Part 40: dynASty
BGM: Alarming Situation
What is going on...? Who are you?
I asked as the glass separated us. It was an old woman, just as I'd surmised. The glass lowered enough to let her step through, which she did momentarily. I backed away to give her some space.
She looked somewhat familiar. And... she looked very old. She must've been at least 90 years old, if not even older than that.
BGM: Algorithm Simile
I sensed no hostility from her. She looked very sad, though. I caught the glance she gave towards E's body.
Wait, are you...
The question hung on my lips, and I couldn't finish it. She patiently waited for me to do so, but seeing as I couldn't, she chuckled.
Let me catch my breath first. It has been so long, after all. Moving after being in suspension for this long is very difficult.
The voice that came from her had a low tone, but I could still feel as if it was kind of melodious and pleasant. She pulled a chair from under a nearby table, and sat down in front of me.
She chuckled at that. Her manners could've used some polish.
I wonder about that now, too... I am indeed Smiley, but... no, that's not quite right. Without S, I am only Emily.
Emily...? I didn't know anyone named Emily. Wait... Now that I had a good look at her, I realized what felt familiar before. I took a glance at E's body. No, not Emily's body- E's body. Was this body which didn't move anymore Emily's body, too? I could tell her face was similar, even without the eyes. Her hair was arranged similarly as well.
Although, that part is not entirely correct. She is an EMILY of Emily. EMILY stands for Electro-autonomous Memory-driven Informal LibrarY, which gives the EMILY acronym, named after myself, their... developer.
She sighed wistfully, shaking her head.
But one thing at a time. We have... many topics to cover, now that we are here. I am sure you have read my notes and my diary. Sneaky boy.
I nodded, remaining silent, unsure of what I should have said- if anything. Instead, I let her talk, to avoid her getting confused in her explanations.
I will let you choose the order in which I explain it all. I can talk about myself, or about you and the other participants, and then I'll finish up with this entire event's ordeal.
I quickly made up my mind on what we'd talk about first.
Well, since the order doesn't matter, let's learn a little bit more about our mysterious ninth person.
I want to know more about you.
Ohoho! Such a thing pleases me greatly. Although, I suppose it was preordained I would eventually talk about me, my motivation, and why I am... Smiley.
I wanted everything; I was greedy. I used to be a normal person, as normal as I could force myself to be, and I used to frequent the University of Montreal, so long ago now. I studied in Applied Noematics, which allowed me to manipulate thoughts and such. Yes, that diary is mine. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you a lot about that, but I can give context.
So I worked for them. I built various technological advances while furthering my studies. One day, I met... you, Simon. You did not see me, and in fact, you never even so much as looked at me. But as I said, I wasn't normal. I don't have... feelings. I wanted them, but I never had them. I was not good with human relations in general, so I never felt compelled to approach. I was fine just looking...from afar.
I learned you, of all people, would be participating in it. And so, I wanted to save you. I wanted to save you, and I also wanted to create an unbreakable bond between us. Such an experience would be something no other people could ever share. I wanted to create it- I wanted to create love. I wanted it to no longer be so unrequited...
I didn't know how to take this. Was this some sort of weird declaration of love? From an old woman? Well, perhaps it was a little too prejudiced to think badly of it, but...
I wanted to stop it. But I couldn't. So instead, I tried creating loopholes and a way out, because if it wasn't for me, everyone would've died, executed as part of the process. Even though I failed. Hopefully, you can find it in you to forgive me.
We'll see about that.
I took a pause before we continued talking.
And now we get to ask about the other seven.
Oh, this is a little complicated. First of all, you need to understand that we chose our subjects very carefully. I suppose I can go in order of number. G as you called her was chosen simply because she came as a pair with her twin, Hannah. But she had also been involved in the replacement of her sister under observation.
I never wanted you to have been chosen, let me establish that. If I had gotten my way, none of this would have happened. Marco was chosen because he also was a student in Applied Noematics, but he knew of the Empty S the same way I knew of them, and he was opposed to what they were doing. He was dangerous, they said. I don't see it.
However, he no longer held the esteemed position he once had. Instead, he became part of the cleanup crew. After the debacle in New York, he was reassigned here, but unbeknownst to him, he was to be killed off in this place.
Ray was chosen because he got too close to the Empty S. He took a brain scan somewhere, then the Empty S contacted him to help him with some sort of cure. I don't know any of the details beyond this much, but that was apparently enough for them. Maybe the medicine he had was experimental in some way.
I looked at the motionless body.
So you controlled your EMILY remotely?
Oh, no, no, this was quite literally me. Remember, they are autonomous, Simon. Anyway, finally, Jasmine... Obviously, she isn't the real Jasmine. It was another half-failed experiment where they turned someone into a completely different person. Hannah, the real one, was heavily injected and rebuilt to become Jasmine herself.
She closed her firsts, somewhat angry. I shared the same emotion, but... it was also liberating. Yes, this meant the real Jasmine was still fine. Of course, I already remembered this.
Anyway, about this entire experiment...
She took a brief pause and gave me the opportunity to glance over at E. Was she never to move again? My thoughts were interrupted when Emily spoke anew.
BGM: Anaphora Solution
The goal was simple: create a situation that would bring an external observer to this world, and retroactively give birth to it. As you have no doubt browsed my notes, you must be aware of the Perception of Existence. By bringing an outside observer, or God as the Empty S calls it, then we would create this world by retroactively bringing every element needed for its construction.
Hold up, what? This doesn't make any sense.
It is a reverse cause to effect; by creating the effect, which was this experiment, we gave birth to the world, which was the cause leading up to it.
But that's not how it works. You need the cause to make the effect happen...
Do you? If you have the effect, then the cause is a necessary element for it to happen.
Well... whatever. I'm getting confused. Please continue.
That was a fake memory being transmitted to your brain every time you woke up, at the very beginning, alongside Jasmine. In the same order of idea, fake memories had been transmitted to everyone before they woke up, too.
Hannah forgot her school life, and those memories were falsified, which really changed how she remembered her time there. She forgot her entire circle of friends. I was made to forget I was the mastermind behind all of this. That was... a grave problem, and it ultimately led to carnage. I wish I could take it back.. so badly.
The collars are not stable, which may explain why he behaved like that. When they create conflicts in the mind, they can grow like a mental tumor that erodes your sanity. You may have seen this happen... a few times, and perhaps also been subjected to it when memories did not match up with what you previously thought you saw.
Right... that time with Jasmine. No, those times. It happened more than once.
Precisely. The carnage that followed sadly robbed every person of their lives, including you. You were... beheaded. I still, to this day, have a vivid memory of that moment, and it haunts my... nightmares.
I squinted in suspicion. What did she mean by that?
It took me many, many, many years. In fact, if I am this old, it is because I have spent my whole life researching in the field of noematics until I could create exact, perfect replicas of a human. Of course, their interior is still robotic, as if they are strange, fleshy-robot hybrids... but these are the EMILYs you see now.
She motioned towards E.
But... but why?
I wanted to give you another chance. Alas, that had been the goal at first, but... the Empty S collapsed shortly after Agnos destroyed the metro. It was impossible to bury the event, and the police arrested everyone and dismantled everything.
I do not intend to hide my crimes. However, you have to also understand...
She looked at her hands for a moment.
I didn't have a choice, either. This needed a happy ending, somehow. God wouldn't let me.
What do you mean?
Remember when I said that the effect can be created before the cause? It's like that. God is here. God is watching us. God is tricking me into making more, and more.
I made it look like everything was just one path that changed based on what you believed. In reality, I was tricking God, because I needed more time, just as God tricked me, because God wanted to see the true end. I had to program all of these choices in your head. When you felt like something wasn't exactly your choice... it's because I had to change your beliefs, to try and attain that ending again.
This woman was insane. I couldn't believe what she was explaining to me. God? Choices? Calibration? My head used as code? Code for what? Myself? Most likely.
Okay, hold on. This is a joke, right? This doesn't make any sense.
It does, Simon. Many people believe the world works in timelines- that out there, there is another timeline where everyone is happier, or worse off. It is comforting to know that you are not doing so bad after all. The truth is that there has never been concrete proof of that. The fact I have repeated this event not once, not twice, but eighteen times now is proof of the opposite.
No. I don't know.
BGM: Ascertaining Speech
You know about Schrodinger's Cat, right? You can't know the outcome until it is witnessed. Well, imagine the reverse. What if you were in the box? What if you... died?
An observer outside of our enclosed universe would only see the world when a good ending had been reached, so I couldn't die. That is why... I blindfolded myself. I cut off my hearing. I had minimal senses.
Because I... loved you, Simon. But.. I suppose this doesn't matter, now. In the end, I fucked up.
She cringed as she swore, as if it was difficult for her.
For whatever reason I could hardly understand, God chose to witness the world through you. Why? I don't know! But because that was the case, all of that... setup... was for naught. And so, the vision from inside the box always leads to two outcomes. Just as the cat dies or lives, and how both outcomes exist, there is Quantum Suicide, and...
Not really. I don't want to downplay your explanations, but this is... impossible to prove. This God business, this witnessing that, the Anthropomorphic Principle, whatever this all is. It doesn't make any goddamn sense!
But it does, Simon! This is how the world works, and I hate it, and I am sure you hate it too!
Then explain to me how and where we were remade eighteen fucking times!
The reactor. You've witnessed it once, haven't you? The reactor contains all of you- all of your EMILYs slowly maturing over twelve years. Every time, every attempt to replicate Ending A, you were matured over twelve years.
BGM: Advancing Shadows
Wait, wait, wait... so... twelve years...
I'll save you the math. Twelve times eighteen, but also I have to add the lifetime of research I needed...
I felt sick. How much... how much time had passed since Ending A?
Almost 300 years had passed since I first woke up? Instantly, I felt defeated. Despair ran through my body as I took in that information.
Everyone... Everyone I knew is gone...
I fell down to my knees and then onto my hands, too. I couldn't handle the truth. The world became a twisted swirl of nothingness. Everyone... I knew... was gone... forever. I would never see them again. The real Jasmine was dead. Marco was dead from 'Ending A too. The real us... even the real me!
Everyone's dead! This is... just... a mockery of life!
Oh, bullshit! Androids can be their own selves, I'm just... myself. I'm not myself. I'm myself but not myself. I'm not myself. I'm a copy. I'm... not me.
I looked at my hands and clenched my teeth. The old woman delicately reached forward to grab one of them and pull me up to my feet again.
I think we should go see something. Come with me.
I felt so defeated I didn't even protest. The old woman guided me out.
That's how I knew. What Emily said was true: I was... an android. I knew that already, didn't I? That's why when I died, I was turned off and there was darkness. I had died... eighteen times... No, wait. That wasn't true, was it? My sight came back to me as I rectified my posture. We were in the elevator going upwards.
BGM: Android Sorrow
We're almost there.
And what about you? How are you still alive after 300 years have passed?
288 years, to be exact, Simon. There are multiple types of vats, not just ones used to grow EMILYs. I have remained alive because I have kept myself in suspension within that vat in the special laboratory storage room.
Those robots you touched- they were an army of very early prototypes. They were the ones who did most of the work, but a lot of them eventually failed, and I had to keep newer versions. That is why... you may have seen a twin without their collar in the security room.
Wait, why did she not have a collar, though?
It is because the collars have your entire personalities, Simon. Your memories are constantly being broadcast to your body. As an EMILY, without those, you are no better than a robot without any thought; an automaton.
I touched the collar. This... this thing I wore that could kill me, that could end me, was me. When I was beheaded, then, I didn't die because my head was cut off. It was because the collar shut down.
I clenched my teeth. Why did everything make sense? I wished... I wished it didn't, because if it didn't make sense, then it could have been a nightmare I could've woken up from. But this was no nightmare. I wouldn't wake up from it. This was real.
The elevator stopped. We left it, and walked out into darkness. After a long walk, we emerged... outside. I understood why Emily was so insistent for me to come outside, following the question of my deaths. Outside was... calm.
What is this?
This is what Simon-17 and Emily-17 have made, Simon.
Your... other self- the one who has escaped before. He has done so by confronting Agnos, and pulling Emily along with him to pass through one of the scanner gates.
Alas... if it was so easy to accept that as the right ending. But it wasn't the right replicated path. Yet, I came to understand from it that it might be the closest one to what I needed. And so, I decided to shut down the experiment, to prepare the duo for my speech, as I'd planned to tell them at that exact time. But first, I had to do modifications.
Oh, right, why did you do that? Why couldn't you leave your other self their senses?
Because if I did, there would be no difference. You know how the endings work, right? When I end the experiment, it takes all the events that happened, and assigns it a letter.
Despite that, I replicated everything as best I could have. The guns, the knife, the rooms; everything was put back as it should have been, as long as I could do so.
I made a major change to separate every experiment from this one, by removing my own senses, since I wasn't using them during the experiments.
In the distance, I saw... myself. That was Simon-17. Next to him was a girl- Emily-17.
What the... Hey, Emily! Look at this!
My other self called from afar. I stared over, almost longingly at the happier life he seemed to be leading with Emily-17. I was... jealous of myself. The two of them joined us after rushing over. Simon-17 seemed all the more surprised from not only seeing me, but also seeing Emily too.
I was just showing Simon-19 around here for a bit.
Simon-19? So this has gone on again for another two experiments?
You said you'd stop everything, didn't you? But then we didn't see you again...
Yes, I said that, but I had to change my mind because...
Because what? I had to know.
Well... just that as you can see, there's not much left of Montreal.
He motioned with his arms around.
Apparently, a flood took the world by storm, and due to global warming, everything is now underwater. This is the very top of Mont-Royal, the mountain in the middle of Montreal.
And so it goes.
Sorry, I'll avoid being a defeatist again.
It's... okay. I'm still coming to terms with everything that has happened. It's very hard to imagine I'd ever have spoken with... myself.
And yet, you're barely aging...
Emily was looking at us.
That is because EMILYs age very, very slowly. It was one of the main parts of the GEM project. Gamma Ex Machinas were supposed to withstand dozens upon dozens of years of deterioration. I estimate EMILYs' lifespans to be somewhere in the range of two to three hundred years.
Plenty of time to get this island under control!
Either way, our business is more or less concluded here.
Hmm... we're going back in?
Yes. I'd like to stay here, too, but... this seems to be our doubles' paradise, so I don't want to intrude. And besides, I belong to another era.
Before we go, I have a question.
This time, Emily-17 was the one who wanted to take it.
What is it?
Are you two... happy?
Even if it's just one long dream. We don't really need to eat, but we do have to do maintenance, and it's not always pleasant.
And so long as you continue living here, none will disturb you. It is, as I say, paradise... even if it will probably end someday.
We waved to each other. This lifted my spirits, to be honest. I was a little happier, despite the... horrible situation everyone went through.
Before... what? I didn't know what would come after, yet.
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
I don't have a lot of these attempts left in me, but I still have enough to repeat the experiment again.
What? Why would you do that? So more people can die?
A flash of a thought passed me by. Not only that, but I clearly remembered Jasmine and Greta escaping together before. They left the underground, no? Their collars made nine together. That meant they could have passed the scanner gate. Yet, I hadn't seen them on the surface.
Don't get me wrong, Simon. I am willing to leave Simon-17 and Emily-17 their paradise, but I am not done here. The experiment needs to replicate the exact way it should have.
And did... anyone else make it out, then?
BGM: Alarming Silence
I felt a cold touch on my back. That meant... Jasmine and Greta... when they escaped... they didn't? All of that, and they weren't allowed this paradise?
And why did you not change that? Why was it that you only changed E's senses?
I couldn't risk it. I even left many hints that our two collars would let us get out, to ensure we would be the ones to make it. There was a puzzle in the infirmary that was blue and red...
What does that have to do with anything?
It was supposed to illustrate the combination of two, to make a third thing. Do you remember the special note, and what it said? It was NONE SMIILE WITHINE MY MASK, and it was not a mistake.
Nobody's going to decipher that!
But the trail was there, Simon. Either way, you lack the memories to make up Simon. You need to be restored to your exact self from Ending A. So I will let you be activated for a while longer, to make peace with your situation, then I will launch the automated program and have the old EMILYs restore this place for Simon-20 to go.
I can't... no, you're wrong about this! I can't do that! I can't repeat this cycle of death!
She smiled, sadly.
I'm myself right now! I remember it... I remember the collapse... I remember the elevator falling, and me dying. And you know what?
I pointed at her accusingly.
Because of what you did, I remember more, too! I remember when I died after Agnos killed you! I remember when I died after uncovering the vats in the reactor! I remember... I remember everything. Every single death. I remember all of them. All this pain... all this suffering... I remember everything you put me through!
That... that can't be possible. Memories shouldn't transfer across attempts like that. It makes you... complete... but also... very... strange.
Suddenly, she lit up, as if she figured something out.
I see... so... that's how it is. Because God is using you as vessel, God is actually transporting the memories... the information... Is this something that can happen? I never even considered that. It would have saved so much... so much trouble.
She sighed, looking older than ever, and decidedly apologetic about the situation.
I cannot undo those. But I suppose, perhaps it is time then.
BGM: Algorithm Simile
You sacrificed yourself to save an idiotic girl almost 300 years ago, and for that I will eternally be grateful you chose to do so on your own. I am old, I am tired... I have changed so much. And yet, I still yearn for your forgiveness. All I worked towards, now, is to finally die in peace. To let go of everything on one final note.
Oh, interesting, a choice! Well, we've gotta start with-
BGM: Advancing Shadows
I can't. I can't forgive you. After all that suffering, only my other self is allowed to have a happy end...? And out of all of us just one... one, Emily! One!! I can't forgive that! The twins... Hannah and her sister. What of them and their future?!
Emily froze, visibly struggling with her inner demons. She waited for a few moments, closed her eyes, and exhaled. I had never seen her this tired before.
I see... Very well, then, if that is your choice.
She walked out of the lobby.
Hey, where are you going?
I followed after her.
What?! Why? You can't accept my choice?
Wait... is that why...
I remembered my other self's words. She said she would've stopped 24 years ago, and yet here we were. Was this because...
Did my other self also decide not to forgive you?
Yes. It is... too much. To toil... so hard.. my entire life...
What are you going to do about it? You're a machine. You are bound by the laws of robotics, and cannot stop me if I choose to continue. Now I know what I have to reprogram next time. This is the choice I have to redo. I will give you an option here... and then you will pick forgiveness.
She suddenly coughed and fell down to the ground. I hesitated, unsure of what she was playing at, until I realized she truly couldn't get back up. I at least helped her sit up against the wall, so we could be at eye level.
BGM: Android Sorrow
I can't... do this, Emily. I can't let you do this. I won't let you redo this, Emily.
There was a light strain on me, as if my programming was trying to make me obey the law of robotics: by inaction, I would invoke pain upon her.
It's over. You can rest now. I can't forgive you, but I won't let this happen.
All I wanted in the end was to get your forgiveness... Can't you let me go in peace? Please grant me this one... final... thing...
The more she asked me to forgive her, the more I couldn't. I still remembered Greta and Jasmine, and their struggles, and my struggles. I remembered how she continued despite giving my previous self a happy end, just because he couldn't bring himself to forgive her. Everyone was still dead as well.
Jasmine might've died of old age, wondering her whole life where I'd disappeared to. I could never have brought her any news. Emily had also dragged Marco into this mess, and he even died due to her, too!
So much time has passed since Ending A. You've changed a lot. You became... someone else entirely. For the sin of repeating this for your own greed, I can't forgive you. But because your younger self still tried to do as much as she could, despite the organization's looming presence, and she almost succeeded in at least saving me...
She gave a weak smile, and yet, it was enough to make her look so much younger. At that moment, I felt like I was with the girl I saved- with E.
That's... good enough. I spent my entire life to atone... for this moment... and now, it's you... it's your choice, what happens... with this place... Maybe... I was mistaken... but... I...
She coughed again, her eyes widening in surprise. She tried to say something else, but couldn't. Instead, she lifted her hand and did her best to reach my face. Before she managed to touch it, she fell back down. Immobile. Dead.
Emily had drawn her last breath, and now, it was over.
I remained there, with her lifeless body, for a long time. I didn't know what to think. I didn't want to disturb the couple on the surface as I, too, in a way, wanted to have a happy ending.
BGM: Agnostic Shutdown
But... a happy ending was also a fake one. The 24 years they spent together was their paradise, as Emily put it. It was also a long dream, and if they had to wake up from it, then so be it.
I didn't even tell them Emily died, either. They were wiser than I anticipated, and they accepted that this could be the end. Once those preparations were complete, I went back underground.
Armed with E's collar, I reactivated the reactor room and carried Emily- the old woman's body- inside with me.
And then, I waited. Smiley appeared to me.
I see you've arrived at this room. Unfortunately, I must inform you that this room is a dead end, in a manner of speaking. 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.
The girl's sins were to join them, looking for both fortune and a stable life. But the biggest sin of all was how she remained closed off, unable to communicate with others clearly. She was entirely deaf to the plight of her own feelings, and blind to the feelings of others.
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.
That 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?
This time, there would be no sacrifice. Where before I had died, where before Hannah had died, and where most likely countless Marcos, Jasmines, and others had died too, I waited. I watched as the screen turned off, and the minutes counted down. The reactor was activating. I could have stepped in to die and stop it.
Did I think there would be no sacrifice? Oh, no. There would be a sacrifice. In fact, there would be three sacrifices. Emily and I would be the sacrifices, along with her younger, more naive self. Together, all three of us would be here when it ended.
BGM: Agnostic Shutdown