The Recollection Of Crankshaft
The visit with Meira wasn't very much longer. She gave Laya and I a brief run down of how she'd been looking for her lost roommate/boyfriend/close friend without benefits-type guy, Randon Bragwin, down on Ragol, and ended up breaking a number of bones and piercing vital organs in a resulting explosion. Indeed, it was a miracle that she was alive. She also explained that she'd been writing the whole thing down while she was recovering. Which is what gave me the idea for this thing. The next time I found myself able to sit at my desk, I started writing this very document that you, as the reader, are reading right now.
As fun as all the silliness has been, I must say that it's about this point that things are going to start to get down to business. After Meira told us about her writing, she offered to show it to Laya, which, Laya gladly accepted the offer. After downloading it to a terminal device, she sat down in a chair, and began reading. Meanwhile, the rangers and I began discussing what was going on. Meira, of course, was in on the conversation as well, though I don't think she had quite as much to contribute.
VanGarrett looked to Zeirom and suggested, "I think the same group that captured Randon is responsible for Akolyte and Fender's murder."
Before Zeirom could answer, I shouted, "Excuse me?!?"
VanGarrett looked at me puzzled for a moment, then lifted his eyebrows and nodded, realizing that he'd neglected to inform me of a rather important detail. He explained, "Fender was found dead in his apartment early this morning, which, in turn, was pretty well ransacked. The investigation that ensued made us decide that we'd better find you, before Akolyte did."
I stumbled without taking a step. Zeirom explained the logic a bit further, "We believe that Akolyte was after that disc that Fender gave you. When he couldn't find it in Fender's possession, Akolyte went after you."
I sat down next to Laya, with the feeling of a locomotive swooping through my rib cage. After a moment, I adopted a sterner look, and with eyebrows flared, I replied, "But I DON'T have Fender's disc... Fender took it back while we were in the Ruins."
HuBBsDoctor started in, "But Fender didn't have it when Akolyte attacked him. Are you sure he didn't give it back to you?"
At this point, Laya made a squeaking noise and slowly lowered her terminal device. We all looked at eachother. "The... That monster is after the disc?" she said.
VanGarrett confirmed, "Yes Laya, that's what his conversation has established."
Laya shivered. "But I have the disc..."
We all jumped. Or I did, at least. "YOU have the disc!? How'd YOU get the disc??"
"I found it on the table next to my bed, after you and Fender left. He must've set it down, or something." As she said this, she procured the object from her pocket to show us all.
VanGarrett acquired it from her, and examined it. "This is an album from that Boonies Street Boys boy-band..."
Laya shouted, "WHAT?!"
VanGarrett smirked, and handed the disc to Zeirom. "I'm just messing with you. It's the real deal, from the looks of it."
Zeirom examined it further. "Well, the binary code on the cover DOES match the DRAGOON project's ID."
HuBBsDoctor interrupted, "Hey guys, it's all good that we've located the disc and all, but seeing that we'd assumed we had it with us all along, I don't think it matters as much to us as where we're to go next."
Meira suggested, "Don't you need to know what they wanted to do with the disc?"
VanGarrett gave a thoughtful pose, then said, "Indeed. Regardless of what they were going to do with it, the equipment present in the Ruins wouldn't be sufficient for anything than viewing its contents." He paused, either for dramatic effect, or to think of what to say next. Continuing, he said, "Beyond that, it's easy to get to that location, so even if they imported the equipment, they'd be quickly discovered and, for lack of a better word, foiled."
Zeirom brought up an interesting point of interest. "The Delbiters we saw at the University are normally found in the Seabed facility on Gal de Val Island."
HuBBsDoctor further pointed out, "They're also commonly found in the East and West Towers."
VanGarrett considered this information, holding his beard with his thumb and the middle knuckle of his index finger, and staring out the window behind me. I looked at him like he was strange. Soon he turned back to Zeirom and HuBBsDoctor. "The Seabed facility's equipment is mostly busted, due to the chaos in said facility. While I suppose it's possible that they may intend to use that equipment, my money is going on the East Tower."
Evidently Meira'd heard a bit about the East Tower. Skewing her eyebrows as though she were confused, she asked "Dux has told me about the towers. What's so special about the East Tower that makes you choose it?"
The response was prompt. "The East Tower has the Mother unit. They say that 'Mother' designs the most advanced logical AI's we've got. Vol Opt, Olga, and Calus among them. If that weren't enough, the pinnacle of Dr. Osto's research in conjunction with Dr. Calus' research brings us Mother's capacity to produce physical components to those AI's... Machines... D-Cellular sub-life forms... If they're planning to use the information on that disc to build an army of Dragoon-type HUcasts, then THAT is the sort of equipment they're going to be wanting."
At this point, all six of us in the room, including VanGarrett, knowing what just a single Dragoon-type HUcast is capable of, stopped whatever we happened to be doing, and imagined, to great dismay what someone could achieve, if they had an army of Dragoon-type HUcasts. Bad. Much bad. So much bad, that the very thought stirs up thoughts of people dieing violent deaths. Everyone could be a Fender.
HuBBsDoctor brought up a more practical subject. "So which of us is going to stick around and wait for Paladin?"
VanGarrett looked over at him. "You volunteering, HuBBsDoctor?"
HuBBsDoctor looked over at the lovely HUnewearl in the hospital bed. "I suppose I couldn't mind keeping Meira company while Paladin's getting his bolts tightened."
I believe that Zeirom wanted a shot at the job, as well. "That's a mighty tempting task indeed, HuBBs," he said, "I'd volunteer for the job, but the trip to the Tower may require a tank like myself."
HuBBsDoctor nodded. "Well, before you guys leave, I think I'll go see if they've gotten Dr. Oscar to come and work on Mr. Kill, yet." Pausing, he looked at Meira, "I'll be right back," he said before walking out of the room.
Since the business was finished, Meira decided to change the subject. Changed to something more important to her, of course. "VanGarrett? What happened to Randon when you guys went down there, anyway?"
My best powers of observation indicate to me that this was a question that VanGarrett didn't want to have to answer. Of course, this was fairly obvious. Which, typically, things have to be rather blatant for me to notice them. Especially when it comes to facial expressions and such. Still, after a bit of hesitation, and looking out the window, he finally looked back at her and replied, "I wish I knew the answer to the extent that you're asking for it. We all got separated. The combat got hectic. We were getting attacked by a bunch of hunters and rangers. I'd taken cover behind a pile of junk, and when I looked up, Guybec was gone. Artemis and Randon were soon to follow. Then I got hit by someone, and when I woke up, I was at the bottom of a pit, looking at a Telepipe warp."
Of course, in that official statement, VanGarrett said a name that I recognized. I jumped up and did some deranged maneuver that I'd be hard-pressed to describe. Especially considering that I'm not entirely sure what I did. I stood too close to VanGarrett and barked, "Did you say Guybec?!?"
VanGarrett raised one eyebrow, and lowered the other. Looked at me like that for a moment, then put his hands on my shoulders, and pushed me away. "Give me at least one meter there, pilgrim." Letting go again, he nodded and said, "Yeah, Guybec. He's a FOmar. Two kids, lovely wife. Think he had a little bit of a temper, but overall he was a good guy."
I stood back, held my chin between my thumb and index finger in a most thoughtful dramatic pose, and pondered. I'd heard the name recently, but I couldn't place it. Laya got my back though. Looking up from her terminal where she was reading Meira's account of her troubles, she said, "Guybec? Isn't that the guy that the RAmars indicated they were working for? Yeah, that one guy called him 'Lord Guybec'. I remember that much."
Meira nearly choked on the water she was sipping when Laya said that. Zeirom jumped to her side to help her. After he'd pat her on the back a few times, she looked at him, and said, "Thanks, Zeirom..." after which, she looked back at Laya and said, "You've gotta be kidding me? Guybec? He's like a big teddy bear..."
Laya insisted, "Hey, that's what the guy said." Which, indeed, that was what he said.
So soon after my own show of eyebrow-dexterity, Meira lowered her eyebrows in a thoughtfully confused look, staring more or less at the part of her sheets that her feet were sticking up and said, "I wonder what he's doing down there? For that matter, I wonder how long he's be doing it."
VanGarrett gave a little confirmation, stating, "I dunno how long he's been down there, but it makes me think that I should pay his family a visit. Just to see if they're all right, y'know. In any case, that'll be something to worry about when we get back from the East Tower."
HuBBsDoctor walked in just as VanGarrett finished his comment. "Dr. Oscar's working on Paladin right now. They say it'll be about six hours until he's done," he said as he entered.
VanGarrett nodded. "All right. Zeirom, Crankshaft, Laya and I will be off, then." He looked at Meira. "It's been a pleasant visit, Meira. We'll be back another time." With that, he gave a strange, salute-wave gesture, and turned to leave.
Meira had a request, though. "Hey! Don't just leave without giving me a hug!" She smiled, and held her arms out. VanGarrett smirked, and complied.
After Meira solicited hugs from everyone (Yay! I got hugged!), we were on our way to the lab. A number of shiny lights, and security scans later, we found ourselves at a big orange door, negotiating with a guard. VanGarrett was negotiating, at least.
"I cannot let you through during these hours," the guard said.
VanGarrett would not be denied, however. "I am on orders from Principle Tyrell, himself. Let us through."
The guard stood firm. "My instructions are to not allow anyone through without official Lab authorization. A number of unauthorized hunters have been sneaking to the beach area at night, and Natasha's been rather upset over it."
VanGarrett stared at him blankly for a moment. He sighed, and seemed to slump over. Which, really, only made it stranger when he suddenly straightened up, stuck the business end of his Suppressed Gun in the guy's face and with quite the frustrated tone, said to him, "Here's my official authorization. I'm assuming you've got someone waiting for you at home. If you intend to have a complete face the next time they see you, then you'd do well to open that door."
The guard's reaction was rather unoriginal, but not unexpected. Nervousness with a standard forgetful agreement. "Oh! Yes! Of course! I should've recognized your authorization sooner! Yes, please, be my guest!" The door was opened, and we proceeded.
We arrived on Gal de Val Island, at the entrance to the Central Control Area. The big door was, however, rather firmly closed. VanGarrett and Zeirom didn't seem surprised by this, but they did seem to be rather annoyed. "Eh... We'll have to open the lock manually. Wasn't really wanting to run through the jungle, today."
Zeirom was examining a local terminal. "Doesn't look like you'll have to. From what I'm seeing here, it looks like the signals in the Jungle and Mountain areas have already been activated. All that leaves is the beach area."
This went pretty well over my head. In fact, I never did find out precisely what that referred to. The end result, in any case, was that we all stepped into the teleporter conveniently located next to the large retracting wall of a door, and teleported off to a lovely beach.
The beach was quite pleasant. It was fairly quiet, aside from the calm washing of waves upon the shore. This is the sort of thing on the surface of Ragol that makes me glad we found this planet-- though I do have mixed feelings about it, for issues that'll be specified before too long. Then there was this buzzing noise. My first reaction was to smack my ear around. Maybe that's where the noise was coming from. My ears are indeed, quite large. And long. A Newman be I.
Soon, however, I realized that my ear, beyond what I expected, was not making the noise, but rather, it was just receiving it. I was alerted to this, when a huge insect flew near me, and probably would've attacked me, but was shot all to crap by one of my Ranger buddies. I squeaked and ran behind Laya.
Laya smacked me and yelled, "Crankshaft! It's about time you learned to defend yourself! Here!" She violently stuffed a disk into my hand. I looked at it. Tried to gnaw on it.
Then I looked at her and said, "What do I do with this? You realize this makes you the second person to stuff a disk in my hand. It's not top secret sensitive information, is it?"
She smacked her forehead and took it back. "All right, look Crankshaft. I'm a professor of Technical Physics. Now listen to me, I'm going to explain Foie to you, so that you can defend yourself. From there, I'll expect you to use technique disks to learn more techniques."
I looked at her for a moment, then nodded blankly, as photon bullets flew all around us and blew apart these giant insects called Gees.
She turned, and pointed at a Gee. "Hey guys! Let me get that one. I'm teaching Crankshaft something." There was some manner of acknowledgement of this request, and she focused on the Gee. "Matter, Crankshaft, as you know, is subject to energy fluctuation," she began. She continued, "By concentrating on your body's own life energy, you can cause your body to produce an energy field, and thereby control that energy fluctuation." This far, I followed her. Being a Newman, I've got a very strong sense of my own body's energies, and what they're doing, so I did understand what she was saying. Honestly, in retrospect, I'm not sure why I didn't accidentally do any of this before.
"Now, let's focus on increasing the temperature of a bit of air. To the point of flaming. Observe, Crankshaft." She brought her hands together, and before long, BOOM! She threw a hulking fireball of DEATH at the Gee. The fireball flew with such great speed that the Gee, as fast as the little bugger is, could not even begin to hope that it might be able to begin to hope that it might possibly be able to almost maybe dodge it. So, it just kinda went, BOOM! and it was dead.
I jumped up and down excitedly. I shouted vibrantly, "I've got it! I've got it! Let me try!" At which point I turned toward some sort of peculiar plant that was walking toward me, and shouted, "FOIE!" in a most absurd and drawn out fashion. At this moment, I put together several of said fireballs as quickly as I could and lobbed them at the thing, which caused it to go, "BLAWWAAAHAHAH!!" and run away.
Then I turned around and looked for other things to cook with my mighty ball of Foie. Before long I was charring rabid, overgrown insects from the sky and sending massive burning balls of hurt hurdling through the air. At one point I even bounced a whole bunch of fireballs off of trees and rocks, closing in on an ape-like creature referred to as a Gibbon, and fried it pretty good. I jumped around and shouted some more, and of course, got plenty of strange looks.
Eventually my antics of experimenting with these Technical Physics, and running away from Laya and the others as she tried to get me to calm down, sparked something rather strange. At least, I think I caused it. Well, maybe it was already there, but great gobs of stoppers, I killed it. A large tentacled beast came from the ocean, and I fried it pretty good with a little bit of Foie. It toppled over, and when I realized what it was, I was rather startled.
We all looked at eachother, and walked over to it. Laya and I hadn't seen anything quite so grotesque before, and VanGarrett and Zeirom just seemed to be rather confused. "Well this is confusing," Zeirom said.
VanGarrett scratched his head. "No kidding. Dolmolms are typically found in the Seabed Facility, but not on the beach."
I stepped over to it, and prodded at it with my stylish platform shoes. Because, well, I wanted to poke at it, and bending over or kneeling to do so would've been harder to accomplish than just prodding at it with my platform shoe. So I prodded at it with my shoe. And it totally moved. Not like it was alive or anything, but it just like, shook and one of the tentacles unwrapped, releasing a digital writing device, not unlike the one that I am writing this very document with. I carefully kneeled down and picked it up. "Hey guys... It has a letter." Then I looked back at them all strangely.