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Has Marcus found out something new about Avery? Is that the reason that he uploads this old memo from James to his metadex?

*sigh* Lynne is probably Avery's ex-wife (though obviously not "ex-" at the time of the memo), which was a rather sad find for me - I was partial to the "Sylvia/Dina was Avery's ex-wife" theory. Despite two full pages of text, there is not much information of use to us here: Marcus and Emily (Marcus' wife?) did not get to go to Seoul; there was another project rooted in a Greek myth that MetaCortex should have completed by now (we figure that James must have written the memo before he went to Zurich in January 2001, since he mentions being next door to Marcus' office). Bah, had we not had a load of other updates that day, we probably would have dived into a full round of speculation on project Daedalus and its possible connections to Labyrinth, the Aquapolis, and, of course, Oct. 1.

Speaking of Oct. 1 - our hackers seem to have given up on attempting to protect their conversations with image puzzles; all the recent interactions on paintover have been posted directly on the main page:

well, hello!

it's me.

ow.

Posted by texel at 09:44 PM

more

i'm resting up, currently. i'm fine.

i shouldn't be fine, considering what happened, but you know, what's a broken ankle when you've just survived your very first in-person whomp?

by all rights, i should be dead, and all i can say is, how thankful am i that that thing was not meant for me? that is to say, i feel extremely sorry for whom that was meant - that was not just some ghosts, or dudes with boards out in a cornfield.

btw, i find it very curious that not only did i escape relatively unscathed, but so did my portable. mostly. unfortunately, the power supply got totally fubared (battery chamber smashed up a bit, a/c jack bent in beyond repair), so i couldn't retrieve anything off it, or tell you guys anything until now. oh boy.

Posted by texel at 09:48 PM

voila

love note from a mysterious benefactor

"Miss Kinross is safe and well. She appears to be suffering from a broken right ankle and a certain amount of bruising, but is otherwise not seriously harmed and will recover in due course. There is no need to be alarmed."

Posted by texel at 09:56 PM

Right now, I am pretending that there are Powers That Be, and I am thanking them profusely.

I am so GLAD you're back!

And, wow. Guys, take a look at that file.

texel, get home when you can. You are amazing. That's all there is to it.

Posted by caesar at 09:58 PM

:)

texel is brave
texel is a little crazy in the head
texel made us all very, very worried
texel is a slice of multi-grain toast
texel is
texel is back

Posted by bounce at 10:05 PM

And savagely she goes limping
Into the lazy nannygoats,
Laughing while they cover
Quickly in the dumbfound horses

And star-struck the kings of the cobblestreets
Hang loudly in praise of the fishwife
Scrubbing while they blaze
Finally into the seashaken downy night

Posted by random at 11:15 PM

So, Texel (miss Kinross, allegedly the girl in this photo), has come out of the Elmview whomp with minor losses - a broken ankle and some damage to her laptop. A lot of us were quite shocked to discover that Texel is a girl (especially after so many guys on unfiction commiserated with Texel being "hurt in the g_"). Caesar and Bounce immediately send their love; and so does Random, though with him, one can never be entirely sure.

The love note (that was XORed the same way Texel's previous posts were) was written by... now, are you ready for this one? Actually, I don't think you are yet; let me give you Beth's updates first.

Today Beth is the bearer of most exciting news. Apparently, she was at home, doing dishes, thinking about e-mailing Phillip, when, upon getting to her computer, she found this on the screen. AI man was at her house recording her thoughts - you can see that the first part of the file is her thinking about lunch, birds on crack, and hating washing dishes; and the second part is her reading her thoughts about hating washing dishes:

Maybe if I did dishes more often, it wouldn't sit in the sink where it could get a crack in the rim?
Or did it get the crack somewhere else?
I didn't type this.
What?
Is this me?
Yes, yes it is me.
Yes, yes it is me.
Look, I just thought that.
Look, I just thought that.

For some unknown reason I find it funny that she thinks "yes, it is me", and then reads it on the screen, thereby "thinking" it again, causing it to show up on the screen for the second time. A similar sort of thing happens when she figures out that the AI man is trying to communicate with her:

Where is he?
Where are you?
He's got to be nearby.
You have to be nearby.

She thinks about his location first, and then makes an effort to ask him that question (heh, MU-style telepathy). The rest of the conversation is pretty much in that format, except for the last part, where she flips out and tells him to stop reading her thoughts.

Her attempts to converse with AI man have become much more fruitful in this conversation, which she sent to Phil attached in this e-mail:

Email from emc2@metadex.net

Date: 11/13/03 15:51
Subject: promised files
Attachments: email.txt; pda.gif; transcript.txt

Phil,

It was great to catch up with you last night. I'm so sorry about all that you've been going through and that I've not been around for you. I can't believe that guy sent you that email. What a jerk.

As promised, here are a couple files relating to 'Strange Man'. I still don't know what to think of all of this. A man, a very human looking man, stood there and told me on my pda that he was not a human. Everything that I thought to be true, to be real, is now a question. Like I said last night, I have to see him again. I have to get answers. I have to know that he is ok. I really wish that you could come with me, though I understand that it is just not possible.

Marcus is not at all happy with me. Not only did I tell him that I was leaving on vacation and unsure of when I might return, he had just informed me that I was not being placed on a project that I should have been leading. He tried to justify it with some line about how it was best for me in both personally and professionally and that it wouldn't effect my appraisal as long as my performance improved. It's such a crock. He's all over Katherine, his new golden child. I just wish I knew what she did, because as far as I can tell, she doesn't do anything but talk on the phone and check her email. I suppose I can't complain; I have an open ended leave as long as I check in several times a day.

Well, I should get back to work so I can get out of here at a decent time today. I hope that you'll reconsider this weekend.

emc2

I'll get to the jerk that sent "that email" to Phil a little later.
Among the attachments, there is a file called pda.gif. It is actually an animated gif (i.e. not the white nothingness that it appears to be for the first 8 seconds), which Monki broke down into 58 frames, each frame being a solid block of color - white, light grey, dark grey, and black. So Monki, BriEnigma, Ehsan, yeahyeah, and xnbomb got together in chat and catalogued the frames until colin came back online and put transcript.txt and pda.gif together. He figured that the 58 frames in pda.gif correspond to the 58 questions that Beth asks AI man in transcript.txt: white = true; light grey = no answer required / (possible don't understand); dark grey = can't answer (because it's not a yes/no question); black = false; with each frame's delay time being the elapsed time between the questions. So, this conversation went something like this:

Youíre back!
YES

Why are you here?
No Answer Possible

What do you need from me?
No Answer Possible

Wait, are you sending msgs to my PDA?
YES

Should I go get it?
YES

Ugh. Why donít you ever answer me?
No Answer Possible

Hold on.
No Answer Required

What's this?
No Answer Possible

Is it you?
YES

It is you.
No Answer Required

Why arenít you talking in XML?
No Answer Possible

This is easier for real time conversation.
YES

Has your memory been repaired?
NO

Do you still need my help?
YES

With language?
YES

How can I help you?
No Answer Possible

Do you even know how I can help you?
NO

But you've come to me for a reason.
YES

You've come to me because... I'm a woman?
NO

Well, that's a relief. How about... because of where I live?
NO

Where I work?
YES

My job?
YES

You need a software developer.
YES

What sort of software developer do you need?
No Answer Possible

Oh right. Um... I'm a server side girl, will that do?
YES

Alright. Now we're getting somewhere.
No Answer Required

So this is going to be some sort of coding session?
NO

Not coding... systems requirements?
NO

Thank you god. Debugging?
YES

Hmm. You need... wait a second, is this related to those malfunctions you mentioned before?
YES

Communications was one, obviously.
YES

And the other was... storage, I think.
NO

No? Oh, retrieval?
YES

So, are you telling me you're running some kind of program, and that's how you can talk to the PDA?
YES

But if that's the case, where is the hardware?
No Answer Possible

You're not carrying anything.
No Answer Required

I don't think I really want to ask this, but... you aren't human, are you?
NO

Alright, um, huh. These days, I'm about ready to believe anything. So, let's assume you're not human, you're an alien or a robot or a something.
No Answer Required

The thing you want me to debug... it's a part of you, isn't it?
YES

Whoa. OK. Um, Huh. So, show me the code.
No Answer Required

Fine. Can you show me the code?
NO

Well then how can I debug you if I can't see the code?
No Answer Possible

You are not making this easy, my friend.
No Answer Required

Ok, let's step back for a moment.
No Answer Required

No, I didn't mean that literally... never mind. If I'm going to be able to help you, it's not going to be by actually changing your code, is it?
NO

You need me to help you help yourself.
YES

I can't fix you, but maybe I can get you the tools you need. Is that what you're asking?
YES

So what do you need?
No Answer Possible

This is like pulling teeth...
No Answer Required

Ok, so here's a thought... you can talk to the PDA, right?
YES

So, presumably you can talk to larger computers, yes?
YES

If I brought you into work, you could talk to the company's computers.
YES

Would they have the information you need?
No Answer Possible

I'm guessing it's some sort of information you're after, right?
NO

No?
NO

Oh, wait, I know. You need computing power.
YES

You need lots of computing power.
YES

I just might be able to help you there, my friend.
No Answer Required

You can see that Beth figures out the communication code rather quickly (by the 10th question): yes/no questions are preferred; and gets straight down to business from there. AI man needs her help in fixing him: 48 questions later they establish that he wants lots of computing power to fix his information retrieval functions (those memory problems that popped up a lot in the xml files).

The next day Beth takes AI man to MetaCortex, where he uses "lots of computing power" to do his thing, which he, apparently, succeeds in, as he sends this e-mail to Beth later on (somehow managing to hack her little-boxes account):

Email from root@little-boxes.net

Date: 11/12/03 12:00
Subject:

Good day to you, Miss McConnell.

I feel I owe you some degree of explanation, and my thanks.

As you are aware, I have recently been experimenting with my abilities. I say recently; the reality is that my perception of time is so far removed from yours that the term means little to me. Clearly my activities have not gone entirely unnoticed, as both you and a Miss Kinross have evidently been tracking these experiments with an unexpected degree of precision.

As it turns out, Monitors had been tasked with ensuring my retrieval. For the sake of simplicity, you might consider them to be auditors. They dislike, if such a term can be said to apply to their kind, any form of irregularity or chaos. They extrapolated my next likely location, just as you did last week, and waited there for me to arrive. It appears Miss Kinross made a similar assumption and arrived in the locality shortly afterwards.

I, however, did not turn up. Thanks to you, our last meeting provided me with the means by which I might attempt to repair myself. I intended to use the machines you allowed me to access as a grid to run the calculations required to create a patch. Your assistance with this process was invaluable, Miss McConnell.

One would almost conceive that the Monitors have spent so long in your species' company that they have taken on the flaws of your species; they became impatient. Using an unstable virus program they created a glitch themselves. Perhaps this virus program moved more rapidly than the Monitors expected, or perhaps their programming prevented them from interrupting its execution. For whatever reason, Miss Kinross was caught at the edge of the glitch.

The presence of Miss Kinross in the vicinity of the glitch drew my attention, although I find I am unable to satisfactorily explain the causal relationship between these two events. I allowed myself to be moved to the site of the error, interrupting my diagnostics.

When I arrived the Monitors moved to capture me, but their knowledge of my systems was of necessity limited. It may have appeared, to them, as if their deadlock command had succeeded; in fact they had unwittingly restored a vital portion of my corrupted memory, and fixed my communications subsystems.

In their hesitation I was able to free a section of their core memory. The Monitor threads immediately crashed in a manner entirely consistent with a critical systems breach event, as predicted. I was then able to quarantine and terminate the virus program and rescue Miss Kinross. The Monitors will, of course, be rebooted, but for the moment (if such a thing can truly be said to exist) they are inactive.

I am explaining this to you because I believe that their interest in my existence may endanger those around me. Your help has been invaluable and witnessing human instincts has been most interesting. I have come to appreciate your nature and do not wish to cause you or those near you harm. Because of this, I have determined that it is in the best interest of your kind for me to test my functionality in the safety of a less populated area. You and I will no longer be in contact.

Your friend.

Now you are ready for me to tell you that which you have undoubtedly already figured out yourself: AI man was the author of the love note to Texel. If you ignore the evilness of timestamps, you'll see that the events unfolded as follows (approximately, because of MoveableType *cough again*): Caesar & Co., as well as Beth, the Monitors, and we (so, yeah, pretty much everybody) have predicted AI man's next location at Elmview, GA. Texel, as we know, went there and witnessed the area get rebooted by the Monitors (presumably, some sort of agent-like programs who are after AI man) as a consequence of a glitch they created in an attempt to catch him. AI man, who did not intend on showing up at Elmview, found himself unable to watch Texel die as she was "caught at the edge of the glitch" (btw, don't you think it's so cute that he tries to reason away his unexpected capability for compassion?), and translocated there to save her. In the process, he was able to restore his memory and fix his communication subsystems while simultaneously disabling the Monitors. In short, he's like the digital version of Bruce Willis - the guy that saves the day. To top it off, he even decides to terminate all contact with Beth as that might endanger her life.

Tomorrow Beth will upload Texel's event to her archives. But now, let us get back to Phil, who, as I mentioned earlier, received an e-mail from "that jerk":

Email from AQN

Date: 11/12/03 14:52
Subject:

"Dear" Phillip,

What kind of dolt am I for putting your mail up on my site? A better question: What kind of idiot are you for sending it in the first place? You wouldn't believe the volume of sincere, heartfelt mail I get every day, and it never crossed my mind for an instant that the mail might be bogus--or worse, some kind of attempt to snare me.

So you've won that round, then. Fine.

As for the photos you attached in your latest message, Phillip, I am very disappointed. You could have taken three seconds to open one of those passports. I think the contents would have answered your questions nicely. I suppose when you are essentially breaking and entering--and not very experienced at it (...are you?)--you try and hurry a bit so you're not caught. That would explain your failure to open the letter addressed to Dr. Leiphe, would it not? In your position, I think I probably would have simply stolen the letter and kept my mouth shut, but that's a difference between us. I can think like a criminal. You can't.

And while we're discussing it, I have to believe you have at least some dark admiration for "Fiona" despite your rantings. It's genius, if I do say so myself, not to mention subtle. People love to talk about themselves and their situations. It can't be helped if "Wongmo" uses that for his benefit, can it? And who's going to question a grandmother? Only you, Phillip.

So you have nothing--NOTHING--to lord over me except your suspicions and a few photographs that say zero. There's not a law that I'm aware of against having multiple aliases on the web.

"Wongmo" is a legitimate figure who genuinely helps many of those who come to "his" programs. A little hedging here and there and a few words of recommendation from "other experts" hurts no one in the big picture. Your ego was a tad bruised, I take it, once you published "Leo's" article. That's really it, isn't it, the reason for your ongoing crusade? Your ego took a hit and you decided you'd strike back.

Hear me, Phillip: You will do far more damage to innocent clients of "Wongmo's" courses by pursuing this line of investigation any further than you'll do to simply drop it and walk away. I do not fear you, I only fear for my students' well-being. Their journeys are my main concern; you are merely an annoying distraction.

All my "love,"

--AQN

Ha, Wongmo, the guardian of our inner dolphins and MU's spiritual guide for the past month, a.k.a. Leiphe, Dr. Kane, and Arnold Quentin Niehoffer sounds rather disturbed despite all his efforts to come across as nonchalant. Well, we'll leave Wongmo to Phil for now, and turn our attention to Katherine.

Funny enough, she uploaded Halloween's phonecall to her metadex. We know something is hidden in it, and though its appearance in Kat's metadex causes another round of mp3 destegging, sound reversing, and even Greek translation, we are unable to find anything new.

Kat also updated her notes:

 

NOTES

  • Meeting went well? Handed over file, included information on the pattern. Have not heard back. Were they pleased? Will I need more?
    • New evidence appearing almost weekly
      • Pattern has become apparent
      • Will he know more?
      • Will this work?
    • McConnell found a pattern
      • Successfully predicted two events, missed one, witnessed the second
      • Made contact at second event
      • They did not capture him
      • Continuing contact outside of events
    • Mother no longer an issue
    • Need to get rid of that dog

Suddenly we heart Beth even more. Whatever files Kat has been compiling about Beth, Beth's mother, Laika, and AI man, have been turned over to someone that sounds like trouble. But our dearest naive Beth, still utterly unaware, just keeps feeding Kat more information about AI man:

Email from emc2@metadex.net

Date: 11/13/03 16:03
Subject: dinner tonight?

Kat,

I was wondering if we could go to dinner tonight instead of tomorrow. I heard from Strange Man and I think I know where heís heading and Iíd like to see if I can help him. Iím not sure how, but something tells me that he needs me. Maybe I need him, I donít know. In any event, I was wondering if I could borrow your camping gear again and I would like to see you before you leave. So, dinner tonight? Does it work for you? Give me a call.

emc2

Nov. 15

Updates have become much better paced ("better", of course, meaning "more frequent"), which, at this point, has no effect on the chef d'oeuvres from You Might Be A Metagamer If:

... the only reason you leave the PC chair is your mate saying "It's time for my shift".

... the only reason your mate leaves the PC chair is when you say "It's time for my shift".

... the phrase "That fucking October 1st picture" is not uncommon in your household.

... your g/friend finally admits: there is something worse than roleplay.

... your PS2 has gathered dust.

 
Zimbu
... the two guys you've been playing RPGs with for the past 10 years finally admit that you're crazy...
 
Azathoth666
... You no longer have a regular sleep schedule, and on days with updates you have been known to miss your 'be asleep by' target by 7 or more hours...
 
yeahyeah

... you convince your friends to name their newly born child "Random".

 
Insomniac
... ugh, you employ the same style on a post on this thread as you would in a research paper, because that's what you should have been writing all evening...
 
Omnie
... you carry your 17" PowerBook out into the kitchen while cooking dinner - just in case something happens during that time.

... you burn dinner because something did happen.

 
BriEnigma

... when you go on a date you firstly log your PC into mIRC so it can log anything you are going to miss.

... during a power cut, you not only blame "MetaCortex", but also start constructing a dynamo so you can get your PC logged back onto "UnFiction".

...when your Star Wars Galaxies subscription expires... and you don't care

...there is felt tip pen residue on your screen

...you're about to brute force hack the internet. All of it.

...you can now read tapestry. Not decode. Read.

...you've now reached the point where the Oct 1st Paintover better *not* mean anything.

 
Zimbu

Heh, I think it was around this time that "stol" became our official greeting :-)

And now, back to Beth and her "Friend." Today she sent us an e-mail that explains why she needs the camping gear: she wants to meet AI man in Cascade Vortex (where they "first met") to try and help him fix himself. Unfortunately, nobody (except, perhaps the omniscient Oct. 1 girl) knows what needs to be fixed.

Hello!

I am writing to you from a wonderfully wet Washington state. Once again my interest in the paranormal has led me to discover the great outdoors. Had I written this last night, you would have heard a miserable tale. I was convinced that I had made a terrible mistake that sent me into a frozen wilderness on a wild goose chase. Today, however, things are much better. I have found what I was searching for.

As many of you know, I have been in contact with someone, or something, for the past two weeks. At first I was convinced that he was, at best, a hoax. My worst fear that he was a stalker, perhaps even one of you. I was terribly upset by all of it and didnít know what to do about it. After several meetings, I came to realize that he meant me no harm and, in fact, needed my help. Then a terrible incident occurred last week. I was not present and I am safe. However, he felt that his presence could endanger me and so he left. I felt that he still needed my help and I assumed that he would be where we first met. I came up here as soon as I could, bringing Laika along to protect me (ok, to keep me company). Sure enough, we have met up and he still needs my help and I need yours.

I donít know if I know how to help him. He claims that heís not human. And oddly, I believe him. All evidence points to him being an AI or a robot of some sort. Yet, as we all know, technology is not that advanced. This is way beyond anything that Iíve seen in our labs and is almost frightening in how real it is.
He believes that he has a function that he is not in control of. However we donít know what that function is or how to gain control of it. I know that I should call some of the AI guys at work, they would love to get their hands on him. Yet, heís not just a machine to be taken apart. I just canít do that to him and, frankly, I donít think heíd let me do that to him. Have I lost my intellectual curiosity? I donít think so. I just know that I can learn more if we donít go that route.

Would I be the hero at work if I brought in some rival companyís lost AI? Absolutely. But would I be doing the right thing? I donít think so. Unfortunately, Iím at a loss of how to help him repair himself. If you have any ideas on tests that we could run, let me know. Iíve put a log of everything thatís happened up on my site, check it out. If it gives you any ideas IM me, Iíll have my various messengers up.

Thanks!
Beth

Thanks to Diandra, Beth's log is discovered immediately thereafter. So, wow, Beth found AI man and witnessed some amazing things: "Friend" stopped the wind, and took away friction, and suspended her senses, and (heehee) told her that "everything is as it is perceived." It seems he is capable of changing the matrix (at least temporarily), but he is no closer to finding a way of repairing himself. He insists that in order to be fixed, he needs to determine his purpose *waves at Hugo Weaving*, and we are invited to IM Beth with our ideas as to what it might be.

Phil is also invited to submit his ideas, though I think the main reason for e-mailing him was to let us know Beth's messenger handle:

Email from emc2@metadex.net

Date: 11/15/03 14:41
Subject: Wish you were here!

Phil!

Iíve found the ď Strange Man. Ē Itís crazy. I canít believe my eyes. I really wish that you were here to help me with this and to experience it yourself. Heís taken away my sense of smell and taste (yes, he gave it back)! He made my tent float! He stopped the wind! It makes no sense but it is real and it is happening. I wish you were here to see it yourself. I put a log up on my site. Check it out. It has everything thatís happened since I left yesterday. He really needs my help, he has some sort of purpose but he doesnít know what it is. Iím trying to help him, but Iím really at a loss. If you have any ideas, msg me. Metadex (emc2) or the others (firstname... the short one, middle initialÖdo you remember it?, lastname). I hope to hear from you soon! Gotta run. This is crazy! I think Iím going to Paris !

emc2

Why, yes, Beth, you're going to Paris, and also to Odessa, Cairo, Oslo, Jerusalem, and a few other places. As we watch Beth fly around the world at speeds Neo could only dream of (instantaneous translocation, as far as I understand - no backdoors involved), the pressing question seems to be: is AI man really translocating within the matrix, or is he changing Beth's perception of where she is? Or is he just changing the area around her, thereby causing Beth's perception of it to change... though, aren't the two mutually dependent?.. gah, I'd better change the subject before I get hopelessly stuck in this pseudo-logical loop.

Let's see what has been happening with the Nekodas: as we expected, Ethan had found Murpha and is planning, as far as we can tell, a trip to Redland. He says he and Dina will meet with "him" there, and at this point your guess as to the identity of "him" is as good as ours. And Dina is ready to face whatever this meeting with "him" will turn up... but yeah, I'm still not summing her up, so you can (or, rather, should) read her post... as a matter of fact, read her entire blog, if you haven't already done so - I'm sure by the time you're finished, you'll be asking krystyn to write a book too.

In other news (which, as I mentioned, are numerous and varied these days), Kat got this e-mail from the Aquapolis admin:

Email from admin@theaquapolis.com

Date: 11/15/03 11:05
Subject: Admin Access

Katherine,

This is to confirm the personalized safesys access I have set up as per your instructions. Your user name is kdcunningham, and your password is as you requested. You will no longer need to use the admin login info.

Looking forward to seeing you next week!

So, Kat is the "project lead" mentioned on the Aquapolis news! And Beth has no idea... Very nice of the "admin" to include the username, though: Slamman12 and Moriar promptly find the password: laika. Trip and I curse, have a very short fit of hysteria (we tried probably hundreds of combinations just between the two of us), then get over it, as we must attend to Beth, who is finally back online, awaiting our collective input on various IMs.

Most of the people IMing Beth were hanging out in #matrix, which was really great in terms of brainstorming (or, rather, head-banging, as the chat slang goes) the questions with which to bombard Beth. In the two days that followed, she was asked everything from "What do you think about Wongmo?" to "Do you know that the Aquapolis is a death trap?" to "Hey, do you mind asking your Friend if 'stol' is the meaning of life?" On the off-chance that this geek-ness of ours is contagious and you would like to read the IM transcripts yourself, they are here and here. Here is a not-so-inclusive synopsis of what we managed to get out of Beth:

:: AI man translocates by "affecting the code" [heh]
:: James' ex-wife's name was Lynne - not Sylvia - and she is sheismissing
:: Beth doesn't know what happened to the Averies, but she assumes Jesse is with them
:: No, she doesn't know who those kids at Cascade Vortex were, nor is she willing to find out (for that matter, she refused every one of our attempts to give her information on paintover, Marcus, or Kat)
:: She doesn't know Dina; and Dina's song on little-boxes - Beth just found it "somewhere on the internet"
:: No, she hasn't noticed anything particularly weird about Laika lately

At the end of what must have been a non-stop nightmare of a two-day chat session for imbri, Beth had run a multitude of tests on "Friend" (read about them in her log) and spun off a 10-page long discussion on Cartesian materialism on unfiction; but there is still no answer to AI man's problem in sight.

As for me, I secretly rejoiced when the IM marathon was over, as that meant that I could finally attend to the incidentlogs. As we expected, there was another incident in Aquapolis. This time, it's a fire. SafeSys (a new and improved version) receives a fire warning in the delta module on Tinos and wants to turn on the sprinklers. But the sprinklers have no pressure in them, so they won't work. It takes SafeSys but a second to make a decision: it opens subpen doors and extinguishes the fire by flooding the entire SubPen area and Delta. Then it pumps out the water, normalizes the pressure, and secures the area. Naturally, there are no clues as to the cause of the fire or to the reason for the malfunctioning of the sprinklers.

There are a few strange things going on. In order to flood Delta and put out the fire, SafeSys needed to open the door that leads to that module, but it did not need to open door A, which leads to the guest modules. However, it opened it, and kept it open despite somebody's continuous attempts to close it. And the door that leads to the guest modules on Delos is closed. Why? What is it about Delos? Why did the guest modules need to be locked?

Three incidents later we are no closer to solving the Aquapolis mystery; as a matter of fact, we still have no idea what the hotel's part in the story is - which only contributes to our obsession.

Nov. 17

But now, back to Beth (gah, I should just give up on segues). Who knows if it was Friend's ramblings about the meaning of life, or our incessant questions about the Averies that stirred up all of the old memories, but Beth decides it's time to demand answers from Marcus:

Email from emc2@metadex.net

Date: 11/16/03 12:28
Subject: James

Marcus,

Iíve wanted to talk to you about something for a while now but I have struggled over how to best do so. Of all the scenarios I created in my mind, email was certainly the last choice. However, I cannot get the questions out of my head and I canít wait until next week. If I wait, I may never ask and I need to know.

You know that last month I was in your office and you have to know that I found that file on James. I have no idea why you have that information; Iím not sure I want to know why. I just want to know what happened, where he is. I donít care why it happened, I just want to know what happened. I need that sense of peace. I am sure that by now you know how much he meant to me. I need to know what happened so that I can move on.

Iíve seen the websites and I saw bits of stuff in that file. Iím not stupid. I know that he didnít just retire from the company that meant so much to him. That wasnít like him. I realize that there was a lot going on then: the custody battle, me, the struggle with the shareholders, and the problems in Europe . He had a lot on his mind but he was a fighter. He never ran from his stress, he always met it head on. I let myself believe the stories; it was the only way that I could accept it. But I always knew that there was something more. The question is what? And who? And why? I believe that you have those answers.

Marcus, you have no reason to tell me what you know. I understand that. However, I hope that you still have enough respect for me, as a person, to fill me in. I can handle it; you know that. Whatever it is, I need to know. If you had anything to do with it, I wonít judge you and it will go no further. You donít even need to tell me. I just need to have some answers, to know what happened to him, to know where he is, to know that he is okay. I need them so that I can move on. Surely you can understand that.

You can reply to this or you can call me. You could even come out here and tell me in person. I just want to know.

Beth

Beth is writing that from Cascade Vortex; the place is regaining its popularity - it is even a part of the new image on paintover:

At this point, there was nothing out of the ordinary when another image appeared on paintover.net, for we had solved probably half a dozen similar puzzles before it. The image contained a line drawing of what looked to be a diamond ring, a guy jumping, and a Shakespeare quote, all over a fractal vortex background. From this, the background was determined to be a reference to the Cascade Vortex, the Shakespeare quote was said by Cassius, and the missing word in the quote was ďBrutusĒ.

Determining what the two pictures represented proved a bit tougher. In my mind, I was very pleased with how I went about figuring out what the line drawing represented. Though for quite awhile I was focused on the drawing being a ring of some sort, I finally let myself look at it in a different light. I said ďLetís think about anything this could beĒ. I brainstormed an eclipse, a candle, and many other things I can no longer remember. It was when I thought it might be a Christmas ornament that I realized that Christmas ornaments look remarkably like bombs. Of course, bomb was the answer. It was not long after that I figured the guy was jumping off of a building or a ledge, and thus committing suicide. The Brutus files didnít stand a chanceÖ

There were only two files in the the /bomb directory at that time; first one was a post from Caesar:

Mon, 17 Nov 2003 04:49:57 GMT brutus.jpg (Caesar)
Guys, if any of you are still around, there's absolutely tons of activity down south again. It's been whompin' steady since yesterday: 9:20, 10:42, 12:03, 13:16....and Random, texel and I are thinking of heading back down to check it out. Another road trip, anyone?

The "whomping" was quickly matched to the times of tests that Beth was running on AI man (log from Saturday, Nov. 15th), which means that Caesar and what is left of the Co. are heading to Cascade Vortex.

The next file was uploaded about an hour later, and it was a distressing "hello" from Scratch *wipes a tear*... Seriously, when I saw the "help me", I suddenly remembered how intensely compassionate I am for rebellious teenagers in trouble; by 2 am I have successfully combined my affection for Scratch with my obsession with the Aquapolis and came up with a speculation that Scratch had been captured by Metacortex/agents/some_other_bad_guys and taken to the Aquapolis. Again, I couldn't have been farther off.

Unlike the others, the brutus files took about two days to get posted; the next file to show up in this directory is from Mello:

Mon, 17 Nov 2003 07:54:55 GMT brutus.kbp (Mello)
SCRITCHITY SCRITCHITY SCRITCHITY SCRAAAAAAAAAAAATCHHHHHHHHHHH where are you? where are you? Help Me. yo! i'm here for ya man but ya gotta give a guy more to go on ya know. help ya how? been trying to call but get a bunch of nothingness blank nada zilch zip ring ring ring. answer your phone man. What's up?

caesar boy, have you guys lost it? it's insanity. insanity i say. yep, insanity. after what happened to tex. man, i dunno bad bad bad. got a feeling man. bad. you hear from the screetcherscratcher? what's the word? he with you?

Well, thank gods - somebody besides us noticed that SOS. Some long silent hours later, Caesar resurfaces:

Mon, 17 Nov 2003 20:34:04 GMT brutus2.jpg (Caesar)

OK, we all here now? I've got sort of a line on Scratch - access logs to PO indicate he's using a dial-up near here, but other tracing I am trying to do is showing sporadic access points. Whatever's going on, I don't think he's staying in one place for long.

mello, you must chill. OK, so we've got some serious weirdness going on here, but texel survived just fine. Scratch is one stubborn guy - he's most likely crying wolf. He didn't believe me before, who really thinks he's since been converted to the church of caesar, huh? :P He's just mocking us, oh how clever he is. Etc. etc. etc.

I didn't even have time to get properly upset with Caesar before Bounce chimed in:

Mon, 17 Nov 2003 20:46:35 GMT brutus.lhp (Bounce)

!!!

i dunno, dude, that was pretty wack!

scratch. please.

are you OK? i know you're a big jerko and all, but you gotta let us know you're ok. it seems like we're walking into some haunted house or horror movie. this is really freaking weird! ok, so my hands are even shaking.

please, scratch. give us a sign.

And then, at last, I have relief - Scratch shows up:

Mon, 17 Nov 2003 23:05:03 GMT brutus2.mic (Scratch)

alright, you wanted mommy and daddy, i brought you your precious mommy and daddy.

it's just too, too bad that whatever monsters of authority you've dredged up in your snooty scriptkiddy games are rilly glad that you've been looking so hard for them.

this is a nightmare, but i think it's so totally worth it, you toga-wearing fool.

Wtf?! He found Caesar's parents? We remember that the Nekodas were going to meet with an unidentified "him" in Redland - was that Scratch? Where the hell is he now? Are the Nekodas with him? What nightmare?

Next up is Texel; it looks like they are in Cascade Vortex now, clocking in lots of whomps (which are most likely the side effects of Monday's series of tests Beth was trying on AI dude):

Tue, 18 Nov 2003 03:35:55 GMT brutus.txt (Texel)

ugh, rain.

ok, so we're seeing not only the time periods caesar mentioned earlier, but just a constant barrage of activity, everywhere. it's crazy - the fluctuations are not only peaking several times a day, but even the base level is much higher than normal. i'm pulling logs from some local machines here - even the cv, and it's just unreal. i also (cough) got into a local utility's meter logs, but even with a 24-hour turnaround, you can see the first several waves of this maelstrom. a few paranormal websites and message boards have also reported strange doings, which is alternately funny and frightening. i don't think they know, exactly, that this is all quite real.

speaking of the reality of these whomps, painkillers can't even dull the tension i'm feeling right now. i am not sure what scratch is up to, but i've talked it over with caesar, and we agreed that we have to proceed gently, yet firmly. what's reassuring - oddly - is the slightly more chaotic nature of the bursts. we're seeing immense power levels, but it's not ... ok, it's methodical. i can't quite explain. it's more random and experimental. i would almost say that you could begin to detect a pattern, but then the logs indicate a ceasefire for an hour or so, and then it all starts up again.

fickle data!

we're gonna see how close we can get. i've been hoping for some strange lights, or perhaps a nice cozy hotel to spring up out of nowhere so we can chill in comfort, but no dice. heh. guess i'll have to hobble into trouble.

please, all of you, be careful.

scratch, you most of all. i mean it.

For the next two hours I occupied myself with driving everyone in chat insane with "I wonder if Scratch is ok. Where is he? Sorry, I'll stop. But I just really hope he's ok; I wish he'd show up already." Finally, he does:

Tue, 18 Nov 2003 05:48:46 GMT brutus3.mic (Scratch)

wtf were you into?? i met your precious parents, and ... they're coming for their boy now. look, in one day i managed to get you what you've spent months slamming your head into your schoolbooks over.

god!!!!! what were YOU thinking, you mal-adjusted emo baby? you think I was the one that messed things up? you have no clue AT ALL. i said nightmare earlier and you LISTEN to me, you punk-ass, i was not kidding. bad situation. sorry is a small word for this. i am so sorry. you don't even know.

THEY'RE AFTER US, OK? THEM.

they're going to KILL me. i needed help, and then i didn't, and now there's no help big enough to cover this mess. wtf. i can't believe this. this was a game, right? this was just you, fucking around, and there was me being better than you, EACH and EVERY step of the way. this WAS A GAME, but THEY don't care. screw you and your precious secrets.

you'd better run

He met the Nekodas... And, if the agents are after them, "bad situation" is putting it lightly. In an aside, krystyn - you are amazing.

Caesar's reply:

Tue, 18 Nov 2003 06:23:03 GMT brutus3.jpg (Caesar)

What can be avoided
Whose end is purposed by the mighty gods?
Yet Caesar shall go forth; for these predictions
Are to the world in general as to Caesar.

We stayed up all night waiting for more updates; I think I eventually managed to drag myself to bed around 4 am - minutes before Ethan updated his blog:

November 18, 2003

Time to breathe. I must breathe. I can here. I'm ok here. Am I ok? Oh god what's happening? I don't understand this. It didn't happen. It's not happening. She must still be there. Oh god! She's gone! Her hand was reaching out. Was it reaching for me? Why didn't I take it and save her? Could I have saved her? Her hand. Our ring. Oh god, why didn't I go back? Why didn't I get her? Running. Rain. Voices. She slipped. She couldn't keep up. She screamed. Her scream. Her pain. Her scream. I turned to help. The wall. It wasn't there before. Her hand. Oh god!

Went to the bar, met him. He knows Jesse, told us where he is. She was so happy. She was going to meet her son, our son. We were going to see him! They were coming. "Run!" We couldn't make it to the car! The rain. She slipped. She fell behind, and I didn't stay with her! Why wasn't I there for her? Why did I run? Who are they? Oh, my God! Am I safe? Jesse? She'll be with Jesse. She loves him, she loves me. I love her so. Dina. Oh, god, you're so beautiful! Dina! Your hand was just there reaching. You were reaching for me.

The rain. The wall. Your hand. Reaching. Breathe.

Posted by Ethan at 02:42 AM

Nov. 18

Here's our collective take on this: Dina and Ethan met with Scratch, and were on their way to meet Caesar when the agents caught them. The three of them ran; Dina slipped; Ethan turned around to help her, but there was a wall (should have been a black cat or some other deja vu-ish thing there as well... incidentally, this already is a deja vu - remember balladsoffrogs?). Now Dina is gone. Unanimously, we enter the state of denial: there is no way our beloved Dina is dead - she must have been [insert wild random speculation here].

Scratch has made it to Cascade Vortex, but he doesn't know where Dina, or even Ethan, is:

Tue, 18 Nov 2003 20:30:42 GMT brutus2.txt (Texel)

some of you i have never ever met nor seen.

all i know is the feel of your echo through your words, and your actions. seeing scratch come into the small clearing, he was instantly recognizable.

he was alone, as well.

more news when we can get it to you.

[edit]

ok, he doesn't know where they are, either. he's been looking for hours.

Caesar adds this:

Even after we found that this is a photo of a tombstone, we still largely managed to rationalize Dina's death away. Random says something:

Tue, 18 Nov 2003 20:48:08 GMT brutus.ypt (Random)

He Arriveth, Yet Sans Nurturing Duo

The arguing pair recall with a sorrowful tooth
Like Semper Fi in the eye or Michelangelo trumpeting to his member
Quickly it embarked from the front of the vanilla tank.
He was arising himself--he had no choice
The scratch picked up the torn wing and stapled it back on the angel
Never created.. . Never more has been yelped
"Dominate me with your overpowering nose!" Agatha Christie moaned quickly.
From a height high above, the preacher grasped the orange.
Weap bitter tears, blank face, like Caesar.. . Nothing are you, or will you ever be.

After just a few hours (basically, in no time, since we're talking about decrypting Random) Omnie and yeahyeah determine that he wrote the title himself (they actually determined quite a bit more, but, as is the case with our hacker prodigy, the relevance of 99% of the details of Random's poetry cannot be established). Our bold translation: Scratch is here, but without Caesar's parents...

Confusion persists: Scratch thought that he found Caesar's parents (the Nekodas), but Beth said that his parents were the Averies... who the hell is Caesar looking for?

Speaking of Beth: Marcus replied to her e-mail:

Email from mlo@metadex.net

Date: 1/18/03 09:55
Subject: the situation

Elizabeth ,

As your boss, I have always admired your determination. As your friend, it has troubled me on a number of occasions. There are many things in this world that are not meant to be understood, many questions that are meant to remain unanswered. While knowledge is important, ignorance, as weíve all been told, is bliss. I would be surprised if you would agree with that. Your drive to understand the world around you does not allow you to accept ignorance; it never has and I do not believe that it ever will. That said, you were correct with your assessment of the situation. It is not meant to be discussed and certainly not discussed in email. It is best that we resolve the situation before I leave tomorrow. Is there a place that we can meet privately? I will be in touch.

Marcus

I can't resist quoting this: "ignorance, as weíve all been told, is bliss." Heehee. Oh, Beth also has an e-mail from Phillip, the man on a mission: he is going to debunk Wongmo (really "going", as in, to Chicago):

Email from pgairden@metadex.net

Date: 11/18/03 12:50
Subject: AQN

Beth,

I'm going to pay a visit to the guy I told you about, the one I accidentally crossed up the mail to you with a couple of weeks ago. He took my mail as an attempt at trapping him, and I guess inadvertently it was and it worked. He's all but admitted my suspicions. More when I return...don't worry, I won't do anything rash.

Phillip

We notice that the updates have been happening much faster, and across the board; this acceleration in the progress of the game stirs a lot of mixed emotions: on the one hand, we are thrilled to see the game speed up; and on the other - we are afraid to admit that this might be a sign of the end approaching.

There is a fourth incident in Aquapolis. It begins as usual: SafeSys receives a breach warning on Delta Delos, starts closing doors in the module, receives manual override requests on door #13, and denies them. But then... somebody at the door logs in (or, rather, tries to log in) as Katherine in order to override the lock. While it is apparent that the level is flooding, and somebody is trying to escape, I am not convinced that that "somebody" is Katherine. I am not sure why Katherine would feel the need to try three of her passwords (but we do get all excited about having another password - and "bradpitt" was such a nice touch, btw); it seems to me that somebody who knows her passwords, but is not sure which one she uses for SafeSys would be more likely to try all three. Thus the rather obvious irony of the "systemaok" sent out by SafeSys at the end of the log - "Kat drowned" - is grossly misinterpreted... and I take full blame for that. Or wait... can I blame that on krystynsleepdeprivation as well? 

The next day, during the web flipage (that isn't even a word, is it?), Kat gets "transferred" in Metacortechs' database. And though we should really really know better, some of us *cough* are still not convinced that Kat died. Somewhere in the suburbs of Las Vegas Steve Peters sighs, pours himself a stiff drink, and cruises over to istockphoto in hopes of finding the perfect proof of Kat's demise.

Nov. 19

Beth met with Marcus:

Email from emc2@metadex.net

Date: 11/18/03 18:12
Subject: Call me.

Please Phil, I need to talk to someone. A real someone that understands. I donít know where to turn. Everything is just too much and I just canít think anymore. I desperately wish that you were here and that you could just make this all go away. Phil, please call me.

Beth

Email from emc2@metadex.net

Date: 11/18/03 18:25
Subject: let me explain

Phil,

Iím sorry about that last email. I just really need someone to talk to. Someone that might be able to understand. Iím sorry to dump this all in an email but I really just need to get it out.

I learned from someone that Marcus had information on James. I knew that he did; I saw that file. I needed to know what was in there. You know that Iíve been trying to think of some way to talk to him about it. Well, I broke down and just emailed him and told him that I needed answers. He came down here today, with his file. He explained that James just disappeared without a trace. He had all of this stuff from right before James Ďretiredí and then nothing really after. There was no body, no paperwork. He told me that he suspected it was some work conspiracy or something. I donít know. It didnít make sense. It just didnít fit right. He told me that he was sorry and that he wished that he had more. He told me to not talk about it or talk about how close I was to James that I just needed to accept the stories as they were and to move on, that I needed to let go. I thought he was right. But then he gave me the file. He knew that Iíd need to go over it all. I told him that Iíd be back at work next week and he left.

This is where everything falls apart. I just donít understand it. I went to the table and was going through the file. There were so many little memories and I was a little upset. I donít know if I told you about everything that has happened here but I figured out that this guy is a type of computer program--as if that makes sense in and of itself. Heís a garbage collector, something I use all the time with work. I donít expect you to understand. Itís a type of memory management that recycles memory. So when a computer no longer needs to access something, the garbage collector basically gets rid of it. Well he was (is?) not working properly.

So Iím sitting here going through this file and he comes over to me and I start explaining the situation because I had to talk to somebody. As I was explaining this to him, I was looking at the files, pointing to pictures and notes and things. Then I looked up at him to say something and something was different. I mean he was the same but he had changed somehow. He knew this stuff. He knew James. He was responsible for, I suppose, cleaning up after James and Lynne, but something went wrong. I donít know what is harder for me to understand right now, that James and Lynne are dead and have been for some time or that a computer program had a responsibility to remove all traces of them. I thought that I was okay with all of this. I thought that I could deal with it. I think that Iím losing my mind. I mean this canít be real, can it? I just need to see a real person. I just need you to come and tell me that itís all a dream (a nightmare?) and that Iíll wake up soon.

I think I need to go for a walk. I need to get away. But now someone's coming up the road. I can't take any more Phil. Iím telling you, this is too much. Please call me.

Beth

Remember one of those mysteries that the game started with - Avery's record in the Metacortex' database? So, that's why it got all screwed up: it wasn't "cleaned" properly by GC (Garbage Collector, previously known as Friend and AI dude; we were quite happy to finally have a fitting name for this guy, because frankly, none of the 257 names that we came up with really stuck).

So, now we know what happened to the Averies, but we still have no idea why. Maybe Caesar (and, most likely it is him Beth sees coming up the road, as they are both in Cascade Vortex) can explain in it to us... er, to her.

Wed, 19 Nov 2003 03:49:13 GMT brutus5.jpg (Caesar)

Right about now I wish I had been able to have a normal life. I REALLY wish it.

The storms in my head seem to be the same storms that ripped through the last decade or so of my life. It started with childhood and my parents splitting, and now - this very minute, knowing that they are gone. For good.

Betting high and bluffing, I hoped that if I stayed out of trouble, if I laid low, if I quietly pulled out the information laid out in front of me on all those networks, I'd get my parents back. I am writing right now because I don't know what else to do. It feels like I've hit a wall, and the numbness is huge, solid. I welcome it.

Beth is a kind lady. Very beautiful, but also very real. Sincere. She seemed almost as sad as me when she told me. She seemed relieved. Maybe I'm wrong. My mind is too foggy right now to tell for sure. But I think it was something she wanted to know more than she knew how she felt about it, if that makes any sense. Anyway.

In a twisted way, I wish I could find an analogy for this woman, this messenger in the wilderness, laptop and striking eyes, a character from a book. I could then just make this all go away, you know? Give her winged sandals and a pseudonym, and then I'd just leave. I'd just go on looking until I'm dead. A pile of dust.

I want to say I am sorry.

Apologies just can't cut it in a situation like this, and so I won't even try to make this poetic. I'm sorry. I know now that pretty much everything I touch, every thing I have ever loved, has been totally messed up. I have seen so many things fall into chaos and I am not sure I even know how to grieve.

I have been on the run so long now that I think I let my brain get ahead of me. Do you know what it's like, when I'm in that hacking zone, night after night, and the numbers keep tumbling right in front of my eyes? I hear music. It's the best music I've ever heard, and I want to keep drowning in it until all the bad notes and cheap backbeats are gone. I want to wear the CD out with replays. I want to re-record it with fixes. I search for connections in literature, in the stuff we humans have created in order to understand the world.

I was so crazy with the loss of Mom and Dad that I forgot about what I was supposed to be doing. If I could just be smart enough, and fast enough, and if I could get enough control over the networks that screwed me over in the first place, I could win them back. I'd be King, and the world would have to give up and say, "Here's your mother and father. We give up. You totally rule."

In the course of breaking and entering and taking and taking, I killed them just as much as I've broken texel's ankle, and made scratch and all the rest of you leave me in disgust and distrust. I don't think anyone within 1000 miles of me is safe right now. I wanna go live in a cave and just forget about the world and everything in it. I will try not to care about videogames. I won't miss cheeseburgers.

I love you, mom. I love you, dad. And I'm sorry I have made such a mess of things. If there's anything I can do to fix this (how can I bring you back? HOW?), I will do it.

OK, here's the part where I stop writing.

Code-named "apology", this post of Caesar's has shaken even the most cynical MetaUrchins to the core. In terms of information, though, it... well, it's lacking. Or maybe we're not getting it. As Omnie would say later, we pretty much couldn't get it "until Ethan bonked us on the head with his 'well, here's how everything happened' post."

November 19, 2003

Dina

Dina, I know what Iíve been told, but Iím just still clinging to desperate hope, so I write this in case somehow, some way, youíll be able to see it. It's some small comfort to me now to write to you as if you will read it, no matter how much reality wants to tell me otherwise. I imagine you waking up at 4 AM and checking to see if I'd written you. I always loved that feeling. This has all been so crazy, but Iíll do my best to make some sense out of it. Life went so quickly from being normal, even mundane, to a nightmare of confusion that Iím still trying to make sense out of. Ok, mustn't ramble.

First and most importantly: Jesse. Iím actually sitting here next to him now! I followed the directions we were given, and found myself here at a campground in the slush about an hour or two from Redland. I arrived this morning, and have learned the truth, finally. At least the truth as Jesse knows it.

Jesseís a great-looking kid, around 16 Iíd say. Heís a genius, apparently, with computers. A while back, while hacking around, he stumbled upon something that he shouldnít have, something to do with a huge computer system that oversees everything, basically. I donít even come close to understanding what he told me, but suffice it to say that it was huge, and it set everything that led to where we are now into motion.

Jesse turned to his father, who was a bigwig at a computer company for help. After looking into things, dad called Jesse and said he needed to meet with him and his mother right away. To make a long story short, somebody was waiting for them, and his parents were taken into custody, and Jesse was able to escape using his motherís car.

He didnít know where to turn, where to go to be safe. He found himself driving out to his parentsí best friendsí home. There, he found refuge, a place of relative safety. He told the couple what had happened, showed them some pictures heíd been able to take, and they let him stay with them until they could figure out what to do. Keeping a low profile as best they could, they discovered that Jesseís fatherís company was in on things, somehow, covering up his disappearance with a concocted story of his retirement, which they knew not to be true. Jesse and his guardians continued to try to discover what had happened to his parents, when their time ran out.

One night, men came to the house and took the couple into custody. Jesse again was able to avoid capture and went on the run again, finally hooking up with some sort of cyber gang, who lived in the shadows, always on the move.

While with the gang, he was able to discover the fate of the couple heíd been staying with. They had somehow been given new identities and had been moved to another city, and incredibly, with no memories of what had happened. From his place in the shadows, Jesse was able to keep tabs on the couple, and took steps to make sure they would never find out about him or their past, for their own safety.

That couple was you and me, Dina. Jesse knew us as Ryan and Sylvie Emerson. Ryan was a successful architect, Sylvie was a gifted artist (no surprise to me now, really). We had been good friends of his parents, James and Lynne Avery. We arenít Jesseís parents, we never were, but we sort of became his foster parents for a time.

The very thing Jesse was trying to prevent came true. We found out about him and our previous lives. Because of that, we once again became targets of those who are behind this whole thing. We pursued a path that Jesse desperately was trying to steer us away from, but in the end he was unsuccessful. We found our former selves. We found him. We found our nightmare.

So, Iím not sure what my future is. Iíve lost you, Iíve lost the son I thought I had, Iíve lost everything. Iím assured that if I return home, there will be more tragedy awaiting me. So I find myself a fugitive. A fugitive from my own past.

The good news is that Jesse and his friends may be able to help me. Iím not entirely sure of what they are offering me, but I really donít see a choice but to join up with them. They seem to be a trustworthy, loyal bunch, which is good, as I really have nowhere else to turn.

Well, I need to give up the computer now. I hope to write again to you soon, Dina. I hope you can find your way to this message in a cyber bottle somehow. I miss you so much; I canít even express my grief at losing you. Thank you for your love, your companionship, the great life we lived together. You were Godís gift to me, which I didnít even come close to deserving. I would have easily given myself for you, had I had that chance.

I will love you Dina. Always.

Ethan

Posted by Ethan at 04:16 PM

Now Ethan is with Jesse/Caesar at Cascade Vortex (Scratch gave them directions on how to get there when they met), using one of their laptops to write a farewell letter to Dina *wipes another tear*. So, he and Dina really weren't Jesse's parents: they took Jesse in after his real parents, the Averies, were "cleaned up." As I'm writing this, I'm checking with the thread where this update was posted, chuckling: we never admitted the possibility that anybody could die in this game, ever (with the possible exception of Wongmo). As we speculated our way towards a converged plot, we offered every alternative to Averies' (as well as Dina's and even Kat's) death: from "the Averies were unplugged" to "Kat faked her death and is now in Zurich."

One more thing before I give you Beth's take on the situation - Caesar's stumbling "upon something that he shouldnít have, something to do with a huge computer system that oversees everything"... you know what it was, don't you? I haven't the faintest idea how he could have hacked his way to finding the matrix, but... here, I'll just turn it over to Steve:

Jesse basically found out about the existence of the Matrix, although he didn't know what it was he'd found at the time. All he knew was that he'd found evidence of something that was huge, reaching into everything. He turned to his dad for answers, being the CEO of MetaCortex. James did some digging, discovered that his son was up to something, and in doing so, caught the attention of the monitors. When he went to meet with his son and ex-wife, the monitors moved in to take care of the situation.

vpisteve, PM

From Beth's log:

21:36 A wise man told me today that there are many things in this world that are not meant to be understood, many questions that are meant to remain unanswered. My entire life has been driven by a desire to answer every question, to gain an understanding of my surroundings. I have never been one to operate on concepts of faith and destiny, yet today they have become very important to me.

During lunch, I learned that a dear friend passed away. We were so close, inseparable at times. He was so full of life and filled mine. I havenít seen him in so long and never had a chance to say to goodbye, to tell him how much he meant to me. I donít regret that, but I do wish that I had had the opportunity. He gave me so much and asked for so little. I miss him. With everything that I have learned in the past few days, this, the most natural, is the hardest to accept.

You are probably wondering what this has to do with the log of events, with faith and destiny. It has everything to do with it. I learned of his death and that of his ex-wife, who also passed away, through My Friend. From what I have been able to gather, he was responsible for removing them from the system. Something went wrong and it wasnít completely successful. While discussing the situation surrounding their death, My Friend was able to regain crucial information that has allowed him to ascertain the nature of his malfunction. I do not want to understand what this all means. It is just not something that I am ready to comprehend. So you see it was destiny that brought My Friend and I together. That allowed us each a certain sense of peace, a certain understanding.

The dear friend that passed away had a son. Heís now alone and scared and in trouble. He blames himself for everything that has happened and feels so guilty. Heís in trouble. I donít know what heís gotten himself into or how it all happened, but I do know that he needs help. I didnít know where to turn but I knew that My Friend could help him. We talked about it tonight. He agreed to help. I donít know how. I donít know that it will be successful. I fear his power. Yet I have faith that it will work. It has to work.

GC has found some way to help the hacker gang (as well as Ethan, who accepts this proposal - whatever it is - as he "really [has] nowhere else to turn"). The newest picture on paintover leads to to-night files - another roll call. We sat in chat and kept the head count :-)

Everyone is coming (and I'm assuming that includes Scratch, despite any explicit confirmation), except Leak (and that deserves its own sidenote: (14)). As to where they're going - this message from GC was embedded in Caesar's second file (the picture of a building that looks amazingly like MetaCortex headquarters):

Good day, friends.
I have recently been informed that your species interpersonal communications, like those of mine, should begin with a degree of bootstrapping. In that regard, I hope you are not ill and that the weather systems in your current geographical location are to your satisfaction. I believe these enquiries are generally held to be an appropriate preamble.
For my own part, I harbor no desire to harm you. Regrettably, there exist others who do monitors, agents and sundry other system processes. They, of course, bear you no ill-will; rather you are the antithesis of that which they are tasked with protecting. Your continued existence would be in contestation at all times.
To explain it in terms you might be more familiar with, you and your associates are bugs in the system. Members of your cooperative have disrupted its nature, and are capable of disseminating this information to the rest of your kind. This, to them, is an intolerable situation. As such, you will not be allowed to remain in your current state.
As you can see, the system allows no possibility of reconciliation you and your associates will be pursued until the end of your natural life, or until you are deleted and recycled.
I have been tasked to discover a resolution to your predicament a third way, if you will. My offer is an alternative which has not been considered by the system as they do not believe it is possible for your species to accomplish, which is precisely why it will not fail. It will succeed because it has been overlooked; I myself only realized that such a course of action was possible after performing a lengthy series of experiments.
My proposition is this: I will create a stable, internally consistent version space a pocket of parallel existence which, although it will obey the same rules, will have no connection to the rest of the simulation. When one enters this space, one is no longer in the simulation.
You and your associates will enter this version space, removing yourselves from the simulation. When your signal is no longer detected, the associated search processes will be terminated.
I will also provide for you a translation program, which will allow you to pass between the version space and the simulation. Upon returning to the simulation you will notice that the translation program does not fully register your shell with the system renderers; this will leave you intangible and, with luck, impervious to all physical harm. You will, regrettably, be unable to interact with the simulation to the degree to which you have become accustomed, but I trust you will come to view this as a necessary precaution. Be aware that if you stay away from the version space for too long the system will register your presence, and the search processes will be restarted.
Yours,
Collector

He is offering to put them into a construct-type place (kind of like the training simulations in M1)! Before those of us with the most severe cases of matrix fanaticalness (wow, who'd have thought that "fanatism" isn't a word, and "fanaticalness" is?) get a chance to dispute how he's planning to prevent their physical bodies from getting flushed out of the gooey pods, or, worse yet - why Beth, who now has just about every proof of the matrix, is still unaware of its existence - all the MU-world (i.e. in-game) sites go down. After they come back up, Cascade Vortex flips out (remember their flaq page?), and Kat is "transferred" (15). We take that to mean that GC's most daring translocation undertaking evar created a whomp so large that its effects even extended to the net :-)