Balance – Episode 44: The Eleventh Hour: Chapter Four

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Wow, this arc is going to wreck the boys’ KD ratio. Let’s hope they can break the cycle and escape from… The Adventure Zone!

—The Announcer


"The Eleventh Hour: Chapter Four," as it appears on the MaximumFun website, is the 44th episode of The Adventure Zone: Balance.

Synopsisedit | hide all | hide | edit source

Full transcript available here.

Our heroes explore an extremely deadly derelict mine in an attempt to find out what's happening to Refuge every time the clock strikes noon. They do so with the usual amount of caution and grace, which is to say things go very, very, very poorly, very, very, very often. Merle makes some furry friends. Magnus finds a trap the hard way. Taako flies to Heaven.

Magnus rushes in! To tell Roswell the truth.edit | hide | edit source

After waking up once more outside of Refuge (LOOP 3), Magnus decides to rush up to Roswell and spout truth at them. Their name is Roswell, there’s a statue in the center of town, and other information that Roswell doesn’t know how he knows. He lets them know that he and the boys are stuck in a loop.

Griffin has Magnus roll persuasion. He rolls a 19+1, which means they never need to sneak past them again.

Magnus lets Roswell in on the major events in the Eleventh Hour. Roswell asserts that they need to protect the town, and Magnus asks for more information about the Quarry. Roswell tells him that nobody’s been in there since the rock slide, when operations closed off. There was a disaster six weeks ago, and a few miners died. Cassidy was the only one who made it out alive.

Merle asks why miners were down there in the first place if the diamond mine dried up a while back. Roswell says they were there “because they were thirsty,” thinking maybe there were hidden diamonds.

To the Quarry!edit | hide | edit source

Magnus picks the lock to the quarry with his thieves’ tools. Near the entrance to the quarry, Griffin emphasizes, there are bushes. Chekhov’s bushes. The gang rolls investigation. Magnus: 15, Merle: 4, and Taako: 19.

Magnus sees a shovel, a pickax, and a headlamp in the bushes. Taako also notices that there’s a patch of disrupted dirt. Magnus grabs the headlamp, Taako grabs the shovel, and Merle takes the pickaxe. They investigate the dirt, so the listeners don’t go insane.

Taako digs in with his shovel… only to wither at the merest hint of physical labor. Magnus digs in with his hands, safely extracting a cluster bomb. Magnus suggests blowing up the cave-in. Taako says he’s going to play it safe, and uses his Hole Thrower to throw a hole 5 feet-deep and -wide into the cave-in. Inside there’s a cavern, leading further in. They are able to keep the bomb, which Magnus puts in a different pocket than Steven.

Inside the Quarry!edit | hide | edit source

Almost immediately inside the quarry, the trio enters a room that looks like the break room or entry room for the diamond mine. In one corner is a sink and an ice box. There are three or four round tables, with chairs around them. Immediately through the door is a timecard station (punch clock). On the opposite side of the room is a vault-like door that is similar to the doors that were in Wave Echo Cave — industrial strength.

Across from the tables and chairs are two rows of 13 lockers, 26 in all. Each of them has a piece of tape that marks whose lockers they are, most likely former employees.

List:

  • Lawrence
  • Abernathy
  • Cassidy
  • Ulrich
  • Farnsworth
  • Xavier
  • Vanessa
  • Randall
  • Perkins
  • Williams
  • Galding
  • Yael
  • Harlan
  • Dana
  • Jerry
  • Barnes
  • Emerich
  • Zelda
  • Morrison
  • Isaac
  • Osha
  • Keith
  • Quincy
  • [ILLEGIBLE LABEL; Timecard reads Susanna]
  • Terrence
  • Niall

Magnus goes to look at the locker with the scratched off label. Griffin points out that it is scratched off and illegible, Travis clarifies that he’s opening it, but he’s leaning away from the opening, just in case “bugs fly out or something.” When Magnus opens the locker, a bomb goes off, and the boys die.

Like Ping Pong, only it’s Life and Deathedit | hide | edit source

The old woman in the white space doesn’t say anything this time, but she looks like she’s catching her breath, and she’s kind of tired.

LOOP 4

They’re back in the room, it’s 11:15, and Griffin’s just described it again. Griffin asks the trio how they feel, now that they’ve died three times.

Magnus is pretty pumped about it. This is how he would live his life anyway, and he feels emboldened by being able to rush in, fuck up, and then rush in again. Merle is not a fan. He’s a little chafed and gassy from the whole thing. Taako feels like it’s just another day at the office, baby. He’s pretty disoriented after dying and not dying enough.

Merle has a spell called Find Traps. The door is trapped. 16 of the lockers have mechanisms that will set off the trap instantly. The others are still trapped, but they have to be opened in sequence. It’s a Mine Break Room Puzzle!

Merle finds Cassidy’s time cards and investigates others. Cassidy’s was last punched in six weeks before what they understand today to be, as well as four others (Vanessa, Williams, Jerry, and Quincy, though Griffin explains that those names have little to do with the puzzle). None of those have punch-out dates. The other cards’ punch-in dates taper off, leaving record of when people stopped working in the mine.

Travis figures out that there are 26 names, each beginning with a letter of the alphabet. Justin laments their lack of diamonds and wants to go to Paloma for clues. Griffin encourages them to just try shit, but Justin doesn’t want to die again.

Magnus pulls out his Lens of Straight Creepin', and could see that the most recent set of prints begins at Dana’s locker and ends at Niall’s. Taako opens Dana’s locker, and it’s empty, and they hear a click. One down.

Travis points out that DEMOLITION has ten letters, but also has duplicates. Justin asks if there are any other applicable Jake Gyllenhaal movies.

Magnus opens E next. BOOM. The room explodes. They wake up in the white space, and the woman is there looking disapproving. Magnus says, “We’re working on it, sorry!” and they enter…

LOOP 5

Magnus opens Dana’s locker and Isaac’s locker, it’s empty, there’s a click. Clint opens the scratched out locker (Susanna’s), and Taako stands back a little bit. Magnus leans away. They pop that one open and there’s a click and it’s empty. Taako opens Abernathy. Merle opens Randall. Magnus pulls Morrison. DISARM.

Something clicks behind the vault door, but it doesn’t open.

The boys figure it out, Clint first, and then Travis: the next word is OPEN. They open it up and the vault door swings open. They solved the Break Room Locker Puzzle!

The boys take a look around the room. There’s meat in the icebox, and it’s still good, perplexingly. Magnus asks if the icebox is magic, and it turns out the ice is Good Ice, magical ice that stays colder for longer. Merle takes the meat and the ice.

The door opens up into an elevator, not Upsy. It’s a freight elevator, but it is part of the Miller family of products. There’s a mine cart full of boxes just outside the elevator, and there’s a panel with an up and down button on it.

As the elevator opens, two little furry bugs with adorable ears and little black, fuzzy wings scurry out from under the mine cart. The little fur bugs chirp at them. The bugs start climbing up Merle’s legs toward his jortpurs, where the raw meat is hanging out in his pockets. He lets them have a little nibble. They DEVOUR it so fast, and run outside through the hole. Merle gets inspiration.

Griffin had a puzzle in the elevator, but it’s going to take too long, so they solved the elevator puzzle without even trying. (TRAVIS: What was it? GRIFFIN: You had to hit the elevator button in a certain way or it explodes. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.)

Earthquake o’clock!edit | hide | edit source

There’s an earthquake during the descent in the elevator, making the elevator rumble and shake and bang on the walls.

As the door opens, there’s a blast of cold air on their faces. The only light is coming from Magnus’s headlamp, an orange light in the elevator, and in that dim light they can see a mine cart on a track going down into the caverns. The cart has a broken wheel, so it’s not exactly on the track.

There are some cracks in the ceiling, that look new, from the earthquake. There’s also a constant buzzing. Is it bugs? Magnus can’t tell, but Merle can tell that what’s making the buzz is alive.

Merle decides to Mend the wheel with his Adamant Spanner. The other boys move on, taking care to keep their stones of far speech on.

Magnus and Taako run investigations, and it looks like the tracks are fine. Magnus can see smoke on the ground, but it parts when his headlamp shines on it. Magnus tells Taako he should touch it. It doesn’t seem to be magic.

Merle ghost rides the whip to pick up Magnus and Taako. Magnus gets in and holds his shield above his head, and Taako opens the umbra staff over his head. Merle decides he’s going to call the cart his Magic Trolley.

And, just as quick as can be, something happens, and all that’s left is skeletons. They have died, devoured by something. Back in the white space, the woman looks tired, and they’re back to speed running for…

LOOP 6

Thanks to the speed run, they’re down the elevator before earthquake o’clock, 11:20. The cracks aren’t in the ceiling, and there’s only some bitty bugs instead of a consistent buzzing. Light seems to drive them away.

Merle repairs the cart again and casts Light on it, making it super duper shiny. It’s 11:25, and the boys hustle down the path. The buggies give the cart a wide berth. They get past a sharp turn just in time for the earthquake (11:30), the ceiling cracks, and bugs start crawling out.

Thanks to the shield and the umbrella, only a few bugs climb into the cart. They have a mini moral dilemma about killing the very cute bugs, but, as Taako points out, the bugs did eat them. Eventually, Magnus just stomp stomp stomp stomp stomps them.

It’s a long cart ride down the tracks. They can see some other passages that branch off to the left and right, but none of them have tracks. It takes about 15 minutes, placing us at 11:45, and there’s a door facing them with a button that says “Open.”

Merle casts Find Traps, and the door’s not trapped. Magnus pushes the button (his finger was inching ever closer), and they hear the sound of machinery moving far beyond the door. The door opens very slowly, into basically an airlock. Another door on the opposite side has an Open button, and the opposite side of the door they just came through also says Open.

They push the Open button again, which shuts the door really slowly and pressurizes. Over on the wall, a panel opens up. There’s a clock, and it’s a sixty-second timer, which has just begun to tick. Underneath the clock is another small metal panel with a slot in it, like a key card slot.

Magnus tries to use his Thieves’ Tools. Taako wishes everyone goodbye, and puts his hands up like Superman. Magnus takes off the panel, exposing five wires: a red, a yellow, a blue, a green, and a black wire. Magnus cuts the green wire, and everyone dies.

LOOP 7

Justin encourages everyone to think about what they know. Clint posits that it’s always the red wire. Magnus cuts the black wire, everyone dies.

LOOP 8

They shoot back to the slot. Griffin gives them a little bit of a clue, saying that they might want to be in an earlier place. Clint picks up what Griffin’s putting down, and mentions the timecards. Magnus, always the hero, says “I’ll get us out of here!” and uses Railsplitter to cut all five wires at once.

LOOP 9

This time, they stop in the entry room. Justin wants to grab Isaac’s, because he’s a high-ranking official. They grab all of them. Also, this loop, they don’t kill any bugs. Sixty seconds on the timecard clock, and it’s 11:50.

They put Isaac’s punch card in, and the clock stops. The door opens, and the panel snaps shut.

Inside the door is the largest room they’ve encountered so far. There’s an enormous hole in the floor. There’s a guardrail around the hole, and tracks that run around it, but the rest of the room is all hole. There’s a sturdy metal ring around the hole that appears to be a hatch that is currently open. There’s a sign labeled Shaft A directly in front, and next to the sign is a control box with a long lever coming out of it.

There are three forcefields in the room, one just below the heavy metal hatch. It looks like the bubble that surrounds Refuge. It’s more translucent, not refracting light, but it pitches outward a bit, like a bubble would. There’s also one over 3-foot wide hole with light overhead (the ceiling here is very tall, 20 or 30 feet up), and one that surrounds the door on the other side of the room.

It’s 11:55, and above, they can hear some commotion coming from the bank, but they’re not directly below it. Justin suggests just chilling.

Did they dig too deep? Let’s wait and see. Merle chews on some of the good Good Ice.

What Happens at Noonedit | hide | edit source

The following is more or less a direct transcript.

Through the hole in the floor, you can see teeth. You can see thousands of them, arranged in countless rows that are pouring down a mouth that is easily two-hundred feet wide. And emerging from that mouth are two big rectangular, flaps, that are also lined with teeth, that are curling and dripping with malice. And that mouth is lit, ever so slightly, from within, with dozens of small flames that look kind of like pilot lights for a furnace that looks like it’s about to explode.

And, with the help of the light shining directly downward, you can see what owns that mouth. And it is a gigantic body, that has thick ridged purple skin. And this is a body that is halted mid-attack. It’s moving a bit, almost imperceptibly, but it’s moving, and the fires in its mouth are starting to grow and become alive. And it is pushing with enough force to give this forcefield a workout, because waves are beginning to ripple across the surface of it, almost in a panic. And from above you, you hear the chime of a clock.

MAGNUS: I throw the cluster bomb down!

Okay, you throw the cluster bomb, and all three of you, because you got a good chuck in you’re not right next to the blast, but all of you take, like, 24 damage and are knocked backwards. It doesn’t seem to have any effect on this thing.

CLINT: Wait, did it go through the force field?

It didn’t, it just kind of bounced off the top of it. Actually, this thing was just about to breach it, so, it maybe hit it, but even if it did it didn’t seem to stop it at all because this thing is 200 feet wide and this thing is essentially a weapon of mass destruction. And now that you work your way back to the hole after being blown away back from it, and, the movement that this thing has is no longer imperceptible. You can see it moving; it’s coming up through the hole, it’s moving upward a few inches, and then a few feet, and the flames in its mouth are expanding and intensifying.

MERLE: Can we hold hands, guys, can we all hold hands?

And all of you hold hands as both the flame and The Purple Worm burst through the bubble, the force field ultimately giving up the ghost, and the room is flooded with fire and you are destroyed by a blast of nearly supersonic force and the last thing you hear is a scream of unbridled fury and you do not live long enough to hear the twelfth chime of the clock above you.

</transcript>

Travis reminds the party that they chased off some purple worms several episodes back, but Griffin points out that this one is much much much much much much much bigger.

END OF EPISODE!

The Money Zoneedit | hide | edit source

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