The Big Help

I wrote 8 “The Big Help” back during my first failed attempt at being a Solo-Indie-Dev.
I thought I’d put them all in one place for my hard core Clutter fans to enjoy.
So here they are.

The Big Help – Chapter 01 – Lab-16

The Carpenters had just finished work on the 22nd floor of my office
building….but then again that was another story. I had stumbled
across Lab-16 by accident. At first it was all fun and games. Brightly
colored lights flashing with every move I made and a Smiley-Faced
guy mocking my every miss-step. But then, like a Stand-up Comic who’s lost
his timing, nothing seemed funny anymore. No longer could I just wildly
move in any direction. It seemed that every step was important now. And
every step seemed like it could be my last….but it never was. Like a
dyslexic waking up on the wrong side of the bed it seemed the foot was on
the other shoe now.

I had to think about everything now, and take everything into consideration
if I was to unlock the safe and get my free copy of “Recon” that was
promised to the first five people to make it all the way through the
Lab-16 maze. I’ve done some bad things in my day; but I’ve never felt this
much like a rat before in my life. But with perseverance, a little luck
and some of what a Priest friend of mine might call Zen Chutzpah, I
triumphed over adversity and made it to the final trap. I’m stuck there
now but I was able to leave some clues along the way. If you get stuck, you
might be able to find one just about every ten steps or so, but be careful.

Now, that I’m stuck I thought I’d review the training I got from my mentor,
Detective Sergeant Joe Ockham (sometimes spelled Occam) who trained
me on a Friday night long ago. I can still remember the first words
he ever spoke to me: “Sometimes I sits and thinks, sometimes I just sits
and sometimes I just thinks”. I have no idea what that means. Anyways,
this is what he taught me.

Rule 1: The simple and straightforward answer is often the correct one.

Rule 2: When in doubt, try something.

Rule 3: When in doubt, do the hokey-pokey. (Left, Right, shake it about).

Rule 4: Stop, Look, Listen and READ everything. Clues are everywhere.

Rule 5: When in doubt, sits and thinks (do nothing).

Rule 6: Silliness often masks Seriousness.

Rule 7: Most importantly – Beware of too many rules!!!

Rule 8: Ask the next question and be sure of what you know.

Yes, Occam was crazy, but crazy like a fox in a Volkswagen. He had places
to go but no way to reach the gas pedal. And like that fox, now I’m stuck
too. But wait, something’s happening….someone’s approaching….I can
only see a shadow….there’s something in the shadow….oh no….no….no

(to be continued – look for “The Big Help – Chapter 02” in Recon Battle Ships)

The Big Help – Chapter 02 – Recon Battle Ships

Burg-r King had just fixed their flashing sign out front, but that’s
another Store-E. I had finally escaped from Lab-16 through almost no
fault of my own. I had a message on my beeper to meet up with a
Colonel Mustard in the Library. I didn’t like the sound of that but
I didn’t have a clue as to what I should do next, so I went anyway.
When I entered the room, no one was there. No one alive that is. Laying
dead on the floor in a navy uniform was a Pigeon with it’s wings clipped.
I noticed the insignia and jumped back. It was Admiral Bird alright. I
thought he was still at the South Pole but I was wrong. On the table
next to where the pigeon had dropped was a game called Recon and across
the table was another dead body which allowed me to conclude two things
for sure. Someone had sunk someone’s Battleship, and someone else
wasn’t happy about it.

I tried Hints, I tried the Sonar, I tried the Recon buttons and I even
tried reading the Help; but nothing made sense until I tried a Training
Mission. It all became clear. It was simple logic and deduction.
Sherlock Holmes would have been proud of me and Sherlock Holmes would
have loved this game. I was hooked immediately and played all evening
long. Luckily either the dead bird or the other dead guy liked his
Mt Dew and there was plenty on hand. I looked forward to calling
facilities in the morning and having them clean up this mess.

(to be continued – look for “The Big Help – Chapter 03” in PBJ-Magic)

The Big Help – Chapter 03 – PBJ-Magic

Benadict Arnold was one of the worst traitors in U.S. History….but
that was another Tory. (Editor’s Note: As Dogbert once said “Puns;
never apologize, never explain.”) I had just wrapped up the case of
the missing torpedo when the phone rang. This surprised me since
Ma Bell had terminated my service earlier in the week. I said “Hello”
and a muffled voice on the other end of the line shouted “Help me,
my computer is reading my mind”.

I recognized the voice immediately, it was my ex-girlfriend with the
wooden leg and she sounded more paranoid than ever. Yes, even more
paranoid than the time she suspected me of cheating with her twin sister.
Her twin sister had two good legs that went all the way to the floor
and back and although I looked at her occasionally it was never in that
way. She also half-looked at me occasionally because she had a glass
eye from a fork accident that happened when she was just eleven. Peg
had never gotten over her paranoia and it destroyed her relationships
with both myself and Crystal. But I had a soft spot in my heart for
Peg that matched the soft spot in my head and I found myself saying I’d
be right over to check it out for myself.

When I arrived. Peg made me pick a card from an ordinary deck of playing
cards and then she had me put it in my pocket as she led me to her
computer. She brought up a program called PBJ-Magic and then told me to
have a seat. The program had two tricks. One was a simple vanishing card
trick and that was pretty easy to figure out. But the other one had me
totally baffled. The Program showed me 15 cards and asked me if my card
was there. Then the program showed me 15 more cards and asked me if my
card was there. Then it showed me a mixture of card pieces and asked
me how many pieces of my own card could I find there.

Now the funny thing was….it told me it was ok to lie to it and so I did.
Twice I told the truth and once I lied. I knew I had stumped it. But to my
surprise it then correctly showed me my Card.

At first I was baffled, and then I remembered this article I read last
week in Computer Detective Nerd Weekly. It was all about touch screen
technology, light pens and voice recognition software. That’s when it
hit me. This Puzzles By Joe character must have developed Compact
Eyeball Retinal Tracking Software that could match where you were looking
on the screen in the same way a light pen works. The program just watched
my eyeballs and even though I had lied to it, it must have been able to
detect a “recognition jump” at the point where I noticed my card.

When I told Peg my theory of the “recognition jump”, she laughed and
performed her own “recognition jump” on me. She then offered me a certs
and kissed me in an effort to help me keep my theories to myself. I
left in the morning thinking she was the one that had been pulling my
leg on this one.

(to be continued – look for “The Big Help – Chapter 04” in Noah’s Arc)

The Big Help – Chapter 04 – Noah’s Arc

The bulldozer had just unearthed a large stone bolder….but that
was another quarry. (Editor’s Note: Yes, I know they’re getting worse
but then again, there are worse yet to come.) I had just wrapped up the
case of the missing breath mint when the phone rang. I was eating Jello
pudding at the time so I decided to do my best Bill Cosby impression. I
said “Jello – Who is it?”; they answered “Noah” in a voice that boomed
like God from a Cecil B. DeMille movie. I, of course, said “Right”.

This guy Noah said he had lost his Arc and could I help him find it.
Well I had once helped The Big Shaq Attack find his Arc from the charity
stripe but this time I suspected a different kind of fowl play. My
suspicions were confirmed immediately when Noah showed me the last known
location of his missing Arc. Wrapped around a hard gray rock was a note
that read “Death to Bi-Quadruped Collectors”. There was also a One Dollar
Bill with the words “Ok, maybe I told one lie once.” written in bright
cherry-red lipstick. I immediately ruled out Bill Clinton from my list
of suspects. Whoever did this was cruel and obviously liked playing
sick jokes. On the back of the note was a little puzzle with a picture
of Noah at one end and a picture of the missing Arc at the other. In
between were animals both large and small. I stared at that puzzle for
what seemed like hours, but I came up with nothing. Like a Salvation
Army Bucket on July 25’th….I kept coming up empty and nothing was
ringing my bell.

And then it hit me; maybe empty wasn’t such a bad feeling after all.


I put it all together. Mt….Cherry-Red….lies….Washington….it was
all there if you knew where to look. So I took Noah up to Mt. Washington,
New Hampshire’s highest peak; and buried beneath a chopped down Cherry
Tree at the top was his Arc; the left half of his gold wedding band.
Joan still had the other half of course because she was always right.
There was also a note addressed to me that read “Hey Nick! Quite the
ingenious use of an igneous rock, don’t you think? – your Arc-Enemy Inga”.
She was trying to make a pun, but as usual it smelled like only two-thirds
of one.

That case taught me a valuable lesson – “Never take anything for Granite.”.
You see New Hampshire is the Granite State, so I guess that wasn’t another
quarry after all.

(to be continued – look for “The Big Help – Chapter 05” in Math Wheels)

The Big Help – Chapter 05 – Math Wheels

Eric the Seagull looked Johnathan in the eye and said, “It means
never having to say you’re…” as Mr. Livingston entered the room
remarking….”that’s another Love Sorry”. Turning to leave,
he said….”I’m heading over to the King Richard theater to a rehearsal
of Terminator III, The Musical. In this version, three morphing robots
replace three musical geniuses. Sly plays Beethoven, Bruce will
be playing Brahms, but Arnie dropped out at the last minute so I got
lucky and they asked me to replace him”. As he reached for the
door knob, “I don’t know how long I’ll be gone; but I’ll be Bach”.

Hi, I’m Nick Bytes and this is my story. I had just wrapped up
“the case of the Burning Steak and the Big Dripper” when I got a
call from my mentor Joe Ockham. I hadn’t seen him in person since
well before Lab-16 but I already knew what he was going to say. You
see, once a year he would call me up and tell me about this case that
he was working on. He referred to it as “the case of the rolling
digits” but I knew it was the old stupid Math Wheels problem.

He would get all excited and tell me how great it was. There was this
box that had a different kind of combination lock on it. Instead of
just a circular dial, it had five equations that rotated around a
rolling cylinder. Joe would go on and on about how great it would be
if we could create a hand-held puzzle just like it. He said it would
become as popular as the Rubik’s Cube. I told him, that the Rubik’s
Cube was a fad and that only geeks played with the Rubik’s Cube for
more than five minutes. I told him, “Joe, no one will like it except
for you”.

We talked for a while longer and then I told Joe goodbye. That night
I had the same dream I always have after talking with Joe about those
stupid Math Wheels; but that night the dream ended differently. Joe
was walking alone playing with a device that I can only assume was
a working Math Wheels puzzle. Overhead flew an evil Gryphon with
the head of an Eagle and the body of a Lion. Usually the Gryphon
would drop an egg on poor Joe and the stickieness of it would prevent
the puzzle from working and Joe would sit down and cry not realizing
that the Yoke was on him. But this time….just as the egg dropped,
Joe whipped out from his lab-coat a Bunsen Burner and scrambled the
egg in mid-air. His aim was true, He hit his mark and the egg fell
harmlessly to the ground. And then a truly startling thing happenned.
Joe looked up at me as if he could see me watching him in the dream
and said….”You’re right Nick, no one will like it except for me
but that’s good enough for me”. I woke up sadly realizing that it’s
not always a good thing to be right.

(to be continued – look for “The Big Help – Chapter 06” in GapWar: Triangle Madness)

The Big Help – Chapter 06 – GapWar: Triangle Madness

Cinderella was looking despondant sitting outside the Photo-Mat booth
because her dog had run away from her in the park across the street.
I told her to cheer up and she asked me why she should and then she
Drew me a picture of her little lost puppy. Just then Barry Moore showed
up and told me he had been looking for me Ever After. He then Screamed
in my ear “What’s your favorite Scary Movie?” as he lit a cigarette and
carelessly threw the lit match into a dumpster next to the building.

That Barry was a regular Fire Starter and just then some Firemen and
EmTs spouting contradictory instructions on how to handle the emergency
showed up. If you listened to them long enough you wouldn’t be able
to tell if they were a Pair of Medics or a Pair of Docs.

While all this excitement was happening, Cindy started weeping saying she
had Never Been Kissed and if she only had a little money she could at least
Phone Home or call-up some Boys on the Side. I wasn’t about to give
her any money since we Irreconcilably Differed on how she should spend it.

Just then her Step-Sister Amy showed up. Her sister was a regular Poison
Ivy and a little Gun Crazy too and I knew that Amy was just Fishing for
a compliment when she asked if I liked her new dress. Her boyfriend
Charlie was with her but he was no Angel either. Yep, Amy was a real
Bad Girl but her Eyes sparkled like a Cat trapped Far From Home.

Cindy continued crying; Singing a sad song about how she would never have
a Wedding of her own. She wailed that she was sick of men and that maybe
she should take up the offer from the batboy of the local little league
team who told her he wanted to live with her Forever. Unfortunately she
was rather cruel towards him and had actually told him, “Come back when
you’re a Batman, you little batboy.”.

Just then her dog came bounding up into her lap, just as the lady in
the booth handed me an envelope to give to Cindy. She was already
smiling and I was Green with envy at the guy who might end up with
her one day. She could end up with any Tom, Dick or Harry and I’d still
end up being an ordinary Joe.

I handed her the envelope and then walked away from the group. I couldn’t
help but have a satisfied smirk on my face. I was right once again.
Whenever Cindy was said, I always told her….”Cheer up…..Someday your
Prints will come”.

(to be continued – look for “The Big Help – Chapter 07” in RackEm)

The Big Help – Chapter 07 – RackEm!

I awoke on a planet in a galaxy far, far away (as opposed to the one
next door). Hyperspace travel was a lot like being drunk and if you
think that’s a fun time: go ask a glass of water. I had read all
about it in some Hiker’s guide while hitching rides in England but
experiencing it first hand left me drained.

I was awoken on the planet Soma by one of the locals. His name was
Tetri and like all the locals, his head was shaped like a Quartomino.
(think domino with 4 sections instead of two). I had been summoned
back to defend my title as Soma’s RackEm champion which I had won
last year (but that’s another story).

RackEm is played on a regulation Pool Table without any holes. The
object of the game is always to remove Numbered Balls from the table
by getting 3 or more like-numbered balls in a row (horizontally,
vertically or even diagonally). I was the 8-ball champion from last
year and my friend Tetri had won the secondary Pool-Tris competition.

There was a glut on the Cue Ball market so this year the rules had
changed slightly to use up all the extra Cue Balls. You couldn’t
take a single long shot without an extra Cue Ball showing up somewhere
on the table and blocking future shots. If that wasn’t bad enough;
Cue Balls started showing up every time you took more than 3 “mini-shots”
to make a 3-row combo.

They were all block-heads on planet Soma, but RackEm took brains to play.
As I was about to make my winning shot, the lights went out and I was hit
from behind by a wooden object.

I awoke on a flat table, wondering if I had dreamt the whole encounter
and whether my memories from the year before were somehow planted by
some alien technology. All of a sudden I felt a wooden object jabbing
me in a place I’d rather not mention. Had the aliens probed me too?
There was a bright light shining above me and all I could make out were
a couple of shadow figures to my right and left. I sat up quickly and
hit my brow on the light directly above me. I grabbed for any objects
to use as weapons and as I took my first swipe at my abductors I noticed
I was holding an Eight Ball in my right hand and a Cue Ball in my left.

It was then that I realized I hadn’t been probed by aliens at all. I had
just been sleeping (rather uncomfortably) on a pool table in my favorite
local establishment. Joe’s Rack’Em Shack!!! Drunk yes, but not like a
glass of water. And that was the last time I took a drink and the last
time that a drink took me. To this day I’m still haunted by the memories
of Soma, Tetri and Pool game played with your brains instead of your sticks.

(to be continued – look for “The Big Help – Chapter 08” in FitTris)

The Big Help – Chapter 08 – Physical FitTris

I was working undercover as a waiter at “Micheli’s – B ‘n B”, a little
Italian Restaurant located in “The City by the Bay”. The owner was a
little Italian too. It wasn’t a bed and breakfast. The “B ‘n B” stood
for Mark’s (the owner) other two passions. He loved cooking and eating
pasta almost as much as he loved his Bridge and Basketball.

The floor of the restaurant was made of Parquet tiles from the late
great Boston Garden. In the far left corner of the restaurant was a
regulation hoop and enough room for an interesting game of one on one.
Each table was square and could only seat four people. A deck of cards
was between the salt and pepper shakers of each table just in case
anyone wanted an impromptu game of Bridge (or even it’s lesser known
cousins – Spades or Hearts).

Mark was so competitive that if you beat him one-on-one then dinner
was on the house. I worked undercover there for three weeks and I
only saw him lose once to a guy who was a few years older and about
sixty pounds overweight but with a killer three-point shot. I think
he went by the name “Kid Kazz”. The whole time he was beating Mark,
he was taunting him with a very strange expression. He kept saying
over and over again: “It’s all about Physical FitTris Baby!!!”.

It was a great game and it was great to see Mark finally lose one,
but that’s another story. What I’m really here to tell you about
is the strange customers who came in on my last day undercover.

Three Little Pigs walked into Micheli’s for dinner. I approached and
asked them what they wanted to drink before they ordered. The first
little pig said “I’ll have a Sprite”. The second little pig said “Coke
please”. The third little pig said “I’ll just have a glass of water”.

“Before I go away, can I get you any appetizers?” I asked. The
first little pig said “I’ll have some Onion Rings”. The second little
pig said “I’ll have some Mozzarella Sticks.” and the third little pig
looked up and said….”Ah….just bring me another glass of water”.

I returned with the drinks and appetizers and then asked the
three little pigs what they would like for dinner. The first little pig
chose Steak, the second little pig chose Chicken and the third little
pig said “Just bring me another glass of water please”.

At the end of dinner I went over to take their dessert order. The first
little pig chose Apple Pie, the second little pig chose Chocolate Cake
and the third little pig said: “Just one last glass of water thank you”.

When I brought the bill to the Three Little Pigs I turned to the third
little pig and said: “I have to ask you something. Your friends all had
normal dinners, but all you had was glass after glass of water. What’s
up with that?”. Well, the third little pig looked up and remarked “I’m
the designated Pig”. “What do you mean by that?” I asked, “It’s not like
your friends were drinking alcohol or that they’d even be driving home”.

“Oh, of course not” said the third little pig, “It’s not that, it’s
just that one of us has to go wee, wee, wee….all the way home”.

(Based on a Joke first told to me by my Niece: Brittany Welcome – thanks)

(When I first wrote the part about Micheli's Italian restaurant, I had put two Ls in both
Micheli and in Italian. When he read this and told me to spell his name right, I also
noticed the incorrectly spelled Italian as well. I told him "How can I be expected to
spell Micheli correctly if I can't even spell Italian correctly?". In hindsight, I'd been
playing Basketball with him for many years and this is the first time he's called me for
Double Drib-L-ing.)

(to be continued – look for “The Big Help – Chapter 09” in Fun-Cryptions)

—- Sadly, I never made Fun-Cryptions, but that’s where Box Quotes & Crytoquotes came from in the later Clutter games.