BEYOND THIS ILLUSION


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Shock the monkey,” said I.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You know who I am?” I queried.

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

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

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

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

“Now look, Miss Shaw…”

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

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

“A cyborg?” she said, in wonder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But what about R House?” she asked.

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

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

“You know of the Kosmikos?”

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