His voice echoed from the reaches of the lofty temple whilst the congregation looked on in rapt attention. The preacher was clad in a strange pumpkin-coloured vestment as he stood behind the podium delivering his sermon.
“Disciples of the Lysithean Truth,” he intoned, his voice strong and commanding, yet tinged with something as of the edge of insanity, “I have come to you as a stranger, not one of your race, yet I have been chosen by the Healing Fire to guide you to salvation.”
As the man spoke, his form seemed to blink briefly in and out of existence, like as unto the results of interference to a broadcast. Yet the preacher was definitely a physical presence, there in that ancient temple upon the Jupiterian moon of Lysithea. He was seemingly a man of middle years, and his countenance still showed signs of handsome distinction despite being marked with the results of lifetimes of extreme profligate wickedness. His hair was long and dark, his face decorated with a thin moustache and goatee. Most of all, his pale eyes shone with a deeply hypnotic glare.
“It will soon come to pass, my beloved ones,” he continued. “Soon the mountain shall again give forth its sacred flame, and all your troubles shall be healed. I, the Prophet of the Healing Fire, do promise you this!”
With this, the congregation cheered. There were well over an hundred of them, all natives of the systems belonging to the planet Jupiter, with pumpkin-hued skin, the men particularly tall and heavy of build. They were dressed in many styles of garment, showing all the social classes of the capitalism-based United Provinces of Jupiter.
“I must tell you of one more thing, my dearest friends,” went on the supposed Prophet, his form again quickly blinking out of sight and then returning. “There are those who would come here to stand in our way, to prevent us from achieving the healing that the fiery mountain shall grant us. We must not allow them to do this! Our religious freedom is important above all things! We must stand against all who would oppose us! We must fight them, whether they are of Jupiter or elsewhere! We must also be willing to end their lives if it is necessary! We must be willing to do anything possible in order to defend our rights to the most holy flame!”
The Jupiterian crowd then again cheered in agreement to this call to defend their faith even with violence, and the one known as the Prophet of the Healing Fire -- the one who was actually the intergalactic criminal known as Don Wingus -- could not repress a grim chuckle as his face smiled a smile of evil disguised as beatific holiness. …
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!!! …
In a corridor of the research station on Lysithea, a strange gasping moaning noise was heard. At the same time there appeared an object resembling a Greco-Roman “Ionic column” -- an object that was, in actuality, a DiTraS (pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere), one of those amazingly-advanced combination Spaceship/Time-machines available only to my people, the Watchers of Algol.
Something like a porthole appeared in the DiTraS and from it stepped two figures. The first was myself, Dr. Daniel Rumanos, dressed as I was in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, and panama hat. The other was a beautiful girl with sun-kissed skin, chestnut-coloured hair, enchanting violet eyes, and a sensuously wide, full-lipped mouth. She wore a short, tight, electric blue dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender young figure. Her name is Millie Drake, and she is my companion in the many adventures we experience as operatives of the Kosmikos.
“So this is Lysithea?” queried the lass. “One of the moons of Jupiter?”
“Quite right, Mills,” I approved. “Lysithea has an irregular intermediate orbit around that giant planet. It is quite small, and was the tenth of the Jovian natural satellites to be discovered by Earth astronomers.”
Just then, a man approached us down the corridor. He was a big Jupiterian clad in the blue, white, and red uniform of their government. His skin was the pumpkin-hue of his kind, albeit of a deeper shade showing him to be a descendant of the southern portion of his race.
“Doctor Rumanos,” he said in greeting. “Thank you for answering our call so quickly. I am Commander Athemos Flinniss from the Jupiterian Security Agency.”
“Pleased to meet you, sir,” I replied. “It is always an honour to work with the JSA. This is my assistant, Miss Millie Drake.”
Millie and the alien agent exchanged greetings as we strolled along to a near by office. We sat down around a conference table and Flinniss poured us all glasses of Io Sparkling Water, it being a Jupiterian tradition to always present ones guests with refreshments without first asking if they want them. Then we quickly got down to business.
“You say this religious sect is of some concern to the UPJ government?” I enquired.
“Indeed they are, Doctor,” affirmed the Jupiterian. “The Lysithean Cult springs up every three or four orbits, whenever the volcano upon this moon is due for eruption.”
“And they believe that the volcanic fire has certain healing powers?”
“Yes, they do. They believe in that rather fanatically. Last time, some of them jumped directly into the volcano and perished attempting to receive healing for various illnesses or infirmities. Since then, it has become a more spiritual thing, and the current cult membership is made up of people mostly without any physical problems at all.”
“But what threat do they cause to Jupiter?” asked Millie Drake.
“We would not be so concerned if of late they had not been exposed to a very charismatic leader,” explained Commander Flinniss. “He calls himself the Prophet of the Healing Fire, and is reportedly not a Jupiterian.”
“‘Reportedly’?” I queried. “Have you not been able to trace his background?”
“We have not even gotten a clear look at him. He stays entirely in the holy areas of Lysithea, where no government surveillance is allowed due to the Constitutional separation of Temple and Planet that is so important to the freedom of the United Provinces.”
“So you were hoping we could track down this cult leader, and defuse any dangerous situations?”
“Yes, for the time being,” said the Jupiterian. “The JSA has sent a message to the President, in hopes that he will issue an executive order that will allow us to put a military presence here. The problem is, that likely will not happen before the next eruption of the Lysithean volcano.”
“When is it due, Commander?”
“Any time now. Due to our agency’s cooperation agreement with the Daemonian CID, we hoped you would conduct the surveillance that our Constitution currently prevents us from doing.”
“Of course,” I acquiesced. “Miss Drake and I will gladly be of service to your great planetary nation.”
Suddenly, an harsh clicking sound interrupted our meeting.
“Daniel, what was that noise?” enquired Millie.
“It sounded like a electronic lock being bolted, hmmm?” I answered.
“Yes, it did,” said the Jupiterian agent, jumping up concernedly. “Let me just check the security system.”
He rushed over to a wall terminal and briefly studied a readout as the girl and I rose from our seats.
“By the gods!” swore Flinniss. “The entire station has been placed under unauthorised lockdown! We are under some sort of outside attack, and…”
“Hey, what’s that smell?” interrupted Millie.
The chamber was indeed filling up with an odour, an odour that was making it difficult to breath. I took a canary-coloured handkerchief from my pocket and held it up to Millie’s face.
“Hold that over your nose and mouth, love,” I told her as my own head began to feel a strange dizziness. “It seems to be some kind of nerve gas!”
I saw that Commander Flinniss was suffering from the effects of the substance as well as he stumbled over to the doorway.
“Doctor, there does not seem to be any way to override the outside interference,” he coughed. “According to the system, the entire station and its staff are similarly affected. All the doors are locked and will not respond to any attempt to open them.”
“Daniel…” gasped Millie Drake. “It’s getting so hard to breathe…”
Indeed, from the effects of the gas, the girl, the JSA man, and I were all beginning to slip into unconsciousness!
I took the transonic turnscrew, an highly-advanced scientific instrument somewhat resembling a writing pen, from the pocket of my jacket. Struggling to stay awake despite the effects of the gas, I aimed the transonic to-wards the ventilation system near the ceiling of the chamber. After I had activated a certain setting upon the device, there was the sound as of a rush of air and the room quickly cleared of the nerve gas smell.
I looked over at Commander Flinniss, and saw that the big Jupiterian had also managed to not totally succumb to the gas.
“What happened, Doctor?” he wheezed. “How did you clear the air?”
“I switched the polarisation on your air conditioning system,” I explained. “It will pump clean air in now that all the nerve gas is cleared.”
Whilst speaking, I checked on Millie Drake. The poor wee lass had fainted, and I removed my handkerchief from her face.
“She will recover in a few moments,” I said. “The cloth prevented her from inhaling too much of the gas.”
Millie soon stirred and I helped her to stand up. With the tenacity of youth, she was -- thank the Stars! -- soon well again.
“Daniel,” she said, “who did that? Do you think it was that cult?”
“It seems likely,” I replied. “For some reason, they are quite concerned in preventing us from investigating them.”
The lockdown had ended when the gas was cleared, and Flinniss was heading out the door to an adjoining office.
“I will get a message to President Bydemiff and see if he can hurry up that executive order,” he explained whilst hurrying off.
“In the meantime,” I added as we also left the chamber, “Millie and I will go ahead with our investigation. You can join us as soon as all the constitutional bureaucracy is sorted out, hmmm?”
The girl and I exited the research station onto the surface of Lysithea. The atmosphere of the moon was thin but breathable, its sky a deep shade of blue and dominated by the looming presence of the giant planet Jupiter. Since the station was situated halfway up the mountain, we were in close view of the volcanic crater, and walked to-wards it. As we approached, we came upon the ancient temple of the Sacred Flame, built entirely of stone and looking much like a cathedral yet without much ornamentation. We were about to enter the temple when a figure suddenly stepped from it.
It was the figure of a man dressed in an carroty-hued vestment robe, holding a sleek laser-gun in his hand. He approached and then stopped several metres from us. I gazed upon his face and beheld a visage I knew all too well.
“Don Wingus!” I exclaimed. “I should have known. So you did escape from Westminster Abbey.”
Millie huddled close to me. The last time we had encountered the evil Don Wingus, his minions had kidnapped her and threatened unspeakable things. Fortunately, I had rescued her before they could carry out their hideous plans, but the memory of this ordeal was one that the lass would carry with her forever.
“Daniel,” she whispered. “Look. All around us.”
I glanced around and saw that we were surrounded on all sides by Jupiterian people, all peering at us with a look of absolute murderous hatred.
I heard Wingus emit a low laugh as of triumph. We were trapped, encircled on all sides by the fanatical members of the Lysithean Cult!
“Ah, Dr. Rumanos and your special little friend, Mistress Drake, the Hollywood starlet turned Algolite secret agent,” mocked the villain. “Too bad your activities are preventing her from getting some starring role for which she would be so perfect, perhaps in a new soap opera about young girls entitled ‘The Young and the Breastless’.”
“So, whilst your Spectral Paranormal agents have continued to spread chaos upon Earth,” I told him, ignoring his taunts, “you have been here on Lysithea, ingratiating yourself to this religious cult. Of course it was you who tried to poison us with nerve gas earlier. But why would you want to be the glorified volcano vicar, hmmm? What possible use could this obscure sect be to your nefarious plans?”
As I spoke, the form of Don Wingus suddenly blinked out of sight, just for a split second, before returning to view.
“By the Stars, Wingus!” I swore as the import of what I had just witnessed occurred to me. “You were indeed injured by the power of the Coronation Stone, hmmm? So now you have joined the Lysithean Cult in hopes that the legendary volcanic flame might heal you? Really, old chap, you must be slipping in your old age, hmmm? I did not suppose you to be so gullible. Insane, yes. Totally and completely screaming mad, yes. But not gullible.”
“Something has escaped your knowledge, Rumanos,” he retorted with a wicked grin. “The Sacred Flame of Lysithea has Rejuvenative powers, much like the Springs of Daemonia. That is the origin of the local legend that it can be used for healing. When the volcano erupts, it will not only restore my body, it will greatly increase my physical and mentalist powers. I shall then lead the Disciples of the Healing Fire to take over the United Provinces of Jupiter. Then, when the mighty military forces of this world are mine to command, I shall utilise them to conquer the Solar System!”
“So that is it, hmmm?” I responded. “Despite the fact that you are indeed an Algolite, you lost the powers of Rejuvenation long ago, due to your sinful and illegal dalliance with a certain Diane Rizak. Sexual relations with adult women are an abomination and anathema to Algolites. It is the grossest form of ungodliness and immorality. You know that, but you did it anyway because it supposedly would assist in your utterly insane schemes to conquer the Universe -- just as you are now using the Cult of Lysithea! Nevertheless, you shall not succeed!”
“I shall succeed, Rumanos,” he retorted with a sneer. “In fact, I already have. My disciples here would physically tear you to pieces at my command, but I want them to wait. I want them to wait until you have witnessed my ascendancy, my transfiguration in the Lysithean Flame, and my having achieved the powers that shall assist me to take my rightful place as supreme ruler of all! I want you to see it, Rumanos! Once and for all, I want you to see that I am the one who is highest and unmatched in the Cosmos!!”
Whilst Wingus had been boasting and prattling on about his mad plans, I had slipped the transonic turnscrew out of my pocket, in hopes of utilising a setting that would neutralise my foe’s laser-gun. I was just about to activate the device when Wingus suddenly fired the gun, the blast sending the transonic flying from my hand. It landed a few metres distant.
“No no,” mocked the master criminal. “Not this time, Rumanos. Not this time.”
Before I could further react, Don Wingus sent another blast from his laser at the transonic turnscrew. To my horror, I saw the trusty old device melt away into a shapeless bit of metal.
“Oh no!” cried Millie. “Your transonic!”
Indeed, I must admit that the feeling evoked by this was like unto losing an old and dear friend.
I was just about to charge at Don Wingus, in an attempt to tackle him before he could fully return his attention to us. I knew that if he were threatened, his disciples would likely hesitate to attack us. None the less, before I could go through with this strategy, the unthinkable occurred.
The volcano began to erupt.
There was a deep roar from far down within the depths of the mountain, and the ground started to tremble and shake. In a moment, a rush of red fire shot forth from the massive crater, lighting up the sky and sending the surrounding cultists into obscene religious ecstasy.
“The Holy Flame! The Holy Fire!” they all proceeded to loudly chant in unison. “The Holy Fame! The Holy Fire!”
Millie held onto me in total abject terror as the ground continued to quake. As I looked, copious amounts of lava then suddenly rolled over the edge of the volcano and started to flow down the mountain to-wards us.
“The Healing Flame has come!” exulted the villain amidst peals of his demoniacal laughter, again briefly blinking out of sight and then back again. “The Healing Flame has come, and now I -- Master Don Wingus -- shall be reborn!!”
Can you even commence to recognise the horror, forsooth the complete and total eldritch fear of this incredible situation, readers? There we were, young Miss Millie Drake and I, on the moon of Jupiter known as Lysithea, trapped between that fanatical cult and the flowing lava and rushing fire of a surging volcano! All the while as the intergalactic criminal known to eternal infamy as Don Wingus prepared to utilise the strange healing propensities of the Lysithean Flame in order to effect a cure to the problems besetting his Algolitish nature!!
At the same time, the members of the Lysithean Cult continued their religious exultations. Some of them ran directly to the flowing lava and threw themselves bodily into it, perishing in the scorching heat. Others danced in sickeningly obscene rapture, forever chanting the brief litany of their horrid faith:
“The Holy Flame! The Holy Fire! The Holy Flame! The Holy Fire!”
In the centre of it all was Don Wingus, who indeed seemed to be receiving some energy from the hot exhalations of the volcano. He had ceased to blink in and out of existence and now remained as a definite, firm physical presence.
“Yes, I can feel it!” he announced in tones as of victory. “I can feel it! The Rejuvenation has begun! I am reborn! I am returned! No one can stand against me! Not you, Rumanos! Not the Kosmikos! Someday the very Absolute Convention of the Watchers shall bow down before me! I am the rightful ruler and dictator of the Universe! I! I! I!”
However, so distracted in his disgusting show of supposed triumph, Don Wingus had failed to notice something. Something important. Something that endangered his very life.
Out of habit -- a habit of protecting all as is my mission and oath to the Kosmikos -- I attempted to warn him.
“Wingus!” I called to him. “Behind you!”
“Really, Rumanos, do you actually believe I would fall for that old trick? It is you who are ‘slipping in your old age’, not I. I have now received the Healing Fire, and shall…”
Nevertheless, at the last possible moment Don Wingus did glance behind him. He looked when it was already too late. Too late for him to avoid being overcome by the flow of lava that had reached him from the mountain. In his haste to receive the powers of the Lysithean Flame, it is apparent that he had not even taken note of this danger.
The magma soon covered Don Wingus up to his chest, and he was sinking fast.
“Rumanos! Help me, Rumanos!” he screamed. “You cannot let me die like this! You are too good for that! You would not even allow your oldest and greatest enemy to perish in such a way! Help me, Rumanos! Help me!!”
Millie Drake had buried her face in my chest to avoid looking upon the grisly sight of Don Wingus being covered with burning lava. She was in a near-swoon of total abject fright from the entire situation in which we found ourselves. I covered the poor girl’s ears with my jacket in hopes that she would not so clearly hear his agonised screams for help.
“No, Wingus,” said I. “I tried to warn you, but I will not help you. I shall not save you from the results of your grotesque schemes. No, not this time. You see, I cannot forget something. I cannot forget what happened that time on Earth. I cannot forget what you and your followers once did to the only person I shall ever truly love.”
It was then that, with a final shriek of agony and outrage, the evil Don Wingus sank fully into the lava, vanishing completely below the flowing volcanic emission, disappearing entirely into the molten rock.
Just then, I noticed that the sky of Lysithea was now full of Spaceships.
“It is the Lysithean Space Navy!” I told Millie, who was beginning to recover from her fear. “The UPJ Government has taken action at last!”
Some of the ships began to land, and Jupiterian military men emerged, wearing protective armour against the effects of the erupting volcano. They proceeded to handle the situation by placing the surviving members of the Lysithean Cult under arrest.
Commander Flinniss soon appeared, now clad in the same protective gear. He hurried over to Millie Drake and me.
“Excellent timing, Commander,” I approved. “So the executive order came through, hmmm?
“When the President heard that you were involved, Doctor,” answered Flinniss, “he drafted the order right away. He says that you and he are old friends, and that he trusts your judgement implicitly.”
As we talked, the boiling lava was continuing to flow down the mountain.
“You two had better return to the research station,” suggested Flinniss. “It is shielded against the effects of the volcano. According to our scientists, the eruption has already reached its peak and will soon die down.”
The girl and I did as he said, and were soon safe in the station whilst the UPJ Space Navy finished rounding up the cult members and placing them in protective custody, where they would receive proper mental health care. We soon found the local canteen, and relaxed over a meal of “Jupiter’s Best” cheeseburgers, “Great Red Spot” brand fried potatoes, and Europa-Cola.
We had been mostly silent during this repast, not wanting to relive the terror that we had only just experienced. Nonetheless, we soon found something amusing to discuss.
“So you really know the President of Jupiter?” enquired Millie between sips of her alien soda pop.
“Quite right. He is a good friend from way back,” I affirmed after swallowing a large bite of my burger. “In fact, I have known him since before he was even a Senator. A true gentleman, old Thejoas Bydemiff. He has quite an eye for the young ladies. I like that.”
“Oh, I know you do, Daniel,” giggled the girl, her beautiful violet eyes sparkling. “I know you do!”
***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “THE U15 INVASION”