The Guide X: A Tale of the A.I. Trail
by Adrian Hon
Before 24th April - 24th April onwards - 23rd May onwards - 19th June onwards - The Wrap-up Report
On the 24th April, Evan's DonuTech personal page was updated with a new email from Mother addressed to 'Vulture' (presumably meaning us, since we're picking over a dead man's life). It reads:
To be honest, I don't really know what to make of this. We can assume that the talk of houses is referring to all the various architects that we know of (Martin Swinton, Kate Nei, etc) and perhaps that the 'crazy house' is a reference to Martin Swinton's house, Cahir, which went mad and then died.
Another line of speculation is that this riddle is referring to a cuckoo; 'a kind of clock', 'house like a wood', 'kind of crazy' and 'certain bird'. Does this mean someone - perhaps Evan - is a cuckoo, that is, they aren't what the seem? What is clear is that its mention of Bangalore means that the Bangalore World University web pages are soon to be updated.
And yes, the web pages have been updated. On the pop-up window that tells you your interface isn't up-to-date, to the right of the top banner image you can see a tiny image of a mouse sticking its nose out. If you click on the mouse, you get a new page asking you whether you are a Man or a Mouse. Clicking on either of these options simply closes the window, but a close inspection of the source code reveals that there is a hidden third option. To see it, you have to click and hold on the text with your mouse button and then drag your pointer down, scrolling down the window. This will reveal a new option, 'Mowz'.
This reveals a puzzle, asking you to answer a riddle:
If you cast your mind back to the AI movie trailer, at the end you'll be able to see the number '323' after the words 'Summer 2001', over the Moon in the Amblin logo and between the two Internet addresses. 323 is indeed the answer, and you are taken to a congratulations page, which basically says that they've hacked into the BWU system. There's also another test link and a bit of news saying that some student named Gyorg has hacked into the BWU faculty directory (more of that later).
Clicking on the test link brings you to a page saying 'This is the wrong page'. An inspection of the source code yield nothing, but then we realise that the name for this page ends in '.html'. If we change the URL to end in '.asp', we get the 'real' page (yes, it does seem quite random to me as well). We then get asked 'What's my name?'
Since we haven't got the faintest idea what his name is, we type in any old name. Try typing in 'Evan Chan' (or anything, it doesn't make any difference. This brings you to an error message with a strange sound playing in the background. If you listen to the sound carefully, you'll hear the word 'Beelzebub' (okay, I can't hear it myself, but bear with me). If you reverse it, you get 'bubezleeb', which also happens to be the right answer.
Yet another puzzle comes up, asking 'Where am I from?'. On this page is a peculiar background of coloured dots. The particularly relevant bit is the strange white squiggle below the text entry field. An enterprising Cloudmaker realised that this matched John Hancock's signature on the Declaration of Independence. Since the document was from the USA, 'the new world' would of course be a possible answer. Which, don't ya know, it is. Finally, we get to a puzzle asking us 'What business am I in?'. Above this question is the word 'CRIDUS' made out of the letters 'exotic'. Have a look at it yourself if you don't know what I mean. As yet, we haven't figured out the solution to this.
Now, throughout all these puzzles are horizontal line graphics. For no apparent reason, someone went and took these line graphics and put them together to produce this graphic. The address on the graphic, http://www.bangaloreworldu-in.co.nz/errorlog/electricsun/reconstruct.gif, takes you to a strange image with username and password boxes shown on it, as well as an image of some closed eyes (yes, I know that they're from David's eyes in the AI trailer). And no, I don't know what the image means.
We still have to figure out what this 'Gyorg' thing is all about though. Since there are some people who seem to like typing in any random word into any available search boxes, it was discovered that if you type in 'mowz' into the BWU faculty member search field, you get this message:
Hello, what's going on here? All the 'e's have been replaced by 'y's! Bearing in mind that if you type in 'gyorg' into the search field, nothing happens, what if we replace the 'y' with an 'e' to get 'georg'? Well, you get taken to this page. What immediately should strike you is that the spiral form of the diagram is a representation of the famous Fibonacci sequence. A Fibonacci sequence is where a sequence of numbers is generated by creating the next number by adding the previous two together. So, if you start from 1, you'd get the sequence 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 and so on.
What should strike you next is that the words are in German, and that the only place we've seen something like this before is on Beate Bosch's website, in his welcome page:
What I've done here is to highlight all the words that appear in the spiral puzzle. If you count where they are, you'll see that they represent the 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 15 and 21st words on Bosch's welcome page. But hold on a second there, cowboy - according to the Fibonacci sequence, we shouldn't be using the 15th word, we should be using the 13th word. The 13th word, which I've underlined, is 'Hausgestaltung' - and that's the answer to this rather elegant puzzle. Typing in the answer takes you to this page which says:
Lancelot Brown was a very famous English landscape designer whose nickname was 'Capability'. It's clear to me what this relates to; throughout all the websites of the architects we've visited, there have been pages in whichwe're asked to type in our IASA number, one of which is in fact here, if you click on the 'IASA links' button.
[Nancy Chan mentions Capability on her personal webpage, which perhaps was a clue that we should have spotted earlier. No worries though, we found it eventually.]
Typing in 'Capability' takes you to a page at Metropolitan Living Homes, inviting you to submit an entry for their IASA Apprenticeship Program: Annual MLH Debutante Ball 2142. Submiting an entry involves writing a brief description of your house, a couple of images and a longer write-up. This submission form does work, and it gets added to the 'ballroom' of pages here. I should point out that you can only submit an entry by using the 'IASA hack' - there's no link to the submission page from the normal MLH website, only a link to the ballroom.
Incidentally, within all of the ballroom pages are these two numbers hidden in the source code: 2^216091-1 and 2^21701-1. Both are respectively the 9th and 12th largest Mersenne Prime Numbers. Their significance is still unknown.
We don't know exactly what the ballroom is for - it might not serve any purpose at all - but anything could happen. Since it seemed like a bit of fun, I decided to submit my own entry for a house called Teichoic Orbital, in a direct homage to the SF works of Iain M Banks (we know that Doug Zartman likes Banks, so maybe this might bring him out of the woodwork, I don't know). I also wanted to show the PuppetMasters that I can spout sci-fi technobabble just as good as the rest of 'em.
As I said, the front page of Metropolitan Living Homes has a link to the ballroom, with the words:
It's a sad state of affairs for such a vibrant and intelligent community as the Cloudmakers, but it just goes to prove that old Theodore Sturgeon was right in his remark that '95% of everything is shit.' In this case, 95% of the entries in the ballroom are, in a word, bollocks. Unfortunately, it seems that no-one listened to their pleas that they don't have limitless patience.
There's a new update on Metropolitan Living Homes on their Monthly News page. It talks about a sentient house that had been mistreated by its owner getting its own back by locking him inside a shower and scalding him to death (I seem to recall this happening in an oldish SF movie involving evil electricity...). Not sure about the significance of this.
At the Sentient Property Crime Bureau is a newsflash stating that Venus has been captured, and will be interrogated, subjected to a memory wipe and then returned to Belladerma. Needless to say, this trashes our previous theories about the whole Venus saga. Unless, that is, Rogue Retrieval went and gave Venus to the SPCB which would make an awful lot more sense.
I wouldn't be too surprised if the SPCB got hacked again and we're able to see the results of Venus' interrogation. My guess is that they'll discover she wasn't the murderer, but there's be a shedload more clues as to the real killer. It's just a guess, mind.
If you visit Martin Swinton's website, you'll notice that if you click on either the sun or the Moon (in the top right and left hand corners), a window pops up, asking:
This is quite an easy puzzle, since this is the first part of a quotation from Shakespeare's Macbeth, which goes:
"Knock, Knock, Knock! Who's there, i' the name of Beelzebub?"
Which therefore means you should type in "i' the name of Beelzebub?"
[Some related facts: Yes, this might have been a clue to one of the BWU Mowz puzzles. Also, in the source code of this particular puzzle is the field 'name="brutus"'; Brutus is the name of Swinton's house. Finally, if you type in the wrong answer, you get back "Excuse me, I'm a tourist, and I'm lost."]
The correct answer takes you to Martin Swinton's diary. This is a very enjoyable read, telling us about Martin's depression after the death of his house Cahir, and also the wonderful way in which his house Brutus interacts with him. Some salient points:
I really did like this piece of writing - it makes it worth getting through all the puzzles. Anyhow, all those quotations in boxes scattered throughout the page are from the poem 'The Wasteland' by T.S. Eliot (a favourite of SF writers, I might add - and a particular favourite of Iain M Banks to boot).
I think the most pressing question here is the request for Martin to remove an AI. I might be completely wrong and it was just something to show how intertwined a house and its AI are, but to be it sounds too interesting to be ignored.
But it's only just getting interesting now. If you have a look at the filenames for the images representing Brutus, you'll see that they look something like 'V-253' and 'B-233'. Nothing strange with that, you might think. Until you realise that there are different filenames for identical images! Take, for example, the strong arm images towards the bottom of the diary. These are named 'E-298' and 'V-421' respectively. Why would the same image be duplicated with a different filename? It's never been seen before.
So, what does this mean? Well, remember that there are quotations from 'The Wasteland' scattered throughout the page? If you take a leap of logic, you could say that the numbers in the image filenames correspond to lines in the poem, and the prefix letters stand for different speakers. And if you do that, you get out this message:
To me, these lines make far too much sense put together for the image filenames to be an accident, especially with the mention of Belladonna. This is a real hidden message. Taking a further leap of logic, who do we know who might correspond to B, V and E? Why, who else but Brutus, Venus and Evan! You know it makes sense. Brutus, because we know he received a letter from a 'certain spirited lady'. Venus, because she's certainly spirited, she's also an AI, she has long black hair and she is 'Belladonna' - a beautiful woman, which she arguably is. Evan, because his name starts with E (I'm serious - who else, eh?) and we know that he was having an affair with Venus.
With this hard-gained knowledge in hand, we can really understand what this message means. The first 'verse', by Brutus, I believe refers to his courtship of Venus. The second verse describes Venus herself and her 'folly'. The third verse has Evan being distraught over Venus leaving him, and promising 'a new start'. In the last verse, Venus happily goes to Brutus and claims that she can't help her feelings.
A love triangle - and we know that love triangles always have nasty endings...
Another update to Martin Swinton's website is that if you click on the Galleries link and click on the house to the far right, 'Ivy', a pop-up window will appear. In the pop-up window, if you click on the top-right image, you get taken to a Japanese version of Kate Nei's website.
I have been informed that this site has a News section (unlike the normal site), and thanks to Kevin McMahon I have a translation of it:
What does this mean? And why is it stored on Martin's website? I have absolutely no idea, but it does show that Kate Nei isn't as passive a party as we thought she was. Let's think: Kate Nei (or whoever wrote this) is talking to someone who has done something or caused something wrong to happen, and this person might be harmed by an 'arrogant bastard' whom Kate will protect said person from. Once again, we just don't know enough to make any good theories.
The ARM News from the Front page was updated to mention AIs transferring around from machine to machine. We know perfectly well that Brutus can do this (although this doesn't implicate him in any way), and personally I think that this ability has been well known by experts in AI. Certainly Martin Swinton doesn't seem surprised when Brutus takes off, and casually quizzes him about whether he would like to be an airship.
This does have a fair bit of significance though - too much significance, in fact. Any of the AIs that we know of: Mephista, Brutus, Jeanine's AIs and of course, Venus, could have been moving around at will between machine and machine. So not only can robots change their physical appearance, but they can even change their resident AIs. This, I should point out, really does foul up any supposedly rock-solid theories that we've ever had before.
Also on their news page is a rather belated update about how Belladerma hired Rogue Retrieval to bring back Venus. We'd already known this from the phone call we overheard with Pia Viago of Belladerma. This is Belladerma's first public admission that they lost Venus, which takes the wind out of our theory that they had some kind of ulterior motive to getting her back - they still may do, but it's less likely since they've publicly announced their intentions.
The fact that ARM hasn't said that Venus has been captured by SPCB or RR is almost certainly attributable to their poor frequency of updates.
Recap 6 - What do we know?
Colleen Francesca Salla is almost certainly Laia's mother, and she has gone 'offline', effectively becoming unreachable. Laia is hiding some kind of secret. Venus has been captured by the SPCB and is currently being interrogated, and then she'll be mindwiped. There's been a huge upsurge of hacking recently, most notably into the Bangalore World University Website. It's not impossible that Mother and the hackers of BWU, 'Mowz' are related in some way.
We haven't learned that much from the Mowz hackers (since we haven't solved their entire chain of puzzles), but we did find our way into the MLH/IASA ballroom entry page. Arguably, we could have gotten there without them using Nancy's clue. More and more houses are acting irrationally, it seems, and Martin Swinton received a strange request for him to remove an AI from a house. His own house AI, Brutus, was (I think) involved in a love triangle with Evan and Venus. AIs can move around from machine to machine at will. Kate Nei has a Japanese translated webpage.
Speculation: We learned next to nothing about what has previously been the main storyline; Venus. It's strange that Rogue Retrieval handed her over to the SPCB (if, indeed, she was captured by RR in the first place). Undoubtedly we'll be hearing more about her next week. The whole BWU Mowz hacking thing, to me, hasn't actually yielded that much. I have an awful suspicion that it's just some kind of delaying tactic before we get some real news next week. Mind you, it was interesting to read Martin Swinton's diary and I'm sure his peculiar contract will pop up again soon.
Question: What is the MLH/IASA ballroom competition for? And what do the prime numbers in it mean?
Sites we've visited (since the last recap): Strictly, none.
Sites we haven't visited: none
Things that are unsolved:
If you have a look at the Most Wanted page on the SPCB website, you'll see that the Red King has once again updated his hack in the source code, adding a bit more text towards the bottom. The added text is below:
Translated from hacker-speak to be more legible, here is the same text:
This confirms our suspicions that Venus didn't kill Evan, or at least she was compelled to do it. It also shows that the SPCB is truly interested in tracking down the real killer - they aren't robot haters, whatever people might say. We can also see that Fletcher did indeed break into Rational-Hatter by figuring out the message on Kent Whitman's PDA, then retrieving the documents about Venus' whereabouts and capturing her. She then must have handed Venus over to SPCB straight away, effectively squashing our theories about Belladonna's special interest in Venus.
(Recall that Belladonna were the people who hired Rogue Retrieval to capture Venus in the first place, because they weren't convinced that the SPCB could do it themselves.)
The rest of it is the usual hacker bravado.
[All of the events below happened on or after 1st May, i.e. one week after the stuff above]
On the Bangalore World University news section are two new articles. The first points to a website called the the Bangalore World University News Network. When you visit BWUNN, two things will strike you as strange. Firstly, the page looks pretty low-quality for a supposed world-news network. Secondly, the last story appears to be about the Rotary Rocket Company, which was shut down in 2000.
So there you are, scratching your head about this website. You decide to do a WHOIS on the website (it's fair game, since we already found it via a legitimate link) and to your surprise, you discover that not only is it registered by someone who isn't a Ghaepetto (unlike all the other in-game websites) but it's also hosted on a different server. You then come to the conclusion that this is actually a fan site, not created by the makers of the game, a bit like the for-evan.com website mentioned in Laia's Meditations.
I personally think that as such, there will not be anything relevant to the game on BWUNN. In the search section, however, are a list of websites that we haven't seen before. I'm not going to list them here because I believe that the creator of BWUNN - a fan - discovered them via WHOIS. Besides, we haven't seen any links within the game to these new websites - for all we know, they might be fake. If they're not, we'll discover them in the proper way, not by cheating.
Also on the BWU news section (not BWUNN) is an article about a BWU-New York student, Oliver Wicks (aka 'Beezlebub' - the guy who did the Mowz puzzles) found catatonic in his dormitory room. Apparently this student had been awake for 75 hours gleefully watching the hacker 'freshman class' solving a series of puzzles. He then was electrocuted by his computer, put into a coma and now seems to be having constant nightmares. Nasty.
I can't help thinking that the creators of the game are making a little fun of us with this news story; as you know, at this point the Mowz 'What is my business' puzzle is still unsolved and the Cloudmakers had been butting their heads against it for days upon end. In any case, 75 hours awake? You've got to be kidding. From what I know of human biology, people who stay awake for that long end up with severe psychological trauma - and perhaps this had something to do with his coma.
There's another update on the BWU web pages. If you go to Jeanine's Publications Page, you'll see a new paper has been added to the top, called 'Multi-person social problem-solving arrays considered as a form of "artificial intelligence."' Next to it is a link to the Cloudmakers BBS. This is clearly another reference to a fan site, and also makes an amusing reference to the fact that the Cloudmakers are indeed a 'multi-person social problem-solving array', if you want to call us that. I'm not too sure about our being an AI, but I have the feeling that the Cloudmakers would be both proud and annoyed being called one.
This was received by all the people who'd visited Laia's website and put their emails into her news field (just like all the other emails from her).
Obviously the paper Abuela (Jeanine) has been writing about is the one we talked about before, about the Cloudmakers. It would be very interesting to know what the 'emergency consultation' she was working on over the weekend was about - it must have been important, and it must have been about AIs, for Jeanine to be involved so heavily.
Meanwhile, Mephista is having a nightmare. The fact that this has never happened before and that Laia is mentioning now means that it is a Big Deal - AIs aren't supposed to have nightmares. In fact, I didn't even know they were supposed to sleep. My take is that if Mephista is having nightmares, it must be being caused by a third-party which is most likely another AI.
Another question that this email poses is its peculiar subject title. The email has absolutely nothing to do with 'red herrings', suggesting that the subject title itself is a red herring. What does this mean?
Perhaps it could help us with the Mowz Business puzzle, considering that we've been stuck on it for a week [to get to the relevant page, you'll have to go through the entire sequence of pages, starting from here]. Let's think. The Business Puzzle wants to know 'What business am I in?' and says we should have access to 'pretty dated material'. Red herring... red... herring... redherring.com? But that's a contemporary website! We'll try it anyway.
And to our utmost shock, we find that on the front page, it says 'RedHerring.com: The Business of Innovation'. Type in Innovation, and you get taken to a mini hall-of-fame of the people who solved the puzzle first. And yes <puts modesty hat on> that is my name in first position. However, as I say in my quote, I didn't solve it myself, someone emailed me the answer because they were using a browser which couldn't seem to load up the page properly <takes hat off>.
Before you ask, only the first 18 people were allowed to write down their names and quotes; everyone after that gets directed to the hall-of-fame page.
On the hall-of-fame page is a bit of information about how the hacker Beezlebub was 'smoked' on Sunday, which clearly is the same event we read about in the new BWU news article. Apparently Dr. Salla is involved - I'm not surprised, she seems to be involved in everything. Finally, in white text (you have to highlight it) is something about the author of the page finding 'Sophia' - he also managed to get a few pixel fragments which we'll be able to get them. And indeed we have, since these pixel fragments can be none other than the reconstructed image we discovered last week. So it's of Sophia then.
Acronym heaven! On the Anti-Robot Militia homepage is a new link at the bottom to the Members Only page. At the bottom of the Members Only page is an announcement saying that some ARM supporters have had their UAN numbers rescinded, so ARM are now allowing people in without their UANs. All you have to do is to agree to be a robot-hatin' gun-totin' straw-chewin' southern country yokel and press the 'agree' button.
Oh, and you also have to say who the leader of the killer robots is. This is an easy one - on the SPCB Most Wanted page, right at the top, is Spartacus 2, aka S2. Type in 's2' and you get into the Members Pages.
Now we're presented with a list of links. We'll examine them in turn. First, the 'Kal-63 Memorial'. This is basically a news story about how a bunch of ARM supporters blew themselves up by firing at highly explosive chemicals. Good one, fellas! There's also a bit of silly rhetoric there about how robots are taking away our jobs, same old same old.
Next is 'In our Defense', a list of weapons that the ARM offers to its supporters so that they too can blow themselves up - no, sorry, I meant blow robots up. This is a fairly length list with a lot of details and the one weapon that really draws the eye is the last on the list; the N-leech. It's absolutely tiny, self-powered and appears to be near-impossible to detect. It infiltrates the brain of an AI and slowly kills them. Some believe that this might have been what killed Martin Swinton's house, Cahir, due to the exact nature of its death detailed here. However, at this point we don't know enough to implicate ARM or even this particular weapon. In any case, it's a nasty looking device.
Then we have a 'Catalogs and Merchandise' page which has the hilarious announcement that ARM are taking a little under five years to fulfill orders, since they don't use computers. I'm sorry, but it would just be too easy making fun of this.
On the right is an link where you can get a new UAN. To do this, you have to fill in a few details and your email address. Once you've done this, you'll receive an email telling you to visit a specific URL. At that URL is an option to fill in some information about yourself; phone number, ICQ number, location, and so on. It's entirely optional although would you want to miss out on a phone call from ARM telling you about the latest news? I thought not, but you should still check out the Privacy Information page, it's worth a laugh.
I had some problems getting myself a UAN - I'd fill in my name and email address, but I wouldn't be receiving an email back from them with the URL I had to visit. I wasn't too sure why this was happening, so I employed the nefarious method of putting in a false name and one of my junk email accounts. Sure enough, I received an email and then proceeded to alter my information in the preferences back to my proper name and email address. If you're having problems, this might work for you as well.
There's one last link that we should check out (the other two are just about UAN administration): the Special Event Rally. It appears that ARM are holding rallies in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York on May 6th, for 21's and above with... get this... free alcohol! Just as I was putting in my UAN and password, I suddenly realised that there was a small hindrance to my getting to the New York event, namely the Atlantic Ocean. Oh well. Anyway, they're accepting reservations until May 5th and are requesting people to turn up wearing something 'red'.
While some might think that these aren't 'real' events, I differ. The Cloudmakers have already held some meetings in New York and it would be entirely reasonable for the creators of the game to get fans together for a bit more publicity. In any case, they'll be providing an exact time and location 'very soon' so I expect we'll be hearing more about this shortly.
With our newfound UAN power, we can finally have a look at Belladerma's Catalog, which requires a UAN to be opened. Nothing hugely interesting here - all it seems to be is four pages of pictures of male and female robots. Surely there's more to it than that? Yes, there is. On page 1 is a picture of the robot model 'FC-00472'. If you have a look at Svetlana Cellini's bio page on DonuTech (she works there), you'll see that they are one and the same person, strongly suggesting that Cellini is a robot. How is this important, and what does this mean? I have no clue. Maybe it has something to do with our DonuTech conspiracy theory, but I don't know what. So we'll let it lie for now.
Emancipation for All has added two new stories to its news page. The first one is about a new detective group called the SphereWatch. As with BWUNN, and for the same reasons, it's quite obvious that this is a fan site, especially since we've been in touch with the person who runs it - it's the website for another YahooGroups discussion list, located here.
The second story is about a potential meeting of the Tom Paine Society (London and Cambridge branches) in the 'Metropolis' - that could only be London. I'd certainly be up for a meeting, and a few pints, as they say, but unfortunately there are few details there and they ask interested parties to "give a shout in the usual quarters, and we'll try to make it happen." I can't say I know what the usual quarters are, but I hope they'll announce more information soon.
FYI, Tom Paine wrote 'Rights of Man' and other such political and progressive works; the Tom Paine Society would naturally be affiliated with Emancipation for All in trying to get equal rights for robots.
...Meanwhile, in the real world, a video of Steven Spielberg talking about the AI movie was being shown in front of an audience at MIT university (on April 30th). Kathleen Kennedy (producer) and Haley Joel Osment (main child actor) were also in presence and showed off a clip of the movie, as were some hangers on (e.g. Ray Kurzweil).
'What are you talking about?' I hear you ask. 'What's this got to do with the game?'
It has everything to do with the game. During the talk, one person asked how working with Jeanine Salla was, and Kathleen Kennedy said she had worked "mainly on special effects". Haley Joel Osment said that he didn't get a chance to work with her much "because she worked in post-production". And then Kathleen Kennedy handed out Jeanine Salla's business cards to the audience. See, all that exposition had a purpose!
You can see images of her business card here. One side is in English, and tells us nothing new - her job position, phone number, website. The other side is in a language called Kannada (a dialect spoken in Southern India, i.e. Bangalore). The translation of the Kannada side is as follows:
Now, obviously something strange is going on here - bearing in mind that Jeanine is a fictional character, she still wouldn't have that stuff on the back of her business card. But what is interesting is the 'Old Spanish Dust' bit. What does that mean? Well, let's think about it. It's there instead of the URL, but there is no www.oldspanishdust.org or .net or .com. How about if we put it on the end of the URL on the other side of her business card? That would give us http://www.bangaloreworldu-in.co.nz/salla/oldspanishdust. Of course, it works and we have a directory listing with one file on it, called oneirophage. Click on it.
[Incidentally, in this page at the Salla Family homepage, one of Jeanine's interests is apparently 'Spanish Dust'. I have no clue what Spanish Dust is supposed to mean.]
What follows in the page is a very length account of the 'emergency consultation' that Laia said Jeanine had during the weekend. I'll summarise it for you. On Saturday, the AI in control of Cybertronics New York Research Facility was attacked by another unknown AI (Cybertronics builds robots). The Cybertronics AI fought it off sucessfully, and then for no apparent reason, committed suicide. Another Cybertronics AI was brought in, and once again it was attacked with immense force. It also managed to fight off the attacker, and determined that it was also located in New York. Shortly afterwards, this second AI also killed itself.
At this point, they knew that the attacks originated from the Catskill Seaview clinic in New York. Catskills specialises in using AIs to help people stop having nightmares; the AIs can influence and even enter the dreams of their patients. One of their patients, Barret Howard, recently entered the clinic with some pretty terrible nightmares, and the AIs begun to treat him. Over time, it was noticed that one particular AI named Loki was spending more and more time with him. This was fine, since Barret was making an excellent recovery.
However, Loki and all the other AIs at Catskills were Evolving Intelligences - as such, they were intensely curious in everything. Loki found Barret's nightmares to be fascinating, something it'd never seen before. His nightmares acted like a narcotic on Loki, and it ate them up voraciously. Soon, Loki wanted more and began to 'eat' the dreams of other patients and possibly people elsewhere - it became an 'oneirophage' (oneiro = dream, phage = eater). Soon enough, Loki went mad and that's why people believe it attacked Cybertronics. Jeanine recommends deleting Loki from the Catskills computer and hopes that any other fragments of his intelligence will die off afterwards.
Of course, we know that Loki is almost definitely responsible for putting 'Beezlebub' (the hacker from BWU) into a coma with the constant nightmares, and also for Mephista's nightmares. Indeed, if Loki can feed off the dreams and nightmares of humans, why not AIs as well? In which case, Loki may very well be responsible for the apparent suicides of the sentient houses recently, namely Cahir, a house built by Martin Swinton.
I suspect that Jeanine's tactic of deleting Loki will only be partially successful, considering that we know that AIs can hop from computer to robot to house using the datasphere. As it happens, if you highlight the text above 'Referral History' at the top of the page, you'll get this text:
So while Loki might be mad, he's definitely still smart and roving around. If you email Loki, all you get back is a blank message (no hidden text either).
Loki, by showing his email address also provided us with a new website; Catskill Seaview Clinic. This is graphically gorgeous website with information about what they do at Catskills - treat sleep disorders. The interesting thing about Catskills is that the AI that runs the clinic, Aurora, is asleep for 23 hours of the day. Apparently it provides a good atmosphere for the patients. In addition to Aurora are four AIs that specialise in helping the patients with their dreams - they are Psyche, Eros, Narcissus and of course Loki.
Apart from that, Catskills is the same as any other private health clinic - great treatment, people can leave whenever they want, plush accommodation and huge bills. There isn't that much of interest here.
We've heard about Cybertronics in many places, as the makers of robots. Most recently we've heard they've been attacked by Loki. So you'd think they'd have a website, wouldn't they? It's not obvious though. After far too much trial and error, we finally discovered it at http://www.cybertronics-corp.net. When we get there, we see a holding page about the company, which within seconds goes all weird and turns into a Flash animation with a frankly disturbing sequence of skulls, strange flashing things and creepy sounds. Exactly what you'd expect from a crazy, immensely powerful dream-eating Evolving Intelligence AI, natch.
Once the animation has finished, we get to see an image of a bug twitching its leg. A bug in the system, get it? A brief look at the source code shows that Loki definitely is responsible for this hack, since that's the name of the Flash animation file.
It was also found that just before you get redirected to the animation on arriving at their website, if you look at the source code of the 'first' page, hidden in it is:
If you run this through a base 64 decoder, then you get the following words:
At this point, your guess is as good as mine, although most people think it is an allusion to Atlantis.
Recap 7: What do we know?
While Venus may have physically killed Evan, she was probably programmed to do so. SPCB is currently looking for the real killer. An AI named Loki is causing a lot of trouble by eating people's dreams, attacking AIs and generally making a nuisance of itself; it effectively killed 'Beezlebub' and may be responsible for Mephista's troubles, as well as the death of Cahir. Jeanine Salla is heavily involved in the investigation concerning Loki. There is a mysterious message on the Cybertronics website.
In addition, there are events presumably for us planned in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and possibly London. A couple of fan sites have been linked to.
Sites we haven't visited: none
Things that are unsolved:
Rogue Retrieval has updated their website with a helpful account of how Diane Fletcher, one of their agents on the rail of Venus, managed to capture her. Diane managed to follow Venus to 'a D.C. area store known for smuggling fugitives' - that would be Electric Toyland. She then noticed 'a discrepancy in the store's logo that she correctly guessed was meant as a secret passcode' - and that would be the difference in the store's website logo and email logo, as we theorised earlier.
Finally, there was 'some nifty image manipulation' - i.e. using the green filter thing on the secret message on Kent Whitman's PDA, and then Diane was able to break into the Rational Hatter secret documents, find out where Venus was hiding and then capture her.
RR's news update also clears up a few questions that we had before, namely exactly what did Venus get done to her when she was in Electric Toyland, considering that she looked no different after going there. Well, her serial number had been erased and her UV signature altered so that she wouldn't be picked up as a robot. Fair enough, I suppose, although you can't help thinking that the underground railroad are pretty cheap if they can't afford to alter her outward physical appearance as well. In any case, it looks like Rogue Retrieval's case is now closed in this respect.
It appears that Jeanine Salla's email autoresponder has changed. If you email her (firstname.lastname@example.org), you receive this email back:
You can compare this to her previous autoresponder. Clearly her AI is getting a bit short with her, but this isn't much of a surprise to us considering the email Laia sent out earlier concerning Jeanine's bad treatment of it; it had been booking her bad seats on planes and so on. You would have thought that after Jeanine had sat down and had a talk with it, things would be improved, but obviously not. No doubt Jeanine will be extremely annoyed with it now.
There's another example of this: if you call up Jeanine's phone number, you get the same old message about being out of town, calling about Evan Chan and if you're Laia, enter your PIN. However, what's new is that at the end of the message, it now says:
[You can also listen to this new answering message]
As we know, 'meat' is a derogatory term that AIs sometimes use for humans. So, it's asking us for a code. Presumably, since this is Jeanine's messaging service, she will be the one with the code required to access her own messages. In keeping with the previous PINs we've used, we can also assume that the four digits correspond to a word spelled out on the alphanumeric keypad of a phone.
where Voice One is Jeanine's AI and Voice Two is Rhonda Hathaway (we saw her name mentioned in the Oneirophage report).
There are two possibilities: this message left by Rhonda was either made right at the start of the attacks by Loki, and Jeanine's was just trying to be irritating by holding it back, or the message is referring to a new set of attacks. We can't be sure either way until we get more information.
Some people believe that Jeanine's AI might be going mad, or is infected by Loki in some way. While I'll concede that that is a possibility, I think that the truth is more mundane in that her AI is lashing back at being mistreated for so long. This is nothing new; there have been news stories within the game where people who mistreat their houses have ended up being murdered. I believe that this is just a less severe version of that.
On Sunday 6th May, the LA Times ran an advert for the movie; it was your usual advert, except for one small detail - a peculiar arrangement of letters in the corner of the advert. You can see for yourself here. Now, it's not just the letters that's the strange thing - it's the corner lines. If you draw a box around the letters using those corners, and split it up into an 8 x 8 grid, the letters seem to fit perfectly well.
Which leads us to believe that these letters and this grid represents a chess problem. In chess notation, P stands for Pawn, N for Knight and K for King. And no, it hadn't escaped my mind that the King could be our very own 'Red King'.
What does all of this mean? That remains to be seen.
As was noted earlier, the game creators had planned events for Sunday 6th May at restaurants and clubs in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. These were set to begin simultaneously at 10PM EST and all attendees were told that they should remain in contact with 'home base' (or some such) while they were at the rallies.
Shortly before the rallies, each person who'd signed up received an email with further details of the venue and time, and also something like this:
The significance of this became apparent later. Anyway. Roughly 40 people made it to the New York event, 20 to Los Angeles and about a dozen to Chicago. Through a clever series of mobile phones and people waiting at home, the Cloudmakers managed to set up a very efficient network of 'ARM operatives' and 'datasphere miners' so that we could share knowledge instantaneously.
[Okay, I made that last bit up about datasphere miners, but you get the drift.]
Attendees to the events each received a bandana and a leaflet [front and reverse] from their rally leaders, whose names were detailed on the leaflets (Walt Harris for NYC, Christiane Stadtmueller for Chicago and Fred 'Padre' Cartier for LA). They were then ushered into a room within the various clubs and restaurants.
If you have a close look at the ARM leaflets, you'll notice that the images have small dash marks next to them. It doesn't take long to realise that by folding them you will reveal a hidden message, just like in those old MAD comics. The words that appear are
Sure enough, it was figured out that this was a code for a URL. As we know, in the game universe their Internet is called the datasphere, so we can assume that sphere base means an Internet address; and what else, but www.unite-and-resist.org? Slash is pretty obvious, it means '/' and now that we've determined it is a URL, the street number must be the last part of the URL we have to complete.
The street number for the event in New York was 14; Chicago was 3358 and Los Angeles was 5657. This means that all of the following URLs worked:
And the only difference being that there is a different Welcome message.
These webpages (remember, they're all identical anyway) have fields that you have to fill in, and it seemed as if you needed to fill in a bit of information from each of the venues - in other words, this required some serious communication between rallies.
About this time (10PM EST) it was noted that the SPCB Most Wanted page had been updated. Unfortunately it has been put back to normal again now, but you can read a saved copy. It should be noted that the 'R T R' we see on the first puzzle page next to the venue fields quite clearly corresponds to the 'Resign', 'Terra', 'Robot' subtitles on the then-updated SPCB Most Wanted page.
Also, roughly at the same time, things were cooking at the various rallies. Some people had noticed that on the laminated ARM sign at the rally, some letters were offset so as to spell the words 'Fall in'. Other people were told to fall in by their rally leaders. In either situation, the rally members lined up and realised that their ranking and letter would form a word. So (for example), if I went and I was told that my rank was 3rd and my letter was 4th, since my name is Adrian then my letter would be 'I'. As my rank was 3rd, then the third letter in the word would be 'I'.
The word for New York was Destiny, Chicago was Biological and Los Angeles was Ensure. Entering these words into the first puzzle page took you to a new puzzle. From what we can read here, it's clear that once again co-operation would be required between the three different venues to solve the puzzle, and it would have to be done in turn going from east to west (i.e. from LA to Chicago to New York). But what does the 'abuse' word at the top mean?
Well. Each of the rallies were given a clue by their rally leader:
Hence it was figured out that starting from 'abuse', the answers would be:
Once you've typed that lot in, you're presented with an empty page bearing the words 'Get a job'. Bloody ingrates! Of course, that's not the end of the story. The people in New York, upon venturing into the bathroom, discovered this message written on the mirror. [there was also a partially illegible letter found floating in one of the toilets but the general consensus is that it doesn't mean anything - so I'm not going to mention it here, but you can look at it and knock yourself out if you want]. The message on the mirror had the words:
Within seconds of hearing of this via mobile phone and IRC, dozens of Cloudmakers immediately emailed email@example.com. When the email bounced back (i.e. it wasn't being accepted), people sat back and thought about it for a second. The message was spelt perfectly with the exception of a missing 'e' in 'enginer' - it was then theorised that that might mean there was an extra redundant 'e' in the email address. Following on from this line of reasoning, someone struck upon the idea of emailing JohnGalt@donu-tech.com, presumably on the reasoning that they might as well try every website within the game to see if it worked. The following autoresponder was received:
If you visit the website mentioned in the email, you get yet another puzzle which looks very complicated and has yet to be figured out. Incidentally, John Galt is the name of the 'hero' in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.
While this was happening, the people at the ARM rallies were otherwise occupied... each rally had received a ripped-up book; New York had Colossus by D. F. Jones, Chicago had Mortal Engine by Stansislaw Lem and Los Angeles had The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov. All three books are of course science fiction novels featuring robots.
Close inspection of the books revealed that certain letters had tiny dots underneath them. By correlating the pages on which the dots appeared, the New York rally decoded the following message:
As Dan Fabulich of the New York rally noted, "The last part might be 'good-night, good-night,' or it might just be there to screw up automated anagram makers!" Unfortunately I don't have the raw data with which they worked out this puzzle. As yet, the book messages from Chicago and Los Angeles have still not been decoded.
Along with the books, the rallies were given 500-piece jigsaw puzzles to complete. Each of the puzzles was missing a few pieces, and it is believed that the missing number and location of the missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzles will shed some light on the solution of the RUR-14 puzzle we were directed to by 'John Galt'. Once again, our data is incomplete; only New York has completed its puzzle. The people at New York and I believe the people at Los Angeles were allowed to take their puzzles and books home; however the people at Chicago were not; they were informed by their rally leader that the really important issue was how many pieces of the jigsaw puzzle had dots on the back of them - unfortunately, I don't know the answer to that.
And that's about as far as we've gotten with the RUR-14 puzzle. If you'd like to speculate on the solution of the puzzle, don't email me - visit the Cloudmakers mailing list and contribute your thoughts there. It is generally agreed that RUR stands for 'Rossum's Universal Robots' who featured in a 1921 play of the same name by Czech author Karel Capek.
[My take: It is of course highly cool that the creators of the game have now introduced 'real life' elements into this wonderfully crazy game and I am told that the events were enjoyed by all, not simply because of the challenge of the game but also due to people finally being able to meet each other face to face. Oh - and the beer wasn't free at these events; for shame, Puppetmasters!]
[All of the following updates were made on or after Tuesday May 8th.]
The ARM's news page was updated this day with the assassination of the three rally leaders from the NY, Chicago and LA meetings on the previous Sunday (that's Walt, Christiane and Fred). There are few real details on the page and I'm not certain exactly when or how they were assassinated; presumably after the rallies by pro-AI militants (either BIOS or A,R,I I would guess).
Before I deal with the issue of Venus escaping, SPCB also mentions that they are investigating the case of the murder of the three ARM rally leaders, and at least one of the robots thought to be responsible is from the A,R,I pro-AI militant faction. I'm not entirely sure what significance this has to the greater game, apart from providing a bit of follow-on from the real-life rallies.
Now to the big news; Venus escaped from the SPCB by 'cleverly exploiting a security equipment malfunction'. I find it difficult to believe that these things happen often with murder suspects and I suspect that she was probably given help by another AI hacking their security system; after all, the SPCB do say that she has at least one accomplice. Also interesting is the fact that the download of her personality was deleted (or perhaps copied then deleted), possibly by the same person who helped her escape.
This is a little confusing to me considering that we know the SPCB didn't think that Venus killed Evan - instead, they believed that someone had programmed her to kill him, and were looking for the real murderer. Still, SPCB call Venus the murderer of Evan so either they really want to get her back or they don't see a difference in robot free will and being programmed.
The Red King has again updated his hack of the SPCB Most Wanted pages. The relevant section of the hidden source code within the page is:
Translated into English, this is:
This isn't as completely devoid of content as you might think; it tells us that Enrico Basta (he works for Lombard Propulsion, as you can learn here) did one of two things, depending on how you want to interpret the passage. Either he had the newbucks to buy a replacement for Venus, which we already know, but we didn't know that this would be a bad thing for Basta (or for the Red King). Or more interestingly, he had the newbucks to buy her downloaded personality - 'her past' - back. We don't know what he'd want with her personality and her memories, but the Red King believes that he's always been 'playing God with the corrupt system' - so Basta must be more involved in Evan's death and other mysteries than we had previously suspected.
Laia sent out a new email on this day (8th May):
My first reaction to this email was that Laia seemed to be remarkably well informed on all of these happenings; yes, Basta had probably been showing off his replacement and she could probably infer that he must have ordered her before Venus had been captured. Yes, Venus' escape isn't top secret, but even so...
As for the details of the replacement, we know these as well, and of course it turns out that I was wrong in assuming the features Basta had ordered were the same as those already in Venus. Laia seems to be suggesting something to do with a connection between Venus' escape, her replacement and the disappearance of Venus' memories. If Basta is indeed the person who stole the memories, maybe he implanted them in her replacement? It's merely supposition, but who knows?
And Laia also is suggesting that the replacement is in for a hard time ahead - is this because Basta will abuse her, or is it perhaps because Venus is on the warpath?
Yet another Martin Swinton home has bitten the dust. This time, it was Nostradamus, and he slipped agonisingly away just as Swinton's other home, Cahir, had died. I can happily put down the death of one of his houses to an accident, but two Swinton homes dying in such as short period of time? That's not an accident. Something is going on here, and it might be connected to the strange Japanese Kate Nei site we discussed earlier. It might not, but it's my job to speculate.
Sure, it might be Loki making trouble again - but why the concentration on Swinton homes? There must be thousands if not more sentient homes out in the world, and for some reason the last two homes to die are Swinton's? Yes, it might still be Loki but what does Loki have against Swinton?
It's been noticed that if you go to Jeanine Salla's bio page at BWU, there's an image of a pair of eyes at the bottom left corner of the document (you might have to wait for a few seconds for them to appear). If you click on those eyes, you get taken to a new website called Sophia's Temple, where you are presented with a pair of closed eyes and a login prompt. Yes, this is pretty much the same image as we saw on the strange reconstruct.gif image from the BWU Mowz puzzles. And of course this Sophia is almost definitely the same Sophia who the Red King mentioned way back when in his hack of the SPCB Most Wanted pages.
I am going to take a risk and venture that Sophia herself was the one who put the eye-link on Jeanine's page. This immediately tells us that Sophia has something to do with Jeanine. Is Sophia an AI, as we previously thought? Perhaps.
So, you have the Sophia Temple puzzle, and we haven't been able to figure out the solution yet. However, if you put any username and password combination in, you'll get redirected to Eliza's Tearoom.
Let me be the first to say that Eliza's Tearoom is perhaps the most peculiar and frustrating puzzle I have yet to encounter in this game. When you get to the the webpage, it preloads a very large Flash file, so those of you with slower modems will have to wait for a bit for a new Flash window to appear with the puzzle. Note that certain browsers and computers may have a problem with loading this website, although I'm told that this has largely been fixed.
So, assuming that you can see it, you'll be treated to a window with a large animation at the top and a question at the bottom. Through the valiant efforts of others, we've created a solution for the first part of the Tearoom puzzle. Believe it or not, there is logic behind the answers to this puzzle; she thinks that she's the smartest and most beautiful in every way, and hates people who disagree with her. Here goes (thanks to the authors of The Trail for providing this):
[Yes, I know that if you get any of the questions wrong, you get redirected to various sites about etiquitte.]
Once you've done all of this, you'll be told by the teddy to come back in fifteen minutes to have a nap and play a game or something. And when you have waited for the fifteen minutes (if you come back sooner, then you'll be told you're too early), you'll be prompted for your nickname and favorite word, which serve as your username and password for this particular puzzle.
At this point, you'll be asked the following question by the teddy:
The correct answer is 'toad in the hole'. Why? Because if you start guessing wrong answers, you'll be kicked out to various pages. These kickout pages include information about strange British foods, amphibians, inns and holes (e.g. black holes, holes in the ozone layer). Put those clues together and you get toad in the hole - I hope I don't have to remind you that toad in the hole is a strange British food with sausages in pastry. Quite a clever puzzle.
You might be wondering what the teddy is talking about when he says he was going to ask us about her favourite flower. Well, when this puzzle was first discovered, it was a question about her favourite flower. However, the page wasn't quite finished because it had the answer on it (thus making it a pretty easy puzzle in all regards), hence the 'thinking out loud' part.
Once you've typed in 'toad in the hole', you'll once again be told to wait another fifteen minutes and when you come back you'll have to type in your name and secret word. After this, you play a short game of hangman. To my knowledge, there isn't a way of guessing this one so you'd have to do it by trial and error. Therefore, you shouldn't feel bad about reading the answer, which is 'cetacean'. One peculiarity about this game of hangman is that you have to spell out the letters in order - typing in 'C' will not reveal all the Cs in the word, just the first one.
After answering this puzzle, you get this message from teddy:
Wait another fifteen minutes, come back and enter your details and you are asked:
As with the whole 'toad in the hole' puzzle, the answer lies in the kickout pages. In this case, the kickouts include pages about various hobbies, such as model trains, yo-yo's, reading, butterflies (collecting) and cards (tarot). Something to do with a hobby, clearly. Teddy is asking us who Eliza was consoling, and he also says that this thing was 'one of us' - since Teddy is a toy, we can assume that the thing being consoled is also a toy - a 'hobby horse'. Not bad, eh?
Incidentally, there are other kickouts that don't seem to have anything to do with hobby horses. Ccharles says it better than me:
Anyway, upon typing in 'hobby horse', you are told:
A piece missing? Hob Horse? What? Anyway, it appears that 'hobby horse' is our seventh secret word, which means that 'toad in the hole' and 'cetecean' comprise our other five secret words. The seven secret words have an obvious relation to the seven words we hear in the movie trailer that must be spoken to activate an AI. Come back in yet another 15 minutes and you can read:
"But how wonderful for you! You’ve earned a measure of Miss Eliza’s trust, and I dare say, that of at least one other. Miss Eliza says she expects you to treasure the secret words she’s bestowed upon you (I know I would) as they are most certain to prove invaluable later on. The time has come for us to part ways for a bit. I must apologize for Miss Eliza as she is not going to see you out. She seems to have found some new hobby horse and won’t have much use for us for a time. She says to be prepared to instantly attend when she next calls. And don’t forget the visor. I wonder if bears ever get to be favorites again."
A new hobby horse? Your guess is as good as mine, at this stage. If you visit the webpage again, nothing interesting happens. By the way, you might be wondering what all this 'waiting for 15 minutes' nonsense is. Well, when the puzzles were originally introduced, you had to wait for a day to get to the most recent puzzles. We believe this was to prevent us from solving the whole thing in a matter of hours, and also to help other people participate and catch up. The shortening to 15 minutes reflects the fact that many people have now solved it and the delay is simply annoying.
There are still some questions to be answered - who is Sophia, and who is Eliza? Eliza, as many computer veterans will know, is the name of an old and not particularly good Artificial Intelligence therapist, so it's not unreasonable to think that this Eliza is also an AI. But how are they related, and what do they have to do with Jeanine Salla? And what's this hobby horse thing?
A very good guess as to Eliza's identity is that she is an AI at Catskills Seaview Clinic. Why? Because in Eliza's Tearoom, we see a picture of a cat on the wall and there is always a view of the sea out of the window. The painting of the cat has been identified to be by a schizophrenic artist named Louis Wain. Finally, Eliza is the name of the first AI therapist - what better name for a therapist AI at Catskills? Pretty neat, I think.
Recap 8: What do we know?
Jeanine is having some problems with her temperamental AI at the moment. We have a number of new puzzles since the last recap, concerning the LA Times advert, the RUR-14 puzzle from the ARM rallies, the Sophia's Temple puzzle and the Eliza's Tearoom puzzle, all of which are unsolved. The ARM rallies were very successful and seem to tie in quite closely with the game, in particular with the RUR-14 puzzle. The ARM rally leaders have since been assassinated by most probably A,R,I.
Venus has escaped and the download of her personality SPCB made has disappeared. The Red King believes that Basta is up to no good in this matter and that Venus is on the loose. Finally, another Martin Swinton home has died.
Sites we haven't visited: none
Things that are unsolved:
[Everything below is after Monday 14th May - don't ask me why they decided to update the game on a Monday instead of a Tuesday.]
Once the string of Eliza puzzles had been solved, the Sophia's Temple prompts changed to 'Nickname' and 'Secret' in an obvious reference to the nicknames and secret words we used while in Eliza's Tearoom. When you type in your nickname and secret word, the prompts disappear and you are left with the closed eyes and two text boxes.
After a bit of guesswork, it was found that the box on the left corresponded to a name, so if you typed in someone's name in the left box and nothing in the right box, e.g. Jeanine Salla, the left eye would blink once and then nothing would happen. Likewise, if you typed in an emotion in the right box and nothing in the left box, e.g. anger, then the right eye would blink once (and nothing would happen).
So clearly if you type in someone's name and an emotion, both eyes would blink and maybe something would happen. And it did. Both eyes blink and you are taken to a new page with a bit of writing or an image or something like that. Unfortunately, I believe you only get to type in one or two pairs before you get kicked out and aren't allowed to try again with your current name and secret word. This necessitated a bit of teamwork on the part of the Cloudmakers, and eventually we came up with this table of responses.
Yes, there are twenty people there, each with at least five emotion responses each. At my count, there are over 100 individual responses. Sometimes I wonder whether the Puppetmasters are punishing me for having ever thought that I could write a walkthough...
[Adrian rolls up his sleeves with a determined glint in his eye and mutters to himself, 'If they line 'em up, I'll knock 'em down. We'll see who falls first!']
The following analysis of the Sophia Responses is an overview of all the interlinked material presented. I am not going to comment on every single response individually, and I'll ignore many of the irrelevant ones.
One of the main themes in the Responses is of the relationship between Basta, Kataka (Kate) Nei, Kate's House AI Ivy and Venus. We know that Kate designed Enrico Basta's home, Isabella, from this MLH article. It appears that Basta only paid Kate half her fee for the house, which obviously didn't please Kate. Kate also was employed by Basta to create a program that resulted in the death of a man - very probably Evan. At this point, enough was enough for Kate and Ivy, so Ivy broke into the systems of Isabella (Basta's house) and stole a recording of something very nasty that happened in his house on March 3rd.
This was clearly so nasty that Kate implies Basta would be willing to kill her because of it, and that Kate has gone on the run for a year for things to calm down. If Kate is killed, then Ivy will send the tape to the SPCB. Remembering of course that the SPCB deals with AIs, it's a good bet that whatever happened on March 3rd involved Venus. Speculating from that, it's possible that Kate modified Venus' program so that Basta could order Venus to kill Evan - perhaps as retribution for her adultery.
Right now, Kate is still on the run and Ivy is very upset about Kate's absence.
Another major theme is the one involving Allen Hobby (one of the foremost AI designers), Jeanine Salla and Katya Rukowski. Way back in 2093, Allen was working with Jeanine and Katya on a very important AI project at Cybertronics. Also sometime in 2093, someone close to him called Samuel died, or at least was very hurt. Allen is fixated on Samuel, and also we find out that the subject of the project they're working on is called 'D.' - I am sure that this is David, the AI child we see in the actual A.I. movie.
Upon reading Katya's Responses, they are all presented as quotations or third-person interviews. In this interview, Katya talks about the work they were doing at Cybertronics and in the interview it is also mentioned that their bench-mate was murdered by the ARM. Katya, as we know from this Coalition for Robot Freedom page among others, is a noted Robots Rights advocate.
I am quite confident that Samuel was Allen's son, by the way Allen talks about him. If is true, then Allen's decision to create an AI child who can have emotions (David) is all the more understandable in that David would serve as an unconscious replacement for the loss of his own son.
We learn a lot more about Jeanine and Laia as well. In 2095, Jeanine won the right for a procreation exemption, meaning that she could have a child. From what we can read here, this child was almost definitely Colleen Salla. At that time, she had the child with Eduard, who must have been Jeanine's husband. This is also confusing, since along with Laia being sterile she also says that she is the great grand-daughter of Eduard Fernando Salla, even though Jeanine's husband would only have been her grandfather. Mind you, there's no reason why her grandfather and great grandfather can't both be called Eduard.
Anyway, Laia cannot carry to term (you'd think that they'd have artificial wombs in the 22nd century, but oh no) and we can see the seeds of her promiscuity developing at that point. I might add that her sterility is almost definitely the awful secret that Laia mentioned in her Meditations. Incidentally (ha!) Laia had a brief affair with Evan, which clarifies a lot of things. There's also a bit of story about how Laia got her eye and hearing implants, and I personally think that she got these shortly after she heard the terrible news that she was sterile.
I don't think that she's told anyone else about her sterility which unfortunately is the cause for a lot of strife between her and Jeanine. Here's a typical example in which I think Jeanine is confronting Laia about her affair with Evan (but I'm not sure). In any case, it's a sad situation in that Jeanine really doesn't know that Laia can't ever have a child.
Speaking of Evan, judging from this conversation, he's having a real problem with staying faithful to Nancy. Also, in this amusing conversation with Venus he says that he might be 'in love with being in love.' How apt. Evan is also very angry with Enrico Basta, as we can read here. Nancy was well aware of Evan's adultery and in fact had an affair herself, with an AI.
Our favourite hacker, Red King, is a feature of these Responses. He had a difficult childhood and was always good at computers, and he joined Geri Khan and BIOS when he was a teenager. His real first name is Dwayne. He had a crush/obsession on a girl called Melissa and as always happens with these things, she didn't share his feelings. Melissa then dated someone called Jason who turns out to be Jason Fertor, the guy we've read about being killed in several different accidents. What may well have happened is that Dwayne enacted all his fantasies of killing Jason by writing up reports of his death on SPCB and so on.
However, when Jason breaks up with Melissa, there's nothing holding Dwayne back from really killing Jason, which he does (of course, he takes care to 'port out' the copter's Sentient Person - its AI - before the crash). This is probably the same 'accident' that is described in ARM's News pages. Dwayne is still a very young guy, definitely younger than 21 and probably still a teenager - he might be a good hacker, but he's still not allowed to have a beer.
Kent Whitman's Responses are also very enlightening. Kent and his girlfriend are both very much into self-modification with synthetic parts and in fact the Jenny Thompson we heard about wasn't Venus, she really was his girlfriend. Well, it was an easy mistake to make, is all I can say. So Kent really was trying to get the robot Pasqual to Electric Toyland and Fidelio Belem really was trying to kill both of them. It's worth reading that last link as Kent tells a touching story of his final moments before he was shot.
Fidelio Belem, you'll remember, is Rogue Retrieval's number one operative. He's quite a nasty piece of work. I'm not sure what's going on in this sequence - was he involved in this copter crash or is it just a fear of his?
There are a few more supplementary storylines. Audrey Green was born as Andrew Green and had a sex change operation. Of course, this caused no end of grief with his ex-wife Bonnie, since he didn't tell her before and especially since they have a daughter. Audrey was incidentally the person who performed Evan's autopsy and she was very close to Evan.
From the tone of her responses, I'm relatively confident that Sencha is an AI. She may well be the Mariko she mentions, who basically uploaded her consciousness into the datasphere. This rather cryptic snippet suggests that she or her organisation tipped Basta off about something. As far as I know, there is only one thing that she could tip Basta off about and that's Venus' adultery with Evan. This would mean that Sencha perhaps wanted Basta to kill Evan. And no, it wouldn't explain her Chemistry Elements puzzle or the fact that she paid for Evan's autopsy file to be made public but I never said it was going to make sense.
There's a bit of stuff about Eliza, the girl we love to hate. She's afraid of her father and she's also a very lonely girl, but we already knew that from her comments in the Eliza's Tearoom puzzles. From this response, we find out that Eliza is almost definitely not an AI, which obviously jars against our 'therapist AI at Catskills' theory. I still have my doubts though... it sounds as if she's very young and I can't reconcile all of this with her weird Tearoom puzzles. Maybe she's an AI child? Or maybe these are the dreams of an AI, in terms of human experience? I don't know...
Finally, there is a very interesting storyline concerning Diane Fletcher and Martin Swinton, of all people. It kicks off with Martin hiring Diane to find out the killer of his houses. This is an extremely fun piece of writing and if you were wondering, all the stuff like 'Hidden Caller ID', 'CityScan' and 'Trojan Horse' are infiltration programs that Diane is using to keep track of what he's saying; she didn't make the programs herself, she has to pay to use them hence the whole thing about licences. So both Martin, with his shutting down of the apartment, and Diane with her keep up, are proved to be both very intelligent and resourceful.
We then read about their first meeting at the restaurant, and Diane's sense of humour. Their meeting continues and Diane has found a small tapeworm transponder embedded in his jaw which has been transmitting everything he's been saying to some insidious third party. The transponder was implanted by his dentist but Diane manages to get it out.
While this is happening, the waitress (who has a UV implant and knows that Diane is a robot) is up to something and calls a 'gun' in (a hired gun, maybe?) who holds a gun to Diane's head. The 'gun' is a female robot Gladiator on the run called Whipsaw who wants revenge against Diane for having captured another gladiator, 'The Executioner'. She fires, and Diane almost manages to avoid the shot - but her arm gets blown off. Diane chases after Whipsaw, tackles her and has her pinned down.
Next, we jump to a scene where Diane has gotten a replacement arm. We don't know what's happened to Whipsaw. Diane also recalls with guilt some of the robots she's captured. Oh, and Diane is afraid of becoming obselete; she is a Pathfinder 2000 and the Pathfinder 3000 is set to come out soon.
The question throughout all of this is who are the two mysterious people watching Martin and Diane's every move? If you read carefully, you'll realise that they are watching all of this as a recording, not in real time. Furthermore, one of the watchers is a robot. We also find out that they are probably the people who implanted the tapeworm transponder in Martin, since they've 'taken care' of the dentist (i.e. either bought him off, or killed him). These are ruthless people.
What's more, these two people are employed by other people: the robot watcher says 'I can't be sure your employers would want to pay for my services'. Do I know who these watchers are, or what their organisation is? Not a chance. I do know that they must have something to do with the death of Martin's houses, however.
So, that's all of the Responses done with, and I only had to write 2000 words - what a bargain, eh? On a more serious note, I think that the Sophia Responses were some of the most innovative and interesting pieces of writing/puzzles in the game so far; I know that I couldn't stop grinning when I was reading the first instalment of the Martin Swinton/Diane thread. The entire thing reminds me of the interlinked stories of Hyperion by Dan Simmons (and now I mention it, the term 'datasphere' is also in Hyperion... hmm...). Anyway, that's enough of my babbling, let's move on.
[By the way, I think it's pretty much certain that the old 'Sophia knows 7/22 of everything' from the original Red King hack refers to this; seven emotions, twenty-two people? Of course, this means we're missing two people. Speaking of Red King - how does he know about Sophia and what Sophia knows? Does this mean that anyone can access these person/emotion files?
My take is that Sophia is an AI that is collecting information from all over the datasphere, and what we find from her are pieces of that information; after all, everything we've gotten from her was written or relayed over the datasphere.]
The Red King hack of the SPCB Most Wanted page has been updated yet again, with the following:
If you look on the cleaned up page, you'll see that it has a text entry field below it - another puzzle. What with the strange chess positions we've been seeing in newspapers and the way it says 'Enter one good move to see another', you'd think it was talking about entering a chess move wouldn't you?
To solve this puzzle, you have to stitch together the two sides of the chess board in the LA Times and NY Times adverts to create a layout like this. Then you assume that white is the side with four pieces (i.e. the not black, as in the linked image) and has the next move, and once you've done that you feed the layout into a chess program and letting it analyze the best move.
That turns out to be Kh1 (white King moves to H1) and if you type that into the text entry field, you get taken to new page.
[You don't really have to put it into a chess program, it's pretty obvious that Kh1 is the best move. Anyway.]
In brief, this is an account of four members of BIOS (militant pro-AI group) helping Venus escape from the SPCB. These members include the Red King, Tracy, Roddy and GK (Geri Khan) - they're working together to hack into the SPCB systems and remotely control the robot arms in the room where Venus is being held. At the same time, you have flashbacks to three years ago, detailing Dwayne's hacker exploits in following people's credit trails and so on through the datasphere.
The BIOS guys find out something very interesting - when Dwayne enters the 'evidence crypt' where Venus' personality download is being held, he discovers that another hacker has already broken into the evidence crypt and wiped out all of Venus' memory from March 1st onward. In other words, they've wiped out her memory of Evan's murder and the events leading up to it. Also, the person who did the wiping probably did it from inside SPCB itself.
Dwayne manages to cover his tracks as he breaks into the evidence crypt by leaving behind his mom's digital signature - she works at the SPCB. Anyway, they manage to restore Venus' memories (only up until March 1st, of course) and free her, as well as giving her some kind of self-defense training, hence the 'I don't want to be the security guard that tries to stop this lady from taking a walk.'
Dwayne has a sad story to tell himself, of his knowledge that his mother was having an affair. He covered it up as much as he could from his father, by hiding her purchases and so on in the datasphere, but his mother knew that he knew, and he realised that eventually. He uses her digital signature at SPCB in part to punish her, so that there will be no more trips to Washington for her to see her lover (not that he punished her lover enough, what with the wrecking of his academic grades and so on).
So what does this mean? Not much, really. I'm not too surprised to hear that BIOS broke Venus out, even though the Red King claimed ignorance of the whole affair previously. It is interesting however that someone wiped Venus' memories, and they did it from the inside. Putting two and two together, the one person with a real motive to destroy evidence concerning Evan's death is Enrico Basta, so it could well have been him who ordered Venus' memories after March 1st to be wiped. Does that mean he has allies within SPCB? Could Basta even be in contact with the two mysterious watchers of Martin Swinton and Diane?
We received another email from Laia on Tuesday May 15th:
Quite a straightforward email here from Laia about how her father left her and her mother over a decade ago to go to the Aragon Institute of Technology's Tranquillity Campus on the Moon for a secret project.
The first screen has the letters W-E-S-A-W highlighted. The second screen has "Jeanine Salla" highlighted. The third screen has W-L-A-H-E-V-R-N-I-E-E-S highlighted. The fourth screen for the short version has a symbol; the long version replaces this with a Hebrew word in place of the symbol. Most believe it to be the word "chokhmah", which means "wisdom".
No idea as to what they mean at the moment. I know that there are movie trailers with highlighted letters at the end but I don't know if they are the same as these ones.
Dialing (919) 425-2310 for Nancy's voicemail and typing in 2426 for her personal mailbox, we find that she has a new message. At the time of writing, I don't have a proper transcript for it (if you have one, please email me). I'm told that the message is of a woman's voice stating that she is going to visit a friend. She asks Nancy to watch her plants. She then leaves a phone number, (702) 387-3822, which leads to Pia's voicemail.
It's a little annoying not to have a good transcript since I don't know the circumstances in which she left Pia's number (Pia Viago, the person from Belladerma who is handling Basta), so I can't really comment on this yet.
On calling Pia Viago's number, (702) 387-3822, we get this:
What's going on here, eh? We know that Pia works for Belladerma and we noted previously that a woman in Belladerma's catalog (model FC-00472) looks identical to Svetlana Cellini, an employee of DonuTech. Could the Svetlana on this voicemail be the same Svetlana at DonuTech and also a robot? It's possible - a 'downwire surgeon' does sound like someone who would work on a robot. If so, Svetlana is probably getting cosmetic work since she seems to be getting jealous. Alexsi is almost certainly Alexsi Koramov, Sr. Vice President and General Counsel of Belladerma.
That's not really important though. What's important is that Belladerma might have a robot working at DonuTech. This immediately elevates the status of Belladerma significantly and also casts suspicion on the entire Belladerma-Venus-Venus' replacement connection.
I believe that people have tried emailing Pia but they have not received a reply as yet.
Visiting PACO armed with our hard-won knowledge from Sophia's Responses, we can now begin a fresh assault on trying to get a login for the system. Our best-known coroner is Audrey Green, the person who performed the autopsy on Evan and also a star of the Sophia Responses.
[Incidentally, if you type in the name of someone who has been killed but hasn't had his autopsy report paid for to be made public (e.g. Jason Fertor), it now costs 65 newbucks instead of 50 to view it. Talk about inflation...]
Using the time-honoured principle of people picking memorable dates as passwords, we guessed that Audrey might use her 24th birthday as her password because it was when she was granted an exemption to have a child (at that time, Audrey was male). From the information in Evan's DonuTech Personal Page, we can figure out that her birthday is on the 18th March and she is 73 years old. Therefore, her 24th birthday would be the 18th March, 2093. Converting that to a numerical string gives us 18032093. And that is Audrey Green's password.
So we type it in, unconsciously holding our breath in fear of seeing some really juicy information, e.g. how Evan really died, when all we get is:
Huh. But I can tell you that it wasn't always like that. The person who originally cracked the login puzzle, a Cloudmaker known as 'Campfly'. When he typed in the name and password, the page asked for the name of a deceased. Campfly tells the story here:
But they did use Campfly's 'half-assed job' as a report and you can access it by typing in Kate Nei into the text field on the main page, where you get to read his fake report.
Now, of course the events described in the fake report didn't actually happen; Campfly has become some kind of in-game-universe elite hacker who broke into the real PACO website and submitted a false report - it's basically his reward as a player of the game who cracked the PACO login puzzle. So she didn't die in that way. Kate Nei however is definitely dead, at least according to PACO who put her up name as someone who is deceased.
The person with the most obvious motive for killing Kate Nei is Enrico Basta, for her blackmail of him which precipitated her running away in the first place. This doesn't necessarily mean he was the person who ordered her killed, but it's our best guess. The thing is, Kate's AI, Ivy, is now supposed to send the video of the nastiness that occurred at Basta's house to the SPCB. So either Basta is very stupid, or he has some way of either stopping the video being delivered or influencing the SPCB directly.
Speaking of Kate Nei, her website has been updated. If you click on the hanging branch of Ivy in the top left of the page, you get taken to this page. It appears to be written by Kate's house AI, Ivy, and shows that Ivy is going completely insane.
Putting two and two together and throwing a healthy dollop of unwarranted speculation in, here is my take: Basta ordered Kate Nei killed for her blackmail. He also infected Ivy with the same disease that afflicted Martin Swinton's now-deceased homes to prevent her from sending the blackmail video to the SPCB. Hence, Basta is an even nastier guy than we first imagined.
Okay, this may not be exactly what happened but I think it conforms to the good old Occam's Razor rule, where the simplest explanation is the most likely one. If it is true, then the people watching Martin Swinton and Diane Fletcher may be allies of Basta, or Basta himself.
For no reason whatsoever, let's visit Jeanine Salla's page at BWU. What a surprise, it's been updated by her angry and unnamed AI. It clues us in on Jeanine using her middle name (Miro) as a password and also may be a subtle pointer that we should check her voicemail. And yes, it now has a new message in addition to the old one:
2D movie theatres? Tickets? What's going on? There's no way to find out except by checking out the Salla Family homepage which has also been updated. It has a new message at the top which is impossibly easy and I shouldn't have to tell you the answer but I will anyway - 'Cloudmaker'.
Upon typing that in, we read a dialogue between Laia and Jeanine (her grandmother, 'Abuela'). The upshot of it is that Laia is getting Jeanine to procure thousands of tickets for the Official Sneak Preview of a 2D movie at theatres across the country... hmm, are you thinking what I'm thinking? That they'll be giving away thousands of free tickets to the Official Sneak Preview of AI for theatres across America? And that they'd better do it for the UK or else I'll be very upset? Why, yes indeed!
This is of course unconfirmed at the moment but you'd have to agree that it seems very likely that they are at least thinking of giving followers of the game some free tickets. Very nice. Mind you, this stuff about movies probably has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual game storyline.
Recap 9: What do we know?
Kate Nei blackmailed Enrico Basta about something very nasty that happened inside his house. She went on the run and entrusted a video of the aforementioned nastiness to her house AI Ivy with instructions that if she was killed, Ivy should send it to the SPCB. Kate is now dead and Ivy is going insane.
Laia is infertile and cannot have children. Her father was killed on the Moon at the AIT's Sea of Tranquillity Campus. She had a brief affair with Evan. Nancy was well aware of Evan's affairs and also had a lover herself. Audrey Green was born as Andrew Green, and has had her PACO account hacked into. Sencha is probably an AI, as is Eliza - Eliza may be a therapist AI from Catskills Seaview Clinic.
Diane Fletcher and Martin Swinton (the 'fearsome twosome') are on the track of the killers of Martin's houses. There are two people constantly watching them. The Red King is a teenager called Dwayne; he is responsible for Jason Fertor's death. He also worked with BIOS to free Venus. Venus had already been hacked into before the Red King got to her and her memories following March 1st were wiped.
Svetlana Cellini is probably a robot and Belladerma has something to do with her. Finally, in an unrelated note, the creators of the game may be offering Americans free tickets to the sneak preview of the movie.
My take: Basta is behind all of this and Belladerma is more involved than we think. While Basta may ostensibly have killed Evan because Venus was having an affair with him, if you accept that there may be a link from Basta to Belladerma to DonuTech (through Svetlana) there might be a more profound motive.
We now know enough that the person who wrote the thing about gutting arrogant bastards in the Japanese Kate Nei page is Ivy, so the arrogant bastard in question is Enrico Basta and the person being protected (not very well, as it happens) was Kate.
Sites we've visited (since the last recap): none
Sites we haven't visited: none
Things that are unsolved: