Underneath the waters near the town of Havre de Grace, Maryland was something horrible. It had been there for many years, but had not yet in any way shown itself to the citizens of that small but historically-important city.
Havre de Grace, located as it is on the junction between the head of the Chesapeake Bay and the mouth of the Susquehanna River, was at one time a major contender for the honour of becoming the capital of the United Sates of America. It is known for its well-preserved old lighthouse and for being the hometown of Orioles baseball superstar Cal Ripken, Jr. Historical personages ranging from George Washington to Al Capone are known to have stayed in the town at various times.
Nevertheless, despite whatever interest this information may have, it really has nothing to do with our story. In stead, our story involves an alien menace, an extraterrestrial terror that threatened to utilise Havre de Grace as a base of operations from which it believed it would eventually wipe out the human race and take over the planet Earth. It is an alien menace capable of disguising their appearance, of seemingly being a friend, a servant, or a co-worker.
In truth, it was something that had hidden itself in a local hotel, the Grace Inn, and was using this place as a training ground for absolute unholy horror beyond any type of what could ever be considered sane imagining.
Forsooth it is an alien menace that I had encountered before in my long and storied career, in fact, in what was actually an experience that in its way was much larger than this one, but which none the less was not so full of possible consequences -- consequences that now threatened to take away from me that which I have come to know as the most important thing in my life, indeed something that is to me the very essence of life itself.
This is that story. This is the tale of a terror I faced that could have ended everything. It is also the story of the unexpected help that I received from a source that I never knew to be possible; a source that revealed to me a presence beyond that of any scientific denial, a presence that seems to exist outside the latitude and longitude of what is generally thought to be reality.
I do not really expect this story to be believed, much less completely understood. I simply present it here as it happened, as part of this ongoing series of memoirs concerning my life and times in the particular milieu in which I have my continued existence. …
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!!! …
I drove my canary-coloured Edwardian roadster, affectionately know as “Lizzie”, into Havre de Grace on that overcast day. I was dressed in my usual finery, including a ruffled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, panama hat, and one of my favourite opera capes. Beside me was Millie Drake, an exceptionally beautiful teenage girl with luxurious chestnut hair, lovely violet eyes, and sun-kissed skin. The tight, short, electric-blue dress she wore only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender young figure. Also with us was Kit-10, our mobile personal computer that resembles nothing more or less than a small robotic cat.
As we entered the town, we passed near to the gates of Angel Hill Cemetery, and certain thoughts long buried arose in my mind. They were thoughts of the past, of the home, the family, the loved ones that I once had. Persons taken from me by the forces of darkness, in horrible tragedies so very long before. With this, I thought of how, despite the long years of my particular life, there has in sooth been little chance to weep, in truth nearly no time to cry over that which I have lost.
We checked into the Grace Inn. The attendant at the front desk was a thin young man with brown hair, very professional and efficient, albeit a trifle effete.
“I’m Scott,” he said. “Welcome to the Grace Inn, one of Havre de Grace’s oldest and most historic hotels. We hope you will enjoy your stay.”
“Thank you for the hospitality, Scott,” said I whilst signing the registry. “I am Doctor Rumanos, and this is my assistant, Miss Drake.”
I noticed he was staring at Kit-10.
“Oh, that is our personal computer,” I added in explanation.
“That’s funny,” he said. “It looks like a robot cat.”
A man then walked through the lobby, coming in from outside. He was middle-aged and heavy of build, clad in conservative business attire He entered the office labelled “Manager” and closed the door. I noticed Scott visibly shudder.
“That man gives me the creeps,” he said.
“Your manager?” enquired Millie.
“Oh, he’s not the usual boss,” explained Scott. “Our regular hotel manager is on vacation, and Mr. Wutt there just took over for two weeks. This is his last day, anyway, thank goodness. There is just something so creepy about him. I don’t know what it is. Oh, never mind, I shouldn’t be saying these things. Anyway, we have full room service in agreement with the restaurant next door and you’ll find a menu in your suite. Just call if you want anything.”
We thanked him and took the lift to the rooms that we had booked. They were quite nice, somewhat antique but well-maintained.
“So, Daniel,” said Millie Drake, “this is near where the alien emanations were detected?”
“Yes, they seemed to be centred in the waters quite close by to this hotel,” I answered. “We will look into them soon, but let us order a good meal first, hmmm? I have always found it best to be well fuelled before facing some extraterrestrial menace.”
We ordered room service. It was delivered quickly and was indeed quite good. I had the porterhouse steak, medium rare, along with a baked potato and a side of peas and carrots, whilst Millie enjoyed the house salad with roast chicken. We had a large pot of highly-caffeinated coffee for the beverage, as is our wont.
For desert, we enjoyed a good serving of chocolate mousse.
“Sorry they did not have any of that fancy cat food for you, Kit-10,” I joked.
“This unit is not a cat, s--,” complained the robot in her pleasantly-feminine voice.
It should be noted here that despite her frequent protestations to the contrary, Kit-10 does indeed have numerous catlike characteristics, not the least of which is her complete inability 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 by “m--” (for “ma’am”).
As soon as we had finished our meal, I took the transonic turnscrew (an highly-advanced scientific instrument somewhat resembling a large writing pen) from my pocket and put it on scan mode.
“This is definitely verifying the presence of alien technology,” I said upon looking at the transonic readouts. “It is indeed near by, in fact underwater at the very head of the Chesapeake Bay. Kit-10, can you scan as well and transmit your results through my device? It should strengthen the signals and perhaps enable us to detect what type of extraterrestrial force with which we are dealing.”
“Of course, s--,” agreed the mechanical puss, then activating her scanner with a low whirring sound.
As I continued to read the now-boosted information on the transonic turnscrew, I suddenly recognised the sequence of numbers I was seeing, realising that they indicated the presence of something that I had encountered before in what was truly one of the most hazardous experiences of my entire career.
“By the Daemonian Spires!” I swore. “This is worse than I had supposed!”
“What is it, Daniel?” queried Millie concernedly.
“The alien technology under the bay,” I explained. “It is a spaceship, and it is Zedgonnim!!”
“Zedgonnim?” repeated the girl. “Oh gosh, I remember now! You told me something about what happened when you faced them before.”
“Yes, indeed,” I went on, “and an horrible experience it was. They intended to wipe out the human race in order to claim the planet Earth for themselves. You see, their own planet, called Zedgonnimium, was wiped out many many years ago by solar flares -- well, at least that is the official story…”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, there were rumours. Just rumours, mind you. Rumours that the Absolute Convention of the Watchers had secretly ordered the destruction of the planet Zedgonnimium. It seems that the Zedgonnim race may have possibly been a threat to the security of the Cosmos. They are very long-lived, at least when compared to most species other than ours, and their bodies have a certain type of symbiotic relationship with their technology, which is in itself partially organic. It was therefore apparently feared that if they began to develop inter-dimensional and inter-temporal technology, they could indeed prove themselves to be troublesome.”
“But some of them escaped?” queried the lass. “When their planet was destroyed, I mean?”
“Indeed, it is said that possibly thousands of Zedgonnim spaceships managed to escape the conflagration of their home-world,” I explained. “They spread out across the Universe looking for new planets to inhabit, with no moral qualms about wiping out any races already established there if it served their purpose.”
“I remember learning a little about the Zedgonnim as part of a basic alien races class at Daemonia Academy. Aren’t they supposed to be shape-shifters of some kind?”
“Yes, indeed they are,” I affirmed. “Only the more advanced members of their kind have to any extent perfected it, but they can take upon themselves the forms of some other species -- including human beings. It is when they are in their own alien form that they are most physically dangerous, however. You see, at the end of their tentacle-like arms is a sting, an inbuilt weapon that emits a sort of bioelectrical shock, like a poison or venom that can indeed prove fatal to most other beings.”
“Tentacles,” shuddered Millie Drake. “Why does it always have to be tentacles? So they are an undersea species?”
“Originally, yes, but they have adapted themselves to life on land. Anyway, love, we need to get down to the waterfront and investigate the facts concerning a Zedgonnim ship being hidden there. Kit-10, you had better stay here. Remember that water does not tend to agree with you!”
Millie Drake and I then left the hotel and walked across the field separating it from the waterfront. As we approached, we beheld what looked like unto a man standing on the shore. At first, he appeared to be occupied with peering down into the water, as if in communication with something that did lie beneath it. However, as we approached he turned to face us.
“Daniel,” whispered Millie, “isn’t that… ?”
“Yes, it is,” I returned. “Mr. Wutt, the temporary manager of the Grace Inn.”
As he gazed at us, a look of utter hatred entered Wutt’s eyes and I saw him clench his fists as if in anger as we continued to-wards him.
“Our instruments have detected your presence, Watchers of Algol,” he said. “You will not succeed in preventing us from establishing ourselves on this planet. The time of the human race is now finished. We, the Zedgonnim, shall establish ourselves here. We shall be the new rulers of Earth!”
Millie and I stopped walking several metres away from him. A strange dark light quickly played across his form, and an hideous transformation took place. Within moments, the human form of the being known as Mr. Wutt had vanished and he had changed into his true one. It was tall and bipedal, with deeply-set black eyes and its slimy green skin covered all over with horrid suckers like an octopus. Its tentacle-like arms ended in claws that I knew to contain the horrid electro-poison of which I had warned Millie.
Forsooth, the worst and most horrible of possibilities was now affirmed to be true beyond all possible doubt. It was indeed the horrible alien form of a Zedgonnim -- a representative of the terrible extraterrestrial species that threatened to annihilate human kind -- that now stood before us!!
“The human race is now finished,” reiterated the Zedgonnim, his voice now (like his form) no longer human, but in stead a low-pitched, grotesquely-gurgling sound. “I am Wutt of the Zedgonnim, and we shall now achieve our long-awaited goal and will establish ourselves as the new rulers of Earth!”
“But why?” asked Millie Drake. “Why do you have to destroy the human race? Gosh, can’t you just find a place to live in peace?”
“The young lady is correct, Wutt,” I agreed. “There are many quite nice but currently-uninhabited planets you could find. Why, we could even help you to locate a suitable…”
“No!” interrupted Wutt in anger. “We will not listen to your Algolitish lies! It is your kind that destroyed our original home-world of Zedgonnimium, and not even in an honourable war, but by trickery and subterfuge! Since then we have wandered throughout the Cosmos in search of new homes. My ship has waited centuries beneath the waters as we repaired our systems in preparation for the invasion. Now the time has come. We will first rise up and annihilate the capital cities of this planet, and then we will begin the systematic extermination of the humans as we establish our own communities across the globe.”
“I beg you to reconsider, Zedgonnim,” I insisted. “The governments of Earth have weaponry that they will not hesitate to use against you. These include nuclear armaments. Your attempted invasion could very well provoke a war that would lead to the planet Earth becoming a wasteland totally uninhabitable by either of your species!”
“Your speeches are of no use, Algolite! No weapons of this planet can stand against the might of the Zedgonnim! Behold and see the power of our ship, the very one that shall go forth to conquer this entire world!”
It was then that the rumble of the Zedgonnim engine began to be felt. It increased in sound and strength as the spaceship rose from its place of long rest beneath the Chesapeake Bay. Millie was clinging to me in terror, and even I watched in astonishment as the power of the alien ship was revealed.
There was the sound of an immense rushing of waters when the thing broke the surface of the bay. A brackish spray filled the air as the huge shape of the Zedgonnim spaceship rose upwards above the Chesapeake. It was perhaps the size of a football stadium, green of hue and shaped rather like an enormous crab-shell. The sound of its alien engine became a cacophonous electronic whine as it continued to rise, eventually halting when it reached the height of nearly a full kilometre above the waters.
Then, before we could in any way react to this horror, the Zedgonnim spacecraft emitted another sound, a loud cracking bang accompanied as it was by a sort of energy wave that flew through the air. It hit Millie and me with full force, sending us sprawling apart upon the ground.
“Did you feel that, Algolite?” scorned Wutt. “That is the effect of a Zedgonnim cleansing surge. Its purpose is to assure that none who are not of our kind may interfere with the flight of our ships. Only we are immune to it. It extends to all within the vicinity of the craft, and the effect remains for long enough that we may leave the area. From here we intend to go forth to the city of Washington, DC. We will destroy the residence of the President of the United States, and the meeting houses of the Senate and the Congress. The Zedgonnim invasion has begun!”
I struggled to move, but found myself paralysed from the effect of the energy wave that had passed through my body. I could see poor Millie lying on the ground a few metres distant. The dear little girl had been knocked unconscious by the blast and was entirely defenceless.
“Now, Algolites,” sneered the evil Zedgonnim known as Wutt, “now I shall do that which is necessary in order to assure that you do not further attempt to interfere with our plans. Now I will end both of your wretched lives!”
I saw Wutt then lift up his arms, those horrid tentacles the ends of which were now glowing with the power of his venomous electric claws. To my complete and utter horror, I realised that -- likely for reasons of utter spite -- he intended to extend their fatal touch first to the unconscious form of young Miss Millie Drake!
“No…” I muttered feebly, still unable to make any attempt to help. “No… please… Millie…”
Wutt by now was standing directly over her. I was, for the moment, still paralysed and unable to move as the Zedgonnim reached out its deadly tentacle-arms to-wards the helpless girl!
Can you even commence to recognise the most supreme and utterly ungodly horror, forsooth the undeniable demoniacal terror of this devastating situation, my dearest friends and most loyal readers? Miss Millie Drake -- my friend, my companion, in truth my very love and the true centre of my existence -- was being menaced by an alien terror that could very well bring about her death, and I was for the moment completely unable to interfere, to do anything to protect her, to save the poor wee lass from the lethal touch of that poisonous extraterrestrial horror!!
None the less, it was then that something unprecedented happened. It in fact was something that, to some, would be called a miracle, or a divine intervention, or perhaps an apparition. It was also something that could be, by some, easily dismissed as delirium -- had its affect not been one that immediately and fully changed the very outcome of that incredibly fateful day. In sooth, it was something the true purport of which shall only fully be revealed in the day that heralds the coming of that eternal understanding, that holy wisdom, that godly philosophy in which the reconciliation of science and faith is found.
For it was then that another figure appeared between the unconscious Millie Drake and the threatening Zedgonnim, though the latter seemed completely oblivious to its presence.
The figure was translucent, indeed well-nigh transparent, yet I could see it clearly. It was as unto the form of a beautiful girl, tall and slender, with ginger hair and azure eyes and a complexion like as unto the finest pure white of alabaster. She seemed to be surrounded by a scintillating vermillion and violet flame. As I watched, she floated over and grasped Millie, taking her safely away from the Zedgonnim just before the alien monster could have reached her.
I had by now somewhat recovered, thanks to my superior Algolitish physique, and so took out the transonic turnscrew and turned it to-wards the Zedgonnim ship. The craft began to shudder.
The Zedgonnim that had been Mr. Wutt approached me. I managed to get to my feet and quickly gave him a kung fu kick to his head, sending him careening backwards before he could touch me with his poisonous tentacles, then I hurriedly returned to the task of disabling the spaceship with the transonic setting. With a tremendous boom, the alien craft soon broke apart and crashed in pieces into the water. As for the Zedgonnim himself, he bellowed in pain before then falling to pieces upon the ground, pieces that resembled nothing more than dead barnacles, squid parts, and broken crustacean shells.
I ran over and held Millie in my arms. The other figure had by now vanished, the sun had gloriously broken out from the clouds, and all was silent except for the cries of a few annoyed seagulls near the bay.
“Daniel, what…” gasped the lass when she returned to consciousness. “What happened?”
“All is well, my dear Mills,” I assured her. “All is well. The Zedgonnim menace is no more. Fortunately, after the last time I had encountered the Zedgonnim, I managed to succeed in programming a setting into the software of the transonic that manages to disrupt the organic-tech structure for their ships. I should have used it at once, but I wanted to give them a chance to see reason. As they indeed do have a psyche-physical symbiotic attachment to their technology, the setting affected Wutt as well, along with any other of them in the area. When the actual manager of the Grace Inn returns, he will just find out that his replacement left unexpectedly.”
We returned to the hotel and went up to our suite. Millie Drake was still exhausted from the horror that she had experienced. I helped the girl into bed and then watched her as she drifted off into a profound sleep.
“Look after her, Kit-10,” I whispered. “If she happens to awaken before I return, let her know that I have not gone far and will be back soon.”
The mechanical feline silently nodded her head in agreement and I left the room, carefully locking the door and then making my way downstairs. Scott was still on duty at the front desk, and I knew that all would be well with the Grace Inn.
I walked from the hotel to the location of Angel Hill Cemetery, with the shadows lengthening around me as dusk approached. I entered the old graveyard and looked for the gravestone I remembered, soon finding it amongst the many others.
I knelt down before the grave and lightly touched the lettering engraved upon the tombstone -- the lettering proclaiming the wonderful name of the most lamented and forever-beloved one that I had lost so long before. The one with whom I had shared so many amazing adventures before she was taken from me by the forces of evil. The one whom this very day had somehow reached forth from beyond to prevent my losing another whom I have come to love and cherish as a companion, friend, and partner. It was, and is, a name worthy to be remembered by all who honour any notions of romance and truth and justice. It is this most sacred name:
It was then, as I pondered these profound and infinite truths there in the peace and quiet of Angel Hill Cemetery, that I finally took time to cry.
***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “THE ETERNAL QUEST”