Canto 25 – Count Nefaria
The underground of White Palm was riddled with ancient tunnels and warrens that may have been caused by nature, or may have been evidence of a lost civilization. They meandered everywhere just under the surface of an entire planet. They varied in temperature from cool and dark, to bright-hot ovens. Navigating them was perilous.
Dana Cole led the way with Trav Dalgoda hovering right behind her. She knew the passages Nefaria used, and she made Trav hold the densitometer, a gravitic device meant to read matter density and reveal open spaces, to read the makeup and general shape of what lay ahead. Tron and Maggie came behind, pistols and lasers at the ready. Artran came next with a stuffed Pleezy-bear under one arm. Arkin Cloudstalker and Sheherazade came after the boy, also fully armed and ready. The rest of the ground troops covered all exits from the Oasis City underground.
“We have to go carefully,” said Dana Cole. “Nefaria imported tunnel fuzzies from Galtorr to serve as underground guard dogs.”
“Tunnel fuzzies?” asked Tron.
“You know,” she explained, “those acid-spitting green spiders with the hundreds of eyes? The ones with the plastic fur that make insulation good enough to bathe in lava without getting burnt.”
“Fascinating,” said Cloudstalker ironically.
“There’s a large corridor ahead,” said Goofy, grinning. “There’s a really big room beyond that.” The densitometer made his face glow with unnatural purple light.
“This place sure is spooky,” said Artran.
Without warning, a stream of bright yellow-green acid flew over their heads and melted an alcove into the sandstone on the far side of them.
“Tunnel fuzzy!” cried Dana, scrambling to get down under cover as she looked frantically for the source of the toxic goo.
“I see it!” cried Tron, lasering into another dark alcove with his green pulse-laser rifle.
Acid splattered everywhere, leaving pock marks in the walls, sores on exposed skin, and holes in clothing and body armor. Artran began to cry.
“Are you hurt, Snookums?” asked Maggie in parental agony.
“No. It’s Little Goofy!” The boy held up his now headless Pleezy-bear, the fuzzy smiley face burned off by acid.
“Keep a sharp eye out!” warned Dana. “That could happen to any of us!”
Watching warily, the assault team inched forward. Trav’s nervous eyes were glued to the densitometer screen. They eased into the major corridor. A quick firefight dispatched three of Nefaria’s police robots. They were swept quickly away by the surprise attack.
As the group bolted through the door into the big chamber, they came face to face with Nefaria and Sorcerer 6. Neither the monocled, gray-haired villain, nor the white-skinned Synthezoid were happy about the turn of events.
“Well, Captain Tron and friends!” said Nefaria, trying to act suave and sophisticated though obviously rattled. “What brings you to my humble home?”
“I do,” said Dana Cole. “You and the other members of Expedition One betrayed me. One of your Sorcerers nearly killed me!”
“Believe me,” said Sorcerer 6, “no one regrets the failed attempt more than I.”
“Oh, I believe you all right, you slimy white android!” Dana shot the new Sorcerer right between the eyes with an auto burst from her advanced combat rifle. Microchips and synthetic flesh flew everywhere.
“Now, let’s not get vindictive!” pleaded Count Nefaria, his monocle falling out.
“Oh, I think we should!” cried Trav stupidly; pulling out the Skortch ray he had taken from the corpse of Sorcerer 3. He skortched Nefaria before Tron could grab the illegal weapon. The stunned Count dissolved into hot ashes in seconds, completely disintegrated. The monocle tinkled as it hit the stone floor.
“You numb-noggin!” cried Tron, grabbing the deadly weapon out of Goofy’s hands. “We still needed vital information out of that criminal bug-head!”
“Oh… gee… I’m sorry, boss,” said Trav, humbled.
“Kill the Goof now!” insisted Maggie.
Dana stepped in front of her beloved imbecile.
“Please, forgive Uncle Goofy,” pleaded Artran.
Tron looked down at his son’s cherubic face and lowered his guns. “I forgive you, Goofy, but you will make it up to me with some hard work. Man that densitometer! We’ve got to find Nefaria’s prison and his treasure house.”
“Maybe Miss Cole can help with those, too,” suggested Cloudstalker.
“Maybe she can,” nodded Tron.
Sheherazade nudged with her foot the ruin that was once the Synthezoid, Sorcerer 6. “Do you suppose this is the last one of these?”
“I doubt it,” said Cloudstalker. “It has too much of the stink of Syn Corporation about it.”
“I hope it isn’t the last,” muttered Tron. “I need to kill that conehead a few more times myself just to feel good about it.”