Part 18: Episode 17: Tourist Trapped
Episode 17: Tourist Trapped
Having taken a brief break from saving the universe to run some errands on Anachronox, Stiletto, PAL, and I returned to the Lounge of Commerce to see if Grumpos still thought going to Hephaestus was the right course of action.
"These are serious times. If Doctor Bowman is correct, there's no knowing how long we have before our universe ceases to exist. We must act now. Here's my thinking….MysTech awoke at the exact same time matter flooded into our universe. If that's a coincidence I'm a ditch digger's daughter. Now hear me out here….The Grand Mysterium on Hephaestus is the wisest man in the galaxy. If there's a connection between MysTech and whatever's destroying our universe, he will know what it is. And while we're there, I can finish my research on modular MysTech. It would go a long way in helping us defend ourselves against the threat. So are we going to Hephaestus or what?"
You guys know how yammer works by now. It was off to Hephaestus for us. I made PAL stay behind. Sera and I still had so much to talk about.
I guess the commercial shuttle to Hephaestus was way behind schedule because that monk with the smug grin was still around, refusing to sell his MysTech.
Alright, now cough up the stones, pops.
"Interesting," he said, smug grin still intact. "During the course of your diatribe, you used the Catchumen tedium technique in conjunction with the Pacinian fatigue bombardment. Have you thought of throwing a mind fugue into the mix to undercut the interest level that might have been aroused by mention of your sister? Sisters are always of interest. The filial connection is comforting to targets, especially women. You should try a professor or an instructor instead. Most people have bad associations with academia. Mentioning a professor might remind them how bored they were in a past class. See where I'm going? Mentioning your sister, especially in her college years, brings lusty thoughts into my mind. I'm a monk after all. You broke the cardinal rule of persuasive yammering: Know your target. Still… I must admit your use of a monadic dribble-though method was noteworthy. You show much promise. In exchange for teaching me your dribble-thought technique, I will reveal to you my vocal support method. Agreed?"
"You've piqued my interest, brother. It's a deal," Grumpos replied.
"Oh, joyous night. Let us begin the instruction."
Oh yeah it's soooo important to get to Hephaestus and somehow get an interview with the Grand Mysterium. Let's take the day off to chat with the crazy monk!
Sometime the next morning..
"Very well then. Thank you. And don't forget to practice what I taught you."
Maybe it was worthwhile afterall.
We hopped in Bowman's shuttle and went straight to Hephaestus.
Approaching Hephaestus (video). / Backup Nothing important, just scenery.
Hephaestus is your typical lava planet, foreboding rocky peaks surrounded with bubbling magma, except with one twist. The Order of Mysterium, in its infinite wisdom, decided not to build its monastery and the surrounding city on the firm ground of the mountains but instead built a suspension bridge between two mountains and built on that, just a few hundred meters above the red-hot lava.
Grumpos parked the shuttle and we got out to have a look around. It was hot on this planet. Almost too hot for a big green trenchcoat, but if I hadn't taken it off for my man-dance (which was much hotter than molten rock) it was staying on here.
Grumpos wanted us to split up and explore separately.
I figured the old man was doing me a favor, letting Sera and I go off by ourselves.
"Welcome to the town of Mysteria! Simon of Brebula wrote the sacred scriptures of the Brotherhood of Mysterium many hundred years ago. The Grand Mysterium discovered them, and from their vision, established the Brotherhood of Mysterium. Our goal is to confront the fundamental questions of our universe through scientific method tempered by spiritual learnings. Foremost, our belief is that MysTech is a gift from the Gods. That's why the monastery grounds were built here, on the richest source of MysTech in the galaxy. Our Lavatic Processing Facility produces an average of 4000 slags of MysTech per week! So tighten your shoelaces and open your wallet. Please make a left and take a tram to our Entertainment District, the Mysterium Mecca. Have a splendid day. May you find the magic inside you."
I wondered if maybe all of the monks were yammer masters. At least he told me that I'd need to take a tram to get to the entertainment district.
Even the robots wore the red hoods here.
I followed the signs to the tram. Picking up bits and pieces of the chatter, I could tell that the tram was broken. One tourist was especially upset.
"Can't you just zap it with repair MysTech or something," he asked the monk.
"Patience, my child. We are doing everything within our earthly power to repair the tram. You must learn to find peace within yourself and transcend haste."
One couple proposed walking to the entertainment district. It meant running through the slums, but I didn't have time to waste waiting. These monks didn't exactly seem like great engineers.
I had to walk through HephTram terminal, now crowded since the Tram's breakdown. At least a few of them were interesting.
A mother and daughter were talking to pass the time.
The daughter asked, "Then what?"
"Well, uh… then your mommy and daddy get into a comfortable position, and, uh… Well, why don't we wait for daddy to help explain, okay?"
"I think I understand, mommy. It's like MysTech."
"Something like that."
A father and son of a different family were nearby having a chat.
"Just think, son. As soon as your mother comes back from the restroom, we can take a tram to the Mysterium Mecca and look at all the MysTech. Maybe even buy some."
"Can I buy a laser," the boy asked.
"You almost burned downt he house with a cotton swab and a tube of HealGrease. No lasers, son."
I came closer to inform them that the tram was broken.
I didn't poke him.
The father yelled at me,"I suggest you step away from my family. There are laws against poking my son."
Whatever, man. I walked to the other end of the terminal, avoiding everyone until I saw a man with grey bubbles coming out of his head. I couldn't help but ask what the hell.
"Don't look so horrified," he said, "I got a bad slag of MysTech. Instead of doing anything remotely useful, this one makes my pores bleed bubbles. It doesn't hurt or anything. It's just hard to see. Be careful what you buy in the Entertainment District. There seems to be a high rate of turkey slags these days. Guess they're just churning 'em out without testing….It's not permanent. I won't believe it's permanent."
I hoped that none of my MysTech would make me bleed bubbles. I would never hear the end of it from Fatima. I followed the signs to the Entertainment District.
A patchwork of rusted metal, the slums of Hephaestus were even more rundown than the seediest neighborhoods of South Anachronox. The monks were too busy hoarding MysTech to care.
Most of the buildings were decrepit and abandonded. One, however, seemed to be in decent shape, and the door was even locked.
This lock, like so many others, was no match for my skill. I felt a little bad for breaking in since this rundown hovel had nothing to do with the Tower of Mysterium.
Inside was a woman, slender with red hair. You could tell she was a real knockout in her prime. I felt like I knew her from somewhere. Oh, and she was translucent too.
"Don't be alarmed," she began. Usually, the person whose house is broken into is the alarmed one. She was taking the breaking and entering in stride. She sized me up for a moment and continued talking. "I used to be a superhero. Maybe you read some issues of the Super Boffo League of Cordica? I was the elusive Transparrow. Little white miniskirt? Clip-on wings? It was a long time ago…."
I knew I remembered her. What high school nerd could ever forget her spread for Hero Hooters? The years hadn't been too kind to her, stuck in this dump barely able to stay visible. I felt bad for her.
Not bad enough to keep me from taking the MysMe Microbelt (+1 M.def), but, come on, this was for saving the universe, not just the planet Cordica.
The chest in her room was locked too tight even for my incredible skill. If only I hadn't pawned my good pick so long ago, this would be cake.
I said goodbye to Mrs. Invisiblus, microbelt stuffed deep in my trenchcoat, and went back on the rickety catwalks toward the entertainment district. While traveling down a ramp, I heard that infernal song again.
It was coming from somewhere down there.
Gotcha. At least I hoped the bippy freak would accept that picture. If not, I at least knew where it was now.
The slums were pretty much deserted at this time of day. Everyone was off in the MysTech processing Factory. Strangely enough, one of the few people walking around was a nun from the Order.
"Before I found peace in the arms of the Brotherhood, I was a mercenary. Hard to believe, isn't it?"
The mercenary part or part where a woman joined the Brotherhood? How about finding some peace in my arms, doll? Good thing the sister couldn't read my thoughts. She kept talking. "It's not every day you meet a woman who is also a mercenary."
Maybe not, but I had met two today. I'd have to have Sera meet her when we grouped up again. Maybe she'd even join the Order. I could see her filling out one those sexy robes incredibly.
On the outskirts of town was Ed's House of Crap. It couldn't be too hard to find inventory in a place like this. There was a bum outside the store. I wondered why he wasn't at the factory.
"Don't take no picture of me," he snarled.
I was feeling particularly bastardly and couldn't resist.
Well, in my defense I wasn't a photojournalist, but he probably was right. I left the bum and went to look around in Ed's.
I picked up a Battlebot Shocksphere upgrade for PAL (enables Tesltatus Sphere skill) and left Ed's.
Finally I had found the entertainment district. To be honest, the place wasn't that impressive. Hard wooden benches and drab red awnings covered the landscape. Of course the worst thing was the heat. Air conditioning was impossible in the open atmosphere, so we were at the mercy of the magma…and magma isn't merciful at all.
I wasn't the only person with this sentiment.
A nearby tourist complained, "Some vacation. This place is hot, overpriced, noisy, and full of screaming kids. I mean, they haven't even finished building the rides. What a rip. Some kid just yelled in my ear. I was two seconds from throwing him over the edge of the railing. I should have gone to Cordica this year…"
Somehow Sera had gotten down here before me. I didn't see her walking through the slums. She must have passed through while I was busy ogling Mrs. Invisiblus.
Last chance to sneak off and do some catching up in a dark corner of town.
Many of the monks were out on the street, peddling their crap, be it MysTech or their goofy beliefs. This one tried scaring me with some kid's tale.
"Magmatos. Most people think he is just a legend we made up to sell t-shirts. But he's quite real. I've seen him myself. Just a few months ago, while enjoying a modest lunch on the overlook, I saw something remarkable skimming the surface of the lava lake below. As the gods are my witness, what I saw was a huge, fiery hand. For me to have seen it from hundreds of feet away it would have to have been GIGANTIC. Who knows what manner of creature would evolve so close to MysTech. It took all my breath away. Keep your eye and your mind open for a glimpse of Magmatos. The Lavatic Leviathan!"
I still wasn't going to buy his crappy t-shirts.
Yes it is kid, where's your dad?
His father was actually watching from nearby while talking to his other son, Little Heinz.
"Little Heinz, do you see your brother out there exploring the world? You should be more like him."
"I don't care," said Little Heinz.
"Little Heinz, you must not be so afraid of the world. There is nothing here to harm you. There is nothing here to fear."
"I don't care," Heinz repeated.
"Little Heinz, will you not at least watch your brother ride the grand roller coaster?"
"I don't care.," Heinz repeated once again.
"Then DIE, little Heinz. Just DIE."
I hope the order offers family counciling services.
Up ahead it smelled like barbeque. Two children were standing over the charred remains of…something.
"We fried this Bippy," one said.
"With some MysTech," the other chimed in.
"I'm gonna fry my sister."
"I'm gonna fry your sister too."
"MysTech is great."
"It's all I'm ever going to ask for every birthday."
Stuff like this made me wonder why we were so uniquely equipped to save the universe. If even little kids could fry bippies with junk slags from a tourist trap, why were we so special?
I left the delinquents and continued following the signs pointing to the tower of the Order of Mysterium. The path went past a movie theater where a few other tourists were lined up.
"Maybe it's the heat. I've felt weird all day. Like I've been in slow motion, trying to catch up to time. Then you come outta nowhere and wanna talk to me. You don't even say anying. You just poke me with your LifeCursor and wait expectantly for me to speak. I don't think you're real. None of this is real, is it? I feel like I'm on the verge of waking up. Who are you? Why do you keep poking me? Ouch. Stop it."
Across from the theater was an arcade full of classic games. Well actually they only owned Pooper and Bugaboo.
It's all about the gameplay, man.
The arcade was full of loud, obnoxious kids who didn't know a thing about games, so I retreated to a nearby booth to continue the investigation.
Come back to my hotel room and I'll show you my FreezeCubist MysTech?
"I love people watching. You can tell a lot by giving someone the bird-eye. Take that lady over there for instance." She pointed at the woman complaining about the heat. "She was beautiful once, but she's getting older and signs of aging are seting in. This makes her a little less certain of her opinions. She fears people will question her more with every new wrinkle they can see. She fears she will lose her one sharply-cut edge and senility will set in. She fears everything around her will collapse. That's why she took a vacation to Hephaestus. She wants the magic back. She wants to find her soul."
"Oh yeah? And what can you tell about me just by looking," I asked.
"You're bound to get arrested one of these days."
With all of the houses I had broken into (in the name of justice, of course) that wouldn't really surprise me.
Just around the corner from the arcade and theater was a Moon Burger restaurant. Their green rat mascot used to give me nightmares when I was a kid.
Even grown up, it was pretty creepy, and little Valentina agreed. Was it supposed to be a giant glodent? Eventually the freak got tired and took a breather. I poked him with the LifeCursor.
"Hey, I can't always be 'on'. Give me a break. I've performed in the Cordica Opera House! I've studied under the auspices of the Brebula Thespia Associatin! NOW look at me."
I'd actually prefer not to.
I went to go buy a burger.
The green attendant said, "How amusing. Watching animals eat. What a primitive method of harvesting energy. I prefer my photosynthesis. Oh, I've heard all the arguments. Yes, yes, food tastes good and I'm sure I don't know what I'm missing. But the only reason it tastes good is because your body needs it. Look at what you eat. Dirty tubers from the ground? Killing animals? What a waste of energy. All I have to do is slurp my sugar water and lounge in the sun at least five hours a day."
Overhearing the rant, a customer spoke up, "You don't seem to have too much trouble busting a profit by exploiting our weakness."
He simply responded, "Hey, man's gotta eat."
Whatever, I just wanted a burger.
Nevermind, I'm not hungry.
Like all Moon Burger joints, they had a play area. I'm sure PAL would get a kick out of it…if he's not too busy pretending to be an adult. Confident that I had seen everything of interest here and had faced my childhood fears, I left and went back to looking for the Tower of Mysterium.
Travelling further into the entertainment district meant leaving the more childish section with rides and vending monks every five steps and finding an actual bar.
The place was almost empty except for a monk getting interviewed. I grabbed a beer and listened in hoping the interview would be interesting, but that wasn't happening. He just went on and on about how magical and religious the MysTech experience was or some gibberish. To me, MysTech was just more efficient than using a gun every now and then. Was killing lots of stuff the way to have a religious experience? According to this guy, I guess it was.
After finishing my beer, I grabbed a TACO that was just sitting there on the bar. There was nobody else in the bar there to claim it. I quickly left the bar and got back on the road.
Following some nearby signs, I found the monastery, but I wasn't getting in so easily.
Looks like I'd have to find a different way in.
I went through some back alleys to the side of the tower, where I hoped I could sneak it somehow. Red-cowled robots were loading and unloading trucks, presumably headed for the tower. A reporter was also slinking in the shadows, trying to get in.
He motioned for me to come closer. "Hey, what a place, huh? My editor sent me out here to write an article about The Brotherhood of Mysterium. There's plenty of angles to play. Before MysTech became active, the Brotherhood was struggling to survive. They were just another crackpot cult with a savvy sense of marketing. Now that they've got the market cornered on MysTech, they've become a major force of power in the universe. But what kin of real coverage am I supposed to get when I can't even enter the monastery?"
Let me guess, this is where I come in, right?
He simply smiled. "The upper spire of the monastery is called the Tower of the Nine Enigmas. I understand that each enigma has its own prayer chamber that nobody outside the brotherhood as ever seen. What I wouldn't give to sneak in there and take a picture of each one. My editor would flip."
Who leaves Proximity Beam Defense plans just lying around?
I spoke to the robot in charge.
I asked him to tell me about it just to get him talking. After a long discourse on how MysTech can be separated from the lava, the robot said that he was waiting on a delivery boy before he could send off the next load of cargo to the tower. As far as I could tell, this shuttle was the only way in, so I had better find the derelict delivery boy.
The robot said the delivery boy was notorious for sleeping on the job, so I went to Le Sommeil, the Hephaestan equivalent of Frank's Flophouse. Upon entering, I was lectured by an angry tenant.
"Don't buy any MysTech here. I bought a really expensive slag. The first time I used it, I suddenly found myself on Cordica with a steam train of a headache. It took mea week to find a flight back here so I could complain. What if I'd been teleported to an uninhabited planet? Or the middle of open space? It's just too risky to use. And it's weird looking too. That's why I picked it. Here, lemme show it to you-"
Poof! In a perfect world we would see his corpse floating around in space.
Just as the robot said, the delivery boy was sleeping on the couch. I took the delivery slip and returned to the robot.
"Excuse me. I must load the cargo."
While he was busy loading, I sneaked onto the truck
The truck had taken me somewhere, presumably nearby the tower.
Bingo. I'm in!
Or am I…(video). / Backup
End: Next time, run errands for monks!