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We now have a large collection of what must have been the spikes in the processor loads (and if you truly understand what that means, you can take a cookie off the shelf), caused by the obscure whomps that the hacker gang spoke of before. Caesar tells us they happened last Monday, Texel gives some rather broad location ranges, and Random questions the nature of balls under the beasts. Which enables Wix to map the timestamps to US timezones, which, in turn, enables Moriar and xnbomb to take the next step in their plague pattern establishment work. Or something. I'm not exactly sure what it enabled them to do, so I'll just let one of them tell you.

Before I write too much about patterns and locations, I need to tell you something about myself so this makes some sense. I'm a geographer. No, that doesn't mean I know all the state capitals or anything like that. What it means is that I study spatial patterns. Not only do I do this as a job, but it tends to permeate my thinking all the time; when I see some information about something, I tend to key in on locations, it's just how my mind works.

When I first had a look at little-boxes.net and Beth's archive of information about paranormal occurrences, I started thinking about locations right away. I plotted them up using something called a geographic information system (GIS for short), which is software for making maps and performing spatial analyses. I put a point on a world map for every one of Beth's events, and numbered the points with her numeric identifiers. I didn't see much that jumped out at me at that point.

When we started hearing about whomps and getting some hints as to their locations from the hacker files, I started wondering if whomps and paranormal events were correlated in some way in terms of their locations. My preliminary conclusion was that I didn't have enough data about where and when the whomps had occurred, nor were Beth's event reports specific enough to make that determination. Wix had the same idea, and had the courage to post it back when it was still rolling around in my head. He also did a nice job of extracting as much spatial information as one could from the hacker logs that showed the potential relationship between Mrs. Ross' house collapse and the whomp from the unjust files:

That^ is definitely not my department; my department is interpreting and defending Scratch. Though it's a lot like translating "The Odyssey" with the help of a modern Greek dictionary at this point. Let's see: Scratch thinks the spikes, and, therefore, the whomps are "nada, zip, etc.", which pisses off Caesar. Actually, it seems that Scratch just pisses Caesar off in general. So much so that Caesar says "Ah Scratch, the lean and hungry look. You think too much... your kind is dangerous." Which, as nonlocality points out, is a paraphrase of Shakespeare's Caesar's opinion of Cassius. Texel assures Caesar that Scratch is NOBLE, well given (the rest of that "Scratch is..." stuff is a googlism, which, for some reason, is Texel's communication tool of choice at times), and not dangerous (as Antony does; Antony's full reply was "Fear him not Caesar, he's not dangerous. He is a Noble Roman, and well given"). Then Scratch leaves off with a concise "Chill!!"

While it is difficult to grasp the reasons for this tension between Caesar and Scratch (that is, if you choose to ignore, as I do, the Shakespearian parallels), we can at least comprehend what they're saying. Comprehending Random, on the other hand, is simply impossible. All our attempts to pinpoint the contextual significance of the age-old question "Where does a man slide so quickly and brightly?" fail miserably. Nor can we wholly and sincerely commit ourselves to weeping antiquity until Random adequately establishes the logical necessity for such weeping. It seems improbable that this guy would just say all of this random stuff... well, randomly... there must be, as Lambert Wilson would say, a "why... a riezen" and we are determined to find it.

Oct. 19

Also known as the "updates" day. Yes, that's how we classify our days now. I'd come home from work, and my boyfriend would ask me "How was your day?", and I'd answer "Oh, it was terrible - no updates," or "Really great - huge updates today!" Though, I think, by this time he just stopped asking...

But I digress. Beth has a new e-mail from Phil:

Email from pgairden@metadex.net

Date: 10/18/03 19:13
Subject: Home soon

Iím sorry that I have been so out of touch the past few days. I will return home mid-week and would love to meet with you then. This trip has given me as many questions as it has answers and it would be great to sort this out with you. Have found no concrete evidence of Kane here; how can a man that was born and raised in Hawaii have no ties to the place aside from a rather ďtouchedĒ spiritual guide? Going to try to meet with Kane again tomorrow, then lectures on Monday. Home Tuesday night if all goes as planned.

How are things on your end? Hopefully all is well. I will call soon.

Phillip

I'm still somewhat baffled: if Phil flew to Hawaii to investigate Kane, and he's "home Tuesday night," then who has lectures on Monday? Luckily, there are a lot more interesting things for us to speculate about, such as this e-mail from Katherine (!) to Beth:

Email from katgirl@metadex.net

Date: 10/18/03 14:32
Subject: Again tonight?

Hey girl!

I lost your phone number, but would love to get together tonight. Had a blast last night! That guy, what a trip. Anyway, give me a call so we can hook up later.

Kat

Beth went out with Kat last night? Is she out of her mind? Beth, the woman spied on you; stop all contact with her immediately!

Nonetheless, it's cool that she e-mailed, 'cause now we know her username on Metadex (something we've been trying to figure our for 19 days, in an on-and-off sort of way). Featured links on her profile lead to various real (we kinda forgot what that means, so I looked the word up - it's defined as "not in-game") photo galleries that all have a "no trespassing" sign in one way or another. Within moments of each other, several people find Kathy's password to be "notrespassing". A sidenote here: real Katherine Cunningham was a pioneer photographer - this little easter-egg was not discovered until after the game was over, I believe.

This is what what we find in Kat's metadex:

 

NOTES

  • Need to prepare report, will meet with him soon
    • New evidence appearing almost weekly
      • No real pattern
      • He should know more?
    • McConnell distracted by ďplaguesĒ +
    • Mother no longer an issue
    • Need to get rid of that dog
  • McConnell, Elizabeth
    • 27 years old
    • Redland , WA
    • Single, not dating
    • Overly attentive mother, poor relationship with father, dog- Laika, no other family
    • Confides in Phillip Gairden, professor
    • Dedicated employee at MetaCortex
      • 6 years
      • R&D
      • Boss: Marcus Ormond
    • Obsessed with Anomalies
    • No real life outside of work, hobby
    • Overly trusting +
    • Questioning Ormond -

Whoa... we suspected Kat was an evil spying bitch, but this is almost too much. "Will meet with him soon"? Him - whom? Is it the same person that "should know more"? Beth is "distracted" by plagues, and that's a good thing? I'm not sure how many e-mails went out that day telling Beth to stop paying attention to the plagues; and I'm even less sure of what alternatives were offered. And what happened to Beth's mother that she is "no longer an issue"? And what's with the need to get rid of Laika?

You know, Wongmo would probably say something like "seek, and you shall find"; and he'd be right, too - in due time all of these questions I keep asking myself here will be answered... well, most of them, anyway. It's good to have Wongmo around: he not only feeds us these lame cookie-cutter bits of wisdom, but also provides a continuous source of entertainment.

From: J. S.

Dear Wongmo: speaking of dolphins, is this Chicken or Tuna in this can? Because I thought it was tuna, but the label says 'Chicken of the Sea'. WTF? Love, Jessica

Answer:

Wongmo must point out that "chicken," used in this sense, is not actually chicken, but chicken as metaphor. Think of it this way: If you say "this boat is the bee's knees," you certainly don't mean to imply that A) the boat is small or that B) bees have actual knees.

"Chicken of the Sea," as Wongmo interprets it, simply means that the tuna in the can is to the sea as chickens are to land...meaning, of course, that chickens don't actually swim.

Wongmo also notes that "Dolphin Safe" is not a place to store your dolphin.

--Wongmo


From: E. M.

Dear Wongmo, I have been having great trouble dealing with breakfast cereal lately. Soups also frequently present a problem. I know that, if anyone can help, it is you. My question is simpleÖis there, in fact, a spoon?

Answer:

The is that is now and the is that will be are not the same as the is that once was.

--Wongmo

Worker sneaks in and asks why Leiphe is not able to make the Hawaiian retreat (yes, Wongmo is going to Hawaii, and he invites you to join him: take in the sun, clear your blocked energy fields, and develop your Higher Self - all for a measly price of $2950 to $3895 per person). Turns out Leiphe is double-booked; ooh, too bad - we all looked forward to meeting her.

In case you had any doubts, both Wongmo and Leiphe do occasionally provide useful information: for instance, Wongmo's talent section features a song by Dina N., and Leiphe has one of her lessons learned by a Dina N. from Chicago.

You are probably wondering - what about this giant underwater construction that's unlike anything on earth, this 8th wonder of the world that is the Aquapolis? Well, there was an update on their "News" page, which stated that a "tragedy [was] averted at Aquapolis construction site" (news from Oct. 8). A few days later the same tragedy was mentioned in the news by MetaCortex; and today KaG found /incidentlogs (a copy of the logs is here). It might help to have a visual in order to better understand the way The Aquapolis is structured (actually, I just really want to show off the fine work that can only result from a rare combination of talent, lack of sleep, and borderline unhealthy obsession).

xnbomb's rendering:

aqualung1105's rendering

We translated the Greek on the "blueprints" as approximately the following:

As for the log itself, here is my summary:
At 7:29:05 the system receives its first 2 ďbreachĒ warnings (2311 and 2312). It immediately sets off an alarm on the Delos level of the Beta module. Then it closes doors 4-8. All of this takes 1 second.
In the next second it receives another breach warning (2315), and closes doors 1, 2, 3, 9. Receives 2 more breach warnings (2316, 2317) and tries to close door 7. Canít close door 7. Sets off an alarm on all levels and also sets off a "global" alarm.
In the next 6 seconds it receives confirmation that doors 1-6 and 8-9 are closed. Canít close door 7.
Then for 30 seconds it tries but CANíT CLOSE DOOR 7.
Finally a manual override closes the door.
Then they check the whole thing; everythingís ok; end of log.

There is SO much speculation at this point as to what actually happened there: who/what was at door 7? Why were they trying to prevent it from closing (or, actually, maybe a better question to ask would have been: "why did the system insist on closing door 7?") Why is there no indication of a flood in the log? Why does the website mention "over 500 rooms", and there are only 450 guest modules in the "blueprints"? What significance do the level names bear? Reluctantly, we leave the subject, hoping that the next "incident" would shed some light on the situation.

Oct. 22

Wongmo came back from his retreat:

Greetings, my friend!

Wongmo is home from this season's retreat with a quick recap of the week's events!

The retreat opened on the 11th of October with a beachfront bonfire and old-fashioned clam bake. The weather was perfect, with crystal clear skies and balmy temperatures, the ocean lapping at the shore, and attendees joining hands and singing songs around the fire late into the night.

The beginning songwriting seminars of the 12th and 13th were very well attended and Wongmo was very very pleased with the calibre of students present. The social mixer and group swim on the evening of the 13th was pleasant and uneventful save for that incident involving Mara L (Mara, your bikini top has been recovered and is being shipped to you).

Wongmo held the Pixels on the Page seminar the morning of the 14th and, after a bit of a bumpy start due to some confusion on which conference room was reserved, led a very interesting session. The coffee arrived late but Wongmo was gratified to see bright, shining faces that early in the morning considering some of you were out quite late the previous night. Yes, Tom B and Tina S, Wongmo is looking at you.

The afternoon session on the 14th, "Lighting the Creative Torch," was well attended. Wongmo thought the pyrotechnics at the session's start were a nice touch even though there was some minor scorching on one wall.

Many of you took advantage of your free day on the 15th to indulge in a little shopping. Wongmo noted a large increase in Hawaiian shirts and straw sun hats the remainder of the week. Nancy C in particular helped the local economy a great deal, and Hawaii thanks her.

The advanced songwriting sessions on the 16th and 17th were again an amazing display of raw talent. It was stirring to see so many folks strip away the pretense and artifice of the modern world and get in touch with their primal selves through song. Many very interesting compositions resulted.

The sessions offered the morning of the 18th were evenly split, with some attending the popular haiku on the beach seminar and the rest attending the inner dolphin gathering. Wongmo was happy to see so many new faces getting in touch with the sea creature inside us all.

The closing session, a "Firewalk of Faith," taught many attendees that they could do the seemingly impossible. Afterward, so many of you expressed your gratitude for this amazing experience! Wongmo is pleased to report that Sara F is doing fine and sends her thanks for your kind thoughts. She is home from the hospital and says she will try it again next year but, she says, she promises next time she won't fall half way across. Wongmo also wishes to thank Jimmie K and Ron W for helping Sara to her feet and putting out her caftan.

Wongmo hopes to see all of his new and old friends at the next retreat. Keep watching for the announcement, and remember:The flight of the Eagle is no further or faster than the trek of the Dolphin.

~Wongmo

I heart Wolf. "The flight of the Eagle is no further or faster than the trek of the Dolphin"?! Whether or not it actually means anything, this stuff is hilarious!

And Phil is back from his trip; here are the results of his investigation:

And, yes, we did piece all of this stuff together - it ended up being 2 angry letters to Wongmo (here and here). Wongmo is a crook, and we are not surprised. The really big news, though - Arnold Quentin Niehoffer. This guy bought himself a ticket from Chicago to Hawaii for the time that Wongmo is there... why? He wants to develop his Higher Self? Or is "Niehoffer" Wongmo's real name? Or maybe it's Kane's real name (since that's who Phil went to investigate in Hawaii... plus there is a hand-written note that starts "Mr Le" - Leo Kane?)? But then Kane's 3 other passports are... in whose names? And why does Kane have letters addressed to Wongmo? Pretty much the only thing that we are clear on at this point is that the "UH" in Phil's Metadex notes referred to University of Honolulu, and "LK" - to Leo Kane.

We are further confused by this e-mail that Phil sends to Beth:

Email from pgairden@metadex.net

Date: 10/22/03 10:38
Subject: Charade

It has taken me several minutes (no, hours) to compose myself enough to put fingers to keys and address you in any sort of reasonable manner - although, using the word 'reasonable' within ten paragraphs of your name is laughable, really!

How dare you - you who call yourself a professional, a researcher, with a certain measure of integrity - bring the credibility of our studies into question with credentials that may be no more real than some of the ghosts about which you write? How dare you stain the hard work and reputation of hundreds of authors, contributors, and volunteers with this sham setup you've created?

I can thus far find no evidence of the actual studies that you have cited, and believe me, as a researcher, I tried every which way of proving you have some integrity in your work. Help me out here: are we debunking the paranormal event which happens to be your existence, or can you provide me some shred of truth, some conclusive evidence that shows me you are actually who you say you are and that you have the slightest understanding of the research you purport to know so much about? This is unbelievable! How have you gotten this far in your career on such shoddy footing? What on earth could you possibly have to say for yourself about all this?

I'm at a loss, here. I value the work my associates and I do far too much to be hoodwinked by someone who seeks to undermine a segment of academia which already suffers from a severe case of nay-sayers and cynics.

Give me something solid, and soon, or I will blow this thing wide open. You will not make me, or the paranormal community, take a hit for what you've done.

Phillip Gairden

The most reasonable explanation is that Phil accidentally sent an e-mail intended for Kane to Beth's mailbox. But we can't be absolutely sure - Beth is a researcher of sorts too, and maybe Phil has found some horrible truth about her... nah... we can't admit that even as a remote possibility. Beth herself does not make any notes that would help us clarify things (she just adds a little "Call Phil" note to her Metadex). She does, however, add these archives to little-boxes.

When Beth added those additional events to her archive, I remarked on a couple of things about the group of events as a whole. A lot of them occurred in the USA and Western Europe, and a lot of them happened in national parks or other remote wilderness settings. But the fact that several of them had their numerical identifiers reassigned didn't ring any bells for me, although Aegir pointed this out. The significance of the reordering didn't really catch anyone's attention until a few days later, when Beth drew attention to the fact that she had not been the one who reordered them.

And my favorite update: a new incident at the Aquapolis. This time SafeSys logs 2 "events"; and the logs indicate Metacortex' IP address (as opposed to the first incident). The Delta module of the Delos level is flooded, and SafeSys promptly responds by closing bulkheads in that module of the level. However, 29 seconds after the system receives its last "everything is secure" confirmation, someone attempts a manual override on door A (that's the door that connects the guest modules and the walkway). It seems that whoever is trying to open door A does so for 41 seconds; a minute after the last attempt, SafeSys confirms that Delta on Delos is secure.

The "construction webcam" goes live. Again, we don't really know what to do with this information, except notice that none of it is mentioned in the news by either MetaCortex or the Aquapolis. The search for thematic references to Delos continues, and ParityBit's mention of Westworld is indistinguishable in the heap of other voices.

Oct. 25

Three days after the last incident, four pictures are added to the directory. Three show a man drowning, and one - what I assume to be a "flood" breach on the walkway. While we quickly establish that this man must have been the one trying to open door A, there is a lot of information that is debated.

I understand that you, dear reader, may not be interested in any of this "technical" stuff, and that the main purpose of this "book" is to tell the story of the game. However, I also want you to see this game from our perspective, and, as such, to understand how difficult it was, in many cases, to distinguish a "puzzle", as well as how much time we spent on "non-puzzles" without any confirmation that they were, in fact, non-puzzles - until the end of the game.

For example, three pictures of a drowning man turn into a 5-page discussion. We have no idea what might be important to the story. Who uploaded these photos to the directory, and why? Why did the Aquapolis leave them there, in an unprotected directory, at the risk of someone finding out there has been a fatal accident in the hotel? Where were these pictures taken - they appear to be shots of a monitor on which the security cam recording is viewed, rather than direct captures? And wth is going on with these breach codes? I engage in a lengthy debate on whether or not the first incident was, in fact, a flood (all based on just two digits of the codes, which I interpret as indicative of different types of breaches). Hundreds of people with much better things to do photoshop the hell out of the logo on the drowning dude's suit. Aquapolis' job openings are meticulously catalogued, with each filled position and new opening reported to unfiction. xnbomb writes an article worthy of being published in an "Underwater Hotel Construction" magazine, in which he outlines the various safety considerations completely overlooked by the "architects"; at later dates, we even theorize about the possible layout of watertight chambers, air and water pipes, and elevator shafts. We shred the Aquapolis to pieces. Steve, the "designer" of the hotel probably had not thought of as many details as we did on those sleepless nights we spent staring at the "blueprints", trying to reconstruct the hotel in various graphics software.

And, of course, the main questions are: who is the drowning guy, what was he doing on Delos, and why was he denied access to the door at the expense of being drowned?

In other news, Beth is going on vacation:

Hi!

Vacation! I canít believe that with everything happening at work, I actually have the courage to take my boss up on his offer of ďa little time off to regroup and regain my focusĒ. Iím so very excited and there is just so much to do before I leave tomorrow and here I am writing an email. I figured that it would be the best way to let everyone know that Iím ok and that Iíll be back in town next week, if everything goes as planned.

As you are aware, I have a rather intense interest in paranormal activity. Well, sometime this week someone went into my research archives and did something to a few of the events Iíve chronicled which made me look a bit more closely at them. If my hunch is correct, I think that for the first time I may have actually predicted where the next occurrence will take place. I canít believe it and it all seems so crazy, but sometimes you just have to follow your gut. So, Iím off to the middle of nowhere to experience an anomaly first hand. Iíll be sure to take copious notes and video whatever I may see. To be honest, I have no idea of what to expect and the anticipation is nearly killing me!

My boss, Iím sure, will not be happy with my short notice. There is so much work to be done and heís already more than a bit upset with me. The new CEO seems to have lost the big picture and has reassigned the priorities on a number of accounts which has us all running around like mad. Despite my best efforts, Iíve not been able to focus on work and find myself constantly distracted by the paranormal. Which, luckily I was because I think that I may actually have predicted an event (at least the when & where of it!). My mind is just racing!

Other than that, things have really been looking up. It was a rough start to the week, a good friend is apparently very upset with me for some reason that he does not feel the need to share, my research archives were once again broken into and messed with, my dog was back at the vet. On top of a rough couple weeks, it just nearly broke me. Fortunately Iíve made a new friend at work that helped me to see the light at the end of the tunnel, Laika was suddenly much better, the altered research led me to a fantastic revelation, and I just feel like Iím 10 years old waiting to open presents. Itís all so illogical and yet so invigorating! I havenít felt this great for about two years. Iím so excited that Iím beginning to ramble.

Iíll have my laptop with me, though who knows what sort of connection Iíll be able to get out there. Iíll try to check in with everyone midweek. If not, I should be back in town next week.

Woo! Vacation!!

Beth

Beth pointed out that some mysterious entity had reordered the bookmarks in her archive (thereby changing their numeric identifiers). This is what led her to a pattern that was enough to allow her to predict the location of the next paranormal event. That really started the ball rolling. Nonlocality was the one who first posted on this, and got me cracking. I whipped up a quick map of the locations of the events with the changed numbers.

Then I did something that is easy to do with a GIS, and a little more work if you're going to use analog methods. I measured the distance between the presumed location of Redland and each of the paranormal events, and came up with a sine wave shaped plot:

With the help of Catherwood and Marauder, I managed to nail down the location of event #96, which put it on the line like all the others. Moriar and I both guessed that the next event would occur in Alabama by extrapolating the wave out to event 102.

Naturally, the next thing we did was checked out Beth's dextop:

Email from katgirl@metadex.net

Date: 10/25/03 13:19
Subject: just go!

Beth,

I've been thinking about this since we got off the phone. You have to do this! Like you said, you'll regret it if you don't go. I know that you're worried about MLO, but you shouldn't be. After all, he's the one that told you to take time off! I'll cover for you as much as possible, so you don't have to worry about that as we live and work a "wired reality." If you need something from work, all you'll need to do is call me and I'll get it to you.

I know that you're worried about a wild goose chase. I've only known you a short period of time, but I've never known you to be wrong about anything. You have to have confidence in yourself and trust your instincts--they're good! Go, find what ever it is that you're going to find, and enjoy yourself! You deserve it!

Don't worry about Laika, she can stay with me while you're gone. We'll have a blast together. If you leave me your key, I'll even stop by your place and check in on things there. Oh! You can borrow all my camping gear. You'll be set. Just stop by my house later so we can get it all worked out.

Of course Kat wants Beth to go on this vacation - she thinks plagues are a "good" distraction! The question is - what does she really NOT want Beth to find out? And, please, "we live and work in a 'wired reality'"?! But I think what the majority of us were most worried about at that time was Laika.

There is also a reply from Phil (Beth sent him an e-mail earlier asking why he sent her that flaming message):

Email from pgairden@metadex.net

Date: 10/25/03 16:47
Subject: re: your email?

Beth,

Please disregard that email. It was a mistake to send it. You know that I consider you a friend before and above anything else. I have the utmost respect for you and that will never change. Let us just ignore the fact that I sent that email and move forward as the friends that we are.

I'm sorry that I've not returned your calls. I've been busy making up for the time that I was away. Perhaps when you return, we'll be able to sit down and talk. Have a safe trip.

Phillip

Well, at least that's squared away. But then... we find this in Wongmo's new mailbag:

From: P.G.

I've written and rewritten this letter a dozen times, each time stripping a little part of it, a part of myself, away. I know that you always say you crave simplicity and straightforwardness in all things. I wanted NOT to drown you in wordiness, but instead to tell you as directly as I could, how I feel.

(You'll probably never even see this, so what should it matter?)

I've learned so much about myself in the time I've spent with you. Seeing your passion for the world around you, your curiosity, I've myself begun spotting connections in the little electric impulses of life, those unseen things than hold us together. I see, and FEEL, sense, where before there was only chaos. And I have only you to thank.

I've devoted my life to debunking the improbable and explaining the unexplainable. I've spent hours draining the mystery out of the cup of life before I hand it back, dry and dessicated, to people who only wanted to believe in powers greater than themselves. Never before did I appreciate how wonderful it felt to be held in the thrall of something wild, something that couldn't be scientifically proven or analyzed to within an inch of its life.

Now that I feel that thrall, now that I'm able to put the cynicism of my younger days aside for the purity of love, I want nothing more than to spend the rest of my days basking in that glow. Please, dear song of my soul....share this moment with me.

Forever yours.

Answer:

Well.....Thank you for the kind words. Wongmo feels the same way about all of his students!

-Wongmo

Um... Phillip Gairden hearts Wongmo?? After we pick our jaws up off the floor, we reason... or no, wait, we couldn't reason anything. Here's what really happened:

... people didn't seem to understand that the "love letter" that Phil sent to Wongmo and the hate letter that he sent to Beth were actually mismailed... he just got them mixed up and mailed them to the wrong people...

imbri, PM

This day was definitely a good day - lots of updates; but that also means that I have to find lots of good segues from one update to another. I'm getting kinda stumped, so I'll just do without a transition now: we found Beth's password to little-boxes. Beth had a new note in her Metadex: "new password: the hardest to learn" (and if you thought that we were all geeks before, then I probably shouldn't tell you that I'm writing that from memory). DigitalFuzi0n recognized that as lyrics from a song by Indigo Girls; the password is indigogirls.

The Nekodas site gets updates as well:

If you think that a picture of two leaves is no more informative than a picture of the sky, you are terribly wrong. The dot to the left of thenekodas.com results in dina.thenekodas.com... finally! The PMs are undoubtedly overwhelmed with joy, as all of their previous mentions of Dina Nekoda have at best inspired these anagrams:

:: Naked said no.
:: Knead in soda.
:: Soaked in DNA.
:: Edna sad, oink.
:: Neo said, "Dank."

and others less worthy of mention.

Dina's main page links to her weblog, from which we learn that her husband's name is Ethan; thus, http://ethan.thenekodas.com.

Dina is an aspiring musician (and a novice, she admits); lives in Chicago; loves her husband, Ethan. She has a recently developed sleeping disorder of sorts, does Leiphe lessons, and participates in Wongmo's talent search. Blogging was Dina's idea: Ethan travels a lot, and this kind of communication is a lot more efficient than e-mail.

Ethan is away on a business trip at this time; wanting to comfort him with images of home, Dina posts two pictures of Chicago to his blog. So far we find nothing particularly puzzling in the blogs, except this entry by Ethan:

October 23, 2003

If it's Wednesday, it must be Frisco

Man, I'm wiped. Just wanted you to know I got to SF safe and sound. No rain here, but geez, it's getting windy!

Hey, do you remember a guy named Todd Rogan? Does that name ring any bells?? Sort of strange, this guy comes up to me in the lobby this morning and asks me how I've been, like he knows me real well. I couldn't for the life of me place him. Weird thing was, he kinda freaked out when I didn't know who he was. Odd, I must have a twin out there somewhere, heheh.

Oh, slight schedule change. My meetings tomorrow will go late, so it looks like I won't be home until Friday. I'll let you know my flight schedule as soon as I find out.

Posted by Ethan at 12:16 AM

No, Dina does not remember this name, and there is no Todd Rogan in the Redland database. We continue disputing the identity of this guy until about 9 pm, when a new picture is added to paintover:

Captioned "Oh look a mysterious image" (how unambiguously sarcastic!), this picture is posted by Scratch; solved within minutes by Moriar - the BigMcLargeHuge files.

I remember my reaction from first reading these being very similar to Texel's "um... what?", supplemented, perhaps, by an emphatic "omfg!" Scratch had discovered something about Caesar, an "agenda" so covert that it merits "danger of death"?! Apparently, whatever trail of "electric breadcrumbs" Caesar had left, Scratch had been able to follow; and now "they" are going to find Caesar as well - they, the agents (!!) Paintover has been a cover-up for Caesar's pursuit of who-knows-what goal; and everybody, quite convinced by Scratch's astonishing proclamations leaves Caesar - even Texel, who initially tried to reason that even if the whomp hunt was merely a cover-up for something else, the emerging pattern deserves further investigation.

After we get over the initial shock, we turn our attention to the less noticeable details - the picture of the sky, undoubtedly taken from the Nekodas' site; Scratch's reference to Caesar as "orphan punk"; "family tree" and "I know what's up with you, with him, with HER". xnbomb proposes a brilliant theory: Caesar is looking for his missing parents, whose pictures he hosts on paintover; and the only couple we know to fit the profile is the Nekodas. Excited at the possibility of finally nailing even a tiny portion of the storyline, we anxiously await the next updates to confirm our hypothesis.

Oct. 29

Heh, right. There are no updates. The first day of silence on the part of the PMs was even somewhat appreciated - we finally got the time to attend to our significant others, finish those important term papers, water the houseplants... By the third day the silence became terrifyingly numbing - we didn't know what to do with ourselves! As Azathoth666 put it "it's like high summer on a really hot day, when you can almost taste the electricity in the air before a thunderstorm just blows in outta nowhere. But without the summer. Or the heat. No thunderstorm either..."

In our desperate attempts to keep busy, we give Random one more try - and this time we find something! A random poetry generator used in silvia.ypt. And there is even more - Random only used 19 verses, whereas RoboPoet generates twenty; AnthraX101 identifies the missing verse as "aggressive party defies triumphantly." Inspired (and the fact that it was even possible to get inspired considering the missing verse lead us absolutely nowhere is itself rather telling), Omnie finds three more poetry generators - and we are still no closer to decrypting Random. Unwilling to recognize the pure and simple truth - there are NO patterns in random poetry - we pursue Random with fervor comparable only to that of a madman chasing little green aliens (no offense to anybody who's into green aliens).

I must revise here: there are some updates: for example, Dina completes two more Leiphe lessons. Oddly, she manages to make five spelling mistakes in just three sentences:

I guess I am always grateful and pleased to get to the nnext day, happy and fulfiilled, and loved. Sometimes I feel pushed to create more ggoals, because there's this niggling thoughht in the back of my mind that there's something more, something missing. Maybe itt's just me.

And now somebody please cue in the triumphant music - colin finds Dina's first "hidden" page, night.html. For the umpteenth time, the PMs are overjoyed with our ability to eventually get stuff.

I have intentionally avoided "summing up" Dina - somehow I feel that all of my attempts would be utterly inadequate (and krystyn, please do write a book!); so I'll just chime in with little comments here and there, this one being - omg, the impossibly clean man in a suit is *gasp* an agent!

Oct. 30

Do you know that the first commandment of ARGs is "Thou shalt view source (1) on all pages"? In either case, now you do, and here is why you should always follow it: hidden in the source of night.html are these comments: <!--redline--><!--orangeline--><!--brownline--><!--greenline--><!--purpleline-->. Anthrax101 notes that the only downtown Chicago line that is missing is blueline, hence blueline.html. That flickering sign Dina saw in the subway is morse code, which Wix translates as... are you ready?... "WAKE UP".

And, remember the "no cow level" pictures of Chicago in Ethan's blog - brahms.jpg and bach.jpg? Somehow, to hakab2060 the logical conclusion was beethoven.html.

The flowers on her main page (named "summery", "spring-like" and "wintry") lead Ash to autumnal.html.

There is some tortured past invading Dina's dreams; somebody's hand that she let go of; a memory that chokes her... nothing concrete, but something profoundly real that has defined her life... dare I say it?... in her previous incarnation within the matrix? Something strange and probably monumental to the story is happening with Dina: that entry about split pea soup in her blog, and her heightened awareness of the dreamlike world - are those the tell-tale signs of awakening or of an impending doom?

Hard as it is to shake Dina off, we must, as Beth sends us an e-mail:

Greetings from Alabama!

This trip has been quite a ride and a frustrating one at that! I was within miles of an occurrence and missed it! After so many events had taken place in or near national parks or forests, I thought that this one would follow suit and had been focused on Talladega National Forest. I trusted that though so much that I missed the event by just a few miles. I cannot believe that I came all this way, sleeping out in the wilds, for nothing!

Well, to be fair, it wasn't exactly nothing. A strange event did occur just up the road and I was able to get up there, talk to a few people, and take some pictures. If the story is true, it's absolutely amazing and something that I really wish that I had witnessed. While there were two witnesses to the actual event, I was only able to interview one of them. The other witness, an unknown man, disappeared in the resulting fog and hasn't been seen since.

The first witness, a very nice guy in his mid 30s, explained that he was working in his barn when he noticed one of his horses running at a full gallop and a stranger standing not far from the fence watching. He was curious as to who the stranger was and why the horse was so active so he went to investigate. As he got closer he saw the horse come to a stop mid-stride and it seemed as if he was encased in glass. Instantly, fog began to bounce off the glass and within seconds the surrounding area was completely enveloped in the fog. By the time he made his way to the fence, the stranger was gone. As he turned to look towards the horse, he noticed that the fog was clearing and that the glass had faded. The horse stumbled out of the gallop stride and slowly walked out of the area. We measured the area, still marked by a sort of chill, to be a perfect 12 foot square.

As disappointing as it was too not witness the event first hand, it was great to know that I had accurately predicted that one would occur. If the pattern continues, another event will be happening in just a few days and if all goes well, I won't miss it!

Other than that, I have no news. I should be home and back at work by Monday. I'm surprised that I'm actually looking forward to it. A little time away was exactly what I needed!

Beth

Wtg, Beth, Moriar, and xnbomb!

I was more than a little relieved when the Alabama prediction panned out. I was of the mind that if I couldn't figure this out, then what hope did I have in successfully completing my rather more complex dissertation, full of far nastier spatial analyses. It's silly to get your ego wrapped up something you do for fun, but I did. Extending the pattern, I predicted that event 103 would occur somewhere near the Cascade Vortex, and in short order (an idea primarily based on what Beth's Email implied about her travel plans. A couple of days later, Beth confirmed this to be correct in an Email to Kat. Subsequent predictions of Georgia and Washington state also panned out.)

Yanka, while gracious in her congratulations, rightly asked what it was that being able to understand the pattern and predict the location of upcoming events was going to get us in terms of the game. I answered by paraphrasing Wix and Donkey Oatey, and spouting something about how identifying the pattern might help us understand what was causing the paranormal events, and that might in turn help us understand something about the nature of the reality (this being a basic tenet of what I'll term process geography), which is something that I think most players (who got into this ARG because of its Matrix-ness) wanted to know. But taken more literally, she was right; our knowing beforehand where paranormal events and whomps were going to occur wasn't going to have any effect on what was going to happen. After all, that's in the PMs' hands, not ours when it comes to an ARG ... in some sense we're just along for the ride.

Tomorrow is Halloween, and we have this premonition...

Oct. 31

... and it turns out to be right! Strange things happen on Halloween in Redland.

intermission by: yanka

I must confess that when I first started playing the game, I lied to friends about how interactive it was. I told them stories of how I was called by a character named ďDave ReinhardtĒ and was given a password to Bethís Metadex account. I knew that real-world interaction existed in past ARGs, and it made a much more exciting story. Because of that, I was overjoyed to receive the call on Halloween. The fact that I was in a hurry to get to a party, and that I wasnít thinking about the game at all, made the call that much more intense. My cell phone reception sucks, so I couldnít hear anything except for ďDude, what do you think youíre doing?Ē, but needless to say I went to the website to check if anyone else received the call.

Oddly enough, there were absolutely no reports about the call. I posted my experience anyway, thinking that there was no way this was not a part of the game. I was relieved when others soon started filling out accounts of their call.

I did check the Metacortechs site later on in the evening, and saw the scrambled homepage. It seemed most of the content was there, just that everything was all scrambled around. I wish I had browsed the site longer, had I known it would have been fixed soon afterwards.

I also got the phonecall, and, as I was posting about it, I kept refreshing the Metacortechs' page. I wish I was a better writer so I could explain to you just how much I FREAKED OUT when it suddenly got all scrambled up. Moments earlier - here, in real life - I was listening to what seemed to be directly related to this glitch in the game, dammit! Omg, did somebody say "alternate reality"?

Writing this, sitting in the same chair, in front of the same laptop, I'm sort of "re-living the moment", lol. I had a party at my house, and the whole time I kept running back here, checking for more updates; when everybody was finally gone, it was such a relief! With the little psycho voice in my head still repeating "aquapolis" and that music still looping, I could now finally try to unscramble that page. I think it was about 3 am my time when yeahyeah and I were done:

N o A c H d q : North American Headquarters
K r u i g m : Katherine Cunningham
S t v e n W a l s h - C E O : Steven Walsh - CEO
z : Specializing
8 % : 80%
q 5 0 d : headquarters in 22 countries, and employs over 250,000 people worldwide
F - , w 6 b f m p l : Far-reaching innovation is our goal, along with bringing the 6 billion inhabitants of our small planet
T ' M a C x S v g i o h 2 1 s c e n t u r y . : That's MetaCortex. Serving you into the 21st century.
O c b r 2 0 3 E m p l y f e M o n t h : October 2003 Employee of the Month
d g y f u p i , m w c ! " : dedicated to helping you reach your full potential, no matter what the cost!"
- S v n W l s h E O M a C o r t e x : - Steven Walsh CEO MetaCortex
S E R V I N G Y O U : SERVING YOU

Heh, after all the hard work, this turned out not to be a puzzle. Still, reconstructing that text while under the influence - of course, I mean "of the phone call" :-) - felt very ominous... in a Halloween-sort-of-way.

Ethan posts this to his blog:

Grrr. Well so much for seeing ya tomorrow. My afternoon meeting was going long and got interrupted by some technical glitch, so we were forced to quit for the day before we were done.

He's staying at the IC - the famous InterContinental Hotel, of course - which, as we know, is located in the heart of Redland. A technical glitch... right.

Nov.1

After having spent most of their night deciphering the phone call, thousands of frustrated, underslept, and probably hungover players wake up to find this e-mail from MetaCortex in their inboxes:

Dear BetaTest applicant,

On the evening of October 31st, a large electrical storm passed through a portion of the Pacific Northwest. Power surges and outages were reported in the Redland area in particular. Our own backup systems survived the disturbance.

It has come to our attention that our MetaBroadcast server (which has remote connections to outside providers) momentarily went down, resulting in automated phone calls going out to a portion of our current applicant database. Metacortechs and its affiliates would like to extend sincere apologies for any confusion or inconvenience this might have caused for you.

Our technicians are currently securing all telephony circuits and lines. Your information is valued, and secure, and we do not anticipate any future occurrences.

Thank you!

MetaCortex Beta Test Team

An electrical storm, of course. As lame as this attempt at a cover-up is, it actually benefits us: somehow Metacortechs feels the need for making an excuse for the phonecall, much the same way it felt the need to "retire" James Avery. And, given that his record in Metacortechs' database was glitched in a similar way to the website last night, we posit that this glitch and Avery's disappearance might have been caused by the same entity/event.

Whatever happened in Redland, Beth is overly excited about it, as is evident from an e-mail she sends to Kat:

Email from emc2@metadex.net

Date: 11/1/03 12:23
Subject: Unbelievable!

You are never going to believe this! I can't believe it and I was there. It's just incredibly insane.

I had just returned from a short walk gathering wood and stuff for the fire. There were a couple kids not far from the camp site that, like me, seemed to be waiting for something to happen. We were all startled when we saw a group of bats fly through a tree. No, they weren't flying through trees, but THROUGH A TREE! It was the most impossible thing that I've ever seen and I must have stumbled when I went to reach for my camera as I fell through my tent. Right through the side of it. When I caught my balance I swear that I was standing inside my tent yet I was outside. I mean, my feet and legs were in the tent and yet my head and arms were outside. There was no rip or tear or anything it. I just don't know, it's like it wasn't there, but it was. I was surrounded by my tent but I wasn't trapped, it was just a very curious feeling. When I looked to see if the kids had seen it I saw a man standing about 20-25 feet away. He was just standing there not saying anything. I have no idea what happened to the kids, they were gone. It was just him and me and all very strange. I turned and left the tent half way hoping that when I turned back around he'd be gone. But he was just stood there. I tried to talk to him. Nothing. I asked if he saw it, said hello. Nothing. Asked if he was ok, if he understood english. Still nothing. Then I asked if he knew what was happening and he started to leave. It was just so unreal and I felt like I was losing my mind. I have no idea where he went or anything. Why was he here? What was he doing? Was it all just my imagination? By the time I got my camera, he was gone and everything was back to normal.

I'm completely overwhelmed. Here I was absolutely prepared to document everything and I've got nothing but my memories. I wrote everything down afterward, but I'm certain that I missed something. I can't wait to get home and compare my notes with some of the other incidents. I should be home tomorrow morning or so, I'm hoping that something else may happen tonight, though I'm not sure that it will. I'll call you when I'm getting close so that I can pick up Laika. I hope that she hasn't been much trouble!

Beth

Later at night Beth figures out that she somehow did manage to record the event on her PDA, and uploads the recording to her metadex. AnthraX101 converts the files (don't ask me how - I still don't know; but just wait for him to get to XOR!) here.

So, this guy she is talking about - this AI guy; most likely he was the "strange man" at the horse incident - has a problem; namely, error 259. He can identify objects and humans with a reasonable level of confidence; he can understand that he is being asked questions, but he cannot retrieve any responses from his memory or generate words. The fact that Beth is half-woman, half-tent also seems to give him trouble. It looks like at least half his subsystems aren't working... poor AI dude must have somehow got disconnected from the matrix, perhaps as a result of some glitch? Speculation on the AI's origin and the nature of malfunctioning runs wild...