Part 25: invASive
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
The train stopped at the library station. From the windows, I could tell no one would be boarding it back. Either Jasmine and Marco already made their way to the first station, or they continued past ours. I could tell because the door was open here, so they definitely were done with this place.
The train's doors opened and closed uselessly, as no one would be leaving here.
The chime rang out again. I basked in the atmosphere of the metro. Silent, calm... Until the train departed again.
I closed my eyes and drifted off as we went back to the first station, which I learned on the way was called the leisure station, whatever that meant.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
When the strain stopped moving, we disembarked. Finally back onto solid ground, I stretched my arms and legs, looking around to see if anybody was back yet, or if we won the imaginary room-solving race. Four had already finished before us. Damn, we got third place.
Hey, where are the twins? They aren't back yet?
Jasmine shook her head when I called for them.
It had some food in it too, like a sandwich? Looked kinda gross, but I was hungry so it's whatever. Old man A won the sustenance jackpot though, since his room was a pantry.
I noticed Jasmine had a bag now, which she didn't have before. I wouldn't have noticed it if I'd just been looking at her from the front, since it was tied and hanging off her back. It seemed strangely familiar... and upon taking a glance at the old man, I realized it was similar to the bag he was holding. Did he share something with her?
Oh, this bag? A is lending me some stuff so I can communicate with E, too. That's just in case we split up again, we won't be stuck in the same teams every time.
That's right, we don't get to talk to E directly on this side.
Off to the side was the other girl. We weren't doing much, and there was no reason to waste time, so I decided to strike up some conversation with someone. All of them were pretty much free to talk to, but the old man himself was examining the consoles. If I spoke to him, I would probably end up in a long talk. Best be if I kept him for last... Unless I wanted to move on from this situation, anyway.
Anyway, I'll just start with Ray and Marco and go clockwise.
I came by the two of them as they were discussing what they found in their rooms.
Yeah, we found a scanner room, but we couldn't take it. We didn't find that ninth person or whatever the fuck its supposed to be.
You sure it's even a way out?
Possibly. It wasn't part of the puzzle as far as I could tell.
Yeah, he's right. We solved the room without needing to go through it.
You two know each other that well?
Yeah, we're roommates.
I wanted to tell Marco to shut up about it, because I didn't feel right leaking all my secrets like that, but in retrospect it was pretty obvious that I knew Marco and Jasmine.
Doesn't matter. The real issue is finding that ninth person before we try leaving, otherwise...
He made a gun with his hand and pointed the end of it at his own head, mimicking it going off.
Bang. Just like that.
My hand shook a little when I remembered that fact. It was so easy to forget we were wearing the collars when, at any moment, they could decide to cook our necks clean off.
Anyway, meet back up later.
I waved them off, walking away before my nervousness became more apparent.
Next up, Jasmine.
Hey, J. Did your group find anything weird in your room?
What do you mean by that?
I don't know, like some special instructions, or additional tools, or...
We had a tablet. It doesn't connect to anything though, and its battery seems to be extremely limited. At least, that's what M said.
Marco probably operated it, if I had to guess. He's good with that kind of thing.
It had four hands.
It was equal to two people, huh...
Technically, we all have four hands, but our feet don't really count as hands anymore. They used to count, you know? When we were big monkeys.
Those are called gorillas.
They could be called elephants and I wouldn't really care. Ah, this is useless! Anyway, I meant to say that clock was strange, but it was part of the puzzle solving.
So nothing special, then.
Next up is E. However, I've chosen to skip E's option, because it's more people talking around her without actually involving her in the conversation in the slightest, and we got enough of that on the other side of the flowchart, thanks! So that means all that's left is Agnos.
I didn't know why, but I immediately believed all four of those were representative of the four codes we got from our first stations. Sadly, we were missing the twins still, so we couldn't open this yet.
Hey, I thought to open this maybe we have to enter our four passwords.
BGM: Ascertaining Speech
That's a good idea, but we're still lacking one of our search parties. I tried entering some things to test it too... Anything that isn't the solution it wants seems to clear immediately after I press OK.
He motioned at the first console in the wall.
Alas, as I mentioned, without the twins we won't be able to open this, and we are unable to take the train to return to our previous stations, unless we crossed the rails which is a terrible idea. That means we aren't even able to help them, even if we'd elect to send another search party among ourselves! That is quite the pickle.
Right. Nothing stops us from having us enter the codes and then leave though, no?
Ah, that's true. If we left a token force, like a duo here, they could meet up with the twins again when they were finished, enter the final code, and check this place out while the rest move on for now. It may save us some time in the long run!
The others had come by when they realized we were discussing about our next plan of action. Everyone but E took part in the discussion.
Yeah, I think we should head out too. It's true I'd like to wait for the twins, but I also want to see further in. Maybe find that ninth person too. Hard to admit, but I agree with Ray. Smiley said this station was special, right? For all we know, this place is more like a checkpoint and not an exit.
A was silent, relating what the others were saying to E while we talked it out. He spoke up to let us know of E's choice in the matter.
E would like to keep exploring, but I think I would rather stay here and wait for the twins. What about you, J, what is your preference?
She looked over at me. Seemed like she'd pick whatever I'd go with. I shook my head, as if to tell her to make her choice without taking me into account.
I'd like to head out, then. That would make four of us, I think.
Hey, wait, I didn't make up my mind yet.
Ah, that's correct too. Well, if you would prefer to leave this place and explore, that would be a little difficult for us. We'd have to remake the teams.
That's true, but...
I was flustered because they didn't even think of asking for my opinion. As it was, M and Ray would go together, and Jasmine and E would go as our second team. I would be staying here with A to wait for the twins. I didn't know if I liked that idea.
That meant I would take E's place if I went.
Okay, I made my decision.
Out with it already.
Yes, what is it you wish to do?
As the old man hurriedly questioned me, I made up my mind.
The vote I held was whether we stayed behind to wait for the twins, or went together with the others in teams. Looks like we're going with the others!
BGM: Ambient Strain
Something in me clicked when I was given the choice. I decided to not wait for the twins, suddenly believing that would be a waste of time on my end. I didn't care if we had to redo the teams.
Yeah, I'll go too. If M and Ray are together, that means I'll go with Jasmine.
Hold on. E also wishes to go, so that puts us at an impasse.
He still communicated what I said to E. In the end, E decided to stay back.
That would be our teams then, but I'm not sure about our compositions. I first aimed for the teams to mix up between people who didn't know each other too well...
Why, it might help us determine exactly what's being asked of us, of course! I don't believe Smiley took us random passersby from the streets without due cause. As a result of this, I, too, have changed my mind, and wish to head out.
That's just a fucking waste of time, let's set out already.
Uh, maybe you and J could have a rock-paper-scissors to determine who heads out?
BGM: Accelerated Scuffle
W-Wait, don't take it so seriously...
S, stay out of this. I have an old man to flatten.
Don't think I'll go down so easily, young lady. I've still got it.
The two of them pulled their sleeves back as if they would be going at it at full force. All I could do was watch as the two of them counted down. Finally, they opened their hands. In the first round, Jasmine lost.
Hah, I told you. Victory is within my grasp.
No way... We have to go for a best of three.
I opened my eyes wider as they drew out the battle. Her competitive spirit was off the charts. From her body, I could almost see it float above her head. A menacing dragon... And from the old man, there as much of the same. A giant bird spirit, half bird half lion. A griffin! The two of them locked into a battle for the ages.
Only the victor emerged from the duel. This time, Jasmine won and A lost. The dragon took a bite out of the griffin, severely damaging it! But it wasn't over. It was best of three, so this meant... even with the two of them scoring one point and wounding the opponent, it wouldn't be over with just this much.
At that point, I had hidden my face behind my hands, unable to see the next skirmish in any way except through my fingers. On the side, Marco yawned. Ray glared at us. Could they not understand this was the decisive moment? This single battle could end the world's conflicts... or plunge it into eternal chaos.
Finally, the two of them settled their final attack! As they did, dust exploded from the strike. I couldn't tell who won for the longest time. A powerful wind came of their contact. And finally.. finally... the dust settled. The victor was clear to me now. As I opened my eyes to look through the clouds of leftover dust, I saw...
Jasmine won! Devoured whole, the griffin returned to the aether. It had been a glorious battle, but none could stand against the dragon...
I'll go with S, then.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
I almost felt bad when E's expression dropped a little.
It's alright; I don't mind waiting here either. Explore at your leisure, and find a way out for us, okay? Don't forget me!
And make sure the twins are safe, A.
Still dazed by the great battle of the dragon and the griffin, I made my way to the others who had been waiting for the train. It finally arrived when Jasmine joined us, too.
Heh... it was a glorious battle, indeed.
Well, at any rate, I'm glad it didn't take too long. I always hate waiting for these things.
It's a waste of time, but what can you do? It's better than walking around, or even driving in this fucking city. Traffic sucks.
Yeah, and it's big enough that walking would take forever to get anywhere too.
It seemed the two of them were on better terms. They could tolerate each other. Maybe getting over whatever they disliked about each other would be easier than anticipated. Or maybe it was just because Ray wasn't calling Marco a punk and Marco wasn't cracking a stupid joke for once.
As usual, the speakers spoke the name of the next station. This time, it was something like security. I decided to leave at this one with Jasmine, since I was highly curious about it. A security room... would there be video tapes there? Perhaps Smiley made a mistake and we could see something from the cameras.
We'll go first, okay. Jasmine and I will explore the security room and report any findings we might have about what the cameras will have seen.
Aw, man, I wanted to go there.
Meh, I don't care. You two can do whatever you want. Not really romantic, though.
That doesn't really matter to me...
Unfortunately, because we can't talk to E on this side of the flowchart, Simon remembered he has a crush on Jasmine
Anyway, you two have fun.
I rose up, and so did Jasmine as the station came into view.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
Yeah, we'll go have fun. Let's see... we could go play some games at the arcade, or go watch a movie. How about it, Ray?
Ray wasn't very amused by his nonchalance.
None of that in here.
And how do you know that?
I left the train with Jasmine as the two of them started bickering again. We decided to waste no time and entered the lobby. As soon as we were in, as was customary probably, the doors closed and the train outside drove off.
She sighed, demoralized by the process we were stuck in.
I know you prefer being a free bird. We'd better get going, though. No time to waste here. The night is still young, and we've got to make it out so we can celebrate at home, right?
Jasmine flashed me a smile.
Yeah, let's check this place out and obliterate it!
She walked up the staircase without even waiting for me.
I hope in the obliteration of this place we won't end up being caught by our own petard...
It was time to see what this station really was. I stepped up the stairs, and then wandered through a brief hallway. I saw one of its ends led to a locked room with a scanner in the middle, much like the other one before.
BGM: Ambient Strain
The third door led to another room with electronics. I left that one alone for now.
This room's full of TV screens. I wonder who has time to watch all of that.
The security guards, of course.
None of them are here. Besides, this is a station, remember? The metro's security guards don't hang out in here normally.
Well... then we could watch all the Switchformers movies at the same time!
Are you insane? You'd get a headache the size of the moon.
There was a control board in front of the screens, but I had no idea how to operate it.
There's a side room, too... we should explore that one later as well.
Why don't we split up? You go in there, and I'll look here.
Okay! Holler if you want to switch places.
I nodded, agreeing to her plan while she left me alone here. Even if this room was a security room, it was still, in its own way, very ominous.
BGM: Auxiliary Search
New location, new map.
Okay, there's a lot here this time, so I'm going to start with the symbol on the floor and then go counterclockwise.
This symbol was weird. It looked like a red cross with a bunch of additional lines.
Isn't this the symbol Smiley wore as a clasp? Must be really important.
These desks were reminiscent of office desks, not so much security desks. Then again, I didn't know what security rooms really looked like.
Reminds me of my friend who used to work as a security guard... The kinds of things people did on camera were always a good story. I wonder if it's just because they knew someone was watching.
And this chair... it looks really bad. I feel terrible for anyone who has to sit on that for any extended period of time.
It made me miss my gaming chair at home. No, it was not a really expensive one- didn't have the money for that. It was a simpler one, but it was still leagues above this sorry excuse for a chair.
Fucking of course Simon owns a gaming chair. I should've known
I wondered how many guards this place had. There were eighteen screens lined up over three rows of six, or in three sections of six. All of them were shut down. In front of it was a console. I assumed this was used to access security footage. Yet, without it active, there was little I could've done with it, so I did little and made like a tree.
I should probably check out that station in the center of the room, while I'm at it.
And this... is this ketchup? And is that mustard over there? Is this a restaurant?!
I examined the burger thoroughly. Could I have gone for a burger on top of the sandwich I'd eaten earlier? The answer was yes: burgers were always fine. Just had to decide if I trusted the burger...
Trust nobody, not even your own beef.
I grabbed the burger and... oh, it was plastic. Something didn't feel quite right, though.
I can hear a little clink clink when I shake it...
Pulling on the burger a little, I managed to break it apart. Inside was a little key.
I only had to find where to use it, now.
If we interact with the alarm, Simon tries to pull it, but nothing happens.
These chairs look more comfortable than the ones behind the desks. If I ever needed to go up anywhere, they could be a chair-rific help.
Nobody laughed. Not even myself. I felt so ashamed, I vacated the area without looking at the water cooler.
What about the shelf?
I looked through the tapes, hoping to discover something from a label or another. Alas, they were all unlabeled.
Huh? Are they just empty?
There's also the AC unit.
Hey, this is the same air conditioner as the lounge's AC.
The same AC as the lounge? Wait, what lounge? I must have confused the AC with another.
All that's left is the shelf, and then we can switch places with Jasmine.
By making clever use of nearby computer chairs, I could add a few feet to my height, allowing me to reach the higher ledge where a bunch of suitcases were stashed. Still, when I got up onto the chair, it did a worrying cracking noise as if it was already on the verge of giving way under my weight.
Hang on, buddy...
I spoke to the chair, reassuring it. I grabbed a random suitcase and instantly, the chair broke apart, leaving me to fall onto the ground with a loud noise! The room shook slightly, and some VHS tapes fell off the shelves, the majority landing all over my body.
I grumbled to myself as I rose up to my feet. I hoped there was no other suitcase I needed to grab, because I figured I would've had to call Jasmine over. Speak of the devil; she just happened to wander back in.
Are you okay? I heard a loud crashing noise, as if the moon landed right in this room...
Oh, I'm not that heavy!
If you're in high spirits, then I guess I was worrying over nothing.
She popped her head back into the other room. Thanks, Jas! Real helpful! I chased that out of my head, then I tried to open the suitcase. You either do or do not, there is no try; and I didn't. The suitcase was locked up by a bunch of screws.
At least, I brought it down if we ever found a screwdriver. Or some coins... classic escape room maneuver. I tried the one I kept from the bedroom, but it was too wide. Yep, screwdriver then.
Okay, time to swap rooms!
Hey, J! Let's switch it up, okay?
Before we do, want to help me with a thing?
Sure, what is it?
A lot of shelves had piles upon piles of paper, and everything was locked up behind a gate. There wasn't even any space to walk, so if you wanted to get anything out, you had to remove what was in the front first.
Do you want help removing all this? It would take forever.
No, I found a screwdriver, but I can't get it.
Is it too high on the shelf? I can get it down, no problem.
S, I'm taller than you! No, no, nothing with the screwdriver itself. I think the box will open when we solve something else here. What I really need help with is this.
Following that, she also handed me a piece of paper. They were diagrams for the wires, pointing at where each should be connected, though which diagram was the right one wasn't clear.
According to this, we'll get a screwdriver. However, when we take it out, the door will slide shut. That means if we take it out, we'll be trapped here.
Sounds bad. Let's not take it, then.
I'm pretty sure we'll have to. The idea is that one person will take it and shut themselves in, then pass the screwdriver to the other person on the other side of the door.
Weird way of handling it. There was nothing like that for the hammer I found in the bedroom.
You found a hammer? Did you bring it with you?
Yeah, I have it on me.
Maybe we'll be able to make use of it in some way, then. Do you think you can handle this wire stuff on your own?
I took a cursory look over the piece of paper. This looked pretty easy.
I'll think about it.
I didn't want to hurt her feelings, so I acted like I had to think really hard about it, leaning against a part of the console that didn't have a keyboard. In the meantime, Jasmine waved at me and left to examine the other room, where she would be more useful.
Not a lot of stuff here; interacting with the wires closes the door, interacting with the door has us switch again. I'll look at everything else first before we continue.
I didn't know what those dials were for. Was this some kind of large battery?
Even though I feel like the technology here is simple for this year, I still don't know how any of this works...
I brushed my hand on the back of my head, clearly embarrassed.
This was a blank screen. Nothing happened when I pressed on the keys.
From afar, I listened as the sound of a toilet being flushed was heard.
Yes, some really important machine.
I looked for the fuse linked to the bathroom in this area, and then I flipped it off. From afar, I heard a scream as the lights probably went down.
Hehehe... how well can your eyes work in the dark, Jas?
I talked to myself before giving her sight back, flipping the fuse back to on.
In case you needed a reminder that our protagonist is the worst and any bad thing that happens to him is karmically justified. Anyway, let's use those wires finally!
Then, I looked at the piece of paper Jasmine left me. On it was a bunch of diagrams telling me how to operate this piece of junk. I had to put the wires in this hole... and that one... A green here... a red there... blue here and over there... Didn't work. That was the first diagram crossed out. I tried the second, same thing.
In order to make us waste as much time as possible, they probably made the last one work.
Trying to solve this big brain style, I switched my method of elimination by going in from the end instead. That only made my job harder on me because... Turns out, the next diagram on the list was the correct one! I wasted some time trying them out from the end, after going halfway from the start.
The screen next to the wires lit up once they were all in.
Hey, J, come here! I solved it.
I didn't want to gloat, but I wanted to talk to her about this puzzle. It was hardly one anyway: the wires matched a configuration in the lot, and it had been really easy to figure out. Why couldn't she have done it?
Oh, good! You let screwdriver's cat out.
It's the law of visual novels baby, we gotta mention it SOMEWHERE!!
Yes, shroud river's cat, that's what I said.
No, no, shro-ding-er
...sure, let's go with that.
So how do we even know there's a screwdriver in this box, anyway?
Because it's got an indication on it. Look, it clearly shows a screwdriver.
You're the kind of person to trust what you see at face value, huh?
What are you getting at?
No, it's Schrodinger... and what are you talking about? Are you trying to sound smart, even though it has no bearing on our situation?
Humph! I'll have you know, Schrodinger's car is a very important piece of theory for quantum mechanics...
Now he has a car, too? How many things can Schrodinger fit in his box?
Slip of the tongue! Bah, feel free to call me back ove3r when you really need my help, S!
She stormed out of the room after I made fun of Schrodinger's Cat too much. I couldn't help it; at this moment in my life, even just the mention of that thing made me facepalm. The topic of the wires completely escaped my mind, but at this point, she certainly wouldn't answer it until she simmered down.
And whose fault is that, Simon?
The square with yellow and green operated like a tactile mouse. I quickly made work of this little thing, and then a nearby click echoed.
This was the puzzle in the original game; I'll post it at the end of this update.
Must be screwdriver's cat box opening.
Soon after that, Jasmine appeared in the doorframe.
Did you get it? I heard something about screwdrivers.
Yep, it's open.
Think I could do it instead? I brought it down, after all.
Let me do this one thing, at least!
I capitulated in front of her insistence. It was true she hadn't done a whole lot yet... Agreeing to her demand, I reached for the box, while she quickly slipped back, knowing the door would close. When I opened it and then took the tool out...
It's hard to see because of the text box, but there's an opening at the bottom of the door that makes it so the room isn't completely dark. This is also how they pass the screwdriver back and forth.
Huh, this is weird. In this suitcase is some kind of technology thing... It can connect to the console in the back! The screens are on, now.
She paused for a little bit.
Well, what's on them?
Hold on, this is a bit strange. I'm gonna need your hammer, think you can send it over, too?
My hammer? Really?
Yeah. Please send it over!
That would prove to be a strange mistake indeed, when I suddenly heard something bizarre...
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
The sound of glass shattering reached my ears. Did someone jump through a window? No, there were no windows here. Well, maybe on the PCs there would be windows, but... the PCs!
J, what are you doing?
I'm solving the puzzle, one sec!
The sounds of windows being smashed one after another echoed through the dimly lit room. I couldn't understand what Jasmine was doing.
What are you doing?!
I told you, I'm solving the puzzle! Almost there!
The screwdriver and the hammer were both sent back under the door.
What did you do...?
I put the screwdriver back in the box, and quickly grabbed the hammer to stash it back in my coat. I stepped out and witnessed the outcome.
So I smashed them all. I smashed all the screens, until only the one that mattered was left, and now they work.
Well, there had to be an easier way then because, listen, the hammer wasn't part of this room, right?! What if Smiley decides we did a real bad thing?
Oh... yeah, you're right. But I didn't see any other way, I swear. C'mon, let's look up the security footage before we go. There has to be something worthwhile in there.
What about the password?
She pointed at the screen. Oh, right, it was currently displayed on it.
We should unlock the doors downstairs, first.
Okay. I'll go that way.
She hurried out of here, still embarrassed about her behavior.
I left the area to also take care of a door, entering the password quickly before coming back up the stairs. Within the next minute, we were back up. I had a thought for the screwdriver we had to leave behind. Goodbye, Mr. Screwdriver- I'd never forget you.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
The screen that hadn't been smashed was lit up, and I could see a live feed of one of the rooms. It looked like a church or something like that.
Hmm... let's see what we have here.
Now that everything was open, it was easier for me to sit down and use the console. It looked a little like a computer interface, so it didn't take very long for me to get used to it. Around the system were a lot of files. Folders upon folders numbered in strange sequences were lining up the database. If someone would've asked me how many files there were, I would've answered a lot- the only way to refer to this many files.
Try a random one? It's not like we can tell what they all are with those strange numbers. Normally they're formatted based on dates, but in there they're named strange things.
This piece of shit probably has a check for corrupted files... Let's try to run a repair tool.
Assuming it's not, as you say, a piece of shit.
Well, it's running. While it's going, mind answering a few things for me?
Jasmine inquisitively arched a brow.
What did you find in the drawers you unscrewed?
Oh! Right, there was a piece of paper with a code. That's what I used to unlock the doors.
So all this with the screens...?
Oh, uh, that was part of the puzzle too. I swear.
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
But what I cared for is that Jasmine wasn't giving me the entire truth. There had been something on the screens that she didn't want me to see. Was it personal? Was it worse? Was it incriminating?
Before I could truly dwell on it, the check finished. There was only a single, uncorrupted file remaining. I pulled it up and booted it up, expecting a text file or something, but it was video.
Aha! Jackpot. We got some footage, boys.
This is... What is this?
They've never gone together, I don't think?
On the screen, they were arguing. It had no sound, only picture. They were in a scanner room of some sort. After a while, the twin ran through the scanners.
I looked over at Jasmine, who pointed at the screen as if to tell me to keep looking. The feed wasn't done giving us information. Ray was panicking. He had his back to the wall, both of his hands grabbing onto the surface, as if he was trying to rip his nails off. Slowly, something was rolling back into focus.
It was the twin's head.
Here is the original puzzle found on the screen in the side room in the original game: