The little man, who introduces himself as “Archpresident Milford Buchanan”, leads you to a white house at the end of the paved path that runs through Eden. It appears to be the largest house in the settlement, built right in the centre.
A one-headed dog lies sleeping on the grass a few metres from the house’s front door. It doesn’t appear to have suffered any injuries, so you conclude that its one-headedness must result from a birth defect. You ask Milford about this, and he inhales and seems about to launch into something, but then thinks better of it and just looks at you sadly.
“You’ll find a lot of things that seem strange to you here in Eden,” he says as he leads you into the house. “In time, I hope you’ll come to understand how much better everything is in here. But like a prisoner escaped from Plato’s cave, we must give your eyes time to adjust to the light.”
The interior of the house provides a welcome reprieve from the green outside. The place is furnished with tables and chairs of the sort you’re used to seeing the rotting remains of, giving it the same old world quality of the rest of Eden. Strangely, unlike the opulent and richly decorous domains of the region’s powerful warlords, the Archpresident’s house is quite plain on the inside – strange for a man who calls himself “Archpresident”.
The place reminds you of a ritzy hotel you once raided. The hotel’s interior was faded and decayed, but the walls were lined with paintings of the rooms as they had been in their prime. Now it’s as if you’ve stepped into one of those paintings.
One element, however, stands out from the rest. Above the fireplace, a strange pattern of rectangles within rectangles has been painted, not on a canvas, but straight onto the wall. There seems to be a distinct pattern of what looks like text hidden within the waves of triangles. You strain your eyes to see if you can make any sense of it but instead you get lost in a trance.
“I see you’ve noticed my newest decoration,” Milford says, catching your puzzled stare. “As you’ve probably already guessed, you’ve just found the latest of the Mutant Mastermind’s puzzles.”
So that’s what MM stands for.
“I can’t make head or tail of it personally,” says Milford, his beady eyes shining. “But seeing as you’ve seen so much success with the challenges so far, I’m sure you’ll crack it in no time.”
Milford claps his hands with glee as you show him the solution to the puzzle. “Good job! I certainly never would have thought of doing it that way!”
You smile at the man confidently. “Now that I’ve solved your puzzle, I think it’s time you told me a little bit about this Mutant Mastermind. What’s this all leading to?”
Milford narrows his eyes at you, grinning conspiratorially. “There’s no reason I can’t tell you a little bit about the Mastermind, I suppose. I don’t think he would like it very much, but you have solved quite a few of his challenges, so let me throw you a bone, just this once. But first, dinner!”
Milford ushers you to his dining room and has you sit to the right of his place at the head of the table. Two cooks in the cleanest aprons you’ve ever seen appear from somewhere else in the house carrying various dishes, which are quickly and artfully arranged on the table.
The meal consists of unfamiliar meats and too-green vegetables. You pick at it, taking the parts that look the least unappetising. There are no cans in sight, and you eat off unchipped porcelain, using straight, shiny metal cutlery. You’re tempted to try bending one of the forks just to stop it all feeling so alien.
“The Mutant Mastermind, or MM, as he is more commonly known, is a man of vision and great ambition,” Milford begins, flourishing his fork dramatically. “He sees the future, and in the future he sees a better, stronger world – better than even the old world of which you see a pale imitation of here in Eden.”
“Some of us are dreamers, and some are realists,” says Milford. “I count myself in the latter category. In service of mankind, I have built this haven through which comfort and civilisation have returned to the world. It is but a small community, because I am well aware of the limitations on what one man may achieve in a single lifetime – even a lifetime as long extended as mine.”
“MM is a dreamer, then.”
Milford’s expression clouds over. “That wouldn’t be entirely fair to say, and I’m sorry for insinuating it. If anyone can achieve MM’s goals, it is him. While some are dreamers and some are realists, these categories only apply to humans. MM is more than human. Through great toil and sacrifice, I have carved out a speck of the old world for myself. MM aims to transform the entire world into a new utopia.”
“So what are the puzzles about?”
“Even MM cannot achieve his ends all on his own. He is searching for helpers, apprentices, people to handle the details of his grand plan. These people will be incredibly wealthy and powerful under the new order. Together with MM, they shall be worshipped as Gods.”
A shiver travels down your spine.
“When you have solved all of the puzzles, you will find out what MM’s plan is,” Milford continues in a low voice. “And then you will help to implement it.”