THE LAST DAY ON EARTH


“Impotent ghetto trash,” muttered Gudrun Sterling under her breath. “That’s all I frigging seem to get anymore.”

Gudrun was a prostitute, plying her trade on the corner of MacHenry Street in the Pigtown neighbourhood of southwest Baltimore. Now age twenty-six, she was noticing a definite lessening of interest among the various “johns” who prowled the area looking for a hook-up. She knew she just had to accept the fact that she could not compete with the numerous teenage hotties walking the streets of what is known as “Charm City”.

Oh, she still made enough money to support herself and her two children -- though just barely -- but Gudrun just found it a bit bloody insulting that the only clients she got these days were lower-class street hoodlums (cruising the area looking for a “white bitch“ and unable to afford the younger ones), their manhoods ruined by narcotics abuse. She tried to remember how long it had been since she had really enjoyed a good, hard shag.

As these thoughts went through Gudrun’s mind and she attempted to smile invitingly at the occasional automobiles that passed by on this none-to-busy evening, she suddenly perceived a strange sensation. It was as if something was crawling up her back. At first she assumed it was an insect, one of the species of large, blood-sucking mosquito that haunt the city nights. However, before she could even move to swat it away she was overcome with the realisation that it was something far worse -- and much bigger.

Gudrun Sterling screamed in mortal terror as she felt the grip of numerous appendages wrapping around her body. But then, even this scream was cut short as she crushed into unconsciousness by the things, and then dragged to the open grating of a nearby sewer.

This was the last ever heard of Gudrun Sterling, single mother and ageing street whore. No trace of her has ever been found. Nevertheless, she was not the only person to disappear mysteriously around that time; a time the locals still refer to as that of the Pigtown Pestilence. …

My name is Dr. Daniel Rumanos, Literary Illusionist and Intergalactic Man of Mystery. Even though I have the appearance of an human being -- a tall, muscular gentleman with dark hair, striking Anglo-Semitic features, and strangely-pale skin -- I am in reality far more than this. For I do carrying within my blood the vastly superior genes of the legendary Watchers of the Daemon-Star ALGOL, this extraterrestrial heritage granting me various powers and abilities that appear as “magic” to the people of Earth.

Although most Algolites keep to themselves, content to merely to observe the goings-on of the rest of the Universe, I am one of a secret organisation among our people known as the KOSMIKOS, and am by this dedicated to helping the innocent and to protecting them from any and all who would harass, harm, or exploit them.

I am greatly aided in this by my stunningly-beautiful and eternally-youthful wife, Katrina. Originally a maiden of the noblest Scottish ancestry -- tall and slender with gorgeous ginger hair, lovely azure-blue eyes, and a complexion like purest alabaster -- she has been augmented with powers of her own -- powers that enable her to assist me and to be my companion in my numerous weird and wondrous adventures!

On this particular day, Katrina and I had gone to investigate this so-called “pestilence” in the Pigtown area of Baltimore. Pigtown, so-called because of the slaughterhouses that used to be there, and the pigs that were herded to them from the local train-stop, is an impoverished neighbourhood, know for prostitution and narcotics dealing. The City of Baltimore had at one time attempted to improve Pigtown’s reputation, at least cosmetically, by changing its name to “Washington Village”. However, the area’s predominately-Caucasian population had very much objected to this (thinking it sounded somewhat “Negro”) and so it remained known by the unclean appellation of Pigtown.

Kat and I had left our posh north Baltimore headquarters and headed to the white-trash slum known as Pigtown in our canary-yellow Edwardian roadster, affectionately known as “Lizzie”. I was clad in my usual silk suit, leathern greatcoat and jungle boots, topped with dark spectacles and safari hat. My wife was resplendent in a candy-striped dress, riding boots, and a matching short cape.

It was in the afternoon on that cloudy day, and we had only just begun motoring amongst the largely-deserted byways of Pigtown when we suddenly felt a strange tremor.

“Holy Flapdoodle!” exclaimed Katrina. “It’s an earthquake!”

“I don’t think so, love,” I replied, after glancing in the rear-view mirror. “Look behind us.”

For just then a rift had opened in the very centre of the street just behind our car, and from it had burst forth an undulating mass of huge, grotesque, sickly slime-dripping grey tentacles!!

The writhing tentacles reached out for us, but fortunately Lizzie is no normal automobile. I have done some interesting modifications to her. I quickly flipped a switch on the dashboard and we immediately rose up into the air, hopefully out of reach of the waving slimy tentacles.

“Good work, babe!” exclaimed Katrina.

Then, as we flew over the city skyline, something occurred of absolute obscene horror. The tentacles, and the monstrosity to which they belonged, rose upward and began to ascend towards us! It was an eyeless grey creature, of a disgustingly phallic shape about twelve feet long, not including the horrid mass of threescore or more tentacles it had, which tripled its length.

“What is that thing, love?” Kat enquired.

“A Ceresite,” answered I. “An indigenous life-form of the asteroid Ceres. Just a mindless animal. They are very rare now, though some of them evolved the ability to exist whilst travelling in Space, and this one has apparently thus filtered down to Earth. They subsist by digesting organic flesh and the energies contained within it. It is unusual for one to emerge into the daylight, but they hunt by scent, and it must have perceived us -- due to our more-than-human status -- to be a potentially quite appetising meal!”

As I spoke, we continued to pick up speed as I guided Lizzie out and away from the city. We were going to have to battle this Ceresite, and it would be far safer -- in order to avoid injury to innocent bystanders -- to do it in a more open area.

I eventually landed the car in a vacant lot near the small town of Waldorf, Maryland. The Ceresite descended behind us and then the eyeless fiend hid itself in the darkness of a nearby stretch of wooded swampland.

Katrina and I jumped out of Lizzie and turned back towards the woods. Before we could look for the monsters, however, we were interrupted by a man running over from the adjoining housing development -- a particularly squalid habitation of the State’s “blue collar” working-class.

“Hey!” he said. “That’s a cool old car! Wish I had one like it!”

He was a youngish White chap of medium height, thinly built with unkempt, mouse-brown hair and a scraggly attempt at a beard. This bloke was of the decidedly inferior type and wore a rather dirty T-shirt, ripped jeans, and sneakers with no socks. His sallow complexion and dull, rather glazed-over eyes bespoke of an addiction to drugs, most likely that most pernicious and ungodly weed known as marihuana.

“My name’s Dustin Gretz,” the imbecile continued. “Who are you?”

“I’m Dr. Daniel Rumanos,” I responded with as much politeness as was possible under the circumstances. “This is my wife, Katrina.”

“’Doctor’?” he responded. “Cool! Where’d you become a doctor?”

“A place called Daemonia Academy.”

“Never heard of it. Is it in Canada or somethin‘?”

“More than likely,” I lied.

“Cool!” Gretz went on idiotically. “I’m a comedian! I did a gig last month in Dundalk at the German Hill Bier Hall! I did a part in a short film called Bloody Tears too! I’m also gonna be the new host tonight on…”

“Look at that, Daniel!” interrupted Katrina. “Over there!”

I turned to the direction she was indicating and saw coming down the road a small bus painted a bright red and white. The lettering on the side of it proclaimed it the official transportation of the “Hadley High School Cheerleaders”.

The hungry Ceresite had already emerged from the woods and was descending upon the school-bus. We heard from it the horror-stricken screams of its adolescent female passengers as the hideous extraterrestrial monster wrapped its slimy tentacles around the vehicle!!

Before Kat and I could even react, the obscenely horrid Ceresite arose and began to fly upwards with the school-bus in its grasp. Apparently, it meant to take the girl-flesh filled vehicle elsewhere in order to consume its meal.

 I immediately activated my Algolitish powers and levitated up towards the monster and its intended prey. Katrina was at my side, propelled by burst of the wonderful vermillion and violet flame that is hers to command.

Dustin Gretz, who had observed these proceedings with open-mouthed idiot awe, suddenly turned and ran away across the field like a scared rabbit towards his low-income home.

“I must be havin’ a bad trip!” he exclaimed amid numerous profane oaths. “Either that or these people are really just a bunch of terrorists or perverts or Muslims or somethin‘!”

I cast a bolt of my orange and blue-black energies at the Ceresite creature. It dodged to the side with lightning-fast speed, still clutching the bus. Katrina attempted to burn it with volleys of her fire, but it managed to quickly avoid these as well. I suddenly noticed a bizarre flicker of four glowing circles within the monster’s upper body as it detected our powers. It seems that Ceresites do have a type of “eyes” after all, which are activated only when its senses detect a blast of energy or firepower!

The screams of the mortally terrified young damsels in the bus continued, although by now several of them had certainly fainted away in absolute abject horror at what was transpiring. The horrendous and sickening tentacles of the alien monstrosity clutched the vehicle in a constantly shifting mass of absolute eldritch terror.

Above all, we could not allow the extraterrestrial monster to get out of sight. It would quickly devour the pulchritudinous busload of warm, youthful maidens and emerge refreshed and ready to continue it reign of fear throughout the area. Katrina and I had to think quickly and be prepared to do whatever was necessary to save the teenaged cheerleaders and defeat the grotesque Ceresite.

We thus continued to fire volleys of our respective powers at the monstrous creature, but nonetheless it continued to avoid them with deft movements in every direction.

“What can we do, babe?” queried Kat as she hovered by my side, far above the ground there over Waldorf, Maryland.

“I have an idea, sweetheart!” I replied. “We need to be careful not to hit that bus full of innocent girls, but this might just work! Let us attempt to box the monster in!”

My wife immediately perceived the plan, and she then accordingly generated a fantastic semicircular burst of her wondrous, sparkling flame at the disgusting Ceresite creature whilst it was attempting to gain altitude.

Now, I must admit that I am not certain why what happened next occurred. It could be that the Ceresite was overwhelmed and confused by encountering Katrina’s flame. It could be that the creature was angry, or afraid, or -- if this seemingly mindless monstrosity could actually be capable of such thought -- just wanted to spite us. In any event, what occurred next was a terror beyond even all that had happened thus far on that exceptionally fateful day.

The Ceresite suddenly bolted downwards in order to avoid Katrina’s flashing fire. At the same time, it released the hold of its myriad tentacles upon the school-bus. The result was, as you may well imagine, quite obvious and yet dreadful beyond all rational belief.

The bus began to plummet and I beheld, to even my complete horror, that they would soon strike not only the ground, but also a large area of electrical cables stretching across the highway below!!

Can you recognise the absolute supreme terror of this situation, dear readers? For the sake of your continued sanity, I most truly do pray that you cannot.

I immediately generated a wave of my bright orange and blue-black Algolitish energies and directed it to just beneath the school-bus, and thus to just above the power cables. The bus landed on the wave that I had created, and rode across it down to the highway. Fortunately, the driver had the sense to just keep going when they had levelled out on the road, and the bevy of gorgeous teen cheerleaders was saved!

My energy wave then dissipated, and the Ceresite, still attempting to avoid Katrina’s flames, swooped down directly into the power-lines. Its strange senses had not detected the danger therein, and the horrid creature was quickly slain in a burst of electrical power that sizzled and burned the horrifying monstrosity to an unrecognisable husk of black gristly death.

“A bit of a shock,” said I.

The alien threat -- the hideous extraterrestrial monster that had become known as the “Pigtown Pestilence” -- now having been destroyed, my lovely wife and I returned to Lizzie and I drove the faithful car away from the area of Waldorf, Maryland.

Dusk had just fallen as we reached a roadside diner and stopped for a meal. It was a small, privately-owned establishment but seemed clean enough. We glanced at the menu and ordered spaghetti and coffee for two from our waitress, an attractive young Latina whose nametag said “Sarita”.

The pasta arrived quickly and was pretty good, served with a side-salad and warm garlic bread. As we ate our dinner, a radio on the front counter played some “classic rock” tunes broadcasting from a local station.

Nevertheless, the music came to a sudden end when a chat show was suddenly announced.

“Gooooooooooooooood evening, Baltimore!” said an annoying and oddly-familiar voice. “Welcome to Speak Your Piece here on WBUM AM Radio! I’m your new host, Dustin Gretz, and we are broadcasting tonight from our studios right here in beautiful downtown Dundalk!”

“Wait…” whispered Katrina to me. “Isn’t that…?”

“The idiot we met earlier!” I replied.

“Tonight on the show,” continued the imbecilic Gretz on the radio, “we have as our special guest my brother Brandon, director of the new movie Bloody Tears. Later tonight, two more guests will be joinin’ -- err, joining us! They are members of the cast of the American Destination channel paranormal TV show, Ghost Thugs!

‘But first,” the moron went on, his voice suddenly taking on a note of feigned seriousness, “I need to report to you something I experienced earlier today, and to expose a dangerous threat to our great all-American community. It is a terrorist and sexual pervert known by the obviously fake name of Doctor Daniel Rumanos! He has been seen in the company of a very young red-haired girl that he has obviously hypnotised to use as his accomplice, and they are known to be part of all kinds of weird crap, just like all Islamists and everyone else who is not one of our beloved and pure All White -- I mean Alt-Right brethren and ummm, sisteren! Just today, this Rumanos character was seen by me to be involved in an act of perverted terrorism with a busload of underage schoolgirls! Lucky that I, your host Dustin Gretz, was there to protect them, which is why people now call me The Dustinator!”

This last announcement was punctuated with the pre-recorded clanging sound of a prize-fight bell before the moronic and deplorable Dustin Gretz persisted.

“Hopefully we have heard the last of this Rumanos sicko,” he blabbered, “but be on the lookout for him -- he looks like he might be a Jew or and Arab [Gretz pronounced it ‘AY-RAAB‘]! Remember, the creep probably will have that redhead with him, who likes to start fires and whose name I think is ‘Cat‘-something! They are very dangerous!”

“Oh my,” said the waitress with a wink as she handed me our bill. “Try not to run into those two.”

I paid for our meal, including a respectable gratuity for Sarita, and Katrina and I left the diner.

We were both silent as I drove Lizzie back to our long-time dwelling, the palatial Rumanos Castle, perched atop a lofty escarpment in the posh Roland Park neighbourhood to the north of Baltimore City.

I prepared myself a glass of malted milk in an attempt to settle my stomach, and Kat and I were soon standing together atop one of the highest turrets of that old gothic mansion which had been our home and headquarters for a so very long time.

“I am sick of this planet, my love,” I finally stated. “I am tired of these people and how they never understand. How no matter how much we try to help them, all they seem to know is superstition and HATE.”

“I know, babe,” said Katrina as she took my hand. “I know exactly how you feel.”

“My sweet little Kitty-Kat, we could do our work for the Kosmikos anywhere in the Universe,” I said, looking into her wonderful azure eyes, eyes as wondrously blue as the skies of Earth once were before humankind filled the planet with pollution. “I am an Algolite, after all. Eternity is my home. We could leave… right now… tonight!!”

I thought of our old Space/Time Ship, the DiTraS, waiting for us in its secret chamber below the house.

“This world is no longer my home either, love,” Kat replied sweetly, her hair shining like red gold in the moonlight. “Let’s go, and we can travel together in infinity forever and ever.”

This World Is Not My Home,” I mused whilst taking my wife, the wonderful and incomparably beautiful Lady Katrina Olivia Rumanos, in my arms. “I seem to remember writing a song by that title once, a long time ago.

“I suppose that is it for Earth,” I pondered. “We will not be able to return, you know, because of the Temporal Parameters. This world and its people are entering a new Dark Age that will last a thousand years. The best of them will be heading for Space themselves during the next few centuries, leaving this planet to barbarism and savagery until a new Enlightenment arises.“

And so was the night of what had been, for us, the last day on Earth; save for some ultimate words of encouragement that my Katrina, the Wonderful Heaven’s Hell, gave me before our departure:

“Don’t worry, love. There will be someone here to help those few good people when they need it. In fact, the ones whom you have inspired and taught how to help: The ESF, MI9, the Analogue, and your students -- The League of the Daemon-Star!”

“Yes, sweetheart, the ones whom we have inspired,” I answered, then continuing with a thoughtful grin; “I say, before we depart I shall leave some instructions for a member of the League; that girl Rosalie. She is one of my top students, and I shall instruct her to pay a visit to the studios of WBUM Radio. The young lady can do absolutely devastating things with a kris knife.”

COMING SOON
WEIRD ADVENTURES IN SPACE AND TIME
THE NEW SERIES

MOONRAPER


“MOONRAPER: Sickening Selenite Stalks Schoolgirls”, screamed the tabloid headlines in the year 2151. As is usual with such reports, they were not exactly factual. True, a young girl had been attacked by something in her bedroom at the private boarding school on Moon Base 3, something that was likely one of the rarely-encountered creatures said to inhabit the interior of Earth’s natural satellite, but there was no evidence that the thing had sexual violated her. That the poor lass had actually died as the result of the attack (apparently of sheer horror) seemed of less importance to the salacious reports. As always, sex sells media, and -- in its way -- frightens people even more than death.

My name is DR. DANIEL RUMANOS, Intergalactic Man of Mystery. Even though I have the appearance of a strikingly-handsome human gentleman, tall and muscular, with Anglo-Semitic features and long dark hair; I am in reality much more than this. For I do carry within my blood the vastly superior genes of the enigmatic Watchers of the Daemon-Star ALGOL, this extraterrestrial heritage granting me numerous powers and abilities that appear as “magic” to the people of planet Earth.

Although most Algolites keep to themselves, merely observing the goings on of the Universe around them, I am an agent for an highly secret organisation known as the KOSMIKOS, made up of certain members of the ruling class of our home-world, and it is therefore my responsibility to utilise my alien gifts in order to defend the weak and the oppressed from those who would harm, harass, or exploit them. Dealing with this so-called “Moonraper” was to be the latest assignment in my numerous adventures throughout the vast reaches of Space and Time!

I arrived on Moon Base 3 a couple of hours before my appointment to meet with the Headmistress of the Little Ladies School for Girls. I decided to have a general look around the public facilities of the base, and as such had wandered into the swimming pool area on its top level. The clear dome covering this section had been treated with a chemical that caused it to turn blue when the Sun was shining through. Several potted palm-trees enhanced this Earth-like setting.

I strolled around the pool, dressed in my usual silk suit, leathern greatcoat, jungle boots, dark spectacles, and safari hat. The pool’s one current user emerged from the water and immediately caught my attention. She was an absolutely gorgeous girl, between the ages of perhaps eighteen and twenty, tall and slender, with auburn hair and hazel eyes. She was clad in nothing else except the tiniest string bikini, and her dripping wet skin was slightly tanned.

“How do you do?” said I.

“Hello there,” she replied with a smile. “I don’t think we’ve met before, have we? You aren’t a resident of the base.”

“No, I’m just a visitor. My name is Daniel.”

“I’m Summer,” she answered as she put on a thin, white dressing-gown. It clung to her wet skin in a way that only enhanced her busty, but otherwise svelte figure.

“Nice to meet you, Summer,” I stated. “I say, do you happen to know a place where I could get some lunch, hmmm?”

“Sure, there is a food court with several options just down the hallway. The only big restaurant here is Pierre’s, but it isn’t open until later.”

“Thanks much. I’m sure I can find something suitable at the food court.”

Summer leaned back slightly to wring out her long, silky hair, her breasts showing their hard nipples clearly through her slight attire.

“I say,” I then added, “would you care to join me for a bite, eh?”

“Oh, I wish I could, Daniel” she replied with a provocative flutter of her eyelashes. “Unfortunately, I have to get back to work. I am free for dinner later, though.”

“Sounds fantastic! I will meet you at 19:00. Pierre’s Restaurant, did you say?”

“Yes. That is,” she added, licking her luscious lips sensuously, ”if you like French.”

“Very much,” I replied. “See you then.”

I left the pool area and walked to-wards the food court in the direction the girl had indicated. I found a delicatessen stand and ordered a pastrami sandwich on rye with spicy mustard, a kosher dill pickle, and an iced coffee (shaken, not stirred) then sitting down with my meal at one of the tables. There were only a few other patrons present, Earthlings and one Venusian.

I was enjoying my sandwich and thinking things over for my appointment at the school when I suddenly felt an odd tingling sensation at the side of my neck. I reached up and pulled from my skin a small metallic dart, which I could see had been dipped in poison. Somebody was trying to murder me!

Fortunately, my Algolitish consistency allowed me to shake off the effects of the poison quickly. Nevertheless, by the time I stood up and looked around, no one was in sight who could have thrown the dart.

This dart was of a common type, the kind used in pub games. Similarly, the poison was a simple cyanogen-9 blend that could be put together by anyone after a visit to any chemist’s shop.

I decided to not cause a scene involving this attempt to kill me. I could speak with the Lunar Police later and review the food court’s security camera footage in order to see if it had caught the culprit. It seemed unlikely that this would be the case. In any event, they would have obviously worn a disguise, and the physical effort necessary to throw the dart would likely be hardly noticeable on video from afar.

I sat back down and finished my meal. Obviously, someone was disturbed with my endeavour to investigate this “Moonraper” case. But who… and, even more poignantly, why?

I arrived at the school and easily found the office of the Headmistress. She was an elderly, grey-haired British widow, Mrs. Whittaker by name, dressed very properly in a long grey dress. I found her a bit prudish, as did befit her position, but not unpleasant of personality.

“Dr. Rumanos,” she said as she sat behind her large mahogany desk, “what can you tell me about the monster that was seen running from the room of that poor girl? It must have done unspeakable things to her, for her to have died of fear.”

“The creatures matching that description,” I relied, sitting in the small but comfortable armchair that the Headmistress had indicated, “are one of several semi-legendary species, variously termed Moonites or Selenites or Lunarians, that are said to inhabit the core and underground caverns of the Moon, breathing the thin atmosphere that exists there.”

“But I know of no one who has ever even encountered these things before,” the Headmistress stated with a puzzled expression.

“They are generally very shy by nature. It has never even been known for one to approach, much less attack, an human being. The particular type you described stay underground, as they can exist only by feeding off a type of radiation emitted by certain stones found near the Moon’s core. The beings are small and vaguely humanoid, as was described, and are very adept at squeezing through crevices and such. This is likely how the one you described escaped.”

“Indeed,” the worthy lady replied with a barely-suppressed shudder. “Several of the girls glimpsed that horrid creature before it disappeared down the dormitory hallway.”

“And you say there are no security cameras in the school?”

“No, we cannot have them. Too much possibility of footage of the students in their rooms or in the showers showing up on those disgusting pornographic video networks, as has happened to some other educational institutions.”

We were suddenly interrupted by a buzz at the office door.

“Come in,” said Headmistress Whittaker.

A young woman entered, clad in a white blouse and ankle-length blue skirt. I stood up.

“This is Miss Landers,” stated the Headmistress by way of introduction. “She is my assistant and a student teacher here. As it is her responsibility to see to the daily needs of the girls, I thought it appropriate that she should be here for our interview, Dr. Rumanos.” 

I looked at face of the new arrival and realised that it was Summer, the girl whom I had met at the pool.

“Miss Landers,” said I, then adding as an aside to her, “I didn’t recognise you with your clothes on.”

Summer Landers gave me a slight smile of recognition and pulled up a wooden chair. She sat down and smoothed out her skirt quite primly.

“Now, Miss Landers,” continued the Headmistress, not hearing my comment, “tell Dr. Rumanos what you told me and the police about what happened to poor little Annie.”

“She just seemed to have died of terror,” said Summer Landers. “I suppose it was from the very sight of that thing when she woke up and saw it -- sitting at the foot of her bed or whatever.”

“And you say there was no evidence that she had been… violated?” I enquired.

“No, the coroner said there was no evidence of sexual molestation, despite what the news media have reported. It seems Annie‘s heart had just burst from sheer fright.”

Our conversation was then suddenly interrupted by the shrill sound of an alarm siren.

“INTRUDER,” stated the pre-recorded voice of the school’s warning system. “INTRUDER ALERT.” 

It turned out to be a false alarm. One of the students -- a cute, over-excitable Italian girl named Gina -- had seen a shadow in the hallway and started screaming “The Moonraper! The Moonraper!”

Nevertheless, it was actually just the usual shadow of the adjoining building, suddenly cast by the beginning of Earthrise outside the near by window. Order at the school was soon restored, though I could sense a certain tenseness among all the students. Certainly understandable, with the mystery at hand, but I hoped that such emotional reactions would not negatively effect my investigation.

I still had some time before my dinner date with Summer Landers, and used it by first stopping by the local precinct of the Lunar Police Department. As I had expected, the footage they had extracted from the food court security cameras did not reveal the culprit who had attempted to assassinate me. Nevertheless, the very fact that they had known exactly where to stand in order to stay out of sight of the video surveillance, as well as to be able to so quickly escape after having thrown the poisoned dart at me, made it evident that the suspect was someone very familiar with the Moon Base -- likely a resident rather than a visitor.

I then spent the remainder of my spare time browsing some of the local shops, and doing some quick research at the MB3 Branch of the Aldrin Public Library, before arriving at Pierre’s Restaurant to meet Summer.

She was already seated at our reserved table, looking exquisitely beautiful in a hot pink evening gown.

“I was afraid you wouldn’t come, Daniel…” she said as I sat down, “or should I call you ‘Dr. Rumanos‘?”

“Daniel will do,” I replied with a grin, “as long as I do not have to continue calling you ‘Miss Landers’.”

She giggled. The waiter came by and I ordered caviar with everything for two, veal fricassee, and a bottle of champagne, vintage 2086 (a very good year, I might add).

“So,” said I after sipping a bit of the champagne, “whatever led you to study to become a teacher? Certainly a noble profession, but it must be a bit lonely for you at a private girls’ academy on the Moon.”

“It was a family member who first got me into it,” she replied. “My uncle was head teacher of the middle school I attended on Earth.”

Our conversation continued in this vein, with my enquiring as to what college she was attending and so forth. She was in her third year, and would be earning her degree early due to her time as assistant to the Headmistress at Little Ladies.

The waiter arrived with the caviar served as it was with a large mound of warm toast, as well as small side dishes of onions and boiled eggs, both finely diced. The waiter assured us that our main course would be served shortly. Out of politeness, I turned and told him that there was no hurry.

“Now, Daniel,” said Summer in a playful tone when the waiter had gone away, “I’ve told you about me, so tell me about you.”

“What would you like to know then?”

“Well…. Hmmm… How long have you been an Operative of the Kosmikos?”

“I say,” I replied just slightly taken aback, “you are familiar with the Kosmikos?”

“Of course,” said she. “The Kosmikos of Algol is the most famous secret organisation in the Galaxy.”

I wondered how much she actually knew. Probably just rumours and innuendos culled from muddled news reports.

“Longer than you’ve been alive, I’m sure,” I said in answer to her question. In actuality, it would be longer than even her earliest ancestors had been alive, but one must keep some secrets.

Summer seemed to be enjoying the caviar, and so was I. The veal fricassee arrived, and was also excellent. Nevertheless, for some unknown reason I had begun to feel a bit ill, just a hint of stomach sickness or something. I hoped it was just my imagination, borne of being away from the school I was investigating longer than perhaps was wise. I had taken safeguards, and was certain that the Headmistress would contact me immediately if anything happened, but still…

Meanwhile, in one of the rooms of the school dormitory, a young girl named Jodie had just closed her lovely-blue eyes for sleep. The soft glow of Earthlight through her shaded window gently lit her soft flaxen hair and her pretty, fair-complexioned face. She had said her prayers before getting into bed, and a look of  peace was upon her beautiful features as she fell into a deep slumber.

Suddenly, something slipped deftly through a slight aperture in the wall panelling of the student‘s room. It was a small, thin creature with a grotesquely misshapen head and pale green skin. Its eyes glowed in a manner as denotes beings used to living in darkness.

Silently, the Moonite crept over to where the helpless girl was sleeping and reached out its horrid hand to-wards her bed…

Back at the restaurant, the waiter had now brought dessert, the house speciality chocolate mousse, but I was not in any condition to enjoy it. A definite feeling of upset had hit my stomach. Suddenly, just as I realised what was happening, my head sunk down to the table.

“Oh my,” said Sumer Landers, “it looks like my friend can’t hold his champagne.”

But Summer’s demeanour changed suddenly when she saw a shimmering light begin to envelope my body and she realised that my fainting was a put on.

“Oh no you don’t!” she shouted as she jumped across the table and folded herself around my person. The transportation device I had activated beamed us both out of the restaurant.

We re-materialised from the teleportation beam at the school, in the room of the girl named Jodie, just as the hideous Moonite creature was reaching out to-wards her bed. When it saw us, it let out a frightened yelp and ran for the corner of the bedroom.

“No!” suddenly screamed Summer at the Moonite. “You were supposed to kill her, you repulsive monster!”

The creature would likely have disappeared through a seam in the wall, but when it heard Summer it turned back and looked at her.

The noise had now awakened the young student, and I whispered to her to be quiet and not fear. She shivered somewhat behind me but was surprisingly brave considering the situation into which she had so suddenly emerged from sleep.

“Kill her!” continued Summer to the Moonite. “Kill them both!”

“Summer,” I said calmly, “you do not want to do that.”

Nevertheless, she persisted. “Kill them! I order you to kill both the girl and that man!”

I had just taken note of the tone of disgust in Summer Landers’ voice when she uttered the word “man”, when the Moonite suddenly pounced upon her. It was then all over before I could react. The creature visibly drained all of the life-force from Summer’s body, and she dropped down dead.

I unleashed a quick blast of my own Algolitish powers, which sparkled with an orange and blue-black brilliance as they destroyed the Moonite.

I then sat down on the bed and put my arm around the crying girl.

“It’s all right now, love,” I assured her. “It’s all over.”

I reached under the bed and found the small piece of rock that I knew I would find there, and then looked over at the corpse of the beautiful but wickedly insane Summer Landers. I thought of all the evil she had wrought. Attempting to poison me twice -- the second time by slipping the poison into my drink whilst I was talking to the waiter; having purchased a black-market piece of illegal rock from the Moon’s core -- a stone containing a bit of the radiation on which those nocturnal creatures feed; and indeed having placed the rock in the bedrooms of two innocent students, resulting in the death of one of them!

“Cruel Summer,” said I.

The next day, I sat in the office of the Headmistress with Mrs. Whittaker and young Jodie.

“One thing I don’t understand,” said the venerable lady. “Why did the Moonite attack the girls if it feeds on the stone’s radiation?”

“The bio-electric impulses that accompany violent emotions -- fear, anger, hate -- are somewhat similar to the radiation at the Moon’s core,” I explained. “When the first girl, poor Annie, woke up and saw the thing, she no doubt reacted with extreme fright, causing it to see her as a food source. It became a natural emotivore. The same thing happened when Miss Landers let loose with her anger and hatred.”

“Yes,” said the Headmistress, “I’ve just been going over the private diaries found in her room. It seems Miss Landers had a background of horrible child sexual abuse at the hands of her uncle. It caused a psychological hatred of both juvenile girls and adult men in her. It appears she even anonymously called in the ‘Moonraper’ stories to the tabloid media, just in order to harm the school‘s reputation.”

“I knew there was no reason the Moonite would sexually assault human beings. They are usually rather shy and harmless creatures, and I am sure you won‘t have trouble from any more of them. I had set the transportation app on my mobile device to beam me immediately to the location of any Moon rock radiation in the school, which happened when it was activated by the thing’s feeding. Summer Landers was clever in her plans, but ultimately was too obsessed to really care about the consequences to even herself.

“Oh, good heavens,” I continued in sudden realisation as I stood up to walk to the door. “I just remembered that I should go back to Pierre’s Restaurant and settle my bill. I wouldn’t want to get a reputation for skipping out after sampling their fine cuisine!”

“The school has already taken care of it, Dr. Rumanos,” the Headmistress assured me. “It was the least we could do after all the help you’ve been.”

“Very kind of you,” said I with a bow. I then turned to Jodie, who had sat quietly by up until now. “Will you be all right, young lady?”

“Yes, thank you,” she said sweetly. “I just glad I didn’t wake up until you got there. If I had seen that thing I would have screamed and…”

“Indeed. Fortunately you had nice dreams, eh?”

“I really did! I was dreaming about my home back in Auckland, on Earth. When I was little and the iced cream truck would come by on warm evenings. I remember the little song it played and everything.”

“Quite right!” I responded with encouragement. “I’ve always said that happy thoughts and memories are extremely useful in getting through stressful and unpleasant situations. In fact, I even once said to good Queen Victoria: ‘Vickie, just close your eyes and think of England.’”

“You really knew Queen Victoria?” enquired Jodie in astonishment.

“Indeed,” I confirmed, “when she was a very young girl.”

“And you called her ‘Vickie’?” queried Headmistress Whittaker, feigning the look of bemused censure proper to her position.

“Only when we were alone. Cheers!”

DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN

WARHEAD FROM SPACE


I was visiting the Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat just outside of Annapolis. The Retreat’s Superior is a friend of mine, the Very Rev. Harold Barclay, known affectionately as Father Hal. I had known him ever since that Independent Greek Orthodox Church had made me an honorary Archbishop due to some assistance I had given them in a certain “mystical” matter. Fr. Hal had attended the ceremony as a representative of his religious order. As I sat chatting with him in his office over a cup of excellent Italian coffee, I could not help noticing he did not seem quite himself. Perhaps, I rationalised, the difficult work of running the Retreat Centre was getting to him.

“I’m glad you came by to see us,” he said, smoothing back his grey hair. “There is another gentleman staying here for a while whom I think you might enjoy meeting.”

“Really, Father?” I replied. “Someone in my, umm… line of business?”

“Sort of! His name is Professor Travis Frasier and he is here researching the legends of Bigfoot in the area, or ‘Sasquatch’ as he prefers to call the thing. He’s half Native American.”

“Sounds interesting. I would like to meet the chap.”

“I’ll introduce you. I told him he should investigate that cave on the other side of the state park from here. Many of the locals say they’ve seen that big hairy beast lurking around there,” he added with a smile. “Perhaps you could go there together, Daniel.”

As the elderly priest got up to walk from the room and take me to meet this professor, I secretly slipped my Seal of Solomon amulet into the top drawer of his desk.

Prof. Frasier was a nice enough man, fifty-ish, obviously well-versed in the Sasquatch legends. I was quite glad to see he was not one of those redneck “Bigfoot hunters”.

“Maryland actually has more sightings than any other State,” he told me as the two of us walked through the park, “despite Sasquatch being more usually associated with the Pacific Northwest. But the local specimen has an odd peculiarity about it. We can tell from observing the many footprints that it has only four toes instead of the usual five!”

Bloody Hell, even Sasquatch in this State is inbred!

We reached the cave, which was about ten feet wide at its opening and well-secluded among the trees. We entered and lit our electric torches. The cave soon turned into a surprisingly large cavern as we journeyed farther underground. The ceiling was easily thirty feet high, and the numerous stalactites and stalagmites lent it a grotesquely antediluvian aspect.

Then we turned in alarm at the eldritch growling sound behind us. We beheld two apelike hominid giants, each fully eight feet tall and unbelievably muscular, covered with thick, dark-brown hair -- every bit of them in appearance the classic Sasquatch or Bigfoot itself! Their eyes beheld us with a look of extreme, darkly ominous anger.

“I don’t understand this at all, Dr. Rumanos,” whispered Frasier, always the scientist despite the situation we were in. “I always believed the Sasquatch to actually be a rather gentle, shy type of creature.”

“Professor,” I replied, “I think we may soon find that this is not quite what it appears to be.”

The two Sasquatch creatures slouched forward as if to usher us even farther into the depths of the uncanny cavern. We backed slowly away from them and soon found ourselves in a bizarre, well-lit room, filed with what could only be described as a network of odd crystalline objects, all interconnected and centred on one huge, clear crystal in the centre, which glowed with an hideously pulsating rhythm.

A deep, echoing voice issued forth from the central crystal, otherworldly in its cadence: “Beings of flesh, you have entered our abode. We are THE INTELLECT, the united mind of our now-extinct race. Countless ages ago, we merged into one to escape the destruction of our planet when its sun grew cold. We issued forth across the Cosmos, spanning countless galaxies of space and untold millennia of time. We have settled on this world and await the day when its dominant species has evolved to the point that it can house us within its flesh. Then our mighty race will be reborn to go forth into even greater glories.”

“Then these Sasquatch,” stammered Prof. Frasier, “aren’t the real thing?”

“No,” I told him. “They are Robots, servants of this Intellect. It has used the local legend as cover and invented them to guard its lair. They are its strong-arms or shock-troops, a Warhead from Space, you might say!”

The Intellect continued: “We have begun our invasion by possessing the body of the one which is called ‘Priest‘.”

“What!” exclaimed the Professor. “Does it mean they have possessed Fr. Hal Barclay?”

“Not any more,” said a voice from behind us -- Fr. Hal himself. “Thanks to the amulet His Grace Rumanos left me.”

Father, now cleared of his possession by having handled the amulet (which I had charged with a portion of my own Algolitish power), then deftly tossed it towards the ghastly central crystal. Several of the extraordinary structures on either side of it shattered as the Intellect disappeared, now dispersed into the depths of space. A sparking sound came from the two robot Sasquatch, which now fell into harmless inaction.

I did not stay much longer at Sacred Heart Retreat after the destruction of the Intellect’s plans. Fr. Hal is a good man, and I am all for exploring different spiritual systems, but you just shall not find me lingering for long anywhere that does not have hummus and young girls.

However, I did again speak with the worthy Prof. Frasier the next morning on the grounds around the Retreat.

“Well, Professor,” I mused, “you came here looking for Sasquatch and instead helped to uncover an alien Intellect using its technology in an attempt to take over humankind.”

“One thing I still don’t understand.” answered Frasier. “How did you know that Fr. Barclay had been possessed?”

“Quite easily, actually!” I replied. “He referred to me by my first name. Fr. Hal, true to the formal decorum of his Order, always calls me either ‘Bishop’ or ‘Your Grace’.”

“Well, I suppose I will have to continue my search for the real Sasquatch elsewhere, as I still have hopes I am not wrong about his existence,” said Frasier. “But tell me, Dr. Rumanos; is this Magic of yours a form of extraterrestrial technology as well?” 

I thought it best to ignore the question, but I must admit that the Professor is indeed a quite perceptive individual! …

My name is indeed RUMANOS -- DOCTOR DANIEL RUMANOS, Intergalactic Man of Mystery. Even though I have the appearance of a strikingly handsome human gentleman, tall and muscular, with Anglo-Semitic features and long dark hair; I am in reality far more than this. I do carry within my blood the superior genes of the enigmatic Watchers of the Daemon-Star Algol, this extraterrestrial heritage granting me numerous powers and abilities that appear as “magic” to the people of planet Earth.

Although most Algolites keep to themselves, merely observing the goings on of the Universe around them, I am an agent for an highly secret organisation known as the KOSMIKOS, made up of certain members of the ruling class of our home-world of Daemonia, and it is therefore my ongoing mission to utilise my alien gifts in order to defend the weak and the oppressed from those who would harm, harass, or exploit them.

I am greatly aided in this task by my beautiful and eternally-youthful wife, LADY KATRINA RUMANOS. Originally of a noble Scottish family, she now possesses, as a gift of the Watchers, the ability to generate and control the “Mystical Flame”, a wonderful vermillion and violet fire that can be used in defence and battle. She has thus become my companion and helpmate in the numerous adventures we share both upon the planet Earth and throughout the vast reaches of Space and Time.

Nearly a year after my initial encounter with The Intellect, I was to battle that alien evil and its ‘Warhead’ things again. It was a bizarre and harried experience that included -- SASQUATCH IN THE CITY!

I was enjoying a day with my lovely wife, Katrina, looking around the historical sites of the Mount Vernon area of downtown Baltimore, when a large but non-descript automobile pulled up beside us. An attractive, dark-complexioned young woman in a United States Navy Ensign’s uniform got out of it and flashed a U.S. Government-issued ID card. 

“Dr. Daniel Rumanos,” she said curtly, “Military Intelligence requests your assistance in a certain matter.” 

Katrina and I were ushered into the back of the car -- the windows were completely blackened over and a partition kept us from seeing the front seat -- and driven to a non-disclosed location where the young woman officer led us to a large but sparsely-furnished office. We sat down before a desk and the Ensign assured us that “The Captain” would be with us shortly and then left the room. 

A few minutes later, a tall, handsome gentleman entered the room. He was about forty with brown hair and a well-groomed moustache. His uniform was immaculate. 

“Dr. Rumanos… and Mrs. Rumanos, I see,” he said, offering his hand. “I’m Captain Jack Hickman, U.S. Navy Special Services.” 

“OK, Captain Jack,” said Katrina, after we had both shaken his hand, “Would you mind explaining why we’ve been brought here?” 

“That is,” I added, “If it is not too much of a breach of bloody national security or anything.” 

Capt. Hickman took his seat behind the desk, completely ignoring my attempt at humour. He pushed a control button on his desk and a sliding panel opened on the wall to the right of him, revealing a large video screen. In the screen was the image of a dark, obviously underground tunnel filled with a glowing, cobweb-like growth. 

“This substance appeared several days ago in the Baltimore City Metro Subway System,” Hickman explained, “and has been spreading ever since. We‘ve closed down the entire system, the official explanation being that the city is doing long-needed repairs on the railways. I sent a highly-trained detachment to attempt to get to the centre of the web, but they encountered several large, ape-like creatures guarding the way. These creatures have proven so far entirely unstoppable by any weapons we have tried on them, but one of them easily tore several of my men literally limb-from-limb.” 

I felt an ominous feeling creeping up my spine as I asked him to show us an image of one or more of the “creatures”. 

He pressed a button and the hideous image appeared on the screen as I had expected -- The huge, hairy, proto-hominid form of the Sasquatch

I told the Captain what it was -- Not actually the organic Bigfoot/Sasquatch of legend, but robot servants of a vastly powerful extraterrestrial entity called THE INTELLECT -- The united intelligence of an ancient, physically-extinct race of alien beings who now wanted to use the human race as host-bodies for their return to physical existence, so that they could then go forth and conquer the Universe! 

“Yes,” Captain Hickman answered in his unflappable manner, “that confirms what we have already been told.” 

“Told by whom?” I inquired. 

Capt. Hickman picked up his phone.

“Ensign,” he ordered, “send him in.” 

A few seconds later who should enter the room but my old friend Professor Travis Frasier, the scientist whom I had met when I had previously encountered The Intellect and its mechanical-Sasquatch servitors. 

“Hello, Professor,” I said, “Cannot say I’m really surprised to see you. Do you have any idea how The Intellect has returned?” 

“Yes, Dr. Rumanos,” he answered, seeming a bit abashed, “I’m afraid so. I couldn’t help but to do some experiments with the remains of the two robot ‘Sasquatch’ that were left in that cave. After many trials, I succeeded in re-activating one! I feel fortunate to be alive after the way it swatted me out of the way like a fly! When I came to again, both of the Sasquatch were missing from my laboratory, presumably through the large hole now smashed in the wall!” 

I sighed. I of all people could not fault the good Professor for scientific curiosity, but by doing this he inadvertently had given The Intellect the signal it needed to return to Earth and continue its plans to possess all of humanity. Now it was entrenched in the city subway system, sending its crystalline web out to spread its thoughts and continuously grow in power, all the while guarded by its monstrous, robotic creatures! 

Just then, Hickman’s telephone buzzed. He answered it immediately.

“Right!” he said, standing up hastily, “Inform Washington of the situation and employ all available detachments immediately!” 

“Further developments?” Katrina asked. 

“Yes, you could put it that way!” answered the Captain, switching the video screen to a live feed. 

On the screen was a view of the Metro station entrance at City Centre. From the doorway were lurching forth at least a half-dozen of the ghastly, gigantic Sasquatch creatures, which then began scattering out on to the streets of Baltimore!! 

The large, robotic Sasquatch creatures -- indeed The Intellect’s Warhead From Space -- were pouring out of the downtown entrance to Baltimore’s Metro subway train system. Eight of the big hairy monstrosities issued forth from it in all and lurched forward hideously, spreading out to bring ghastly terror to the streets of the city. 

“Right!” said Captain Jack Hickman into his telephone at the secret headquarters of the United States Military Intelligence Unit he was commanding, “I’ll lead the head detachment myself! Deploying immediately!” 

He hung up the phone and turned to me. 

“Dr. Rumanos,” he said, “we need someone to go underground who has the necessary knowledge to defeat this alien Intellect at its source.” 

“Yes,” I replied. “By sending its guarding Sasquatch out into the streets -- likely in response to my presence here -- it has opened itself to attack as much as it is going to do, so I should go in now.” 

“Ensign Jones will accompany you, along with a couple of my best men. Professor Frasier will continue to take care of tech matters here at H.Q., but I can only hope we can break through the defences of these Sasquatch creatures. So far, the only thing that has slowed them down at all in our previous encounters is the use of flamethrowers, but we haven’t been able to generate the type of intense heat apparently necessary to burn through their outer casing.” 

“Well then, my good Captain, I think I know someone who can help with that particular problem.” 

I looked at Katrina. She was already smiling. 

A short while later I was entering the dark, underground tunnels of Baltimore City’s subway system, accompanied by the young Ensign and two burly seamen. I must admit it took some effort, but I managed to refrain from asking them if they knew that old Village People song, “In the Navy”. 

We soon encountered the ghostly cobweb-like substance; the “Web of Terror” generated by The Intellect. It was constructed of countless tiny crystals that the phantasmal group-mind of the extraterrestrial intelligence used to transmit and focus its thoughts. The grotesque web glowed with a hideously eldritch, pulsating radiance. 

Back on the surface, the military was advancing against the eight Sasquatch. Guns and hand-grenades did not even faze the creatures, however. Fortunately, I had given them a secret weapon. 

Katrina walked out away from the well-armed detachment that had been escorting her. A moment’s concentration was all that was necessary for my beloved to activate her powers, as a jetting force of lovely-but-deadly vermillion and violet fire shot forth from her and she rose smoothly into the air. She is the Mistress of the Wondrous Flame -- She is Heaven’s Hell

She dove down towards one of the robotic Sasquatch and shot out a blast of flame from her hands directly at its mid-section. The creature stopped and then recoiled a few steps, actually howling in pain and surprise at the intensity of heat from her fire, born as it is from the advanced magic-like science of the Watchers of Algol. 

It was then that the unthinkable happened. The Sasquatch paused for a few short moments as it re-arranged its programming in communication with the Intellect commanding it. It then levitated straight upward and hovered face-to-face with Katrina. The other seven Sasquatch followed suit and the wonderful Heaven’s Hell soon found herself surrounded -- hideously threatened by all eight of the foul monstrosities in the air above the city skyline of Baltimore! 

Underground, the eerie web was growing thicker as we approached the horrifying presence of The Intellect itself, and the bizarre group-mind from Outer Space was a fantastically palpable force in the dense atmosphere around us. I could feel its ancient, immensely powerful intelligence, and its totally evil disregard for anything or anyone who would stand in the way of its goal of regenerating the powerful extraterrestrial race of conquerors of which it was the mental depository. 

I turned to the young woman officer standing beside me. 

“So, Ensign Jones,” I said, “what would your first name be, then?” 

“Martika,” she said, with a slight smile. 

“Martika. That is a very nice name. Now tell me, Martika Jones: how long have you been under the control of The Intellect?” 

Her dark eyes narrowed with a look of hate born of fear as an invisible force of energy shot forth from her body, knocking the two sailors unconscious before they could even raise their weapons. 

The burst of energy hit me with a painful crunch, and I saw a shower of falling stars in my mind as my eyes closed and I sank limply to the ground. 

It had been quite obvious to me that Ensign Martika Jones was under the control of The Intellect. For one thing, I was very certain it would not leave its central position, there on the large train platform of the Baltimore City Metro Subway System, unguarded. Then, when it sent its monstrous, robotic Sasquatch out into the city streets, I knew it must have some other means of security. Therefore, I was not at all surprised when she sent forth a burst of energy rendering the two Navy men with us unconscious. The blast hit me painfully as well, but my Algolitish psychic defences were prepared for it. However, I thought it wise to pretend to have been knocked out, so I closed my eyes and dropped to the floor. 

Ensign Jones dragged me into the presence of The Intellect. Here, the spectrally-glowing web was thickest, reaching from the ceiling to the floor of the platform. In the centre was the huge pulsating crystal I had expected to find -- denoting the central existence of the immensely-powerful and unspeakably evil alien INTELLECT! 

“Doctor Rumanos of the Daemon-Star!” said the deeply-toned voice of The Intellect that filled the air around me, and would have stirred me back to consciousness if I had not already been awake. “We have been waiting for you. Now you will be made to serve us, and nothing shall stand in the way of our total subjugation of the human species upon this planet, which shall now be used as hosts for the triumphant return of our most glorious race!” 

“Ha! You know very well that I will never serve you,” I replied spitefully. 

“You will BE us!” replied the Intellect. It then turned its thoughts to the Ensign, saying, “Prepare the Brain-Draining Helmet!” 

Ensign Jones lifted a hat-like crystalline object from a nearby section of the web, touching a small switch upon it before placing it upon my head. 

“Now,” continued The Intellect, “your very essence, your mind, your intelligence will become part of us! The very Knowledge of the Watchers of Algol shall be ours, so that no species of the Universe will be able to stand against us when we go forth to conquer all!!” 

The crystal-helmet began to glow, throbbing with power as the hideous extraterrestrial intellect began the process by which it intended to drain all thoughts, memory, and knowledge from my head! 

Outside, the battle raged against the grotesque Sasquatch creatures. My lovely wife Katrina, A.K.A. the wonderful Heaven’s Hell, had found that by generating the heat of her Flame to the intensity of a controlled atomic explosion, and then directing it to the centre of a Sasquatch, she could pierce the defences of the monstrosities enough that the military detachment could then fire a bazooka-shell into the grotesque thing, causing the robotic horror damage beyond repair. 

The main problem Kat was experiencing now was having to dart around quickly enough to evade the grasp of the horrible creatures, and to prevent them from harming anyone else until she could get into the proper tactical position to destroy them one-by-one. 

Meanwhile, back underground, the pulsating light of the bizarre Brain-Draining Helmet continued to grow with intensity as an electronic whining sound increased. Then, with shocking sudden volume, The Intellect shouted, “What? WHAT! Rumanos, how have you…? Our consciousness is separating -- weakening -- falling to pieces!!” 

Earlier, when the young ensign was dragging my body into the presence of the alien Intellect, I had surreptitiously made a slight mentalist link with her, just nudging enough of a suggestion that she had switched the polarisation of the neutronic stream on the helmet before placing it upon my head. Now, instead of draining my knowledge and intelligence to merge with its own, it was causing The Intellect’s hideous consciousness to come to pieces, draining down into various portions of its spectral, crystalline web. 

“No!” it continued. “This cannot be! How can your mind do this to us?! You are only one. We are The Intellect, the greatest group-mind of all time! NO! NOOOOOOOOO!!” 

The voice of The Intellect then trailed off into a gurgling scream. 

By now, The Intellect was weakened enough that it had been forced to sever its mind-control of Ensign Jones. Her military training then took over immediately, and she raised her assault rifle and fired at the large, central crystal of the extraterrestrial horror’s chamber. It shattered into countless tiny pieces. The ghastly, phantasmal radiance ceased, and the gruesome web lost all life within it, falling to dust upon the floor of the tunnels it had once covered. 

The Intellect was now harmless, dispersed into deep Space. I could only hope that this time it would stay that way. 

Back outside, all but three of the mechanical Sasquatch had already been destroyed by the combined forces of Heaven’s Hell and military weaponry. These three, now with no intelligence left to command them, stopped functioning and smashed to the hard concrete pavement of the city. 

Katrina and I soon made ourselves scarce in order to avoid being asked a lot of questions and various official matters. The threat had been averted, and Professor Frasier would do fine in answering any scientific queries the military types could have concerning the matter. 

A short time later, Captain Jack Hickman sat at his desk at headquarters. There was still much paperwork and clean-up to do, and he would be especially certain that Martika Jones got an honourable discharge from the service, but he knew it would be all right to relax for a few moments. He took out the smokeless, electronic pipe he liked to enjoy on occasion, and the scent of high-quality -- if simulated -- tobacco soon filled the room. 

Just then, his telephone rang. It was with that special tone which could only denote a call from one particular person. 

“Yes, Mr. President!” said the Captain, answering the phone with much haste. 

“Captain Hickman,” said the familiar, friendly-but-authoritative voice at the other end of the secure line; the voice of the gentleman who was President of the United States in those days, “good work on that trouble in Baltimore. I hear you had some unorthodox assistance with it, but that, as with all of it, will be highly classified. The reason I’m calling you now is because it has become obvious that it is necessary to form a new, above-top-secret organization, answerable only to the Executive Office, which will serve to defend against extraterrestrial invasion and similar matters. This unit will be made up of the most elite military divisions we can put together, aided by the most advanced scientific technology at our disposal. I’m promoting you to the rank of Commodore, and choosing you to be its commanding officer.”

Thus was born the ESF (Executive Security Force), commanded by Commodore Jack Hickman!

DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN

DR. NEPTUNE


Wyrdwyse finished his luncheon cheerfully enough. The information he had recently received would most certainly be important enough to possibly justify a rise in pay. Not that that mattered, he quickly reminded himself. As an Agent of Neptunian Planetary Security, it was only important to do his duty. Still, it would be nice to be able to afford some of the finer things of life that he had denied himself during his lifetime of devoted service to the government of the Poseidon -- that ancient name taken by each King of Neptune.

“Maybe I could even get one of those new jet-motorcycles,” said Wyrdwyse to himself as he exited the restaurant of the Triton Hotel, located as it is on the moon of that name, the largest of the fourteen Neptunian natural satellites. A middle-aged gentleman with greying hair and the typical blue-green eyes of his race, Wyrdwyse adjusted the tie of his conservative business suit as he turned to walk the three blocks to his relay station. It was only a few minutes until the proper time of day for him to send his regular message to the Capitol, which was located underneath the clouds of the planet.

However, just as Wyrdwyse began his stroll to the station, he suddenly found his way blocked by three children standing in front of him upon the sidewalk. They were all boys, between the ages of perhaps eight and twelve, shabbily-dressed and unkempt. Their glazed eyes denoted intoxication.

Before Wyrdwyse could react, the oldest-appearing of the lads raised a small energy-handgun and fired it several times directly into Wyrdwyse’s heart, killing him instantly.

As the body of Wyrdwyse hit the pavement, the boys shouted the words “For Neptune!” in chorus before the one with the gun turned it to each of them, firing an energy bullet in the skull of his two companions in turn before finally doing the same to himself, spraying blood and brain-matter across the sidewalk as the innocent citizens of Triton looked on, many of them screaming in abject terror at this shocking display.

Therefore, four corpses were seen that day on the pavement near the Triton Hotel. Nevertheless, it was not the worst horror that was going to be seen in the Neptune system. There were indeed far more terrifying things lurking in the area -- things that it was going to be my duty to infiltrate, battle, and eliminate. 

My name is RUMANOS -- DR. DANIEL RUMANOS, Intergalactic Man of Mystery. Although I have the physical appearance of an human being -- a tall, strongly-built gentleman with dark hair and strikingly-handsome Anglo-Semitic features -- I am in reality far more than this. For I do carry within my blood the superior genes of the legendary Watchers of the Daemon-Star ALGOL; this extraterrestrial heritage granting me numerous powers and abilities that appear “magic” or “supernatural” to the people of planet Earth.

The vast majority of Algolites, being as they are indeed Masters of all Space and Time, tend to live in isolation from the rest of the Universe. However, there does exist hidden deeply within the government of our people a secret service agency that is known as the KOSMIKOS or Cosmic Intervention Department. The purpose of the Kosmikos is to covertly intercede in cases that threaten the security of existence anywhere throughout the incalculable reaches of Creation. Plausible Deniability and all that. I am an operative of this organisation, stationed upon Earth from whence I work undercover in my many varied amazing and incredible adventures throughout all the unknowable vastness of the Cosmos!!

My current assignment was to investigate the murder of Wyrdwyse, a long-time and trusted Agent of Neptunian Planetary Security. Intelligence had it that he had uncovered certain information concerning the supplier of Kannybeuth, the hideously-addictive narcotic that had been ravaging the youth of Neptune. Wyrdwyse had previously relayed to NPS headquarters that he had was about to verify certain information concerning an individual named Oble Neauth, a former children’s entertainer who had for many years been the star of a video series called Dr. Neptune, in which he performed numerous scientific experiments to the wonder of his mostly pre-teen audience. Neauth, who had indeed adopted the name of his programme as his own, had retired a very wealthy man to his secluded home on the moon Nereid.

There were many bizarre rumours concerning the abode of “Dr. Neptune” upon Nereid. He was said to reside in an huge hollowed out cavern within the satellite, to employ a staff of slavish servants, and to be guarded by a gigantic “fire-breathing dragon“. Until recently, this had all been dismissed by the authorities as the usual type of nonsense concocted by the public about reclusive old celebrities. However, the possibility that this Dr. Neptune had some connection to the illegal drug trade was too important a lead to ignore, and Neptunian Planetary Security had contacted the Kosmikos of Algol for assistance in the matter.

The Neptunian people, you see, are descended from Earthlings who were citizens of the now-lost Continent of Atlantis. The Atlantean humans had developed space-travel during one of the more technologically-advanced periods of their long history, a group of them then migrating to the planet Neptune, where they founded a largely-peaceful civilisation that has endured ever since.

It was less than a week after the murder of Wyrdwyse when I checked into the Triton Hotel. I was accompanied by my robotic cat, Kit-10

“I say, Kit-10,” I told her whilst unpacking in my suite, “it is a good thing this hotel’s usual ‘no pets’ policy does not apply to you, eh?”

“Quite right, s--,” replied Kit-10 in her pleasantly-feminine (if unemotional and electronic) voice. “This unit is not a cat, but rather an highly-sophisticated personal computer.”

“Of course,” said I whilst patting her upon her metallic yet feline head. “Nevertheless, you cannot deny that you do have certain cat-like characteristics.”

“Merely for the purpose of concealment and security, s--,” she rejoined.

(Not the least of Kit-10’s cattiness is her apparent inability to speak words like “sir” or “master”. That she is even able pronounce a hint of the first sound of the former term whilst addressing me shows the profound respect and even affection that she has developed for my presence. Not that she would ever admit such a thing, of course.)

Kit-10 powered down for the evening and I settled into the luxurious hotel bed, reading a couple chapters of a paperback “spy thriller” that I had purchased at the spaceport bookstall, then switching off the bedside light and retiring to sleep.

It was a couple of hours later when I was awakened by a strange sensation. I knew that something had crawled up onto the bed and was underneath the covers. I felt it upon my naked skin -- it was something horrific and repulsive, and it took all of my resolve to remain still when I realised what it was. The thing was more than a full metre long and I could sense its many legs quivering slightly upon me. I knew that the front two of them were actually hideous claws filled with poison.

I knew that what was upon me, creeping underneath the covers of my bed, was a giant centipede!!

I did not move a muscle, but attempted to stay as still as possible. I knew from my scientific background that the venom of these monstrous centipedes was deadly to humans, and while my own Algolitish consistency would make it unlikely that the creature could kill me, the result of a bite from it would cause extreme pain that could last for several days. Obviously, this would cripple my ability to succeed in my current mission.

Suddenly, a beam of red light lit up the darkness. It was accompanied by a sound like an electronic “Meow!” and I recognised it immediately as the laser hidden in the nose of  Kit-10. She had sensed the presence of the centipede and shot it in my defence. Fortunately, her capabilities include exact and precise aim, and the horrid creature fell dead immediately whilst I slid from under the covers and switched on the bedside lamp.

I lifted the sheet and blanket to behold the remains of the many-legged arthropod. It was as large as I had sensed, and a disgusting brown and yellow of colour. A creature indeed of the most insane nightmares.

“Excellent shooting, Kit-10,” I told her. “You are a good kitty-cat.”

“This unit is not a cat, s--,” she retorted. “The presence of the dangerous creature caused my programmes to power on as they were designed to do.”

“Anyway, you have my gratitude,” I answered. “But aren’t these gigantic centipedes nearly extinct? Surely they are not commonly found infesting expensive hotel rooms!”

“Certainly not, s--. This particular species of chilopoda is prehistoric, and now only found -- in very small numbers -- on Nereid.”

Nereid! The moon upon which resided Oble Neauth, alias “Dr. Neptune”. This most certainly seemed to confirm the suspicions concerning his involvement in the death of Wyrdwyse -- and now his intent to murder or disable me via the use of this hideous monstrosity!

“Indeed,” I pondered. “Neauth must have his own network of spies within the Neptunian System, and he has recent received notice of my presence here. There is no time to lose if I am going to infiltrate his headquarters.”

And so, a very few hours later I took a rocket-powered NPS space-shuttle to the natural satellite known as Nereid. This moon, with its highly elliptical orbit and chaotic rotation, is certainly an inhospitable environment -- albeit a perfect location for the hideout of a criminal mastermind like this Dr. Neptune was proving to be. Taking advantage of the masking ability of a brief surge in magnetic force caused by the moon’s disordered revolving, I teleported into the system of tunnels underneath its surface, clad in my usual silk suit, leathern greatcoat, jungle boots, and safari hat.

I had had to leave Kit-10 on the rocket-shuttle. Her presence in the tunnels, or that of any other technology, could be sensed by any electronic surveillance devices, and therefore would possibly serve to reveal my location before I could approach the lair of Neauth/Dr. Neptune. I hoped that my shuttle’s cloaking-device had succeeded in masking its presence, but had no way of ascertaining as yet the level of advanced technology available to the insane Oble Neauth.

The atmosphere was easily breathable with the aid of a respiration capsule I had swallowed upon arrival, and the eldritch glow of the phosphorescent mist that permeates Nereid was my only illumination as I penetrated the tunnel. An individual assigned to the case by Neptunian Planetary Security was supposed to be meeting me somewhere within the tunnels. As a precaution, I had not been given the name or a description of the Agent. Recognition between us was to be by means of a previously-memorised sign and countersign.

The only living things I had so far encountered upon (or rather within) Nereid were a few cockroach-like insects. They were as large as a dinner-plate, but nevertheless harmless. I noticed the size of the rocky passageway was increasing, and indeed it soon became quite lofty. I hoped the information I had been given concerning the direction of Neauth’s headquarters was correct, and that this, assisted by my natural sense of orientation would not fail in guiding me to the necessary confrontation with the suspected criminal.

It was then that the silence of the underground tunnel was suddenly broken by what can only be described as an enormous slithering sound. I raised my eyes and beheld a horror indeed lurching towards me. It was an huge, slimy, grey worm, its width more than thrice my height and its length likely half a kilometre.

As it approached, the horror lifted its eyeless head and opened its sickening round mouth -- emitting a burst of searing flame directed to-wards me!! This indeed was the rumoured “fire-breathing dragon” that guarded the hideout of the wickedly-insane Dr. Neptune!!!

I quickly set up a protective shield of my own bright-orange and blue-black Algolitish energies before the blast of fire could reach me. However, as this also prevented me from casting my bolts against the monster, I found myself in a quandary as to how to defeat the horrid thing.

The loathsome, gigantic worm continued its attack, sending volleys of flame at me. But then, suddenly emerging from an adjoining tunnel, there appeared a beautiful young woman, clad in a skin-tight silvered bodysuit. The girl raised a ray-gun shaped like a trident and fired at the “dragon”. This caused the creature to stop its fire-breath long enough for me to add my powers to the girl’s blasts against it. Soon, overcome by our combined forces, the hideous giant worm dropped down dead upon the floor of the passageway.

The young lady ran over to me, but I noticed she did not immediately lower her gun. She was tall and slender, certainly no older than about nineteen, with exceedingly fair skin, long blonde hair, a wide, rather sensuous mouth, and large eyes a bright blue-green.

“I come from east of Psamathe,” she quoted.

“And I come from west of Neso,” I replied, utilising the appropriate countersign.

“Dr. Rumanos, I presume,” she said, returning her gun to its holster by her side.

“Quite right, and you must be my NPS contact then?”

“Yes, I am Agent Ursula.”

“Of course you are,” I stated. “Thanks for the help. Oy, what exactly is -- was -- this ‘dragon’ thing?”

“Indigenous life of Nereid,” said Ursula. “Usually harmless burrowers. It is they, over many generations, that created this system of tunnels to begin with.”

“Then this ’fire producing’ ability is not a natural thing with them.”

“No, it isn’t,” said the girl with a repressed shudder.

“Ah, I see,” I exclaimed whilst looking at the remains of the monstrous horror. “There, where your ray-gun blast pierced its flesh. Metallic parts. Cybernetic implants augmenting the thing. This ‘Dr. Neptune’ must have done this in order to use the monster to guard his HQ.”

“So he is a mad scientist, then?” she enquired.

“Indeed,” I replied. “Quite mad -- and quite adept at numerous scientific disciplines: cybernetics, psychological mind-control, pharmaceuticals…”

‘Yes, we have evidence that he is behind the supply of that horrible drug, Kannybeuth. The terrible things that stuff had done to our society… I’ve done undercover assignments in schools where the filth has gained a foothold. It has made addicts and criminals of thousands of young people.”

Then, as if on cue, came directed to-wards us a group of a half-dozen young boys, their glazed eyes and unkempt appearance denoting narcotics addiction. They were carrying a length of rope.

“Good heavens, the lads!” I exclaimed, recognising these boys as observably the same type that had assassinated Wyrdwyse, before themselves committing suicide (obviously to avoid detection). “Be on guard! They are his henchmen!”

“What!” said Ursula in shock. “They’re just children! I can’t…”

The girl hesitated to use her ray-gun, and I, for some as-yet unknown reason, found myself physically unable to utilise my Algolitish defensive capabilities. The group of lads ran in circles around us, and it was too late before I realised what was happening. They had tied the long rope around us, and Ursula and I soon found ourselves bound together, back-to-back.

“For Neptune -- Doctor Neptune!” chanted the boys.

It was a strong length of rope, too strong for any human being to break through. It was then, as a sudden wave of nausea overcame me, that I realised why I could not use my own more-than-human powers. The rope that now encircled us was laced with a rare mineral substance disabling to Algolites. It was fortified with Evaerlium!

Now, the powers of an Algolite are susceptible to the negative effects of certain types of radiation. Among these is that found in Evaerlium, a rare substance rumoured to have originated at the very edge of the known Universe. Small amounts of this dangerous mineral had been available on the black market for some time, and Oble Neauth had obviously managed to acquire some, as a safeguard against the Kosmikos taking action against him.

Ursula and I were soon taken into the villain’s lair, a lofty hollowed-out cavern deep within the core of Nereid. It was only after his young servants had secured us to two pillars (having confiscated the girl’s gun) that Neauth himself entered the room.

“Welcome to my abode,” he stated facetiously. “I have been expecting you, Agent Ursula of the NPS and Daniel Rumanos of Daemonia.”

Oble Neauth, alias Dr. Neptune, was a tall, thin, somewhat elderly man, clad in a suit of some shiny black material. He was balding, with rather sharp facial features, and piercing eyes darker than those of the majority of Neptunians.

“We have been monitoring you since your arrival on Triton, Rumanos,“ he continued, gesturing around to the roomful of highly-advanced computer equipment, which included numerous video monitors showing a feed of views from around the system. “We have cameras everywhere, and even watched you in that hotel room with your ridiculous mechanical pussy. Did you enjoy the visit of my many-legged friend? Perhaps now you wish you had taken its presence as a warning and given up your futile attempt to interfere with my designs!”

“You shall not succeed, Neauth,” I replied. “Despite your intellect, you are nothing but a dope dealer, and will face justice for your crimes.”

“You enslave children,” added Ursula with obvious disgust upon her beautiful face. “You use them even here to do your dirty-work, Mr. Neptune!”

“That’s DOCTOR Neptune!” retorted Neauth angrily. “Ah yes -- my boys,” he then went on with a chuckle. “And you will notice that I only allow males, children or otherwise, into my employ. Hence my success.”

“You are not exactly a ladies’ man, eh?” I taunted him.

“Certainly not. Girls are the downfall of perverse egotists like you, Rumanos. I have no such weakness, although many of both genders have indeed succumbed to the effects of my beloved Kannybeuth. In such it is definite that the youth of Neptune will pose no resistance to my takeover of the system.”

“But why, Neauth?” I enquired. “Are you just upset that your old video series finally got cancelled, or are you overcompensating for some other shortcoming? I say, this lair of yours is just one big closet, hmmm?”

“It doesn’t matter one jot, Algolite! I have boys stationed in all urban areas of the Neptunium system, and their cybernetic implants only await my radioed command. A command that will go forth this very day!!”

With this, Neauth strolled over to a central bank of computer consoles and began entering a series of pass-codes.

“Chaos on Neptune begins today!” he thundered, soon holding his hand over a large red button. “Chaos that will allow me to take over as supreme ruler! Even King Poseidon shall kneel down and grovel before me! I need only press this last switch and…”

Suddenly, with a sound resembling a “Meow!”, a beam of red laser-light burned the hand of Oble Neauth.

“Good work, Kit-10!” I said as another of her nose-laser beams cut through the ropes that had been binding me. “I would offer you a saucer of milk, but it might clog up your circuitry.”

I allowed the ropes to fall to the floor and stepped away from them, shaking off the effects of the Evaerlium.

Whilst Kit-10 freed Ursula, I stood face-to-face with the mad scientist Dr. Neptune, nee Oble Neauth. In a desperate attempt to escape me, he backed into some live wires of his broadcast equipment. He screamed in agony as electric shocks distinguished his existence, and then fell to the floor -- a lifeless corpse.

“Radio killed the video star,” said I. “Boggles the mind.”

With his death, Neauth’s servant-boys fell unconscious. Without his control over their implants, I knew it would be no problem removing the cyber-technology and rehabilitating the poor lads. Similarly, with the supply-source of Kannybeuth now destroyed, the horrid drug problem of Neptunian society would be at an end.

“Will you be needing a lift home, Agent Ursula?” I queried.

“Yes, if you will be so kind,” replied the gorgeous young woman with a wonderful smile. “My NPS associates only dropped me off on the other side of the moon.”

“It will be my pleasure to give you a ride on my rocket-shuttle, then,” I assured her. “I need to return the ship to the NPS anyway.

“As for you, Kit-10,” said I, turning to her, “you teleported in just in time.”

“Of course, s--,” stated the robotic feline. “The projected time frame of your mission had expired, and it was obvious that you had encountered difficulties.”

“Awww, what a sweet little kitty!” exclaimed Ursula.

“This unit is not a cat,“ protested Kit-10, but nevertheless the electronic sound issuing forth from her, as Ursula tickled her metallic ears, sounded remarkably like a contented purring.

DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN IN “WARHEAD FROM SPACE