I adjusted several levers on the control console of the DiTraS (which is pronounced “DYE-tress” and stands for Dimensional Transport Sphere), that amazing combination Spaceship/Time-machine of the type that is only available for the use of members of my own highly-advanced race, the Watchers of Algol. I was clad in my usual finery -- including a frilled poet shirt, purple velvet suit, and military-style boots - as I stood there in the café-like inter-dimensional control room. My panama hat and one of my favourite opera capes hung from a near by hallstand.
“So, my dear Millie,” said I to the young girl who stood near to me. “We are quite overdue for an holiday, hmmm? I have set the coordinates for the Galactic Centre Resorts!”
“Oh my gosh, that sounds great!” cooed Millie Drake. “I hear they have great beachfront planets there! It’ll give me a chance to try out my new swimsuit!”
The girl is exceedingly beautiful, petite and perfect, her hair a rich chestnut hue, her eyes an enchanting violet in colour, and her mouth sensuously wide. She was clad in a short, tight, cherry-red dress that only served to highlight the soft curves of her slender teenage figure.
I moved around the control board, fine-tuning the settings. In so doing, I was careful to step around Kit-10, our mobile personal computer that resembles nothing more or less than a small mechanical cat. The robotic puss was busy monitoring certain interstellar communications channels via the ship’s radio receivers.
“I am quite certain you will enjoy the hotel I am booking for us there as well, Mills,” I went on. “An old friend of mine is a resident there and owns the place, hmmm? He is an Algolite expatriate, but you may have heard of him from when he spent some time on Earth years ago. His name is…”
“Transmission being received,” suddenly interrupted Kit-10 in her electronically-simulated but pleasantly-feminine voice. “It is encoded with several layers of Kosmikos security.”
“Spires of Daemonia!” I swore, as I decoded the message through the readout system. “It looks like our holiday will have to wait, hmmm? We have an assignment!”
“Oh well,” answered Millie with a giggle. “I guess that’s exciting, too!” …
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!!! …
It was a lofty-seeming chamber, replete with multi-coloured lighting that flashed in odd patterns but offered only a dim level of illumination. The atmosphere was thick with a kind of fog, and there was the sound of low, sonorous music backed with a bass-heavy drumbeat. There were numerous posts or poles of varying thickness, reaching upwards to the unseen ceiling.
An odd gasping moaning noise was heard as the DiTraS, the exterior of which resembles a Greco-Roman Ionic or Corinthian column, materialised into view. A few moments later, a porthole type opening appeared in the ship and I stepped out (having now put on my hat and cloak), followed closely by Millie Drake.
“So Kit-10 should stay on board?” enquired the girl.
“Yes, for the time being at least,” I replied. “We do not know the origin of this fog, or if it might have a negative effect on her systems, hmmm?”
“So, what do you think could be blocking the scanners from giving us more information about where we are?”
“No idea,” I admitted. “The air and gravity are Earth-like, but the DiTraS systems were unable to provide us with any data as to our actual location in Time or Space. All we know is that it is the area in which Kosmikos intelligence reports had remotely detected trouble needing investigated.”
I took the transonic turnscrew, an highly-sophisticated scientific instrument somewhat resembling a writing pen, from my jacket pocket and activated it to scan the area.
“Anything from the transonic?” asked Millie.
“Nothing we had not already known from the DiTraS and Kit-10. The only thing that could likely block our Algolitish technology, save for some natural anomaly that would be obvious, is a jamming frequency of incredibly advanced levels, along with knowledge of how to obstruct our own scanning abilities.”
“But who could do that?”
“One shudders to think, hmmm?” I mused, returning the device to my pocket. “However, let us not get ahead of ourselves. We need to investigate further before attempting any theorising.”
Having by now walked several metres away from the DiTraS, we both looked around the chamber in which we found ourselves.
“These lights, the fog, the weird music,” stated Millie. “It’s almost like we’re in the middle of some kind of futuristic war zone.”
“Indeed,” I agreed. “It is all quite strange, but at the same time, there is something rather familiar about it all.”
“You mean you think you’ve been here before?” queried the lass.
“Oh, maybe not here precisely,” I explained, “but somewhere quite similar, hmmm? I wish we could get an identification lock on the Time sector.”
“Well, if this is Earth, it couldn’t be before about the middle of the twenty-second century, could it?”
“That is just it, love. Whilst all this indeed does appear quite ‘futuristic’, there is something about it that rather reminds me of an earlier time. Say, the late 1980s or 1990s…”
“Daniel, look out!” suddenly interrupted Millie.
Indeed, immediately in front of us, the figure of a man had suddenly stepped out from behind a post. Before we could react, he raised a large gun-like weapon and fired a flash of light directly to-wards us!
Millie clung to me in fear as the gun fired, but then nothing happened. There was no actual discharge from the weapon, and the light did not shoot through the air at us.
The person who had fired then stepped forward where we could see him more clearly. He was a young man, dressed in the style of the late twentieth century.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said. “You aren’t players, are you? I mean, you don’t have lasers or anything. What are you doing out here on the gaming floor?”
I was then that the realisation hit me.
“By the Triple Star!” I swore. “Millie, do you realise where we are?”
“He said ‘gaming floor’, ‘players’,” returned the girl. “So we’re in some kind of arcade or something?”
“Quite right, love,” I smiled. “To be more precise, we are in a ‘laser tag’ centre!”
“Oh, okay! I’ve heard of them, but haven’t ever been to one. When I was growing up on Earth, I mean.”
(Even though she is a young lady of my own species -- an Algolite -- Miss Millie Drake did indeed spend the early part of her life disguised as an Earthling.)
“You people talk weird,” smiled the youth, “but it’s kind of cool.”
“Yes, I suppose we are rather ‘cool’, hmmm?” I rejoined. “I am Doctor Rumanos, and this is Miss Drake.”
“My name’s David,” he replied. “Nice to meet you. I’m just here to have some fun, since I don’t have any classes tomorrow. I’m a student at City College.”
“Hmmm,” I wondered. “What city?”
“Boston, of course,” laughed the lad. “You’re joking, right? How could you not know that we’re at the ‘Laser Challenge Zone’ at the East Boston Mall?”
“Oh, just indulge me, hmmm?” I continued. “Just for laughs, perhaps you could tell me what year it is as well.”
“1993!” he answered, obviously quite enjoying himself by now. “October 10, 1993, to be precise. So did you two just appear out of nowhere?”
“Pretty much,” answered Millie with a giggle.
“My assistant here and I have been engaged in some scientific research that involves travel, you see,” I attempted to explain.
“Oh, it’s all right,” replied David. “So you said you were a doctor, a scientist?”
“Yes, amongst other things, hmmm?”
“Cool!” he replied. “I’m hoping to transfer to Harvard next semester, where I can major in physics.”
“And well you should, my friend,” I approved. “I say, David, have you happened to have experienced anything unusual recently?”
“Unusual?” questioned the young man.
“Indeed, if you do not mind my asking. Any strange sensations, unexplained dizziness, loss of time?”
“Well yes, now that you mention it. Just after I got to here tonight, I had this strange feeling like the fog was surrounding me, just blocking off my sight for a few seconds. But it was all right then, I think.”
“Daniel,” said Millie Drake, “what do you think is going on? Why did the Kosmikos send us here?”
“I know not as yet, love,” I replied. “Nevertheless, I do have an idea. I believe there are several levels of deception going on here, hmmm? I also have another feeling -- a feeling that we are being watched!” …
Little could I know how correct my assumption was, for at that same time, we were indeed being observed upon a video monitor screen, one of several within a chamber in which were a group of humanoid beings. They were tall, hard-faced men, with grey skin and eyes of a cruel blue-black. All were clad in smart military uniforms of a deep brown colour.
“There are intruders in one of the testing areas, sir,” said one of these beings to another. “How is this possible? The technology that the Battle Master has given us blocks any possibility of intrusion from outsiders.”
“The Battle Master is an outsider himself,” replied the other, whose uniform designated his status as a superior officer. “We have given him his title, and granted him a certain amount of authority in exchange for his assisting us with the technology of his people, but we must not forget that he is an alien. There may be others, perhaps even of his kind, that can find a way to pierce our defensive cover. It will all work to our advantage, however.”
“How do you mean, sir?”
“Send word to the Battle Master that these intruders have been detected. It is his duty to deal with it. In so doing, he can prove his loyalty to our cause. He can serve us, the Battle Lords, by investigating and destroying these intruders -- even if they be his fellow Algolites!” …
Back at the supposed “Laser Challenge Zone”, our discussion with young David was suddenly interrupted by a shimmering light near by.
“Daniel!” cried Millie. “Isn’t that a… ?”
“Yes, my dear,” I answered, “it is a matter transit beam. It would appear that someone is joining us.”
When the light of the matter transmission had faded, we looked upon the now-present figure of the one who had utilised it. He was clad from head to toe in an ebony-black bodysuit, and held a sleek laser gun in one hand. His face was as of a man of middle years, his countenance still showing signs of handsome distinction despite being marked with the results of lifetimes of extreme profligate wickedness. His hair was long and dark, and his pale eyes shone with an absolutely hypnotic effulgence.
Of course, I recognised that face immediately. I recognised it as that of the renegade Algolite who had long hence become my own archenemy, forsooth as that of the most dangerous and prolific criminal in the Universe.
“Don Wingus!” I exclaimed. “I should have known. So you did escape from the Time-stalker.”
(It must be noted here that the last time we had encountered the villainous Wingus, he had been using an old Algolite weapon known as the Time-stalker in his continuing schemes to rule the Universe. We defeated him and the we weapon was destroyed, but nevertheless a certain side effect of this eventually resulted in his daughter Anastasia returning from the dead -- but that, as the saying goes, is another story.)
“Quite right, Rumanos,” rejoined the villain, aiming his weapon at Millie and me, “and I have here erected a scheme that shall ensure my ascendancy as Master of all Time and of all Space -- an ascendancy that you and the meddling Kosmikos will not succeed in preventing! You see, Rumanos, I assure you that this laser-gun, unlike the others here, is real -- and quite deadly!”
Then, just as Don Wingus was about to tighten his grip on the trigger, a thin beam of light shot through the air from the other direction, hitting the gun and sending it flying from his hand. The weapon, now warped and unusable, clattered to the floor a few metres distant.
“Good shooting, Kit-10!” cheered Millie Drake.
“No problem, m--,” replied the robotic feline. “I finished the analysis and discovered nothing in the surrounding atmosphere that would be harmful to my circuitry.”
(It should be noting here that, along with her other catlike characteristics, Kit-10 is possessed of a total inability to openly show respect for anyone. The closest she ever comes to it is by referring to me by a slight “s--” sound -- for “sir” -- and to Millie by “m--” -- for “ma’am”.)
“Well, we are certainly pleased to see you,” I told the mechanical pussycat. “Now, Wingus, you have some explaining to do, hmmm? I must warn you against any sudden moves. As you have seen, Kit-10’s nose-laser is perfectly capable of…”
It was at that moment that my speech was cut short, as the light of the matter transit suddenly returned and surrounded not only Don Wingus, but also Millie and me, and we found ourselves being transmitted out of the supposed laser tag “gaming floor” to another location!
When the light from the matter transit had cleared, I looked around and saw that we were in a metallic corridor from which several doorways led.
“Welcome to the command centre of the Battle Lords, Rumanos and Miss Drake,” sneered Wingus. “I pre-programmed the matter transit system to bring any Algolites here from the testing area, should I not return within a certain time frame.”
It was then that two humanoid aliens marched down the corridor to-wards us. They were wearing common soldier’s uniforms, and had grey skin and blue-black eyes.
“Guards, take the girl to a detention cell” ordered Don Wingus. “See that she is left unharmed until I give further instructions.”
“Yes, sir,” replied the soldiers.
“Wingus,” I interrupted, “you know very well that I shall not allow anyone to…”
“Worry not, Rumanos,” mocked the villain. “Little Miss Drake here will not be harmed as long as you cooperate. You see, you and I are going to have a discussion, in which I shall explain what is going on here, and how you are going to assist me.”
I glanced at Millie. It was a look that let her know that I would not allow any harm to come to her under any circumstances. The two uniformed guards then marched her into one of the doorways, obvious leading to the detention cells.
“Come along now, Rumanos,” Wingus continued. “We are alone now, and I can fill you in on certain details.”
I followed Wingus into one of the rooms. It was sparsely furnished, but contained some computer equipment and communications devices.
“So, Wingus,” I said, “I take it you have kidnapped numerous laser tag players from Earth? We are obviously on an alien planet. This area is in the centre, and is surrounded by zones were the battles are being played out?”
“Your deductions are correct,” admitted the villain. “I have made a deal with our hosts here, the Battle Lords. In exchange for a certain amount of authority found in the title of ‘Battle Master’, I have brought these human youngsters here for them to test and train, that they may begin to create an army of beings from multiple planets -- beings that will be predisposed to advanced battle technology and thus can be used as shock troops for the Battle Lords in their plans to subjugate the neighbouring galaxies.”
“Absolutely fiendish,” I shuddered. “How have you gotten these innocent gamers here?”
“I supplied the Battle Lords with several STraDi, the primitive type of DiTraS that expires after use. With these the Earthlings were taken from their own time and brought to the simulations in the testing areas. Any memories of the move are blocked from their brain patterns.”
“And you intend to let the alien Battle Lords use these people to conquer galaxies, and then sit by whilst they enforce a vast military dictatorship?”
“Oh, not precisely, Rumanos,” rejoined Don Wingus with an evil grin. “I have given them all they need to achieve their conquest, but I also know that these aliens are fools. They understand nothing but fighting and battle strategies. When they have conquered, they will soon find themselves unable to govern. It is then that I shall take over as supreme leader, subjugating the Battle Lords to my superior will along with all that they have subjugated. I, Magister Don Wingus, shall be the ruler of galaxies!”
“Leave it to you to turn harmless little games into something horridly sinister,” I admonished. “Using laser tag, of all things, to wage actual war and to establish iron heel totalitarianism. What is next, miniature golf rape gangs?”
“You are as flippant as ever, Rumanos,” returned the arch-villain. “You may begin taking this more seriously when you realise that you can join with me. Together we can fulfil our destinies as Algolites, the highest form of life in all the Universe. It is the only way I can guarantee Miss Drake’s safety, you understand. Just think of it. You and I -- and she -- as the triumvirate of rulers governing planets, solar systems, galaxies! Nothing could stand before us!!”
“You are mad, Wingus!” I admonished. “You are utterly mad! You know that I shall never join you in your criminal schemes, and neither would Miss Millie Drake!”
Just then, the door to the chamber slid open and three uniformed men joined us. They were again all grey-complexioned with cruel blue-black eyes. One of them was clad in what was obviously an officers uniform, the other two were soldiers of the lower ranks.
“It has been decided by Battle Lord High Command,” announced the officer as the two enlisted men raised their disintegrator guns. “Immediate and summary execution!”
“Oh well, Rumanos,” smirked Don Wingus as he moved a few paces away from me. “It appears this is where we part company. You should not have interfered.”
“The case of the two newcomers has not yet been presented before the High Command,” replied the Battle Lord officer. “It is you, Battle Master, who is now to be executed.”
“That is outrageous!” shouted Wingus, his eyes growing wide with fear. “I have aided you in your plans, even putting technology of the Watchers at your disposal!”
“Your discussion here has been monitored. We have heard your plot to ‘take over as supreme leader’. You have committed treason against the Battle Lords, and the punishment for that is death.”
“What! This is a violation of our agreement!” raged Wingus. “You promised I would be left free and unmonitored!”
“No honour amongst would-be fascist dictators, hmmm?” I quipped.
By this time, the three Battle Lords were paying no attention to me, so great was their indignation at having been played for fools by the evil Don Wingus. I accordingly began to slip to-wards the door.
“Fire!” ordered the officer.
I heard a final cry of rage from Wingus before the sound of the two soldiers’ guns rang out. By now I was in the corridor, and I saw a reflection on the metallic walls of the flash from the energy weapons the Battle Lords utilised in order to blast Don Wingus out of existence. Then there was silence.
I hurried down the passageway to-wards the detention cells where I had seen them taking Millie Drake. There were several cells, but only one of them was closed. I took out the transonic turnscrew and opened the electronic lock, carefully deactivating any attendant alarm system.
When I opened the cell door, Millie was seated alone on a sort of low shelf on the far side of it. She jumped up and immediately ran into my arms.
“Oh Daniel, I knew you’d come for me!” she cheered.
“Always, my dear,” I assured her. “Always.”
Just them, a noise as of a distant symphonic trumpeting started, and there was a change in the atmosphere. It was like unto a cold chill, but was felt in the mind rather than physically.
“It is the Kosmikos,” I stated. “Now that the Battle Lords have executed Don Wingus, the Algolitish blockages to detection he set up are no longer functioning. The crimes the Battle Lords have committed, in kidnapping innocent people to use in their testing areas, in an attempt to further their nefarious plans to conquer galaxies, can only have one punishment. The Kosmikos -- with full approval of the Absolute Convention in this case -- shall wipe the Battle Lords, along with all memory of them ever even have existed, out of Time and Space.”
It was then that, even as I spoke, the walls around us started to fade as the noise of the approaching Algolite justice system grew louder.
“So how do we get back to the DiTraS?” enquired Millie.
“It should be no problem, love,” I assured the lovely lass whilst I adjusted the transonic device and activated it.
“I have reversed the polarisation of the residue remaining from the transit beam that brought us here,” I continued. “It should succeed in taking us back to the place where we landed.”
And indeed, in a moment we found ourselves transmitted, in the shimmering light of the matter transmission system, back to the false ‘Laser Challenge Zone’.
“Hmmm, it appears that we are several metres distant from where we started,” I said. “It is just due to the interference of the other Algolite technology approaching.”
Whilst we walked through the fake fog, I filled Millie in on some more details of what had occurred.
“So what will happen to David, and the other Earthlings?” queried the girl.
“The Kosmikos will return them to their proper time and place as soon as we have left,” I explained.
“Daniel, do you think the Battle Lords really killed Don Wingus?”
“It is difficult to say, Mills,” I pondered. “He had to have had his DiTraS hidden around there somewhere. If he could have secretly activated the transit beam to vanish just as they fired upon him with their disintegrator guns, he could just possibly have escaped without them even noticing.”
“I guess we’ll find out if we have to deal with him again,” shuddered the girl.
“Quite true, my love,” I acquiesced. “Quite true. Ah, here we are!”
We had by now reached the area near to where we had left the DiTraS. David and Kit-10 were standing before one of the posts, which I noticed was now covered with scorch marks of the type that could have only been caused by the robotic cat’s nose-blaster.
“By the Stars,” I said, “what exactly is going on here?”
“Oh, it’s so cool,” replied the youth. “Kit-10 has been instructing me in the correct way to fire a laser.”
“Really, Kit-10?” I enquired. “Doing a bit of Space-Age gun safety training on the side, hmmm?”
“Of course, s--,” replied the mechanical cat.
At this I rolled my eyes, and Millie giggled.
***** DANIEL RUMANOS AND MILLIE DRAKE SHALL RETURN IN "CROSSTOWN TRAFFICKING"