“He does look a little young to be one of the sharks.” Captain Strong crossed his arms, flexing his Super-Ultra-Mambo-Tango-Foxtrot Martial Arts-forged muscles, and glared at Ness. “But criminals are just getting younger and younger these days… hey. Kid. What’s the big idea, trying to force your way out of town? You one of Frank’s cronies?”
“No, that’s not it,” Ness said. “Frank is the leader of the gang members hiding out at the arcade now, right? I’ve never even met him.”
I’m still not quite used to seeing Ness talk—EarthBound has always seemed, to me, like the ultimate silent-protagonist game. But many a personal code of silence has broken down in the face of Super-Ultra-Mambo-Tango-Foxtrot Martial Arts. Chapter One ends with Ness ready to go out on a grand adventure to save the world, and Chapter Two begins… with a roadblock. Some of Kumi’s additions are as esoteric and odd as the game itself, but Chapter Two features one of the more practical Kumi-isms—the police station in Onett is as crowded and frantic as you’d expect a town under surreptitious alien attack to be:
Behind the glass partition, a crowd of detectives was spitting while consulting one-another, practicing their quick-draws from the holsters beneath their overcoats, and snacking on cherry pie. Others were handling the zealous citizens who’d come to plea for the expulsion of wild dogs or the eradication of youth delinquency.
All this commotion is a nuisance for Kumi’s two new characters, Officers Maggie and Jim, who’d really just rather make out with each other.
“You’re so right, Maggie.” Jim, with a captivated expression, took her hand.
“It’s terrible not being able to see your chalk lines. After all, nobody does it better.”
“Tee hee. Well, the way you tear off tickets is so sexy and charming,” she said, girlishly.
“I hope we can set speedtraps together again soon.”
“Absolutely, honey ♥. Let’s dish out those citations together.”
Those crazy kids. After the jump: Government corruption and the Sharks.
“Um… hello?” Ness interjected, hesitantly—the couple, by this time, was snuggling close and gazing sweetly into each other’s eyes. “Why is everyone so tense?”
“Huh? What’s not to get tense about?” Jim shrugged his shoulders. “A mysterious meteorite falls, hoodlums are running amok. It’s a state of emergency. Things are bound to be overwhelming around here when violence is breaking out and ne’er-do-wells are showing up… Mayor Pirkle doesn’t want to lose the next election. So the captain is really worried about it… but I guess children don’t understand these kinds of things.”
Ness couldn’t believe Jim was underestimating him. It was common sense in Onett that the mayor and the captain were so close that one of them could’ve been married to the other’s sister. Even an elementary schooler knew that.
My English major sense is tingling—it’s time to make a tenuous connection from one work to another. Kumi names characters a little more often than EarthBound does; Jim and Maggie remind me more of MOTHER 3 characters, named and typed no matter how small their part is, than EarthBound figures. Okay, done.
Ness decides, in internal monologue, that the only way he can get the attention of the Onett powers-that-be is to solve their Sharks problem for them. So he sneaks away from Jim and Maggie—
“Officer Jim, I can go home by myself. It’s okay if you don’t take me, sir.”
“You don’t say?” Jim had yet to let go of Maggie’s hand. “If you say so, that’d be fine. I’m busy with something, too, so I appreciate it.”
“Oh, yes. I should say you’re busy with something.” Maggie coiled one finger on Jim’s uniformed stomach and twirled it flirtatiously.
—and heads to the arcade to take care of business. And that’s the first time one of the difficulties of writing an EarthBound novel comes in: as Chewy and I discussed yesterday, it’s tougher to write about Ness cracking skulls with a baseball bat than it is to press the “bash” button and watch a dog sprite flash a few times.
Ness gets beaten up by the Sharks with their various consumer goods—
Ness wheeled around to head towards him, but this time, the one wearing pilot goggles bounced up to Ness on his pogo stick, pulled on his backpack from behind, and violently shook it around. The baseball bat and the umbrella holder came loose, and Ness tumbled to the ground. When they got sick of passing the hat from hand to hand, the delinquents threw it onto the cement, stepping on it and passing it like a soccer ball. The skateboarder grazed Ness’s face when he chased them, and suddenly Ness’s back was smashed with the hula hoop. Ness crouched down on the asphalt and the delinquents began to knock him around.
“If you wanna roll with us, kid, then put up your dukes an’ come and get some.”
The red cap, now a sloppy lump of garbage, hit the ground in a dull heap. Ness reached out to grasp at it, but with a thud the pogo stick landed square on his hand.
To summarize it more compactly, it looks like Ness has gotten his head handed to him. But he’s filled with pluck and fighting spirit, etc., and though he knows he can’t fight them three on one (at least not until he’s scrimped and saved for the Cheap Bracelet) he’s ready to bluff his way through to Frank.
Ness pulled on his torn cap. He picked up his thrown bat. “… Wait.”
The three boys turned around, looked at Ness and his readied bat, and looked at each other with a faint look of surprise on their faces.
“I asked you where Frank is. Show me.”
“Hey, man,” Mop-head said, shrugging his shoulders wearily. “Don’t get so upset about it. It was just a joke, got it? A joke.”
“I’m not joking around,” Ness said, his eyes glaring at them from under the shadow of the peak of his hat as he slowly approached them. “Bring me to Frank.”
The three delinquents exchanged glances. The boy with the skateboard tucked under his arm shook his head as if to say: this is real bad.
Clearly they’ve played EarthBound. Chapter Three, you’ll notice, is entitled The Mysterious Cult, so prepare to play the You’ve Got a New Friend sound effect—it’s Paula time.