Part 49: Hallway 8
The hallway took them around several corners, and past several doors, but they were all locked.
Until, at last...
The final door was hidden in a corner of the hall.
Junpei grabbed the handle. As he made to push it open, a voice stopped him.
The voice came from behind him, and belonged to neither Seven nor Clover.
He spun around.
He saw someone running toward him, from the other end of the hallway.
They pulled up short in front of Junpei, breathing hard.
Whoa! What the hell is this?!
What are you doing here?!
What...? But...we didn't...
Before he could finish, Clover spoke.
Hey, guys... Could you come take a look at this?
She was standing near the end of a small hallway that branched off to the right.
The rest of them ran over to her, curious as to what she'd found.
There was something on the wall at the end of the hallway...
...And I'm gonna cut it off right here. We've already seen exactly where it's going to go from here, beat-for-beat. We grab the map, go through the door, regroup with Ace, and get the Earth Key from Lotus. From there Ace, Clover and Seven go through Door 3 while we use the Jupiter Key to return to C Deck's central staircase.
I, uh, I just don't remember why we bothered.
Junpei looked off into the distance, thoughtfully.
Lotus sighed and shook her head.
I can't believe this... You guys followed me here, but you don't even know why?
Junpei, you've got the solar system keys, don't you?
He did. He pulled them out.
The [Saturn key card]...
...And the [Earth key].
Junpei didn't see what they had to do with anything, though.
Both he and Santa were completely lost.
Fortunately, June took pity on them.
From there, it carries on like it did before and we split up. Santa and Lotus take the Earth Key and head up to A Deck, whilst Junpei and June take the Saturn Keycard to the elevator.
Speaking of which, this choice only deserves the bare minimum of mentioning. We've already seen everything it gives you. The second option, however?
Just skips all the innuendo, which cuts about half the scene out for no reason at all.
We find Door 6 down there, Santa and Lotus find Door 1, Ace/Clover/Seven find Snake's corpse, we reconvene and see Snake's dead... you know the drill by now.
[Music: Extreme Extrication]
Only one door left that we haven't been through. We'll pick it right away this time!
That's a problem...
June spoke barely above a whisper, but they all knew what she'd said.
None of these teams will be able to go through the doors they want.
Clover and I chose door .
Lotus and I chose door .
That's not enough people to open a numbered door, however.
The digital root's don't match up either.
We've got similar problems. June, Junpei and I want to go through door .
n Damn... What are we going to do now?
What are we going to do...
Junpei crossed his arms, and did his best to put his thoughts in order. The others followed suit, but with little result.
Eventually Clover broke the silence.
Isn't that obvious? Wasn't one of the teams just complaining that they didn't have a (1)?
You mean... I should join Santa's team?
Clover nodded, her face still cold and emotionless.
Her attitude and posture could not have been more different than the energetic girl of only a few hours before.
No one seemed ready to contradict her.
Her response was understandable, given the horrible situation in which she had found herself, but even so...
If we do as Clover has suggested, we can all pass through a numbered door. No one will be left behind. This seems to be the most reasonable solution.
3 + 6 + 5 + 1 = 15 → 1 + 5 = 6
Seven? Lotus? What do you guys think?
All right then, we're good to go.
At last, Junpei and the other 6 had managed to separate themselves into 2 teams.
Clover, Seven, and Lotus headed to [A Deck], where door  was, near the main staircase.
The ride to [E Deck] was a silent one.
One by one, they put their palms over the RED.
With a soft electronic noise, it authenticated each of them.
The door opened...
And all at once, the 4 of them leapt through it.
They gathered around it quickly, and hurriedly placed their palms on it for authentication one by one.
Yes... It stopped...
The countdown had ceased, but Junpei's heart was still pounding in his chest, like a frantic, thunderous drum. It felt as though it might shake itself up and out of his throat.
He'd been through the doors 3 times before, but repetition had not dulled the experience.
He was not anxious to find it dulled, however. He hoped to be free of the ridiculous game long before that happened.
All right, let's go!
With that attempt at good humor, Junpei took a deep breath, and began to walk.
It was a heavy thing, made of iron, and more than a little threatening.
He took hold of the bar that served as its doorknob, and shoved it down.
The room beyond stopped him in his tracks.
[Music: Who Is Zero?]
I dunno if this is just me or what, but this view of the room is rather deceptive. It looks like a tall vertical shaft with a large fire escape style staircase, but it isn't. It's meant to be an overhead view of the room, but the angle is kinda wacky.
Whoa, what the hell is this...
Santa got out a few words, before awe stole the rest of them.
The rest were too stunned to offer anything more than gasps.
It was easily the largest room they'd seen, and yet it was somehow closed, and oppressive. The ceiling was at least 2 stories high, if not significantly more.
It was easily several hundred feet across, and appeared to stretch the entire width of the ship.
Junpei and the others were standing on scaffolding that criss-crossed the whole area. The proper term was "catwalk", Junpei thought, although that didn't seem particularly important.
All right, let's head downstairs.
Nearby was a long iron staircase that made its way, eventually, to the floor beneath them.
They hadn't said much as they walked, but as they approached the building, Ace suddenly spoke up.
The steam engine room...?
Yes. The thing that looks like a cross-section of a mushroom is the boiler. Do you see the 3 round doors near the bottom? Coal is put into those, and burned, which heats the water, producing steam.
Even if Ace was right, the boiler was boiling nothing as they approached it.
The entire room was as silent as the grave.
Junpei heard a noise behind him.
He turned, just in time to see June collapse to her knees.
Hey! What's wrong?! Are you all right?
He dashed toward her, and wrapped his arm around her shoulders to steady her. It was then that he noticed...
You... You're really warm!
Yes... Yes, it...probably is... But... I'm fine... Please, don't...worry about me.
Her voice was weak, and forced, and it said a great deal more than her words did.
Junpei carried her to the nearest wall, and propped her up against it.
He turned, and looked at Ace and Santa in turn.
They might not have shared the depth of his emotion, but they certainly shared his concern. He didn't need words to express the urgency of their situation.
Santa concept art #1