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1. Centauri Island: "Mind Tap"
Mind Tap begins the first two books in the Launch Serials. It is Saturday, November 29, 1980. Something is on the Moon bombarding the Earth with thought-altering mindbeams. To meet that menace the nations of the Earth have banded together to send the United Nations Spaceship Liberty into moon orbit.
Down below something perhaps equally astonishing is occuring on Centauri Island. The Launching of the Cosmic Express is scheduled for the next day. However, Professor Romaine Kinesis, the man behind its fuel, which he has named Gypsium even though it was once better known as Brainrock, is determined to stop its launch.
It seems Gypsium has spoken to him, warned him about a Hidden Continent that may exist contiguous to the North Pacific Ocean. If something happens to the Express; if its Gypsium-fuel explodes before it escapes Earth's atmosphere; whatever keeps this Hidden Continent, Big Shelter, separate from the rest of the planet might collapse. The result would be, to put it mildly, catastrophic.
Gypsium has done more than speak to Professor Kinesis. It has granted him aspects of its power, for want of a better word. Rom can now control motion and does so to immobilize a large number of scientists and technicians in the bowels of Centauri Island. One who is not affected though is Alpha Centauri, an obese Italo-Canadian who was born Alfredo Sentalli fifty-three years earlier in Toronto but has lived on the Island that bears his name since the closing days of the Second World War, -- since, in fact, shortly after the bombing of Nagasaki.
The fatman, as even his son, Yataghan, calls Centauri, is on a 'different system' than those on his Island. Nevertheless he comes forth to hear Kinesis rant about this Shelter and how the launch has to be postponed; that the site should be moved to Florida or even the Soviet Union. When the professor allows O'Ryan James 'Big Max' Maxwell to speak freely, the Island's Security Chief acts instead.
Meanwhile, off the coast of Centauri Island, lurks a huge fish packer flying a Japanese flag. It is no ordinary fish packer however. It is also more than just a spy vessel. It is the base of WORLD, a Sixties' terrorist organization reorganized by Salvatore Dis L'Orca to destroy the Express moments after it is launched; that is, before it reaches escape velocity. Dis L'Orca though is just the titular head of WORLD, which stands for the Worldwide Order with the Right to Life and Death. The real mastermind is a conceivably non-human and certainly supranormally-gifted three-eyed abomination who calls himself Daemonicus.
So who or what is this Daemonicus? Dis L'Orca thinks he is some kind of ectoplasmic thought-projection, one sent by someone named Sedon St. Synne, whom he describes as a hundred and something year old spook. Daemonicus denies this, suggests he is actually someone who was featured in Homer's Odyssey, and proceeds to demonstrate his abilities on the unfortunate major, Milo Mind, the inventor of the Mind Tap which had been implanted in Big Max's head a couple of years earlier.
It allows those on WORLD's ship to literally look through Max's eyes. Therefore they will know the exact moment when the Cosmic Express is launched; know the precise moment to send Kamikaze Kaligula on her mission to destroy the Express, though destruction is not entirely what Daemonicus has in mind.
He's thinking more in terms of a jailbreak!
2. Centauri Island: "O.J. Maxwell"
The big day for which everyone has been preparing for so long has finally arrived. Today, November 30, 1980, the Cosmic Express will finally be launched. O'Ryan James 'Big Max' Maxwell, Centauri Island's Security Chief, may not have been at it for as long as some of the others, particularly Rom Kinesis, Hiyati Samarand, and the fatman, Alpha Centauri himself, but his is a crucial role to play.
He's not feeling well however and, as he makes his final rounds of the tiny, tri-peaked Island, he lets his mind roll back over his long, action-packed life. But has it been so long? He figures he must be around sixty; a Summoning Child, in other words, although he doesn't use the term. Perhaps not surprisingly since his memories only go back forty years, -- to Castle von Alptraum circa 1939, just before the outbreak of the Second World War.
Among the many recollections he does have, some are not so fond. He recalls three particularly unsavoury characters he came across over the years: Donar Lancz, Strife, and Steltsar. He had killed Lancz himself in 1943 but no one, try as they might, had ever managed to kill Strife or Steltsar. Not up until 1970, that is, and though AMERICA, the Alliance of Man for the Extermination of Resisting International Criminal Agencies, which he ran for the Xuthrodites' patriarch, Loxus Abraham Ryne, in the Sixties, had found Steltsar's remains and captured Strife, Big Max could feel it in his bones that they weren't done with either of them yet.
His however-old bones were not infallible though and Big Max had no idea that WORLD's spy ship was lying just off the coast of Centauri Island preparing to launch its own kamikaze craft to take down the Express the moment it goes up. On the Worldwide Order's converted fish packer, Salvatore Dis L'Orca and Major Mind are far more nervous than Big Max. They still don't understand why Daemonicus, who could seemingly teleport at will, even bothered to hire WORLD. Why did Kamikaze Kaligula have to fly herself into the Express as it was launched? Why couldn't they just blow the damn thing out of the sky with a missile?
Ah well, there's was to do as Daemonicus said or die. And the last thing either of them wanted to do was die. Especially not after the three-eyed horror had paid them so much money to do exactly as he, more like it, wanted.
Big Max was so relaxed he fell asleep while waiting for the monorail to take him to the subterranean launch pad. He was awakened by one of Centauri's Untouchables, an East Indian Engineer by the name of Roderick Paraja. Like Dr. Samarand, Yataghan Sentalli, Connie Lindquist, George Hannibal, Demios Sarpedon, and maybe as many as seven or eight others on the Island, the fatman never allowed him to check their credentials. Of course he had clandestinely tried anyhow. And had come up with sweet baby zilch!
As he opened his eyes to regard Rod, he suddenly had a glimmering of why that was. For the briefest second he spotted a third eye closing on Paraja's forehead!
3. Centauri Island: "Double Devastation"
Despite his death in 1953 on Salvation Island, the ghost of Jesus Mandam still haunts the world. A Summoning Child like Big Max thinks he might be, the supranormal genius known variously as the King Conqueror then the Conquering Christ had left nearly indecipherable notebooks full of information regarding the secrets of his incredible scientific discoveries and amazing technology in the Soviet Union. For nearly three decades, Loxus Abraham Ryne, Mandam's uncle, had tried to wrest these books from the Soviets without success.
Then, in 1978, the Menace on the Moon was detected. Faced with this extraterrestrial threat, the Russians finally turned everything over to Ryne, his U.N. sponsored SPACE Council, and the Alliance of Man. Something had to be done to prevent alien control of Earth and deciphering then putting into practise Mandam's discoveries seemed just the ticket, -- the ticket to much of the last minute technological advances that went into the Cosmic Express as well.
Thanks largely to Mandam's work beginning over forty years earlier, the United Nations of Earth Ship Liberty was now orbitting the Moon. Two of its Lunar Assault Crews had landed and taken up positions on the outskirts of the crater from where the mind-beams permeating Earth's inhabitants supposedly originated. Only trouble was the crater was empty. Undeterred, the highly trained members of LAC One entered the seemingly big old hole of moondust and were promptly atomized. Just before that happened however, tracings of Gypsium radiation were detected. Radioed word of the disaster on the Moon, Loxus Ryne immediately grasps the importance of the discovery. Only one man alive knew much about Gypsium. And he lived on Centauri Island.
Meanwhile, on that very Island that same Sunday, November 30, 1980, that man, Professor Romaine Kinesis, escapes his captors and tries to stop the Launching of the Cosmic Express. He does not succeed but the Express is apparently destroyed by a much smaller craft launched from an unknown site off-Island. It isn't of course. The Express has been propelled into the Cathonic Zone by Kamikaze Kaligula.
Its commander, Colonel Avatar Sol, tries to get away by activating its Gypsium Fuel, something he was expressly warned not to do in Earth's atmosphere. The Express fractures into its constituent parts: the control hub, wherein Colonel Sol and his twenty odd top technicians operate, and the six Cosmicars, with their seven member crews. Two of the Cosmicars are quickly located. One is near the Moon and the other has somehow found its way to the Aleutian Islands. That's the thing about Gypsium, -- it acts as a teleportive agent!
Cosmicar Two is not the only thing that ends up near the moon. So does Colonel Sol in a life-pod. Cosmicaptain Mikelangelo Starrus attempts to rescue him. Down below, Rom Kinesis had teleported after Cosmicar Four. On his way to the Aleutions he is intercepted, -- by Devil Wind! Vayu Maelstrom, the Whirling Nucleoid, spares his life and sends him rocketing back to Centauri Island while he goes in pursuit of the Cosmicar. And those he is certain are aboard it!
Kinesis, who had christened himself Doc Defiance during his battle with Devil Wind, runs out of Gypsium not far from shore. And, Doc Defiance or not, he can't swim. He's luckier than Colonel Sol. Avatar explodes out of existence before Mik Starrus can get to him. Starrus is only slightly better off. Oh, he makes it back to the Cosmicar all right but, when he removes his space helmet, his wife and fellow crew member discovers something truly horrifying. Nidaba's husband has developed a third eye!
Perhaps less horrifying, but only moderately so, is what James Aremar, the Liberty's commander, discovers in his ready room, -- a bowlful of Black Roses. They had seemingly materialized as if out of nowhere. The Malantheus, the Black Rose of Anarchy, was the symbol used by Agenor Heliopolis during the Second World War. The same symbol, and for the same reason, had been picked up by his son, Kadmon Heliopolis, in the Sixties.
Both Heliopolises were long gone. In fact, in large measure, Aremar was responsible for Kadmon's death. He wasn't alone of course. It was a young Mik Starrus who dropped the bomb on Trigon; the bomb that hit an outcropping of Gypsium and caused the entire tiny Aegean Island to sink without a trace.
And, oddly enough, Mik was exactly the same age, to the day, as the Liberty's commander!
Oh, Aremar had given Starrus the order to drop the bomb but he was also following orders. From Loxus Ryne. Who was now jetting towards Centauri Island to discuss matters regarding Gypsium with Rom Kinesis. Who was about to become shark food. Not Sharkczar food. Sharkczar had a much bigger meal on his plate.
Daemonicus has just ordered him to destroy Centauri Island!
4. Centauri Island: "The Gypsium Man"
It was Big Max Maxwell who hauled Rom 'Doc Defiance' Kinesis out of the drink. And it was the two of them together who retired to Max's apartment on the surface of Centauri Island. It was time to compare notes; to talk about Sedon/Satan St. Synne, his devil-ray of nearly forty years earlier; about Faceless Strife, her Miracle Key of circa '48; of the relation between three-eyed, often blue-skinned Hindu devas and Christian devils; and about a certain set of drawings his paternal grandmother, Olympias nee Sangati always Ararat, left to Father Alexandros and Aunt Megaera, both of whom were long dead, over sixty years previously.
After eating and speaking a fair bit, the two of them got back into Max's jeep and drove to Rom's apartment across town, which was where he kept the fragile drawings. Who should be outside it but Roderick Paraja, one of the fatman's so-called 'untouchables'. Kinesis has by now concluded they're all devic shells but Maxwell thinks they're supras, victims of Strife's reconstituted Miracle Key.
He goes farther than that actually, -- asserts that Strife is, and always has been, his ex-wife, Aranyani Nightingale Ryne. This despite the fact Aran would have been all of ten years old at the time of Strife's first recorded appearance in April 1943.
Not only that but he suspects Moses Callion III (Moe Three), his ex's current partner, has made clones of Kadmon Heliopolis and the Trigon Spartae, who were supposedly killed in 1968; that all five of the latter are Signallers; and that Colonel Avatar Sol, the Commander of the Cosmic Express, was one of them. He wants weapons, Max does. What's more he wants Kinesis' weapons, duplicates of his Gypsium cannister and tubes; wants to give them out to Dolph Dulles and the rest of his Security Force.
All of which is too much for Rom. It's time to become Doc Defiance, the Gypsium Man, again. Of course first he has to put away Big Max Maxwell!
5. Centauri Island: "The Indescribable Mr. NoName"
What Romaine Kinesis does to Big Max is no more than he did the day before, -- hit him with a dose of motive-retarding Gypsium. The idea was just to immobilize him but Max lost consciousness. Maybe he was getting too old for this sort of stuff. He was a Summoning Child after all, recalled the professor, just like his late mother, which meant he'd be turning sixty within the next month or so. Not knowing what else to do, Kinesis took him below, into the bowels of Centauri Island, and turned him over to Dolph Dulles who turned him over to Paul Creel, the staff doctor. Kinesis and Dulles then went to see Alpha Centauri.
The fatman, who was with Hiyati Samarand and his son, Yataghan Sentalli, was all business. Two Cosmicars had been detected: one in the Aleutian Islands and the other, amazing at it seemed, in outer space near the Moon. Clearly the Cosmic Express' Gypsium fuel had kicked in and the cosmicars had been teleported to where they were now. It was Kinesis' job to find a way to get the Gypsium to kick in the other way around and bring them back to the Island.
Not much hope of that, the professor told Centauri. At least the UNES Liberty was upstairs orbitting the moon; perhaps the fatman could prevail on his old boss, Loxus Ryne, to have it salvage the Cosmicar and rescue its cosmicompanions, assuming any of them were still alive. Centauri hemmed and hawed a bit then admitted that the patriarch was on his way here even as they spoke. He'd arrive tomorrow and he'd be wanting to see Kinesis. The professor better have something to show the great man, and the fatman, by then. Kinesis promised he would and went off to his underground lab.
Just before Centauri and Yataghan left Dulles and Samarand, the fatman made arrangement for an amphibious cargo plane to head up to the Aleutians. Initially he wanted Dolph to be in charge of the flight but the young man said he dare not leave the Island, not with Max out of commission. Things might get a little testy tonight.
If people were depressed at the destruction of the Express, this news might disturb them even further. No telling what might happen. Centauri therefore chose his own man, a jet-black untouchable like Yataghan and Samarand named Demios Sarpedon, to take command of the salvage mission. That determined, he and his son went off elsewhere. Once they were alone, Dulles and Samarand both let shine their third eyes!
Dolph Dulles was no longer deva-possessed when he responded to news that Big Max had disappeared from the underground infirmary an hour or so later. He quickly armed himself with killing weapons and went looking for the man many suspected was his father. What he, the rest of his Security Team, Yataghan, Creel, and Centauri found instead was, well, -- it was hard to describe, harder to put down, and whose onslaught was hardest of all to survive.
Having disposed of Dulles and his men, whatever it was, a no-name dough boy who spoke with Max's voice, cornered Yataghan. Then Centauri's son had a third eye; was a deva, though not Ganesha nor APM, the beings George Hannibal and Connie Lindquist had become earlier, -- nor Hektoris; nor 'Yati, Unmoving Byron's Dragon. Mr. No Name made relatively short work of this latest devil, Damon Goldenrod, one of the Thyrgragos' Secondary Nucleoids, only to have Doc Defiance, Romaine Kinesis, now fully transformed into a Gypsium Man, show up and make short work of him. Whereupon he, it, reverted to Big Max and promptly vanished.
That night, Max was back. He was accompanied by Centauri, Yataghan, who had also reverted to normal, and a little girl the fatman introduced as his distant relation, Dorothy Dodgson, whom he said was nicknamed Hush. Kinesis wasn't fooled. He knew she was the trickster; knew it because he had encountered her before, a couple of months earlier, in the company of Aristotle Zeross, Ringleader, his cousin, the son of his aunt, Megaera nee Kinesis, and Angelo Zeross, both of whom had been dead for a dozen years, -- killed, from all reports, along with their eldest son, Demonites, by their son-in-law, none other than the great man himself, Loxus Abraham Ryne.
Of course Harry was supposed to be dead too. He hadn't been; just knew how to get about between-space and covered his tracks well. What he was, in fact, was the Last of the Supranormals. Last of the old-time supras, make that. Quite clearly both Rom and Max were new-time supras. And Hush had come here to train them!
Thanks to the Mindtap implanted in Big Max and which kept working when he transformed to Mr. NoName, -- was, coupled with Gypsium, probably why Maxwell transformed in the first place --, very little of what transpried on Centauri Island was lost to those on WORLD's converted fish packer. Neither Milo Mind nor Salvatore Dis L'Orca knew what to make of much of it.
However, Major Mind knew the little witch; not that he was telling Dis L'Orca. What he did tell the Spaniard was that he thought Max was a clone, one manufactured by the first Moses Callion way back in the late thirties; one manufactured out of no less a personage than the corpse of Charan Noah Ryne, the current patriarch's father.
Went further and suggested Ryne's daughter, Aranyani Nightingale, was making more clones with Moses Callion the Third at the Houston Academy of Man. They were making them out of the salvaged cells of old-time supras and Milo recommended Dis L'Orca dispatch Alorstro Sian, Dr. Cyanide, the Worldwide Order's chief enforcer, to there in order to prove it. Dis L'Orca agreed. He would do anything to make Daemonicus happy and, as he had just informed him, the ghastly, ever-smiling phantasm was currently very happy with Major Mind.
As if his new-found favour with Daemonicus wasn't enough, Mind was quite delighted with who showed up via Samsara on the converted fish packer even later that night. It wasn't Crystallion, Crystal St. Synne, the daughter of Sedon St. Synne and Corona Power. Wasn't her Nuclear Firedrake; wasn't Sharkczar.
All three of these last were fresh from the Phantom Freighter, yet another manifestation of Daemonicus' evil might. Thank God none of them showed up in his bed, thought the Major. But she had, -- she, Countess Ramona Avar Ryne, Lady Guillotine, the Xuthrodite Patriarch's only living ex-wife, Milo's former lover, and the Sixties' Strife!
And what of the great man himself? Loxus Ryne was overnighting in Big Sur California. Was no more alone than Major Mind was that night. Three of his four wives (Eden Nightingale, Barbara Plantagenet, and Oriani Zeross) might be dead. The one between Barbara and Oriani, Ramona Avar, might be a murderous madwoman, once a Faceless Strife and under house-arrest in her native Hungary
Their daughter, Anhita, half of one of his four sets of twins from four different mothers, might have been killed when the Cosmic Express exploded. But his mistress since the late thirties, starting when Ginny was only a seventeen year old teenager, was still very much alive and lovely to behold. At least to his mind.
Ginny's full name was Virginia Mannering and, though no one had ever proven it, she might be his father's Summoning Aged Daughter by Celestine D'Angelo, the Antediluvian Antheans' so-called Celestial Superior from the Teens and very early Twenties. Which, if it was true, would make her yet another of the little trickster's half-sisters!
Just like Crystal was, -- and, according to others, from the same side of the bed!
Centauri Island Chapters 6-10
Centauri Island Chapters 11-13
Centauri Island Chapters 14-16
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