Monday, May 6, 2030

Stan's the Man

Stan came into my office today, luckily after I shook myself awake. The request forms they used here have such a horrible layout that the brain wants to shut down in revolt. I assume this is purposeful as it probably cuts down on the amount of requests that are made.

He wanted to talk to me “in his office.” For some reason I had flashbacks of high school whispers of “ohhh he’s in trouble….”

Stan has an office in the simulations lab too, behind what I had thought was just door to an electrical closet was yet another hallway (seriously, how massive is this place?). The hall ended with another door that opened into a very roomy office. On one wall sat his desk with oak cabinets behind him. That scene would have been at home in any office park office building. Another wall however was all monitors, each monitor flipping through video feeds that seemed to cover the entire simulations lab floor. I’m sure Stan wanted me to see that both as a threat and a warning. We were watched. It was a given, but it was something else to see it in living black and white. Seriously it was black and white. This place seems to have no limit to its budget and scale and they can’t be bothered to spy on us in color?

But as spectacular as the wall of monitors was, the wall across from it was a wonder. I think it was a window (or an amazingly clean video monitor) to the server farm. But it was massive. They aren’t doing just a hundred or so tangents, they are doing thousands, tens of thousands. Server rack after server rack in a warehouse sized hole in the rock. We must be on the outer edge of Abzu because the server farm was sitting there surrounded by bare rock. It looked so fake honestly, like an underground factory from an old sci-fi film back when they used matte paintings instead of digital imagery.

Stan just wanted to reinforce the importance of this project, and how seriously “everyone” was taking this. It’s far beyond Greystle now.

I didn’t get to discuss what was of most interest to me: What “this” is. He just showed me his office and then pushed me out the door since he just “wanted to show me around a bit,” but that he had another meeting to go to.

Game night again tonight. It looks like we are using proper Abzu etiquette because our game is exactly where we left it. Adit would know if any piece had been moved.

Sunday, May 5, 2030

First day at the office

Wow, it’s amazing how spreadsheets can bring you back to reality.

Today I learned where the sacred form is. There was a stack of them in my office. Now I can requisition anything from toothpaste to all the computers we’ll need for the team. In fact I can request more forms with the form.

Today Stan Winston escorted me and Adit to the Simulations lab. I guess we work weekends. Abzu is a surprise behind every door. Down one flight of stairs and down yet another identical hall was a door labeled “simulations” (yes - in lower case). You open the door and zoom you are in a glass corporate office building, without the windows to the outside world. Rows of offices with glass walls, a cubicle farm that went on and on to the point of parody; this was going to be big.

“Welcome home,” Stan said with all honesty. I think I had just witnessed some kindness. I was allowed a few minutes of acclimating before the rest of the team showed up: Janice, Alice, Kaitlin, Erik, Chen, everyone.

In the middle of the cubicle farm there is a clearing and a sunken open space. Though there are meeting rooms, this is probably the only place large enough to hold all of us if there is a team wide meeting.

I introduced everyone to where we would be working and I showed them the sacred form from which all things derived. The assignment over the next couple of days was to fill out the forms for everything they needed. Each group was to get a meeting with me to go over their needs (and their forms) and I’d approve them. We were starting from scratch. Most of the cubicles had no chairs and none of the offices had desks (which made the chairs seem so lonely).

There were lots of questions I couldn’t answer, the most important being of course how we were to access the server farm or if there even was a server farm or were we to spec it out all over again. Other questions centered on how to get Alpha back up, did we have any access to earlier backups of the Alpha code with which to jump start this project. And of course, my favorite: What the hell was this project. I didn’t know that either.

I did have one piece of hardware though, and it held the only piece of information I had. Stan gave me a laptop with access to my corner of the Abzu grid. Nothing there except a meeting on my calendar for Thursday to discuss servers. Hopefully that will answer some of these questions.

The highlight of the day was the mess hall on the simulations floor. It was massive and had an Italian Market theme, and it was the first time we got to “mingle.” Yes, we got to mingle with other inhabitants of Abzu. In fact Stan instructed all of us as to the importance of this. This cela was the ultimate think tank, and information, thought, and retention only grows when it is expressed face to face.

A nice theory and the people I met seemed nice, but very reserved and cagey about what they were working on. It actually was pretty uncomfortable. Hopefully communication and sharing will gain with time (as will our access to other research areas). Maybe to increase mingling we should have a mixer. Deck out the mess hall with ribbons and mirror balls. Serve bad punch. Bring up the awkward another notch.

Saturday, May 4, 2030

Cela Defined

Adit asked to read tonight’s entry – and he let me know that cela wasn’t them being hip and mispronouncing cellar, but rather it was Sumerian for “temple.” That’s kind of weird.

Orientation

Had two meetings today. One mind numbing and confusing, the other mind blowing and confusing.

Let’s discuss the boring one first: Facilities Orientation.

The most interesting part of this was that just two hallway turns away behind non-descript doors was a huge lecture hall.

We were told what the hours of the mess hall were, and that there are others but we need to receive permission from our Project Manger (Stan Winston) to visit them. A portion of the hall is open 24/7 for socializing (because formica and tile scream relaxation and community).

We learned about the requisition forms for everything from office supplies to bed sheets. But I wasn’t told where my office was (do I have an office?) or where to find these forms.

This presentation lasted 4 hours with one bio break. I think I reached a new spiritual level as my spirit lifted away from my body in revolt. That happened when we learned that there is no running in the halls.

I repeat no running in the halls. Well praise be.

After that we were lead into an adjacent room where a brown bagged late lunch was waiting for us. I realized that if I exited to the hallway from this room I wouldn’t be able to find my way back to my room. I’ve now declared that Adit must be my constant companion if nothing else for his ability to find his way back from anywhere.

When we were let back into the lecture hall there was a noticeable increase in guards. I’m sure that meant the next lecture was so boring that they were there to prevent us from running out of the room screaming.

And then my mind was blown.

This place is huge. We don’t have full access yet, in fact we probably never will but in the coming weeks we’ll get more and more access (if we behave ourselves). The entire facility has over 100,000 people. Though it is one facility there are many sectors: literal and virtual firewalls, biological filters. Gated communities with their own redundant systems. They don’t have emergency separation procedures, because these sectors are basically already separate; moving between them is infrequent and requires lots of red tape. Basically it is like entering another country; you’ll need a Visa. They call the sectors celas (Guess they’re too cool for the word cellar?). We’re in Research Cela 1 – catchy.

We’re the primary research sector (sorry ‘cela’), but there are others.

And then he briefly described the research done there: they’re building the future. As far as I can tell DARPA has gone big time with pretty much every other government research division (NIH has a secret research division) is represented here along with some universities. Greystle R&D is here as well and gets paid for their funding via rights to technology… I think. An underground and unaudited patent factory. Lots of money is going into and out of this place.

He tried to put a good spin on it, pointing out that the majority of projects was science for science sake, but I doubt that. They believe in cross discipline interaction, so basically after we’ve acclimated to the place we’ll be allowed to “mingle.”

And what is this place? Abzu. I thought that was a goofy name, but Adit just told me it is Sumerian for “primordial sea.” Okay, that is kind of cool.

The best part of the day was learning that Janice and Sally were only a few blocks away. Yes, each intersection of halls is a block. As stupid as that is that really helped me figure out how to move around the place.

Seriously I can’t tell you how happy in makes me to know those two are so close.

Afterwards Janice, Sally, and I started to play Go together in the Mess Hall. Yes there is a stock pile of games in the cabinets along the wall. Sally’s day was a guided tour of the exercise room and library. They have a huge online curriculum for her, but she said it was a very lonely day. She couldn’t get access to the wider Grid, so she couldn’t even message her old friends. Bur her spirits seemed high and she and I were a team against her mother. After a hour though we were just too tired to go on (it was a long day and nobody slept well last night).

I don’t know what the correct mess hall etiquette is, but we left a piece of paper on top of the board that says “don’t move.” I guess will see tomorrow if that works.

Yippeee I live in a cave

No seriously, we are underground again. In a military bunker or something. I’m sure I’ve seen this place in a dozen films. It’s probably an easy set to build. Build one hall and just use it over and over again at different angles.

I took a long elevator ride. Walked down halls. Took a long elevator ride. Walked down more halls. Was shown where the bathroom was, shown where the mess hall was and shown the door of my “room.” That and a long bus ride was my day.

I’m bunking with Adit. It’s only us two in this little room. I guess we’re lucky we don’t have a Greystle goon as a roomy. But having Adit as my roommate means I have to watch what I say. He’ll remember every stupid thing I do – forever.

They staggered us getting into the elevators, so I don’t know where anybody else is. I miss Janice a lot. Not knowing where she is makes it feel like I haven’t seen her in a long time. Of course, she could be next door. That would be good.

Orientation tomorrow. We’re all freshman now.

Thursday, May 2, 2030

So Happy Together

Wow – if Greystle wanted to get across the message that they were angry with us I couldn’t think of a better way. We are all packed. We have moved out of our dorm rooms and apartments. Our lives are packed into towers of cardboard boxes out on the campus lawn. With two hours before we are supposed to go Stan Winston the Director of Simulations for Greystle arrives with three old school busses, a couple trucks and lots of guards.

One truck is filled with small plastic storage containers. One for each of us. That is all we get. No place or time to store the rest of our possessions.

The entire campus grounds became the most hurried yard sale in history. Undergrad students picking up clothes, gadgets, and knick knacks for basically nothing. More tears were shed then money collected.

Gee Stan, what a great way to start our working relationship.

Tuesday, April 30, 2030

People Helping People

You work with people day in day out for months. Some are friends. Some you have lunch with. Some you say hi to. And all of them are brave and good people.

I have never been more impressed by my team. I have never been so overwhelmed at what people can do.

One long standing item on my to-do list was simply making what we were doing with Alpha easier.

The set up for Alpha and Tangent required so much custom coding; even the maintenance required so many developers, engineers, and DBAs hands on all the time. Of course some of the work was caused by the ever present hovering biologists, anthropologists, ecteraologists wanting to see more details or wanting to test a theory.

But when you got down do it the code to implement much of the laws our simulation needed to obey were already written. I had always planned on making some of these items as simple to implement as clicking a button. A world creating GUI if you will.

Thank god for procrastination. We never even got to the point of spec’ing such functionality. The simulations we ran are as difficult and complex to create and manage as they were from day one.

If you want to do it again we are necessary. All of us.

Greystle has been very obvious that they want us to do it again. So much so that they got us all out of jail.

So we put that to the test.

Last week Greystle announced that the Simulations Department was moving to ‘a new location.’ The last pretense of this being a project from an institution of learning- being on campus- is being removed. We were also told that we would be in some way working for the Defense Department and that because of that we weren’t being told where we were going.

Then last Thursday Janice learned that Sally was not coming with us. She was devastated. I was devastated. Within a minute of Janice and I being told I the news I was getting calls from team members about what we should do about it (even without access to the grid news travels fast).

Our team almost filled up the old cafeteria in the student center and I suggested something that to me seemed ludicrously ballsy. We would strike. We would go to jail and not to work.

And it was agreed to quickly and unanimously. Janice cried, so did I, so many of us did. The team was a beaten group, and this was a moment where they would fight back.

Whatever Greystle is planning on with another Alpha project must be big, because Sally is coming with us (and so is my unicorn covered slate I guess). They folded immediately. Good to know we aren't powerless.

Sally promises cookies for everyone as thanks. Assuming Greystle allows us access to cooking instruments (no knives?).

Friday, April 19, 2030

Unicorns and Rainbows for data safey!

Well thank God for unicorn stickers.

Now that I “work” for Greystle on “their’ simulations project I no longer have a right to privacy. They are trying to rebuild the project and have gone through everyone’s rooms/houses/apartments searching for every electronic device that may be of help.

Basically they are praying that someone broke their IP rules and took some work home.

They wanted to look at the slate but I let them know it was for Sally’s homework. And without missing a beat they just moved on. I wonder if that is out of respect for me having once been in charge of this project or for the fact that the slate is covered in unicorns and rainbows. Yes there are actual animating rainbows on the slate I’m typing on right now. I’ll never call them distracting again.

Funny thing is the “device” that knows the most about our project is Adit’s brain – so much of it is stored right up there. I’m guessing Ned isn’t fully in bed with Greystle, because they don’t seem to know that he is Rasa. The fact that Ned is keeping that secret makes me forgive the fact that he never showed up at any of the court hearings.

Tomorrow I meet the head of the project for Greystle. My first question is what are we doing, because Alpha and Tangent are dead.

Tuesday, April 16, 2030

Taxes

Okay, I did my taxes. I started getting the sweats as soon as I said I wouldn’t do them. I sent them to the IRS with seconds to spare. In the end I’m getting something back – easily enough for a pack of gum.

Monday, April 15, 2030

Meet the new boss

Unlike every other multinational Greystle still seems to be agile, I'll give them that. They can turn misfortune to their advantage. Well they can turn the misfortune of others to their advantage.

I had been feeling like we were a bunch of wage slaves for Greystle. We either worked for them on what had once been our project (a project of discover for discovery’s sake) or we could be let loose into the wilderness to search for employment that doesn’t exist. Though being near both Alpha and Janice is a joy.

Now the slavery is a bit more literal. The list of charges was ridiculous, our lawyer pathetic, and the sentence was draconian. Prison time for everyone.

Janice wouldn't be free in time to see Sally graduate high school. I wouldn't be out in time to see her graduate college. But longest sentence of all was for Alice who wouldn't be out in time to see Sally's children graduate. The judge and prosecutors didn't take kindly to her being a black belt and actually inflicting at least a few damage points to some soldiers.

But was most impressive about our collective railroading was that it was collective. You didn't even need to have come to our little riot to get sentenced. If you slept through it you still got 4 years. Being on staff or a grad student was enough. What few undergrads we had were expelled.

And then the white knights of Greystle arrived and all would be forgiven with such magnanimity that they believed they deserved another tax break. Actually Greystle didn’t look at this is an opportunity for good PR, corporations stopped worrying about that years ago. No Greystle now has a guarantee – none of us will go work elsewhere.

We can’t.

None of us will ask for a raise.

We can’t.

And we can’t seem to get a straight answer on how long our servitude will last.

All I know is that I’m not going to prison, Adit isn’t going to prison, Kaitlin isn’t going to prison, Alice isn’t going to prison, and best of all, Janice isn’t going to prison. We all can watch Sally grow. And be free. Though that word is a bit vague these days.

Oh, and I'm not doing my taxes on time this year. What are they going to do? Arrest me?