Part 31: Chapter 26
Have a related article:
Awesome! Have an update!
They didn't have a ton of opportunity to look over the majesty of New Pork City from their vantage point before the chauffeur landed the limousine. They saw buildings reach into the sky and through the clouds; they saw wheels and boats attached to long steel pipes, dressed from top to bottom in glowing lights; they saw people and Pigmasks wandering the city streets, cheerfully regarding one another; they saw a massive statue of a person wearing a crown and holding a torch high, though they couldn't make out the details from so far away. Nearly all their senses were overloaded just from looking at the sprawling city, reaching out forever in all directions. If it weren't for the black clouds hanging low in the sky and blotting out the sun, Lucas would have been impressed.
They were instructed to wait in the limousine while the chauffeur walked all the way around the long car from the outside, just to open their door for them. He didn't see the point, but, it was the man's job, apparently.
Lucas sighed as he was handed yet another map. He was surprised he hadn't run out of room for all of them during his travels. But he was thankful for it nonetheless: New Pork City was a hopelessly large city, and it would have been nightmarish to navigate without a map.
"Well, then, Master Lucas, with this, my contract has been completed, and I must be off." The chauffeur turned and walked back to the front of the car. "I'm sure I'll see you again, soon," he said over his shoulder, "with a very different look."
Leaving Lucas with that cryptic remark, the chauffeur got back into the limousine, and it took off once more, heading to someplace else in New Pork City.
They all watched it take off, leaving them alone on the landing pad, in some random spot in New Pork City. Lucas had forgotten to ask where he could find Porky.
"Let's take a look at that map," Duster said finally once the limousine was out of their sight. It was a fairly large sheet, rolled up tightly and sealed with a blue ribbon around its circumference. It had no markers or legends, but it displayed to them a good portion of the city as they saw it.
Buildings; attractions; some kind of pulley system of transportation, connecting the two different levels of the city...the map was comparatively small, but it showed a good deal. It didn't nearly cover the entire city, but hopefully, they would be able to find where to go with it. "Where should we start?" Lucas asked, scanning the whole thing with his eyes: there were just so many places to go, and for a brief moment, he forgot that they were there to find the Needle and not to explore.
"That giant building at the top looks like a good place," noted Kumatora, running her finger over the paper. "If I were a big-shot emperor of the world, I'd get all snooty and build myself a big ole' tower to hide in, too."
It was a little far (not that they could tell, with no legends on the map), but any suggestion was as good as any other. They set off from the landing pad, stepping into New Pork City for the first time.
The poor spelling on the welcoming sign wasn't exactly thrilling to see. Immediately from the landing pad, their eyes were assaulted with the many flashing and blinking lights of the city they had seen from far up: signs, arrows, and advertisements lined the streets, trying to get anybody at all to enter their buildings and buy their wares or play their games. The streets were alive with civilians: some were laughing, some were dancing, and some were shouting, getting right into the high-energy feel of New Pork City.
Happy Boxes, the size of walls, stood on the sidewalks, constantly blinking their rainbow-coloured nonsense at anybody willing to stop and give a look. Houses sat on the other side, attempting to give off a homely sense, to make the city seem more approachable to anybody more used to rural villages like Tazmily. A little investigating revealed that the houses were as fake as their efforts.
They could see the tall building rising up and through the clouds at the very highest point in the city. They didn't know the layout of the place, but Lucas figured that if they just kept going towards it, they would eventually get to it.
Just up ahead were two of those pulley systems Lucas saw on the map. There were more people happily loitering about, doing what they wanted: one man simply paced back and forth, apparently unable to decide where he should explore next. If there was one thing New Pork City had, it was options.
Kumatora was immediately convinced that that was where they were going. Porky had invited them to his city personally, and everybody was allowed to go everywhere with one very clear exception. There was no place else he could be.
He didn't know who this lady was or how she was linked to Porky, or what she meant by that last part, but he thanked her for the compliment anyway.
Right in front of them were the system of pulleys he was so intrigued in. They were both just simple sets of stairs made of metal, but the stairs themselves moved on their own. They both had helpful little arrows saying which direction the stairs were moving, and which one they wanted to take for going up and down the levels of the city. They weren't hard to figure out, but they were absolutely mind-blowing for Lucas.
Cautiously, he stepped onto the stairs, and they simply flowed him up the hill. He didn't need to move a muscle: the stairs did all the climbing for him.
And they didn't stop when he clumsily got off them, tripping over the suddenly very-still ground. They just kept on going, waiting to ferry whoever was next to step onto them.
The stairs brought them right to the front door of the tall building they were looking for. Just next to its front entrance was the farmer couple from Tazmily, Abbey and Abbot, cuddling close together over the railing and gazing out over the big city below them.
No matter where they went, they always seemed to at peace, just as long as they had each other. Lucas was a little envious.
On the other side of the building was another pair of familiar faces, already somewhat acquainted with New Pork City and already working on their next spotlight comedy routine.
Tazmily may have been gone, but, at the very least, it was comforting to know that some things just never changed.
They didn't waste any more time avoiding the issue, and went up the steps to the massive skyscraper. A pair of doormen stood watch over the glass door, which made Lucas think of something: if you were allowed to go anywhere and do anything, then why the need for guards?
"Hold up," one of them said when Lucas approached, stepping in front of the group to stop them.
The doorman pulled out a small book, and clicked the nub of his pen out. "I need your names, so I can log who goes in and out of the place. It's company policy, nothing big."
For a moment there, Lucas was worried that he might have had another problem like he had at Club Titiboo. "My name is Lucas," he said, pointing to himself, then to Kumatora. "And this is-"
The doorman suddenly cut him off. "Lucas, you said?" The man's left eyebrow was raised, his eyes burning through him.
"Uh, that's right."
The man smiled, and put his book and his pen away.
His co-worker was apparently in on the joke, and was struggling to keep his composure about it as well. "Go right on in, Lucas and company. They're expecting you."
He was wary about the whole scenario, and how Lucas being there was somehow funny, but they went into the building anyway. Knowing that they were likely going to have to get to the one-hundredth floor, he hoped that more of those moving stairs were in the building to usher them the whole climb themselves.
The inside of the building was quite a bit colder than the outside, as though the air had been specifically conditioned to be chilled. It was very clean and shiny on the inside: the floors had been recently mopped and the furniture had been dusted and cleaned just moments ago. Decorative plants dotted the room sometimes.
There was a single woman sitting behind a desk facing the front door, and next to it, was Jonel. A man he knew from Tazmily, but he and his father didn't seem to get along so very well, so they weren't very well acquainted. "Oh, Lucas," the man said, amazed to see the boy there.
"Hi, mister Jonel," Lucas waved.
The way Jonel talked about Flint like he wasn't his father suddenly put a bit of a bitter taste in Lucas's mouth. But also...he realized that he didn't know where his father was. He hadn't seen him since before meeting Ionia. "I, uh," he stuttered.
Kumatora had only known the guy for half a minute, and she was sick of him and his disrespect towards Lucas's family already. "Hey, Lucas," she said loudly, grabbing him by the shoulder, "we got important meetings to catch, eh? We shouldn't leave 'em waiting!"
Lucas and Jonel had no personal qualms with each other, so far as he knew, but that didn't stop Jonel from being rude about his dad, and he was thankful for the quick diversion. They were about to just march right into one of the two rooms the building offered, when the woman behind the desk called out to them.
How may I help you?" she asked politely and with a smile.
"We just wanna get to the one-hundredth floor, now-ish," Kumatora demanded. She was itching to get going and give Porky a piece of her mind, regardless that she had no idea where to go in this building other than up.
"I'm sorry, but I'm afraid the one-hundredth floor is off-limits to the public," the woman frowned.
"I hear Porky's willin' to make an exception for our pal Lucas, here."
The woman's smile waned instantly, looking down at the young boy. "You are Lucas?" she asked, and Lucas nodded. Everybody seemed so surprised to see that he was the one Porky wanted to see. "I see. Well, you're correct in that Master Porky is willing to make an exception," the woman said, looking to the door on their left, "but I'm afraid the elevator is out of service at the moment. He's instructed me to tell you that if you arrive before repairs are completed, to spend some time in the city at your leisure. He heartily - heartily - recommends the theatre, just down a level south from here."
Kumatora stopped her pulling to listen to what the woman had to say, and she wasn't too happy to hear the news. "I bet he's just chicken," she confided, turning around.
"What's an 'elevator'?" Lucas asked the woman, standing on his toes to see over the counter. "Aren't there any stairs?"
"Stairs taunt our great Master Porky, so he's decreed that all stairs in New Pork City to be replaced with escalators and elevators. And an elevator is a moving platform in a building that can quickly take a number of persons from one floor to the next."
"Oh, like in Thunder Tower," Duster recalled, snapping his fingers.
Lucas's curiosity was not quenched. "What's an 'escalator'?"
"Moving stairs. You probably took some on the way up here," the woman replied, getting bitter over Lucas's constant questions. "If you don't mind, I'm very busy here and the Empire Porky Building is currently off-limits to all visitors beyond the ground floor, so might I suggest you take up Master Porky's suggestion and visit the theatre?"
Lucas and Duster knew to take a hint, but Kumatora insisted they check out the rest of the floor first, just in case they were being lied to. They checked the room on their right first, on her insistence.
Very accommodating of them, but they already had a quick dip in the limousine. They quickly changed gears and tried the other room.
There was no other way up the building, so, although they weren't terribly comfortable with leaving Porky and the Needle alone, they didn't have much other option.
"She said that the theatre was to the south of Empire Porky Building, down a floor," Duster recalled, looking out over the city from the building's front door. "I'm not too keen on doing anything Porky says, but we have nothing else to do...should we head right there?"
"Why bother?" asked Kumatora, shrugging her shoulders dismissively. "In the theatre or explorin' the town, we'd be wastin' time anyway. May as well take a look around, if ya ask me."
Time wasted anywhere was time wasted, Lucas agreed, so they decided to see what the big deal about New Pork City was. Heading east from the Empire Porky Building, there was a long, uninteresting steel street suspended high in the air, leading straight to the large statue they had seen earlier in the limousine.
Here stands a statue of our great leader, Master Porky, the plaque read. Porky was not a very good looking man, if this statue was any indication: he had a matted bowl cut that covered his eyes completely, along with a crushed nose that seemed to draw up the rest of his face, forcing his mouth from closing completely. He was nearly wider than he was tall, ballooning out at the hips. The world's greatest leader was far from a picture of perfect health.
There was a ladder in front of the statue, going down to the bottom level of the city. They decided not to take it, though: they still had things to see on the uppermost level, and the area the ladder sank into didn't look particularly healthy or safe.
Just west of the Empire Porky Building, they found out where Matt had gone to after abandoning his farm on Tazmily.
Lucas didn't know Matt and Jill ever dated. He always wondered who Biff's mother was.
Just nearby was a very small corner of the city that housed five large machines. A large wheel, absolutely covered in blinking lights with six different carriages all around its circumference. It looked as though a person or two could ride in the carriages, but the wheel wasn't spinning at all, and the carriages didn't have doors in them, not that there would have been a safe way to reach them if they did.
A smaller machine with three brightly coloured, comically large teacups on a round platform was next. The cups had seats in them for people to ride them on, but they were absolutely stationary anyway; they were just glorified benches.
Next to that was a miniature train with three cars, sitting on a track that went up at a slant. Lucas didn't really see the purpose of that one: the train was far too small to ride, and the track just ended at the very top: no stops or breaks, the track simply ended.
Porky's name was flashing on electronic banners made to look like paper or fabric, held up by balloons that had his face. The fourth machine was a boat with a head of a dragon on its front, with the shining, nonsensical word 'Viking' at its base. It was fastened to some kind of metal triangle, but otherwise, Lucas had no idea what it was supposed to do. It had no seats or anything, just waist-high partitions on its insides.
The last machine was a bright carousel adorned with pinks and whites, with brilliants golden insignias along its crown, with yet another depiction of Porky at its peak. A number of plastic pigs attached to steel pipes were around its base, with saddles on their backs, implying that they should be ridden, but the carousel was fenced off: there was no way to even reach it. Not that it was running anyway.
According to his map, there wasn't anything left to see on the upper level of the city, so they made their way back down to the lower. It was all very colourful and flashy and everything, but he wasn't impressed so far: so far, not a thing they had found even worked. It was all just lumps of metal.
Although Lucas liked riding the escalators. They were kind of fun, and made getting from one place to another much easier.
At the bottom of the escalator was Tessie, his nanny and babysitter from three years ago. He was happy to see that she was doing alright and had made it into New Pork City easy enough, although she wasn't finding it to live up to the hype she had heard about from everyone else.
Others, though, were having a fantastic time in New Pork City, finding entertainment in just about everything and anything.
Jackie, the hotel owner, was sitting in front of an apparent restaurant called the 'Beauty & Tasty', on his knees and busily conversing with a mole cricket. Lucas hoped that the mole cricket had managed to stow away on one of the rides, and that it didn't somehow swim or walk all the way to New Pork City.
Although he was still happy for the mole crickets and their successes with their businesses.
They made their way into the building - they hadn't had anything to eat since the mushrooms on Tanetane (aside from the quick burger he and Boney shared), and again, their stomachs began to rumble for something to fill them. The inside of the building was very clean and tidy, and smelled of lemons with the last wash on the floor, but it wasn't very busy at all: Bronson was their only customer, for whatever reason.
Although, looking around the place, that reason became quickly obvious: the waitresses weren't human, and although he didn't mind that part so much, the fact that they were absolutely hideous to look at was a big turn-off.
The fact that the prices were absolutely ridiculous might have also hurt business a little.
Disappointed, they had to leave the restaurant without getting anything for themselves, their stomachs growling all the way. There wasn't much left to see on the bottom level of the city: the only unexplored place left was the unhealthy ground below the statue they had seen earlier, so they proceeded back to the edge of New Pork City, near the landing pad they had started at.
The first building they hadn't seen simply had the word 'game' written across its marquee. The inside of it was very cramped, barely holding a handful of machines with just enough room left to hold some people, but there were only two people in it at all, and for good reason: the room stank. It smelt as though someone in the room had walked through some raw sewage recently.
Amazingly, the machines in the arcade were the first ones Lucas had seen in all of New Pork City that actually worked, save for one.
Thomas was absolutely enthralled by one of them, his beady eyes running over the readout of the machine feverishly as he kept up with the game. It was the first time Lucas had really seen him so incredibly focused.
He wasn't very interested in any of the games himself, though, and even if he was, the putrid smell the room gave off was way too much for him to handle for more than a minute. On the bright side, though, his appetite was gone.
By his map, there was only one place left to visit, which must have been the theatre Porky wanted them to go to. The continued east, down the street, which was brightly decorated with all manners of large and fantastic designs: from a pod made of metal with red wings, to a pair of enormous lions with exaggerated guarding a bed, to a house that appeared to be made out of cookies.
Biff and Butch were on the way there, talking casually with a single pink Pigmask on the street. They were each a little surprised to see Lucas there. He was quick to learn that the Pigmask was Isaac, the old lumberjack-and-pharmacist, from his log cabin in the Sunshine Forest.
Isaac had always been a bit of a Pigmask supporter - he had often scribbled their praises on Tazmily's bulletin board - and for him to finally achieve his dream of being among their ranks must have been a big thing for him. Although the shift was particularly jarring for Lucas, to know that a man he had trusted with his physical health was now carrying one of their beam pistols on his hip, and even more, he wouldn't hesitate to pull it on Lucas.
A vendor of sorts had set up shop just outside the theatre, underneath a life-sized doll of Porky suspended in the air by a dozen or so balloons.
He only sold hot dogs, and they only had enough money to split one between all of them, but it was better than nothing.
They took the plunge and finally entered the theatre, as much as Duster's instincts were against it. It seemed fairly decent so far: it was just a normal lobby, housing only four patrons, with a number of benches arranged in a square, facing towards each other. Lucas knew what theatre was: before the Happy Boxes, sometimes the people of Tazmily got together to watch a show some others would put on for them, and they called the area the performers stood in a 'theatre'. He was hoping it was something like that.
After that last hot dog, they had next to no money to themselves, so he was thankful for the free admission. Whatever was showing in the theatre, Porky obviously wanted them to watch. Although, he overheard some of the others in the lobby complain about it the place smelling awful, like it had caught some kind of bug, or something.
Right away, he had to agree. It smelt exactly like the arcade: like someone had been walking through the sewers lately and took a break here.
"Well, let's see what the big deal is," Kumatora said boorishly as they walked into the room. If the smell bothered her at all, she wasn't showing it. The theatre was sort of like what Lucas remembered, but still quite different: there was a clearly marked area that was only meant for the actors that he couldn't cross, but instead of live actors, there was a very large, smooth screen hanging against a wall, while a projector in the back played a series of moving images onto the screen. Sort of like a Happy Box, but without the box. One of the many speakers surrounding the screen, near the lower left-hand corner, had been blown out, noticeably.
Lucas was confused on what exactly the projector was showing them, though. It was just a bunch of still images, looping continuously, about three boys and a girl in various exotic locations. The only real similarity they all had was that one of the boys, with a bright-yet-determined smile and a red cap on his head, was most visible out of the four of them. "Hey, Lucas," Duster said, leaning towards him, "that boy has your fashion sense."
Lucas squinted at the screen, and supposed that the boy did, minus the large hat. The same patterned shirt and the same coloured shorts, reaching to their knees. That was a peculiar coincidence. One of the slides featured some Mister Saturns as well: were these people from someplace else on the Nowhere Islands?
The 'film', such as it could have been called, was only about twenty seconds long, before looping over again into infinity. There must have been some kind of significance to it: Porky had insisted that they watch it, to the point where admission was free. But the only real thing Lucas could think of as he watched the slides over and over was that the people on the screen were somehow related to Porky, but nothing more.
The horrible stink that filled the theatre wasn't making it much easier to think, either. Rather than stand and watch the seven frames again and again, he took the first seat he saw, in the front row right next to the screen - and he quickly felt something move between his shorts and the cushion, causing him to yelp and stand back up.
There, on the seat, was a little green bug, half the size of his thumb. It was a tiny, hardy little thing, but more than that, it emitted the most awful smell he had ever smelt before. Whatever was causing the stink in the theatre was probably right there.
Knowing it was caught, it quickly leapt up, onto the stage in front of the screen.
Right away, Boney began to bark and growl at the tiny insect - seeing Lucas leap up and shout in fright from the tiny thing, Boney immediately became protective of his master, and began to chase the little bug around the theatre...
...before slipping into the broken speaker in the side.
Lucas quickly ran up to the broken speaker, searching for his dog through its darkness. "Boney!" he yelled, and all he got as a reply was Boney's fading barks as he dashed deeper into the speaker. It was a very small hole - too small for him to squeeze through, and just barely large enough for Boney - but he could make out a river of sludge along some dirty walkways under the ground through the speaker's blown wires and circuitry.
"Hang on, Boney!" he yelled, hoping his dog was stay put rather than chase the little bug, although he doubted that. "We gotta go get Boney!" he said frantically, spinning around quickly and making for the theatre's front door.
"We don't even know where he is!" Duster said back, keeping up with the panicked boy. "We should stay here and wait for him to come back!"
"No way!" Lucas was adamant. He would have reacted similarly if it was any of his friends, but Boney was his family's dog and his best friend. He was special. "I saw some sewers through the speaker, and the arcade smells like sewage! We have to check it out!"
They were already in the lobby, and Lucas was beyond reasoning. The arcade was a logical place to begin, at the very least.
Thomas was still in the arcade, busily clacking away at whatever game he was playing, along with the other man from before. The man was on his hands and knees, with his ear pressed against the tile floor, when he saw Lucas barge into the store in a panic. "Hey," the man called, "did you lose a dog somewhere?"
"Yes!" Lucas answered urgently, looking around the arcade for any way to get into the sewer below. "How did you know?"
The guy stood back up and dusted his pants off. "Because a dog's been barking under the tiles here for a minute or so, and you come running in here with a 'I need to find something quick' look, so I just put two and two together.
"Because I'm afraid of dogs. Those wet noses and those waging tails and the whole licking people's faces, it just freaks me right out, man." Lucas knew some people were afraid of all manner of animals, including dogs, but they usually had...well, better answers than that. "If it's your dog, though, you can go right on ahead.
I'm not supposed to do this, and I could get in a lot of trouble for it." The guy got back onto his hands and knees, searching along the dirty, dusty floor for a small hitch in the tiles. There was one just a little behind the large crane game in the centre of the room, and, with a heavy heave, he managed to pull the tiles straight off the floor, revealing a passageway going into New Pork City's sewer system.
Right away, they all needed to plug their noses in disgust. The smell wafting up from the hole in the ground was absolutely horrid. "Good luck with your dog," the guy said, and Lucas nodded appreciatively, going first down the ladder and into the sewers. Kumatora gave a disgusted grunt - being a bodyguard for the saviour of the world wasn't a great gig sometimes.
The long ladder went deep into the underground. They could hear all sorts of things, from the running, sludgy water, to drips and drops of water onto the concrete ground, to the skittering of bugs and rodents as their home was intruded on by the three humans. The smell of the garbage was so poignant that they could practically see the stink-lines the trash gave off, and the water had somehow turned completely purple, thanks to the sheer amount of stuff gone into it.
Reassuringly, Boney's barking echoed clearly off the walls once they made it to the bottom rung of the ladder, so at least they knew he hadn't gone anywhere.
They set off looking for him immediately, doing their best to avoid the water at all costs. Some of the garbage flushed down the stream had gathered into disgusting dams; the products all crunched and gave way to their weight, sinking up to their ankles with each step, but it was solid enough to cross. Lucas loved his dog, but, feeling his socks moisten with the juices from the garbage as he walked over them, he'd have to give that dog a stern talking to later.
Cockroaches the size of his fist occupied the safe, solid platforms, if however sparsely. He had seen larger bugs before, but these ones had somehow evolved in their glorious habitat by growing what appeared to be a steel plate over their exoskeletons. And they were fierce; they hummed and zipped whenever the humans got too close, threatening to bite into their skin if the humans got too careless.
Among the enormous cockroaches were creatures Lucas could hardly really believe. What appeared to be normal, if a little dirty and dented, trash cans found throughout the sewer's disgusting walkways, were actually totally sentient creatures: somehow all the trash accumulated in them made them into walking, breathing creatures, capable of thought and, apparently, emotion: unlike the cockroaches, they weren't particularly aggressive, preferring to live their somehow-lives in peace. Lucas could sympathize: creatures that looked as though they could fall apart at any moment, they probably weren't very battle-equipped.
The sewers open to them weren't very expansive: a single low-hanging tunnel separated two blocks from each other, and that was all there was available for them to see. There was no continuing pathway next to the ladder or just up ahead: the sewers under the theatre and the arcade simply looped about once, connected by two different dams made of garbage.
Since the streams of water were grated at both ends, Boney couldn't have left the blocks, which was confirmed when he barked some more. He wasn't anywhere in sight, though, and there wasn't much to see. At the top of the ladder just in front of them were two doors, and one of them was marked with the near-universal sign of a hot-spring.
The other simply contained three garbage cans.
Knowing that the garbage cans weren't always what they seemed to be in the sewers, they left the room quickly once they saw that Boney wasn't in it, and, on Lucas's urgency, they only checked the hot-spring without taking the time to catch a bath.
Back into the first block, there wasn't any place left that they hadn't checked, except for a single door at the top of another ladder. It had no signs or anything to tell what was beyond it, but as they approached, Boney's barking grew louder. He must have been nearby.
Unlike another empty room or a hot-spring, the last door led to a completely different building.
It was in shambles: the wallpaper was peeling, and the carpets had been moulded, bleached, and torn in all sorts of different places. The smell was nearly as bad as the actual sewers. There were metal, rusted carts strewn about in some corners, filled to the very tops of their baskets with all manners of junk and garbage, and most of them were missing their wheels, locking them in place. Black plastics bags, stuffed and tied up with varying items, sometimes soft and sometimes hard, sat lonely in the middle of the corridors.
The mould was very thick in the air from the rotten wood and the infestation of spores all throughout the building. It was enough to make Kumatora sick.
The building had several different rooms, each with a number on them, progressively getting smaller at awkward intervals the farther they went down the hall. It looked something like the Yado Inn, Lucas recalled: each number was a different address of sorts, so that the person staying in it could find where they were housed easily. So, was this building a hotel or something, at one point?
Up the stairs, different coloured drums began to litter the hallways as well. They were rusted through, and some of them were leaking different fluids from their sealed caps: from a kind of black, viscous liquid to a yellowish, runny liquid to something clear but smelly to something brown and thick. It wasn't long before Lucas was feeling the same nausea Kumatora was, just looking at the poor condition of everything around him.
Boney barked and howled once more to get their attention, and they each turned their heads, seeing him sitting impatiently at the far end of the corridor. "Boney!" Lucas yelled, overjoyed to have found his companion again, and ran as quickly as his sickly self could. Boney, though, didn't run to meet Lucas halfway; the dog instead paced quickly at the other side, letting Lucas come to him. Aside from his erratic behaviour, Boney was clearly just as happy to see Lucas as Lucas was to see him.
"Don't ever do that again, Boney," Lucas chastised, tapping him on his muzzle to emphasise his words. "Don't chase bugs into sewers again. Now this smell will never come off."
Lucas grabbed the dog by the collar, and tried to pull Boney back, to make their way back through the sewers and back to the Empire Porky Building, but Boney sat on his haunches at the first tug. Boney didn't budge, and when Lucas looked back at him, he quickly jumped up and bit onto the hem on Lucas's shirt, trying to pull him back into the next room.
"I think he wants us to go in there," Duster noticed. There was a single door, depressed into the wall a little bit, leading into a different room. The door looked no different from all the other doors: the paint was chipping; one of the numbers was missing; and the doorknob was totally rusted, among an amount of other problems with it. But Boney was fervent, pulling harder on Lucas's shirt and digging his paws along the ground. He was a smart dog, aside from compulsively chasing small insects into sewers, so Lucas decided to see what was beyond the door. How bad could it be?
With a quick twist on the doorknob, the door suddenly shifted off its hinges, falling flat onto the floor into the next room. Once the dust the door had kicked up settled after a moment, Lucas was introduced to a room with bright-red walls, with books stacked high on all sides. There were no windows, but the room had two different storeys, with one large hole in its centre connecting them both. And there, Lucas saw something familiar: someone he hadn't seen in three long years' time.
Lucas's eyes went wide, meeting the Tazmily giant eye-to-eye for the first time. Leder was always so quiet and dutiful: his job, all day and night, was to simply stand by Tazmily's bell, and occasionally ring it. He had never once, not once, heard Leder say a single word - he would cough and sneeze sometimes, if Lucas happened to be in earshot, but beyond that, absolutely nothing. Duster was just as surprised, seeing Leder so up-close, and from hearing the old man finally speak a word; but Kumatora wasn't familiar with much of Tazmily, and was more impressed by Leder's amazing height.
"I understand it might be a real shock to hear me speaking for once," Leder smiled, looking at his four visitors. He sounded exactly as he looked: over-the-hill, but not quite elderly, and a little deep. It was somewhat crackly and broken from not having used his voice for so long. "It wasn't that I couldn't. I simply chose not to. It added to the mystery of my character," he laughed. Lucas and Duster were still dumbstruck for words, and a million questions came to Lucas's mind all at once.
"You look well, Lucas, and Duster," Leder nodded, smiling warmly at them both. "It's good to see you both again after so long."
"It's, uh," Duster stuttered, trying to calm himself again, "good to see you too, Leder."
"If you're here, in New Pork City, then it must be about the Magypsies and their Needles, correct?" Leder didn't waste any time, and each of his visitors were thrown for another loop.
"How did you-" Kumatora began, when Leder quickly raised his enormous hand to shush her.
"I will answer all your questions," he began, and suddenly his earlier light-heartedness was gone, "but I have my own stories to tell you first. You might want to sit down; I have been withholding many secrets and truths from you and Tazmily.
Lucas could feel the sad seriousness in Leder's voice. He had a feeling he wasn't going to really like what Leder had to say, but from the sounds of it, Leder had waited for quite a while to finally tell his story. The least he could do was take Leder's suggestion, and he took a seat where he stood. "Lucas," the giant said, looking into the boy's eyes, "the time has come to tell you everything. I can see the nervousness in your eyes, that you might not want to hear my tales, but, you've gone so far and fought so hard; you deserve to hear absolutely everything.
and there is just so much to tell. Before I begin, though, I've trained this stinkbug behind me to commit everything to memory."
Kumatora was incredulous, and suddenly Leder's credibility dropped for her. "A stinkbug?"
"They have fantastic memories, or haven't you heard?" Leder spun about on the spot, looking to the same small, green bug Boney had chased earlier. "Ready, Mister Stinkbug?"
The bug was sitting in the corner, trembling in fear after the chase Boney had given it, but at its name, it quickly took a spot next to Duster, and joined in listening with Leder's long story.
Once everything was in place, Leder took a deep breath, and began his long story. "Long ago," he began, looking to his audience, "there existed a world. A world different from what the people of these islands think of. This 'world' was incredibly large; larger than I'm sure you could readily fathom. It dwarfed the Nowhere Islands. There existed more people in this 'world' than there did grains of sand on these Nowhere Islands."
Lucas was listening along intently. Leder was right: he was having trouble imaging such a remarkably large world. He had travelled all over the Nowhere Islands, and then some, in the space of a weekend, and he thought the world couldn't be any larger than that. "Why don't we know about this world?" he asked.
Our technologies became too advanced, and our prides and egos too powerful, and, inevitably, we ourselves made our world uninhabitable. All that remains is a mere scar of what the world once was. Some had predicted its destruction, and others scoffed, assuming that what we had would last forever. And you now know who was proven correct."
Kumatora looked over her companions, seeing their rapt attention at Leder's story. She was having a bit more trouble buying it than them, but she shrugged her shoulders. "Well, I'll bite. Could be a fun make-believe story," she admitted, and took a spot next to Lucas, her legs stretched out casually.
Do you understand all of it?" he asked. "It's important you're all up to speed at all times. It concerns all of you, and everyone alive today." They all gave positive responses, prompting Leder to continue.
On this ship were everyone you ever knew on Tazmily. Matt, the drunken farmer; Abbey and Abbot, who were newlyweds at the time; Reggie, the spiritualist; myself; and you, Duster, and your father Wess."
Duster's eyes did not widen at the sudden revelation. He kept a stone face at Leder as he quietly searched his memory for the event. "I don't remember that," he admitted after a moment. "Was I too young to, or something?"
"Not at all. You were perhaps in your late teens at the time." Duster thought harder, his eyebrows beginning to furrow, but he simply could not recall it. "If you can't remember it, Duster, then that's good news. I will explain to you why you don't in a moment, but we're getting sidetracked right now. Back to the topic,
The people on the ship still went by their names from the previous world: Wess was still Wess and Alec was still Alec. This, of course, had all been planned and prepared before the end of the world."
"So, if the world was destroyed," Kumatora asked, raising her hand as though she were being taught a history lesson in class, "why didn't the Nowhere Islands explode too?"
"Because these islands are a very special place. You've no doubt noticed that there is nothing but ocean surrounding all of the Islands in all directions. Their remote location helped in sparing them from the destruction man had wrought upon their own homes, but that's not the whole reason. They were the one place that would remain, even if the world was lost. The one and only place where people could still survive. And so, before the destruction could consume it, the White Ship had embarked from the mainland and arrived at these islands.
Do you understand all of it?" he asked, looking at each of them. Duster was very antsy to get back to what Leder had said earlier, about him and his father, and sat as well, waiting for him to get to that part. They each nodded in understanding, following along with his story. "How about you, Mister Stinkbug? Are you keeping up alright?" In response, the stinkbug hopped up and down, conveying a 'nod' as best as it could.
"Then I'll continue." Leder took another few breaths, to regain his strength, apparently unused to having gone on speaking for so long. Not that Lucas could blame him; he had never even spoken since they knew each other, so it must have been an exercise all by itself. "The reason why these islands are so special
Kumatora suddenly took the story seriously, once it began to sync up with what the Magypsies had told her. And she trusted Ionia and Aeolia. "Long, long ago - way before the people of Tazmily arrived - the people lived together with the Dragon. We don't know much about their relation with each other, but we do know that at one point, eventually, they could simply no longer coexist. Whether because of resources or because of yet more destruction or because of a simple disagreement, we're unsure.
by the ancestors of the Magypsy people, who have lived here since ancient times. Consider this: the Magypsies you knew were many hundreds of years old, and it was their ancestors that placed the Needles. That's how long ago this was. But anyway, ever since, the Magypsies have guarded the Needles, in an effort to prevent the Dragon from ever being woken until its powers were truly needed once more. Thus, until the time of its awakening,
And so, because of the tremendous energy of the Dragon hidden deep below, these islands were protected from the end of the world." He suddenly focused on Lucas specifically. "Tell me, when you pull the Needles, what happens? What do you see? What do you hear?"
Lucas thought about it, recalling the three Needles he had managed to pull. "Um...there's lots of shaking and rumbling, and...I can hear this weird, deep pulsing sound, like a really loud heartbeat...and each Needle shot off this huge cloud of purple gas, once they were pulled."
"I see," Leder smiled. "The shaking was the Dragon stirring in its slumber. The heartbeat was exactly what you think it was. As for the cloud of gas...I'm actually not sure. Perhaps it was to vent some pressure the world was exerting on the Dragon as it slept under the islands. But, moving on,
Do you understand all of it?" They all nodded once, their eyes never leaving his, and the stinkbug gave a quick, stout hop.
"Suffice it to say, those who came aboard the White Ship feared another destruction of their world, more than anything else. They felt that they had gotten too complacent in their livelihood and that their destruction was a direct result of the way they had lived. Once they had disembarked from the mainland, the people of the White Ship held an extensive meeting, discussing their next action at great length, and in great detail. They shared their collective wisdom and spoke with grave seriousness."
"Uh," Duster intervened, getting Leder's attention. "I was there, you said? And my dad?"
"That's correct. You two shared everything you knew with the others, to pool your knowledge and resources together to come to a conclusion. And they all eventually did.
and start their lives over with new rules and new roles. That would be why you don't remember anything about it, Duster."
"So...I was never a thief in the old world? Matt wasn't a farmer? Flint wasn't a handyman? Isaac wasn't a pharmacist?"
"Not to begin with, no. But they all learned their trades quickly, and they stuck to them rigidly.
That is what happened. Everyone would simply restart their lives in a simple, peaceful village named Tazmily. They would not know strife. They would not know war or destruction or hatred. They would not know the pride that had sent them to the islands to begin with.
...and then, accustomed to their new roles, they would simply live out their new lives. Everyone's memories would reset, and be replaced with the new 'story' they had fabricated. And thus, the village of Tazmily - home to refugees of an old, forgotten world - came to be."
Lucas's heart was thumping at every word Leder spilt, although he felt no inclination to run. He was being told that everything he ever knew to be fact was wrong: that the Nowhere Islands weren't the only place in the world, and that everybody's lives were all lies they had made up. "So," he asked, choking on his own words, "Tazmily is fake? Nothing about it is real?"
"Oh, I wouldn't say that, not at all," Leder said suddenly, fortifying his story. "You weren't even born at the time, Lucas, so for you, Tazmily is as real as me standing here. Its creation may have been a little hasty, and the people who built it might have been living a second life, but I wouldn't call it 'fake'. If you need to call any place 'fake'...it would be New Pork City.
"But again, we're getting a little off-course," he continued. "Despite the memory replacement, it was necessary to record the fact that it had ever occurred to begin with.
I hope you still have it in your possession." Already Duster's hand was crawling up his own shirt, reaching into the hidden pocket next to his chest, and withdrawing the Hummingbird Egg. It was still glowing a healthy set of whites and reds, and it still looked just as healthy as the day they had pulled it from Osohe castle. "Wess, and you, his son, both playing the roles as thieves, were set to take action should a dangerous situation occur."
Duster looked back to Leder. "The day we got this, three years ago, my father kept saying to me that we needed to find this thing and protect it with our lives," he said nervously and excitedly, his mouth running a mile a minute. "I remember him asking, when we found it, just what sort of hope - or calamity - was hidden inside it."
"Oh yeah," Kumatora replied, snapping her fingers, "I remember that too."
"And I've always wondered just what was so important about it," he continued, looking at his reflection in the egg's lustre. "It looks all important and everything, and we knew that we had to keep it protected at all costs, but...we never really realized why."
Leder smiled down at Duster. "And now you know."
He ran his fingers over the egg's shell, finding a new reason to be mesmerized by its sheen and radiating light. "The memories of everyone," he said slowly, "from before the White Ship...are in this egg?"
Duster looked back at Leder, almost afraid to ask his next question. "Can I...?"
"I'd really rather you not," he answered, his tone becoming grim again. "We sealed away everyone's memories for a reason, and to give back the memories to just one from the White Ship could invite the same disaster all over again." He gave a heavy sigh. "I will not stop you if you do, Duster, but, for my sake, and for your own, and for the world's, it'd be safer if you did not."
"But obviously," Kumatora continued, leaning back on her seat and casually pointing a finger at Leder, "your memories ain't in there."
"Ah, smart girl," he smiled. "That's right. I retained all my memories of the event for myself.
to sort of 'keep watch' over things, as it were. I was the only one in all of Tazmily that was not given a role to play in the new 'story'. Rather, when everyone arrived, the bell that I rang was one of the first things we constructed, and everyone had conditioned themselves to keep their fabricated memories from reverting whenever I rang it. Whenever I felt everyone was getting a little too close to remembering the past, I rang that bell, and everyone's memories began to suppress once again.
"I thought it was because you were so tall, like a ladder," Lucas said.
"Well, yes, that too," he laughed. "It doesn't mean I'm anyone special, though. I hardly 'led' anyone anywhere in Tazmily, as you know. It just meant that I stood out, and it was specifically because of my...abnormal height, that I was selected to bear the burden of remembering everything. Being so tall, people would want to come and see me, you know? So I alone was tasked with revealing all of this to whomever I deemed it necessary to tell to, whenever they needed to hear it most. And here we all are.
Although Tazmily exists in reality, it was created as part of a story. Your decision to call it 'fake' is entirely up to your own discretion." Lucas looked away, unsure of what to make everything Leder was telling him. "I know this is all a bitter pill to swallow, but do you understand everything I've told you so far?"
Duster and Kumatora nodded, but Lucas had a question to ask. "So...are my parents...really my parents? Or was that part of the 'story' too?"
"Hinawa was pregnant with you and Claus at the time of the White Ship," Leder explained, "and you are definitely Flint's boys, make no mistake. They kept their names and their relations, remember."
"What about..." Kumatora stuttered. She wasn't very good at the mushy stuff, but she really needed to know. "Did you know my parents?"
"If I may, Kumatora," Leder began, "but allow me to answer that by telling you the next part of my story, which concerns Osohe castle." She nodded, allowing Leder to go at his own pace. "Thank you.
However, when we arrived on the White Ship, the people of the kingdom had long-since vanished. From what we could gather, they had left the islands, in fear of the Dragon's eventual reawakening, and the destruction it could possibly bring about the world should that happen. At the time of the boarding,
Kumatora looked hurt when Leder revealed that truth to her, and, like Lucas, she found herself turning away. "Upon coming to these islands, you were given to the Magypsies to raise, and given the role of a princess of a kingdom that did not exist. Wess and Duster, being your retainers, were also another part of the fabricated 'story'.
"Osohe castle is one of the few and precious relics of this island's past. It existed before we came here and built the village of Tazmily. Our 'story', when we arrived, was crafted in haste, and we had little room to manoeuvre when it came to that castle, so Osohe, as a result, had very little history to it.
Lucas hadn't really considered that - there was never a time when he wanted to know something about Tazmily's distant past. He had never even considered Tazmily's past before Leder brought it up just now. "In truth," he continued, "we wanted to create an entire plethora of myths and legends to go with our story, to make it seem more believable and structurally sound, but we were pressed for time and we couldn't think up a history, while also providing facts and evidence to back them all up. It was disappointing, but necessary."
Leder took a short pause, catching his breath from all his storytelling, and allowing Lucas, Duster, and Kumatora to soak it all up. "I'm sure that much of what I'm saying, you'd rather not hear, but it's all the truth. Have you all been keeping up with me?" It was all quite a bit to take in for young Lucas, from start to finish, but they all nodded all the same. It was all clear, and it all made sense, as much as he'd rather it not. "And how about you, Mister Stinkbug?" asked Leder, turning to the small green insect. "Have you committed it all to memory?"
In response, the stinkbug leapt into the air once more.
"It may seem as though I have spoken so much, but I have yet more to tell," he sighed. "Having gone without speaking for so long, I find droning on and on to be rather tiring, but it's all for your benefit, not mine. To be honest, we had no idea how Tazmily Village would turn out in the end. We could only plan and prepare so much, but in the end, we couldn't accurately guess how it would become. But, luckily enough for everyone, things actually turned out pretty well.
They believed that they had always lived together peacefully; nobody questioned why everyone simply knew everyone and how everything came to be as harmonious as it was, because it simply was, and that was good enough for everybody. They knew no strife or pain, whether from their past lives or from local unrest. But..." he cringed, painfully looking to Lucas, "I think you might know what disrupted all of this."
Lucas thought about it, reaching back as far as his mind could, trying to think of an event that changed everything. It wasn't hard; he immediately thought of his mother, and her death. "My mom," he whispered, looking to Leder for more answers.
"You believe she was killed by a berserk Drago, correct?" Lucas nodded, doing his best to hold back his tears from the painful memories. "This is true...but I don't believe the Drago is to blame completely. They are normally docile creatures; very gentle and passive towards humans, and one of them acting as it had was totally unheard of, even to myself. And...not to spur you or aggravate you, Lucas, but I believe I know who caused the Drago to behave as it did."
Lucas didn't ask the obvious question, knowing Leder would get there himself. He almost didn't want to hear the answer anyway: he had worked so hard to put his past behind him...
that everything started to go amok." Lucas had a feeling that the Pigmasks were to blame for his mother's passing, and what's more, it was the very highest in their ranks. "It seems he used a 'Time Distorter' machine to travel through space and time as he willed. I cannot imagine where - or more accurately, when - he found such a thing, but this is what I was told. It's not without its flaws, though, and apparently he was shut out from all other times and spaces somehow, and tumbled into this era and these islands.
"Of course, anyone with access to such tools and with even a shrivel of desire for power would realize the incredible potential that could go into altering the world's history. Using the machine, Porky would be able to amass and brainwash entire legions - whole worlds - into doing his bidding, and use the machine to bring peoples from many different places and eras to our Nowhere Islands. The Pigmasks, as well as everyone in New Pork City,
Duster listened along carefully, using everything he learned about Porky to hopefully use to his advantage later, although from the way Leder had put it, he had no idea how to battle someone with nearly infinite power. Kumatora was paying careful attention as well, although she squeezed in the occasional daydream about bringing that stuck-up 'King' the beating he deserved. Lucas, however, wasn't sure what to think. He was a pacifist at heart. He hated fighting. But now, he might just hate Porky more.
"This Porky fellow," Leder kept going, "seems to view these islands as his own personal 'toy box' of sorts, with which he can do anything he wants. I'm sure you've seen them: he would take animals apart and recombine them to make creepy, unnatural chimeras. I hear something called a 'slitherhen', a cross between a garter snake and a hen, was a popular one in the Sunshine Forest.
Including building Thunder Tower, to punish anyone that did not immediately submit to him, and forming his own army. Porky eventually learned of the White Ship secret thanks to a Magypsy turncoat: the one named Locria, I believe."
Kumatora said nothing, thinking about all the other Magypsies they had met during their travels. Mixolydia and Phrygia had both mentioned that Locria had been out of their contact for some time, and Ionia said that Locria was rapidly approaching her own Needle. She had never even guessed that it was all because Locria was a traitor.
"Crystal clear," Kumatora spat, saying what they were all feeling. Porky and Locria had debts to repay.
"After Locria joined forces with Porky, Porky learned about the White Ship people and the sleeping Dragon. And, on a complete whim, he decided he wanted that Dragon's power for himself." Lucas looked up at Leder - was it Porky behind that mask the whole time? He sort of doubted it, since he had no real reason to feel a sort of connection with Porky every time they met, and what little of the masked man's face he could see didn't match the flub and double-chins Porky had on the statues all over his city. "The Dragon is the power of the very earth itself, you see. It's said that whoever pulls the sealing Needles will become the Dragon's master.
As I understand it, neither the Magypsies nor Porky himself have this ability. And yet, the Needles are being pulled."
"Yeah, we know," Duster said. "We met the guy who's been pulling them for him two or three times, now."
"I see. By now, this should go without saying, but we have to put a stop to Porky's antics before it's too late. If we don't, the world will be completely destroyed again, and this time, there will be no safe haven for humanity to hide in. It will truly be the end of everything.
We, the last handful of people remaining, absolutely cannot allow that to happen. If not for ourselves, and for our time period, but for everything that ever was or ever will be: the past and the future all hinge on us defeating Porky right now." Leder leaned forward, his gargantuan body looming over Lucas. "Lucas. I've come to understand that you are a chosen one, with the ability to pull the Needles sealing the Dragon away.
and pass your heart on to the Dragon. Let this be my first, and final, command to you as your 'leader'." Lucas remained silent once more, answering Leder with the determination in his eyes. Porky had already taken everything he had to give, and now he was trying to take his future away. His pacifism had its limits.
They all nodded again, and Leder continued. "I hear that six of the seven Magypsy Needles have already been pulled."
"Um, just curious," Kumatora interrupted, "but...not to be rude or anythin', but, you're kinda trapped in this small, smelly room. Where do you keep hearin' these things?"
"Mole crickets," he answered simply. She laughed - she should have known better.
Supposedly - as there isn't any place left in the Nowhere Islands to look - the final Needle would be here in New Pork City. The city itself acts as the Needle's shield, protecting it from, well, you. Porky has been gathering everything that lived on the islands to this city, to prepare for the Needle's final pulling. I suspect that it's for absolutely nothing more than to hold one final, twisted party, and the whole world is invited to watch its ultimate destruction. But, of course, he's so confident in his success, that he's rolled out the red carpet for you to try and stop him, Lucas. We can change this looming crisis into a golden opportunity to make things right.
Leder's hard, weary expression began to soften as he looked at Lucas. "I've watched over Tazmily since the beginning. I've seen everyone grow and adapt, and I've seen Tazmily flourish and I've watched our fabrication breathe its own life. Once upon a time, Lucas, you were a weak and fragile boy, unable to do much without your mother's support or your brother's encouragement. And now I've had the privilege to see you grow into your tremendous role to fill. I know I was hardly the 'leader' type during my watch over Tazmily, but if it means anything to you, I'm quite proud of you."
Lucas had to look away. It was still difficult to receive any kind of praise without blushing in front of his friends. "Thanks."
the time has come for you to save the future, and all life as we know it." Leder paused, thinking about his next phrasing. "'God won't make you bear more than you can carry.' I'm sure you've heard that phrase before." Lucas had never heard of it, but he could guess its meaning. "Know that you aren't fighting alone. Everyone - and I do mean, everyone - will lend you their support."
Leder leaned back, closing his eyes and taking a few deep breaths.
Did you understand it all?" They all nodded one final time, and Leder paused a bit longer, clearing his throat, before he kept on going. "Only the Magypsies know of the locations of the Needles, so I don't know where the final one could be. But, from the way Porky and the others have been acting, I would say that they're nearing the seventh Needle, wherever it is. You must confront him now, and pull it before he has a chance to.
That, naturally, would be the best place to start."
Exhausted, he took a step back, propping himself against the other side of the hole in the floor for support. "It's been so long since I've spoken to anyone. And now I'm totally exhausted," he lamented. "The stinkbug should remember every detail of my story, so, while it might be a little unpleasant, I'd like you to take him with you. That way, if you ever need a refresher on my story or anything, you can just ask the stinkbug to repeat it."
Before they could say anything about accepting or declining Leder's offer, the stinkbug immediately took an attraction to Duster, crawling up the outside of his pants and tucking itself snugly into his pants pocket. "I have nothing further to say," Leder finished, pointing to the fallen door. "You have your orders. Pull the final Needle before Porky can."
Still lost in thought from everything they had been exposed to, they were silent as they picked themselves up off of Leder's dusty floor, and walked themselves out.
It was a lot to take in: Tazmily's origins; Duster surviving a calamity and forgetting every detail about it; the Hummingbird Egg's purpose; the destruction of a world they never knew; and Porky's evil, selfish ambitions. They were silent as they walked through the building, their minds still heavy with thoughts on everything they had learned.
"We're clear, then?" Kumatora asked once they reached the top of the stairs, far away from Leder's room, breaking the silence between them. "Good, 'cause I gotta..."
She opened up both her hands, palms facing upward, and her fingers hooked into claws, as she let go a massive thunderbolt from each of her fingertips. It damaged the walls and the floors even further, ripping up the carpets and tearing down the wallpaper as she suddenly, violently let out an enormous burst of electricity.
She laughed a little sheepishly when she finally got that out of her system. "That felt pretty good."
They had gone back through the sewers, avoiding the steel-plated cockroaches and the living heaps of trash, intent on marching straight back to the Empire Porky Building and making their way to the one-hundredth floor, regardless of whether or not the elevator was working. Leder's story was still looping endlessly in their thoughts, as they cycled through what he had said again and again, reminding themselves of what they were fighting for and why they needed to stop him with each step they took.
They had just made it back to the ladder that led back to the arcade aboveground, when the purple water right next to the garbage dam began to bubble.
And, faster than they could follow with their eyes, something shot out of the water quickly, high into the air and right next to the stone ceiling of the sewer. They covered themselves from the splash of the putrid water, and when they opened their eyes, a little wet from the sludge, there was another person that hadn't expected to find, underneath the streets of New Pork City and in a filthy sewer.
Floating down from the hole in the arcade, Fassad was joined by his robotic interpreter, hovering idly by its side, ready to translate whatever music Fassad played into actual words. Before it could play a note, though, Duster beat it to the punch. "Oh my goodness, what has happened to you?!" he shouted, horrified from Fassad's transformation. Its body looked no different, but they could hardly make out any part of its body at all from the myriad of musical horns attached to its skull. Where there was simply two in the volcano, it was now absolutely covered in them, like some kind of brass sheet: where there were two, there was now a dozen. Its jetpack had been changed so that the thrust came out of another pair of brass horns out of its back.
Fassad apparently ignored Duster's surprised exclamation, and began playing the same trumpeting music it played back in the volcano. While the incredible additions of musical horns to its arsenal was hideous, it certainly helped with Fassad's musical ability: the beautiful music it was making back then had increased to its own brass orchestra, and if it were anyplace, and played by anyone, else, Lucas would have been absolutely moved by it.
'Long time, no see,' Fassad says," says the interpreter. Apparently, Fassad's additions had made it harder for the machine to follow along with its 'words'. "'I say nwehehehehe to you, for I will now give you thoroughly destructive damage,' he goes on to say," said the interpreter. "'I have been made into an incredible, fiercely powerful, and dangerous ultimate weapon.
is what Fassad says. 'What's more,' he continues, 'I will put an end to your tale. I will give you damage, and then provide you with even more damage, until you are soundly defeated.' He says this very passionately, as though he's excited to do it," the interpreter narrated.
Kumatora was practically delighted to see Fassad again, after so long. "Good timing, buddy!" she said happily, taking a step back and prepping her own PSI. "I learned this really neat trick lately, and I've been just itchin' to use it. You oughta make a good punchin' bag for the next few minutes."
Accepting Kumatora's challenge, Fassad kicked the thrusters on its jetpack, rising itself menacingly higher, ready to swoop down on the four in a moment.
Fassad is now ready to fight," the interpreter finished, and quickly hovered to the side, away from the danger area. "Here he comes."
Leaning forward, and with a dive,
they fought Fassad once more.
Fassad's flight grew lopsided, now that many of its horns were missing. One of his thrusters was petering out, and two of its limbs weren't moving, hanging limp and lifeless in the air. The fight was intense; they hadn't expected Fassad to be able to use PK Starstorm itself. It must have been taught how to use such a powerful skill from the Magypsy traitor Locria.
Unable to control or sustain its own flight, Fassad began to hover on its side, heading for the concrete wall headfirst. It was dizzy and bruised and beaten, but regardless of all that, as if to taunt them with the fact that it continued to live, it kept playing, using the two remaining horns in its face.
Not because they are filthy words, but because they are merely sounds," it explained. "'You have bested me, kind sirs. Actually, no, you did not best me. You are merely detestable.'"
"Takes one to know one," Kumatora said venomously - although she couldn't deny that Fassad had put up one hell of a fight. It was pretty close at times.
"Fassad continues by saying, 'I am sick of all this fighting. Very, extremely, sick of it. I could not escape it now, as I could not have escaped it three years ago, nor could I have escaped it from Blunder Tow' - I'm sorry, 'Thunder Tower.
'You people are still stuck in his game, as I have been. And yet, now, I may be removed from it, but I am still unsure.'" Fassad continued to play its music, and while its earlier orchestral qualities had diminished from it, to say the least, the sound was still very clear and concise. "'The flames of my life are in danger now. I...do not think...that we will ever meet again.' He says this painfully, with stuttered words. 'And not just in battle,' he states, and, with a very faint voice, he adds, 'nwehehe!'"
Very suddenly, Fassad's jetpack gave out, and it plummeted from the sky and into the water, disappearing beneath the stream as it rolled out into the ocean from the sewer.
They watched its silhouette underneath the purple sludge as it washed away with the current, before disappearing completely through the sewer's tunnels and out of their sight, likely forever. "Sucks to be Fassad," Duster commented.
The translator looked to the group of four, its electronic eyes scanning each of them for any sudden movement. "I am an interpreter," it said statically, "but now that Fassad is gone, I am no longer needed." Slowly it began to hover away, deeper into the sewer system. It had no idea where it was going to go - but it was going to go somewhere.
And that was that.
Very little in the way of post-update content. I've gone over most of everything I needed to go over in the update, minus a few things, so this will be a short follow-up post.
To begin with, there is a vending machine just at the front of Empire Porky Building that you can buy stuff from. It only has a few noteable items, but if you're hurting for some defence, give it a look.
At the wooden area just below the Porky Statue, there's another Pigmask hiding in the corner, and he'll sell you things. Dangerous things.
Some of these things are kind of ho-hum, although you'll notice that he offers to sell you New Years Eve bombs. We encountered only one other dealer that sold those things, and we turned him down, because they're unreliable and duds, more often than not. Will we be needing one soon?
To the west of the amusement park is the Sanchez Brothers. They make a triumphant return from Earthbound, and they provide the exact same function.
Finally, you can purchase things from over the counter at the theatre. Some good defence items, and two joke items. Not even "lethal joke items", they're just wicked wicked expensive and offer a third of the damage you'll have with your current weapons.
There's a mole cricket just outside of Leder's apartment building, but he offers nothing special, so I didn't get a screenshot there. Also, earlier in the sewer, in this screenshot,
Your rewards for checking the trash cans are, from left to right: Magic Pudding, Saltwater Gun, and a Putrid Mouldyman.
Only about three updates left! Maybe two, depending on how short the next one is. We're almost there!