BEYOND THIS ILLUSION


Rumour has it they originally had wanted to spell the name of the ridiculous place “Ar Haus”, but it was decided that it seemed a bit crypto-fascist, something that gentrification tries to avoid -- well, at least publicly, you know. So it became “R House“, Baltimore’s bloody greatest hipster food court, located in the showroom of a former automobile dealership in the city’s once blue-collar Remington neighbourhood.

My name is Dr. Daniel Rumanos (Intergalactic Gentleman of Mystery and Operative for that secret service organisation of the Watchers of Algol known as the KOSMIKOS or Cosmic Intervention Department), and it is at R House, one hot summer day, that I (wearing my usual silk suit, jungle boots, leathern greatcoat, sunspecs, and panama hat) was battling an insane dwarf.

The creature was known by the name of Juan Dingo and was more ape than human, having come originally from a tribe deep in the jungles of the Philippine Islands whose members had retained a strong strain of homo erectus blood along with other degenerate traits. Found and taken from his native area by Jesuit missionaries, the thing had been given the Christian name “Juan” for a patron saint and its surname because someone had remarked that its bizarre chattering somewhat resembled the barking of an Australian dingo.

Nevertheless Juan Dingo, four feet tall and hideous of aspect, had proven unmanageable even by the patient fathers of the Society of Jesus (being as violence prone as he was and unable to learn Spanish or any other language besides his babbling native patois), and had eventually been sold to a travelling carnival in exchange for a generous contribution to the missionary effort. From this, Dingo had in time become the servant of an enemy of mine, the now-deceased Satanist and child-molester Ronald “Ron Savage” Seidl of Parkville, Maryland.

Following Ron Seidl’s well-deserved death, Juan Dingo had escaped to eventually resurface here at R House, where he was currently facing me and holding a knife that was glistening with viscid poison -- a poison that I could perceive was impregnated with some radioactive element dangerous to even my own extraterrestrial physiology.

I had arrived at R House that day, not to sample the cuisine but in my official capacity to investigate some odd emanations of energy that my highly-advanced scientific instruments had detected coming from the building. It was late morning, and fortunately the crowd there was not all that large when I suddenly encountered the little monstrosity Juan Dingo, his brown, hairy form clad only in a loincloth and chattering his sickening laughter whilst holding his dangerous-appearing native dagger on me.

I had to conclude that whatever alien force had secretly invaded R House (in the middle of Remington Avenue) was now using the subhuman dwarf as its servant, a sort of guard.

I quickly dodged the poisonous knife as the apelike creature lunged at me. Before I could retaliate, he suddenly turned and, horrific to behold, quickly scaled the near-by wall by use of his atavistically splayed toes. Soon finding himself high in the lofty food-hall, Juan Dingo glared evilly at me with his grotesquely-slanted eyes and bared his horrid homo erectus teeth before suddenly launching himself to-wards me. His intention was to hit me from above with sufficient force to render me defenceless long enough to finish me with his poison dagger.

None the less, it is in this that Juan Dingo, dwarfish prehistoric evil now under control of some as-yet-unknown extraterrestrial invader, made an error. His plunge downwards gave me just enough time to cast a bolt of my bright orange and blue Algolitish energies at him. He veered sidewise from his intended course and in stead crashed into a mass of cables connected to the building’s electrical system.

I then heard Juan Dingo’s final inhuman shriek as his life expired in a brief conflagration of electrical power.

“Shock the monkey,” said I.

The small crowd had briefly shown some interest in what was occurring, but soon turned away. Apparently, this was not as yet enough of a disturbance -- by Baltimore City standards -- to hold their attention away from the overpriced and under-portioned “chef driven” delicacies offered at the R House eateries.

Juan Dingo’s knife had clattered to the floor near me and I carefully picked it up.

“Now,” I said, “Let me see what I am really dealing with here today.”

I took a scientific instrument known as the transonic turnscrew from my pocket and, quickly setting it for alien technology scan mode, held it directly over the glistening poison of the dagger’s blade. The device soon enough showed a readout, and was -- to say the least -- not at all good news.

“Oh bloody hell,” I murmured, immediately recognising the name of the evil alien race I would now be facing, forsooth one of the most formidable species of ruthless invaders in the known galaxies. “The Leknii.”

And then, as if one cue, a sliding doorway opened only a few yards distant, and I beheld standing in it a giant silver figure. It was the metallic form of one of my foes, of humanoid shape but seemingly of a completely mechanical construction.

Then the metallic monstrosity raised its silver hand and fired a bolt of radioactive light directly at me!

The Leknii are an emotionless race of cybernetic replicants originally from the planet of that name on the outer rim of Spiral Galaxy 8675309. At first humanoid, they had gradually replaced their organic components with robotic parts over the course of generations, until there is very little of flesh and blood left in them. At the same time, their home-world eventually became inhabitable due to climate change and the other results of unchecked industrialism. They are now a race of homeless and heartless (both literally and figuratively speaking!) metallic monstrosities who now wander the stars in their small, efficient spaceships searching for suitable humanlike forms to turn into their own kind.

I barely managed to dodge the radioactive light bolt fired at me by the Leknii Replicant. It blasted a metres-wide hole in the floor of the R House food-hall. The patrons of the establishment, thinking all this was just some type of avant-garde performance art, avoided us but were not at all concerned.

I turned and prepared to send a wave of my Algolitish powers at the metal monster, but this was not to be. For directly between my position and that of the Leknii walked, oblivious to her danger, a young girl. To my horror, I saw the Replicant again raise its arm and prepare to fire.

The damsel was exceedingly beautiful, being tall and quite slender. She was wearing a rather brief orange tank-top with a bare midriff, a blue miniskirt revealing gorgeous, similarly-bare legs, and fashionable sandals. Her pure white skin was slightly sun-kissed and her long liquorice hair surrounded a lovely face with big, opalescent azure eyes and a wide, sensuous mouth covered with bright-red lip-gloss, this being the only makeup she was wearing. 

I quickly reached out and grabbed the young lady, knowing I could not allow her to be innocently caught in the crossfire of my battle with the alien Replicant. She briefly yelped as I pulled her to a shelter behind one of the counters of the place’s central “bar-room” area.

“Hey!” she protested. “What do you think your doing Mister? I…”

She stopped suddenly when she looked at me, her shock and indignation subsided, and a sudden smile spread across her beautiful face.

“Oh my God!“ she squealed delightedly. “Oh my God! You’re Dr. Daniel Rumanos!”

“You know who I am?” I queried.

“Of course! You’re the Master of Space and Time! I’m your biggest fan! I try to collect everything I can about you, and I‘ve read all the stories about your adventures! I especially like the ones about your fights with your old enemy, Bishop James Long!”

“Short,” I corrected her. “James Short, and he was not really a bishop.”

(Oy, can you imagine anyone actually being cursed with the appellation “Bishop J. Long”? Everybody would refer to him as “Bishop Schlong”!)

“I have a poster of you on my bedroom wall!” the girl continued. “My mom thinks you’re, as she puts it, ‘one of those silly pop stars’! Hahaha! She’s kind of old-fashioned, isn’t she? I guess I am too, though I’m only fifteen. Oh, by the way, my name is Josephine Shaw, but my friends call me Josie.”

“Now look, Miss Shaw…”

“Call me Josie. Wow, reading about you has taught me so much about what exists, as you would say, ‘beyond this illusion’ -- you know, outside of what most people call reality, and…”

“Josie, we are in a very dangerous position at the moment. That large silver thing hunting our position is one of the Leknii, and it is…”

“A cyborg?” she said, in wonder.

“Actually, the preferred term is ‘replicant’, but yes. Anyway, you need to get to a place of safety so I can find out what the Leknii are doing at R House and…”

Just then, the Leknii Replicant, having ascertained our whereabouts, sent a bolt of power that shattered the counter to pieces.

“Do not move,” the Replicant suddenly commanded in its emotionless, electronic voice. “You will be converted or you will be destroyed.”

“Run, Josie!” I shouted as I quickly sent a bolt of my own powers back at the silver horror.

The girl did as I had told her, running for her life across the room whilst I endeavoured to shield her from any harm by covering the Leknii. Incredibly, I found that my energies had little effect upon the metallic monster. It was apparently protected by some sort of radioactive substance, the same as permeated its deadly bolts of energy, and which had been used in liquefied form on the dagger of its now-deceased servant, the savage Juan Dingo.

I nevertheless sent another bolt at the Leknii in order to cover myself whilst I glanced away in order to see to the young girl’s safety. At the same time, she happened to look back at me and, just as our eyes met, she stumbled.

It has been said that fortune favours the brave, and it is perhaps the case that I should not have advised the girl to run away, for, as luck would have it, she stumbled just as she had reached the large gaping hole that the Leknii’s first blast at me had formed. I heard Josie Shaw scream in terror as she fell through the gap to an unknown depth below!

Oddly, I noticed that the Leknii was momentarily distracted by the girl’s fall into the opening. It was as if the Replicant had recognised her entry into the regions below R House as a possible threat or security breach.

During the brief time that the Leknii Replicant was distracted, I sent another bolt of energy at it. This one I aimed directly at the respiratory grating in the very centre of its chest area, the small but necessary section that supplies needed oxygen to the small yet vital organic component of its kind.

I was correct in my deduction that this area of the Leknii would be free of the protective substance that permeated the rest of its form, in order to in no way obstruct the airflow. The Leknii shuddered and, as my energy caused a chain reaction throughout its form, fell backwards to the floor, disassembling into countless tiny pieces as life left it; this being a security measure of its kind to prevent others from cannibalising their technology.

Grotesquely -- though not inappropriately -- the gathered crowd of local hipsters applauded this, still thinking it was all a show being staged for their entertainment.

Nevertheless, I had no time to waste accepting approbation. I had to see to the safety of Josie Shaw, and so I hurried over to the gaping hole in the floor of the R House food court and, without delay, jumped directly into it, down to the unknown depths beneath the surface.

(Unbeknownst to me at the time, a figure stepped out from the group of onlookers; the form of a man shrouded in a black, hooded cloak. He reached out and picked up a tiny fragment of the destroyed Replicant and, with a dark laugh of pure evil, stepped back into the concealment of the crowd. )

I landed about twelve feet below, and found myself in a long, metallic hallway, lighted with the strange ethereal glow of a non-terrestrial energy source.

“Incredible,” I said to myself. “It appears that R House was built over the remains of a wrecked Leknii spaceship. They must have been here for decades, waiting for their power supplies to replenish, and…”

I wave of nausea overcame me when I realised the remainder of what this augured. The Leknii had used this location to attract humans they could then assimilate or convert to their own kind. The patrons of the upscale food-hall were being sifted and used to repopulate an alien invasion force.

“By the Daemonian Spires!“ I swore. “R House is not short for Remington House -- it is Replicant House!”

“You are correct,” replied a voice from behind me, the electronic voice of a Replicant, but deeper, fuller, and more commanding than the other had been.

I turned and beheld a Leknii even larger than their usual height. It was easily over seven feet high and the shone a pure golden hue in the bizarre lighting of the hallway. Several silver Replicants had by now also appeared in the area on both sides of me. I was trapped.

“A Leknii Controller,” I said to the gold one. “More advanced than your comrades.”

“Again, correct,” said the giant cybernetic horror. “You are not of this planet. Instruments show your origin to be of the Algol System. You are unsuited both to conversion and to servitude and therefore must be eradicated.”

“No!” screamed a female voice from farther down the passageway. “Don’t kill him! Please don’t! Do anything you want to me but please don’t kill him!”

Another light went on and I saw Josie behind a cavity in the wall, strapped down with metallic bonds.

“Please don’t hurt him,” she repeated, tears streaming form her eyes. “Please…”

A wave of absolute eldritch terror shot through me as I realised the full horrendous significance of this. My own Algolitish intellect and physique could not be assimilated due to its superiority (just as their servant Juan Dingo’s could not due to his inferiority), but Josie’s human form was perfect.

“You monsters,” I gasped. “You despicable monsters. You intend to take that child, that poor innocent girl, and make her one of you!”

“You are correct,” stated the Controller. “She will be converted. She will become like us.”

“Become like us,” repeated each of the Leknii Replicants after their leader. “Become like us. Become like us. Become like us.”

I was trapped amongst the group of Replicants. There were just too many of them and I could not manage to reach the girl. I watched in horror as the conversion machine was activated and waves of silver energy began to surround Josie’s form. I heard her scream in pain and abject fear and knew that it would only be a matter of moments until the innocent lass was changed into a metallic monstrosity!

Do you comprehend the unspeakably perverse horror, the utter phantasmagorical terror of this situation, my friends?

“She will be like us,” taunted the Controller, a taunting all the more horrid due to its absence of emotion. “Just as we will soon take all the best of this planet’s people and make them as we are. This world will then become our new base from which we will launch an invasion against this entire galactic system.”

However, just then a warning signal sounded from within the Leknii technology.

“Controller,” said the Replicant nearest to the machine. “Something unforeseen is occurring. The subject is somehow resisting the conversion. It is causing a feedback loop throughout the system that will…”

Suddenly, the words of that Replicant were cut short as its head, followed quickly by the remainder of its metallic body, disintegrated into countless metallic shards.

One by one, the same thing quickly happened to all the Leknii Replicants, including the Controller. I hurried over to Josie and took the transonic turnscrew from my pocket, aiming the device towards the machine.

“If I can switch the polarity of the neutronic stream,” I said, “It should… Yes, here we go!”

What remained of the silver energy then quickly flowed through the machine, totally disabling it. I then used my transonic device to release the girl from her bonds. She fell forward into my arms, weakened and shaken, but unharmed.

“What… Dr. Rumanos, what happened?” she queried.

“Something in your bodily functions overloaded the machine,” I answered. “Let me see if I can find out what it was.”

I used my transonic turnscrew to scan Josie’s figure and then looked at its readout with amazement.

“I say, Josie. According to this, you are showing increased stimulation in certain functions of your bodily system. Why, it was just too much for the cold, inorganic replicant conversion machine to endure. Your bio-electrical impulses are way up, extreme pheromone secretion, increased fertility levels. It appears you have recently become quite sensually aroused by being in the presence of someone whom you found irresistibly attractive!”

At this, Josie Shaw looked up at me with a deep blush on her lovely face.

“Oh my…” I said in sudden realisation. “Well anyway, the planet Earth is now safe from this invasion of the Leknii Replicants.”

“But what about R House?” she asked.

“I will make certain all this alien tech is disabled and disassembled, and R House can now go on with being just another ridiculously ‘gentrified’ overpriced hipster hangout.”

“Hey, will you have to make a report of all this to the Kosmikos?” then enquired the young girl, with a look of wondrous awe in her beautiful sky-blue eyes.

“You know of the Kosmikos?”

“Of course! They’re the most famous secret organisation in the whole Universe!”

MAKE THE YOUNG GIRLS SPY


My name is Dr. Daniel Rumanos. I battle the forces of darkness. I am the Daemon-Star! …

On the 500 block of Charles Street in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, is an upmarket optometrist’s shop that goes by the name of “Hot Spex”, which somebody probably thinks is an exceedingly clever appellation. Trendy, pricey, and gaudy, it is nevertheless harmless enough. The third and fourth storeys of this same building are made up of residential apartments, usually inhabited, during the semester seasons, by students from the near-by Peabody Conservatory.

However, it is the second floor of this edifice that here concerns us. Some years ago, it had been the headquarters of a rather shady real estate management company known as the East Coast Assets Group. This business was eventually raided and shut down by the police after being exposed as a front for a particularly-vile lesbian prostitution ring. Since then, however, it had come under the control of yet another perverse and decidedly-ungodly criminal type.

Indeed, on the day in which our narrative occurs a quite interesting scene is being played out there.

Seated in an office-space that is decorated with astrological charts and other occult gewgaws (along with an incongruous old midway poster advertising the late stuntman Evel Knievel) a young and perfectly-beautiful girl, tall and slender, with gorgeous blonde hair and sky-blue eyes, dressed tastefully in a white blouse, violet skirt, and pumps, is seated across a table from a bizarrely-attired figure.

“My name’s Lizzy,” said the girl. “Lizzy Martinez.”

“Ah, my child,” said the other figure, that of an elderly woman with a very long nose and dark, piercing eyes, “I know. I know. Madame Teitelbaum sees and knows all.”

The old woman, dressed as she was in colourful pseudo-gypsy attire and a plethora of garish costume jewellery, reached one of her gnarled hands under the table to touch the girl’s leg. Lizzy moved away from the attempt at contact, but her face showed no trace of the disgust she felt at the thought of it.

Madame Teitelbaum then moved her hands to the top of the table and began fingering the deck of greasy tarot cards upon it.

“You come here today because you wish to know the future,” said the old woman, “and also secrets of your past and of others you know.”

“Yeah, that’s right,” said Lizzy, then adding, without a trace of sarcasm: “Wow, how did you know that?”

“The spirits tell me all, child,” answered Madame Teitelbaum. “They dwell within me and all about this chamber. They told me of your coming, and of that which you seek.”

“Madame Teitelbaum, these spirits you speak of. What are they, really?”

“My, you are an inquisitive young thing, aren’t you?” said the old fortune-teller. “The spirits are from far away. They chose me to be their voice in this world, and have revealed to me many great things. Yes, child, many great things of power and of mystery, and the power is exceeded only by the mystery.”

“Whoa, that is impressive. I was wondering, did they tell you that…”

“Yes, child?”

“Did they tell you that I know you’re really a man?”

And with this, Lizzy Martinez lifted her hand and ripped off the grey wig of “Madame” Teitelbaum, revealing, despite his heavy makeup, the countenance of a man of about forty, with short, dark hair and those same piercing eyes -- which now, not surprisingly, grew narrow with anger.

“Why, you little bitch!” he shouted, his voice now an octave lower and decidedly masculine. “How dare you, you Goddamn little bitch!”

Mr. Mitchell Teitelbaum (that being the fake medium’s real name) stood up and, with a sweep of his hand, threw the table out of the way between the young lady and himself.

“We know the facts of your false claims at being a psychic,” said the girl, rising to her feet with no show of fear. “But fake psychics are everywhere. We also know you have contacted something. Not ‘spirits’ or ‘ghosts’ or anything like that, but instead something that really exists and is very dangerous. Something we have to stop.”

“You bitch!” reiterated Teitelbaum. “Who… ? Who the hell are you, anyway?”

“I told you. My name is Lizzy Martinez… and I am of the League of the Daemon-Star!”

“Goddamn it! Goddamn it straight to Hell! You belong to… him! He would! He would make the young girls spy for him!”

Mitchell Teitelbaum could not repress a look of trepidation at this revelation. It was short-lived, however, and soon replaced by a smug smile, a smile filled with evil and diabolical malice.

“But even he does not know what he has gotten you into, kid!” continued the villain. “Those that I have made my pact with will conquer you both, and will bring me to mastery of the world as their representative! They have promised me this, and you will not stop me!”

With this pronouncement, Teitelbaum lifted his hands and cast a wave of scarlet-hued otherworldly energy at the girl. Nevertheless, to his extreme surprise, she not only deftly dodged this attack but quickly sent back a bolt of energy from herself -- a bolt of bright orange power that hit Mitchell Teitelbaum squarely in the chest, sending him reeling across the room to crash against the far wall. He then slipped down into unconsciousness upon the floor.

“Effing cool!” exclaimed Lizzy with a gorgeous smile, as if amazed at her own abilities. “That was easier than I thought it would be.”

The young lady’s feeling of easy victory was soon cut short, nonetheless, when a deep sound began to enter her consciousness. It seemed to emanate from the prostrate form of Mr. Teitelbaum, but it was not a human sound. In fact, it was not the sound of anything properly found upon this world. It was a noise better imagined than described, at once like a buzzing and a howling and a maddening clicking. It quickly grew in volume from barely perceptible to a veritable cacophony.

Then all hell broke loose.

At that moment, Mitchell Teitelbaum suddenly stood up, but he was not awake in any true way. His eyes were open, but he was not aware in the mortal human sense -- for they were now glowing with the same infernal shade of red and then, from his form that was now being used as a conduit, issued forth a myriad of horrors.

They were small creatures of the same hellishly-reddish hue, horned and hideous, an eldritch amalgamation of wickedness. This mass of unspeakable and apparently-demoniacal abominations flew across the chamber and totally engulfed the form of young Lizzy Martinez.

“These are the Imps of Impian-8,” announced Mitchell Teitelbaum on behalf of the infernal creatures. “You, bitch, are now ours!”

It was then that I charged into the room, clad in my usual silk suit, leathern greatcoat, jungle boots, sunspecs, and panama hat. I cast a wave of my own bright orange and blue Algolitish energy at the Impish creatures, scattering them away from the young lass.

“Sorry to be so late, Liz” I told her. “I only just finished taking care of that thing in New Orleans.”

“Oh, that voodoo guy?” said Lizzy, as we automatically took our back-to-back fighting stance against the surrounding hoard of Imps.

“Indeed, that Gilman Ross screwball, alias ‘Papa Gilly’, alias ‘Conjure Botanica‘, alias ‘RossMac Gilbert‘, et cetera,” I answered, these being the various names of the repugnant black magician, horrendously-dangerous madman, and revolting redneck paedophile that I had travelled to Louisiana to face.

“What happened, Doctor?” inquired the girl, as she deftly cast another bolt of her powers at the Imps.

“I left his blasted corpse -- along with that of his hideous hellhound, Juju -- in the bayou as food for the alligators.”

“That is so effing hot!” she exclaimed.

Seventeen-year-old Miss Lizzy Martinez, I should explain, was at this time my latest protégé. She had become so after a rather odd and indeed surprising series of events that I can only summarise here.

Originally from the town of Bradenton in Manatee County, Florida, Lizzy Martinez is of mixed northern Spanish Basque and Dutch ancestry, her mother’s maiden name being Knop. Hence her beautiful blonde hair and exquisitely-lovely blue eyes. Whilst a student there in Florida at Braden River High School, she had been the victim of an attempted rape by a certain Mr. Brad Scarbrough, the principal or head-teacher of that particular educational institution.

The perverse Mr. Scarbrough, after luring Lizzy Martinez to his office by claims that her clothing (in this case, a white t-shirt with no brassiere) was a “distraction” to the other students, had not succeed in his attempt to ravish the beauteous damsel due to her having suddenly displayed a newfound ability to generate and control bursts of otherworldly bright orange energy -- an ability with which she had landed her attacker in hospital.

Seeing as this power appeared to be of Proto-Algolitish origin, most likely the result of one of her ancestors having come into contact with some relic of one of my own extraterrestrial people’s long-ago visits to planet Earth, I had been assigned the task of looking after Lizzy and making certain she learned to use her newfound powers properly.

Now as my apprentice (and as such a member of the League of the Daemon-Star and a trainee-level Probationer-Operative of the KOSMIKOS, that incredibly-famous and amazingly-legendary Secret Service organisation of the Watchers of Algol), the beautiful Miss Martinez had gone on a mission to investigate this “Madame Teitelbaum“, fake Baltimore-area psychic-medium and occult racketeer. In such Lizzy had uncovered the presence of the Imps of Impian-8.

(By the way, it should be made clear that only I am permitted to call her “Liz”. to everyone else she is “Lizzy” or “Miss Martinez”. In addendum, she prefers to pronounce her surname so that it sounds like “Martinis”.)

“I must admit that this is actually quite surprising,” said I as I again held off the Imp attacks with my own sparkling alien powers. “The Imps of the Impian system, despite their devilish appearance, are usually quite peaceful.”

“Well these ones aren’t,” retorted Lizzy. “What could have happened, Doctor?”

“I cannot yet fathom it, Liz,” I wondered. “Perhaps it is the unfortunate result of some accident during their long voyage to Earth. Maybe they…”

However, before I could continue my speculations as to the reasons of the Imps’ sudden turn to maliciousness, Mitchell Teitelbaum, still possessed by the increasing Impish power, sudden lurched forward and grabbed Lizzy around her slender waist, tearing the girl away from me to-wards the far side of the chamber before I could even begin any effort to prevent him.

“Liz!” I shouted in shock. I was quite concerned about her ability to continue defending herself. The young girl’s powers were not yet fully developed, and our battle against the attacking Imps had no doubt weakened them. I worried about what might happen to her in the evil clutches of the sickening and perverse Mr. Mitchell Teitelbaum -- empowered as he was by some apparent pact with the alien creatures.

Nevertheless, I now found myself completely surrounded by the diabolically-appearing Imps. They suddenly rushed upon me en masse, and I found myself propelled through a strange porthole-like orifice that had suddenly opened in midair directly above my head.

When the aperture closed behind me, I found that I was inside a large room filled with bizarre alien technology, all aglow with a grotesque scarlet and purple effulgence. To my horror, I realised that I had been thrown into the other-dimensional reality of an Impian spaceship!

I stood up and looked around. The strange, alien technology of the Imps covered the walls of the chamber completely up to its lofty ceiling.

Around me hovered several of the Imps themselves. They were not openly hostile, but seemed to be expecting something -- something from me.

“Ah, now I think I am beginning to understand,” I said. “Your ship is indeed damaged; crippled in some way, perhaps by collision with a small radioactive asteroid or something. Forsooth, that is it, eh? You want me to repair it!”

It had suddenly all become clear to me. The Imps of Impian-8, upon arriving on Earth after their long journey through interstellar Space, had found their spaceship disabled and had sought out someone possessed of the knowledge necessary to help them fix the problem. They had encountered the execrable Mr. Mitchell Teitelbaum. His boasts to be gifted with “psychic” powers had made him appear a logical candidate (like most space-faring races, the Imps themselves have a form of mentalist ability), and the Imps had made a deal with him, giving him some of their own extraterrestrial powers in exchange for his services.

Teitelbaum, of course, had seen all of this as a classic Faustian bargain, mistaking the Imps for the legendary demons of the infernal regions. He thus saw the deal that he had entered upon as something to exploit for his own benefit, something he could manipulate for the satiating of his own sick, lustful desires.

(Do you recognise the horror, the obscene abject terror of this situation, my dear readers? I actually do most sincerely hope and pray that you do not, as recognition of the full import of this interstellar insanity could make you spiral into complete and utter madness beyond any possible cure.)

Nevertheless, I still was at a loss to comprehend what had made the Imps become hostile to humanity. Their dealings with Teitelbaum would have given them a bad impression of Earth-folk, no doubt, but this alone could not account for it.

“Could the damage to your ship have something to do with it?” I pondered. “Ah, of course! I think I have it!”

I walked over to one of the consoles. I recognised it as the one controlling the artificial atmosphere of the spaceship’s interior and removed the sonar multi-tool, my highly-advanced mechanical device, from the pocket of my coat.

“The atmosphere of your planet, Impian-8, is similar to that of Earth, but not at all identical. You can survive in the environment here, but if certain elements of your air supply were suppressed when your ship was damaged, it could have induced a temporary effect on your intelligence and psychological wellness…”

I activated the sonar multi-tool to scan the console. “Yes, that is it!” I exclaimed, and began the necessary repairs. …

At that same time, outside the other-dimensional confines if the Impian spaceship, a scene of further outrage was being played out in the office of he now-exposed “psychic medium”. When Mitchell Teitelbaum had propelled Lizzy Martinez across the room, empowered as he was by the abilities that he had acquired from the Imps, she had hit her head against the far wall and had then lapsed into partial unconsciousness.

“No, no…” she moaned nearly sub-vocally. Her own developing Proto-Algolitish powers had been depleted for the time by over-exertion. “Leave me alone…”

For even in her near-swoon the girl understood Teitelbaum’s evil intentions as he stood over her, his debauched face and dark eyes filled with lustful glee along with the energies of the alien Imps.

“I’m going to have you, bitch,” he leered at the helpless lass as he began to undo his trousers, “I’m going to have you right now, whether you like it or not!”

Just then, as the wickedly-lustful Mitchell Teitelbaum stood over the helpless girl, the porthole-like aperture of the other-dimensional Impian spaceship suddenly reopened above and behind him. From it I zoomed forth, immediately grasping the perverse import of the situation and casting a bolt of my powers at Teitelbaum. He reeled and fell to the floor, the powers with which the Imps had gifted him now streaming out of his body to-wards the aperture.

I reached down my hand and helped the lovely Miss Lizzy Martinez to her feet. Aided by her burgeoning powers, along with the remarkably rapid self-healing ability of the very young, she recovered quickly from her faint.

The porthole had now closed, and the high-pitched whining sound of the invisible ship’s engines was increasing in volume.

“Hold on!” said I as I took the girl in my arms. I propelled us both through the near-by window, shattering the glass. Then utilising my powers of levitation, I managed to slow our descent and we landed softly on the city pavement below just as a sound like (yet unlike) a sonic boom occurred, signally that the spaceship had now left Earth.

“Are you all right, Liz?” I enquired. “I had to get you out of there before the ship fully engaged its engines. The feedback of it entering inter-Temporal Space-warp will have destroyed all organic matter in that room!”

“Including that old Teitelbaum creep?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” I assured her, “All that was mortal of Mr. Mitchell Teitelbaum is now annihilated.”

“Well in that case I’m doing great, Doctor!” she announced with a smile. “But what was the problem with those Imp things?”

“As I said, they are usually quite nice. Their ship had become damaged and they were stranded on Earth with an atmosphere somewhat detrimental to their mental health. They just needed someone to help repair their craft so they could return home.”

“So you did that easily, of course.”

“Of course,” I replied. “Such elementary interstellar engine design would have been considered antiquated by my people when the Cosmos was smaller than half its current size.”

I noticed that a small crowd was beginning to gather and I took Lizzy’s hand in order to quietly leave the area.

“So, how far away is the planet of the Imps, anyway?” Lizzy queried as we began to walk away from the location of our latest adventure.

“Precisely 4,106,850,700 Impioods.”

“’Imipoods’?”

“Their equivalent of light-years, more or less,” I informed her. “To express the same distance in Earth calculations would take several days, and I would rather go have lunch.”

“Sounds great, Doctor!” she exclaimed happily.

“Come along then, Liz. I know an excellent delicatessen near here, and I shall treat you to a ‘cloak and dagger’ sandwich.”

Daniel Rumanos returns in “Beyond This Illusion”.

ROCK 'N ROLL FANTASY


Deep inside the archival files of my long career battling the forces of darkness is a document entitled “The Merryman Project, or Fear of a Satanic Planet”, which shall never be made available to the public due to its containing certain dangerous formulae and descriptions of arcane rites. It concerns a particularly loathsome and abhorrent individual by the name of Ron “Savage Mode” Seidl, who had attempted a conjuration of the ancient alien deity of evil known as Iogsh’tahuty.

Ron Seidl was a 55-year-old unemployed conman (he various claimed, depending upon whom he was attempting to grift, to be everything from a longshoreman to a mobster to a radio chat-show producer) who lived with his aged mother, Karolyn, in a squalid and filthy one-bedroom apartment over a Joppa Road takeaway restaurant in the Parkville area of Baltimore County.

Seidl’s Satanic activities began when he found some antique occult texts in the collection of his late “goth” girlfriend, Jen French, whom he had driven to suicide with his physical and emotional abuse. Among these texts was a conjuration of the eldritch abomination Iogsh’tahuty -- actually an ancient extraterrestrial being of extreme evil from Dark Galaxy 3007E who had been imprisoned in an alternate dimension by my people, the Watchers of Algol.

In his insane plans to evoke this horror, the Satanist Ron Seidl had abducted an innocent thirteen-year-old girl named Kitty Summers, intending to have her raped by the demonic alien god in order to produce a new race of horrible half-alien hybrids under Seidl’s control. His ultimate goal was to utilise these hideous beings in his own bid for total world domination.

(What is it with blokes named “Ron” that they tend to be bloody devil-worshipping lunatics bent on ruling the world? However, I digress.)

You see, just off Pot Springs Road, near the Loch Raven Reservoir north of Baltimore are the remains of the home of the Merryman Family, who flourished in the area during the latter part of the Nineteenth Century. Their long-abandoned cemetery and underground springhouse had been of particular interest to Ron Seidl, and it was the latter to which he had taken the helpless girl in order to perform the unspeakable occult ritual.

And so there, in the subterranean chamber that the madman Ron Seidl called “The Secret Place”, he had chanted the hoary old conjurations to call forth the horrendous evil of Iogsh’tahuty. The alien horror had responded, appearing in its otherworldly form of uncountable iridescent globules, hovering closer and closer to the innocent young maiden who had been drugged and tied to the stone altar as Seidl stood by punctuating the scene with his sickeningly-insane laughter and grotesque blasphemies against all that is good and pure.

Nevertheless, before the wicked monstrosity could violate the lass, I had arrived (having been informed of these doings by my contacts in the occult underworld) and spoken the appropriate words to banish the creature back to its proper Hell -- in which its mad devotee Ron Seidl would now join it in eternal and indeed well-deserved damnation.

Following this, the young girl, Kitty Summers, had come under my guardianship. Her parents had been killed in an automobile accident (an occurrence engineered as the result of Ron Seidl’s “black magic” spells) and it had been found inadvisable to entrust her to anyone else’s care due to one very interesting reason.

After her experience with Seidl and his conjuring of Iogsh’tahuty, an incident of which she blessedly had little memory due to the narcotic tranquillisers he had given her, Kitty Summers had begun to display certain mysterious powers of her own. This was obviously the result of her being present during the rare mystical calling, and a reaction to the presence of the dark deity. It was my responsibility to teach her properly and to assure that her newfound abilities would only be used for good and moral purposes.

It is for this reason that the lass did accompany me that day, scarcely a fortnight later, when I was suddenly summoned to a location in midtown Baltimore, in order to investigate a disturbance that the police had so far been unable to deal with.

“Lieutenant Borman,” said I, addressing the robust Baltimore City Police Detective who had been put in charge of the cordoned-off area. “This is my friend, Miss Summers. What seems to be the problem?”

“Dr. Daniel Rumanos,” said Borman as he shook my hand (only slightly smiling this time at my British pronunciation of “lef-tenant“). “Thanks for coming on such short notice. We have a situation here that seems to come under your particular expertise. An individual has been rampaging though the streets, yelling incoherent sounds and assaulting numerous bystanders. A kind of weird ‘glow’ seems to be around him. So far, we have been unable to apprehend him. Bullets seem to have no affect on him, and several officers who have attempted to overpower him will now have to be hospitalised!”

“Good heavens,” said I, wondering. “Could I have a look at the culprit?”

“Open a way for Dr. Rumanos!” shouted Lt. Borman to the group of policemen who had been surrounding the cordoned area.

I walked to-wards the area with Kitty Summers following close behind me. I was clad in my usual silk suit, jungle boots, leathern greatcoat, sunspecs, and panama hat. Kitty, a breathtakingly-beautiful girl, tall for her age and very slender, with auburn hair and eyes of emerald green, wore a sun-coloured dress with a matching sweater and small riding boots.

We soon beheld the perpetrator. It was an hideous, morbidly-obese white man dressed in jeans and a sleeveless shirt. He had a filthy black bandanna on his head and a large bushy beard. His arms were covered with tattooing and his eyes showed soulless, unnameable evil and wickedness beyond all sane imagining. Indeed, an odd cerulean glow appeared to encircle his hideous form.

“What!” I exclaimed. “Impossible! That is Jim Forrester!”

“Do you know this person, Doctor?” enquired Kitty.

“Indeed, though only by reputation. A decidedly bad reputation, I should add. He was a local rock musician, a dope pusher, and a dabbler in Satanism.”

“Did you say ‘was’? Do you mean he gave it up?” asked the little girl hopefully.

“No, my dear, that is not what I mean at all,” I replied, pulling the damsel close to me protectively. “I mean he was killed a couple of months back.”

“So you mean he’s… ?” she stammered with her eyes growing wide in wonder. “He’s somehow walking and running amok through the city when he’s really… ?”

“Yes, Miss Summers, I am afraid so. Jim Forrester is dead!”

Yes, the criminal scum known as Jim Forrester, age 43, was indeed dead. Deceased. Kaput. Of this, there can be no doubt. Dead and buried in a pauper’s grave in an O’Donnell Heights cemetery. The local news media had carried his story with their usual vulturine alacrity.

Jim Forrester, whilst known to some as the bass player in a couple of small-time local heavy-metal bands, had actually made his living by the smuggling of illegally-obtained prescription medications into Baltimore from a supplier in the horridly debased town of Ranson, West Virginia (that same hideous state being, as ever, the cause of so many of the Mid-Atlantic Region’s woes and horrors), then selling the drugs at a profit to local street dealers.

It is during one of these felonious transactions, taking place outside of a trashy body-piercing parlour on Eastern Avenue, that the dope-dealing filth named Jim Forrester had been fatally shot. Good riddance indeed.

Lauded by his friends in the local rock music scene, the deceased Jim Forrester was given a small funeral and then soon enough forgotten after a neighbourhood black “thug” was arrested for his murder. Forrester’s own criminal activities were glossed over, as was another bizarre peccadillo of his life: an interest in Satanism. Those who knew of it mostly dismissed it as a theatrical part of his music endeavours.

And yet here we were, several weeks after his death, facing a walking dead Jim Forrester who had already assaulted several innocent citizens and had so-far successfully resisted the efforts of the Baltimore Police Department to apprehend him.

Do you recognise the unnameable horror, the unspeakable darksome terror of this situation, my dear friends? I truly hope and pray that you do not, as any realisation of this could send one into complete and total madness with no hope of recovery.

“His Satanic dabbling, as you said, could this explain how he is back from the grave?” enquired Kitty with a shudder. “You taught me that what people call Satanism (like what that creepy old man Ron Seidl did) is actually the illicit worship of certain ancient dark entities from Outer Space. Couldn’t something like that have brought back this guy’s dead body? Could that explain all this, Doctor?”

“Not in itself, I do not think,” I told her. “If he had, through his demonic worship, made contact with some alien force, well, there are things that could indeed so reanimate his corpse. However, anything of that sort would probably have some kind of coherent plan, some reason and rationale, however evil, for being here. It would not be likely to just rampage through the city streets like this, randomly attacking people for no apparent purpose.”

As if on cue, the hideous Jim Forrester suddenly lurched forward, his monstrous form starting directly to-wards Kitty Summers and myself. In response, I then advanced in front of the little girl and cast a bolt of my bright orange and blue Algolitish energies directly at Forrester’s midsection. It hit him squarely and he stumbled back several paces but quickly recovered, growling loudly in inarticulate anger and again heading forward in our direction.

“That strange glow seems to have some protective effect upon him,” I said to the girl. “Be careful to stay clear of him and…”

Nevertheless, Kitty Summers had already stepped out from behind me and sent a wave of the powers that she had only so recently manifested at Forrester. Her energy sparkled with an otherworldly purplish effulgence as it streamed from her lithesome young body.

Again, as the hulking horror Jim Forrester was protected by whatever untold extraterrestrial power was lurking within him, Kitty’s energies only struck him a glancing blow and he continued forward -- now as I soon noticed, with his evil eyes focused on the attractive teenager!

Before I could intervene, Jim Forrester suddenly sent a blast of power sidewise at me, the bizarrely glimmering energies that played about him now apparently being wielded by his own efforts. It hit me unexpectedly and I proceeded to stumble backwards in shock at this unexpected display.

Then, sooner than my recovery was even possible, the sickening Satanic criminal filth known to eternal infamy as Jim Forrester proceeded to seize the innocent maiden Kitty Summers in his huge arms, then started to drag the girl off in preparation for his own perverse, obscenely lustful intentions!

I stood up, and, shaking off the effects of Forrester’s attack, prepared to send a blast of my power at him. I then realised, however, that I could do so without risking hitting the girl. I heard her screams as she struggled in vain to extricate herself from his wicked grasp.

I decided a physical attack was the best strategy, and so charged directly at Forrester, intending to pummel him with all the strength and speed that I could manage.

It was one of those times, my dear readers, at which you think that things cannot get any worse -- and then they just bloody well do anyway. It is as if they just insist upon it. For then, just as I was about to hit Jim Forrester with a great side-tackle, the criminal suddenly showed that he had even greater control of the unknown alien powers within him than I had even realised. Because it was then that my debauched and immoral (not to mention deceased) foe suddenly flew upwards, propelled by the strange bluish radiance, carrying the helpless little damsel aloft.

His goal, I soon enough comprehended, was the roof of the nearby Transamerica Tower, and he rapidly alit atop that 40-storey skyscraper along with the poor wee lass, the lovely Kitty Summers, my friend and protégé.

“Oh no you shall not, you bloody blue-collar bastard!” I exclaimed. “By the Spires of Daemonia I do swear that you shall not!”

Again utilising my own Algolitish abilities, I quickly levitated towards them and arrived at the top of the building just in time to see Jim Forrester preparing to rip the unconscious little girl’s clothing from her body (as she had indeed by now mercifully fainted). His face was horrid to see, as his eyes rolled and his thick-lipped mouth hung open in lustful anticipation of his intentions to brutally rape the beautiful teen.

“I will now end you, you damned hillbilly scum!” I cried.

I hit him hard with my fist directly to that same repulsive face, and sent him reeling across the roof of the building. He managed to recover with an ungodly yowl of anger and turned back to me with a look of extreme hatred.

It was then that the battle was truly joined, my fight with Jim Forrester, deceased would-be rock musician and dope dealer who had been reanimated by some as-yet-unknown alien force. We sent bolts of power at each other and hovered and reeled and spun aloft over the Baltimore skyline. In all, it only lasted a very few minutes, but in that time was a seeming eternity of power and force and conflict as I clashed with this execrable individual.

A police helicopter briefly attempted to assist in the melee, but was soon blasted by a bolt of Forrester’s energy. It spiralled into the near-by harbour, the officers on board barely managing to bail out in time.

Finally, I began to get the upper hand upon Forrester, and I beheld that he was weakening. Had the mysterious alien powers within him finally proven to be too much for his otherwise-lifeless body, or had my superior Algolite consistence just prevailed? I knew not but, as Jim Forrester fell down back onto the roof of the Transamerica Tower, I quickly hurtled again towards him, my extraterrestrial powers at the ready to hopefully finish the conflict.

Nevertheless, at that very moment something entirely unforeseen occurred. For it was then that I suddenly found myself enveloped by a deep blue haze of energy -- energy that had streamed forth from the prostrate form of the late varlet known as Jim Forrester. The unknown alien force that had somehow brought this obscene, godless criminal back from the dead had now completely surrounded me, and I saw nothing but its glowing ethereal effulgence!

The questions remained, the questions behind all that had happened that exceedingly-strange day: What was this power, what was its origin, and what was its purpose in the bizarre gambit of reanimating the evil Satanist Jim Forrester?

In any event, I knew that I was soon to find out!

I found myself drifting within a sky-blue mist, glowing softly all around me. I recognised it as being a kind of inter-dimensional field, a transmit conduct into the consciousness of an alien mind. I then heard a voice -- a calm voice without gender or passion. 

“I am here for peaceful purposes,“ it said. “I am of the Phantasteans.”

“The Phantasteans?” I replied. “Of course. Pacifist beings of pure mind energy from the planet Phantaste.”

“You know of our race?”

“Indeed. I am Rumanos of the Watchers of Algol, and your species is classified in the research records of my people as one of the most peaceful and enlightened in the Galaxy.”

“I came to this world only to gather scientific information,” explained the Phantastean. “I entered the body of this being. It was not in use. I soon found myself overwhelmed by the hatred and lustful impulses remaining within it. I have attempted to regain control, but was only able to do so when you weakened the physical form of this creature.”

“Sorry to hear of your experience, Phantastean. It will be understood that you and your race are not responsible for what has occurred here today. His occult activities may have made his corpse inadvertently available to you.”

“Watcher of Algol, I ask you: Are all the people of this planet Earth as hateful, as vile as this one?”

“No, not quite. Oh, they have their problems, but this Jim Forrester was of a particularly repellent, odious type. More civilised Earthlings refer to them as ‘Chavs‘.”

“I will now leave this planet, Watcher of Algol. I thank you for your assistance.”

“Glad to help, Friend Phantastean. Happy cosmic trails to you!”

With this, I again found myself upon the roof of the Transamerica Tower building. The body of Jim Forrester was lying before me. Without the alien influence, he now looked as dead and partially-decayed as he actually was.

The placidly blue form of the Phantastean briefly hovered over me, and I then saw it shoot upwards, soon disappearing into the distance of the afternoon sky, away from Earth into the depths of Space.

I turned and helped Kitty Summers to her feet. She had recovered from her swoon, aided by her own powers, just in time to behold the Phantastean leaving this world.

“Doctor, was that… ?” the sweet little girl said in wonder. “Was that what was in him?”

“Yes, my dear Miss Summers,” said I, putting a comforting arm around her “That was a peaceful being from the distant planet Phantaste, temporarily overcome by the godless passions of this human varlet. I shall explain more later.”

Lt. Borman and his group of uniformed Baltimore City Police then arrived on the scene via the fire-stairs.

“Dr. Rumanos,” said the detective, “is the situation defused?”

“Indeed it is, Lieutenant,” I assured him. “You will find that the suspect is named Jim Forrester, and that he has actually been dead for several weeks.”

“Weeks!” exclaimed Borman in astonishment. “But numerous witnesses saw him rampaging through the city streets just today, and he assaulted both innocent bystanders and police officers. How the hell am I supposed to explain that in the report?”

“Well, old chap,” I said, whilst I began to make my exit with the girl, “you could just say it was an illusion. A trick of the light, perhaps?”

“I know what to say!” added Kitty Summers with a smile. “Just call it a ‘Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy’!”

Daniel Rumanos shall return in “Make the Young Girls Spy (The Lizzy Martinez Story)”.

TWO TICKETS TO PARADISE


Of the several cases that I find in my files from the early part of that particular summer, there are three major ones. The first, entitled “The Damnation of Bryan & Baxter” (concerning my infiltration of the headquarters of a Satanic paedophilia network in the area of Denver, Colorado, which was guarded by gigantic, mutated lizards), contains no features of unique interest; whilst the second, “Don Wingo Must Diet”, includes revelations that wouldst compromise the security of a certain high Executive office. For these reasons, I shall present here an account of the experience found in the third of these case files, which is indeed of a particularly bizarre importance and far-reaching impact. It is entitled “Two Tickets to Paradise”, for reasons that will quickly become obvious…

“Holy Morning Delights, Eleven!” exclaimed the girl, addressing me by my official operative number. “That must be the biggest one ever!”

“Ah, yes!” I exclaimed. “I suppose it is rather impressive. Nevertheless, I assure you that I have seen some even larger breakfast buffets in some of the better New York hotels.”

The young lady, Robina by name, was at the time training to become an agent of the KOSMIKOS, that secret service agency of our people, the Watchers of Algol. My assignment was her training, whilst she was visiting the planet Earth during a break from her usual studies at Daemonia Academy, and she had thus far proved quite adept. However, she was still a very young Algolite (indeed, she had only been cleared to begin training because members of her family had so well served as Kosmikos agents in the past), and her powers had not as yet fully developed.

“Try the Danish pastries, young Mistress Robina,” I suggested. “I am sure you will find them delicious.”

“Yes, Master Rumanos,” she replied obediently, her sapphire eyes flashing. She was of above average height and slender, with ginger hair and skin the purest white of alabaster. Even by Algolite standards, the girl was gorgeous. She was clad in a red and yellow dress with a matching short cape and riding boots.

Despite appearances, we were not actually taking time off from our stealth work to enjoy the continental breakfast at the Enchanted Forest Inn here on Route 40 West, just outside of Baltimore City. Our instrumentation had detected some odd emanations from the area, evidence of technology not of Earthly origin.

I poured myself a large cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice, then preparing a plate of several buttered croissants and a couple of jelly doughnuts before sitting down with Robina at one of the tables. I was wearing my usual silk suit and jungle boots, with my leathern greatcoat and panama hat slung over a nearby chair. Several other guests, out-of-town tourists, were minding their own business at the buffet and other tables.

I was glad to see Robina enjoying her pastry and a glass of milk. She certainly deserved some rest and recreation after the harrowing experiences we had already had that summer. I hoped that the technology we had detected would turn out to be something easily dealt with. Most often, such concerns turn out to be just the random emanations from the ejected spare fuel tank of a passing spaceship, or some such thing.

Little did we yet know, however, that our presence was perceived -- perceived by someone who was watching us intently upon a view-screen in a dark chamber filled with strange, otherworldly scientific instruments. 

“Predictable as ever, Rumanos,” he stated in a low, sepulchral voice. “Still a swaggering sybaritic nympholept after all these years.”

He was shrouded in black, a cowl completely covering his features even as he sat alone in his metallic chair. A sense of decay, of mouldering putrefaction born of absolute madness, seemed to permeate his very being; but with it a feeling of power, of intellectual superiority so far advanced as to view most other sentient beings as, at best, mere playthings.

Back at the restaurant, the young girl and I were enjoying our breakfast. I was just going to step back over to the sideboard for some fruit when the gentle neo-classical music that had been playing over the room’s speakers suddenly changed to a raucous old circus theme.

“Ladies and Gentleman, and children of all ages visiting us here today at the amazing and incredible Enchanted Forest Inn!” declared a vociferous announcement over the loudspeaker. “We have the winners in our fantastic giveaway! Yes, the delightful couple at table number four will enjoy an all-expenses-paid vacation holiday at our all-new Paradise Park amusement centre! You will enjoy wonder and enchantment beyond imagining in our land of pleasure and excitement where all your dreams will come true! Fantasies and fairy tales and magic and miracles and romance extraordinaire await you just outside these doors at the most astounding, marvellous, mind-boggling, and greatest amusement attraction of all time: the thrillingly-unforgettable Paradise Park!”

I noticed that a stream of colourful confetti was showering down upon Robina and me.

“What does this mean, Eleven?” enquired the girl.

“It appears, my young apprentice,” I told her amusedly, “that we have won two tickets to paradise!”

And even then, in that bizarre chamber from which we were being watched, that seated figure chuckled wickedly.

“Now, Daniel Rumanos of Daemonia,” he hissed with hatred tingeing his deep, darksome tones, “now I shall at last take my revenge upon you; my aeons-awaited vengeance for the unforgivably-offensive outrage that you committed upon me so unspeakably long ago. Your time is soon ending, Rumanos. I, Mordauntus, have declared your doom!”

It was then that the figure raised his head just slightly and the light of the view-screen fell fully across his features. It revealed a face of nightmares. It was little more than a skull, only thinly covered by a film of horridly scarred skin. Moreover, at the centre of this horrendous visage were two dark eyes that bespoke of insanity but also of intellect and indeed, of strength; for in these eyes glistened a spark of ancient power, glowing deeply within with an effulgence of sparkling orange and blue -- that power which is wielded only by the Watchers of Algol! …

The lovely Robina and I walked through the door at the back of the Enchanted Forest Inn. It was surrounded by flashing lights and surmounted by a sign proclaiming it the “Gateway to Paradise”.

We found ourselves in a large clearing of the wooded area behind the inn. It had been filled with rather gaudy décor. There were faux palm trees and large fountains made to look like waterfalls. Canned music, of a stereotypical “calypso” variety, played from an hidden source.

The bright sunlight and warmth of the summer day added to the illusion of tropical splendour. I was, none the less, wearing my big coat. It is permeated with numerous powers due to its many years of use during my adventures, and I can actually utilise it for a rather cooling effect during hot weather. I expect people who see me clad in it during such conditions think I am just a leather fetishist or else afflicted with some rheumatic ailment.

“So, what exactly is this place, Eleven?” enquired Robina.

“Perhaps it is indeed only a new amusement attraction, as advertised,” I answered. “Nevertheless, it could have some connection with those strange emanations we detected. Going along with this at least gives us a chance to investigate further.”

It was then that we first encountered any of they inhabitants, or rather attendants, of this so-called paradise. It was an humanoid but completely androgynous being of medium height, wearing a multicoloured outfit. Its head was disproportionately large and its features frozen in a wide, rather grotesque smile.

“Welcome to Paradise,” it said in a pleasant but rather emotionless voice. “We hope you will enjoy your stay.”

With that, the attendant walked past us as we continued our stroll through the false tropical forest.

“Eleven,” whispered Robina, “was that a…?”

“Yes, I do believe it was,” I replied with some astonishment. “A robot! Some sort of android or automaton.”

“Do the Earth-people have the technology to produce such automatons?”

“Barely. Certainly not of any very advanced type as yet. It also seems highly unlikely that they would employ them here when human workers are available. After all, it could lead to problems with the Amusement Industry Workers Union.”

“What is a ‘union’, Eleven?” queried the Algolite girl. “Some kind of secret terrorist organisation?”

‘Oh, one of the worst,” I somewhat joked.

By now, we had seen several other of the mechanical attendants. They all simply walked past us and repeated the same refrain:

“Welcome to Paradise. We hope you will enjoy your stay.”

“Indeed,” I said to Robina, “these automata do appear to be of non-Earthly origin.”

“But why?” she queried. “What could their purpose be?”

“I wonder…”

My words were then cut short when we suddenly found ourselves surrounded. There were automatons on every side of us. They had hidden behind the trees and now emerged en masse. As they advanced to-wards us, they now held out their arms straight out before them, and their hands began to glow with a sickly glare.

“What is that, Eleven?” asked the lass with some trepidation. “Is it some kind of radiation?”

“I believe so, and it could very well be a kind dangerous -- perhaps even deadly -- to Algolites. We must avoid it if at all possible.”

Now, as I have said, Robina was still very young, and her Algolitish powers were only beginning to manifest. This cut down on her defensive capabilities, but I had attempted to augment them by teaching her some methods of self-defence known upon Earth. Thus, as the robots approached us we stood back-to-back. I prepared a blast of my own Algolitish abilities and cast it at the automatons approaching from my side. My burst shone bright orange and blue as it hit several of them squarely. They retreated a few paces but were not completely halted by it.

“Good heavens,” I said. “It appears that someone or something was expecting us. These robots must be controlled from some central force, and have been empowered specifically to fight Algolites!”

Robina had delivered a king-fu kick to the attacker nearest her, being careful to avoid contact with its glowing hands. We both knew that allowing any of them to touch us could be exceedingly dangerous. The robot halted briefly, then continued to walk to-wards the girl. Several others also advanced in her direction.

She jumped up into the air to avoid them. Her Algolitish levitational abilities had begun to develop, but she had not yet mastered them. She managed to avoid the robots, but could not stay aloft for long. She landed directly in front of me.

“What are we going to do, Master Rumanos?” cried Robin as she huddled close to me for some feeling of safety.

I had by now felt my own powers draining. The nearness of the radiation was having a detrimental effect upon them. Levitation was for now out of the question, and my energies were waning, effectively cutting off all means of defence against the advancing automations.

“Welcome to Paradise,” they continued to repeat, this refrain now having taken to itself a mocking hideousness as they held out their potentially-deadly hands, now mere inches from us. “We hope you will enjoy your stay.”

As the dangerous automatons closed in upon us, I thought of one possible avenue of escape.

“Hold on tight,” I advised as I drew Robina close.

I concentrated deeply on a certain emanation, using my Algolitish abilities to sense the energy emissions from the machinery controlling the robots. Mentally attaching myself to it, I quickly teleported Robina and myself out of the area. There was a brief flash of the image of a swirling, grey mist, pulsating with the energy we were following through the inter-dimensional transition.

We soon re-materialised inside an immense chamber filled with electronic equipment. I looked up to the lofty ceiling, far above us.

“We are beneath the earth; apparently underneath the theme park area,” said I. “This is from whence the robots were being controlled.”

“This machinery,” said Robina in wonder; “it is from many different planets and eras.”

“Indeed. The intelligence necessary to successfully calibrate and integrate them would be immense, not to mention the Time/Space travel necessary to find them all. Only an Algolite…”

I was interrupted by a deep voice, a voice at once arrogant and insane.

“Have you deduced the truth yet, Rumanos?” it said. “I have returned to seek retribution upon you.”

I turned and saw the figure emerging from behind one of the computer consoles. It was the form of what had once been a robust Algolite man, now emaciated by the lingering results of long-ago injuries. His black, hooded robe clung to him like corpse-wrappings, only his gnarled hands and skull-like face showing.

“You!” I exclaimed in shock. “After all this time, you still live.”

“Who is it?” enquired the girl.

“Young Mistress Robina, meet Master Mordauntus, late of Algol and Daemonia Academy.”

“You two are acquainted, then?”

“Indeed we are, young woman, indeed we are,” hissed Mordauntus through his exposed teeth, his only skin an hideous scar-tissue stretched across bare bone. “We were at school together, so long ago.”

“Quite right, Mordauntus,” said I. “Until you were expelled for unlawful mechanical experimentation. After that, you attempted to seek revenge by invading the Academy with your robotic servants, of a different appearance but similar design to those you have here. It was I who found and defeated you. In fact, it was that confrontation that first brought my abilities as a possible operative to the attention of the Kosmikos!”

“Yes, you always were a ridiculous, strutting cockerel,” spat Mordauntus.

“We thought you were obliterated by my more fully developed powers.”

“My body was nearly destroyed, eaten up by the waves you unleashed upon me. Nevertheless, I survived and hid myself in the underworld of Daemonian society, waiting and planning for the day that I could take my revenge upon you. Now, here on this backwater planet known as Earth, that day has arrived!”

“But you were a criminal,” said Robina. “Eleven was only doing his duty as a loyal Watcher in defeating your unauthorised experiments.”

“Ha!” answered Mordauntus. “My hatred for this blustering swashbuckler goes back to before our fight. His constant boasting and telling of tales, his never-ending bragging to impress the little girls…”

“Oh, so that would be it, eh?” I mused. “Jealousy that I was (and am) popular with the ladies? How pathetic.”

“You were, and are, an insufferable braggart and an unbearable meddler! Nothing was ever enough for you. Why, even the night of the Perseids Prom, you could not get by with just one date, could you? You had to bring two girls!”

“Those were the Sinclara Twins,” I reminisced. “They did everything together. In fact, later that same evening, we…”

“Enough!” Mordauntus shouted angrily. “It ends now, Rumanos! It ends now!”

With this, Mordauntus suddenly unleashed a wave of his own Algolitish powers. His emaciated physical condition had not lessened them. The blast sent me reeling against the far wall of the chamber, and the edge of his burst struck Robina as well. I saw the girl fall unconscious upon the metallic floor as the result of the impact.

I charged forward with a burst of my own energies at Mordauntus. It met his in mid-air and filled the chamber with orange and blue sparking and flashes. The battle was now on between the villainous, utterly-mad Mordauntus and me -- a confrontation that I knew only one of us would survive!

My energies had been somewhat weakened by the earlier clash with the automatons, so I was not at full strength for my battle with the unspeakably evil and totally mad Algolite scientist known as Mordauntus.

“I will destroy you, Dr. Daniel Rumanos!” he taunted. “At long last I will have my revenge! At long last I will rid this Cosmos of your meddlesome existence!”

Whilst our bursts of force sparkled and exploded around the chamber, I noticed that Mordauntus was edging his way towards a certain machine. It was machine which I recognised as a type of energy storage device; a sort of battery, and I knew that the force it contained was the radiation that he had harnessed -- the radiation hideously harmful to Algolites. His objective was obvious: he intended to turn the full toxic force of the radiation upon me in his vindictively insane plot to bring about my destruction!

“Now, Rumanos, now…” he sneered as his nearly-skeletal arm reached for a control lever on the machine, a lever that wouldst release a potentially-lethal ray of the radioactive element directly at me. “Now I bring your doom!”

Nearby, young Robina opened her eyes. She was just recovering from the unconscious state in which our foe’s attack had left her. She looked up and beheld the situation, as the villain readied to possibly kill me.

“No!” she cried. “Oh, no!”

With this, Robina raised her little white hand and released a bolt of her own, newly-developed Algolitish power. It sizzled across the air. She had intended to hit Mordauntus squarely in his chest, but her aim was slightly off due to her inexperience. The bolt instead hit the machine containing the deadly radiation, which immediately fell upon Mordauntus and split open -- completely bathing his body in the deadly power!

I heard Mordauntus bellow in shock, agony, and unnameable pain before his life was extinguished. His body was completely consumed and obliterated, his alien consciousness scattered irretrievably to the farthest corners of the Universe.

Robina had run over and thrown her arms around me, sobbing softly:

“Oh, Eleven, are you all right?”

“Yes, I am well, my dear Robina;” I assured her, “and Mordauntus is gone forever.”

The rest of the machinery in the lofty chamber was crumbling around us, and I looked upwards to behold a fissure that was opening in the ceiling, revealing the blue sky above.

“The entire structure is imploding,” I said. “Without the mind of Mordauntus to hold it together, this chamber, the theme park, the robots, and all the rest of it will quickly cease to exist!”

I pulled Robina closer to me and began to levitate directly upwards.

“Hold on tight?” she asked with a smile.

“Always!” I replied.

I flew up and away, with the beautiful girl in my arms, away from the crumbling remains of the villain’s lair into the light of day and new adventures to come.

Daniel Rumanos shall return.