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”