Part 43: MEnagerie
It had been quite a trip, but now, I had enough. I wanted answers. I solved the final puzzle, I punished seven of them... And now, they were all awake. They were all awake, and they were all looking at me. Immediately, I brought my hands up to my face.
My helmet... it fell off. How was that possible...?
Um... hello? Why's my helmet off?
Ira and Tristitia stepped forward. The rest were immobile. Waiting.
Wait, you are Alex Saville, and you are Etienne Schmidt, aren't you?
One of us had to occupy that one. It sucks, but at least you aren't fat.
BGM: Mereo Mentis
What's going on?
From the moment they spoke, I already figured out something wasn't right. What did those machines do to them?
What exactly is the ME Code that was gifted?
Oh, that. It's s-simple.
A-As if it's my fault.
Unfortunately, it can't be me. I have to leave, promptly. While it's not been urgent in the past twelve years, I can't let the Schmidt facilities take advantage of the Empty S's resources anymore.
Right now, in fact. Goodbye. I'll see YOU later.
And just like that, he took the elevator up. I looked over at Invidia and Avaritia; they took Alex's place and talked to me next.
Mark Tremblay and Erelle Webber, correct?
I can explain it all, since my own job won't be until later. Erelle, what about you?
I have to go too. I'd like to stay here, but whatever I say, Ityne herself will be able to say better than I would.
Leave what for later?
Your explanations. Let's just make it simple for now.
Erelle was about to leave, but I grabbed her arm.
What are you going to do? What's your deal?
I have to transport the vats in the reactor rooms. They were used to keep everyone in stasis, but now, I have a new use for them.
She pulled away from me and continued to walk away. Soon, she took one of the elevators Etienne hadn't taken, since she was going down and not up.
What does that have to do with anything?
Think of it that way: you already figured out there were two teams, so let's go over them quickly. At first, the plan was to have an entire group of humans, and one made up soley of robots, see?
BGM: Memini Meminisse
But that plan was modified.
The ninth member used to be Ancora, or Greta Penmill, but they moved her to the second group and replaced her with me, E288- an Alpha Ex Machina. That meant I'd mistakenly absolved Pandora, and not Ancora. All eight of them had been irredeemable, so... no matter which one I picked, it would've been someone I didn't want to save. At the very least, Greta wouldn't have to suffer the loss of her sister. Loss, or whatever it was that these humans had gone through. Considering how they acted now, it wasn't too far off the mark.
The second group originally had nine Beta Ex Machinas. Instead, they replaced the Beta Ex Machinas for Ancora, Avaritia, and Invidia with Greta, Ityne, and Marco, respectively. That meant 1/9 in the first group was an Ex Machina, and 3/9 in the second group were humans (and the remaining 2/3 were Ex Machinas).
Do you get it now? That was how they were distributed.
How do you know all this? You're Mark.
I pointed over at a random person; right at Gula.
And you're Lucille Boisjoli, aren't you?
She wasn't speaking with her usual meaningless big words.
Waiting, always waiting, isn't it? Can't I just get some answers for once?
Not from me. I have to leave right away, because I need to handle the unused bomb.
She motioned at Superbia.
Annie Sansoucy, are you listening? Take my spot and explain all this to her.
She left, and in her place a very disgruntled girl came forward. She looked at me with her usual expression. It was refreshing to see their faces, but...
Yes, I could see their faces. I knew that, and I embraced that fact. But it didn't feel like them. Lucille wasn't speaking normally. Sure, Alex was stuttering, but he wasn't all threats now, either. Etienne hadn't been the same downer guy as he had been for the past hours. Who... who were these people? Were they really the people who had accompanied me through this entire ordeal? Or were they... someone else...?
Hey, you're spacing out. I can tell, don't try to lie to me.
Oh, right. I'm listening, go on.
I'm saying I can't explain anything, either. Do you know what I have to do now?
I have a feeling you'll tell me.
Their funds are being funneled to the Empty S. I have to freeze it or, better, snatch it for myself. Do you understand how hard that will be? That's why I don't have the time to stay here. Yes, it's been twelve years. Better late than even later. Alex!
The guy didn't seem concerned when she called for him. Instead, Annie smacked his back to catch his attention.
O-oh, sure, yeah, right. Sorry, it's hard to... adjust. I have a lot of d-drugs to destroy, so...
The two of them left together. Everyone had gone now except for a handful. Mark was still here, and so was Luxuria. I addressed the latter.
Hey, you- Nico Hope. You don't have anything to do, right? Explain right now. Why are you all acting so weirdly?
He waited a moment, but I had no reaction.
No reaction, huh? I guess your emotions will come eventually.
If we're lucky.
Anyway, my parents are already dead, and I have no real involvement with all this, so... I'm gonna help Erelle move those vats. They're pretty heavy, and it's not fun to do alone.
Yes. Moving everything out of here before the Empty S gets their hands back on it is paramount. If we fail, they'll just reuse it for atrocious deeds.
So you guys are doing something good now, that's what you'll claim?
And with that, he was gone too. He took the elevator to head back down and meet with Erelle.
BGM: Mereo Mentis
Okay. What about you? What's your job, then? Everyone seems to know what they're doing.
I figure I owe you some explanations.
When you solved the birth ME code puzzle, it did exactly that. It gave us the ME Code, which is basically the mastermind's identity- their memories and experiences rolled up into one. Our previous consciousness was erased, a bit like how you overwrite data on a computer when you copy a file somewhere there's already a file named the same way.
Stop calling me not-Greta. And how do you know that name?!
Sometime during his explanation, the final person had risen up from their seat. It was Ancora- or, really, Pandora. She was Ancora from the first group, but she was also... Pandora from My Emptiness. She seemed to have a pretty normal reaction. She panicked a little, looking around the room and frowning at Mark. It seemed she wanted answers, too.
She's Hannah Penmill, if you were really curious.
Yes, that's me. Who the fuck are you, though? I recognize Mark... but not you.
I'm E288. It's not a name, I know. It's weird. I don't know what it stands for.
You will know if you ask Ityne. The real Ityne, not... us.
Okay, and when is she going to be here? She said she'd meet me here...
You're not going yet. You're going to give me some answers.
Nope. I have to track down a certain principal man of interest. It's not going to be easy, but I have a lead. Just leave this to us.
And with that, he effortlessly pushed away Hannah, who'd been trying to stop him in his tracks. He slid into the elevator going up, leaving me alone with her.
So... until she gets here, what do you...
Our talk was instantly interrupted when the doors to the elevator of the second group opened. Out of it came Marco, Greta, and... Ityne?
Who is this woman?