Part 34: Bonus Episode: What if?
Hey it's about time for one of those bonus updates I promised! This update took me hours of MSPaint to do, so enjoy it.
Bonus Episode: What if?
Boots: Someone wanna tell me why the TV is only picking up the Hippy Channel?
Rho: Good news, Boots! That's not the TV, the What-If Machine.
Boots: The what?
Rho: No, the What-if Machine. By combining the time travel properties of MysTech with the hallucinogenic effect of Tetra, I've managed to create a machine that can answer virtually any "what if" question. The difficult part was getting a human brain into the machine to absorb the tetra.
Boots: Human brain?
Rho: Let's just say Detta wasn't completely unsalvageable when you threw him off that building.
PAL-18: Oh man, PAL-18 wants to try!
Rho: Ask away, PAL.
PAL-18: Alright, man. What if Mister Boots had taken me to Limbus instead of Miss Sera. Would I have gotten blown up, man?
I've gotta admit, I was a little surprised that Mister Boots asked me to go with him to Limbus / Backup. If only Mister Boots had given into his basic human instincts and chosen Miss Sera, PAL-18 wouldn't have gotta caught up in all this mess.
Anyway, you know how it went down, planet expandin' and all that jazz.
I woke up in a strange land. / Backup
That's right, PAL-18 was a'dreamin' of Matrix 0. Cross dreamin' off the list of things that the fleshsacks can do that we can't. Once we master screwin' y'all are plum outta luck.
I didn't wanna get fried so I put some serious distance between myself and the glowing green gunk. I cross-referenced the visual data with the databases I had downloaded on Sender Station-remember PAL-18's a certifiable genius now. It didn't take long to tell that this was Ballotine, formerly an industrial center on Democratus.
Extreme Biohazard? I thought I had just left the biohazard. Turns out the whole dang city had become polluted with the stuff. It was all fenced off now.
As if a little fence could stop PAL-18. I slipped through the hole in the fence, and went to talk to the person on the other side.
Zombies! I was pretty freaked out, man. I had no brains to eat, so I made small talk with the gentle corpse lady. She said, "Oh, aren't you a cute, little robot? Where did you come from? Aren't you adorable." She was the nicest zombie PAL-18's ever met. She continued and said, "Don't look at my face. This isn't really what I look like. Honest it's not. I was pretty once… I'm changing… just like everyone else in town. Claude, Evan and I are the only ones left. They're inside deciding our future right now. There's gotta be something we can do. I don't want to turn into a… monster."
Alright so they were hideous mutants, not zombies. Unlike the folks on the Grimacer, these mutants didn't even have any powers to show for it, just an extra helping of ugly. Whatta gyp, man. I sure was glad that robots can't mutate.
I went inside to talk to the other uglies. I found the one called Claude slumped in a corner feeling sorry for himself. He said, "Where did you come from, little guy? Ain't you got somewhere better to be? Ain't nothing in this town but us mutating freaks." I assured him that I didn't want to be here and asked how I could get in touch with the Outer Ring. I guess his ears had mutated because instead of answering my question he decided to tell me his life story. He said, "Just six months ago this was a bustling blue-collar town. We had lots of work coming down the pike… mostly at the chemical refinery a mile upriver. It was a pretty high-tech facility. The scientists up in Tantasol came up with a refinery process that purifies chemical waste as usable fuel. Nobody was surprised when we got the contract to work on Emperor Ducalion's new battle cruiser. Then one day, we stopped getting supplies and schedule updates. All contact with the Ring was cut off. Word spread that there was a catastrophe on Tantasol. Work at the refinery came to a grinding halt. Those were hard times. Everyone was scrambling for answers. You could feel the happy walls of our community crumblings."
As a quick aside, Emperor Ducalion was the evil tyrannical dictator that used to rule Democratus. In fact, the extreme form of Democracy currently on the planet was a reaction to his iron fisted rule. When Ducalion was dethroned, the Ring-Dwellers cancelled his various projects on the surface, including Ballotine's battle cruiser. Disruption of communication from the Ring caused widespread chaos on the surface, including the incident here. It was pretty much exactly what you'd expect from those boneheads. Anyway, the more you know.
Of course, Claude's epic was far from over. He gave a dramatic pause, long enough to fit that aside into, and said, "Then the sludge came bubbling down the river one day and never stopped. People were getting nauseous. Children were losing their hair. We sent a party up to the abandoned factory, assuming something was wrong with the drainage systems. It turns out the central computer was pumping unrefined chemical waste into the factory's drainage pools and emptying them out into the Ballotine River. Our security overrides weren't working. So we were stuck. Over the course of a few weeks, people began changing. My wife was one of the first to be affected. I watched her skin slowly turn green…first in patches, then all over. Her muscles hardened. Thick cartilage developed all over her body. Three weeks into the transformation and I couldn't even recognize here anymore. Soon she developed the impulse to leave town. So that's what she did. Along with the rest of the town. Evan, Leila, and I were the last ones to develop symptoms. So here we are… waiting for the end."
This whole situation was sooooo Democratus. Building a chemical plant on the major source of drinking water was a pretty slick move, but for all the people to just stick around a chill out while the thing was pumping out thousands of gallons of toxic waste per day just took the cake.
While I was processing all the stupidity in the situation, Claude looked across the room and said, "Hey, Evan… I've been telling this little robot my sob story. Okay, kid… monologue over."
For the most part, Evan was looking less disfigured than Claude, the obvious exception being that he was missing an eye. He began his rambling, "People in the later stages of the transformation are unrecognizable. I think one reason they leave town is they don't want anyone to see what they've turned into. I wonder if they've all gone to the same place. Maybe they're having a party somewhere. The metamorphosis is painful. Every morning I check to see what parts of my body have enlarged, disappeared, or fused together. Yesterday, I woke up and found out my hand is developing webbing. Leila asks me to scratch her back with it. She says it feels good. I think it's gross. My eyeball fell out two weeks ago while I was enjoying some soup. I sneezed. There was a splash. Claude finished the soup for me. He said it did wonders for the seasoning. Leila's a would-be poet. She writes the worst poetry you can imagine. The other day, she read me one called 'Acid Rain'. It was awful, but it broke my heart. She's taking the mutation pretty hard. Not that I'm a paradigm of calmness or anything. I cry my guts out every few hours. I just wanna wake up from this nightmare. In a few weeks, I'll leave this place to complete the transformation by myself… like an old dog wandering off to die. Will I remember who I was?"
I wouldn't normally care about this guy's problems. After all, he decided to keep living in a toxic wasteland. But ever since becoming self-aware, I've felt empathy with other self-aware beings. I couldn't just sit around and let these folks suffer, no matter how dumb they were.
"So what can we do, man?" I asked.
"We've got four options… We can return to the factory and see if we missed something. The manual emergency shut-off valve is in Pool 3, but we couldn't get to it. Or we can leave the city in hopes that the proximity to the ooze is causing the transformation. Maybe if we get far enough away, we'll stop changing. Or we can just wait here and slowly turn into one of those things. Or… Or I can do is a favor and put us all out of our misery. Bottle of whisky would be good around now."
So there was a manual override, and they were just sitting around here writing bad poetry instead of trying to find a way to get to it? It was time for PAL-18 to take matters into his own claws. I decided to go to the factory and hit the stinkin' switch myself.
The uglies had a TaserDrain upgrade in their room. I graciously accepted it as thanks for helping them out.
I followed the ooze upstream. Seeing the huge pipes dumping the crap into the water, I figured I was near to the factory.
Cramped hallways, ooze leaking from the pipes, and layers of filth on all the walls made the factory a pretty creepy place, man.
The elevator took me to a higher platform overlooking the river. Aside from the hum of machinery, I could also pick up scary moaning from inside the facililty. Still, it takes more than that to scare PAL-18.
Well, maybe I was a little afraid. NO! I was just looking up a list of words that didn't describe me, that's it, man.
In situations like this, it's absolutely vital to stay calm.
I stealthily crept along the wall toward the main factory entrance. The moans were getting louder.
I just had to focus on my mission.
Oh damn! So that's what the humans looked like after they had transformed. They weren't hostile, but they were highly corrosive. So no touching.
Avoiding the swamp things, I ran straight to the control center. I also hacked the terminal nearby for a Ballotine Thoughtcell.
The system was pretty standard. It seemed that there were three main rooms with tanks. The fuse on the left controlled which room got power. If a room was powered, then the ventilation fans would activate and clear out any toxic material in the air, so I could only enter a powered room unless the toxic waste was drained. The manual release was inside of tank three, so obviously it would have to be emptied. Judging from the schematic, the only way inside tank 3 was from tank 2. It was simple enough. Empty tank 2 and 3 into tank 1, climb into tank 3, and save the day.
I powered tank 3.
Down the chute into tank 3.
And there's the manual release level!
I emptied tank 3 into tank 1.
Gave power to tank 2.
Emptied Tank 2 into tank 1.
I climbed into the now drained pool 2.
Since tank 3 was also empty, I could open the passageway over.
I turned the wheel to the left and TOXIC WASTE STARTED SPEWING INTO THE CITY!!! Nah, just kidding, it only turned right.
I quickly ran back to the entrance and got outta there…not that I was scared of the monsters or nothin'.
Just like a Disney movie, all of the water had miraculously turned clean in a matter of seconds! PAL-18 saves the day!
Claude was out enjoying the new view. He said, "The air is clean. My lungs feel free. My body isn't changing anymore. I can feel it. I'm not afraid anymore. Waitaminute. I'm gonna look like this for the rest of my life, aren't I?"
And yeah, he would be an ugly deformed mutant for the rest of his life. At least all of his friends were hideous monstrosities too.
Boots: Well that sucked.
End: Ok, it actually didn't suck. I kinda like PAL's mission.