Part 7: I Hear A Bunch of Useless Scrubs to the West!
I Hear A Bunch of Useless Scrubs to the West!
The first scroll I picked up in the tower details the power system. If I hadn't spoken to Coker and Stoker directly, this would describe their functions. Mars is still coal-powered, just like last update.
But why is all this stuff underground? The other scroll provides an answer.
(Apparently the powerful ancestral memory of Martian groves via their soil created some interesting tensions not known to humans' weaker and less direct traditions.) When industrial technology began to develop, the introduction of machines and furnaces on the surface of Mars offended this sensibility, a myth (only alluded to in this volume) about evil forces hurling stones at the planet. The decision was made to put all the machinery underground, and to develop mechanical Martians to maintain it under the cruel lightlessness of that place. What mechanisms were necessary on the surface were made as beautiful and nonintrusive as possible, and were powered by broadcast electricity generated underground.
Oxium goes fast. I'm out of it now, but it's not worth bothering to get more. First, I'll walk west to find those dorkus ancestors or something of my previous companions.
Bushalo. Yet another plantimal. Benign, yet delicious, and with just 100 calories!
Whoops. Turns out there's no bridges to the place I want to go to the west. I have to go east to get west! Time to walk around the entire planet again!
Mars is a dangerous place. The bushalo and plantelope play, but not without the predation of the planther.
I'm not making any of this up, which is why I feel it's so important to provide text box confirmation.
Mars is littered with berry groves. Though the bushes tend to all be green, the berries come in all sorts of colors.
Back to the Olympus bridge, then east and south along the northern canals.
Finally, a mine. The tracks run all the way to an empty canal, suggesting the Martians transported goods by water. The more you know.
You see a lean man with a greying beard.
"Hey there! I need help! My companions are caught in a cave-in!"
"What sound is this? The glorious chants of angels? Have my prayers been answered? Are you the messenger of God himself?"
"I'm... sorry? I'm Dr. David Yellin. Sherman, Duprey and I were surveying in this old mine. There was a sudden rumbling and the ceiling fell in. Sherman and Duprey are still trapped inside the mine! We have to drill them out!"
"Well, my work here is done."
"Steve. You are not abandoning these people here."
"Oh really, Warren? Watch me."
"No, I mean we have no choice, no matter how badly you hate your present-day companions."
"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't just shove Yellin here into the cave and blow the whole thing up."
"I'm glad you brought this up, Steve. You see, I have theorized that we are, in fact, within a 'fixed' timeline. Allow me to elaborate. As you may recall, we received a book from a mysterious individual, a book which I wrote, and a note from Mr. Tesla to himself. Of course, I have written no such book, nor has Tesla authored that note, but we both shall after our experiences on Mars come to a conclusion. My assumption is that this will happen because it has and for that matter must happen, and likewise the entirety of our expedition is effectively deterministic. If indeed Mr. Sherman and Major Duprey die in that mine because you failed to save them, this would destroy the entirety of space-time, and quite frankly I am not inclined to allow even you to do that. But fortunately I do not need to worry about this, because if the timeline is fixed, then there is no reason not to attempt the rescue. You see, if indeed Sherman and Duprey were meant to die in that mine, with a fixed timeline we can be quite certain that nothing we attempt to do will in fact extract them from their peril. If, however, they are meant to survive, then clearly our presence here is not coincidence and we must make every reasonable effort to aid them."
"...plus, we have no explosives with which to finish the job in the manner you would prefer."
"You're welcome to try to fight determinism, Steve, but my intuition is that you will fail."
"I've found all these parts of what I'm sure is a Martian drill in the shack outside the mine entrance, but I lack the tool to assemble it. A wrench would do it. I just hope we're not too late!"
"Before we start, can you sign this piece of paper? I'm... your biggest fan?"
"I'm sorry, but we havent' time for that now. Sherman and Duprey are in peril of their lives!"
"Causality 1, Avatar 0."
Alright, so we got a drill here. It needs to be moved onto that flat thing (a drill cart) and attached by a wrench.
Then pushed into the mine.
There's not much in the mine before the cave-in spot, but there's quite a bit beyond it.
Like these assholes.
You see a blonde, sharp-eyed man in his early 30s.
He brushes off some dirt from his clothes. "I say, I am certainly glad that Yellin was able to find someone to free us from that damned cave-in." He looks closely, then says, "Pardon my staring, but your face is quite familiar. Wouldn't you say so, Duprey?"
Duprey looks at you and says, "Yes indeed. Quite the match for the pretty schoolmarm out in Wichita."
Sherman glares at his companion. "That's not what I meant!"
"I didn't miss this, you know, at all, universe. Why do you keep doing this to me?"
"Nevertheless, I owe you my life. Please, allow me to accompany you on your explorations. I've been many places on the planet, and my knowledge might prove beneficial." He gathers his gear and readies himself to follow you.
"No really, that's okay..."
"Nonsense, madam! Mr. Sherman looks quite the customer, I'm sure he'll prove as useful as I myself hope to have been thus far."
"Why am I not allowed to pick, Warren? Is this the effect of this causality of yours?"
"Um, sure, why not. Whatever keeps you quiet."
"Keeps me what?"
"Comfortable. Keeps you comfortable. Sorry, it's the lack of air. You might want to hand me some oxium at some point, since I fear I may eventually suffer a debiltating stroke otherwise."
"So you're Sherman...o?"
"Just Sherman. Richard Sherman from Philadelphia. I've been exploring with my companions, Dr. Yellin and Major Duprey. Most recently we were searching for another source of iron ore for Mr. Carnegie, so that his steel-making efforts can continue."
"Why, isn't it a bit troublesome to go to such efforts of industry while in such a dangerous environment, Mr. Sherman?"
"Yes, but Mr. Carnegie needs to manufacture steel in order for us to construct a space cannon to return us to earth. Unfortunately the mines at Olympus have run dry. We left to search elsewhere."
"Well, I guess I'm not getting rid of you. What about the others with you? They're not coming too, are they?"
"I doubt it. David is a noted anthropologist back on Earth. He and I met in Philadelphia when he was on holiday. Since then, we've travelled together on many expeditions." He points to Duprey. "Greg, or should I say Major Duprey, was attached to the 7th regiment, 3rd Cavalry. We became friends during an expedition into Apache territory. Before our unexpected trip to Mars, we three were exploring the Congo and Orinoco. We've been exploring Mars for the last two years fairly thoroughly. There were some very interesting locations we've discovered. We placed markers near them as we passed, for topographic reference. If you ever have a question about a particular location, just ask me."
"Steve, the paper."
"Oh, right. Mind signing this?"
He takes the voucher from you and examines it. "Of course, I should have known. Segal can be so paranoid at times." He signs the paper and hands it back to you. "There you are, my friend. You should get Yellin to sign this voucher as well. I'm sure Segal holds him in his trust."
"Believe me, I tried, but Dr. Jerk here forced me to rescue you guys first."
You see a ruggedly handsome American soldier.
The blond man gives a great sigh of relief. "Thank you, Madam. Things were looking mighty grim until you arrived. That cave-in was more frightening than a band of Comanche. Seen that first-hand too!"
"I guess some things really are genetic."
"Well, I used to be an indian-fighter. Then one day I met up with some Sioux. It was my duty to escort them to new lands. Nicest bunch of indians you could imagine." He frowns. "What the U.S. Army is doing don't seem right to me. So I put in my papers and got a discharge. I've been workin' with Yellin since then."
"You were a soldier, Major?"
"Used to be with the United States Cavalry. Now I usually ride shotgun wherever Yellin goes. I'm much more fond of ridin' than shootin'." He smiles.
"Whatever, sign here."
"You want my signature for old Segal, eh? Sure, I'd be glad to!" He takes the note and puts his signature on it.
Sherman has forced his way into the party. Fortunately, he's not staying forever. He'll be replaced by a much superior option later, and leave of his own accord. Time to get Yellin's signature before he wanders off.
"Oh, I'll sign, and gladly." Dr. Yellin moves his spectacles nearer the tip of his nose. With a small fountain-pen, he signs the voucher. "I can hardly repay you by signing this note."
"Be careful what you wish for."
"Uh... okay... I will however do my very best to insure the safety of you and your companions. Mars is full of hidden dangers."
"Yeah, we've met the various plant-flavored predators around here."
"My companions and I have been charting Mars since our arrival in 1893. We are looking for iron ore. Mr. Carnegie sent us out to find some to finish the space cannon. He's in Olympus, talk to him about it."
Sherman isn't bad or anything, but he's... you know. Shamino. And Lord British. Fuck him.
Tools are actually useful; I could (and did) pick up a pile of iron ore with a shovel (there's no way to scoop it up in your hands), then into the wheelbarrow. If I wanted, I could load it into a cart and push that cart all the way to the canal, but there's no reason to do that without water or a vessel.
The mine has some treasures. A small blob of oxium, for starters.
An oxium geode...
...a strange spot of disturbed dirt with two odd artifacts inside...
...and paydirt! Literally! More oxium and another piece of "dirt money," whatever that is.
Using a hammer (tools again!) I can break an oxium geode into many smaller pieces of oxium. Too bad it goes so fast; seems to be at a rate of 2 or so pieces a day. That's a rapid drain with 5 people.
I mentioned that there was nothing to transport the ore with. And then I found this thing lying in a dry canal northwest of the mine. If I could fill the canals, maybe I could get this barge working and use it to cart iron ore to Mr. Carnegie at Olympus.
Where I should go now that I have the dumb signatures.
"Well, have you brought the note I told you to bring?"
"You've got a note? Let me see it to make sure these signatures are in order." He takes the paper from you and examines it thoroughly. "I see that you've got Sherman's signature. That counts for one. Yellin's signature is perfectly acceptable. And Major Duprey's signature will do nicely. It seems that your paperwork is in order. It's good to see that there are more normal people like us instead of those loonies like at the Elysium settlement."
Awesome. More historical figures ahead! Olympus contains most of Victorian society's biggest jerks.