Wednesday, March 31, 2010


The amazing thing about running Jeanie around Nia was the scale of things. Plants on Nia are big. I mean they're damned big! I was never able to shake the feeling that our Arkhe and all the other robots were about the size of mice instead of being meters tall. The geology didn't help much either. Slopes tended to be extreme. Whatever tectonics were going on inside of Nia had made for some funky landscapes. It didn't do much for your confidence. First time deployed, hostile environment, feeling like a small rodent....not a good recipe for a combat engagement.

Our mission that first day was simple, one hour orientation within 5 klicks of base. We had free reign to shake down and get acclimated so long as we remained within the guard tower perimeter. I started off just walking Jeanie remember, Jeanie was only a tiny little nanobot inside of that monster of a robot. Just that whenever she integrated into a bot I started thinking of her as the whole thing.

We had our legs under us pretty quick. I took Jeanie at some pretty high speeds and the bot handled the terrain with no problem. It was amazing and a little comical how fast those legs would move. To be honest it didn't do much in the way of helping my mouse complex. Seeing something that big scurrying around was surreal.

After about 10 minutes of staying within sight of the base I turned Jeanie down a sharp draw toward an inland sea. I could see on my radar that we were dropping out of the guard tower direct fire envelope but I wasn't too concerned. You've gotta remember that I'd had plenty of experience controlling bots in combat back on Earth. Plus I didn't figure we had much of anything to worry about that close to base. Boy was I wrong.

We eased down the draw to where it widened out into a bowl shaped depression. The sides of the bowl rose up to sharp peaked hills and the floor was covered with 3 meter high vegetaion called Oryovia. I had Jeanie bring up an overlay that gave me the no-go terrain and could see our only way out was either back up the draw or over a saddle about 800 meters ahead. Over the saddle our map showed open terrain. A quick joggle to the right after passing through the saddle and we'd be on a direct, unobstructed line back to base. Only problem was if we went over that saddle we were going to be about a full kilometer outside of my assigned 5K limit. I decided to play by the rules.

I had Jeanie navigate the dense vegetation toward a spot where we could climb a slope high enough to get a direct line of sight over the saddle. We would be just inside the 5k limit. Her path took us right through the middle of the bowl. We started picking up some dense mag readings on the radar. Jeanie gave me a probability of titanium deposits and we were equipped with a probe so I had her go ahead and drop one. Mistake.

Those damned probes set up a racket like you wouldn't believe. As soon as it started thumping, the densities on radar started moving. Now Jeanie was a machine. There wasn't any hesitation on her part. Me? I'm human. For a split second I had all sorts of denials and excuses running through my head. It could be friendlies. It's inside the guns so it can't be enemy. It might be a local fauna I just wasn't briefed on. Shit. It's funny as hell what your mind will come up with to deny a bad situation.

Jeanie saved my ass. She had just enough AI at that point to throw us into a quick run toward a dense cluster of trees without my input. I only froze for a split second but by the time I came back to myself there were three flights of light missiles homing on us. Jeanie was feeding me so much data I could barely absorb it. Castel class Thelodican drones. Directions. Speeds. Ranges. Armor strengths. Sensor weaknesses. Missile payloads. Cartridge reload times....and a shit ton more.

The first flights of missiles impacted directly aft of Jeanie. Expanding dust and smoke poured past us even faster than we were running. Jeanie switched my view over to laser interpolation as we were swallowed in a brown haze.

I nudged Jeanie's direction back toward a slightly higher elevation and cycled the HE dump rounds in the two Syn-Tec issue light autocannon she was equipped with so that we'd have AP trajectory on our first shot. I had Jeanie send a priority contact report back to base. The second salvo was already incoming.

I sent Jeanie a command to target the two closest Castels and spun the upper body so that our weapons would be able to track. At the same time I gave Jeanie freedom to move us at best possible speed back to the draw . I wasn't going to stick around to fight and lose an Arkhe on my first day.

Jeanie went evasive...running a random zig zag in the general direction of the draw. It didn't matter. The Thelodicans had corrected their salvo spread to account for our ability to take sudden laterals. The rounds that hit us weren't concentrated and only a few of them impacted but it was still enough to rock Jeanie and nearly tip us. Armor chunks blew off the back two legs and the thorax armor was cratered. We lost backup actuators in one of the legs and the blast impact had derailed gear drives in an infrared targeting turret but otherwise Jeanie came out just fine. I was impressed. My old CIRP back on Earth would have been a molten heap under those impacts. These Nian bots were tough SOBs.

Our reactor had plenty of juice so Jeanie kicked on the armor repair while I primaried one of the Castels. I fired three quick bursts of AP. The Castel didn't have close to our mobility and I was a pretty good gunner. Most of my rounds hit and poked fist sized divots in his armor. I was so damned proud of myself. That lasted almost a full second. The Castel opened up with one of his cannon. One burst and we had a line of head sized craters in the armor of the cupola. It was right then that I realized just how crappy Syn-Tec guns were. I was laying on my couch in the intch cussing my ass off as I thought at Jeanie to open up the reactor and get us the hell out of there.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Down the Rabbit Hole

Jeanie and I had spent a couple of months training together in Beijing. Running sims, combined arms live fires with other agents...a bunch of other stuff designed to get me acclimated to experiencing a virtual life through a spark. My training was actually pretty short as I'd already had plenty of time with lower generation sparks.

It was March 28th 2211 when they moved me up to the station and bundled Jeanie off with a group of other nanobots. At that time they didn't push nanos through the wormhole in small packets. They were still wrestling with creating exotic matter and could only stabilize the wormhole for short periods...I'm talking micro seconds. It took alot of uncertain work to prop the hole open and quite a few packets of nanos were lost in the early days. Needless to say Jeanie made it through safe and sound.

You know about all that quantum stuff right? I mean how Jeanie and I communicated long distances through changing spin on up quarks and anti-up quarks...the same stuff that makes your computers run so damned fast nowadays....and how they poured the energy through the wormhole in massless photonic streams that could survive the information loss on the horizons? No? Well, I'll explain the communication part because that's important to understanding how things went on Nia, the photons you'll just have to trust me about.

Basically quarks are really small particles that have certain characteristics. Ever heard of a hadron collider? That's right, old news, they've been around since the 20th century. Well, the hadrons they were colliding were sub-atomic particles. The stuff that shot away from the hadrons when they smashed together were quarks and leptons. Remember the "certain characteristics" I mentioned? The up quark has a specific spin, the anti-up quark has an exact opposite spin. Always. If you've got a bonded up and anti-up pair they'll have exactly opposite spins. You can seperate them up to a certain distance and they'll maintain that bond. Throw some magnetometric energy at one of them and you change its spin. The other quark in the bonded pair will immediately also change so that it's spin is still opposite. The important thing is it's immediate....even if that means the information has to travel faster than light to make it happen.

So, you line up two series of up quarks in a nanobot floating in space and a set distance away on either side of that nanobot you've got two nanobots with two series of anti-ups. One series is bonded to its anti on either side. Flip the spins on specific quarks and you can IOIOIO you're happy ass off at faster than light speeds. Of course there's a bit of speed loss as the nanobots trigger the magnets but it's mostly made up for by the distance seperating the bots in the chain. A few million nanobots and me and Jeanie were suffering only a bit of lag.

Now the reason that chain is important to my story is the rogue agents. Ha! Don't look so surprised. I know the official line of bullshit the public has been fed but you have to have heard the rumors? Of course they were real! Not like the mega corps were going to admit it though. They might come off as less than perfect. Hold on. We're running way off track. I'll explain about the way the rogues cracked the chain later on in my story. Suffice to say there were times when the chain would go down due to the rogues. We called it "crashing the server".

Where was I when I started talking about quarks and stuff? Right, right. Jeanie was headed down the rabbit hole. I was in the intch hooked.... Intch. Sorry, there's some vernacular and acronyms we used. The intch was the place on the space station where we hooked up to our sparks. Integration Chamber...intch. So I was in the intch hooked up to Jeanie as her nano bundle drifted out to the wormhole. They'd pushed the bundle with a photon ram to avoid damaging any of the delicate electronics in some of the unarmored nanos and it was one hell of a slow ride. Luckily they'd built the station pretty close to the wormhole so it didn't take too long. Right before Jeanie went through the connection monitors cut our contact to protect the agents from psych damage in case the bundle got wrenched. Getting wrenched is what they called being in the wormhole when the exotic matter gave way and the wormhole horizons met. I think you need a pretty damned bent mind to understand just what happens if you're in there when it gives. One of the scientists on the station tried to explain it to me once and I just couldn't grasp it.

A few minutes later they announced the bundle had made it through and hooked us all back into our sparks. What a damned sight. Imagine you're lying on a dentist's chair on a station with a pair of wires hooked into your brain, but your eyes aren't seeing any of it. Instead you're staring at an alien world 87 thousand light years away. And you know that what you're seeing happened just micro seconds before....too short a time to even really register. I'm not the deepest man you'll ever meet but I'll be damned if that didn't cut right down to my soul. It was simply the most awe inspiring event I've ever experienced.

Jeanie's bundle started peeling away almost immediately. All those nanobots running off to whatever task they'd been programmed. It'd be another couple of hours before Jeanie hit dirtside so all the agents unplugged and took a break for a meal or a nap, depending on what time zone we came out of earthside.By the time they called us back in our sparks had already hit their bases. When I hooked back up Jeanie was in an Arkhe. The Arkhe was designed by the Syndicate based on tech information we'd stolen from the natives. It was weak as hell but it was what we had to work with at first. The project wasn't about to turn over the heavier bots to new agents. They saved those for the vets who had proven their ability to keep them safe. My first view of the Arkhe wasn't even real. Whenever Jeanie was in a base there wasn't any real room for a view of things. You've gotta remember personal space don't matter to a nanobot. My interface was streaming a model built on data instead of a real picture.

It wasn't until I gave Jeanie the command to deploy that I got to see what we had to work with....and it wasn't all that long until I got to see what we had to work against.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

An Agent Is Born

You weren’t there. You don’t know what it was like…how the hell could you? Today’s generation wants to paint the Perpetuum Project as some kind of evil cabal bent on xenocide. And, in your minds, the worst of the project were Agents like me. Well screw you! I’m not taking the rap for the whole world. We all thought what we were doing on Nia was the right thing. Well, for a while we did anyway.

Look. You seem a reasonable type. I’ve spent 60 years with this damned stigma and for once I’d like to get someone from the younger generations to see it from the perspective of the early 23rd century. You know…where we were then as a planet, how we were thinking. You got a few minutes? Let me tell you how it happened from my perspective.

I was still just a kid really. I’d graduated from Yonsei Uni with a degree in NT. At the time Nano Tech was big. We’d all heard about the wormhole and how nanobots were the only thing we could send through, so just about all the science undergrads had switched majors thinking that’s where the future was. Shit. Waste of my damned time. I might as well have gone for philosophy for all the good NT did me. I ended up going to work for Yun-thui MR….that’s Military Research…running dubs in Chile. You never heard of dubs? Hell, here your generation is all pissed off about what we did on Nia and you never even heard of the W-Series CIRP and what we used to do with them. Ha! Boy would you get your knickers in a bunch if I told you about that. Look it up some time….CIRP stands for Counter Insurgency Reconnaissance Platform. The W-Series was one bad ass machine.

Anyway, I ended up running dubs for about 6 years…thought my entire life was going to consist of splashing the Socs and Commies making trouble for the mega corps. Turned out I was pretty good interfacing with the spark that was in the dubs. Spark. You never heard of Sparks? It’s short for Sparkle. They’re the AI nanos that allowed us to control robots remotely. Techs come a long way since then, the last Spark was scrapped almost half a century ago. Helluva sad day for retired agents like me.

Like I was saying, I turned out to be pretty good with sparks. My boss at Yun-thui came to me one day and told me to report to medical. Turned out to be a psych eval. I had no clue why they were testing me until they offered me a job as an agent. Of course I took it. The planet was starved for energy for one. And, who was going to turn down an opportunity to look through a wormhole and see what was on the other side? They packed me off to Beijing and I went through an intensive course on Warfare Tech. Only the top 5% were allowed to continue and out of them only a few of us had the tolerance for the neuro integration chipsets they implanted. It was hell on the people who rejected their chipsets….some of them went crazy, some of them ended up partially paralyzed….some of them even died. I was lucky. Or. At least at the time I felt pretty lucky.

After I completed the course and had the chipset implant they loaded me up with a bunch of software. Only problem is the human brain can only take so much data in at once. It would take years of software updates before I felt truly competent as an agent. Every few days I’d soak up software extensions until my brain was reeling. I’d get migraines that would have knocked Ali out. Muhamed Ali. No, ah lee, he was a 20th Century pugilist….fighter…boxer. Oh hell, never mind, they outlawed the sport when I was still a kid but he was a big name for about 200 years after he died.

Once I’d recovered from the implant I was sent over to integrate with my spark. Basically it was like speed dating for Agents. We integrated with one spark after the next until we made a connection with one that really clicked. I ended up with a Geinos Mk1…my Jeanie….

Sorry, where was I? Right…Jeanie. She was a good gal. Not too smart at first, the project kept the AI strictly limited at the beginning. We agents figured out ways to strip the AI limiters bit by bit as time went by but, when it was all new, Jeanie was just a beautiful voice without much of a personality. I had a helluva time getting her to sync with me as closely as I needed. And believe me, once the shit hit the fan on Nia, how well in sync you were with your spark made every bit of difference. It got to the point where Jeanie was reading my thoughts before I even knew I was thinking.

But, like I said, at first it was a helluva time. I remember the day they sent Jeanie through the wormhole…..

The Beta Plunge

A few months ago I was doing my usual lurking on the Eve Online forums when I came upon a post about a new game called Perpetuum Online. Descriptions of this new game ranged from a great Mechwarrior type game with an Eve Online feel to an awful rip-off of Eve Online. Being a 5 year player of Eve and a fan of the old Mechwarrior games, I felt I owed it to myself to take a look. I took a spin around the Perpetuum Online website, saw they were in closed-beta stage and decided I did not have the time to devote to helping in a bug hunt. I left still interested and promised myself I would come back for a look once they opened things up.

Two days ago I read that Perpetuum's creators, Avatar Creations, were opening up the beta. I placed an application for an account. The form I had to fill out was specifically for the closed beta but I made sure to note in my application that I was there for the open testing when it became available. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Avatar Creations issued me a closed beta account about three hours ago.

This blog will cover my foray into the Perpetuum Online virtual world. I did not notice any NDAs when reading through the various agreements so I believe I'm not breaking any of the developer's rules with this blog.

My next post will cover creating my character (known as an Agent in-game), selecting my training and picking a "Spark" to control.