Part 39: unmASked
It's time for the final branch of the game. As a reminder, this follows the path of the initial, locked-in path:
We start, as always, with the introduction to the game and its players, and the group splitting into teams which leads Simon to partner with Marco so the two can explore the library together. After rejoining with the others, Ray and Jasmine show the note they found in the sleeping quarters, and Simon decides he wants to prioritize what links everyone together rather than trying to find the outlier. The group splits up again, this time with Simon and Jasmine paired together. They explore the science laboratory, and find a strange locked door that doesn't open, even after they solve the room. Upon returning to the lounge, Simon decides he wants to go for a walk and possibly visit one of the stations that has already been solved, but the old man A decides to accompany him.
The two return to the science lab, where A reveals his true profession: his job is to investigate rogue members for a specific organization and, if necessary, put a stop to their activities. He believes Smiley to be connected to the same organization, and implies he willingly entered the Dating Game with the goal of discovering Smiley's identity and putting a stop to his activities. A states that, based on his past experiences, he believes the locked door to be vital to their escape, and enlists Simon to help him look for anything that could lead to them confronting Smiley. He also entrusts Simon with a strange remote that they found in the pantry, stating that he couldn't find a use for it yet and that he wants Simon to keep an eye out for what it could be used for.
Simon and A return, and the group splits up into pairs again, this time with Simon and E together, going to check some of the previous stations to make sure there isn't a ninth person running around to avoid the group. This leads them to the church, where the two explore the room like normal, with Simon learning more about E (including the fact that she was a student at the same university he and Marco attended, studying noematics- another link that connects them, as Marco previously revealed that Ray was a professor at their university).
Upon returning, however, Simon discovers that A has executed the rest of the group, determining that the fastest way to deal with Smiley is to kill everyone and hope that one of the executed participants was the mastermind. He manages to disarm A and escape with E in tow, eventually stopping to recover in the gymnasium. At this point, there were two options we could choose: lock the gun in the safe to ensure A couldn't recover it, or go to confront him directly with it. This time, however, we have a third option, one that has been unavailable to us the entire game....
BGM: Advancing Shadows
I didn't find a password in this room, I didn't find a clue about Smiley, I didn't find anything really relevant, but I could get rid of this gun. Despite my resolve, I knew that I would shake in my boots when the time came to use it. This was dangerous for me, not for anyone else. I didn't even know how to operate it.
Time was ticking down, too. Agnos would find us sooner or later. I already weighed my options. I could confront Agnos with the gun, or leave the gun here and investigate a way to leave otherwise. The third option was also the mega-door I could unlock with the remote, but... I still didn't know the password for it.
If only I had hints about the password... but until I did so, my options were limited...
BGM: Ambient Strain
I didn't know when Agnos would catch up to us, and there only was one course of action that came to mind. Instead of doing anything with the gun, I decided I needed to get to the core of this problem. I had to get to the laboratory as soon as possible. The main problem was my identity. Agnos was so convinced that by killing everyone, he'd get Smiley. If only I could convince him otherwise, then he'd spare me, at least.
With that thought, I took the train as soon as it arrived.
BGM: Advancing Shadows
Worse, he could trigger the punishment for entering this station with more than two people by mistake. This would definitely be the worst outcome for everyone involved. I still had no idea how to open the door, but having felt the back of the remote, I noticed there was something there. Now that I wasn't in a rush to get here, I examined the little studs.
They formed rectangular patterns. I knew this. It was Braille.
How lucky that E's still here, and alive!
I exclaimed to myself, half sarcastic. True, it was still lucky. In fact, perhaps too lucky. I took a moment to think about what this meant. Agnos hadn't really gunned for her. Of course! He'd known about the Braille. That was why he needed her alive.
This was giving me a headache again, so I decided to stop trying to understand what went through his head. Even worse, I had an even bigger headache when holding the remote. E held my other hand. I pulled from her, which thankfully didn't make her panic. I needed both my hands free to write her a message. I only had one piece of paper left... I handed it to her alongside the remote.
You want me to touch the remote and tell you what's written on it? I can do that, but... are we near an exit?
She paused, figuring that I would answer. When I didn't, she lost a bit of her composure.
Um... if we're near an exit, can't we just leave?
As if I knew the solution for the exit already.
Okay... well, on this remote, it says... Reverse me to open the way in and forgive me for. Forgive me for what? I don't understand.
I didn't understand, either. I plucked the remote from her, as calmly as I could. Looking at it, I realized that I could enter five letters into it.
I didn't know what this meant, but somewhere, there was some sort of password. All I needed to do was figure it out. Simple, right? Five letters. One password.
I thought about it, but I just couldn't figure it out... ...until finally, it struck me.
BGM: Anaphora Solution
Arrghh! Why... why does it hurt so much?! What the fuck?!
My hands closed into fists, and I banged onto the table a few times. I banged with my firsts, with my forehead, with my whole body. The pain was.. excruciating. Someone, help! I called for help in my head, knowing full well nobody would answer. Several long moments of this pain followed. It was as if my head was filling with a great deal of information- too much, in fact.
Finally, it ceased. I breathed heavily, panting, without any idea of what just transpired. However, something felt different now. This was just like the time at the station. All my memories came back to me. I remembered... everything.
The letters... I know them.
The five letters were... E-I-L-Y-M, and the reverse order was... MYLIE. And that was it. As soon as I turned the remote to the reinforced door and pressed the send button, the way in was opened.
Very slowly, the door creaked open. It looked supremely heavy when it was closed, but now, as it moved just enough to let me grab the side and pull it wide open, it looked older than anything else. Besides me, E was holding herself, as the movements of that door opening had most likely sent off some intense vibrations through the ambient air.
What's going on?! What did we open?
Next to me, E wasn't quite in a state of panic yet, but she was clearly getting there, as we both stepped into this place, past the small scanners on the walls and ceiling.
BGM: Alarming Silence
Something about this struck me as odd. She could see, no? I knew it; she had eyes. This headset worked to rebuild her vision. It would be done very soon. If that was the case, then she would finally be able to see soon. Why was she panicking?
What is this...? Where are we? We're not supposed to be here!
E, please, calm down!
BGM: Alarming Situation
No, no! I want to see! Take this thing off, I need it off, I want to see!
I knew the headset she had was almost done doing its job, but like this? It wouldn't finish! I tried to help her, but she shoved me away with remarkable strength. I hit the wall with a dull thud.
Oof! E, stop!
Aaaahhh!! This is wrong! This is all wrong!! What is this?! Why... nooo! What?!
I turned my head back to E, snapping to the source of the noise while quickly standing up. The sight that greeted me was so strange I could not move.
BGM: Ascertaining Sanity
E's skin was smooth. Smooth skin. I saw her smooth skin. At that moment, I saw that, right in front of me, E...
Her skin was horrifically smooth, as if she never had eyes to begin with. A normal human face should've had eyes, a nose, ears, and a mouth, but E was missing some. She had no eyes, and she had no ears. She had no eyebrows. She was featureless.
I can't see! I can't see!! I can't see, and I can't hear!
That vision of horror cemented itself into my head. A few more seconds passed me by, as I remained frozen, unable to think. Unable to understand. What... was happening to E? I tried looking away, but the more I tried to do so, the more I was glued to the sight. This was unnatural. This was... inhuman.
Time had come to a standstill as I stared, frozen in my inability to process what my eyes were seeing. What... was... this...? As time passed, I wormed my way out of my stupor. Finally, my arms, which felt like lead before, were capable of moving again.
I landed against the machine with the switches, after which it took me a second to stand back up. At least, following that, E seemed to have calmed down. I looked at her again as I rose. She had stopped gesticulating entirely, dormant against the wall, like a marionette with its strings cut. She did not even seem to breathe anymore.
E! Are you okay?!
I quickly lunged towards her. Oh, no, no, no! I had to do something about this, but what? What could've caused this? The strangest part was how she had fallen dormant right after shoving me. Did something happen in the room? I had to take a look around, and help her promptly.
BGM: Alarming Silence
It was a large containment unit. As I approached it, I looked inside.
This person, held in suspension within the vat, was Smiley. At least, that's what some of their attire suggested. None of this made any sense, however, as I had memories of one of the twins also wearing Smiley's helmet. Yet, inside the vat, was a woman, not a little girl. I could tell by her general body shape. It was a grown female body, perhaps slightly old.
BGM: Agnostic Shutdown
This is the actual final Active Search in the game, and unfortunately there's no map for us this time, as we're officially off the grid now. Before we begin grabbing stuff, I'm gonna take a look at those two points of interest on the right.
I approached the machine in the back- the one that had a bunch of switches on it. I fell against it earlier when E pushed me aside. Bringing my attention back to the machine, I couldn't understand what these switches were all for. However, I realized one important thing.
Are these for our collars...?
Suddenly, I felt like it wouldn't be a good idea to mess with them. What if it did even worse? What if it triggered the collars, and we'd die?
Ngk... I don't have a choice... I need to see what happens if I... but maybe I shouldn't...
Next, we can check the tank again.
Jasmine...? Is that you in there?
I couldn't be sure yet. If it was Jasmine, then... she had grown older.
We can check it a second time, but all Simon has to say is...
...so all that's left for us is to check out the stuff on the left. I'm going to start with the notebook on the table.
This was a notebook. There were a lot of pages with a bunch of useless stuff. It was talking about... noematics? What the hell was that? It also had a bunch of footnotes about causality.
We get to read everything, don't worry- there's no timer on this exploration.
-Simon read about noematics.
Noematics, or applied noematics, is the field of study researching thoughts, what thoughts consist of, and the transfer of thoughts. By likening the human mind to a series of electric currents, wave signals, and compression of readable data, it is possible, in theory, to recreate minds based on exact brain patterns and memories.
An outside piece of material is necessary for transplanting memories, but they are highly unstable. It is much safer to recreate events leading to a certain memory to make a stable memory. Most dangerous of all is the transmission of data by emission of waves. Any head that would come close to the waves would receive the memories, possibly mistaking them for visions.
A thought flashed in my head: this did happen before! And not just once, either. I remembered when my head came close to Jasmine's for that kiss. I had visions of the train I just could not get rid of. They were haunting me in that moment. Could it be that those were fabricated somehow?
A twin leaned forward over the counter to look at what Agnos was preparing. She suddenly started talking about a terrorist who had planted bombs in a metro.
Did something transmit that memory to her...?
And all the times I held E, or supported E, only to feel like I could fully trust her. Was this also something that was being transmitted?
I couldn't answer that. I needed more information. Sadly, as the pages went on, this became too confusing for me. I couldn't glean anything else from this.
-Simon read the causality footnotes.
In accordance with the laws of causality, a cause must always have an effect. The reverse is also true: an effect must always have a cause. If nothing causes anything to happen, then nothing happens.
If an outside source came to witness some events, then other events would need to pave the way for said events to happen. As knowledge is impossible to unlearn, any witnessing would create it for all time. So its saying... because we're here now... other events needed to exist? Am I getting this right? This isn't helping me save E, but...
For some reason, I couldn't deny the fact this was, somehow, important.
That's all the notebook has for us.
Simon closed everything up, and returned to the search of the room.
All that's left is the shelves against the wall.
-Simon read pages 1 to 4.
Page one: Dear diary, I write to you today because I have no idea of what I'm doing. I've enrolled in some school. It's the University of Montreal. All of this is very new to me. Hopefully I will learn how to keep a diary, and I will enjoy companionship as I was bid to do. Perhaps I will even feel something.
However, I am still sad and lonely. Everyone admires me for my skills, as they say I am a prodigy. I still feel nothing despite that, as if I am cold and empty inside.
They will come back in a week. Until then, they said I should prepare as much material as I can to prove myself in front of the entire board of directors. Is this... stress?
That part's completely crossed out.
-Simon read pages 5 to 8.
Page five: Dear diary, the job I'm doing can be very taxing. I'm under strict contract to never reveal what I'm working on, but some of it makes me really wonder if this is the right way. They are paying me an outrageous amount of money, though. I wonder what kind of rich person could even fund all of this?
What happened was that... I met a boy. No, I just saw a boy, that's all. I didn't really meet him. I feel shyness. I feel butterflies. I don't know what this is. Something in me was... interested. I don't know how to process this. I will write more later.
-Simon read pages 9 to 11.
Page nine: Dear diary, I renamed the GEM to something else that seemed more fitting. We're going to attempt putting someone's thoughts into it and see how it works. I hope this won't be a mistake. My attraction to that boy is growing stronger every day. I don't know why I feel this way. This isn't love, is it? Either way, he hasn't looked at me even once, like he doesn't even notice me.
Despite that, I've vowed I'll succeed. Soon, we'll be able to keep people alive for centuries without degradation. And then... we'll be able to move forward like never before.
If I don't do it, though, he's going to die. Why was he chosen, too? The boy I... like. He was chosen to be put in this. What do I do? I don't want to lose this job, but I also don't want to lose him. I don't have a choice. I need to oversee this. I need to... save him. Hopefully, my precautions will prevent me from dying, but if I do die, then...
And that's all the diary has for us.
Simon closed everything up, and returned to the search of the room.
Now that we have looked at everything, we can interact with the switches.
I hesitated, took a deep breath, and then made up my mind. I didn't have any choice; nothing else in this room was helpful in any capacity.
Well... here goes.
BGM: Alarming Silence
I flipped one of the switches to the other side. It was the fourth one. Nothing happened.
Fuck, if anything happened to Agnos's collar, I can't know like this. Wait... there are nine switches. Eight of them were switched to what I assume is on. What's going on with the ninth? Why is it off?
If nothing bad happened to our collars while they were on, then most likely, nothing bad would happen if I switched the ninth one to on as well.
I took the plunge and did it.
BGM: Alarming Situation
Right away, I could tell the change was coming from the vat in the middle of the room. It was, to put it simply, draining away. As it did, the person inside moved slightly. I watched in awe. The woman inside of the vat slowly removed all the tubes connecting her to it, and when the water was low enough, she took off the helmet she wore.