Martha and I ended up talking for longer than I’d expected; after our pair of respective diatribes, we’d discussed random literary topics for the better part of another hour, me tossing out a few recommendations for web serials I’d enjoyed whenever possible.
(Her gore restriction threw me for a loop; upon reflection, it was somewhat startling to find out how difficult it was for me to think of popular serials I liked that didn’t contain extended torture sequences. On one hand, there was something silly about assuming creators to be mentally ill just because they’d written stuff with overly dark material; on the other, man, a lot of serialists sure enjoyed going to some fucked up places. Not that I was any exception to that, but…)
We’d had fun, though; she gave me a few lectures on Dante and postmodernism, and then we finished off with a talk on Moby Dick, which I not-so-subtly directed the conversation towards. I briefly pretended not to have read it, mainly as a way to tease Dad; it wasn’t hard to picture how exasperated he’d be watching me fake being clueless about it on national TV.
(It was wishful thinking of me to assume that they’d actually show any of what we’d talked about on air, beyond maybe a second-long clip of Martha dumping out her books on the table. I doubted too many people tuned into a murder mystery show wanting to listen to two losers have pretentious conversations about literary theory.)
I stopped things right around the time she pulled out a Robert Browning collection and brought up poetry, reminding her that we’d been at it for perhaps a little too long. (I had nothing against poetry, but it wasn’t quite my cup of tea, and I figured it better to end things there than let reveal my indifference after having racked up so many brownie points with her.)
She thanked me for the talk and sputtered out a small apology for not having voted for me as we walked out to rejoin the others, and I made it clear that it was all Sludge under the bridge. (I almost pointed out the fact that I might not have voted for her or most of the others in a similar situation to try and make her feel better, but I managed to keep my mouth shut, realizing that it wouldn’t come across in the way that I’d hoped for.)
Walking out, our timing was just about perfect, them in the final stretch of the film. Without another word, we joined them, enjoying the last fifteen minutes or so of it. When we sat, Chihiro was finishing up her chat with Zeniba, and I noticed Soso still looking to be asleep, apparently having missed the entirety of the film.
We let the credits play all the way through before waking her up and leaving. It was a good song.
- While in The Computer Room, all players are welcomed and encouraged to use any of the sixteen computer terminals to their heart’s content.
- All computer terminals are identical, and contain the same set of applications. Players may use any terminal they wish; however, there are no practical differences between them.
- All computers offer a wide array of programs and features, including a basic word processor, VedsiChat, and D-Solitaire.
- VedsiChat is an online chat program that allows players the exclusive opportunity to chat with Ms. Vedsi. While operating VedsiChat, Ms. Vedsi will answer any yes or no questions that a player may have, either responding in the affirmative or the negative. If Ms. Vedsi is unable to answer a question, regardless of the reason, she will not attempt to. VedsiChat is unavailable anytime between a Sludge Announcement Chime/Body Discovery Chime and the corresponding Sludge Trial.
- D-Solitaire is a highly advanced Solitaire program. During use, players are able to enjoy Solitaire in a way never before thought possible, with three separate background color options and multiple sound effects that may be activated throughout play.
- There is no formal restriction on overall computer usage. However, VedsiChat may only be used by one player at a time, as to allow Ms. Vedsi a chance to give each question her full attention. In addition, due to its potentially addictive nature, each player may only play up to one hour of D-Solitaire each day. Players will not be Sludged for attempting to go beyond this restriction, but no terminal will allow for further play after this point. This rule exists to ensure the health and safety of all players.
- Some of the equipment within The Circuit Room is compatible with the terminals inside of The Computer Room. Feel free to take advantage of this fact to accomplish your goals. In many ways, the only true limit while in The Computer Room is your technical ability.
- As a courtesy, do not eat or drink near the computers! This is also not a Sludgeworthy offense, but please show consideration to your fellow players.
The Computer Room was small and unimpressive, at least when compared to most of the rooms I’d seen. It looked like the sort of computer lab that could be found in any underfunded public high school, sixteen bulky old school monitors laid out on horizontal tables affixed to the walls, clunky white mechanical keyboards placed in front of each one. The walls were gray and boring, and the room seemed to lack any particular theme, feeling like a perfect mix between a bare bones military bunker and the world’s most uninspired IT office.
Quote led the way for us, Corn lugging around the large box they said they’d picked up from The Circuit Room earlier that same morning. If she could be believed — and her fellow Brigade members seemed to have no doubt that she could be, based on prior conversations — tech was her domain, and everyone automatically accepted her as the rightful navigator in our given context.
After reading the rules that apparently served as the start-up screen on every computer, we all pulled up chairs around Quote’s computer to watch her try out VedsiChat, since only one of us could at a time. It took a good while for the system to let her log in after she confirmed that she’d read the rules. It was an old computer, and I saw Quote’s face scrunch up a bit after finally making it to the desktop, which had a design that I only had the vaguest possible recollection of having once seen somewhere. I heard her mutter under her breath in disgust.
“…Good Lord. ME. They’ve got to be…”
She shook her head.
There were only four icons to be seen on the desktop, each representing the three options that were mentioned in the rules (along with a recycling bin). There was a notebook and a playing card with a green dot on it, neither of which interested us.
A red circle with the letters VC inside it symbolized VedsiChat, and Quote clicked on it, opening up a white window that swallowed up the whole screen.
After a moment, a tiny gray line began flashing in the upper left corner, presumably to indicate that Quote could type. Everyone watched her do just that, save Soso, who’d pulled a few chairs together and fashioned a crude bed for herself on the other side of the room.
Several seconds passed after she hit enter, and a response soon popped up immediately beneath where Quote had submitted her text.
“I think she’ll only answer questions,” I said.
“You think it’s really her?” asked Corn.
Is this Ms. Vedsi?
Do you only answer y/n questions?
How do I beat Ma Pignon?
“Just testing,” said Quote, following a confused look from Dent.
“I’m assuming she isn’t going to answer any questions of real significance,” said Martha.
“Well, it’s worth a shot,” said Quote. “Any of you got anything you want to try and ask about?”
“I have a few,” I said.
She pushed her chair to the side, inviting me to try.
“I’d, uh, take care to remember that we probably shouldn’t take anything she says at face value,” Quote said, as I took over the keyboard. “I might not be sure where I personally stand on the nature of the Sludge and all that, but stuff is funky to the point where I wouldn’t trust anything they say on word alone. Great chance that’s not really her, obviously.”
“Wasn’t planning on it. That being said…”
Other than the sixteen players already established, are there any other secret players that we don’t know about?
So there is NOT a 17th player, correct?
Are any of the sixteen players secretly working for the gamemakers?
“Yeah, I’m not quite buying that,” said Corn. “If they’d be willing to have a mole in the first place, they’d be willing to lie about it.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Dent eye Soso.
“Any of you think that it’s little suspicious that she doesn’t want to see any of this?”
“Not saying she’s free from suspicion, but I wouldn’t expect any moles to be that transparent,” said Quote. “That being said, maybe she knew that…”
“Look, we’ve been over this,” said Corn, giving me a bit of a weird glance. “Everybody’s suspicious. Some a little more than others… but there’s almost certainly not anybody here who wouldn’t Sludge another person if the perfect opportunity came up. It’s safe to say that everyone has proper motive; normal mystery conventions don’t really apply.”
I nodded, continuing on.
Are any of the players hiding secrets?
That wasn’t really that helpful, obviously. “Secrets” in that context could have referred to anything from me hiding extra tinfoil in my pockets to someone being a serial killer.
Is ZB Popsicle hiding any secrets?
Is Lu hiding any secrets?
Is Zeezrom hiding any secrets?
“It probably won’t let you ask about players specifically,” said Strait. “That’d make it too easy, right?”
Is By Menachem hiding any secrets?
“I thought maybe it’d let us ask about ourselves, but I guess not.”
A half truth. I hadn’t really expected it to work, but a willingness to have shown the answer to that question to a large group might’ve planted some seeds of trust in minds of others. Nothing to hide, the adage went…
(Still, I didn’t want to make a habit of dishonesty while playing, if not for any other reason than to satisfy D. Something like the lie I told to Martha about having not reading Moby Dick wouldn’t get shown on TV, but even if it was, I’d justify it by telling him that I’d done it only to poke fun at my Dad, which was true. D was big on honesty; even in the context of the game, he’d been very open about the fact that he didn’t think I should deceive anyone. He was an idealist, but hey. That was endearing, if not kinda hot.)
Are you lying to me?
Can we trust you and Mr. Dogsi?
“Yeah, I figured as much.”
“…That’s weird, though,” said Strait. “If they’re lying, why not just say yes? It doesn’t make sense to only be honest about the fact that you’re a liar.”
That was a good point.
“…Weird idea,” said Martha, “But try being more specific.”
Oh, shit. That might’ve been it.
Can we trust you, Ms. Vedsi?
Someone burst through the door. Soso almost rolled off her chair, ZB’s yelling waking her up again.
“Hey, there you are! We’ve been looking all over for you losers. American Man is making sausages, and… what, are you guys watching porn together?”
I ignored ZB, and so did most of the rest of us, my second question almost fully typed out.
Can we trust Mr. Dogsi?
“It better not be anything with sea lions. Those guys are fucking assholes.”