Part 19: Chapter 15This update is brought to you by Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii - as in, I bought it, with the personal stipulation that I would not open it until this update was done.
As they rode down the ropeway, a large tower in the distance began showering lightning upon the island...
On Dusters instruction, they began to head north, walking upstream and into a large mountain that a waterfall had carved through. It took them underneath a concrete bridge, holding a 'highway' Lucas had heard about, but never seen until now.
It was only a short walk through the mountain's cavern, but it did contain a hot spring for them to relax in. It had only been a few hours since Lucas had showered, but he wasn't going to turn down a dip while he had the chance.
It opened into an enclosed field that contained more chimeras. Larger, and much more...creative ones than anything close to Tazmily.
The turtles were at least fairly slow and innocuous, but at least once the four got a little too relaxed near them and allowed it to turn its back on them.
It was a mistake they made sure not to repeat.
They were passive at a distance, but mean and aggressive the moment they crossed some invisible boundary. Lucas and Kumatora had an easier time dealing with them with their PSI, although Lucas still preferred to hold back while Kumatora zapped anything that looked at her funny.
They made their way forward silently, keeping an eye open for any large holes in the ground, when Boney gave a sudden woof.
"Oh yeah," Lucas said, stepping towards his dog. "You don't have to wear your clothes anymore, Boney," he explained, unaware that Boney had already made that conclusion, and helped him out of his shirt. Elated, Boney fell forward, back onto all four paws, and gave a quick shake and a stretch, happy to not have all his weight on his back legs anymore.
It was only around the next bend when they came across the first enormous hole in the ground, and Duster quickly took the lead.
He wasn't too pleased to find it, however. "But," he uttered, looking over the plains just in front of him. He only remembered seeing one large hole...
"I don't remember seeing so many holes the first time," he said, piecing his words together confusedly. "I'm pretty sure I would have remembered a detail like that, but all I remember is that I jumped down a hole and got someplace new."
Lucas looked over the field, noting the several chimeras lingering about. "Oh well," Duster continued. "One of them has got to lead to the egg, so we're still safe with a little trial and error." Just after their wash in the hot spring, Lucas wasn't looking forward to getting himself all dirty a third time, but he couldn't complain.
"Gotta start somewhere!" Kumatora piped, and immediately leapt down the first hole. The drop wasn't too far, thankfully, so she didn't hurt herself on her landing. "It's not so bad, guys! Come on!"
Looking to Lucas, Duster shrugged his shoulders and followed suit. It took Lucas a little bit longer to gather up the courage, but after taking a deep breath, he and Boney plummeted straight down after them.
The cavern below was enormous, with lots of room to move about. The ceiling was hardly held up by anything at all, and they were just walking on it. Light beamed down from the many holes all around the top, helpfully showing them which ones led to nowhere. The caverns sprawled out in every direction, with huge walls and pathways made of dirt leading every which way, confusing them all easily.
Moles were all over the place; some were busy digging away and expanding their tunnels, while others were just milling about. More chimeras had gotten lost in the underground as well, unfortunately for them.
While the cavern was large, the exit wasn't too difficult to find. There was a large tunnel at its rear that led straight back up to the surface, on the other side of the open field, allowing them to try again.
They had thought ahead, though, and from mapping out the one path they couldn't reach from their side of the cavern with the only hole that took them across the gap, they only needed to try once more. Duster still couldn't decide whether or not it was the hole he found three years ago, but it still led them somewhere different.
The new tunnel came back up aboveground, past a large outcropping of rock surrounding the earlier field leading to a simple straight line going around another bend. It had another hole leading back to the cavern, but more importantly, it had a mossy clod of dirt sitting at the very end of the way.
The mossy clod had a peculiar shape to it, though. It wasn't an ordinarily shaped rock. As they got closer, Lucas had an easier time making out its features, and eventually he realized that it was actually a Clayman sitting there, covered in moss.
I hid the egg inside this mud figure," he said, approaching the long-since decommissioned doll. "It's been three long years," he hummed aloud, getting on his knees and inspecting the clay, "and every day I thought, 'what was the deal with that egg'? Maybe now I can get some closure." He wiped away some of the grown moss, checking the moss for some telltale marks he had left behind so he would know the egg had been untouched.
I'm going to have to get my hands a little dirty," he began, already rolling up his sleeves, "but in just a few-"
It took him a moment to crawl himself back to his feet, but he managed to just fine. He was visible shaken, his hands constantly jittering at his sides, but he appeared physically okay.
His speech was a little stuttered, not that Lucas could blame him. That lightning bolt just came out of nowhere! "Was that lightning just now?!" Duster practically yelled, beginning to get all excited from his very near-death experience.
"Yeah," Lucas said, his voice cracking a little - he looked to the sky, not seeing a single cloud anywhere. That bolt missed Duster by a few feet; he couldn't think it was just a coincidence. Were they open targets right now? "We should get the, that egg and start running, huh?"
"I'd say!" agreed Duster, approaching the Clayman once more, quite a bit more cautious. "Just gotta make this quick and easy, and then-"
There was a quiet rumbling coming from the Clayman, and immediately Lucas remembered working at the factory just yesterday, and how Claymen were re-energized. With a quick zap to their system.
Alive again after at least three years, the Clayman stood still for a moment, looking directly at nothing. The red light at the end of its antennae glowed very brightly, and the antennae itself stood completely erect on its head. After a nervous moment of nobody trying anything, the Clayman apparently remembered its objective and set out to accomplish it.
"It took off with the egg!" Duster yelled, surprised that the mud figure came to life.
"We gotta go after it!" said Kumatora, already picking up her pace in pursuit of the Clayman. "Come on, we can't let it get away!" Without missing a beat, Lucas, Duster and Boney began the chase as well, charging after the runaway Clayman and the item that could apparently decide the fate of the world tucked away safely in its belly.
Just as they rounded the bend, however, they were taken aback by the incredible tower sitting in the middle of the forest. Its red girders climbed straight up for whole storeys with the occasional red-and-yellow emblem plastered on their sides, and an enormous yellow ball sitting at its very apex with a massive contraption unlike anything they had seen pointed to the west jutting out its top.
"There's a pretty good view of this tower from Club Titiboo," said Kumatora, craning her neck to get a good look at the whole thing. "I dunno what it's for, but I always figured it wasn't for anythin' good. Who builds a big tower in the middle'a nowhere?"
She was interrupted of her open thoughts by the heavy sound of the Clayman's footsteps blasting their way down the path, running into walls and trees the whole way as it did its best to get to its destination.
"But enough of that crap!" she chastised herself, "we hafta catch that thing, and quick!" They all bolted down the path, sprinting as quickly as they could to catch the Clayman before they lost it.
Unfortunately, it was fairly overrun with chimeras of all types milling about, making it difficult and hazardous to pass through. Still, they could hear the sound of the Clayman constantly bumping into things as it ran, so it probably wasn't making as much progress as they were, thankfully.
The path wound down and led them next to a large building that laid at the very end of the concrete highway. Lucas remembered seeing the building through the binoculars at the top of the mountain near the club, but, like the tower, he didn't know what it was for. They didn't waste any more time, though; they could still hear the Clayman run spastically into the forest, and they were beginning to catch up.
Luckily for his curiosity, the dirt path led straight into the building's front entrance.
It looked a little bit like the factory, but still different. There were no massive piles of lumber or sawdust or metal or clay lying around, or at least, not outside. But there was a small fleet of vehicles parked just outside that looked vaguely similar to Mayor Pusher's car in Tazmily.
Only much larger and coloured differently. Actually, the only real similarities were that they both had four tires. But all that was less important compared to the matter at hand.
"Where'd that damn thing disappear to?" Kumatora cursed, looking around the yard for any sign of the Clayman. There were a few signs of it being in the area - bits of moss lying on the concrete yard of the building, and bits of regular clay attached to some walls and machines it had bumped into on its way.
"Inside," offered Lucas timidly. "No place...couldn't be anywhere else, right?"
"Good point," she conceded. "I dunno what this place is, but we're crashing the party." She showed herself into the large front door, followed by the others.
A heavy odour, the sound of heavy machinery, and a startling sight greeting them just inside the large warehouse: an enormous lump of clay, easily the size of Lucas's house, was piled just a little bit past the door. Bodies of Claymen had been discarded in the pile; some of their shapes were still identifiable as they just seemed to mould into the massive collection, slowly losing form as they became one large piece of clay to recycle later.
On the other side of the door was practically an army of Claymen, all standing idle. They were not placed into any recognizable row, apparently just being placed in one location to be called on later. The warehouse was obviously some kind of Clayman manufacturing facility.
Just as they were about to explore deeper into the building, Duster spotted a number of people off in the distance and pulled Lucas and Kumatora to the side, behind the mountain the clay and out of sight. Boney loyally followed.
"No, I leave it on," replied one. "Why? Do you take yours off?" The first one nodded. "You go through all that trouble? In the bathroom? And then you go through all the trouble of putting it back on when you're done?"
"Yeah, I go through the trouble," the first answered, almost defiantly. "I mean, there is a place to hang your mask, and all. I think it would be rude to not use it, personally."
The other became indignant to the ignorant response.
That's where you hang handbags and umbrellas and all that stuff!"
The third one was silent until just then. "I thought it was for our masks, too. So that's why it was always so hard to get it to stay in place!"
"These guys are idiots," whispered Kumatora, eavesdropping on the conversation. "Let's just go over there and tell them what we're lookin' for, and if they don't let us past, we get our hands dirty."
"You want to risk that?" Duster asked. "What if they're...less than accommodating? This place could be restricted access, for all we know."
"Come on, Duster, we're a little kid, an unassuming redhead, a gimp, and a dog. We're not the most terrifying of the bunch." She laid a hand on Lucas's back and gently pushed him forward. "Go and talk to them, Lucas."
"Why me?!" he whispered back a little loudly than he meant.
"'cause outta all of us, you're the most disarming. Just go over there, put on your best 'lost little boy' look, and ask if we can be let in." She flexed her fingers, letting electricity arc between her fingernails in a bit of a show. "If things go south, we'll be right here to back you up."
Lucas whined a little as he was pushed forward, but it was too late to back down; one of the Pigmasks had seen him and yelled out to him as he approached.
"N-nothing, sir." Lucas jittered and fidgeted under the watching, scary eyes of the Pigmasks, and he found it difficult to speak. "We were just...we just wanted to-"
The Pigmask closest to him leaned forward slightly, getting a better look at Lucas, before standing to attention immediately.
And in an instant, he simply turned tail and ran as fast as he could in the opposite direction.
Watching the Pigmask run away so quickly made Lucas freeze on the spot, and clearly, the other Pigmasks were beginning to get a little distraught themselves. Had he said or done something wrong? Or was Kumatora getting ready to light some fireworks behind him? He wanted to turn around to his friends and ask what he should do, but against the soldiers he couldn't help but stand completely still in fear.
"What's all the ruckus?!" they heard somebody from the next room yell, and soon they were joined by another man in the uniform. His clothes were blue, however, clearly signifying higher rank and command. The pink ones looked to see who was approaching, and nervously stepped aside to make room for their commanding officer.
"We just," Lucas kept stuttering. He was always such a timid boy, especially in front of strangers. It was times like these he wished he was more like his brother Claus.
Lucas was like a caribou in a torchlight in the confusion. He didn't know what was going on and he knew better than to ask, leading himself in circles. "Please forgive my rudeness!" the blue one insisted. Maybe he was just being very polite?
"Um," Lucas managed to hum, trying to articulate something. "We just," he tried again, stalling once more, but managed to continue this time. "We're look- looking for something."
"And I'd be glad to help you, sir!" the officer said loudly, standing back up straight. "Just say the word, Commander, and consider whatever you're looking for found!"
Something was definitely fishy with these Pigmasks. He managed to get up the courage to turn and look to Kumatora for guidance, but all she did in reply was nudge her head forward, trying to tell him to just play along.
I'll prepare a change of clothes for you and a dressing room just around the corner." He glanced at Duster and Kumatora, noting their outfits. "Likewise for the folks accompanying you. The sooner you put on your colours, Commander, the quicker we can find this thing of yours!"
Lucas nearly protested, but quickly silenced himself when he was ushered into a back room with Duster and Boney while Kumatora was shown to another. They were rushed through the whole change, quickly switching his trusty shirt and shorts with something much thicker and heavier, but still very cozy and suave. Duster and Kumatora were both given something quite different to wear, and Boney was just given a simple headpiece.
I'm afraid I can't assist you personally in your search, sir, but you have a whole warehouse of able men ready to help at your beck and call." And with that, he spun around and walked back into the warehouse, to resume whatever duties he had, giving Lucas and his friends' time to consider what just happened.
We should hurry up and find the egg before they figure out who we are."
"This is pretty sweet, huh, Lucas?" Kumatora asked, laughing lightly. "We came here lookin' to just get in and get out, and now you own the entire Pigmask army! Not a bad deal!" He knew she was just trying to calm him down, but he was still having trouble stomaching the whole ordeal. He didn't find it nearly as funny. "Anyway, Duster's right. We dunno how long this'll last, so let's get crackin'."
As frightened as he was, he could at least agree to that. They got to work, trying to find the haywire Clayman before anybody caught on to the blue Pigmask's mistake
The next room over held a massive assembly line comprised of all machines working diligently, pressing and cutting and forming lumps of clay from shapeless mounds...
...to round balls of clay...
...to large, flat slabs of clay...
...where they were finally cut into Claymen, like some kind of cookie out of dough. The cut Clayman then disappeared down one conveyor belt...
...where the excess was simply dumped down a hole to be recycled later.
Although to the untrained eye it looked as though Claymen were nothing more than shapes cut out of clumps of dirt. What gave the Claymen their 'sentience', such as it was, was a complete mystery, even to most of the people working at the warehouse. Reputedly, only one man really understood how the process worked and what gave the Claymen their minds.
It took them a moment to actually get any information on the specific Clayman they were searching for. Not because nobody knew - some of them were fairly informative and were easy to speak to.
But because only Lucas could ask, and he was having difficulty simply walking up to a Pigmask and 'demanding' to know where it went. Seeing as all his demands came out as polite requests, the others seemed to respond almost sarcastically, even knowing he was a 'superior' to them.
"Just...tell me where it went," Lucas insisted. As timid as he was, he still had limits, and knowing that the Clayman was on its way to be disposed of, time was ticking.
The white Pigmask suddenly reeled back, remembering who he was speaking to. "Uh, yes sir!" he saluted, turning to point at the back door to the warehouse. "A Clayman fitting your description came running through here just a moment ago. It went straight out that door. You'd better hurry if you want to catch it, Commander."
Thanking the soldier, they all made for the rear exit, keeping a lookout for the Clayman. It wasn't too difficult to find, just as it was thrown into the back of a truck and sped down the highway.
Without thinking to go back into the warehouse and 'ordering' a Pigmask to take them to wherever that last truck was going, they ran off after it, pursuing on foot after the truck.
They hadn't anticipated the highways being as chock-full of chimeras as the Unknown Valley, but with their prominence everywhere else, they couldn't have been too surprised.
Whoever was making them was getting more and more creative with their designs.
Aside from chimeras were actual robots, although they looked very old and beat up. In the shape they were in, they were hardly difficult at all to simply brush down. They kept up their chase, running as quickly as they could down the highway; the garbage truck was still well within their sights, the highway being as straight as it was, but with all the distractions, it was gaining a lot of distance between them.
Another vehicle was coming up to them very quickly, although Lucas was prioritized on the truck. He simply made sure he wasn't in its way and intended to keep up his chase, when it pulled itself to a stop right next to them in the middle of the road.
Its side opened up seamlessly, revealing its high-tech insides, including several seats and a lot of screens, dials and gizmos that he couldn't hope to decipher. From the front seat, a Pigmask lumbered its way between the cushions and stepped out, greeting his Commander apologetically.
They were all huffing and puffing after their sprint down the highway, and Lucas was preoccupied with the truck to stop and talk to one of his subordinates. The Pigmask turned and looked down the road, seeing the truck off in the distance as it pulled away. "From the looks of things," he said slowly, mapping it all out in his head, "you probably threw something into the trash, and now you want it back before it gets to the dump, right?"
"Right," he replied between heavy heaves. As badly as they needed to chase the truck, he knew it was hopeless on foot.
"Well, no sweat, sir." It stepped aside, giving them passage into the large, circular vehicle. "Figuratively speaking, anyway.
Lucas began to stutter once more. He didn't quite know what to say, or what to do - he didn't even know what it was. "We'll take it," Kumatora answered for him, showing herself into the pod. "Come on, Lu - Commander, you know it'll be faster than running." Duster agreed, and climbed into the floating machine, and Boney, seeing everyone pile into the cramped space, simply followed.
and retrieve whatever embarrassing thing it was that you accidentally threw away."
Lucas sighed, looking down dejectedly. "Why does everybody think...it's embarrassing?"
"Why did you throw it away?"
"I didn't mean to, I just...wanted to hide it."
"Why do you want it back?"
"Because it's important."
"Is it important...because it's embarrassing?"
Lucas looked back up at the Pigmask, trying to read the person behind the helmet. He didn't like being made fun of, and replied with the first thing that came to his mind. "There goes your promotion," he said as bravely as he could while he stepped into the pod behind the others.
Duster had taken the front seat, sitting behind an even more complicated dashboard of buttons and levers, trying to make sense of everything in front of him. One of the buttons he pressed closed the door behind Lucas. "I have no idea what I'm doing," he murmured loud enough to hear over the machine's engine. "I just hope one of these things will-"
He pressed into one of the many levers the machine displayed to him as he spoke, and in an instant, they shot off.
"Commander! Commander, wake up!"
Lucas had blacked out immediately after the crash. He hit his head on something just as the pod collided with a cliff shortly after they took off. He groaned, rubbing his forehead, trying to ease the pain from the hit, and slowly blinked his eyes open. The hit from the crash thrust him out of the bean and into the open; he was lying on his back, looking up at a cloudless sky, surrounded by rocks and asphalt.
"Thank goodness!" he heard a very low, beefy voice say. Lucas sat up, shaking his head, trying to still his vision from the abrupt hit. He heard other groans of pain all around him, and when he finally managed to squint his eyes open, he saw Pigmasks all around him. It took him a second to remember that Duster and Kumatora were dressed in their uniforms - Boney sat there loyally, waging his tail, simply waiting for Lucas to wake up.
"Are you all right?" the same voice asked. Duster and Kumatora were going through the same motions, blearily trying to wake themselves back up. He couldn't speak for them, but at least he was feeling okay enough.
"I think so," he said, wobblingly getting up. He was a little dizzy, but nothing a good walk wouldn't fix. He was amazed he was standing with as few injuries as he had: just a minor headache and a few aches in random places. He looked around, trying to find who was speaking to him, when he met the largest Pigmask he had ever seen. The guy was nearly five times his size!
You can take my Pork Bean, if you'd like," he said, the muscles in his arms bulging with every word, and when he stepped aside, the ground practically rumbled under his feet. "A master driver like you must have been in a real rush to make-"
Just as he was walking away, he looked back to Lucas. Lucas never felt so small in his life. The mountain lumbered his way over, looking his 'commander' down, trying to see why he seemed so different than what he remembered. Very suddenly, he pressed his nose to Lucas, taking a few quick sniffs of his scent. "Huh?
He leaned back a little, trying to remember where he had smelt that same smell before. "You're that kid from Club Titiboo!" he accused, pointing one of his massive fingers right at Lucas. "Maybe you think you can fool everyone else, but you can't fool my wild nose! You sneaky piece of scum, pretending to be our commander!"
Suddenly, he reared his fist back, preparing to strike Lucas with everything he had - judging from his size, a single blow like that could outright kill him. "Wait a second!" Duster said suddenly, raising his hands up in defence, and luckily, the large Pigmask stopped just before it was too late.
"I thought I recognized you, too!" Duster laughed, bringing his hands up to the rim of his helmet. "You're the DCMC's biggest fan! I mean, figuratively." He nearly lost his balance trying to get his helmet off, but eventually he managed to, and the Pigmask practically gasped in shock.
"Lucky?!" he nearly squealed, forgetting all about Lucas in an instant. "The DCMC's bassist is here?! Wearing our uniform?! Riding with our Commander?!" Apparently, he also forgot that Lucas wasn't their commander in the excitement.
"It's me, in the flesh!" Duster laughed, tucking his helmet under his armpit. "I've seen you at every single DCMC concert since the day we were formed. You never missed a single one, and you were always in the same front-row-centre seat with a pair of lucky ladies in each arm."
The Pigmask was almost dancing in delight on the spot, ecstatic that one of the DCMC's players was standing right in front of him and talking to him personally. "Oh my Pork, you remember me!" he nearly shouted, reaching out and grabbing Lucky's hands, shaking them both rapidly. "This is like a dream come true! I have all your stuff! I have posters, figurines, pamphlets, hats, shirts, albums, everything! I even have two pairs of those limited-time, extra-expensive collector's item DCMC underpants!"
Duster shook both his hands once the Pigmask remembered to let them go. The guy had one powerful grip on him. "It's always nice to meet a fan," he remarked. "Are you wearing those underpants right now?"
"Oh, gosh, no! I'd - I mean, you - just, I wouldn't want to have to get them dirty, 'cause then I'd have to wash them, and that'd lower the quality, so I still have them in their packaging. Every DCMC thing I have is as pristine as the day I bought them! I take a half hour out of my time every day to clean those figurines!"
Lucas and Kumatora stood behind the massive Pigmask, not wanting to get between the hyperactive fan and his idol. Duster seemed to have things under control. "You know," Duster said, leaning in but not lowering his voice. The Pigmask leaned in, letting Duster get as close as he wanted. "Some of the guys and I, after every gig, we would say 'let's bring that big guy backstage. He never missed a show; let's show him that we appreciate our fans as much as they appreciate us.'" The Pigmask held his breath, visibly shaking in elation. "But the Club never allowed it, as much as we fought. They said it would have 'compromised our integrity' or something like that."
"Oh, so, you're saying, I need to have a word with the people running Club Titiboo, is that it?" As a show, the Pigmask cracked his knuckles and rolled his head on his neck, his joints popping a chorus all on their own.
"No, no, we can't have that," Duster insisted. "Violence would just bar you from the Club, and then our band would be robbed of its biggest fan!" The Pigmask slumped his shoulders, seeing Duster's reasoning. "But still, I'll tell you what. Just to show you have much I appreciate a fan like you, I will personally sign your helmet."
The Pigmask couldn't pull his helmet off fast enough. With one hand he fought with the clasps on the helmet; on the other he dug into a pouch on his belt, pulling out a thick pen for Duster to sign with. Once he finally managed to get both off, he handed them to Duster. The trooper was bounding back and forth on his feet, clapping his hands lightly, so happy that he was getting Lucky's autograph. "To our fan," Duster narrated as he wrote before stalling. "Um..."
"Oh, just make it out to F.P.T," the trooper instructed. "My initials."
"To our fan, F.P.T. One step closer to have the whole collection!" Duster finished it off with a few scribbles - he had never practiced his autograph and just came up with something on the spot. "Signed, Lucky."
Duster handed the helmet back, and again the trooper began to squeal with glee, but he paused just before he put his helmet back on. "Oh," he sighed, looking at it in his hands. "I can't wear this now. I'll have to get a new one from the base." But his demeanour changed again just as quickly. "But this means a lot to me, sir - Lucky! Thank you so much!" Tucking his own helmet under his armpit, he reached out with his free hand again and shook Duster's hands once more. "I can't wait to show this off to the guys!" And without thinking twice, the Pigmask sprinted down the highway, whooping excitedly the whole time and holding the helmet high, like a trophy he had won.
The four of them watched the Pigmask run down the highway, hearing his echoes through the tunnel. Duster smiled wryly and clapped his hands like he was shaking the dust off them. "Wow," said Kumatora, awestruck at the whole display. "He really is your biggest fan."
"Literally," added Lucas.
"Yep," Duster laughed, reaching for his helmet and fastening it back on. "It's a shame we had to meet out here. Everything I said was true. It's going to hurt him a lot when he hears the band broke up."
"Still," Kumatora said, stepping forward and giving Duster a congratulatory pat on the shoulder. "Nice work. It woulda been bad if we had'ta fight him. Guy looked like he could take a hit."
"Um," Lucas interjected, getting their attention. "We still have to...get to the dump, and quick." They all turned around and made for the Pork Bean the Pigmask had left them, opening its hatch and piling into the same seats.
"Okay," Duster said, looking over all the controls carefully. "I think I got the hang of it this time." He reached for a lever with his hand and, very gently, eased it forward. Like he had predicted, the Pork Bean crawled forward very slightly, and accelerated the more he had pulled it. "And this thing," he said to himself, gripping a yolk positioned at his chest, "will steer us..."
Slowly and carefully, they began to go down the highway, following the directions one of the signs had marked as they went down one of the tunnels to their north.
It wasn't long from when they departed from the scene when suddenly, Lucas began to feel a little under the weather. He felt a familiar dizziness and a steam under his collar from just sitting there in his seat.
"You okay there, Lucas?" asked Kumatora, noticing that he was beginning to rub his forehead and was having trouble keeping his eyes forward.
It took him a second to respond, but eventually he turned his head to see her. "Yeah," he replied, smiling to confirm himself. "I'm just feeling a little sick all of a sudden, is all."
"Oh yeah?" She suddenly sounded excited at the news. "That happen to you a lot lately?"
"Yeah. Sometimes...ever since I learned PSI, I...just get a little sick, suddenly."
Not that Lucas could see it, but Kumatora smiled widely. "It's awesome, isn't it?"
"I love it," he laughed. "I can't wait." Kumatora stretched out her hand for Lucas to high-five, and he gladly answered.
"I'm lookin' forward to my next fever," she said just as the Pork Bean cleared the tunnel they were in. "In fact, speak of the devil."
"Hope it's somethin' good. Maybe, like, controllin' the wind, or causing earthquakes, or-"
As they continued down the road to the dump, the Pork Bean they were in began to sputter and choke, trying desperately to continue on, when it eventually stopped dead halfway across a bridge over a wide lake. "What's goin' on?" she asked, leaning in to look over Duster's shoulder. "Why'd you stop, Duster? We need to hurry!"
I guess all we can do now is walk," he lamented. "I barely know how to make this thing even go, let alone recharge it or something. We just have to hustle."
Lucas sighed. His fever still hadn't left and he wasn't too fond of having to walk with it. "Really?"
"Sorry, man. I took us as far as I could."
With it out of their hands, Lucas opened the hatch to the Pork Bean and they all stepped outside into the hot highway sun. His 'Commander' getup was pretty snug as it was, but he couldn't imagine how hot it was going to get for Duster and Kumatora.
Their walk took them into the next tunnel. Their fevers were still going strong, robbing them both of their focus a little bit, causing them to get a little careless when it came to the machines still littering the road all over.
The refreshing shade of the tunnel made it easier on their fevers, at least, and, both at once, they disappeared, and both Lucas and Kumatora found themselves using the PSI on reflex.
Lucas felt a different kind of fortitude compared to what he felt in Club Titiboo; his body didn't feel any stronger, but his mind was crystal clear and focused, and it felt like nothing could break his concentration. For Kumatora, she could take advantage of anything that did not have the same defences, and with physical contact, she could usurp more PSI energy from anything she touched to replenish her own.
Lucas was seeing a pattern with his usual new tricks, mostly having a support theme - not that he minded the least little bit, and it suited his preferred pacifism perfectly. Kumatora was less pleased, though: she was hoping for something flashier and more destructive, aiming to wipe out leagues of enemies with just a thought. She resigned, however; better something than nothing.
The current tunnel only went for a short walking distance, and without their fevers, it was much easier to start jogging without worrying about becoming disoriented. Just as they left the tunnel, by sheer luck, they saw the garbage truck take off for the next tunnel.
It looked as though it had taken a short stop at the nearby restaurant, giving them all the time that had passed to catch up. "Hurry up!" Kumatora yelled, sweltering underneath her uniform but sprinting after the truck anyway. "We're close!"
Watching the truck casually drift down the road as it had had spurred them into their chase. According to the road signs all over the highway, the dump wasn't too far away, and the truck was still plainly visible down the tunnel.
Like every other place on the expansive highway, the roads in the tunnels were occupied by more and more machines, with the chimeras actually dwindling in numbers a bit.
The machines were looking much healthier and up-to-date compared to the machines closer to the warehouse, but they still didn't put up much of a fight.
Just around the next bend in the tunnel, they saw the truck reverse next to a large hole in the ground. The smell of rotting food and waste assaulted their senses (Boney whined loudly in discomfort), but they forced themselves to endure it. The truck raised its carriage, and out plopped the mouldy-green Clayman, suddenly as idle as the moment they found it in the Unknown Valley.
"Finally!" Kumatora huffed, exhausted from all the running. "It's about time! The sooner we get that egg, the sooner we can stop roasting in these things!"
"I don't mind it, actually," Duster replied, turning to face her. "I just hope the egg is safe. I was so focused on it that I barely noticed the heat."
"Good man. Got priorities."
Braving the stench and the lack of sanitation, they made their way into the trash pit below.
From their angle above the trash pit, they couldn't see where the Clayman had landed. Almost reluctantly, they began to dig through the heap when they didn't immediately find it. "What is that?!" asked Duster suddenly, pointing into one of the larger heaps. At first, it just looked like a simple lump of garbage...
...but looks can be deceiving.
The first thing I want to talk about is the content for this post-update post. The thing is, I wasn't expecting another bonus update to pop up so soon after the last one, but the highway is the most expansive dungeon in the game so far (a good way to tell what is a dungeon and what is not is if, at any time, Lucas or Kumatora become feverish, or if there are common overworld enemies. Neither will ever, ever happen in a non-dungeon, such as Tazmily, the factory, Club Titiboo, the warehouse, etc.), and there are a lot of things to cover before moving on with the plot. I knew exactly where I wanted to conclude this update, but I apparently forgot just how much content was between where the update began and where it ended. At least one sidequest; one rare encounter; a few shops and bonuses scattered all over the place; and at least one minigame, all that I was perfectly aware of but would be stilted if I tried to force them into the main update, which was beginning to drag a bit anyway. It's a lot to go over, so I'm going to save it for later.
The second thing is the fight with the Fierce Pork Trooper. I could have stuck with the story and just recorded the boss fight and continued the scene as it would play out in the game, but F.P.T. had a peculiar character gimmick (his obsession with DCMC) and I wanted to have some fun with it. I just hope nobody thinks I'm stepping too far out of line with the scene and I'm screwing with the characters too much and it's all detracting from the experience and oh god this is what I meant by performance anxiety
Still, for all intents and purposes, this would be a poor LP if I didn't cover as much as I could, and skipping a boss fight, even if it would (hopefully) add to the story, would be in terrible taste. Not to mention his battle BGM is the third best in the game (the first best won't be for a little while). So here's the fight. If you kept the free DCMC Pamphlet you got after the encore, use it on F.P.T. to paralyze him for a few turns.
And I'm still not done with the LP before I can finally get to playing Donkey Kong at 2:30 A.M. The OP and Chapter 1 were recently hit by Waffleimages Revenge (meaning the images aren't showing up not because of Waffleimage's end-of-the-month choke; they're not showing up because they've been out-and-out deleted), so I have to update them and Chapter 14 with LPix. So much to be done before I can get it on like ™!