Part 34: Chapter 29I'm actually kind of terrified of this update, to be totally honest.
All at once, the flooring had given way underneath their feet and they were all sent flying straight down an elevator shaft. One minute, they were standing there and putting up with Porky's constant bantering and taunts, and another, an elevator they were unwittingly standing on suddenly careened down a poorly-lit shaft, dropping faster than they could fall. It had happened so suddenly and the whole event went by so quickly that Lucas hadn't even had the chance to cry out in surprise, and before they all knew it, the platform had smashed against the ground, ending their freefall down a one-hundred storey shaft rather suddenly.
They tumbled out of some kind of grated fence once the elevator stopped, which slowly and noisily shut again behind them. They all lied still for a moment, every part of their bodies hurting and aching from the sudden impact against the ground. Flint was the first to pull himself back together, although the fall had hurt even him pretty badly.
"Is everyone okay?" he asked gruffly, coughing and clearing his throat. His shoulders and his knees hurt a lot from the impact, but he wasn't going to let that stop him. He had things to do.
Boney managed to stand back up next, albeit achingly and harshly. He tried to shake his fur clean, but stopped right away, feeling that hurt much more than just standing up. He limped on three paws, gently licking his front-right to ease its pains. Duster was next, bringing both his hands to his eyes and wiping away the dust and fatigue from them, and feeling his bad leg ache even worse. Kumatora and Lucas were last; her hands had been bruised in the fall and her fingers were having some difficulty flexing properly, while Lucas somehow managed to get away comparatively well, just taking a hit to his forehead.
It being second-nature to him now, he lifted his hand from the rocky ground and, focusing as best as his addled-head could, cast a Lifeup Omega on himself and his friends and father. It eased their pain, although their stiff movements and their hurt digits would have to mend on their own. With clearer eyes and no distractions, they took a better look around the new area Porky had just dumped them into.
There was a large draft in the wide-open caves, but it was also pretty warm. They had fallen a long way; more than one-hundred storeys, most likely. Just how far below the ground were they? Were they even underneath the ocean that surrounded New Pork City on all sides? Was Locria's Needle really this far below the surface? There was nothing for them to listen to from all directions other than the sounds of their own breathing and the occasional footstep. There was no clear light-source, but they could see well enough to notice a set of stairs going even deeper underground.
Once Duster could stand back up, the first thing he checked was the fence that locked them away from the elevator. It wouldn't budge, no matter how hard he lifted it, and there was no lock on it for him to pick that he could see. Not that there was anything they could do if he did open it: the elevator had crumpled to pieces the moment it struck the rock they were standing on. They were trapped there, wherever they were.
"Lucas," Flint called to his son. "Are you okay?"
Everything on Lucas felt terribly stiff and sore. His arms and legs, fingers and toes, and especially his neck, were all practically locked in place from the hit. But nothing was missing, and nothing was broken. "I think so."
"That's good to hear." Flint wasn't very much on words. He knew that, and Lucas knew that; just because he wasn't very good at articulating his feelings didn't mean he wasn't relieved to see his son was okay. "We..." he tried to say, trying to form the sentence before he spoke it, "have a lot to talk about. We have some catching up to do." Lucas looked up to his father; it had been three years since they had really bonded, and his heart nearly skipped a beat when his dad implied he wanted to make up for it. "But not right now. I know about the Needles and the Dark Dragon and everything, so we should really get to that first."
On the one hand, he was absolutely correct, but on the other, Lucas was a little crushed, knowing he had to wait even longer. "I know, dad. Sure."
Would you mind if I went on ahead?"
Lucas was caught off-guard by that question, and Duster answered for him when he didn't. "Are you sure, Flint? We don't know what's done there, and we've been a pretty powerful team so far. With all of us, we could handle Porky and his masked man, no problem."
"I'm sure, Duster," he replied sternly. "Lucas, please. I'm asking you as your father. I know you don't owe me any favours after the way I've acted for the last three years, but there's something I just...need to know. Please."
This was the first time his father had ever really asked anything of him with such seriousness. He could see the exhaustion in his father's eyes as he nearly pleaded with his son to just let him do this one thing. "Yeah," he finally answered after a bit. He knew it was dangerous, and he knew his father knew, so whatever he wanted to see so badly must have been awfully important.
If it seems like I've been gone for a while, though, then go ahead and keep going. Don't wait up for me."
Without another word, he pressed on, heading down the flight of stairs and deeper into the earth without Lucas and his friends.
They waited for a moment, to make sure Flint was out of earshot, when Kumatora turned to the boy. "Was that the right thing to do?"
"I don't know," he answered, clearly troubled with himself over his decision. "I...my father, he's...I've never heard him ask me to do something like that before. I couldn't say no."
Eventually, the tapping of Flint's footsteps echoed into the near-infinity of the caves they were standing in. They had stood there in silence, letting Flint go forward without their help, letting their pains ease themselves over the time. Lucas was fine with letting his dad go on ahead at first, but as the minutes ticked away and there was no sign or sound of him climbing back up the stairs, the guilt of the decision began to creep up on him.
For the last three years, his dad had treated himself recklessly: he would disappear into the mountains long before noon and he wouldn't return until well after dusk, looking for the son he lost, forgetting about the son he had. Sometimes the day would go without a problem; other times he would come back beaten and bleeding, with his clothes barely clinging to his body. Lucas didn't even know if his father had realized he was missing for the last three days.
Less than five minutes had passed with them simply sitting there, waiting for Flint's return, when Lucas got restless. They knew that the longer they spent idle, the more time Porky had to approach the final Needle, but Lucas had promised. "Let's just go," Kumatora offered softly. It didn't take very long for him to agree.
The set of stairs next to the landing went down an awfully long distance, before eventually curving and continuing, spiralling downwards towards whatever bottom this cave happened to have. The Pigmasks had been here, and if Porky was telling the truth, just recently, too. The stairs and the walls had all been cut smooth, with few chips or marks anywhere along their surfaces: they were still fresh.
The light never let them see too far ahead at any given time, and it was difficult to tell if the caverns were really as large as they thought it was. Without knowing where they were, or how far down they were, and the fact that they couldn't go back, they all couldn't help but be nervously silent. The sounds of their feet and paws clomping against the stone were their only conversation, and the only thing that split the monotony of the spiralling staircases were ladders.
After the third ladder, just as they all collected again at its base, something glinted out of the corner of his eye, hidden just beyond the stone out-cropping of the ladder. Whatever it was, it intrigued him. It was small...it looked pretty old, with a lot of chinks in its brass shell. With a circular shape, it looked sort of like-
He accidentally fumbled with it as he tried to pick it up, and it wound up tumbling off the side of the cliff, disappearing into the cavern's darkness forever. Well, whatever it was, it couldn't have been that important.
At the bottom of the fourth ladder they saw the entrance into the underground mountain, leading deep into the earth. The cut ground had been arranged in a circular shape, with some forgotten warning barriers protecting the edge of the hole in the centre.
It was a short walk, counter-clockwise around the large pit going deeper into the core of the planet. Wherever the Pigmasks were thinking of going when they drilled that hole, they clearly changed their minds after they realized there was no bottom in sight.
Down just another ladder, they were brought to the open mouth of the cave, inviting them in to their ultimate destination. Wherever he was, Porky was waiting for them through this cave - and they hadn't found Flint yet, either.
Inside the mountain, the atmosphere took a very sudden turn for the surreal. The caverns before weren't very natural, having been cut and blasted away by the Pigmasks, but there was no way any of this could have been artificial. The rock they stood on was smooth, perfect obsidian; the ground - or maybe liquid? Or some kind of magma? - below their pathway glowed with a sickly purple, practically pulsating different hues and shades. A blue or red spark of static sometimes shot up from below the ground, creeping up to their walk, but never reaching over the side.
Lucas felt a familiar pressure on his back and his shoulders, like from when he pulled the Needles before, but this time, everyone else could feel it as well. It wasn't uncomfortable, and it wasn't strong enough to force them to slouch, but it was definitely there, suggesting that something extraordinary was hidden somewhere within the depths of the mountain's maze.
Splotches of some kind of luminescent blue gloop dotted the pathway, and pooled on top of some of the larger plateaus of the walkway. They were sticky and thick, but they weren't deep enough to cover the soles of his shoes, and they didn't seem to be too dangerous by themselves. However, what appeared to be sentient sparks of electricity clearly took a liking to whatever the substance was, and a bunch of them tended to group up and over the batches of the stuff.
Being ethereal, they were awfully difficult to shoo away physically, but a helping of PK Freeze turned them solid enough to strike back. There were a lot of them, but they weren't too difficult to deal with.
The path forward continued to zig and zag unpredictably; it constantly shifted back and forward, left and right, as it brought them forward, to the Needle's resting place. More dots of the blue stuff littered the way forward, and given how they knew next to nothing about the caverns, they didn't know if that was a good sign. But there was still no sign of Flint anywhere.
To add to the non-realism of the underground caves, the diamonds themselves, created after hundreds of years of heat and pressure, were coming to life. They moved more unpredictably than the shots of electricity, and thanks to their density, physical attacks were just as difficult as the other things.
Although their conductivity with electricity made them simmer down quickly and easily.
Truthfully, they had no idea where they were headed, or how long it would be until they got there. But there was only one way forward through the jagged path, and it led them deeper and deeper into...wherever it was they were, so they assumed it was the correct way.
Their footsteps clapped noisily against the smooth, black stone. They marched forward in silence; the tension was immense, and knowing who was out there, they were expecting an ambush at any moment. But there was none: there were just more and more of those balls of static, and occasionally more of those diamond things. They were beginning to get antsy, and Lucas was beginning to get worried: the longer they didn't find his dad, the less the chances of them ever finding him were getting.
They pressed forward. None of them said a word, but they all knew what the others were thinking. The Needle, Porky, and his masked soldier couldn't have been too far ahead. They were all nervous and they didn't bother trying to hide it. They had seen Porky and his physical condition, but knowing that that could very well have been a ruse was beginning to chip away at them.
While the timing wasn't that great, she welcomed it anyway: it meant that, soon, they'd have a new weapon in their arsenal to help battle Porky with. They really needed all the help they could get.
Just as they passed through another small canyon, separating a part of the underground terrace from the other, Boney's wily nose picked up a familiar scent among all the distractions of the underground world. He stopped on the spot, scanning the air, and immediately started to bark once his eyes found what his nose was looking for.
They looked to the barking dog, seeing him 'pointing' up towards the dark sky with his muzzle. They followed his trail, and Lucas saw a sight he was hoping he wouldn't.
It was difficult to discern from the dark colours of the surroundings, but there was no mistaking Flint's hat blowing away in the draft. Flint loved that hat more than any of his other possessions; he'd sooner lose his boots than his hat. Lucas began to whimper, seeing it fly away, over cracks and crevasses, never to be worn again, and he couldn't help but imagine the worst.
He picked up his pace, running down the craggy black path, keeping his eyes peeled for his father anywhere nearby. Footprints; a piece of his shirt; anything that could tell him that his father hadn't made him an orphan. Fortunately for his racing heart, they didn't have to run too far.
Boney barked excitedly, and ran right past the others, eager to get to his other master as quickly as he could. The others kept up, running up to Flint as quickly as they could: he was doubled over, on his knees, as though he had been hurt badly. Already Lucas and Kumatora began to ready their PSI to help him with whatever injury he had.
"Dad!" Lucas yelled, his voice unsteady from his feet thumping hard against the stone. Flint did not lift his head to see Lucas, and he barely even registered Boney sniffing at him and licking his face. "Dad, what's wrong?" he asked quickly, channelling his PSI into his hands, ready to pass on anything his father needed in an instant.
And all in an instant, Lucas lost his focus. His PSI left his hands and dripped back into himself, ready to be called again later. His hands went cold and his stare turned hard; had he heard what he thought he heard? "Dad...?" he asked, afraid of the clarification his father would give him. "What...?"
"Lucas," Flint sobbed - for the first time Lucas had ever known his own father - and lifted his weary blue eyes to his son's. Lucas could see the crow's feet dotted underneath the tears already streaming down his unshaven face, and he couldn't stop his own from beginning to form. "That's your brother. He's Claus."
Lucas didn't think he believed him at first, but there was no denying that look in his father's eyes. Flint had never told a lie, not once in his life: there was just varying degrees of seriousness. And he was being very serious right now. "Dad," he said softly. If it were true, then Lucas would have found his brother, and Flint would have found his son.
"I never gave up on him," Flint continued to say, slurring his words. He didn't even bother trying to keep up his face. "I never lost hope. Every day, I went out there, to find him, so we could be a family again." Lucas had done so much to put his mother and his brother behind him, and he had spent every one of those days worrying about his father and how he was killing himself over his grief - and now, he was being told that one of them was still alive. After three long, gruelling years of worry and doubt, Claus was still alive. "I don't know why he's obeying Porky,
Flint did his best to dry his tears, and he tried to lift his frown for Lucas. "This...this is great," he said. His act wasn't fooling anybody, but even still, he was right, a little. "I've found your brother. We can go back to how things were."
Lucas's thought about how the way things were. How he and his brother would play tag with Fuel, or hide-and-seek with Tessie, or how they would play-fight with Dragos. How they both loved omelettes and how they would visit their grandfather every other week in the mountains. He would love nothing more than to have that back.
But now Claus was working for Porky. Claus was the man behind the mask that they had found once, on the peak of Snowcap Mountain; twice, on the top of an unnamed mountain on Tanetane island; and a third time, in front of...that temple with Ionia's Needle. Every time, Lucas found himself lost with the masked man's appearance; just something about him always made him stay his hand. Now he knew why; and thinking about it only reminded him of how he had beaten Claus to near-death at that temple, and how one of them probably wasn't going to walk away from this cave.
Kumatora saw Lucas's hesitation and apprehension about the scenario. She was an only child, but still, she couldn't imagine what she would feel if she was forced to fight Aeolia. "Flint," she said quickly and softly, resting a hand on the man's back and channelling some of her PSI into him for his injuries. "You stay here," she instructed. "You look after yourself. We'll come get you once we're done with Porky."
Flint grunted, clenching his stomach as he felt the PSI go to work on the pain. "I will," he managed to say. "And Lucas," he said, reaching out to his son with an open hand. Lucas took it without a pause, giving his father's hand a firm, loving squeeze, and Flint squeezed back. "That final Needle...I love you and I love Claus, but
"I..." he stuttered. If it came to it, would he be able to strike Claus down a second time, knowing what he knew? "I will."
They left Flint there to his wounds, crossing over a steel bridge and continuing onward. Porky couldn't have been far.
Just beyond the steel bridge were some more of those diamonds and electric shocks.
His father was counting on him to make sure he remained safe. Flint wasn't going to be able to go anywhere, not in his condition. Nothing was going to threaten him with Lucas there.
The jagged path continued forward. Many of the plateaus and cliffs were separated by more and more steel bridges as they continued on forward; with the way the stone paths were getting cracked and separated, they could only guess that wherever the Needle was, it wasn't too far away at all.
Just a short ladder later, up onto an expansive, flat cliff just a few feet high and dotted with more of that blue gunk, they were brought face-to-face with their enemy once again. "Stop!" a cracked, old voice wheezed out between heavy breaths. "Stop right there!"
Porky's crib had taken a totally different shape: it had sprouted eight scorpion-like legs, each barbed and braded with a number of pointed still juts and each with deadly sharp points at their very ends. It walked smoothly: the crib hardly bounced or bobbed at all in its walk, although it was far from discreet, as every movement it made had a terribly loud grinding noise to it, along with heavy thumps of the weight of the machine against the stone. Sitting in it, of course, was Porky, as he stared back at them through his heavy bowl-cut, his mouth agape as usual.
Right away, once the crib stopped its intimidating pace towards them, Porky began coughing up another fit. He thrust and lurched on the spot, trying to hack out the phlegm in his throat. "I changed my mind," he eventually managed to grit. "This really is no time for games anymore. You've come far - too far for my liking - and I don't feel like letting you go any farther."
"Cheater," Lucas spat immediately, knowing Porky wouldn't take to the name lightly. Not only had this man taken his mother, his home, and his life, but he still had his brother alive and brainwashed, as the second-in-command to the Pigmasks.
"Takes one to know one!" Porky shouted indignantly. "You were never supposed to pull those stupid things in the first place! You were never invited! This was my party and you crashed it!" Lucas didn't move, watching Porky thrash about and whine like a child in his crib. "But you know what? It's okay anyway.
"His name!" Lucas shouted back. It was his turn to get mad, and it visibly showed: his shoulders rose, and he reared his arms back, clenching his hands into fists. He couldn't remember the last time he got angry, but this was one of those rare times. "Is Claus!" He took a few deep huffs of are, not to calm himself, but to catch his breath. "He was fifteen thousand million billion times a person you could ever hope to be, and you don't even deserve to know his name!"
He had hoped the mimicry and the mockery would agitate Porky further - not that getting Porky mad was his goal, but Lucas didn't think very well during the rare times he got so infuriated - but Porky was only confused. He took a moment to process what Lucas had just told him before responding.
"Claus isn't a monster!"
"It's name is Claus?!" Porky seemed genuinely surprised that his masked soldier had a name at all. "That's, like, almost a person's name! You mean to tell me that robot of mine used to be a person, somewhere, sometime?"
"Claus isn't a robot!"
"I'm afraid you're wrong, Lucas," Porky laughed. Lucas had tried to get a response out him, and Porky, a seasoned master at being an annoying brat, sprung the trap right back on him. "A person, as dumb as they can get, usually has morals and values...and memories. My son has none of those things; I'm hardly a model citizen myself, but I fit that description better than it does." He could see Lucas's scorn continue to rise the more he spoke - his anger was practically delicious for Porky. "Some time ago, back on that quaint little rock you lived on, it might have been somebody. But now it belongs to me.
It does whatever I say! It acts on my will alone. It is my double; my loyal shadow that follows me anywhere and does whatever I say. You know, like those 'people' and that dog following you wherever you go. It doesn't know anything about you, or what its past life might have been." He proceeded to cough and hack up another storm, trying to oust some more mucus from his throat.
Unable to take any more, Lucas lunged forward, hitting Porky and his mechanical crib with a powerful PK Love Omega. "Claus is not an 'it'!" he shouted, and for the first time in his entire life,
he cast the first stone.
Unfortunately for him, it seemed Porky had anticipated such an attack. Thanks to whatever technology he was employing, Porky had some kind of PSI-counter device activated that repelled any offensive PSI back at the caster. Lucas barely had the time to dodge his own attack as it was flung back at him.
He wanted to keep on fighting Porky, getting up close to the spider-like crib, trying to fight him using his fists alone. That wasn't really how they were used to fighting, though; Duster and Boney jumped on ahead, ready to fight Porky and his machine however they could: kicking at its body, biting and pulling at its feet, or anything at all. Kumatora lunged forward, only to grab Lucas by the shoulders and get him out of there. "Stick to the plan!" she said, before going back to casting some dampeners on Porky's machine. He was so mad he could hardly see straight, but after seeing his own attack getting flung back at him like that, he made an effort to at least try and focus.
Porky was not unfamiliar with his attack drone: with its many feet and large size, Porky could strafe in one direction while spinning its massive body in another, while still having enough legs free to make a sweep out at the attackers as he moved. He was coughing and gurgling his phlegm up the whole time, but they didn't give him any doubt about his capabilities. He may have been an old man, but his eight-legged crib promised to be one of the fiercest fighters they had encountered yet.
Aside from the obvious physical capabilities of Porky's crib and its lethal legs and heavy body, he had an amalgamation of other tricks hidden in the machine's many gears and wires. With the press of a few buttons, the machine began to move and attack in a way they never thought it could, and they were hit before they even realized Porky had even made an attack.
The underside of the machine's legs glowed a threatening red as it moved, all the while Porky was busy pressing buttons and moving pedals with every digit he could afford. They had fought living statues, enormous cyborgs, and at least one Magypsy, but Porky was different from all the others in a whole lot of ways, from the machine's physical makeup to its agility and how it fought. The red glowing under its legs intensified, and suddenly, with no way to predict the attack coming, a massive wave of red...something swept out from underneath the machine and bathed the area in its light.
Duster was just landing after a good kick to one of the leg's joints, and Kumatora was too focused on her PSI to react to the wave in time. Boney managed to jump over it just as it passed, and Lucas quickly ducked behind a stalagmite, watching the wave bend harmlessly around his shelter and into the infinity of the cave. The wave didn't do anything harmful, thankfully, but, just as worse, it caused Duster and Kumatora to go temporarily blind.
Duster had to fall back. The longer he stayed in that thing's range without his eyes, the better the chance he'd wind up impaled on one of its legs. Boney went right on ahead, though, constantly gnashing and pulling on the legs whenever he could get close enough. The machine couldn't feel any pain, but its balance was sensitive, and every pull Boney made knocked it off-centre a bit.
"Lucas!" Kumatora yelled, her eyes forced shut in pain. She dared to squint them open, just a little bit, and all she felt was a searing hot pain in her retinas. "We can't see!"
"On it!" he called, watching Boney fight Porky alone for the moment as he drummed up one of the newest tricks he had learned. It wore him down a bit, but in the adrenaline of fighting the final leader of the Pigmasks and everything that meant, he could barely notice a little exhaustion.
The welcome wash of coolness as Lucas's PSI eased the pain in their eyes came over them in an instant, and once again, Duster was back in the fight, getting right into Porky's range and kicking more dents into his machine's frame. Just as the PSI fixed Kumatora's eyes, though, her fever from a little earlier in the cave disappeared as well, and immediately, she felt herself readying some PSI on reflex. "Duster! Boney!" she yelled, and they both ducked out of the way before she could finish her sentence, knowing what the command would be. Lucas did too, and he grew nervous: Porky had some kind of PSI barrier on him, and Kumatora was going to make his same mistake.
She had no idea what to expect from herself and her knew ability, but once she felt herself cast it, the obsidian stone they were standing on began to rumble and quake, and suddenly, Porky's machine was caught in a powerful earthquake.
Since the attack commanded the very ground itself to move for her, it slipped right past Porky's shield, and because of their warning and their better balance, her friends had little trouble keeping themselves unhurt from the quake. The machine's balance was very finite, but Porky's expert piloting managed to keep it upright.
"Let me fill you in on something," Porky said snidely, once he made sure his machine wasn't about to fall over. Lucas wasn't interested in listening, and right away, he went to work on his next PSI, ready to support the others however he could. But he couldn't deny wanting to get his own licks in. "I can never die." Lucas wasn't listening, but Porky was speaking to him - he practically ignored Boney and Duster as they went right back to chipping away at his steel, defending and parrying them with ease. "No matter how much you attack me, I can never die.
He wasn't too interested in anything Porky had to say, but Kumatora was more than willing to do the talking for them. "More than one way to skin a cat," she spat, readying herself for another of those earthquake attacks - although, the first one was really taxing on her. She didn't know if she could get another one up right away.
Porky laughed openly at her analogy. "And I'm the inhuman monster! I've done a lot of mean things, but I've never skinned any cats!"
After that earthquake, Porky decided to stop wasting his time with the paraplegic and the stupid dog, and quickly thumped his way towards Kumatora and Lucas, recognizing who the real threats were. The eight legs of his machines stomped quickly along the ground, rushing up to the two menacingly, and when they were just in his reach, he lunged forward with the front two legs, attempting to skewer them both at once.
They both managed to jump out of the way just as Porky swung out at them - it wasn't unlike dodging the Ultimate Chimera in the Chimera Lab, but it was just as close, feeling the air shift behind him just as the leg whiffed the swing. He kept running, hearing Porky turn and chance after him, but he was distracted and slowed when Duster came to his rescue, kicking the machine's body hard enough to shift its balance.
Grunting in frustration, Porky swung two of his machine's left legs, whacking Duster hard on the chest and sending him skidding across the ground. He tumbled harshly across the smooth stone, kicking and grabbing at anything to slow his momentum. Luckily he came to a stop just before the edge of the plateau they were on, and, ignoring his pain, he sprang back to his feet quickly, calling to Lucas for a Lifeup as he ran back to join Boney against the machine.
Still not without tricks up his sleeve, Porky began putting in more commands for his machine, and suddenly, the two rearmost legs raised up, forming an arc directly over his head. His mobility hadn't taken a hit at all without them, and quickly, electricity began to jump and arc between the legs, until a massive, constant stream of it arced between them. They had no idea what he was doing, but it was clearly dangerous:
Once the machine built up enough energy, electricity began to jump from the arc, aiming right for all four of them from high above. His aim wasn't very good, but the static of the charges passing through the air still managed to singe their skin a little.
Porky opened his mouth to speak again; again, he was addressing Lucas; and again, Lucas wasn't very interested in whatever he had to say. He just wanted Porky gone.
Who knows how old I am, really? I could be a thousand years old. Heck, I could be ten-thousand years old. I could be even older, and there's no way for anybody to tell. All the years kind of just ran together for me after a while."
"You've done a great job acting your age," Duster replied sourly. "Ruining lives and destroying homes. Didn't your mother ever teach you some humility?"
Porky laughed out loud at Duster's assumptions. "Man, my folks weren't exactly good-Samaritans either. You're barking up the wrong tree, there." Lucas kept his distance, looking for some kind of opening to take advantage of. He'd have no problems attacking with as much PK Love as he absolutely could, if he could somehow get around Porky's countering device. "I learned at a ripe-young age that adults were bad, awful people, and that, to survive in my world, you had to fight for yourself and side with the strongest. So I did all that, and I promised myself I would never be like any 'person' I grew up with."
Kumatora chuckled under her breath when she heard Porky's sob-story about a rough childhood.
"Nah, I was just thinkin'," she answered, trying to ready herself for another earthquake, "it must'a been a real kick in the teeth when that kid in the theatre grew up without you, huh? Turnin' into one of those adults that you hate so much."
Porky paused slightly at her taunt. He had been alive for more years than he could guess, and he had spent much of it obsessing over his encounters with that boy he depicted in the theatre - but he was so lost in his childhood that he had never even considered what had happened when he left his own timeline, and what had happened to the other boy. The last thing that he remembered was he told his little brother to forward the boy a letter, but they never ran into each other again after that.
"No!" he yelled, charging for Kumatora ferociously, spurred by her mean words and their meanings. "What do you know?! He wouldn't have left me behind! He wouldn't have given up on me! He would have found a way to chase me, all the way here, the same way I had!"
She didn't know what he meant by 'chase me', or what his relationship was with some kid with a bright smile and a red hat, but at least she knew what his buttons were as he barrelled towards her, full tilt, ready to tear her apart with the pointed ends of each of his legs. She had to drop her focus on her new earthquake attack, but at least she got away unscathed in Porky's blind, childlike rage.
With his back turned, Lucas saw his chance, and quickly ran in to get Porky himself with his own hands. He wasn't nearly as good a fighter as Duster or even his dog, and he wasn't really used to throwing a punch at all, but it wasn't too difficult to visualize as he closed the gap. Just as Porky turned to chase Kumatora, he leapt up as high as his legs could take him, bravely weaving between the legs of the crib and grabbing onto the edge of the carriage, before leaning in to sock Porky right in his scrunched-up nose.
Porky cried out in pain - it was the first time in the fight - it was the first time in many, many years - that he had been physically assaulted like that, and Lucas had made sure that he didn't hold anything back with the strike. Porky was momentarily dazed, but before Lucas could pull his fist back for another strike, he quickly punched in a few more commands on his machine. The entire thing flexed its legs, then leapt straight up into the air, coming back down with a hard crash, and knocking Lucas off the carriage.
He suddenly found himself underneath the machine's very sharp eight legs as it began to dance over him, spearing the ground with its steps, each one threatening to cut straight through him and ripping him inside out. Rather than lie there and try to shield himself with his arms, Lucas quickly scurried away, crawling across the stone as quickly as he could, before he could pull himself to his feet and run to a safer distance.
Angrily, Porky looked towards Lucas, watching the boy try to crawl away, and began stomping the machine's feet at him. Lucas wasn't in a very advantageous position, on his back, under a rain of sharp legs, and only managed to avoid getting skewered and sliced by the occasional pure luck and Porky not thinking clearly.
Duster was watching the whole thing, and he felt a sense of pride as Lucas managed to get Porky right in his face, but nearly panicked himself when he saw the tables turn so quickly. Immediately, he thought of a strategy, and dashed towards Porky, stamping away at the downed Lucas. "Rope snake!" he yelled loudly, stretching his left hand out, and, with nearly imperceptible speed, he felt the snake detach itself from his torso, slide itself down his arm, and wrap itself around his wrist, allowing itself to be gripped by its tail with its head pointed forward.
Porky slammed into the ground again and again, trying to catch any part of Lucas and getting more and more frustrated with his misses. Just as he brought his left-front leg down, sure that he had finally gotten the boy, he hadn't expected a bright-red snake with the elasticity of a rope to spring forward and catch onto the leg with its jaw. Duster gave a hard pull, and the foot missed Lucas's face by only a few inches - and, fortunately, it knocked the crib off its balance.
Lucas saw his chance to run while the machine was on its hinges, and he picked himself up, dashing to the far edge of the plateau while Porky fumbled with his controls, doing everything he could to get it to stand up again before something disastrous could happen again. He didn't want another punch to the face, most of all. As he worked with the buttons and levers and gears, while the heavy machine worked and struggled to get back onto its legs, he tried to buy some time by goading the others some more.
And you know what?" he asked, looking right at Lucas as he continued with his controls. "Even so..." Knowing what he knew and what he was capable of, he simply laughed loudly, the rare time he had nothing to cough up half way through. With a few more timely keystrokes, he was able to stand the machine back up, ready to keep battling the others, knowing that even if he lost, he still won.
"Fat chance!" Kumatora yelled. She had had more than enough time to get ready for another earthquake attack, and was mere moments from another blast; she was confident that there was no way Porky could stop her this time. "We're beatin' you and we're pullin' the Needle ourselves! An' you'll sit there and you'll watch!"
Porky looked over his shoulder, watching Kumatora from a small hidden mirror just inside his crib. "Who's to say?" he chided. "I look at Lucas now, and I see hatred. I see he wants me gone, and he's willing to dirty his hands to do it." He began to laugh again, seeing that the others hadn't caught on to his meaning. "I see a lot of darkness in the heart that's supposed to turn the world into a utopia!"
Lucas was never interested in whatever banter Porky had for them, but this time, he was listening. He abhorred everything about Porky, that was undeniable, and he allowed himself to revel in his hatred over the man the entire battle. Had he been playing right into Porky's hands? Was it his plan all along to get Lucas to hate him so much that it wouldn't matter who pulled the final Needle? Being played like a fiddle for Porky made him angrier, and he knew he couldn't let himself get so hate-filled - but he couldn't help it. Porky was...Porky.
And I'll see you at the ends of the earth, Lucas!"
Lucas faltered. If he fought Porky, he'd continue to hate him, and he might not stop, even after they had won. But if he didn't fight him, the world would end anyway. Could he trust himself to let go when they defeat him? Or when he was forced to confront Claus?
Kumatora happily snapped him out of it, if only temporarily. Whether or not Porky caused Lucas to end the world for him, they could worry about that after the tyrant had bitten the dust.
Porky managed to stay up again, keeping the machine light on its legs as the ground underneath it heaved and shook once again. Duster had pulled the rope snake back and was already running in to kick the machine's legs in its joints, while Boney growled and raised his hackles as he joined Duster, biting at the hard steel some more, digging his teeth into its wires.
Porky began to shake and kick the machine's legs, trying to get the two attackers off him again. Duster was a small and agile target, and after the last hit to the chest, he made sure he wasn't hit again. Boney clung defiantly to the steel, refusing to be shaken off, as his teeth dug farther and farther into the hard material until he felt something hidden behind the leg puncture and give way. His mouth quickly filled with a disgusting black liquid; although he wanted to continue his offense, he had to back away, spitting the horrid drink out.
Porky was unaware of the wound to his machine, but he did know that neither of the two pests were clinging to his toy any longer. With a few clicks and button presses, a large number of thatches opened up all over the machine, each revealing a small number of long, tube-like devices with white bodies and red caps. They didn't really know what Porky was thinking of next, but with a press of a button, every single device shot out from the hole, going straight up a moment before arcing down and spraying the plateau with their impacts.
Once the dust settled from the barrage of explosions, Porky was back into their faces, charging straight for Boney. The dog had better reflexes than the humans, and took off like a shot, going in a wide circle around Porky - only he began sprinting too soon, and Porky was able to predict where Boney was going to end up. With a few quick calculations, Porky had managed to cut the dog off with one of his legs, and then proceeded to punt the dog in the ribs with another. Boney gave a painful yip as he was kicked across the stone like Duster had, only unlike Duster, he didn't spring back to his feet so quickly.
Lucas watched Boney painfully slide across the ground, struggling to stay upright and not immediately jumping back up when he stopped. After those explosions, he was getting ready for a Lifeup Omega, assuming everyone had taken an unfriendly beating, but after seeing his dog get hit like that, his frustrations at Porky continued to mount, and the fact that he couldn't use his PSI against the monster was getting less and less preventative the more he just wanted to blast the hell out of him.
With everybody still recovering from the barrage, and with Boney decidedly out, Porky took the time to prod and pry at his opponents further. With Lucas in his emotional state, he was getting easier to manipulate.
He looked to Boney, still lying on the stone, then to Duster and Kumatora, just picking themselves back up from the last attack. "I'm actually a pretty nice guy, wouldn't you say? I invited you into my home, and even to my room! And then I let you come all this way, to the final Needle, just because, well, what kind of host would I be if I didn't?" Lucas said nothing, although his expression told stories.
He kept his focus, however, and he successfully prepared a complete Lifeup Omega. He could feel the tingle in his hands as the PSI spread all over every part of his body, and with a quick thought, he would send out a wave of his own energy, healing his companions. "Oh, hold that thought?" Porky asked, knowing what Lucas was about to do, and pressed a few more buttons on his console - and then the thatches on his machine opened once again, releasing another, smaller barrage.
In the chaos, Lucas lost his 'grip' on his PSI, and it vanished back into him, to be recalled again when he could gather the focus. Duster and Kumatora did their best to dodge the incoming second assault, but Boney simply lay there, still too bruised to stand. His ears perked as he heard the air whistle around the shots, and his legs began to kick, knowing he needed to run, but he couldn't stand, and he took the brunt of the explosions right there.
They were all too separated for Lucas to help with. He was pretty hurt, himself, but he knew he'd live...but he didn't know about the others, and especially Boney. The smoke around his dog hadn't cleared yet, and he didn't know how badly he was hurt. They were in a bad spot, he knew. If he could get off another PK Love Omega, it might stall Porky long enough for him to...
...he didn't know what he could do. He looked over to Duster and Kumatora, and they were barely keeping it together, after that last hit. He could heal himself, but what good would that do? With that PSI shield of his, he was next to useless against Porky by himself. Healing himself, at this point, would, for all intents and purpose, be delaying their loss. It would take a miracle for them to overcome Porky at this point.
"It's been fun, Lucas," Porky said snidely, marching his machine over to the boy. "I'll even admit that you almost had me going, there. You and your other country bumpkins put up a pretty good fight." Lucas dragged himself onto his hands and knees; if he was to lose, now, after coming so far, to a spoiled brat like Porky, then he would at least face his end with his head up. "But there is no equal to the great Porky Minch. You played my game, in my house, and even though you broke my rules more times than I can count...well, 'cheaters never prosper', I think you 'people' say."
Lucas looked nervously to Duster and Kumatora, to see if they were up and if they had something in mind. They weren't; Kumatora was leaning forward, her hand outstretched, trying to use something, but her addled mind couldn't hold the focus. Duster was on his hands and knees, trying to stand up, but his bad leg wound up even worse after that punishment. And Boney...wasn't moving.
"Lucas," Porky said haughtily, his machine and the glittering points of its eight legs just a few paces away. "You aren't him. You could never be him. He at least made my heart race; he put up a better fight than you ever could have. He is the only person I was ever willing to call my equal." If Porky just lunged forward, at that point, he could have skewered Lucas's head all the way through, but he didn't. He was too busy savouring his victory and watching his opponent squirm. "But unlike you, his game never en-"
To Porky's surprise, sparks began to fly just out of the right side of his crib. Some small, dirty monitors he had out of their sight began to flash and display multiple warnings - his toy had always, always, been in top condition, and he had never really paid attention to those status-thingies, but now, they were telling him that something was very wrong with his machine.
He leaned over the side of his crib, feeling his atrophied muscles and stagnant bones creek and moan with each physical movement. Underneath the carriage was a black pool of liquid, growing larger and larger the longer he stood there, from a puncture in the pumps that had somehow gotten there, behind the thick, protective metal coating of the leg. Immediately, the second-from-the-front leg on the right said gave out, followed quickly by his entire right side, and then his left, forcing him to the ground in a heap of useless, forever-immobile metal.
Every input Porky made was unresponsive. His machine had totally died on him. It wouldn't move; the thatches on the sides would not open; and his earlier gadgets and weapons had all ceased to function completely. Without his machine, Porky was reduced to absolutely nothing but an old man in a crib - and he was fully aware of it.
He did not plead for his life. He did not resign to his fate like Lucas was about to. Because, he knew, he was still about to win.
...but I will admit, it appears as though my machine has run out of energy at the moment." Lucas could hardly believe what he was seeing, and what he was hearing. Porky had...stopped. His machine had been defeated. Porky had been defeated. With all the time in the world to spare, Lucas picked himself back onto his feet, shakily, but confidently: Porky was tens of thousands of years old, and, if he had been sitting in that crib the entire time, there was nothing he could threaten him with any longer.
Duster and Kumatora were watching the whole time, and their eyes were just as wide as Lucas's. Porky had them all defeated. After every dirty trick in the book, Porky had them all by the short-hairs, and now, thanks to a heroic dog's efforts, him and his murder-machine had been put to a stop. Lucas's attention was entirely undivided on Porky, listening to the old man ramble pathetically on the spot, as he silently debated with himself: would he do as Porky had insinuated by letting his hatred get the best of him, and 'put a stop' to him? Or would he let Porky go?
Kumatora checked on Duster quickly, to make sure he was okay. He gave her a quick nod, and she ran across the obsidian, towards Boney, readying her own Lifeup to resuscitate the dog before he was truly lost.
Porky continued clacking away on his keyboard. Lucas was confident that Porky was just trying to mess with him; to make him flinch or recoil, to get that last sick pleasure out of what he liked to do. But Porky had something entirely different in mind, and when he was done typing, an enormous, circular device emerged over the side of the plateau with a loud splash. Duster and Kumatora flinched, but Lucas was determined not to, even as the object hovered over to Porky, landing gently just beside the defunct machine.
"I'm going to duck inside this 'Absolutely Safe Capsule' for the time being," he explained with a snide grin. "And when I'm inside, nothing you could ever do will have any effect on me whatsoever. You, and everybody else, won't be able to hurt me anymore." Lucas looked to the large, black, round capsule with a single window and Porky's emblem emblazoned on its front. It looked sturdy, for sure, but anything? "Now, I know what you're thinking," Porky said, his fingers still tapping away at the keys. "You're thinking, 'yeah, right. There's no such thing as "absolutely",' but there is. And it's right here.
The Mister Saturns? The same Mister Saturns that convinced them to fly over a mountain using a cage filled with birds? Those Mister Saturns built this thing for Porky? "Me! Me! All for me!" Porky shouted, lurching some kind of pathetic dance in his crib as he chanted the word over and over. "Because they love me! Everybody loves Porky Minch!"
With the final inputs in the keyboard, the Absolutely Safe Capsule hummed back to life, and lifted itself into the air. It was a bit clunky with its own controls, apparently, but after a few misses,
it managed to fit Porky inside it, locking him away from anything that would want to hurt him.
Lucas stood there, watching the Absolutely Safe Capsule, and he saw, through its window, Porky, happily bouncing in his crib, watching Lucas back. Porky made funny faces at Lucas, from squeezing his cheeks together, to scrunching his nose (even further than it was) at him, to sticking his tongue out at him. Porky was totally confident that he was completely out of harm's way inside his capsule, and he mocked Lucas over it. Though he had lost the fight...he had won.
Lucas watched that man-child dance and deride him all he felt like from within his barrier. He couldn't hear a sound Porky was making, but he imagined that he was calling him all sorts of names and making fun of him every way he could. He had calmed himself from the fight, once he saw that the machine had broken down, but, watching Porky enjoy himself so thoroughly in there, he was reminded of everything Porky was responsible for. The chimeras; his mother; Tazmily; the disgrace of a city, New Pork; and brainwashing anyone and everyone he could, including his own brother.
He'll have to fight Claus soon...
...because of Porky.
His earlier hatred for Porky returned to him, and, compulsively, he balled his right hand into another fist, and he struck the Absolutely Save Capsule, right in its window. Duster approached Lucas from his left, wearily, his own wounds still prevalent; and Kumatora and Boney both approached from his right, their own walks lopsided. He didn't notice any of them. All he was focused on was Porky, still inside that capsule, still mocking him, and all he knew was that if he let Porky go now, he'd be free to do it all over and over and over again - assuming there was even a future Porky could visit, now.
The one punch succeeded in doing nothing. That made him more frustrated, but it reminded him of the one attack he'd been saving for Porky the whole battle. With the monster incapacitated inside, he was a sitting duck, allowing Lucas to go wild.
But the Absolutely Safe Capsule lived up to its name.
There wasn't so much as a singe in its metal. No dents; no marks; no scratches; the metal wasn't even warm. Porky had truly sealed himself inside the safest place on the planet, where anything Lucas did was ineffectual. The monster just sat behind the glass window, laughing and pointing and kicking his legs hysterically at Lucas and his efforts.
'Hate' was a word Lucas didn't use often. Sometimes, he didn't even know what it meant. He had lived a life without wants or needs, and without strife; and all he ever knew was love and complacency. But, with tears streaming down his cheeks as he yelled an incoherent, mournful wail while he punched into the glass window of the Absolutely Safe Capsule again and again, aware but uncaring of the pain in his fist as it just bounced harmlessly off the glass, he learned of the word and its meaning. Porky had taught him to hate.
Duster and Kumatora watched wordlessly while Lucas hammered onto the capsule's surface over and over. Boney's head hung low and his tail between his legs, confused - he had never, ever seen his master Lucas even the least bit angry. Duster fashioned himself a responsible adult, and, through their adventures, something of a big brother to Lucas, and he had no idea what he could say, or what he could do. Kumatora wasn't any good with anything mushy, but watching Lucas as his fist slammed uselessly against the capsule over and over, she couldn't deny her own tears - not that she tried.
The pain in Lucas's hand was totally irrelevant as he tried over and over again to break into the Absolutely Safe Capsule and finish what he had set out to accomplish. With one final punch, though, the window was splattered with blood, his knuckles torn open from the abuse. Seeing what he had done to himself, and how useless it was, he was physically, and emotionally, spent. He slid to his knees, leaning against the capsule, crying the rest of his tears out. As long as Porky lived, he had failed his home, his friends, and his mother.
Kumatora wasn't very good with her own emotions, but she threw that detail to the wind for the moment. Seeing Lucas - a friend she would trust her back to any day of the year - on his knees, bleeding out his knuckles, and sobbing disdainfully, she didn't hesitate to fall to her own, wrapping her arms comfortingly around him. She couldn't even begin to imagine what Lucas was feeling, but if a warm hug made his life any easier, she could put aside her insecurities for the moment. Besides, she wasn't as good at Lifeup as he was, and she needed to physically touch him to fix his hand anyway.
Only the sound of Lucas's sobbing, slowly ebbing away over time, filled the thick air of the underground cavern. He didn't know he could feel so many unpleasant emotions all at once, and nearly breaking his hand in his newfound rage didn't help. He couldn't hear Porky from inside the capsule, but he could imagine what he was saying, and how he was probably still taunting him. Watching his blood drip off the window must have been an absolute delight for that sick monster. He tried to cheer himself up, knowing that Duster and Kumatora and Boney were all okay, but it wasn't much help.
He didn't hear it, but the sound of a person climbing the only ladder onto the stone plateau caught Duster's and Kumatora's attention, lifting their heads to see whoever was approaching. They both kind of hoped it was Flint; the boy's father would know how to calm his nerves better than anyone else. But instead, they saw the telltale pointy hairstyle of Doctor Andonuts, followed by his small round glasses.
The scientist looked over the scene: the once-smooth stone had been demolished from the explosives and warfare; each of their clothes were ruffled and torn; and there was his Absolutely Safe Capsule, just behind the girl and the boy that were huddling in front of it, with a bit of a stain on its window. "Am I interrupting...?" he asked tactlessly. Lucas nearly leapt up on the spot, not expecting anyone else to be there, and turned his bloodshot eyes back towards the old man.
"I see he went ahead and used it," the doctor noted, looking over his most defensive creation yet. He could see Porky, sitting and laughing in the pod, having a grand time in his impermeable fort. "A pity.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Duster asked, looking back to the capsule. "Porky's locked himself inside the safest place on the planet, where nothing can touch him, and you feel bad for him?"
"Yes." Andonuts circled around the Absolutely Safe Capsule, approaching its side, looking over the smooth steel of the sphere. He ran his hand over its flawlessness, watching his own reflection in its shine. "It's true that the 'Absolutely Safe Capsule' that the Mister Saturns and I developed together can protect you from any danger. The steel cannot melt; it cannot be frozen; it cannot be destroyed; and it's airtight and it produces its own oxygen, so anyone inside it can survive in the deepest of oceans and the farthest reaches of space. I've invented a lot of wild things in my time, but this might just top them all."
Andonuts was doing nothing for Lucas's current mood, and it was getting more and more apparent the longer he implied that Porky was completely invincible within it. Kumatora was about to give the old man an earful, when he kept going.
Lucas looked up at the man. What...did he just say? "Whatever is outside of the Absolutely Safe Capsule is 'absolutely safe' from whatever is inside."
He looked at Andonuts, then up to the glass window of the capsule. Porky was locked in? "What do...do you mean?" he asked, quickly wiping the tears from his eyes and choking out some more sniffles.
Andonuts smiled warmly at Lucas, before looking over his grand contraption again. "Porky forced me and the Mister Saturns to create this capsule for him, as a last-resort plan in case things ever went south for 'our great master'. He was so afraid of the world and how poorly it might treat him, that if he ever really needed to retreat, he wanted to have something where nobody could ever hurt him again, so he made me make this."
"I've been meaning to ask," Duster interrupted, "but what does Porky have on you? Blackmail, or something?"
"Allow me to answer that question with a question. Do I look like someone that is native to the Nowhere Islands?" That was practically a trick question, knowing what he knew about the Nowhere Islands and their inhabitants, but Duster entertained Andonuts anyway. From the long lab-coat and the fancy black dress-shoes, to the way he wore his hair and his brand of glasses, Duster shook his head: Andonuts would have stood out badly among the others in Tazmily. "That's because it's not quite a matter of where I'm from, but when. If I ever wanted to get back to my own time and see my own son again, I'd have to dance to his songs, for however long he wanted.
I always assumed he wasn't going to hold up his end of the deal, though. He would always find something new for me to build. And eventually, we came to this." Andonuts patted the sphere on its chrome, looking at it once more. "Once a person enters it, they would be absolutely safe from any and all dangers of the outside world. But, it 'wasn't finished'," he narrated, using finger quotes, "and once it locked, it'll never unlock, ever again."
It was almost too good to be true for Lucas. He had failed to stop Porky - but because of Doctor Andonuts, Porky could never leave the Absolutely Safe Capsule? Ever? "Hah," Kumatora laughed, standing back up and giving the doctor a thumbs-up, "I like how you think, doc. He must not'a known about that last bit?"
So it'd be his own fault if he didn't listen. All he can do now is live an eternity inside the capsule, in absolutely safety, forever."
That reminded Lucas of something. The good news was definitely a welcome change for him, and his mood, while still hurt and sour, was quickly lifting. "Porky told us," he said, his voice still crackly from his crying, "that he couldn't die. He can live forever."
"I don't know the specifics, but it appears to be true," Andonuts sighed. "After a certain event only a few years ago - well, only a few years ago for me, but that's a different story for a different time - Porky came across his time machine, and he abused its abilities so much that he had turned himself immortal. One day I saw him, and he was a plucky, if spoilt and obese, little boy, not even a teenager - and another, he was that blue-skinned old man, claiming to have lived for dozens of millennia. At some point, his aging had simply stopped. He will continue to live forever, inside the Absolutely Safe Capsule, because of his toying with reality and his condition. After a hundred years - a thousand years - until the very universe collapses into itself, Porky will still be alive, and still within," he smiled, tapping the machine, "this capsule."
Kumatora glanced inside the window. Porky had begun to calm down from his earlier parading over his victory, but his childish grin and occasional laughs were still obvious. "An' he doesn't know he can't leave?"
"I'm sure he'll figure it out eventually," laughed Andonuts.
Inside this capsule, he'll be away from everything that would ever want to hurt him, and he can live the rest of his eternity in his own personal paradise." Andonuts bent at his knees, gripping onto the capsule by the stubs keeping it upright. "That's not to say he can't still entertain us with his lovely presence."
Showing an amazing amount of muscle for his old body, Andonuts managed to turn over the Absolutely Safe Capsule, leisurely rolling it across the ground, much to his spectator's delight.
For Lucas, it was something of a bittersweet victory. Porky was not defeated, but, inside the capsule, what Lucas had earned from the battle was the next best thing. Porky would never harm anyone ever again; nobody would ever have to go through what Lucas had to go through just because Porky happened to be bored at the time. Was it a victory? Well, at the least, it wasn't a loss.
But he knew his battle was only half-over. He had done away with the tyrant that had taken everything the world had to give, but Porky's personal torment on Lucas hadn't ended yet. The last Needle was waiting for them, just a bit deeper into the cavern, and he knew, Claus was there waiting for him. He was looking forward to putting it all behind him with Porky's defeat, and he and his dad could go back to Tazmily like nothing had happened - he hadn't imagined that, after defeating the man once and for all, his most taxing challenge was waiting just ahead.
Again, not a whole lot to talk about post-update-wise, since there isn't a lot of flexibility with the path through the very last dungeon. There are exactly two things I kind of skipped in the story, and one thing I omitted.
The first thing that I omitted is that, at the very beginning, just before you enter the dungeon proper, there's a gift box just in front of the door. I edited it out of the screenshot because I didn't think its contents jived very well with the serious tone the story was taking at that point (and yet pencil erasers and doorknobs are, am I right? But they get passes on Porky's characterization and a running joke, respectively)
The contents of the box are thus:
You can examine the open box as many times as you like, and it'll heal you to full every time.
The second thing is Lucas's final weapon. Is it his best weapon? That's up to you to decide.
Obviously, it kind of falls flat when it comes to everything the Mystical Stick offers you, but it does have +10 attack strength and a whopping +40 PP bonus, if you think those are adequate tradeoffs.
And to finish off this tiny post-update post...once you defeat Porky, head back down the ladder to meet, for the last time, everybody's favourite item dude, Item Guy.