REBOOT: Build your play zones

Let’s say that, IRL, you live in Australia and you want a portion of the grid where you can encourage new OtherSpace recruits from your time zone to congregate.

Using every player’s inherent ability to @dig and @desc their own grid chunks, you’d be welcome to develop areas on Earth that represent futuristic versions of cities in your country. So, following the logic of the example, you could develop part of future Sydney or Melbourne and – once approved by the staff – we would link it to the main Earth grid so people could easily access from all time zones.

No SP costs are associated with grid construction at this time. Just doing the leg work is all we require.

Glitched

Rodger is at his customary spot, doing what he’s nominally paid for – making sure that no one gets into the research area without the proper identification. He keeps a general look of mild annoyance on his face, arms crossed as he gazes about the rotunda – constantly assessing who is present.

PING. A memo arrives on Rodger’s PDA, titled: SPARK INTERNAL COMMUNIQUE – URGENT.

Rodger frowns, PDA appearing in his hand as looks to read the recently arrived memo.

The memo reads: “All research and development personnel are subject to examination of all electronic devices on their person as they arrive and depart the premises. No one is to bring unauthorized technology into the facility and no one is to depart with proprietary data. Flag with retinal signature and reply to acknowledge.”

Rodger crooks an eyebrow at the PDA, then grins slightly. “Great,” he mutters, before holding the PDA to his eye and replying as demanded.

Downes emerges from the research wing with a briefcase in his right hand, ID holocard dangling from the lanyard around his neck.

Rodger clears his throat as Downes exits the research wing. “Excuse me, sir, but I’m going to have to have you open the briefcase and show me all your electric devices.” There’s an apologetic smile that appears forced, though his eyes remain hidden by the shades. “Security policy has been tightened.”

The newcomer from the research wing draws back from the guard in the sunglasses, scowling as he inquires: “You *do* know who I am, yes? Dr. Rodney Downes. I helped *start* the company that pays your salary. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll let me pass.”

The smile turns into a grin, and not necessarily a friendly one at that. “Dr. Downes, I apologize again for the inconvenience, but policy has changed. Interestingly enough, just as you happened to be exiting.” There’s a shrug. “I’ve been around the block enough to not believe in coincidence. So, please, make this easy on both of us and comply.”

Downes clutches the briefcase against his chest, hugging it like one might cling to an airplane cushion in the event of a water landing. “I demand to see your supervisor.”

The grin becomes toothy. “At this moment, I am my supervisor. I could try to reach Mr. Busby, if you’d like.”

The scientist’s right eye twitches in annoyance. “What’s your name?”

Rodger reaches into a pocket, nonchalantly handing Downes’ a business card. “Rodger Harrison.” He pauses while he waits for the man to take the card. “Now, will you please allow me to see the briefcase and your electronics, or will I have to detain you and then go through your possessions with a fine tooth comb? I do hope you are aware that you contract specifies that you waive all normal rights when you access the facility, so I am allowed to use force if you do not comply.”

Downes growls, taking the card as he hands over the locked briefcase. “My main devices are inside.” He makes no move to take off the ocular lens with the pale blue glow over his right eye, or the device looped around his right ear, or the bracelet that appears to be streaming news headlines from the Consortium worlds on a slow loop.

Rodger motions towards the briefcase. “If you would be so kind, Dr. Downes.”

With a slumping of shoulders and a long, drawn-out sigh, Downes steps over to tap in the sequence of numbers, letters, and symbols that unlock the briefcase. The lid pops loose. He steps back to allow Rodger to begin his inspection.

Rodger opens the briefcase and begins searching. Without looking up, he adds, “I will need to see all your electronics, so if you don’t mind removing them while I check the briefcase, I would be much obliged.”

The older man’s eyes widen and his mouth falls open. He waves the bracelet in the air: “It’s a news ticker!” He points at the device in his ear: “Simple comms device, incoming and outgoing. No data storage!” And then he points at the lens: “Infomatrix access. No internal connection!”

Rodger looks up with another smile. “Please indulge me. You did, after all, help found this company.”

Inside the briefcase, there are some electronic bookpads with multiple volumes about theoretical physics, applied engineering principles, and rocket science. Also, Rodger will find three dog-eared Barbara Cartland bodice-ripper novels from the 20th Century.

Rodger would probably lost combing through all the data before him if he had to do it manually, or it would just take a ridiculous amount of time. Luckily, Spark has provided a simple data scanner to link into electronic devices and quickly look for any copyrighted or proprietary information. There’s no comment as to the contents of the briefcase, the guard simply moves along to quickly scan all the electronics present and get the good Doctor on his way.

Downes grumbles, plucking the device from his ear and placing it on the counter next to the briefcase. He takes the lens from his eye and soon it joins the comms device. Finally, he takes the bracelet off and it immediately switches off, no longer playing the news feed. His lower wrist has a small strip of bandage where the groove of the bracelet was. He places the bracelet on the counter, then clasps his hands behind his back and waits.

A scan of the devices the doctor was wearing and contained within the briefcase will come up negative for proprietary data.

Rodger moves to scan all the devices efficiently but quickly. At the very least, he tries to maintain professional courtesy.

Downes twists his mouth, grunting occasionally as he waits for Rodger to finish his work.

Rodger finishes the scanning before closing the briefcase and handing back the various items. “Thank you for your patience, Dr. Downes.” There’s a brief pause. “Would you mind emptying all of your pockets to make sure that that is everything?”

Downes tilts his head. “Seriously?” He puts the earpiece on first. Then the eye lens. He claps the news bracelet back in place over the bandage. “Fine,” he growls. He turns out his pockets. Their contents: A half-consumed pack of foil-wrapped breath mints, a paper clip, and a green-furred rabbit’s foot.

Rodger picks up the rabbit foot, looking it over. “I suspect this has a story.”

“Maybe,” the scientist replies. “But I’m busy and if *you* have time to talk about my trinkets, then Busby clearly doesn’t give you enough to do.”

Rodger grins broadly as he hands back the foot. “Have a nice day, Dr. Downes.”

Downes reaches for the foot using the hand with the bracelet. “Nice day, indeed.” His wrist passes close to Rodger’s data scanner. And there’s a faint buzz from the scanner.

Rodger blinks. “But a moment more, Dr. Downes. If you would remove that item on your wrist again. And the bandage.”

Downes tucks the rabbit’s foot back in his pocket and then scowls at Rodger. “No, Mr. Harrison. You have delayed me more than enough already. I have suffered your insubordinate behavior for far too long as it is. My time is too valuable to waste like this.”

Downes is standing near the research wing entrance, confronted by a security officer – Rodger. He’s got a briefcase in one hand and a wrist bracelet that displays news from the worlds of the Consortium in a scrolling loop.

One of the senior scientists and security guards appears to be in some sort of heated discussion just outside of the research wing. “You just set the scanner off, Dr. Downes,” Rodger states simply. “You are not going to be able to leave until I know why.”

The senior scientist growls again. He reaches the fingers of one hand to unclasp the bracelet again, but then flings his briefcase at Rodger’s face and makes a run for the east corridor.

Modecai comes sweeping out of the administration offices, sunglasses being pushed back up to the top of his head. “No honey, I swear, I won’t forget it again. Thanks for calling me before I got in trouble.” With his other hand he waves his phone in the direction of whomever he was talking to and steps fully out into the hall. Unaware of the action going down.

Rodger seems confused for half a second, then grunts with annoyance. “Seriously? Seriously?!” He takes after Downes, activating his commbead as he runs. “This is Harrison. Dr. Downes is attempting to escape the facility ostensibly with restricted information. Do not let him out.” It does give the Doctor a bit of a head start.

Head start or no, the scientist is a largely sedentary man and woefully unprepared for frantic exertions such as this. Clumsy too. He trips, sprawling on the floor about six feet shy of the east corridor entrance. He scrambles to his hands and knees, trying to make some progress. Then he’s up on his feet again. And then he’s collapsing to his knees in the archway of the corridor, bracing his newsfeed hand against the wall.

Modecai pauses and looks between the two, there’s a long pause and then he bursts out laughing. It’s a good one too, a deep belly laugh. “Oh, look at the both of you. Super cop here, took the time to use the word ostensibly and the master criminal here can’t run ten feet.” He trails off to a chuckle and heads over to the scientist looking down at him. “Freeze or I’ll sneeze on you.”

Rodger slows to a halt near Downes, giving Modecai a dirty look. “You best play at this point is to cooperate, Dr. Downes,” he states coldly. Almost as an afterthought, “Are you alright? Do you require medical attention?” The man still, technically, is his superior.

Downes nods slowly, but doesn’t answer. Instead, he calmly reaches toward the bracelet again – it has two buttons that normally manage speed of display and language for the feed. His fingers press both buttons simultaneously, sending a burst of energy that shorts out the bracelet and temporarily glitches nearby electronics – including his artificial heart. He drops onto the floor, eyes gazing up at the ceiling, unseeing.

“Huh, a kill switch.” He looks about and then to the security officer. “Do you know CPR?” He then claps his hands. “Oh, help. Police, fire…” He says quite calmly. Modecai shakes his head and sighs then. “Seriously, this espionage bullshit is sad.”

Rodger crosses his arms, looking at Modecai. “Well. Shit.” After a pause, he radios in again. “We need an ambulance to the East Rotunda.” He begins CPR, despite it likely being pointless. “And please connect me to Mr. Busby. Urgently.”

At the moment, those calls aren’t going through. Glitched.

On the other hand, the burst didn’t affect the speakers or the holocams suspended from the ceiling above the entrance to the research wing. A man’s voice comes through on the speakers. “Mr. Harrison, man, grab whatever Doc was trying to sneak outta here. Probably no evidence left, though. Damn, man. No doubt about it. I’m bummed. Getting a sandwich. And pie. Ordering in. Good night, Mr. Harrison.”

Modecai shrugs. “Shame man.” Turns away and heads back down to the administration office, no doubt to hit on that receptionist again.

Rodger nods up at the first holocam he spots before digging into Downes’ wrist, trying to get at what he believes is the reason for all the shenanigans. “Great. Great great great,” he grumbles.

Once the bracelet is off, Rodger is able to remove the bandage. There’s no wound beneath. Just a data chip with a tiny Spark logo printed on the dull black surface.

Rodger holds the chip up to the camera before stepping away from the corpse. He pockets the item in his shirt before looking for a functional outside line to deal with the problem – assuming Busby hasn’t informed the authorities.

Getting a hook into Bob Busby

At first, I worried about Bob Busby.

I didn’t think he’d last.

I’d portrayed him twice, first in a TED-like talk posted here on the OtherSpace blog and then in a real-time roleplaying scene.

And I wasn’t quite getting into him. He felt quirky and odd for the sake of being quirky and odd, little more than the Dude from “The Big Lebowski” channeled through a Steve Jobs costume.

And I thought that might be fine for a one-off character or someone who’s meant to be just occasional comic relief. But Busby’s supposed to be my personal storytelling connection to the new OtherSpace reboot.

He’s got to go deeper. He’s got to mean more.

So, imagine my relief on Wednesday night when I forced an encounter between Busby and his apparent rival, General Jensen of the Vanguard, in the Apollo Lounge on Earth and found what makes Busby matter – at least to me as the player behind him.

For those who may have missed his IF/IT talk, Busby came out swinging against the Vanguard as he did some cheerleading for the fast-track of faster-than-light technology development. He’s all about outrunning rainbows, it would seem.

When Busby sat down for a drink with Jensen, though, it occurred to me that for all his talk about wanting to break the light-speed limit, my character should be deeply conflicted about it.

Yes, his corporation could make vast sums of money by unlocking the key to rapid travel beyond Sol System. That’d please his stockholders a great deal.

But what happens next? What happens if he gets what he claims to want and we meet our interstellar neighbors, and they want to wipe us out?

He’s got to take the long view. He’s got to wonder what success will cost humanity in the final tally.

Now, Busby’s more than just a funny hand puppet. He’s a quirky stoner CEO who’s torn between one of his civilization’s greatest advancements and the potential for that accomplishment to end in obliteration. I can work with that.

Busby became even more interesting when it occurred to me that he’s serving as a proxy on a meta level. Here I am, after 16 years of an evolution that has seen OtherSpace grow, change, expand over the years, with all the highs and lows that came with it. Now I’m contracting the game’s scope down to the Sol System. I’ve seen what can happen to a game with myriad worlds, races, even universes. People get spread out. They clique up. Sometimes, bad things happen. Memorable bad things.

But a lot of good things happen too.

I think it’s healthy for both Busby and I to worry about the future.

And I think he’ll last now.

Misgivings

Busby walks into the lounge and makes his way to one of the “launch couch” tables, which he slides into before draping his left arm over the cushioned back support and adjusting the blue-lensed sunglasses perched on his nose.

Jensen meanwhile is sitting at the bar with a half-drunk beer sitting next to a PDA on which his attention, at least until Busby enters, is focused. Hearing someone else arrive, he turns to see the Spark CEO sliding into a table, his one eye locking on to him like a missile finding its target. A slight smirk, and he finishes the beer in two large gulps before standing up, sliding the PDA into a pocket. Sidling up next to Busby’s table, he looks down at him. “Well, well, well. Mr. Busby. Fancy meeting you here.”

“General Dude, sir,” Busby replies, extending his free hand toward Jensen. “Saw your thing on the thing, man. Very something, yeah. How’s tricks?”

Jensen snerks a bit, but takes the hand giving it a polite shake. “Indeed. Tricks, as you put it, are the usual. Keeping the peace and trying to keep various nation-states from going at each other’s throats.”

Busby tilts his head, then waves a hand over a sensor imbedded in the table to beckon an automated servobot. As the green-and-blue bot whirs their way, Busby asks the general, “Texas Commonwealth still giving you fits?” He nods toward the seat across from him. “Feel free to sit and stay a while, man. Got my shots and everything.”

Jensen slides into the couch opposite Busby, looking to the servobot as it whirs up to the table. “Whiskey on the rocks.” he says as he turns back to Busby. “Indeed. Satellite surveillance shows them moving troops to the borders. Who the hell knows why.” he says, shaking his head. “Either way we’re well prepared to deal with whatever may arise. I’m not going to waste too many troops on it, as there are far more important things to concentrate on at the moment.”

“Show me the menu, man,” the CEO urges the servobot. As commanded, it displays a holographic representation that queries him about whether he wants information about appetizers, main courses, desserts, or drinks. “Drinks,” he says. Several holographic squares appear in a grid, with images, names, ingredients, and prices. He scratches his scruff of beard, eyes narrowing as he peruses the options. Finally, he says, “Water with a lemon twist, man. And a bacon sandwich.” The menu goes away and the bot whirs off. “Look, man, I hope you don’t take any of that IF/IT shit personally. It’s just business, man. Firing up my base. We all win, either way.”

Jensen looks up to Busby with his remaining eye, speculative for a moment. “Frankly, I don’t. But I will defend the integrity of the corps.” he says simply, crossing his arms on the table top. “There’s a goal, written or unwritten, to get mankind going faster than he’s ever travelled before. Some brainiac will succeed. Could take months… could take years. Could even take decades… but I’m confident it will happen. I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t care who comes up with it first. My primary concern is that in the end it lets us find out what is really out there.”

Busby draws his arm down from the back of the couch and steeples his hands in front of himself on the table. “What if we what’s out there isn’t friendly, man?” He leans back, crossing his arms. “I gotta admit, it’s on my mind. I want us out there, blowing through the light years like they’re just so many mile markers on a highway. Damn straight. But…part of me thinks we should go slow. Part of me thinks, man, the shit might be too intense for us out past the fence line. What if we go out there looking to shake hands like you and I just did, but the newbs chomp our hand off instead?”

“Don’t think it hasn’t crossed my mind either.” the general says. “That’s one thing we’re both in agreement on. Take things slow and easy. I realize most people aren’t fans of the military, but if there is someone out there, and they turn out not to be friendly, I’d rather we have something to defend ourselves with first.” As the servobot returns with their orders, he takes his whiskey off the tray and sets it on the table before looking back to Busby. “Don’t get me wrong, though. I may be an old grizzled solider but there is a bit of an appeal to finding new friends out there.”

Busby plucks his sandwich and water from the table as he slides out of the booth. “Friends, man, I’m good with finding friends.” He grins, then says, “We’ll talk again, chief. Don’t let Texas get you down.” He winks, then takes a bite from his sandwich before wandering toward the door.