Sunday, 26 May 2013

Hectic Week

Wow, a lot of things have been happening at once. Sanna, Spyre and Carter all got kidnapped, and all had their respective situations relatively resolved. Kendra’s on the move. Johnny interviewed me. Incognito was severely injured and then severely healed. Some new people arrived.

R got both his arms removed. I was starting work on a prosthetic for Carter when I read he was already set up for one of a quality better than I could ever manage so I redirected what I’d already done into making some for him. My basement’s starting to get a little cluttered, what with the books on robotics lying open and bookmarked to an inch of their lives all over the place, along with wires, servos and shaped bits of metal. This is on top of everything that was there already. Anyway, when it’s convenient send me your measurements, mate.

Adam, I had a look over at those notes you sent me. You’re right in what the doctor was trying to do. He’d been injecting azoth (he calls it ‘the substance’ but it’s pretty obvious what it is) into the brains of people who came to the place for medical attention or were taken off the streets. Directly into the brains; he even installed little plexiglass windows in their heads so he could see what was going on. He’d keep them under heavy sedation for long periods of time, and the text later shows why; as you said, he was failing and badly. The subjects which received azoth in this manner were violent and unstable, the complete opposite of trainable, and he had a few close calls by the looks of it. His writing is dry and clinical, but I can still practically see the frustration and fear wafting off the words.

The section on the techniques used to break some of his ‘patients’ is interesting from a psychological standpoint and horrifying from an ethical one. He states that quite a few of the Proxies holding him hostage chipped in with suggestions. In the end it seems he could either get an obedient but harmless pet or an incredibly dangerous but uncontrollable one. Those he would euthanize when it was clear no one was going to get any use out of them, although apparently some are still extant. Any idea what happened to them?

The experimental notes stop abruptly; there’s no indication he was going to continue these experiments and no horror story style “I am about to perform this stupid and extremely dangerous action for no reason save leaving bloodstains on the paperwork or screams on the last few seconds of the tape”, so I presume that was where he wrote in the journal about his decision to escape. All in all, I’ve learnt some things to keep in mind in my own experiments on rats.

Ira, those blood samples of yours that you sent me are… odd, to say the least. I know you confirmed that they really were yours when I asked but I feel the need to ask again. Their copper levels are slightly over the far edge of within human range, which seems to be the ‘baseline’ for Runners. I’ve run the test a total of twenty times; it’s an average concentration of 26.11 μmol/L with a standard deviation of 1.2 μmol/L. From what you’ve said of your experiences on your blog, there should be more than that, a lot more. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that your blood azoth levels are not high enough for what you say happened to have happened. Make of it what you will.

All of this is leading up to the visit by none other than Fracture. He just turned up on my doorstep. I looked through the peephole, was basically ‘nope’, and walked back into the living room. You have to remember that unless someone’s posted pictures or a sufficiently detailed description nobody knows what anybody looks like.

He knocked, and I yelled “Nobody’s buying what you’re selling!” I couldn’t pretend to not be home since the fire was sending smoke up the chimney, so that was the next best thing.

So he teleported inside with a smarmy “Is that so?” I grabbed the taser from my pocket and told him in no uncertain terms that unless he was selling free hits with a taser he could teleport right back out again.

To make an already long post slightly shorter it’s probably best I put the rest of the conversation in transcript mode and compress the unimportant bits.

Fracture: Don't be so foolish. You invited me here. You told me where you live, how to identify your house, what to avoid, and all the great things you have here. How could I resist?

I thunked my head on the doorpost.

Me: Oh god. I know that syntax. That you, Fracture?
Fracture: You know my syntax? Feral robot sage?
Me: After a while, you can pick up voice through text. Why are you here?
Fracture: How many times to I have to say it, you invited me here.

I gave up.

Me: Alright, fine. So I did. Tea, coffee or milo?
Fracture: Just a tea cup, dear. I'll do the rest.

I threw a mug his way and he then mixed something up using hot water from the tap. I made two cups of tea and went into the lounge. Fracture followed and proceeded to hog the entire couch. There’s always something about a psychologist lying on a couch that’s a little funny. I set one of the drinks on the floor next to Black, then sat on the coffee table and took a sip of the other.

He then asked me about the deal I’d made with Jack; what exactly I’d lost and gained. I told him.

Me: Protection for a person and a place, until I die. You'll excuse me if I don't tell you exactly who, although you might be able to guess.
Fracture: You and here?
Me: Hahahano. Neither’s that valuable.

He dodged the question when I asked exactly why he’d made me a Sage, I teased him about his hat, and he tried to ship me and Black. I sunk that one with a flamethrower. Then there was a bit of a discussion about Slender Sickness.

Speaking of Black, at some point he’d stopped looking at the book in front of him and had started paying attention to us. I only noticed when Fracture made a ‘zsst’ noise at him, and then pointed away.

Black: Who's he?
Me: A friend, sort of.

My face was basically saying, in big neon letters, “NOT”.

Fracture: Who are you?
Black: Black.

And then what spark had been in Black’s eyes flickered out and he returned to reading. It was the longest I’d seen him lucid, and I said so.

Fracture: I caught his interest because I'm doing something he thinks I shouldn't be.

I thanked him for the book idea, and he explained a little on A.I. psychology. Machines given a game to play without any instruction on the rules or methods of determining the rules would have only a 40 percent success rate. This would jump to an 80 percent success rate if they were given the rules… and nothing else, not even a method to read them.

He then demonstrated by mentioning aspects of the book to Black, which got him responding again. I joined in, until I hit a snag:

Me: Are you liking it so far?
Black: I... don't know.
Fracture:  He has no context for liking the book. The book never references how it feels about itself.

Clearly, this wasn’t going to be easy. Fracture asked about the point of view of the book, and I told him it was a shifting limited third person perspective.

Fracture: Effectively teaching him to think like several different people all with different morals and goals and outlooks...
Me: Ouch. Yeah, if I'd realised what reading was doing to him, I'd've picked something else.
Fracture: You know what you should do then?
Me: Nonfiction?
Fracture: Uh... no. You're too confined. No imagination. You need to write him a story. One about a boy named Black.
Me: I see. I reckon I could do that.
Fracture: See, he isn't a true hollow. A hollow can't be what it was, traditionally. The strain that broke it is too painful to return to. It’s like trying to get someone to walk on a broken leg. They'll always fall. But Black just sprained his ankle. You just have to show him how to walk it off.
Me: …thanks, Fracture. Hang on.
Fracture: Whatcha got?
Me: I hate owing anyone anything so here. You wanted to know a bit more about my past, there's a clue. Pretty obscure.

No, I won’t tell you what I gave him. You can probably guess anyway, if you’ve read particularly carefully. He then asked for the notes on Black’s recovery once he’d made a full one, which I agreed to. We said goodbye and then he disappeared, as if he’d stepped between the frames of a film.

So I’ve got a story to write, but for now I think I’ll go to bed. I’ve been running on empty for some time now; the last time I think I slept a little was two days ago, and things have been getting fuzzier accordingly. I keep forgetting important things. Accidentally activated one of my own traps the other day; fortunately it was nonlethal. Heh, one of the lecture benches at university even had NOT ENOUGH SLEEP and NEVER ENOUGH SLEEP as a reply carved into it, so I’m taking that as a sign to get some. I’m not doing anyone any favors burning myself out like this, so for now, goodnight.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Resistance

So, I’ve been chatting with Shadow online, about his plan to build Runner sanctuaries.

It’s a great plan. But, and you knew there was a but coming, Runner sanctuaries don’t often last long. Too many people in one place for too long. Even if you have some method of protecting the place, that often isn’t enough.

Hope generally being cited as the ur example of this.

On the other hand, I want to smack anyone who says a Runner organization can’t exist and won’t work. The state of the blogosphere is proof of concept; we have bartering going on, communication, training, team ups. It’s messy and requires you to be following a lot of people, but it works better than being alone and unaware there is even anyone else out there who has seen the same thing you have.

The key to an effective Runner society is decentralization. A physical network similar to the electronic one, where if one site is taken out its tasks and people can be redistributed to the others, and where there is a constant rotation between sites. Ideally each site would be no more of a greater target than the others, would work in a similar way, and a new one could be cheaply and quickly rebuilt in a different location if another was destroyed. Something similar to Pilgrim’s Houses, or the hut system here.

This safety in numbers plan gets more effective the more sites there are, of course. This is where I’m coming in. Every so often, someone has an opening at their house. Again, finding who is currently willing to temporarily shelter Runners is an exercise in blog checking, so I’m creating a ‘master list’ which you can see over on the right there, and will be keeping it updated. Adding to or updating the list is both appreciated and easy; all you have to do is email me or comment on one of my posts saying so. In addition, if I follow you and you say in a post that you have a vacancy, up on the list it goes. Unless you’re a Proxy. Sorry, but you’ll probably be vetoed; I don’t like the idea of sending people into a meat grinder.

As a general rule, the format is:

Contact Details:  A way for people who want to take you up on your offer to discuss things like the precise location and logistics privately. Email addresses, that sort of thing.
Location: Nothing ‘Proxies can find me’ detailed, just a general idea of state and country so that no one has to go halfway across the world when there’s a site not far from where they are.
Vacancies: A general idea of how much room you have.
Notes: Anything else that might be useful, such as ‘right next to the forest’, ‘willing to train in combat’ or ‘has lab access’.

Let’s see how this goes.

EDIT: It’s New Zealand Music Month here. Have a song, before I forget and it’s no longer May anymore.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Black: Behavioural Analysis

After taking his blood sample, I installed a microchip in Black. Now I can track him if he goes AWOL. You know, I’m surprised by the amount of times a Proxy’s had someone at their mercy only for them to escape and they hadn’t used something like this. It’s very handy.

…I should probably not have said that, should I?

In any case, I’ve untied him from the bed for good. That may sound like a bad idea, but I’ve got my ‘discouraging’ taser and the keys to a Very Locked House, and I've put away the knives and anything that could be used as an impromptu weapon. I’m not locked in here with him, he’s locked in here with me, to pull in an appropriate quote.

I bandanged his wrists; keeping someone tied up for any length of time can do a surprising amount of damage to the skin. Nothing exciting happened while I did so. He just sat there. “Black,” I said experimentally. He looked up blankly. Good, I thought. That’s something I can work with. I sat down next to him. He followed the movement. I leaned back against the wall. I waved a finger slowly in front of his face. His eyes tracked it. Good, again.

“Can you understand what I’m saying?” No response. “Do you remember anything?” Again, nothing. I sighed. Onto the next thing. One thing I’d found is he acts like a sleepwalker; still capable of doing things, just not there. You put food in front of him, he eats it, you show him where the toilet is, he uses it, you show him where the fridge is, he raids it. Today, I was performing an experiment to see the extent of this.

“Black,” I said, to get his attention again. I carefully placed two bowls  equidistantly  apart in front of him, each filled with a certain colour of (undrugged, seriously who has that kind of time?) skittles, one yellow, one blue. “You can have one, and only one.” Then I waited.

The clock ticked by. I just kept waiting and watching patiently, chin on hands. Roughly about fifteen minutes after I’d presented the choice, there was a slight flicker of… something, in his eyes, and a hand slowly reached out and dragged the yellow bowl towards him. Then he ate them in the same unpresent fashion as he had everything else. I smiled, and took the blue bowl. Experiment: success. Also delicious.

So I’ve been letting him run around the house. Well, I say run… it’s more like I walk into a room and he’s just there. He seems to have taken ‘creepily standing around and doing nothing’ lessons from his former Boss, and I must say he is a natural. There was one point where he flipped out at me (thanks for the warning, Tilde), but the taser soon put a stop to that. At another point about a day after that he suddenly started running, trying to get away from me. I let him. He found the front door was locked, fought with it a bit, went for the other, and fell over one of the tripwires. I heard the thud from where I was sitting reading in the lounge. “Are you all right?” I yelled over my shoulder. “You know, if you want to go out, just say.”

Apart from that, there has been minimal change from his standard state. I gave him art supplies, but he only used them once and then lost interest in them. What he drew was… odd. No words, no drawings of lack of faces, just  short thick, methodical lines in a pattern more curved than a circuitboard. More like a form of esoteric writing than an actual depiction. From the indentation in the paper, they’d been drawn with great deliberation.

Fracture also suggested I give him a book. I deliberated a bit, and decided that giving him the one I took my name from would not be a good idea. In the end, I gave him Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch. He opened it to the middle, and looked at it as if trying to absorb the words via osmosis. For about a half hour. I gave up, walked away to make dinner, came back with it and found him in the same position.

I also gave him the laptop to write on for a bit. This is what he wrote, while not looking at the screen. 

“iiuihd  dadnf  ddthh.kad.h . uhgra.haehu.ah rh. Dberabf fuahahuf a.urhoagaf hcaehnf jncann;pa. ae.kae vaf haehajde tt kjd me aaoyrihg ahnfut auy aijrhg aiuana eigghn aito f ache  ai a .hfr auhe.ghfa  uahtuieguyh e.fuiyha .g E ugPU#O44/oyU Y P$ ye uhoghou.3a 8Y/ATo y at3 Y8/A4EUI / AR, UIY HAPk rho2u3 yo/; Y3/P3Y86 #FCKY; 08/AYPA UYEH. OAQYP8O3Y.;/P.iy.autg33t uyu ,”

I kinda had to pull him away from it; he was smashing the keys pretty hard at the end there. Even broke a few. Fortunately the damage was mostly superficial. I think it was still more a case of the usual “Object in front of me > Use object” than actual conscious thought.

In other news, my new iPhone has arrived. :D

Sunday, 12 May 2013


Aka ‘slendersludge’. 'Black blood' if you want to be slightly fancier (Reference for ya there, Rose.) Etymologically speaking, the 'essence of life'. More and more, we keep returning to azoth. It seems to be at the heart of all this; what works on azoth is a weapon we can use.

Azoth is a black, organic substance reminiscent of tar. It is found in the blood of certain Proxies, vomited up by certain Runners, and comprises both Slenderman and the Path of Black Leaves.

Azoth is volatile, and burns in a manner similar to magnesium. The flame can be extinguished with a standard CO2 fire extinguisher if sufficiently small in size, as it is not self oxidizing. However it is almost impossible to extinguish with water until it has been fully consumed. It is also a contact explosive, requiring a threshold of force over a sufficiently small area to detonate. Detonation again appears to require gaseous oxygen as Proxies do not explode when struck. Ignition will not cause it to detonate. I surmise this explosive force comes from a large amount of triple nitrogen bonds within its chemical structure.

Azoth is alive, and sentient. Small amounts of azoth will die when removed from a large amount of it, implying there is some internal process that needs maintenance for which a sufficient amount of the substance is required. The volume of an amount of living azoth seems proportional to the degree of sentience it exhibits. A viscous liquid in its natural state, azoth begins to congeal to a tough solid on exposure to air. Dead azoth does this all the way through, but I posit that living azoth merely develops a solid outer protective layer and retains internal fluidity to maintain range of movement. Azoth is comprised of a large amount of branching carbon chains, which give it its plasticity. Due to these properties azoth can be shaped into objects in both alive and dead forms.

Azoth communicates with itself via electromagnetic pulses conducted by the metallic particulates within it. These pulses can be disrupted by strong magnetic fields, causing odd behavior and loss of cohesion as well as attraction or repulsion depending on the nature of the field. These electromagnetic pulses seem compatible with neural tissue and various electronic devices, causing perceptionary problems in both, along with other possible effects. This may also be how amounts of azoth can locate one another.

Azoth accumulates in the body via exposure to large amounts of it. Its volatile nature produces particulate vapor, which is inhaled and diffuses into the bloodstream via the lungs. It begins to build up in the blood. It passes through the blood brain barrier and begins to build up in the amygdale, and possibly also the hippocampus. In the case of Seekers the azoth blood level actually decreases as it is diverted and begins to replace bone, leaving the greenish tinge reminiscent of the dissolved substance.

Exposure to azoth in this manner provokes an immune response in Runners, the symptoms of which are classified as ‘Slender sickness’. Due to constant and increased exposure, it steadily increases in severity over time. The vomiting of azoth is an attempt to remove all azoth from the body. The azoth is deposited in the stomach, where it is killed by the acid, and then purged. Since this is a highly specialized immune response, it is possible that the Slenderman has existed long enough to have a distinct effect on human evolution. In some cases the immune reaction is so severe as to produce anaphylactic shock like symptoms and death on contact with it.

Proxies do not exhibit an immune response, for unknown reasons, and instead exist more symbiotically with azoth. However, an immune response can be induced with a ‘cure’, after which they will begin exhibiting the standard symptoms. Given that azoth eventually replaces the function of blood in certain proxies, it must have some form of oxygen carrier.

My original post was a lot more ecstatic and incoherent. When certain aspects of this write up ‘clicked’, I got more than a few odd looks as I started doing a little eureka dance in the lab. I have the NMR spectra of both azoth and Strider’s drug with me right now.

One thing that’s confirmed is that azoth definitely has metallic particulates. The spectra shows spikes in iron, copper, lead, mercury and several others, although the largest proportion is copper. I’d say the green colour found when the substance is in solution is dissolved copper nitrate; not chlorophyll.

This leads naturally to a quick and dirty test for levels of azoth exposure; copper levels in the blood. Bear in mind that copper levels vary naturally over demographics, and conditions like Wilson’s disease can cause false positives.

Standard copper levels in blood: 11 to 24 μmol/L.
Copper levels in own sample of blood: 23.65 μmol/L. On the high side but still within range.
Copper levels in first proxy blood sample: 31.20 μmol/L. This sample may have been contaminated, however, considering how I acquired it.
Copper levels in Black’s blood sample: 12.11 μmol/L. This threw me for a loop until I realized the MRI had practically extracted the stuff from him.
Copper levels from blood sample from random volunteering passerby: 15. 92 μmol/L.

Conclusion: Inconclusive. Need more data points. Azoth has adverse reactions to hydrochloric and kainic acid (god, that was expensive) in vitro. Also, whatever you do, don’t put azoth into a melting point apparatus. I'm going to need to do some in vivo testing to be sure of some of this stuff, so I'll be getting pet rats soon. Keep sending me azoth.

The Slenderman being made out of azoth confirmed by Spyre.
Effects of induced magnetic fields on Slenderman and proxies shown here.
Effects of Slenderman proximity on electronics and mental health already well documented by various.
Diagram of human brain. Note proximity of amygdala to hypothalamus and ectorhinal cortex.