Part 22: bASilica
Quick recap (boy, there's a lot of these when you're jumping around a flowchart, huh): After exploring the gymnasium with E, the pair return to the lounge only to find out one of the twins is dead- beheaded, seemingly from attempting to leave through one of the exit passages with the scanners. Ray defends himself but is ambushed by the surviving twin, accidentally shooting her in the ensuing struggle. She is still alive even after being shot, so Jasmine volunteers to take her to the infirmary.
Jasmine gets into the train that has just arrived bearing Marco and A, and Simon explains the situation to them. After attempting to take the firearm from Ray and discovering that the head of the twin is (supposedly) fake, the group leaves Ray behind to go explore some of the remaining stations. Simon can't pair with A because he has a firearm he found in the gym hidden in the bottom of his bag, and when we first hit this branch, we went with E, which took us to the theater. This time, we're going to go with Marco.
Especially considering it contained my gun, making it an option I couldn't pick. My decision came when we finally stopped at the station leading to the church.
BGM: Ambient Strain
I kind of want to head out with Marco, to be honest.
We've done good work so far, and I don't want to break the pattern, that's all. No offense to E, of course!
I knew she couldn't hear me, but I didn't want the others to think I believed her to be useless in escape rooms. She did have her fair share of integrity with the previous one.
Oh, no, that is not a problem at all, do not worry. What I have to confer with M can wait, regardless. Something tells me we will not be done until we have seen every room here.
Marco and I looked at each other. It seemed he got the same impression. Talking about it was useless; we both knew something was up, and we had to leave the train first anyway.
We will see each other again.
Ironic words coming from someone who's going to the theater station!
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
Much like before, as soon as we stepped through, the train drove off with the duo, heading to the last of the stations on this side. Much like before, the door closed behind us as well, trapping us in a new station to explore.
Hey, before we go in, I want to look around this place.
Marco had already been in the process of climbing up the stairs before I said that, after which he came back down to join me again.
Well, first let's confirm this fact. What do you find if you go up and check the other side? Is it exactly the same room as this one, like every other station?
I'll go take a look. Call for me when you're done, and we can share information then!
He went back up the stairs. I didn't know if he'd do what I asked of him, or if he'd start this escape room without me. No skin off my back in either case. I had a small room to explore, and plenty of time to do so. Some things had caught my eye, and I wanted to take a closer look....
Since this is part of the ground level station, there's nothing particularly special about the map. I'll start by looking at the door.
That made sense. We'd get out of here when we would win, not when we would lose. That's why it was called a window and not a losedow.
How about that pillar?
That was a shiny surface. At first, I thought it was a support beam, but upon pressing my hands onto it, it felt more like a large vibrating tunnel. Maybe it was for air conditioning? Strange, there was nothing connected under this station or above, except for the room we'd have to explore there.
Last thing to look at in this Active Search is the stairs.
I always climbed them two stairs at a time as a result.
Cool! This search was a complete waste of time. Guess we'd better call Marco to have him confirm the same on his side.
In the end, I decided to call for Marco.
Hey, M, you finished yet?
M, I told you to explore the other side, didn't I?
Yeah, you did! And I did, too. I realized there was nothing really important there, so I left and came up here to meditate a little.
Surprising? Figured it would be. Anyway, look at this place. It's big, isn't it? It's just what it says on the tin: it's a church.
I can see that. Explored this place any, then?
I had to defuse this little joking mentality he kept relying on while we were in here.
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
Well... to be honest, I don't think that. I'm just optimistic. At least, I try to be. This place is really hard, you know? It's suffocating me a little. Knowing we can't just go outside...
But until we're outside, I can't let it drag me down too much, or else I'm gonna drink myself unconscious in the lounge and be useless. So that's why, if I want to win, I have to work hard. It's the same for life, too. There are so many people who try doing something or another, and they just fail. They just don't reach their goal. Why's that?
You either succeed, or you fail, there's no trying to do something. You either get back up and work harder, or you stay down.
I thought I understood Marco before, but perhaps this was more useful than any gaming session we've ever had together. Marco relied on his humor because he needed it. If that was the crutch that kept him up, what was mine?
Jasmine's face flashed in my head. Was it Jasmine? No... was it the knowledge that I could make it out with my friends alive, if I gave it enough effort?
Heh. Here we are, in a church, thinking about these silly things. We both know enough about religion that I'm sure you can understand how ironic that is.
Something like that. Which is why I don't like being in this place.
I dunno. Even with that, I think I'm okay being here. There's a part of me that resonates with God...
Here we go, M the evangelist. Soon you'll knock on people's doors to deliver unto them the word of the Lord.
Oh, nothing like that.
This is a church. It's kind of weird that it's here, underground.
Churches have a right to go wherever they want too, they're human just like you and I.
I was just wondering how exactly they managed to build this underground. It's pretty big, even if it looks smaller than the churches I've gone to in the past.
How many was that?
He shrugged, as if that proved a point. Fair, that was only one church, so I was no expert or anything. Silently, he'd already begun exploring the room.
BGM: Anaphora Solution
My head lifted up a little. In a daze, I stared up at the arches near the ceiling. There was a lever... There was something hooked onto the arches. How did I know that? I whispered to myself, trying to make sense of it.
This is... weird. I don't feel too good, all of a sudden. Ugh... a headache...
Just as quickly as that pain surged in my head, it went away. Within moments, I already forgot what I was thinking about before. I did see the thing hooked upon the arch, though.
How... weird. Have I ever come here before...? I think I'd know if I visited more than one church... Is this... the church I visited, then, a long time ago?
Hey, S, let's get a move on! I'm not gonna do your homework!
BGM: Algorithm Simile
As I stepped further into the church, I couldn't hide my sudden unease. Marco noticed remarkably quickly.
You okay? Wanna sit down for a bit?
No, I'll be fine. I must be allergic to the clergy.
The corner of my lips twisted up into a grim smile. I understood he wanted to cheer me up despite my current state. I gave in, and sat down onto a bench. It wasn't comfortable. As I leaned back, I focused on what we could search around the room.
BGM: Active Search
Almost immediately, my gaze crossed the shape of a strange object hooked onto an arch.
BGM: Anaphora Solution
Hnng... this is... it's back...
You're seriously worrying me now.
I could hardly see him anymore. The room was spinning. Everything was moving as if it was made of water. This otherworldly feeling overtook me, and all of a sudden... I knew what to do.
Did you... do anything yet?
Okay... go to the back of the church.
He moved away from me. I watched him shrink into the waving surface of my vision. He stood there, waiting for me to talk again.
Now... the altar. There are some gears.
Gears? I don't see any gear. This is a bonafide altar. It's flat and elegant.
No... not on it, but inside.
I can't open this.
Oh... I forgot... how do we...
I saw the church. I didn't know who I was accompanying, but there was someone else there. Was it Marco? Was this me with him? No... I couldn't be sure for both. This wasn't my memory. I'd never come here before. And yet, I was seeing it as if I was living it in real time. That never happened. It couldn't have happened.
Is this... deja vu? Ugh... Okay. Simon. Get a fucking grip.
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
I grabbed onto the bench and slowly lifted myself to my feet. I forced the vision to go away. Marco watched from afar, worried just like before and unsure if he should've rushed in. I moved out of the row of benches, only to trip on the side.
Hey man, you really don't look good. Maybe you should take a nap somewhere.
I'm fine... I'm fine. This is just... weird... and I can't stop thinking about the fact I know what to do here.
Maybe you already came to this church outside of this place, then! Maybe you have been here before.
I've never been here. I'd know if I went to a church made for a group of cultists.
I gave a nod towards the large altar in the back with the symbol engraved into it.
You're right. There are only two possibilities, then. One, you've been here, but you forgot. Maybe you came here when you were a baby? Two, you're having visions of the future.
Stop joking around...
So you're saying...
If you retrace your steps, maybe it'll go away.
I nodded. That made sense, on a stupid level, but it was my only recourse. I shakily walked to the altar and leaned forward over it, hands flat on the surface for support.
BGM: Active Search
First... the pulpit.
Still shaking a little, I vacated the pulpit to head to the back instead. Slowly, I pressed some switches positioned under the stained glass. First, the diamonds. Then, the hearts. The hearts again. Finally, the clubs. Each time I activated a card suit, the feeling we were solving the room correctly grew stronger within me.
As I finished entering the sequence, the back of the altar opened.
Wow, there are a few gears in there! How'd you know?
The vision... or whatever it is.
BGM: Alarming Silence
I can tell you're thinking something wild.
I mean, it's just... can you blame me? You're having visions of this and that...
So it was a joke earlier.
I mean, yeah. Visions from the future don't exist, and I know you've never come here. So what's up with that, then?
Fuck if I know, M. I don't have a clue either. I just... do, somehow.
I used his name instead of his nickname. I hoped he would understand I wasn't joking.
I'm not Smiley, okay? The last thing I'd want is to put you and everyone else in danger. I have no motive, and I certainly don't have access to anything that would allow me to change all these stations.
I mean, that's a pale excuse. Of course the person who organized all this wouldn't be someone we'd suspect.
If that's your train of thought, why couldn't you be Smiley, then?
...I see what you mean. I guess I can't prove it, either. That's a bother.
Listen, Marco. You and I... we're not linked to this place, right?
He paused when I asked him, as if he was hesitating.
...right? You're not in cahoots with Smiley, are you?
BGM: Alarming Situation
I didn't know. The more he spoke, the more he accused me of being Smiley... the more it felt like he was diverting my attention. The more he was trying to prove he wasn't Smiley, either.
Did I trust Marco? I trusted Marco before. I figured he would have no role to play in this. Did my stance change...? Was this... paranoia? This feeling of helplessness engulfing me from head to toe. The idea that someone I trusted before would betray me so much. That despair.
Was... Marco... Smiley...?
Suddenly, something brought me back to reality. Marco grabbed my shoulder and shook me gently.
Hey, are you listening? You look totally out of it.
Sorry... I was...
I can tell you're getting hung up over it. I don't want our relation to be bungled up by this, okay? What I feel, deep in my heart is...
He paused again, as if he was going to say something that had been weighing on him for a long time. Maybe he was searching his words. It took about half a minute before he spoke again.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
I don't claim to understand what you'd be thinking, why you did all this or how, but if you were, I'd still follow you. Whatever this is... there must be a good reason, and if you're Smiley, then that reason's important to me too.
And you won't go back on that?
No, sir. I have decided to put my trust in you, sir.
Stop calling me sir. What am I, a general?
Okay, okay! Fine then. Since you're deciding to put your trust in me, I'll put my trust in you too, Marco. I'll trust that you're not Smiley, either.
I held out my hand for him to shake. He stretched out his hand too, and before he could have any time to pull it away, I grabbed it to shake it.
Aw man, I wanted to do a quick trick on you.
You wanted to remove your hand before I took it, right?
No. You're not a ghost.
We both laughed it out. Yeah... I decided I could trust Marco.
BGM: Active Search
So... what was the next part of your so-called vision?
Clearly, we need to move this gear. It's immobile, and it can connect with that one over there.
It's in there. We don't need the incense, so empty that stuff if you want.
He turned the pot over, and with a clinking noise, the metal stick fell down to the ground. Marco grabbed it and flung it over to me.
I caught it effortlessly. I operated the machinery, and just as I saw in my vision, the side of the altar in the back opened. The small depression revealed a terminal with a bunch of numbers on it.
That's our password, if I had to guess. Let's try it out.
Yeah. But before that... ugh...
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
The room was moving again. My headache came back.
Want to sit down again?
Yeah. It'll take just a short moment.
I remained in the church, while Marco walked out of the room. I assumed he went down to both sides of the station below, unlocking the doors for our escape.
You know... this church, it's not really a real church, is it?
What do you mean?
It's probably a replica. That's why I've had that vision. Maybe it's replicated from one of the real escape rooms I've done before. Maybe that's where Smiley's getting his ideas. From real escape rooms.
No, they're usually more complicated. This feels like just an excuse to stuff two people into a room. You know, like when teens play that game where two people go in the wardrobe?
I guess. It's true they're not very complicated...
I let my eyes wander the room again. I felt much better after sitting down for a bit. I hoped this headache wouldn't come back either.
BGM: Algorithm Simile
Nobody really practices anymore, and most people seem to have become atheists now, so... probably not. I guess I don't.
Well... maybe I do, but it's not that simple. Don't get me wrong, I'm still a man of science, but for some reason, I wholeheartedly believe in God.
That did surprise me. I remained quiet since he quickly added onto the subject.
Before you think I'm some kind of silly boy with beliefs that can't be proven one way or another, I don't believe God made the world in seven days and all that kind of stuff. Those are just tales, or metaphors. I'm just saying God probably exists on a whole other level than humanity.
How to say this? Maybe God doesn't even create because He has a will to do so. Maybe it's more like... unwillingly. In a way, thinking about it like that, all of us might be God. It's all about the Perception of Existence. It's a theory that says... actually, I'll just do the simple part first. You remember in school, maybe someone told you one day about a tree?
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to see or hear it, did it fall? That kind of thing?
Yeah, exactly. The Perception of Existence would then say that this tree never existed. By this tree, I mean not only the tree, but also the result of the action.
That would also be the result of the action, and count as the tree fell in the forest. I'm talking galaxy levels of possibly never witnessed. If a planet collides with another somewhere twenty billion light years from us...
And those debris never get to us, and never affect us, then it's like it never existed? Am I following that correctly?
Yes, exactly. That's what this belief stems from. If God doesn't see something, then that something doesn't exist, but if he sees it, then it confirms that existence.
Well... that's an idea, I guess.
I didn't really believe in it, despite Marco's insistence.
Listen, I just don't really know where this belief comes from. It's just something... programmed in me at this point. I don't know why, I just feel it.
We're just lucky that we happened to be the ones who need to observe, or be observed. If it was anybody else, like an entire other race on some other planet, then we might not exist.
Yeah, that's actually a wrench in your idea. Why is it us? We might not be the only sentient life in the universe.
I guess it's us because... because it's how it happened. Higher beings are probably watching us at this very moment.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
I elbowed him after he gave this long, serious spiel, only to finish it off with a stupid pun. He coughed and smirked while half bent over.
No, it's never worth it, you idiot. God or not, we have to get out of here anyway.
This place having a church still felt so odd. Why was that? I was interrupted in my thoughts when he stood up, nodding at me. After awkwardly strolling through the main room, we made our way to the outside hallway, and finally down the stairs.
BGM: Ambient Strain
The train was taking its time. I figured it would, but this was unnaturally long.
How long has it been?
Few minutes. Eager to get back to the lounge? We gotta tell them there's a real church here.
It's probably a fake one. Say... think Ray went off on his own, and that's why the train's taking forever?
I don't think so. What if another team finished?
I immediately thought of Jasmine alone... As if I never believed the twin had any chance of survival in the first place. The train arrived before I could chastise myself. We both stepped in it. It seemed like whatever Smiley set up was good enough to be somewhat punctual. Maybe it was finely tuned. Maybe he was driving the train himself.
Nah... that would be stupid. I couldn't even properly see into the driver's cabin. If he drove, he'd have to see, no? Otherwise, the train wouldn't stop when it needs to.
He might be the ninth person. Or even Ray. Remember Smiley in that recording they fed to us? Ray's build did match him, but... Maybe they want us to think that.
What says it's a video, too? Maybe it was real time. Maybe Smiley isn't even one of us, and they're just looking at us from the shadows, laughing at our incompetence.
Yeah... maybe. I have to think about it some more. Let's talk about it later, after we find some sort of clue.
Marco clammed up, and so did I. The train was going steady. We didn't say anything else again, until it arrived at the lounge. The moment Marco and I stepped out of the train, we heard a noise from upstairs.
BGM: Accelerated Scuffle
Yeah. That doesn't sound good. It's like... a fight.
We both looked at each other and hightailed it out of the station. Quickly, we went through the little lobby and up the stairs.
The words of that unstable man reached my ears as I got to the lounge proper. The situation quickly came into view. It wasn't pleasant. Jasmine had her back against a wall, and Ray was yelling, holding her at gunpoint. Fuck! I knew I should've insisted earlier to take it from him! I cast a glance over to Marco. He didn't look too happy, either, but there was little we could really do in this situation. Jasmine noticed us.
Run away, you fucking morons! Run, or he's gonna kill you too!
I'm not leaving you here!
Stay out of it and run!
My words caught Ray by surprise for a moment.
When we managed to get his attention, Jasmine leaped at him. The man fell under her weight. I froze up, unsure of how to handle this situation. If I got close, it would be dangerous... Marco didn't seem in a hurry to help, either, far too content not putting himself at risk. I had to do something, or else...
Suddenly, Jasmine slammed her forehead against Ray, causing him to grip his gun tighter.
I ran forward. Everything seemed to have slowed down around me. If it's like the twin, maybe she could be saved too... Damn it! This always happened because of Ray!
BGM: Android Sorrow
I fell to my knees and grabbed Jasmine's body. I pulled her from Ray, and she rolled onto her back, looking up at me. I could tell she was dying much faster than the twin.
Fuck, no! Not you!
He got my lung, I think. Or something... like that... around there... Hey... would you do me a favor?
What...? What is it?
I brought my sleeve up to my face. I wiped my eyes clean so I could see her properly. Damn it! Was it my fault? Maybe if I'd gotten here fast enough...
Don't... blame yourself, and... take off my collar.
Huh? That's going to...
I'm already gone... so just take it off... after I end...
And with that, just like that, her body shut down. My hands gripped against her back, but I couldn't feel anything.
Right... just... I can't do it.
Can't do what?
...take her collar. I can't do it. You... you do it. I have something else I have to take.
I delicately deposited her body next to Ray's. Marco set off to work. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw that the collar came off without triggering any laser. Maybe it knew when its wearer was dead.
BGM: Advancing Shadows
No, my hands were trembling; I was too much of a good guy. I wouldn't... kill. I gritted my teeth. I wanted to, but doing it was just... No. Instead, I was going to punish Ray otherwise. I took his gun. In my bag now, I had two guns. Ugh! I should've pulled it out on Ray! I would've had something to stop him!
It was my fault. I stood up with Marco.
You're gonna carry it everywhere?
Maybe we'll need it later.
Okay, well, whatever. Here, have this too, then.
I handed the gun over to him. He looked at it with surprise before taking it, hesitantly.
What about you, what do you have?
I got my own from earlier.
Silently, we both went down the staircase to take the train again. I broke that silence a few moments later.
We should get rid of those damn guns.
Why? I know you're upset about her, but...
Don't you get it? The reason why she's dead is because someone kept one. It's too dangerous. This kind of bullshit shouldn't be in the metro in the first place! What would you think if Ray overpowered me later, and then decided to grab my gun and shoot me?
I guess you do have a point... why not just off him, then? That seem simpler.
Damn, Marco, just fucking saying it huh?
Once we were both inside the train, it set off again.
Ray's gonna have to live with the fact he's got two deaths on his conscience now. I don't have any of that. I'm not going to get any of that weighing me down. I don't... like it. I didn't want her to... die.
Yeah, I mean... it's nice to save someone, but we were in danger too. And we had nothing. She did lunge at him, so...
Ah, shut up, lady! Prochaine station my ass!
Marco chuckled at my words. I deflated into a seat instead, holding my hands and trying to think about how this whole thing happened. How did Ray get the gun, anyway? He had a gun, that's right. Where did he get it? I knew where I got mine: it was in the safe in the fitness centre.
A safe contained an object that wasn't so safe. That's irony. However, was it possible Ray gained the gun from the room he explored with Jasmine? No, that wasn't possible. Jasmine would've never let him grab the gun if that had been the case. The only possibility, other than him taking the gun while she was distracted, was that he took it between then and the second room.
All Ray did after that was... threaten a girl... grumble during our drinks... and... he also helped A with Marco. When did he ever get it?
BGM: Ambient Strain
That was the first station I'd explored with Marco, earlier.
Hey, let's leave here.
I explained while we stepped outside.
Keep guard down here, just in case Ray comes by. I'm gonna find somewhere to hide those things, so that nobody can use them to kill someone again. This has been... too horrible.
Okay. Call if anything happens.
There was the clock from earlier... the cupboard... No, no, no. Anywhere I looked seemed too easy a place for anyone else to stumble onto simply by snooping around. I had to make up another plan. Perhaps...
The bins were a good place to hide something. Not inside of them- but there may have been something else I figured out. I tried to lift one up, and... Ooof! That was very heavy. For some reason, they were strangely half-bolted to the ground. I could make them turn around, very slowly. Perfect.
On the ground, I could tell the bottom of the bins didn't quite reach the floor. They had a small, elevated space, which was just enough to put an object there. I set the gun down, and slid it underneath, then pushed the bin back over it, rotating it around its bolted axis until it was perfectly fitting like before. On the bottom was a perfectly-sealed containment area, where the gun would now reside.
That's amazing. Hey, Marco! Come over here, I found something!
I called for Marco. I could hear his steps coming up the stairs.
Aye, I'm coming, captain! What's up... huh?
I heard him from the staircase. Something surprised him. I realized what that was, but far too late to act. In that moment, our collars were beeping, and a red light came from the back.
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
Why? The only thing I could think of, was... someone else came up with him? But he was alone. What exactly happened?
And with that, we've unlocked the first lock of the game! ...That we still haven't encountered! Whoops! Maybe we'll find out what that's all about soon, as next update is when we move into the other side of the flowchart!