Part 13: Fear and Loathing in Dusty Dunes Desert
Part 12: Fear and Loathing in Dusty Dunes Desert
There we were. Abandoned in the desert, the sun beating down on us, at the tail-end of the largest traffic jam in recorded history, our ride speeding down the blistering-hot asphalt back towards Threed.
: "Any thoughts?"
: "Well, we've come this far...It'd take us longer to make it back to Threed and wait for the traffic to clear up than it would to just walk to Fourside."
: "It's dangerous to walk in heat like this, though. You can get sunstroke easily."
: "We'll have to risk it. I don't see any other option."
We bought some wet towels from the drugstore to keep us cool, and set off into the desert. I had planned to follow the road as closely as possible, but big, sand-etched rocks quickly diverted us into the open space of the desert.
The Dusty Dunes Desert was a huge expanse of sand, rocks, and scraggly cacti that stretched for a few miles in between Fourside and Threed. We weren't surprised when a desert-dwelling scorpion ran up and attacked us. A well-placed baseball bat ensured it wasn't getting close enough to sting anyone.
We were pretty surprised, however, to see a tiny silver UFO zipping around the dunes. This one seemed somehow different from the ones in Peaceful Rest Valley, although I couldn't quite put my finger on it.
: "Am I hallucinating or is there a small, silver spacecraft hovering around out here?"
: "No, you're not hallucinating...I've seen them before, back when I first met Paula. But they didn't have bows on them back then."
: "Are they hostile?"
: "You could say that, yes."
The UFO darted about unpredictably, beeping in anger and firing off small beams that scorched the sand as we dodged them. Paula hit it in a chunk of ice and it clunked to the ground, frozen solid.
Sweating, I took off my rapidly drying towel and pressed it to the block of ice. It was already melting in the baking sun, and soon my towel was cold and damp again. We pressed on.
: "What in the heck is THAT?"
: "That's the rare Crested Booka. They were considered extinct as recently as ten years ago, but recently many have been discovered in the desert."
: "It looks angry."
: "Well, even without the evil influence of Giygas, the Crested Booka is extremely territorial...I'd wager it's going to attack us pretty soon."
He was right, as usual. The beast was growling unnervingly and charging us. We dodged its attack and I readied my bat.
: "Ness! You can't bludgeon an endangered species with a baseball bat!"
: "What?! What do you want me to do, just let it trample us?"
: "If we leave its territory, it should stop attacking us!"
: "Leave its territory? You mean run away?"
So we did just that, and bolted.
Eventually, the Booka gave up chasing us, but we were winded, sweaty, and exhausted. I collapsed in the sand and sat, panting.
: "Hey...do you guys see that...?"
: "An oasis....A little pond...A palm tree...And...a monkey..."
: "Paula...you must have sunstroke. You're seeing mirages."
: "No, I see it too."
I squinted into the distance and could barely make out a blurry shape of green and blue. It looked like there was something there, alright. We trudged towards it, parched and wheezing from our chase.
It seemed that Paula was right-there was a little oasis, with a small pond, a monkey, and a few palm trees. We drank deeply from the cool, refreshing water, and felt our bodies revitalized. Without any warning, the monkey started talking to us.
: "I meant 'desert', not 'dessert.'"
: "Um, I've never met a talking monkey before."
: "I've never met such an odd group of kids before. Of course, it was foretold that we would meet here, so I'm not surprised."
: "Yes, by the great Talah Rama. He lives out here in the desert, you see. He's built a paradise for the monkeys underground. He's looking forward to meeting you, Ness."
: "Uh...why me?"
: "Because you are the boy in the prophecy. You are Ness, the chosen boy who will lift the veil of darkness and end the horror of Giygas' reign."
: "So...Talah Rama, he must have great psychic abilities, huh?"
: "Oh, yes. He's wise and sees all. I would take you to meet him right now, but he's currently fasting and in deep meditation. We will find you when the time is right."
: "Um, thanks, I think."
: "When you are rested, continue towards the west. You'll meet a man who's prospecting for gold. You should give him some food if he asks you."
: "Gotcha. Nice meeting you."
We resumed our trek through the desert, and eventually came upon a small shack.
: "So this is what the monkey was talking about."
: "I'm Gerardo Montague. I'm digging for gold here in the desert. I've got a really strong feeling about this desert. There's gold out here, I just know it! Hey, listen...I can't leave the digsite, so I haven't eaten in days...You don't have any food, do you?"
A quick dig through our supplies yielded a few peanut cheese bars from Saturn Valley. I handed the prospector a couple of them and he wolfed them down hungrily.
: "Thanks, kid, you're all right. What's your name?"
: "I'm Ness. This is Paula, and that's Jeff."
: "Ness...I think I read about you in the paper, didn't you clear out the zombie infestation in Threed?"
: "Well, kinda..."
: "Hah! That's great. Good work, kid! Look, Fourside isn't very far from here. You kids need to get out of the desert or you'll start hallucinating. I tell ya, one time, I coulda swore I saw a talkin' monkey out there..."
He was right. Overjoyed, we headed into the tunnel, rid of the desert at last.
Fourside, the largest city in Eagleland, lay before us. It was really a sight to behold, all skyscrapers, suspension bridges, and bustling citizens.
We wandered about for a little bit, just taking it all in.
We took in a tour of the dinosaur museum...
...and discovered some old friends of ours were also in town.
: "Oh, cool! The Runaway Five are here! Let's go see them!"
Admission was a little pricey, but I was really looking forward to seeing them play again.
They even let us backstage right away. I guess paying ten thousand bucks to get a band out of a crooked contract would make a person remember you.
: "Hey, guys!"
: "Hey hey, it's Ness!"
: "Good ta see ya again, playboy!"
: "To the tune of a million bucks! Can you believe that?"
: "A million bucks?!"
: "Jeez, guys...That might be a little beyond my abilities to help you out."
: "Aw, yeah, it's our problem. Don't worry about it. This theater's a lot nicer than the Chaos Theater back in Twoson. We get to play our music, we get to play to a big crowd. It's not so bad."
: "Yeah, you guys better go find some good seats. Our show's gonna be startin' soon!"
Runaway Five: Live at the Topolla Theater!
Google Video / Backup
They still had it. After the show, we left the theater and continued our exploration of Fourside.
: "I heard he made a deal with a pure evil entity in exchange for power..."
: "Um, sorry, we're new in town...Who's Mr. Monotoili?"
: "Gildegarde Monotoili. He used to be a normal real estate developer. Now he's the mayor of Fourside. There's a lot of bad rumors about him. Since becoming mayor, he's controlled the police force. The cops only look out for him, now."
In fact, everywhere we went, the populace was buzzing about Mr. Monotoili and the rumors about him. One man at the café especially had some very interesting things to say about Monotoili.
: "Then I realized his schemes cause my company to go bankrupt. Now I'm homeless...So I spend my time here. I've heard Monotoili's been seen in this café often. I'm sitting around waiting for him to show so I can find out his secrets and bring him down!"
As we stood there, listening to the man's tale, I started feeling kind of strange. Something was off with this café, but I couldn't tell for sure what. Feeling oddly unnerved, we left and had a seat on a park bench nearby.
: "So...I'm not sure what to do next."
: "This Monotoili guy is the key. I can tell. Something's not right in this town, and he's at the root of it."
: "The townspeople are awfully suspicious of him. I wonder what he's got to hide?"
: "And the Runaway Five...I can't believe they're in it for a million bucks this time. That's crazy!"
: "Maybe we should go have a chat with the owner at the Topolla. Maybe there's something we can do?"
It was as good a suggestion as we had at the time, so we headed back to the Topolla Theater.
: "If they break their contract, they'll be in deep doodoo with the police. The police would probably say, "Hey you guys" or something like that...So, they'll continue to play shows here at the Topolla, unless you want to pay a million dollars on their behalf. Ha! You'd have to strike buried gold if you wanted to pay off that kind of money!"
And she trailed off, cackling madly, as we left the building.
: "...Hey, don't we know someone who's digging for buried gold?"
: "Oh, yeah...Mr...what was it? Gerardo Montague? You don't suppose he'd care about helping the Runaway Five out, do you?"
: "The odds are extremely low for something like that to happen."
: "Well, we don't have any other leads. Let's head back out there and see what's going on with the mining expedition."
A rather long and sweaty walk later, we were back in the Dusty Dunes Desert, and saw that Gerardo had indeed been busy while we were gone. The smallish hole with a ladder had been excavated into a full blown mine, and we stepped inside, looking for him. We didn't have to look very far.
: "N-Ness! You've gotta help me out here! I didn't have a problem digging, until, well...I found a huge maze!"
: "I'm no warrior, but you kids beat up all those zombies! You've gotta help me! The monsters are gonna break out of this hole and attack the city at this rate."
I looked at Paula and Jeff. They were already wielding their weapons of choice. It seemed we were once again diving into the unknown to help someone we barely knew. I wasn't too concerned, though, as I had noticed these situations had a way of working themselves out.
Next time: Ness commits mole genocide! Don't miss it!