Part 27: backlASh
We're going to take the other option this time, specifically to go investigating before we share anything we've found. Maybe things will go better this time
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 still 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.
BGM: Alarming Silence
All of this was sparked out of doubt. I trusted Jasmine and Marco out of everyone in here, but I didn't know if I could even trust those two right now. Perhaps Marco was still fine. The room with the screens, however, showed me another side of Jasmine I wasn't sure I was okay with. It was too early to jump to conclusions, but I really thought Jasmine's screen smashing rampage was far stranger than I originally believed. Did I have cause for doubting her other than that? Not really. Still, I didn't want to be had. I wanted to be smart, I wanted to be courageous; I wanted to solve this situation.
What about Marco? Yeah, Marco was still fine.
While I was lost in my thoughts, I saw the train arrive on the other side. Out of it came Marco and Ray. I decided to move to the side and watch what they were doing. I hid in the little dark alcove. I didn't want to spy on them, but Ray gave me cause for concern. The two of them were talking. I couldn't make out what they were saying from afar. Straining my ear, I caught some of their words once the train left the station completely.
...wait to be up there, I need a drink!
I couldn't hear them past that as they entered the little lobby. I stepped out of the little alcove, but Ray turned his head in my direction. Crap! He saw me! He walked up the stairs. Oh, no. Did he realize I was spying on them?
Could he be reasoned with? I realized then that this long wait between the time he disappeared upstairs and the fact he hadn't come down, meant he wasn't hot on my trail. I was just being paranoid. I slapped my cheeks to wake myself up from that. C'mon, Simon!
Yet my blood ran cold when I heard some footsteps behind me. Oh.
BGM: Alarming Situation
What are you so afraid of?
Why did he ask me that? Didn't he know? It was obvious.
I didn't hear anything, I swear! I don't know anything!
What are you prattling on about now, you dumb youth?
I blinked once. No, no, I needed to blink twice to take those words in and understand what he said. What? Didn't he come to punch me?
When you left the train, you were talking, and I swear I didn't hear anything.
BGM: Ambient Strain
I couldn't make heads or tails of what he was saying. What? That wasn't stupid, that was...
You're the biggest scaredy-cat ever, aren't you? What are you doing here alone then?
Ah... I was going to leave to a station...
Alone? We have to go in pairs, no?
Yes, but I was going to search stations we already explored because...
I stopped myself from talking. Was it really wise to spread my paranoia to the others, and especially Ray most of all?
Okay, Simon. Now was the time for your confrontation.
Because Jasmine and I found something really strange in the security room. It was a recorded tape, and we have cause for thinking some people here are... strange... and maybe involved with everything happening to us.
I decided not to drop his name out of caution.
I see. I'm in, then.
Got any objections?
N-No, of course not! Okay, let's look around together, then.
What an unlikely pairing, and yet that was what I had to deal with. After another while, the train arrived. I still didn't know where I wanted to go. I could go and search the station the eccentrics left to earlier- the pantry. I could also search the library Jasmine and Marco explored, but... it didn't feel like a priority.
Even less of a priority was the one I explored with Ray, because we already found everything there. Or did we...? There was also that weird station the twins explored; the Stars, whatever that meant. I thought that might've been interesting.
The train set off towards the first of all of those. Come to think of it, we would have to search three, maybe four stations if we wanted to cover our own, and we were only two people. Perhaps it would be best to split up. Yet, I had an uneasy feeling. I didn't trust Ray all too much, so I definitely didn't want to let him go alone to my friends' room. What if he found something?
If, at least, I did, then I could cover for them and keep those doubts about me. The last thing I wanted was for this to degenerate into a witch hunt for Jasmine or Marco, sparked by this man's own dubious thoughts. No matter what, I couldn't let him head to the room my friends explored together.
So, made up your mind yet? You look like you're thinking a lot.
I'm just wondering how we will explore four stations on our lonesome.
But what if one of us finds something really important? Maybe we should go together to one of the stations first...
Pfeh. I'm not one to conceal anything I find.
Yeah, that was part of the reason why I had yet to expose the note to most of the others. Maybe I was the snake, and Ray was a bear...
The train stopped at the pantry. Shit, what was my choice? I didn't even make up my mind on who would go where. Ray was on the way out of the train already. He'd apparently decided for me.
Hurry up, the door's gonna close.
In the urgency of the situation, I did a very quick inventory of my choices. I could either come out on this station with Ray, or give him another to explore once he was done with this one. If I came out here with him, I could keep an eye on him. It would make our search slower, but I could definitely get him to agree with me if we found something disastrous for the eccentrics.
However, if I tricked him, I could have him go to the bedroom once he was done in the pantry, to meet him there later and avoid having him explore the library at all. That way, neither Jasmine nor Marco would have to come under suspicion.
It all came down to protecting my friends, but in which way?
BGM: Ambient Strain
Wait up, I'm coming too!
I left the train. The man turned around to stare at me as the train drove off behind me, cutting off my way back out. I wasn't allowed to change my mind anymore.
Didn't you say it would be better to split off? Not only are you a big damn coward, but you're also indecisive to boot?
I thought it would be better if we go together, even if it takes a little longer. That way, we can make sure we comb the entire place. Besides, you wanted to clear your suspicions about the others, right?
Or confirm them.
It would be best to keep an eye on him. I called from the station before heading up.
No. Get up here already. The others are still at the lounge if I had to guess.
I walked in. Surprised, I watched as the door to the lobby... didn't move. Right, this was a station that had already been solved. I expected the door to close. I needed to focus. Walking up the stairs, I arrived in the pantry.
Why does this pantry look like a twitch streamer's gaming den?
Of course, we wouldn't be eating at these tables ever.
Well, get on with it. You wanted to explore this room, so, go ahead.
The man was eating some kind of pickle at a table. I hardly considered that exploration, but it meant he wouldn't get in my way until I'd talked to him, at least.
BGM: Algorithm Simile
This may not be a puzzle room anymore, but we still have a Map to look at!
As always, I'll start with the left and work my way right, starting with that poster on the wall.
It said: Summer Cool Drink. It wasn't summer yet, though. I could've gone for a cool drink anyway. I didn't care which season it was, honestly. Yes, you can still eat freeze pops and ice cream in winter. Nobody can stop you. Go for it.
Could you imagine having a glass this big? You could fill it up with so much stuff. It was around two fifths of my height! Holding it up would need both hands. And by the time you'd be done drinking this, you'd have gained a few pounds at least. Maybe it wouldn't be such a good idea, but who knows...
Perhaps MarcoDonald's would do some stupid jokes about having fries with that. Since he wasn't here, I substituted myself for him. I was becoming more and more like that dumbass...
Ray was sitting on one, so it couldn't have been that bad. A part of me was very tempted to tip his seat over, but I felt like if I did that, my travels would abruptly end in darkness. I abstained, despite the intense desire to do so.
To get anything out, I had to either be taller to pick them from the top, or do some weird puzzle minigame on the bottom screen. I didn't want to waste time with that. Whatever there was in those compartments wasn't food for sure, and all of it had already been emptied by the eccentrics when they came by here.
Still, I couldn't shake the feeling there was more than met the eye with these fridges. Maybe not these ones specifically, but... Did Smiley really expect us to live and eat here? Why was this here? No, there was something else for sure. Was it to make us hungry? Or was it to convince us that we were hungry...?
Already halfway done! These explorations are a breeze when the puzzle's already been done
Ray might have been able to know what to do with these consoles, but alone, I couldn't tell. The screens were blank, but pressing buttons seemed to activate a grid-based display. One thing I could understand, though: these opened the fridges in the back. I assumed that's where Ray got his food. If that was the case, I'd need his help to open anything here.
I clenched my teeth a little. Did this mean I'd need to get Ray's help for this? I didn't want him to be the first to find anything. If he did, then he'd share it with everyone... Maybe it would cause too much strife. No, I had to do something about it. However, I couldn't hide the fact I needed his help.
Could I figure out a way to trick him into getting me the solution without giving away what it was for?
All that's left is that box under one of the tables, which is the actual thing we need to examine to progress.
I opened the box, and inside was a lot of sheets of paper with indications in the shape of a table. They were not real tables, but computerized tables. There were a few columns and rows, and each of the squares seemed to have a code inscribed within them. I wasn't sure what the columns and rows represented.
Since this wasn't immediately dangerous, I could share this with Ray. Before I did so, I decided to make sure he wouldn't see whatever I'd find with his help. There was a pen in the box, too. I picked it up and started scribbling onto a page.
I only needed to get Ray to use the console with these instructions, and he'd never be able to look around the screen to see me opening the fridge in the back.
Ray, what do you have there?
No, you have food, too.
Nobody's going to notice a little bit of food missing. Did you have a look around this place? There's enough food for at least ten years even if all eight of us would eat every day. So, you want my help, yes or no? Let me finish this real quick, then I'll be up.
What do you want to check?
I looked around with him in tow this time.
Time to re-examine everything! But first, lets talk to Ray again.
What do you want to know? You look like you want to ask me a question.
I was just wondering, Ray... You don't really talk to other people much, do you?
I don't trust people. I don't trust you, and I don't trust anybody else here. If I did, then I'd play right into Smiley's hands, because whoever it is, they could abuse that trust. I'm not stupid, and I'd rather not give him any leverage over me.
Yet, you've shared your real name without even thinking about it...
You really think Ray is my real name? You're an even stupider boy than I thought.
If it wasn't his real name, then he was hiding that fact very well with how he always reacted when we called his name. If it wasn't his real name, then, what was it? I asked him.
Is that your last name?
I'm not going to answer any more questions around my name. Now, do you want my help looking around this place, or do you want me to roll you down the stairs?
I took the former option, naturally.
Gonna start with the poster again.
What do you mean?
It's the representation of a drink. You can't actually drink it.
Aren't you putting Descartes before the horse?
No, no, you're confusing Rene Magritte with Rene Descartes there. One's an artist, and the other's a philosopher. I know, really close but not the same thing.
Whatever. This poster is a waste of time, and you know it.
Everything was a waste of time, anyway. If everything was a waste of time, then nothing really was! Ray just couldn't understand the subtleties about it.
How about the fridge?
Hey, I didn't get food...
Are you hungry?
No, but it doesn't change the fact that...
Then shut up and bring me somewhere interesting instead.
Talk about rude.
I lowered my ass onto it and, voila, I was sitting. Can't sit sideways or anything. You should know that, even if you're still a little boy.
Hey, I'm not little! I'm twenty-four!
Yeah, that's like twelve. If you wanna have your glass of water or your little cardboard juice, there's some in one of the fridges, no doubt.
I only drank soda anymore. But maybe more water would be good. Not that I'd give Ray the satisfaction of being right or anything...
In order for Simon's dumb plan to begin, we have to interact with the terminal, but Simon won't interact with the terminal until we've shown Ray the fake message in the box.
I opened it up and brought out my quarry from earlier. The little trick I'd inscribed on it was still there. I had to prevent him from looking at the other paper, or else he might realize this was a ruse.
Give me that.
He glanced at it after snatching it from my hands. With an exasperated sigh, he crumpled the paper by holding it tightly.
Hey, we need those instructions!
Shouldn't this room be unlocked?
Yeah, but there's a fridge that's still locked for some reason. I can't open it. I bet there's something inside.
No, I'll open the fridge. I found all of this after all, so I should be entitled to have a look.
Do whatever, then. Whenever you're ready I can follow these dumb instructions.
Perfect. Now I needed to bring him to the console. Ray went to the console while I prepared myself. I stood in front of one of the fridges.
Okay, now try the combinations one by one until this fridge unlocks. And don't lift your collar or it'll close again!
Yeah, yeah, I get it. Be ready to open it and take whatever's inside out.
This damn thing isn't clear enough. Which combination works?
Try them all, I dunno! It's not that long, is it?
This posture is terrible, too. Smiley can go fuck himself.
I cast a glance over my shoulder. At least he was taking my addition onto the paper seriously, even if it made this take longer. Eventually, he hit the right combination.
Okay, the door's unlocked! I'll look inside now- remember the directives to stay down!
Yeah yeah, just get that shit out, and we can clear all the issues later.
Inside was nothing. However, the shape of the foam previously holding the items was unmistakable. From there was something square-shaped, something in the shape of a spoon, and the third item was...It was actually two items.
BGM: Alarming Silence
For how long had they been concealing that? Suddenly, they jumped to the top of the list of priorities to deal with. In my head, all the usual possibilities mixed into something unsightly. What if E's disabilities had been a lie? A would've told her to conceal them in order to appear saintly. Perhaps the two of them had been planning this the whole time.
They had guns, after all. They hadn't shared with everyone else. They hadn't left them behind, discarded them, or broken them. They most likely had them on their own selves. Suddenly, my face turned into pure shock. The old man's bag! That was the perfect place to hide something like this.
I can't deal with this alone...
Speak up, pup. What do you mean by that?
I closed the fridge's door, but kept the case out. Ray took it as a signal he could stand up. I slid the case over to the ground with my foot. It stopped next to Ray. The man examined it, frowning deeply.
Yes. We need to remove them...
No, that's dangerous. Best be if we just do nothing.
What? How can you...
Are you sure about that?
Yes. In fact, you should put that case back in there, too. Make it look like nothing ever happened, just in case.
He leaned back down and typed the code again. I reluctantly agreed, and closed the case to stuff it back into the fridge. Once all was said and done, we silently left the area.
I'll be back in a little bit. I'm gonna get something to drink. This has seriously made me thirsty.
Whatever you do, don't do something dumb, you daft kid.
BGM: Ambient Strain
Wait... would I really involve my friends in this? No, that wasn't a good idea. Perhaps Ray was right. I needed to investigate another station first. The best target would be my next suspicious duo: the twins. Quickly, I ran over to catch the same train as Ray. I ran down the stairs. The train was there, and would soon leave if I didn't hurry.
The doors closed behind me. We were off.
The man had left at the second station- the library. I didn't care if he explored my friends' room now, I could tell he was genuine in the care he took in telling me that was dangerous earlier.
BGM: Alarming Silence
I stepped into the lobby. Quickly, I went upstairs. Perhaps something would've helped me here.
Wait... what's that beeping?
BGM: Accelerated Scuffle
Uh oh. It was my collar! Were two people already here?!
Is someone here?
Crap! In my hurry to search this place, I hadn't considered that possibility. And that was A! He was armed, but at the very least, I wouldn't have to face that weapon. In the ambient darkness, I saw three red dots illuminating the area a little. I hadn't seen who the third person was clearly. I hadn't expected anyone to be here to begin with. And now, I was paying the price for my recklessness.