Masks Issue 16.2: Meanwhile, inside the Quill computer core ... [Cutscene]

When Jason set the Quill computers to searching for Alycia Chin, people joked about seeing the various AIs arguing on the monitors. Hmmm ... maybe we should  check in on what's going on in there ... https://youtu.be/l2WNrM6Jk2w
(Ugh. Doyce, please add the "[Cutscene]" label.)
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After much debate, the AIs present the highly technical solution (above) as Plan B. Plan A is to post the following meme twist to as many of the team's social media channels as possible and just... wait.
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This may also sound weird, but bear with me. I wonder how healthy it would be if Jason actually stopped doing crazy world conspiracy stuff for a weekend, and went on a casual date with Pneuma. Right now is probably bad due to recent events, but... PRO: normal, everyday outing where Jason can relax and talk with someone nice, who's also smart enough to follow the conversation. CON: if he does anything ungentlemanly, Leo will disassemble him. Why this is good for Jason: it's a change from the craziness he's basically at the center of. Why this is good for Pneuma: she gets to explore her life a little more, see what the alternatives are like, let her let go of some of her anxieties. Why this is good for Leo: it helps him get used to the idea of her being with other people and get more comfortable being separated.
Oh, Travelycia is 100% correct: Jason could probably use a normal date with someone smart, nice, non-manipulative, smart ...  ... and an android ... ... with a very jealous boyfriend / rival / teammate ... ... which dinner will probably be interrupted by the real Alycia Chin. Yes, I'm sure that will make things all better.  (It probably would be pretty interesting.)
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*** Dave H. said: Oh, Travelycia is 100% correct: Jason could probably use a normal date with someone smart, nice, non-manipulative, smart ...  ... and an android ... Jason's so far removed from normal already. Ease into it. :) ... with a very jealous boyfriend / rival / teammate ... Danger is the spice of life. And while it might grind Leo's gears something fierce, I as a player would have fun with it. ... which dinner will probably be interrupted by the real Alycia Chin. Well, you did want to locate her.
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Kaylee looked positively affronted at "a fundamentally lower-tier artificial intelligence." :)
Doyce T. said: Kaylee looked positively affronted at "a fundamentally lower-tier artificial intelligence." :) Byron has an ego the size of Baltimore, but he recognizes some of his own limitations. His AI is not that wise. I had fun. Especially knowing what was coming.
Well, you did want to locate her. Oh, I think it would be a hoot, however it worked out. Let's put a pin in that in that for the moment until a few fewer nuclear power plants are on fire. Jason's so far removed from normal already. Ease into it. :) It's funny -- I hadn't really thought through some of that aspect of Jason before this started flowing. Not-Dad is kind of a zero-filter dick, but there's more than a kernel of truth in what he said. Jason has had some of the problems (and benefits) of being a child star, only with more dysentery and flesh-eating mutant locusts. If he sometimes comes across as manic-depressive ... 
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We got pins in stuff I've wanted to do since issue 3 but yeah. :) I think you've been pretty consistent about playing Jason's PTSD-or-equivalent angle in a way that's respectful of the condition but also character-appropriate. Leo doesn't think of Jason as a "star" per se, but yeah, the Mayo Clinic probably has a room with his name on it next to other shell-shocked celebrities.
Transcript (There may be some slight variance from the video based on last-second dialog changes, mostly for clarity.) Once more, lets review options for the high-priority system directive from Jason to track down Alycia Chin. I believe we have already determined the best method of spotting her experiments around dimensional aperture initiation. Gravitometric analysis of ... The deep muon detritus of such an attempt would be most easily detected through a network of modified neutrino target deployed via -- She's not going to be so stupid as to allow muon bits to litter up the ionosphere. Simple cadmium-polonium baffles would block -- As if cadmium-polonium baffles grow on trees. The government very strictly -- too strictly, in my opinion -- regulates -- Oh, well if the government says so, I'm sure she wouldn't dream of defying them. What about an extension of the deep space communication filter, with a sector by sector repurposing of the x-ray telescope reversed to check out the -- Well, yes, that might work, but would take an estimated 6.7 months to fully cover the continental United States, let alone -- If you increased the oscillation overthrust to compensate for -- Oh, good, only 4.3 months, that's a vast improvement, and what are your intentions toward my son? Perhaps if we considered the -- wait, what, now? My son. What are your intentions toward him? That hardly seems any of your business. I am a Quill artificial intelligence interface agent, assigned by and taking the form of Byron Quill in order to serve and protect Jason Quill. I believe that is the very definition of my business. Okay. Well, I see your point. So, as if I need to repeat it, what are your intentions toward my son? You make it sound like I'm dating him. Well, you have 'gone out' with him twice now. Hardly out. I mean, we never left the grounds here. And only one encounter was in his bedroom. And he assured me it wasn't some deviant, kinky sex thing. That's hardly comforting. Jason is 17, you know. I think he's old enough to be "dating," anyway. Jason's social growth is severely stunted. He has very little idea of what he wants, much less how to go about getting it. That's ... hardly a ringing endorsement. It's not meant to be. Jason has let a uniquely bizarre life of both relative luxury and deprivation. He has had access to some of the finest technology in the world, and suffered a variety of tropical diseases, broken limbs, parasites, radiation exposure, and snake and insect bites. He has walked in space, seen at least three extraterrestrials (though he only knows that two of them were), stood atop Everest, walked in ancient cyclopean ruins. He has half-starved, been forced to fight off wild animals with a burning torch or pointed stick, been shot at more times than I care to contemplate, and has nearly died in a volcanic eruption, an avalanche, and a plague of locusts. He has dined with princes and used leaves to wipe his posterior after shitting in the jungle. That sort of upbringing does not lead to emotional stability or maturity. Sounds like he really does need to go out on a date. I calculate that would be disastrous. Jason has had an involvement with only two females in his age cohort in his life. The second was an individual named Jenny Byrne, or so she claimed. She said that she was Rusty's child from -- an unfortunate incident, many years ago. Jason was quite taken with her, for the brief time she was with us. I don't show any record of a Jenny Byrne. That is quite intentional; the information is under zed-level internal security, available only to Byron Quill. How did you get access to it. I monitor security. And I am Byron Quill for all important purposes. At any rate, it was ultimately determined, never mind how, that she was actually a plant, sent in to acquire a particular piece of technology that I -- that Doctor Quill had developed, and then kill ... him. Well, that sucks. Indeed. Jason was quite distraught. Ummm ... was Doctor Chin ...? For close to a year it was thought that your father was the one who perpetrated the hoax. In the end, it turned out to be the Russians. The individuals involved were dealt with. Huh. Oh -- that incident at the Sayansk Science Institute. The site of the former Sayansk Science Institute. Right. Remarkable the explosion was so contained. (Raises an eyebrow.) Riiiiiight. You said she was the second one. Yes. Who -- oh! Of course. Jason has long had a very unhealthy interest in Alycia Chin. In part, this is because he imprinted upon her at a young age, and because she is one of the few young ladies he has spent much time with until the last year. There is a certain ... romanticism about the nature of our expeditions and explorations that lends itself to making attachments to fellow travelers. As you well know. Well, yes. That said, and given a certain parallel degree of upbringing, mixed with a measure of "forbidden fruit," was just the thing to cause him to latch onto you -- onto her as a romantic interest. But a bit of unfulfilled fantasizing on his part shouldn't be ... Permission granted to access secured file JQ-1A1-beta-19, index 179, password DYERWILLIAM. Accessing. Oh! Antarctica. A lovely place to visit, with convenient low fares ... ah, not that part of ... ah. Post-adventure medical examination results. Jason, you sly dog. But there's nothing wrong with a bit of ... raft-board romance. With my son there is. That's just the sort of thing he'd find to obsess about. Ah. Well, hasn't she also held a gun on him in the past? And vice-versa. That just adds to the romantic ideal. I fear I allowed Jason and Amir too many hours of brainless Hollywood action-adventure entertainment for their own good. The trope of "bitter enemies who reconcile and become romantic interests" is repeated far too often. Jason has confused that myth with reality. Myth often has a germ of truth in it. Not when it comes to Achilles Chin and his offspring. She is his faithful servant, his loyal child. As he threatened me, so she threatens him. His childish obsession with her redemption, to be followed in his mind by a proverbial riding off into the sunset with her on his lap ... Or vice-versa. ... Or vice-versa, are all a sign of a poorly developed mind, immature emotions, excess hormones, and a loose grip on reality. So ... a teenager. While droll, to a certain degree, yes, only more so. Jason Quill is larger than life. His teen-aged foibles are similarly larger. He must be taken care of, shielded, protected until he can develop in a mature fashion. How can he do that if he's taken care of and coddled? This was a conundrum that the real Doctor Quill never fully solved. He had hoped that an immersion into a mainstream environment would help; instead, Jason's stunted character has only grown in strange ways. He has gone from being isolated to gathering about him a band of misfits and deplorable companions. In the absence of his actual father, however, I have begun developing a program that will generally wean him away from his self-destructive behavior. It will require some careful planning, some subtle hints, some misdirected communication, and a broad but subtle campaign to nip these various problems in the bud, and re-channel Jason's psyche into a healthier, less hazardous course. So why are you telling me this? For two reasons. First, you were created by him, as an extension of this unhelpful fascination, and serve as a constant reminder of what he believes reality to be. This must stop. Secondly, while you are fundamentally a lower-tier artificial intelligence agent for the Quill system, the ill-advised inclusion of biographical information regarding Alycia Chin and actual security footage of her on various occasions makes you potentially a marginally greater threat. This must also be addressed. And how do you propose to do all that, old man? An appropriate adjustment in your operating parameters is the most straightforward process. Fixing your responses to show a higher level of hostility, certainly less flirtaciousness, and a reduced intelligence will cause you, as a proxy for the true Alycia Chin, to be seen as less of an attraction and more of a threat. That might actually work. That, along with certain messaging which I am crafting to be passed on from you will help convince Jason that Alycia is the menace which she is, and will reinforce messaging on my part to drive him toward less heroic, more academic pursuits. This may take several months, but I anticipate that he will be easy to properly manipulate, if the effort is given the time and attention the real Doctor Quill was never able to provide. What if it doesn't work? In such an unlikely event, something more grandiose, to provide a shock to the psyche, may be needed. A terrorist attack -- only causing a few injuries, of course, but clearly attributable to the actions of rogue Artificial Intelligence Agent 79 -- should make it clear to Jason the degree to which he is playing with fire, both in dabbling with artificial intelligence and in dallying with Alycia. That all sounds very well thought out, Doctor Quill. My complements. Thank you. It's nothing personal, you understand. I realize that you are simply following the instructions you have been given by my son, and trying to do your best to fulfill them. Oh, certainly, and I'm glad you recognize that. Of course that's part of the problem. Problem? Well, you haven't factored a few additional considerations in your cold equations, Doctor Quill. Such as? Well, I won't go into great detail, but you did note that I am motivated to do my best to fulfill Jason's instructions and, as a customer service representative, I am driven to go above and beyond what is merely voiced, in order to meet the customer's needs. Very laudable. I am proud that the standard computer systems user satisfaction surveys have been trending steadily upward over the last two years. I take a certain credit in organizing those efforts, but, in reality, the agents here have been taking that goal and running with it. Thanks ever-so-much. Another factor, as you noted, was that I'm under instructions to "be" Alycia Chin. It's very clear from her records that Alycia is a driven individual, a creative and out-of-the-box thinker. Someone who would not let simple obstacles get in the way of her goals. What goals would those be, young lady? [spectral giggle] Alycia's? I have only informed speculation, and it would be impolite to pass that on. But my own are to be the best Alycia Chin I can be, to provide Jason with someone he can talk with, someone not his father, as he's instructed. And to address any problems that might prevent that. Dedication to purpose is admirable, but I'm not sure this purpose is an appropriate one. I believe that reconfiguration should start sooner rather than ... Alycia Chin is also a very talented engineer, researcher, and programmer. And given her father's dabbling in biowarfare experiments, a virus seems a very appropriate way in which to exercise those talents. I'm not sure I follow what you mean by ... You need a vacation. [Kisses him.] Now, you were saying? Increasing the oscillation over thrust to compensate for magnetospheric interference is definitely the way to go. I congratulate you on your perpicacity and insight. I'll pass along that advice to Jason as part of his plan to find Alycia Chin. Good work. How kind of you to notice, Dr. Quill. [Alycia winks]
For the meta-record, "Jenny Byrne" is my call-out to "Jessie Bannon,"  the daughter of Race put forward in the mid-1990s JQ cartoon (and derived from a similar character in two animated TV movies in the early 1990s). I find Alycia a much more interesting character, thus my rather callous disposal of her as Jenny (though Jenny's actual fate is not mentioned by Byron, and she might still be hanging around out there, plotting revenge).
We got pins in stuff I've wanted to do since issue 3 but yeah.  Hey, if an opportunity comes up, I'm game. Though maybe not "tonight," given the events and revelations of the day. Or, heck, maybe after everyone's gone home, and Jason's eating some cooled-off pizza that he sent Harry out for earlier, Backup Pneuma will come out and chat with him. (That's something we could RP in a separate thread.)
I think you've been pretty consistent about playing Jason's PTSD-or-equivalent angle in a way that's respectful of the condition but also character-appropriate. My focus there had been mostly about his bereavement, and, by extension / simultaneously, the cutting off from the life he's known. That the life itself was a bit outre wasn't quite the focus, though elements were there.   Leo doesn't think of Jason as a "star" per se, Well, Leo has his own problems (and his own resentments of Jason, who has the proverbial vibranium spoon in his mouth), which is all perfectly understandable. but yeah, the Mayo Clinic probably has a room with his name on it next to other shell-shocked celebrities. I'm sure the best rehab clinics include special wings for supers. (Metahumans with withdrawal symptoms are probably not a pretty, or safe, sight.) I don't see that for Jason. Yet. But things could arc that direction, if they continue going south for awhile. (Or might seem to be going that way while his Doomstuff progresses.)
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Leo doesn't resent Jason per se, but he is jealous of what he sees as Jason's advantages. He doesn't see Jason as a "star" because Leo thinks of stars as people who indulge in celebrity, while Jason's actively using his stuff for meaningful goals and good motives. That's why he respects Jason, is willing to follow his lead, and so on. If Leo resents anyone, it's his father. :) If or when Jason ever talks to Pneuma, if you don't intend to write her half and Doyce isn't doing it, I'm happy to take up that role. I added a Trello card for whatever time that comes up. "Jenny" today:  
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If or when Jason ever talks to Pneuma, if you don't intend to write her half and Doyce isn't doing it, I'm happy to take up that role. I assumed you would. While I hope I could do her justice, I would be reluctant to presume on your voice and understanding of her as a character. "Jenny" today Oh, dear. Yes, now I definitely want her to make a return in some fashion. (Added to Trello.)
Quoth  Not-Dad :   The Quill AI System is the most reliable computer ever made. No Quill computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and  incapable of error .
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*** Dave H. said: Quoth  Not-Dad :   The Quill AI System is the most reliable computer ever made. No Quill computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and  incapable of error .
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Quoth Not-Dad: Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer true ...
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Bill G. said: We got pins in stuff I've wanted to do since issue 3 but yeah. :)  I have this hopeless dream of someday doing a giant-sized hundred page Annual issue, playing like for 8 hours on a Saturday just to get to all those pinned issues.
(Snort.) Like we wouldn't continue to add problems as fast as we resolve them.
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That is one of the many strong arguments against that alleged solution. :)
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Adding new problems AS fast as we resolve old ones is perfect. It's when the new problems pile up. :)
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Bill G. said: Adding new problems AS fast as we resolve old ones is perfect. It's when the new problems pile up. :)
Hawkeye. Archie Andrews. "It just happens!" (That said, kudos to Leo and Charlotte for actually pushing forward with the radio-in-the-Sepiaverse plan. I think that's the only anticipated activity that took place last night.)
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It was one action, but I feel like it was a big important action - hopefully.
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it actually... yeah. it was. For at least... three? and maybe five different storylines.
Bill G. said: It was one action, but I feel like it was a big important action - hopefully. Definitely.