THE ADVENTURES OF DAEMON-STAR by Daniel Rumanos

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 to 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