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The Zipper Merge [Prep] [Cutscene] [Background]

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The Heart Factory is an unassuming slab of electrogalvanized steel, with several cable jacks and externally mounted heat sinks. It's attached to an uninterruptible power supply, and then to a wall outlet. A panel displays gauges and numbers on an LCD screen, like a car dashboard, but what it's indicating is unclear. "There's two plugs, A and B. Normally there's an induction hookup here, on A," Leo explains. "This is where I connect the chip in my head to the machine. There's probably ways to make it compatible with other brain-machine interfaces," he adds, glancing at Jason. "The way Pneuma and Otto were created, I plug myself into A, a robot brain into B, and the machine extracts data, does the processing, and dumps the results out immediately into a waiting body." "What we're going to do is called a Zipper merge. We read from both A and B into storage, remix, and remaster B - our physical Pneuma. What's in her head now becomes an offline copy, as will our virtual Pneuma. Their threads of memory will twine together, like a zipper, and hopefully mesh without a conflict." "Both Pneumas continue to exist in a sense - the machine simply reconciles both such that they can no longer distinguish each other as separate individuals. Their individual mental resources will have 100% overlap. Two people become one." "From her perspective, she takes some LSD and goes on an acid trip for a bit, then comes out of it with extra memories. How she reconciles those depends on her state of mind. The set and setting, I think they call it. That's why it's important to do this at a good time. Maybe she'll remember daydreaming on the way to the airport, or feel like she had an out-of-body experience. I don't know for sure." ---- There's probably not a reason to play through this during the session if all goes well and no other player/PC wants to be involved. However, I can imagine roles for Adam, Jason, or Charlotte (dive into the mental world being created by the machine, either to witness or to influence), and Harry (manually fix synaptic connections on a console at a higher speed than anyone else can manage, e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNnyuNK5dv8) - especially if there's a problem with the procedure. If any players are interested in playing these or other roles, involve yourself with my blessing. :) This otherwise continues the "robot mysticism" narrative that's been going on since Father Freeman.
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Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
I'm interested in this, and have an idea in/around this. It's not a huge thing, but there's probably at least a scene in it.
Jason would be interested in lending a hand.
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*** Dave H. said: Jason would be interested in lending a hand. Adam as a child is confused and worried about all this.  It might have something to do with being twelve-years-old and having an issue that deals heavily with metaphysics (insert your own TNG Measure of a Man quote here) that he doesn't understand but which he is still going to have strong feelings about (because Pneuma--both of them--is a friend) and is going to need someone to explain how putting two people together and getting one person who is both and neither of them at the same time is a favorable outcome (this may be important for later).
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Mike said: Adam as a child is confused and worried about all this.  It might have something to do with being twelve-years-old and having an issue that deals heavily with metaphysics (insert your own TNG Measure of a Man quote here) that he doesn't understand but which he is still going to have strong feelings about This is why I thought having Adam witness the process firsthand would be interesting for the character. Rather than Leo defending what he's about to do, Adam could see and learn for himself. It seems well established that his powers can do this (he woke up Jason doing what I assume is a similar deal) and actually has experience being bi-located (and so has a perspective nobody else on the team does). is going to need someone to explain how putting two people together and getting one person who is both and neither of them at the same time is a favorable outcome (this may be important for later). Leo's answer to that question will be simple: "it's what they both asked me to do. If they didn't both consent to it, and understand what was involved, I wouldn't do it." Any further elaboration must come from one or both of the Pneumas (who I suspect would both answer the same way).
Just as a note, Jason has a few things he needs to talk with Leo and Pneuma about before the post-Rook fixing stuff gets underway, before this very cool stuff leaps to a fait accompli . [Some of it touches on one of the Love Letters for Jason, but it was stuff I was already thinking about last game session.]
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*** Dave H. said: Just as a note, Jason has a few things he needs to talk with Leo and Pneuma about before the post-Rook fixing stuff gets underway, before this very cool stuff leaps to a fait accompli . [Some of it touches on one of the Love Letters for Jason, but it was stuff I was already thinking about last game session.] During the session is good, or if you want to get the ball rolling early, on forums is probably fine too?
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Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
Let's have it during the session, since it may cascade a bit off the love letters.
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I'll just have to speculate then. J: "So you built a human-like robot shell for her.." L: "Yep." J: "And that machine can extract my imagination into a functioning AI...." L: "That's what it does." J: "My birthday is next week..." L: "God dammit, Jason, no." (All this teasing is really due to the fact that Jason's AI 79, on being booted up with full knowledge of him, his nemesis, and the Quill database, decided he had some kind of perverted intent)
(All this teasing is really due to the fact that Jason's AI 79, on being booted up with full knowledge of him, his nemesis, and the Quill database, decided he had some kind of perverted intent) The sad thing is, Jason never had that intent until AI 79 accused him of it. But now it's difficult  not  to think of.
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*** Dave H. said: (All this teasing is really due to the fact that Jason's AI 79, on being booted up with full knowledge of him, his nemesis, and the Quill database, decided he had some kind of perverted intent) The sad thing is, Jason never had that intent until AI 79 accused him of it. But now it's difficult  not  to think of. On this general topic, Leo may be wary of letting Jason plug in, especially if he finds out about Li'lycia. "Maybe you're infected with something she left behind. Maybe you'd infect Pneuma too. Or you're just under too much strain. I want to trust you, so help me figure out a way to do that." On the other hand, the Heart Factory analyzing Jason's neural data in isolation might help troubleshoot those issues too...
On the other hand, the Heart Factory analyzing Jason's neural data in isolation might help troubleshoot those issues too... Oh, yes, I'm sure Jason wants still more technology riffling through his neurons. :-) Another ball in the air ...
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Some of these balls will be landing soon. Plus, if Jason wants to bring up that point, Leo's counter-point is "at least you can be more sure Alycia hasn't back-doored my gear". Plus, he needs practice for interfacing with Jason's stuff for an upcoming project.
Oh, it's perfectly legit as an idea. Jason's reaction isn't necessarily a rational one (in so many cases).  
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There's two other types of merges Leo prepared for, in case they ever came up. The Victory Merge is more of a mental health aid than a way to make new people. Take someone's mind, take a partial extract or specific memories from a second mind, patch the first with the second, and remaster. New memories, new perspectives, new attitudes. For example, this is the sort of merge Leo would use to patch Pneuma's missing memories from Numina's after Rossum overwrote them. It could be done for larger chunks of memory, of course. The Cerberus Merge is the riskiest and most radical. It's the opposite of a Zipper Merge - it doesn't assume you're reconciling two very similar memory tracks, but two very different ones. If two minds were concentrated enough on one thing, or dedicated enough to one issue, Leo could combine them, starting with that strong central focus as an anchor for a new identity, and letting that seed draw memories from two different donors to fully blossom. This is how a Steven Universe-style fusion gem would be constructed.
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It sounded like what Jason had wanted (a memory patch from Alycia to cover his missing memories) would just be an artifact of his transition off the Doomed Playbook to something else. If that's not the case, and people want to throw dice, Unleash Your Powers doesn't really feel adequate. Here's one suggestion for a merge custom move, which would include Jason's situation. When your memories are remixed with someone else's via Newman neurotech , roll +Conditions. On a hit, the resulting connectome (a map of how a brain is wired) is stable, and the merge goes forward. On 10+, pick three side effects. On 7-9, pick one. An important existing memory takes on a new form, or you get a new perspective on it You get memories the other person would prefer you don't get You gain one of their goals or plans; if it's something you wouldn't have done before, mark potential if you do it Your ego is in flux; the GM shifts your labels Their relationships bleed into yours; give Influence to the other person, or to someone they give Influence to On a miss, choose one: the connectome isn't viable and the merge can't take place and you must try again after time passes, or the merge succeeds but your ego is wildly in flux, and the GM will rearrange your labels as they see fit, and you take a powerful blow. ---- Why do it this way? It focuses on the person being merged and the effects of the process on their self, rather than any technical proficiency on the part of the person running it. It's an odd move in that the "best" outcome is in the middle of the road, and there's no "pure" good outcome, but I think that's fair for something that messes with the heart of the self. Even a miss is intended to let the player have some say in the consequences to their character for the same reason. It's based on Conditions, rather than any particular label, on the theory that a mind under stress will be more malleable and easier to stabilize with outside influence - a mind at rest and at peace with itself will actually be more resistant to change. At the same time, too much stress will leave the resulting mind unstable. A variant would be to just roll (with no modifier, like rejecting influence). Can you spend team? Maybe. Helping them into a receptive emotional state or otherwise preparing them to become someone new might count. It might be more interesting to use a balance of Influence spending (to inflict Conditions) or Comfort and Support (to cure them) to put someone into a useful mental state. Merges going horribly wrong, and other meditations on memory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xu6ZsGfYfGg (lose control of your powers...) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WX6uhU0OX_c (simulated experience) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oa9c9JBBGxM ("we recall with our feelings")
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"Why is it called a Victory Merge? It's uh, it's based on a story arc from Transformers Victory. To sum up: the main robot dude, Star Saber, has a robot friend named Ginrai who gets mortally wounded in battle. Star Saber comes up with a plan to rebuild Ginrai, and he can do that because he's the biggest goddamn Mary Sue in Transformers canon. The process will cost Ginrai his old self, but he'll live. So they do it, and the result takes on the name Victory Leo. I really dig the name. Anyway. At first, Victory Leo is unstable, but he gets better. The rebirth made him a new person - a whole person - a whole, new, person." "There is no real 'self', no independent 'I' or 'me'. Who we are is like a hologram, a projection of light reflected off the mirror of memory. Gain new memories, or lose memories, and the self changes. A Victory Merge doesn't make you who you were before. That's impossible. It just makes you a new, but more complete, person. Like Victory Leo."
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Very interesting, thanks. This is a bit more complicated than I/Jason originally thought, as Jason/Leo noodle about this: Current diagnosis is that Jason's Doom (the problems with the interaction between is brain/mind and the nanobots) is largely or completely due to the hack job Byron did on coding the memory-snipping bits (it's always those last-second code changes that don't go through QA that getcha, every time). If the memories get adequately patched, that should let the mind/nanobot interface work properly (or without fatal errors leading to an inevitable BSOD for Jason). So to that extent, it is " an artifact of his transition off the Doomed Playbook," but that transition (getting out from under one's Doom) is not guaranteed in the Playbook, just allowed. Hey, Jason finally marked potential last night, which lets him advance. So, yeah, he's going to take the "Confront your doom on your own terms" -- which, again, doesn't guarantee success, but does create the avenue for it. It appears that Alycia has some broken memories, too (thanks, Dr. Chin). So there need to be some rewriting back and forth in this. One complication here is that the goal here is not to create a single merged Victory Jalycia (neither Jason nor Alycia are particularly interested in that), but to find specific memories that have been edited and create common memories from them that both share. (Which will be weird enough.) Fortunately, it appears that the memories that Byron snipped are pretty "easy" to spot in the code he did to do so. Even if that repair work doesn't catch everything, it's going to be an improvement, and should be enough to fix the deeper Doom problem. Jason hasn't yet talked with Alycia about this (given the dialog last night when he asks her back to the Primeverse, though that could be retconned when we circle back to resolving Charlotte and Jason's post-MoT time in the Sepiaverse). With her in AEGIS custody ("She did what?!"), that doesn't make the story issues any easier. So that raises something else that I'm going to note  elsethread . That actually doesn't impact this directly, because I'm very interested in how this turns out and it has significant impact on the overall story depending on how it works. I like your idea for the Merge move, Bill. Resolving the Doom isn't a simple fiat, and the potential side effects here, here, even on success, make sense. It probably needs to invoke a Doomcheck; switching the memory functions into diagnostic mode to allow code rewrites is non-trivial). I would think some level of Team contribution should be allowed, given that a number of folk could assist with this (assuming they don't think Jason is nuts for trying it and walk out of the room). Heck, by Leo if nobody else, since presumably he's manning the console on this. I almost wish we could keep the results (beyond success/failure) secret (even from me), just because it's great fodder for screwing with the character(s) involved ("So I'd like to raise a glass to everyone for the success of this afternoon's MUST KILL YOU ALL!!!!").
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Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
I think the Zipper Merge move is elegant and really nice. The order of events I see in my head: 1. Face Doom on own terms. 2. Unleash your Powers to recode the nanites. Possibly with help, or some badness on a 6-. How's Jason's Freak? Maybe 1a needs to be friendly Label Shifting by People With Influence to get him to acknowledge his Smarts In This Area. 3. Once the bot code is back online and Working As Intended (tm), then Victory Merge to address (some of) the damage previously done (mostly the intentional stuff can be fixed - the stuff lost randomly due to the buggy Byron-hack generally won't have a similar match with Alycia to work from), both to Jason and Alycia. Is that most of it? It feels like that's most of it.
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Summer is qualified and would probably ask to perform the procedure - also a callback to Jason's work on fixing her up. Leo will be happy to assist that process as well, as would Aria (who has been doing independent research and development on the Heart Factory for her own reasons). So yeah, either use the move as presented for Doyce's step 3, or make a new one to taste.
I'm not sure what #1 actually is (aside from saying I'm doing it) if not #2 (with #3 icing). Freak, for the moment, is at 0.
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Doyce T.
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Sheet Author
#1 is basically "did you get that advance? yeah? Cool." that's a checked box.
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Doyce T. said: then Victory Merge to address (some of) the damage previously done (mostly the intentional stuff can be fixed You might find it more useful to use the outcomes of that move on Alycia if you are jumping into her as a PC immediately, if that wasn't already your plan. In that case, "gain one of Jason's goals" or the memory-related ones might give her an initial trajectory with us. the stuff lost randomly due to the buggy Byron-hack generally won't have a similar match with Alycia to work from), both to Jason and Alycia. The merge is a holistic process. It treats the brain as a total system, and will look for gaps to fill no matter the reason. That means Jason and Alycia might (at your option) end up with authentic memories from the other person that plug in emotionally/logically where those gaps were. What do I mean by that? Say that Jason, against the odds, had a memory of going out on the lake to fish with his dad and Rusty. It was secretly a stakeout to spy on a nearby chemical plant, but Jason didn't know that at the time. The actual part where he goes fishing and catches stuff and his dad is proud and etc. got wiped away, so there's a gap between "drove to the lake" and "came back". Alycia, meanwhile, remembers diving into a lake to save a drowning informant after the Ukrainians threw him over the deck of a houseboat. So Jason may end up with a synthetic memory of going out there to a rented houseboat, drowning, and having someone rescue him, and thinking Alycia was there at the time. Or, thinking he saved his dad (or Alycia) from drowning in a similar way. Use this at your option to compare/contrast the kids' upbringings, bring in a new plot point via inherited memory, or anything else you can think of that might be interesting. If nobody cares, assume the machine did something and that there will be stuff that these two remember which didn't factually happen. But everyone has false memories anyway, that's how the brain works normally, so it's probably okay? Not remembering anything is actually less healthy.
Jason isn't thrilled with the idea of synthesized memories; while he understands enough about neurology and the like to know that's what all memories are like, he's sensitive enough about his head being messed with that it will rub him the wrong way. Also, he has an ironically emotional tie as a scientist to the idea that there is an objective reality and memory ought to conform to it.  But any port in a storm. This seems the best way to fix this problem. :-)   (Alycia would probably have a similar reaction, and it isn't quite her life on the line. That said, she'd find a poetic rightness about fixing her father's sins against her with the help of the son of his greatest enemy, so there's that.) I agree that the results need to be run (at least) on Alycia, though the prospect of something going wrong for Jason needs to be in there; maybe both of them need a roll. (Default Freak for Reformed is +1) At the very least, Alycia will be dealing with some "soft" memory stuff that will come back to haunt her at times, even if it doesn't have a "hard" game effect.
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Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
*takes many notes*
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So what is the actual experience going to be like? If we're interested, and if Dave doesn't have something else in mind (or wants suggestions): This is basically a very invasive surgical procedure on the brain, mediated through the nanobots and orchestrated by Leo's Heart Factory. The patient will be awake for the procedure. Administering dexmedetomidine or a similar sedative will happen first. If Jason has a doctor, or the Quill Foundation has a medical staff, Leo will want them on hand for this part. The sedative will have an effect on blood pressure, and other sedatives could affect respiration. I don't think Jason is on any medication, but Alycia might be... So imagine you're laying on your back, laying on a cold-ass metal gurney. There's a device on your index finger, measuring blood pressure. There's an anesthetist standing by, carefully measuring out a dose of some drug through an IV and into your arm. The needle hurt for a moment, but they gave you a sticker, and everybody loves stickers, even if you can't admit to it. Right now, the drug they're feeding into you makes all the pain go away. You're feeling happy and cooperative, dreamy but not delirious. Summer Skye Newman is hunched over a machine. She spares you a glance, smiles, and gives you a thumbs up (for both values of "you"). There's a monitor indicating neurotransmitter levels, and everyone else's eyes are glued to that. On the gurney next to yours is the person with whom you've shared adventures, conflict, and very mixed emotions about your respective fathers. Both of you have probably experienced blood transfusions on the field, as an emergency life-saving measure for somebody . So what is this? A memory transfusion. As the process starts, the room, the people, the situation, changes. Nothing really is any different,  except your perspective . The brain naturally produces trace amounts of dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, "the spirit molecule", and a component in some cultures' shamanic tradition or religious beliefs. It's thought to affect the process of dreaming. Recreational use of DMT can lead to feelings of love, guilt, the dissolution of the ego, hearing music, falling into a void, the experience of contact with ephemeral beings, the opening of the gates of the self, and more. Right now, to help heal the swiss-cheese gaps in itself, your brain is producing DMT on overdrive. Right now, you are dreaming the most fantastically vivid dream you ever had. That's foreign memories, flooding over your mental landscape, leaving behind puddles of experience wherever it finds depressions to fill. Right now, you are about to crash through the comfortable lies and cruel self-taunts you tell yourself every day, and get a glimpse of yourself through someone else's eyes. Good luck.
Hrm. If Jason was reluctant to talk with AEGIS about the plan, he's going to be uber -reluctant to talk with anyone at the Quill Foundation, given he's still a minor. I mean, I can't imagine the Board, or even Barbara and Hannah, being wowed about their heir apparent having his memories mixed up with the daughter of Dr. Chin, all administered through equipment built and operated by a teen-aged Spark whose provenance is either unknown or fraught itself. If it's necessary, we may need to get AEGIS involved in that process, too -- which Jason is not wowed about, either. FWIW, Jason is on no regular medication; he's disgustingly healthy (probably due to all the disease exposure he had as a kid). Alycia is similarly fully immunized and quite healthy; however, there is a particular drug cocktail she takes that she'll be reluctant to go into unless absolutely necessary. The above description, though, sounds amazing. I look forward to writing it up at some point ...
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*** Dave H. said: I can't imagine the Board, or even Barbara and Hannah, being wowed about their heir apparent having his memories mixed up with the daughter of Dr. Chin, all administered through equipment built and operated by a teen-aged Spark whose provenance is either unknown or fraught itself. Just tell them "Leo adopted me, he's my dad now, you're fine when that's how it happens" and slam the door in their faces.
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Doyce T.
Pro
Sheet Author
Realistically, this is all something you guys can just decide to do without telling anyone... once you know you don't HAVE to borrow her from Aegis, since they want to give her to you... :)
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Doyce T. said: Realistically, this is all something you guys can just decide to do without telling anyone... once you know you don't HAVE to borrow her from Aegis, since they want to give her to you... :) I think he's referring specifically to my suggestion of having a doctor or medical personnel on hand, which the board would probably know about (or find out about sooner or later). Unrelated to that, the last bit makes me want AEGIS to just show up with Alycia in tow, not tell us anything about "we want her on your team", and just take Leo off to the side and have a talk that nobody else overhears. After the Dread Queen retreated, and now with this, it'd look like Leo just gets shit done and has a plan, when he himself has no goddamn idea what just happened and is getting more and more uncomfortable with this rep he suddenly has.
I'd already been riffing off of Bill's  rejoinder above about a scene getting Barbara and Hannah to authorize this in secret ("Risk to my life? Jesus, Barbara, I just got back from another dimension in the middle of a war. After that -- I was in a freaking war, right here in Halcyon. If I can make that decision, I can make a decision about this .") That said, (1) I'm okay with dealing with this less formally. If Leo, backed up by Summer and Aria, with advance planning by Jason and Alycia, can't administer the proper drip, I'm not sure a generic doctor couldn't. (2) AEGIS may have a vested interest in making this resolution for Jason -- getting him to owe them (and getting Alycia in the same boat), also having knowledge about something about which the public reaction might be sketchy would give them a stick along with the carrot. (3) Even outside of the medical process, Bill's comments in the previous post, I'm happy to let Leo get backed into a corner about all of this (and be in a position where he might take the fall, or have some additional sense of responsibility if the rolls on this go south).
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*** Dave H. said: I'm happy to let Leo get backed into a corner about all of this (and be in a position where he might take the fall, or have some additional sense of responsibility if the rolls on this go south). What a pal. :) I'm okay proceeding as described.