Part 15: The Largest Member of the Kuiper Belt
By semi-popular demand, the first stop is Wyatt Earp's dream. Where Steve is immediately set upon by Proto-Martians.
Fortunately the dreamstuff she has can be imagined into a saber, which is used to dispatch them. But upon killing the final proto-martian, Steve collapses for a while...
"Oh my God."
"Is this CHRISTMAS?"
"Well, about that..."
"Nothing to do now but check their pockets and cheese it."
"From whom specifically will you be cheesing it, Frau Steve, as there are no legal authorities on Mars?"
"From my Superego, I thought."
"Ah yes, of course."
"Crap. I knew nobody would let me get away with murdering Warren Spector for real."
"It is perhaps about time to search for Mr. Earp, is it not?"
"Nag nag nag, you're worse than my mother."
"In so many ways that is true, Frau Steve."
At the end of the road is... a horse auction?
You see a broad, friendly man.
"Nice to meet ya. Great day for horse tradin', ain't it?"
"Who are you again, fat man? You don't look like no cowboy."
"Ike Clanton, that's me. I round up cattle to make their brands more distinct, test the security of frontier banks, that sort of thing."
"Something doesn't add up about this fellow, but I can't quite place it."
"It is amazing to me that, with one hundred years of human knowledge beyond my own time, you cannot figure simple things like this out."
"Jeez, you'd think you of all people wouldn't be all that surprised."
"Ah, the books I could write about you if I valued my work above not having a cannonball fired through my torso."
"So what's on the block, uh, Ike?"
"They got a brown, a black... some mighty fine horseflesh. That gray one sure looks like trouble to me, though. Don't much like the look in his eye. I imagine someday it'd come down to him or me..."
We can inspect the horses. Hey wait a second, the brown one looks familiar!
You see an ordinary roan stallion.
"Say-hay, don't I know you from someplace? You look mighty familiar!"
"Smith? Oh Lord."
"Hmmm. I think I dreamt of you! You're the... the..."
"That's right! I've helped you before. You ingrate! Think of all I've done for you! You've got to get your old pal out of here! I'll get you a clue!"
"Smith, you've never been anything but completely useless to me with your clues. What makes you think I'd care now?"
"Hey, no buy, no clue. That's how it goes."
"I don't think you fully understand your place in this negotiation, Smith."
"You know this horse?"
"It's a long story."
"Ja, I can imagine..."
The black stallion can't talk, but looks like the finest of the three. But the ornery gray one...
You see an ornery, charcoal-grey stallion.
"What, who? What's going on here? Who are you? This isn't my home!"
"More talking horses? You don't look like Smith though."
"Everyone always calls me 'Marshall,' so that must be my name. I lead the herd and run off any wolves or coyotes that attack. You know, all of my fellows that I'm sworn to protect."
"That sounds rather metaphorical, Mr. Earp."
"Yes, what? No, wait, is that me? I can't remember... It's all so confusing."
"Don't worry, even I can figure this one out."
It's pretty clear which horse is our man... horse... man. So let's get this bidding started!
You see a fast-talking gentleman.
"Horses! That's what I'm selling! Would you buy? Would-ya-bid-to-buy? Come on, now! Give me a bid! I am the Auctioneer! Whoever will pay the most money gets the horse up for sale. I guarantee fine horse flesh here, Madam. If you don't believe me, you can get it straight from the horse's mouth... in some cases! Hahahahahahaha! Would you like to bid on one?"
"Yeah... the gray one."
"Very well. The bidding will begin at 20 dollars! Your bid, madam?"
"Give you 21."
"I'll give you 23!"
"23, do I hear 28?"
"I'll give you 30!"
"30, do I hear 35?"
"41! Do I hear 46?"
"What the hell, it's only fake dream money."
"Only an idiot would buy a horse like that for 46 dollars."
"I have 46, 46, do I hear 51? 46 going once, twice, SOLD to Steve!"
"Awesome, I just bought a cowboy!"
"Well, I'm surely grateful to you for buying me rather than let that Clanton get his hands on me. You'll free me now, right?"
"I thought maybe we'd have some fun dream adventures. I always wanted a pony."
"That is uncharacteristically feminine of you, Steve."
"I don't think you're familiar with what I enjoy about horses, having not been there for Ultima VI."
"Mmmm, horse chops."
"Fine, fine, let's bust outta this... dream corral."
"I'm free! I can't believe they almost sold me. Now THAT'S a fate worse than death! I sure owe you one, stranger. You let me know if there's anything I can do for you, you hear? A horse. I can't believe I thought I was a gol'dang HORSE!"
"Feeling better, then? You remember who you are and all?"
"Wyatt Earp, of the famous Earp brothers. Surely you've heard of us, girl."
"I've heard of Val Kilmer portraying you, I think."
"How the hell did you know that?"
"A little Id told me."
"I've worked a bit as a scout for this group. Right now, I'm just waiting for Mr. Lowell to say we can leave. He's waiting for the last of us to get out of the dreams. He's done his best to keep our spirits up. Though I was a mite apprehensive there for a while."
"Don't sweat it. I'm working on the rest. Who the hell was that Clanton guy?"
"Clanton! That low-down varmint! He's lower than a snake's belly. You cain't trust him to do anything right. If he thought he had power over me, well, it wouldn't be a purty sight."
"Okay then. I'm off to haunt somebody else, or whatever you call this."
"If there's ever anything else I can do for you while I'm here, just let me know, you hear? We'll chew the fat again later."
And it's off to Twain's dream, which puts us about where we'd expect: On a raft.
You see a man in light grey wearing a bow tie.
He hands you a pilot's cap. "You're late, pilot. Where have you been?"
"Uh, just hitching my horse."
"I can be when I try!"
"Look, there's no time to talk now, we've got to get the pages!"
"Begging your pardon?"
"Yes, look, there they go. Scattered on the Mississippi lookin' for all the world like stars in the Milky Way. Give me a hand, pilot: bring me all my pages! If I don't gather up my manuscript and get it to the post box on time, my publisher in New York'll have my proverbial hide. Our destination's at the end of the river. Mind you keep your eyes open, and warn me if there's shoals ahead, too."
"I don't, uh, see any shoals."
"Sounds like a personal problem. Let's get going!"
"Why did your book fall in the, um, river anyway?"
He looks a bit sheepish. "I was admiring my own works when the winds of time blew the pages out of my hands. All those things I write about, they'll always be there: runaway slaves, paddlewheelers, maiden aunts, and the rest. It'll always be the same. But I'm just a mortal: a man only has so much time. Twenty-five pages, that's how many we have to gather up, and I don't know how long I've got to do it."
At this point we have to direct the barge by flipping the lever in the direction we're going and hitting space to pass until we get there. The thing is, the whole area is full of invisible barriers that make it difficult to navigate. Luckily, dreamstuff we can pick up offers a solution in the form of brown berries. What do brown berries do?
They grant us a strange sense of spatial awareness. I don't know exactly how that works, I guess it's super proprioception or something. Anyway I can see the barriers now for a while. Dreamstuff and pages are stranded on them, and we have to move along east and south scooping them up.
There are tons of pages, and we only need 25 of them, so once we do that we can talk to Twain and then just head for the end.
"Oh good, you got all the pages!" He squares them into a stack and they change into a book. The title reads, 'The Adventures of Steve.' He hands you the book and smiles warmly. "Now you go and post this."
Clemens shakes your hand and thanks you as you step off the peculiar raft. "My goodness! I do believe you're as real as I, or the rest of us Earth folks."
"Of course I am. Why would you dream a potentially sociopathic woman in an incredibly ugly dress?"
"Well, I've got kind of a thing for ugly women. I thought for sure I was dreaming YOU, too!" He grins beneath his bristly moustache. "Guess I should be going now. I'm sure we'll meet again."
"Yeah yeah, I bet you don't treat your patients this way."
"My patients are simply people who are troubled. You, on the other hand, have problems."
And off we go to the dream of filmmaker Georges Melies. It seems to just be a strange room, but all of a sudden...
You see a man holding a megaphone.
He holds the cone before his mouth and calls out, "Stay where you are. Though I am very happy to see another person in this desolate place, I must ask you to COME NO CLOSER! Please don't move!"
"Who are you, and why do you think I would pay even the slightest bit of attention to your opinion?"
"I am Georges Melies, maker of moving pictures. I make such fantasies as are wonderful and difficult to imagine!" He looks around him and smiles a small smile. "Or maybe not so difficult. When I first got here, I couldn't even SEE the walls. But every step..." he pauses dramatically here, "...brings us closer to our DOOM!"
"You can't be serious."
"I tried the door, but it is old and rusted shut. Being alone in such an empty place frightened me. I ran, and now the walls are upon me and I can go no further lest they crush me to death. If you tread upon certain of the squares, perhaps you can escape, my friend. Only some of them cause the walls to close. Alas, however, I cannot tell which ones are safe! We are doomed!"
"What are you, retarded? There's only two colors of tiles. One of them causes the walls to move in, one of them doesn't. It would take literally two steps of experimentation to figure this out. We are not doomed, you're just an idiot."
"Ah yes, imagining an object which will resolve the situation. You always think with a strange focused intensity, Frau Steve, even as it seems your mind is scattered."
"It is clear that the contraction of space represents to Mr. Melies a discomfort with his new medium. He worries that the portrayal of narrative on film is a genre which is dying even as it begins, closing in around the few who have dared to explore it. There is no escape from this fear."
"What about the tiles?"
"Well, every puzzle must have a solution."
"Did you just break the fourth wall?"
"Ah, Frau Steve, but if I had, you wouldn't have to solve this puzzle!"
We have to cut it close, but we do in fact escape.
"Ahhh! What a relief to be out of that horrible set! Thank you, my friend. Ah, it looks like this is YOUR scene, so I'll be going backstage while you take a bow now." And indeed, as the room grows dim about you, you seem to hear faint applause, and cheers from an unseen audience!
"Freaking out now!"
There's just one more Earth native to go. And he's the one who started all of this mess in the first place... Percival Lowell. But what problems could he be having?
We start Lowell's dream on a strange, bright surface that burns to the touch. A pair of winged shoes are on a small platform not far from it, which can be reached through the inherent telekinesis we somehow have.
One platform later, we find Cupid's Bow and Arrows and a hand mirror.
The next platform resembles an office, somehow strangely familiar.
These calculations have convinced me, as I am sure they would convince any intelligent reader, that there is a
Aha! Now it all adds up. Lowell's dream is a symbolic representation of the Solar System. We began walking on the sun like in that Smash Mouth song, All Star. Then we moved past Mercury (hence the winged shoes) to Venus (planet of love!). Which puts us on Earth. That means the next planet represents Mars.
I... don't remember this part.
You see a shining, golden metallic woman.
"Welcome, traveller, to this place of hope and despair. There is despair, because that which is familiar will cease to exist." She gestures at the dead Martians at her feet. "There is hope, because I will exist. There is no true end where there is a new beginning. These fruits are the end of the known. I am the beginning of the unknown. I am your child, and you are the origin."
"What do you mean? I've never seen you before. Who are you?"
"I have no name, as I have no existence. My existence is dependent on you. It is my destiny to be the salvation of the Martian race."
"Are you... the new body?"
She turns away from you.
"Hey, don't you sass me, young robot lady! I'm your mother you know!"
"Curious. It would seem that your participation within the dreams of others through use of this machine are not quite as self-contained as they may appear. Your own dreams - or perhaps, the dreams of the entire planet - seem to have found a place here as well, ja?"
"You're starting to get really creepy, Freud."
Steve crosses the asteroid belt...
...is chased by the storms of Jupiter...
...skips through the ring of Saturn (I have no idea what the farming stuff is for)...
...and finds Percival Lowell deep within Uranus. Ha ha, I got to make that joke in a Let's Play thread and it's completely in context!
You see an older, distinguished-looking man who appears somewhat distracted.
"Hello, my name is Percival Lowell. I'm an astronomer, studying the Solar system. Are you, by any chance, a hero?"
"That's kind of an awkward question to ask a random stranger you meet in a dream world."
"I need someone to take my telescope to Neptune, defeat the monster there, and find the
"You want me to fly to Neptune, which is like three feet away from you. Uh, yeah, okay, let's do that."
"Thank you. Be sure to send me a signal from the
"I forget what part of my science textbook mentioned giant worms on Neptune."
"Symbolism. Strike back with the same!"
"What, shoot the worm with Cupid's arrow?"
"Hey it worked! Except now it's humping my leg."
"I said it was a plan, not that it was a particularly good one."
"But Lowell doesn't care about Neptune. He cares about the
And so off we fly into the
"Wow, this place is kind of a piece of shit."
You use the mirror to send Lowell a message in Morse code. He responds: "I'm so glad you have done this for me. I knew I needed a hero for this. Now I can go home and plan my Space Cannon project." He pauses as if suddenly struck. "But wait a moment! I've already gone to Mars! I remember now... this is all a dream!"
"This has to be the worst Morse code conversation I've ever conducted. How are we even talking this fast?"
"I'm not sure if you are real or the result of the dementia, Madam, but I thank you. I shall find my way back to the Hall of Dreams now."
And that's everybody. Time to swap with the pod people. Will the irony never cease?
"We will now go to the Dream Machines and trade places with the free humans in the Hall of Dreams. We will wait in a secret place in the Dream World to be called to new bodies. We will not wait patiently, and we will not wait long. We will find you if you do not fulfill your part in this matter. And you will regret having forsaken us. I promise you, you will regret." He goes the central area and calls to his plantals. When they are gathered, he announces that he has agreed on their behalf to trust you, and to return to the Dream World for the time being. There is some discussion, mostly in favor, and the Martians file in orderly fashion to the Dream Machine.
"I have learned that you are honorable, and I trust your efforts to find us new bodies that can survive the legacy of Raxachk."
"My grovemates, these creatures from another world have proven as honorable as ourselves, and their grovemates have more right to these bodies than we do. We hope to walk this world again someday, but our hope now rides with them."
"I hope we can help them."
"It would be a shame to have them kill Steve in her dreams if we can't, yeah."
"Well, Steve, you've managed to get the Martians out of the age's greatest thinkers. I think Tekapesh deserves our trust, don't you?"
Now that they're back in their bodies, they can help us out. Melies comes first, to resolve something for Hearst.
"You make a lot of pictures, don't you?"
"Yes, photographs and photographic plates. I work often with them, why?"
"We were hoping you might be able to develop a photograph for us, Mr. Melies."
"A plate must be developed to produce a photograph from a camera. I can do this for you! I will return in a while." A short time passes, and Melies returns with the photograph. "I have it! It is a fine photo. I hope it is what you need."
There we go! Now to cause some real global warming... Avatar style.