The clank of metal gears and servos punctuates the listless desert wind. A neon sign flickers and buzzes.
“Howd-y part-ner. Wel-come. To. Snake. Gulch,” chirps a robotic woman in full cowboy garb. There are several such robots around, patrolling the tiny little parking area. “Visit. the. saloon,” suggests another.
I’m sort of pinning my hopes on this place. The rest of the desert is comprised of barren wasteland which is not worth looking at, much less saving. The only exception is the prison, which needs help. But the “good guys” are carpet bombing the place and I just don’t see how wading in and punching people out before they’re bombed is going to benefit anyone. After spending several surreal and unproductive days trying to help Millennium City, I don’t dare go back to that madhouse . And I refuse to go back to Canada while Ravenspeaker is there. Those are my only options right now. Basically, if I want to find a place where I can do good deeds and help improve the lives of my fellow citizens, Snake Gulch here is the only place left for me.
“Howd-y part-ner. Wel-come. To. Snake Gulch,” the robot says again.
I walk around the burning cars and step over a few dismembered cowboy robots. The parking lot is about half the size of the parking area for your average McDonald’s, which means it’s about one thousandth the size of what you need at your average amusement park. What gives?
Nearby is a man in a jacket and bowtie. I can smell a scientist nerd a mile off, and I have a suspicion he’s my go-to guy around here.
“HowdEE partNER!” he bellows. He has the voice of someone from MIT doing the world’s worst Texan accent. “Ya’ll can call me Wild Tyrell.”
“And you can call me Star on Chest. Right after you drop the accent.”
“Ah well,” he says, slightly disappointed. “In that case I’m inventor Tyrell Donaldson, and this is my amusement park.”
“Inventor? Does that mean these robots are yours?” I ask, nudging a wrecked cowboy with my foot.
“Indeed! Actually, I’m behind pretty much everything here at Snake Gulch.”
“And you’ve built an army of robots?”
“Yes-sir!” he says, straying close to using his godawful “Texan” accent again. “They run the park. Run the rides. Handle security …”
“And carry real firearms with live ammunition,” I observe.
“That they do,” he says somewhat guardedly.
“And now they’ve turned on you?”
“So you heard about that?” he says brightly.
“No. I was just guessing.”
“Well. I’m not sure what turned my robots to violence and evil. The ones here in the parking lot with me are okay, but the ones down there,” he points a thumb over his shoulder, indicating the gulch, “will fill you full of lead for so much as lookin’ at ’em. I don’t know how it happened. One day the park was fine. The next, my Cowbots were shootin’ up the customers. It doesn’t make sense. They were foolproof!”
“And what about these ones?” I point to the robots patrolling the parking lot, “You sure they’re safe?”
“No need to worry about them. They’re foolproof!”
I’m a superhero. It would be unseemly for me to sound angry and bitter towards a civilian. So I don’t say anything.
“How about I give you the tour?” Tyrell suggests at last.
Tyrell leads me out onto a gigantic wooden scaffolding, and we descend down into the canyon.
“This is a lot of stairs,” I remark about halfway down. “Did families really have to climb this whole thing to enter and leave the park?”
Tyrell pauses for a moment. “Well … ” he says after he’s caught his breath again, “After climbing all the way down folks would be good and thirsty for a lemonade.”
“I see!” I reply with a knowing smile, “So you’ve got a lemonade stand at the bottom?”
Tyrell’s looks sort of excited. “That would have been a really good idea!”
We get down to the bottom of the steps and I smash up the deranged robots that swarm our position. I can tell that seeing them destroyed pains the man a bit, but he’s he’s polite about it and thanks me for doing what needs to be done.
We walk along through rows of Old West building facades. They’re sturdy and give the place a bit of “Old West” flavor, which is only slightly undermined by being at the bottom of a hole before being majorly undermined by the robots.
When I’d criticize the setting, people would accuse me of having never seen Westworld. Which is true. Never saw it. But pointing out that this part of the game is pilfering a class work of science fiction is a pretty piss poor defense. It’s actually just another strike against it.
No matter how great the movie Aliens is, it doesn’t make Battlefield Earth any less horrible just because they both have space aliens in them. If something sucks, it still sucks even if the same idea was done well elsewhere.
And Snake Gulch… Yeah. Let’s get back to Snake Gulch.
“So what did people do here before the robots went bad?” I ask after we’ve walked past about a quarter-mile of fake buildings. I’ve been smashing up groups of robots as we walked. These fights have done a good job of dividing the long uncomfortable silence into several smaller ones.
Tyrell is excited again, “Look up!”
I look, and I can see part of a rollercoster arching overhead.
“Oh! So you have rollercoasters here?”
“That one, yeah,” he says proudly. “Let’s head on down,” he says with a grin after I’ve smashed another group of robots.
It seems we’ve arrived at another three-story staircase. Now, I could fly to the bottom if I wanted, but it seems like that would be sort of rude to poor Tyrell. That, and I want to be nearby in case he passes out from exhaustion and the desert heat.
“So … you just have the one ride?” I ask as gently as possible once we’re safely on the ground, he’s caught his breath, and I’ve fought a couple dozen more cowboy robots.
Tyrell stops to think for a long moment. I wonder if he’s forgotten the question when he finally replies, “Did I mention the rollercoaster yet?”
“Yes. You showed me that one.”
“Then I guess that’s pretty much it.”
“So did you get many visitors?” I ask while looking up at the sheer cliff walls on either side of us, the flights of stairs, and the lack of anything here at the bottom in the way of refreshments or bathrooms.
“Why sure!” he shouts, as if I’d just asked if it sometimes got a little hot around here. “We had tons of guests before all these robot troubles.”
“Really? So families didn’t have any trouble with the stairs?” I imagine it would have been pretty hard on kids when it came time to leave. Or if anyone needed a drink. Or to go to the bathroom.
“Well, it wasn’t so much families. It was mostly just fellers from that campground they put up over yonder.” He nods towards “yonder,” but all I see is the imposing rock wall and a couple of murderous robots milling about. Then I realize the campgrounds he’s talking about are probably outside of our canyon. Did I miss something when I scouted the area? To the east is the super villain prison and to the west is the irradiated wasteland. The only other place nearby is…
“About these guys from the campground …” I begin cautiously.
“Yes-sir-ree. Them’s was good folks. Reliable business. They dressed a bit outlandishly, but I ain’t the type to judge.”
“Outlandishly? Like, were they wearing a lot of yellow?”
“Oh man. Great big yellow outfits. Every last one of them. All heavy and clunky. I don’t know how they could wear those getups in this heat, but they never complained. Always kept them real shiny, too.”
“So you’re saying the guys from Viper stopped by and rode your roller coaster?” I ask, no longer able to hide my horror or incredulity.
Tyrell smiles and points a knobby calloused finger at me, “You know them fellers?”
“I’ve met quite a few”, I admit, omitting the detail that I’ve never met any Viper guys who are still alive.
“Small world, huh?”
I don’t have the heart to tell Mr. Donaldson that the only guests he ever welcomed into his park were bloodthirsty terrorists who were taking time off from plotting to take over the world, and that the “campground” next door was actually their missile base, which I planned to destroy on my way out of here. He seems a gentle soul – if a bit slow – and styles himself as an honest patriotic sort. The truth would break his heart.
Tyrell wipes his brow and shades his eyes with his hand, “So you think you can help me out with this here robot problem?”
“Tyrell,” I begin, my voice shaking slightly, “I don’t think I can help you.”
He looks back at me, despondent.
“I’m retiring,” I tell him truthfully. This is a decision I made just moments ago.
“Welp, thanks fer takin’ a look around anyhow,” he says, poking his thumbs into the pockets of his polyester pants. “You sure you don’t want to see the bottom level?” He nods towards yet another three-story staircase ahead.
“What’s down there?
He shrugs, “We got some wild-west building facades all set up, all authentic-like.”
“Are they different from these ones?” I ask, pointing at the facades nearby.
“Naw.” He’s laying on the accent really thick now. I’d complain, but I think this is part of the coping process for him. An Old West park is obviously his dream. It’s not his fault he was born with a passion for the Old West, no business acumen, dubious robot-building skills, and a complete lack of common sense. He’s like the Salieri of amusement parks. Still, he’d pull off the whole image so much better if he stopped wearing the bowtie.
We say our goodbyes and I fly off. This retirement business is going to cost me my endorsement contracts. This is strangely liberating. I never felt good being a huckster for an “authentic” taco sauce that tasted like cheap ketchup with 2 or 3 picoliters of tabasco sauce per gallon. And I have ths uneasy feeling that State Trust Auto is some sort of ponzi scheme.
I’m not sure what I’ll do now. Maybe I’ll look for work as an actor.
Star on Chest gave up crime fighting and went on to have modest success in Hollywood. He starred in the Michael Bay production “Hammer on Chest,” a movie very roughly based on his own life experiences. He then starred in a number of unsuccessful low-budget direct-to-video action films. After that he appeared in the reality show “Nemesis Island” and the ill-fated NBC sitcom “Beverly Hills Heroes.”
Later in life he took over as the host for The Price is Right for the Aging Drew Carey.
Having never been freed of the control of the PSI supervillain, Corporal Antoine Harrison’s uncommon common sense and competence made him the most effective officer Millennium City had ever seen. He quickly rose through the ranks and was eventually elected mayor.
PSI leader “PSImon” was astounded when their thrall took office, “We’ve been trying to seize control of City Hall for years. We tried everything: Kidnapping, threats, ransom, and assassinations. But simply putting forward someone halfway useful and having them get elected in a legitimate election was something that simply never occurred to us. I still don’t understand why it worked. And frankly, now that we have control of the city we have no idea what to do with it. Just balancing the budget is a pain in the ass. I barely have time to plan a half-decent heist these days.”
Once freed of the Overmind, the Big Brain announced that it was going to dedicate its massive intellect to solving the problems of war and world hunger. However, without so much as a skull to protect it from the harsh Canadian weather, the brain quickly froze solid and died.
Kinetik continues to serve as a member of the The Champions. To date he has been captured and held captive by some of the most powerful and impressive criminal organizations in the world.
Viper was obliged to bail out the US Government during the financial crisis of 2014. Viper leaders insisted that their schemes required a healthy and vibrant adversary on the world stage, and that economic collapse would be bad for both criminals and the forces of justice.
Thanks for reading, everyone. Tune in next week when I’ll be playing World of Warcraft. No, really.