Part 31: disASter
Last update, we got to choose who to go with between Jasmine, G, and H, and the results are in: almost everyone wanted H just for the chance to get more dunks in on Simon. Valid reasoning! Let's see how it goes.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
Hey... I'm not a brat. I'm older than that.
Then start showing it.
She clenched her teeth at my words, about to snarl and give a scathing remark, when Jasmine clapped twice into her hands as if calling us back to attention.
Okay, okay, wasting time bickering about the teams will cost us a lot of time we may not have. Are you in agreement or not?
I guess I'm fine with it if G is fine with it, too.
She glanced over to her sister, as if pressuring her.
Great! Let's go.
She reached out and grabbed me by the arm, pulling me down to the lobby below.
Hey, watch out how hard you're pulling!
I couldn't believe how easily she pulled me along. The whole time, all I could do was follow like an obedient little puppy. The entire time, Jasmine's giggling assaulted my ears like a battering ram.
I stopped in the lobby to talk to Jasmine.
Yeah... I thought about it, but I changed my mind. I have a feeling we're not the only ones leaving others behind, so to say. Some of them have been gone for a while... If they want to escape this place, that's fine of course. I just don't want to end up waiting for people who might never come back...
What did she insinuate by that? Holding up her hands defensively, she shook her herad, having noticed my expression.
I don't mean it that way! But if they choose to take the train and explore station after station, I think we should do the same.
Eventually, we stopped at the pool.
BGM: Ambient Strain
That's weird. Look, it's already closed, as if someone came by here already.
She pointed at the window. Indeed, the door was closed and locked.
See? I told you. Other people aren't returning either, and they're just exploring as they want. I don't see why we shouldn't do the same at this point.
Right. What a bunch of pissants.
The announcer drowned out whatever remark she threw my way and the train took off again.
If M and Ray are behind that door, do you think they decided that together, or is it just Ray's doing?
It wouldn't surprise me if that was the case.
Ray's doing. I don't really trust him much.
He's kind of scary.
Was that really the case? Was it possible Marco, my friend, would've abandoned me? He wasn't a bad guy. Yet... it was undeniable that they kept going. Marco could've decided to come back on his own. He didn't, though. That was what bothered me.
Hey, earth to S, come in! I'll leave at the recreation station with G, is that fine by you?
I was snapped out of my thoughts by Jasmine clapping her hands again.
Ah, uh, right, that's okay.
Great! I'll leave you the reactor. You're savvier than me with that kind of thing, anyway.
Woah, now, wait, I hope we don't have to...
Are you okay...?
Get away from me!
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
She pushed me away just as the train arrived at the recreation station.
That's not good... I don't have the time to reassure her. S, just promise me she'll be fine? Just don't say the H word, okay?
She'll calm down in a little bit, but you have to promise me not to say the H word, or else I'm taking her out right now and we'll leave here.
Just promise her.
Okay, I promise. I won't say the H word.
Good! Have fun in the reactor.
The two of them left momentarily. The train produced its chime once they entered the door and it closed behind them, locking them in. Great, I was stuck going to a potentially dangerous room with an unstable little girl.
Listen, I'm sorry, okay? There's no H.
No... there is... hhnn...
The doors to the train closed and it drove off.
H's state reminded me of someone who was afflicted by epilepsy, except she was still conscious of what she was saying and doing. Unfortunately, I couldn't deal with it.
I can't fault Simon on this one specifically because it's the creator themselves who doesn't understand what anxiety/panic triggers are. Personally, I'd say it's probably closer to something like a dissociative state (as someone who personally experiences those, anyway), but I'm willing to bet they just googled 'fugue state', saw people with epilepsy sometimes experience that, and called it there.
I chose to accompany her in silence, worriedly staring over at her when I could, when suddenly, a headache hit me like a brick.
Hnng! What is... this pain...?
You... you're having it too?
It was like my head was being squeezed. Glancing at H, she was tensing up, holding her head with both hands. I mimicked her, since I really couldn't handle it. I took a few deep breaths and exhaled sharply. Eventually, it ceased. I cast a glance over at H following that.
Feeling better now?
A little... just a little. Aren't you embarrassed about caring for a brat like me?
Hey, I said that in a joke, you know...
Then that's just bullying. But it's okay, I understand.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
I had to make it up to her. As the train stopped at the final station down this side, I made up my mind. The doors opened, and she stepped outside. I did the same, but before she reached the open door, I called for her.
Hey, H. Before we go in, I want to tell you one thing.
What is it?
She looked at me cautiously.
Your sister's in good hands. Jasmine will be certain to protect her, and nothing bad will happen to her, you can have my guarantee. And if something does happen to her, you have my permission to kick my butt.
I could tell by her expression that H didn't really know what to say to that, instead giving me a bit of a smile.
Thanks. That does mean a lot. Especially the last part. If something happens to her, I'll throw you into the reactor myself.
Of course. I wouldn't have it any other way.
We resumed our walk towards the open door. Entering the lobby, I didn't notice anything special. It looked like any other so far. The doors closed as we came in, which I expected to happen.
So... we're here. Are you ready for the reactor?
I guess I'm as ready as I'll ever be.
Finally, we stepped up the staircase and entered the reactor proper.
BGM: Anaphora Solution
The noise was coming from the reactor in the middle of the room. It looked rather...big. In the front was an open entrance tall enough for even Ray to go through. On the walls were machinery of all kinds. I didn't expect anything else. On the other side of the room were some computers and a large screen, currently turned off.
Ready to explore? This room kind of gives me the creeps. At least it's kind of green. I like green.
Yeah, me too. To all of those.
After giving my cursory glance around the room, I decided to look at everything a little more closely. The first thing I noticed was strange was a map on the wall. It showed everything in this place. I stood before it, somewhat dumbfounded.
Showing the map is MY job, Simon!!
The first was that there was that empty wall, and behind were eight circles. The number eight again. Was it significant in some way? Why was everything eight here? The only thing that came to mind was how eight looked like an infinity symbol turned on its side. They called that symbol a lemniscate. I remembered Marco talking about that shape once.
Obviously, I hadn't paid attention to what he said too much, but the name stuck to me. The second thing that was weird was how this room had only one entrance. Normally, each station had two doors; one for each side. This one, however, had a single way down, along with the scanner room. What was the meaning of this?
I tried to imagine why that was the case. Was it because this was the end of the line? Was it meant to only have one door? But.. the station below had two doors like every station. I pulled away from the map.
Anything the matter?
I didn't answer her. Instead, I barreled down the stairs and looked through the window in the door. That's right! On the other side was another door, and it was closed, just like I thought. Where did that door lead, if not upstairs?
Hey, answer me!
I just noticed something weird, that's all. Look... Oh, you're too short.
Okay, I'll just tell you. The other side of the station has a door, but the map in the room above only showed one exit from here. Well... other than the scanner room.
Huh? That's... that doesn't work. How are we meant to go back?
Maybe... and this is just a hypothesis... maybe we're not meant to go back once we make it here? Is this the exit?
Some noise from upstairs caught my attention. It was some kind of static screeching.
What the heck is that? What's really going on at this station?
Let's go find out.
Together, we went back up the stairs quickly.
BGM: Alarming Silence
It will not be one for everyone, however. Before I explain that part, I will tell you a story. It is directly correlating to some of your presences here. There was a girl who had done terrible things, a long time ago. She, as a result, was taken by an organization for their human experiments. What she did was terrible, but what those people did was even worse.
My head... it hurts... stop talking! Stop talking! It's... ahh, I remember, noo! NOOOO!!
The twin screamed and I missed what Smiley said next. It wasn't just a normal scream; she was going absolutely mental. I could also feel a headache, but it was unclear if it was due to her noise or due to other reasons. I recalled it was the same kind of headache as the one I got earlier in the train.
H eventually fell to the ground. I reached to help her back up, but she shook her head dismissively, instead gratifying me with another loud groan of pain.
No, it's... ahhh, it's fine! I'm okay, it's just, my head... My head hurts so MUCH!! AHHH!!
Another scream came from her. I panicked a little, unsure if I should've done something. Finally, she calmed down, while Smiley continued, as the recording had been uncaring about what was happening in the room. I turned my attention back to it, since she seemed better now.
Make no mistakes; this reactor could completely destroy every station here. It is an extremely powerful power generator that, on its own, could give energy to the entire city. While it is not nuclear energy, it is something somewhat close.
This means that whoever pushes the button will be trapped within while it stabilizes, resulting in their end. The only question you both should be thinking about for the next ten minutes is... Who will make the sacrifice?
The screen turned off right after that. A small light on the reactor turned on, flashing red. Everything was going to explode in ten minutes.
BGM: Alarming Situation
What are you playing at, Smiley? What is the purpose of this?!
I shook the screen, but no answer came. Instead, H rose up and spoke. She was a lot more stable now, but there was an undeniable coldness in her tone.
I will go.
No, you can't do it! You're still a young girl, I'm...
What was I saying? Was I really going to throw myself into a fire for a stranger? Sure, she was young... she had more time... but I just finished university, dammit! I had friends! I had a family! They all wanted to see me again! I could be hailed as a hero for it, but what would it matter if I was fucking dead?!
No, this is my burden. This is why I was... created.
Created? What are you talking about?
Either her family was full of loons or something else was going on here. She was calm, perhaps even eerily calm. Who the hell was this girl?
BGM: Ascertaining Speech
Or maybe it's better said as... I was transmitted my own. Say, what do you think of... androids?
Where is that coming from? What are you talking about, again? Androids, what?!
I'm not a real person. I could never be a person. I'm... an android. I'm a created entity. I'm not real. I was built here, and without these memories, I'm Hannah.
Namely, I have to obey the laws of robotics. Do you know them? There are three.
She grabbed a nearby tool and bent it rather effortlessly. She was so strong it made me arch my eyebrows in shock. I couldn't deny her nature, but something still didn't sit well with me. Like, what the fuck?!
It doesn't matter. The important part is that if it talks like a person, if it looks like someone, and if it thinks like Hannah, surely that must be Hannah. And so, I am Hannah, but I'm not her. G never knew. G's real sister was taken away. She's...
She took a small pause, as if hesitating.
She's somewhere. Anyway, this is why I must go and do this. I have to sacrifice myself. I'll save all of you. The laws of robotics forbid me from standing by while a human will come to harm.
This way, I had purpose.
She smiled, but I could tell it was strained. I could tell she was masking her own insecurities over it.
That's not true! There must be some other way. We have some time, let's search the room quickly! We can both survive!
I was convinced. I needed to search this room, but almost half our time was up already.
I'm not scared. I don't think, I don't feel. It's all a fake process. Feelings are just calculations and reactions made in here.
She pointed at her head.
Brains are exactly the same thing. If you feel like you care, then you do! Brains are like organic machines doing the exact same thing. It's all just... electric currents.
You're... you're not wrong. According to what I know... you may be right. It is a contradiction to my programming... This is difficult, then. But perhaps it would be better this way. Let's search. Let's do it quickly... maybe there's a way... maybe there is!
I didn't know if it was wise for me to give her hope, but we had four minutes to search. That meant I could only search four things in this room, at most. If I didn't figure something else out... Then the choice would be made for me.
BGM: Active Search
Surprise, it's just like the theater! And just like the theater, the branch point is dependent on how we investigate. That said, I'm going to start by showing everything you can look at, regardless of the time limit- starting on the right side.
Wait, let me have a look...
What were all those things? Cables, boxes... I could see some pipes... If we broke anything in there, maybe the reactor would stop. However, there was an equal chance we'd make it explode right away. Perhaps it was better to leave it be and come back if we found some sort of telltale sign that breaking this would be beneficial.
Not for now, but if we find a reason to do so, maybe.
Our time's going down, and you want to waste some of it?
If we waste some time but end up not vaporizing ourselves in the process, I think that's a lofty goal!
We parted from the contraptions.
Next, the door.
This door had a big number nine onto it. Was this supposed to represent the ninth person or something? Would my escape be assured if Hannah sacrificed herself? I slapped my cheeks a little with my palms. No, I had to stop thinking this way. There must've been another way out without sacrificing anyone.
Now, two minutes had passed. Time was quickly running out. Half the time had gone, so I needed to figure something out...!
Next, the reactor itself.
This must've been whatever power is being generated. It was going out of control, and soon it would incinerate us.
It would incinerate us... and everyone else...
This wasn't just a gamble for a survivor between us- this was a gamble for everyone's survival, too. If we didn't come to a conclusion, even Jasmine and Marco would...
Three minutes! It was almost over!
She glanced towards the reactor. Yes, I knew, she would jump into it when the time ran out, to avoid any issue. That was why I needed to do this quickly!
Next, the huge door at the back.
This wall had something behind it. Maybe if I tried really hard, it could open... I spent a bit of time looking around it to see if there was any mechanism, but there was none that I could find. Which meant this was do-or-die. If it would be done by hand, then so be it!
And with that, we're out of time. However, before we see what happens, I've grabbed the other stuff we can look at (that doesn't lead to a different branch, anyway). Going to start with the whiteboard.
You're not thinking of drawing something unsightly there, are you?
No, no, I'm going back to the search.
I might've drawn a funny unsightly picture, but with Hannah around, I figured it might be better if I didn't anyway, especially as we were short on time. I moved away from the board.
And lastly, the monitor on the left side.
The screen wouldn't help me. I couldn't go through it. Instead, I focused on the other things around it. In this strange mess of things, I could hardly make out anything worthwhile. At first, some of them seemed like a good prospect.
This is so techno.
Maybe more sci-fi. Nothing's lighting up.
None of this could be helpful. I didn't know my way around a reactor room! The computers didn't turn on, the metal plates didn't help... and all the stuff scattered around was made of random objects.
Ahh! There has to be something we can use in this pile of stuff!
There is also a conversation with Hannah that we can have.
Hannah! Do you have an idea?
I don't have any idea! But maybe if we want a specific outcome, we'll have to follow a very strict order of things to do! I think we already failed that...But it's got to be a very tight process. I don't think anything else could counter what Smiley has set up for us here, so keep your eyes peeled!
Got it! I'll keep my eyes open for any idea to bypass pressing the button in any way.
Basically, she's telling you what I already did- there's a branching path you can only go down if you do a very specific order of events in this room. But first, we should see what happens when we run out of time...
Unfortunately, I didn't manage to find a way out of this predicament. No matter what I looked at, no matter what I tried, it was all in vain! Hannah was glaring at me as the time was running out. There was a bit of resentment in her.
Was it all a lie?! This hope you gave me? This- eugh- hope... hope, ahhh! No... no hope! Ahh! The word... it's... it's tearing my head apart...! I... I forgot... I shouldn't say it... I shouldn't think it!
I hesitated. In that slight moment of hesitation, she forced herself to move forward, which in turn forced me to make up my mind.
Sorry, Hannah! I can't let your wish come true! You're going to fucking live!
It was like the choice had been made for me.
BGM: Accelerated Scuffle
No!! You can't do this to me- to Hannah- to Greta, her sister!
So that was her name, huh. Their parents must've had some wicked sense of humor to base their names off that popular duo of characters from children's tales. However, I had nothing to say. I knew I tricked her somehow, and seeing her lamentable state due to that headache, perhaps born out of a traumatism I had no idea of... It did make me feel bad.
Despite that, I stood by my choice. Of course, all the thoughts in the world came upon me at that moment. I thought about Marco. I thought about Jasmine. I thought about my family, too, and all the others I wouldn't see again.
Don't do this to me! Don't leave me here alone, I'm not Hannah! I'm a robot, I'm a fake, I'm not real, I'm not... I'm not...
No! You're Hannah. As far as Greta's concerned, you're Hannah. As far as I'm concerned, you're Hannah. No one else can take that away from you. I'm going to die, and it's scary, of course. I can feel the heat building up behind me. So don't look. Don't look, I didn't exist. I wasn't here. There was no Simon.
I told her may name, too. I felt like it was only appropriate, given the circumstances.
There was no Simon anywhere. No Simon ever existed. So, don't feel bad. You're going to be Hannah, and you'll live... You'll live for Greta.
Hannah refused to listen. She hammered her body into the door until it had begun growing hotter. I... was melting. I clenched my teeth to ignore the pain. I clenched my teeth to ignore the incoming death. It was difficult. To face... your own death was something no one truly was ready to do. And yet, this was my future now.
Or rather, my lack of future. All this work, all this life to amount to this... But at least, it was for someone else's greater good. A second thought prevented me from feeling good over it, though. Maybe it was the selfish part in me. Maybe it was the cowardly part in me.
BGM: Android Sorrow
I screamed so loudly even she was surprised, and she stood back, dumbfounded.
You are not giving your life away, do you hear me? Avert your eyes! I didn't exist, so go live!
She did as I told, fighting against her programming. She averted her eyes. She wouldn't see me as I became... nothing. This was it. The pain was unbearable.
Colors, sights, sounds. All of them were mixing in a head that wasn't quite there anymore. And yet, even as I faded, I maintained one thing. I maintained my smile. Now that it had come to this, now that I truly had passed the point of no return into the end, I felt good, deep inside. I didn't have any remorse, any fear, and any cowardly thoughts.