Part 16: Chapter 13
He had never walked down the train's tracks before. The cave they immediately went into wasn't very dark at all, thanks to the two open ends for the train to pass through.
An odd breakaway path lead further into the mountains, but it had been fenced off. Lucas thought that was strange - wouldn't more paths reaching out to different areas of the islands be a good thing?
The track was occupied by lots of chimeras, which wasn't too surprising to Lucas. Chimeras had been introduced to the island maybe a year or so after the incident, and as their numbers increased, natural animals began to dwindle. He hadn't seen a normal praying mantis or a common woodland bat in ages: it was all slitherhens and reconstructed moles instead of the animals he grew up with. The mushrooms were the closest to 'normal' he had known for the past two years, and back then they never had legs to run around with.
The tunnel was short and uninteresting, aside from the chimeras and the fenced tunnel. It opened up into the middle of a different forest - or maybe just another part of the Sunshine Forest. The trees looked alike but he had never gone in this direction before, so he didn't know for certain.
If he was still in the Sunshine Forest, then it had some new creatures he had never seen before; among them a simple stick with a bird's head jutting lewdly out of the ground.
He had never even heard of something like this before. Its squawking seemed to specifically attract attention to itself, because as soon as it felt like it was in danger, it let out a great, loud one, and...
...it evened the odds.
The tracks alternated between inside the mountains and outside in someplace else, such as the forest. It would have taken only a moment on train, but on foot, it took twenty minutes to get from the first cave to the next.
This one was a bit darker and a bit longer than the last, but it was still easy to navigate. No matter the light, it was still a straight line.
It was a little crowded, though.
The next area that the cave opened up to was a quaint little valley in between the second and third mountains that the tracks passed through. It seemed like its own little dry paradise - no trees or water, but very fresh and isolated. Butterflies dotted the grass in all the valley's corners.
Other than that, it seemed fairly unremarkable. They hadn't been walking long, but even with the map, Lucas didn't know exactly how far they had left, and no matter what he would like to at least be at the factory by sundown. Boney, however, had a different idea, and almost as soon as they entered the valley, he began barking at something off to the side and ran over to investigate.
At the foot of a long ladder reaching directly up the cliff face, there was a dress made of high-quality fabrics, along with some lady's undergarments and high-heel shoes. Lucas looked around the area: there was no other sign of anybody having been nearby, so whoever owned these clothes was probably at the top of this ladder. Or else there was some naked woman running between the valley and the factory.
Lucas pulled the map he received from the man out from his back pocket.
He and Boney were almost exactly between Tazmily and the factory. It seemed like such a short walk, but between the long treks and having to fend off chimeras the whole way, he realized just how bruised he was. The sun was high in the sky, so he guessed it was around noon or so, and he was naturally, innocently curious as to why there was a pile of clothing at the bottom of a ladder going straight up a cliff. They could afford a short detour.
At the top of the ladder was a natural hot-spring, like the one in Sunshine Forest. Considering its location, it was pretty convenient. And bathing in the water was a femininely figure, with bright-red hair that curled into locks at its ends, and large earrings hanging from its lobes. The person hummed delightedly to itself, it's back turned to Lucas, while it happily washed and scrubbed the dirt from its skin.
Lucas thought of turning around and leaving the person to its privacy, but the hair reminded him of that woman he met three years ago in the Sunshine Forest. He had to know if it was the same person.
"Um," Lucas stuttered meekly, hardly louder than a squeak. The person didn't hear him. "Excuse me," he said a bit louder, causing the person to jump in surprise and quickly whirl around. Suddenly, the fact that the person was bathing naked out in the open took second priority to the fact that the femininely figure with earrings and curly locks had the manliest stubble he had ever seen.
Getting over the initial shock quickly, the person in the hot spring immediately leaning in, squinting its eyes, trying to get a better look at Lucas. "Don't I know you?" it asked, continuing before Lucas could answer. "I'm sure I do. I know I've seen you before somewhere. Let me get a better look at you."
Lucas stood there nervously, unsure of what the person meant. Was it going to come to him? "Don't be shy!" it assured, winking at him assuredly. It just made him more apprehensive. "The water's fine! Come right on in!"
Lucas turned to Boney, as if he could give Lucas advice on what to do. Boney just kind of stared blankly back at him - he should have expected that answer, really. "My dad...my dad told me not to-"
"Is your dad's name 'Flint'?" the person asked. Lucas, wide-eyed, nodded once. Where did this person know his dad from? "I promise you, child, I'm no stranger. I'm a friend of your father's! I won't bite!" It smiled warmly.
Nervously, Lucas stepped into the water, without removing his clothes; they hadn't been washed in a while, he rationed, but really he was just too nervous to disrobe in front of anybody, including family. Boney happily splashed in after him, causing the person to giggle at the dog's cute antics.
Now that he was close enough, the person in the hot spring approached, getting a closer look at Lucas.
Remember? You said you were going to the Drago Plateau to avenge your mother..." Lucas abruptly realized why this person thought it and Lucas were acquainted: to anybody else, he and Claus were almost virtually indistinguishable. Or, at least, while he was still around...Lucas simply shook his head no, looking away from the person sadly. "That wasn't you?" it asked, startled.
One of those butterflies from down in the valley flew gracefully over the cliff, fluttering above the hot spring, seemingly drawn to Ionia. "This is a Magic Butterfly colony," it said in a sing-song voice. Lucas was so confused about this person. "I often come here to revitalize after I've worn myself out using PSI." With a delicate hand, it reached up, offering a perch for the butterfly to land on. It did for a moment, but flew away again just as quickly. "Are you here because you overused your PSI, too?"
"Um, no, Boney and I, we're just tired," Lucas tried to explain, but his crippling shyness was getting in his way. "We're walking to the...to the factory. I don't even know what PSI is."
"You don't say?" it asked, surprised. "That's odd.
Ionia looked hard into Lucas's eyes. "Turn around," it suggested softly. "I'm going to let you in on a secret." Lucas did as he was told, and quickly, he felt a pair of hands resting gently on his shoulders. Even if this Ionia person knew his father, he didn't himself, and he couldn't shake his feeling of insecurity with it. "Wait," it said, its voice suddenly sterner, its grip tightening. "Just endure this for a little bit."
"Endure wh-" Without warning, Ionia pushed down on Lucas's shoulders, forcing his head under the hot water. He panicked and began struggling, letting out a nervous gasp once he was under, but its grip was strong.
"Don't struggle!" he could hear Ionia command under the surface. That was easier said than done: some stranger was trying to drown him! "Just endure it for a little bit!" Lucas kicked and thrashed under the water, reflexively trying to breathe hard, only to gulp down a mouthful of water. His pulse was racing and his thoughts were all over the place, trying to break free. "Just a little more!" Ionia insisted, but Lucas was hardly listening, doing his best to get free of this weirdo and run back to his house in Tazmily and wait for his dad to come back and -
Ionia suddenly let go of him, letting him break the surface and take a huge huff of air. He was under the water for far too long for his liking, and the first thought he had when he was suddenly let back up was to just get out and run.
His second thought was decidedly different.
He felt...something. Deep within his heart, he felt some kind of incredible strength he had never realized before. It was as if all his love and emotions were being welled up inside him, and only now, in this hot spring in the middle of nowhere with this weird guy trying to drown him, did he understand the kind of potential he had been carrying with him all this time. It was thrilling and exhillerating; it was like he could feel a kind of warm energy tingle all over his body, from his scalp to his toes, and now he had the ability, and the confidence, to finally utilize it.
"Oh! My goodness!" Ionia exclaimed. Lucas had entered something of a trance once all these new feelings began to flow through him; he nearly forgot about the whole drowning episode until he remembered he wasn't alone. "I can't believe it!
You sly devil, you!" it laughed heartily.
Lucas brought his hands up from under the water, getting a look at his own open palms. His hands looked and moved just like he had always known them, but right now, they couldn't feel any more different. And he liked it. "I don't know where you came from or where you're going," it winked, "but we might meet again. So, at least tell me your name."
Currently washed up in the new feelings he was experiencing, Lucas could see himself forgiving this person for trying to drown him just seconds ago. Especially if it meant all this. "My name is Lucas," he said, and for the first time he could remember, he said it with total confidence, to a total stranger.
Now go," it said, raising a hand out of the drink and pointing a finger over the far horizon. "I want to boil up, too." Without another word, it turned back around, resuming its own cleaning from before Lucas had interrupted. Lucas was soaked and his clothes were dripped when he stepped out of the hot spring, but he felt as though he could take on the world. Boney was right behind him; he wasn't too certain of what was happening, exactly, but he went wherever Lucas went, and Lucas looked happy, so he was happy.
Stepping back onto the train tracks, Lucas continued down the way towards the factory. He felt the same, warm power continue to course through him, and he practically strode into the mountain confidently, feeling an alien feeling of being secure with himself and his abilities, whatever they were now .
Just a short way into the tunnel, they were both assaulted by some rowdy, aggressive chimeras from both sides of the track. Chimeras were usually violent, no matter the 'breed', as a result of their changing, so being attacked by some just for walking by wasn't really new. He was ready to defend himself just like he had the first half of the tracks, but right now, he wanted to try out some of that new power he was granted.
As soon as the wave totally passed through his fingertips, he felt the true gravity of the powers he had just used. It gave him strength and confidence, to be sure, but it was clearly not a toy; for a pacifist like himself, the fact that he had such amazing power readily available to him was almost polarizing. Not to mention, as soon as his attack had ended, he felt a little less energetic.
Still, they pressed on. According to the map, this cave went on for a good distance; about as long as the last stretch of forest. Followed by a bridge over a ravine, one more mountain, and then the factory. Easy enough: after all, it was still just one straight line.
The darker and danker it got, the more mushrooms, sentient or not, began to grow and flourish. Full-grown muttshrooms packed together in areas, and they weren't afraid to defend their territory. Lucas, knowing exactly how powerful PK Love was, did his best to refrain from using it until the worst of cases.
Aside from it getting a little difficult to see, the cave went by relatively smoothly (if a little long at twenty minutes) even with the muttshrooms about. The opposite end opened into the welcoming day above the ravine, with a large steel bridge crossing overtop it. Lucas looked about when he first emerged from the cave, and found a sign nearby: hoping it would say something useful, he checked it out.
He was disappointed.
The area was home to lots of flying mice, the buzzing of their weird propellers echoing off the rocky walls all around them. They were more or less just a nuisance to get around, and none of them hovered about the bridge - apparently steel didn't make for a good living space.
Across the bridge, however, were some territorial moles that weren't as easy to bypass.
Armed with drills for front paws and very intrusive, they were much more difficult to brush off than the mice. Still, Lucas held back, being very careful on when and where he used his new talent.
Just across the bridge, once the moles had been driven away, was a simple guidepost, posting arrows and names of the locations, but not distances. To the west was Tazmily, and to the east was the factory; he already knew that.
It was also less than helpful.
The tracks dipped into the last mountain, and according to the map, it looked like it was very short. Still, they had gone so far and it already felt like it had been a while since the hot spring, so Lucas kept his eyes peeled for any chimeras that might be lurking just around the bend. For such a short cave, it was surprisingly dark, so he focused hard on the walls, so far as he could see them, making sure that nothing was lurking about.
He spent so much time watching the outsides of the track that he wasn't paying attention to what was right in front of him, and when he finally looked forward,
it was very nearly too late. His heart was pounding and his goosebumps had goosebumps; Boney was clearly just as spooked, but they were both alright. They took a moment to recollect themselves before getting back up. Compared to reconstructed moles and flying mice and muttshrooms, trains really were the scariest thing in the tunnel.
There wasn't even anything in the last mountain, so his caution was for nothing, and it distracted him from the most threatening thing they could have ran into. Emerging from the final tunnel, the sight of the other train station was in clear view, and the factory's smokestacks were rising over a small rocky crest just in the distance. It was only mid-afternoon by the time they had reached the other side - it wasn't nearly as long as he assumed it was.
Cattlesnakes roamed this side of the tracks. He had heard stories from some of the workers after they disembarked the train in Tazmily about them: this was the first time he had seen one up close. They were normally docile but they were easy to offend, and they often took at least six people to restrain. He couldn't imagine a guy like Bronson or Isaac having trouble trying to overpower anything, so he wisely kept his distance.
Lots more of those weird squawking sticks, too. He went past the station and straight for the factory, keeping his eyes peeled for signs going to Club Titiboo, when the first person he happened to run into was Butch, wearing the same bright-orange jumpsuit Bronson and Jackie wore when they arrived.
"Lucas?" he asked, bewildered. Lucas had never been to the factory, and the train had just left. "What are you doing here? Did you walk here from Tazmily?"
"Yeah," he replied simply, shocking Butch. As confident as he felt earlier fighting the chimeras, he was back to his nervous, introverted self in front of people. Or maybe he was still a little shook from the episode with the train. "What are you doing?"
"I'll tell you what I'm not doing," he suddenly insisted. "Slacking off is what I'm not doing.
But a better question is what you are doing here, Lucas. Something big, if you had to walk here from home. Decided to finally get a job? You're a little young, but the management will probably still take you. Always looking for spare hands."
"No," he answered softly, shaking his head. "I want...um, I need to get to Club Titiboo."
Butch leaned back, a smirk on his face. "You must have heard how awesome the club is for the factory workers, huh? Some of the waitresses there are pretty hot, too."
"Something like that."
"Well, you can't just 'go' there. The club is a place for the factory workers to go and unwind after a hard day's work. So if you want to go to the club, you gotta pitch in, you understand?"
This was a bit of a detour, but still, he needed a job. This would be a good way to kill two birds with one stone. "How do I get so- err, a job here?"
Butch pointed towards the factory to his right. "Go in through the first door you see and talk to the Pigmask behind the counter. He'll set you up." Lucas nodded appreciatively and headed towards the factory, Boney dutifully following behind.
Lucas had no idea what the factory produced, or even what it looked like, before now. He saw stacks of massive crates all along the perimeters, with high-tech heavy machinery littering the yards and huge piles of sawdust grouped into one of the corners. Smoke was coming out of the two large smokestacks on the factory's roof, and the sounds of metal banging and sawing into metal sounded from inside the building.
Wherever Butch was, Biff was usually not far behind, and sure enough, he was lounging just outside the factory's door, leaning on a vending machine shaped like a pig's snout. "Finally decided to join the cause, Lucas?" he asked casually. Lucas only nodded in reply.
So it's not all that bad. Put some back into it and break a sweat, and you'll know just what it's like to earn the points in your pocket, eh?" Lucas smiled back and said nothing; he just hoped he could land the job.
Inside the building, there were two large machines on either side of the first room, humming and vibrating away at whatever it was they were doing. A few large creatures made of clay roamed the floor; they were very off-putting, aesthetically, with two eyeless holes and a simple line for a mouth. Isaac was busy tending to one of them in the corner and didn't see Lucas come in, while Lucas just tried to stay away from the clay people as best he could.
A blue Pigmask was standing behind a desk next to one of the large machines, and quickly motioned for Lucas to go to him once he entered the room.
"Um," Lucas stuttered quietly, suddenly put on the spot. "I need to - I, uh, need some work-"
"Speak up!" the Pigmask demanded. "Use your outdoor voice! I can't hear a thing over the generators!"
"I want to go to Club Titiboo!" he shouted back.
"Wassat?" It turned its head and brought a hand to its 'ear', although it was just solid helmet. Lucas felt like he was being mocked. "You want to go to Club Titiboo?
It's not for people who don't work here."
"Then," Lucas began, starting again when he realized he was speaking too softly again. "Then, I'll work here!"
"That's the spirit!" it replied happily. "I can set you up with some part-time work for a little while. It won't be long and the pay won't be much, but it'll be enough to have a good time at the club with enough left for a ticket home. Whadya say?" Lucas nodded enthusiastically. "Then that makes things easy."
The Pigmask leaned over to the table. "Your job will be to transport Claymen from the pits to the repair centre of the factory. First, go all the way to the very back.
Some of them will be tired and busted. You gotta bring those ones back to us, one at a time. You're just a kid, so I'm giving you the easy, easy stuff. I hope you appreciate it! Just bring three back to us safe and sound, and you'll be done for the day." The Pigmask stood up straight and opened a drawer in its desk, pulling out a small map, giving it to Lucas.. "The basement's not that difficult to 'get', but just in case, here's a sketch of its layout."
Lucas hoped he didn't get too many more maps - he was running out of places to put them. From the same drawer, the Pigmask pulled out another, much finer sheet of paper, and a pencil, and handed them both to Lucas. It had a lot of really small, complicated words on it, with a single long line across its bottom.
Lucas looked at it for a moment, trying to understand the words on it, but he could hardly even see them, much less understand them. "What is it- does it say?"
"Who cares?" the Pigmask replied dismissively. "Nobody reads these things anyway, but my bosses insist that everybody's gotta sign it before they work." Lucas shrugged his shoulders and wrote his name as best he could on the line at the bottom, handing it back when he was done. "Awesome!" it said, taking the paper and placing it back in the drawer. "As for your dog, we got something from him to do, too.
Dog!" it commanded, getting Boney's attention. "Go in the back and do whatever the boss dog says!"
Lucas was almost excited to finally get some work to do and help make some money. His dad would be proud of him! Boney, however, wasn't quite as thrilled to hear he wasn't off the hook. He hung his head and sulked slowly off to the back of the building.
Lou and Bud were hard at work in the next room, surrounded on all sides by huge piles of gray clay. Lou was moving back and forth from one pile to the next, while Bud was standing next to some red platform, sticking two silver prods into another lump and electrifying the whole pile.
They were working on their slapstick comedy routine all the while, tossing out lame jokes and boring quips at every open opportunity. They didn't offer Lucas anything more than a nod as he walked past.
The last room had a large hole with a single ladder leading down it, along with lifting platform hinged to a set of rails on the other side. In the back, on top of some treadmills, was a pig, some other dog, and Boney, all hard at work running their legs and powering some unseen machine. Jonel was in the room, but he seemed preoccupied with some other materials piled onto one side of the room.
Boney looked happy to be getting a good workout, at least. Lucas looked down the massive hole in the floor and gulped hard: it was well lit, at least, but he wasn't completely comfortable with going so far underground.
He wasn't given one of those orange suits to wear overtop his clothes, either, and this kind of work would probably get them really dirty. There was no turning back now, though, and he was promised some money and a trip to Club Titiboo at the end of the day, so, nervous as he was, he got to work.
The whole underground was lit with the occasional light bulb against the tall wooden bracers all throughout the tunnels. It was surprisingly tidy and clean along the beaten paths, and the smell was neutral enough, but the dust in the air made it hard to see and hard to breathe. He set out right away, remembering his instruction to find any tired and beaten Clayman and bring it back to the surface.
He found several of the large things all over the place, doing hard, manual jobs rather than leaving the work to the people. Claymen didn't require pay and were easy to replace, so they were preferred for the harder jobs than humans, although they seemed to break down almost every time they were left alone.
Lucas couldn't tell what exactly they were digging for, though. Any time it looked like a Clayman dug up something other than dirt, it was just tossed aside with the rest. Were they just digging for the sake of it?
The tunnels weren't very complex, especially not with the map he had received, so he didn't have much of a hard time finding the first busted Clayman just towards the end of the whole path. It lumbered slowly, one shoulder limping down, and the antennae on its head had no red glow that the others had.
It was pretty clearly one of the busted Claymen he was sent to find. Getting it back all the way to the elevator platform was a bit of a chore, though. It was unresponsive to his calls and was too heavy and cumbersome to try and pull, so, laboriously, Lucas had to direct it from one side of the tunnel to the other by cutting it off whenever it tried to go in a direction it shouldn't.
It wasn't uncooperative, but it wasn't exactly willing, either. Low on energy, it seemed confused and disoriented whenever it tried to move somewhere, and Lucas had to cut it off. By the time he had managed to show it the way back to the elevator, his hands were covered to the wrists in clay, with the odd smear on his shirt.
"Oh, brought one already, have you?" asked the Pigmask managing the lift. Shoving the Clayman from one side of the cavern to the other took him quite a while - an hour or so, he guessed, so the comment surprised him. "Alright, hold on. When the lift comes down, I'm going to push it onto the lift, and I'll send you both aboveground, alright?" Lucas nodded his understanding, and the Pigmask went about the commands.
From there, it was just more of the same, pushing it into the next room.
"That's one," counted Bud. "Just two more." He looked over Lucas, spying all the stray smears of clay all over his hands and clothes. "Feeling the love for those dragon points yet?"
"Yeah," Lucas replied with a small smile. "It's hard work." It wasn't really difficult, but trying to direct those huge, mindless things around was certainly grating.
"Well, just hold on, pal. It'll be quittin' time before you know it, and then it's off to the club. I can hardly wait!" Lucas nodded in agreement and walked on, back to the cavern. If they weren't going to give him a suit, he'd hope the factory would at least give him a place to wash up before leaving for the night.
The other two Claymen were pushed up to the surface the exact same way. He had to scour the caverns a bit to find them, but once they did, it was just a matter of directing them back to the lift and getting shocked into working again. It had taken him quite some time - by the time he brought the third back to Lou and Bud, the sun was beginning to set outside.
Don't forget to pick up your paycheck from Mister Brown! He's the Pigmask at the front desk." Lucas still hadn't had a chance to wash off all the clay that had built up all over him. "And there's a stream just to the right of the ropeway going to the club, if you want to clean yourself up before we go."
Lucas thanked him for the advice and went to the front desk, as he was instructed. Boney, finishing with his day's work as well, joined him quickly, panting hard and his tongue dry. He had been running nonstop since they got here a few hours ago.
The Pigmask handed Lucas an unsealed envelope, which he took careful pains to handle. Whatever was in there, he didn't want to stain with the clay dripping off his fingers. Slowly and carefully, he managed to withdraw a single yellow-and-red ticket with Club Titiboo's emblem emblazoned gloriously all over its front, along with exactly two hundred dragon points. One hundred for himself, and one hundred for Boney, probably. It wasn't an enormous amount of money, but it was his - and Lucas couldn't help but feel a sense of pride over that fact.
"Come back whenever you want some spare cash or you want to go to Club Titiboo for free again, and I'll hook you up with something. We're always in need of a spare pair of hands here at the factory." Lucas looked over the ticket - it wasn't for the club, but rather, for the ropeway going from the factory to the club on top of the mountain nearby. It admitted two per ticket, and it expired tomorrow.
"It's gotten really late," the Pigmask noted, looking at a clock hanging on the wall behind one of the generators.
"Thank you," he replied meekly, and motioned to Boney to follow him. Exhausted but loyal, Boney happily obeyed as they left the factory.
Just outside the front door was the vending machine Biff was leaning on earlier. He and Boney had been working for hours, and just the sight of some of its junk food for sale made his stomach rumble something fierce. He figured they could put some of the dragon points they just earned to some good use.
He didn't know how fresh the jerkies were, but any food was better than no food. He bought one pack for each of them, and, although the clay on his fingers made them hard to open, they were eaten almost as quickly as they were bought.
They were among the first to get out from work that night, apparently. He had expected some big rush to get to Club Titiboo as soon as the work day was over, given its reputation with the workers, but there wasn't a soul in sight scrambling to the rope-line. Lucas didn't want to wait, and the clay all over his body was beginning to chafe and harden in the cool night air, so they made their way north, ahead of the crowd, towards the shuttle.
The northern exit to the factory's walls was framed by glowing neon signs advertising the way towards Club Titiboo. They were painfully difficult to miss.
The way to the rope-line was also hard to miss, but still, he wanted to scrub himself down before presenting himself to a club as high-brow as Titiboo, so they had to make a quick detour just to the right of the platform. He could hear the sound of rushing water over the shallow hills already.
They had to fight their way there, though. They were both physically exhausted and couldn't put up much of a fight, so...
...Lucas indulged himself a little. They pushed on, and just as promised, there was a stream supplied by a roaring waterfall right next to the ropeway.
It was a little difficult to reach the water from the shore, but with some effort, Lucas managed to clean himself and his clothes from most of the clay, and Boney was more than happy to get some water into his thirsty mouth. By the time they were all clean, he could hear the happy ruckus of some of the other workers, done with their day, heading towards the rope-line to start their night.
"Come on, Boney," he said, hurryingly pulling his shirt over his head. "We can't miss the lift." They both took off for the lift, dashing up the dirt path, managing to catch the trolley just before it set off.
Standing by the door to the trolley's station was its only attendant, ushering the others into the trolley after taking their tickets. "You're just in time," he said, looking to Lucas and Boney as they ran up the path to the station. "If you could just show me your tickets, then you'll be the last lucky passengers for this trip."
Thankful for his clean hands, Lucas reached into his pocket and gave it to the attendant.
The door to the shuttle closed behind them as they pilled themselves in, struggling to find a place to sit. With a jerk, it hummed to life and lifted into the sky, smoothly making the trip from the factory to the top of the mountain. Lucas looked out the window and watched the ground below leave him for the first time, but the general chatter among the other workers didn't ebb at all, being used to the sensation.
The shuttle stopped at its destination with another jerk, and the steel door was pulled open by another attendant standing just outside. A huge rush of wind ran through the cabin, startling Lucas, but the others hardly seemed to notice it and carried themselves out in their enthusiastic rush to get to the club. Lucas and Boney were the last ones out, and when he stepped onto the solid stone beneath him, he had to pause.
He could almost see everything from up there. A pair of pay-for binoculars were right next to the station, offering a better view of the entire western half the world as he knew it for just a single dragon point.
Digging into his other pocket for the allowance his father had given him that morning, he put in the small coin and awed at the world seemingly so far below him.
He had never seen either of those buildings before, but until just a little while ago, he knew very little about the Nowhere Island's geography beyond Grandpa Alec's cabin on the fringe. Just as he turned to the left and began to spy the beginnings of what looked like a dessert, the binoculars snapped shut.
He pat Boney on the head. "It's something else up here," he sighed, almost wistfully, looking out over the night horizon. Club Titiboo was just behind them, their lights and the muffled jazz from the inside disrupting the scene. All the other workers had entered the building long ago; he better get started on why he even agreed to be up here in the first place.
They crossed a wooden, well-maintained bridge over a long chasm between the mountain's two spires, and stood in the light of the club's front doors. A pair of enormous, decorated elephant statues sat in front of the club; their significance was beyond him aside from aesthetics.
They approached the door to the club, almost not noticing the two large men standing on either side, figuring that since they took the ropeway up the mountain, their admittance was already assumed.
Apparently, that wasn't the case. "We don't allow pets inside," the bald one said sternly, looking down on Boney. "Gonna have to ask you two to leave." His accomplice - a rotund man with far more unruly facial hair than Lucas had ever seen - joined the bald one in denying them.
"Come back some other time," the large one said. Lucas looked to Boney, then back to the two men. They needed to get into Club Titiboo, but he wasn't about to leave his dog behind. Lucas tried to appeal to them by putting on the saddest look he could, but when it didn't work, he just turned and sulked away. Boney followed behind just as sullenly.
Just a moment later, Lucas tried again without Boney. Instead, following behind him with the most peculiar walk either of the doormen had seen, was a bipedal fellow wearing a nonchalant cap with a plain green shirt, with no shoes, and no pants. He had the most body hair imaginable, and his face was practically mutated into extending over half a foot from his skull.
"Whoa," said the bald one, looking at the new person Lucas was with incredulously.
Boney looked to Lucas, but made no sound. "And some dog-like dude," he finished.
"He's not a dog," Lucas insisted suddenly. "He's a perfect - err, a perfectly normal human with a very serious...condition. And he does...he does his best to fit in, and he doesn't like being called a dog, so...can we go in, please?"
They both pushed forward, trying to squeeze past before either of them could figure out Boney's disguise, but the large one started to get suspicious. "No, there's somethin' fishy about this!" he declared, looking hard at Boney, trying to see through the disguise but he wasn't completely certain.
"I said...this isn't a dog-like dude," Lucas stuttered, keeping up with the act but his nerves were failing. "He's a good buddy, and...we'd just like to listen to the DCMC. We worked hard for the tickets." Lucas turned to Boney. "Right, Bones?"
"I'm not convinced!" the big one insisted, turning to Lucas. "On top of that, you smell underage!
Neither of them dropped their act, though they were getting more and more flustered the longer the doormen looked them over. "Now that you mention it, this is weird!" the bald one piped. "And it doesn't matter if this dog-like dude is really a dude or not; no suspicious people allowed! It's one of our rules! Scram!
"Nah, I say we just pulverize 'em right now!" said the big one, cracking his knuckles. The doormen began to approach them both, and Lucas, fearful for their own safety, was just about to use another PK Love, when the door to the club suddenly flung open. The doormen turned around to see Violet standing in the doorway, smiling at them both.
She wore a very glamorous top with some short-shorts and her long red hair was done into an elegant knot on her head. From the way she dressed and the way she talked, and from the way the doormen visibly relaxed when she came out, she was a real knockout with the regulars to the club. But Lucas couldn't take his eyes off her for a different reason. "If it isn't the underage-smelling Poo and the dog-smelling Wuuf!" she laughed, winking to them both.
"You know these two, Violet?" asked the hairy one. Lucas didn't know her - or, at least he thought he didn't - but he wasn't about to tell them that.
"Of course I do! We go way back, Poo, Wuuf, and I.
The two doormen looked back to them both. "The dog-like one's name is Wuuf?" the bald one asked. "But this kid here just called him 'Bones'."
"That's just his nickname," Violet giggled, catching on quick. "We call him 'Bones' because of the way he walks. They're totally cool with the club, guys, I promise!"
The large one was still unconvinced.
Especially this 'Wuuf' guy here." He extended his open hand, expecting Boney to take it. "Shake!" he commanded, but Boney, knowing that they'd be caught if he did, looked the other way. "Don't look away from me!" it nearly yelled indignantly. "Shake, I said!"
Faced with no clear option, Boney reluctantly let a paw forward, awkwardly grasping the man's fat palm and pumping it twice. "See?" he asked. "Was that so tough? I knew you had it in you."
Satisfied, the doorman stepped aside. "He definitely looks like a dog," he concluded, "but I guess he's not one. I'm sorry to treat you that way, Mister Wuuf. But,
Violet looked to both the doormen. "Are we all convinced, then?" she asked gleefully. "Wonderful! Come on in, guys! We got lots of fun for you to forget about all your worries!" She spun around slowly, inviting them both into the club. Lucas felt like he was ready to throw up that beef jerky, but thanks to Violet, they finally managed to get into the club without any problems.
"Hey," the big one said just as they passed. Lucas nearly leapt in surprise, but, as difficult as it was for him, he did his best to keep his composure.
And with that, they were finally let into Club Titiboo.
Still no new enemy themes, which is a bit of a bummer. But the next update is in a club that advertises music, so that promises all sorts of new themes to battle to, so that's promising.
A few times, now, it's been mentioned in the thread that you can turn on hard mode somehow after the game has started, and that you're given two opportunities to turn it on through the course of the game. Well, this is how:
When you're playing as Flint, I'm pretty sure you'll be forced to enter the shrine just before the Sunshine Forest and pay your respects. This is where the game will willfully break the fourth wall just like its predecessor Earthbound: it will ask for your name. Your name, not Flint's.
You can put in most anything you like, of course, but if you put in HARD MODE (just like that, space and all caps), the game will become exactly that. You'll suddenly require more experience to level up, and enemies have double the HP.
In the update, note this screenshot:
This was me just being sneaky, but Mr. Brown here isn't asking for Lucas's name, but for the player's, to confirm what you put in as Flint. This is the second opportunity you have to turn on hard mode, in case you want a "challenge" for later, but you don't want to put up with why-can't-Salsa-beat-this-damn-tank "impossible".
Moving on, remember that epic train dodge towards the end of the tunnel?
You can, in fact, get hit by it.
Stat-wise, this does nothing. You don't lose anything, no items, no HP, nothing, and in fact, if somebody has fallen in battle and you encounter this scene (whether you get hit by the train or not), that person will actually gain one HP left. Getting hit by it will send you back to Tazmily, where Mr. T will berate you and call you names.
And finally, have some fireworks. Everybody loves fireworks.
E: Oh yeah, we also got Healing Alpha and Lifeup Alpha from Ionia, but those aren't as cool as the power of love.