As Jay had predicted, they encountered no opposition during the journey to the center of the fifteenth level below the cathedral, despite Deathspit's non-stop barking. When they arrived, the great pentagram on the ground was glowing with a ghastly red light. Its center roiled with a malevolent black energy lit by the occasional flash of sick green lightning.
"The portal's already open," observed Solo.
"Good," said Sugar, "that saves us the trouble of a Laz run. Let's go and settle the Adversary's hash once and for all."
"Down, girl," said Elsie. "We need to imbue the Compelling Orbs first."
Solo nodded and Jay, Ubet, and Stupidhead each set their Compelling Orbs on the ashy ground at her feet.
"So what do you do now?" Sugar wanted to know. "Whack 'em with the hammer?"
"Basically," replied Solo retrieving the Horadric Mallus from her pack and kneeling. She lightly tapped the first orb with the enchanted smithing hammer, and the orb gave off a soft yellow light accompanied by a low hum.
"It's sort of soothing," noted Evette. "So what do we do next?"
"We surround the Adversary with the activated orbs to create a Compelling Matrix," explained Dr. Bruce.
"Right," said Solo. "We should break into teams: Jay, Dr. Bruce, Ubet, and Biff can take this orb." She handed Jay his orb. "Stu, Sugar, Deathspit, and CowLad..."
"Ahem," said Smarterhead.
"And Smarterhead -- sorry," amended Solo, "take this orb..." She handed Stu the orb he'd gotten from NQBus. "...And Evette, Elsie, and I will take the one Ubet got us in Lut Gholein. Questions?"
"Holy Oversight!" exclaimed CowLad. "How do we surround the Adversary without it spotting us and erasing us from Continuity?"
The group took a moment to consider CowLad's question.
"Well, obviously," said Stupidhead, "We'll need someone to distract the Adversary and run resistance."
"Someone to bear the brunt of the Adversary's multi-dimensional wrath while we activate the Compelling Matrix," said Ubet.
"Holy Red Shirt! Why is everyone looking at me?"
"Well, you are the one wearing the cape," said Ubet.
"Holy 'With great power comes great responsibility!'" grumbled CowLad. "Okay, I'll do it."
"Maybe Deathspit should accompany CowLad," suggested Smarterhead. "He doesn't seem to be able to stop barking and he'll draw attention to us."
"Hey!" protested Sugar. "He's just a puppy. You can't use him to draw the Adversary's fire!"
There was a sudden clap of thunder and a flash of black lightning. "That would be our job," said Maximum Evil as the smoke cleared. CowLord stood beside him.
"MAXIMUM EVIL CORRECTLY SEES THE ADVERSARY AS AN OBSTACLE IN HIS QUEST FOR WORLD DOMINATION," explained CowLord. "THUS, HE HAS OFFERED TO AID US IN DEFEATING THE ADVERSARY."
"Holy lesser of two evils!" exclaimed CowLad.
"How do we know we can trust him?" Sugar wanted to know. She had an arrow nocked and pointed at Maximum Evil. In fact, every weapon in the place was pointed at him, including Smarterhead.
Max favored Sugar with an oily smile. "You don't," he said calmly. "But you have no choice. The Adversary is far too powerful for even CowLord to handle alone. Together, we can hold the Adversary off long enough for you to activate the Compelling Matrix."
"And after that?" Stupidhead asked.
Max smiled again. It was not a warm, reassuring smile. "Well, we'll just have to see, won't we?"
There was a long silence.
"Shall we?" suggested Max.
As one, the group stepped into the center of the pentagram. On the other side, they found themselves at the top of a stairway of ash and bones that led a few steps down into... nothing. Where they'd expected to see more of the blasted, hellish caverns, there was only a chaotic black vortex, lit by frequent strokes of lightning. Waist deep at the center of the maelstrom was the Adversary, still in the demonic body of ULTIMATE EVIL. It had its back to them, its muscular arms waved about as if it were conducting some kind of symphony of chaos.
"There, um, doesn't seem to be anything to stand on out there," observed Stupidhead over the roar of the storm.
"THE CONTINUITY OF THE FLOOR WILL BE RESTORED WHEN THE ADVERSARY IS BANISHED," CowLord explained.
"In the meantime, how do we get out there?" asked Elsie.
"I can Teleport," volunteered Solo.
"I can fly," said Dr. Bruce. His magician's robes had been replaced with his white lab coat, and his high-tech backpack of gizmos once again adorned his shoulders. "My original continuity seems to have reasserted itself as a result of our close proximity to the Adversary." He touched a button on his belt and the backpack unfolded into a hovering disc big enough for him and his team. Biff, Jay, and Ubet joined Dr. Bruce on the platform.
"The orbs need to be 120 degrees apart to form the matrix," said Ubet. "That means someone is going to have to be right in front of the Adversary's nose."
"That'll be us," said Dr. Bruce confidently. He touched a button on the disc's steering column and the platform and everyone on it rippled and vanished. "Cloaking device."
"How convenient," commented Elsie.
"All right," said Solo. "We're ready then."
CowLord nodded. "COME, MAX, BOY BOVINE!" he ordered as he and CowLad took to the air. "AND MAX, NO AUTO-KILL."
Maximum Evil rolled his black eyes. "Please, and end up facing the Adversary all alone? I'm evil, not stupid." He snapped his fingers and his great black demon stallion last seen in Chapter 9 appeared.
"Zat was convenient too," noted Evette as Max rode off on the flying horse.
"Nature of the beast," explained Stupidhead. "All kinds of things may be appearing and disappearing here."
Within seconds, CowLord, CowLad, and Maximum Evil had engaged the Adversary. CowLord opened up with multiple Bova spells and Firebulls while Max unleashed the black flames of Insta-Kill. The Adversary roared and a squadron of X-wing fighters, a freight train carrying toxic waste and a pink elephant appeared. The latter two combined into some sort of Anna Nicole Smith-based life form, sprouted butterfly wings, and went after CowLad.
"Holy crap!" exclaimed CowLad desperately emptying his utility belt at the monster.
While Maximum Evil made short work of the X-wing fighters, a huge glacier, complete with a herd of mammoths, plowed into CowLord and buried him under thousands of tons of ice.
"Can't this thing fly any faster?" complained Jay. "Max and the Cows are getting their butts kicked!"
"This is as fast as it goes," snapped Dr. Bruce, "unless you and Biff would care to get out and push?"
At the mention of his name, Biff roared at Dr. Bruce, "You! You are the one Biff hates most of all!" He raised his club and the platform rocked dangerously.
"Oh, hell/hell!" cried Ubet. "His original continuity has reasserted itself."
"Keep him off of me," warned Dr. Bruce.
"Biff will smash!"
Ineffectually, Ubet wrapped himself around Biff's massive ankle. "I love my job. I love my job," chanted the diminutive sorcerer.
"This isn't working," warned Jay.
"We're almost in position and... of course. How perfect." Dr. Bruce's tone indicated that the situation was anything but perfect. "The cloaking device just lagged out. We're sitting ducks."
"Biff will smash ducks!"
Meanwhile, the Adversary turned its crimson eyes toward them.
"I think I'm going to take my chances with the vortex," announced Jay. With that, orb in hand, he dove from the platform. Behind him, a rain of robot sidekicks from 1970s science-fiction movies and television slammed into Biff, Dr. Bruce, and Ubet.
Back at the stairs, Solo witnessed Jay's leap of faith. "Close enough," she breathed, and Teleported into position with her orb.
All at once, the vortex around the Adversary stopped and tried to reverse direction a half-turn as the three orbs glowed with dazzling white light. Beams of energy connected the Compelling Orbs and enclosed the Adversary, and the beast let out a roar. For a split-second, the Compelling Matrix filled with glowing eyes and tentacles and the Adversary looked as if it were being sucked through a straw. Then the Boojum reclaimed the wayward piece of itself that had been the Adversary and the storm ended.
The cavern was once again decorated in its hellish blood, bone, and ash theme. The remnants of the Adversary's last handiwork -- the glacier, the robots, Anna Nicole Smith, and a few dazed mammoths -- were fading. The Compelling Orbs lay dark and shattered on the ground, and at their center stood the empty shell of ULTIMATE EVIL.
"Holy Anti-Climax!" exclaimed CowLad. "That Adversary guy wasn't so tough." He was unscathed. Anna Nicole had left him alone when she realized that he had no money.
"Speak for yourself," complained Ubet struggling out from under Twikki from 'Buck Rogers,' the robot dog from 'Battlestar Galactica,' and Rem from the 'Logan's Run' series.
"I'm not a robot, I'm an android," complained Rem.
"Shut up," Ubet told the evaporating droid.
"Is everyone okay?" asked Jay poking at the pieces of his ruined Compelling Orb.
There were murmurs of general assent. CowLord was still somewhere under the glacier. Solo and the others were each some distance away with the remains of their respective orbs.
"Where's Max?" asked Dr. Bruce.
ULTIMATE EVIL turned his huge demonic head and grinned down at them. "PRESENT," he said. A black fireball exploded above Dr. Bruce, Ubet, and Biff, leaving Dr. Bruce unconscious and sending the other two sprawling. With his other claw, he sent a lightning bolt in CowLad's direction.
Journeyman Jay jumped up and, with blinding speed, buried his King's Dagger of Haste in ULTIMATE EVIL'S side.
Calmly, ULTIMATE EVIL reached down and picked Jay up with one hand and held him to face level. "ANY LAST GOODBYES?"
Jay looked up at the monstrous face. "I'll say... goodbye..." he gasped, the giant talon squeezing his ribs. "...to love."
Jay continued. "No one ever cared if I should live or die..."
"STOP THAT!" ordered ULTIMATE EVIL, taken aback.
By now Jay was in full song. "'Time and time again the chance for love has passed me by; and all I know of love is how to live without it..."
"CURSE YOU!" cried ULTIMATE EVIL blinking back oily black tears.
Biff got up and clubbed the distracted demon in the gut with enough force to topple a redwood. At the same moment, Solo materialized and slashed at ULTIMATE EVIL as he fell.
ULTIMATE EVIL roared and hurled Jay at CowLad and the two collided with a sickening crunch. Then he backhanded Biff away and, more by accident than design, caused him to land on Ubet Choas.
ULTIMATE EVIL stood straight and sneered. "WEAK! PATHETIC! I CAST YOU OUT!" he took a deep breath and spat something out into the ashy ground. The glob of slick goo quivered and congealed into the form of Minimum Evil.
"Oh my goodness," squeaked Mini-E before fainting dead away.
Meanwhile, in the former lair of Lazarus, Red Vex was still stringing Lord Cool along until the time was right. The chamber was thick with her magical pheromones, and there was no question that the would-be hero was thoroughly disoriented, but she was working a lot harder at this than she'd ever imagined would be necessary for the likes of Lord Cool. It was almost as if he somehow sensed that his friends were in danger and he was resisting her on some unconscious level...
She shook her head. Impossible! This was Lord Cool she was talking about after all.
Cool saw her shake her head. "What's wrong, babe?" he asked.
Dammit! He shouldn't be asking questions! Curse his short attention span. He'd leave an orgy to go look up a girl's skirt! She leaned in close. "Why don't you take your shirt off, sweetie?" she suggested.
Cool complied like it was on fire. "You want me to take my pants off too?"
"Sweet Diablo! No!" shouted Red Vex. "I mean, your shirt's fine for now, baby."
She risked a glance at the scrying mirror. With the Adversary gone, it was just about time.
"So, is it time to do the nasty yet?" asked Cool. "I like doing the nasty."
Red Vex blanched. Never mind. Close enough. It was time.
"YOU!" ULTIMATE EVIL bellowed at Jay. "YOU THINK YOURSELF CLEVER FOR FINDING A WEAK SPOT, HOWEVER TEMPORARY IT MAY HAVE BEEN! ALLOW ME TO REPAY THAT FAVOR IN A MOST EXCRUTIATING WAY!" He gestured at the man in black and Jay's clothes morphed, changing from stylish and mysterious to a wilder, western form of wear.
"Omigod! I suck!" shrieked Jay looking down at his new cowboy outfit. He ran away, trying to shed the new costume as he ran. ULTIMATE EVIL blasted him in the back.
"FEH! IT'S NOT LIKE ANYONE ACTUALLY SAW THAT MOVIE ANYWAY!" He glanced at Solo, CowLad and the rest of Jay's team. Some distance away, Stupidhead, Elsie, Evette, and Sugar were running toward him, with Deathspit leading the way and barking furiously. "AS FOR THE REST OF YOU: AUTO-KILL!"
He raised his arms.
Deathspit, sensing his time was up, skidded to a halt, threw his head back, and spat the Exposition Stone at ULTIMATE EVIL. The stone lodged between ULTIMATE EVIL's right horn and ear.
"BUT FIRST I MUST TELL YOU ABOUT MY EVIL PLAN!" announced ULTIMATE EVIL.
Deathspit wagged his tail and collapsed, his canine mouth dry and swollen from having carried the Exposition Stone all this time. At least he'd bought his friends some time.
"Omigod!" shouted Cool catching a glimpse of the scrying mirror and sitting up with a jerk. "He's gonna auto-kill everyone!"
Red Vex pushed him back down on the table and straddled him. The enchanted pheromones were rolling off her like a thick oil now. She'd seen men -- and women, for that matter -- literally turn inside-out at the waist by this point.
"But Sugar," Cool protested weakly.
Red Vex placed a cool hand on his hot chest and favored him with a mean smile. "You're not worthy of her."
"You heard me," sneered Red Vex. "You're not worthy of her. Or any woman. Or any man. Or most mammals. You're not worthy of a greased knothole in a piece of splintery bogwood." She moved her hand up to his throat and squeezed.
"Hey, is this that erotic asphyxiation thing?" asked Cool, gasping. "Because even though the doctor said the brain damage wasn't too severe, he said I shouldn't do it anymore."
Red Vex rolled her eyes. "Diablo in a dress! You're stupid!" she shouted. "I've been a succubus for hundreds of years and I've never, ever met as poor a lover as you! Your colossal ineptitude precludes the possibility of even accidental pleasure! Kissing you is like sucking on a mouth full of live slugs! Your hands are like clammy zombie hams from the Swamp of Despair! Your manhood -- and I'm using the term only because no one's invented a word small enough to describe what you're equipped with -- well, while the fact that size isn't as important as what you do with it is true, what you do with it is just plain wrong! It may not last very long, but even that thirty seconds is an eternity of torment. And I've been to Hell!"
Her words knifed through the fog of lust frenzy, shutting it off like a liquid nitrogen shower. "Just what are you trying to say?" asked Lord Cool.
Red Vex shrieked. "I'm saying you're bad in bed. Sex with you is worse than humping a diseased cactus! It's worse than a zombie leper gangbang! It's worse than doing it with a registered Republican! Sex with you is humiliating, uncomfortable, smelly, awkward, nauseating, loathsome, embarrassing, chastity-inducing, itchy, pathetic, and just plain ridiculous! Your kind of sex could lead directly to the extinction of the entire human race within a single generation. You! Are! A! Lousy! Lay!"
Lord Cool's face crumbled. "So," he hesitated. "I'm not going to get lucky after all?"
Red Vex looked dumbfounded. Then she gathered her wits again. "On the contrary," she said reaching down with her free hand. "I'm going to wrap my soft, hot hand around something hard, red, and pulsating and then we're going to feel it slide into a very special place that's going to satisfy me like nothing has ever satisfied me before."
"Oh good," said Lord Cool. "Because for a second, I thought you'd changed your...."
Lord Cool's scream echoed through the chamber for long minutes.
"...AND THEN I'LL OPEN THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM FOR LOGGING, REPEAL THE TAX ON DIVIDENDS, ANNEX IRAQ, AND RULE THE WORLD!" boasted ULTIMATE EVIL, still under the Exposition Stone's spell.
Elsie checked her database and nodded to herself. As evil plans went, it was ridiculous, but she was sure she'd heard it somewhere before.
"IT'S A SHAME NONE OF YOU WILL BE HERE TO SEE IT," concluded ULTIMATE EVIL. "YOU ARE POWERLESS AGAINST ME AND COWLORD IS STILL PINNED UNDER THAT GLACIER. PUNY HEROES, WHO WILL SAVE YOU NOW?"
A blast of lightning wrapped in fire struck ULTIMATE EVIL square in the back and sent him horns over forked tail. It also knocked the Exposition Stone loose and caused it to roll across the floor and into a convenient crack.
"WHO...?" demanded ULTIMATE EVIL scrambling to his feet.
"Holy Heroes!" exclaimed CowLad. "It's the Crimson Chin!"
"You idiot, CowLad," screamed Solo diving for cover. "That's no hero, that's Diablo!"
Diablo, the Lord of Terror, stood in a ring of hellfire, Red Vex at his side. Blood and flames poured from his crimson skin as his yellow eyes surveyed the victims before him.
Elsie was the first to notice something odd about this incarnation of Diablo: "Why is the soulstone sticking out of his navel?"
"Omigod!" cried Sugar, instantly recognizing the man to whom she'd briefly been married. "It's Lord Cool!"
Diablo glanced down at Red Vex. "I thank you for my freedom, servant," he told her, his voice like a rumbling volcano. "But I do have a question: Do you know what most people would consider a woman whose kiss leaves her lovers lifeless, mummified husks?"
"Master?" asked Red Vex, puzzled.
"A pretty lousy lay!" boomed Diablo answering his own question. With that, Red Vex shrieked and burst into flames. Within moments, nothing remained of her but ashes and a few splinters of charred bone.
ULTIMATE EVIL hurled a barrage of fireballs at Diablo. "MY POWER IS FAR BEYOND THAT WHICH YOU CAN EVEN IMAGINE, DEMON!" ULTIMATE EVIL boasted.
Diablo leaped through the flames preceded by Apocalypse blasts and his own walls of fire. Diablo's great white claws raked across ULTIMATE EVIL's chest with force that would have disemboweled any lesser creature.
ULTIMATE EVIL grabbed Diablo's wrist and Diablo responded by sinking his fangs into ULTIMATE EVIL's bicep.
For what seemed like an eternity, the two demon lords, one black and one red, grappled and clawed at one another. Finally Diablo tired. He grabbed ULTIMATE EVIL by the neck and stared into his eyes. "You are little more than a watered-down mockery of me," he told ULTIMATE EVIL. "And I know what you fear."
ULTIMATE EVIL struggled and tried to look away. His demonic features were not designed for the look of utter terror and despair that crossed his face. "NO!" he choked.
"You fear what every PK fears," Diablo declared. "You fear your own insignificance."
ULTIMATE EVIL began burning and, at the same time, shrinking. Diablo let him fall. ULTIMATE EVIL continued to shrink and scream and burn. Finally, when ULTIMATE EVIL was no bigger than a cigar butt, Diablo ground him out with a massive clawed foot.
Diablo wrinkled his nose and tried to scrape the smear of gunk that had been ULTIMATE EVIL off his foot. Then he looked around and remembered he still had victims to torment. "Heroes..." He grinned a mouth full of jagged fangs.
"YOU CALLED?" bellowed CowLord finally punching his way out of the glacier. A spray of Cudstars burst around the Lord of Terror.
CowLad raced to his mentor's side.
"COWLORD FEARS NOTHING!" shouted the Master of the Pasture.
"Pardon the expression," replied Diablo, "but bull!" He raised his scaly arms and Apocalypse fireballs blossomed around CowLord and CowLad.
Within the flames of fear, CowLad found himself as Wirt again, deep in the labyrinth under Tristram. There was a Godly Cap of the Mammoth on his head, King's Rags of the Heavens on his back, and a Strange Axe of the Bear in his hands. Before him, the Skeleton King, the Butcher, Sir Gorash, and the Warlord of Blood approached, leering.
"Holy justice delayed! And all I'm armed with is the crap that I used to sell to adventurers," he realized. "Nooooo!"
Meanwhile, CowLord found himself as Conjurer Ichabod locked in a small hotel conference room where a well-dressed but greasy-looking man was speaking to him: "...and if you sell four accounts, you become a district manager."
"All I did was fill out a card for a chance to win a speed boat," cried Ichabod. "Noooo!"
Diablo watched with satisfaction as CowLord and CowLad writhed in helpless agony as the flames consumed them. "Delicious," he commented. Their fear had a tangy, cheesy taste, unlike ULTIMATE EVIL's, which had been bland but still somehow able to leave a bad taste in his mouth.
Some distance away, behind some bone stalagmites, Elsie, Evette, Solo, and Stupidhead looked on. Dr. Bruce and Biff had regained consciousness and joined them as well. Tucked under Biff's massive arms were Jay, Mini-E, and Ubet Choas. The latter still bore the massive butt-print from where Biff had landed on him. The Barbarian giant lay his fallen comrades gently on the ground next to the unconscious Deathspit, whom Solo had retrieved.
"I never imagined CowLord would fall so quickly," said Solo.
"At least Diablo seems to have forgotten about us for the moment," noted Elsie.
"He seems to have inherited Cool's attention span," nodded Stupidhead.
"We've got to save... stop him," said Sugar.
Stu looked at Sugar thoughtfully for a moment. "I can distract him long enough for the rest of you to get close enough to hit him with everything you've got," he said finally. "If we do enough damage, we may be able to separate him from the soulstone."
Growing bored with his current victims, Diablo looked around for more heroes. At that moment, he spied Stupidhead the Weak racing toward him, howling a war whoop at the top of his lungs. He used Smarterhead to vault directly at Diablo's face. Nimbly, Diablo reached up and snatched Stu out of the air, pinning both arms and Smarterhead as well.
"Ah, Stu, my old friend," hissed Diablo giving the old man a sadistic squeeze. "Let's see what you fear most."
Stupidhead burst into flames and screamed: Stupidhead and Lord Cool were skipping through a field of flowers hand-in-hand. Cute little birds fluttered about, chirping gaily and, from somewhere, the Carpenters warbled "Close to You." Stu and Cool tumbled to the ground together, touching and tickling as they rolled through the soft grass together. Giggling, Stu twined a crown of wildflowers in Cool's wavy hair. Cool looked deep into Stu's eyes. Stu looked deep into Cool's eyes. Stu leaned in for a kiss...
Diablo's face changed from angry crimson to baby-girl pink as the ichor drained from his face. "Your biggest fear is..." He couldn't bring himself to finish the sentence and relaxed his grip on the old man.
"Now!" shouted Stupidhead. He lit a fire wall under Diablo as Biff ran up and pounded Diablo with his club. Elsie leaped up from Diablo's other flank swinging her war staff and connecting violently.
"Actually," gloated Stupidhead dropping to the ground with Smarterhead's help, "my biggest fear is that one day I won't be able to outsmart you." He vaulted out of the way as Solo and Dr. Bruce blasted Diablo with lightning and a small ion cannon. At the same time, Sugar with her bow and Evette with her crossbow peppered Diablo's scaly hide with arrows and quarrels.
Actually hurt, Diablo dropped to his knees.
"Stand clear!" warned Dr. Bruce moving closer and charging the cannon up for a more powerful blast.
Elsie broke off her attack to give Dr. Bruce more space, but Biff stood his ground, confident that he could take whatever collateral damage Dr. Bruce might dish out.
Then Diablo lunged forward and Biff and Dr. Bruce burst into flames. Biff found himself standing on a stage, a bright light shining in his eyes. He was wearing short pants, a white shirt and tie, and a small cloth cap. From somewhere to his right, he heard a child's voice: "C-L-U-B. Club."
"Very good," said the voice of an unseen adult. "Biff, your word is 'metempsychosis.' Use it in a sentence and spell it, please."
Biff broke into a cold sweat.
Meanwhile, Dr. Bruce heard a rumble of thunder outside the gymnasium's high, tiny windows. He felt a wave of panic. Thunder and the gym meant only one thing: "Dodge ball!" shouted a platoon of hyperthyroid sixth graders. "Noooo!" cried Dr. Bruce.
Diablo didn't waste his time savoring Biff and Dr. Bruce's fear. He was more interested in the main course. He bounded forward and snatched Evette up in one talon and Sugar in the other.
"Let me taste your fear," he leered at them.
"Cool... Don't..." Sugar began.
Then she and Evette burst into flames. Diablo quickly flipped through Evette's fears: "Horrors of war... blah blah blah... losing Elsie... no big shock there... rats... blah blah blah... Enough of that crap! I want some Sugar!"
Sugar's fear was sweet and hot. In her mind, Diablo saw Sugar ancient and withered, her youth, beauty and, vitality long gone. Dozens of cats meowed around her feet, demanding dinner. Weeping, Sugar fed the hungry felines and collapsed in the rocking chair across from the fireplace just as she'd done every day for decades. She wept for all that she'd lost; for the one thing that she'd let slip away because she hadn't valued it enough to keep it. Her eyes blurred with tears and cataracts, she squinted up at the portrait on the mantle.
"You son of a bitch!" screamed Elsie driving the end of her staff into Diablo's solar plexus. Startled and hurt, Diablo dropped Sugar and Evette. The two women lay still on the ground but continued to burn.
"I'll kill you!" cried Elsie. She reversed her grip on the staff and her enhanced reflexes brought it into the side of Diablo's head hard enough to crack the enchanted wood.
She swung again, this time catching the Prime Evil across the knees.
Diablo snapped his tail around and caught Elsie across the abdomen. Then he brought his foot down hard on her King's war staff and snapped it in two.
"Let's see what you fear," panted Diablo catching Elsie in his claws.
Elsie glanced down at where Sugar and Evette lay. "You're already looking at it, you sick bastard." Elsie choked back a sob. "Those were the only two women I ever loved."
"Love," repeated Diablo looking down at Sugar thoughtfully.
There was a long silence.
"Hah!" shouted Diablo. Then Elsie burst into flames and screamed.
Then Diablo himself burst into flames screaming in terror.
"What's happening?" asked Solo watching the two figures burning and screaming in mutual terror.
Stupidhead shook his head. "Elsie was programmed with Lord Cool's memories," he told her. "Her greatest fears are his greatest fears."
"What do we do?" Solo wanted to know.
Stupidhead just shook his head.
Meanwhile, Elsie was fumbling with the zipper on her jumpsuit. Images of Maximum Evil, the bearded lady, and old people dressed in leather and latex and armed with whips burned through her mind.
"Wha... What are you doing?" Diablo gasped. Images of exchanging smoochies with Stupidhead and a long-repressed incident involving a salami, small amount grease, a piece of string, and a squirrel in a junior high boys' locker room burned through his mind.
"Putting an end to you once and for all," replied Elsie through clenched teeth as she bared her breasts.
"By flashing me?" wondered Diablo.
"In a manner of speaking."
"Why are your boobs glowing?"
"That would be the anti-matter bomb built into my chest, you son of a bitch."
"Oh hell," cried Stupidhead covering his eyes. "I don't think there's a deus ex machina that can save us now."
Solo and Stu braced themselves for the blast, but instead of the blinding flash of matter converting into pure energy, there was the soft thump of two bodies hitting the ground accompanied by the hard plink of a soulstone doing likewise.
Solo and Stu opened their eyes. The flames of fear had been extinguished. Cool and Elsie lay unconscious on the floor, and between them, the Deus Ex Machine stood holding the soulstone of Diablo between its armored thumb and forefinger.
"Did someone mention my name?"
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