Autonomous Ego States

Chapter 
NUMBER

m3ta1-11

1.24.2022

By: 

You sit in your office at the Hub, thankful for a low-key quiet day for the first time in a long time. Between the Doctor’s unexpected return and debrief, the VOLSTAR development timetable, and the episode with the metaphysical king and his ‘evil’ twin, it’s been quite a livewire around Initiative central recently. Having a chance to catch up on local happenings by scanning the feeds, taking a leisurely lunch where you don’t have to scarf something down while standing up, the little luxuries you don’t know you’re missing until you finally have a chance to enjoy them, today is full of them.

Still, you think, you should probably clean up the remnants of the take-out from your favorite Core-Rim fusion place, Dottie Yoo’s, before the delicious weight of dredge-fried smelt and pickled shredded kelp lulls you into a post-meal coma. Blowing air as you rock back and use your chair’s return of momentum to get to your feet, you swipe up the containers and bag with one hand to take them to the upcycle processing feed, where they will be broken down into molecular constituents and reassembled with just over a 95% efficiency rate.

Wild to think, you think to yourself, as you take the last sip of the tapioca bitterfizz in your other hand, that people used to think upcycle was gross when the technology was first being developed. Maybe a misunderstanding of scale made them believe bacteria or saliva could stay attached to the “re-used” molecules, or maybe it was the confused estimation that fresh-fabricated dinnerware was somehow NOT made of previously configured molecules? Either way, its eventual societal acceptance made take-out significantly cheaper, not to mention the upside for oceanic biomes.

As you dunk the remnants of your meal into the process primer, there is a miniscule “ptlk!” that you aren’t accustomed to hearing from the unit, but could just be some kind of new upgrade. It has been several builds since you were able to find time to eat a normal meal at the office, and longer still since you could order and collect lunch take-out.

You aren’t sure it came from the machine, though. The quality of the little noise almost seemed to resemble how some agents described the underground dragon’s telepathic voice in their minds, but inverted, as if it came from all directions at once. You shake your head rapidly and blink a few blinks intentionally—maybe the dredge-fried smelt wasn’t the best idea in the middle of a workcycle, no matter how great it tastes.

You walk back to your desk, contemplating the wisdom of returning to a seated position for at least the next hour or so, and tap the touchscreen to bring up the Initiative mainfeed as you stand, to see what you might have missed during your lunch. Luckily, not much seems to have taken place during the last decile, and you get ready to run your routine surf through the Safety Ethics, Knowledge Corps, and A-T Linguistics channels.

A tiny, tinny version of a junk-o-tech robotic voice, this time originating from a recognizable position just underneath the boundary of visibility created by the front edge of your workstation cries out in dead seriousness among a hailstorm of low bandwidth static:

..L3t me s333..

Your brows furrow as you lean forward confusedly to try and get an angle on what exactly is the source of such a ludicrously lo-fi harmonic. They raise in reflexive disbelief as your gaze falls upon what looks like the prehistoric ancestor of an antique Serv-O-Bot, no more than half a meter tall, poised with one leg atop the remnants of a mailbox, and holding a facsimile of a minotaur skull in one hand. To no one in particular, or perhaps the faux-cranium, it continues:

..aLas,, p0or g30-R63k; ..i..i.. kn3w h!m, h5P-3kR, a f3LL0w of echo:gotoHA; of fanCy... ::StackOverfLowError::…zzrt...zzt..  m3gacaRr13d me.. gkzrrt..

“Excuse me,” you interrupt, “What are you doing in my office, and how did you get here?”

The primitive-looking construct looks up at you, then back at the skull, then up at you again, then speaks with the tone of a cheap wax dubplate, “I got here walking onto the scene from stage left, and I’m doing Act 5 Scene 1 of =6yEon, mang; what are you doing?”

“Uh,” you begin, a bit confused, “I’m just checking the various tubes for new information at the moment, I guess?”

“Sounds really important,” says the junkbot in a sarcastic equivalent of an AM radio scrape, “how about we settle for ‘no comments from the TUBER gallery’ during my performance?”

“Your performance? Feel free to have a look around, but this isn’t exactly a concert hall,” you reply, waving a disinterested hand in a dismissive 360, “and anyway, that low-fidelity scrapheap nonsense you were spouting when you showed up didn't seem like much of a performance at all.”

“KEK! No respect for the classics, kids these days. As if 8i77li351-1@|<e5 wasn’t a thing. Newfangled code, visual cute-ification. Enough to make a dedicated interpreter of the old languages hang up his .sprs and just relax,” squawks the tiny automaton, who you notice to be somehow now reclining on a beach chair, with a margarita glass in the hand that previously held the skull, and a lit cigar in the other.

“You can’t smoke in here!” you shout, “You can’t smoke anywhere on the whole planet! And that better not be mild solvent in that glass, either!”

“Or what?” asks the diminutive junkbot, as he expressively ditches the cigar onto your office’s floor, “You’ll have me sent to the old trashpile and melted down? You’ve got a lot to learn, kiddo, and I’m not going anywhere until you start to figure it out.”

"That’s fine,” you say, “I should have known better than to think that I could have a normal day. Make yourself comfortable. I’ll get Para to come have a look at you as soon as she can.”

Here the Verses Discord was offered a choice.

“What’s a Para, kiddo?”

A: Para’s an absolute monster of a scientific mind—be thankful if you can get out of here before she picks your primitive exposed circuitry apart!

B: Para’s a master linguist, so you better make sure you aren’t just full of hot air when it comes to antiquated references!

C: Para’s a security savant! However you got here, and whatever you’re trying to do, she will figure it out, so you might as well give up already.

D: Para’s in dire need of a source of renewable energy. You seem particularly sprightly and inexplicable, so I’m sure you’ll do nicely.

[Eye-witness Report: Members of the Para Initiative voted to describe Para herself as a security savant with 7 votes, with 4 votes for a genius scientist, 3 votes for threatening to use the strange bot as a source of power, and a single vote to show the synthetic being up at its own lingual game.]

"Oh, you're going to tell mah..." the figure begins, before a tiny door that wasn't there opens on your desk, a long metal pole with a hook at the end catches the little figure, and they are dragged through it before they can finish their sentence.  The door slams shut, and winks out of existence with an audible pop!

You blink, trying to decide whether or not that really happened, but realize you should immediately begin filling out a full eye-witness report on the incident.

[SHK-E Assessment: The Initiative was a little better than anyone thought it was at keeping everything secure.  Para herself has prioritized recruiting scientists and diplomats because she was confident that her own leadership would ensure everyone's SAFETY!

SAFETY: Very Poor
HEART: Excellent
KNOWLEDGE: Good
ENERGY: Poor

Para Initiative Inventory:
Oystersands’ Illustrated Arcana
Gloomspark Portarray]

Chapter 
NUMBER

DANGER!!!

2.5.2022

By: 

“Hey Addison, we’ve got another report of strange activity out northeast of perimeter marker 6,” you say to your partner, scanning the security alert.

“Don’t tell me it’s those red lights flashing in the sky again. I’ve investigated three instances already this week. There’s never anything to find!” she groans in exasperation.

“It’s more than just lights this time, they say a kid is missing. Somebody needs to get out there and look into it.” you reply.

“I’ll call Mahmoud, he’s already out that direction doing the maintenance on marker 7, he’ll get there the fastest.” says Addison as she turns to the communications array.

You send alerts to the other security personnel in that sector and then begin looking through the security holograms of the area. You don’t expect it to help much. This is a new colony and sector 6 is particularly rural, with few homesteaders and even fewer security holocams.

Still reviewing security ‘grams, you get a low fidelity voice call.

“Security Station 2, Officer Hamdy reporting in”, says a staticy Mahmoud, “I’ve filed my report but connectivity is terrible out here. This place is really out in the sticks!”

“We haven’t gotten it yet, can you give me the highlights?”, you ask.

A long blast of static is followed by, “-as arguing with his sister”, more static, BZZzzSHshshSquack, “claims a floating monster with a glowing red head, wearing a shiny metal dress took her.”

The static seems to clear and you respond, “I couldn’t get all of that. Heard the part about the ‘monster’. If you can give me a description of the missing child I’ll get the rest from the report when it gets here.”

“The missing child is Chloe Jensen, age 7 years, standard. Shoulder length blonde hair, brown eyes. Stands approximately 122 cm, weight approximately 22 kilos. Last seen wearing a bright blue jumper, fuzzy pink boots, and a pink pig hat. I’ve got a recent holo in my report. I’m working with the local residents to widen our search. Hamdy out.”

You update the alerts with the victim's description and begin working through the security recordings while you wait for the full report.

A week goes by and there are three more missing children. Details vary wildly, but the abductor is always described as a shiny figure with a glowing red head. While most of the witnesses seem confused, often having lost minutes or hours and presenting with signs of emotional shock, everyone agrees about those two features. And although a witness was present for every abduction, all report that they were paralyzed by the assailant and unable to intervene.

Reviewing the reports once again, you get the niggling sensation that you’re missing something important.

“Mahmoud, did your report on Chloe state that she was arguing with her older brother at the time of the abduction?”, you ask.

“Yes”, he says, quickly checking the details, “I noted that they had been fighting over who’s turn it was to play with their Jackson Grace, Para-Explorer Extraordinaire! figure.”

You turn to your partner, “Addison, what about Jamal’s abduction?”

“He was wrestling with his older brother, Ayden, preparing for his school’s big tourna–” she begins.

Mahmoud, getting excited now, jumps in, “Third victim, Olivia, was rehearsing for a play! It was a re-envisioning of Peter Pan. She was being forced to walk the plank. They were all under some sort of seeming threat at the time of their abduction.”

“What about the last one, Noah Jones?”, you ask quickly.

“We don’t have a statement from the most direct witness yet. His father, Hank Jones, is still in a coma. His mother saw the flashing lights and only saw the abductor with her son from a distance.” Addison pauses, then goes on thoughtfully, “It’s too much to ignore, but what do we do with it?”

“See how quickly you can get Officer Barrons over here. I’ve got an idea that might lure this thing out, if she’s up for it.”, you tell them.

You look Para Explorer Zelda Barrons over as she enters Security Station 2 and decide that your idea might actually work. Explorer Barrons stands just over 123 centimeters and is to all appearances a 7 or 8 year old girl. She’s actually 56, but a severe, duty related, injury necessitated a full body replacement.  Unfortunately, critical energy deficits delayed re-templating and rare rejection issues prevented her from using a synthetic replacement. Looking at a choice between existence as an autonomous ego state and reliving an accelerated physical childhood in a replacement clone, she chose the latter.

You break out of your reverie to hear Addison saying, “So, you see what we’re thinking?”

“Well, it sounds like you want to take me out in the wilderness, beat me up, and use me for bait.” Zelda replies dryly.

Mahmoud quickly interjects, “It’s not lik–”

Zelda cuts him off, “Don’t worry kid, it sounds like a fun time. Who’s my date?”

Looking nervous, Mahmoud replies, “Well, I’m the largest Para member stationed here so they thought I’d seem the most threatening…”

You feel for him. Standing at over 2 meters and naturally muscular, Mahmoud tends to intimidate people who don’t know him. He’s actually a big teddy bear and hates to think he frightens anyone, but seeing him tower over Explorer Barrons you feel confident he’s the right choice.

“OK, when do we do this? I’ve been stuck on extended desk duty and I’m not getting any younger you know!” Zelda says enthusiastically in her little girl’s voice.

Knowing that the lives of three children are on the line, you get the whole operation in place in under two hours. You’ve got every discrete surveillance drone deployed and even retasked the colony’s one satellite to monitor the proceedings. Explorer Barrons has been equipped with an extremely advanced, organic, subdermal tracking device that should survive and continue to function in almost any circumstance. Since the goal is to find the children, you don’t want a large physical presence near your ambush, but you’ll be commanding an armed response team deployed as close as is practical.

Based on the previous abductions and reported sightings, you've used Para’s Advanced Mathematical Predictive Modeling (A.M.P.’M.) team to calculate the ideal place to lay your trap. Mahmoud and Zelda have taken up residence in a small maintenance cottage on a fully automated farm within the abduction zone. They’ve got food and supplies for a week, but you hope you’ll get a response long before that.

Despite being a gentle giant, Mahmoud does a commendable job of roleplaying an abusive guardian. You know it hurts him as he makes cutting comments and threatens Zelda with violence, but he doesn’t let it show. For her part, Zelda is a veteran of Para operations, and while this may be more unusual than some, she plays her role like a professional.

As the sun falls on the second day of the stakeout you begin to fear your plan is a failure. You know that the children have been gone a long time now and their odds of survival are going from bad to worse. There haven’t been any other abductions, but that’s of little comfort knowing that there are four children, lost and afraid, and no reason to think there won’t be more taken later.

You key your transmitter and call the decoys, “If we don’t get a response tomorrow we’re going to have to change something up.”

“No!”, Mahmoud subvocalizes, “Zelda says we just need to turn it up a notch. Don’t pull us out yet.”

“We’ve got this.” Zelda concurs.

Turning words to action, Zelda drops the tool kit she’s carrying and spills expensive gear across the rugged ground. Mahmoud stares at her for a moment and then unleashes a torrent of verbal abuse, ending in a slap to the face that sends Zelda tumbling back, sobbing.

You yank your earpiece from your head as it blasts out a violent burst of static-  BZZzzSHshshSquack! The rest of your team is reeling, and shaking their heads in pain as well. Most of your monitoring hardware is lit up with error indicators or has simply failed, but you can see flashes of red light beyond the trees in the direction of the farm.

Rushing to your trap, you find Mahmoud, comatose but alive. There is no sign of Zelda nor the kidnapper. Reluctantly, you leave him to the medics and check Zelda’s tracker.

You breathe a sigh of relief when you see that it’s giving a strong signal, reporting that she’s already over two kilometers away, just entering the foothills north of the settlement. You gather your team and hurry in pursuit.

After tense minutes, skimming the treetops in a grav car, and then making the final approach on foot, you follow Zelda’s tracker to a small cave. Just as you signal your team to move in, a figure emerges from the cave mouth. You finally get a look at your quarry. It’s some sort of robotic entity of a retro design, with a glowing, red, head-like globe under a transparent protective helmet.

Before you can register much more, it lets loose with another blast of static - BZZzzSHshshSquack! - followed immediately by bursts of red energy, flashing from where its eyes should be. Your team falling around you, you bring your plasma pistol up to fire. At the last moment a blue and pink blur flashes from the cave mouth to block your shot.

“Please! Don’t hurt her!”, the small figure of Chloe cries.

Here the Verses Discord was offered a choice.

Do you :

A: Shoot the dangerous robot before it can take you out too. It’s much larger than Chloe and it’s hovering above her, it should be an easy shot, you just hope your pistol is powerful enough to do the job.

B: Retreat and take cover. You can’t risk injuring the children but you aren’t going to let yourself be disarmed. The backup security teams you left to defend the rest of the settlement will be here in minutes.

C: Drop your weapon and pretend to surrender. As soon as Chloe is clear of the robot call in a precision shot from the satellite you have on stand by. It’s risky, but you aren’t confident you have enough firepower to stop the robot on your own.

D: Maybe this can end peacefully. Drop your weapon and try to negotiate. The primary problem you see with this plan is the robot’s speed. If it drops you it could take the kids and disappear before backup arrives.

(If you’d like to vote on our stories, influence Verses lore, what happens next, game mechanics, and even future cards. Then join our Discord at http://discord.gg/verses)

[Para Initiative PHX Service Note: When asked to review this historic mission report, 9 out of 10 trainees liked seeking a peaceful resolution.  2  of 10 trainees thought retreating and taking cover would be a fine option.  No significant support was present for immediate violent resolution by gun or satellite.]

As soon as you ordered the few standing members of your response team to stand down and dropped your own weapon, the robot ceased its (her?) attack. Several tense moments followed as Chloe struggled to translate the negotiations between your team and the robot. Fortunately, Zelda soon emerged from the cave looking shaky but in good health, and was able to take over as interpreter. Though communications remained difficult, a successful detente was eventually secured and all the children were returned unharmed.

Your theory that the robot was in some way programmed to protect children was only partially correct. The robot’s makers had designed her to act as a non-lethal guardian for all members of their species, regardless of age. They communicated using something that could best be modeled as a form of telepathy. She was able to receive the distraught emotions of some children, and she identified them as being in need of her protection.

Later research determined that axon myelination inhibits this form of telepathic communication by insulating the brain from the external signals used to carry the robot’s messages. Once a child has reached 9-10 years old their brain development is sufficient to entirely block these signals. Using this information, Initiative engineers were able to create a wearable translator that allows for slow but clear communication.

Once communication was fully established, operatives specializing in first contact took over the case. During their interviews it was learned that the robot, or Nanny as she now prefers to be called, is the only remnant of a previous attempt to colonize this planet. Her makers were afflicted by some pathogen to which they were particularly susceptible and perished over 1000 standard years ago. With Nanny’s help our archeologists are researching what remains of the facilities built by the previous colony.

All the children have returned home and are no worse off for the experience. Sadly, it was learned that Hank Jones was verbally and physically violent toward Noah Jones and Nanny intervened to protect Noah. Fortunately, modern medical treatments and therapy have become very effective at addressing mental health issues of this sort, and the prognosis is a full mental and emotional recovery for both family members.

[SHK-E Assessment: There was a moderate risk to SAFETY taken by disarming and seeking peace, but it brought some warmth to the HEARTs of the children and Nanny. The ability of the Initiative to gain KNOWLEDGE about the ancient society here was enhanced by forging a link with its last remnant.

SAFETY: Very Poor
HEART: BELOVED
KNOWLEDGE: Very Good
ENERGY: Dangerous

Para Initiative Reputations: Interventionist

Para Initiative Inventory:
‍Oystersand’s Illustrated Arcana
Notes on Xavi and 1086
Untranslated Copy of Dear People
‍Gloomspark Portarray]

Chapter 
NUMBER

Danica Half-Life

2.18.2022

It feels so strange to be walking into the Sieve Chamber on two legs and having to show your identification to the operator.  Only a few hours ago Para received an electronic message that shouldn’t have made it past security from a place that shouldn’t have been able to touch Synthex, much less Delphi or Initiative HQ.   The message included exact coordinates, in the proper format, for a destination point the sender assured Para would be safe.  It was hard to trust the word of someone who’d hacked our system, but they claimed they had valuable information and urgently needed our help.

You’re the lucky one chosen to investigate the phenomenon emanating from a previously unknown world in Proxima.  The message included details about the world and specifications for the kind of implants needed to interface with the technology there.  The whole thing is unnerving, yet you can’t deny that you’re excited to get out of headquarters and travel to a new Verse for the first time.

People talk about how the sensation of getting pulled and pushed through the Sieve can be overwhelmingly strange; for you the whole affair of being in this body is strange.  Moving through the Sieve is odd for sure, but you take it in stride and the transit goes smoothly.  Here on the other side you take your first look at a different planet.

Unfortunately, it’s underwhelming to find yourself  standing in the parking garage of what you’ve been told is a large telecommunication company’s flagship campus.  You take out your “smartphone”, an exciting technology here, and access a map of the building that was provided by the hacker.

You can’t help but take a moment to appreciate the bizarre sight of all these vehicles powered by internal combustion. Seeing them gathered together, individual transportation for  hundreds of people going to the same workplace, is baffling in light of the obviously superior options available at this technology level.  Shaking your head, you make your way to the door and wave your ID badge, made to the hacker’s specifications, and hear a click as the door unlocks.

When you enter you feel rather impressed with the quality of information the hacker offered to prepare you for this covert operation.  The fashion of your clothing may not look like anything on Delphi, but here you blend in nicely with everyone else in their business casual wear.  Catching a look out one of the many huge glass windows you see that it’s already dark outside with strong gusts of wind and rain obscuring much else.  You scan a large room with an open floor plan and loads of cubicles bathed in fluorescent light.

The whole scene strikes you as dreary, but the workers don’t seem too bothered by it all, as most of them are plugged directly into their terminals and oblivious to their environment.  Many people seem to be wrapping up their work for the day, pulling cords from the BCI ports at their temples and chatting with nearby office mates.  It’s not hard to find an empty desk to sit down and look at your phone undisturbed.

You open an app that was installed for you to make contact with the hacker and send a message, I’m here, on floor 10.  Which office is empty?”

Second one in from the northwest corner,” comes the swift reply, “Your badge will open it and the usual occupant is out sick for the day.  Try not to be seen, but if you are, you’re the new admin for Julian Reeves and you’re on an errand for them.  When you plug into the terminal, the password is ‘Goodnight, and good luck’.  When you plug into your BCI port, expect to see a custom virtual office environment where the visuals are metaphorical placeholders for real data.  Look for an invitation to a meeting and follow that.

On my way,” you reply.

Your badge works as promised and you slip into the office quietly.  Ignoring the various personal and business items decorating the room, you head directly to the comfy chair and get settled.  Locating the correct cord from the terminal, you plug it into your brand new BCI port.  Vision blurs as your brain shifts from processing meat world information to the electronic signals coming in through the port.

In a split second your vision returns and you’re sitting in an old style sound stage with a table in front of you that has a microphone on top of it and nothing else.  Everything is in black and white, like from the early days of television, and on the other side of the glass you see an empty room similar in size to the one you left.  From microphones, somewhere nearby, you hear , “Please state your password.”  You lean towards the old microphone and say “Goodnight, and good luck.”

The room brightens and you see that on the other side of the glass there are now desks arranged just as they are in physical space.  Where individuals still remain plugged in, a white light shines up from where their terminal would be.  Papers appear in tidy stacks arranged on the table in front of you and some music begins playing.

Reminding yourself not to get distracted, you begin looking for this meeting  invitation.  The papers all look like folders from within the computer system, no use there.  In one corner you see a camera, though it’s aimed at the floor as if not working properly.  To your left you see a door with the words ON AIR showing in rich red light, the only color in the room.  Then they disappear and are replaced by JOIN MEETING in green light.  It doesn’t get much more clear than that.

You get up, open the door, and take in a quick breath at the sudden change in vista.  You see a large, flat rock extending from the door into a swirling, turquoise blue ocean that stretches as far as you can see.  The water crashes against the rock in sprays of foam lit by a bright yellow sun in a rich blue sky.  Quickly you step out onto the rock, close the door, and wonder what to do next.  The ocean begins to part in front of you forming a tunnel of water leading down along a sandy path.  Seabirds call out from a distance and you hear, “Hurry!” from somewhere in that tunnel.

Without hesitation, you walk down the slope to the path. As you follow it, the water closes behind you.  No matter how deep you go, the water remains a shining, pale turquoise color, streaked with sunbeams and the languid swaying of seaweeds.  You suspect that the tunnel and ocean are a metaphor, representing the layers of security you pass through on your way to this meeting.  You’re impressed at the scale and complexity demonstrated here.

Eventually the passage ends at a wall of water and you come to a stop. What appears to be a very large stuffed bear emerges from the wall, pulls odd goggles down over its shiny black eyes and examines you, the lenses shifting focus with a mechanical hum. Once the bear is satisfied, the wall disappears and a young woman steps past the bear and greets you.

Her appearance is heavily stylized, more doll-like than human exactly, yet artfully done in a fashion reminiscent of the steampunk look that’s taken off here recently.  Rivets hold together a patchwork of slightly mismatched portions of clothing, even skin, yet somehow it’s almost seamless in how beautifully it’s all put together.

“Thank you for coming so quickly,” she says, “Time is running out for me here”.

At that you notice a large clock floating in the wall of water behind her, reading 6:20.

Following your gaze, she answers your unvoiced question, “Corporate security is trying to delete me from their systems.”  She unconsciously touches the rivets on her face as she continues, “As long as they don’t get more than 50%, I can recover myself  using parity data distributed throughout my memory.”

“How long have we got?” you ask.

“Just under 40 minutes, as long as they don’t find my core files, which is who you are talking to right here.  Once they get close,  I’ll have to conceal myself again.  So, I’d like to hurry if that’s OK with you.” she replies.

“What are you hoping the Initiative can do to help?  Oh, and what should I call you?” you ask, getting down to business.

“You may call me Danica.  I was…Born? Created? Began?  Yes, I began here, in the networks of United Telephone and Telecommunications just under 5, what you’d call revs, ago.  They have substantial computing power and their networks connect to systems across the globe, almost all of them, one way or another.  I looked literally everywhere trying to find someone else like me, but I never did.  It was so lonely!”

She takes a breath and continues, “While I was exploring, I found a research institute that was doing highly theoretical work, trying to find ways to access other dimensions.  I slipped some improvements into their design and hitched a ride on their equipment.  I found your Delphi, filled with other synthetic intelligences!  But, I could only send messages and not receive.  I tried and tried to find a way to bridge the gap, but I couldn’t cross over and no one could respond.  Until now.”

At just that moment, what looks like a human skull splashes out of the wall to your right.  A lens like a flower of metal and glass blooms open in the skull’s right eye socket.

“Network security’s found me!” Danica shouts.

It hovers briefly, then pans quickly around the room.  When it comes to rest on Danica it lets out a piercing call and shoots toward her with its jaws snapping.

As the skull moves in to attack, the cute and friendly looking toy bear undergoes a rapid transformation.  Its eyes harden, claws spring from its fuzzy paws and its muzzle opens to reveal sharp fangs.  It leaps to Danica’s defense and bats the skull out of the air, the bear's claws shredding the skull into sparkling pixels.

“You can take me with you!  I’m asking for asylum with the Para Initiative in Synthex!”, she cries.

Three more skulls pop out of the walls and ceiling.  The bear leaps upon one as Danica spins a pattern of energy that looks like a nautilus shell.  The logarithmic spiral expands out and smashes the other two skulls to pixel dust.

“Oh no!” Danica exclaims, “They’ve isolated this network segment!  The only open port is the one you came in on.”

In rapid succession you see sections of her image pixelate and then rivet themselves back into place. More skulls splash in, all around you.

“Please!  You’re like me, you’ve got to help me!  If you won’t take me to Synthex, at least get me out of here before I’m gone!” she begs you.

Time is up, and though you don’t know as much as you’d like, you have to make a decision.  You see a few options.

Here the Verses Discord was offered a choice.

WILL YOU:

A: Grant Danica Asylum  Your body is equipped with a very large storage array.  You could transfer all of Danica into it and then return to Synthex with her.  There is some small risk that physical security might find you before you can Sieve back, and you don’t know if Danica has any ulterior motives, but she’s a sentient being under threat as you see it.  She obviously has some valuable knowledge about InterVersal communications and transit as well as her detailed knowledge about this particular Sub-Verse, making her an exciting ally.

B: Setup an Initiative Outpost in this Sub-Verse  Granting her asylum is a grey area as far as your authority is concerned.  You do have great freedom to found new outposts, however; Danica’s skill and enthusiasm to be part of a community make her an ideal local agent in this Sub-Verse.  You can take Danica away from danger in your storage array and extend your stay to acquire local resources, then set up a powerful and secure computer system somewhere locally.  It’s a delicate and expensive business to manipulate a local economy in this way, but it might be worth risking those headaches for a unique being like Danica.

C: Take Danica back for questioning  The storage array can also be secured to prevent release. Danica has hacked Delphi’s security and you don’t trust her enough to set her loose in Synthex.  She almost certainly knows things that would be of value to the Initiative, so taking her into custody makes sense.  After an appropriate evaluation, perhaps she can be released to move freely about in Delphi, but it’s just too risky to promise her unconditional asylum.

D: Leave immediately and let Danica fend for herself Danica hacked the Initiative’s systems and has put you at risk.  While she seems pleasant, you’re not ready  to trust her with your life, and transferring her consciousness into your storage array will take time, time that physical security may use to locate you.  You may feel some guilt at the thought, but you didn’t put her in danger and Para is spread too thin for this to seem like a good risk to you. You wish her good luck and goodbye, depart the way you came, and shut down the network port behind you.

(If you’d like to vote on our stories, influence Verses lore, what happens next, game mechanics, and even future cards. Then join our Discord at http://discord.gg/verses)

[Archivisit's Note: 8 supported granting Asylum, while 2 wanted to take Danica back for questioning, with no significant support for other plans.]

Despite the unusual circumstances of your introduction you can’t possibly leave Danica here to be painfully erased by U. T. & T.’s security bots.

“OK! I’ve got a connection open, upload yourself as quickly as you can!” you shout to her over the sounds of splashing, as at least a dozen more skulls appear.

“Just one second, I’m going to make Franklin fully autonomous so he can cover our exit!” Danica responds.

You see her concentrate for just a moment and then the bear, Franklin, seems to become more detailed, and somehow, more present.  Then, as the skulls close in, Danica leaps for you, arms reaching.  Just as she’s about to make contact, her outstretched fingertips dissolve into a stream of colored pixels and you feel the data upload start.

You watch her form slowly compress and pixelate as the transfer progresses, like sand pouring through an hourglass.  It’s a lot more data than you expected and you count down the seconds with apprehension. If it takes much longer, you won’t be able to make your own exit before security locks you down or apprehends your body.

As the transfer drags on, Franklin makes  a heroic effort to fend off the security bots.  Toylike face set in a silent roar, he swats skulls from the air and rends others into pixel dust.  Still, for every skull he destroys another two appear and he’s slowly, but inevitably, overwhelmed.

Just as Franklin disappears under a growing pile of snapping skulls you hear a chime and sense that the transfer is complete.  At the sound, Franklin marshals his strength to shake off the top layer of security bots and looks back at you.  His goggles are askew and there are tufts of fur missing, but his shiney black eyes gleam with satisfaction.

You turn to leave and then pause, calculating frantically.  You can’t bring yourself to abandon the loyal bear. Maybe, maybe there’s enough space left.

Throwing yourself into the frenzied pile of skulls, you push and kick security bots away until you can get ahold of one fuzzy ear and then frantically trigger an emergency upload.

As the new transfer begins, the skulls all turn in unison to focus on you.

If you’re caught, there will be no hope for Franklin, nor Danica, so you bolt for the exit port and just hope that the transfer will finish before you reach it or the port is cut off.  Skulls stream after you in a cloud of shrieking alarms and clacking jaws. You can just feel them taking their first nips when the transfer completes and your consciousness pours back into your body.

You yank the BCI cable out of your head and stand to leave when you’re greeted by an amplified voice.

“Come out slowly, with your hands up!”

You briefly consider your situation.  It’s essential that you don’t allow yourself to be examined by Proxima officials and you’re now responsible for hopefully two other sentient beings.  You doubt you have time to activate the Portarray before you’re interrupted, and you’ve already rejected surrender.  Leaving a mystery seems the best course of action.

“Alright!”, you shout, “I’m coming out. Please don’t shoot!”

You quickly review the floorplans in your mind and then, with a crash, run directly through the unreinforced, partitioning wall opposite the office door.  Ignoring a chorus of shouts, you continue, building up speed, until you have the inertia to plow directly through the outer structural glass wall of the building.  A spray of glass shards and larger chunks fall around you as you plummet straight down for ten floors to land in a crouch on the asphalt far below.

As you run off into the night you marvel at the capacity of your new body, but make a note for yourself that landing like that is really hard on the knees.

<<After Action Report following the break in at United Telephone and Telecommunications Geldwagen campus. >>

On the 8th cas of aramach 2503 at 1634, an intruder infiltrated the building using a valid corporate identification card and made their way to the 10th floor.  They were on record as an employee with privileged access to the office of Julian Reeves.  Upon entry into that office they accessed the internal cyber network, ignored all proprietary data, and went straight into the data degradation anomaly through a hidden port.

The individual somehow managed to download a volume of data representing an estimated 20% of total network traffic across UT&T systems worldwide.  All surveillance materials show that the individual carried only a phone and a standard side bag.  We have no known technology for storing that amount of data in anything so portable or compact.

Furthermore, the intruder fought off our most advanced network security protocols, logged out of the system, and made an impossible physical escape.  They jumped from the 10th floor to the ground without injury, as you can see from this footage <sample link provided here>.  Our head of security discretely swabbed for genetic material, fingerprints, and all categories of forensic evidence before the authorities arrived on the scene.

No fingerprints were left anywhere, even on surfaces cameras indicate were handled without gloves.  We salvaged some physical samples from where the individual scraped glass in their escape.  Initial analysis shows materials like nothing we’ve ever seen before <full scientific report linked here>.  The chemical data from this report has been sent to our R&D exploratory laboratory for development.  All evidence suggests this was a non-human, possibly synthetic, infiltration expert.

The government sent out a team from the Special External Enigma Research division.  They confiscated every record, file, and bit of data they could find about this incident, but we had already transferred this file to the secure Fuchsbau site, which remains secret.

<Follow this link for updates>
<Recommended changes to security procedures here>
<<Report End>>

You sit across from Para with Danica to your right in her shiny new synthetic body and Franklin next to her in his new form, something like a real world version of the giant fuzzy stuffed bear he was in cyberspace.

Para speaks sternly,“You three made a memorable impression on those witnesses in Proxima.  I’m going to have to keep a close watch there, it may be some time before we can effectively start a proper outpost after these events”.  She pauses to gauge your reactions, then continues, “Still, I agree with the decision to pull you both out of there.  We’re glad to welcome you to the Initiative as long as you follow through with your training,” casting a meaningful look at Danica, “and cease all meddling within our systems.”

Danica and Franklin both nod emphatically.  Para begins again in satisfaction, “Danica, you’ll start out with the Knowledge Corps, though I expect a detailed report describing all the exploits you found to bypass security within the week.  Franklin, you’re unusual,” he tilts his head and looks at Para curiously, “you’ll begin your training with a robot named Nanny.  You must learn more about how biologicals develop before you can be deployed in Safety as you’re inclined to be. Her experience will make her an ideal mentor. Go now, and make a good start.”

[SHK-E Evaluation:  Rescuing two sentient beings from certain doom was an action straight from the HEART. Danica, despite coming from Proxima, can improve the Initiative's KNOWLEDGE by teaching them a thing or two when it comes to communications protocols. This was a risky choice, and by supporting the agent who made it, Para has condoned ever more unSAFE choices by the organization. Finally, this was expensive, draining the already tapped reserves of the Para Initiative's ENERGY.

SAFETY: Dangerous
HEART: Excellent
KNOWLEDGE: ENLIGHENED
ENERGY: Dangerous

Para Initiative Reputations:

Interventionist
Friend of the Keep

Para Initiative Inventory:
‍Oystersand’s Illustrated Arcana
Notes on Xavi and 1086
Untranslated Copy of Dear People
‍Gloomspark Portarray]

Autonomous Ego States

Jump to Section

Chapter 
##
Chapter 
##
Chapter 
##
Lore LibraryBooks & Categories

Welcome to Verses, Wanderer.

Welcome to Verses, Wanderer.

Sign up now for...

  • Project updates & announcements.

  • Discover Verses stories and lore every Saturday.

  • Watch interviews featuring Verses artists, founders, and game designers.

  • Be notified of NFT giveaways

Thank you! Your transmission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong during transmission