Part 6: The ExcavationPart 6: The Excavation
Now that we've picked up an AbcdE (or is that an AbCdE?) we can head off the Muhill to see if they can give us more information on the Most Amazing Thing. We'll hit up the Mire Factbook on the way out...
We're in R15, so aiming for N22 seems like the best bet. That's a fair haul; I spend over six minutes in flight there.
At least I manage to bring us down pretty close. It's another three minutes to actually get there, counting some pitstops for oil and Popberries.
: This'll be handy, but forgive me if I'm a little suspicious of aliens showing up with gifts, instead of trading.
: Don't worry. The Torbion trader suggested it, and Metallica was on the way.
: Anyway, I'm not just showing up to give you things. I'm here for information.
: We keep quite detailed records. I can fill you in for 20 green chips.
: ... that's a lot.
: Yes. Getting a decent credit line from Metallica is going to need every green chip we can get our hands on.
: Well then. I can help with that. I'll trade you my entire stash of green chips for yellow.
: Swindler-sense tingling. Didn't you say you were here for information?
: Yep. The Most Amazing Thing was lost in your vicinity. I'd prefer to be trading for information about that.
: So, why the yellow chips?
: Because, and I realize I'm using some advanced alien technology here, 17 is smaller than 20.
: Right. You don't have to be a jerk about it.
: Perfect. I'll be back in a day or two. That should give you time to sort the records in advance.
OK then. 68 yellow chips. Now we just need to find a nearby culture that likes yellow chips, and we should be in business.
Well, that's not as lucrative as it could be, but they like yellow chips more than green, and that's what counts.
We're aiming for P23, which is due just about directly east of us.
By the time going east is an option, it's a pretty efficient one.
I think I'm getting the hang of this.
Brush up on our sign language.
Once you start trading in large enough sums, it no longer fits on the table and it starts counting up in text alone. It's all fun and games until you break the economy and have to sit there for half a minute because the game has decided it needs to charge you a thousand chips for a clue.
Trade executed, and richer than we've ever been, we head back to the Muhill for that clue. Once you get a wind at all, it pretty rapidly stabilizes at "going west"...
But it is horrifically slow when you do. You're much better off flying up to 7,000 feet or so and catching a far stronger west wind:
At this point, I very nearly overshoot because once I hit this speed we end up back over N22 in twelve seconds. I drop out of the sky to make sure I don't overshoot, and end up 28 miles away from the hut this time. Oh well.
Yeah, I'm sure that's totally a Night Rock and thus a handy one-stop shop for everything I need.
: That was quick.
: I have my ways.
: And you have your chips.
: Okay. But before we proceed, how about a song?
: Sure thing.
Whoops. It turns out that when you play a Musix for a trader, it actually consumes it from your computer memory, and so you need to compose a new one. Unsurprisingly, while the Muhill prefer simple Musix, a single beep is a touch too simple. We are summarily thrown out of the trading hut.
Back to the B-Liner to compose an apology.
A "simple" musix is one with between 6 and 39 segments. Songs with 31-39 segments will be accepted by everyone.
This in hand, we go back to the hut.
: Why are you here.
: To deliver an apology. Behold, the Hammer of Justice.
: ... OK, that'll make a decent advertising jingle.
: Are we square?
: Yeah. Also, here's your 20 green chips back from before.
: Aces. See you later.
: ... you aren't going to trade?
: Not unless I want to get thrown out again. I'll be back in five minutes.
: OK, I'm back. Here's the 20 green chips again. Let's talk about the Most Amazing Thing.
: I'm going to want a better song than the last time you tried this.
: That's why I had to step out.
: I call this one 'The Pulse Wave'. It is the shape of its own sound waves!
: Down to business, then.
: Right. How much do you already know?
: Only what Uncle Smoke told me.
: The last one to claim it. The one who lost it. I am carrying on his search.
: Oh! The Girfleez's companion. Okay.
: Anyway, it was a big golden ball twice the size of a person, the last time it had been seen. He told me that it was known to be able to change its shape.
: That sounds about right.
: He also said that it granted wishes, and that you could crack it open like an egg to bathe in its eldritch energies. He abandoned it in the Mire because he decided that he would rather abandon it than risk unleashing forces he could not control, or which might destroy him.
: He is wiser than I thought. And it sounds like the legends he collected were mostly true.
: Our oldest records refer to it as the AZCAN Destiny Augmentation Capsule. It's not clear whether it's something the Galactics built or something they found.
: But apparently everything must have a name exactly five letters long.
: Look, I don't make the rules.
: Sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt.
: No problem. Anyway. Our records also refer to it as a golden ball, so if it can change shape it probably doesn't. Regarding terrible energies and magical powers, the records are divided enough on its power and effect on those around it that I can't confirm any of that... but I can't dismiss it either.
: Also, none of this tells us where it actually is, beyond "sunken into the mire somewhere".
: That actually makes it easier. AZCAN was lost about sixty years ago. The tar in the mire flows slowly, but inexorably and predictably. After this much time, it will have been deposited at a Bunchmark in the region where it fell, and that's just west of us, in Thomizek territory.
: That's a start, and the tar's softer there, too, so it'll be easier to dig. I don't have the kind of equipment I'd need to really go searching through that much tar, though.
: You might not, but the Mire Crabs can swim in the stuff. If you want to find the Most Amazing Thing, your task is simple.
: Really? Any of them?
: How does that even remotely work?
: That's a good question with a very interesting answer!
: Go on.
: The fee for this information is 7,000 green chips.
: Oh no you don't.
: You saw how long it took me to meet your last price. If you provoke me hard enough I will completely destroy the entire economy in this whole region and nobody in the Galaxy will extend it any credit for decades.
: You're bluffing.
: Am I. I can turn 1,600% profits in hours without even having any products or services to trade.
: So spill it. Or don't. After all, one way or another I'll end up finding out anyway.
: I suppose that's true. There isn't much to tell, anyway. Every Bunchmark is the site of an old access path to one of the Old Cities. The legends say that when the Cities lived, the Darksome Mire wasn't a Mire, and that all of them drowned in some calamity that also created the Mire itself.
: Metallica's access hatch.
: Metallica's access hatch is an excavated Bunchmark.
: Got it in one. Metallica was a smaller city, mostly automated. It only had one access path, and that's probably what saved it when the Mire drowned the land.
: That's a kick in the teeth. How advanced were the cities?
: Not spectacular, by Galactic standards, but not terrible. There's still a trickle of trade through Metallica, but the Galactics mostly left us to our fate after the disaster.
: That's silly. Who'd ignore a massive crisis like that?
: You aren't from the Mire. When was the last time your continent had an interstellar trading delegation? Or even a tourist?
: ... this is an excellent point.
: Metallica is the key. It will get us what we need to rebuild, and once we all have our act together again, Porquatz will actually matter on the interstellar stage again.
: I'm on board. Do you think the Most Amazing Thing will help with the project?
: Depends on which of our old stories I decide to believe. Maybe it'll be necessary. Maybe it's a crutch we can't afford to rely on. Maybe it will doom the entire project.
: The more I learn about this, the less thrilled I am about the prospect of actually finding it.
: Hey, it's not my quest. Good flying, kiddo.
: You've been a great help. Here, I have too many green chips. Let's balance my portfolio out a bit.
: Perfect! We'll never have to manually brush our own teeth again!
As the trader said, Thomizek lands are to the west. Any of these 25 sectors will work, but it's probably simplest to land in the I22 area or so and then search in a spiral pattern for Bunchmarks.
We are a long, long way from home. Still, when we're looking for generic features, any part of the Mire is much like any other. A bit more driving, and...
... here we go. Now we just need to get a Mire crab to attack us on it. Mire crabs are summoned by driving fast, so I start doing donuts near a screen boundary to see if I can get a crab to show up.
I do, but I'm not actually able to get to the Bunchmark before it disables the B-Liner.
: Those Mire Crabs may be the answer to your problems.
This is a more promising setup. In this screen the crab is still asleep when I arrived, so I crept up near it and then revved my engine just enough to wake it up and then slammed the brakes on top of the bunchmark itself.
The crab, as is its wont, bashes itself repeatedly against the side of the B-Liner, but before it can knock us out, it sinks into the tar.