Part 15: Lament of the Third-Strongest Mole
Part 13: Lament of the Third-Strongest Mole
The mine was dark and unbelievably large. Winding passageways led us around in circles, and hissing snakes lurked in the darkness.
: "What have we gotten into this time?"
: "We've already been that way! Here, let's try this corridor..."
Our footsteps echoed in the expanse of the cave. This was unbelievable. Trapped in some kind of ancient labyrinth, beneath the surface of the earth, hunting monsters for a guy we barely knew. At least the cave was relatively cool compared to the baking heat of the desert above. I was brought out of my thoughts by a loud clattering noise as I kicked something in the path and it slid into the rocky wall. Bending down, I picked it up.
: "Huh. What's this doing here?"
It was a long, hard object like a club, but it was a dingy white, dotted with little nicks and indentations, and it had a rough knob on one end, like a...
: "N-Ness! That's....a human bone!"
Startled, I dropped the bone. My heard thudding in my chest, I knelt down along with Paula and Jeff and inspected it closer.
: "C...could it be a fossil?"
: "Uh...It's not fossilized...I'd say it's no more than a day or so old, if that..."
: "Ugh. Why in the world would there be bones down here? And...Those little nicks...Are those bite marks?!"
Suddenly, a low rumble distracted us. A few feet away, our answer was slowly emerging from underground. A huge, hairy gray mole was digging its way out, its matted, filthy head appearing amidst a small pile of what could only be more bones. I felt sick. The moles had been eating the miners, and now Montague had sent us in to deal with it. The mole stood at its full height and laughed smugly.
: "There are five masters in all. We're all moles, of course. I believe I'm the third strongest among us."
Jeff apparently wasn't quite as paralyzed with terror as I was, as a sudden bolt of electricity from his gun had cut whatever the mole had to say next short. Growling angrily, it lunged, still smoking from where Jeff's attack had singed its fur. I shoved it back with a psychic attack and it toppled over, dazed.
I followed up with a swing of my bat, pounding its ribs a bit, before the mole was able to right itself. We were ready, however, and the three of us finished it off. It lay bloody and still atop its left-behind human remains.
: "Ugh...This is terrible...Man-eating moles."
: "Talking man-eating moles. Why was it talking?"
: "I have no idea."
: "Jeez...I never thought I'd miss the days when we just had zombies and big piles of puke to worry about."
Before we could even get started again, a second mole emerged from the hole.
: "What happened here?! You little brats beat up the fourth strongest mole?"
: "He was the third strongest."
: "Nonsense, I'm the third strongest. I'll avenge my brother! Prepare yourself, humans!"
With a remarkable sense of déjá vu, we battled this mole. He seemed exactly as strong as the one before, and as he lay battered and coughing, he started laughing.
: "Not bad...I can see you're strong for humans. But don't get too comfy...*Cough* My brothers'll avenge me...just...you wait..."
As if on cue, another mole immediately burst through the wall. He bent over the body of the other two and glared at us.
: "You've got to be kidding me..."
: "You murderers! Now...I'm going to show you the true power of the third strongest master of this cave!"
I'm sure you can imagine how this went on. There were five moles in all, and one after another, they kept coming, each claiming to be the third strongest. Frankly, it was bizarre, and more than a little tedious. Finally, we had dealt a finishing blow to the final mole.
: "I can't believe this! Those were the most insufferable moles I've ever beaten to death."
: "You can say that again. Let's get out of here."
Exhausted, we trudged our way through the confusing tunnels and finally emerged into the desert. The sun was setting and the sky was a beautiful orange bleeding into the inky purple darkness of night. Gerardo Montague was sitting outside his shack gazing at the sunset. When he saw us, he toppled over in shock.
: "Y-you came back? Ah, of course you came back! You kids are really something else! Ah, ha ha ha! So, what's the story?"
: "We took out the moles. Uh...You can go in and clean up the place."
We began trudging our way back towards Fourside. At least with the day turning quickly to night, it wasn't as hot as it might have been, and we made it back to town without passing out. We flopped onto a park bench, utterly exhausted.
: "Ugh...what a day."
: "I need a shower and a good nights' sleep."
: "I hear you. But the hotel here in Fourside is way too expensive for us. My dad doesn't give me that much allowance."
We were pondering what to do when a large backhoe came driving across the suspension bridge. With a noisy hiss it came to a halt and a slightly pudgy man in a hard hat came tramping toward us.
: "You Ness?"
: "Uh, yeah."
: "I'm George Montague, Gerardo's brother. He says to tell you thanks for what you did, and asks that you please keep quiet the details of the...incident in the mines."
: "Keep quiet...You mean about the bones-"
: "Shut up, kid! Gerardo also says to give you this."
He thrust a dusty cloth sack into my hands.
: "This is thanks for your cooperation."
He shot me a glare and traipsed off to his backhoe, and drove off towards the desert.
: "He wants us to keep quiet about the bones we saw...Ugh, this whole situation is such a mess."
: "Well, what's in the bag?"
Distracted, I had almost forgotten about it. Inside the bag was a small wad of bills, probably three hundred dollars, and a glistening diamond, presumably retrieved from the mine.
: "Holy...It's a huge diamond!"
: "I wonder if it's real?"
: "It looks like it was just cut out of the rock in the mine. It's almost certainly a real diamond."
: "I can't even begin to know what to do about this. Holy crap. Um, any thoughts, you guys?"
: "Don't you remember the last time something like this happened, Ness?"
: "You mean when Everdred gave me that cash back in Twoson?"
: "The Runaway Five are in trouble again, here in Fourside. I think this is happening for a reason."
: "I need some time to think about this...Let's take this cash and get ourselves cleaned up and rest at the hotel."
We checked into a comfortable three-bedroom suite, and still feeling fairly dazed, I had my first shower in God knows how long. As I lay on the bed staring at the late-night news broadcast, I started to think about everything that had happened and the situation we were in now. How long had it really been since I left home? How long since my life was turned upside-down and my mind had started destroying things and every animal and inanimate object and most of the people I passed by was trying to kill me?
And now here I was, in Fourside, the biggest city in Eagleland, countless miles from my hometown. A hometown that I might not ever even see again, for fear of police action against me or my family, who still lived peacefully in Onett, completely unaware of anything that had happened.
My eye settled on the sleek black hotel phone on my bedside table. I hesitated for only a moment, then before I knew it, my fingers were dialing the number and my eyes were blurred with tears.
: "Hi, Mom...It's me, Ness."
: "Ness! You're all right! What's happened? Where have you been?"
: "Um, it's a really long story. It started that night the meteorite hit..."
The next morning, a very refreshed-looking Jeff and Paula greeted me in the hotel lobby.
: "Everyone feeling recharged? We've got to go see the Runaway Five."
: "I feel like a new girl! Let's get this show on the road."
It seemed that Paula and Jeff had had a good nights rest as well, and we were all in high spirits as we walked across town to the Topolla Theater. Once again, we strode into the managers' office and asked about the Runaway Fives' contract.
: "You kids again? Look, I told you already, don't waste my time with this-"
She stopped abruptly as I produced the shining diamond and laid it on her desk. Her eyes bugged out and she stared at me in disbelief.
: "That that that that diamond?! You're wanting to buy the Runaway Five out of their contract with that diamond?!"
: "Just don't ask where it came from. Tear up that contract and this is yours."
: "Okay, okay, that's fine. I'll tear it up. You know kid, I'm giving you one heck of a deal here. That diamond is worth maybe-MAYBE-$50."
The look on her face told me she was lying, but it really didn't matter. She took out the contract from her desk drawer and tore it into shreds.
: "The Runaway Five are in their dressing room getting ready for the final show. You kids can go ahead and stick around for it. I've got a hot new act starting here tonight anyway. That's the real reason I let the Runaway Five leave. Now come on, scoot out of here and get to the show."
: "What a load of bull. She nearly had a heart attack when she saw that diamond..."
: "I know. Whatever. I really didn't want to keep that anyway, knowing where it came from. Let's just catch this show."
The Runaway Five's Farewell Performance - Featuring The Lovely Venus
Google Video / Backup
After the show, which was amazing as usual, we met with Lucky and Gorgeous outside as they loaded their gear onto their beat-up tour bus.
: "We can't thank you guys enough for everything. We're gonna be in Fourside for a little bit longer, but knowing that we're free to do as we wish means we can actually enjoy the sights of the big city!"
: "Well, we're happy to help. Just don't sign any more contracts anytime soon, okay guys?"
: "Ha ha, you know it, Playboy. And hey, listen, maybe we can help you guys out a bit too. I heard you were looking for the scoop on Monotoli?"
: "Yeah, what have you heard?"
: "Well, the word is that Monotoli's been hanging out at Jackie's Café more and more lately. The place is a total dive, so it's pretty strange, don't you think? He's supposed to be acting pretty weird lately, too."
: "If you want to catch a glimpse, he's supposed to be at the grand re-opening of the Fourside department store. That's going on any time now, actually."
: "Why was the department store closed?"
: "Ah, there's a question, buddy. Nobody seems to know just why. Somethin's stinky in this town besides the bathrooms at the Topolla, huh? I'm sure you guys can clean up the corruption and get to the bottom of the mysteries."
: "Thanks for your help. We'll meet again someday, so be seeing you."
Lucky and Gorgeous shook mine and Jeff's hands, and Paula gave them each a hug before they puttered off in their van.
: "So what now, you guys?"
: "Right now? We're going shopping, and we're going to find Monotoli."
Next time: Ness meets an old friend and loses a new one! Don't miss it!