The Case Study

Welcome to the post ARG mortem case study of the grassroots, fan-fiction, Halo-inspired homage to I Love Bees: “Intimation”

For those unfamiliar with the story (or if you’ve forgotten, since it’s been ages), feel free to read the “brief” plot summary below to gain a general idea of the narrative and characters before diving into the meat of the chapters below. Linked further below are the easter eggs released at the ARG’s conclusion, as well as a number of followup short stories – ongoing storytelling.

  1. Foreword ~Geoff May
  2. Pitfalls / Don’t test the blue bird
  3. Pitfalls / Belly of a beast
  4. Pitfalls / Mission: Hide and Seek
  5. Pitfalls / Respect the community
  6. Breaking it down – Statistics
  7. Good stuff / Creating the content
  8. Good stuff / Dancing with players
  9. Good stuff / Hunting Skulls
  10. Reflections: People, man. People.

Plot Summary

“Intimation” was the story of an AI that, similar to the Apocalypso‘s centuries-spanning event of 2552, “crashed” into 2009’s internet from a ship named the Lewis and Clark in the more distant future of 2785. There, another Forerunner artifact was activated on board during its lengthy slipspace excursion. This ship’s AI named Sacagawea, who they called Essy, ended up existing simultaneously in 2785 and 2009 because of this mysterious rupture. In 2009, she exhibited similar symptoms as Melissa “The Operator” did in 2004 – a fractured personality residing on the internet, protected by an emergency process named Sys. Sys, a more technologically advanced maintenance AI than its ancestor SPDR, immediately got to work protecting and barricading (Stonewalling) the fractured AI after preparing a suitable host environment within our internet.

As the weeks rolled on, Sys performed routine maintenance carrying out its Stonewall Protocol – a relatively ancient emergency instruction set encoded into Smart AIs, a property implemented after Melissa’s event of 2552, set to trigger if a similar event ever happened again. Having never been field tested, everything Sys did in carrying out its mission in 2009 would have unpredictable results; its only goal was to keep its parent AI protected from its environment, keep its environment protected from the AI, and do its best to avoid any paradox-inducing alteration to the timeline for as long it takes, with the expectation that the rupture would eventually be closed and the AI would return to its time.

Through its mission, it dumped extraneous data it retrieved from the Stonewall construct, like drops of a morning dew, in an effort to keep the construct strong, resilient, and impenetrable. These periodic data fragments were discovered to be logs created by the crew of the Lewis and Clark that Essy was surveilling in 2785. What Sys didn’t, and couldn’t, take into account was Sacagawea’s locked-away human history; the origin and nature of the AI she now was.

Just as a portion of Melissa’s AI subconscious – the essence of the human child from which she was formed – was previously locked away but released during her ordeal in 2004, Essy’s human origin was also freed from its shackles in 2009. Sys struggled to deal with this child personality and her cunning, playful intelligence, combining with her horrific memories slowly being unveiled through interactions with Sys and eventual interactions with us, humans in 2009.

But that wasn’t it… Among those participating in the interactions with these highly advanced artificial intelligence entities purportedly from the distant future, was someone named “Eridanos”, and a Halo fan named “Essyfan”. With these two individuals also came the revelation of the Society For The Ancients – a covert offshoot group from the Society of the Ancients, self-tasked with a mission to keep the timeline cohesive, given the knowledge gleaned from past events about humanity’s future in 2552; including the “I Love Bees” events of 2004, and strange communications reportedly documented from Cortana before 2001… plus another mysterious source of intel. The SFTA claims to have helped mask all of this future knowledge in the form of video games and fictional stories – hidden in plain sight, as it were – except to those in the know. They defend I Love Bees as “just an ARG”, and the events described in the Halo video games as entirely fictional stories, not related to actual future events at all.

Meanwhile, during its limited periods of weekly activity, Sys did its own research about events that were tied in any way to the 26th century, to Melissa, to strange Forerunner messages and discoveries documented under the guise of “Iris”, as well as anyone who may have partaken in any of these events. It learned much – but in a critical moment of realization and emotional outpouring from the AI Sacagawea it was tasked to protect, it mis-stepped, and risked complete failure in its mission. But the community stepped up, and while events happening in parallel on the Lewis and Clark implied that their Sacagawea was also in some form of meltdown, everyone worked together to ultimately restore Sacagawea both in 2009 and 2785; to help her reconcile her history, her memories, and her human origin as the lost and scared child Naira.

The Lewis and Clark crew finally managed to reverse the effect of the forerunner artifact which they discovered was causing this anomaly and the drastic effects on their ship’s AI. In doing so, Sacagawea (and Naira) were slowly returned to their native time as the slipspace rupture closed.

Only Sys remained here, in 2009 – a very, very different history than the future it originated from in 2785. There, humanity was still recovering from the galactic-scale wars that raged between the Covenant, Flood, and resurgence of the Forerunners. Smart AIs were still created using similar methods and concepts as in 2552 – from the human brain – but the process become so cheap and commonplace that a civilian black market had emerged for cheaper, yet extremely capable Smart AIs. They could be created from anyone, but children still proved to be the most reliable sources.

Naira had become a victim – lost and kidnapped, collected with other children by an AI dealer named “Scorpio”, for eventual conversion and sale on the black market. Yet throughout her dramatic ordeal, brave Naira still remained strong and became a hero in her own right… but not without consequence.

In time, with Naira – now Sacagawea – back on board the Lewis and Clark with her crew and her ship, and her distorted history now brutally clear, a set of events was put in motion, tying together 2009 and 2785, and many characters between.

And so the prologue ends.

The Easter Eggs

Satellite Fiction

Society For The Ancients

SFTA’s VEIL Initiative