Part 68: Level Four: Getting Our Paperwork In OrderLevel Four: Getting Our Paperwork In Order
There are two purple "sides" to the Moon of Madness. We've been to the one gated off by PoPs, and found Persephone. But we didn't find the Bureau of Records. I happen to know the red maze has nothing we need, since once PoP just leads to the Persephone maze and the other gates the end of the game, so the last area we haven't checked is the freely-accessible purple floor. Let's take the ladder there, check out the PoP close to said ladder, and then swing around to the other one.
This art was clearly intended for this PoP and not the Star Woman one before, as there was no "cavern" there.
Your world is not overhead; nor is a multicolor, banded planet. The stars shine brightly in a vacant sky. Are you on the surface of this moon, now? And if so, where are you? As always, the stars are beautiful. And you begin to feel the same kind of feeling you felt in the land of ice; a vast, oceanic feeling, as if the sky is occupied, occupied by a being that wishes you well.
Ironically, I think it's possible to get here having never even been to the land of ice, so this must be very confusing for anyone who forgot to take that route.
The stars move, shimmer, move; form into a ghostly face, a face that spans a sky; a face with the same unearthly ghostliness as the Milky Way. It is the face of the Lady.
"Your quest nears an end," she says, and though her voice, like her face, fills the sky, it is a gentle one. "But you will need to know what I told you in the Silver Glade, so long ago in Carlon's domain, if you are to defeat the Mad One."
"What... what was that?" you say, your brow furrowing in your effort to remember.
"Have you forgotten so soon?" murmurs the Lady. "I will tell you again. Nine for the Nine Gods who Rule in Heaven..."
But... something strange is happening. Her face is breaking up, the stars no longer delineating the lines of her face, but turning once more into random stars.
Uh... ma'am? You there?
They do not seem so friendly now. No, if there is any presence in these skies, it is not a benevolent one.
If only we could remember that thing that happened so long ago. Nothing to do for it but move on, I suppose.
You are in a vast cavern. The far distances are blurry and impossible to make out. Before you is a huge wooden desk. Behind it sits another strange creature, with tentacles folded. "Good day," it says. "May I be of assistance?"
Once more, I'll turn to our trusted allies for assistance before doing anything rash.
"Let's kill it. I hate bureaucrats."
The Talisman seems to be sulking today. Nothing happens.
Wow, great help you guys. Let's see if this guy knows anything about our quest first.
Hmm. Well, we do need a library card...
"Of course," says the creature. "I will need to see some ID."
"ID?" you ask.
"A valid birth certificate will do."
Uh... can I have a birth certificate?
"At once," says the creature. "What is your name?"
You give it your name, and it disappears, seemingly into thin air. A few moments later, it reappears. "I'm sorry. We have no record of any individual by that name."
"But here I am," you say.
"Were you born on the Moon of Madness?" asks the bureaucrat.
"Then we wouldn't have your birth certificate."
I guess we could ask for somebody else's birth certificate and use that to get a library card, but I have no idea who would...
"What is the name?" asks the bureaucrat."
"Nadia Thimbatool," says Iggy promptly.
"Just a minute," says the bureaucrat, and disappears.
"Where'd you get that name?" you ask Iggy.
"I once met a little dink that looks like this guy. That was the name."
In moments, the bureaucrat returns with a birth certificate. "Here you are, sir," he says, and gives it to Iggy.
Whatever. Iggy's come through in a pinch. Now we've got a birth certificate, so we can present it to get a library card.
"This," says the bureaucrat severely, "is a patent forgery."
But you... you just gave this to us! Ugh, fine. Let's see if we can get some other form of ID. You mentioned a second certificate?
"Of course," says the creature. "May I have your names, please?"
The creature fills out a little form and hands it to you. "There you are," it says, beaming. "May I be the first to congratulate you? And to wish you the most serene and beautiful of married existences."
"We're married," you tell Iggy in a rather horrified voice.
"Great, chief," snarls the wizard. "Just great."
Regrettably, it appears that a marriage license is not considered valid identification for getting a library card. Indeed, absolutely nothing we do with this guy will get us what we need.
...Actually, there is one thing.
Swiftly, you pounce and plunge Valterre into its -- whatever. It dies.
That's the third time today Iggy's been right. Now we can ransack his desk.
The desk contains a series of incomprehensible forms and some blank library cards. You take a library card and fill it out with your name. You notice, however, that there is a blank at the bottom of the card for an authorizing signature. You shrug, and sign something indecipherable on the blank.
Perfect, the Gordian Knot is cut. Take that, bureaucracy!
...Speaking of bureaucracy, I wanted to touch a little on this angle of the Moon of Madness, as I think it's a perfect instance of Goldberg and Costikyan's wheelhouse. At first glance, it seems weird that the center of the Mad One's domain would be run like a rigid, orderly bureaucracy. After all, isn't this guy insane? Isn't his maze full of random encounters that barely connect to one another? Where's all this bureaucracy stuff coming in?
A sort of corollary to the banality of evil is the notion of the insanity of the banal, something that underpins the evil that can be done in a rigidly-ordered system and makes an effort to explain it. In a world where rules are rigidly enforced yet too byzantine for an individual to comprehend, seemingly random occurrences can occur despite being in full compliance with the routine. Worse, acts of grave evil or at least petty injustice can occur solely because that's what the rules say and there's no reason to think about things beyond that.
The best example of this is probably Terry Gilliam's film Brazil. No one in its intensely bureaucratic society knows all the rules, mistakes cannot be corrected because the system doesn't make mistakes, and you can be terrorized by your fellow man solely on the basis of which forms have and haven't been filled out.
Within Costikyan and Goldberg's own work, this is the fundamental conceit of Paranoia: Friend Computer controls everything, is never wrong even when it contradicts itself, is acting perfectly rationally even when it is being utterly arbitrary, and any deviation from -- or sometimes adherence to -- its whims tends to result in player characters getting excessively murdered for no particularly good reason.
The point of these works is that a sensible, regulated society that runs on the letter of its laws isn't actually sensible at all. It isn't even sane, and the people who go along with it in lockstep are more dangerous than lone psychopaths because they're working to perpetuate a dehumanizing system that is always just one typo from committing atrocities.
So that's why I murdered that purple guy out of the blue, and why it was good and right; because I am an individual and I can think for myself. Plus I really needed a library card.
Hey there pal! We did what you said and got us a library card. Can we see that stuff now?
Uhhhhhhhhh. We kinda just scrawled in some nonsense. This guy actually wants to know the name of the bureaucrat we killed. But we don't know that guy's name!
...Or do we?
Alternate Solutions & Deaths
As the Archpriest tries to interfere with the Lady's message, we do have the option to use the Talisman. Unfortunately, most powers are incapable of helping.
Most Elements: A bolt of energy shoots toward the phantasm of the Lady -- dissipating it entirely.
Earth: Nothing happens. Perhaps earth has no power in this unearthly place?
Mind: Nothing happens. Perhaps there is no mind in the phantasm of the Lady? Who can say? What do we truly know of the gods, after all?
However, two options will help us get through. The first is Spirit.
The second is much more interesting. If we utilize Time...
You had hoped to freeze time, to maintain contact with the Lady for a last precious moment -- but the Talisman does not do what you intended. Instead, you find yourself...
The maze opens into a night forest; and in the forest lies a clearing. (You realize you are not wearing armor. You have no Talisman -- nor even the Sword Valterre.)
Above, the moon shines with silver clarity; the creatures of the night make quiet noise about you. The moment is still, serene, and beautiful. (And you are younger, somehow; your spirit lighter, but curiously naive.)
The PoP then plays out like the Silver Glade on the first level, and if we offer respect to the Lady she will tell us once more what she told us then. But regardless of how things turn out...
And the stars are around you once more... as the last vestiges of the Lady's face dissipate from the sky.