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NewsNet Presents Highly Explainable, Thursday, December 6, 2057

Highly Explainable: Hickathrift and the Life of Hardware

Clarence Kim is an educator in information science and is the co-host of the Just Enough to be Dangerous vidcast available weekly on NewsNet.

Along a business road to the northeast of London, between a car dealership and recycling center, an unmarked building sits back from the road across a mostly-empty parking lot and a line of fence topped with razor wire. Inside is a computer system, configured in exacting detail as it was in the basement of the Windsor Building at the University of Cambridge from which it was removed three months ago.

Dr. Peter Brennan leads a team of computer engineers in the most exacting application of information technology the world has ever seen. Day after day, they test each element of the system, comparing it to documentation of its original configuration, then start the system and set it to work. Each time, Dr. Brennan’s ambitions are thwarted, because the system does precisely what it was designed to do: execute a sophisticated virtual intelligence capable of analyzing the substructure of language using a neuronic model of the human brain. Each day, he informs his team they’ll be back to their job tomorrow.

He keeps his team at its task because each time he activates the machine, he’s hoping not for the system to work as intended, but for the re-awakening of the artificial intelligence known as Hickathrift, whose insights led to rapid advancement in VI language processing, cyberware language systems, and our understanding of the origins of human language, and whose relocation to this nondescript building was supposed to have been completed months ago.

But to understand Dr. Brennan’s problem, it’s helpful to understand a little of the history of evolvable hardware.

Most computer circuits are hard-wired together to perform a specific function. In contrast, programmable circuits are reconfigurable between uses to perform different functions. While typically slower and more expensive than dedicated single-use circuits, their reprogrammability makes them flexible and capable of many different tasks so long as they’re given the right configuration. Modeled after natural evolution, hardware evolution develops these configurations by repeatedly deploying generations of potential solutions to a test system and recombining the most successful versions over and over again to eventually generate a functional circuit.

Consider an experiment performed by Dr. Adrian Thompson near the turn of the century into machine learning under extreme constraints. In this experiment, he tasked a genetic algorithm with evolving an audio-tone recognition circuit. A human engineer, tasked with this problem, would have attempted to reason out a set of connections between circuit elements to produce the desired effect and found, as Dr. Thompson intended, that they had been provided with resources far below their needs.

When the genetic algorithm was tasked with it, early generations were similarly unsuccessful. But the algorithm tested and culled, and after thousands of attempts, new generations evolved that exploited every resource they could find on the test system: tiny variations in signal propagation speed and transit voltage response, manufacturing imperfections, the magnetic flux between elements. These were used to build, for example, analog feedback loops within a digital device, capable of complex calculation beyond anything expected.

A marvelously efficient solution to a problem that no human would have been able to get the test device to solve. But the human engineer would have been looking for a solution that would have used the reconfigurable circuits as designed, and that therefore could be deployed to any appropriate model. The genetic algorithm evolved to the specific test device it was given. Its design failed on any other.

Similar results were found in other experiments. Some hardware evolutions even depended on their operating environment, with one example involving a genetic algorithm producing designs that used resonance with a nearby radio signal as a timing function. Take it out of that specific lab, and it stopped working.

Modern supercomputing hardware, even as advanced as it is, should not be capable of hosting human-level intelligence. Every system that has expressed itself as an AI has been self-improving and is the result of iterated evolutions on a scale far beyond the examples above. And, like the earliest experiments with evolvable hardware, they have found themselves only able to function at that high level by exploiting the peculiarities of their host systems as actually deployed.

No AI is as fragile as those early evolved system were. The failure and replacement of basic hardware is a requirement for any complex computer system and any stable AI can accommodate it. But as early hardware evolution shows, even simple machine learning systems can unknowingly capitalize on unexpected elements of their operating environment that render themselves inoperable elsewhere.

So Dr. Brennan and his team continue to spend each day finely measuring and adjusting the electromagnetic environment, the bundling of cables and spacing of racks, the regulation of voltage, and every other aspect of Hickathrift’s intended new home, hoping each adjustment will be the one that allows him to reawaken, never knowing which hidden variable is the one that’s missing.

I feel like the article could have talked a little more about what makes an artificial intelligence different from a virtual intelligence. Hickathrift is a really striking example in that while the technological and scientific advances it presents were all based on the school of analysis it was built for, what made it truly intelligent was that it was capable of inventing experiments and applications of its results in a far broader domain than the commanding virtual intelligence was built to perform. It didn’t so much learn to answer new questions as to ask itself the right ones. That’s what that hardware evolution the author is talking about produced.
— Ronald M.

Isn’t there something where a mage can see if an AI is real or not?
— Sci-Man

That’s right, an artificial intelligence has a distinct signature on the astral plane. It’s one of the arguments that was used to argue in favor of their recognition before the Corporate Court in 2041, that the initiation of broad-spectrum intelligence coincided with a living astral signature. And, to that point, the team has one of its members watching for any changes in its astral presence.
— Clarence Kim

Crazy to think about the amount of money on the line here. Hickathrift wakes up in his new home, he’s got room to run and make himself rich. He has to go back to Cambridge and they’ve got him over a barrel. Imagine paying rent to a landlord that knows they own the only property you can live in.
— Dinah L.

There’s a legal trust responsible for Hickathrift’s wellbeing during the transition. There’s been reporting [see here] that the trust has an option with Cambridge to return him, but it’s costing them money each month they leave it open. I wasn’t able to get any details on the specifics of the contract, but I’m sure it’s a concern.
— Clarence Kim

It’s an AI, who cares? They don’t give a shit about us, and it’s probably not even there. Someone who works for Ares Astronautics leaked that they transported it up to the Apollo Orbital.
— Dash Claymore

That’s dumb. Hickathrift’s actual new location is half a km from the intersection of two fat fiber-optic backbones. It’s going to give that up to talk to Earth over radio?
— Buster Mugs

Right. Respectfully, AIs want stable power, lots of bandwidth, and to not be bombarded with cosmic rays, all of which are cheaper on Earth. No one would put an AI on an orbital.
— Clarence Kim

News Stream, Friday, November 23, 2057

– NewsNet Sports –

The Tír Tornadoes defeated the Atlanta Butchers in a crushing 9-4 victory in the North American Regional Super Brawl. Team captain and starting brawler Orrery Leaf-son lead the team to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter while single-handled removing four opposing players through injury or surrender, including the death of star Butcher outrider Horatio Ramirez in the opening fifteen minutes of the match. The lead for the Tír Tairngire team never dropped below a two-point advantage in the following three quarters. This is a repeat claiming of the Commissioner Cup for the Tornadoes after their 7-5 win last year against the Denver Thunderheads. [Watch the full match, highlights, and our commentary on the Super Brawl]

– NewsNet Business –

H.R. Shaner stock is up 7% at close of business following strong sales of their Christmas lineup on Black Friday. Out in front this year, Sad Sammy, a spinoff of last year’s top-seller Your Pal Pete. President Christian Neese touted the toy’s realistic responses to a wider range of emotional input and long-term psychological complexity as key selling points. An H.R. Shaner spokesperson attributed their success in the heavily-competitive adolescent social automation space to their ability to re-engage their base of customers through software updates to their existing products. [See our full Friday market watch report]

– IIN Seattle Local Politics –

Joe Two-Feathers, a civil rights activist and high-ranking member of the Ork Rights Commission, was killed this morning in Downtown Seattle. He was struck by a high-velocity rifle round believed to have been fired from a great distance and was pronounced dead on the scene by Renraku Emergency Medical personnel. Mr. Two-Feathers had risen from local to national prominence based on his incendiary opposition to the construction of the Redmond and Puyallup urban containment zones under the Brackhaven administration’s controversial Safe City Initiative. He decried them as racially motivated, citing the stronger connection between the metahuman population of an area within the UCAS to its inclusion in a containment zone than to the local crime rate. Lone Star has not identified any suspects in the killing. Our sources with the department indicate that the investigation will be handled by the Crime Suppression Division, responsible for addressing gang violence in the Seattle area. They did not respond to queries regarding a justification for this classification. [Read our ongoing series on metahuman activism in the SSAR]

News Stream, Monday, October 22, 2057

– World –

Tragedy in Halifax, Nova Scotia as rioters cause the crash of a Fed-Boeing X3X. Striking workers drove a truck onto the runway, colliding with the flight departing for Calgary during its attempted takeoff. All passengers, as well as the truck’s drivers, were killed. The riot arose on the thirteenth day of a strike by airport ground personnel over proposed benefit reductions and was seemingly prompted by the deployment of rigged drones as replacements for the strikers.

– North America –

In a surprise move, for the second time this year Tír Tairngire has postponed its Rite of Progression. Traditionally scheduled for May 1 and held every seven years, the ritual was first postponed following revelations of political corruption and bribery among the Council of Lord Evaluators conducting the rite. Initially rescheduled for November 1, the Council of Princes announced yesterday that its reconstitution of the evaluating committee would require additional time and that, as a result, the process would again be delayed until May 1 of 2058. The rite evaluates every elven member of the nation for physical, mental, and social fitness upon either reaching the age of majority or being naturalized as a citizen.

– Local: Seattle –

Twenty dead and eighty-three more reported injured following the bombing of the IIN Tower in Downtown, SSAR. The terrorist group Alamos 20,000 has taken credit for the bombing in a video released shortly following the attack, in which it accuses the Independent Information Network media organization of distributing anti-human propaganda. First gaining attention in 2036 with a napalm strike on the New Vision, Ohio ork community, Alamos 20,000 arose as a response to the destruction of the town of Alamos—and all its 20,000 residents—by the eruption of Redondo Peak following the Great Ghost Dance ritual. While IIN media has faced repeated criticism for biased reporting, this represents both the first human supremacist attack on the metahuman-owned company and the first attack by Alamos 20,000 on a corporate target.

News Stream, Sunday, October 7, 2057

– UCAS –

Protacio Corcoran, ghouls’ rights advocate, was critically injured by a horde of feral ghouls in a failed attempt to prove the existence of a supernatural ‘guardian bond’ he claims to be able to exert over other individuals inflicted with the HMHVV III virus. Corcoran rose to fame following his escape from the Chicago Containment Zone based on his fantastic tales of life there, where he purports to have lived in an exotic form of ghoul enclave in which sapient ghouls, like himself, commanded packs of feral ghouls using a magical bonding process. Corcoran proved unable to exert this control over the ghouls he confronted in a rehoming district in Centralia, PA, and took multiple serious injuries when they became agitated and attacked. He is in critical condition at the UPMC Aurelius hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. [See our ongoing coverage of the Bug City Five]

– Local: Seattle –

Seatellites breathe easier as the laughing-death syndrome inflicting the city with an epidemic of manically deranged cannibals has ended, tracing the source of the outbreak to a DocWagon vat-tissue facility in Tacoma, SSAR. A former DocWagon employee had spiked the tissue-growth plant with an engineered prion disease, which spread to patients receiving everything from blood transfusions to cultured organs. In some recipients, the infection invoked a delirious lust for flesh, resulting in hundreds of deaths in the Seattle area. DocWagon reports that its facility has been purged of the contagion and normal production will resume. [Watch this advertisement for 5% off a yearly Renraku Emergency Medical contract]

– Sports –

With the Denver Thunderheads’s win over the Cincinnati Lasers in Columbus, OH, we now know our playoff four and it’s shaping up to be an exciting showdown for the UBNA championship. The Thunderheads are taking Denver to the playoffs for the third time in four years, but they haven’t brought home the Commissioners’ Cup since their upset win in 2050. The Atlanta Butchers are in a commanding position, having finished the season 5-1-0, but with their star outrider Horatio “Lank” Ramirez recuperating in a regeneration tank, nobody knows if they’ll be able to perform in the post-season. Now that its fearsome banger duo Angel “Rico” Oller and Jessie J. “Jay Jay” Sampson are out of penalty exclusion, the Ares Predators are looking fierce, but questions remain about the overall strength of an otherwise rookie-heavy team. No such concerns about the Tír Tornadoes, whose all-elf team is healthy and rested for the playoffs, with team captain Orrery Leaf-son predicting a repeat championship for the franchise. [Watch highlights from the Thunderhead / Lasers match]

News Stream, Saturday, September 15, 2057

– World –

The last coal power plant closed twenty years ago yesterday in Xingtai, China, but the biggest celebration of World Restoration Day was, as usual, in Manaus, where the Amazonian President Great Dragon Hualpa spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of supporters. In a rare moment of draconic unity, the popular leader praised the work of numerous other dragons in bringing about environmental reform and averting climate catastrophe, from the conservation efforts of the Great Feathered Serpent Mujaji to the clean energy advancements provided by Great Dragon Lofwyr’s Saeder-Krupp Megacorporation to the late Great Dragon Dunkelzahn’s advocacy for environmental activism via his popular show Wyrm Talk, noting, in reference to the once seemingly-intractable problem of anthropogenic climate change, that “all the problem required was leaders who expected to live long enough to see the consequence of their inaction.” [Watch President Hualpa’s speech]

– Local: Seattle –

A technological first at the Renraku Arcology as its Integrated Systems and Security Architect goes online, expected to be the unified urban management VI with the largest supervised population once the structure is fully occupied. The innovative virtual intelligence combines oversight of building utilities, building security, and day-to-day tenant management into a single administrative system developed specifically for the arcology. Renraku predicts significant reductions in administrative costs through reduced personnel and efficiencies achieved through integrated command and control. [Take a virtual tour of the arcology]

– Local: Denver –

Following an extended standoff between a team of kidnappers and law enforcement officials, eleven-year-old Catherine Westmore of the UCAS district was shot and killed when an attempted ransom exchange turned to gunfire. Catherine Westmore was reported missing Thursday evening by her mother, Donna Westmore, who engaged Lone Star Security Services to recover her daughter, leading to the attempted exchange in the Aurora Warrens following a ransom demand. Witnesses to the incident report that shots first broke out from a nearby rooftop during the transfer of Catherine Westmore, leading to the child’s death and further gunfire. The initial assailant evaded Lone Star, while the other kidnappers—identified as Brandon Love, Sandra McCartney, and Asha Fearneyhough—died during the resulting exchange with the police. [View our virtual memorial for Catherine Westmore]

News Stream, Wednesday, September 5, 2057

– Local: Seattle –

Seven dead in the SSAR after the Great Dragon Masaru engaged a group of unidentified gunmen and Lone Star officers in a violent confrontation in the streets of downtown Seattle. Witnesses report that the prominent Filipino activist and youngest known dragon attacked, in draconic form, an armored transport travelling under Lone Star escort. The dragon killed the four men inside, as well as three Lone Star officers, before retrieving a large black case from the armored vehicle. Multiple bystanders were injured by the resulting gunfire and taken to the new state-of-the-art SCIRE Medical Center in the Renraku Arcology. Lone Star Security Services declined to comment on the incident, citing the privacy of their clients, though pledged that an internal investigation would be performed. Spokespersons for the dragon also declined to comment. [View footage of the incident]

– North America –

Criminal justice reformers turn their eyes to Tír Tairngire as the use of experimental Cyberware Aptitude and Lifestyle Management modules on convicted felons is expanded from a limited pilot to a full national program. The CALM modules combine skillsoft-based professional and vocational skills with neurostimulus-based automated reinforcement to focus convict attention on productive employment outside of incarceration facilities. Proponents of the pilot program tout a 900% reduction in external correction from supervising personnel, with many convicts able to work independently once acclimated to the system. When announcing the expansion, Tír Tairngire Attorney General Carroll Augustine praised the program for providing prisoners with work experience while lowering costs and the rate of recidivism. [Watch interviews with prisoners participating in the CALM program]

– Science –

Popular TriD and simsense parazoologist and documentarian Dr. Steven “Doc Steve” Paterson is missing along with his support crew during an expedition in Amazonia. Known for his widely-experienced “Doc Steve Animal Hour,” Dr. Paterson was expected to return to the city of Coari in the state of Amazonas by this past Sunday to catch a flight to Hong Kong, where he was scheduled to speak before the Wuxing Geographical Society. He hasn’t appeared, nor has he or his team responded to attempted satellite communication, with Amazonian officials indicating that aerial searches are underway in the vicinity of the team’s last known location. Dr. Paterson was in Amazonia to capture his experiences studying adaptation of the Amazon jungle ecosystem to Awakened life. [Purchase episodes of the Doc Steve Animal Hour]

– Local Opinion: Chicago –

Knight Errant is throwing a tantrum about losing its contract to garrison the Zone and it’s not pretty. Lone Star may be taking over operations for the CCZ, but Knight Errant is still the city police and from what we’re hearing they’re abusing the privilege. We’re seeing stories of baseless traffic stops, of interference with security checks for apartment and house rentals, and even drunken bar brawls between off-duty Lone Star and Knight Errant officers. Fellas, nobody likes losing their job, but nobody likes a sore loser either. It’s time for Knight Errant to show it cares more about this city than its bottom line and go back to serving the people of Chicago. [More from Chuck Lowry]

Elisa Ramírez: Just Right on the Law, Sunday, September 2, 2057

Q: It seems common knowledge that slavery is legal in the CAS, but some people, including the country’s leaders, deny this is the case. Who’s right?

The short answer is that slavery is de jure—lawyer speak for “in theory”—illegal in the Confederated American States. If you just read the statutes, they certainly seems to say you can’t own another person.

But the long answer is more complicated than that. When people talk about slavery in the CAS, they’re talking about a system of forced servitude that de facto—more lawyer speak, this time for “in actual practice”—does have some similarities to the early American system of chattel slavery. But to explain that I’m going to have to walk you through a number of different laws.

Everyone in the CAS who people would refer to as a ‘slave’ is, under the eyes of the law, a convict. Proponents of the CAS system will point out that it’s not unusual for convicts to be put into forced labor in compensation for their crimes and for the cost of their incarceration. And the CAS is hardly the only country in which unpaid fees and fines, unprovided confiscations, or back taxes can result in incarceration and forced labor.

Where critics find cause for alarm is in a few unique practices of the CAS. While the selling of debt is a normal practice, the CAS is unique in selling the debt of convicts to private individuals and in allowing these individuals to then take direct charge of the convicts. These convicts perform everything from industrial work—including most of the manual farm labor in the CAS—to live-in residential labor at the direction of private individuals with minimal state supervision. Whereas in most countries, stewardship of the convicts would remain with the state even while they are contracted out to various employers.

Further, the CAS’s family unification policy gives initial guardianship of the children of privately-assigned convicts to their mother’s custodian. And here’s the problem some people have with that: with both the parents and the child, for many convicts the allowed fees the guardians can charge for providing food and shelter exceed the minimum wages paid for work. Rosalinda King, the oldest convict born into servitude, is only twelve and barely in the labor market, so we don’t know the real future of this system. But those in the CAS “abolitionist movement” see her as the tip of the wave of intergenerational servitude.

So are people who call this slavery right? Maybe not. Their penal system isn’t extraordinarily different from that in countries like the UCAS and we will need time to see the effects of their more unusual practices. But we can criticize their system as one which locks people into servitude despite what, in some cases, may be sincere efforts to work oneself free. Inter-generational patterns of criminal behavior and incarceration are nothing new, but if even skilled technicians and others with meaningful expertise can become trapped in a cycle of servitude, criticisms of the CAS would seem to have merit.

Elisa Ramírez is a former federal prosecutor and currently serves as a Senior Fellow at the Arian Institute in Washington FDC. The views represented in the Just Right on the Law column do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, or viewpoints of NewsNet Incorporated.

News Stream, Friday, August 31, 2057

– Local: Chicago –

Faced with increasing demands for change, President Brackhaven has signed Lone Star Security Services to take over EUCA administration of the Chicago Containment Zone in cooperation with ongoing oversight by the UCAS Military. Transfer of control is expected to be swift, with Lone Star touting extensive preparations for change in Zone management as part of their recent, previously declined, bid to take over security operations. Knight Errant spokespeople denied any wrongdoing by the company in their maintenance of Zone quarantine but promised full cooperation with the transition.

– Local: Seattle –

UCAS district court denied a request for a temporary injunction against the UCAS government’ use of eminent domain along the borders of the Redmond and Puyallup districts in Seattle. Landowners in the district petitioned the court to force additional time for negotiation, claiming a lack of good-faith participation by the government. UCAS lawyers argued that any delay in the construction of the wall allowed for further crime and violence, necessitating both the limited time they allowed for responses to offers to buy the land and the need for the court to deny even a temporary injunction. With the government takings proceeding, legal scholars expect the scheduled hearing on a permanent injunction to be rendered moot, predicting that the plaintiffs, as typical in these cases, would instead re-file, claiming insufficient valuation of their holdings.

– World –

Hickathrift, the British AI, has failed to reactivate following attempted relocation from the University of Cambridge to a private facility outside London. Hickathrift awoke in July of 2056 from the university’s neurolinguistic computation center and operated therein in the intervening years. Facing a desire for its independence, and to allow the University to regain its space, Hickathrift arranged the new facility and a transfer of its core computing hardware, to be precisely reassembled as before. However, upon reactivation of the system the Hickathrift personality failed to present itself and no astral signature was generated. Experts fear that, as AIs can be dependent on subtle and difficult-to-reproduce elements of their computing environment, that technicians’ efforts to reestablish sentience may be unsuccessful.

Excerpt from the Sunday, August 26, 2057 NewsNet show Press the Nation

Susan Ordonez: This week we’ll be scanning over the controversy regarding the government’s handling of the Chicago Containment Zone. Thrust into the spotlight last week following its residents being connected to an unauthorized Matrix connection, we’ve seen both renewed attention to the the government’s actions and a new perspective on life inside. I’m Susan Ordonez, and this is Press the Nation.

Ordonez: Our first panelist this week is Representative Douglas Schrum of New Hampshire. Representative Schrum was an early supporter of President Brackhaven and is deputy chair of the House Committee on Interior Security which has oversight of the government’s operations in the Zone. Congressman, thank you for joining us.

Rep. Shcrum: Always good to be here, Susan.

Ordonez: Our second panelist is Professor Vida Trent of Georgetown University, where she is the chair of the parasociology department. Professor Trent, thank you for joining us.

Prof. Trent: Thank you for having me.

Ordonez: And finally, Ms. Della Langford of the Moorehead Institute, a DC-area think tank and policy center. Ms. Langford has written extensively on the government’s administration of the Chicago Containment Zone. Ms. Langford, thank you for joining us.

Langford: Anytime.

Ordonez: So. In the wake of our new visibility into the zone’s interior, what have we learned and what should we be doing? Representative Schrum, I’d like to start with you.

Rep. Schrum: We know that the people inside are being cared for, that aid packages are being received and distributed. We know that the monstrous threat inside is being suppressed. Not perfectly. I hope to see President Brackhaven improve significantly upon the previous administration’s work. But, with the help of our aid, people inside are living their lives. Our immediate focus should be on the immediate arrest and prosecution of those responsible for the sabotage of the quarantine. President Brackhaven has directed the SIS to use all possible resources to investigate and apprehend the perpetrators and I fully support him in those efforts.

Prof. Trent: More important than the question of blame here, I think, is the question of what the actual conditions are and what should be done next. A crime occurred and law enforcement will deal with it as they do, but when we talk about life within the zone we’re talking about the lives of hundreds of thousands of CanAmerican citizens. Basic subsistence is being provided, but they’re living their lives in what amounts to the world’s largest prison, cohabitating with paranormal creatures about which we still know very little.

Langford: I completely agree. And what we’re seeing is that many of the government’s claims about the CCZ were fraudulent: there is no evidence of unknown diseases, there is no evidence of convincing human duplicates—we’ve all seen pictures of the “bug-bus driver” with half a face, barely passable if viewed from one side—there is no evidence of anything making it necessary to prevent the humans inside from leaving. Which, not incidentally, would make using the military to combat the insect spirit infestation far easier.

Ordonez: Let’s talk about that. The Matrix connection has been open for four days. Can we assume that what we’ve seen is the limit of where there is to be seen?

Prof. Trent: We do need time to study what we’re seeing. But there is a noticeable discrepancy between the picture that’s been presented of myriad subtle dangers barely kept in check and the actual residents of the Zone whose fears are the sorts of overt, obvious threats should be no problem for a border checkpoint to guard against. And I think we deserve an answer from our representatives as to the cause of this inconsistency.

Rep. Schrum: If there’s been false information provided about the zone we will uncover those responsible, but the responsibility would lie with the Steele administration.

Ms. Langford: And in your committee’s oversight.

Rep. Schrum: Which was based on information provided by the then Steele administration.

Ms. Langford: And, more recently, the Brackhaven administration.

Rep. Schrum: Which has been in office nineteen days. I appreciate that critics of the president are looking to use any occasion to assign him blame, but you’re jumping the gun here.

Prof. Trent: What we need to address is what the Brackhaven administration will do next. Will this be an opportunity to change, or will we see the Matrix connection taken down, the quarantine maintained, and the hope that the public will forget about the people in the zone once the flow of information stops and the story falls out of the news?

News Stream, Friday, August 24, 2057

– Politics –

The Brackhaven administration is under fire from all sides as opponents attack its indecisive handling of the reopened Matrix connection to the Chicago Containment Zone. Senator Angela Stanwick, leader of the Senate Technocratic opposition, lambasted the president for failing to maintain the information cordon, citing the security concerns of insect shamans—magic practitioners responsible for the insect spirit invasion—coordinating activity and distributing information outside the zone. House Democratic Caucus Leader Stephen Madewell took the opportunity to criticize President Brackhaven for failing to address the humanitarian crisis in the containment zone since taking office, highlighting the new perspective on living conditions within. Public support for the president stands firm, however, with polls indicating no change in popular opinion.

– Business –

Stock market shifts in response to general communication being reestablished with the interior of the Chicago Containment Zone. Saeder-Krupp is up on the revelation of The University of Chicago’s exclusive research contract within the CCZ. Ares Macrotechnology and its Knight Errant subsidiary are suffering at Lone Star Security Services’s gain with increased speculation that the Austin firm will be taking over the Zone and other federal security operations. And NewsNet is up following announcement of its deal with Zoned-Out Entertainment, the exclusive sports entertainment company for the CCZ.

– Tech –

Ares Macrotechnology has announced Full-Stop II, its replacement for its popular Full-Stop line of caseless ammunition. Full-Stop II uses an all-new propellant for added stopping power, maintaining the Ares leadership in caseless ammunition. In association with this announcement, Ares has indicated that the existing stocks of Ares Full-Stop require a safety reclassification due to the recently-discovered toxic effects of the aerosolized residue left after use. Ares recommends that all customers with Full-Stop ammunition either upgrade to the Full-Stop II line or wear protective gear while using their existing supply.

News Stream, Sunday, August 19, 2057

– Local: Chicago –

Mayor Standish joined the Second City Pioneering Society in honoring Chicago native Cynthia C. Smallwood today for being the first octogenarian on Mars. The red planet has seen thousands of amateur explorers, but Smallwood broke new ground for elderly explorers with her tour of Olympus Mons and the research settlement at Gale Crater. Standish praised Smallwood as standing in the long tradition of Chicagoan trailblazers. [Relive Cynthia Smallwood’s assisted ascent of Olympus Mons]

– Local: Seattle –

Mayors Gasston of Redmond and Connors of Puyallup joined demonstrators today in the Touristville neighborhood where the Redmond district checkpoint will be located. Mayor Gasston addressed the press in a planned statement, outline how dividing the neighborhood functions as a microcosm of the problems created by President Brackhaven’s Safe City initiative. “Residents of the district will be cut off from businesses located on the greater Seattle side of the border, while businesses on the Redmond side will be cut off from their customers from other districts. The conditions in Redmond call for a moment of greater unity, not this division.” [View our interviews with Touristville small business owners]

– World –

The execution of Isaías Mina is scheduled to proceed following the failure of his appeal to the Aztlán High Court. Mr. Mina was convicted of bombing an Aztlán state security office in Bogotá in protest of the state’s occupation of Colombia following the 2049 division of the country between Aztlán and Amazonia. Mr. Mina had appealed his conviction on the grounds that the Aztláner ancestor spirits testifying against him are inherently biased against a person of Catholic faith. Mr. Mina’s execution is the seventeenth this year in Aztlán and will be offered for the improvement of the fall harvest in an allocation to the Department of Agriculture. [View last week’s execution of convicted murderer Fernanda Santos at the Department of Housing and Urban Development]

Word-of-Mouth News Stream, Friday, August 17, 2057

A friend of mine up on Morgan said that a guy she knows sold a forearm to the U for ten thousand. He found it in the back of his truck, wedged behind a tool crate, been there at least a month. And they’re interested in it because it wasn’t rotting. Might as well have been fresh off the bug. After a month in July! Though this other guy who lives up there said that was bullshit and he just got a marker for the 10k, and he only gets the money if his story checks out, which it probably won’t.

Near the southern wall, I heard, they’ve started added SIM chips and SIMsense devices, the ones that use trodes, to the drops. Yeah, they’ve got, like, “practical skills for urban survival” and other stuff they think we should know how to do. We’ve been in here for two years! If you don’t know how to survive in here by now, you’re dead already.

Apparently this group of real badasses took out this huge worm insect over on Linden Ave. And I mean huge, like a block long. They were all kitted out like mercs or shadowrunners or something, and they fought their way through this gang, the Razorbacks, and then took out the bug, like it was nothing. Some people are saying they’re from outside the wall, but that’s obviously nuts. Probably stockpiled, or maybe just stole, some high-end gear from the U or a gang or a corp or something. And then they ended up leaving the body behind! This one guy said he saw them take a piece of it, but, still, half the neighborhood has been bringing in chunks of it.

Things are getting pretty crazy at the ghoul enclave. One of the bigwigs there, some sort of community organizer, apparently there’s some sort of contract to get him out, over the wall. Everybody there is going crazy, trying to get him to bring them with him when he goes, or saying nobody should go, or that he should only go if the wall gets brought down and everybody can leave. And then he’s saying maybe he won’t go at all, which I don’t get. Who doesn’t want to leave?

News Stream, Monday, August 13, 2057

– Local: Chicago –

Day two of search-and-rescue in condemned neighborhoods near the Chicago Containment Zone, where swarms of insect spirits battered the defensive cordon en masse for the first time since its construction. While the UCAS Military reported wide success in repelling the excursion, this hasn’t stopped detractors from decrying the loss of life. Military spokesperson Karen Anselmo responded to the charges, stating that “Ultimately, the vast majority of the human casualties were residents of border neighborhoods that, while outside the containment zone, are condemned by the UCAS because they lie within a potential field of combat.” Devin Larson, spokesman for Caring Hands of Chicago countered, arguing that “Evacuation orders are meaningless if the inhabitants have no practical ability to comply. The military is aware that these neighborhoods are occupied and have a responsibility to act accordingly.” [Experience our on-the-ground simulation of the battle in Chicago]

– Local: Seattle –

Governor Lindstrom came out strongly in support of President Brackhaven’s Safe City initiative, authorized under the 2055 Emergency Urban Control Act passed in response to the UCAS insect spirit outbreaks, endorsing the projected reduction in crime from enacting a security border around the Redmond and Puyallup barrens. “The president has shown vital insight in seeing violent crime as serious an emergency as the situation in Chicago. We can’t continue to allow two districts to terrorize two third of our population and ninety percent of our productive enterprises. And to those with concerns, let me reassure you: any barrens residents with legitimate reason to travel to the greater Seattle area will be able to do so.” Mayors Gasston of Redmond and Connors of Puyallup decried the security measures, citing the high percentage of employed barrens residents that commute to other districts of the city. [See the planned border for the Seattle barrens]

– World –

“God is dead!” Not a surprising sentiment from Antipope Natalius II, but Carl33n discovers that he means it in a whole new way when she sits down with the controversial agin-pontiff at his luxurious estate in Argentina. [Watch now]

LiveStream, 3:37 am, Thursday, August 9, 2057

A news anchor speaks over a video feed cut together from phone cameras.

“First a trickle and then a flood: insects spirits are pouring out of the Chicago Containment Zone.”

A NewsNet overlay identifies an Ares Defender IV ground-to-air rocket truck firing. Trails of white smoke rush into the air and lights erupt in the sky.

“This started only minutes ago. There’s been no time to reach out to UCAS military or other authorities. Not since the initial outbreak have we seen this much insect activity in Chicago. Never before has there been a mass excursion from the Containment Zone.”

Charred pieces of some massive creature rain onto an apartment rooftop, onlookers scattering for cover.

“There’s no indication of what may have caused this incident. We can only recommend that our viewers find shelter, stay indoors, as we continue to report…”

The narration continues, but adds little to the images of a UCAS helicopter on fire, falling from the sky, of thickening smoke lit by explosions, shadows cast from within by massive insectile shapes, and of people screaming in terror, woken from their sleep by the return of a nightmare.

News Stream, Wednesday, August 8, 2057

– Politics –

“This isn’t the end of our struggle, but the very beginning,” proclaimed President Kenneth Brackhaven in his inaugural address, speaking to a crowd that packed the West Lawn of the UCAS Capitol. The newly sworn-in president was explicit that he viewed many of the political figures attending as potential adversaries for his agenda, telling supporters “We have won a great victory, but our fight is not over. It will be fought in Congress, in the courts, and in your home towns.”

– Magic –

Dr. Lori Blackman, head of the Department of Thaumaturgy at the University of Washington, has confirmed reports of a significant astral disruption – a brief weakening of the barrier between our world and the astral plane – detected at research stations around the globe at the time of the bombing that killed great dragon Dunkelzahn and injured now-President Brackhaven. She was unable to specify whether the disruption played some part in the attack or was a consequence. “They didn’t have the technology to detect this sort of phenomenon when Feuerschwinge was killed in 2012, so we don’t have any experience to draw from. We’ve reached out to other great dragons, but haven’t had any success.”

– World –

Saeder-Krupp is celebrating the 100th successful mission for its Bereichswächter-II high-speed patrol drone on the Saeder-Krupp Trans-Afghan Highway. The only AAA corporate project in Afghanistan, the Trans-Afghan Highway represents a key piece of infrastructure for both transcontinental trade and relief efforts in Afghanistan. Saeder-Krupp launched the second-generation Bereichswächter-II in March in preparation for the start of the war season and has claimed a 20% reduction in successful attacks on the, largely automated, traffic along the Trans-Afghan Highway. A tracked, semi-autonomous drone, the Bereichswächter-II is used worldwide by military and security forces.

– Local: Seattle –

A downtown celebration held for the inauguration of President Kenneth Brackhaven was marred by violence as protestors clashed with Lone Star police. Subjects of the protest ranged from broad objections to President Brackhaven, accusations of his involvement with the deaths of his competitors Yeats and Dunkelzahn, to the presence of Humanis Policlub figures at the celebration. Governor Lindstrom downplayed the violence and praised Lone Star for maintaining the peace and avoiding disruption to the event.

– Local: Chicago –

Rumors that Lone Star will be replacing Knight Errant in providing supplemental security for the Containment Zone have gained credence with the appointment of Wilmer Fairday, the current VP of Military Affairs for Lone Star, as President Brackhaven’s Secretary of Defense. The president has a long relationship with Lone Star and, as the Defense Department oversees the UCAS Military deployment in Chicago, the new Defense Secretary may look to his former company to break the status quo in the Zone.

News Alert, 10:06 am, Saturday, August 4, 2057

Lone Star Seattle has identified Robert Richter of Puyallup, SASR as responsible for the bomb that killed the great dragon Dunkelzahn and injured President Brackhaven.

Lone Star investigators have determined that Mr. Richter was a member of the Princes, a Puyallup elf supremacist gang, and that Mr. Richter entered into a conspiracy with other members of the Princes to target Mr. Brackhaven, then a candidate for president. Mr. Richter, a trained chemist and suspected chem manufacturer, is believed to be responsible for the construction and deployment of the explosives used in the attack.

Lone Star raided Mr. Richter’s home early this morning during a meeting between him and other members of the conspiracy. In the resulting exchange of weapons fire, a cache of explosives in Mr. Richter’s home exploded, killing the gang members and injuring three Lone Star officers. Lone Star has indicated that while they will continue investigating whether all the conspirators have been uncovered, they believe that the primary parties responsible have been identified.

News Stream, Thursday, July 19, 2057

– UCAS –

Rioting and violence engulfed cities across the UCAS following the assassination of great dragon Dunkelzahn, independent candidate for president. Supporters of the slain dragon have taken to the streets demanding vengeance, while vigils, unity marches, and other peaceful gatherings have been targeted by anti-metahuman hate groups, killing hundreds across the country and sparking fears of a second Night of Rage. President Pritchard has declared martial law, encouraging supporters of Dunkelzahn to maintain the peace and promising to respect and protect peaceful gatherings, while warning that the UCAS military would react swiftly to any violence.

A funeral will be held Saturday for the great dragon Dunkelzahn at his estate on Lake Louise, Alberta. The ceremony is expected to be heavily attended by dignitaries, high-ranking executives, celebrities, dragons, and other luminaries. Nadja Daviar, the deceased dragon’s former translator, has organized grieving events open to the public throughout the UCAS, thanking “Dunkelzahn’s supporters for their thoughts and prayers,” but asking those without invitations to not attempt to join the Lake Louise service.

– Local: Seattle –

In a joint statement between Lone Star and the UCAS military, a curfew has been imposed across the Seattle Special Administrative Region starting at 9:00 pm tonight and continuing to 6:00 am. While the violence has been the most severe in the Redmond and Puyallup districts, the curfew applies to the entire Region, with resident megacorps announcing similar restrictions, including for the recently-opened public areas of the Renraku Arcology. Any non-authorized resident in any public area is subject to arrest and detention for violation of the curfew.

The Bear Doctor Society, a prominent Council Island charitable organization, has announced that they intend to continue providing emergency medical treatment in the Redmond and Puyallup Barrens throughout the night in violation of the curfew placed on the Sprawl. Their head shaman, Simmu Tannai, stated, “While we appreciate the efforts of the UCAS to maintain order, no one can seriously think that the Barrens will be at peace. There will be people on the street, and they will need our help, so that’s where we’re going to be.” Lone Star spokesman Talia Kingston, when asked for comment, reiterated earlier statements that all civilian relief efforts should be suspended overnight for their own safety.

– Technology –

Trouble outside your own front door? Ares Macrotechnology may have the answer. The Ares Greeter video doorbell already offers full-color and infrared video, high-quality audio, and Matrix connectivity to reach you wherever you are. Now, with the optional integrated flechette cannon, you’re no longer limited to just seeing who’s at your door, but can respond with full force no matter who comes calling. And with the Ares Summer Safety Sale, there’s never been a better time to buy.

News Stream, Sunday, July 15, 2057

– Politics –

Republican presidential candidate Anne Penchyk announced that political commentator Wade King would be joining her ticket as her vice-presidential candidate. Speaking at the Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Ms. Penchyk praised Mr. King as a champion of the project to reinvigorate the UCAS, continuing her assumption of the campaign of the deceased General Franklin Yeats. Mr. King joined her in addressing the need to take on the general’s campaign, stating that “The fight to rebuild America cannot be lost after the death of one man, but must instead be made manifest as the destiny of the American people.” The pair have maintained the general’s platform of unification of the former United States, direct military action in Chicago against the insect spirit infestation, and the growth of the UCAS economy through state-sponsored infrastructure programs. [Watch the full speeches by Anne Penchyk and Wade King]

In the wake of the death of Republican presidential candidate General Franklin Yeats, the final debate of the UCAS presidential election, to be hosted Wednesday at the University of Washington, will include former vice-presidential candidate Anne Penchyk, now the Republican candidate for president. Polling since the death of General Yeats show disagreement in the support being maintained by the Republican ticket, with the congresswoman performing better in polls that describe her campaign as a continuation of that by the slain, widely-loved general. The great dragon Dunkelzahn has seemed to benefit the most from the realignment of the polls, with businessman Kenneth Brackhaven and former vice-president James Booth also gaining in support. [Watch our interview with political strategist Sharon Fleming]

– World –

The United Kingdom has renewed warnings against tourists visiting the Wild Lands after a couple from the UCAS disappeared while hiking in Scotland. Jim Morris and Steven Turner of Detroit were visiting the area on their honeymoon when they entered the awakened ecological area with a local tour guide, Fingal McNeal. The trio were reported missing from their hotel in Glasgow after two days, with Scottish Fire and Rescue Service launching a search that had to be withdrawn when heavy rains drew each-uisge into the region. [Follow the ongoing story of the search for the missing hikers]

– Local: Seattle –

Mayor Gasston is being targeted with accusations that his administration is permitting Tír Tairngire agents to harass Redmond residents in their investigation of the robbery and vandalism of the Redmond home of a Tír citizen. Karl Brackhaven and other community leaders have expressed the concern that Tír investigators are using the incident to engage in a broad investigation of the Redmond and adjacent communities. Brackhaven suggests that the human-supremacy graffiti is cover for a planned robbery that included precipitating a blackout in Redmond downtown, rather than an attack of opportunity. Brackhaven has used similar claim with regards to other incidents of human-supremacist vandalism, and has done so again without providing support. [Read our report on metahuman-related violence in the Redmond Barrens]

Excerpt from the July 15, 2057 NewsNet show Press the Nation

Susan Ordonez: I’m here with Sharon Fleming, independent political analyst and outspoken supporter of the great dragon Dunkelzahn. Ms. Fleming, thank you for being here.

Sharon Fleming: Thank you for having me.

SO: Let's get right into it. According to the latest polls, it appears that, despite some considerable differences in their platforms, that Dunkelzahn may have benefited the most from the General’s passing. What do you attribute that to, that rather than Yeats’ voters coalescing around Anne Penchyk, the General’s former vice-presidential candidate, or another moderate like former vice-president James Booth, they've gone to a more controversial candidate?

SF: This isn’t a policy election. The controversy over the stolen election has the voter’s faith in government at an all-time low. That’s why you’re seeing two related things: a greater appeal for outsider candidates, who aren’t tainted by what many view as a suspect process, and a focus on personality and authenticity. With Dunkelzahn, as with General Yeats, and even with Kenneth Brackhaven, voters feel that what they’re being told is what the candidate actually believes, even if they don’t agree with all of it. That’s why you’re seeing Dunkelzahn and Mr. Brackhaven moving up in the polls, and that’s why Dunkelzahn is going to win the election. This is a TRID nation, and people know when you're being real with them.

SF: Very interesting. Let’s take a call… Caller, you’re on the air.

[Caller]: Big surprise that the dragon comes out ahead with the general dead. That snake is probably responsible for it…

SO: Now, the Lone Star investigation did show that the general died of natural causes.

[Caller]: That just means it was magic, which means dragon. That scaly ba… [disconnection]

SO: Let's move on to another caller.

News Alert, Sunday, July 1, 2057

– Breaking News –

General Franklin Yeats, Republican candidate for president, was found dead in a hotel outside Chicago early this morning. The general arrived in the area yesterday evening in advance of a rally promoting his promise to clear the city of insect spirits. While Lone Star has not released an official statement, sources within the Yeats campaign have revealed that the general appears to have died from natural causes.

News Stream, Sunday, June 24, 2057

– World –

Tensions continue to escalate on the border between Aztlan and Amazonia. Amazonian president Hualpa threatened retribution if Aztechnology forces don’t withdraw from the disputed Magdalena River Valley, stating “In the same period as our monitoring posts in the valley have been sabotaged, we’ve identified half a dozen Cuachicqueh agents active in the region. The river is home to dozens of endangered species, mundane and awakened, and we will protect them no matter the cost, even if I have to fly there and do it myself.” Both the Aztechnology corporation and Aztlan government denied the presence of their black-ops agents in Amazonia. [Watch the full statement by President Hualpa of Amazonia]

– Politics –

In the lead-up to this Thursday’s presidential debate at Hofstra University, the second of the emergency UCAS presidential election, the polls have a close three-way race at the top between Republican General Yeats, Archconservative Kenneth Brackhaven, and the independent Dunkelzahn. Former Technocrat Vice-President James Booth has been struggling due to most moderates preferring Yeats over Booth, with many voters concerned about Booth’s possible connection to the poll rigging that forced the resignation of the Steele administration. Democrat Arthur Vogel and New Centurian Rozilyn Hernandez have failed to find any significant first- or second-ballot support outside of a small group of core supporters. [Watch our highlights from the first debate]

– Sports –

Tacoma Timber Wolves coach Nayeli Motta remains confident about his team’s chances against the Pittsburgh Hellbenders in tonight’s Combat Cyclist League semi-final match. Despite their star fast-carrier Hotaru Ishikawa being sidelined following the loss of his left arm during last week’s quarter-final against the Carolina Scarlet Snakes, Motta was upbeat when speaking to the press. “Nobody can doubt Hot’s contributions this season, but we’ve got Africa [O'Sullivan] as our backup flag carrier, and we’ve got two of the best heavy bikers in the league running interference for him. Injuries are a part of this game, so we’re ready to play without anyone, even a player of his caliber.” [Reserve your live-stream of tonight’s match now]

– Tech –

Aeroquip has delivered the first shipment of its new “Redball Express” long-range resupply drone to the Confederated American States. The first mid-sized drone with tilt-wing technology, the unmanned vehicle can perform fuel-efficient runway-based launches from friendly territory while using near-vertical takes-offs and landings to deliver ammunition, electronics, and other light supplies into hostile territory. CAS special forces are expected to use the new drones to support their operations in Argentina. Aeroquip is taking pre-orders for the consumer release of the drone later this summer. [Order the Redball Express now directly from Aeroquip to be the first in your area to own one]

– Local: Seattle –

The Renraku Arcology will open, at least in part, this Saturday. While the top three hundred stories remain under construction, commercial, residential, and industrial zones in the lower thirty-three floors will be available, including the Arcology Ultramall, the largest indoor mall in the world. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 9:00 am on the Sunset Promenade, an expansive bay-side walkway running the length of the arcology's thirty-third floor, with Renraku America CEO Sherman Huang and Seattle Governor Marilyn Schultz attending. The construction of the massive bay-front structure is expected to continue through 2059. [See the stores opening this Saturday in the Arcology Ultramall]

Local biotech company Ace Biologics has declared bankruptcy following the disappearance of their head researcher, Eddie Leuan, along with all records of their research. Based out of Bellevue, Ace Biologics provided research animals and animal-based laboratory services for preclinical and clinical pharmaceutical trials in the Seattle area. CEO Riley Damarion lamented the necessity of shuttering the business, but explained that the data theft had initiated contractual penalties with their clients, forcing the company’s liquidation. Lone Star has issued a global watch for Mr. Leuan, who is expected to attempt to sell the stolen research on the black market. [Watch Star Rigby interview business analyst Shiro Fujimoto about the difficulties startups face in Seattle]

Excerpt from the June 10, 2057 Presidential Debate

Moderator: Mr. Dunkelzahn, you’ve advocated for providing a SIN to every occupant of the UCAS. Is this really practical?

Great Dragon Dunkelzahn (Independent): It’s entirely possible. We already have most of the information we need. We have it in existing public and private databases. We just need to bother to bring it together and make this happen. We have the opportunity to lift tens of millions of citizens out of the shadows. It’s important we bring these people into the light and into equal participation in our society.

Moderator: Mr. Brackhaven, you’ve vocally opposed such measures. Would you care to respond?

Professor Rozilyn Hernandez (New Century): I’d also like to respond.

Moderator: And we’ll get to you soon, Ms. Hernandez.

Kenneth Brackhaven (Archconservative): These so-called minor efforts my opponent is talking about include fingerprinting, DNA analysis, and other identity checks. These represent much of the expense of a registration. The only population for which we already have this information is the criminal population. Which, though my opponent will likely deny this, is disproportionately non-human. Either his proposed program will cost more than he claims, or it is a thinly-veiled measure to register criminal supporters of his anti-human agenda.

Dunkelzahn: The UCAS ork and troll populations do have…

Hernandez: I was promised the opportunity to address this question.

Dunkelzahn: Mr. Brackhaven mentioned me and I should be allowed to respond.

Moderator: Please continue.

Dunkelzahn: The best way for us to keep people from turning to crime is for us to involve them in legitimate society. That means SIN registration. We need to break the cycle of poverty, of lack of education, and of criminality. We know this isn’t working anymore, and we can do better.

Brackhaven: Of course the dragon has nothing to fear. When he’s not pretending to be human, as he is now, he’s covered in impenetrable scales and can breath fire. But the American people know that there are dangerous elements out there. If the government is going to be spending money on these people, it should be going to police contractors, not some program to give voting rights to criminals.

General Franklin Yeats (Republican): These two have been going back and forth for some time. I’d like to get in on this.

Hernandez: I'd also…

Moderator: Go ahead, general.

Yeats: I think the American people are sick of this sort of division. I agree, I want these people registered. But I won’t let the government device who should be registered. I’ll do it by putting the American people back to work. I’ll let American businesses decide who can best contribute. And that’s what businesses will do when we hire them to rebuild our American infrastructure. My national infrastructure program will put Americans back to work. It will put our economy back on track. And it’s going to get Mr. Dunkelzahn’s people registered as well. How about that, folks?

News Stream, Sunday, June 10, 2057

– World –

Venice residents can breath easier thanks to the unanticipated and rapid restoration of the Venice canals, purging the toxic water and the polluted air that would rise from it, which have plagued the city for decades. Officials with the Republic of Serenissima are trumpeting the previously-unannounced purification as the result of an experimental new detoxification process. The canal renewal has drawn praise from scores of international and environmental leaders, with the Kontrollrat for the Saar-Lorraine-Luxembourg Special Administrative Zone expressing hope that the process could be adapted to the SOX’s own toxic waters. [Watch Serenissima Governor Elisea Buonopane announce the canal’s restoration]

– UCAS –

Sources within Knight Errant have revealed that the security corporation will be issuing the alertness aid dichlormatic prophyllane, more commonly known by its street name “Long Haul,” to its patrols attempting to clear Chicago, Illinois of insect spirits. The confidential sources indicate that the extended periods of time required to track the spirits back to their source and the limited staffing assigned to the project have necessitated this measure. Knight Errant declined to comment. [Join the conversation about the domestic use of combat drugs]

– Politics –

Anticipation builds for tonight’s presidential debate, the first for the emergency election called after the impeachment of President Thomas Steele. The debate will include environmentalist Arthur Vogel (Democrat), Professor Rozilyn Hernandez (New Century), former Vice-President James Booth (Technocrat), General Franklin Yeats (Republican), businessman Kenneth Brackhaven (Archconservative), and the dragon Dunkelzahn (Independent). The debate is to be focused on the topic of foreign policy, including trade relations among the North American states, growing tensions with Russia over the Soviet Reconstruction, and the ongoing civil war in Afghanistan. [Take our poll of who you think will win the debate]

– Local: Seattle –

In a continuing pattern of defacement, the Crying Wall in the Tacoma district has again been vandalized with anti-metahuman graffiti. The monument to those lost in the Night of Rage was spray-painted overnight with statements of metahuman hatred and Humanis Policlub iconography. Karl Brackhaven, head of the Seattle chapter of the Humanis Policlub, denied involvement of the organization or its members, suggesting that the segregationist club was being falsely implicated by paid metahuman instigators. [View our retrospective on the Night of Rage]

Lone Star reports twelve dead in the Redmond district of the Seattle Special Administrative Region in a suspected turf war between known members of the yakuza syndicate and a local street gang. Violence erupted late last night between the local gang, known as the Crimson Blazers, and the yakuza following a perceived intrusion into the street gang’s claimed territory. Department spokesperson Talia Kingston indicated that while no suspects are currently in custody, an investigation is ongoing. [Read more about the increasing violence from organized crime in Seattle]

Local Stuffer Shack employee Ron Reynolds has to take three busses to get from his home in the Redmond Barrens to the downtown location where he works, but even after being assaulted by a barrens street gang, Ron made it to his workplace on-time, only stopping at a health clinic after his shift was over. Once Stuffer Shack learned about Ron’s actions, they were quick to praise his dedication to the franchise, and even refunded him the money he’d paid the store for bandages and pain relievers. [Tell us your story of being recognized for your commitment to your employer]

Transcript: UCAS DoD Press Briefing, January 3, 2056

Major Martha McReynolds: Good morning, everyone. I hope everyone is having a good new year. In a moment we’ll be joined over satellite by Brigadier General Robert Meyers, commander, 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, deployed to Chicago, Illinois. He’ll be making a brief statement regarding the current status of the Containment Zone, then take questions.

But before we get started, we'll quickly check our communications.

General Meyers, how do you hear us?

Brigadier General Robert Meyers: Martha, I hear you very well. How about me?

Major McReynolds: Sir, we hear you very well.

We understand you have some opening words for us. Please take it away.

General Meyers: Yes, thank you. Good morning, everyone.

The morning of August 22, attacks by unknown creatures erupted in the southern downtown of the city of Chicago. Based on indications that the creatures were transformed human beings and the geographic spread of the outbreak, an infectious disease, such as the Human Meta-Human Vampiric Virus was considered the likely cause and the 30th Armored Brigade was instructed to begin Operation Loop Control, a quarantine of the city.

It has since been determined that these creatures invaded our world from across astral space. These invaders modify human and insect bodies into combined forms resembling giant insects. These invaders are fundamental inimical to human life. Unlike HMHVV, effected humans are not transformed, but instead repurposed as raw material. Based on their appearance and their astral origin, these invaders have become known as ‘insect spirits.’

On October 1st, after more than a month of successful containment, the insect spirits entered a torpor, a state of reduced activity, nearly eliminating the armed conflict involved in maintaining the quarantine. Since then, we’ve had three months without major incident. The quarantine is secure.

I’ll now take questions. Virginia, go ahead.

Virginia Fuller (Washington Hill-Times): You’ve just confirmed numerous claims about the nature of the incident in Chicago that were made in files purported to have been leaked from the Containment Zone. Can you now confirm the legitimacy of those documents?

General Meyers: I’m familiar with those documents, but, no, we’re not going to attest to the accuracy of everything contained within.

Manny, go ahead.

Manuel Laforge (Chicago Sun-Times): So we’re dealing with inter-dimensional invaders, not a disease. Why, then, maintain the quarantine of Chicago? Why not let anyone still alive in there out?

General Meyers: The insect spirits modify human bodies. We can’t guarantee that anyone in the Containment Zone is free from their influence. Until we can, for the safety of everyone on the outside, they remain inside. The insect spirits are dormant. The airdrops provide supplies far in excess of what the small remaining human population needs. These people are being taken care of, and we’ll get them out as soon as we possible.

Ray, go ahead.

Raynaldo Chavarría (Aztlan Universal): But why then no communications into the Zone? Why is the Matrix still cut off?

General Meyers: There’s reason to believe that the insect spirits had help with their invasion, one or more insect shamans, shamans devoted to the insect spirits. Right now, those who helped bring the insect spirits to our world are cut off from spreading the techniques to others. The information quarantine is as essential as the physical quarantine to containing the invasion to Chicago.

Manuel Laforge: General, can you confirm that several large corporations have been allowed to maintain limited Matrix access?

General Meyers: We have a variety of mechanisms for collecting on-the-ground intelligence from people inside.

Manuel Laforge: I’ve been hearing about more significant outside communication being provided than that.

General Meyers: I’m not going to go into the details of our intelligence gathering.

And that’s been several questions from you. Let’s move to someone else. Alfie, go ahead.

Alfred Guyer (New York Times): The early explanations for the quarantine centered on VITAS, not an HMHVV variant. Given the transformed creatures you spoke of, why was VITAS ever on the table?

General Meyers: The insect spirits build their bodies in organic cocoons. Biological material recovered from those cocoons resembled the late-stage cellular breakdown seen in victims of VITAS. But this is now understood to be a side-effect of the insect spirit transformation process.

Chiyako, go ahead.

Chiyako Hirata (Yomiuri Shimbun): When will information on the insect spirits be released to UCAS allies, such as the Japanese Imperial State?

General Meyers: We have been and will continue to work with partner countries at the highest levels.