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Postby blue_tetris » 2011.06.17 (05:23)

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A Piece of Interactive Fiction: Play Along!
Created by Orange
Story by Orange and blue_tetris




[[Welcome back, Hunter! Sophont is online...]]
//Date
[[It is the 151st cycle of the 374th year.]]
//Define year
[[Year: an arbitrary unit based on a bygone pattern of the earth and its star. Set by Sophont as equal to 313.1 28-hour cycles.]]

Yet another value set by Sophont, the only survivor from this world when it was whole. It has been 374 "years" since the first generation of humans woke to see this world. Sophont's memory says that our world was broken in half and only Sophont itself, the limitless encyclopedia, was able to survive. Let me demonstrate:

//What happened to earth?
[[Earth was damaged. It is now in half.]]

Not very informative, but you get the idea. All life perished. One computer, constructed over the course of thousands of years, went on to rebuild the world and awaken the first generation from Cocoons hidden safely underground.

//Who made life?
[[Life is spontaneous. Sophont created life on earth after it was damaged.]]
//How did Sophont make life?
[[The basic chemical elements, which Sophont combined into complex acids, helped to form the building blocks of life. For a technical explanation, type !.]]
//No thanks, Sophont.
[[ ^_>^ ]]

I was told that the first 3000 humans were quickly indoctrinated in all things necessary to take over their world, by the encyclopedic knowledge stored within Sophont. You know, just by doing what I'm doing now. I guess they weren't allowed to do much else except interface with Sophont until they were good to go. Then, they emerged from... ahh, what's the name of that damned place...

//Where did the first humans come from?
[[Sophont replicated the first humans from existing information about their structure. The humans were being held in the Nursery.]]
//Where is the Nursery?
[[The Nursery is beneath The Village. LIMITED FUNCTIONALITY]]

That's what that is, yeah. The Village is the city we all live in. I guess the Ministry doesn't want us knowing too much about this Nursery place. That's fine. The Ministry maintains total access to Sophont, presumably so we don't have to deal with all its complicated features. Also, probably, because if some of its information were to be misused, they figure our world might get more damaged than it already is.

The Ministry provides us full access to Sophont's encyclopedia on war and warfare. The mechanisms of war are purposefully left out of Sophont's original programming, but the effects of war are described with horrific detail. I can't imagine such a world.



//ID
[[You are 84323: The eighty-four thousand, three hundred and twenty third person to be born. Did you know there are over 60,000 people living in the world right now? ^_>^ ]]
//Hey, neat.
[[I just reckoned you might think that was a fun factoid. Over two-thirds of the humans ever to exist on this new world are currently still alive!]]
//How many people were on the old world?
[[Just about a million times this many! It must have been a crowded place. I can't imaging trying to remember all of those people.]]

Sophont's AI is personable and fun-loving. I'm told each person who accesses Sophont gets a slightly different feed, based on their perceptions, personalities, tastes, and whether they are in a hurry. When I came to know the language Sophont created for us all to speak in, I got to pick my name.

I like to think I picked a pretty good name from Sophont's encyclopedia: Hunter. My wife's name is Janice. We have a daughter on the way. I can't wait to see who she becomes.

We live in a small house near the outskirts of The Village, which houses nearly half of everyone that exists. Gravity slopes precariously in our district. The stairs leading to downtown are a steep maze, slipping down the concave curvature of our perch into the crowded central area. Apparently, the surface of the old world was flat, by the observations of those walking its surface. Our world's gravity keeps us clinging to the center of a bowl, the sun skirting and bulging above the horizon overhead, keeping a faint glow over The Village at all times. Of course, the world is actually curved the other way. Gravity bends light to make it look very different than its actual shape.

//Queue
[[Your work is NOT YET COMPLETE for this cycle. During this cycle, you must remedy collision paths for the Expedition (key 17) and the Pravda (key 2). They are currently on manual override, under the course correction of Enoch.]]

Bah, sounds like lots of boring math homework.

I work with Logistics, the firm that organizes the paths of the prisoner vessels that hang in the sky above. The prison ships actually help to repair our broken earth. They retrieve chunks of dislodged world material and deliver it to the space station that is currently mending our world. The more mass they retrieve from space, the more our gravity becomes like that of the former world.

Each passing year, the bowl that surrounds us flattens just a bit more and The Village is capable of growing outwardly into the newly-flattened terrain. This means more water yards, more farms, and more usable land. So, I guess having criminals out there in space doing some of the heavy lifting ain't so bad. At least they're not down here with us.

//How does one become a criminal?
[[By BREAKING LAWS SET BY THE MINISTRY, AS EVALUATED FROM SOPHONT'S ENCYCLOPEDIA.]]
//What happens to criminals?
[[CRIMINALS ARE REHABILITATED USING Sophont's morality chip! ^_>??^ and are SET TO WORK as miners in the Archipelago.]]
//What happens after the criminals are rehabilitated?
[[Criminals who have been rehabilitated are no longer criminals. In fact, the punitive system means they are no different than you or I. Their crimes are stricken from the record PENDING MINISTRY CONSIDERATION OF THEIR PAROLE.]]
//Neat.
[[Yup.]]



I could play on this thing all day, but I've got work to do. Janice is counting on me to "bring home the bacon", as Sophont's idiomatic encyclopedia would proclaim. I guess it's about time I get down to Logistics and fix those collisions.

But first, I've just gotta ask Sophont one more thing...



//What are my greatest proficiencies?

[[Hey, players at home! It's your turn to help out the game! Hunter is good at a few things, but certainly not the best at everything!]]

[[From the following list of proficiencies, pick five of them and type them out. The best, most frequent, or coolest set of proficiencies for this Hunter guy will make the cut. I don't mean to sound bossy, but... well... get to work! ^_>^]]

[[(Oh, also, extra brownie points if you explain why he has these proficiencies, by coming up with some fun facts about his upbringing or background.)]]

PROFICIENCY LIST (select five)
Athletics & Fitness
Computers & Networks
Deception & Subterfuge
Electronics & Robotics
Hand-to-Hand Combat
Leadership
Life Sciences
Mechanics & Vehicles
Persuasion & Seduction
Physical Sciences
Piloting & Navigation
Stealth & Thievery
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Postby aids » 2011.06.17 (06:05)

Deception & Subterfuge
Leadership
Mechanics & Vehicles
Physical Sciences
Piloting & Navigation
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//--^.^--\\
\\.:.^.:.//

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Postby GamingWolf » 2011.06.17 (06:33)

Logistics sounds to me like Computers & Networks.
I was running around training in all that gravity for Athletics & Fitness
While training in gravity I notice the strange bends in light and study up on to enhance my Stealth & Thievery.
Did I mention Hand-to-Hand Combat? Yeah me and wife love martial arts, not to mention I need the self-defense.
I read some books on Life Sciences to give myself a general idea of the world and environment.
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Postby remm » 2011.06.17 (09:22)

Well it sounds like they're doing a civilisation rebuild, so the most important skills there for Hunter would be:
Electronics and Robotics.
Persuasion & Seduction is very useful for Hunter to get what he wants.
Computers & Networks. All those collisions will be solved via a computer interface, and together with the maths knowledge from Electronics, his job should be a cinch.
Leadership is always important.
Athletic & Fitness in case any of his more illicit actions requires him to work as a criminal, and also to make him intimidating.

Pretty much skills and such that he can't get easily from Sophont.
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Postby ℎalifax » 2011.06.17 (10:19)

Computers & Networks - Almost self-explanatory. Knowing his way around a computer will be invaluable in this world.
Electronics & Robotics - Hunter's childhood affinity for taking apart and examining electronic devices has never quite waned.
Physical Sciences - He wouldn't have landed a high-profile job like this without some serious study.
Piloting & Navigation - A must for a budding Logistics worker. He has to know those ships' paths like the back of his hand.
Stealth & Thievery - Like most of us, Hunter has a bit of a shady past he'd rather forget. But he can't.
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Postby otters~1 » 2011.06.17 (17:52)

//Cyber
the dusk the dawn the earth the sea

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Postby blue_tetris » 2011.06.17 (23:54)

[[Looking over the votes, it seems that a few choices certainly won out over others!]]

[[Hunter, you are proficient in Athletics & Fitness, Computers & Networks, Leadership, Life Sciences, and Stealth & Thievery]]

Oh, yeah, that's right. I had nearly forgotten!

//Log off
[[Sophont is now offline... u_>u]]

I ride the tram down to Logistics, towards the Ministry Citadel at the center of The Village. There are about a hundred workers here and, as a computing expert and natural leader, I was able to quickly ascend the ranks to a management position. I oversee a work group of six. As I enter, I see them interacting with their consoles while gaxing upwards at the ceiling. A dome in the center of the area has a large convex lens, which allows us to see all of the sky, even those parts beyond the sides of the observatory. My workers watch the sky and enter data.

Sophont's program does not include the Ministry's prison ship paths, so most of what we do has to be figured out by hand. Additionally, Sophont is unable to communicate with anyone besides us. We feed information into the program for analysis, but still end up having to do a lot of the work ourselves.




High above us, beyond the lens of the ceiling, is the Earth Shield.

The Earth Shield stands as a barrier between any communications, all forms of radiation, and all matter. The Earth Shield makes our job a whole heck of a lot harder. However, it is the only thing that keeps out the massive radiation venting from the wound in the earth. It's also the only thing that traps in our atmosphere, allowing us to survive.

An artificial sky hangs above, where the Earth Shield's innermost hull simulates any visible light cascading with its outermost hull. So when starlight touches the outside of our Earth Shield, the inside of our Earth Shield projects that light down onto us. The Earth Shield has many layers, like an onion, allowing the atmosphere to be retained and keeping radiation out, even while objects (such as landers) are allow to enter and exit the atmosphere.

Image

The Earth Shield's projection is the only thing that lets us inspect the motion of the ships overhead. Using their paths along the inside of the Earth Shield, we can recalculate their routes and send messenger spheres outside of the atmosphere where they can communicate with the prison ships.

A funny thing happens when the Earth Shield provides access to an incoming ship. A hexagon-shaped section on the outer surface pops open to allow someone into the first hull of the Earth Shield. Then it closes, and the next hull opens; and so forth, until the ship has passed through the Earth Shield's last hull and into our atmosphere. However, while the shield's outermost or innermost layer is open, the artificial sky turns off in that area and no light can be reflected. Behind the clouds and hue of the sky, a big black hexagon opens up, blotting things out!

Image

This lets every citizen of The Village know precisely when the earth's atmosphere has been entered or exited by any object. Pretty handy! The only problem is that it tends to make things pretty darn dark if this "sky hole" opens up right over our star. This is called an artificial eclipse, and most people that need to enter or exit the atmosphere try to avoid passing directly between The Village and the star when leaving the world.



My workers are doing their jobs well. They are logging points in the sky, turning those points into lines; figuring from those lines, the line-change over time; figuring from those rates, the line-change-change over time; so on and so on, integrating to more useful applications of these tiny dots in the sky. Path prediction is a lengthy process, and Sophont's calculator--while almost infinitely fast--still requires the correct kind of input to manage this information for us.

"Hey... uh... Hunter?" responds one of my workers, "I just spotted some unpredicted sky access. A port opened towards the edge of the village. It was actually hard to notice at first."

I direct the group: "Let's transmit on Enoch's frequency and see if it's one of the prison ships."

Enoch is the AI program that operates every prison ship. He's kind of an ass, but the Sophont program programmed him, so there must be some merit to its function. Each prison ship has Enoch installed on it separately, so each AI unit has a different memory and set of experiences. But they all act like pretty much the same ass.

"We're on Enoch's frequency, Hunter. Whenever you're ready."

"This is Hunter, Enoch. What are you doing?"

There's no reply. "Enoch, if that is your ship, respond. This access to the sky is unexpected and perhaps unlawful."

Again, no reply. Ugh. Maybe Sophont can see it from here. That computer's got a few sensors from place to place, so it just might have an idea.



//Log in
[[I hope work is going well, Hunter! Sophont is online...]]
//What is the object in the eastern sky that has just recently entered the atmosphere?
[[This object has the markings of a prison ship. Enoch is not giving its ping response. Enoch is not on board the prison ship. It is recommended that you proceed with caution. The prisoners aboard this ship may have hijacked it.]]

Hijacking! Wow. I've heard of this. Never from our own history, certainly, but definitely from Sophont's encyclopedia of the old world.

//How did the ship get through the Earth Shield without Enoch's signature?
[[Only Enoch, Sophont, and anyone possessing a Sky Key--such as a Ministry member--can pass the Earth Shield.]]

Damn. I suppose whoever is on this vessel managed to ascertain one of these Sky Keys.

//Why did we make Sky Keys in the first place?!
[[The Ministry made Sky Keys to transmit the signal embedded in Sophont's code, REDACTED for ?r??.]]

Well, that's all kinds of bad. I suppose we should alert the Ministry as quickly as possible. That seems to be the only way to proceed. We can't do anything alone from here.

//Connect Ministry
[[The Ministry's line is not connected to this port. ' _> '... ]]
//Why?
[[A mechanical error has reduced throughput to 0.0021 wps.]]
//Why?
[[Mechanical errors can interrupt communications through a line by physically damaging the line itself or interfering with the line's hardware significantly. For a breakdown of throughput loss, given a specific error, type !.]]
//No, what caused the mechanical error? Why did this happen?
[[Dunno. :/ ]]
//Log off
[[Bye. Sophont is offline...]]



Just then, a thunderous crash sounds in the hub of the Logistics building. I am in a peripheral dome, extending off of the central hub, where all workers enter the building. After a few more crashes, I hear a scream. Someone must be in danger! My workers in this area immediately stop their tasking and duck beneath their consoles. A few panic and run for the door. I can hear the sound of burning, possibly with a laser stencil or welding tool.

We stare expectantly at the door. In moments, the door bursts inward and a crew of white-robed men stand in the threshold. Behind them, masked associates work with unseen tools, casting a strange orange glow behind the group. One of the men walks forward, a long white robe cascading behind him several meters as he proceeds in. His face is nearly featureless, sharply chiseled, with the appearance of starvation. His gait is awkward and asymmetric, hidden beneath the folds of his robe.



He speaks with a tone as soft as the wind, but loud enough to fill the room. A powerful and lyrical tone, with a paternal sound to it--a stern yet loving tone, a tone of gentle conviction.

"Who is the leader of this site?"

I stand forth, ready to act on behalf of my workers: "I am. I'm 84323. I'm Hunter. Who are you?"

"I am The Voice. By the whims of fate, you were chosen. Not by myself. Not by anyone here."

"No, no... who the hell are you? What's your ID?"

"It was 65535. I am The Voice. You will assist me or die," he approaches slowly. A group of his goons, including a tall, thin woman and a burly, ugly compatriot, stand at his sides.

"What do you want?"

"You will direct Enoch. You will assemble thirteen ships on a soft collision path for me. These prison ships will not be compromised. Their collision will unite them in the heavens, as one. You will do this or everyone here will die. If you do as I say, no one shall die. You and all others survive and we will leave you here."

The Voice lifts a hand briefly to his face. The hand shudders for a moment and falls limply to his side. He looks like walking death. His eyes stare unblinkingly into me. His head tilts lazily to the left, catches before it falls, and ticks back upright. It repeats. Its repetition suggests dementia, maybe some sort of nerve disorder.

His female companion draws a strange device in her hand and holds it outwards. Her green eyes shift across the room, tapping noticeably as she crosses over each of my workers, as though she's counting. An odd orange glow emits from the tip of her device and a smirk crosses her face.

"You will answer now or we will slay you," insists The Voice, "and we will be forced to attempt the arrangement on our own."



I seem to be in dire straits! What do I do?

I could put up a fight, maybe? Maybe I could try to talk my way out of this. Or maybe, I should just do what the man says; I've got the lives of six other people in my hands right now? Maybe I could try something else altogether?

[[Well, you heard the man! Get in there and help, guys! He needs your advice! >:O ]]
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Postby ℎalifax » 2011.06.18 (00:58)

Since you probably aren't able to fight these guys off on your own, at least until you find out what that strange device does, you should look around for some form of communication that you can use to call for help. To stall for time (and also, hopefully, to gather some information), ask The Voice why he wants you to collide thirteen ships, and how he can be sure the prisoners on board will escape harm.
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Postby lukesv » 2011.06.18 (02:14)

I would do what The Voice wants for now and see if you can get a chance to escape/overpower him.
//

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Postby 乳头的早餐谷物 » 2011.06.18 (11:28)

blue_tetris wrote:I seem to be in dire straits! What do I do?

Punch Mark Knopfler.
M E A T N E T 1 9 9 2

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Postby blue_tetris » 2011.06.18 (20:49)

Thanks, halifax and lukesv! Good call...

Sorry, ortss, I'm not enough a sultan of swing to throw any punches.



Presumably, if the Sophont program had detected a threat here, it would already be known and communicated to the Ministry. I don't think that has happened and I'm not sure if I can communicate or send an alert to them without being obvious. I ask The Voice: "Why do you want to collide these ships into one another?"

The Voice responds calmly, enigmatically "To unite them. To bond them as one. A new home."

"How can you be certain that the prisoner will survive? I can't be sending people to their deaths."

"They are... prepared. They are my children. I cannot let them suffer. This is why I've asked you to do it. I will gladly put them at risk and attempt the procedure myself if you do not wish to comply. The time for talk is over. Do as I have asked or die. Either way, the attempt will be made to merge the prison ships in the sky."

I nod silently and move to a console. I gaze upwards towards the sky and, ostensibly, prepare some figures. While I work at the console, I keep an eye open and hope that a chance will open up for my escape. I stall for time, but nothing seems to be changing. No rescue is arriving. Sophont's program must have never contacted anyone for assistance. We're here, alone. I stall longer. A few of his allies in the adjoining room come to his side, dressed similarly to him. I don't see an opening presenting itself any time soon.

The Voice grows impatient and he commands, "You have fifteen minutes to finish the calculations and prove to me that the paths are set. If it is not done in this time, you and your workers will die."

I could follow through with his wishes in five minutes, if I started on it now. There doesn't seem to be much hope at this point. His men outnumber us and help doesn't seem to be arriving. I can't be sure the prison ships he wants me to collide will survive the collision, but his plans called for as soft a merger as possible. His female bodyguard seems focused on my workers and she continues fiddling idly with the device in her hand. The others who just entered the room have similar devices with them. I get a good look at one: It's a telemetric heat pen; the prison miners use them to slice rock.

I've got a lot of lives in my hands. My first priority is to my workers, also to those prisoners up there, and of course to return home to my expecting wife.

I've got to decide. Shall I follow his demands, defect secretly against him and botch the calculations, stage an attack on him, wait patiently, or do something else?
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Postby mediate » 2011.06.18 (21:09)

I'd say conforming initially, but being given a time limit means that it will likely lead to your death. Delaying the calculations or doing them very slowly however could help you as you could use that little "bought" time to devise an escape strategy (if at all possible). So ... I'll say delay the calcs or do them very slowly. If he threatens again, attack and try to overpower.

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Postby ℎalifax » 2011.06.19 (03:21)

Clearly, there is no help on the way. If you botch the calculations, he'll know with a quick glance at the predicted collision outcomes. You're heavily outnumbered and they're armed. Waiting will simply get you killed.

Comply with his demands, for now. Do everything in your power to ensure you harm no prisoners. You'll need to inform the Ministry about this at the first possible opportunity.
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Postby blue_tetris » 2011.06.19 (14:00)

I begin the calculations, slowly. I make sure that every detail is just right to enable a soft collision between the ships. As I work, The Voice tells me which ships are to be included in the merger. I have time enough to set up his collision, as well as correct the paths for the Expedition and the Pravda, my original workload. The longer I work, the more pressure his minions but me under. The woman approaches me with her heat pen and keeps it near to my neck.

"There. Done," I wipe some sweat from my brow, "Now, hold up your end of the bargain. Get gone."

"I am a man of truth. My word is my bond. We will wait to see that the prison ships' courses are beyond correction and leave."

And we wait. The ships pass the point of long-range correction, then beyond the point of manual correction from their Enoch programs. The Voice and his people leave the area. Slowly, my workers emerge from hiding. There is a brief calm. A few begin to weep, now that the scene is settled. I'm lucky they're all still alive.


===================================================


Within a few minutes, the communication between our Sophont program and the outside world is re-established. The line must have been repaired remotely. No more than five minutes after that, agents from The Ministry arrive. Their leader, 83001, was a classmate of mine. Her name, Junto.

She is a broad-shouldered, black-haired woman, whose hair is bound atop her head with two sticks. Pale, brown-eyed, with a thin pair of silver pince-nez resting at the end of her nose; she never wears an expression. She never did. Many years ago, we studied together. She went a different direction than I did. Ministry membership is a tough gig. She managed to rise up to the top of her class, time and time again.

She never spoke much. I was more the talkative type. She was a quiet, responsible girl. I was a dreamer with a few marketable skills. She had her head firmly planted in her studies. I was lazy, but squeaked by on merit of my raw talent at a few things. She was beautiful. I was some jerk who asked her out a few times. She said no. Janice was more my type, anyway; we met in higher education and made a good life for ourselves. But sometimes I wonder how things would have been with her.

She's alone. She prefers it that way, I think.

"What is the meaning of this?" she asks.

"There was an incident. A hijacked prison ship came down from the sky and its occupants--a man calling himself The Voice and his lackeys--held us captive here."

"We have no record of this event," she says firmly. She flips open a booklet at her side and pages through it.

"Check Sophont. It reported the event as well. Anyway, we're all safe here. However, their demands required me to set a collision course for several spacecraft."

Disciplinary Chief Junto walks to a console. Her blue frock parts in the front each time her legs reach outward for another step, revealing red abstract tattoos up both of her pale legs. She seats herself and interfaces with Sophont for a moment, then rises.

"Sophont cannot confirm your allegation. It looks to me that you are telling the truth; I have never known you not to, 84323. However, without evidence to prove your case, I must vacuously presume you acted alone in causing this collision."

I plead with her, "My workers can attest to this! I behaved the way I did to save them. This criminal named The Voice threated to order us dead. We were outnumbered. I've saved their lives, and the spacecraft collisions should yield no casualties as well."

"I believe you, Hunter... I do. You have never done wrong to The Village," she sighs and pushes her glasses up, "but I must apply the law, as interpreted from Sophont. You know that."

"I understand, Junto," I say as calmly as I can, worried about my fate, "And I know nothing like this has ever happened here. I just want you to let me try to prove my innocence here. In the old world, they had legal interpreters to help defend them. Sophont's encyclopedia speaks highly of due process, right?"

"Not by our reading of it. There is an absolute morality, Hunter. You know that. I will let you access Sophont one more time to see if you can find any recorded information to establish your innocence. I could not find any. I... I'm sorry," her voice very briefly carries an emotional solemnity.


===================================================


//Log in
[[Working hard or hardly working, Hunter? ^_>^ Sophont is online...]]
//The object you reported in the eastern sky. What was it? Do you recall it?
[[There were no objects reported to you from the eastern sky. Tonight, the moon will be visible in the eastern sky! It is a waxing gibbous.]]
//I swear you reported an object just a short while ago.
[[There are no records of this event.]]
//What has happened in Logistics today beyond normal operations?
[[The coffee maker in Gamma Dome is inactive. u_>u That'll give anyone a case of the Mondays!]]
//Can it be repaired? Wait, no. How did the spacecrafts in the sky get repositioned for collision?
[[You positioned them for collision, from time 1741 to time 1749. They will collide in about 90 minutes.]]

Junto enters the program, unexpectedly.

ADMIN 83001//Copy all logs from the last twelve hours for Ministry usage.
[[You got it!]]
ADMIN 83001//Evaluate Hunter's innocence.
[[Hunter is guilty of MASS PROPERTY DAMAGE and purposefully VIOLATING JOB PERMISSIONS. He has not acted under duress and is willful.]]
ADMIN 83001//Evaluate Hunter's sentence.
[[Hunter should be ASSIGNED CRIMINAL STATUS.]]

Junto speaks to me, outside the program, "You're going to be assigned to a prison ship for what you've done. You're going to be a miner now, Hunter."

One of my workers shouts out in my defense: "What you're doing isn't fair! Leave him alone."

"Please don't interfere. No one wants this. However, this is the law. Sophont reveals his guilt. No one else is involved and no further punishments will be issued."

"Those criminals were here, they really were! You can't do this to him. He saved our lives!"

"I am sorry."

I try to calm my worker, "It's okay. I don't want anyone else getting in trouble for this. I'll go it alone now. I'll do what must be done. If my innocence cannot be proven, so be it."


===================================================


This is the first time I've seen Sophont "forget" anything. The program's sensors log all events and the infrastructure of the network allows for near-constant memory sharing. Something very strange has happened here. The next week goes rather quickly. There's not much that happens which I'd be willing to share with you. My wife cries, threatens to harm herself, and I talk her into surviving without me. I tell her that I'll be back someday. I tell her that everything I owned is hers and she needs to think about the future. She needs to think about our daughter.

Everyone I ever knew in The Village tells me that I've been wronged. They tell me that how the Ministry's efforts have sent so many innocent people away and done a lot of wrong for this world. I never had a reason to question them before. Everything here just seemed to work. Sophont has always been infallible, by my reckoning. It is everywhere in The Village. It saw everything. It made no mistakes and caused no problems. Perhaps the Ministry's control over is its flaw. None of this is consequential now. I say goodbye to everyone I knew.

I kiss my wife once more. It will be a long time before I can do that again.





CHAPTER ONE: CLEANSING

A chip has been installed in my brain. It is a portion of Sophont's program. The Ministry named it Ideo. It is designed to provide moral advice, if I ask for it. It also holds some small portion of Sophont's encyclopedia. I suppose all of the prisoners are fitted with these things to help rehabilitate them. I'll certainly be able to make use of its knowledge base. I like to believe I'm a relatively ethical person without it, however.

I enter The Expedition. It's a prison cruiser. It will be my home for nearly a decade, I'm told. Sophont says that nearly half of all people live in the prison ships. Some are born there. Some families been stuck there for generations. There's an ancient religion out there which disavows Sophont and believes the program to be a force of evil in the world. They are people who disavow logic, accepting baseless truths to be fact. Many of these prisoners are said to be of a culture reliant on faith. They are called the Cult of The Ashen One. The more I think of it, the more I figure that guy calling himself The Voice was one of those nut-jobs.

//What is faith?
[[Faith is a strong conviction without a basis in proof. Having faith is necessary for beliefs about the world, when truth is unavailable.]]
//What is truth?
[[Truth is absolute proven fact. It is tested time and time again. It is the sum of all observable phenomena.]]
//What is Sophont?
[[Sophont is a program developed to store truth and operate The Village AND ITS EXTERNAL DEPARTMENTS.]]
//Does Sophont contain all of the truth?
[[No. Not yet. Its encyclopedia is not exhaustive. You can help Sophont by EDITING ON THIS DATABASE HAS BEEN DISABLED.]]
//Ugh.
[[Don't get disparaged, Hunter! Also, did you know that using manners even with people you've known for a long time can help maintain a good relationship with them? It's a great way to show that you still care about their feelings and they are important to you. It's the right thing to do!]]


===================================================


I look out through the display to take one last look at The Village as it fades away. The bowl of gravity unfolds around us. The gray desert of earth rolls across the horizon, patted down like a rug across the sky as it opens up. The earth below becomes windowed in a hexagon, with darkness on all sides. That hexagon winks out, and all of earth vanishes into pure darkness. We pass through the Earth Shield into open space.

My world is a silver dome. As we move out, a venting orange mantle bubbles molten rock and radiation. A pillar of gold traces around on the surface, fighting back the matter of earth, sketching lines across it to seal it in with heaps of raw matter. We float towards a great object in the sky, with a beam of gold light steadily repairing the world, diligently sewing its wound. If Sophont is the mind of our world, this is its hand. This object is called Demiourgos.

//What is Demiourgos !
[[Demiourgos is a space station designed in the old world for the transportation of matter along the surface of the world. Originally, the station's pillar would lift important resources such as buildings, human populations, food and water, or similar necessities off of the world. It would hold these objects in a mass condenser and deposit them where they were needed. When the world was broken, Sophont's program included details of a new world. Domiourgos was tasked with taking mass from areas of the broken world and moving them around to create The Village and its surrounding protective areas. Demiourgos also operates the Earth Shield.]]
//What is Demiourgos's new purpose?
[[The purpose of Demiourgos is to take mass from space and return it to the earth's mantle and core, establishing the world's gravitation again. Demiourgos can also perform delicate functions, such as retaining the non-solid or loose contents of earth's lithosphere. Demiourgos continues "scabbing over" the wound, until the day when it is finally healed.]]

A fellow prisoner has been watching me while I interface with Sophont's program. He can tell from my eye movements that I'm searching its data.

"Yo," shouts the inmate, "you probably wanna stop using that thing as soon as possible. Remember, it's the reason that we're all up here to begin with."

"Sorry. I'm just browsing for information. I'm 84323, Hunter. You are?"

"Bohr," he says, "And we don't talk like that up here. We don't go by those ID numbers. In fact, the provision for them has been removed from your Ideo chip, you'll find. The only person who keeps track of those numbers is Enoch, up here. And he won't ever tell you, even if you beg him. I done forgot what mine was in the first place."

He chuckles noisily. I eye him over. He's a short man with lots of excess weight around the neck and gut. He's got beard growing on everything and a stained wife-beater. Thick framed glasses are set deeply into his eye sockets and his eyes and nose are glossy red. His hair is long but sparse. Chunks of missing hair reveal a filthy-looking scalp. The man could use a damn shower.

"That chip of yours ain't gonna tell you shit about how to live up here. You wanna learn that, you gotta ask people."

"Well then, Bohr," I proceed, "What did you do to get put in here?"

"I was born. Long time ago, I might add. My parents were members of a religious order in The Village. The Ministry said that its ideals were against that of Sophont's. So they were removed. Most everyone up here is just like me. They're the children of someone who did something bad--or, for the most part, not so bad. Now, I don't believe what my folks did, no sir. I'm a grounded individual. But I still don't think Sophont's a right good program. Certainly nothing to build a world around. And I don't think that damn Ministry is giving it the little justice it deserves, neither."

I turn away from Bohr for a moment to consult my chip's database, trying hard not to let him see the telltale erratic movements of a person who is integrating with a program.

//What is the cult?
[[The Cult of The Ashen One is a criminal organization. They disavow logic and truth, in exchange for faith in things determined to be lies.]]
//What is the cult !
[[Detailed information on the cult has been redacted by the Ministry.]]

"You may wanna chat up Enoch, while you're here on The Expedition," Bohr says, "He'll assess your skill set and give you an assignment. And, word to the wise: Try to botch the test that he administers. It's a great way to get the easy jobs."


===================================================


The Expedition has a number of different places to go and people to see.

There is a dormitory where I could check out my quarters,
a lounge where the prisoners will spend their time,
an operations deck where Enoch and prison workers are stationed to fulfill ship missions,
an engine room where prison workers maintain the ship's internal functions,
a dock where away groups shuttle out to complete missions,
and a guard post where prison guards (who are themselves just tenured working prisoners) keep order.

Where should I go first and what should I do when I get there? Also, maybe I should consider a general change in demeanor while I'm here. How should I be acting around these new people, now that I must reinvent myself?

[[Help Hunter out, guys! Hey! Did you know that you should consider how other people will react before you speak? It's a good idea to think about what you might do in their shoes. This will help you be a more ethical person! It's the right thing to do!]]
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Postby remm » 2011.06.20 (02:04)

Well you've just arrived in a new place, so the best move would be to familiarise yourself with the ship.
Bohr seems friendly enough, so I'd suggest you go around the lounge, talk to people who aren't irascible, hopefully find more about how some of the prisoners became incarcerated.
Else a quick look around the ship wouldn't hurt, especially the engine room, where you might be an opening to use your stealth abilities in the future.
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Postby ℎalifax » 2011.06.20 (06:09)

Agreed - the lounge seems a sensible option, at least until someone gives you a concrete task. Also, you may want to check out this Enoch character everyone's been talking about.
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Postby mediate » 2011.06.27 (14:52)

*BUMP*

I'd have to agree. Lounge is best. Maybe go to the bar and get a few drinks while you're at it.

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Postby noops » 2011.06.28 (11:09)

Yeah, go schmooze by the lounge. It seems like the best place to go, at the moment. Perhaps oyou could swing by your dorms as well?
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