Part 13: gymnASium
I'm going to recap the events leading up to the branching path you voted for, as a quick refresher.
Simon is on the metro train post-exams with his roommate Marco and his old childhood friend Jasmine, who he has not seen for several years. He seemingly wakes up from a nap to find himself alone with Jasmine, still inside the train but stopped at a strange station that neither of them recognize. A and E are already there, and Ray, Marco, and the twins G and H soon follow. A strange masked figure appears on a screen at the station, introducing themselves as Smiley, and states that they are to take part in a death game called the Dating Game, where they must travel to different stations and attempt to find the ninth person, as their collars only go from 1-8, in order to 'solve' the game and escape.
Simon chooses to pair up with his roommate, Marco, for the first venture out into the metro network, and the two leave the train to find themselves at a station which holds a large, multi-level library. After exploring and solving the puzzle, Marco mentions that he recognizes Ray as being a teacher at the university the two attend, but doesn't know anything about the other four. All of the groups gradually return to the starting station, which they have determined to be their base of operations. Ray reveals that during their exploration, he and Jasmine found a note that implies one of the players is an outlier or traitor of some kind, causing tension between the group.
Each group enters the code they obtained while exploring into the panels beside the door, and find a lounge and bar area upstairs. After exploring the new location, A offers to mix some (non-alcoholic) drinks for the group. After discussing a recent bombing in a New York Subway, Simon finds himself lost in thought over the note Ray found. There are two prominent mysteries he could focus on, and previously, he chose to focus on what linked the group together, rather than attempting to figure out who the odd person out was. This time, however, we're going to try and uncover who's the outlier here!
BGM: Alarming Silence
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?
The note is very important! Someone could be a traitor!
BGM: Ambient Strain
I couldn't afford to get teamed up with the one that didn't belong. Or... Perhaps I should have aimed for that. If I was with them, perhaps they could get me out of here... but the situation was more difficult than simply escaping. I had to escape, yes, but with my friends.
What I needed was information. I had to talk to somebody. I did have a lot of choices right now... There was the old man behind the counter. He might have been knowledgeable about it. Then there was the twin next to me. I could also talk to that strange girl, E, who might have known more than she appeared to.
That eliminated Jasmine and Marco to begin with, but I figured if I went to talk to G, H would unscrew my head, so I dropped that idea, too. I probably only had time to talk to one of them, since I bet they were getting antsy to head out shortly. It would be between the old man, Ray, H, and the strange girl.
I rolled a die for this one because of how soon it is- and like the others, I'll be covering the other conversations in an Extra update. The die came back a 3, so we're talking to H.
She looked around, as if she was unsure I was talking to her. Perhaps I simply surprised her.
Oh, no, I don't know anything about it... but it's weird, isn't it? Why would that uh, impostor person put themselves in danger like that?
Either she misunderstood the message, or she was interpreting it differently, which was exactly what I'd wanted to know by asking one of the strangers.
Like if you just made calls while staying away and masking your voice...
That's pretty specific.
Just an idle thought, nothing else. And besides, the most suspicious one might just be E... look at her get-up! But maybe that's the point.
She pointed with a finger.
She's the one who stands out the most, so she's the one we have to suspect, but what if it's the other way around? Suspecting her is just a trap...
Yeah, I agree. Though, this doesn't really answer the question of who it is, then...
I guess not. I didn't think we'd answer it yet, though.
She shrugged, unconcerned by the problem even if she gave me some good food for thought.
I took a glance around me and I noticed Marco fell off his seat.
Uh, are you okay?
BGM: Accelerated Scuffle
Ahh, allergy to coconuts, perhaps? This is an anaphylactic reaction. I need to take him to some sort of hospital quickly, or else he's going to suffocate. Quick, someone help me!
Well, that didn't take long to become relevant!
Ray pushed us out of the way in a surprising show of altruism. He grabbed the boy and effortlessly lifted him into his arms.
Yeah, yeah, to the train then, let's go.
Wait, you don't know where you're going! We found this stuff earlier.
She took out a somewhat large pile of folded papers she'd carried in her pocket. Unfolding it, she revealed they were maps for the stations.
Let's go quickly then, or he's going to die.
Whatever, old man.
The two of them took off. Jasmine looked at me. Then, she panicked, realizing something I'd yet to understand about our predicament.
Oh no, we have to head there too! Remember what Smiley said: the train will only stop at a station that hasn't been done yet. They can't make it to the infirmary because the stations on the way aren't occupied or solved.
Quickly, we all hurried after them. I had the decency of also taking hold of E's hand to pull her along.
Ehh?! Where are we going this quickly? Did something happen?
I had no time to explain and I was the only one who could help her down the stairs. I had to be quick, or I would miss the train. Then, we arrived at the little lobby, and from the opening I could tell the train had just arrived. I felt apologetic to E, but I really couldn't stop: if we didnt get in there...
Finally, we made it in.
I panted, letting go of E, who quickly put her hands on any nearby surface to reorient herself. She made her way to a seat and, after making sure nobody else was there, she dropped onto it.
We made it... all in...
I noticed the twins were there too, and so was Jasmine. Shortly, the train closed its doors.
We're going to the other side this time, huh? I guess it was a bit out of our control... Anyway, we have two stations to stop at. The first is the security room...
And the other is the laboratory, yeah. Who's going where? We've got a security room, a laboratory, an infirmary- that one's for A and M- and a gym. Like, for fitness?
The train was already inbound to the first station. Very soon, it arrived and stopped all movements.
BGM: Ambient Strain
Uh... I think the twins might go together again?
Before my suggestion brought any reactions, Ray walked back in from the other compartment.
We need someone to go, huh? I'll go.
Oh, okay, that solves that! With who, though?
Disregarding our hesitation, Ray stepped towards the girls.
I'll go with... her.
BGM: Accelerated Scuffle
Hey! Let go!
Very quickly, he stepped backwards towards the open doors. Jasmine moved forward as if to stop him, but he quickly stopped her in her tracks when the click of a certain metallic object made it clear he wasn't joking.
Shut up and stop gesticulating! You're coming with me. You and your twin are super suspicious. We've gotta find someone who isn't like the others, huh?
Woah, hey, hey, don't move now!
He reaffirmed his hold against H's body, squeezing her tight with his strong arm. The man had caught G taking a step forward to defy him.
Don't do anything you might fucking regret, okay?
Let go of her, she's not like that I swear! She's not the one you're looking for!
What's that? Are you, then? Heard you both say something about a traitor to each other earlier!
But no matter how much she swung her legs, every hit missed. It almost felt like she was missing him on purpose. Perhaps she didn't want to actually trigger him to pull the gun on her. Perhaps she was only doing this as a token show of resistance.
I closed my hands into fists and inhaled, then exhaled. I wasn't going to go and pull her out of his grip. That would be too dangerous. Jasmine was just as angry and powerless as I was. When Ray stepped out, following our inaction, she lunged forward. Ray aimed at her.
I pulled Jasmine back into the train, though. A shot had fired from the gun, though it was difficult to tell if she'd been hit. I quickly took a look at her as we fell in a heap. The bullet wasn't in her.
I looked up at the ceiling. The bullet wasn't even in the train, either. A quick glance at Ray told me he'd fired it in the air as a warning shot.
And you wanna know where I found this gun, I bet? Before you accuse me of doing some bad shit, you should-
The train was driving off. I was left alone with Jasmine, who was standing up, G, who was frightened and looked extremely perturbed, and E, who was... as normal as usual.
It's okay... all we can do is hope that he sticks to his word. What did he say at the end? What should we do about what?
I don't know. I couldn't hear. Could you?
I asked G, but it was useless. The girl was sobbing. I wasn't too good with this, so I left Jasmine to handle it. Our teams were pretty much decided anyway.
Yeah, that's the plan. It's okay... we'll get your sister back.
I also glanced over at Marco and A in the other compartment. The old man was standing up slowly, apparently having been knocked unconscious before.
So you mean to tell me Ray knocked Agnos out without ANYONE ELSE HEARING IT??
Did Ray...? I shook my head. That man's actions couldn't be condoned, but I had something to do. In the next long minutes, I spent them explaining everything to E.
That's horrible! I hope she will be okay... That man is a jerk.
She couldn't see me, and we had to search rooms again. This was going to be strange. Before I knew it, Jasmine and the twin left, and then Marco and A left too. I also hoped Marco would be fine. It had taken a while to get to the station, so if he was treated now... perhaps it might be too late.
I cringed, clenching my teeth together hard. I couldn't allow myself to think about the worst case scenarios.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
We're there, huh? Let's go.
We stepped outside. Mechanically, we wandered to the open doorway. We only had one thing to do, so... We stepped into the lobby. Very shortly, the doors closed behind us. How many times would we have to do this, anyway? I calculated we would run out of stations in... two, maybe three outings.
That's if those maps were all we had access to, at least... I guided E up the stairs. There was a tiny hallway, and the first room I poked my head in was entirely different than the one I had found before with Marco.
A gymnasium! I always wanted to go to one of those. Not that I really... can anymore. It's not really my kind of thing anyway, so I'm not very fit. I can't see you, but I bet you probably went to some in the past, huh?
I don't know what's weirder, her compliment or the fact she's never seen the inside of a gym at any point in her life. Not even for, like, PE class? Does Canada not have PE classes?
Jasmine would probably have hit me if she'd heard my thoughts. It was time to focus on this room.
BGM: Ambient Strain
Before I could do much, I saw E trying to feel her way around the room. She must've understood this place was very spacious and she had a lot of free ground to tread, even if most of it was empty.
Still, I didn't want her to hurt herself by mistake, like walking into a wall for example, so I reached out to her wrist and grabbed it.
Are you concerned about me? It's okay, I can feel the air and, correct me if I'm wrong, it seems like this place is very empty and spacious.
There was something weird about her proposal. Not weird-weird but weird-like... uncomfortably weird. She must've sensed my unease as she corrected herself.
I mean if you find something that has to be manipulated, or can be held, I'd be good at that! And for what it's worth too, I'm rather slim, so...
I wrote to interrupt her in her thoughts.
I could tell by her tone she wasn't taking this seriously.
Guess I can start by giving her some sort of task...
BGM: Auxiliary Search
As always, first thing is to check out the map...
...but there's nothing really to look at. It's a gym. Good to know that door leads to the restroom, though...I'll start with checking out the windows up top.
Hey! Anyone there? We're here! Help!
No, the likeliest explanation was that there was nothing behind those windows. No matter how much I looked inside, it was pitch black, as if a wall had been placed right behind the windows. And they were painted black!
Ceci n'est pas une fenêtre, huh? Window instead of pipe...
Wonder if those pennants have anything written on them?
According to what was written on the flags, they were given to a bunch of high school teams. One of them was for the Lions, one of them was for the Wolves, one for the Eagles, and one for the Rabbits.
Out of all those, I swear the Wolves sound the most dangerous. Who would cheer for the Rabbits?
We know the door leads to the bathroom because of the map, but what's Simon got to say about it?
Nothing beyond there except for the bathrooms.
I still can't wrap my head around all of this...
How about the court markings?
They sometimes use tape because the paint would go away... but I guess it doesn't matter in here, since nobody would use this place. Looks more like a replica of another location. Unless the people who built all this wanted to dunk on each other between sessions of rearrangement. I know for a fact I'd dunk on Marco if he was here. But for E?
I don't dunk on E.
Speaking of E, let's see what she's up to!
I chose to ask E about what she wanted to do, instead of picking for her.
I know you can pick something I'll be helpful at. I trust you.
And she gave me one of those smiles.
I guess I don't mind picking... if you insist that much.
This is the game telling you 'look around some more, stupid!'
I'm gonna look at the safe and the hoop next.
That's a safe. It's safely locked. Pretty simple.
And that's all he says! Nothing about what the lock is like or even an attempt to open it. Thanks Simon!
I looked around the pole, but I didn't see anything particularly different. However, when I made my way behind it, there was something indicated on the back of the rectangular plate.
Squares are... three. What does that mean? Squares have four sides. Surely this has another meaning that would only make sense once I found other stuff... That's how escape rooms work, right?
Might as well check out the cage, too. Not like the ball's gonna be important...
There was an entire area closed off from the rest of the gymnasium. Over here was a place that was remarkably similar to one of the gymnasiums you'd find in a high school or something. Behind there was an actual gym, or a fitness center, or whatever you called them.
Weird distinction... Is Smiley playing a prank on us by having a gym and a gymnasium in the same room?
No one answered me as usual.
Numbers... numbers... Why is everything numbers? Numbers on our collars, numbers for these passwords, bathrooms for when you do number one or number two... And the biggest number of all, Marco himself, a complete digit.
What... what does that mean, Simon???
I ruffled my hair a little. This door wouldn't open yet.
Before we interact with the cage some more, let's finally pick up the basketball.
This isn't a normal basketball. There are nubs all over it, but I can't figure out what it means. In fact, they aren't evenly spaced either!
I picked up my paper and handed the ball to E. I explained to her that, maybe, there was something for her to do in here, in the end.
I rubbed the back of my head. Why did she always... always say it in the strangest way possible?
It's pretty big... I don't know if I can hold something like that properly.
Might as well check out the cage again, see if there's anything of note inside there.
I glanced inside of that space. Something about it was nagging at me. The rack held three different kinds of dumbbells. Their ends were made of three different shapes: circle, square, and triangle.
The top level had five circle dumbbells, the middle level had two square dumbbells, and the bottom level had three triangle dumbbells.
What could this mean? It's clearly important.
Well, there's not much else to do besides checking in on E and the ball again.
The surface of this spherical object is very intriguing. In fact, I would even say it is not a regular basketball. I could feel the lines across the surface, but there were also all sorts of little nubs poking out of it... And if I crossed the surface with my fingers, I could read two things because these things are...
And it says that circle is second. I don't know what that means, but perhaps that can help you?
I acknowledged her help with another piece of paper. She looked overjoyed.
With that, it's not hard to figure out what to do next- but before that, there's another scene we can have with E.
E was pretty busy at this moment. I could've spoken to her, but... Maybe it was better to let her work. Instead, I took a glance around the placea gain, basking in the wide open area and inhaling air deeply.
I was sure if I spoke to her, she would tell me that we should enjoy the time we had here, in this spacious room, all to ourselves. It was the closest to the outside world we had in here. While it didn't have a soft breeze or the birds chirping, or both, it was still, well, relaxing.
But then E broke that silence.
Her voice echoed around the gymnasium for only a moment. While she couldn't confirm that it in fact echoed here, I could.
Just like her voice, mine echoed too. Granted, hers was much more pleasant to hear.
I put together what I knew of the shapes and numbers so far. According to the two numbers I found, I determined the third. Those shapes were like the dumbbells... And of course, even if there were three numbers, as there were three shapes of dumbbells, knowing two of them allowed me to unlock the cell door. The third one would definitely go in the leftover spot.
Crap! That's not enough. What have I missed...?
Oh, zero is a number too. That must go in the fourth spot.
Weights first, lockers second.
From afar, I could see the dumbbells, but from up close, I realized they weren't real. There was no real weight to them, but they were glued to the rack, as if they weren't meant to be taken out.
Makes sense... This was already used, so no point to it now.
And of course, the actual lockers themselves are pretty useless. Wait... this doesn't tell me the sequence to put all of those numbers in. Dammit!
There had to be something else to do here. After a few moments, I found there was yet another object hidden between the two halves of the lockers- between the fourth and the fifth ones.
Sliding puzzle... I hate those so much. Hey, wait. The surface is kind of 3D. I wonder if...
I gave the object to E after joining her current location.
I didn't even need to answer for her to start toying with it. She was so reliable... when we didn't need to take five million years to communicate one sentence.
This might take me a while. Check in with me again later!
This is basically to let you poke around anything you might've skipped, but I've already looked at everything, so all we can do is just come back to her immediately.
There! I did it.
She spoke aloud when she was finished with the sliding puzzle. It opened, letting a piece of paper fall onto the ground. I grabbed it and read its contents.
ENWSWNENWSE... and then it's got a bunch of directives to follow. According to this diagram, north, east, west, and south are the first, second, third, and fourth lockers...
I took note of all the directions and their corresponding numbers. And then the directives asked me to remove a bunch of them from the lineup...
No... this gives me east-north, south, east-north, south, east. Those would be 28283, but... that doesn't work.
I asked E about what she thought was wrong. I needed a bit to translate the entire directives over, but eventually she giggled at me. What? What was so funny?!
I think you need to reform your pairs better.
Crap! She was right. East-north was pretty dumb. Then the answer became East, south, north-east, south, east which translated to 38283.
Now what is this for, I wonder?
Gee, I wonder. This bit was the puzzle in the original game, but it made you solve it yourself, and instead of a number code the safe itself had a compass turndial. The answer is the same as what Simon said, so there's not really any point in showing it again.
Great! We're out of here! Assuming this is the end of it...
I opened it and then instantly froze up, closing it again in surprise.
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
Did Smiley put this in there so things would spiral out of control? There was no way anyone wouldn't keep this on themselves after finding it. I looked at E while feeling strangely uneasy. I opened the safe again, and saw there was a code written on the back. It was just another bunch of numbers, but this seemed as though it was our key out of here.
Hey, you're still there, right? Have you found anything else?
There was a gun in there. A fucking gun. I definitely couldn't bring myself to use this. No way. No fucking way. But I also couldn't let anyone else find it. Wouldn't it be stupid if I left it here and then somehow Ray came into contact with it?
Silence... I hope you're still there. I have something to talk about that I just thought up. It's kind of related to my studies back when I was still at the university...
This was somewhat interesting, so I chased the thought of the gun from my mind for a bit.
BGM: Ascertaining Speech
I felt that way with the puzzle I had to solve. I didn't see it, of course, but I still solved it very fast. I could feel the puzzle, sure, but normally, it would've taken me much longer to have an idea of what it was even about.
And you know how that data could, theoretically, be manipulated or sent, or even received. You know about computers, I'm sure. It's a little like cloud technology. When using that, everything gets saved somewhere- in the cloud- and then anything that has access to the cloud can pull from it.
So maybe... my senses are disabled so I'm forced to pull from the cloud. If I'm given no choice, I either both fail and get no information, or I succeed and...
She motioned at the solved puzzle she still held.
Essentially forcing me to pull from it.
I knew what she meant. So far, I had felt this a little, yes, but I couldn't let myself get caught up in that thought. If this was the code to unlock the doors below, we were free for now. I wrote to her to explain the situation.
BGM: Ambient Strain
And if any of this is true, what is being transmitted... from where... and why?
I had to follow her example. She was still positive and happy, despite all that's happened to her, and she was smart too. I went to unlock all the doors, and made my way back to the safe.
Before we went, I had this to consider. This... gun. I had to take it.