Part 30: pAStime
Normally at this point I would've put out an Extra update, but this half of the flowchart has been all business and almost no side conversations, so... there isn't actually enough content to make one yet. As such, we're just going to continue the story by taking the only available branch left to us. For reference, here's what the flowchart looks like right now:
As a quick reminder, what's happened so far is the group have all gradually arrived at the train station, received the game explanation from Smiley, and split up into teams. We chose to go with Ray and exited at the sleeping quarters station. Upon returning, they find out the twins are still gone, and some of them state they would rather continue exploring to save time instead of everyone waiting around for them. The choice we took last time was to state we wanted to go explore, too (and ultimately ended up going to the security room with Jasmine), but this time, we're going to stay behind with Agnos to wait for the twins...
BGM: Ascertaining Speech
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.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
My kinder nature took over, and I decided to stay behind. The fact it wouldn't disturb the groups already formed was just an added bonus to the fact I wanted to make sure the twins were fine if I could help it.
I'll stay here, but before you go, don't forget to enter your code in the console so when the twins get here, we can get it open.
With that, the teams quickly formed. There wasn't any need for a dispute. Marco and Ray went together, and the other team was made of Jasmine and E. After they left with the next train, I turned to A.
Yes, very funny.
What, not amused? I've noticed you're not too open to joking around. I don't know what happened for you to lose your sense of humor, but it's good to let loose sometimes.
Actually Simon, it'd require you to actually tell a joke at some point.
At my age? Perhaps. However, I tend to prefer resolving all manners of problems by using my head. After all, don't you harbor your own worries too?
He wasn't wrong. I was thinking about the twins while leaning against the wall. I wondered when they'd come back. I hoped they were safe, of course.
BGM: Alarming Silence
Smiley was some bastard for kidnapping two young, innocent girls, and keeping them in this terrible place. G had looked so frightened earlier which, honestly, was an understandable reaction. H was the fiercer one, and because of that she hadn't looked so scared, but I'm sure she felt similarly. As usual, my head went into the abyss of worst case scenarios. What if one of them got injured while exploring their room? Or what if they couldn't solve what they had to do? Anything was possible, and it made me wonder about what would happen if we couldn't escape one of those rooms. Would we stay stuck there? Would Smiley get us out? Certainly, Smiley had a goal too, didn't he? Was us dying part of that goal?
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
His outburst pulled me out of my thoughts.
Ah, yeah, sorry about that...
No problem. I will pardon you, but in return I desire to have a little bit of a... though experiment with you, to better explain what I think about. Is that fine?
Do I have a choice?
BGM: Ascertaining Speech
Apparently, I didn't have a choice.
That's the thing with the Shakespeare monkeys?
Something like that. The example of Shakespeare's work is simply used in this context to illustrate something complex ultimately being reproduced. Let's keep it to the simplest terms.
Be it Shakespeare's work, be it the digits of pi, be it a highly secret encoded message from the government about the state of a nuclear war, it will almost surely be reproduced.
There's a nuclear war?!
It's just an example. I'm simply explaining that there are a few parameters that come into play, and all of those aren't literally what the theorem says. The monkey isn't actually a monkey, too. It's just something that means 'a force incapable of thinking for itself selecting at random'.
However, given infinite time, then it will happen and infinitely so. It would take infinite time to reproduce it, but even if it's crazy, with a second infinite time, then it'll happen again. After all, infinity times infinity is simply that, infinity. All mathematical equations regarding infinity always end the same way. If you add infinity to infinity, it gives infinity. Multiplication, same deal.
And if you subtract it... then it gives zero. Even if you multiply infinity by itself multiple times, even if you add it up, even if you do anything to make it bigger, as soon as you subtract infinity from it, it's gone. But I digress, we're a little off-topic.
I crossed my arms, unable to really comprehend what this madman was on about. What was this about infinity?
Let's go back to the monkey. Instead of using a monkey, let's use human beings. We'll give them the freedom of thought, too. Let's put, say, infinite people in a circle. Give the first one a paper and a pen, and let's say the paper is infinitely long and the pen is infinitely filled with ink.
I don't know... it's still random, no?
Ah, but there's the catch. This time, we don't have a random-monkey. We have people with their own sense of observation. Those senses and everyone's thoughts will affect which letter they put after the other. They may start seeing patterns. If you write F-U-N-K, what do you think the next letter might be?
Uh... Y, maybe?
That's right! People will write FUNKY because that's what their mind will associate it with! In that sense, do you think the person that put the letter Y had free will?
Well, yes, the person could've also picked something else. They just happened to pick it because... they felt it was the most... natural... conclusion...
Ahah, don't you think that's strange? The person certainly had free will, but they picked Y for extremely logical reasons. If you replaced them with someone else, what do you think would happen?
I guess it depends on the person?
Correct! Now, what does that mean?
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
I was glad because they were fine, but also because I made the right decision in waiting here. The twins stepped out of the train and they looked around, apparently surprised we weren't more numerous.
Oh, welcome back, young ladies. As you see, we've been waiting for you to come back. The others have left for other stations with the intent to expedite our escape.
I let him speak with them while I waited next to the consoles. It didn't take long for the two of them to enter their code too, and soon the door was open for all of us.
Time to see what's up in here!
Stepping through the lobby, I noticed it was just like any other station.
No, I don't believe so. Smiley said this one was different than the others. It seems this is the leisure station. Let us find what this means.
We all climbed up the stairs. When we arrived inside, we saw something interesting. It was some sort of lounge.
Fun. We should have a look around before all those chumps who left us behind get back here.
You shouldn't discard them so readily, sis...
Well, they chose to go, so it's whatever. Not too trustworthy if you ask me!
At the twins' insistence, we explored the place. I figured A was more level-headed than the others, so if I chose to talk to him, we'd probably go further in, and I would lose the chance of seeing what was around here for myself first.
We get to explore this room again! However, this time, it's with a different group, so the dialogue is different, I guess. I'll make it quick before we speak to the twins and, then, Agnos. Gonna start with the AC.
One of the twins had been in the process of trying to reach the machine at the top. It was hard to differentiate them, but I believed this one to be H.
But if we can reach it... maybe it's a time travel device!
Don't you recognize the hum coming from it? It's clearly an air conditioner.
Yeah, your head looks like it needs a hair conditioner.
Ghrk- Air, not hair!
You little devil...
Help, he's gonna beat me up!
G came by right away, looking at me with a frown.
I wasn't going to do anything, I swear!
Besides, the machine isn't humming, you dumbass. It could be anything.
H pulled her tongue at me and all I could do was glare at her. What a pair of scamps! But she was right. The machine was turned off, so how did I know this was an air conditioner?
Next up, the poster.
It's kinda wicked.
Yeah, same thing I thought.
Yeah... wait, no, that's not what wicked means!
Guess you're just old.
Yeah, old man.
Oh my god, stop!
I fled the scene, feeling like I was thrice my age in the process. Damn those young whippersnappers, I'd make them get off my lawn if it was the last thing I did!
I didn't think Smiley would appreciate that.
Next, the couch.
This looks like a good couch.
I give it a seven out of ten.
Huh? We're rating couches now?
It's the comfort level. Looks familiar enough that I'm willing to give it a seven out of ten. What if I sat on it, though?
G did exactly that. Her face lit up.
Who even taught you about this...? Did you just make it up?
No, an old lady did. I think. I can't remember too well.
Well, that old lady is whack then. But I'll take your word for it on the comfort level thing.
When life gives you water, you make a water cooler.
At least Smiley is giving us some greenery. The walls here look totally bland, though. It's so... bleak. Gray and terrible.
Like your face.
Can you go a few seconds without harassing me?!
How about in ten years?
All that's left is the conversations, so I'm just gonna just go left to right.
So, about your escape room... did it go well?
Kind of. I couldn't see the colors too well though.
Oh, that doesn't sound great. If you needed colors, yeah, I can see why that would be an issue.
Just kidding! It's my sister who's colorblind.
But you just said... Wait, is it possible only one twin is colorblind?
I... I don't know.
Maybe it was her sister who was colorblind? Ahhh, I couldn't tell! This riddle would eat at me for a while. While I was caught in my thoughts, G scampered off.
Since that was G, that means H is next to talk to.
What do you want?
I was just checking in, since you two took quite a while to solve your room. Did anything happen there?
No, we were fine. It's not because I'm colorblind or anything.
I just said I wasn't.
H glared at me. I dropped the subject. Maybe her sister was colorblind then?
Fascinating. Anyway, I guess we have to talk to Agnos now.
The old man filled me in on what he learned as we walked further into the place, soon arriving at a bar counter. I figured the twins would be too young to frequent this kind of thing. In here, I guessed it didn't matter so much.
I assume those rooms are our ticket to leave if we find the ninth person. However, something has been bothering me for quite a while now...
Go on, let me know.
Remember when Smiley said that once we found the ninth person, two of us will be allowed to leave? What if he truly meant it that way?
What if... once we find the ninth person... only them and someone else can go?
BGM: Advancing Shadows
Can't we use the exit room from this station if things turn sour?
No, this place has no exit room. Strange, too.
How can you tell?
The twins found maps in their room. Let me show you...
He pulled out a pile of papers and set them all onto the counter. Flipping through them, he eventually pulled out the one for this station.
We were momentarily joined by G who was curious about the topic.
Feel free to keep looking at the maps. I'll get myself a jolly drink!
And with that, he left us alone. Deciding to share the paper with the twin, I pulled her away. Metaphorically-speaking, of course.
BGM: Ambient Strain
Come here. I have something to show you.
To show me?
Shh, I don't want to share it with anybody else yet.
She followed me, her interest piqued. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the piece of paper I found in the bedroom.
I don't know... I feel like everyone doesn't belong, here.
I don't mean it in a bad way. I mean... everyone here looks like they're from somewhere else, or is doing something else compared to anyone else, except for my sister and me. J looks like she works at a law office for example...
She's an artist- a graphics designer.
Or that. Same thing. Anyway, I mean that like... I guess I don't know? Sorry, I don't think anyone here fits the bill.
Hmm... maybe she's covering for her sister... I'll need to ask her more about it later... Or I could directly investigate by confronting H about it.
Since the twins had gotten themselves busy, I chose to look around for the old man. However, he wasn't in the bar area anymore.
Crap, he left me all alone.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
Yeah, looking right at him.
I called over to the twins to ask them if they'd seen A, but one of them (I assumed it was H, with how rude she was) instead decided it would be a good idea to call me an old man.
I didn't ask you. I'm asking the twin who's older than five years old.
We're way over triple that! And if we're twins, we both have the same age, you dolt!
Can't understand the baby noises you're making, sorry.
I think... I saw him leaving through a doorway earlier. That side.
As I was doing so, the other twin threw a tantrum about how I treated her sister better. If she wanted to be jealous then sure, why not, but I didn't think it suited her at all! I found the main downstairs, in the lobby on the other side of the station. This was the side we'd started upon, where Smiley talked to us.
Ah, there you are. I found a keypad here. Surprisingly, all I had to do was press any key and the door opened.. I suppose it was simply barring our entry until we had opened either door.
Did you intend on heading out?
Not yet. Would you like to go for a drink, perhaps? We can wait until the others come back here. The lounge looks quite comfortable!
I guess I could go for one. Come to think of it... maybe I do feel thirsty.
Splendid! I can mix a good amount of drinks. I've had a little time as a barista before. Mixing chemicals is ingrained in my head.
Well, that's a weird but not at all suspicious way of wording it, Agnos!
He guffawed with his deep, rich, yet hoarse voice. I didn't want anything alcoholic, but before I could notify him, he had already left the area.
Does he take me for Ray or something...?
I wandered back upstairs to the bar side this time around. When I got there, all three of the others were already seated or behind the counter. The old man was the former and the twins, the latter.
Hey, don't talk for us. What if we wanna drink too?
Then you're gonna need to wait a few years, little missy. But since your sister is older than you, maybe she'll be allowed.
We have the same age, I told you!
G stared at us, bemused. The old man shrugged at my question.
Feel free to have a look around, even behind the bar if you want! Though, please don't get in my way as I prepare them.
I just wanted to make sure he didn't put anything in the drinks that I didn't want. His request was fair, since I also wanted to know what it was like behind the counter as I'd never seen a bar this close before.
Once again, we've already explored this previously but since the twins are here for this one, the dialogue is different. Won't waste any time here and just start with the back wall.
This clock's hands are stuck on that time. They're not moving.
Like the cells in your brain.
Stop patronizing me and I'll treat you better! Do we have a deal?
I don't make deals with terrorists!
I'm not a terrorist, I'm a pizza deliveryman.
Don't eat too much or you'll get big. Don't you know that kind of thing makes you fat?
I left them to their little squabble, making no comment on the type of pizza G wanted.
A ventilation shaft... No, wait. Behind the grate is another grate. It's made of grates all the way down.
Maybe the twins could've fit in there if we could've removed the grates. However, I saw a fan much deeper in; they wouldn't get through that. It was a valiant effort, but ultimately useless.
Next, the stuff at the bar itself.
Heh, we can't even get beer here.
Then there's no fear. Though, this situation does give me a little tear.
I took a glance at my peer. On my face was a little sneer.
As far as I'm concerned, this place can shove all the alcohol up its-
I muttered the last part, but stopped myself before I got indoctrinated in some sort of rhyming cult.
What purpose does that thing serve, anyway?
Maybe it dims the lights so you feel your brain squashed even further due to the alcohol. It looks nice, though.
Shelves in the back.
I hope you aren't going to sing it until you reach zero.
I saw H shudder, though I had no idea about what was going on with her. Did she dislike me singing about alcohol? G took a moment to reassure her, apologizing for me, or so I assumed. Well, if it was this bad, I wouldn't do it again.
To actually progress, we need to sit down on the stool (so Agnos can serve us a drink). However, we have another round of conversations with the three we can have first, so we'll start with the twin on the left again.
Got your drink yet?
Coming right up.
He sent it to the twin before she could even reply to me. From what I could tell, the drink wasn't alcoholic, and didn't seem to contain any illicit substance.
Well, you enjoy it now. Where's mine, A?
Next up will be yours, give me a moment. While I have some experience with this, I'm still old.
Everyone's old here.
I frowned, about to retort, when G rectified what she said.
Yeah, I will if you continue bothering her.
I decided I had better things to do than picking a fight with a teenager, so I left her be.
So of course, we talk to H next!
So have either of you figured out what ties you to this place yet?
Surely there must be something. Here, your drink, little girl.
He passed the glass over to her by sliding it onto the countertop. She caught it like an old, aged cowboy would in a saloon.
I remembered my own time at school. It was pretty hard. There were bullies and cliques- all manners of straight-up twisted minds. Teens didn't usually care about other people. Depending on the kind of person you were, it was either heaven or hell.
Hey, do you know what the difference is between a normal secondary school and a polyvalent secondary school?
I had to admit I never even questioned it. What I did know was the American equivalent of secondary school: a high school. Before I went to the Artistic Institute of Vancouver with Jasmine, I went to a polyvalent school too. I'd just never questioned why exactly it was referred to in that way.
Nobody? Huh. It's just because the school also has the option for professional formation, in the fourth wing of the school for us.
This is worded weirdly, but basically (to my understanding) some schools in Quebec have a separate wing/section of their education devoted to vocational training; basically, laying the foundation for students who might wish to pick up a specific trade or want to get a head-start on going for a specialized degree.
That is true. However, the term polyvalent secondary school hasn't been in use since at least 2014! I think it's only a type of school in our region, too. If you told this to someone from the US, they wouldn't know what you mean.
Is that right? Someone else told me, so I guess they were just badly informed.
And lastly, Agnos.
So, what are you mixing up, anyway?
For the girls, I'm making a peach-banana cocktail, and for you... ah, I'll leave it as a surprise.
Oh, come on, at least you could tell me one thing that's in it!
I narrowed my eyes, as if I was suspicious. He must of bought it, since he nodded quickly and decided to rectify the shot.
All I can say is that I do hope you like the taste of lime.
So long as it's not too much.
I liked lime, of course. I didn't know why this man knew that. Perhaps it had been a lucky guess?
Well, we'd better get our drink, then!
BGM: Ambient Strain
I've been thinking... We shouldn't stay here eternally. We have a lot of stations left to search, and we can't stay here forever. I mean, it seems like we could, but I certainly don't want to. We should split up and take the train soon.
Right. I don't want to stay here any longer than necessary.
You two will go wherever together, always, huh?
Maybe not always...
Yes, always. No chance of splitting up.
BGM: Algorithm Simile
Actually, that is a good idea. Perhaps you may be in disagreement, H, but I believe it may be for the best to split up further. I understand your fears, however. I do want to ask you, if you are uncertain, is it because you believe it would not be safe for her?
I also understood why A wanted to split them up. If they ended up together again, and couldn't solve their room, it would be an even bigger waste of time. Not to mention the fact they might actually get stuck.
But we went together last time, what's the big deal about doing it again?
I can tell you that even if you split up, you'll be fine. If something happened to them, then it would surely be the other person in the duo who did it, don't you think?
Ironic, coming from you.
Do you understand the concept?
I do. I think we might be able to afford doing that, sis.
What's being discussed?
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
Jasmine came back in the middle of our discussion. It seemed she had finished exploring her room and she was now ready to take a load off.
Oh, welcome back! You're both fine, thank God.
Very good! You two can finish convincing the twins to split up, then. I have to share what we found here with E.
The old man scooted away in a remarkable hurry. I narrowed my eyes at him as he left. He was leaving us with the hurdle of convincing these little girls about it, and escaping from this in the process!
So it's like this... the twins don't want to split up, but we should in order to learn about our differences, but also, most importantly, what could link us together here. And as the old man said, the partner would never dare hurt the companion, because if they did, then everyone else would know it was them when they return to everyone else alone.
That makes sense.
I don't know. If anyone hurts G, I'll kill you.
Not too harsh, sister. Sometimes accidents happen, too.
Yeah, accidents will happen for those who hurt you.
I will be heading out with E again. There are only two people who can communicate with her, one of them being myself, so I don't think this was avoidable.
He smiled at us and left to the stairs for this side of the station, with the train going northward. Dang it, grandpa! He took this opportunity knowing full well he'd be able to head out faster this way.
Oh, I almost forgot, we found this too.
She took out a pile of papers, folded from her pocket. I recognized the pile from earlier; those were the maps. She must've taken them back after A showed me. Just how much space was in those jeans anyway?!
Huh. There's a theater on top of these. Next is a church. Not really my thing. I'm guessing these are all the stations?
Yep. Keep looking. And before you ask, the Stars had the maps.
The next one is the science lab, and then there's a security room. Marco and Ray are investigating this one, correct?
Yes, I solved the science lab, which was remarkably quick. After the security room is the leisure station, which we're in.
That's right. No exists here, just like A mentioned. The pantry is where the eccentrics had gone before. Then the library, the bedroom, and finally the Stars, whatever those are.
Northward had three more stations to explore... but I didn't want to really go to any of those. None of them seemed appealing except for the theater, but...To get there, we would've needed three teams, and two of those willing to leave before mine.
We're better off the other way. There's a pool...recreation... so maybe a park?
No parks underground, you big dumb.
And a reactor. That sounds dangerous. Strange, these are all the labeled maps. The line goes way further than this though, no?
Yeah. What's the last map?
Strange. Doesn't look like a station. I wonder what it's all about. We won't find out by staying here, though.
Fourteen stations total counting the bar lounge.
We took our minds off the maps. I convinced H to leave them on the counter, deciding that it was good to have access to them in our headquarters, so to say.
BGM: Algorithm Simile
What are our teams? I don't really have a preference.
I'll go with sis.
But H... they just said earlier that it would be fine to split up.
I don't know. Maybe it's a better idea than sticking together and not mixing up. We're also suffering from a lack of info.
Grr... Okay, fine. I'm open to mixing it up too, if that's the case. But I don't like it.
She angrily crossed her arms, staring at the rest of us over her shoulder. They hadn't made up their minds with which person they'd go with, even if they were open to mixing it up, as H had said. The decision was coming back to me again. I did want to go with the twins, but Jasmine might've found something in the laboratory. She was also more familiar. Then again, if I picked her, all this fight about splitting up the twins would be for naught.
She was staring at me too, pressuring me into picking her despite her earlier words. How two-faced! H was a little bit like Jasmine in this way; she was taking charge and she was not afraid of anything. This was an odd change for Jasmine, admittedly. Had those four years affected her that much? I could also head out with G. She was calmer, but smarter. She also had her shy moments, and I kinda wanted to try pulling her out of her shell.
No matter which one I wanted to go with, I had to pick now.
Time to vote!