Part 29: seASide
Alright, per the vote we're gonna hit the locked route now! The third option that only shows up when you've seen, uh, something, in a different route. What that thing is, you're about to find out!
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
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.
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.
Was there a third option in all this...? If there was, I'd have needed some kind of divine sign to have gone with it, because I didn't really know what else I could've done. It all came down to protecting my friends, but in which way?
Alright, head to the pantry and I'll go to the library, the room J and M explored. Sounds good? Then we'll meet at the bedroom once we're done.
Before I could elaborate further, the doors closed. Ray didn't look like he wanted to follow the plan I suggested but, since I waited that long and the doors had closed, he wouldn't have any choice. This played right into my hand to avoid him going to the library, since I took it.
I sat onto one of the seats, knowing full well I'd rise very shortly anyway.
BGM: Ambient Strain
I didn't have a lot of time, but I still took great care in ensuring I wouldn't leave anything up to chance.
It's been a while, but we've already explored this place before, so I won't waste any time. First things first, if we try to go upstairs...
I took a glance up the stairs. Was there anything worthwhile to search there?
The clock's open, and I can see there's a safe behind...
Quickly, I went to check it, but it was empty. Whatever contents it had, Jasmine and Marco had them now. My search wasn't fruitful there, so I took it elsewhere.
...Simon writes it off entirely. So I'll start from the right and make my way left, starting with the terminals on the right.
Wait, these weren't ATMs! These were computers to browse the library's contents. Sadly enough, they weren't turned on, so I could not have made use of them.
These computers suck, anyway. They look extra old. Probably haven't seen use in years.
How about the planter in the center?
Vital components to our survival. But they don't contain anything of note. They're just random plants.
I tried touching them with a hand... and succeeded, but upon doing so, I realized they were fake plants. They felt like plastic.
Next is the desk.
The counter countered my attempt to search it.
I'm alone, so I definitely won't make nay noise. There's no one to talk to.
The hypocrisy of talking to myself didn't dawn on me.
Too many books, I couldn't search them all! All of them looked fairly old, too. As I blew air onto a row, dust kicked up, and I coughed, backing away. There was also a small study space back there, but nothing of real interest.
A book had been left open there, but it had no writing. All it had was an open (and empty) container in the middle of its pages, sitting comfortably in a cut-out rectangle.
All that's left is the trashcan.
For some reason, something compelled me to check this bin again. Even though I already looked inside, and I failed to move it, I felt like... I hadn't given it my all. With great effort, I pushed onto the bin hard enough to make it scrape against the ground a little.
It moved! Applying even further pressure, I forced it to slowly rotate onto the large bolt holding it down, revealing a small compartment at the base of the bin. Inside that compartment was...
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
What? What is this doing here?
I asked myself aloud like an idiot, hardly able to contain my surprise. Had Jasmine and Marco found guns here...? No, there was no way that was the case. If they had, then they hadn't taken them, because this one was still here, wasn't it? But it was possible they found three guns... And if they did, maybe they took the guns together...So it made sense for them to hide the third.
Why wouldn't they carry it, and give it to me for my own protection then? Oh, no, no. This was definitely not good. I picked it up and examined it from up close. Strangely, this gun was remarkably old. It looked completely worn out. I was questioning its very ability to function, in fact.
I tried to remove the safety, since I knew guns had that, but even with it off, the gun didn't work. All I could do was make it click in vain. I clicked it a few times, trying to make it shoot. No dice. It never did. Even worse, that piece of shit actually jammed up on me!
How do we open this damn thing...?
After messing with it for a minute, I figured out how to open it. I looked at the chambers. Empty.
Hmm... this isn't good. It's a firearm, but it's completely worn out. Is it rust? Not that I can tell. Then how?
At that moment, my head suffered a splitting headache.
BGM: Anaphora Solution
I was panicking as I pulled the bin to the side. I dropped the gun and closed the space again. When did this happen? Would I stuff the gun back in there later? Or was this...
I didn't understand any of this, and I screamed as my headache grew tenfold worse, before I finally came back to reality.
Aaaahhh! What is this?! Was that a vision... of the Many-Worlds Interpretation? Did a me from another world put that gun there? How would that even work? I know this is crazy talk but... how do I explain this?
Hey, what are you going on about up there? I went to the bedroom, but you weren't there.
BGM: Advancing Shadows
Ray called for me from the hallway outside. I quickly stuffed the gun I found in my jacket and rose up, unwilling to let him see I had something wild in my hands.
Nothing. I was just... angry at the fact I found nothing at all.
I replied to him, but he kept moving, closing in on my location.
Well, I came by here to warn you.
Uh-oh. Did he already know? Did he know I had a bit of a firearm, even if it was malfunctioning?
Yeah, it was by them.
In the case, there used to be two guns. They were already taken out when I got to them.
What?! Two guns?
Yeah. You better be careful around them both now, or else you'll end up with a bullet in your head.
He made the movement at his head, mocking the firing of a gun with a phcuhh noise.
I'm going to continue looking into the others. The Stars is next. Do you want to come with?
BGM: Ambient Strain
I think I did enough exploring. I'll fetch J and go into a new room.
What's the matter? Weren't you on board with exploring further in earlier?
Times change. Now I'm a lot more interested to see what everyone found in their rooms. You said your friends didn't find anything here, right?
Yeah. As far as I could tell, the place was empty.
I boldly lied. I didn't know if he would catch on. Since he didn't look like the observant type, I didn't think that he would've noticed the fact I was squeezing my hands so hard in my pockets that my knuckles were turning white.
He cracked his knuckles. I shook my head to confirm I wasn't. Even if I was.
Be seeing you. Or not.
He disappeared out of the room. Releasing my breath after I was sure he was gone, I took a moment to think about what I would do.
Okay... well, I can't trust anyone. I can't trust A and E because they definitely are armed. I can't trust Ray, because of that video. I can't trust the twins for the same reason. I can't trust Jasmine and Marco because they've both left this stuff here. They possibly have guns, too. What am I going to do?
Easiest way is to rob them of their guns... but how?
Suddenly, after asking myself that, I came to a sudden realization. I thought of a way to perhaps make use of this gun, even if it was useless in its current state. It was flimsy, it was hinging on a bit of luck, but it was a plan nonetheless.
I left the room and took the train back to the lounge.
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
Three of them were still around. Jasmine, A, and E. The twins had vacated the area. Perfect enough. It would've been even better if Jasmine hadn't been there, but I couldn't pick every detail of this battle. I spent a moment to go over it again in my head.
First, I was going to hold E hostage. I was going to slip in, nonchalant, until I could get close to her. I had the gun ready in my pocket. It was broken, of course, but from far enough, I didn't think anyone would notice the difference. With her hostage, I'd have the old man spill the beans on everything they had been doing behind our backs. There was the possibility A would be Smiley, in which case I would probably just lose.
I shook my head. It was hinging on chance, but just this once, I decided to be a gambling man.
Hey, S! You're back. Are you ready to head out?
Yeah, I'm ready to head out. Just a sec, I just have to...
Just have to what?
I readied myself, about to leap to grab E. But, all eyes on me, I couldn't manage to get to her. At Jasmine's insistence, I didn't have time to answer or change my plan.
BGM: Advancing Shadows
He slowly lifted his arms up in the air, understanding he was at a disadvantage. At least, things were going okay so far. I couldn't wipe the sweat off my brow, so I endured it.
No one move, or I shoot. I want some answers. Did you and E both take a gun from the pantry today?
...Alright, fine, I'll talk. No one has to get shot today. Yes, I have taken a gun for my own protection, but E did not take anything out.
Liar. There were two empty spots.
I am many things, but not a liar, young man. When we opened that briefcase, yes, there were two slots, but one was already empty!
He was growing angrier by the moment. I thought I could use this to my advantage in this battle of wits.
Okay, fine. Jasmine, take the gun from his bag and send it over.
I almost aimed the gun at her, but that would've been a mistake. I kept it trained onto A the whole time. Since the safety was off, he didn't try anything funny. I had to keep the bluff going for as long as I needed it. I didn't know when he'd realize I didn't have any bullets.
Please leave everything else in there, though. I need all of this stuff. I am but an old man.
Yeah, that's a lot of bullshit for someone who's in firing range right now.
He clammed up and finally, Jasmine took out the functional gun. Then she put it on the ground, and slid it over at my demand. I slowly lowered myself into a squat, still holding the gun at A the whole time. I picked up his gun and immediately opened it to look at the bullets. All the chambers were full.
BGM: Accelerated Scuffle
As soon as my gun moved away from him, the man shifted with a grace I hadn't thought possible for one as old as him. Everything happened so fast following that moment. Thinking he was moving to get to me, I backed away. However, he wasn't going for me. Instead, he was going for Jasmine. While I didn't want him to hurt her, my mind made up a last-second plan.
Jasmine's noise brought me back to what the old man was doing: he was holding her hostage with a knife at her neck. He looked at me triumphantly, raising a finger to give me orders to follow.
I did as requested. I leaned down and reached for the gun. Of course, he knew I could have just shot him, but I didn't trust in my aim. He probably would still cut Jasmine's throat. Or worse, I probably would shoot Jasmine by mistake. For all my focus, I was still nervous and I had never shot a gun before.
Slowly, I set it to the ground and slid it over, while that asshole wore a victorious smile. Sadly for him, the gun I slid to him was mine, not his. His gun was still in my hand. All my hopes rested on the fact he wouldn't notice.
Don't do anything rash, now.
Jasmine interjected herself to no avail. The old man chuckled. Yes! He still thought he had the upper hand! It would have been a mistake to show my victory yet, so I patiently waited.
It's over, J. One of us will die today, and if S dies, I cannot guarantee your survival either.
The old man took a pause once we both aimed at each other with our respective guns. He hesitated, but in the end I saw his glare narrow. He was squinting to aim. That was fine, of course.
His gun clicked and jammed, just like it had for me earlier.
By mistake? This was entirely premeditated, young man.
I kept my aim on him at all times until I pointed upwards instead, firing away to make sure he knew the gun worked. Jasmine screamed in panic at that sudden noise.
See? This one works, unfortunately. Or fortunately. Now stop and don't try anything. Jasmine, you still have your bag, right?
Y-Yes. Did you really have to...
Fuck the nicknames at this point, I'm tired of them and they never did anything productive. Slide it over to me.
T-This tension... it has to drop, everyone, please... I don't want others to get involved, too. And E has no idea of what is happening either.
I looked at everyone's state of affairs. A was glaring at me, but he seemed to have given up for the time being. Jasmine was, of course, panicking.
One more plan... I needed one more plan. If I dragged E into it, perhaps things would change. I couldn't do it by myself, though.
Okay. If you aren't going to slide it over, then take out a paper and write what I'm about to tell you.
She recoiled as I barked at her. Then she grabbed a sheet of paper and brought the pens out on the counter. As I instructed her, she wrote on the paper and then gave E the sheet.
Alright, that's enough now. What is your...
But E interrupted him by panicking just like Jasmine had done before.
BGM: Algorithm Simile
Closing the distance, I grabbed her shoulder and pulled her to the lounge. She stabilized before too much time had passed. Jasmine took a step forward, but I still didn't fully trust her either. I couldn't forget the doubts I had lingering over her and Marco.
Can I at least listen to what she has to say, too?
A remained silent, apparently attentive too. If he was interested in what E had to say, perhaps he was not, in fact, Smiley... or maybe he was just interested in my plan. I nodded at Jasmine's request.
Do I... do I talk now?
Okay...So...you want to know how to leave. I've been thinking about it, and I think I know how. You know how we have numbers on our collars, right? And to leave, we have to find an extra person to help, right? Well, what if... and I'm pretty sure... the extra person is just another person in our group?
The number two and seven, three and six, and four and five can all pair up to form the number nine too... which means that everyone could go.
I took a moment to remember my number. Right, it was two. I pushed my thumb onto the back of E's collar, making her shiver in apprehension. Her collar showed the number seven.
BGM: Alarming Silence
She obeyed and slid it onto the ground, and I reached for E's hand and tugged her over.
Eh, what?! Is it time to go? Please don't shoot anybody!
I quickly picked up the bag Jasmine had sent to me. The preparations to leave the room had taken a while, but before too much more time had passed, I was off.
And no one move. If I hear footsteps, I'll come and shoot anyway. Wait until I'm gone, and then you can go.
I looked at Jasmine, then A.
If you can, it would be great...
She still held the hopes I would come to help her. Of course, I wanted to, but... There was this part of me that still couldn't trust her the way I'd done before. Swiftly, I left with E, pulling her along. On the way out, I stuffed the revolver back in my jacket. I went down the staircase...
Oh, hi. The others are waiting for you upstairs, so don't make them wait too long.
They ran past me, deciding to ignore the fact I was dragging E alongside me. I slipped out of the lobby, and found the train still there. Quickly, I took it for a destination unknown, E in tow.
BGM: Ambient Strain
Speaking of, I was still tugging her along. Not for much longer, though. When my adrenaline died off, I was in front of the scanners.
Where are we going? Please, tell me... If not that, tell me something, anything.
I ignored her for now. Perhaps that was cold of me, but I couldn't brush off the fact she accompanied A this whole time, kept her thoughts to herself, and even probably conspired with the old man. I couldn't trust her, but... she had to be with me, if what she said was true. I took a deep breath.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
Nothing happened. There was no beeping, there was no cutting our heads off. The door slid closed behind us, but other then that, nothing. We were home free... assuming the elevator I could see at the end of the bend was our way out.
Is it... are we outside? Where are we? Please, let me know...
She dropped to sit against a wall in the relative darkness, after my refusal to talk to her. Instead, I made my way to the elevator. We were on floor -15, apparently. I pushed the button labeled with a 0. It moved up.
And then I'd have to clear up this little misconception between us. After a long time, the elevator stopped at what I presumed was ground zero, which was above ground... perhaps. As the doors opened, I smelled fresh air.
The sight of the outside world was blinding me. I heard things, too. I heard water. I heard the seagulls.
The staircase had given way to a deserted island, covered with rubble here and there.
Yes! I made it out! We're out! It's so... calm here. Woohoo!
I was outside. It was over. Finally, I'd left that terrible place. And yet, I couldn't shake the feeling that this place was... horribly wrong.
BGM: Android Sorrow
In my search, I found no civilization. There was no Montreal. I could walk a few meters to reach the beach from the rubble-filled station, but there was no one there, either. I walked in one direction for a while. A solid five minutes of walking confirmed what I thought.
This island was deserted. As I thought about the fact I was on a deserted island, a thought flashed in my head. Something about the letter I... The thought was something about the letter I and how it took the second spot. The second letter was I, for some reason. I didn't know what it meant. After everything I'd gone through, I chalked it up to momentary insanity.
When I tried to use it again, it didn't work. I was stranded on this island, just like my friends were stranded in the subway below us.
Many days passed. We kept the collars; they weren't going off, and we couldn't remove them. One day, I woke up and E's headset and her face plate were gone, but we kept the collars on, always. I didn't know what happened during our sleep, but everything was fine here, now.
After a few days of reacquainting ourselves, she told me that she never conspired with A, that his name was Agnos, and that she had been wary of him a lot. None of it mattered, of course. We decided to settle here and survive on our own. It wasn't so bad. Despite it not being how I'd choose to leave the island if I was given the choice, it was still good enough.
A part of me wanted to go explore and see if that was the case, but another part of me had fallen back into my usual cowardice. I refrained, and instead chose to live a happy life here with E.
BGM: Agnostic Shutdown