Along the eastern shore of the state of Maryland was a wonder to behold. The resort town of Ocean City has always had some nice scenery, but this was the most exquisite sight of all, I can absolutely assure you. For on the beach on that hot summer day was a beautiful young girl by the name of Millie Drake.
Petite and perfect, with luxurious chestnut-coloured hair, enchanting violet eyes, a sensuously-wide mouth, and sun-kissed skin, she was clad in an electric blue one-piece swimsuit that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender teenage figure.
The girl was strolling contentedly along the shoreline, enjoying the feel of the sea-spray upon her. We had found a comparatively secluded spot, somewhat away from the usual tourist areas along the famous Boardwalk and near a rocky outcropping that somewhat shielded it from the rest of the beach. As I watched Millie, who looked like a little surfer girl, I thought of how fortunate I had been to find her, back in the days when she was pursuing a career as an Hollywood starlet. I briefly thought back over the many adventures we had shared since then, and was glad that we had finally found a chance for this much-needed vacation getaway.
I stood near our beach-blankets and shade umbrella dressed in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, sunspecs, and panama hat. I had forgone my usual opera cape for the occasion.
It was then that my pleasant thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a familiar voice.
“Experiencing distress, s--,” called a pleasantly-feminine, if computerised tone. “Experiencing distress.”
It was Kit-10, our mobile personal computer that resembles nothing more or less than a small robotic cat. In fact, one of Kit-10’s many feline characteristics is that she finds it impossible to openly show respect to anyone. The closest she can come to it is by referring to me by a slight “s--” sound (for “sir”) and to Millie Drake by “m--” (for “ma’am”).
I hurried up the beach to find what was ailing the mechanical puss. In doing so, I had to go farther away from Millie’s location.
“I say, Kit-10,” I stated concernedly, “you are indeed experiencing some difficulty, hmmm?”
The robot cat had caught a rather large amount of ocean spray in her systems, and was at the moment standing immobilised perilously near the oncoming waves. I quickly snatched her up and took her back to the towels under the umbrella.
“I am terribly sorry about this, old friend,” I said. “The salt water just does not agree with your systems. I should have done a complete overhaul of your metal casing before we came here. Some of our recent conflicts have likely weakened your sealing mechanism, hmmm?”
I made certain the little robot was safe from any further water damage and patted her affectionately on her metallic head.
“All will be well, Kit-10,” I continued. “Just shut off your systems for now, and I promise to give you a complete cleaning and upgrade as soon as we get back to Baltimore.”
I then turned to go speak to Millie. I disliked ruining her holiday, knowing that she would be upset to hear that Kit-10 had been damaged. She is quite fond of our catlike computer. Nevertheless, I knew she would want to hear of it right away.
I suddenly realised that I did not see the girl now anywhere along the shoreline. I ran to where I had last observed her and looked as far as I could see in every direction.
“Millie?” I called, a note of worry entering my voice. “Millie?!”
There was absolutely no sign of her anywhere. The girl was gone! …
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!!! …
Searching for the missing Millie Drake, I began to investigate the near by rocky area along the beach. I found an opening in it that appeared to have perhaps been made by affect of the recent storms. Entering this cave-like orifice, I was surprised to not find it pitch-black after the bright sunshine. There seemed to be a strange glow coming from farther down the tunnel in which I had found myself.
“By Daemonia,” I swore, “that appears to be electric lighting.”
I took the transonic turnscrew, an highly-advanced scientific instrument somewhat resembling a writing pen, from my pocket and activated it to scan for technology. It affirmed that there was indeed an energy wave coming from the direction of the light. Incredibly, it seemed to match the reading that would have come from a modern human city!
I continued down the tunnel until it debouched into a lofty cavern and marvelled at what I beheld. It was indeed a city, its architecture resembling a curious combination of ancient Greek and Mesoamerican styles, with numerous columned buildings surrounding two huge pyramidal structures.
It was then I suddenly realised that I was not alone.
They approached me from all sides, at least a dozen dark-skinned human warriors with long black hair and somewhat Asiatic features, clad in clothing designed to mimic fishlike scales. They were carrying a type of spear, but I knew from its appearance that this was in sooth a weapon containing a potentially-deadly electric charge in its head.
“I come in peace,” proclaimed I. “I am only searching for my friend; a young girl who is missing. She is…”
“You are a trespasser in the precincts of the City of Aztlan,” announced the warrior who seemed to be the leader of the group. “You will be taken before the king.”
I did not attempt to resist. My goal was to find Millie Drake, not to fight with these men. They led me into the city and to one of the pyramids. We entered it and I found it to be the royal palace. Soon, they had taken me into the very throne room to face their supreme ruler.
The king was a larger man than his subjects were, but of the same swarthy race. In addition to being clad in a more-costly appearing version of the scaly fashion found upon his people, he wore a crown that seemed to be made of solid gold, constructed in the form of two long goat-like horns.
“O King Aztlan,” said the head warrior after the monarch had signalled that he was allowed to speak. “This stranger has been captured just outside the city. He is another from the surface.”
“Yes, so he appears,” replied the king, his voice low and obviously accustomed to command. “The second today, and only the third within memory, if we include our great medicine man, Zharov.”
“My name is Dr. Daniel Rumanos,” I interrupted. “You said there was another today. I am looking for a young girl named Millie Drake. If she is…”
“You will not speak before the king!” shouted the warrior, giving me an hard slap across the face.
“We have also captured the girl,” said King Aztlan bemusedly. “She will be added to my house of wives.”
“What!” I returned. “King or not, if you touch that lass, I shall… !”
“Quiet!” said the guard, threatening me with his spear.
“Take this stranger away,” ordered the king. “Escort him to the temple and offer him as a blood sacrifice to the sea-god!”
The warriors bowed in unison before the throne, and then dragged me from the chamber. I did not even consider what my own fate would be. All I could think of was the necessity of finding a way to escape from their custody and find Millie. I had to save her from the clutches of this savage king.
I was taken to the other pyramid, their temple to the horrid deity they worshipped with rites of blood and death. They brought me before an huge altar, over which loomed a gigantic statue, an idol carved from stone, representing their sea-god in the form of an hybrid creature, waist up like unto a goat, but its hind-parts like two long fishtails.
I was bound to the altar with stout ropes and watched as the high priest entered chanting his grotesque heathen prayers.
“Incredible,” I said as I struggled with my bonds. “Their liturgical language is basically the same Native dialect as the ancient Aztec.”
It was then that the high priest raised a stone knife aloft. I knew that his intention was to cut out my heart and to present it still beating as an offering to their horrible deity. I continued struggling to escape, but realised the time was short, and that I was surrounded by guards who would easily overpower me even if I managed to make the attempt. I realised that, even with the various self-defence techniques known to me, there were just too many of them.
Then, the high priest raised his voice in a bellow of absolute barbaric fury as he began to plunge the ceremonial knife down to my chest!!
“Stop!” interrupted a man’s voice that I recognised as European in tone. “Stop that this instant!”
The high priest quickly whirled around to-wards the person who had just entered the temple.
“Zharov!” exclaimed the priest. “This stranger has been ordered sacrificed by King Aztlan himself!”
“If you will ask the king,” rejoined the one called Zharov. “You will find that I have explained to him that this man should live. Now, release the stranger into my custody immediately.”
“Yes, Zharov,” replied the high priest, signalling to the guards to untie my bonds before striding hastily from the room.
“Bring him to my chambers,” said Zharov to the guards.
I was accordingly taken to a building near the palace pyramid, and ushered into a room resembling a laboratory. In it were all types of scientific instruments, and even some electronic equipment.
My host ordered the warriors to leave us alone. I looked at him closely. He was indeed a Caucasian gentleman, tall and ascetically thin, with a shock of grey hair and piercing blue eyes. He was dressed in a once-expensive leisure suit that obviously had seen better days. Amazingly, I found that I recognised him.
“Of course,” I exclaimed. “You are Dr. Stephen Zharov, the scientist who went missing whilst searching for possible ruins of Atlantis just off the coast. Well, thank you for helping out back there, hmmm?”
“Of course, Dr. Rumanos,” replied Zharov. “I’ve heard of your work as well, especially your research into the field of Ufology.”
“But how did you know I was here, and how did you persuade that king to change his orders?”
“I have a series of microphones set up around all of the important areas of the city,” he explained, “and I heard your pleas via this equipment. Like you, I discovered Aztlan through a temporary opening from the surface. It was some months ago, and I have been here ever since. The natives see me as a medicine man due to the instrumentation I had with me, and live in a sort of superstitious awe of me.”
“So it is you who brought technology to these people?” I queried.
“Not entirely,” he admitted. “They already had some technology, including, amazingly enough, electricity! I believe they inherited it from an outpost of Atlantis.”
“Quite likely,” I agreed. “Even that idol of theirs represents a certain type of hybrid beast once bred as pets by the Atlanteans. The animals were sterile and are now extinct, of course. If I am not mistaken, these people appear to be Native American, hmmm?”
“You are correct,” affirmed the scientist. “They indeed do seem to be most closely related to the Aztecs, though I believe that they are much older, the Mesoamerican tribes being but a degenerate offshoot of this civilisation.”
“Incredible,” I mused. “Indeed, the very name Aztlan is a combination of ‘Aztec’ and “Atlantis’, is it not?”
“More than likely,” agreed Zharov. “There are only a few hundred of the Aztlan people left, as they have been devastated by generations of inbreeding and disease. Oh, by the way, don’t worry too much about your girlfriend. It is true that she has been taken to become the king’s next bride, but there is a two-week purification period before he can touch her. Tradition, you know. In any event, none of us will be here by then.”
“Thank you for letting me know that Millie is safe,” I said, shaking his hand in gratitude. “I must find her and let her know I am here, though.”
“No problem there. I can give you a diagram of some secret passages through the king’s pyramid.”
With this, Dr. Zharov handed me chart from his pocket, detailing routes to various areas of the city that he had marked off.
“Thanks again,” said I, “but what did you mean that none of us will be here by then? Are you planning to leave Aztlan and return to the surface?”
“Oh no,” he smiled strangely. “Nothing as prosaic as that. Here, take a look at this.”
Zharov then proceeded to spread out a large chart upon his desk. It was a map of passages within the earth.
“You see,” he explained, “behind the cavern in which Aztlan is built, there is another passageway -- a tunnel that leads all the way to the very centre of the planet!”
“Amazing,” said I. “This is an unprecedented discovery, Zharov. Announce this to the world, and you will become the most famous scientist of this generation.”
“I shall do nothing of the sort, Rumanos. The scientific community did nothing but mock my research into Atlantis, and now I shall use what I have here discovered to enact my revenge. I intend to open up a further entrance into the cavern, an entrance underneath the Atlantic Ocean itself!”
“But that would not only flood and destroy Aztlan; it would then send the seawater flowing to-wards the molten core of planet Earth.”
“Exactly!” he admitted. “When the water makes contact with the white-hot centre of the globe, it will cause steam to form that will crack through the very crust of the planet, shattering it to pieces. All life will end, and I shall be the one who brought it about. I -- Dr. Stephen Zharov -- shall achieve the greatest scientific accomplishment of all time by utilising my superior knowledge to end all life on Earth!!”
I looked at him in horror, now realising the profound depths of utter insanity to which this brilliant man had descended. I opened my mouth to protest, but then stopped myself. He had me in his power at the moment, and I knew that I had to get away from him before anything could be done against this mad plan. I thought it best to change the subject, to not seem to realise the enormity of his scheme. In any event, I knew that my first responsibility was to rescue Millie.
“Zharov,” I said as calmly as I could, “are you certain that the information you have given me can be used to find Miss Drake?”
“Of course,” he acquiesced. “Just use the diagram that I have given you.”
With this, Zharov indicated the paper on which was a map of the king’s pyramid, and turned back to his instruments.
I quickly left the laboratory and followed the chart to the chambers of King Aztlan’s wives, being careful to avoid being seen by any of the palace guard. I was cautiously entering the corridor leading to the room in which Millie Drake would most likely be found before I encountered anyone. My assailant had come up from behind, grasping me by the neck with one huge hand before throwing me to the floor.
I looked up and saw him, He was a large man of great weight, of the race of Aztlan and clad in the usual scaly garment. Before I could react, he raised his spear and thrust it at me, its electric charge entering my body with a shock of extreme pain!!
I had my hand on the transonic turnscrew in my pocket, and activated it to remotely turn off the electric current within the spear before it could harm me further. I then kicked the weapon out of my attacker’s hands before leaping up to face him.
I ducked below one giant fist he hurled at me, and then returned a blow to his midsection. He did not even seem to feel it. I realised that he, as a guard of the king’s wives, was likely an eunuch, and therefore had pain receptacles quite different from those of a normal man. In any event, I had to dispose of him quickly, as beating him down in the usual fashion was unlikely to work.
I feigned weakness and held still whilst he reached out his huge arms as if to crush me. At the last moment, I lifted my hand and quickly pinched a certain nerve ending where his left shoulder met his neck, an old Daemonian jujitsu technique that causes instant unconsciousness in certain human attackers. Astoundingly, he struggled in my grasp for a few moments before sinking to the floor.
I used the transonic to open the lock on the near by door and hurried into the chamber. According to the map, all of King Aztlan’s wives and concubines are kept in separate rooms, and I indeed found Millie Drake herein, seated on a small shelf-like bed. She looked up at me, appearing tired and worried but unharmed.
“Oh, Daniel!” she cheered as she flew into my arms. “I was so afraid, but I knew you would come! I had gotten lost in that cave, and then those men came and brought me here!”
“Fear not, Mills,” I consoled the girl. “We can escape this strange civilisation, but first we must divert the greatest catastrophe of all time!”
I briefly related to her my meeting with Dr. Zharov, and his insane scheme to flood the core of the planet and bring about its complete destruction.
“Oh my gosh!” exclaimed Millie. “He must be completely mad!”
“Stark raving,” I agreed. “Nevertheless, I believe he indeed has the scientific knowledge to accomplish just what he is planning.”
“What can we do to stop him?!”
“We need to get back to his laboratory right away,” I explained. “From there it should be possible to sabotage his instruments and prevent his achieving his experiment.”
We hurried through the city, following the way back to Zharov’s chamber. Upon entering it, we found that he was not there.
“Hopefully, before he returns,” I said, “I can manage to disable the equipment that he intends to use to open the passage that will flood the cavern with seawater, and then we can…”
My words were then interrupted by a tremendous boom, which was immediately followed by the sound of rushing ocean waves echoing into the surrounding cave.
“Daniel!” exclaimed Millie. “Is that… ?”
Before I could answer her, Dr. Zharov himself returned to the chamber, an absolutely maniacal gleam in his eyes.
“Ah, Rumanos, you made it back,” he said. “That sound you heard were the charges I had set going off as planned. The flooding is underway! Within an hour or so, the city of Aztlan will cease to exist, and us with it! Then, the water will continue down the further tunnel to-wards the earth’s core! Soon, I will have achieved the greatest power of all time -- the power of destroying this entire world!!”
Millie Drake and I listened in horror at the sound of the rushing waves approaching the city. We were too late!
Indeed, do you even begin to comprehend, to realise the unnameable terror of this unprecedented situation, my friends? The madman, Dr. Stephen Zharov, had succeeded in unleashing the ocean waves to-wards the lost city of Aztlan, assuring the final destruction of that ancient civilisation. None the less, this destruction was but a prelude to something far, far worse -- in truth, the event that would cause the entire planet Earth to split into fragments!!
“Zharov! Zharov, listen to me!!” I insisted. “It may be too late to save Aztlan, but please let us work together to do something to save the planet Earth! Zharov, this is science gone mad! You do not have the right to use your knowledge to destroy a world!”
“I will not stop it, Rumanos, and neither shall you!” he rejoined, rushing forwards to-wards me. “I have performed the greatest experiment of all time, and have proven myself the premiere scientist in all the world’s history!”
“No, Zharov,” said, I moving forwards to grapple with him. “I must stop you!”
We struggled, whilst poor Millie trembled near by in abject fear. Zharov was surprisingly strong, forsooth, with the strength of madness. Eventually, I managed to deliver an open-handed kung fu blow to his chin, sending him careering across the floor. His head caught the metal edge of one of the radio receivers. It was a fatal collision, and the blood gushed from his fractured skull as the mad scientist sank to the floor in death.
“We only have a short time,” said I. “It may just be possible to keep the waves from reaching the planet’s core!”
“But what can you do, Daniel?!” screamed the girl.
I retrieved the transonic turnscrew from the pocket of my jacket, and began to programme a new setting into it.
“Zharov has a series of microphones set up around the city,” I explained. “He used it to keep track of local events, in order to appear to the natives that he had miraculous powers of knowledge. If I can reverse the polarisation on them, and turn them into speakers, I should be able to send a sonic surge through the entire system!”
“I think I understand,” said Millie, “but that won’t stop the waves.”
“I fear it shall not, love,” I admitted whilst activating my device. “Aztlan is doomed, but I can use the sonic surge to cause a rockslide over the entrance to the tunnel that leads to the centre of the planet!”
“Oh, okay! So the ocean water won’t be able to pass further into the earth!”
“Exactly, Mills! Ah, here we go!”
There was a screeching sound like feedback from an hundred heavy-metal guitar amplifiers, followed immediately by the noise of a tremendous avalanche.
“That shall seal the tunnel to the core forever,” I announced. “Now, we need to get away from here!”
I took Millie’s hand and we ran from the room, winding through the streets of the city. The flooding was already well underway, and the ocean waves had hit the edge of Aztlan with a force that had begun to topple the buildings.
Fortunately, our path was uphill, and we managed to stay just above of the rushing waters as we left the doomed civilisation of Aztlan behind us. We soon made it to the passageway to the surface, and glanced back just before entering it to behold the ocean overwhelming the ancient city.
“Daniel!” exclaimed Millie whilst we hurried up the tunnel. “The water is coming in to the tunnel behind us!”
Indeed, the cavern in which Aztlan had been found was now completely flooded, and the ocean was fast rushing up the passage directly to-wards Millie and me.
“Hurry, love!” I encouraged the lass. “Just a few more hundred yards to the surface!”
Moments later, we emerged from the tunnel into the sunlit area of Ocean City Beach, and managed to get safely out onto the sands just as the seawater spewed forth from the orifice.
“That is it, Mills,” said I. “The city of Aztlan is no more, and the cavern in which it was is now just part of the oceanic deeps!”
“But the planet Earth is saved,” cheered the lass, “and we, along with the entire human race, are now free of that insane scientist’s plan!”
“Quite right, my love,” said I, giving the lovely lass a hug. “Oh, by the way -- you will find our friend Kit-10 resting over there below the umbrella.”
“Oh, that’s good to hear! I was wondering what had happened to her.”
“I fear that our mechanical pussycat has undergone a bit of water damage. Nevertheless, unlike the civilisation of Aztlan, I am quite certain that she will recover!”
***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “TERROR ON LYSITHEA”