Part 54: Door 6
So, the last room we're going to go through... is, thankfully, one we last saw very recently.
It's the last door we saw in real detail no less. I'm certainly not complaining by any means. We'll just skip through all the very slow stuff leading to it, and much like the laboratory before we'll skip to just the scenes we're interested in.
[Music: Quinary Game]
In this case, that takes us quite nicely to when we replaced the missing wheel and lowered the control panel.
He stuck his head out over the side of the catwalk, and looked down.
The box that had only recently hung just below the catwalk now sat on the floor. It had come to rest near the end of the tunnel that covered the conveyor belt. Near where June had collapsed...
She doesn't seem to be improving.
Ace's expression was inscrutable, but he'd said what they had all been thinking.
Well, of course not. She's not gonna just get better right away, you know? It'll take time.
He tried desperately to convince himself that what he'd said was true.
What could be causing this, I wonder. Illness, perhaps?
Santa's response was confident and certain.
She gets dropped into some weird-ass ship... forced to play some messed-up game... If you think about it, it's a lot weirder that we aren't freakin' out just like her, you know?
So you're saying we're...abnormal?
Yeah. We're just running around this room, solvin'
How the hell could you call that "normal"? We're just guinea pigs.
Santa snorted in disgust.
A guinea pig... You mean like a lab rat...
Is that what you're saying?
Dunno. But...it does seem like a possibility, you know?
With that, he turned, and walked away from the winch.
Junpei and Ace followed him.
Santa suddenly stopped.
There was this experiment some scientists did with rats...
Exit (A) is pitch black--so dark, even a rat can't see anything.
Exit (B), however, is electrified, which means the rat can't leave through it.
So, what would a rat do if it was put in this situation? Which exit would the rat choose?
There was a moment of silence after Santa posed the question, and then Ace responded.
Exactly. The rat goes to exit (B). Of course, like I said, it's electrified. Which means the rat can't get out that way. So, after a lot of trial and error...
Hmmm. I can't say that's very interesting, or relevant. It's simply the story of a laboratory experiment.
This produced some surprising results.
[Music: Digital Root]
But even that wasn't the most impressive thing.
The same experiment was conducted in another laboratory, far from the original one, with the same results. ...No, on second thought, the results weren't really the same...
These rats were not related to the rats used in the first experiment, and had never even come in contact with them, and yet... They all easily found their way to exit (A), as though they already knew.
What did it mean...?
They were passing information to one another through some undetectable medium?
Ace looked skeptical. Santa snorted at him.
How the hell would I know? I'm not any kinda scientist. I dunno what made 'em do that...
...But I do know that story's true, and if
C'mon, let's get going. There's still a lot here we haven't checked out. And we gotta get the hell out of here before June passes out.
Without waiting for a response, he turned around and started walking.
Junpei, however, wasn't quite ready to leave the topic alone.
Hey, wait. There's something I wanna ask you.
Santa stopped, and turned around.
Well, I mean, it seems like you could conduct the same experiment without the water. They could have just used a dry box, you know?
If they needed to motivate the rats to escape, they could have...I dunno... Put some bait by exit (B) or something.
Santa gave a grim bark of a laugh.
You know the word "emergency" comes from the same root as the word as "emerge"? You ever think about that?
Well, an emergency is something urgent--often something dangerous. And to "emerge" means to sort of come out, or appear, or rise out of something else.
Yeah. Think about it. When the chips are down, either you crack, or your mind focuses, and pulls up what you need.
Is that what you're saying?
Yeah. That's why the rats had to drown. They had to be in danger. There had to be an emergency for inspiration to emerge.
And with that, the scene ends and we can continue poking around the room. There's nothing else worth our time in the room, though, so let's finish up here and head on over to the cargo room.
Given the circumstances, Junpei's happiness was certainly understandable.
Ace seemed to share his excitement.
All right, Junpei. Why don't you go get June now? Santa and I will keep an eye on this door.
Why do we need to do that?
Well... I suppose that's true... Shall all 3 of us go and collect June, then?
Nah, I'm cool. I'll let Junpei handle it.
So you are only interested in being contrary...?
Ace sighed, with the air of a long-suffering parent.
All right, I'll go get June. I'll be right back.
He gave a quick nod to Ace and Santa, and dashed off down the stairs.
Are you okay...?
He did his best to sound calm and nonchalant, but there was no hiding the genuine concern in his voice.
June blushed. He wasn't sure if she was embarrassed, or still feverish.
Just to make sure, he reached out and put his hand against her forehead.
...Good. You're feeling a lot better.
She was feeling far less warm than she had earlier, but still wasn't down to what seemed normal to him.
Are you sure you're all right?
He had to be sure.
June gave him a look.
He wasn't sure if she'd just made a joke or not, but... Seeing her smile again made Junpei feel at ease. If she was well enough to smile and laugh, then she really was feeling much better.
He gave her a friendly poke on the forehead.
Oh, right. I didn't tell you...
Great! Let's go!
June clasped her hands and nodded urgently.
What are you looking at?
Santa answered without looking up, his voice quiet.
Sister? Santa, you've got a sister?
Santa simply nodded.
Yeah... Kid was as cute as a button...
June cocked her head, confused.
Santa glared at her.
A-Ah... Sorry... I-I guess an inch is a little large for a button... Probably more like...a half-inch?
Santa didn't smile, or laugh.
He simply turned back to his picture, and spoke.
He glanced at June, who shook her head. She didn't know either.
So I had to be like her dad. And that meant that I bought her Christmas presents every year. On Christmas Eve, I'd leave the present next to her pillow. And the next morning, she'd come running into my room with this big smile...
[Music: Morphogenetic Sorrow]
I was the one who told her to write those letters. I'd say... "Write down something you want, and mail it to Santa." The address I gave her was somewhere in Northern Europe that doesn't exist. Anyway, she'd write the letter, and stamp it, and send it out. ...And then a few days later, it'd show up back in our mailbox, marked "Address Unknown". I'd open the letters before she figured out they'd been sent back. Once I had the letter, I'd go around to a couple stores, with some money I'd saved up over the year, and buy her the stuff she'd asked for.
Junpei was silent. He could think of nothing to say.
June looked down, uncomfortable.
The wall next to him suddenly groaned.
Either he hadn't heard the sound, or didn't care--Santa kept talking.
But one year, her letter was different... She didn't write a list of toys she wanted, or anything like that. Instead, it said...
...But I couldn't make that wish come true.
June glanced up at Santa quickly as she spoke.
He answered, but only with an effort.
All right. Let's go.
Santa stood up suddenly, his downcast demeanor gone.
He shoved the picture back in his pocket, and headed back up the stairs, taking them 2 at a time.
Santa's voice echoed across the room from above them.
They nodded, and followed him quickly up the stairs.
The door had shut, but it wasn't cause for concern.
Junpei quickly solved the disc puzzle a second time, and the door opened once again.
Yeah, we last saw this a very short while ago so we'll skip through that.
In order to not end this on an overly depressing note, we'll keep going a bit longer. In fact, we'll go right to when we got all 9 cards in the Cargo Room and are going to open the giant blue box.
[Music: Senary Game]
Junpei stared at the cards in his hands.
Ace peered over his shoulder at them.
You know which card goes in which box, yes?
Junpei gave him a look.
You just match our numbers to the numbers on the boxes. So for instance, the card with the [picture of Ace] on it goes into [box 1]...
A-Ah, I see...
Junpei thought he might have imagined it, but he could have sworn Ace stiffened.
Junpei heard a noise.
He spun around, just in time to see June collapse in front of the fence.
...She did not respond.
Junpei spun back around to face Ace.
Just put the cards in the boxes! I'm counting on you!
He shoved the cards into Ace's hands, and ran off toward June.
Are you all right?! What happened?!
Junpei called out to her as he ran.
As he arrived, June was climbing to her feet with Santa's help.
I just tripped--
Don't gimme that! Now's not the time--
But it's true! I tripped over a box...
I saw her fall. I think she really did just trip on something, you know?
Junpei would have been more willing to agree if June hadn't needed quite so much help standing up.
Still, to fall down like that...
Oh... I don't think it's anything that serious. I just need a little medicine and some sleep, and I'll be fine.
Medicine... Medicine, huh... Well, if we could get in touch with anyone
Huh? Don't you know? He's the president of a pharmaceutical company.
Ace concept art #1.