I exited the mines into the bright sunshine of the Bastok Mines district, blinking owlishly in the afternoon light.
"Hope I never have to wander in there again," I muttered, and began walking toward the Markets area. I had a vague sense of where the Metalworks was, but wasn't familiar at all with the President's office. Meaning I would probably have to stop and ask directions.
"And everyone's been just so helpful here," I muttered, continuing to trudge through the streets.
After my encounter with the black slime, the trip out was uneventful. I had found my way back to the main tunnel by process of trial and error, and had sat down to rest for a few moments by the mouth of the mine. It did wonders for my mental energy, but it was still pretty tough to force myself to get up and keep going. The only thing that had kept me going was that the end of the journey was drawing closer - hopefully, at least.
I knew the Bastok Metalworks area was through the Markets district, by the eastern edge of the residential area. As I had no idea how to wind my way through the maze of housing, I had no choice but to take the long way around.
As I wound my way through the marketplace, I had a little time to reflect on the task I'd undertaken. I had understood the idea behind not earning any wage for this errand, but I hadn't known it would take most of my day to complete. Had I known, perhaps I would have tried my hand at something else.
"Might as well see it through to the end," I concluded to myself, forcing a spring back into my step. I had to be almost finished at this point, right?
The Metalworks building was near impossible to miss - it was a huge stone structure rising from the middle of the marketplace. I knew the entrance would be somewhere by the residential area. That is, if Kuto-Lulu hadn't given me the wrong information. Which I could easily see him doing.
Luckily for me, he was correct. The massive gate stood open along the broad lane, with a large Galka in sturdy-looking armor posted beside it. He nodded his head to me as I approached, clearly giving me permission to enter.
"Excuse me," I said as I drew closer to him, "I'm looking for the president's office. What would be the fastest way there, please?" I was trying my best to be polite, always aware that this Galka could likely snap me in half if he chose.
"Big Harvest is here to help," he said with a broad grin, raising one arm in a salute. "You want to use the lifts in the main hall. President's office is on the roof, near the back." He nodded his head again, falling back into his sentry pose.
"Thank you," I said with a nod as I walked past him into the Metalworks.
It was blessedly cool inside, at least compared to the midday heat of the Marketplace. It wasn't nearly as loud as I had expected, either. When I had imagined the Metalworks, I thought of one giant forge. This place wasn't like that at all.
I passed through a small entry-way, with another armored Galka stationed inside, and entered into the main gallery. The room was enormous; easily 100 feet from end to end, with the ceiling rising over 50 feet in the center.
I found the lifts quite easily - they were in the center of the room, and rose the entire way on a system of metal and wood girders. The platforms were made of wood, reinforced with bands of metal. As I watched, they transported a pair of Galka workers and a low cart piled with metal pieces with no problem.
So the lifts seemed safe enough, but a small part of my brain insisted on wondering what exactly was driving them, and what would happen it if failed suddenly 50 feet in the air.
"Never you mind," I muttered to myself, and walked over to the loading platform. When the lift came down again and stopped, I stepped onto it, placing my hand on one of the support rails and gripping tightly.
"First time on the lift?" came a deep, gravelly voice from behind me. I turned to see a tall, grey-haired Hume stepping onto the lift behind me. "You don't need to be," he said, displaying a large, yellowing smile. "I designed these lifts, and they could lift a behemoth! Not that we want a behemoth here, but.." He trailed off, his eyes acquiring a faraway look as the lift began to rise slowly up the rails.
"You designed these?" I prompted him after a short silence.
"Aye!" he proclaimed, coming back from wherever he had gone. "I'm Cid!" He thumped his arm on the chest of his thick workman's apron as he spoke. "I'm the head engineer here in Bastok." He stuck a hand out to me, which I shook. It was covered in grime, but it would have been rude to not take it.
"Aspen," I said with a smile. "I'm headed up to the President's office to give a report."
The lift glided to a short stop at another wooden platform. It was remarkably like the one we had left at the bottom, except for being suspended 50 feet in the air.
"Mayhap I'll see you around," He said, offering another large grin. "My office is right here off the elevator. If you're runnin' missions for the Republic, it's only a matter of time before I have somethin' for you to do." He wandered down a short corridor to the left, favoring his left leg slightly.
"Another new friend," I muttered, and walked onto the wooden platform. Up ahead, I could see bright sunlight, and could feel a warm breeze making its way up the hallway.
I began walking for the roof, anxious to have this mission behind me once and for all.