Part 6: AScertaining
A approached us while I pondered on everyone else's motives. The train drove off and he made me an offer.
BGM: Ascertaining Speech
Would you like to do it?
Oh, uh, sure. But aren't the gestures you both share kind of... complicated?
No, this wasn't the coward in me rearing its head again; I just didn't want to accidentally insult E by mistake, or just fail to formulate basic sentences to begin with. In the face of my question, A simply guffawed.
From his bag, he produced a pen.
This braille pen can condense the matter within the air into a solid form. It is a little like deposition, the process of turning something from a gaseous state to a solid one. In reality, it is a little more like a miniature 3D printer. This one is for the letter A. They only work on perfectly uniform surfaces, such as these.
Uhh, that's high technology. Are you sure you're fine giving this to me?
It's only temporary until we make our way out of here, so of course! E can read braille, and these will print out the sequence of pins that would let her read it. We're still working on getting them into a single pen, but...
I pondered if this man wasn't a little senile.
It's all well and good but I can't... carry this. I don't have the, uh, means to do so. You know?
I illustrated by pointing at his hands which were struggling to carry them all. He answered by dropping them all onto my arms, which I had to cross in order to carry them.
Give me a moment. I'll solve that dilemma...
From his bag, he produced yet another object: a bag like his, but smaller.
He opened it at me and I dropped the pens inside. Carefully, I also inserted the sheets of paper I'd been carrying alongside them.
This bag will hopefully not be too cumbersome. Ahh, it is nice to be lighter too. I have quite many a thing inside of mine...
That reminds me, Smiley took all of our stuff, but they didn't take away your bag?
BGM: Ambient Strain
Marco called from the consoles next to the door. He was examining them closely. We approached and he pointed with his thumb at the second one which showed a bunch of asterisks.
There are four keypads on the wall and we're four groups. So I thought, maybe I'd enter the password we had at our station and lo and behold, the console's broken now.
Wait, did you break it?
No, I just can't do anything else with it. I can't erase or enter anything.
Ah, perhaps it has recognized your input. Have you tried putting it in the other consoles too?
It seems it has recognized your input, then. Let me try putting in the code we had for our station in the first one...
As the old man was doing it, I observed carefully. Indeed, much like what happened to Marco, his console stopped responding once the code was in it.
Perfect! Now to wait for the other teams. We are making progress, my boys.
Almost as if fate had been waiting for us to enter the codes, the train arrived. I turned around to look at the station, wondering who would be coming out next.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
Oh, you're all fine! I'm glad. We're still missing some people, huh.
The twins weren't with you?
Negative. They must be having some difficulties with their puzzle room. Ours wasn't too terrible. But uh, we found some... stuff.
What kind of stuff?
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
You want me to show them that?
Yes. I think it's fairly important.
It's not like I really care to help anybody. On the other hand, the sooner we catch that fucker, the better it is... so whatever. Here.
Considering the fact none of our rooms contained anything like this, I was rather curious.
This thing says... One of you isn't like the others. And then there's this stupid part full of grammar errors, NONE SMIILE WITHINE MY MASK. Look how smile is spelled with two Is, and within is spelled with an E at the end. That's kinda stupid. Smiley can't even fucking write, what an idiot.
I dunno. Isn't it suspicious how there are those additional letters?
Suspicious like what? Wait...
Suddenly, the man had an idea. I could tell with the way his eyebrows were furrowing. It wasn't just anger- this was advanced anger.
Oh, I fucking get it. I get it now, Smiley. Your little accomplice- did you think I wouldn't notice?
Uh, you didn't, in fact, notice...
Actually, I can corroborate the fact she has no involvement in this.
Yeah, you can't know that. I bet she can hear and see us too and she's just playing us for fools.
No, she's also legitimately blind and deaf. This isn't going anywhere, stop this madness at once.
Step out of my way, old man. You're as easy to swat as a fly.
Yet, A did nothing of the sort. He remained there like a wall. An old, easily-pushed wall but a wall nonetheless. I watched on the sidelines. This situation had quickly escalated into a fight but I couldn't do anything. Jasmine was looking disapprovingly at everyone and Marco also looked as though he didn't want to get involved, averting his eyes.
Unsurprisingly, E didn't move. I assumed she still had no idea of what was happening. Since A stood up to Ray and he was an old man, I felt as though... Well, fuck. I felt terrible. I'm a boy who's still young, healthy and not too bad, physically-speaking.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
What a relief...
The reason why Ray abandoned his battle soon became apparent: the train had arrived at the station. The twins stepped outside. Perhaps the man hadn't wanted to cause violence in front of children, but that was most likely giving him too much credit. He was already drinking from his flask again, back to his isolation.
That was probably alcohol.
The first twin to disembark looked at us all in turns, having figured that an event or another had just taken place. We explained things to her, with the other joining her momentarily.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
The twin was explaining her reasoning to us once we talked about the strange paper.
Life's full of traitors, so I wouldn't be surprised. Sometimes they're really close to you.
But it doesn't specifically say it, right? It says... not like the others. What is the link between all of us that the eighth wouldn't share?
Well... that's hard to tell.
Everything will be fine anyway. That note was probably just put here to sow generalized madness among us.
Yes, but... well... hmph.
Jasmine decided to shut up past that.
Before this devolves into a fight again, we should get a move on.
The door is closed, though.
J, I'm gonna need your help, and yours too, uh, G, correct?
Correct. What will we do?
Well, we already entered our codes in the first and second consoles on the wall. They stopped responding, while the others still work, so we're thinking if we enter all four of them...
I waited while Jasmine entered the one her team found and G entered the one the twins received from their room. In the meantime, I had the option of talking to some other people.
To prevent this from being a really short update, I'm going to choose the losing option from the last vote (which tied), so we're talking to H.
What are you doing? That's extremely rude.
Is it? She can't even see me, so she doesn't know what I'm doing. To her, I'm not doing anything.
That's right, but we can see you. At least, I can since everyone else is too busy.
Do you care, then? I want to tell her something, but I can't. Disabilities are dumb, and all of them should go away. I hate them all.
It's not so simple. But I do have a way to talk to her. The old man gave me these pens that can write letters in Braille...
As soon as I showed her the pens, she snatched them along with a piece of paper.
Hey, wait, I wasn't done explaining!
The girl quickly wrote something before stuffing the pens back into my bag. She gave E the paper, though E looked more and more puzzled the more she read her hands upon it.
Um... I don't really understand what you're saying, sorry.
What?! But I thought these pens would...
Hey, calm down. There's a way to use the pens that I didn't have the time to explain...
I glanced over at the rest of the group. Apparently, they'd finished opening the door.
Later, more like, never. I'm sure I asked it correctly. I guess she just didn't want to answer, and that's fine, but I don't like that.
The twin grabbed E's hand and pulled her along. The poor blind girl followed, uncertain of where she was going. Putting my hands in my pockets, I followed along too. Together, we all stepped into the little lobby beyond the station.
There's hardly any space here for all of us...
Stay calm, okay? If we fall down the stairs it won't be funny either, so go through one by one and stop trying to go first.
I'll do what I fucking want.
Here comes the asshole again, watch out sis!
After a brief moment of cacophony, we all came up the stairs and entered a peculiar room.
Doesn't this look like a lounge to you? Isn't this supposed to be part of the train station?
This is very different, but the station we investigated didn't look like a station at all either... It was some bedroom.
The others chimed in.
Funny enough, our own looked like a library. We had to solve some puzzles and there was some stuff hidden around. In the final safe was also a pair of sandwiches.
Ours had food too... which is pretty strange. Why would they do that?
Ah, ours had food as well, but it was a little different and not hidden like yours. It was more like storage for food.. a pantry, that's the word. I suppose we could use it to dine, if the food is even edible any more.
How did the stations change that much?
Asking that question is pertinent indeed, but we should give this room a good search too. Let's meet back up once we've done so.
I decided to take this side with Marco, Jasmine, and A. On the other side, the twins were examining the bar along with Ray, with E just standing around. The man was getting angry at the girls because they weren't allowed around alcoholic drinks.
Heh... well, no time like the present. It was time to search this.
We've been here before (Or have we? ), but we didn't get to look at the map at the time, so lets take a peek:
I'm just gonna start from that machine on the left side.
That seems like a time travel device.
Maybe not yet, but one day...!
Probably not. The intricacies are, as far as I'm aware, a little too steep for us to access it. To begin with, time travel would require the involvement of a gravitational force...
What are you two talking about?
Oh, A was being a little senile, don't mind him.
I am not senile!
I gotta give you props, it seems like it's actually an air conditioning device. No time travel here.
I'm starting to get the impression Simon is kind of a prick
A threw his hands in the air while moving away, exasperated while murmuring young ones these days or something like that. I tried turning it on but I didn't know what to press. Jasmine was taller, so she helped me flick some switches. The machine didn't turn on, though.
Looks like it's not working. Maybe it's not powered on. Is it even plugged in?
Heh, it sounds to me like that AC needs some DC to work.
I heard my nicky-name! Did I miss something?
I dismissively waved at him to dodge his next jokes by moving on from the air conditioner.
Interesting! I know these lamps. They are powered by yttrium batteries. I suppose the more common term would be LYP batteries.
Very, uh, interesting. I'll go look over there now.
I felt a sense of dread when I looked at the portrait. It was... foreboding, in a way. I couldn't describe it.
What are you talking about?
Oh, I had deja vu while looking at this portrait. What do you feel when you look at it?
You know, for a place supposed to be for comfort, it's kinda giving me the creeps...
It's just a lounging area, there's no reason to be afraid.
The twin had crossed over to our side momentarily.
They're just words, anyway. Are you really gonna turn tail at that? Words can't hurt you.
No, it's just... I dunno... Words can hurt, you'll understand when you're older.
I am older! I'm older than I was ten seconds ago, in fact.
That's technically correct, but...
I had other things to look at, so I left them alone.
What are you doing exactly? You're gonna leave your dirty footprints all over the couch.
I'm testing its comfort level.
By...standing on it?
What else? My full weight is on it. If it can't retain its shape even after that, then it's garbo!
He leaped off it and turned around to see the results. The couch retained its shape regardless of Marco's weight and it wasn't even marked by his shoes either.
That's a good couch.
Go figure you'd be the one who's looking for a comfy couch...
Huh, Marco was right. This couch was really comfortable. It might've been comfortable enough to take a nap on it, which was extremely rare for me to consider.
If you sleep there, I can't guarantee your safety.
The others may choose to leave you behind if you do so, that's all I mean to say.
He was right. I stood back up and chose to forget about the couch entirely.
This looks really rich. Did Smiley have all these antiques, or are they replicated objects?
Just because they look old doesn't mean they're old. I think they're not real antiques, and even if you touch the gems and they feel real, they're probably not actual rubies.
Or maybe Smiley didn't care.
Yeah, that's what I said- if they were stupid. That's the only way someone wouldn't care.
All that's left is the water cooler. Assuming nothing else pops up, the door probably is just the signal for 'I'm done looking around'.
This is empty. It looks like it has water, but it's empty because those damn plastic containers play tricks on your eyes!
No use getting so angry over it.
I could've gone for a drink but I guess it'll have to wait.
Might have a better chance with the bar on the other side.
Once A moved away, following his advice, Marco leaned towards me a little.
Right, your allergies.
Then again... who knows. Maybe I'm being too paranoid about that kind of thing.
The chances of there being a drink with coconut here are pretty slim, I agree. You should lay back a bit and not worry over it!
Does, uh, the creator not know about like...pina coladas? Or other mixed drinks like Malibu Sunsets? I think the odds there's coconut milk or coconut rum at a bar is pretty high actually
To the bar, then!
I had other things to look at first.
I was about to leave the room when A held my shoulder to stop me.
BGM: Algorithm Simile
Did we find anything special or something?
Not much, I'm afraid. It doesn't seem as though this room even has a way out like the stations we explored.
Maybe this is set up here so we have to come back here every time...
Do you think so? I thought this place was a little homely. We should consider this our base of operations, for whenever we've solved an escape room.
That seems like a good idea. Let's make our way back here to report our findings every time we get out of a station, then.
Ray grumbled something. He didn't seem in agreement, but instead of replying to their words, he simply drank from his flask once again. That reminded me, there was a bar counter here...
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
Just what I was thinking. Nothing in here has a price tag, so I guess it's free?
Are you two willing to get drunk now? That's so irresponsible. I can't believe you're both like that. We should just rest before heading out, we need all our focus!
Hey, not really getting drunk, just, you know... having a sip. Just the sip.
Do not worry, J. I will make sure any drink I prepare will not be cause for concern.
And who named you the resident barkeep?
Well, that's probably the most help we can get in making good drinks around here, other than...
I glanced over at Ray. He didn't catch me, since he was already sitting on a stool, taking sips from his flask. Was that thing bottomless or something?
Someone who drinks doesn't necessarily do a good job at mixing those drinks. I understand your reticence, but as soon as you have a taste of the drinks I'll make, I'm sure you'll be fine with it!
Hard one on the rocks, my good sir!
Ohoho, like I said, no alcohol here. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to have this little lady here too.
Hmph... I wanna take a look at what you're doing there.
She leaned her head over the counter, frowning as she watched what he was doing. After a moment, she sat back down, looking slightly dazed.
BGM: Ascertaining Speech
Wouldn't be a Zero Escape-like if we didn't have hard subject swerves like this sometimes
Which one? The one from two years ago in Beirut?
No no, the one from like a month ago or so. It happened in New York, I think.
She was frowning, as if she was having issues thinking about it.
Oh, yeah, that thing. That was a real atrocity, wasn't it?
Though, I believe you have an element wrong in your description. Only one station exploded, if I remember correctly?
Huh? But... weird, I remember that differently...
Pfeh, that was done by terrorists. If you get scared, they're going to win, so don't let it get to your head.
Well, some people apparently died, so it's hard to not let them win when you're dead. Besides, I'm pretty sure that was just a cover-up for an internal incident. You know how big companies are. They can't afford to show that kind of weakness, so they pinned it on terrorism.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
Please, do have a taste and let me know what you think afterwards!
I decided to throw caution to the wind and have a good sip. As soon as I drank it, my eyes lit up with newfound vigor. He wasn't lying when he said he was good.
Oh, it tastes like lime. Just a little, not too much. It's pretty perfect!
I told you I was good at this, young man.
How did you know that was my favorite taste for a drink?
I'm simply good at what I do, nothing else.
BGM: Alarming Silence
While I enjoyed my drink in silence alongside the others, I couldn't help but let what H and Ray said weigh upon my mind. Terrorism... station exploding... would the same thing happen here?
Would this place explode too? Was I caught in some kind of international terrorism? This brought me back to the note Ray showed us. Someone who didn't belong... like a terrorist? Like Jasmine said, it was easy to dismiss it as some kind of scare. Perhaps it was what it was, but I couldn't be sure.
Did I really think that was the case? Did I think the message was important?