“Voila!” said I whilst revealing the bouquet of roses as if from out of thin air. I was dressed in my usual finery (including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, and military boots) as I stood in the cafĂ©-like control room of that combination Spaceship/Time-machine known as the DiTraS (pronounced “DYE-tress” and standing for Dimensional Transport Sphere).

Millie Drake cheered and then smiled sweetly as I handed her the flowers. The girl is exceedingly beautiful, petite-and-perfect with luxurious chestnut hair, lovely violet eyes, sun-kissed skin, and a sensuously-wide mouth. She was clad in a tight, short, magenta-hued dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender young figure.

“An old legerdemain routine but still a good one, hmmm?” I boasted. “One of the greatest secrets of stage illusion, handed down through the generations to only the absolute best of…”

“Harry Blackstone, Earth, 1937,” said Kit-10 (our mobile personal computer that resembles nothing more or less than a small robotic cat) in her pleasantly-feminine voice. “The trick is achieved by misdirection, slight of hand, and the hiding of the…”

“Quiet, Kit-10!” I admonished whilst Millie giggled.

There was suddenly a sound from the control console. I recognised it as a change of speed for the DiTraS engines.

“Spires of Daemonia!” I swore. “We are not yet materialising and are still in the Space/Time Current, but someone seems to be contacting us directly through the system! Why, only the Absolute Convention of the Watchers could possibly… Ah, of course!”

On the monitor view-screen above the control panel, an image appeared. It was of a venerable, grey-haired gentleman resplendent in robes of pure white and gold. I recognised him, of course, as the Universal Overseer of Algol, the highest office of our incredibly advanced race.

“Greetings, Master Rumanos and Mistress Drake,” he intoned. “I must apologise for contacting you in such an unorthodox manner, but the reasons are indeed quite urgent.”

“Salutations, Master Overseer,” I replied with a bow. “To what do we owe the most exalted honour of receiving a personal communication from your most august self?”

“It concerns that which is known as the Eternal Key,” replied the old Algolite. “The device that was utilised by Sesom, the first to hold the office of Universal Overseer, to ensure the continued equilibrium of the Cosmos whilst we Algolites achieved the power of Time and Space travel.”

“Gosh, we learned of the Key of Eternity at the Academy, Master Overseer,” stated Millie with a curtsey, “but I thought it was more legendary than real.”

“It is indeed real, young Mistress Drake,” assured the Overseer. “However, due to the dangers of this object falling into the wrong hands, it has been split into three segments, disguised, and hidden at different locations throughout the history of the Universe.”

“Yes,” I replied. “I remember that it is necessary to collect the pieces and reassemble them from time to time, hmmm?”

“Indeed it is,” affirmed the Watcher, “and one of those times is now upon us. The Eternal Key must be made complete, so that the Absolute Convention can assure that the cosmic forces are saved from plunging into never-ending chaos. It is the task of locating these three segments to which you are now being assigned.”

“But how will we know where to even look for them?” I enquired.

“With this,” replied the Overseer as an object resembling a crystalline wand appeared upon the control board, with a flash of light indicating that it had just travelled to us via the Time/Space Current. “It is the core, the connector of the Key. Calibrated with your DiTraS controls, it should take you to the three locations in which the segments can be found. Taken with you, it will reveal the true nature of the objects that are the disguised portions of the Key of Eternity.”

“I assure you we shall do our best to bring the Eternal Key to you as soon as possible, Master Overseer,” I assured him.

“There is one other thing, Master Rumanos,” stated the old man. “As you know, the Replicants of Leknii have been attempting experiments with Time travel. They have heard some whispers of lore concerning the Eternal Key, and have made it a priority to search for it. Their technology will be able to detect that you are doing the same, and they will likely attack you. It is most imperative that, at all costs, the Key not be allowed to fall into their hands.”

I noticed Millie Drake visibly shudder at the thought of the horrible race of cyborgs known as the Leknii Replicants. We had already undergone several terrifying adventures together in which we had encountered that species of soulless horrors. I put my arm around the lass to comfort her.

“The Replicants, hmmm?” I sneered. “That bunch of grotesque tin soldiers skulking about the galaxies shall not…”

“The Leknii have advanced greatly even since your last encounter with them,” said the Overseer. “They have overcome their weakness to the alien spice known as vlooj.”

“I assure you,” I told him, “we shall not, under any circumstances, allow the Eternal Key to come under control of that group of cybernetic monstrosities.”

“May the blessings of the Stellar Trinity be with you both in your quest,” stated the venerable Algolite, and his image then faded from the screen.

I quickly inserted the crystalline core into an appropriate port in the control console, immediately feeling the engines of the DiTraS become reprogrammed into the new sequence.

“Hold on tight, Millie, Kit-10,” I told my friends. “We have work to do!” …

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 "The Girl From Beyond" 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!!! …

A strange gasping, moaning sound was heard as the DiTraS (the exterior of whish resembles an old Greco-Roman “Ionic column”) materialised into view there in the darkened museum room. The establishment was obviously closed for the night, and was only illuminated by a few subdued security lights.

A porthole type opening appeared in the DiTraS, and I emerged from it accompanied by Millie Drake and Kit-10. I had now donned my panama hat and one of my favourite opera capes.

“So where are we again?” queried the girl.

“The Municipal Museum of the capital city on the planet Merrold,” I told her. “It is a society much like Earth in the late twentieth century, at least technologically speaking. The Merroldians are an humanoid race, their society largely peaceful but rather legalistic.”

“Won’t there be museum guards?” asked Millie.

“More than likely,” I acquiesced. “Kit-10, keep a watch out, hmmm? Make sure your blaster is set for stun.”

“Of course, s--,” replied the mechanical feline.

(It should be noted here that, along with her other catlike characteristics, Kit-10 is possessed of a total inability to openly show respect to anyone. The closest she can ever come to it is addressing me by a slight “s--” sound -- for “sir” -- and Millie by “m--” -- for “ma’am”.)

We began searching around the museum room, looking at the various displays, many of which were secured under glass.

“Daniel, a lot of these things look like crown jewels,” said Millie. “Royal vestments, regalia.”

“Indeed,” said I. “These are relics of the old Merroldian Monarchy, from before their society became one large republic.”

“So will that core thing enable us to find what here is the first segment of the Eternal Key?”

“It should indeed, Mills,” I said, taking the crystalline wand from my jacket pocket and holding it to-wards the display cabinets. “Let us see.”

The core began to glow when I pointed it to-wards a glass cabinet containing a particularly diverse assortment of antique jewellery.

“Ah, here we go,” I pondered. “That topaz-like stone seems to be it.”

“But how do we get to it?” questioned Millie Drake. “Kit-10’s nose-laser?”

“I think not. I should be able to do it without damaging the glass if I use the transonic turnscrew. That will also serve to automatically disable any alarms, hmmm?”

I handed Millie the crystalline core and took the transonic, an highly-advanced scientific instrument somewhat resembling a large writing pen, from my pocket. I activated the device and set to work loosening the fastenings of the glass cover to the display case.

“There are so many jewels on this display,” I said as the low whirring sound of the transonic turnscrew signified its working, “and they do not appear to be labelled. I doubt if it will even be noticed if one goes missing.”

I then returned the transonic instrument to my pocket and carefully lifted the glass with one hand, whilst using the other to extract the stone. I then slowly replaced the glass and felt it lock back in place.

“So that’s really the first segment of the Eternal Key?” pondered Millie.

“Let us be certain, love,” said I, retrieving the crystalline wand from her.

I touched the jewel with the wand and there was a quick flash of white light as the topaz stone transformed into an irregular crystal about the size of a baseball.

“Wow!” exclaimed the lass. “It’s beautiful!”

“Forsooth, it is,” I agreed, placing both the segment and the wand in my jacket pocket. “Beautiful and unspeakably powerful.”

“Danger approaching!” suddenly interrupted Kit-10.

I looked up just in time to perceive a man hurrying down the corridor to-wards the museum room. He was short and stocky and wearing an uniform.

“The guard!” Millie cried out.

“Yes, he must have just noticed the light whilst on his routine ‘beat’ around the museum,” I said.

“You two!” the guard then shouted, starting to take his gun from its holster. “Hands up!”

“Stun him, Kit-10!” I said as Millie and I hurried a retreat to-wards the DiTraS.

A beam of light shot from the nose of the robot cat, hitting the guard in the chest and sending him crumpling to the floor, unconscious.

“I doubt if that chap will even report this when he awakens,” I mused. “His superiors would probably just think he had been drinking on the job!”

Millie and I entered the DiTraS, followed by Kit-10, and the odd gasping moaning sound was heard as the ship dematerialised from the museum.

Inside the control room, I set the first segment down on the console and inserted the crystalline core back in the instrument panel.

“One down,” I stated, “two to go!”

“My gosh, Daniel,” said Millie Drake, her eyes wide with wonder, “where will it take us next?” …

At that same time, a small-but-efficient rocket-ship was blasting through Space near the planet Merrold. Inside this craft, in a sort of centralised computer room, stood several large cybernetic men. They were all a metallic silver in colour, but the largest of them had a sort of bronze piping highlighting his form and signifying him as the leader. One of the others approached him.

“Algolitish ship detected, Controller,” it reported, its voice an emotionless, electronically-enhanced drone. “It is the ship belonging to the Kosmikos Agent known as Doctor Daniel Rumanos. They have the first segment of the Key of Eternity.”

“Excellent,” returned the Controller in its similar but deeper tones. “Continue to follow their course, but keep our presence cloaked. When they have ascertained the location of all three segments, we shall destroy them and take the Key for ourselves.”

“Yes, Controller,” said the other.

“Soon the Eternal Key shall be ours, and we, the Replicants of Leknii, shall achieve complete mastery over all of Space and Time.” …

We soon heard the DiTraS engines again initiate the materialisation sequence. I went over and examined the readouts.

“So, where are we?” asked Millie.

“We have landed on the planet Gudubuch,” I informed her, “which is found in one of the most primitive galactic clusters. The entire planet is one steaming-hot prehistoric swamp.”

“But the second segment of the Eternal Key is here somewhere?”

“Yes, according to the core it is indeed near by,” I said, picking up the crystalline wand. “As for you, Kit-10, it is best that you stay behind this time. Far too much dampness out there for your circuitry, hmmm? Nevertheless, there is something you can do whilst waiting for our return. Do you think you can do a scan of the first segment, and prepare a perfect mathematical survey of its dimensions? Just an idea that it might be of interest, hmmm?”

“Of course, s--,” acquiesced the metallic pussycat.

Millie Drake and I then exited the ship to begin our exploration of the planet, in search of the second segment. The heat and humidity of Gudubuch were absolutely sweltering and oppressive, with the thick, jungle-like growth of the swampland creating an uncomfortable darkness even under the planet’s bright midday sun.

“Gosh,” exclaimed the girl, “when you said ‘prehistoric’, it wasn’t an exaggeration!”

“Indeed not, love,” I agreed. “The highest forms of life here are some amphibious and early-reptilian species. We need to be careful, though. They can grow quite large in this tropical environment.”

“Any ideas yet what the segment is disguised as?”

“The core seems to indicate it is quite close in that direction. Remember that it could be anything: a rock, a tree, anything!”

We continued on and soon came to a wide marsh, filled as it was with masses of floating greenery and with occasional breakouts of bubbling denoting the presence of various types of archaic animal life beneath the surface.

“Well, that is odd,” I said, looking at the crystal core as it glowed whilst I held it before me. “Odd indeed.”

“What is it, Daniel?” enquired the lass.

“According to this, the second segment is directly in front of us, but then -- down!”

“You mean it’s under the water?”

“Yes, but the problem is more than that,” I explained. “It seems to be spread over quite a wide area, and to be apparently mobile. In fact, it appears to be almost as if it is…”

I was suddenly interrupted by a tremendous splash of uprising swamp water as something very big quickly rose up from the swamp. I heard Millie Drake scream in absolute abject horror as we both beheld what it was that was so suddenly threatening us.

It was an huge, snakelike reptile, quite like a water-going anaconda but far larger than anything found on present-day Earth. Its head alone was about the size of an elephant. It bellowed a roar that shook the ground like a planet-quake. Then, before we could further react, the monstrosity opened its gigantic jaws wider and lunged directly to-wards us!!

I stood in front of Millie to shield her as the serpentine terror attacked. Then I realised something.

“Ah, of course!” I exclaimed.

Just before the giant reptile’s horrid mouth would have closed upon us, I tossed the crystalline wand into it. When it made contact, there was a flash of light and the large prehistoric snake disappeared. The core and another irregularly-shaped crystal fell to the ground at our feet. I bent down and picked them up.

“So that was it?” said the still-trembling Millie. “That monster was the second segment?”

“Quite so, love,” I said as I safely deposited the segment and the wand in my pocket, then taking the girl’s hand comfortingly. “I said it could be anything, hmmm?”

We then heard another roar, this of some far-off, but undoubtedly humongous creature.

“Umm, shouldn’t we get back to the DiTraS before any more monsters show up?” suggested Millie. “Any real ones, I mean?”

“I think that is a fine idea indeed, love,” I agreed, and we quickly returned to our ship.

On board the DiTraS, I placed the new segment with the other.

“Any idea how they fit together?” questioned Millie Drake.

“According to the old stories about the Key of Eternity,” I remembered, “they will automatically assemble when all three segments have been collected together with the core. So, let us find the third segment and see what happens, hmmm?”

I activated the console, returning the core to its place, and we again travelled through the Time/Space Current. When we landed, I immediately examined the readouts.

“We have materialised on the ice planet Hith,” I said “It is in a remote portion of the Milky Way Galaxy, and became popular, soon after its discovery in the twenty-third century, amongst a movement of Earth people who wanted to go there to live like old-time ‘mountain men’.”

“‘Ice planet’?” repeated Millie Drake with a nervous giggle. “So after sweating it out in that swamp, we are going to freeze ourselves here?”

“Oh, hopefully not, love,” I winked. “It is actually quite like the old Canadian wilderness. Here, let me put up the view-screen and we can see exactly what is outside.”

A picture appeared on the monitor above the control board. It showed the rough but cosy interior of a dwelling.

“By the Stars!” I exclaimed. “That looks like a sort of log cabin, hmmm? Look, there is even a fire burning in the fireplace, so it should be warm enough.”

“Do you think it belongs to one of those settlers from Earth you mentioned?” queried the lass.

“More than likely,” I answered, retrieving the crystalline wand from the controls. “Come along Mills, Kit-10. I hope that the owner of this house is friendly, and will not mind us looking for the segment in their abode. Who knows, they may even invite us for tea!”

We exited the DiTraS into the cabin. It was small and rustic but well-furnished with several chairs and a small table. I took the core from my pocket and began to scan for the third segment.

“Ah, there it is!” I said, crossing to where the wand had indicated.

I touched to crystal core to a wooden candlestick and, with the flash of light, the same was transformed into the third segment of the Eternal Key.  I was just about to pick it up when I was interrupted by a scream from Millie Drake.

“What is it, love?” I whirled around. “What happened?”

“Over there,” she said, pointing to the far side of the cabin. “Look!”

I ran over and saw what had so upset the girl. It had previously been hidden from our view by the furniture. It was the body of a man.

Dropping the core in my pocket, I bent over to examine him. He was clad in winter clothing, looking as if he had just re-entered the cabin from outside. His long hair and beard signified that he was one of the self-styled “mountain-men” of which I had previously spoken.

“Is…” stammered Millie, who had kept somewhat away. “Is he dead?”

“He is indeed, love,” I informed her, examining the gaping but bloodless wound in his midsection. “He appears to have been killed by some kind of energy weapon!”

“But who could have done that?”

“That is the question, Mills,” I pondered. “No one on Hith would have such a device. The entire reason they migrated here was in order to live simply, without dangerous technology. Someone else must be here. Someone whom this poor chap interrupted upon returning home, who then…”

“Danger!” suddenly exclaimed Kit-10. “Incoming matter transmissions detected!”

I stood up and whirled around just in time to witness an outrage. There were shimmering lights on the other side of the room that resolved themselves into three figures -- tall silver figures that I knew all too well.

“Leknii Replicants!” said I. “So they are responsible for this murder!”

Then, before I could further react, it all happened. One of the Replicants took the third segment of the Eternal Key that I had left on that side of the room, whilst another grabbed Millie Drake by the arm. I had just started to hurl myself to-wards them when the third raised its arm and fired its crimson-hued energy weapon at me. It narrowly missed, burning a hole in the floor.

I heard Millie cry out in terror, and I knew that Kit-10 could not fire her nose-laser without the possibility of hitting the girl. Then the glow of the matter transit beam briefly returned, and the three Replicants vanished -- taking Miss Millie Drake and the third segment with them!

I ran into the DiTraS along with the mechanical cat.

“The Leknii ship must be in orbit around Hith,” I said whilst setting the controls to dematerialise. “They likely have a cloaking screen up, but if I can calibrate the sensors to detect the residue of their engines, we should be able to ascertain their location.”

The DiTraS had by now re-materialised in open Space. I put up the monitor to view the area around the planet, opening all communications possibilities in order to find the ship in which I knew Millie was being held hostage.

Then a voice came over the communications system. It was the emotionless voice of a Replicant.

“Doctor Rumanos of Algol,” it began, “we have your companion. You will surrender the first two segments of the Eternal Key to us immediately, or her life will be terminated.”

Do you see the terror, the unmitigated horror of this situation? The Replicants of Leknii were holding Millie Drake hostage -- their demand being that I should give them all that they needed to construct and activate the Key of Eternity and use it to achieve powers thus far only available to the Watchers of Algol!

“The Key is far too dangerous,” I told them. “Its misuse could forever destroy the very balance of Creation. It could…”

“The subject is not open to discussion,” countered the Leknii. “We will utilise the Eternal Key to achieve mastery over all of Time and Space. We already have the third segment. You will surrender the others to us now, or your young friend will die.”

“You promise to return her here in exchange for the segments and the core?” I queried, gazing closely at the pieces of the Eternal Key that for now rested on my ship’s control board.

“She will be returned to you via our matter transit as soon as the complete Key is received.”

“Daniel, no!” I heard Millie Drake’s voice cry out. “Don’t give it to them! I’m not important! Please don’t… !” …

On board the Leknii ship, the Controller turned to-wards Millie, who was trembling in fear.

“Be silent, you Algolite child,” it said. “The affection that Doctor Rumanos feels for you will be his undoing. We have eliminated all emotion from ourselves. That is why we are superior and shall prevail over all of Space and all of Time.” …

In the DiTraS control room, I heard the voice of the Controller again on the speaker:

“We need your decision now, Algolite. Surrender the segments to us.”

I glanced over to one of the tables near the control console, and saw the bouquet of roses that I had given Millie earlier. She had placed them in a vase of water. As I looked at this scene, I knew what I had to do.

“All right,” I said. “All right. The DiTraS does not have matter transmission technology because our people consider such things to be antiquated junk. I will lower the inter-dimensional dampers so that you can transmit the segments to your ship and return the girl here.” …

A few minutes later, the crystalline wand and two segments transmitted unto the Leknii ship. The third segment already stood on their central control console.

“Excellent,” proclaimed the Controller. “The girl will be returned to you when the Eternal Key has been assembled.” …

The Leknii had lowered their cloaking shield, and I could see the rocket-ship on the DiTraS monitor. I was making some quick adjustments to the control circuitry. …

The Key assembled itself, the core taking the three segments together with itself as the Replicants watched.

“We have it,” stated the Replicant Controller. “The Eternal Key is ours, and now the Leknii shall be masters of all reality.”

Then a strange white light began to play from the Key. It only lasted a moment before it happened -- one of the segments suddenly caught fire and burned away into a charred black lump of ash!

“What?” queried the Controller. “What has happened?”

The Replicant ship then began to shake and shudder, as if it was being torn to pieces.

“Controller,” said one of the Replicants. “All of our systems are failing. We are losing all power.”

At that same moment, the glow of a matter transit beam surrounded the form of Millie Drake, and she disappeared from the Leknii ship. …

Back on board the DiTraS, I saw Millie appear with the glow of the matter transmission. The lass quickly ran into my arms, sobbing with sudden relief from the horrid fear she had been experiencing.

“Oh, my Millie,” I said. “My sweet little Millie. An eternity of chaos would be more tolerable for me than a life without you!”

“Leknii ship critical,” interrupted Kit-10.

Millie and I looked up at the monitor. The Replicant rocket briefly held still in the eldritch black of Space before it suddenly exploded into countless microscopic shards.

“But… what happened, Daniel?” asked the girl. “I don’t understand.”

I reached into my pocket and took out an irregularly-shaped crystal about the size of a baseball.

“This is the real first segment,” I said, placing it back upon the console. “I gave them the core and the second segment, but the first one they got was a fake.”

“I get it now!” exclaimed Millie. “The mathematical survey you asked Kit-10 to do! That was to get the dimensions so you could make a copy of the segment! Good job, Kit-10!”

“Of course, m--,” returned the robotic puss.

“Quite right,” I agreed. “I indeed used the results of her survey to construct a physically-identical duplicate out of plain glass, and employed a bit of ‘slight of hand’ to replace it. When the Replicants attempted to activate the powers of the Key, the resultant feedback overloaded their systems and destroyed them. I got you back by hacking into their computer and reversing the polarisation of their matter transit device, then easily finding your Algolitish DNA amongst them, and the rest was easy, hmmm?”

“But the Eternal Key?” wondered Millie. “What will happen to it?

“Take a look,” I said, motioning to-wards the control board.

With a flash of pure white light, the second and third segments, along with the crystalline core, appeared next to the first segment that I had left there. As we watched, the three segments assembled themselves around the core, and formed into an object in sooth somewhat resembling a key. This was soon surrounded by scintillating lights, bright orange and blue in colour, which swirled and grew in intensity whilst a sound as of distant symphony filled the air. Within a few moments, it was all over. The light and sound faded, and the Key of Eternity had vanished.

“The Eternal Key is indestructible,” I explained. “I knew the rest of it would automatically return here to assemble, and would stay just long enough for the Absolute Convention of Algol to remotely restore equilibrium to the Cosmos. Now it will be again scattered and disguised in new forms throughout all of Space and Time, whilst the crystalline core is returned for safekeeping to Daemonia City.”

“That’s good!” cheered Millie. “So the Replicant ship was completely destroyed along with its crew, and that horrible Controller?”

“Yes, but there will be more of them spread out across the Universe,” I instructed. “The Leknii Replicants are intent upon conquering the secrets of Time travel. We must be on the lookout for any sign of their presence -- and we must always be prepared to stop them!”