Part 38: iconoclASm
The ending we got last route in turn unlocked the dark green lock, the only branch available to us. As a quick reminder, the sequence of events leading up to this lock are as follows:
The group gradually arrives at the train station and, after some discussions, watch a video of the mastermind, Smiley, as he explains the rules of the game to them. The eight split up into pairs, and Simon partners with Ray, exiting at the sleeping quarters station. During the process of exploring this room, Simon finds a note that states that one of the participants is an outlier in some manner, and pockets it without showing Ray. Upon returning to the lounge station, they find that the twins are still gone, and the group decides that they should send some pairs off again to keep exploring (to save time). Simon states that he wants to go exploring with the others, and after some deliberation, the pairs set off, leading to Simon and Jasmine exploring the security station together. As part of the puzzle, Simon finds himself temporarily locked within a smaller room at the station, during which Jasmine smashes all but one of the monitors in the security office.
They discover video footage on the last remaining monitor that shows one of the exit gates, with Ray and one of the twins in front of it. The twin exits on her own without Ray, which in turn leads to her death (as shown by her head rolling back into frame). However, when Jasmine and Simon return to the lounge, they discover both twins alive and well- seemingly having not encountered Ray or Marco at any point after their first station. After some consideration, Simon decides the best course of action is to share their findings with A, as the twins have already left for another station (and are under suspicion due to the video). Before he does, though, he goes back quickly to confirm his suspicions- the video footage is of the exit gate attached to the security room, as the floor in the halls varies based on which station it's attached to.
Simon brings A to the station and shows him the footage, explaining his findings. After some discussion, A states he wishes to explore the infirmary so that the station may be left open in case it's needed, and the two return to the lounge so that he can collect E. In the previous update, although it wasn't a visible choice, Simon decided he wasn't ready to share the note he found in the bedroom with Jasmine, but now that the lock is open, we can share our findings in full....
BGM: Ambient Strain
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: Ascertaining Speech
Listen, I almost forgot... I found a piece of paper earlier. I can show you, but you have to promise not to panic when you read what's on it, okay?
I decided to omit the fact I actually chose not to share it with anyone, including her, because I hadn't known who to trust. It would've only fanned the flames of doubt in her head.
Okay, I promise.
I sincerely doubted she would panic, but I had wanted her guarantee anyway. Now that I had it, I reached in my pocket and took out the piece of paper. I also pulled out the big coin from the bedroom we explored. That's right, I still had that- realizing that fact made me wonder if it would have an additional purpose, since I could take it out of the room. I stuffed it back in, since that piece was useless for now.
It's just a big coin, nothing to worry about. Anyway, here's that piece of paper....
I wonder if all these things weren't just planted here to make us doubt each other... Can you actually say there is someone who doesn't belong? For instance, what would be the criteria to...
I stumbled forward out of my seat, clutching my head and interrupting Jasmine in her sentence. It took her a bit to realize something was happening to me, but by that point, I wasn't even there anymore.
Are you okay?!
BGM: Advancing Shadows
A wall was rising into the ceiling in the back, too. Even though I was looking at the reactor, what the wall had been hiding slowly came into my view, too. Behind the wall was...
We were floating. Floating. Floating. I screamed.
I screamed myself awake in the lounge, next to Jasmine. She was shaking me to bring me back to reality. It had worked, but I couldn't deny what I'd seen. What... was that? I silently asked myself, bewildered and uncertain.
Simon, are you alright?!
Ugh... my head... it's splitting in half... It feels like my head is being smashed... and... you didn't use the nickname...
I hissed the words through my teeth, trying to stay afloat.
The hold I had upon my head softened and my lips curled into a smile. That's right... She cared for me just as much as I cared for her. I tried to think about what I'd seen again, but a violent headache split me open once more as a result. I quickly abandoned that, and instead reached for the couch to rise back up. With Jasmine's help, I was hoisted back up to lay onto it.
Oh, no no no... this state isn't good. M and Ray aren't here, the eccentrics are still gone, and the infirmary isn't solved yet to bring you there...
It's okay... I'll just get a bit of shut-eye, nothing to worry about.
I reassured her with a bit of a smile.
If M and Ray come back, just wait for me to wake up, okay? If something happens, don't hesitate to fling a bucket of ice cold water on my face, either. ...On second thought, don't do that, it's got to be really horrible...
That's not much better...
We laughed it out until my head hurt again, by which point I decided to have that lie-down while she left for the station below. I knew I could count on Jasmine. She was always reliable. She would be here for me for all time.
Except she wasn't there anymore.
BGM: Ambient Strain
All of my memories from the moment I woke up in the train, to this very moment, came back to me in that uncomfortable nap. I touched my face. I felt groggy. Slowly, I rose up by sliding my back up the wall. I was back here, in the present. I was back here, in this absurd... future.
With a raspy exhale, I looked over at the darkness nearby. Surely enough, her legs were still sticking out. She was... dead. A surge of pain rammed through my entire head, and I brought a hand up to support it. Wincing with one eye, I stumbled forward, falling back to the ground with a groan of pain.
Ugh! Jasmine... you... I remember your death... There was a gunshot...
Another vision flashed, much like earlier.
BGM: Anaphora Solution
Not A, but Agnos. His name was Agnos. That old man had a gun. That old man shot people. That old man was a terrorist. That old man was my enemy.
It's you, isn't it! You fucking... asshole! A's your name, it stands for asshole! Gaahhhh!!
I punched against the ground, leaving behind nothing but pain through my hand. I held my first with my other fingers, rubbing over it as if to soothe the pain.
This is all your fault... All your fault! All the fault of your stupid, safest bet! You should burn in hell!!
I let my rage wail and scream profanities and damnations. For several minutes, I was nothing but the instrument of my ire. A twisted typhoon of feelings was raging around my head, which I translated into punches and kicks. I eventually tired myself out, figuring that this wouldn't do anything.
Jasmine was already dead. But this wasn't the first time Jasmine died, was it?
Kh... what I saw... that wasn't a lie, was it? The reactor... this place... the shooting... people dead... Jasmine dead... Is Marco dead, too? I have to find them...
Something didn't feel right in what I remembered.
Vats...? I saw some pods... or vats... We were in those pods. Jasmine, what... what are you?
I crawled over to Jasmine. Perhaps what she held on her would give me some kind of lead on how to proceed. I didn't want to touch a corpse- not her corpse most of all- but I had no choice. In the vision of that memory, all eight of us were in there. A ray of hope shone in my head: what if Jasmine wasn't Jasmine? Was she in the vat at this very moment?
I pressed my hand against her side, slowly. It was solid. I knew bodies went stiff when you died or something- rigor mortis, was it?- but not to this extent. It was really solid. No! I couldn't get hopeful. I shook my head. I didn't want to get a hope that I would lose. I didn't want to be lured in by fate... But I wanted to finish the examination anyway. I resigned myself to it, and took a deep breath.
Urk, oof... this doesn't smell good, pahh...
Still, I grabbed onto her side. Normally, there would be a bone here. This would be the thoracic spine, but... This felt smoother. Against my better judgment, I decided to knock against it.
What is this...?
Are you... the person who doesn't belong? No... all of us were in those vats... What does it mean?
As a last resort, I decided to look into the wound on her forehead. Inside, I could see some... cables. There was blood and it was disgusting, but it was metallic inside. Like some kind of robot's head.
After all this time, this is the answer? Or is this a cruel joke from Smiley? Is this not even Jasmine? Is this a fake? Did they try making me think they got Jasmine, and in reality she's not here?!
BGM: Ambient Strain
I decided that he wouldn't get me so easily. However, when the train arrived, and I looked at the other side, I saw two figures leave. One of them was a large man. Marco and Ray were back. Quickly, I jumped into the lobby. I climbed even faster up the stairs, and emerged into the lounge in record time.
Marco and Ray both entered the lounge at that screaming. The older one squinted at me, as if I was disturbing him. I didn't have time for his shit.
Jasmine got shot. In the head.
Marco's eyes opened wide.
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
He looked even more confused than I was.
Whatever, it's A, he did all of this! He did this too. We're going to barricade here from now on.
His name is Agnos.
How do you know that?
Too stupid to explain. It's Agnos anyway. That... motherfucker...
I balled my hands into fists and kicked the nearby couch. Marco did the same, which served only to hurt his foot. I'd never seen him this angry before.
Yeah, don't look at me like that. I didn't do anything, it's like he said. That old guy overpowered us both with a gun, and Marco shoved me away, and then there was an explosion...
If he had not shoved me out of the way, I would've gotten those shots right in my chest. I guess the price was the fact his arm got blown away in the blast. I'm willing to bet Agnos is Smiley... A maniac who just likes killing people...
Okay, that sucks. I mean it really sucks. But... some other shit is going on here.
I was talking like Ray now. I had to shake my thoughts away from him for a bit.
Jasmine got shot, and she's not Jasmine. She's really weird. Go look downstairs if you want. At her dead body. I looked into the wound, and there are wires and crap...
No, I'm telling you that's not Jasmine...
BGM: Alarming Silence
Where was he going with this? I didn't understand what he was asking.
THE Jasmine you spoke to me about, right?
Yes, she's Jasmine, J like Jasmine, the Jasmine that I'd known before, the Jasmine I hadn't seen for years, the Jasmine who's supposed to meet us today, and...
Was he drunk or something, and not able to recognize her?
He paused. I suddenly had a bad feeling.
I wasn't going home with you earlier. I finished classes before you, like every Friday, and I was at home waiting for you to come back so we'd go out. You told me about her a lot, but...
BGM: Alarming Situation
Almost mechanically, while I watched, unsure of what he was telling me, unsure of reality, unsure of my memories, he walked away. Slowly, he walked away, through the door frame, and left to Jasmine's side of the station, most likely to examine her himself.
You never... he never...
I turned to Ray.
He never... met her. This is... what I remember... how could it...
Ray was visibly at a loss on that topic, holding his head as if he had a headache. Sitting on the couch, he dismissively waved at me.
He seemed a lot more apprehensive all of a sudden. As he explained it to me, something clicked in my head. As he spoke, I was made aware of a truth I'd been running away from this whole time.
What...? Marco is not human...? Is he like Jasmine...? Smiley...
I clenched my hands in fists in another fit of anger, while Ray, uncaring, drank from his flask.
Smiley! Come out and answer our questions, you fuck! Why does nothing make sense?!
The security footage. The note about the person who doesn't belong. The vision of the vats. Jasmine being a fake. Ray with a twin dying in the security room. Marco not knowing who Jasmine was. Marco being a human-robot-person too.
Why?! Who is here?! Who the fuck are we?! What is this place?!
BGM: Ambient Strain
I woke up to Marco announcing his findings to Ray. He sat down next to me as soon as I made some space. He looked completely discouraged.
I don't know... I don't know what's going on, either...
During the silence lingering past his admission, I looked at my hands. Two pieces of evidence connected as I did so. Two people were confirmed as robots, and the twins were still alive, despite what I'd seen.
BGM: Ascertaining Speech
I looked at my hands even harder. I turned them around, felt up my arms, but nothing seemed off.
Don't bother trying to feel it. You won't. I didn't have any hints, either. All I know is that I feel very much like a human. This is wrong... very wrong...
Ray was drinking from his flask. If he wasn't, would he have gotten angry? The real question was, what would he be getting angry about- the fact we're insinuating we're robots, or the fact we're fixated on it?
Hey, Ray... are you a robot, too?
Do you feel weird?
BGM: Algorithm Simile
So when the fuck are we barricading this place? Reminder that your girlie friend, Jasmine, got shot in the head and died like a person either way. If we ain't getting this up, then we ain't living tomorrow.
There's a real me somewhere out there, and it's not me. I'm from nowhere. I'm a fake. I'm not here, I'm not there, I'm not anywhere. There's no place for me.
Well, you know, you're still you. I don't really care if you're a robot or not.
Yeah, listen to your bucko there.
And besides, if you're missing your arm and you're a robot, we can get you an arm cannon later and maybe you can become a cool bounty hunter from space.
I guess his missing arm would be a current problem, too. He's a robot, so he's not really healing, is he?
I was no psychologist, but I could help by reaching out and giving him a pat on the shoulder that wasn't injured. He gave a half smile. Ray shook his head and stood up, leaving us alone.
I'm concerned, though. Jasmine was... I mean, she was still human. She felt real. She had thoughts, and dreams, and other things that people have. What manner of event is this?
Marco gave me a weird look.
I don't mean anything by it, it's just, I don't know. I have all the memories from when I wasn't, uh, a fake, I guess. I don't feel any different, but I could be a robot, too...
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
Even while feeling down, he was still a joker.
You're gonna get the opportunity if the two of you don't actually help to fucking barricade this place. Agnos could get here any moment.
I stood up alongside my friend. While we toiled away in silence. I thought about a few things that might've been relevant. I didn't know if Marco's bleeding was a sign that it had healed, or that he wouldn't feel any of it. Come to think of it, wasn't it like something he told me earlier?
He told me something like hunger is just a signal. If hunger is fake... then us being hungry wasn't proof of anything. I first thought that might've been something robots couldn't feel. Upon reflection, that wasn't helpful.
I've never gone to the library... with him...
We moved some of the couches up to one of the two entrances, blocking it completely. Surely, if Agnos was a robot just like us, though, this wouldn't stop him much. Ray and I moved back to the other pair of couches, readying ourselves to take hold of them and carry them to the other door. What else could help, though? I had to gather everything on over.
Oh hey, one final time to poke around this place! Nice of the game to let us do tha-
BGM: Alarming Silence
Marco was stabbing Ray.
Huh, no resistance at all? Did I just get lucky or what?
Ray smashed his fist against Marco's leg, but the boy didn't care. Instead, he pulled the knife out of Ray and slammed it back into his chest, forcing Ray to give a raspy exhale. He probably hit his lung.
Doing that caused Ray to wail out in pain.
If you're still alive, it's thanks to me anyway, so you should consider yourself lucky. Hahaha... Oh, wait, no, you're not alive. You're a fucking robot, too. We're all robots. We're all dead. We're all just fucking dead. Deal with it, Ray.
No, fuck you!
Marco had spoken without any emotion behind his voice. I could only watch in horror as my one-armed friend stabbed Ray, just like that. It was like he... gave up.
Why did you do that, Marco...? Everything was improving...
BGM: Alarming Situation
Nothing's improving for us. It doesn't matter. We're not even alive, we're dead men walking.
You... fuckwit... I'm not a robot... who the fuck is a robot, huh?!
Sadly, those were his last words. Ray expired momentarily. Marco must've severed some important cables, as if to prove the fact Ray was, just as well, a robot too. I didn't understand. I watched the horrific sight of the large man, cold on the ground. There was blood there, and it smelled metallic. It smelled so strongly metallic, in fact!
Marco... can you check where the blood comes from?
Oh, wait. That's not blood. It's just some kind of fluid that looks like blood. Hahaha... You know how blood has this weird metallic taste, since there's iron in our blood? This one's just that. It's some kind of liquid that seems to be surrounding the metal, and flowing over it.
He wasn't laughing, though, and neither was I. I tried to rise up to do something about the situation, but he immediately lunged at me. I thought he would stab me, but...
BGM: Ascertaining Speech
I don't really know what to think anymore. Remember what I studied in? Probably not... it's the field of applied noematics. I studied on thoughts, what they are, and how to apply that knowledge in the field of science.
To put it simply, it's basically a story about guys replacing the parts on a boat, until none of the original parts are left.
I didn't really have the heart to interrupt him, but the entire time, I was looking at his knife, hoping he wouldn't want to subject me to Ray's treatment. I quietly listened due to that same knife's close proximity.
That's where the original theory ends, because the question is: Is that ship the Ship of Theseus? to which there is no real answer, because you could say the parts are the ship, or the rebuilt ship is the ship. But they also added another part to it.
Which is the real Ship of Theseus- the ship that had all its parts replaced, or the new ship made of the original parts? You may be wondering what this all has to do with our situation. Well, I'm Marco alright, but I'm a robot, so I'm not Marco. But I know, very well, that I'm Marco. I remember all the things Marco did.
I didn't know what to tell him. I felt like if I said anything bad, he would do something I didn't want. But, perhaps there would be a calm way out of this situation. I needed to show that I shared his sentiment, so I said...
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
Well, time's up.
Yes, time's up. The time for the dating game is over. There's nothing here that awaits us. Nothing but eternal darkness. Darkness for you, me, and everyone else. Goodnight, Simon. I'm sure the real me would've loved to keep being your friend.
I grabbed his arm, trying to stop him, but it was too late. Even the hand I had on his chest wasn't enough to push him away. One of my eyes shut down when he did so. He drove the knife into my chest, and that most likely severed part of my body from functioning properly.
Are you Simon, anyway? Maybe you're not. There's some resistance here, so you and I... we're just the same. All of us here are robots. Maybe this is just a big joke. A big joke, kinda like a bad nightmare I'm going to wake up from. If that's the case then, why am I not waking up?!
If this is a nightmare, then I'll wake up. If it's not a nightmare, then I'll die. Either way, it'll be over. There's nothing here, anyway. Even with all this installation, they fucked up. The Empty S sucks.
The M... M...
Final letter... five letters... Marco... do you know what... it means...?
It means nothing. You're just going mad, because I fucked up your body. I don't know what it feels like, sorry. I don't know what anything feels like, either. I don't feel. I'm just a machine.
I could tell my brain wasn't working right, so perhaps the next images I saw were fabricated. I saw Marco pick up the knife.
And he drove it into his own body. He fell on top of me, obscuring my sight. I could see nothing. We spoke our final words, before the darkness came.
Wait... don't... are you... I don't know what the... Empty S is... is it the MTS? Montreal... Transport... Society...?
Hahahaha... the MTS has nothing to do with this... It's always been... the Empty S! The group I'm from... They will change the world... The future is the Empty S.
Are you... Smiley?
He couldn't answer, since he'd stopped moving, fallen atop me. He was already cold- it had been nigh-instantaneous. Just like him, I expired. Dying was like that, huh.
BGM: Agnostic Shutdown