Part 26: cASualty
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
Oh my god!
Finally, Ray looked around the room, seemingly scared from the occurrence. After a minute, he tentatively reached for the head. He grabbed it and ran out. Nothing happened afterwards.
I don't know. One of the twins... is dead?
I hit the fast-forward button. Nothing happened, until a twin came back on screen- the other twin, the one still alive. After waiting for a moment, she stepped through the scanner. However, there was no head rolling back this time. Nothing happened to her.
That's weird. Rewind that.
I looked closer at the screen while doing that. The scene played again.
I hit the button, while Jasmine excitedly pointed at the image.
Something doesn't add up.
Other than the fact Jasmine was swearing, which she only very rarely did, something was definitely not right. I rewound the feed to the very beginning, and let it play again.
We have to tell someone about this. If she could remove her collar...
No, I think it's best if we don't talk about it with the others for now. If one of them really died, then that means Ray's gonna do whatever it takes to hide it.
Especially if one of the twins is gone, too... Wait, does that mean they had the ninth person in their room?
Jasmine remained silent, uncertain. I decided to do a final cursory check. First, I looked at the file's name, trying to see if it would help me figure out when it was recorded, but no dice. Once again, just like the rest, it was named by a number, but it was far too high to be considered a date. I briefly considered it might be in seconds, like if it was x seconds after the Dating Game started, but I figured it wasn't it.
Okay... let's go, then. This could cause unnecessary strife if people find out about it. First, we have to see what happened to the twins, and what Ray's state is.
Yeah, let's go, on the double.
The two of us ran away from the room, then quickly down the stairs.
BGM: Ambient Strain
Ugh! Gah, I shouldn't be such a daredevil.
Are you okay?
Jasmine called from the station. I joined her right afterwards, where we waited for the train.
Yeah, I'm fine.
I knew we should've waited for the twins...
Didn't you want to head out?
Yeah, but I always felt like that might've been the better outcome. I was just too curious, I guess?
She sighed, clearly worried over the choice she made earlier. And after winning the battle between the dragon and griffin, too...
The train arrived. We boarded it.
After the little chime, it set off, and the only thing eradicating the silence was the announcer's voice from the speakers. While the train was moving, I thought about the situation again.
First of all, I found a note that spoke of a person that didn't belong. Was it E? Was it A? All of us had no link. Was it the twins? If a twin could take off her collar, was it her...? Or was Ray the person that didn't belong? His reaction seemed genuine. There was legitimate fear in his eyes when he was scared shitless earlier.
No, it had to be a twin, then, maybe? I kept those thoughts to myself. It was difficult to think about, because the twins were young. They didn't have the life experience to set up this entire place or anything. The twins couldn't do this. One of them died, too! Then why did I have this uneasy feeling that told me I needed to watch my back...?
So many facts didn't add up.
The simplest idea would be that the twin who removed her collar found a way to do so without dying. If that was the case, then she was gone, and wouldn't be of any help. I had to stay calm.
Station's coming. Come on... faster...
Jasmine was muttering encouraging words to the train to go faster to the station. I couldn't help but smirk at that futile endeavor. I regained my seriousness when we arrived at the station. I was now in emergency mode.
BGM: Accelerated Scuffle
Quick, into the lobby! No time to examine this place, we need to find someone, and quickly!
I wordlessly agreed, while engulfing myself into the lobby. After a short travel up the stairs and through a hallway, I emerged into a lounge. On the other side of the room was a bar. I didn't have the time to think about what this place was before A spoke to me.
Is everything alright?
I saw him behind the bar, apparently preparing some drinks for the others. E was seated on a stool, waiting for hers. And next to her...
BGM: Anaphora Solution
Time seemed to stand still while I opened my eyes wider. I could see them, clear as day. The twins were alive. Both of the twins were alive. My eyes darted to their necks. Were the collars there? I needed to check for the collars... Both of them had their collars on.
Jasmine joined me momentarily. When she noticed my state, she elbowed me in the side. Contrary to me, she wasn't nearly as horrified by the discovery that two people were still alive and trapped here.
Please excuse him! He's never seen a bar in his life, so this is really surprising to him.
I cleared my throat and finally came back to reality. The twins turned around by that point, so I had to put on my normal face, even if I thought I wasn't too convincing.
Unrelated to that, where's Ray?
The big man wasn't there yet.
We don't know! In fact, the twins came back just a few moments ago. Did something happen? Have you reason to search for him?
I wouldn't go that far...
The two of them could speak. As they did, I realized I felt sick, just a little. I couldn't believe my eyes. Either what I saw earlier was false, or this was false. I couldn't trust my eyes. I needed to calm down.
No, nothing happened. Everything is... all fine.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
I decided to finally play it cool.
Do you desire a drink? Take a seat, I'll make some refreshments from what we've got here.
Thanks for the offer, but I'm not really thirsty.
That was a lie- I did feel awfully thirsty. However, I lied through my teeth to get some time alone. Even if he was genuine in his offer, I had no time for this.
I just need a bit of a walk, I think.
What can I say? My body's starting to get old.
Doesn't that mean you'd want to sit down, instead?
No, no, I have to keep it in shape.
I laughed extremely unnaturally. The twins stopped caring and went back to their drinks. I hoped they weren't alcoholic or anything. What was that old man thinking? With a wave towards the others, I left them alone.
BGM: Ambient Strain
I walked back down the stairs. What was I going to do now? I debated on the proper course of action. The choice came down to sharing information or not, because I couldn't make sense of it. I could kind of trust Jasmine, even if she pulled off that weird thing with the screens. That event still lingered in my mind.
I could also collect more evidence. Currently, I thought the twins and Ray were all extremely suspicious. What about the others, though? Could I really share info like that without any lead? With this walk, I could also explore a station and gather more info. This was a difficult choice.
Per the vote, we're going to stick around and share information with the group.
BGM: Anaphora Solution
The part of me that didn't like that idea remembered how it showed Ray and the twins. It would cause some strife. Especially if I'd share it with them... so I opted not to. However, someone who wouldn't do something stupid until we had proof would be a better confidant.
Before I shared it, I wanted to clear up something that had been nagging me about the video. First of all, the twins should've never met with Ray. The only instance of this being possible was after we left. If Ray and Marco split up, then Ray came back alone, met with the twins on the way, and one of them grouped with him, then it would be fine... But I thought the twins didn't really like him. I didn't think they would ever team up with him willingly.
There was also another thing: the fast-forward had taken quite a while to even get to the point where I saw the collar-less twin. Possibly, hours had passed. We hadn't been here long enough for this. There was yet a third thing that didn't work... but I had to check the video again to be sure.
I probably have enough time. Unfortunately, I'm on the wrong side of the station to go there...
I could also take the train to another station, go up, cross to the other side, come down, and take the train back to make it to the security room. The latter was a bigger waste of time... and judging by my current situation, I didn't want to waste too much of it. I really wanted to see what the twins had found in their station, but... Ah, heck. I'd have to leave that for later. Making up my mind, I decided to crawl back up the stairs.
I passed the first doorway, successful in sneaking by. The second doorway went much of the same, but as I went through and came down the staircase...
BGM: Ambient Strain
She watched me, surprised to see me. I could either stop here to talk to her directly, and inquire on what was in her station, or I could catch the train. If I did the latter, I would save on time, but the former would let me know... ah, decisions!
This choice doesn't impact the flowchart at all, and if you go to catch the train it just skips ahead, so we'll be polite and talk to her.
I made up my mind and spoke to her first. The train could drive off, I'd wait for it again.
So... is this G, or H?
It's G! You still haven't managed to differentiate us?
You're both the same, it's not my fault!
It's the eyes, you big moron. Just look at the eyes.
I'd been averting my gaze every time I spoke to them, either out of fear of being branded something unsavory for addressing younger girls or out of some other indescribable uncertainty. But this time, it was because of the video.
So what did you want to know? You wanted to talk to me about something, didn't you?
Yeah. Uh... What did you find in your room?
I see... and did you find anything out of the ordinary?
We found a bunch of maps for the entire place here, but nothing special otherwise.
And did you meet with Ray yet?
Ray again? Why are you so fixated on him?
No reason, really. Just... making small talk.
Your idea of small talk is weird as hell. Anyway, no, I haven't met up with him yet, or anybody else. We just came back here, and you guys arrived shortly after.
Okay, alright. That's all I wanted to know.
The wait for the train was a little long, but I eventually boarded it. I dropped into a seat and closed my eyes, waiting for it to go.
BGM: Algorithm Simile
If anyone else had come here, they covered their tracks very well. I doubted any of them could handle that, so most likely, nobody came by. The secret was still very safe. I played the video again from the start. What I wanted to check wasn't really at any point in particular, so I paused the feed to avoid having any movement distract me as I observed it.
The feed was in the scanner room, but I could see a bit of the room it was attached to. I narrowed my eyes a little... then I realized what I first thought. I scrambled out of the seat, left the room, and looked around the hallway. I kept my eyes low and almost bumped into the corner on the way in.
Soon, I was in the scanner room for this station. There was no mistaking it... The floor outside of this room was exactly like the floor in the feed. All the hallways had a different kind of flooring, so this was definitely here. I could tell, because the floors in the leisure and bedroom stations were different.
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
G, H, and Ray... what is your involvement in all this?
My eyes opened wide in shock at the realization. Were they behind this? Not one, but three people?
I need to tell someone... first, I need to tell Jasmine, and then maybe someone else, too. But who?
I went back to the main room and closed the file entirely this time. There was no risking someone else finding this. After that, I left the room.
Remember, you voted for this!
I wouldn't have to worry about leaking the secret anymore.
The twins moved out. They found some maps in their room, so according to them, they're going to... hum...
She flicked through the papers, while A observed us in silence. E was there, too, but she was silent and tranquil, drinking some juice on one of the couches.
Ah, the pool! The room we explored together was marked as security. Remember that live feed of a church? That's a few stations further down the line. According to the maps, we've got around 14 stations total. There's the lounge... and on that side- the one we explored with the security room- there are six stations.
She cracked a joke, but I didn't laugh. In retrospect, perhaps that was a little mean of me. The poor girl was almost visibly crushed by the suspicions she had to hold. After all, out of every girl here, she may as well have been alone then. The twins were suspicious, and E's presence was minimal at best.
On the other side, we have the pantry... the library... the Stars, whatever that is... the pool... the recreation room... and the reactor, which sounds really dangerous.
I also have some things to show. It's good and all to know what is everywhere, but I need to share some info with the both of you.
I called the old man over by the same occasion.
Has your walk been fruitful, then? You've been investigating something, haven't you?
Perhaps I'd been pale as one ever since I made my discovery.
Unfortunately, we have to go to the security room. I don't think I can explain very well. That means we need to split up when we get there.
It's that video, isn't it? We found a weird video... I'll explain first, and then we can go see it to check directly.
Oh, if you swear it is the truth, and can act as witness for what each other is saying, I doubt we need to go see it on top of that.
No, there's something... additional, to what Jasmine saw. But sure, go ahead and explain.
And that's what we found. Since the twins were both here earlier... both with their collars... that's strange, isn't it?
Yes, I agree. I would like to see the additional information for myself, too. Let us leave E here, she is safe and she will be waiting for us.
I hadn't thought about E's situation.
But she can't stay here alone, right?
Correct. Alas... all three of us should go to see this additional information, yet only two may.
Were they going to have another rock-paper-scissors battle? As important as it was, I needed to circumvent it in some way. We couldn't afford to waste time for another hundred years fight.
I'll go with A first. Jasmine, you can talk with E, correct? Stay here, and tell her about it too. I doubt she'll talk readily- she looks like she can handle a secret.
Let us make haste.
I didn't need to be told twice. We both left the area, and made our way back to the security room.
BGM: Ascertaining Speech
Yes, that's quite odd. I can't help but wonder exactly if this video is real.
I narrowed my eyes a little. What did he mean by not real?
You think the video itself is a fabrication? But the people in it are those who are with us...
Do you think they died for real, then? We can't exactly see very well. This angle isn't good. The head could easily be a mannequin, for instance.
His expression darkened a little.
Perhaps they have secrets to hide. But then... the questions are, which twin is it, does it matter, and most importantly, is Smiley two of us?
Ah, I see. You're suggesting that if a mannequin was used, then the twin without a collar isn't a different twin, but the same one.
Precisely. It would be difficult to tell which twin is involved in this mastermind business, though. Is it H? She seems hotheaded. Is it G? She's a little shy. Contradictory...
I agreed with that. I couldn't differentiate them very well either until they spoke. They had different personalities, but that was pretty much it, I thought.
Oh, right, for the additional information, take a look at the corner of this video.
I wound it back to when there wouldn't be anything in the way.
If you noticed on the way in, the flooring in the hallway here matches this one perfectly, and other stations all have a different look. Unless you tell me this floor is also in the pantry, I'm going to assume that.
My theory is that the suspicious duo has been here before already. Before the game started, they filmed themselves acting out this outcome. Then, they waited a while, and set up the tape, checked it, and then left without turning off the camera. That's why it caught one of the twins without their collar.
I was pumped about the discovery, but when he finished talking, I deflated.
Why not? We finally figured out who it was!
He sighed, apparently having realized something I hadn't yet.
Okay, fine. But we should keep an eye on them, no?
Unfortunately, the twins have left for the pool. At the moment, I know that Ray and M have gone to the science lab, which is one station further up from here. The one after them is the infirmary. I would like to explore it, so it would be open just in case something bad happened in our confrontation.
I'll stay with Jasmine at the lounge, then, so if the twins come back we can split them up and keep an eye on them.
Not a bad idea. Let us away.
The both of us left, now that our plan of action was decided. Before leaving, I remembered to close the video. Once again, we rode the train in silence.
BGM: Ambient Strain
We met with Jasmine again, and I explained everything to her.
Theories, but nothing entirely concrete yet. That's why we'll stay here. If the twins come back, it's paramount we grab them and question them.
Yeah... but we have to be careful. Is that a good idea? I don't know. What if they figure out we're getting too close to the truth?
I trust in the fact the twins care for each other. If it comes to it, we can try and leverage that. I don't know why the culprit would put their sister into this horrible game, but...
That's so mean, though.
Do we have a choice? We're stuck here, aren't we? Isn't that mean, too?
It is time for us to leave for the infirmary. Should Ray come back here before the twins do, please be ready to conceal what you truly know about this sordid affair.
A and E vanished off from the room. I was left alone with Jasmine, which wasn't a bad spot to be in.
I hope they don't take too long. I'm not completely... patient, right now.
To pass the time, I had decided that perhaps I could have shared the paper with Jasmine. I still didn't know if I could have trusted her. Something was making me increasingly paranoid. We had a clear goal this time, yes; that was true. However, Jasmine's behavior still weighed on my mind. I had chosen not to tell A, as that might have been the trigger to send him on the warpath.
The paper spoke of a person who didn't belong. Was it Jasmine? Was it one of the twins? Was it Ray? I had to make this choice. Did I share the information with my childhood friend or not? Would it be helpful, or would it create even further unnecessary suspicions?
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
Besides, that information might only serve to drive a wedge between us, especially with what we'd seen from the video. All of it pointed to the fact evidence was being planted, to make us doubt each other. Instead of telling her about it, I pointed at the staircase.
Let's wait for the others to come back, then.
Jasmine nodded at me. Our minds set, we both made our way to the staircase. However, something bothered me still. I knew I could trust Jasmine... so why did I decide to not share the information with her? It made sense with a bit of thinking, but I hadn't taken the time to think long and hard about it.
BGM: Anaphora Solution
I sat down against one of the metallic walls. It was cold. She stood by me, arms behind her back, against the wall. She, too, was waiting in silence. Did I have any reason not to trust Jasmine? Of all people here, she was the one I knew I could rely on the most. Where was this feeling coming from?
I shook my head. Maybe it wasn't coming from anywhere in particular. I was probably just stressed. I tried to change my mind, thinking about what the others were doing, but ultimately, it only made the wait seem even more unbearable. Finally, the train arrived on our side.
BGM: Ambient Strain
But I was wrong. I didn't know why I thought M and Ray specifically would be dropping by next, and it wasn't them anyway. It was just A.
Is everything alright? M and Ray haven't come back yet?
He walked out of the train, looking rather surprised. Something didn't feel quite right with the old man's demeanor. And where was E? The train drove off before the girl stepped outside. In fact, she hadn't been in the train at all.
We haven't seen them yet. Where's the girl?
Strange... I saw them earlier on the way, leaving their room... They seemed to have been done with its exploration. I stopped at another one on the way here. I wonder why they're not back yet... Perhaps they are hiding something?
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
And where's E?
Is she still at the other station you explored?
Yes, to put it plainly. I suppose I can tell you everything I've seen, too. First, I stopped at the security station on the way back, after I saw M and Ray unlock the door, because I was curious.
However, I did not find them anywhere, and a few stations at the back are locked. I presume they have chosen to continue without us.
Hmm... that's not good...
We should go check for ourselves, I think.
If you wish, then go ahead. I'd like to go too. Perhaps we could all go together. I'm also curious about what they found in the science laboratory... Maybe something there tipped them off?
I don't know. This is only a wild guess of mine.
I looked at Jasmine and she did the same towards me. I didn't detect any doubt from her, so I led our little trek back to the other side of the station.
Say, why didn't you explore it on your own? The science lab.
You came from that direction, right? If they'd truly finished and were done with the place, you could've scouted it out.
Ah, that's true. I didn't think about that. In my hurry, I suppose I was merely looking for companionship to go witness what they have found as a team.
Somehow, that didn't reassure me. I passed up on further commenting on it, while we made our way back down the stairs, this time on the other side. I glanced at Jasmine, as if trying to tell her that we should stay alert. Something about the old man was a little off. His story didn't match up, because there would be no issue reaching that station on his own.
BGM: Ambient Strain
Obviously, we're talking to Jasmine. I'll grab the other option in an Extra update.
Hey, J. Don't you think he's been acting weird?
I made sure to chat with her while the old man was distracted and wouldn't hear us. I even hushed my tone, which she returned in kind.
Hmm... When you think about it, it's a lot safer if you go with three people. That way, no one would mistakenly enter a station and kill everyone.
What do you mean?
Well, we can't be more than a duo at a station. If you have three people, one of them can stay outside and alert them if someone's coming, or let the newcomers know about the fact people are already up there. That way, nobody loses their head over it.
She shrugged. By the time our conversation was over, the train had arrived. The three of us watched as the train stopped at our station.
Let us go.
As usual, the train did its chime before leaving the deck. We took some time getting to the lab, all of which was done in the utmost silence. I couldn't have a talk with Jasmine without A hearing us, and I couldn't confront A without getting Jasmine on my back either. Finally, we disembarked.
BGM: Ambient Strain
Are they doing something wrong?
I suppose it depends on what they found up here. Figuring this part out may be crucial to the events transpiring here.
It wasn't like we had a lot of choices. It was true I could head up there with Jasmine, and give him the slip by coming back down the other side, but if we did so, he could follow us anyway.
Okay, I'm fine with it if you both are. Come back soon, though. I'll stand guard, just in case anyone else passes by.
The man waited until after we were up the stairs to speak his mind. Truth be told, I was kind of curious already about what he figured out, too. He said it would depend on what we saw here?
I believe our comrades are trying to find something to open this door at the back here. To be entirely frank with you, I have explored this station before coming back. Apologies for my tiny lie.
He motioned towards a large door that looked quite solid. By the same occasion, he reached for his bag. Somehow, this looked dangerous. What if he pulled out a...
You think that key opens this door? Fat chance, it doesn't have a handle or anything. It's almost just like a wall with a window...
No, I don't think this key opens that door. I think it's for something else. I had thought you may have found something for this. I suppose I was mistaken. I also wanted to bring you up here because I sensed you didn't trust me. Or rather... you didn't trust any of us, both between your friend, J, and me.
BGM: Anaphora Solution
Have you had the feeling in here that some of your actions did not make sense? Perhaps you've had a choice to make, and somehow, after making it, you didn't feel like it was correct?
He was right. I felt that just earlier. Thinking of it, in fact... Every choice I'd made was strange. I chose to go with Ray over going with Marco. What was up with that?
I chose to ignore the twins. My nature wasn't like that. I wouldn't abandon a quarter of all us trapped here if I could help it.
I chose to share information without gathering any evidence first. It was a blind jump, and I took it. Why did I do that? Why did I not explore the stations on my own for a while first?
I chose to distrust Jasmine. Once again, a choice that seemed contrary to what I normally should have been thinking.
I've had that feeling too. Something isn't right...
Unfortunately, I cannot control it...
He gave me a difficult smile, while reaching into his bag again. I thought he was putting the key back in, but I also heard a little noise, like a metallic object falling to the ground. I looked down to see for myself what it was. He dropped the key.
Right now... I do not believe I can understand my thoughts. Something tells me, young man, that you must be...
BGM: Advancing Shadows
Apologies. Truly, I apologize. I don't know what is coming over me, but I think this is my safest bet. I removed E, and now I must remove you.
I tried sitting up, and managed to do it after all the efforts in the world. My right arm wasn't working anymore. It felt frozen.
What do you...
Once again, sorry. I must do this, and I have no idea why. I fear I may be a marionette in some fashion?