Ling-Cho looked up at the buildings in wonder. She had never been in a big city before. In fact, she had never been anywhere outside of her tiny village in rural China until now. The way the buildings seemed to soar up to-wards the sky fascinated the girl, as did the myriad neon lights and the bustling traffic of this metropolis.
Her flight had been delayed by several hours, and the jet aeroplane had finally arrived with her at the local airport just at sunset. Due to this change in schedule, Mr. Yueng had not had the time to send one of his private limousines to pick her up as originally planned, but had hired a city taxicab to drive her across town to meet him at his estate. The driver, an elderly man of obvious Hindu extraction, had not asked any questions.
Mr. Yueng, you see, was the man that young Ling-Cho was supposed to be marrying in a few days. Just in her teens, the girl was rather nervous about meeting this older gentleman. Nevertheless, she felt it would be fine. After all, Mr. Yueng was known to be descended from the most honourable and noble blood of the Imperial Dynasties of ancient China, and Ling-Cho had been chosen from her birth to be his bride. It was according to the oldest and most honoured traditions of her culture, and the girl had been warned to pay no heed to the decadent Westerners and their perverse talk of “child sex trafficking” and other such imagined atrocities.
Ling-Cho was a beautiful young girl, slender and svelte and clad in her simple powder-blue dress, with a matching ribbon in her long, shiny, liquorice-like hair. Her skin was honey-coloured, and her face was finely delicate with perfect elfin features, with lips like a sensuous red rose. The girl settled back in her seat, closing her lovely almond-shaped eyes and listening to the sounds of the late crosstown commuters whilst she thought of the life she had ahead of her as the wife of that wealthy and respected gentleman here in the United States of America.
None the less, little did Ling-Cho know -- in truth there is no way she could have realised -- that her idyllic future was to be opposed and challenged by forces beyond that of anything she (or indeed any sane human being) could possibly imagine; forces of extreme evil and of obscene eldritch darkness that would threaten to destroy all that she could hope or wish for. You see, the city in which young Miss Ling-Cho -- intended bride of the prosperous and respected Chinese-American investor Mr. Yueng -- had found herself was that which is known as Baltimore in the state of Maryland, and that is indeed a place in which there are quite often grotesquely unusual things afoot. …
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!!! …
I stopped my canary-coloured Edwardian roadster (affectionately known as “Lizzie”), just outside of the gate of Yueng Estates there along Liberty Road in Baltimore. It was a warm, humid evening, and I was clad in my usual finery, including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, military boots, panama hat, and one of my favourite opera capes.
“Mr. Yueng should be expecting us,” said I. “Ah, there is the announcement system.”
“It was nice of him to invite us to meet his fiancée,” said my companion, Millie Drake, “and to look at the finalised plans for the wedding. I’ve never seen a traditional Chinese ceremony before!”
Miss Drake is an exceedingly-beautiful young lady with luxurious chestnut hair, sun-kissed skin, enchanting violet eyes, and an invitingly-wide mouth. She was wearing a short, tight, hot pink dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her petite-and-perfect figure.
“It should be quite a sight,” I assured her. “Come to think of it, I myself have not seen a Chinese wedding since old Kublai Khan’s, hmmm? I was best man, you know. I fear that Marco Polo felt a bit slighted, since he made no mention of that in his memoirs.”
“Mr. Yueng is descended from the Khan, isn’t he?” enquired Millie.
“Indeed he is. I say, it looks like I have come full circle in my witnessing of traditional East Asian nuptials, hmmm?”
Whilst the girl giggled, I reached out and touched the intercom switch on the announcement system.
“Good evening,” I intoned. “This is Doctor Rumanos. Would someone please inform the honourable Mr. Yueng that Miss Drake and I have arrived?”
There was no reply. I repeated my words but again to no avail.
“Well, that is odd,” I pondered.
“What could be wrong with the intercom system?” asked my companion.
I took the transonic turnscrew, an highly-advanced scientific device somewhat resembling a large writing pen, from my jacket pocket, utilising it the scan the system’s electric circuitry.
“According to this,” I announced, “it has been shut off from the inside, along with all other communications possibilities.”
“That’s weird,” mused Millie Drake. “Especially since Mr. Yueng was expecting us and everything. I hope he’s all right.”
“Weird it indeed is, my love. Weird indeed.” …
Inside the mansion at the centre of the sprawling estate, Mr. Yueng was doing his best to hide his concern and to maintain his traditional Oriental stoicism. A fit, intelligent-featured man of about fifty, Yueng was clad in an ornate dressing gown as he stood before a full-length, golden-framed mirror checking his hair. As with the rest of the house, the dressing chamber was filled with myriad antiques from throughout Chinese history.
“Chun,” he said to his valet and major domo, who stood near by, “are you certain the problem with the intercom system is not part of some greater fault? I would be displeased for my new bride to come into a home without proper security. She is on her way from the airport now, though her transport has been delayed due to traffic.”
“All should be well, sir,” said the servant, a tall Eurasian man in his late twenties, dressed in a dark business suit. “The system is likely only resetting itself, and should be fully functional again shortly.”
“My honoured friend Doctor Rumanos and his young lady should be here any time now,” announced Mr. Yueng. “Please do go see that they are escorted to the receiving room.”
“Yes, sir,” replied Chun. “Right away.”
At this, Chun exited the dressing room and walked down the corridor. He did not go to the receiving room, however. Neither did he go outside to ascertain if the expected guests had arrived. In stead, he entered another chamber, his own, and pulled aside a silk curtain that concealed part of the wall.
“All is now ready,” whispered Chun to himself as he gazed at a symbol that had been painted on the wall behind the curtain. “Tonight I shall receive the Most Ancient Power, and shall exalt the cause of the Tong of the Qi-Gwai to new heights of glory.”
Then Chun bowed deeply in reverence before the symbol, that horrid and terrible insignia that was upon the wall. It was a symbol made up of three interlocking inverted triangles. …
"Too bad Kit-10 isn’t here,” said Millie Drake as we stood before the high fence surrounding Yueng Estates. “She could cut through that with her nose laser.”
“Unfortunately, there is no traditional role for robot cats at these imperial-style weddings, hmmm?” I explained. “Only for Pekingese dogs.”
“We could say she was a Siamese,” joked Millie.
“She could never be persuaded to sing that song,” I grinned. “In any event, we should be able to get in without doing any damage. Ah, here we go!”
We had left Lizzie in front of the gate and walked several metres around the perimeter of the estate, with the leprous light of the gibbous moon lighting our way. There was now before us a gap in the fence that appeared to be just large enough for us to squeeze through.
“I should warn you, Mills,” said I whilst we stepped onto the lush gardens of the estate grounds. “Mr. Yueng is known to be quite the conservationist, even keeping several rare and exotic animals from remote parts of China on the estate.”
“Anything that could be dangerous?” queried the lass.
“Worry not, love,” I assured her. “I am certain anything that could be of concern is kept properly controlled.”
We were strolling across the perfectly-manicured grounds to-wards the mansion when we suddenly heard a strange sound. It was like unto an odd brutish muttering, or a chatter almost human.
“Daniel, what was that?” questioned Millie as we both stopped short in our tracks.
“By the Stellar Trinity!” I swore. “It sounded for all the world like a…”
It was then that my words were drowned out by Millie Drake’s scream. It was a scream of sudden fear and of absolute horror at the sight of what was approaching us. It was far larger and heavier than any man, and covered with dark-orange hair. Its simian face put forward a look of horrendous challenge as it reached out its long, heavily-muscled arms to-wards us.
“Millie!” I called to the girl. “Find shelter!”
I hurried forwards to shield Millie and thus to face the giant ape. I managed to grab the creature by its wrist before it could touch me, then I crouched down slightly and utilised the resultant leverage to heave the gigantic simian over my shoulder. It hit the ground with a resounding thud.
Nevertheless, the huge ape recovered its feet quickly and, before I could react, succeeded in giving me a blow to the midsection with one of its humongous hands. I staggered back and struggled to not give into the pain, then responding by delivering a roundhouse kick to the monster’s head. At this it bellowed with outrage and immediately responded with a similar move from one of its own large, hand-like feet.
I just managed to maintain consciousness when the horrid thing jumped up and over me, then grasping me around the chest from behind. I gasped for air as I realised that the ape’s intention was to utilise its incredibly-powerful arms to squeeze the very life from me. I immediately felt my air supply blocked off, and knew that I would be insentient within moments if I did not manage to somehow free myself from the ape’s grasp. In desperation, I hooked my foot around the beast’s ankle and, with a sudden jerk, managed to bring it to the ground with me on top of it.
I jumped up and, before the big brute could regain its feet, I gave it a quick double punch to the face and then, with my thumb and two fingers, applied pressure to a certain point on its nearly nonexistent neck. With a shudder and a low whimper, the giant ape soon was unconscious.
“It is all right now, Mills,” I assured the lass who had sought safety behind a near by tree. “It will be out cold for a quarter of an hour, at least.”
“Daniel, isn’t that thing a lot bigger than any modern ape?” asked Millie.
“Indeed it is, my dear,” I replied as I examined the now-unconscious creature. “It is a gigantopithecus, and they are generally believed to have gone extinct 300,000 years ago.”
“Then how is it here?’
“Well, there have been a smattering of unverified reports of sightings of them in the tropical rainforest found on the southernmost tip of China. It appears that a few of the prehistoric apes survived after all, hmmm? As I said, Yueng is quite the conservationist, though I am quite certain that he would usually keep this creature at a safe distance from any visitors.”
“Maybe the security system is faulty like the intercom,” offered the girl.
“That would seem to be the case,” I agreed whilst we continued to walk on to-wards the mansion. “That is a troubling thought, especially if he has imported anything else here from that same tropical forest. After all, it is said to be the home of…”
The Millie Drake again screamed at what was slithering into view before us. It was larger than any snake usually seen upon present-day Earth, and as it raised its head and opened its hideous reptilian hood it easily reached to nearly my own height. Its two ebon-black eyes were fixed upon us, and its huge fangs dripped with deadly venom as it reared back and prepared to strike.
It was indeed a member of a certain archaic species of reptile that the remote Chinese rainforest is said by some to retain. It was a giant cobra!
I again stood before Millie Drake, to guard, protect, and defend her as the gigantic serpent reared up before us. I knew that a dose of its burning venom could possibly be fatal even to our own Algolitish constitutions.
Carefully reaching into my pocket, I removed the transonic turnscrew and quickly changed its setting to emit a certain frequency, then raising the device in front of the huge cobra.
The big snake then began to sway back and forth with the movement of my own hand that was holding the transonic. Within a few moments, the scaly terror dropped to the ground and then quietly slithered off into the high grass.
“Gosh, Daniel,” said Millie, peeping around from behind me, “what did you do to it?”
“Oh, just a technological variation of an old trick I learned from a snake-charmer in old Calcutta, hmmm?” I explained, turning to her. “Reptiles respond to certain sonic frequencies, you see, and the rest is then just persistence and exerting one’s own will-power over them.”
It was at that moment that I noticed something else, something standing just a couple metres behind Millie Drake.
“Turn around slowly, love,” I warned her. “Be careful to not move suddenly.”
Millie obeyed me, and carefully turned to also behold what I had seen. It was a man in his late twenties, a man of apparent Eurasian descent, clad in a dark business suit. He was holding a beautiful young Chinese girl in front of him, his left arm cruelly curled around her neck from behind, a look of extreme unadulterated evil upon his face.
“Hello, Doctor Rumanos,” he sneered. “My name is Chun. Do not make any attempt to resist me or be assured that I am willing and able to end this child’s life immediately. You see, you are not the only one here schooled in certain old Asiatic techniques of life and death. I can crush her throat within a half-second.”
“The young lady whom you are so mistreating is, I would take it, Miss Ling-Cho, the intended bride of our host?” I queried.
“So it is,” affirmed Chun, “and he will also cooperate with me if he does not want her to meet an early death. Fortunately, her taxi arrived through the back way and, since I have disabled the security and announcement systems, I was easily able to apprehend her.”
“You are holding her hostage so Mr. Yueng will cooperate with you?” asked Millie Drake. “Cooperate how?”
“It has been revealed to me that Yueng is the guardian of a secret,” answered the villain. “It is a secret handed down to the descendants of certain Chinese Dynasties. It is a secret that could be used, in the right hands, to achieve power and domination over all physical reality. It is the secret of the Most Ancient Power!”
“Yes, I have heard those legends,” said I, “but the information on how to wield the supposed powers -- and even the truth of what they actually are -- is believed lost. Even if this is all true, and not just a charming old Chinese myth, you shall not be able to properly receive and control these forces.”
“In that you are incorrect, Doctor,” retorted the wicked Chun. “The procedures for using the Most Ancient Power have been revealed to the Masters of the Tong of the Qi-Gwai, and, as a chosen servant of that most august and feared society, I shall use them to conquer this world, and to make myself emperor of the entire human race!”
“‘The Tong of the Qi-Gwai’?” I repeated. “By the Daemonian Spires! Millie, ‘qi-gwai’ is Chinese for ‘strange ghost’, or…”
“‘Spectral Paranormal’!” completed my companion, with a shudder of horror at this realisation. “My gosh, so he is one of their agents?!”
“Indeed so,” I replied. “It would appear that Chun here is an operative of that hideous occult terrorist organisation. He intentionally disabled the security and intercom systems, and set those animals upon us, hmmm?”
“You are correct, Doctor,” announced Chun with obvious criminal pride. “You are indeed correct, and you know too much to live!!”
Do you even begin to recognise the extreme horror, forsooth the ungodly satanic terror of this horrid situation, my dear readers? Chun, sworn agent of that grotesquely criminal secret society remembered in eternal infamy as Spectral Paranormal, also known as the Tong of the Qi-Gwai, was now holding that innocent young girl hostage, and threatening to brutally murder her if his bizarre and unholy demands were not met by our host, the wealthy Chinese-American investor known as Mr. Yueng!
“You will not oppose me, Doctor,” continued the villainous Chun, “or I shall kill not only this girl, but you and your young companion as well!”
I stood facing him, noting the extreme unmitigated wickedness and irrevocable madness in his dark eyes. It was then that I knew that there was only one slim chance, one small hope of remedying this exceedingly grotesque and indeed remarkably uncanny situation.
At that very moment, another voice was heard; the voice of one approaching from behind us. It was the voice of Mr. Yueng, who now strode into view clad in a golden-hued silken dress suit.
“You will do nothing of the sort, Chun,” he said in atone of command. “You will do no further harm to my guests or to anyone else. You will release my fiancée and stop this foolishness immediately.”
At the sight of his erstwhile employer, Chun flinched slightly, his attention briefly wavering and causing his grip on the girl to loosen. It was just enough for me to implement my plan.
I had kept the transonic turnscrew concealed in my hand, with the instrument partially obscured by the sleeve of my coat. I now reactivated it, quickly raising the device in front of me to-wards the evil Chun.
A mere second later, I saw Chun shiver suddenly in shock, thus fully releasing his hold on Ling-Cho. The girl dropped to the ground as Chun gasped and his eyes went wide with horror. The giant cobra had struck his shoulder blade, its huge fangs delivering a painfully burning dose of its deadly poison. Its serpentine anger now satiated, I beheld the reptilian monster now gliding away back into the darkness.
With a shriek of outrage and of pain, Chun now turned and ran off across the grounds and was soon out of our sight. I motioned to Millie Drake, who immediately ran over to see to the needs of other girl. Millie helped little Ling-Cho to her feet. The Chinese lass was weeping with emotion from her now-relieved fright, but was otherwise unharmed.
A few moments later, we all heard another shriek of terror from the now-distant Chun. This was followed by the sound of an enraged simian chattering, and Chun’s cries were soon cut off with a choking gurgle that was accompanied by the horrid cracking sound of an human backbone being broken clean in two.
“So, the gigantopithecus got him,” I said. “A more merciful fate than if he had survived long enough to have suffered the pain of the death-throes from the cobra’s venom.”
“Quite so,” agreed our host, Mr. Yueng. “Please, my honoured friends, let us retreat to the safety of my house and have some much-needed refreshments.” …
Later that evening, after I had aided Yueng in fixing the security system that Chun had sabotaged, and in disposing of the insane villain’s mangled corpse (in the unlikely event of any police enquiries concerning his whereabouts, they would be informed that he had suddenly left the country for destinations unknown), Millie Drake and I were enjoying tea in our host’s elegant sitting room. Miss Ling-Cho had, with the alacrity of the very young, recovered from the horror of her experience, and was now apparently settling in quite nicely to her new role as lady of the mansion. She spoke no English, but the words in Chinese that I had heard exchanged between her and Yueng were of mutual respect and devotion. She had insisted upon performing three elaborate ceremonial bows before Millie and me, in thanks for our help.
Whilst we relaxed in the comfort of that estate house, I noticed a look of questioning on Millie’s lovely face.
“What is it, love?” I enquired concernedly. “Is there something that is troubling you?”
“Oh, I’m okay, Daniel,” she replied sweetly. “It’s just that there is something that I still don’t understand.”
At this, Mr. Yueng made a statement.
“There are some things that are truly beyond all mortal understanding, Miss Drake,” he said wisely, “but if you will let us know what it is that causes your current wonder, then perhaps on this you can be enlightened.”
“Well, it’s just about the ‘Most Ancient Power’ that Chun so desperately wanted,” Millie said. “What is it? Some weapon? Some supernatural knowledge?”
“Ah, what the Most Ancient Power signifies,” explained our host, “is something that Chun, with his sadly disordered mind, could never truly receive. It is something that I am certain his wretched tong could know nothing of either, despite any pretensions to the contrary. It is a power of goodness, in truth an holiness before which no evil can exist. In fact it is something found in the truth of an old saying of our people: ‘An emperor is nothing without his empress’.”
At this (Yueng having repeated the quote in both Chinese and English), little Ling-Cho leaned over with a charming smile to-wards her intended imperial bridegroom, who affectionately took her hands in his.
“Oh, I think I am beginning to understand,” responded Millie. “Gosh, that is so beautiful!”
“And so it is,” continued Mr. Yueng. “The Most Ancient Power is at once the most basic and the most profound in all of existence. It is the power of love.”
At this, I looked into Miss Mille Drake’s beautiful violet eyes and smiled.
“‘An emperor is nothing with his empress’,” I repeated, taking my own companion’s dear little hand, “and a Doctor is nothing without his Millie.”
***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN “ATTACK OF THE LEKNII”