Hour Five: Writing Out A S-S-Stutter Takes F-F-F-Forever
Aw, now thatís cool right there. Iím thrilled you like the liveblog, Iím excited youíre playing the game, so you know what? Hereís the next installment, delivered early and fresh off the word processor.
Last time on 999: Our heroes found some doors, bitched about some stuff, and got some badass codenames. All except for one, that is. In this installment, we (might) find out why! Stay tuned.
So, eight of our protagonists have told us their numbers and picked a snazzy fake name. Someoneís not talking, though; take a wild guess who.
He was the man with glasses and hair like a bird's nest.
He hadn't said anything since they'd met on the stairs, and he didn't look like the sort of person who was inclined to conversation. His skin was pale, his breathing was heavy, and he was soaked with nervous sweat.
His behavior seemed very suspicious, or perhaps simply emotionally unstable. It was difficult to tell. Whatever the case, it seemed clear that he had only a fingertip's-worth◊ of a grip on his sanity.
Who has two thumbs and called it? This troper!
Clover, however, seems to have learned nothing from how utterly neurotic this guy is acting, so she walks on over and asks for his number.
...No, not that way.
Clover: What number are you?
He didn't answer. His bloodshot eyes twitched from person to person, and his breath came in hot pants.
...Thatís creepy. Stranger danger! I need an adult!
Clover: Hey, I'm talking to you...
The man licked his dry lips with a shaking tongue and spoke with a voice like old paper.
???: I-I-Isn't it o-obvious? There are 9 people here. A-A-A-And you know who numbers 1 through 8 are. I'm th-the only one left.
Clover: So you're (9)?
He extended a trembling arm. The bracelet◊ did indeed say (9).
Clover looked at it contemptuously.
Clover: What's your code name?
Clover: What do you want us to call you? We all made up names. You should too.
???: I-I-I-I-I d-don't need one.
Clover: Why not?
???: B-B-B-Because I'm n-n-not going to stay here. ...With y-you.
He took a shuddering breath and exhaled.
Clover looked at him with something very like disgust.
Clover: You've got some sorta plan?
???: I-I do.
Clover: Yeah? What's that?
???: Y-Y-Y-You sure you w-want to know?
???: A-All right. Let me sh-show you. I-I-I-I'm going to do this!◊
WHAT THE HELL GAME WHAT THE HELL
By the time they realized what he was doing◊, it was too late to stop him. The man's body moved like a snake's. In the blink of an eye, he had slid around behind her, and wrapped his arm around her waist.
SOMEONE CALL THE FBI! GET THE PARTY VAN! STRANGER DANGER! I NEED AN ADULT!
Santa: Hey, what the hell do you think you're doing!?
Silver—[Santa] leapt forward, toward Clover and the 9th Man.
Yeah! Kill that guy-- no police!
He was halfway there, when—
???: S-Stay back!
Suddenly the man's hand dove into his pocket. It came back out with a knife. A pocketknife.◊ He held it to Clover's pale, quivering neck.
???: I-I-If you g-get any closer—! I-I'll cut her open!
Santa skidded to a halt. He snarled at the scrawny man with the knife and gritted his teeth.
???: Y-Yes, that's right...
The man's smile was neither friendly nor reassuring. Sweat poured down his neck, soaking the collar of his shirt.
Snake: Clover...are you all right?◊
The prince—[Snake's] voice sounded oddly concerned.
Uh, how concerned is 'oddly concerned' when there's a kid being held a knifepoint by a crazy nerd?
Clover: Y-Yeah... I'm fine...
Her voice shook, making her words even less convincing.
Junpei: What the hell are you trying to do?!
???: I-I told you... This is my plan...
Seven: What're you gonna do to her, you sick son of a bitch?
What do you THINK he's going to do to his underage hostage on a boat in (possibly) international waters where nobody can hear you scream or come to your aid?
???: D-Don't worry... I-I'm not going to d-do anything to her... If she just does what I t-tell her to, I'll let her go.
IT'S A TRAP
He started to move backward, slowly, keeping his grip on Clover. Keeping their distance, Junpei and the others followed.
Eventually, the man reached the wall. He gave a start as his back touched it, then glanced around quickly and spoke.
???: The left. Look on your left. D-Do you see the device on the wall? P-Place your hand on the scanner panel, the round part.
Clover: What if I don't?
The man's nostrils flared and he looked like he was about to choke.
???: A-A-A-Are you an idiot?! W-W-What do you think?! I c-c-could slit your throat right now! I'll kill you if I have to. A-All I need is your bracelet.
???: Just do it! D-Do it now!
He pressed the knife against Clover's neck, hard.
Slowly, she stretched her left hand out toward the device. Her back was to it, and she had to feel around for a moment before she found the circular panel.◊
It made a cold, electronic noise, and on the display above her hand, an asterisk appeared.
So that's how it works◊, Junpei thought to himself.
NOW IS NOT THE TIME, JUNPEI
By placing one's palm on what the 9th Man had called the "scanner panel", the user's bracelet number would be entered into the device.
Zero: "Should you total the numbers on your [numbered bracelets]...
...and find that the [digital root] of that number is equal to the number of that door, the door will open."
Junpei shifted his eyes to the door itself.
The number on it was .
The 9th Man seemed to know a little more about the device's operation than he should.
How had he known exactly what to do?
Uh, magic? A wizard did it?
Tiny leprechaun babies living in his handsWHO CARES HOW HE KNOWS JUST SAVE THE KID
That box isn't going anywhere but he still has Clover hostage. Priorities, Junpei: You need to get yours in order.
???: Good... Good, you're done. N-N-Next...
His blood-shot eyes crept from person to person until finally... They stopped on the lion—[Ace].
holy mother of sweet sassy molassy he's making it a threesome
FIGHT IT ACE, FIGHT IT
???: You, right? You're the one with the number (1) bracelet, right?
Ace: Yes. I am. So?
???: Th-Then y-you're next... Just verify your number like this little b-brat did.
???: What are you doing?! D-Do it! D-Don't you care what h-happens to her?!
Ace: O-Okay, okay. Just calm down...
Ace held up his hands, palms out.◊ The 9th Man jerked—
—his chin toward the device.
Slowly, cautiously, Ace moved toward the device. After what seemed like an agonizing eternity, he reached it.
???: Now... Verify.
Ace nodded and placed his hand on the scanner panel.
The device beeped again, and a 2nd asterisk appeared. Now the device had Clover and Ace's numbers. (4) and (1).
4 + 1 = 5
...Did we really need that spelled out for us? I'm pretty sure the players know basic math.
The same as the number written on the door. But it wouldn't open just yet...
Zero: "Only [3-5] people can pass through one numbered door."
The door needed at least 1 more person. Who would that be?
For someone who likes to show off his amazing addition skills, Junpei sure doesn't use them when he needs to.
???: G-G-G-Get back...
His voice shook, but the knife he held to Clover's throat made his words a command. Ace took 2, then 3, steps back.
???: No! Farther! More than that! Go all the way back!
Slowly, Ace did what he was told. The 9th Man's lips curled into a cruel, twisted smile.
That was when Junpei understood his plan.
Clover's (4) and Ace's (1)... Added to the 9th Man's (9)... 4 + 1 + 9 = 14 ? 1 + 4 = 
In other words...
???: Hehe... Hehehe... Ehehehehehehehehe!
That laugh! Heíd give even Laharl
a run for his money with that.
???: Th-Th-Thank God you were all so c-cooperative! Now I can get out of this n-nightmare!
He pressed his own hand against the scanner panel. A 3rd asterisk◊ appeared on the screen. He dropped his hand to the lever on the side of the device and pulled.
The door opened with a heavy, metallic groan.
Dang. Even the ship is getting sick of these people.
He let go of Clover.
Junpei leapt toward the 9th Man, but he wasn't fast enough. The man shoved Clover...
...And hopped through the door.
???: O-O-Okay, have a good one, guys. I'm going off ahead now. Well then... Goodbye...◊
He raised his hand and waved, a twisted smirk on his face. Then he was gone. The door ground shut with a dull clang of metal on metal.
What a freakshow. Thank goodness he's out of the way for now. He might try molesting someone else in the cast next if he hung about.
Snake: Clover! Are you all right!?
Snake ran to Clover's side as she lay on the floor.
Aww. That's actually kinda cute.
Clover: Y-Yeah, I'm fine.
She climbed unsteadily to her feet, and once there, leaned heavily on Snake's shoulder for support.
Junpei ran to the door. The others followed him. Several pairs of hands grabbed hold of the handles and pulled.
They grunted and strained, but...
Junpei: Shit! It won't budge!
What part of 'THE DOOR IS LOCKED' do you people just constantly fail to comprehend?
That was when [Lotus], the dancer, spoke. Her voice was quiet.
Lotus: Do you hear something...?
Lotus: Like some sort of... beeping...◊
Junpei pressed his ear against the cold metal of the door. The others did the same.
June: You're right... I can hear it too.
Santa: What is it?
Maybe his beeper is going off? He's late for a Pedobears Anonymous meeting!
Then they heard something else. It was the 9th Man.
???: Shit! Why isn't it stopping?! Goddamnit! Y-Y-You l-lied!
???: Th-Th-This wasn't supposed to happen! This is wrong! This is wrong!
His voice shook with fear.
Safe on the outside, they stepped back from the door and looked at one another.
Did I miss something?
Ace: What is happening in there...?
???: O-O-O-Open the door! Please! I'm begging you! Help me!◊ Please, get me out of here! Get me out of here!
Junpei grabbed hold of the device. He slammed his hand on the scanner panel. Nothing happened.
Why didn't it register him?! He looked at the display where the asterisks had shown up. It said "ENGAGED◊".
Is there a gas leak in here?
???: A-Ah... Oh my God, oh my God, there's no time left...! Listen! I was lied to! He lied to me! He put me in here! It was him! He killed me!
It was him! A...Aahh... Aaahhhh...
The explosion rocked the room. Instinctively, they ducked, then stood up slowly when they realized there was no danger.
No one spoke.
Silence filled the room.◊
In that silence, the electronic tone that echoed across the room sounded as loud as a gunshot.
All eyes turned toward it.
It had come from the device mounted next to the door.
The display changed◊ from [ENGAGED] to [VACANT].
Seven: Let's see if we can open it...
[Seven]—the mountain—swallowed hard.
Junpei nodded and placed his hand on the scanner panel. A red asterisk appeared on the LCD panel. The device had registered Junpei's bracelet number: (5).
His was not enough, however. At least 2 more people were needed.
...So, uh. I guess weíre going to investigate godbearjesus only know what. Who should we take with us? Our options are:
<Ace and Lotus (1 + 8)>
<Snake and Seven (2 + 7)>
<Santa and June (3 + 6)>