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11. Centauri Island: "Magnifico Munched"
Not a bad title, eh? Just about says it all when it comes to Saul Ryne, aka Magnifico, aka the Magnificent Psycho, moving up the hiss-meter to boss-boo bad guy in Island. He never stood much of a chance. Not really. Not with Sharkczar, Crystallion, and Hell's Horsemen lurking not too far away on the Phantom Freighter.
Of course Magnifico and his sister, Aranyani Nightingale, would no more consider themselves bad guys than Lady Guillotine or Major Mind would. Each in their own way has a mission. For example, Milo doesn't want to get any richer. He's more than content with what Daemonicus has already paid him. All he wants is to get off WORLD's converted Fish Packer in one piece so he can start spending his riches.
Countess Ramona Avar's motivations are a little more complex. First, she has some blood-letting to do on Centauri Island. Then she wants to secure it, and its Master Scientists, for the Worldwide Order. After that, after she takes over New Century Enterprises as well as the Alliance of Man, she'll likely be happy with ruling the world, -- small case, big place.
Magnifico hasn't changed much since 1955, when he lost his mind, blew it more precisely, lost his body too, and became stuck in Limbo for a quarter century. He still holds true to his long dead cousin's course, -- this particular cousin being Jesus Mandam, the Conquering Christ. (Who, over in 'Moloch Manoeuvres', is currently shooting a pretty young anarchist in the back.)
Aka Saul Ryne desires not only to make the world a safe place for supranormals but to facilitate supras taking their rightful place atop the human heap. Seems megalomania runs in the Family Ryne: cousin, father, who's undoubtedly the richest man in the world, and father's third wife, -- who, as he somewhat graphically relates to his younger, though by no mean younger-any-longer sister, was also Magnifico's first lover. (And, if you're following 'War of the Apocalyptics', you'd know to add twin brother Cerebrus to the list of Family Ryne megalomaniacs.)
What Magnifico lacks, what Aran can probably provide him, is a body to house his brain. Which was all that emerged of him from Limbo the previous Sunday. This body would not be his so much as a clone grown out of his DNA-strands by her colleague and possible paramour, Moses Callion the Third. There's a bit of a problem with that though.
The cloned-Psycho was well on its way to emergence back in Houston when Aran's ex, O'Ryan James Maxwell (Big Max), turned up the day before; turned into a No Name thing; and promptly turned its development tank, embryonic Psycho-clone and all, down the proverbial drain. Nevertheless, where one could be grown, so could another. All she and Callion need is a little more raw material. Raw brain material will do just fine.
Before we get too caught up in the various vagaries of villainy rampant on and about the Order's spy ship, -- or forget the title of our opus --, who should reappear but the little trickster best known as Hush Mannering. She's been on Centauri Island and, as difficult as it still is for Demios Sarpedon (Blackguard, the Ace of Spades) to come to terms with, she's also his mother-in-law.
(NOTE: For those of you not following 'Manoeuvres', -- Shame on You! --, Hush has been a seven year old at least as long as Sarpedon's known her. Which, him being a Summoning Child and all, is something like sixty years now. Since he was born in fact!)
Thankfully, as tiny as she is, she's big on family values. Wouldn't do to let her lone known granddaughter lose her daddy dearest, would it? Feels consequently compelled to come to his rescue. Which she does, in characteristic faerie fashion.
However, when she hears that Strife's been in the vicinity, even if Blackguard/Ace of Spades insists she's now imprisoned in one of his eyeorbs, Hush refuses to take him off ship via her Anthean Agates. There are other ways though. Tricksters are nothing if not resourceful.
Meanwhile, on the Island itself, the order is about to change as much as it already has on the Order's spy ship. How so? Well, shades of 'Moloch', it seems there are such beings as Valhallans. Not Thor or Odin; nor any of that lot. No, these are more the kind of guys who fight all morning; get killed and mutilated and all that fun stuff; get miraculously made whole in the afternoon; then dine, drink, and debauch the night away.
Nor were their ilk altogether unknown on Centauri.
Needless to say, these violence-prone stinkers were not so much of this world as of somewhere else very, very close by, -- a somewhere else whose existence Aran's already hinted at to her brother. A somewhere, incidentally, where his real body may still be. Not that she tells him that. Not in so many words.
Like his so-called Untouchables, Valhallans nominally work for Alpha Centauri, born Alfredo Sentalli way back in '27, the same year Lady Guillotine was born. Actually, as Hush and Demios find out once they land on the Island's unusually-deserted nude beach, these Untouchables may not work for the Fatman at all. Certainly not in the strictest sense.
So, who are they? Here's yet another hint. Most of them have three eyes. The one that doesn't is all eyes. Which explains why Sarpedon's prison pods don't work on them, -- they're too quickly filled up. And APM's still All-Eyes. Just has a minute amount fewer of them left after their encounter.
The chief Valhallan's full name is Cromwell Necator. He refers to himself as the Protector. Smells dead, Adolph Dulles tells his fellow prisoner, Loxus Ryne, later on that day. They all do, these Valhallans. And they've taken over the Island, -- on the Fatman's orders.
The patriarch, despite turning 80 almost a year earlier, wears a multitude of hats. One of them's that of the United Nations SPACE Council's top dog (SPACE being the 'Society for the Prevention of Alien Control of Earth', a term Ryne himself coined). As he's informed, via Dulles, Ryne Senior will still be allowed to contact the UNES Liberty up there in Moon Orbit. But that's about it.
Until things stabilize, until Centauri is certain his Island's safe, a state of what effectively amounts to martial law has been put into effect. It'll only last a couple of days, Dulles and the great man are assured. They wonder what it is exactly the Fatman's so afraid of, -- Glomen maybe, Prince Translav's Global Menace?
Not likely, confides Dolph. The Island's Master Scientists long ago discovered an antidote for the human bombs. Stunned, the old man demands to know what else it could be. Dulles is as in the dark as Ryne. Neither of them know, at least recall, anything about true devils!
Want to know the real reason why the Fatman's acting so contrarily? Want to know who the Untouchables are really working for? Can't tell you, -- not yet anyhow! However, I can tell you that, despite what Dolph might think otherwise, it's not because the octogenarian's already summoned Shelter, Shooter, and an S-number more of their Silver Signallers to Centauri.
(Oh, all right. One more hint before bedtime. I won't spoil your fun, but you should be able to figure it out for yourself. It's still Thursday in Island while it's now Saturday over in Apocalyptics. And what happens on Friday in Vancouver?)
So, what can a couple of seemingly Normie Normalmen like Ryne and Dulles do about Valhallans and three-eyed Untouchables? Not a great deal. Certainly not by themselves. Fortunately help is not exactly on the way:
"'Words from you', -- you being you, Dolph --, 'Are preferable to me', -- Sentalli --, 'hearing your voice,' -- that is, mine. Remember '65!"
Finally, -- quite terminally so --, it's back to the bad guys and the title of this chapter.
The same as Hush earlier on, what with the likelihood that Strife's on the loose again, both Aranyani and Ramona are afraid to go through Samsara Substance via their Stepping Stones. Yet all four of them, the other two being Milo and Magnifico, have decided to abandon ship and head elsewhere, -- elsewhere being Houston and Moe III.
Crystallion rode down the copter. Her nuclear dragon opened its maw, spat flames and, as the helicopter exploded, she congratulated herself.
So, guess who just won the bad guy derby? And, talk about serendipity, if you think Magnifico getting munched is just desserts, what about what happens to Twin Brother Cerebrus over in 'Apocalyptics' this time around? Let me assure you, that's just an apertif!
Sometimes the bad guy/gals win. Sometimes they win more than one victory; on more than one battlefield too. Don't believe me? Don't know me very well either, do you?
12. Centauri Island: "Amoebamen"
Let us pause briefly to consider what's gone on thus far. I don't mean the Launching of the Cosmic Express, its apparent destruction, or Centauri Island's revolving cast of characters, -- which has already seen us lose one set of featured heroes as well as a succession of villains; some of them terminally.
Well, maybe I do mean Island's revolving cast. After all, earlier on, I did warn you to keep your eye on Adolph Dulles and Sean Smythe. (Recall: 'Psychic Siblings, Septupleman, Johann Schmidt, Dolph's mother, hints as to who his father really is, and more of the Family D'Angelo beyond January 1938'?) This chapter we start to find out why.
So, who is Amos Annulis; what's his connection to Doc Jay and Cousin Scatterbrain of The Moloch Manoeuvres; might he be one of them or, as Amos is in his late thirties, one of their offspring since he wouldn't have been born in 1938? The answer's a definite maybe. More to the point, is this Amos the real Amos?
Not according to Doubleman Johann Schmidt he isn't. Johann, indeed the principals of the Alliance of Man, for whom he actually works, believes he's none other than Aristotle Zeross, another character who hadn't been born in 1938.
As for who Harry is, besides being the modern-day Ringleader, a feature character in Gambit, and the-thought Last of the Supranormals, plenty of information about his life's history comes out in Schmidt's discussion with Colonel Jock Maxwell, the now 84-year old adoptive father of O.J. [Big Max] Maxwell.
(Mostly because I can't remember how it's spelled I won't tell you how, given the life he's led, Old Jock's managed to survive so long. However, I will say that the Gaelic for whisky does mean 'Water of Life'. Over in Gambit this time up, we see Jordan Tethys drinking what might be something similar. Only he calls it 'Cathy'.)
Whoever this Amos actually is, he's supposed to be an Armenian Freedom Fighter purchasing American armaments, via the CIA (for whom Doubleman Schmidt purportedly works), in order to facilitate the struggle against Soviet Imperialists occupying his native land. (NOTE: It is December 1980 after all; Ronald Reagan is the President-Elect; and the Evil Empire's still a good decade away from complete disintegration.)
Old Jock has trouble with almost all of this. For one thing, if it is Ringleader, chances are he's disguised by an Anthean Glamour. And what would life-loving Ants want with a planeload of heavy ordnance? Doubleman can't figure this aspect of the transaction either.
So, what's up? Here's this week's hint -- VALHALLANS!
13. Centauri Island: "Doubleman Singular"
Like last time there's a lot of talk in this chapter; unlike last time though it's coming from a lot of different folks. Some of whom are actually on, -- ah, you guessed it. Lot happening besides yap as well. A fair bit of it has to do with the Menace on the Moon, so it's fortuitous that 'Helios' debuts this time up as well.
It's almost as if I planned it that way!
By the time Johann Schmidt arrives at the Houston Academy of Man, the site of Wednesday's surprising (especially for the gnomish hunchback, Moses Callion the Third) visit from Romaine Kinesis and Big Max Maxwell (rather, what they've become), it's late Thursday night or early Friday morning the first week of December 1980.
The apparent German-born, Alliance of Man operative has already seen the photograph of what the other Doubleman, Sean Smythe, helped to discover on the surface of the Moon and, as if the fact that it was a structure wasn't shocking enough, its shape had truly stunned him. Had it been a landform Schmidt figured it would have looked very much like Trigon, the tiny Aegean Island that had supposedly 'sunk' in 1968.
Couldn't be a coincidence but did it mean that, as he and old Jock had been discussing earlier that night, Big Shelter actually was on the Moon? Worse, did it mean that Kadmon Heliopolis was not only still alive but was running WORLD, in association with the Anthean Sisterhood and Aristotle Zeross, from the Moon?
The mind fairly boggled. All the more so since he knew that Kinesis and Big Max were likely either on their way there or soon would be. Heliopolis, Ringleader, Kinesis, the Gypsium Triumvirate, in collusion. Wasn't mind-boggling, it was mind-numbing.
Meanwhile, on Centauri Island, Hush Mannering, the perpetual seven year old 'fairy trickster', female variety, has revealed herself to Adolph Dulles and the great man, Loxus Abraham Ryne. Has revealed a whole lot more than herself to Dolph; has told him that his mother was Barb nee Black Dulles, one of the seven so-called Psychic Siblings. Which means that she was originally an amoeba, a construct for want of a better word, of the supranormal code-named Amoebaman.
Has told him not just that that long-gone supra began life as Leandro D'Angelo but that she figures he may well be, again for want of a better word, his reincarnation. In other words, that Dolph may well be an Amoebaman Prime. Young Dulles pooh-poohs this notion but Ryne doesn't. And, later on Friday, Dolph is having second thoughts himself. That's because he manages to telepathically make a connection to both Doublemen.
Our titular Doubleman, the one in Houston, is almost as surprised at this as Dulles and Smythe. Isn't the only thing that surprises him today though. For example, Moe III tells him what he and Aranyani Nightingale have been doing, -- making clones to order, as it were. For some of WORLD's leaders. As well as the patriarch, Aran's 80-year old dad.
The latter out of DNA-strands collected by his 'father', Moe 2, in the Fifties from long lost supras including the likes of the Magnificent Psycho, Wilderwitch, and none other than Kadmon Heliopolis, just maybe the Man on the Moon. Almost as surprising is what Dr. Immanuel Dark, the great man's paraplegic Number Two in SPACE, tells him.
Doc Dark was once a supra himself. (Actually, as those of you following Moloch might appreciate, a certain Mr. Brilliant was the supranormal.) He thinks that the King Crimefighters, including his thought-dead wife, Gloriella nee D'Angelo, Amoebaman's sister, weren't killed in '55; that they're coming out, and that where they're coming out is likely Vancouver Canada, -- the very place Old Jock was flying back to for a Saturday night reunion of the Family D'Angelo.
Oh, yes, as Schmidt also learns less so to his surprise than his horror, can you guess where Amos Annulis, maybe Aristotle Zeross, and his planeload of Splatter Packs ended up? I'll give you this time up's hint. Exactly where Moe Three speculated the albinos who wrecked his lab did!
So where do you think our titular Doubleman's off to next? Funnily enough exactly the same place that, over in Gambit this time up, a certain watery angel's heading.
Centauri Island Chapters 1-5
Centauri Island Chapters 6-10
Centauri Island Chapters 14-16
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