Part 11: reASon to live
BGM: Ambient Strain
Before I moved against Agnos, I needed some kind of plan. First, I needed to understand what he really intended to do, but I also needed to avoid him while doing it. I wrote to E with one of my last papers. Two remained after this.
So we're going to explore a new station? Is that really necessary at this point? If what you said is true, it doesn't sound that safe...
I squeezed her hand tighter in mine to reassure her. Unlike what she might've been thinking, this preparation was to be sure we'd be safe and not in danger. We stepped out of the room and went downstairs to take the train.
We entered the train and we resumed the little subway cycle. The train closed its doors...
...then left the station...
...then we came to another one... the doors opened... then closed.
BGM: Accelerated Scuffle
Damn! Which one's next?
According to the speakers, the pool had been next. However, the train didn't move to leave the station. I decided to leave it after a few minutes. Once we were outside, I waited for the train to go. It didn't move ever after I left it.
Is something broken...?
No, it was a pile of debris. The tunnel had collapsed. That was why the train wasn't moving from here.
Damn it! Where else can we go?!
I checked out the little hallway in the darkness but the gate was locked. I swore under my breath. Come to think of it... the door leading up to the station was also closed. I couldn't explore here at all. Why was it closed? Was there someone here...? Was it... the twin?
What the hell is going on here...? Was it an earthquake? Shit, we have to go. We have to leave this place.
I quickly explained to E using one of my very last sheets of paper. Only one more remained after this. My plan was simple: we were going to walk through the tunnel.
If one of them... even just one of them came by, we'd die instantly!
I knew that, but we had no choice. It was either that or stay here, starve and die, or even worse, be crushed by falling rubble. This place wasn't secure anymore.
BGM: Ambient Strain
E grasped my body from behind. Hers was warm and nice, comfortable even if kind of heavy, and a constant reminder that I wasn't doing this for myself. I was doing this for both of us.
Slowly, I set off. Unable to see, I walked through the darkness of the tunnel. I was hoping it wouldn't bend, but the rails were supported by another piece of cement. If my foot hit that, I could adjust myself.
It took a long time.
A very long time passed. Another earthquake occurred, but I held on. Even more time went by. Finally, I emerged into another station.
We made it... How much longer do we have to, though? Is this station fine?
I looked over the side of the station and through the door's window. Rubble. Rubble everywhere. Even if this station looked fine under a certain angle, there were debris in other places. It had suffered more than the previous one.
Shit... we have to go through another one.
The damage done to these stations was far too big to be the work of just an earthquake. Besides, earthquakes didn't really happen here. Not like this. As I crossed each station, there were more earthquakes happening. The ground shook and I stopped to keep myself steady. Each of them, one by one, always while I was in the darkness, as if it was following me.
These aren't earthquakes. They're explosions. The entire place is going under.
I gritted my teeth while I made my way to the security room. Either this was smiley's plan, or someone else was destroying this place. I could only think of Agnos. This reminded me of the events that had transpired not long ago in the subway in New York. They said that every station had exploded. Was it the same here?
And now, I had proof of it firsthand. When I arrived at the security station, he was there. I dropped E and drew out my gun.
BGM: Accelerated Scuffle
I ordered him to move despite the fact he had the high ground. I was armed and he was not.
Well, well, if it isn't my assistant. What help you have been. Thankfully, I'm in a good mood.
You're the only one. Did you forget you killed my friends?
Now, now, calm down. I see you still have the gun. You can kill me now if you want but if you do, this entire place will collapse right over your head.
That's what I thought. You're the one who screwed us over.
Honestly, I don't give a fuck! I just want to leave this place, okay?
And I will personally let you out, and even drive you to your home in a limousine, if I had one, so long as you open that ridiculous door.
I don't know how to.
Lies and falsehoods. You're the one who managed to lure me into a false sense of security! I was tricked by you, Smiley, but no more.
I reached into the bag with my hand and snagged up the remote while keeping the gun at him. I flung the remote over the edge of the station, sliding it over the smooth ground. It was the only sound interrupting my monologue.
You killed my friends. Jasmine and Marco- the both of them were here. If I was Smiley, why the fuck would I put them here?! Why would I be here too?! You know, I kinda liked Jasmine. No, fuck this, I loved her, you asshole! I loved that fucking girl and you killed her without a single care!
Hey, if you take another step, I'll shoot. I should gun you down right now for all you did.
I saw him take a step forward, but I quickly remedied that by adjusting my aim. He seemed to be thinking about what I was saying and weighing if it was worth it.
My aim's better when I've got nothing to lose. If this is the result of what your organization does, it can go to hell. I swear to God, I'll send you there myself if you don't give me the way out right now.
I sensed dread, danger but also euphoria. I was tired. I didn't want this madness anymore. I wanted out of here.
...I see. Believe me, I understand your plight.
I glared at him as he made fun of my predicament. He held his hands up defensively.
Oh, no, I am being most sincere. I truly understand your pain, but that is a story for another time.
How about never?
Also fair. You want to leave, don't you? I will give you specific instructions that will let you do so. It is a little complicated, but I already tested it and the results speak for themselves.
I didn't trust that bastard.
I didn't trust that bastard for a single second, but I didn't have a choice. This was the final step.
BGM: Algorithm Simile
I still have this one. It is the collar of the twin known as H.
So she was dead, killed by him no doubt.
If you go to one of the scanner gates leading out of this place, you should be able to throw the collars I left in the lounge through them. They won't activate.
Are you sure it's not just because they were already dead?
No, of course not. I went through just fine too. I assume they shut down when I dismantled the power source. I can even tell you what's beyond the scanners if you don't believe me.
What is it?
Okay. So if I throw those collars... it'll all be fine?
That's just so you can see for yourself. I doubt it makes a difference if you throw the collars through the scanners now or not. Well? You'd better get going. I won't detonate anything further until you make your way back.
I hesitated. I didn't have a choice, so I acknowledged his advice.
Okay, sure. Pray we never meet again.
BGM: Ambient Strain
By the time he was done talking about delusions of grandeur, I was already back on the trek. I had quite a ways to go through the tunnel before I arrived there. I cast one glance back towards the station and saw Agnos leave through one of the dark hallways on the sides. That bastard was walking station to station too? If he was doing it, perhaps they were closer than I imagined. When I walked, it didn't seem that far either, giving credence to this idea. I focused back on the trek.
The next one had been the lounge. That motherfucker! I still made my way there because I didn't trust what he said. Back at the lounge, I helped a hopelessly confused E climb up onto the station platform. I followed with a mighty leap, afterwards.
So what is going on?! I can't see where I'm going... Are we leaving this place?
I wasn't able to let her know I was going up, so I reassured her with a few taps on her shoulder, after which I looked inside of the lobby. No debris. As the way up was clear, I went up the stairs to confront the grim sight again.
Finally up the stairs, I saw it all again. Marco, Jasmine, G and Ray were all on the ground, dead. With Agnos admitting he had H's collar, all five others were definitely dead.
BGM: Android Sorrow
Checking their bodies, I saw Marco and Ray's collars were gone. What Agnos said wasn't a lie.
You really used them, huh... so the way out is open now... Ugh... Am I okay with this? Am I okay with letting your killer go rampant, Jasmine? Marco, what do you think...? Got another dumb joke?
My strength left me and I fell to my knees. I had no more will to stand up for several moments. I fell to an uncontrollable, sobbing mess. This was real and I needed to get it out of my system. I didn't have a lot of time to mourn and grieve. One thing was for sure: as soon as I'd be out of here, I'd go to the police and notify them about this dangerous man. That was my plan... but it wouldn't bring them back... There was no second chance... I weakly punched the ground before sniffling up my sorrows.
I stood back up, and squatted to pluck the collars from Jasmine and G's bodies. Of course, they were dead, so the collars wouldn't kill them again. Strangely, they didn't detect me as using force, so they didn't activate either. Perhaps the collars knew that their wearers were dead.
But Simon, collars aren't people. People wear collars! Oh, Jasmine...
Before I fell in my sorrows again, I got a grip and stood back up. I stashed them in my bag and left the area, never to return. Goodbye, Jasmine. Goodbye, Marco. G, H, and Ray, none of you deserved this, either.
But I was still alive. Not only that, but E was alive too. Assuming we would both survive, this experience was special: it was one of a kind. Even if life returned to normal after this...
The two of us now shared an undeniable link.
BGM: Ambient Strain
She offered me a smile as I took her hand in mine again. I trusted her, too. I couldn't tell her, but...she was warmth. I could be comfortable within it. With her. The two of us set off through a tunnel again.
More tremors had erupted while we made our way to the security room again. There were no traces of Agnos. I called up the stairs, and he wasn't there. I threw the collars out through the scanners. Nothing happened, except that the door closed behind them. If something like this triggered, then clearly, that was the way out.
I didn't understand the process, but if it worked, it worked. I made my way back to the science lab. Once we arrived there, I took E up the stairs and we stood in front of the scanner gate.
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
What if Jasmine, Marco, and the others died in vain?
We're right there, aren't we? In front of the scanners. Don't worry, I'm here. We'll be fine.
That's correct. We'd be fine. With E's hand in mine, I stepped through the scanners and closer to our good ending.
Whatever it was that Agnos did... it worked. When we stepped through the scanners, nothing happened. E seemed a little afraid and so was I, but it was safe.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
I shivered in realization of what we actually accomplished, while releasing a breath I didn't even know I'd been holding by the same occasion. I didn't care if Agnos was still blowing up the other stations. I was out of here, I was free. I was with E...
But the girl pulled her hand away from mine. I took a quizzical look at her. She reached for her headphones and her mask with both hands.
I didn't understand what she meant. Very soon, it became apparent: it was her headset. She removed it after messing with the two objects a little.
She beamed a smile at me, looking around herself. I thought that she was cute. Everything was going to be fine now. I knew I shouldn't have insisted on the security and well-being of the situation, but I couldn't help myself. Death flags be damned, this was a good moment.
I can see you... The light makes it somewhat difficult, admittedly.
We weren't in an area with a strong light, but I figured if she'd worn this thing over her head every day for the past however many months, then it might've been jarring.
I had been avoiding it, yes. Now that her senses had been restored, I felt a little weird about looking at her... or grabbing her hand as I did before.
Well, you see...
The girl grabbed my hand instead, completely disregarding my argument, which was barely an argument to begin with.
BGM: Ascertaining Speech
My headset was on to repair my senses. Over many months, it has been working to reapply a new sequence based upon my DNA. You could think of it as... 3D printing.
That's gotta be...uncomfortable to experience.
And now, we're both alive to see it. I'm so glad, Simon.
Wait, how do you know my name?
Oh, Agnos told me.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
She smiled at me and urged me on. I thought there was no reason to delay it, so I went for it. We stepped further down the hallway, past the scanners.
There were many buttons. I pressed a few of them, but none of them worked.
Try the one labeled with a zero.
BGM: Ambient Strain
Um... let's try another one?
I tried pushing the one with the -2 label, and it worked. The elevator started moving. I expected it to take a few moments... But it went on and on. The elevator moved for what felt like entire minutes. How far underground was this place? I looked at E, who was just as puzzled as I was.
We're way further... under the metro? Normally it's not this deep underground.
After five minutes, the elevator was still going up. Finally, it ceased its movements. Despite that, I didn't think we were above ground yet.
No, I'll keep the door open so that it won't move no matter what.
She stuck her arm through the open doorway and I nodded, stepping through. I went through darkness for a few moments until I emerged in a strangely familiar room.
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
What does it mean? Is this...are there many levels of this place, all with a similar contraption?
I went back to the elevator to share that thought with E. She looked pensive for a moment. It was so strange to see her face after spending hours before without it being possible.
I pushed the button labeled zero but, once again, the elevator didn't move.
Why is it not working? Maybe... I have a hypothesis as to why. First of all, I wish I could know at which floor we'd been before, but it doesn't matter too much I guess. You know how this is established far below the earth? Maybe whoever did this is using a real place as a cover. Imagine if this place was under the subway...
That's kind of annoying, because this means until that elevator gets called to floor one or two, we can't really get out of here. You said there was something like a door, right?
Yes. There was a scanner hall right at the end of the bend in the tunnel.
What was beyond it?
There was a closed door.
Which means the door was closed, because people already escaped from that floor. Maybe they're the ones already up there. No, wait... If they were, then this elevator would be up there. Let's test it, anyway.
She pushed the button labeled -1. The elevator moved upwards again.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
Yes, that works! The other floors work, but not floor zero. We just have to wait until the elevator's gone, and we'll be home free.
Okay... what do we do to pass the time, then?
Hmm.. I don't know. We can share information.
She had a very complicit tone. I replied in kind.
No, you silly boy. I mean stuff like... your favorite color!
Oh, that kind of stuff.
Yeah. Mine's yellow. It's kind of a weird color, I guess. A lot of people don't like it because it reminds them of bees or something. I can't really fault them...
Bees don't go for you anyway, those are wasps.
Yeah, well, wasps are also yellow.
Hey, who's prejudiced now?
Truth be told, I didn't really have a favorite color. I liked all of them. Saying it like that would make me sound indecisive, though. Speaking of sharing information, I still didn't know her name, right? This was the perfect time to ask.
Now that we're out, you still haven't told me your name yet...
BGM: Accelerated Scuffle
What the fuck is going on?!
I rose back from the ground, holding for dear life onto parts of the elevator.
Oh no, it's Agnos... he got to the science lab and he's blowing up the elevator?!
Watch out, its happening again!
I tripped when the next tremor occurred, then I rolled out of the elevator since its doors hadn't closed yet. I must've hurt my ankle, because I couldn't rise back up again.
I checked in with her, but my state wasn't anything great either. I realized what stopped me from standing up wasn't just my ankle, but my entire leg. More debris came raining down. The end result was that I couldn't get my lower body up.
I reached for E to try and have her help me pull up from the ground, but she'd fallen inside the elevator and she sprained her ankle.
Hold onto me! We need to go above ground! The zero button must work now!!
Wait, no, not this... I don't...
She reached for me as the ground fell under me. It freed me, but there was nothing for me to hold onto anymore. I did a miraculous leap and I snatched the side of the elevator, even if my lower body dangled above empty space.
Grab my hand!
She reached for me and I did exactly that, but I didn't think she was strong enough to pull me in. Instead, I reached with my other hand to grasp around the open doors. The closest button was the zero button...
Gah! It's still not working?! You stupid shit!
I don't want to go without you anyway, come into the elevator! Why are you stuck... why can't you get up... why is this happening now?!
Ugh... it's my fault... I should've... killed... killed that asshole...
No, don't think that it's over... you can still make it in!
No, the floor's way too low! Look under you! It's... a few stories tall...
She was right. If I let go here, I'd die. Unfortunately, I had lost most control of my legs by now. Falling materials and rubble had irremediably broken my legs. I felt my lower half filled with nothing but pain.
Most likely, my blood was staining the entire broken hallway. It was most likely leaking down the side of the elevator shaft on the outside, here. My insides were slowly oozing out, mixed with dust and debris. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes.
I pulled myself forward with a louder growl. Finally, I reached further inside.
I slammed my hand on the only other button I could reach. I couldn't see it, but if I remembered right, the left column was the odd numbers. The bottom one was... -27, then.
I released everything, but the doors closed onto my neck. I was suspended against the wall by my neck, and the collar detected force being applied. Soon, it beeped.
Aah, fuck! I didn't mean for this, but you have to live! Don't worry about it! I'm... fine!
The elevator began its descent down to floor -27 where, hopefully, the elevator shaft would survive the next blasts from the explosives. And hopefully, this wouldn't become a coffin with my head and a pure girl within.
She had to suffer this horrific vision because of me. But far from what I expected, she grabbed the sides of my head instead and lifted me up until she looked at me directly.
Listen, listen well and never forget! Imprint it in your memories, don't even think about forgetting! You have to remember, the fourth letter is Y!
My last thoughts were full of regrets... but E would live on. I'm coming, Marco, Jasmine. Wait for me...
BGM: Agnostic Shutdown
To be continued....