak. “We shall achieve the operation tonight, and you, Sartorius, shall once again rule the Watchers of Algol!” …
By the time Millie and I reached the top of the mountain, the rain was pouring down in sheets, and lightning was flashing in frequent intervals across the sky. I had removed my cape and draped it over the girl, its wide collar turned up to cover her head.
We got to the huge castle door and I utilised the iron doorknocker.
“What if there isn’t anybody home?” asked Millie.
“There must be,” I answered. “Remember the strange mentalist emanation we both experienced? There is someone here; indeed, someone of immense power!”
As if in humorous response to this, the door opened slightly and the figure of an obvious idiot looked out of it. It was an ugly hunchbacked man, clad in rough work clothes.
“Go away,” said the hunchback. “We’re busy here.”
With this, he slammed the door in our faces. I once again took the doorknocker and used it until he again opened the door.
“I told you to go away!” he insisted.
“Now listen, my good man,” I said. “I happen to have a young lady with me and you cannot leave us out in the elements, hmmm?”
The hunchback looked at Millie Drake, who had moved the collar back some so her face could be seen. His own expression softened some at the sight of the lovely girl.
“All right, all right,” he said. “You can come in, but if Mein Herr Jakobs gets angry it is not my fault!”
We entered the castle’s antechamber, which was lit by torches arranged at regular places along the walls. Millie handed me back my cloak and I put it on after shaking off some of the wet. The hunchback motioned for us to follow and led us up an huge staircase and down a corridor.
“We have visitors, Herr Jakobs,” the hunchback announced us as we went into a strange chamber indeed.
“Fritz, you fool!” exclaimed the man in the white lab-coat. “We can have no interruptions! We need to…”
Jakobs stopped speaking when he saw us, his mouth snapping shut in sudden surprise.
I looked around the large chamber. It was furnished like a scientific laboratory, its equipment far ahead of the period. On a table was what looked like a large cadaver covered by a sheet. At the far end of the room was a sort of glass tank, now empty save for the dregs of some chemicals.
“Our apologies for the interruption,” said I. “We are travellers and got caught out in the storm. My name is Doctor Rumanos and this is Miss Drake.”
“‘Doctor’?” repeated Jakobs. “Did you say ‘Doctor’? So you are a scientist?”
“Well, yes, after a fashion,” I acquiesced. “Though my companion here is a much higher form of life that is known as a ‘starlet’.”
“Fascinating,” replied Jakobs, coming over to shake my hand. “I knew at first sight of you both that I was addressing people of quality.”
“Well, thank you,” said Millie as Jakobs briefly took her hand as well.
“It will be nice to speak to someone of learning for a change,” he went on. “Not like that pathetic superstitious rabble from the village, or that ridiculous ‘artistic’ crowd over from England. You see, I am engaged in some important experimentation here. In fact, we were about to run a most crucial part of it just now. You are welcome to witness it if you wish, Doctor.”
“I would be honoured, Jakobs,” I told him. “The apparatus over the slab. It is for converting electrical power into biological impulses, hmmm?”
“You recognise it?” questioned Jakobs in wonder.
“Well, I have seen something similar before,” I admitted
“Incredible! I didn’t know anyone in this time had any inkling even of the theory, much less the practice.”
“Well, as I said, we are travellers.”
“Mein herr,” interrupted Fritz, “the storm is reaching its peak! You said to let you know!”
“Please, my friends,” said Jakobs, indicating some near by chairs. “Have a seat and observe.”
Millie Drake and I sat down and looked on as Jakobs and the hunchbacked Fritz got about their work. The table on which resided the body was raised up several metres and, as the storm reached its crescendo, volts of electricity surged through the machinery into it. After a minute or so of this, Jakobs threw a lever that shut off the conductors and caused the table to slowly descend.
Then Jakobs ran over to the subject upon the slab. The sheet had already been thrown off, revealing the thing to be swathed in bandages. As the scientist looked on, one hand of the body began to move, slowly at first, but definitely raising itself upwards of its own volition.
“He lives!” shouted Jakobs in exaltation. “He lives! I have done it! I have brought him back from oblivion! The greatest brain in all the Universe lives in the body I have created! He lives! Sartorius lives!”
“What!” I exclaimed, jumping up in sudden shock and realisation. “Sartorius?!”
“Sartorius?” repeated Millie Drake, standing up beside me. “I remember hearing that name at Daemonia Academy! Isn’t that… ?”
“Yes,” I said. “A renegade Watcher from more than an hundred generations before our time! After usurping the office of Universal Overseer, he led an army of militant extremists in an attempt to conquer all of Space and Time! Only the collective force of the Absolute Convention of Algol was able to apprehend him, and he was sentenced to the ultimate punishment -- total obliteration, with the remnants of both his physical and mental essence scattered to the farthest reaches of the Cosmos!”
“But Jakobs said his brain,” added Millie. “His brain must have survived and…”
The girl’s words were the cut off as she emitted a gurgled scream. I turned quickly to see what had happened to her. Enamoured at the sight of the beautiful girl, Fritz the hunchback had left the centre of the laboratory, his movements unnoticed in the excitement of the experiment. He had circled around and crept up behind Millie, then grabbing the unsuspecting girl and throwing her over his shoulder in an attempt at abduction!
I glanced back quickly before following them. The newly-awakened Sartorius creature was beginning to stand up from his table as Jakobs assisted in removing his bandages.
Turning again, I ran to give chase to the hunchback and to save Millie. Fritz had already carried the lass up another flight of huge stone stairs, and I hurried up them in pursuit. …
Back in the laboratory, Jakobs removed the bandages from the creature’s head, revealing the horrid face of the dead man who had been used for this purpose. The skin was grey and sunken, the texture of a corpse, but the eyes well-nigh shone with a look of dangerously-evil intellect. Across the forehead was a series of stitches where the brain had been inserted.
“Can you hear me, Sartorius?” queried the scientist. “Can you speak?”
“I hear you, Jakobs,” said the thing, his voice raspy but beginning to clear and to take on a definite tone of command. “There is another here. I sense his mind. No! Two of them, but one is only a child…”
“They are just visitors, Sartorius,” assured Jakobs. “The man is a scientist, but they are no threat. We can…”
“No, Jakobs!” roared the monster known as Sartorius. “They are Algolites! I feel their minds! They may be agents of the Convention of the Watchers, sent to destroy me! They must die, Jakobs! Do you understand?! They must die!!” …
I caught up with Fritz at the top of the staircase, leading as it did to a turret at the very height of the castle. The hunchback looked back at me, still carrying the girl, who had fainted from horror, across his twisted shoulder.
“No!” shouted Fritz to me. “You can’t have her back! I want her!”
With this, the deformed Fritz dropped the girl on the floor and turned to face me. We ran at each other and clashed.
Fritz was strong, but it was the strength of a desperate cripple. I soon overpowered him, and was about to give a blow to his skull which I knew would result in safely knocking him out when he suddenly jumped free of my grasp and, with a final show of defiance, leapt up atop the low stone parapet that surrounded the turret.
The hunchback then attempted a kick to my face. I dodged him, this action causing him to lose his balance. I heard him shriek in terror as he fell to his death, likely dashed against the rocks far below the castle.
"Looks like I gave old Fritz a sound thrashing," said I.
I turned to examine Millie. She was unharmed, but still in a swoon of fear. I picked her up gently in my arms and carried her back down the stairs. I did not like the thought of bringing her again to the horrors of that laboratory, but it was nevertheless far too dangerous to leave her there alone in the lofty upper tower.
I laid the still only semiconscious girl across the chairs before turning to face the bizarre scene within the chamber.
The monstrous form that now housed the brain of Sartorius had been completely freed of his surgical bandages, and stood nude before me save for a brief leathern loincloth. His grey skin was marked all over with stitches where the parts had been sewn together from various corpses. In all, the creature was huge, nearly seven feet in height.
“Who are you, Algolite?” he bellowed to me. “If you come here to prevent my return, you will find your efforts to no avail.”
“I am Rumanos,” I answered, “an operative of the Kosmikos. It is long since your time, Sartorius. The Watchers do not practice any form of conquest or suppression of other life-forms. Such actions are repugnant to us.”
“Then the Watchers of Algol are more than ever in need of my leadership,” proclaimed Sartorius. “I shall return to Daemonia, and…”
“Sartorius,” interrupted Jakobs, who stood beside the monster, “I need to run tests to indicate if your brain is functioning properly in the new body. Until then, you should not interact with…”
“Quiet, Jakobs,” answered the thing, slapping the surgeon with one of its huge hands. “I have no further need of you!”
The blow sent Jakobs hurtling across the room to strike one of the stone walls, causing him to slip to the floor in unconsciousness.
“He is correct, Sartorius,” said I. “You are not what you once were.”
“You know nothing,” he retorted. “I am Sartorius, the greatest of all Algolites. Soon all the Universe shall kneel before me!”
“I think not. Sure, you have what seems like a new, tailor-made body, but it is actually just a bad conglomeration of spare parts, hmmm? Using it in an attempt to muscle in on governing others will not succeed, to put it kindly.”
“You are wrong! My mind, my will, my purpose is stronger than ever! I will build a new army, and we shall go forth in conquest of all planets across the Cosmos!”
“Rubbish, Sartorius,” I mocked. “Absolute rubbish. Why I wager you are not even up to an old fashioned game of mind-wrestling, hmmm?”
“What!” he roared. “You would pit your puny brain against mine? I am Sartorius! I have commanded legions!”
“Yes yes yes. I know, I know. Do you accept the challenge or not? We have the apparatus right here, hmmm?”
“Yes, you impudent upstart,” he replied. “I do accept. I will rip your mind to shreds!”
With this, we arranged the sensors from the futuristic electrical equipment so that their only input was the impulses of our two brains, attaching the wiring to our foreheads and standing to face each other in a challenge that I well knew only one of us could even possibly survive.
“Contact,” said Sartorius.
“Contact,” I agreed.
Pulses of energy began to surge down the wiring between our brains. An image formed in the air betwixt us. It was an image of the swirling grey mists and multicoloured spirals of the Space/Time Current. In the centre of this image then appeared a face. It was the face of the head in which currently resided the brain of Sartorius. Then this face faded, to be replaced by my face.
I concentrated as the bioelectrical impulses continued to rise in pitch and power. Sartorius stood immobile, staring directly at me as his mind struggled to hold mine in death-lock. My face faded from the floating image, to be replaced by, once again, the current form of Sartorius. Then this one transformed into the face of a noble Algolite of the elder type. It was a face that I knew to be that of the legendary Sartorius himself -- forsooth the original form of the insane intergalactic conqueror with whom I now grappled!
“You cannot win,” he stated. “I take you back, back, back to your beginning. You are inferior to me, as are all! I, Sartorius the Great, do conquer you as I do conquer all!”
With this proclamation from my foe, an huge surge of energy ran across the apparatus, and I gasped as I felt my senses leaving me. I was only just aware of my body beginning to slip to the floor in defeat…
Do you perceived the terror, the extreme abject horror of this situation? If I did not take immediate and extreme measures, I would soon find myself defeated by the insane intergalactic conqueror known as Sartorius -- who would then be free to go forth and enslave all of Creation!
In the last moment, before I would have found myself forever beaten, I sent a desperate burst of mental energy along the wiring. With this, the central image of the face of Sartorius faded, to be again replaced by my own face. Then the image of my face changed -- transformed into something else entirely; transformed into an image of a glorious being of bright-orange and blue power, of sparkling energy beyond the very forces of all that can be called life and death -- beyond all truth and falsehood, all good and evil, all reality and unreality.
“Who are you, Rumanos?” questioned my foe as his body began to shudder. “How old are you? How long have you lived?!”
Then Sartorius screamed in pain and ripped the sensors from his head. His huge form stumbled around until Jakobs, who had just recovered consciousness, approached him.
“Sartorius, listen!” said the scientist. “I am your creator! You should have listened to me, and…”
Sartorius, his mind broken, only bellowed in rage as he reached out his monstrous hands and seized Jakobs, breaking the man’s back with a quick jerk of grotesque strength.
I tore the sensors from my head and threw them to the side. The image had faded from the air, and I fell again to the floor in exhaustion, only barely able to see what was occurring there in that bizarre laboratory chamber.
The monster that was Sartorius, still holding the dead form of Jakobs, had stumbled against some of the machinery, causing it to spark and catch fire. The blaze soon reached his own body, quickly consuming him and the remains of his mad “creator”. From within the pain I was still experiencing from having stood against that hideous combatant, I beheld Sartorius die in a conflagration of flames.
“Daniel?” I then heard the sweet voice of Miss Millie Drake. “Daniel, are you all right?”
The lass had recovered from her faint and had come over to me. She took my hand and I rallied myself, shaking off the after-effects of my horrid grappling with the mad mind of Sartorius.
“Yes, I am all right, Mills,” I told her, standing up, “but we have to get out of here!”
Indeed the laboratory was now becoming consumed in flames; a fire that would in sooth wipe out all vestiges of the insane obscene evil that had happened there.
Millie and I hurried down the front staircase and out of the castle. The rain had subsided as we ran out into the night, pleased to put that horrid castle behind us.
“So what happened?” enquired the lovely lass. “I know you fought him, but it seemed so strange…”
“Sartorius is gone forever, love,” I assured her. “Along with the mad surgeon that brought him back.”
“That’s good,” said Millie as we stopped for a brief hug. “That was such a terrible place, Daniel. I’m just glad it’s over, and that you’re still with me.”
“I will be with you forever, my love. Worry not.”
“I could never live without you, Daniel. I love you so much!”
“I love you too, Mills,” said I. “Come along then, and we can hurry to join Kit-10 and the other guests at Lord Byron’s place -- and just think of the story we now have to tell them!”
***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “THE OMEGA MONSTER”