Continuing the adventure that began here.
CHAPTER XIV: Battle in the Sky.
Leaping like a gazelle, Weyland wrapped his arms around Miss Kun and toppled her. They rolled on the floor together, and the tiger just missed them by inches.
They had not time to congratulate themselves on their escape, however. Weyland was pinned to the floor by the weight of Miss Kun on top of him, and already the tiger had turned and was pouncing again. I could hardly bear to watch the sequel: I was certain it would not go well for them. But just as the tiger reached them, Weyland’s one free hand came up under the tiger’s chin. Suddenly the tiger stopped. Its neck began to stretch out, and its eyes were closing in an expression of extreme feline contentment.
“Good kitty,” I could hear Weyland murmuring. “Calm kitty.”
There was another sound now, a deep rumbling like the sound of in internal-combustion engine. The tiger was purring. Weyland continued to scratch under its chin, and the tiger stretched its neck more and more.
Cautiously Miss Kun extracted herself from Weyland’s embrace and raised herself to a sitting position. For some time she simply watched as Weyland reduced the ferocious beast to a state of complete docility. Finally she stood.
“I owe you my life, Mr. Weyland,” she declared.
Weyland sat up, still scratching the tiger exactly where tigers like to be scratched. “So you’ll let us go?”
“No, of course not. But I think I owe you a certain amount of very intense experience before I turn you over to my father.” She smiled wickedly; it chilled my blood, but to judge from his expression it had the opposite effect on Weyland. “And now,” she continued, stepping back toward her throne, “it’s time to get ready for our departure. Mr. Thompson, prepare my airship for launch. We’ll want something to eat along the way. Do you like fruit, Mr. Weyland? Fruit to give you some energy. Lots of fruit, Mr. Thompson.”
Mr. Thompson made a gesture, and one of his henchmen departed through the back door.
“I thought your airship was wrecked,” said Weyland, standing up. The tiger rubbed against him, and Weyland scratched the top of its head.
“My dear Mr. Weyland, we have a whole fleet of airships here at Pleasant River. It is a perfect location for one of our secret aerodromes.”
“But we saw nothing from above,” said Weyland.
“Clever, isn’t it?” she responded, sitting on her throne. “The camouflage was my own idea. My father is not the only evil genius in the family, you see. I also invented the magneto-oscillo-chromatograph and“—indicating her own extraordinarily tight-fitting clothing—“the instant iridescent catsuit in a spray can. —Mr. Thompson, take Mr. Weyland and his friends back to the cell until we’re ready for them. And get rid of that tiger.”
“I hear and obey, Mistress,” said Mr. Thompson.
But as soon as Mr. Thompson attempted to approach us, the tiger, sensing his hostile intent, let out a fang-bearing roar.
Mr. Thompson and his henchmen stopped and froze.
“I gave you an instruction, Mr. Thompson,” said the Devil Princess.
Mr. Thompson took a step forward. So did the tiger. Mr. Thompson stopped.
Miss Kun was not pleased. “Are you afraid of an overgrown tabby cat?” she demanded.
“Yes, Mistress,” replied Mr. Thompson.
“More than you are of me?” she added with a certain menace.
Mr. Thompson was silent: there was probably no good answer to that question.
“Oh!” the Devil Princess said with a huff, “men are such cowards.” She stood up. “I’ll—”
The tiger turned to face her and let out a roar that shook the whole building.
“—just stay right here,” Miss Kun finished.
“A wise decision,” said Weyland. “I think we’ll just be going on our way. Come on, Peevish, and Miss Tluxapeketl of course.”
We followed Weyland and his tiger out the back door, finding ourselves on a pleasant street with neat clapboard houses.
“What do we do now?” I asked Weyland as we walked, the tiger keeping pace and refusing to leave Weyland’s side.
“We find one of those airships,” he said, “and we get ourselves far away from here.”
“And Kitty comes too,” said Tluxapeketl.
“Of course he does!” said Weyland. “The brave fellow gave us our only chance at escape.”
We came to a corner with a more substantial building (identified by a sign as the First Anthropophagical Congregation of Pleasant River) and looked up the street to our right—and there, not far away, were at least a dozen airships much like the one that had brought us to South America.
“There they are!” I said. “Why didn’t we notice them from up in the air?”
“Look!” said Tluxapeketl, pointing up. The gas bags were all painted on the top half with a pattern exactly resembling the vegetation in the surrounding clearing.
“Dashed clever,”said Weyland. “Let’s appropriate one of them before Miss Kun’s minions get over their fear of tigers.”
We half-ran to the nearest airship and boarded the gondola, the interior of which was much like that of the one that had brought us.
“I’m casting off,” said Weyland when we were all inside. He untied the stout rope that tethered the thing, and we began to drift lazily. “Peevish, do you think you can fly this thing?”
I had been looking over the controls. There was a big ship’s wheel, and beside it one lever marked UP and DOWN and another marked FORWARD and BACKWARD. “Seems simple enough,” I said. I pushed the one lever toward UP, and we began to ascend.
“Excellent,” said Weyland. “And look—provisions! Quite a lot of fruit,” he said, looking into a big chest sitting on the floor. “And alcoholic spirits—never know when those might be needed.” He dropped a bottle into his jacket pocket.
As we were now high enough to clear any obstruction, I began to move us forward. A powerful motor engaged the fore and aft propellers, and we began to head eastward at a good clip.
“Champagne, too,” said Weyland. “Even some salmon for tigers.”
We began to enjoy a feast such as we had not had since before our adventures began. Weyland was just about to make a champagne toast when suddenly his glass shattered in his hand.
“Odd,” he said.
It was more than odd when a few more things in the room also broke or accumulated small holes.
“I think someone’s shooting at us,” Weyland declared.
At that moment, a biplane swooped by outside the window. Another followed, and another.
I risked sticking my head out the window to look backward. The sky was full of planes, all in the same green and blue livery.
“More on the way,” I announced.
“It’s the Brazilian Air Corps!” said Weyland. “They must have mistaken us for Paraguayan air pirates, who are well known to use airships like this!”
“What will we do?” I asked.
“Well,” said Weyland, “one option is to let them shoot a hole on our gas bag. We know the results of that.”
“What’s another option?” I asked as the biplanes surrounded us.
“They might shoot several holes in the gas bag. Then we’ll probably just fall two thousand feet and die.”
Don’t miss tomorrow’s thrilling episode: