Continuing the adventure that began here.
CHAPTER XX: Into the Inferno.
“But Daddy!” Miss Kun complained, moving in front of us, “you promised!”
“Be quiet, Elsie,” said the Devil King. “You know I dislike it intensely when you contradict me.”
“It’s not fair,” she declared, stamping her foot to accent the word “fair.” “You promised. You said I could play with him first.”
“Please do not try my patience, Elsie.”
“You made a promise, Daddy!”
“Guards,” said Kun, “throw my daughter off the balcony, too.”
“A daughter was never essential to my plans. More of an unintended side-effect of leisure activities which I have long since abandoned to concentrate on the pursuit of world domination.”
“You’re a big meany,” said Miss Kun, “and I just have one thing to say to you: WHAT’S THAT OVER THERE?”
She pointed behind him and to his right, and Kun and all the guards turned to see what she was pointing at.
Miss Kun grasped Weyland’s hand and pulled him with her; he grasped Tluxapeketl’s hand, and she grasped mine, and we all ran out through a heavy Gothic door, which Miss Kun slammed behind us and barred with a huge wooden bolt.
“So he thinks he can run his evil empire without me,” she said, walking briskly down a stone corridor while we followed behind. “Well, I’ll show him. I’ll turn good, that’s what I’ll do. Serve him right. How do you go about being good, Mr. Weyland? You’ll have to explain it to me.”
“Let’s save our lives right now,” said Weyland, “and then we’ll have plenty of time to be good. How long will it take them to break through that door?”
“Five minutes. Daddy will try his disintegrator ray for four and a half minutes, and when that doesn’t work they’ll chop the door down. In here.” She turned into a short corridor that led to a pair of double doors, which opened at our approach. Beyond them was a large elevator. Miss Kun pressed a button inside marked “Labs, Princess,” and the doors closed. We began to descend.
“I say,” said Weyland, “is your name really ‘Elsie’?”
Miss Kun stared at the door in front of her with a lowering brow. “Lots of perfectly evil people have been named ‘Elsie.’ There’s nothing wrong with ‘Elsie.’”
“Of course not,” we all agreed hastily.
“I’m sorry,” she said, turning to Tluxapeketl, “I know the names of these two gentlemen, but I don’t know yours. If I’m going to be good, I probably ought to know your name.”
“I am called Tluxapeketl.”
“That’s quite a name,” said Miss Kun. “Is there some way I could abbreviate it a little?”
“When I was a small girl, my youngest brother used to call me ‘Tluxapeket’ for short. He had trouble saying ‘Tluxapeketl,’ you see.”
“I suppose I can learn to say the whole thing.—Here we are.”
The elevator doors opened, and Miss Kun pressed a button marked DISABLE ELEVATOR TO DISCOURAGE PURSUIT BY IRATE FATHER.
“An interesting feature,” I remarked, reading the plaque by the button.
“When I was a teenage prodigy, my father didn’t like some of my boyfriends,” she explained as we stepped out into what appeared to be a smaller version of the great laboratory we had seen before. “I built my private laboratory to take that into account.”
“Some of your boyfriends?” Weyland asked. “How many boyfriends did you have?”
“As many as I wanted,” she replied, striking a pose that explained the statement.
I took a look around the room. A Jacob’s ladder was buzzing in one corner. An oscilloscope was showing a steady wave pattern. A Tesla coil sat gathering dust against the wall. Miss Kun walked to a set of shelves on the far side of the room; we followed her and watched as she rummaged through a large stock of aerosol cans.
“Wicked Red…Evil Charcoal… Here we are: Virtuous Purple. Miss, uh,—”
“Tluxapeketl,” said Tluxapeketl.
“Yes. You need to dress more appropriately for the climate. We’ll take care of that right now. Gentlemen, if you could turn around for a moment…”
Weyland and I turned away and waited. In a moment we heard the sound of spraying for a few seconds.
“Much better,” Miss Kun declared. “You can turn around now, gentlemen.”
We turned to see Tluxapeketl dressed in a single tight-fitting garment just like Miss Kun’s, but in iridescent purple.
“This is what you call virtuous?” I asked.
“Well, all my aerosol catsuits are more or less wicked, but this is the best we can do right now,” Miss Kun replied.
“Dashed clever how you do the zipper,” said Weyland. “How does that come out of the spray can?”
“That is a patent-pending trade secret,” said Miss Kun. “I’d have to kill you if I told you, and worst of all I wouldn’t be allowed to enjoy it now that I’m trying to reform. —I’ve put Miss Tluxapeketl’s old clothes in a Number Ten envelope in case she needs them again. Now I think it’s time to make a plan to take over the castle and then conquer the world for the forces of good.”
“Actually,” said Weyland, “good people generally don’t try to conquer the world. It’s not done, you know.”
“But if you don’t conquer the world, then won’t the evil people take over every time?”
“We generally prefer to let people choose their own government, and trust them to make the right choice.”
“Well,” said Miss Kun, “I’m willing to be good, but I’m not willing to be an idiot. I think the forces of good could use some new management. Right now, though, we need a power base. My bandits will follow me anywhere if I bring them Bakelite, so if we can get back to the bandit cave we’ll have a small army. It’s not much against my father’s Andorran hordes, but it’s a start.”
“How do we get there?” Weyland asked.
“My father will be watching the elevators and the main stairs. We’ll have to go the back way through the caverns. Follow me.”
We followed her out into a corridor roughly hewn out of rock. A small whirring device on wheels whirred past us and stopped in front of us.
“What is that?” asked Tluxapeketl.
“One of Daddy’s all-seeing eyes,” Miss Kun answered. “It sends televisual images back to him by means of oculo rays.”
“Good heavens!” Weyland exclaimed. “Do you mean to say your father has solved the problem of television and actually created a practical working system? What a tool for the manipulation of the masses!”
“Oh, don’t be silly,” said Miss Kun. “Ordinary people would never sit still to watch flickering images on a little box when the world is full of interesting things to do. I can’t imagine television ever being anything more than a security tool for megalomaniacal archfiends.”
“But does this mean Kun knows where we are right now?” I asked.
“Yes, and he can hear us, too, so he knows I think he’s a big meany!” She kicked the machine across the floor; it hit the wall and whirred off on a staggering irregular trajectory. “Let’s go this way.”
We walked down the corridor and came to a broom closet from which Miss Kun took four brooms, handing one to each of us.
“We don’t use the back stairs much,” she explained. “Sometimes there are spiderwebs.”
At the end of the corridor was a door marked BACK STAIRS—BEWARE OF SPIDERS. Miss Kun opened it and pushed a button, and illumino rays revealed a descending spiral stairway apparently hewn out of the rock. Spiderwebs were everywhere; I was glad to have the brooms to sweep our way through them. Some of the rather large spiders muttered curses as they shuffled out of the way. One of them yanked my broom out of my hand and tried to chase me with it, but Miss Kun gave it a withering look, and it dropped the broom and sulked away.
Eventually, after descending what seemed like quite some way, we came to another door. Opening this one, Miss Kun led us out into a great cavernous chamber. About twenty feet up on the far left side was a metal balcony; in the opposite wall was a huge roundish hole apparently leading into a dark tunnel.
Miss Kun stood still and looked quite confused.
“Is something wrong?” Weyland asked.
“This is supposed to be a corridor,” she replied. “I’ve never seen this chamber before.”
“That,” said a voice from the balcony, “is because you know nothing of my latest experiments.”
We looked up to our left to see Kun standing on the metal balcony sneering down at us.
“I think you’ll be surprised,” he said. “Shortly after that, I think you’ll be incinerated.”
A bright orange glow suddenly illuminated the tunnel opposite us. A rumbling roar came through the tunnel and echoed in the great chamber.
“For my newest creation,” said Kun, “I have been experimenting with the effects of certain rays on biology.”
Another orange glow, another roar, and then a hideous reptilian head, as big as the dinosaur heads in the natural-history museum, appeared in the entrance to the tunnel. And what was even more frightening was that flames were issuing from its nostrils.
“Impressive, isn’t it?” said Kun. “What do you think of my Pyrosaurus, Elsie?”
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