Part 4: parASite
BGM: Algorithm Simile
The votes were tied when I went to prepare this update, so I flipped a coin. We're talking to Ray, and I'll grab the others for a future update, probably after we get our first ending.
Eh, maybe. If there's nothing else to do I ain't fucking staying here any longer than I need to. I was on my way five stations deeper and this is such a huge waste of time.
He held onto his wrist with his other hand. I noticed something was hidden under his cuff.
Do you have a watch? Can you tell the time?
I checked my pockets. I did have a cell phone but not a smartphone. Either way, it wasn't there, so I had neither now.
You lost it? Ugh... Fine, it's...
He looked at his watch.
It's close to 6PM. ...What the hell is this cacophany?
I looked at him and, seeing the others gathering back up in front of it, we both went towards it to understand what was to come.
BGM: Ambient Strain
When I joined the others, I quickly made an inventory of everyone's state of being. The twins were holding their hands over their ears, since the noise was pretty loud. Honestly, I was close to doing much of the same. Jasmine and Marco watched it, waiting expectantly. Of everyone, they were the calmest of the bunch.
Ray was being aggravated by it. His hands were curled up in fists, as if he was about to punch the thing into next Tuesday. E didn't seem any different than usual- granted, she was deaf which explained why she couldn't hear it. A was slightly nervous, despite his usual countenance.
BGM: Alarming Silence
I looked at the others briefly. Everyone seemed as puzzled as I was, except for E. A would have to communicate everything to her afterwards, most likely. The distorted voice resumed its speech.
You are in the metro, Montreal's underground transit system. Much like how Montreal survives on its population, you are my lifeblood. Your goal is to win this game we will play together: the Dating Game.
You all have a collar with a number on each of them. Specifically, the numbers 1 through 8. To see those numbers, you will need someone else to push the red button on the back, which is when it will temporarily appear. This collar is extremely important, as it is both your salvation and your demise.
This would be rule #1: to escape this place, you must team up with an additional person. If you break this rule by leaving through one of the many scanner gates before you find them, you will be severely punished.
So... we have to find a ninth person, team up with them and then we can leave?
Shh, it's important!
Smiley continued as if this was only a recording.
As for rule #2, it is closely tied to the name of this game. The Dating Game, as you may have realized if you remembered how you arrived here, is meant to bring you to numerous stations... in pairs. On every single station except for the one you are currently on, you are forbidden to enter the staircase with more than one partner. Breaking this rule will instantly punish you as well.
In essence, you must solve each station as they come. For now, you may only go in one direction, unless you would like to take your chances by crossing over the rails. I would strongly suggest against it. It is not forbidden, but if a train should arrive at the same moment, your death will be a terrible accident.
It's locking our progress...
And for rule #3. It is more of a piece of information than a rule. If you are to be punished, it will always be in the same way. Decapitation.
BGM: Alarming Situation
I did say that the collars were two things: your salvation and your demise. The interior has a feature you cannot see from the outside: a red lining, which is the demise part. Breaking any of the rules will cause that lining to form a full circular laser which will detach your head and cauterize the wound. I wouldn't want to make any more of a mess than necessary.
I believe I have spoken long enough. Please do not underestimate the collars you wear; they are made of a nigh-indestructible alloy. Even the strongest among you will not survive their punishment. Let us wish you never see me on a screen again because my smile... is a smile which can kill.
BGM: Ambient Strain
We're gonna die... aren't we?
Well, this sucks big time. Can anybody here call a helicopter?
You think a helicopter's going to help? You moron, we're underground if you didn't notice!
Hey, hey, I was just making a joke!
Is this the time to make a joke...?
I agree. We can't let this bother us or we've already lost. Please don't panic until we make sense of this!
But Ray disregarded her words, instead reaching for his collar. He slid his thumbs underneath it with great effort, as the collar was snug against his neck.
Fuck that, I'm gonna destroy this bullshit collar. I don't care what this smiling fuckhead told us, this shit is tiny and should break in seconds!
BGM: Accelerated Scuffle
But he was already pulling on it. Almost immediately, the back of his collar lit up like a red alarm. He instantly released it, realizing that it indeed was a strong alloy.
Ahhh, fuck! I'm not dying here, you hear me?! Stop this shit right now, I get it!
BGM: Ambient Strain
Everyone watched from the sidelines, but ultimately the alarm stopped. Ray seemed to have gotten lucky. He leaned over, looking extremely tired. I couldn't blame him.
Ray grumbled something but I changed the subject to something more important to the matter at hand, while he went to punch the door, without any results.
Did you guys notice how he spoke? It was like a recording, like that was said a while ago.
What's the problem with that? I sure wouldn't want to do this live if it was me doing it, I'd be stressed out like hell!
No, consider the reason why it's set that way. What if it's because.... he's among us?
If there is an actual fucking Among Us reference in this remaster I am going to fucking scream
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
That is possible. I suppose we will need to keep our eyes open, then.
That was ironic, coming from him.
That guy... he kinda has Gray's build, doesn't he? Maybe it's him...?
Why would I put myself into a death trap? Think before you speak. And my name's not Gray, it's Ray. You said two dumb things back to back.
I thought it was pretty good for a joke at least. Maybe the twin was trying to lift the mood a little. Jasmine sighed very loudly and shook her head.
Could be, for example, S wearing a bunch of foam under a robe to appear bigger, standing on stilts to appear taller. And then you've been had, thinking its Ray.
Yeah, that. See? She's not dumb at least.
But more importantly, I know none of you trust anyone else now, but we need to do what he says. We need to check our collars and take the train.
Oh, that's right! We still don't know our numbers. Let's do that.
BGM: Ambient Strain
Of course it wouldn't be so easy, huh... And what of these weird colors...?
It wouldn't be much of a game if we could solve it in seconds.
Is... is the train waiting for us?
Jasmine stared at me accusingly. I shrugged in retaliation. I was the one who opposed that thought earlier, but... maybe it was true?
Well, we don't have a choice. I don't think anybody really wanted to go down the tunnel earlier, and this is safe- safe enough, at least.
Ray grunted in dissatisfaction.
Let's split into four groups of two, then. I think for many of us this will be rather easy to determine.
You're the one who's afraid of that? But no, you're wrong. It's safer this way, actually, because, listen. If we're in groups of two and someone comes back alone... what does it mean, you think? ...That's right. The only one who comes back will be super suspicious. I don't think anyone will act out if we all take a station at the same time. Which means this is the best course of action.
Marco changed the subject, inquiring about our location instead.
This side of the station- it's going towards the north side, right?
It wouldn't make any sense if it went the other way, that's true.
We're going north, then.
We'd been heading towards the north earlier, after all. If we left the train, we were on the east side of the station.
Like a fight breaking out, I thought. With Ray around, that was possible. He already looked angry again.
The sooner we're out, the earlier we can return to our lives, right? For now, at the very least, I'm in favor of doing what Smiley says. Otherwise... we can't get out right now.
All of them nodded. The groups all naturally split up among those who arrived together. H went with G, A was the only one who could communicate with E so he went with her, and for us... It was actually more complicated. I could go with Jasmine or Marco, but Ray would be alone...
However, if we were meant to split up depending on our links, that meant I needed to go with Marco. What sort of link could Jasmine and Ray have shared?
Hey, earth to S, respond.
We can split the team any way you like. I don't mind if you pick who should go with Ray.
Ray narrowed his eyes in his direction. Yeah, I didn't trust Marco with Ray, in the end. I felt like... a fight would really break out if I put them together, which meant I really didn't have much of a choice.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
I felt like Jasmine could handle whatever Ray could throw her way, so I went with Marco. Besides, maybe this was how the pairs were meant to be. We all had a link, somehow... No, wait; wouldn't it be the other way? I'd known Jasmine for far longer than I'd known Marco.
Huh...? What was I thinking, all of a sudden? Was I trying to crack some kind of weird code? It's like I was taking pleasure at solving this situation. I shook my head to clear it up. Maybe I'd just been underground for too long if this kind of kidnapping was any fun to me.
Okay, J, you're with Ray and I'll go with M. Is that fine by you?
Everyone had their team set now. Since we couldn't access the other side of the station, there was only one direction we could take. The twins entered the train first. After noting it wasn't moving yet, my group followed suit. I figured the system was automated to some degree, or... maybe the mastermind behind all this could see us.
Don't think too much about it. I did earlier and, well, things didn't go well for my head.
She sighed in discouragement, closing her eyes for a moment. I wordlessly agreed with her.
The doors closed and we were greeted by a pre-recorded speech telling us what the next station was.
With all this, I had almost forgotten- the train had French diction here. It seemed the next station was a... garde-manger, whatever that was.
A garde-manger is a French term for a food prep area specifically designed for cold food like salad, hors d'oeuvres, terrines, and so on.
Normally, I'd just sit down and stare blankly at the wall to see which of us would blink first, but since we were just a handful, I figured some chatter wouldn't hurt. The real question was about the best topic to pick.
None of these choices matter in the slightest or give us any useful information, so I chose the age spread one
Whatever reason we've been kidnapped for, Smiley didn't discriminate, huh?
What do you mean?
I mean, we have two teenagers, four young adults, a middle-aged man and an old man in the group. It's quite an extensive age gap.
He cracked his knuckles menacingly.
Whoa, whoa, there, that doesn't make any sense!
Heh, you know they call those the Dark Ages? Yeah, you're not gonna see anything anymore when I'm done, so hold your tongue kiddo.
He dropped the topic momentarily after I stayed silent for a few seconds. He grabbed his flash instead to drink from it. Maybe he thought alcohol was going to clam him down, but I didn't think it would help. Having narrowly avoided a beating, I decided to let the topic rest too.
The air was so tense once we arrived at the station that I caught myself holding my breath. The doors finally opened but nobody was in a hurry to leave.
BGM: Ambient Strain
Well, I guess we don't have a choice? The doors aren't closing, so if what Smiley said was true, two of us have to leave here.
I don't mind going first, but if anyone else wants to, I also wouldn't mind that...
Knowing him, he really didn't want to leave the train yet. Maybe he was afraid of what could happen. I looked at the others and eventually, the old man smiled.
I examined the station outside the window while he was doing that. It was remarkably similar to the one we were previously at. Large metal plates covered the wall. Whoever Smiley was, whatever he did in life, somehow, he could have the equipment to modify every single station of this subway.
Before I managed to frighten myself more, the old man saluted us to take his departure.
He left the train, followed by the girl. The two of them waved at us. Rather, the old man waved at us, but E waved at an empty compartment. Poor girl. The two of them continued forward until they stepped through the open doorway. As soon as E vanished inside, the door slid to a closed state with a soft thump.
After that, the doors to the train closed as well and we set off once more, this time without two of the passengers.
I figured I could keep talking to the others while we were in here... but before I could do so, Marco said something.
I'm starting to get hungry and I don't really know why.
Yeah, me too now that you mention it...
Hey, you know how hunger works, right?
What do you mean?
Yeah, that's how I know I'm hungry.
In reality, it's just some kind of signal. Your body is like... Hey, I'm not digesting anymore and there's free space. Send food! and then your brain receives the message.
I guess... you're the science man here, so I dunno about all that.
Man, didn't you have biology classes? You should know all this already.
Yeah. Besides, we don't have the time to really talk about it.
Oh yeah, the next station's coming. If you wanna, I'll tell you all about it later.
I'll pass, I think.
Noticing how his expression dropped, I sighed and surrendered myself to his wiles.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
Fine, okay. But later.
Alright, M. It's our turn now.
It wouldn't make any sense if it did, don't you think?
At any rate, let's see each other later, everyone? Come back in one piece, too. That means you're not allowed to lose your fingers, or your arm, or even your hair-
So, what now?
I looked around; the station seemed the same as the previous ones. Giant metal plates, open doorway.. I pointed at it.
I think that's our destination. We'll have more time to talk once we search this place proper.
Lead the way, Mr. Intrepid.
He made an exaggerated gesture towards the entrance, almost folding himself over, like some sort of butler. Some things never changed, I guess...
I took the lead anyway. How could I not have done so after that display of politeness?
The moment Marco walked through the doorway to ascend the staircase with me, the door closed behind us with a soft sliding sound. Right next to it, on the inside was a small keypad. It took numbers.
I see, so we're trapped. I guess we have to find the code to reopen the door or just move further in. You'd think Smiley would've put us in here directly and avoided the train business.
Whatever the case is, let's get going already! I'm starting to get really hungry. Maybe we'll find some food here. I don't think Smiley would let us die from starvation, since we're his lifeblood, yeah?
Food seemed to be wishful thinking. Still, there was no point in wasting time, so we went up the stairs. What awaited us there was rather strange, to be honest...