Saturday, August 1, 2009

Zombies & Artificial Intelligence

I had a really cool dream last night. Pardon the hopping around, my internet keeps going out as I type and it makes me seem remarkably ADHD!

We had been on a little boat for brunch just off the coast and we wound up going through some sort of rift which threw us to the other side of the world, in the middle of the ocean, where we promptly crashed into an uncharted island. That was a huge sentence. Anyway...

It's the dead of night here and we can see the silhouette of a large structure peeking over the canopy of the trees in the distance. We decide it would be an ideal shelter, and may even have people in it, so we leave the beach and try to head for it. Our plan quickly changes when we realize two things. The first: there was peculiar swamp land separating us from the edge of the true forest that was dangerous to cross in the dark and that on top of that obstacle there were also terrible terrible zombies wandering about. At least 3 people died while their shoes were stuck in muck trying to flee from the undead.

We run up the beach until halted by a sheer rockface, meaning we could go no further to escape the zombies unless we tried to scale it in the dark. We take that chance and begin carefully working our way up onto this small jagged ledge about halfway up. Too low to get all the way up to the plateau but just out of zombie reach. If they lept or lunged at us they could grab the edge to pull themselves up, so we got no sleep at all, stomping on their rotty fingers and shoving them back down should they had managed to get up.

The zombies weren't slow creepy zombies from old movies and games, they were the smarter, faster kind you see in newer movies and games that run and jump and use basic animal instincts to devise strategies to catch their prey. Which in this case happened to be us. Eventually they figure out they could drop down on us from above if they went around, but not aren't smart enough to realize how long it would take them to get there. By morning they're gone, so we cautiously drop down to the sand and begin trying to master the first problem. The swamp.

One of guys who had been at brunch with us was a structural engineer and decides we should use some of the drift wood littering the beach to make a sort of bridge to hobble across it. Some other guy in a baseball hat says we should just tough it out and do our best to run through not wanting to waste time carrying wood up from the water. There's an argument about it and the guy in the baseball hat decides to show us how easy it is to get across by going alone. He wades through about halfway before realizing the bottom gets treacherous and the suction takes both of his shoes and stalls his advance. Each step takes him considerably longer as his feet get continuously stuck deeper and deeper in the mud.

So the rest of us agree with structural engineer guy and start gathering wood. Being stranded in the middle of no where on an island was bad enough. Being stranded in the middle of no where on an island full of zombies was horrible. The least we could do was spare our feet and keep our shoes.

We make it across by noon, damp from sweat and swamp, welcomed by the shade of the forest. We notice there are less zombies freely about in the daytime, and that the sunlight seems to keep them fairly oblivious to our presence if we move quietly. So we move without talking, barely taking a breath out of fear of drawing their attention.

As we get nearer to the structure we'd seen in the distance we find plane reckage and some old electronic equipment. I suggest we take some of it with us, out of hopes of making some sort of radio to call for help and some ex military guy agrees and helps me gather up the radio components and what appears to be a small server.

We reach the structure by the onset of dusk, and notice it appears to be an old castle that had been turned into some sort of base. Currently abandoned. The fence around it had been dismantled long before we arrived, barbed wire and links alike rended and rusted. The men climb over what's left and hold it down so the women can cross more safely to the other side. The building itself is red brick, broken in places to reveal the far far older gray stone beneath it. Tables and chairs in the courtyard are severely weathered and over turned, though they draw attention to a metal door with chipped green paint, ajar. The quickly fleeting sunlight urges us inside regardless of what may we waiting.

The floor is linoleum in some places and cobble in others, raked by claws and burnt in places. The walls had been covered in drywall and painted, but were in disrepair, water damage from unclosed but barred windows, and fire damage around doors like there had been some great explosion countless years before our arrival. In places where the floor had been truly damaged, plants grew, like there no rules of civilization at all. Some rooms had furniture, others did not, some rooms were accessible, others were concealed behind locked doors. Some seemed off limits only to be revealed by the turn of a corner and a hole in the wall where something had undoubtedly come through by force.

We close the doors behind us, and find they not only lock by key but also have heavy iron bars that can be lowered to further protect from unwanted entry. Though most of the glass had been broken, the windows are all barred on both sides -- the walls around them reinforced with more metal, banning entry or exit of any kind. Which pleases our structural engineer. We explore our new shelter all day, covering every inch we were permitted and finding little to no trace of who had been there before us aside from a kitchen full of canned food with no labels. Mind when I say full it was hardly appropriately shelved. Many of the cans were dented and rolling around freely on counter tops and the floor.

By now we're all hungry and exhausted, so military guy suggests we sleep in shifts. Four at a time so that we could keep an eye on one another as well as those who were sleeping. A sound idea everyone seems to agree with. When it comes around for my turn to keep watch, I get to work on some of the electronics we found. Many of the components were salvageable, and the server box, despite exterior wear and tear was undamaged inside. With electricity we'd have a working computer, that could perhaps tell us something. What was here, where here is, etc.

I was explaining this to one of the other women when structural engineer guy says most places like this would have their own generators since they can't get electricity from the mainland, we'd just need to find out where it was since he hadn't seen it inside anywhere.

When morning comes, the men folk head out to look for the generator and the rest of us go to the kitchen and open a few cans of food. Since there are no labels we wound up with a can of peas and a can of mushrooms. Food was food though, so we heated it up and when the guys got back we had peas and mushrooms. The generator was operational, but so old it would have to be tended to each morning if we wanted electricity for the entire day.

The next week or so I spend getting the electronic bits into some working order, and for the most part it's otherwise uneventful. People had moved stuff around to make our shelter a little more livable and baseball hat guy found keys to the locked rooms, so now we have access to the entire castle. I finally get the server up and running but it seems stubborn to relinquish any information. Military guy tries helping out with it and much swearing ensues. I'm afraid in his frustration he may break something, so I take the box away from him.

Oddly, after that, it begins working well for me. Though it doesn't have much information about what was here before us or curiously the plane it was found by. This place had been a psychiatric ward where patients were shipped for one reason or another in the 70's, but had been decommissioned since the early 80's. Exactly why patients were being sent to the middle of no where for psychiatric care wasn't explained and no names were found in relation to the topic either.

There was a map of the island and blueprints for the castle we were staying in, which our structural engineer found useful. I decide to keep the little server running, while we clean the place up a little more and make it a little more agreeable, since it became clear we'd be staying there for quite a while.

That night we're sitting around the lounge we'd made, as I'm working on the server and we hear a clutter from the hall. We look around and realize we're all in the room, so whatever was in the hall was something else entirely. One of the women tries to assure us it's likely only an animal. But when we open the door to look, it's of course horrible horrible zombies. The two dudes near the door are killed on the spot and just as quickly have risen as zombies to kill the rest of us. Two zombies now four.

Then, out of the blue, the computer starts playing some mish-mash of music and the zombies leave. We're all like, wtf? And the little computer's LEDs spell out i-n-a-r-i. So I go over there all curious like and it starts displaying random pictures on the monitor like flowers and sunrises and the baseball hat guy, who I had hoped would've been eaten by zombies by now, starts laughing saying the computer has a crush on me.

I sharply remind him the computer just saved him from being eaten by a zombie and he shuts the hell up.

A little searching in the computer's databases that were only now open to me, reveals that it was originally in the castle to keep the zombies away and during a power outage had been carried out for some reason. Where it then sat outwardly inactive and alone for like twenty years with nothing better to do than think and evolve -- until I came and insisted we take it back.

It, interestingly also has access to a chamber of the castle that could teleport two people back through the rift at a time, but only for twenty-four hour time spans. So we could travel back once a week for twenty-four hours to do whatever we could manage in those hours. But the catch was the A.I. would only trust me, so if anyone needed to go back, I had to go back with them. What's weird is the rift was never the same so we would sometimes end up in random locations or times. Like Russia, or 1824, etc. So going was not something we did often unless we needed something and were willing to risk getting it. Which is also why the A.I. always wanted to make sure I went, because it trusted I wouldn't mess up the time line, or something.

We wind up living there forever, I guess. Zombies attack, A.I. defends us, and so on and so forth. Eventually I got it networked back into the rest of the building so it could control cameras, loud speakers, and turrets and stuff. It was sooooo neat.

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