Subgenus One: Strophe Three. And in the profusion of passing winters to follow, did Malignancy’s complacent ego enfeeble his grasp upon the twisted children of iniquity. Thus was The Thief to slip softly amidst the wicked, depriving them of their depravity, and corrupting their corruption with temperate moderation, as a breeze softly brushing the abhorrence from their souls. In this manner were but a scant few seeds of light sown within their darkness to thrive and survive to become The Scapegrace, who shall avail in vigil of The Kindred Coterie.
Chapter One-Two Dozen Ghouls, Two Spooks, And One Phantom
Outside, the plaque on the door read Private Conference-Dr. Orval B. Kwibee, MS, CISSP, SCJP, CCA, Comp TIA, RHCE, MCDBA, CCNP, OCP DBA, MCSA, CCIE, CCEA, AI isn, AI ce, MCL sys PhD. This room was currently occupied by twenty-four of the military’s top techno-specialists, none of which had failed to notice the door as they entered.
There were also two other men who were not acting in a technical capacity. They wore almost identical nondescript brown suits. Their haircuts were similar, which is to say short, and parted on the right. They both stood at opposite ends of the long rectangular conference table, while between them, and on both sides, sat everyone else. Everyone, that is, but the last of the specialists to deliver his report. He now stood just as nervously as each of his colleagues had been during their own recitations.
"Without pre-established parameters…" he began, and then took a sip of water to clear his throat. "IBOT has apparently fallen back to its basic functions, which are to enhance and optimize the program’s own projected simulations. In the case of Wayward Fates, this translates into three main areas.
"First of all, the game is fundamentally based on role-playing in a self-contained ecology of interaction between Player Characters, and what is commonly referred to as N.P.C.’s, or Non Player Characters. The N.P.C.’s are not actually target-related, but rather generations of the simulation itself.
"In order to accomplish these directives effectively, IBOT was literally forced to divide the majority of its own resources between the N.P.C.’s by spawning what one might refer to as mini versions of the program’s own A.I. sub-structure. This was necessary due to its incorporation of all Wayward Fate servers into a single simulation. This is an action we don’t believe the program was designed to accommodate.
"The resources necessary to maintain this number of targets on a single emulation has invariably presented the program with something of a paradox in its core of directives. Fortunately for us, this has effectively wiped out the program’s upper dynamic structure, or consciousness, if you will.
"This eliminates any further dynamic alteration by the program, other than those related to direct infractions of its security sub-routines. As a result, all first generation N.P.C.’s are now examples of individual programs. None of these Characters are aware of what he or she actually is. They all exist independent of both IBOT and each other.
"There is one other enhancement in this area. The second generation of N.P.C.’s presents a slightly more complex construct. In order for IBOT to accomplish a true representation of a functioning ecosystem, it was essential to establish a functioning system of procreation. As such, each N.P.C. born, as it were, is given no more information or resources than is an actual child. This simulated child, then, acquires resources in the same way a real person would, which is to say, it learns.
"The second area centers on the players themselves. Originally, the Subject was literally used as the memory enhancement to the assimilated program’s overall augmentation. In this instance, and collectively speaking, this was far more resources than were required. As such, IBOT has constructed a new purpose for those superfluous resources, and is currently utilizing them as a means to feed both first and second generation N.P.C.’s with a secondary source of…well…personality.
"This is not to imply that the subjects are being cannibalized. The sphere drive itself has more than sufficient storage for all of the newly spawned subject matter. The subjects are more useful to IBOT as examples of the potential, or as examples for varying combinations in possible character traits, in much the same way that the varying aspects of each parent make up the initial groups of qualities found in the children. And, as in real life, the progeny then use that in combination with accumulative experiences through their own A.I. templates, so as to achieve an individual pattern.
"The third area is a bit more complicated. We have yet to ascertain all the details, but IBOT appears to have set up a pre-written series of sub-context that is continuing to manipulate a number of social situations. Not on a grand scale, mind you, but rather only certain key interactions. There’s no way of determining what specific individuals are being influenced, other than to say that it doesn’t appear to be a direct interaction. Programming translation indicates environmental tampering only.
"To be perfectly honest, it’s almost as if IBOT has set the stage for some large scale role-playing subject matter during the initial assimilation. These alterations seem to be a matter of what minor adjustments are required to maintain the original genre. Of course, this is all just hypothesis, but the evidence is persuasive.
"The only other area affected is the chronological sequencing. The exact time ratio has been difficult to calculate. There are several fluctuating factors that appear to be causing a continuous shift, such as the ongoing presence of worldwide lag that has to be compensated for. IBOT can’t affect the lag itself, but it can alter the subject’s perceptions to match the lag. In this way, the subjects have no sense of it at all. This is actually in our favor as it…"
"Could we speed this up, please?" asked the brown suit to his left.
"Oh, yes, sir," stammered the specialist, quickly riffling through his notes. "Currently, and roughly speaking, we estimate that one hour of real time translates into approximately three weeks of program time. This is a direct reflection of the supplemental resources previously mentioned, though by no means a reflection of its extent."
"Why don’t we just pull the plug? You know, turn the damn thing off?" asked the brown suit to his right.
"Well…I’m not really qualified…"
"If I may be allowed to answer that?" interjected another specialist. "The subliminal commands being transmitted to the subjects necessitate the suspension of a number of their higher brain functions. Until the program restores those functions, the subjects are capable of very little on their own, other than basic instinctive functions, like breathing. If you kill the power now, you’ll end up with nothing but a mass of vegetables. Besides, we haven’t been able to ascertain exactly how the power actually would be shut down. There is no software option, and there doesn’t appear to be an actual button, or switch, or…"
"And how many targets are we talking about?"
"Just over a quarter million, but this number is slowly dropping. Some characters die in the course of normal game play, and from time to time, some are separated from their DIT by outside sources. Some are even dropping due to such poor connections that even IBOT can’t maintain them."
"What happens when a player dies in the game?"
"In the original game structure, they were simply returned to what the game refers to as…a point of binding. However, IBOT perceived this aspect as a flaw, and altered it during its initial enhancement stage. Apparently, unlimited life was contradictory to the parameters being created.
"The new interface includes a supplemental enhancement to the original character selection area. This is represented by options of reincarnation. A target’s character is given the opportunity for rebirth, or they may opt for Oblivion. Oblivion represents an exit from the program entirely.
"Of course, this is all academic, as the Oblivion option was not placed under IBOT security. IBOT didn’t recognize this section of the game as a legitimate part of the world being created. As a result, we were able to institute an overriding default, thereby disabling character selection. Now, upon the death of their pseudo-selves, the subjects will have their memories reallocated, and then be released from the program altogether."
"So what your saying is, if a player dies, then the target is freed, and has his or her memories restored."
"When you say reallocated, does that include memories of their experiences while in the program as well?"
"I’m afraid that simply won’t do," a feminine voice asserted from the intercom mounted in the ceiling above them.