The Guide X: A Tale of the A.I. Trail
by Adrian Hon
Choose One: Before 24th April - After 24th April - 23rd May onwards - 19th June onwards - The Wrap-up Report
Before you start reading
The Guide - as seen on TV! (CNN and BBC, in case you were wondering)
This is a complete walkthrough for the Internet game of the Spielberg movie 'A.I.'. It gives away everything and speculates like mad. It's written linearly and assumes no background knowledge. You'll be able to find out about the latest updates of The Guide from the Cloudmakers mailing list (both normal and moderated) and SphereWatch. It gets updated whenever I want to update it, not when people tell me to update it. If you've got a point to make about this guide, post it to the Cloudmakers list and put in the subject line 'GUIDE:' - I'll see it and someone else might be able to answer your question. Please do not email me.
None of this would have been possible without The Trail; The Trail is a regularly updated guide to all the websites, emails, faxes and phone calls within the game, and I lifted many of the emails and so on from The Trail. I also used many messages posted on the Cloudmakers list which provided vital insights and information about the game. Finally, I'd like to thank the denizens of the IRC channel #evanchan for help on small plot points and details. Unfortunately, I can't credit everyone who contributed to this effort but you should all feel that you were part of making this Guide - the Puppetmasters included, of course.
If you're a veteran of The Game, go to Recap 8 - that's where most of the current information is (at the time of writing). If you're a beginner, along with checking out the Cloudmakers website and mailing list, you should also have a look at the SphereWatch mailing list. Both Cloudmakers and SphereWatch are online communities that discuss the game.
Please bear in mind that The Guide consists of more than one page. This current page has all the events that occurred before April 24th 2001, and the other page has everything that happened after April 24th. There is a prominent link at the top of this page to the other page. All update notices will still remain on this page.
Finally, the nature of this game is dynamic. The websites are changing constantly. Some of the earlier parts of this guide might not make sense since the websites might have changed since they were written; however, I think the Guide is nevertheless holding up fairly well.
The newest version of The Guide is always at http://www.cloudmakers.org/guide. The Guide is also mirrored at http://www.for-evan.com/guide/ although this will generally be older than the main link. I also write editorials about the game - they're worth a read.
I'd heard about the story that the producers of A.I. (the movie) had constructed a series of websites promoting the movie via some kind of murder mystery quite soon after they'd been put up. For about a week or so I'd kept one eye on the Cloudmakers YahooGroup mailing list that was discussing the mystery, and I browsed some of the more well known pages. However, it's only been recently that I've really gotten into 'The Game' and so while I'm fairly up to speed on all new developments, my knowledge of events and the earlier pages is woefully inadequate. To refresh my memory and hopefully help other people out, I decided to create The Guide, a companion to 'The Trail' (a document detailing all the websites, puzzles, emails and phone calls that are part of 'The Game').
There are several starting points to the game, as detailed in The Trail, and of them I've chosen the Jeanine Salla link, since it's high profile (the term 'Sentient Machine Therapist: Jeanine Salla' has appeared in the credits of an online trailer for the movie). Since we don't have Sentient Machine Therapists (yet), undoubtedly the trailer producers hoped that people's curiousity would be piqued and they'd search for the name Jeanine Salla. And that's where The Guide begins.
But before that, I'd like to say something about the background of the movie and the game universe. The date is 2142 and technology has developed to the extent that we can run artificial intelligences on computers. These artificial intelligences can simulate human behaviour and can be found in all sorts of forms; as robots, as computer programs running on the datasphere (the Internet, basically), in boats or in houses. As you might expect, the existence of AIs that are apparently conscious and sentient poses a problem for many people on Earth - some feel that they should be given equal rights, others feel that the 11 billion AIs currently in the world are taking away all our jobs and our freedom.
[I should point out the other main starting point of the game. On the trailer for the movie (here), if you look at right at the end when it says 'Summer 2001', you can see that there are notches in the words (more about the trailer below). In addition to the trailer you can see them on a big billboard advert for the film at Times Square, New York, and presumably any other billboards that exist. These notches correspond to a phone number, (503) 321 5122. If you call that phone number, you call this message:
If you visit thevisionary.net, then you are treated to a sound file (you can go there yourself to hear it). It says:
At that point, your browser will spawn a new email message window with the following message, with an empty address box and subject line 'I'm so sorry...':
If you send this to 'email@example.com' (because this person is calling you 'child') then you would have received this email message on Friday 13th April:
This email was rendered in HTML (as opposed to plain text) and the parts shown here in CAPS were, in the email, originally white text that you could only see if you selected it. And that's about it; while it doesn't say 'Jeanine Salla', it does say 'Jeanine was the key, you've seen her name before.' Theoretically at that point, beginners to the game will think 'Aha, yes, I did see her name before, it was in the credits for the movie/billboard as Sentient Machine Therapist'. They then do a Google search for Jeanine Salla, and the rest is history...]
So I set off by searching for 'Jeanine Salla' on Google. The first link on the list is for Bangalore World University. BWU is, for all intents and purposes, a very large university with multiple world campuses. It has all the departments that you'd imagine such a university in the future would have: 'Datasphere Studies', 'Climate Control' and... 'A.I. Studies'. Also on the front page of BWU website is a link to a news story mentioning that a Dr. Jeanine Salla, permanent professor of A.I. Studies at the BWU-New York City campus, has been named the current occupant of the Dynatech Chair in Computational Psychology. Interesting.
To find out more about Jeanine, I go to the A.I. Studies department page which gives a little background information about what they do. Nothing important. The page does however let you input the name of a faculty member to find their personal page, and typing in 'Salla' reveals her bio. There's some information about her current work in trying to imbue AIs with 'motivation' to learn, evolve and work. She says:
Pressing '2' gives this:
Curiouser and curiouser. Who is this Evan Chan, and why is there controversy over his death? Finally on the page is a link to Laia Joanna Salla's homepage (presumably her daughter, but more of that later).
Before we leave the BWU website, there's one last page of interest: a news story about one of their alumni, Martin Swinton, being featured in the magazine Metropolitan Living Homes. Martin appears to create homes that are completely run by AIs - they have AI butlers, maids, personal confidents and even friends. We'll be visiting the magazine later on.
On the original Google search, one of the links that was yielded was for the Chan Family Homepage. Based on what we've heard of Evan's death, this seems like the best place to visit next. This page is written by Evan Chan himself and obviously makes no reference to his death. Evan was born in 2066 and both his parents were academics. While he was young, he developed a taste for sailing and decided to study Biothermics at the Aragon Institute of Technology so he could stay close to the ocean. While at AIT, Evan met his future wife Nancy and they married shortly after, winning the Birth Lottery so they could have a child (clearly Earth is still overpopulated).
He also met Jeanine Salla at AIT - Jeanine was his lab partner and classmate, and they became extremely close friends. They often go sailing together on his boat, Cloudmaker. Right now, Evan is working at DonuTech and studying the stability of ecosystems. Links on this page include a link to his employer, DonuTech, and to Laia's homepage.
Also within the Chan Family website is a photo gallery of his family and friends and some news about their family. Evan has a son, Derrick, who appears to be married to someone called Lucy (there's a photo of them together in the gallery). Derrick and Lucy have also had a son, Lucas. The last entry is on February 2, 2142, saying that Evan is going on a four day trip on his boat, Cloudmaker.
Evan's wife, Nancy, has her own page which is largely boring and has a few photos. She also was born in 2066 and we discover Derrick was born in 2091, and Lucas on 2116.
It makes sense to now go to the Salla homepage. This site was constructed by Laia Joanna Salla and looks like your typical grungy teenager mess. Along with Jeanine Salla, there are pictures of Colleen Francesca Salla (a 'eugenically bred human... taught by brilliant AIs') and Laia herself ('enhanced post human, holographic artist implanted with AI's. Spangler-Zeiss optical implants: IR; UV; Telescope; Playback & download capability'.) Laia is essentially a very advanced human being, what with all this techno-wizardry implanted in her.
A link on the page takes us to something entitled 'Four Women'. This page seems to be dedicated to Evan Chan and has four boxes containing Jeanine, Nancy, Laia and his boat Cloudmaker (clearly a woman). Jeanine's has the caption 'Fooled him'. Nancy 'Served him'. Cloudmaker 'Loved him' and Laia 'Knew him'. People with an eye for details (or far too much time) will see that each of the four woman has a piece of a heart in their boxes. All of them are red, apart from Laia's, which is blue. Furthermore, next to Evan's image is a very, very faint beating heart. Hmm. There are two new links on this page, one for Evan and one for Laia.
The page for Evan is called 'in memoriam' and asserts that he must have been killed considerinF: 'He was a superb swimmer. He was a wonderful sailor. He died on the boat who loved him within sight of land.' There are some ghostly (Photoshopped, no doubt) pictures of Evan on this page. We also read a link saying 'Two hours before I heard about this "accident", and without Mephista's knowledge, this page appeared in my site.'
[Conjecture: Mephista is Laia's implanted AI; Laia speaks of her very familiarly and in the context it seems as if Mephista would know when the page would be placed on the site.]
The mysterious page is called 'Letter'. It has a series of classical diagrams of elements on it arranged in some sort of equation... yes... it must be... a bona-fide PUZZLE! We'll come back to this puzzle later because there's still a lot of other pages to explore and I don't want to tire my brain out right at this moment. Also on the page is a painting of a Japanese woman with a teacup and some strange smoke coming off it. What does this mean? Is the smoke in fact a Japanese character? More discussion of this later.
Backing out of this page, suddenly a new window opens with a Flash animation and ominous sounds. Let me say that this scared the crap out of me the first time I saw it. It displays one of five messages:
And then shows a picture of Evan's dead body. Spooky, huh? Presumably the person (or AI) who put the letter on the site also put these messages there.
I mentioned that there was also a link to a page for Laia. This page is in more grunge-weirdness style and has pictures of some robots and some posters. It also has quotations and snippets which essentially tell us about a 'Mann Act 2' - the first Mann Act (1909) stopped female slavery and the second Mann Act calls for a referendum to be held on the legal status of sentient property (i.e. should we give them equal rights).
On this page there's a link to a site called www.inourimage.org. This is very handy because it happens to be the last site that I found (and haven't yet visited) on the Google search. Let's roll.
After a short Flash intro saying that we created robots in our image so we shouldn't make them slaves, we reach their homepage calling for AI rights. There's a Short History of Robot Evolution, Existence as an AI and How you can Help. There are no startling revelations here although we do discover that Australia and Canada offer AIs more rights than they have in America.
What is interesting is the News page. Anti-robot vandalism has been on the increase according to statistics from the Sentient Property Crime Bureau (remember that name). And the reason why this page appeard on our Google search?
There is then a comparison drawn between this and child abuse. Finally, we read an article about the Anti-Robot Militia (ARM) 'killing' over 10,000 robots in 2141.
Recap 1: What do we know?
We know that Evan Chan has died while out on his boat under suspicious circumstances. There seems to be some strange relationship between him, Jeanine Salla, Laia Salla and his wife. Some mysterious agent has placed a puzzle on the Salla family homepage along with warning messages. There are also very active pro and anti-AI groups existing now.
Things that are unsolved:
There are still some pages that we can visit before then, though...
Remember that this is Evan's employer? Of course you did. DonuTech provides 'Environmental Assay Services for Ecosurvival.' Right. What stands out on this page straight away is the 'Employee Sign-In' boxes at the bottom of the page - could we find out Evan's ID and Password? Perhaps, but let's take a look around the website first.
There's an impressively large number of pages about the company here, most of which, let's be honest, aren't very interesting. Let's get to the good stuff - the pages about the Research Staff, and more importantly, Evan. The Research Staff page has a list of nine people (is that all, for such a large organisation?) and provides bios of them all. There isn't much good stuff in any of them apart from Evan's, who as we know is a Biothermal Engineer. Actually, hold on. There isn't anything interesting in Evan's bio either. Oh well.
Back to the Research Staff page. Along with the bios are all of their email addresses. Emailing all of them yield autoresponders but the only one of interest is from Mario Dauphin. The reply is:
Rejoice! Another URL, and just as we were running out of them! But wait a second, Sparky - we've still got some hacking to be done here, to get into Evan's personal pages. And what's more, how do you expect me to write this Guide if I leave yet another loose thread hanging? Donning our weather-beaten fedora and putting on our Geraldo-type-trenchcoat, we peer at what we need to know to get in. We need Evan's ID number, and his password.
Hmm. Where do you find ID numbers? Maybe on ID badges? In that case, maybe we could find a photo of his badge in his gallery. Whaddaya know, we hit paydirt - his ID number is 1007. Now for his password. Passwords are generally based on something from personal life, so we should stick to Evan's family homepage. In fact, since we had success with his ID number in the gallery, why not stay there?
So. Something personal to Evan. His wife's name? Nope. The names of anyone in his family? Nope. His boat, Cloudmaker? Nope. We pour ourselves a generous measure of some unidentified but extremely potent alcohol, sit back and muse on this. Evan likes boats. We type in 'boat'. Damn, it doesn't work! Aha! There's a photo of another boat in his gallery, of him having boat envy of the Venus. We also remember that according to his corporate bio, his favourite piece of music is the 2nd movement of Holst's The Planets - Venus. We type in 'venus'. No luck.
What else could it be?... Well... the goddess of Venus is 'aphrodite' isn't it? We type that in, and it works! Damn, we're good.
We're in Evan Chan's Private Page. There are a number of emails here, some calendars and photos of Nancy, photos of a woman called Venus (identified by the image filenames) and... what's this... photos of Laia? Stranger and stranger. Clearly Evan is playing around with this Venus which offers the usual 'crime of passion' theory, but is there some kind of relationship between Laia and Evan? It might explain Laia's 'in memoriam' page to him, and the whole Four Women thing. But we really don't know enough yet.
Let's check the emails. While there are some that are vaguely amusing (e.g. from 'Kitty's Subdermal Sin Massage Institute') most are irrelevant. Of the relevant ones, there's an email from Jeanine about some biological point, an email from Mario (remember him? the guy who replied to our email?) saying that he'll cover for Evan on Saturday if Evan covers on Sunday? I presume that this is for Evan's boat trip.
There's an email from Ibrim Hoxa, one of the DonuTech directors:
Corporate shenanigans, eh? Could this have any bearing on why Evan was murdered? I received an email from Elan Shore which succintly outlines a possible motive for Evan's murder. (You may skip this if you wish, but I think it's pertinent). Take it away, Elan:
What was all of that about? Someone knows that we're sneaking around the system? After all, this email was sent after he died (obviously). And what's this 668437 passcode, huh? We'll think about that... and of course there's always the Alice in Wonderland 'looking glass' allusion.
Rifling through his 'Events' diary, we read a lot of boring nonsense... more boring nonsense.. yet more - well, hello. What's this?
Interesting, don't you think? Then again, many people believe that Evan is just a hypochondriac. Also, there's:
2/10/2142 - (C)Laia's opening; lock in from hotel?
What does that mean? We've pumped as much information as we're going to get out of his personal pages and DonuTech as a whole for now, but let's go back to that email from Mother, and the passcode 668437. After bashing our heads against the wall, it strikes us that the passcode is the same length of characters as 'Mother'. And then we realise that typing in 'Mother' on a standard phone would produce 668437.
This may have significance to the phone passcodes we talked about earlier. Let's try them. On Jeanine Salla's phone number, during the phone call we type in 5242, spelling out 'Laia'. And we get:
Evidently there is some bad blood between Nancy and Laia - this would fit in with the photos we found on Evan's personal page of Laia. It seems that Nancy must have known of Evan's special relationship with Laia - whatever that relationship was. Strangely enough, Nancy doesn't have any problem with Jeanine going to the funeral. Let's try Nancy Chan's phone number and type in 2426, spelling 'Chan' to see if she's got anything in her mailbox:
At this point in time, it's useless to conjecture about the identity of the first message, but whoever it is, they're really sorry. The second message backs up our theory of the bad blood - maybe Evan had an affair with Laia in the past? Anyhow, that's the mystery of the phone calls sorted out now. Let's move on.
We originally found Metropolitan Living Homes from a news article on the Bangalore World University website. After an uninformative Flash intro and two annoying pop-up adverts asking us to save a forest and fly to the Moon, we reach the homepage of this magazine. The magazine is about sentient homes, basically. Really good looking sentient homes, that is, and their designers.
As far as we can tell, there isn't much very interesting material within the website. Among the various articles we find links to Beate Bosch's website about 'thinking houses'. In this article about designer Kate Nei though, we get a whopper. Kate has built a house called Isabella for a man called Enrico Basta - and his companion, Venus. This Venus looks identical to the Venus in Evan's Personal Pages, so we draw the conclusion that Evan has been playing around with Enrico's 'companion'. Furthermore, note the use of only Venus' first name. Is she a robot?
Enrico Basta is in fact mentioned on Evan's own family news page at the bottom:
So Enrico isn't a complete stranger to Evan, and they might even be friends or at least acquaintances.
I should also note that about a week after we first discovered this site, a new page appeared on it called 'Breaking News: The Tragic Death of a Martin Swinton Home!' This is apparently unconnected to anything else in the game universe, apart from a brief mention of 'Mad House Syndrome' in a site we'll be visiting later (Sentient Property Crime Bureau). As yet, no-one has seen the significance of this news article but I'm quite wary - the game designers would not have made an update to a page unless it had some kind of importance. I feel as if we're missing something about this death of a house...
[Note: As far as I can tell, the game or 'future universe' time is proceeding at the same rate as ours, so there will be occasional updates to pages and news articles about events that are mentioned in other websites. More of that later.]
Recap 2: What do we know?
We've found out a wealth of information about Evan - mainly that he's seeing someone called Venus, who is also the personal companion of his acquaintance Enrico Basta, and he has had some kind of relationship with Laia in the past (which might also be continuing now, we don't know). Based on the two phone calls we've been able to access with the passcodes, Evan's relationship with Laia is confirmed and we know that Nancy knows at least of what happened 'in the past' - and she's not happy about it.
On a more mysterious front, there's the email from 'Mother' address to 'Not Evan'. Who is 'Mother' and what do they want? How do they know about our investigations?
Things that are unsolved:
Unite and Resist has a quite nice 'yee-ha, geet mah shotgun, son, there's some robots to be a-bashin'!' look about it. This page is the official website of the Anti-Robot Militia (ARM) and basically doesn't like robots because they're not human. You know, the robots are going to take over the world, fly black helicopters, and so on and so forth. This site, you'll remember, was mentioned in the Coalition for Robot Freedom's news page, for smashing up over 10,000 robots 'last year' (i.e. 2141).
On the front page of the site is a link to the Sentient Crime Property Bureau, an organisation that, according to this website, people should contact if they encounter 'robo-thugs', and if the SCPB can't get there in time (presumably to deactivate the robots) then us citizens should do some deactivation of our own, with maximum prejudice (my words).
There's a lot of very convincing-sounding agitprop bumph here which I imagine we'll be seeing ourselves when sentient robots are around, except done even less well. In their News from the Front page, there's a bit about the Mann Act 2, but most importantly, about Evan Chan's death. Under the title of 'CRAZED SEX ROBOT SLAYS SCIENTIST', the page claims that Evan (a 'perverted robosexual race-traitor') was killed by a rampaging pleasure bot while on an ocean cruise. After the sex bot had crushed his head, it scuttled the boat and made off quickly. The site claims that it's pleased that Evan was killed, since he was a robosexual, but they aren't pleased about the fact that a rampaging robot is now on the loose.
This story gives further credence to the theory that Venus, Enrico Basta's 'companion' and Evan's presumed lover, is a robot. Whether Venus actually killed Evan is still up in the air - I for one don't take this website's word for granted.
There is a members-only page at ARM, but an examination of the source code of the page (the raw HTML code) leads us to believe that there is no correct ID code for the entry box at the bottom - basically, it seems that typing in anything will take you to an error page.
This website has changed since it was first online. Originally on the front page you could input your phone number to receive a call from their organisation. At 22:30 GMT on Friday 13th April 2001 (our time), people who'd put their phone numbers in received a phone called, a recording of which is here. Here is the transcript:
Scary, huh? Clearly the phone system of the ARM website was hacked by a pro-AI person or organisation. The voice of the call is not computer synthesised although it has clearly been modified.
Shortly after this phone call was received, the website changed to what it is now, and no longer receives calls 'due to a potential compromise with our security djinn' (a djinn is an AI, we think, or a computer program that resides solely in the datasphere).
As you have noticed, this website is all in German. There are translations available [translation 1, translation 2] but you're not missing much. It's all pretty boring stuff about architecture and there are no links to other sites. There is a popup box that asks you, if you are an IASA member, to input your user number but it's the same story as before - we think that it just takes you to an error page.
Asing Walhaus had this to say about Bosch's website:
I would agree - probably just a glitch, but interesting nonetheless.
Lots of arty nonsense about architecture. She talks about elements of design and asserts that there are five elements: fire, water, earth, air and light. The only really interesting thing here is that she is leaving the Kate Nei Creations business to 'embark on the most exciting phase of her career.'
After having to sit through yet another Flash intro (what is it with the game designers and Flash intros?) we get what is effectively a very glossy and well produced brochure for Martin's work.
[It's been pointed out that during the Flash sequence, these words pop up transiently: 'Dimensions, Senses, Affections, Passions.' It so happens that these same words are said by Shylock (a Jew) in the Merchant Of Venice: "I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions,senses, affections, passions? If you prick us, do we not bleed?" Some believe that this is a not-so-subtle allusion to Martin Swinton being an AI himself. Others think that it's just because that Martin Swinton lives in New York, which is sometimes referred to as a modern-day Venice (since the water levels have risen so much, New York is partially flooded and looks like Venice. Undoubtedly Venice is completely underwater in the AI universe).]
Not much of substance here but it's interesting to note that Martin constructed Kate Nei's house, Ivy. There's also a link to the IASA website, if you have a member number.
Something that caught my eye here, and may not mean anything, is the sequence of buttons on the website: 'Ga - Ph - Ar - Me - IA'. They stand for Gallery, Philosophy, Artisans, Media and IASA so they're not totally obscure. They just seem a little strange.
If you call the number on the front page of the website, (212) 613-1680, you get this message:
We first found the SPCB from the website of Unite and Resist although it was also mentioned (but not linked to) in the Coalition for Robot Freedom website. The SPCB is responsible for tracking down 'sentient property' (i.e. robots, AIs) that have committed crimes. On the front page the most important piece of information is the fact that the SPCB is currently tracking down a robot for questioning about the death of Evan Chan, presumably Venus. They also mention that this robot is a 'Belladerma' product - Belladerma is probably the company who made Venus. Interesting that they state they only want her for questioning; she isn't a suspect for the murder, at least not yet.
Most of the pages are fairly disinteresting with the using government-speak, although in the news section they state they have investigated the allegations of 'Mad House Syndrome' put forward by Metropoliton Living Homes and have found them to be false after interviewing such people as Swinton and Nei among others.
Now, here's where it gets a bit tricky. As you know, the game's websites are constantly updating, as if in real time. I'm writing this over a week after the game started, so some of the websites I'm looking at are different from what they originally looked or they have 'extra features'. Luckily, the thoughtful people at Cloudmakers (the mailing list for discussion of the game) have stored some of the original pages and 'extra features' so we can still have a look at them. In order to look at these stored pages, you may have to become a member of Cloudmakers (it costs nothing and takes very little time).
The reason I'm telling you this is because the Most Wanted page has changed since we first looked at it (exactly what has changed, I'll tell you later). Here is the Most Wanted page - the SPCB appears to be having problems with their images. This a Most Wanted list of rogue AIs. It's the usual assortment of killers and malcontents. Two facts should be highlighted - the first rogue AI is said to be 'extremely dangerous' and was 'extensively reconfigured for gladiator work'. Furthermore, 'It is wanted for questioning in connection with the activities of various terrorist rogues, particularly those allied with the militant BIOS and A,R,I factions.' Another robot said to be affilitated with 'A,R,I' is 'Shen Wan', a robot with a nasty record. 'A,R,I' appears to be a very militant pro-AI movement.
[A,R,I is probably a shortened version of the MS-DOS error message 'Abort, Retry, Ignore?']
'Giovanni Savard', a runaway companion robot made by Belladerma is also on this page. Does Belladerma have a high number of robots that go rogue? Is it something about companion robots? After all, Jeanine Salla did say that "the highest suicide rates occur among robots with programmed loyalties to owners who deliberately damage them," and you'd think that companion robots would certainly have programmed loyalties to their owners. Maybe Enrico Basta abused Venus, causing her aberrant behaviour?
Lastly, throughout this page we read about rogue robots 'last been seen wearing a female/male face/body'. This means that robots can change faces and bodys without too much difficulty - which would prove a bit of a problem identifying rogue robots.
Inside the Looking Glass
Let's stop now and think. This page is having problems with its images - these things don't just happen by accident - perhaps it's been hacked? And if it was hacked, how would we know? We'd check the the source code (raw HTML) of the page. Let's have a look. Lo and behold, embedded in the HTML of the page are segments of a hidden page that, while not visible in the 'proper' page, if put together and placed into a file of their own, create a whole new page. When you stitch together the segments, you get this hidden page. As you'd expect, most of the hacked page is written in 'hacker speak', i.e. really bad English. We'll be examining a 'translated' version of the page. However, we should bear in mind that this is a translation and so is open to interpretation.
For example, at the start of the page, inside a binary sequence, is the phrase 'Djinn @ 8 Brooks iz pasing' - a good guess at this is that it means 'the Djinn (a datasphere-bound AI, from what we've learned in this universe) at AIT-Brooks is passing', where AIT-Brooks is a campus of the university that several characters in the game attended (Aragon Institute of Technology). Another (better) guess is that it refers to this definition of passers from the ARM; AIs pretending to be human. But who would this Djinn be?
I should mention that in the hacked page there are a number of binary sequences dotted throughout the text. After several dozen people in the Cloudmakers mailing list used traditional and increasingly esoteric methods of trying to decode the binary sequences, we've come to the conclusion that there is no message. Well, at least I and the majority of others have - still, there are some that believe otherwise and if you are with them, feel free to try your hand at it. I just feel that there are more worthwhile ways of spending your time.
Before we begin our examination of the translation, something that leaps out is the voice saying 'Destruction by Red King', just so we don't forget who did this hack. Anyway, immediately obvious is that this is a hit list created by the Red King, either for himself or for a group or organisation that he is part of. In addition, this group is pro-AI; the 'top ten 'awares' [they] are going to have a chat with after the revolution [presumably a pro-AI revolution]' are all people who Red King claims have abused AIs.
First up is Allen Hobby, the person who we think created AIs. We should note that Jeanine Salla was briefly a graduate student under Hobby, as is mentioned in Jeanine's bio at BWU. Then there are two government figures and Saul Tamerlane, the head of the Anti-Robot Militia (he's prominently featured in their website). The Red King calls him 'Mad king Saul' - does this have any relevance? Next at number five is Lord Johnson Johnson of the Gladiators. Remember that 'Spartacus 2', one of the rogue AIs that was reconfigured for Gladiator work, is wanted in connection with 'terrorist rogues' Does this guy, 'Spartacus 2', have anything to do with the Red King, who is also pro-AI?
At number six is Fidelio Belem who seems to be the number one agent from 'Rogue Retrieval' which from the context appears to be an agency (governmental, we don't know) that tracks down, captures and possibly executes rogue AIs.
Two more people we don't know, one from a robot manufacturer and another one from ARM (Unite and Resist). At number nine is Diane Fletcher, 'Robot Traitor', suggesting that Diane is a robot herself. Diane works for Rogue Retrieval and has proved to be remarkably efficient at tracking down her own kind. Finally at number ten is Luca Ingellis, the owner of Belladerma. As we know, Belladerma is the company that we think made Venus (the SPCB said that the robot they were tracking down for the questioning of Evan was a Belladerma product). At the ARM, they claimed that the robot which killed Evan was a sex-toy. This fits in with Red King's assertion that Belladerma creates robots that are essentially sex slaves.
After the hit list, Red King says that he has 'ghosted' the SPCB's files (presumably means he rummaged around their hidden files) and seen that there is a 'hot pursuit' for Venus. He rightly points out though that if Venus is just a sex-slave robot, why is it so difficult for the country's best agents to track her down? And why is it such an important case? And then we see:
When he says 'sphere' it's reasonable to assume he means 'datasphere' or Internet. Sophia is evidently someone who also navigates the sphere and has left an indication that she is around. Since Red King seems to be pro-AI and he wants us to trick and crack Sophia, Sophia could be anti-Robot - but we can't be sure. And what's this about her knowing 7/22nds of everything? There's been a lot of discussion about what 7/22 means - the common misconception is that it's an approximation to Pi (3.1415...), but of course that is 22/7, not 7/22.
A recent theory which I heard is quite compelling; if 22/7 is Pi, then 7/22 is iP or 'IP' - that is, Internet Protocol. If it did mean IP, then the sentence would go 'She knows IP of everything' which would indicate that she is some pretty hot-shot hacker - maybe she's even an AI - maybe she's even the datasphere itself? In any case, it's just a theory and we'll have to wait and see.
Now for a bit of speculation. Who is Red King? For him to have broken into the SPCB and talk about the 'sphere' and Sophia, he must be quite proficient at using computers. He is also pro-AI and apparently a member of the militant faction BIOS (the title of the hacked page is 'BIOS shadow'. He may have also been the person who compromised ARM's security djinn and planted that phone call in it. He could even be an AI himself, but that's pure conjecture. Whoever he is, he's got a grudge against some people.
Before we leave this page, there's something I'm going to lift straight from The Trail about this page:
This fax means that the Red King has accomplices and what's more, since he's putting this up on a hacked public page, he wants to tell other people about it - maybe other people in his pro-AI organisation. So it's unlikely that the Red King is working on his own, and also he's probably not the top guy in his organisation (almost certainly BIOS).
Jason Fertor is a 'corrupt building inspector' and an ARM member. If we look at the ARM News from the Front page, we can see that not just Jason Fertor but also Yulan Foxtra and one others were killed by two symbiotic AIs that suffered 'simultaneous logic faults' and caused the elevator they were in to malfunction and plunge down. These two AIs have been charged with capital offense and probably be destroyed (more details about this below).
So, who is Yulan Foxtra? She was with ICM Property Acquisition, and their deaths occured while they were in the Denver HQ of the ICM Corporation, according to the SPCB News page. The Red King claims that Yulan paid Fertor to recommended the demolition of a building. As we know, buildings are run by AIs so when a building is demolished, it's quite likely that an AI would also be destroyed.
What may have happened here is that ICM wanted a particular piece of land, so they paid Fertor, a building inspector, to claim that the building currently on the land was perhaps unsafe and should be demolished. We don't know whether the demolition has taken place yet or even if Fertor's recommendation is public knowledge.
Now, don't get me wrong but you'd think that the AI's controlling a corporate headquarters would be pretty reliable and have failsafes. Indeed, it seems that ICM's building with its two symbiotic AIs has a failsafe built in so that if one AI fails, the other can keep on operating. So while one logic fault is unlikely, two simultaneous logic faults is so unbelievably unlikely that, in the words of James Bond, it's probably 'enemy action'.
Speculation: were the building AIs in collusion with Red King's faction (BIOS), and so malfunctioned the elevator on purpose? Or did Red King's faction - or another third party - cause the AI's, against their will, to cause a malfunction in the elevator? In any case, Red King claims that 'when you are human, you can plead self-defense. Some people deserve to be erased.' This suggests that Foxtra and Fertor were killed in self-defense - they were directly going to harm the building-to-be-demolished's AI, and so they are to the eyes of the pro-AI groups, killers (or would-be killers).
Speculation: does any of this have anything to do with the 'Mad House Syndrome' that the SPCB were investigating?
[About Jason Fertor: there is a bit of a story about this guy. On the SPCB News page, it says that 'SPCB agents and the Denver police are still investigating two separate incidents of possible malicious malfunction in Denver. The incidents resulted in four deaths.' On the news article below that one, it talks about three people being killed in an elevator in Denver, at the ICM Corporation - but Jason Fertor's name isn't mentioned. We then assume that Jason Fertor's name was either left out on purpose, or by mistake, and also that he did not die in the elevator with the other three.
The reason that there is confusion here is because on the ARM News from the Front page, they basically assume that the four deaths in Denver were all from the same malfunction. This is probably because they just had inaccurate information though.
Interestingly, if you do a search on Google for a cached version of the SPCB News page (an old version, in other words), you get this page. On it, it says that Jason Fertor was electrocuted at his computer keyboard while trying to connect to the net - he wasn't in the elevator or probably even the same building as the other three who died. This implies that there is a greater degree of co-ordination between the AIs responsible for their deaths (if it was, as we suspect, not just an accident), perhaps implicating an organisation such as BIOS. Another question is, why did the game designers remove this mention of Fertor's 'real' death? Is it simply not relevant, or will it be revealed later?]
Recap 3: What do we know?
We've discovered that Venus is almost definitely a sex robot created by Belladerma. Venus is wanted in connection with Evan's murder, but this doesn't mean she killed him. At the moment, she's still at large although the SPCB seem to be having problems capturing her.
It appears that there are several rogue AIs on the loose and they could be affiliated with militant pro-AI groups such as BIOS and A,R,I. Our hacker, the Red King, may also be a member of those groups. The Red King poses a conundrum - we know he's pro-AI and he's got a hit list of people. We know he stays in touch with the pro-AI militants since he knows about Foxtra and Fertor. Is he an AI? However, one thing we know for sure is that he only just found out about Evan Chan and so cannot have anything to do with his murder. And who is this Sophia he talks of who also navigates the datasphere? Maybe she is the 'Mother' who sent the mysterious email to Evan?
About Foxtra and Fertor: will we hear about them again, or is this just an example of what the pro-AI militants are capable of?
Things that are unsolved:
We're at a dead end. There's a lot we know, but even more than we don't. There are no more links that we can follow, and there's only one thing we can do now. Face up to facts, and realise that we have to solve the Chemistry Elements Puzzle. You'll remember that this puzzle was mysteriously put on the Salla Family Homepage without Laia's knowledge.
So we've got a sequence of elements arranged in an equation. If we use the atomic numbers of these elements and plug them into the equation, we got out the number 406. This doesn't mean anything. Never mind, eh? But let's try something else. If it's not a number that we want to get out of this puzzle, maybe it's a word or phrase.
Chemical elements have two names - the long version and the short version. For example, Carbon is denoted by C, and Hydrogen by H. Using this reference guide to the shorthand names of all the elements, the equation looks like this:
Doesn't seem like much, but there's a strangely readable bit in it, the ONERSW - could that be part of a word? And the bits in brackets, what do they mean? Well, in each of the brackets, the first element is always two characters long, and it's always being subtracted by a one character element whose letter is also in the first element. Perhaps we should substract the characters in the literal sense. In that case, we'd get:
Pretty good, huh? The solution of the puzzle is a URL address. To the AImobile, Batman!
This is a very professional looking website that is the home to the only legal forensic medical source for public law enforcement agencies in the United States, and it's also a privately held, for-profit corporation. There is very little information of substance that we can get without viewing a case file summary - we can do that either by the case ID number or the name of the deceased.
Due to technical whatnot that I don't really want to go into here (but you can read in detail at The Trail), it's thought that the employee login at the bottom of the page doesn't work.
So, let's try putting some names into the case file summary box. To cut a long story short, only Evan Chan's name works. Yulan Foxtra and Jason Fertor do not have case files.
As soon as we enter his name, we get a popup window telling us that the fee required to make the file publicly available was paid by 'Sencha'. Who is this Sencha, and does s/he have to be related to Evan in order to be able to make the file available, or can anyone do it?
Moving on to Evan Chan's actual case report, we find that he died on the 8th of March 2142, plus or minus 11 hours. By comparison, the mysterious email from 'Mother' was sent on the 9th of April, well over a month after his death.
Let's see. According to the final diagnosis carried on 10th March, Evan died because his head was bashed in. He'd consumed no alcohol and no drugs. He was not drowned. However, his body was found in shallow coastal waters near Durham, New Carolina, and examination revealed that he was probably in the water for four hours. He was 75 years old and in good health. When his fingernails were checked, they found scrapings of Dolce Vita IV, a proprietary synthetic skin patented and manufactured by Belladerma. His genitalia indicated that he'd been having a bit of nookie before he died.
[I should point out that since Evan was born on February 20th 2066, that actually makes him 76. I suspect that PACO's reporting of his age being only 75 is a simple clerical error.]
Many people seem to believe that Evan looks young for someone who is 75. That's true, if he was living right now. However, Evan died in the 22nd century when we know that they have longevity treatments as well as a massively improved healthcare system; there is no reason why he should not look younger than his age. Besides, Jeanine and Nancy Chan are both roughly his age, and they don't look 70-80 either.
Our conclusion: A Belladerma robot, probably Venus, was on that boat and Evan was fooling around with her. The fact that Evan may have scratched her skin doesn't mean that she killed him - it may have occurred during the aforementioned fooling around.
If Evan was killed one month ago and presumably they knew very soon afterwards about Venus, does this mean that Venus has successfully outwitted the SPCB for all of that time? Considering that she's 'just' a sex robot and wouldn't have the skills to go undercover, could people, perhaps pro-AI groups, be helping her? In any case, we've learned that Venus was probably on the boat with him, and he died from injuries to the head.
Once again, we're at a dead end - we have no more obvious links to new websites. Time to do some real detective work. As we've discovered from other pages, there is hidden information in the source code of some of the web pages. Now, you can't expect one person to check through the source code of every single page but bearing in mind that the Cloudmakers mailing list has, at the time of writing, 945 members, that's more than enough detectives to check all the pages. Wouldn't you know, we found something.
At the bottom of Evan Chan's homepage at the Chan Family website, there's a hidden link to his old university, the Aragon Institute of Technology. AIT is an extremely accomplished university; 27.1% of Nobel Prizewinners in the 'last century' graudated from AIT and they also created 'Plutarch, the Pluto-based, AI solar-system security force that stands ready to act not only as an early-warning system against interstellar incursions, but also as the ultimate in defense.' As an SF fan, I find this Plutarch to be pretty cool stuff.
As with Bangalore World University, the majority of pages are the usual promotional material. I found this snippet of information about their campus on the Moon to be quite intriguing though. On their AIT Alumni Spotlight, there's a short piece of information about Jeanine Salla as well as an obituary for Evan Chan which reveals that his middle name is Jasper. There's a new link to Belladerma (finally) on their Graduate Placement page.
If we briefly think back to the Red King's hacked page, there's a line of speculation that believes the 'Djinn at AIT-Brooks' he mentions is none other than Spinoza, the 'ethics consultant AI' at AIT who is mentioned here (and briefly in other pages). I find the idea of Spinoza to be fascinating, especially among a society that doesn't accept AIs as equals yet will submit to their judgement in matters of conscience. Anyhow, if the Djinn really is Spinoza, then the Red King's message would imply that Spinoza at AIT-Brooks is passing judgement on somebody.
Also, in Evan Chan's DonuTech personal page calendar, he says he had an appointment with Spinoza on 19th January. My personal belief is that if he was talking to Spinoza, he must have been having some kind of ethical or conscience-based problem. Speculating wildly (who, me?), perhaps this is because he was about to do something controversial - in his personal life or his work life, we don't know. But something so controversial that it might be worth killing him for. Something to think about.
The university's newspaper, AIT Today, has the usual medley of sports news and self-congratulatory articles but one article (there's always one) about robots in Gladiatorial combat stands out. You'll remember that we've heard about this in two other places - the first is that the guy behind the TV programme 'Kill Switch' (a little like Robot Wars in the UK), Lord Johnson Johnson, is on the Red King's hit list. Secondly, the gladiator robot 'Spartacus 2' is still wanted by the SPCB for various crimes.
There is an interesting point in this article in that the AI minds that control the fighting robots are saved every time the robots enter the ring. This means that the one that is destroyed can still have its old mind implanted in a new body - which suggests that there may be a copy of Spartacus 2's mind still floating around somewhere...
We've exhausted AIT of all its material, so let's check out the Belladerma pages. Quick recap: Venus, Enrico Basta's companion was made by Belladerma. Evan was seeing Venus before his death and in the coroner's report, he had traces of synthetic skin made by Belladerma under his fingernails. Another companion robot made by Belladerma, Giovanni Savard, is on the run as reported by SPCB.
Belladerma's homepage is another Flashified web page that must have taken quite a while to construct. It's quite impressive and offers a lot of information about the companion robots that they create for people - it turns out that the only robots they create are companion robots although these are subdivided into tutors, athletes, artists, companions, escorts and more. They also make pets (with eerily glowing eyes) and AI-controlled statues and gardens.
There is also a page which offers access to their catalog if you have a UAN number. Through our techno-wizardry, we think that there may be a solution to this since it doesn't just point to an error page. If there is a solution though, we haven't found it yet. The other pages on the site aren't particularly informative although you may as well have a look around.
There is one interesting thing here, however. When you go to the Contact Us page, and click on any of their service representatives, you reach a page which allows you to input your fax number. Unbelievably, if you put your fax number in them you'll actually receive a fax from the company. Scans of the faxes are available here (you may need to be a member of Cloudmakers to view them).
On the first page, we see that the fax is addressed from Pia Viago of Belladerma to Enrico Basta - the fax is undated - and is about Enrico being sent a new robot. The second page talks about how Belladerma would be happy to replace Enrico's robot (presumably Venus) for free because she 'breached her obedience mandate and is no longer fit.' Among the special characteristics Enrico has requested are:
We can also presume that these characteristics Enrico is requesting were also present in Venus - this leads further credence to our theory that because Venus was programmed with deep loyalties to her master and that if she was abused, she might not have committed suicide, as Jeanine Salla's studies have revealed, but instead went rogue (which she has done). The extreme anti-corrosiveness to salts and high balance feature commensurate with nautical activity are obvious in that Enrico goes sailing a lot and would want to take his robot with him (and wouldn't want it to fall over or get corroded by salts).
Pia Viago also includes her email address on the fax, and if you email it then you receive this:
Who wrote this? Obviously not Pia, which suggests that someone has hacked her email system - it is typical hacker-speak, after all. It could have been the Red King, but we have no proof - it could equally have been 'Mother' (although she doesn't write like that, from her email) or 'Sophia'. Whoever it is has a recording of Pia speaking at the phone number mentioned. The recording is available as an mp3 file here, and here's a transcript:
The M and F stand for 'male' and 'female'. We can assume that the female is Pia Viago. Pia is basically asking the Rogue Retrieval agency to return one of their robots - I'm thinking it's Venus. It seems that Belladerma is quite desperate to get Venus back as they're willing to pay for the best operative and they don't want to wait for the SPCB.
Why are they so concerned? I see two main possibilities. One, they want to find out what went wrong with Venus - perhaps it's a bug and they want to correct it in their other bots before they malfunction. Two, they deliberately programmed Venus to run away and do... stuff... and now that her mission has either finished or gone wrong, they want her back. There isn't any proof for either theory, however.
We can make a good guess of who the two operatives Rogue Retrieval is signing on for this task: Fidelio Belem, because according to the Red King, he's their best operative. And also Diane Fletcher - she's mentioned in the transcript and she's said to be extremely good at recapturing her own kind (she's a robot too, remember?).
Recap 4: What do we know?
From the coroner's report, Evan was definitely killed by injuries to the head, and a Belladerma robot, almost definitely Venus, was on the boat with him. Enrico Basta is receiving a new robot to replace Venus and it seems that he has some unusual requests which indicate he may have mistreated Venus. These characteristics also shed light on the reasons for why Venus might have run away. Belladerma desperately want Venus back and have hired Rogue Retrieval to do the job. In the meantime, someone is watching Pia and has hacked into her email system.
Some new speculation: Enrico Basta isn't concerned about getting Venus back, it's Belladerma. Belladerma clearly knows something that we do not, but it's likely that Enrico is in the dark about all of this. Perhaps Belladerma just wants Venus back to save their reputation and stop her from wreaking more havoc, but everyone already knows that it was a Belladerma robot with Evan when he was killed. I don't think reputation is a factor here - Venus knows who killed Evan, and that's extremely valuable information.
Things that are unsolved: none
For the nth time, we're at a dead end, and what's more, we've checked the source code of every page and not found any more links. It's time to do a bit of old-fashioned snooping around. The one organisation that we've heard a lot about but haven't seen linked to is Rogue Retrieval - surely they must have a website? And if they do, why don't we just guess the URL?
On our first try, we guess correctly that it's http://www.rogueretrieval.com - very straightforward. As we already know, Rogue Retrieval is a private company that returns rogue robots; two of its agents are on the Red King's hit list and the same two agents (Fidelio Belem and Diane Fletcher - a robot) are tracking Venus.
The website has the usual corporate spiel and has a list of agents with some relatively uninformative details about the two agents mentioned above. What is interesting about the site is their article about their latest capture of the fugitive robot Pasqual. The gist of the article is that their operative, Fidelio Belem, was on the tail of Pasqual when Pasqual spotted him (RR claims that the pro-AI group BIOS tipped Pasqual off). According to Rogue Retrieval, Pasqual placed bystanders in between himself and Fidelio and 'initiated an exchange of gunfire' in which bystander Kent Whitman was killed. Fidelio then shot and destroyed Pasqual.
Much is made of the marksmanship skills of Fidelio and the website also mentions that 'we have taken it upon ourselves to ensure the well-being of Whitman’s surviving ally, Jenny Thompson.'
To me, this doesn't make any sense. If Kent Whitman was really an innocent bystander, then he would have had nothing to do with Pasqual or Fidelio. So why does Jenny Thompson's well-being have to be ensured when Pasqual has already been destroyed? Does 'ensuring her well-being' mean taking her into custody? For that matter, what the hell is 'ally' supposed to mean? Is this any of Rogue Retrieval's business? They claim that they believe in 'salving the wounds caused by the violence of robot malfeasance' but that sounds like tripe to me.
Let's go back to the PACO and see if Kent Whitman has been added to their case files. What a surprise, it is - the case file is here. What's more, the fee for making it publicly available was paid by 'GK'. If we go right back to the Red King hack of the SPCB pages, you'll notice the phrase 'GK's up against the wall'. As mentioned in this page on ARM's website, Geri Khan (= GK) is the leader of the pro-AI militant faction BIOS. Why would GK pay for this file to be opened? Most probably because Kent Whitman was in BIOS himself. First, let's take a look.
Kent Whitman died at the age of 34 on 7th April 2142 to a gunshot wound. He was killed outside the Electric Toyland Repair Shop in Washington D.C. Whitman has some implants and he's also got a prosthetic finger on his left hand 'of the type commonly found in tweaker gangs'. Another quotation:
I should point out that this means Whitman was equipped so that he could record his biometrics and possibly what he could see, hear and smell. Control of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal access means that someone could take control of his bodily systems.
As with many other pages, Whitman's case file was changed - a week or so it was first found, it had no images. There are four now, and they're mostly pretty morbid. However, there is a strange image of the last recorded picture on his PDA, basically a green screen. The question is, why would this be included on the coroner's report? Perhaps there's something special about the screen... something important... but how would we see it?
Remember that the report says Kent has 'evidence of ocular implants, presumably elective—secondary eyelids to provide additional light and color filters', and the PDA screen says 'Bio-optic filtering enabled'. If there was indeed a message on the PDA, maybe we'd need color filters...
For those of you who haven't done this, the message is below:
Translated, this reads: "Take free bird to DC node for new face, UV dip, erase, hand off to engineer for questioning. Rational Hatter for documents, remember your manner!"
Let's think. Whitman was already at D.C. when he was killed, so unless it's referring to another node in D.C., we can assume that he was in the process of taking the 'free bird' - presumably his ally, Jenny Thompson - there. Once at the D.C. node, the free bird would be subjected to a UV dip, then 'erase', then handed off to an engineer for questioning. There are also documents related to all of this at 'Rational Hatter'.
Since you really wouldn't want to give a human a UV dip, it's a safe bet that the 'free bird', Jenny Thompson, is a robot. What's more, if Rogue Retrieval are looking for her yet they haven't announced that she is a robot, then they want her for themselves pretty desperately.
My theory: Whitman is part of an underground railroad (probably an arm of BIOS) that is smuggling robots. Jenny Thompson is Venus and after Evan's death she was picked up by this railroad and taken to the D.C. node, Electric Toyland, by Whitman so that she could be given a different skin and face. Belladonna hired Rogue Retrieval to get Venus back and that's exactly what they're trying to do now - the Pasqual incident was contrived simply to kill Whitman.
What we need to do now is to find out more information about this Electric Toyland place - it can't be a coincidence that Whitman was killed right outside it.
But we have no URL! Still, we can guess, and it turns out that http://www.electric-toyland.com is the right place. Electric Toyland is essentially a repair shop for robots. Among its services it offers, why, a UV dip! So we can assume that the 'free bird' had the UV dip at Electric Toyland - bear in mind however that this does not mean that Electric Toyland knows anything about this, perhaps Whitman was just using their services.
At the site's guestbook, we find a message from our favourite Rogue Retrieval agent:
What did she learn? Something about the UV dip? Think, brain, think! Jenny Thompson, the 'free bird' who we think is Venus was either entering Electric Toyland or leaving it when Whitman was killed. She then ran away. If she was entering, then she wouldn't have had the UV dip or new face but Diane might have realised why they were going there and so asked the shop for a list of places that could do the UV dip.
If she was leaving then Diane would have asked what services the shop performed on 'Jenny' so that they could identify and find her.
If you email Electric Toyland, you recieve an email back in HTML:
It should be noted that the music playing on the Electric Toyland main page is the same music that we can hear in the background of the anonymous phone call to Nancy Chan. This suggests that the caller was inside the Electric Toyland shop at the time of the call - could the caller be Jenny/Venus? It would make sense since Venus was close to Evan and even though she's saying 'sorry' it need not be seen as an admission of guilt; more of a sharing of grief.
So what is this Rational Hatter that is referred to in the mysterious PDA message? Let's just try going to http://www.rational-hatter.com - it works! This place is very simply a hat sellers website with descriptions of the hats they make. The only description worthy of note is of the Veldt hat made out of Tenselite, which is worn by the robot Gladiators TV program boss, Lord Johnson Johnson.
There's a page where you can make custom-designed hats. Since we were told to come here to get documents and this custom-design hat page has all the hallmarks of a puzzle (you can choose colours and styles), we think that in order to get the documents you need to put the correct sequences of colours and styles in.
Before we try the puzzle, if you look at the source code of the page , alongside the option values of the Style and Accessory of the hat are some very unsavoury terms such as 'plague', 'vapid' and 'death'. We don't know what they are for yet. In fact, in the source code of all the pages, in a META tag called 'earthwatch', there are different words for weather. All of the tags are available here.
Okay, I'll 'fess up here. We [the Cloudmakers] didn't actually figure out this puzzle properly. There are over 350,000 combinations to the puzzle and someone just went and created a program to try all of them out. I know - we're pathetic. It turns out that the correct combinations are:
At the moment, we're trying to retroactively work out what this code means. There are two possibilities as to the colour. Firstly, remember back at the message on the PDA when we were told to 'remember our manners'? Well, Blue, Orange, White spells out BOW. Secondly, in the autoresponder email from Electric Toyland, their logo is coloured differently to the website logo. Yes, you guessed it, it's Blue, Orange/Brown, White. To be honest, it could be either or both.
As for the Flying Hornburg and Feather: If you look at the bottom of this page about the Flying Hornburg, it mentions that 'you don't have to choose between liberty and protection [with this hat].' The picture also has a feather in it, and there was also a bit in the PDA message about a 'free bird'.
Okay, okay, enough of that, let's have a look at the secret page. At the top, it says:
Below is a slideshow that shows someone who looks very much like Venus (with sunglasses) being followed by a black clad female (Diane Fletcher?). Venus is then apprehended by the female, who uses some kind of small device, and then is led off. Whoever made this page is probably pro-AI and is referring to Venus being 'hacked and cracked' by the bad guys - and that Venus was sloppy by walking around in the daylight.
But it could mean something else. We were supposed to come to this page for documents - there are no documents here. And in any case, the PDA message was written before Whitman was killed, before Jenny Thompson/Venus was on the run and captured. So whatever documents that were on this page have gone. I believe that this page had documents pertaining to Venus and the underground railroad and that it was hacked and cracked by 'the bad guys' - presumably Rogue Retrieval. These documents allowed Venus to be captured.
Venus' appearance doesn't seem to have been altered so Whitman was probably killed when trying to enter the shop. Then again, if we want to be really paranoid we could always say that the person being captured just looks like Venus - she could theoretically be another robot altered to look like her. Going even further into the realm of paranoia, it might not even be Diane Fletcher who captured her (not that we know what Diane looks like, we're only just assuming it's her) - it might be a robot that just looks like Diane Fletcher. Anyway, the possibilities are endless and this just serves to provide a lesson that you can't believe what you see when it comes to robots.
Question: who took these pictures? Rogue Retrieval? And how did they get on this page?
Recap 5: What do we know?
Rogue Retrieval, in one of their operations, killed Kent Whitman and are on the lookout for his ally, Jenny Thompson. According to Whitman's PDA, we think he was supposed to take Jenny (a robot) to Electric Toyland for a change of appearance. Whitman was part of a larger organisation and had orders about what to do with Jenny. Jenny ran off after Whitman was killed with Rogue Retrieval hot on her tails, and they finally caught her.
Speculation: We think that Jenny is Venus, since Fidelio and Diane (the Rogue Retrieval agents) are only supposed to be working on one case - getting Venus back.
Sites we haven't visited: none
Things that are unsolved: none
If you entered your email for updates at the Salla Family Homepage then around now, you'll have received two emails. The first is from Mephisto, who we think is Laia's implanted Djinn.
The second, which is the aforementioned burst of Laia-type insight, is:
There's no doubt here that Laia is talking about Evan's Venus. Laia is pointing out that Venus is... let's say, very emotional at times and if you get together with her then you're bound to get hurt. Silly Evan for doing so. Now, since we've just gotten this email from Laia, it wouldn't be unreasonable to think that her website has been updated - and it has, with a link off from the main page to something called Meditations.
This is a relatively long piece of prose. It's quite an interesting read and it's obviously by Laia. A few pointers first - Abuela means 'grandmother' in Spanish. A Zodiac is a type of speedboat. The quoted sections are conversations between Laia and her Djinn (or familiar, as she calls it) Mephista, in her head.
I'm not going to deconstruct this piece but I'll talk about its significance. Right at the start we learn that two years ago, Laia found out some kind of secret that made her not want to go camping with the Chans - this may or may not have been a secret about Evan. Personally, I think it's about Laia herself - about her history or her mother. Speaking of her mother, seven years ago she left Laia when she was 17 to go 'offline' - in SF terminology this basically means lose all contact with phones, faxes, emails - the entire datasphere. I find this to be quite strange considering that Laia is almost the opposite, with her embedded AI and implants. Assuming that Laia's mother gave permission for the AI and implant to be put in Laia while she was young (it's possible if not proven), why would she decide to go offline?
Speculation: Is Colleen Francesca Salla Laia's mother? There's no proof but let's think about it; neither Jeanine nor Laia have talked about siblings. We haven't seen Colleen mentioned anywhere apart from on the Salla Family homepage. She has conveniently disappeared offline, and if you have a look at the front page of the Salla Family website this you'll notice that there is a progression from Jeanine to Colleen to Laia, e.g. 2D to 3D to holographic movies. Jeanine is Homo Sapiens Sapiens; Colleen is a genetically altered human being; Laia is an AI-enhanced posthuman. Finally, Jeanine 'made the machine' (helped to create AIs), Colleen 'was made by the machine' (she was taught by AIs) and Laia 'is the machine' (arguably has many AI elements within her).
So, following on from that progression, Colleen is Laia's mother. Therefore Jeanine is Laia's grandmother. She's certainly old enough.
The girl with the prosthetic finger, this is obviously related to Kent Whitman having a prosthetic finger as well - apparently all 'tweakers' have them. Whitman, we think, is pro-AI so are the girl and her family also pro-AI? When Laia is looking at the girl's parents through the window, it says:
Snakes can see into the infra-red (I think) - so when Laia thinks of a snake, she too can use her implants to see into the infra-red and so she sees the girl's parents' thermal signature. Owls can see into the ultraviolet (I think - again [and I call myself a biology student?]). Sunscreen blocks ultraviolet, which is why she, using her implants, can see the face as purple. Laia realises that she has implants too - she is just as unclean, as 'infected with AI' as the little girl.
The part about Laia looking at 'Sencha's puzzle' with the Japanese teas - the Chemistry Puzzle, in other words; this means that the puzzle was put there by Sencha, the same person who paid for Evan's PACO case file to be made public. It's possible that Sencha is a shortened version of Francesca, which is part of Colleen Francesca Salla's name (obviously). 'Sencha' also means 'green tea' in Japanese.
I don't know about the rest of it, I'll have to think about it.
[They mention the website 'for-evan.com' in Meditations. This is not a part of the game - it's a website set up by someone who is following the game. It's good to know that the game designers are paying attention to us.]
A week after the emails mentioned above (on April 24th), we received another email from Laia, which is available here. Apart from hearing about Jeanine's strange attitude towards AIs (you'd think that she would be more sympathetic, considering she was instrumental in making them) which may be significant in that Jeanine isn't as pro-AI as we might think she is, the only real news of note is that 'the killer has been caught'. Laia also refers to the killer as a 'she', meaning that she subscribes to the popular assumption that Venus is the killer.
Shortly after we got the last email, we received yet another one, which is fairly short and I will show here:
Obviously there are a lot of hackers about, trying to get into people's systems. Not entirely sure what relevance this particular email has.
Essay: Philosophy of Discovery
Disclaimer: These are my own personal views and I don't expect everyone to agree with them.
You may have noticed that some of the information within the game was obtained by less-than-honest means - the most obvious example of which is the hacking of the Rational Hatter website to get the correct codes. Less obvious, and hidden by myself, are the ways in which some of the websites were found and examined before they had been linked to. Again, it's the Rational Hatter - using the WHOIS lookup, this website was found and analysed before we'd actually seen it mentioned once.
[WHOIS is a tool that allows you to find out information about the owners of domain names, and also list all the domain names that a person owns.]
More recently, several websites have been found by the same method of WHOIS or by the marginally more (but still not very) respectable method of random guesswork coupled with WHOIS. There are many different beliefs held by members of the Cloudmakers discussion list of whether this is 'ethical' or not, and there are regular heated debates. So where do I stand?
I'll say it right out - I think that any use of WHOIS whatsoever detracts from the enjoyment of the game. It's simply akin to reading ahead in a novel. And anything beyond WHOIS, such as direct cracking of mailservers and web hosts, apart from being illegal, certainly is unethical, destructive and counterproductive. Yes, it's known that the game designers have deliberately named the contacts for their domain names as 'Ghaepetto', in a reference to Pinocchio - they probably expected people to perform direct WHOIS lookups on domain names and decided to have a little joke. They might have even known that people would have performed broader WHOIS lookups to find all domains registered under a certain name.
But make no mistake - they would have not designed the game so that WHOIS lookups were necessary simply because most people don't know what WHOIS is. In fact, you don't even need to use Google - to get to Jeanine Salla's homepage, you could just type in http://www.jeaninesalla.com and that would have taken you to every site. So, as far as I'm concerned, if the game designers didn't expect people to use WHOIS, we shouldn't.
However. It's inevitable that people will use WHOIS, just as it is inevitable that people will choose to read the ending of novels before they've finished. And the game designers can do all they can to ensure that those who use WHOIS will not be able to spoil the game, by keeping the sites offline for as long as possible. All the same, it still detracts from the thrill of discovering a new site from a puzzle or a newly updated site, as opposed to checking a blank page every hour to see if the designers have changed anything.
Let people take shortcuts. Let people announce these new websites before we should know about them. We can't stop it and it would be useless to try. All I can do is to ask people to at least consider being patient and playing the game as it was meant to be played: without taking shortcuts, and without spoiling other people's enjoyment.
Version X complete update (2/9/2001)
Version 8.0 complete update (5/7/2001)
Version 8.0 partial update 1 (27/6/2001)
Version 7.0 (23/5/2001)