MetaUrchins Home

The Nekodas have some news today as well. First, catherwood found another one of Dina's hidden pages - tortoise.html. But more importantly, there is this blog exchange:

November 1 , 2003

OK, this is getting weird

Alright, so I'm sitting here this morning, and someone knocks on the door. I open it and it's that guy Todd Rogan, again! I have no idea how he knew I was back in town, let alone what room I was in!

I told him I didn't really appreciate him stalking me, to which he apologized profusely. He just kept staring at me and asking me questions. Questions about where I lived, where I work, my family, etc. etc. At first, I didn't want to give him any information about me, but then I figured if I did, he would FINALLY realize I'm not who he thinks I am and leave me alone.

But the more questions I answered, the more agitated he became. I tried to ask him what exactly was going on, but he was very evasive, saying something about this being so big, and I would just think he was nuts if he told me, that I'd have to 'see some things for myself.'

I asked him what that meant, and he said he couldn't really say, but if I wanted to get to the bottom of things that I might try stopping by the High Flyer Bar down on the lakefront.

He softened a little then, looked me in the eye and told me that regardless, it was really really good to see me again. Then he left.

So how totally whacked is this? I mean, this just happened, and I'm all shaken up. I almost called the front desk to chew them out for releasing my room number to someone, but something about the guy, his sincerity I think, made me decide not to. Plus, I just keep having the nagging feeling that I do know this guy, somehow, although I have no idea how.

Anyway, I get to look forward to a boring weekend with nothing to do, and trying not to let this thing bug me. I just may stop by that bar he mentioned tonight just to check it out. Who knows, maybe something there will let me put this whole thing to rest. At the very least, I can drown myself in Pyramids, heh. I wish it was warmer, or I'd rent a sailboat and relax. Maybe I'll go see a flick.

Ahh, matinees. Just like college.

Posted by Ethan at 01:10 PM

Matinee Idol

Honey, please be careful.

I trust in your instincts, though. It's one of the things I adore the most about you. You get people - it's as if you have some innate ability to separate the meat from the gristle when it comes to personalities.

I think that's part of what makes your trips so hard right now. I wish you could just sit with me, quietly, in our living room, and you could tell me why these nights plague me so.

Mmm, tell me all about the movie when you call. If you must communicate with this Todd guy, please, do stay in public areas. I find that I am really intrigued - the sleep-deprived brain in my head feels like an outsider. It's some fantastic story, some movie-of-the-week, but it's happening to us.

Anyway, love you, baby.

Posted by Dina at 01:31 PM

We reason that Todd Rogan is so certain that he knows Ethan Nekoda because he probably did - before Ethan's memory was replaced. This "reprogramming" was probably performed on both Ethan and Dina; that is why Dina has these strange dreams, these vague memories from a life other than her own - she used to be someone else. With heismissing and sheismissing being the prime candidates for the Nekodas' former identities, we are thrilled to see the previously disparate storylines finally converging!

Last bit of news for the day: MLO updates his calendar; among the November entries is this one:

Tue 4 Lunch with Dimitri Moraitopoulos - James?

Nov. 3

Faced with another one of “update-less” periods (which, as is widely known, have been determined to cause irreparable brain damage in ARGers) and concerned for the well-being of his fellow MetaUrchins, MoR takes a constructive approach in addressing the escalating threat of mass hysteria on the boards – we should occupy ourselves with humor during the otherwise unbearable days of silence. Sooo... You Might Be A Metagamer If

... your girlfriend stopped asking what you were doing on the computer; she just walks by and says "any updates?"
... Metacortechs main phone number is on your speed dial.
... the "Auto complete" function of your browser always lists "BORSCH-POO" when you type "B"

... you look for hidden messages in TV commercials... (*cough*)

... you try to explain the concept of an ARG to other people, and you end up telling them the entire storyline... (still elicits many blank stares)

... You print hardcopy of sixty odd pages of Unforum threads... in duplicate... and keep them close to hand because it's easier than trying to explain things to people.
... you have all of MLO's appointments entered into your PDA.
... your work PC gets audited by Corporate IT because you've installed lots of software recently... "Metacortex screensaver? What's Metacortex?.. Stegdetect... IP Scanner... you seem to have loads of new media files... Flash decompiler? What could you possibly need a Flash decompiler for?"

Of course, there is usually a spike in interest in the unsolved puzzles at times like this: for example, the paintover images' binary names. As WedgeGold discovered, adding 64 to each file name in decimal produces English characters in ASCII; Marl64 expanded the idea (ahh, the warmth of sharing!) and rot-ed those to get "FIND THEM". This solution (which turned out to be correct, btw) was quickly labeled as "succinct yet utterly useless", as pretty much all we've been doing since the beginning of the game has been looking for "them", so... yeah.

There is also more "progress" being made on the accursed Oct. 1 picture - the girl might be looking at a cat:

We try to make a reasonable connection between either the Cheshire cat or Dinah (Alice' cat) and... well, anything in the game, and fail - naturally. But we don't give up; no, we move along to page #16 of the fourth thread dedicated to Oct. 1 picture.

Nov. 5

The only day in this game (and possibly in the entire history of ARG) when the lack of updates is appreciated - nearly everyone is at the theatres watching Matrix: Revolutions.

Nov. 6

Remember this Dimitri person that Marcus scheduled a meeting with - he wanted to talk with him about Avery? Apparently, that went rather well - Marcus came back from it with photos and a weird picture of something that looks like a poorly constructed maze.

Ahh, how I reminisce about old tapestry.jpg. It seems I’ve become known for it, along with Yeahyeah and Xnbomb. When the file was initially posted to MLO’s metadex account, I downloaded it and only gave it a quick glance. After all, I was about to go to bed, and assumed that someone would solve it before I checked the forums again.

Needless to say, when no one had solved it, I jumped at the chance to solve an obvious puzzle. I read the ideas about using the small triangles as binary digits, but I knew that wasn’t right, due to the fact that nothing really seemed to repeat. I also looked into the idea of Braille characters being hidden in the spaces in the tapestry, which seemed to be an excellent idea. After all, when filled in, the large white octagonal spaces seemed to form Braille letters. Unfortunately, no matter how the tapestry was oriented, some unknown characters would always form. But from that conclusion, my brainstorm came.

Zooming into the picture, it seemed that every single white space had the same pixels missing and added. Confused, I shaded in the white sections with green, in order to test this theory. I finally worked it out so that if I created an 18x18 octagon with the necessary pixels missing and added, it fit every single white space. If this sounds confusing, then that’s how I felt.

Upon zooming out, I noticed that the white spaces seemed to fall in specific rows and columns. I also noticed that these rows and columns were spaced a few pixels apart. Feeling adventurous, I shaded in the 2- and 3- pixel spacers between the 18x18 octagons I had constructed.

After I completed all of this groundwork, I noticed the pattern. Not only were the white octagonal spaces repeating, but every other 18x18 block seemed to be repeated elsewhere. At this point, I posted my “I think I might have solved the puzzle” post. I now apologize to the other people who were probably on the edge of their seat, waiting for something else, but I didn’t want to post a picture because I wanted to be on the right path to solving the puzzle. Mostly I didn’t want to go down the road of translating symbols to words, and then have someone find a really easy thing to do and waste a bunch of work. Selfish? Yes, a bit. But once I started converting the symbols to letters, I posted my work in progress.

Then once we started seeing words in the cryptograph, it was pretty much smooth sailing from there. Big thanks to Yeahyeah on solving the bulk of the crypto.

Now, I must divulge the unpleasant bit. Tapestry let me down on two accounts. First, I was sorely disappointed that the letter turned out just to be a piece of back-story about Jesse wanting to find his father. With a puzzle that complicated to solve, I was really hoping for a website URL, a password, or a major unrevealed portion of the story. However, the real kicker came when someone discovered a font called Betamaze that was used to generate the tapestry. Now, I do realize that the tapestry was altered quite a bit in order to make the puzzle less obvious, but it was quite disappointing that we spent all that time just decoding a font available online. But that’s what you get when your expectations rise above reality.

Oh, chance, don't be disappointed - your solve was amazing, and the letter was rather important:

I know that my dad trusted you and I could use your help. I don't know where else to turn. It has been too long, I should have heard by now. None of our plans have worked out. I know that they are still out there! But where? Do you know? Have you heard? Can you help? This is all my fault. I wish I understood what I did.

Now, if you just hold all of your questions until the Q&A session, which will take place at the end of today's updates, we will see if we can explain this letter from J then :-)

Perhaps this e-mail from Beth can clear up some confusion:

Home again, Home again

Well, here I am back in Redland safe and sound. I had a great trip that left me glad to be home and yet wishing I wasn't.

It's always sad when you return to work after some time off and the place hasn't fallen apart without you there to hold it together. When you are just always there, it's easy to delude yourself into believing that the company just couldn't do without you. After a week away, it seems that aside from a slew of emails nobody noticed that I was away. Granted my boss was thrilled to see me walk in the door on Monday morning, but I'm not sure if that was because of my work or because he was worried about me.

Perhaps I just miss the days of old. Ran into an old friend from my little stint in Switzerland yesterday that triggered memories of days and friends gone by. It completely surprised me when I saw him walking down the hall. I almost didn't recognize him with the stern all-business look. Dim was always the energy of the room and his laughter could be heard down the street. To see him so rigid, so professional, just highlighted the changes that have taken place. The last time I saw him was when he took James and I to the airport for our return to the states. We stopped at a little cafe and had so much fun that we missed our flight. I miss those days. There was just so much hope and faith in the future and what it held. We were a team, a strong team. While nothing would fall apart if you took a week's vacation, your absence was felt and you knew you were missed.

There was a bit of odd news on my return which also may have something to do with it. A new coworker was named employee of the month. While I'm happy for her, it just struck me as odd. Not only is she new to the company, she's from my department and I'm not even all that sure of what she does for us. She's in the department, and she shows up for departmental meetings, but she doesn't seem to have any of the typical responsibilities. It just all seems out of place and I'm not sure what to make of it. Why her? Why our department (again!)? She is a great girl and has become someone that I can count on. But that's socially, not professionally. An employee of the month should be someone that represents the company in an outstanding fashion. She just does not, at least as far as I can tell.

Speaking of her, she was a fantastic help while I was away. Not only did she watch over my place, she welcomed my dog into her home. Laika almost didn't seem happy to see me! I had to call her twice before she came bounding into arms. Next time maybe I should board her. At least then I can't even get out the first syllable before she attacks me. The home was all in one piece, mail piled neatly on my desk. Heck, if I didn't know better, I'd think she even straightened up a bit for me.

I'm glad to be home, though I do wish that I was still away from everything. It was nice to be able to think about things without any distractions. Now I'm home and I'm still as confused as ever and even a bit scared.

I suppose that I just wish that I was still away from here and in the heart of everything else. It was an amazing vacation and I finally experienced my first "anomaly". I'm not completely sure of what all happened, though it was definitely something. I'll upload my notes to my archives as soon as I get a moment to get them all in order. Part of me is convinced that this is a hoax or some massive joke on me. If any of you are in on it, please let me know. I'm a bit spooked, I'll admit it and we can all move on.

There is definitely evidence that this is a hoax. In both Alabama and Washington, a man was present for the events. However, I cannot for the life of me figure out how he could have done the things. Sure, a few can be explained as illusions, but they were so real. Others cannot be explained at all. Yet if he wasn't behind them, why was he there?

I did not experience the event in AL, yet I was right in the center of it in WA. It started when a few bats flew through a tree like it was the night sky. That startled me and I fell through my tent and wound up with half my body in the tent and half of it out of the tent. It was as real as anything else that I've seen or experienced, but I suppose it could have been some crazy trick. What gets me the most is my PDA. I asked the man a few questions and he didn't respond. Yet when I went to write some notes, there were new files on the PDA; files that I did not put there. Ok, he could have put them there. Wireless connection and all of that. However, the files turned out to be the answers to the questions that I asked him in XML. I did not see him with a PDA or any device. I did not see him type. So, how did that happen? Was there someone else involved? How could it have happened so quickly?

I have since seen this man on several occasions. He's always at a great distance, but he's there. So, I begin to wonder if I have a stalker. It's very possible. Heck, I tell all of you virtual strangers quite a bit about me. I suppose it wouldn't be hard to find out more. Yet, he's always at a distance and so I've not been too worried. However, tonight he showed up at my home. He knows where I live and this time he was rather close to me. That's troubling. Again he wouldn't answer my questions. When he left, I checked my PDA. And there they were, his responses. Now seriously, if this is one of you, stop it. I bought into it. Cool little hoax. Well done. I want to know your did you do it! If it's not one of you, who or what is it? What does it mean?

Well, I've rambled on long enough and I'm late to go pick up Kat. Hopefully a good movie will help me get my mind off of this.


See it making sense already? Dimitri was James' good friend, and he went to Metacortex to meet with Marcus, where Beth ran into him. He probably gave Marcus the photos of heismissing (at this point, without a doubt - Avery, who was indicated as the subject of this meeting by MLO), and a letter from J., somebody's son. We have no idea where these pictures were taken, but my "guess" (and I couldn't have been farther off) was - Metacortex' concentration camp-type place at the Aquapolis. Why at the Aquapolis? Because by now I was so obsessed with it that virtually everything that happened in the game simply had to somehow point back to Delos. You know, all roads lead to... ok, I won't.

Back to Beth. Or, rather, Kat, who was indeed chosen as MetaCortex' employee of November a few days ago. Hard-working, diligent, and dedicated Katherine... "cleaning" Beth's house while Beth was away... the rotten spying snitch! We are certain she planted bugs there, but our dear naive Beth remains oblivious and even tells Kat about the AI man showing up at her house:

Email from

Date: 11/5/03 20:17
Subject: on my way

Hey there.

I'm just finishing up a few things here and then I'm on my way. I can't believe that freak showed up at my house! I suppose I should be scared. Well, I guess that I am a bit freaked out by it. I mean, he was at my house! Oh well. We'll not think about that. Oh, Phil may call me tonight. I wonder what is up with him. Maybe you can help solve that anomaly. See you in a bit.

Beth also tells Phil about it:

Email from

Date: 11/5/03 20:02
Subject: freaked out!

Phil, I've tried to call you twice now and not gotten an answer. I saw the man again only this time he was at my house! I don't know what to do. He just showed up here. It was the same thing. I talked he just stood there. Why does he do that? He completely startled me and I didn't even say hello. Just "you again?" or something. He wouldn't tell me how he found out where I lived. He was responsible for those files. I told him that I figured them out, not that I did. I mean, I know what they say but who knows what they mean. Why'd I even tell him that, I don't even know if he put them there because he won't talk to me. I mean if he didn't put them there why would he care? I don't know. But if he didn't put them there, then who did? Then I just started babbling about the crazy tent. Which was stupid. I knew he wouldn't answer. So, of course I started asking him to talk and what he wanted from me. I think I even tried 20 questions at one point. All pointless because he's just there to freak me out! He says nothing and now he's at my house! Well he's not here now. I mean he left just as quickly as he showed up. Phil, What is going on? Who is he? Am I in danger? Should I be freaked out? I hope so, because I am. I wish you had been here. You'd save me from the scary freak, wouldn't you? Anyway, I'm more than a bit nervous. I hope that you call. I've got to get out of here. I think I'm going to go over to Kat's. I'll have my phone with me. Call. Please. I miss you. I don't know what's up, but I miss you.

We now know that Beth encountered the AI man in Cascade Vortex, where her tent incident was witnessed by a couple of kids. These are probably the kids on a new photo on the CV site:

The AI man somehow found out where Beth lives, went to her house, and recorded their new conversation on Beth's PDA; Beth promptly uploaded these files to her metadex. This time we have more data to work off of - Beth lists most of the questions she asked AI man in her e-mails; see if you can find where she tried 20 questions ;-) - so we can tell that he got Beth's address from her PDA, that he still can't talk, that he congratulates Beth on retrieving his comm files from the PDA (hee), and that he wants her to fix him. He leaves her house as soon as he gets an "alert", and apparently, he calls this process "translocating."

Today is one of those really good days, if I may bring it up again; updates on many sites, including paintover:; login: caesar/blank; the NOT files (9). Sadly, it looks like Random is the only one who hasn't given up on Caesar... (hence the "III, i" - which refers to Act 3 Scene 1 of... well, you know - where Caesar gets stabbed by Brutus). I'll leave it to you to read about Caesar's seizures and the rest of it, but just fyi - we did check out every movie and actor he referred to.

As soon as chancesend and Ehsan solved the "agenda" picture, Random posted this:

we are
caesar and Random conquer all rains amongst some terminal wing.

scratch counterspeaks:
in the tango years
concretely mirror it
all hemispheres
they shall not

ding ding, your pudding is here, scratch.

Posted by random at 01:58 AM

There was a young fool from Rome
Who wanted to surmise all alone.
He circled his map,
Almost fell into the trap,
And Random had to come take him home.

Posted by random at 01:57 AM

Contrary to the common belief, PMs are neither evil nor cruel, for if they were, Random certainly wouldn't have been able to make his first and only post that actually made sense: Caesar went to hunt a whomp alone - the whomp at Cascade Vortex, where Beth saw them; almost got in trouble, and Random came to help him (that is what Caesar was referring to in not.jpg). Of course, he's almost back to his usual randomness just a minute later; almost because he does let us know that Scratch "counterspeaks".

We also have a bit of unexpected news today - Wongmo announced his winners, and some of our very own MetaUrchins (chancesend, Allan Eising, joebrent, and ReMont) are runners-up and honorable mentions! I'll let chancesend tell you what it's like to be hearted by Wongmo.

Working with music heavily in my real life, I knew I had to enter Wongmo’s contest. In fact, I think I sent something within a couple of hours after went live. Though I understand the 2MB limit, I was disappointed that I couldn’t send one of my full-length songs. So I made do with a 45-second clip of a song I had sitting on my hard drive (I was too lazy to create a custom 2MB mix, for some reason).

It was nifty to be chosen as an honorable mention. But I actually never thought anything would come of the contest, especially given Wongmo’s con-artist nature. But it was a very nice part of the game, I thought. Fun feedback is always appreciated in an ARG.

Dina got the first prize for This is the Night. It doesn't seem like she's in the mood to enjoy it, though:

November 4, 2003

Since I know I've got a couple of people reading these for workshop purposes (hello, Mr. Wongmo!), I'll try to lay off the schmoopiness about Ethan. I forget sometimes that it's not just 'the hubby' <!-- btw, I loathe this word and want to chop off the heads of anyone who uses it. Truly. What a horrible, stupid word - I use it in total irony, here. Perhaps second to it is Dear Husband, or DH for short. Horrifyingly twee --> reading all this. Suffice it to say, Ethan is both the best support I've ever had in memory, as well as a huge frustration. His job takes him away from home so often that it feels like just when I've gotten the hang of routine and comfort with him, the job steps in, and I'm solo for another little chunk of time. He and I get along so well and have so much trust between us - we've scaled the hurdles everyone else does, and it feels quite satisfying to have made this journey with him. I am hoping someday we can find a balance in the stress and machinations of daily life, and find more time for each other. Pixels on the screen and a voice on the phone are less and less satisfying, personally. Sorry, Ethan. I know we're both doing the best we can with what we've got.

Do you have any siblings? If so, what is your relationship with them? How has it changed over time? What about your relationship with your parents?

Both parents have passed on, sadly. I try not to think about it too much. My mother was an amazing person - resilient, somewhat stoic, but loyal and true like no other human I've ever known. Her dedication to her values and the people she loved was a model for me in life from my teen years on. My father, hale and hearty, was the artist with a businessman's attitude. He - he was a musician, too. He taught me violin. He did. There was a piano in the front room. <!-- what the hell? I used to have to dust it every single Saturday, when we did chores. I had to make sure I had practiced all of the pieces he'd put in a yellow folder inside the bench. Each piece, three times, at the very least. The sun would slant in through the curtains, a glow that would fill the room and make each note soft and it would ring through the air with a resonance that astounded me, even as a kid. That I could place an index finger on a smooth ivory key and press, and I'd be making music. Mom used to watch me, she would stand with an armload of books or newspapers or research materials - on her way to another room to work, and she'd watch me, listening with all her heart. Sometimes I'd forget the whole world, but I could feel her there, listening and absorbing my attempts at making Chopin run like cool water and desperate laughter. The years I spent drowning in music - how could I forget? The singing strings of the violin, the pizzicato plucks that gave me a blister on my finger, Suzuki feet and resin dust tickling my nose. Scherzo scherzo scherzo andante adagio scherzo scherzo scherzo. The world is a scherzo. This must have been a dream stuck somewhere - how do I not know any of this now? Until now? This front room, this loving mother, this father who has apparently passed down music and love and passion of the depth of humanity through art - when I have only found music this past year? What is happening to me? -->


Do you have or want children? How do you picture yourself as a mother or father? Is it similar to how you remember your own mother or father?

I don't think I ever wanted children. There was no primordial tug, no epiphany upon inhaling the powdered scent of a friend's 3-week-old, no nesting instincts. I say was. Perhaps I am not so sure now. <!-- not sure not sure not sure but oh god, I read this question days ago and it's still causing me great distress. I can't help it - these tears from the pit of my stomach, the loss I am feeling that is ever-so-slightly detached from my reality. I wanted him and needed him, and had him, right here, with me. He is gone. He was never mine. Taken from my life as if he never existed. Ruffling his hair, the top of his head warmer than mine - he's been playing around, he's been out with friends, he's been drinking too much soda, he's got bright sparkling eyes and he is there for us. He is there, in our home, a mind like a trap, cutting a fine literary figure in his flannel and his ratty old gym shoes. I miss this person I have never known. I can feel the absence ... here. Right behind my eyes, right in my heart, an ache that supercedes the pale yellow-green of spring, the glory and joy of singing, the flat of my hand against cool varnished wood. I've been looking all this time. I've been sleepwalking through unfamiliar terrain. I am held here inside four times two times three times 5 walls. I miss him so, and I want him back. -->

Posted by Dina at 03:16 AM

Dina has been rather cryptic lately; luckily, at least some of her crypto-ness (cryptic-ness?) leads us to puzzles, and sometimes - even to their solutions.

For instance, the notes in her "music homework" spell out deadcafe; thus deadcafe.html. A wave of shock sweeps across unfiction as more and more of us discover Dina apocalyptic vision and wonder if the blown-out cars and rumbling skies could possibly have anything to do with certain events in M2 or M3.

The frequencies of notes under "music homework, cont'd" are known as a triad, so ParityBit finds triad.html.

And, as more and more people identify the excerpts posted here, backntime compiles the first letters of the composers' last names, finally arriving at balladsoffrogs.html. "i can feel the other side of this wall, almost as if i could put my hand right trough it" - double deja vu *sigh*.

It's happening, whatever it is; Ethan is finding their past:

November 1 , 2003

In shock


I went down to the High Flyer Bar tonight. I went in, went to the bar and sat down. Nice place, good view, upscale clientele. Seemed like a pretty normal place, so I started to relax a little.

I didn't see anybody I knew, and while I was wondering what to do, the bartender comes up to me. That's when things got weird. He smiled and asked me if I'd like 'the usual.' The usual???

I asked him if he knew me, and he said sure I do, you used to come in here all the time. He then gave me a Mack and Jack's, on the house. It was good, heheh.

I was pretty sure that it was becoming apparent that someone's running around out there who's my twin, so I asked the bartender (Mike) who he thought I was.

He looked a little unsure of himself at that point, and said he didn't quite know what I wanted him to do or say. Me? I have no clue! Then he said he'd just better play it safe and give me something, then whatever happens would be in my hands.

He pulled out an envelope from behind the cash register. It's at this point that I'm not sure how to go on about this. The only thing I can think of to do is to put up a picture of what was inside for you to see, because I need you to verify something for me.

Is this my handwriting????

Posted by Ethan at 11:39 PM

Naturally, it is Ethan's handwriting; and the only reasonable conclusion at this point is - whatever is there at those locations on Ethan's note, we have to get it.

*cough* Did I say something about a Q&A session? I lied; if it's any consolation, it wouldn't have cleared anything up anyway.

Nov. 7

trip wrote:

As specified in Ethan's note, I decided to investigate the real life scavenger hunt item at the Cyberia Chicago cafe, in Chicago.

First, I e-mailed the Cyberia Chicago cafe late last night. I asked if there was an item left there for Emerson, and I received this response:

I understand that Ceven, the morning guy who's here till 3pm Friday has it.


So this morning I drove up to Chicago and went to a little place called Cyberia Chicago. It is a very cute little hole in the wall. The storefront itself is about 20 feet wide, and covered with writing and little pictures. It has a large purple awning out front that says INTERNET CAFE.

Inside it is a tiny place, probably smaller than my apartment, with several iMacs and other computers sitting around.

At the counter there was a young man, and I asked for Ceven. He said, in a rather strange voice with a smile (either because that wasn't his name and he knew the "act" had begun, or because he was suspicious of some girl showing up asking for him by his first name), "Yes, that's me."

So I said, "I'm on a scavenger hunt type thing, and I'm supposed to come here to pick up something for Emerson."

So the guy reaches behind the counter and grabs a small (about 9x6") insulated shipping envelope. He says, "Here you go, it's yours."

On the envelope it is written "Emerson" in all caps in a black felt-tip marker. Very much like the handwriting on the note, if you ask me.

I opened the envelope right there. It was scapled shut. Inside, there was a CD in a case. On the CD is written "Emerson" again, in blue ink, in all caps.

So I asked the guy, "I guess I have to take this then?" And he said, "Yep, it's yours to keep."

I run outside, extremely happy and excited! What could be on the CD!?! Then I remembered that I wanted to interrogate the guy first, but I was so excited that I forgot.

So I went back inside, and I asked him if he knew anything about the envelope, and he shook his head no. I asked if he remembers who gave it to him, and he said, "All I know is that someone came in here last January and left it."

So I said, "Do you know what this thing is all about? I think it's a game about the Matrix." And he looked genuinely suprised and said, "Really? Neat!"

And then I left.


I hope trip and a few others who happened to be lucky enough to live near the CD locations will agree with me when I say that that chasing these real-life clues was one of the most breathtaking experiences in the game. As my own search in Santa Monica produced nothing, I had my friend get the CD from the Aladdin casino in Vegas; I stayed on the phone with him as he was inspecting the payphones there, and when he told me that he had found the envelope, I just completely flipped out and screamed in excitement *looks around suspiciously... ahem* Of course, I'm only kidding: I remained composed and handled it all very calmly. As it turned out, all the CDs were exact replicas of each other (understandably - the copies were left at a number of places so as to ensure that Ethan and we would be able to retrieve at least one of them).

Ethan and Dina got their CD as well, and Dina posts this to Ethan's blog (she's talking about trip!):

November 07, 2003


I was going to post directly from Cyberia, but I'm still shaking, and I felt like staying in that place one second longer would be more than I could bear.

My hands are so cold right now. This cold snap and the adrenalin coursing through me right now have me fighting the shakes. Ugh.

I was madly curious if there were a CD here in the city, so I went ahead and checked it out without you. I parked in the lot across the street, and it seemed a lifetime that I waited first on the sidewalk, and then at the median for all the cars to flood by, so I could cross. The warm smells of the elotes carts wafted over - chili powder, steamed corn, sweet smell of shaved ice flavorings, mixed together and carried in the damp, cold air.

Inside this little hole in the wall internet cafe, it was warm and inviting and somewhat cramped. There was a woman at one terminal jotting notes and kicking up her feet in one of the comfy chairs as she transmitted data via her laptop. Another couple of young men were scrolling through shows at the Double Door at one of the cafe's computers.

The place was too small to go looking for any sort of hidden spot - so I bucked up all my courage and asked the guy that was there if there was any sort of package for 'Emerson.'

"Nope," he smiled, "Someone already got it. So sorry."

"What?? When??" I managed to squeak out. Reminder to self, jaw hitting floor decidedly unsexy.

"I dunno, but I think one of our other staff members handed it off just a couple of hours ago."

Stunned, but unsure of how to handle this ... disappointment? vertigo? in a public location, I ordered some herbal tea, sipped at it for a few minutes as I perched on a chair, and then thanked the man and headed back across the street to the car, the purple awning one of the only truly colorful spots in my line of vision.

I came home.

A couple of hours ago, someone came into that cafe, and asked for the very thing that was specifically for us to find. I don't know what's going on here, but I am not sure I feel very safe right now. It doesn't feel safe for either of us. How could someone have known about the information we were looking for? Why would they take something that was not meant for their eyes?

Who knows about this? Why do they want this information?

I can't stop shaking.

I am looking over the files you sent me, and I wonder if it would've been the same files at Cyberia, or perhaps something different. An explanation for all of this, a justification for the confusion and fear I am feeling in my heart.

The photo of the boy is the one I stay with the most. That's our boy, Ethan. I can feel it as surely in my heart as my music - he is bound to us much as we are bound to him. The promise of love and care is one that cannot be made lightly. When I look at his photo, I see the same eyes I saw in my dreams - he's brushing past me downtown where everyone around me is dressed in opera wear, he's the one holding my hand in the slate grey darkness of nothingness and loss.

He is mine, and he knows me, through and through. We have been through things together, he and I. He is my wonder and my joy, and right now, he is my sorrow. Where is he, love? Why are we here now, in this place, with no recollection in our lives of this most important aspect? How in the hell did we get Here, when There is a place that doesn't even connect up with our present day? Who did this to us, and why?

I can hardly believe it myself. I look at the documents, and they feel right. And yet, something is very wrong about this. Somehow I refuse to believe we had anything to do with this, that we somehow orchestrated a major upheaval like this. But it looks like we did. And it also looks like someone else knows. I am never going back to that cafe - someone could be watching, you know?

Tomorrow won't get here soon enough, Ethan. You'll be here, and then everything will be at least OK on the surface. We'll have each other.

Posted by Dina at 05:20 PM

Here are the contents of the disks:

From the folder named "12.29.2001":


From the folder named "legal":


From the folder named "personal":

First off, I should mention that went live; of course, we shouldn't have known about that until we found the first disk and saw that the note was written on Murpha's stationary. But as you have undoubtedly guessed, this site was found through reverse DNS lookup some time in October. Interestingly enough, Murpha is the firm that is building the Aquapolis; but what's even more interesting is that Murpha's CEO is someone named Robert Emerson.

The note confirms our hypothesis that Ethan suspected something would happen to him and Dina, and left himself proofs/reminders of his identity scattered around the country. The "encounter" he is talking about took place on Dec. 29th, 2001, and it clearly involved an agent (check out the earpiece!). The woman in this picture is probably Sylvia (hold on, I'll get to that in a couple of days). After a mini tarot-style research, the place with the "no trespassing" sign on this picture is determined to be the City Fish building at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington.

The "legal" folder (which did not - much to our chagrin, and contrary to Ethan's note - contain "about 20" documents), has a marriage certificate (issued in 1988 to Sylvia and Ryan Emerson of Redland), and a Social Security card and Driver's License of Ryan Emerson. Our guess is that the address of this house is 11429 S. 41st Avenue, Redland, WA (taken from Ryan's Driver's License).

This picture of two people with their backs to us *casts an angry glance at the PMs* is "taken" at the Gas Works Park in Seattle. And the boy named Jesse (12) on the remainder of the pictures - well, that is...

Nov. 10

... Caesar. The preceding sentence marks off the beginning of what I consider to be the most far-streched, desperate - painful, even - guessing process of the entire game. We already suspected that Caesar of paintover was looking for his parents; now we have pictures of a boy about Caesar's age (especially considering the ten months that passed since the pictures were taken), and it seems entirely logical to conclude that Jesse is Sylvia/Dina's and Ryan/Ethan's - as the contents of the CD clearly indicate that the Nekodas were previously known as the Emersons - son. In fact, Dina herself is quite certain of that:

November 09, 2003

I want to be able to have my boy come home and greet me with a grudging teenaged hug. I want to know that he's not lying in a ditch somewhere. I want Ethan and I to pick out gifts for Jesse's birthday, and I want to know who that girl is, and if she's sweet, and if she is responsible and caring enough for my kid. I want more than anything to know that he's OK and that he knows I love him.

Posted by Dina at 05:03 AM

Our collective heart goes out to Dina as she updates the Nekodas' homepage with Jesse's picture. Are Caesar and Dina missing each other?

A loud, definitive "yes!" was proclaimed on unfiction almost as quickly as it was replaced with a resounding "um, wtf?!" You see, whether or not Caesar is Jesse (although he probably is, given that this letter to Dimitri was signed by J.), he is definitely looking for Avery (remember heismissing's pictures that Dimitri, Avery's good friend gave to Marcus, who is also looking for Avery?). However, Scratch's post on paintover (13) hints at Caesar's connection to the Nekodas as well, not to mention the fact that the Nekodas themselves are "missing" Jesse. And, to really screw things up, a couple of days later MLO uploads this to his metadex:

Max Risc scanned the barcode on the ID, and it reads "Jesse Avery 7616". Ugh... so Jesse, Dina's Jesse, is Avery's son, Caesar. Can the missing couple be the Averies, the Emersons, and the Nekodas at the same time? Could the Nekodas have adopted Jesse Avery (although that would make it a hell of a lot harder to explain why he is "missing" one couple while the other couple is "missing" him)? Can Dina/Sylvia be sheismissing/Avery's ex-wife who is now married to Ethan/Ryan? Can the little girl from Oct. 1 be the final incarnation of Buddha?! Woe unto the evil, twisted PM logic! Woe unto krystynsleepdeprivation!

It is in times like these that Wongmo can be counted on to raise one's spirit:

From: S. B.



Wongmo James…Wongmo likes the ‘outlaw’ sound of that.

Wongmo assumes you are able to walk or in some other way transport yourself. Pick a sunny day, summon your strength of will, and make yourself walk through the door into the sunshine. It might be scary at first, but Wongmo guarantees once you’ve taken that first step the feeling of being stuck and helpless will begin to melt away like a glacier in the Pacific.


From: Ryan

err, oops..


Let Wongmo fetch you a towel. And lessons on control.


From: J. B.

Wongmo,Why do you always refer to yourself in the 3rd person?


To truly see the Self and understand the Self, one must remove one's self from the Self. Thus, in order to keep his karmic self focused, Wongmo refers to himself from a place outside of the Self.

Thanks for asking!


Thanks to Omnie, that last one^ becomes a classic among MetaUrchins. Oh, and please keep in mind that people never gave up on trying to get in-game information out of Wongmo :-)

Texel posts on paintover. Personally, I gave it one look and went to bed. Many others, however, decided to stay up and hold their breaths while AnthraX101, BriEnigma and Ehsan cracked the cipher. In the morning, Caesar and Bounce make an appearance with this:

hm. consider me another hand, k? i'm on it, see what i can find ...

Posted by bounce at 03:39 PM

November 08, 2003

putting my thinking ^ on

(I kept this in Draft mode because I thought I could do this on my own. I don't think I can get all of it.)

Wherever texel is, there's interference. I was able to get the first one, but there's blips at the beginning of each transmission, and so I can't be sure about the rest. texel, if I ever get to see you again, I hope you'll forgive me for cracking your machine - I had a feeling you'd cc: yourself on these.

Random, you're good at translation, wanna give me a hand?


testing (loading cryptoscript for secure transmission)

Posted by caesar at 06:12 PM

Caesar's #1 was a link to this zip file. And AnthraX101 storms in with the solve:

Anthrax101 wrote:

Figured out the decoding mechanism. It's a feedback cipher. Take the second character in the file, XOR it with the first character in the file. Then, take the third character and XOR it with the second character (as it was decoded). That will give you the message.


And I guess ^ was a hint. That's the XOR symbol in C++ ;-)

Now, isn't that just completely obvious? Especially with the "^" hint?? *yanka rolls eyes

Texel's post, decoded by BriEnigma:

testing (loading cryptoscript for secure transmission)

caesar, i'm here outside elmview ga. definitely a whomp, but somehow skewed. circumference is not as wide as expected, epicenter seems extremely unstable at outset. also seems two hours early.

things are repeating. feeling of inertia. saw an echo shadow of self approaching the site. i can see myself sending the test post to paintover. so weird! i am calm despite this. whoah, that building is no longer a single-story brick - it's glass and steel and at least 20 stories. i can't believe my eyes.

something's not right here. duration and execution of whomp is not happening as a chaotic outward ripple from epicenter - there is a systematic and organized ... rebooting of the area around me. some things are changing, others remain untouched. it is currently quite easy to side step the changes. wish had more data-collecting ability than currently. to the naked eye whomp is less anomaly, more automated.

crapola. things are escalating. cannot find way out. my echo is gone, and I am fine, or maybe the other way round. running, but whatever is effecting the area is moving faster. feeling caged, harder to dodge.

wind, rain, bright sun. hard to see. caesar, can't do much now. never should have come. will try to upload addtl data if can

sweep no more SOS hurt in g_

Texel went to Elmview, Georgia (in the general vicinity of the next whomp predicted by xnbomb and Moriar) and now we don't even know if Texel is still alive. Something happened, and the area got rebooted - Animatrix-style! - and it is only our concern for Texel's safety at this point that prevents us from fully appreciating the sheer coolness of this concept.

Suddenly the incidentlogs directory at the Aquapolis becomes password-protected (those guys really took some time in realizing they shouldn't leave a dead guy's pictures out in the open like that). There are also some site updates: the webcam no longer scrolls; the "Status" and "News" pages get updated with new pictures of the SubPen lock on Tinos (check out the security console at the door!) and... *gasp* a screenshot of a monitor... that we can't read anything on... *loud sigh* except that the level they're looking at is Kithnos (not like you care, I'm sure). The news update tells us that virtually everything in Aquapolis is now under the control of SafeSys, and that the "project lead" assures everyone that everything will be "a-ok"... hmmm... so that's who was talking to Marcus in that phone call. Now if only we could find the project lead's login...

Nov. 13

Katherine sends this e-mail to Marcus:

Email from

Date: 11/12/03 16:25
Subject: Greece


The security holes have been patched, everything is A-OK. A new admin has been hired and I will personally go over all the security issues with him next week. Just to confirm, I will be out of the office for the entire week. As of now, the schedule has me on land on Monday with interviews and meetings, leaving me unavailable for much of the day. I will be touring the main facility on Tuesday and overseeing the new security procedures on Wednesday. I will be unavailable on Thursday, as I will be meeting in Zurich as we discussed and returning to the states on Friday. I will have a full report of the trip available on Monday.


Whoa... so it was Katherine! And she's going to Greece - obviously the Aquapolis - where she'll be "touring the main facility" and doing other evil Kat stuff... And then she's going to Zurich - the place that is mysteriously connected to Avery's disappearance - is that what she's planning to discuss with Marcus on Friday? We don't have any answers, of course; but we are frantically trying to log into /incidentlogs, not to any avail, unfortunately...