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"Labryca" is a regular cipher-based puzzle series I plan to run and update roughly every two weeks with a new set of clues. If a serial set of questions like this is not acceptable in the puzzling section, please notify me and I can readapt the plans I've made for Labryca into some other format, possibly an interactive fiction adventure. In any case, I hope you will both enjoy and be intellectually tortured by it.
P.S. The clock and time system included in this series do not run in real time.
"Good luck, bub. You'll need it."
That snarky remark from your college ex-roommate -- and ex-friend -- is the last thing your ears are able to make out before the bulletproof glass doors slam shut behind you. Stepping impulsively back toward the doors for a second, you find that they are now firmly sealed. There is no longer any easy escape. As of this moment, the only way out... will be through.
With a sudden pang of anxiety, you admit you may not have been thinking straight when you woke up this morning and decided to embark on this ordeal. But then again, desperate times occasionally call for extreme measures. You're broke, you have no job experience, you have just been forced to withdraw from your successful educational career due to having been perceived as "too quirky"... and at this stage, the idea of making a good buck exercising your only notable skill -- the ability to scope out hidden information from enciphered texts -- is enticing to you any day.
With a few deep breaths, your determination is renewed. You face forward and proceed, stepping over a carpet with a zigzag texture into a featureless red-painted room, seemingly taken directly out of some low-resolution 3D modelling software demo from way back in the '90s.
A single computer terminal sits at the centre of this entrance hall, and as you cross a tripwire on the floor, a message, narrated by a cool female voice, flashes up on its screen.
~~~ WELCOME TO LABRYCA ~~~
LAY DOWN YOUR WEAPONS. SET ASIDE YOUR HAND-TO-HAND COMBAT TRAINING. SURRENDER ALL INTELLIGENCE YOU HAVE EVER GAINED IN SCHOOLS. FROM THIS POINT FORWARD, ONLY YOUR WITS AND INGENUITY CAN GUIDE YOU.
UPON COMPLETION OF THIS DISPATCH, A SMALL GOLDEN AMULET WILL APPEAR IN THE DOORWAY LEADING TO THE NEXT ROOM. FROM THE TIME OF ITS APPEARANCE, YOU WILL HAVE PRECISELY TWENTY-FOUR HOURS TO PLACE IT IN THE...
At this point, a short burst of static interrupts the transmission, obscuring the message, but it resumes soon afterward.
...ON THE ELEVENTH AND TOPMOST FLOOR OF THE LABRYCA COMPLEX. REACHING THIS FLOOR WILL REQUIRE THE COMPLEX AND MULTILAYERED DECIPHERMENTS OF MANY ENCRYPTED STRINGS. IF THE TIME LIMIT IS MET, YOU WILL BE HAILED AS THE NEXT LABRYCEAN CONQUEROR AND WILL BE DULY PRESENTED WITH YOUR PRIZE OF ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND UNITED STATES DOLLARS. IF, HOWEVER, THE GOAL IS NOT ACHIEVED WITHIN THIS TIME...
More static. And it's a longer burst. Now? Really?
...THUS, WE WISH YOU NOTHING BUT THE BEST. AND BEWARE: GRINADEL AWAITS. SOMEWHERE DEEP WITHIN THE HEART, HE HARBORS ONLY ILL WILL AND BAD INTENTIONS. HOWEVER, IF YOU CAN MASTER THE SPECTRAL GRINADEL, HE WILL GUIDE YOU.
THIS CONCLUDES MY DISPATCH. NOW, IT BEGINS.
An air horn-like sound effect reverberates from the red walls, as a doorway labeled with the number "1" emerges directly before you, glinting with the glow of the Amulet of Labryca hanging from a chain above.
You pick up the small golden object and begin creeping, stealthily, around a ring-shaped suite of ten rooms, all fairly nondescript and with matching zigzag carpets. A computer screen stands in the centre of each room, and as you get close to each screen, it displays a string of letters. Leaving the area, they fade out of view again.
Some of the strings look arcane, others legible. But they will all need to be cracked, and you duly note them in a log similar to the one below.
The First Elevator
As you write down the tenth and final string of letters from this floor, several smooth mechanical noises can be heard from around the inner rim of the circle of rooms. Circling the floor again, you immediately find that, in each of the ten segments, a doorway has opened leading into a central area, forming a hub connecting all the cipher terminals.
In the middle of this area stands an elevator, clearly leading upward to the second floor... but it's currently completely blocked by a security guard in a black uniform.
He smiles with amusement at the look of utter confusion on your face as you approach. "I'm Marcellus Adams. I'm the first Guardian of Labryca," he explains, apparently not concerned that this doesn't resolve much of your confusion at all.
"Concealed on this floor -- within some configuration of those ten rooms you went through and the ciphers in them -- there is a 'key' word. A response word, a meta-answer word, a singular password that you can tell me to grant yourself admission to this elevator. You can have as many tries as you wish, and once you know the 'key', you'll be able to carry your amulet onward and upward. But some have failed, even at this stage, and you don't want to end up as one of them."
A bit panicked by this last remark, you immediately recite a phrase you think you may have deduced within Room 1 alone, and blurt out the letters:
But Mr. Adams simply shakes his head, reminding you immensely of all those old "friends" you left behind. "A word, kid. Gotta be based on these ten rooms, and gotta be a word." It seems you may need to dig deeper here... much deeper.
What password do you say to Mr. Adams to get into the elevator?
I'll begin giving hints for this puzzle in about 3 days' time, depending on the responses I get from people. And by the way, if it seems like any part of this puzzle might have multiple answers, don't try to correct me -- instead, it's going to be far more useful (especially in the floors to come later on) if you can explain why you think your answer is the right one.