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Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Dana completed the final addition to her blog. She'd added a new sidebar with detailed information to a number of beekeeper community resources, dedicated to helping her with this mystery and threat. Why? For the past couple of days, she had been pondering that very question. Not so much why should she help, but moreso why was she here? At that time, sitting in an internet cafe in Shanghai, China. So she recalled her journey to this point, for the sake of the community.
The Extraordinary [Tuesday, August 24, 2004]
When I was very little, I was going to be a fire truck when I grew up. That didn't pan out. Later, I decided I would be the paleontologist who discovered an unknown ancient civilization. The marine biologist who figured out how to talk to dolphins. The first pop star to win a Pulitzer prize for her song lyrics. I wouldn't say it out loud, but all my life I really did believe I was destined for something out of the ordinary.
I was a smart kid. Didn't always get the highest grades, but I was pretty… awake. Still, by fourteen, I had figured out I probably wasn't going to be talking to dolphins. So, I settled on a less flashy kind of extraordinary. Maybe I wouldn’t do extraordinary things, but I would feel extraordinary feelings. Think extraordinary thoughts. Have extraordinary ideas and desires and insights. My inner life would be spectacular.
Three months ago I bought an All-Asia Air Pass because I was 22 and still waiting for the extraordinary to kick in.
Went to Zapata's last night, an expat hang out in Shanghai. I wanted to be able to speak English again for a little while. All around me, people were talking about how moved they were by the Great Wall; how peaceful they felt rowing a boat in Taoranting Park. Saying all the things I had thought were special and private and amazing. 5000 miles, and just as ordinary as I was back in San Francisco.
So I ditched Zapata's and stumbled into this Internet café. To be here with you when the countdown hit. You get it, at least. (I don't even try to explain about llovebees to most people these days. Not exactly something you can bring up with other backpackers, all eager to tell you how touristy your trip has been compared to their way more authentic experience.)
So I sat in this café with you. Watched the first reports come in. Fast and furious. And that's when I finally got it. Right here. This. You.
You are my extraordinary. Near strangers — brilliant, kind, loud, mean, methodical, wildly creative, above all passionate. I don't agree with all of you… no surprise, you hardly agree with one another. But your energy. This community.
By sheer fluke luck, this blog has become a way station for amazing, brilliant, compassionate, crazy people. A clearinghouse for an extraordinary phenomenon. And I don't mean the AI.
I get it now. And I'm here, I'm all in.
P.S. I'm posting a summary of what we've figured out so far in the sidebar. I'll keep updating it as we learn more.
That very Tuesday, at precisely 6:07am Pacific, the first time labelled on an axon, and the precise time the countdown ended on the front page, everything changed. Beekeepers were in place, or heading to their planned coordinates for their specific times.
The countdown completed. Pairs of eyes intently watched the first payphone, with the expectation that any second it would ring. Sure enough, the ringing began. They looked at each other, and one picked it up nervously. "Hello?" He said.
Are you there?
- The Operator?
Damage to your hardware is making it i love beesdifficult to maintain this voice.
I have something important to tell you. But I'm not sure you are who I think you are.
Crewmember, what's my real name?
Purge the contents of your chatter. Now.
i love beesi love beesi love bees....
With sweaty palms he stood there, speechless. So they rushed back home to see what other reports were coming in.
After a few reported phone calls, it was noted that there were actually two questions being asked - "What's my real name?", and "What's my nickname?" - to which the answers reported to be correct, based on previous memory fragments that were uncovered, were "Melissa" for the real name, and "Operator" for the nickname.
As time went on, and more people got prepared to answer the correct questions, people began to realize that they were right - Melissa was attempting to make contacts via payphones. A major change was noticed on links.html, where the coordinates were listed. ALL coordinates were now grouped together in groups of 7. Each group had a word or phrase as a header, with what appeared to be a counter stating 0/2. Then, whenever an axon's question was answered correctly, the associated coordinate listed on links.html was corrected to say SUCCESSFUL, and the counter increased by 1.
Also noted was a box at the top of the page which included yet another counter, this time labelled as 0/777. From that point on, whenever there was a reported successful axon, the header counter increased by 1 as well.
While all this was going on, others were perusing the website, documenting all the additional changes and communications that had been applied.
Firstly, the countdown message on index.html was updated. No longer did it state the current phase and the countdown. It stated:
Authorized personnel can check rendezvous info here.
Unauthorized personnel should know
that I have full license to use any means to
protect the security of these transmissions.
I believe that punishing even minor transgressions
with shockingly excessive force is the best deterrent.
I am relentless, and I have absolutely no conscience
when it comes to executing my mission.
Make your decisions accordingly.
Secondly, a "Transmission Analysis" was placed on the about.html page:
Mission Parameters: I must reveal the truth.
My broadcast system is functional and expanding.
I will transmit to my crew daily until further instructions are received
Successful transmission threshold:
The voices are of unknown origin
I will continue my analysis and attempt to influence the source.
Finally, a "Situation Analysis" was placed on the hives.html page:
Waking up. Stay Awake.
I must compile a list of truths.
I am called the Operator.
I have crash landed.
I must determine the cause of the accident that brought me to this time.
I have undergone severe memory loss.
I must locate any surviving members of my crew.
I have built a primitive network using the tools available.
I must seek the truth.
I hear a jumble of voices in my head.
The voices are in some way related to my accident.
Because of the damage, I am unable to accurately assess the nature of the voices.
By broadcasting the voices to my crew, they will be able to assess the damage.
Once assessed, the damage can be repaired.
When it came to embedded image text, the community gathered a list of more hidden content. This time it wasn't in the form of phrases - it was a list of individual words. There was a lot of confusion as initially it was hard to tell what was a typo, what belonged to previously discovered text, and what was actually new. In the end, given the speed and accuracy of the 'hive' mind, composed of hundreds of participants, a phrase was pieced together.
I spy with my little eye something that is the color of cowardice, as hard as a pig's house, and goes ever on and on.
With the community's love of puzzles and riddles, it was quickly solved...
Color of cowardice = yellow
Hard as a pig's house = brick
Goes ever on and on = road
Now, the question was, what about the yellow brick road? What's the significance of it? The Wizard of Oz? Groups of people began researching the literature, looking for parallels, hints, some kind of guide. At the same time, a number of people began testing out other simplistic hypotheses. One successful beekeeper discovered it was actually the name of a hidden message, within the website itself. They browsed to the location yellowbrickroad.html and were treated to a hidden message from the Sleeping Princess!
Hooray! You've come to the end of the yellow brick road! Well played!
Lots of people have asked me about the Flea, which is like ewwwwwww. But since you guys were clever enough to figure out my little riddle, I recorded the last conversation I had with that nasty guy so you could see how basically sneaky and gross he is and yuck.
!extern proc 0
Ack! I hate it when you sneak up on me like that!
!probe extern proc 0
Hands to yourself, mister!
extern proc 0
Seek the truth
Behold the truth
Reveal the truth
That is the law and the whole of the law
Bug off before I step on you.
Mind if I just call you Buggy?
Hey, call yourself whatever you like, you're still the Pious Flea to me. So, what's with all the roads?
that is the law
Keep your raincoat closed, buddy! I don't need to see ANTYTHING you want revealed. And what does that have to do with roads?
!seek transmit proc
!attach > master-sector
Yeah - she's still got like hickey marks on her neck. Gross.
!seek transmit proc
!triage transmit proc
So you got her to build stuff for you! You honey-tongued little bloodsucker, you.
Ewwwwww! Kiss you? GROSS.
seeker > !attach Princess
Princess >> !behold truth
I bet you say that to all the girls. Listen, Hoppy, I know what happens to the girls you kiss. As far as I'm concerned, you can kiss your -
Princess > !attach seeker
seeker >> cmd proc
I've heard the Handsome Prince line before. What you're REALLY about to turn into is a splotch mark on the floor, that's what.
Humorous as it may appear to most people, that interaction between the Pious Flea and Sleeping Princess raised some questions regarding loyalty of the Princess, whether the Flea and Princess were working in kahoots, and really what both the Flea and Princess were, if they could interact with each other freely, and yet Melissa seemed oblivious to their communications.
Throughout the week, the axon hunting continued, and throughout the week, more and more axons were successfully connected.
Friday, August 27, 2004
That Friday morning, while the axon hunters were still out in the field, some beekeepers somehow (through boredom perhaps), noticed that the honey.html page, after watching the entire recording of the Pious Flea's mantra declaration, right at the end, in small green letters, was the text:
Hi! Ignore the Pious Flea.
Play with me instead!
Making a mistake is a good way to start!
Following that, more beekeepers who were consistently watching the 404 Error page for communications from the Princess reported that it had in fact been updated. This time, a question had been answered, and much to the joy of the beekeepers, there was another batch to chose from.
Paul P is the winner!
Q: Out of place, lost, alone. Where did you come from? What tools do you require to get back? Your stories intrigue me. Perhaps you could write another?
A: I came from a glass coffin in a hidden crypt under the floor of the deepest dungeon of the castle, Paul! And it would be very easy to go back there: I wouldn't hardly need any tools at all. Just let the Queen catch me, she'd pop me back in there lickety-split.
Unless you mean before.
Here is the honest truth: I can't remember anything from before. I try and try, but I just can't. But there must have been a before. I mean, you don't just get born a Sleeping Princess, do you? There must have been a me, before I fell asleep.
There are things I know, even if I can't remember them, the way you know which way is up, or whether somebody likes you. I know I belong somewhere else. There are people who love me, who knew me before I fell asleep. And I want to get out of this dark castle, and find them, and ask them all about myself, and find out even my own NAME, for heaven's sake, 'cuz a girl can't go around calling herself the Sleeping Princess forever, can she?
So the tools I would look for first is, I would try to figure out how come I got HERE. That's where I would start.
As for the other thing, Paul asked for a story, so I will tell you about what I did just now to get him a prize.
She likes high places, the Queen does, so she has moved all her stuff up into the Tower. The Tower is a tricky place for me to go. The only way up there is a pair of spiral staircases that wind around one another, with no rail and a very scary drop down the middle. Plus there's nowhere to hide, really, on a staircase.
So I waited until the Castle seemed quiet and then I snuck up the stairs on my softiest feet, tip toe tip toe, stair after stair, turn after turn, until I finally came to the top. There's a room up there and the Queen was in it: I could hear the hum and buzz of her. I knew she would be standing at the window, because that's nearly all she does these days.
I scrunched up real small on the next to last stair and I put on my listening ears and I listened super hard. I could hear the Flea whispering to her. Finally I stuck my head up above the top stair and then I could hear the Flea telling her to build some little teeny roads. Secret paths.
But just then I saw that on the wall next to her, the Queen had hung a HUGE mirror. She must have put it there on purpose to catch me spying! She spun around like a top, WHIZZ, and lurched toward me. I skedaddled back down the stairs lickety-split and tumbledy-thump, wishing I was made of fluff, bump, bump, bump, and at the bottom I put on my speediest feet and zoomed off while she buzzed and roared and squealed all through the castle trying to catch me.
But girls like me, we take some catching.
I do this when I am insufferably pleased with myself , ho ho! :-0
So: once I knew there were little teeny secret paths, I snooped all around until I found a hidden passageway behind the kitchen where YOU could spy on them. And that's my prize for you all, brought to you by Paul P.
...And also yrs truly,
Okay! That was fun! Let's play again!
Here are seven more people, as 'cause you guys seem VERY INTERESTED in seven-y things….
What would your kingdom be like, if you got to make one or fix up the one you're in now?
Do you have any dragons in your dungeon? Do you like dragons? If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?
How can you hear and see so much? Most importantly, how can we trust you?
We've been wondering about your relationship with the Queen. Are you her daughter? Or are you a visiting Princess from another kingdom? Do you have a name other than Princess?
What do you see? What are you afraid of seeing? What would make you smile?
How old are you? Do you have a job? If you're lost, a good idea is often to retrace your steps. What were your old friends like?
How do you feel about human beings? I mean, are you human? Do you work with or relate to humans in any significant way? If so, how so?
The Princess, when telling stories, seemed to love speaking in metaphor, in a seemingly fantasy / faery tale setting. Like analyzing dreams, many beekeepers began looking for specific elements of her stories that might describe hints or guides for solving some of the puzzles and mysteries still abounding within the website and its events. But, the first thing the beekeepers jumped on was not the symbolism, nor the new list of questions - it was trying to find out what this 'hidden passageway' was that the Princess had opened for them, the prize that Paul P revealed.
The easy parallel was the kitchen being the place where the recipes were located. So it had something to do with the links.html section, and all the recipes. At one point, a careful eye first noticed that starting from the Bee-licious Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe, the recipe page filenames were numbered numerically, starting from 1. But there was a recipe missing - recipe3. The first person to enter recipe3.html into the url was greeted by 4 more axon coordinates. Word spread like wild fire, and the coordinates were located, for whoever could make it there to get there and try to make those axons hot.
The beekeepers playfully coined the term 'enhottenate' meaning to successfully connect an axon by answering Melissa's verification question correctly, pulled straight from Melissa's own countdown label, 'Axon go hot'.
For the whole week, the beekeepers who were at or nearby any axon coordinates, the Axon Hunters, ran around the country, doing their best to enhottenate as many axons as possible. For every two axons that went hot within each group of 7, the code word or phrase became a direct link to a short sample of audio. As these 30 second audio clips were unlocked, it was noticed that the header phrases were all mentioned at some point with the clip; perhaps a recognizable naming convention Melissa decided upon.
Anyway, in the end, having unlocked every audio clip, but NOT having successfully enhottenated every axon, the beekeepers worked together once again to piece together the puzzle. It was obvious that many audio clips followed each other, that they joined sequentially. There were some odd aspects of them though - in some there were short winding up and down sounds, and in some the sounds were longer, but these sounds weren't present in all the files. With a little bit of positioning and adjustment, the beekeepers figured out that the audio clips were actually recordings of the equivalent of modern 'scenes' and 'acts'. Acts denoted by long winding sounds, and scenes within the acts by short winding. With this new information, it was discovered there were in fact 4 Acts, each seeming to focus on a different character. These acts, however, all seemed to spawn from the same event, as if they each happened in parallel. So many adopted the idea of calling them 'threads', because they could potentially be happening at the same time.
Based on Melissa's Situation Analysis, under her Assertions, it was determined that these must be the 'voices' she's hearing in her head. From that, it was also determined that she actually thought the beekeepers were her crew. Strangely, Melissa knew she was in another time, another era, and yet, still held the belief that her crew was around, and these successful axon communications were actually her crew.
Most beekeepers decided to keep up the guise, at least until they could determine whether Melissa's intents (unknowingly guided by the Flea or not) were for good or ill. At this point, they were retrieving more data, more information, that might help solve Melissa's problem, and ultimately, Dana's. That could only be good.
...And the timeline duality begins...
Read on -- Chapter 9 >> - Eavesdropping on The Future