Part 16: The Incredible Vanishing Paula
Part 14: The Incredible Vanishing Paula
The Fourside Department Store was everything you'd expect a shopping center in a big city to be: huge, gleaming, and packed with stuff. People buzzed everywhere with bulky packages and bags. Escalators led upwards; from what I could see there were at least three levels of immaculate shopping to be had.
: "Jeez. Does anybody really need this much junk?"
: "This place is intimidating...Let's try and find Monotoli and get outta here."
If there had been a grand-opening ceremony, it was over by now. We wandered the massive expanse of capitalism but found only average Joes...
...and smart-aleck kids.
: "Well, this was a bust."
: "This place is making my asthma act up...let's get out of here."
We were headed towards the exit, noticing the crowds thinning quite a bit, when suddenly the lights went out.
: "What the..."
A slick, sloshing sound came out of the darkness. A dark shape rushed at us, and then was gone. The lights flickered a few times, and then died completely.
: "Hello? Is anyone there? What happened? Jeff? Paula?"
: "I'm here, Ness. Um, where is everybody?"
: "Paula, are you here?"
My blood ran cold as, suddenly, an intercom buzzed overhead.
: "...Please proceed to the office on the fourth floor. That was customer Ness, 4th floor office...Gwaaaaaaaargh!"
: "This is starting to add up...It looks like this shopping mall is a trap. The enemy must've spread a rumor about Monotoli and now they've got Paula."
: "So...Do we go to the office? If this is a trap, they're going to be waiting for us up there, and without Paula's help, we'll be at a disadvantage."
: "We don't have a choice. We can't abandon Paula. We're just gonna have to be tougher than they are."
Jeff nodded somewhat reluctantly, and we drew our weapons. My eyes had begun to adjust to the darkness, and I could see the mall was deserted. No shoppers, nobody at the information counter, nothing. However, there were some small shapes starting to stir in the darkness. It didn't matter, I thought. Paula had gotten snatched right out from under my nose. I was furious. Let Giygas throw whatever he could at me, I would trash it.
For whatever reason, the escalators were still on, and as Jeff and I crested the top of the second floor, we were greeted with an odd sight.
A bug-eyed bass guitar with a spindly pair of legs was milling about in the darkness.
: "What the he-"
At the sound of my voice the instrument rotated its neck towards us and let out a reverberating note. As its low, slightly funky note came to an end, I saw a few smaller shapes scurrying to its side. I couldn't make out what they were, but there was no time to stare, as the sentient bass and its little companions were scuttling towards us. I swung my bat swiftly at the bass guitar and with a loud crack it was knocked to the floor, discordant tones echoing from its strings as it bounced along. It struggled to right itself with its tiny legs. I advanced to finish it off, but suddenly my leg was awash in a terrible boiling liquid.
I looked down and realized what the smaller enemies were at last. A half dozen coffee mugs, complete with saucers, were marching along, nasty little faces glaring up at us. One of them was empty, having already sloshed its scalding contents on my leg, and it snickered at me. Irritated, I stomped it with a quick motion and it shattered into porcelain chips. The other cups scattered in fear and moved to attack Jeff.
Jeff blasted a few of the cups into shards but one leapt at him in a desperate final attack. He shot it out of the air, but the hot liquid splashed onto him.
Meanwhile, the bass guitar had managed to stand up, and as I was turning to help Jeff, I felt a heavy blow on the back of my skull. I fell to my knees, wincing in pain, and turned to see the guitar rearing back for a charge.
: "Oh, no you don't!"
Reacting fast, I blasted the guitar with a huge flash of psychic light. The effect in the darkened store was dramatic-the guitar was stunned and toppled to the ground, its eyes shut tight, high, fast-tempoed notes squawking from its strings as it twitched.
: "Hey! The coffee cups are stunned too! Now's our chance!"
: "Leave this to me!"
Gripping the bass guitar around the neck, I felt its strings vibrating helplessly under my hands. I swung it around like a sledgehammer, smashing each dazed coffee cup into a puddle of steaming java and splintered shards. Finally, I wound the guitar up and let it fly against a nearby wall, where it cracked in half, its severed neck dangling lifelessly from the still-attached strings on its body.
: "...Jeff, are you alright?"
: "Yeah, I'm okay...Most of the coffee got on my shirt...It's hot, but it didn't blister my skin."
: "Ugh, I think I have a few on my leg...Sometimes I wish I wasn't wearing shorts all the time."
: "So, I'm not sure I should even ask this, but is there a reason why we were just attacked by a bass guitar and walking cups of hot coffee?"
: "I don't know. Giygas has been able to influence animals, monsters and people so far. It's possible he's a powerful enough psychic to create life in something like a guitar, or a cup of coffee. I mean...We really don't know just how powerful he is, or what's waiting for us at the fourth floor. But, I get the feeling things are starting to get serious. We're gonna be attacked by anything and everything on this trip."
We reached the third floor by escalator, and surprisingly weren't immediately beset by more coffee.
: "Just you wait, whatever you are...We're coming."
As if in answer, a whirring noise suddenly came out of the darkness. I whirled around just in time to see a rapidly twirling black circle zip through the air right at me. I yelped and ducked just in time; the disc bounced off the wall and clattered to the ground. As it stood, I saw that it was a vinyl record, like my parents listened to.
Unlike the ones my parents listened to, this one had little arms and legs and a face.
: "I'm noticing a theme here."
: "I guess there's a music store on this level?"
The record spun into the air again. I tried to knock it out with my bat, but it barely clipped the wood and soared off. Jeff caught it with a blast from his gun just as it hooked back towards my head and it shattered, a tiny yelp escaping from the epicenter of the blast. Shards of record clattered into the corners of the store.
: "Jeez, Jeff. Nice shot!"
We rode up the escalator in a tense silence, wondering what bizarre object would greet us as we neared the office. Amazingly, the fourth floor itself was quiet, except for the ever-present, taunting intercom.
With that, I kicked open the door to the office and walked inside.
Behind the desk was what looked like a mass of tentacles, with two big, bug eyes sticking out on stalks. The light coming from a window illuminated its pale green skin, which seemed to be covered in a strange liquid.
: "This department store is gonna be your grave!"
: "We'll see about that. Jeff! Let's split up!"
I lunged at the beast, baseball bat drawn. As I figured, it extended a slimy tentacle to stop me, which it wrapped around my bat and slung me aside. Jeff had ducked behind the desk and was rummaging in his backpack. I knew I had to give him a little time to prepare whatever he was cooking up, so I decided to try my earlier technique against this bug-eyed alien. I set off another huge flash of light and the creature groaned and slammed its gargantuan stalk-eyes shut. Seizing this opportunity, I charged, ramming the beast to the floor, and grabbed my bat out of its clutches. I gave it a few solid swings before the angry creature shoved me into the air with its tentacles. I tumbled to the floor a few feet away and rolled to my feet, slightly battered, but still ready to fight.
: "Not bad. You're as strong as the prophecy indicates. Master Giygas will reward me excellently for ending your wretched life..."
The slimy green freak advanced on me. I clutched my bat determinedly, and in the distance I heard the sparking sound of Jeff's gun. The alien had a brief flash of confusion in its eyes before a massive, whistling explosion was launched from the other side of the room. Jeff had apparently pulled out all the stops for this pyrotechnics display, with multicolored sparks, bottle rockets, and flaming Roman candle balls pounding into the alien's back. It shrieked in pain as the explosive onslaught burned through the tentacles and, emitting a cloud of black smoke from the massive scorched area on its back, the creature collapsed to the floor.
: "Now talk. Where's Paula?!"
: "Cough...Ha, ha, ha...Even though you could beat me....Master Giygas will avenge me...At this moment, Paula should be...Monotoli..."
Boss Battle: Department Store Spook
Google Video / Backup
Raising my bat into the air, I squashed the alien's bug-eyes into goo. Suddenly, the lights in the mall flickered back on, and the vaguely annoying music started tinkling through the P.A. system again.
: "So Monotoli IS involved somehow."
: "Looks like it. Hey, Jeff, thanks a lot. I couldn't have done that without you."
: "Hey, don't mention it. You know, if it wasn't for you, Paula, and this admittedly bizarre journey you're on, I'd still be wasting away at that boarding school for the rest of my life."
Outside, the store had already began to fill back up with slightly confused-looking shoppers, who were no doubt wondering why there was a broken bass guitar and several smashed cups of coffee littering the galleria. Jeff and I kept a low profile and made our way outside.
: "The Monotoli Building is the tallest skyscraper in town...We've gotta go check it out."
We entered the lobby of the Monotoli Building, trying to act like we belonged there. The bored-looking lady at the desk barely even looked up as we ducked into the elevator.
We got off at the 47th floor, and found ourselves in what seemed like a labyrinth of hallways and doors.
: "Let's just check them all, I guess. Might as well start here."
We peered around the doorway, and there, lounging on a plush yellow sofa, flanked by tough-looking goons in black suits...
...was, of all people, Pokey.
Enraged, I lunged at the bloated, pig-faced thing on the couch. Of course, his entourage was ready, and I was plucked neatly out of the air by one of the stoic guards in black. I hung in mid-air, seething, as Pokey sneered at me.
: "Ah...what's your name...? Pig's Butt? No, no, Ness!"
: "Pokey, you fat sack of crap."
Pokey: "Didn't you come here to beg me for some money? After all, I'm now Geldegarde Monotoli's partner, and I give him political and economical advice. I heard some ratty-looking kids were asking for Mr. Monotoli. Was that you?"
: "Where is she?!"
: "This isn't a place for the likes of you. Get outta here, loser! Right now!"
With that, his muscle tossed us unceremoniously out of his room. We were told not to show our faces around 'master' Pokey again, under threat of violence.
Back outside, frustrated and confused, I sat down on the curb with Jeff and tried to think.
: "Who was that fat kid, anyway?"
: "Oh, that's my old next-door neighbor, Pokey...he's a colossal jerk. I don't know if he's just being greedy or if he's actually working for Giygas, but last time I met him, he had helped an insane cult kidnap Paula for purpose of human sacrifice. I doubt it's a coincidence that he's here in Fourside, now."
: "You think he has something to do with Paula's disappearance this time?"
: "I think it's a good bet."
Suddenly, a far-off scream snapped me out of my thoughts. A crowd of people had gathered outside of Jackie's Café, the dingy hole-in-the-wall that Monotoli had been rumored to frequent. Curious, we edged our way through the crowd and saw yet another unlikely face.
: "...everything's blurry...You are Ness, aren't you?"
: "Yeah. Everdred, are you all right? What happened?"
: "Carpainter...Back in Happy Happy Village...was hiding something...strange. I stole it from him...I was going to sell it here in the big city...According to this old wise man I showed it to, it's called 'Mani Mani'...Ugh...I'm in pain...Monotoli tricked me and stole it...from me! He robbed the best thief around!"
: "Mani Mani? That statue that was driving Carpainter mad? Montoli's got it?"
: "Yeah...Cough...He wanted me out of the way because I knew his secret...so here I am...He's getting his power from that statue now...At the café...check...behind the counter."
: "What'd he do to you? Are...Are you gonna be alright?"
: "Before I go...Here's my last haiku..."
: "Wait! Everdred...Let's get you to the hospital!"
: "Nevermind that...Don't follow me. I've got to be on my way."
And he stood up, like nothing was wrong. The shocked crowd scattered out of his way as he strolled off.
: "How theatric of him..."
: "Let's get back in there and check behind that counter."
Inside the café, something was different. The patrons and the bartender stared ahead vacantly, and an odd hum seemed to fill the air. Nobody looked at us or tried to stop us as Jeff and I peered behind the counter.
: "What is it?"
: "There's a hole here. It looks like it leads to a secret room...It's so small, though, I dunno if I can fit through..."
The hole seemed to grow as I said that, and before I knew it, we had tumbled into the inky darkness of the small opening, and into something completely different.
!ti ssim t'noD !edisnooM ni nwod edispU :emit txeN