Part 20: If At First You Don't Succeed, Build A Better Cannon
If At First You Don't Succeed, Build A Better Cannon
Off we go to Argyre. We'll need a smaller barge to get up close to the gates, though, so we'll temporarily ditch the large one here. I accidentally left the lever on and it almost drifted away from me, but I managed to rush back on and stop it. Whoops.
"Now this, this is a nice little barge. Slim profile, a single sleek, almighty cannon. Yeah, this is the Hyundai of Martian canal barges."
"It's a Japanese car."
"The Japanese? Making automobiles? Next you'll be telling me they'll be developing mechanized men like Chsheket in your time!"
"I'd liken it more to a Volvo."
"It's not a Volvo unless it's got at least three cannons. I just wouldn't feel safe."
"Here we are! The gates of Argyre! Bet he wasn't expecting me to actually solve a puzzle using a cannon! ...wait, what?"
"The cannon didn't work."
"That's impossible, cannons always work."
"I'm sorry, Miss Steve, but it very clearly didn-"
"I said they always work! Always! I've never met a problem a cannon can't solve! Screw you, what do you know about my work!? ...sorry, I just... need a little time alone for a minute."
Well dammit, if the rear gates are impenetrable, maybe there's a way in the front!
You see a rough-looking sort.
The man in a sailor suit chews his toothpick. "What are you here for? Who sent you?" He waits for your reply.
"Are you anyone historically important? Be honest!"
"The name's Maurice." He smiles toothlessly, tips his cap, then spits. "I guards this gate, Madam, and there ain't nothin' that's gettin' in this city. The boss isn't seein' anybody today. These gates are here fer good. Killin' me won't help you either."
"You play your cards well, Maurice."
Chsheket whispers, "Actually, given the right materials for one of the barge cannons, the gate could be destroyed. This is not the first time Argyre has been besieged."
Fortunately, the tube system is right at the front gates. So it's back to Olympus to talk to the man who might know something about cannonballs.
"Cannonballs? They're usually made of lead. There seems to be some of it around in various locations. You might see if Peary knows anything about them."
"I've seen that city. It has been heavily fortified by Rasputin and his followers. All access to the city has been blocked by thick metal gates which are barred from the inside. The gates of Argyre are exposed to attack from the canals. The barge cannons can fire a round of ammunition at sufficient velocity to breach the gates, but the balls themselves are too soft for this purpose."
"I knew it! The failure wasn't in the cannon at all! The failure was in the cannonballs all along!"
"Begging your pardon Madam, but... how is that any different?"
"It means more than you can possibly understand, lieutenant. So what kind of material would work?"
"If Mr. Carnegie could fashion some steel cannonballs of the right caliber, the barge cannon could breach the fortifications!"
"Now look what you've done."
"Good! Then we'll get started. It's a good thing there's plenty of steel. Making a few cannonballs won't endanger the construction of the cannon. Please make yourself at home. This could take a little while." Carnegie disappears into another area, and loud noises soon emerge. After a short time, he returns. "Eureka! I knew I could do it. You can do anything, you know, if you really want to and are willing to work for it."
"I like your style, Carnegie."
"There you go. Now go find our phlogistonite and we'll all go home!"
"They're... they're so beautiful. Warren?"
"Err... yes, Steve?"
"Is this feeling... love?"
"It... it just may be, Steve. It just may be."
And now, all the way at the end of the game, I finally put two and two together and realize that these empty heat and freeze rays must run on something I have access to. Ammo clearly doesn't work, so I finally, finally grasp the concept that radium is what powers them.
Lo and behold, it works! I now have a working freeze ray! And not a damn thing left to shoot with it.
"Like a briiiiiiiiidge over troubled waaaaater..."
"I'm not quite sure I grasp the connection, Dr. Spector."
"I really don't think it's wise to interrupt her at this point, Ms. Bly."
"I will lay me dowwwwwwn..."
"Ah, Simon and Garfunkel. A warrior's ballad."
"I'm only giving you a pass on this insanity because it actually worked, but can we please get back to saving Mars like responsible adults?"
"Pssssh, you wish."
Argyre is a simple little place with like eight empty buildings and nothing much of interest. Apparently it's a "fortress" though.
Now I have three fully-charged Martian weapons. And these guys aren't even worth talking to, let alone killing. But in case you care...
Gordo doesn't know what a czar is, but he thinks Rasputin is a visionary who will free us from them.
Miles was told by Rasputin that everyone will just try to take advantage of him and manipulate him into doing things. That's why he's letting Rasputin - and only Rasputin - take advantage of him and manipulate him into doing things.
They'll both be dead by the end of this update so don't get too attached.
There's the rouge berries we came for.
And lots of ammo.
Lots of ammo.
Lots and lots and lots of ammo. This place is loaded, but being one of the last places you're likely to ever visit in Martian Dreams, all of this shit is worthless. Oh well.
May as well get this over with and confront ol' Rasputin. Hey, who's the chick with him?
You see a strong-willed, intense woman.
She looks you over boldly. "I'm Emma Goldman. Glad to meet you. Please make yourself comfortable."
Nellie whispers to you, "Careful, Steve! I've heard of Emma Goldman before. She's known for encouraging rioters to run through the city streets and loot stores!"
"That's... only going to endear her to Steve, honestly."
"She's very unpredictable!"
"Hah! On Earth I was limited to being an orator, speaking to groups. But here I have much more opportunity! Tell me, Madam, do you consider speaking one's mind to be a crime or a right?"
"Well, I mean a right, obviously, but-"
"Then perhaps in you I might find a sister in my cause. Equal rights for women is what I'm speaking of! No girl should have to marry for money. No girl should be subject to an arranged marriage. No woman should have to bear children if she doesn't want to! Governments are too busy being corrupt for me to hope that these injustices will be addressed. The answer is anarchy!"
"Oh, that's cute, in my time people like you listen to Evanescence and cut themselves."
Emma doesn't seem to be listening. "On Earth I wanted to burn down the steel mills, free the little children working in the coal mines, and tear the obscenely rich down off their padded thrones!"
"What about the not-so obscenely rich?"
"I was going to take a dump in their living rooms."
"The only thing in my way was the government. Most governments were created to enrich the rulers, not to help the ruled. That's why there is no hope for any of them. Even 'beautiful' America is run, not by the president, but by the rich people. If people are to live in a fair society, be truly equal, the power all citizens have is to enforce anarchy. They exiled me because they knew I was close to my goals. But here on Mars, it's just Carnegie... and me. He knows I'm here and there are no laws for him to hide behind. His sugar-coated whips and padded yokes for his workers will never fool me!"
"You have something against Carnegie? He seems pretty cool."
"Grrr!" Suddenly her eyes grow wide and she looks very much like a pit bull. "I'll break his monopoly on the goods on Mars, just as I broke his reflectors!"
"So you were responsible for that."
"After Lowell left, Carnegie took control of them. He must have used them to tell Earth to send him more supplies. I don't know that Morse code, but I can see a clear opportunity to take advantage of us!"
"You're really something, you know that?"
"Human beings must convey all information by writing or speaking. I am a writer and speaker, therefore I am very powerful! But not powerful enough to get rid of Carnegie by myself... only Grigori Rasputin has more power than I do, here. He will direct our energies, and so I shall voluntarily assist him. When he has brought us into Paradise, then we will be free. Free of oppression, free of tyranny, free of corruption, free of government!"
"Lady, Raxachk's got you all wound up."
"So she doesn't know..."
"You tell Carnegie that I'm coming to slit his throat some dark night!"
"Okay, have fun, try not to pop a head vein."
Despite what you might think, Emma Goldman is the least manipulated individual here in Argyre. She just happens to be a bit of a firebrand.
But it's not her we're interested in seeing.
You see a robed man with luminous, piercing dark eyes.
He stares at you, a hot malevolent stare.
"Game's up, Rasputin. We want those cannisters."
"That was a relatively heroic thing to say, Madam!"
"Thanks, I was working on that."
"Ha!" he bellows. "That is all incidental. I have hidden your precious phlogistonite in the Dream World. You dare not try to remove it!"
"Wait... you can bring stuff into the Dream World?"
"I have perfected a way to send real objects to the Dream World. You cannot recover them without setting off a cataclysm of epic proportions. More importantly, I can destroy both Mars and the Dream World."
"What kind of cataclysm? Because I've caused a few that could put yours to shame."
"The Dream World would be utterly obliterated by returning the phlogistonite to the real world."
Chsheket whispers to you, "I fear he speaks the truth, Steve. Early experiments by my people show such material transfers to be very dangerous! We must free my people from the Dream World before we tamper with the very structures of reality and Dreamreality!"
"Maybe we should have thought about that before we confronted Rasputin?"
"Free them?" says Rasputin mockingly. "One such as you could never free them. The Martians could never be free in metal bodies. The people of Earth accept no one who is different as an equal. My poor plantals would be kept as slaves or freaks."
Chsheket looks down dejectedly. "I fear that what he says is true. People of Earth would never accept metal people."
"I don't know, Zeppelin and Metalli-"
"EVENING THE SCORE, WARREN!"
"I am many things, Steve, but I am not a liar." Suddenly he begins to laugh maniacally and cry at the same time. "You cannot win, Earth creature. I have won! You shall never leave Mars." He yawns. "Sleep would be more interesting than this... NO! Sleep is for the weak. I do not sleep. I cannot sleep. I must not sleep!"
"We're going to find a way to shut you down, Rasputin..."
"...or maybe I should say Raxachk?"
Chsheket gasps in disbelief. "No! It can't be... Raxachk is the one who made the plague!"
Rasputin grins evilly. "Even so. With the useful explosive you call phlogistonite, I can shatter this planet like ice beneath a hammer."
"Even if he's just hidden the stuff, it's still a possibility, Steve!"
"How the hell would you know? Two hours ago you were telling me it's not even a real word."
"That's precisely what makes it so dangerous! Even a well-placed dynamite charge could cause the fragile Martian volcanic shelves to fracture. This could be far more dangerous! ...goodness, I think you really are rubbing off on me."
"Since my intellect far surprassed that of the average Martian, it was not difficult for me to devise a machine to take real objects into the Dream World. As a safeguard, I have also disabled the Dream Machine here in Argyre. It is inoperative. The reverse, bringing objects back from the Dream World, is even more difficult, but I can do that, too. With this technology, there is nothing I cannot destroy!"
"I wouldn't count on that. And not just because I beat you to most of them."
"You really don't believe I can destroy Mars?"
"Buddy, I'm willing to entertain a lot of notions that people would say are crazy, even outright retarded, but if you think I'm going to believe a little green man controlling fucking Rasputin can blow up Mars, you got another thing coming."
"So even that is beyond your comprehension. Hah!"
Something that's been bugging me (and not just me, either): The canal worms were specially adapted to dwell in the Martian canals. Okay, fine. But the canals have been dry for hundreds of years, yet ten minutes after I've filled them again, the worms are back. And don't say they were hiding in the cisterns because those were empty too, before I melted the North Pole.
Anyway back at Olympus...
"Bon! You have, then, brought me the rouge berries, non?" You nod your head and hand her the berries. Sarah takes the berries from you, and walks over to her dressing table. She crushes the berries and mixes the juice with some other makeup, then stirs the mixture into a container. "Here you are, my friend. This pigment should look quite close to the color of human skin."
So we hook the pigment and a rubber hose up to the sprayer system at the pumping station, park Chsheket inside, and...
Chsheket takes "her" place in the transformation chamber.
...modern human science, and the cleverness of a human actress, sprays out.
"You know, I'm suddenly losing interest in her. I mean, I still like her as a Martian robot friend."
You see a woman, now a shapely, beautiful redhead. Chsheket tips her head and smiles. She seems happy. "Thank you, Dr. Spector, for giving me this - what is it called again? Oh yes, clothing. I gather that I should wrap myself in it at all times?"
Warren blushes slightly. "Ah. Yes, well... most times. Perhaps you should speak with one of the ladies about that."
"Well, Chsheket, you..."
"Let me rephrase that. Perhaps you should speak to Nellie about that."
"Thank you, doctor. I will do that." She smiles and dimples, and Warren blushes a little deeper. As you look at the woman Chsheket has become, you realize that you recognize her. A century from now, she will appear at your door with an envelope for you and Dr. Spector...
"Not talking to you, Freud."
"We must speak to your fellow humans at Olympus Mons. They are the largest concentrated group. They have a greater number to help us. Our next move depends upon their leader, the one called Segal. I do not believe we can liberate those Martians still in the Dream World without his assistance."
"We must speak to Segal about the phlogistonite, as well. We have plans to make. Let's be off!" He strides quickly away, gesturing for you all to follow.
"Wait a second, who's getting credit for all this? WARRENNNNNNNNN!"
Back to Olympus. Note that Chsheket has clothes now. She still has no need for oxium and doesn't get cold, but whatever.
"Well well, if it isn't Steve."
"It's time for you to do a complete 180, Segal."
"Really? And why should I do that?"
"Because my barge has 6 cannons on it, my balls are made of pure steel, and you're a completely fictional character."
"She... she wouldn't."
"H-hello, old friend! I see you've succeeded in the matter of Martian bodies. This is, uh, wonderful!"
"That's right, go on."
"I understand that Rasputin has our propellant. You must retrieve it at once! Uh, old friend! Let him know we... you... won't stand for his interference!"
"Now promise to help the Martians."
"While you handle that little problem, we here in Olympus will, um, gladly do our part. With your instructions, we'll create metal bodies for all of the Martians. By the time you return with the phlogistonite, we shall all be ready to leave this God-forsaken planet."
"I like the new you, Segal. Keep it up. Or else."
"Right... you are, Madam."
And now back to... wait a second. Something's different here.
"Living humans! I thought that Raxachk had slain all but me! He murdered Maurice and the others, then forced me at gunpoint to operate the Dream Machine for him! Raxachk has withdrawn into the Dream World, abandoning Rasputin's body for now. The Dream Machine had to be reactivated for his escape. I have made sure that it remained functional so that you could follow. In his madness, I... I think he has become bent on the destruction of all the humans on the planet as well! He said... he said he was capable of destroying Mars."
"I thought you were an anarchist."
"Even this is a bit extreme!"
"If he transfers any objects back from the Dream World to this reality, there really WILL be catastophes."
"Then someone must stop him! You must stop him, Steve!"
"Yes, you. Again."
"Always the same, eh?"
But before we go...
You see a robed man who looks confused.
"You okay there, buddy?"
"Y-yes... I fear I have been duped by Raxachk, however. His power and brilliance are beyond compare. It must have been he who sent visions to me on Earth."
"So he tricked you into sabotaging Mr. Lowell's cannon!"
"Yes. The visions drew me to the Red Planet, with dreams of awesome powers and the ability to rule the world. I didn't realize that Raxachk planned to use my body as a vehicle to rule Mars, with little regard at all for myself, trapped in the Dream World, or for Earth! Still... his strength of will, intellect, and his enormous mental powers, mysterious even to a student of strange things, fascinate me."
"What manner of powers?"
"The Martians dabbled in mental powers, acquired through the use of various berries; specific berries granted specific psychic abilities. Raxachk himself was so powerful that he no longer required the berries to influence people and events across vast distances or to move huge objects by sheer power of the mind. Raxachk must have been the influence that compelled me to use the Dream Machine. He trapped me and took control of my body in the physical world."
"And it looks like he decided to swap back."
"Yes, but I do not know why. He has fled into the Dream World. It would be dangerous, perhaps even suicide, to follow him."
"Oh good, you hear that Warren? You hear what I'm obligated to walk into for all of your sorry asses? This is just fantastic. Still, kind of funny that after all of that Rasputin turned out not to be evil."
"Actually he pretty much still is, just a different kind of evil."
Emma wasn't kidding. These poor saps are d-e-a-d. And not even anything good on them.
"Friends, I just want you to know that I've tolerated each and every one of you these past few weeks on Mars. And I hope that one day, preferably soon, you will look back fondly on the time we spent together and miss me dearly, because I do not intend to interact with any one of you ever again for the remainder of your or my lifetime. I guess Warren can still call but no more visits to my house. What I'm saying is, if I don't come back, just get the hell out of here you crazy kooks."
"Just throw the damn switch."
And then, the thrilling finale: a throwdown in dreamtown!