[setting note: UMSS is set in the near future on an archipelago of islands known as The Magic Kingdom. This new-futureness leads to a small amount of rather-more-advanced-than-now technology, but only in limited niches, as you will see.]
UNCLE MICKEY'S SECRET SERVICE - 2004-07-18
(Not an IC report, but possibly more consistently remembering and attributing Phillip's ideas. I have not attempted to condense or abridge this in any meaningful way. Order of events may not be entirely correct. Quotes are actually paraphrases. This was entirely constructed from memory with no notes. Etc. etc.)
Michael Srisai, Indiana Joan, and Phillip Eisner convened at SSMK (Secret Service of the Magic Kingdom) headquarters on Santa Marja for a mission briefing from contact (boss) Charlie Revere. Assignment: oversee the opening of a new attraction on Magic Island, scheduled to open the following today; their field contact (Max something) would brief and equip the team.
Next day at 7am, we met Max at the SSMK local headquarters on Magic Island. The team was introduced to (NPCs) Joe, a beefy security guard who would add extra brawn to the team should they need it, and Imagineer Chris Hess who was the lead developer of the new attraction. The attraction was "Mickey & Minnie Golf". Former Imagineer Phillip had never met Chris, but had heard of him. This was Chris' first attraction as lead, and for him, a lot was riding on its success.
The premise of Mickey & Minnie golf was simple. Using a newly developed model of autonomous animatronics, small groups of players were each given a Disney character to guide and entertain them throughout the course. The bots would explain the course, attempt to speed up slow groups or slow down fast groups, provide entertainment while waiting, provide a friendly competitor, and enforce the rules of miniature golf.
This wasn't something that inherently required as much security as the team would provide, but between being a new attraction (which implied some crowd control issues) and concerns over the possibility of industrial espionage (this being Uncle Mickey's newest and most sophisticated animatronic), Charlie had felt it a good balance between the small possibility of something bad happening and the need to give the team a smooth, comfortable start with its first mission.
The team (the three SS agents plus Chris and Joe) hopped on the monorail to take a look at the attraction and give it a test run, before it was due to open at 9am. Not that it really seemed necessary; clearly this mission was going to be a cakewalk. It would also provide a chance to meet and brief the cast members who'd be working the attraction; while the bots would do most of the greeting chores, there's still the need for some actual staff; Chris mentioned the two cast members he'd already overseen training on, Sarah and Cheryl(?). Phillip asked him some questions about cost-cutting measures needed to deploy 40(!) bots in a single attraction. Chris explained that most of the interesting stuff happened in software, which was obviously great economy of scale; for example, the bots navigated with machine vision, rather than GPS. (Quite naturally; how else could they interact with people?)
The team arrived, and Michael jumped into his smoothly greeting Sarah and Cheryl without reading their name tags, which was unfortunate since it turned out it wasn't Sarah at all, but Lynn; Sarah was out sick. Chris began grilling Lynn (who he obviously had met before) about her duties to make sure she knew everything, like the cut-off switch in the kiosk that would turn off all the bots should the unthinkable happen.
Michael (the team leader), Indy, Phillip, and Joe then approached the beginning of the "Minnie" golf course, and Mike picked one of the bots to conduct the game; on an inexplicable whim, Scrooge McDuck. Scrooge proceeded to size the team up and said, "You need two red and two green." He proceeded to a display behind the kiosk and returned with four putters, two longer ones with green handles and two shorter ones with red, and offered them to each of us. Mike asked if Scrooge would care to make a wager of some kind on the outcome. Scrooge pondered, replied, "If you win, I'll give you a Coca-Cola!" The nature of this as wager seemed a little odd, so Indy asked what would happen if Mike lost. "I'll keep my Coca-Cola." Well, ok then.
The first hole was an easy straight-shot par 2. Indiana Joan went first and blew her shot. Joe sank a perfect hole-in-one. Phillip left himself a gimmie for the second shot. Mike managed to loft his ball somewhere onto hole #2. The Scrooge bot obviously could tell what was going on perfectly well, since it dispensed another ball and told him to try again. Mike succeeded in staying in bounds, but left himself a long shot. Scrooge then took his shot, a crazy careening richochet shot that left him further away than either Mike or Joan. By the end of the hole, Joan had bogied, and Mike had double-bogied.
Hole #2 proceeded similarly, but with more windmill-blade-hitting; I'll spare you the details. There was time for a full 18 holes before the crowds gathered (the island opened at 8:30am), and Joe continued to do well and Mike extremely poorly. Mike began trash-talking Scrooge, who, curiously, was happy to trash-talk right back. (And Phillip observed that Scrooge's game began suffering, apparently to give Mike satisfactory closure to his trash-talk.) [Note, I believe Mike's player called this "smack talk". One hopes these are the same thing.] In the end, it was Joe who won a receipt for a free Coca-Cola.
Soon the crowds were lining up, the bots were on display and pitching themselves to the players as prospective guides ("Wouldn't you like to play with Snow White?" one Snow White asked). Phillip and Chris stayed in the kiosk monitoring the wifi network the bots were connected to (although Chris perhaps had more faith in his creations, and spent his time watching them out in the real world).
There was a little shoving in the line, but nothing that really called for serious firepower (hey wait a minute, no guns were issued!), so the team settled into relaxing and pondering conspiracy theories ("maybe we should look into this Lynn person, doesn't it seem suspicious that there's a change of staff on the FIRST DAY?"). A camera crew with press badges showed up to film the opening as the first bots moved out to game. Phillip once-overed their equipment but saw nothing suspicious. The reporter spotted Indiana Joan and interviewed her about the quality of the game ("watch out for the windmill!"), and how the level of competition in Mickey & Minnie Golf compared to competition on Desert Island (to which the cameraman rolled his eyes and Indy beat out an answer along the lines of "well... they both... have competition").
Phillip was able to monitor the bot's overall mental state, and noticed at one point when a bot did something like "Scanning . . . . . ." followed by "aborted". He asked Chris about it, who explained that the bots would periodically look around for general rules infractions, things that were out of place.
Time passed, people had good times, the bots seemed well-behaved; sometimes one group would catch up to another, and the respective bots would do a canned bit of business; slow groups might stop and be entertained by their bot while a faster group passed them.
Then Phillip spotted a bot brain do "Scanning . . . . . . Out of Range". He asked Chris about that; Chris wasn't sure, and started looking through the source code. Phillip passed word on to the team that there seemed to be a definite glitch of some kind in the software. Then a couple more bots did the same thing at the same time. Questioning of people who'd been watching the bots in question didn't reveal anything out of the ordinary. Eventually one was caught in the act, and it just seemed to be pausing as part of its normal interaction schtick.
Then all the bots stopped, dropped their golf clubs, and began to wander away (at their slow, loping speed). A few moments later, Mike was heard to ask Phillip, "I take it the emergency cut-off doesn't work." "Uh, yes, roger." (Phillip: communication _good_.) Chris was panicking and diving through the code, totally unsure of what was going on. Chris was asked for how to stop an individual bot. "Well, first you say to them, 'Maintainence Protocol Override Chess 3', at which point they'll be docile." Indiana Joan tried this--it didn't work.
Mike got on the horn to Max and asked for a bunch more security guards, explaining that four security specialists against 40 randomly roaming bots with unknown programming didn't look very good. After extracting the rest of the description of how to manually shut down a bot from Chris (open up a panel on the back and disconnect the battery), Phillip took on the nearest bot and attempted to do so, but discovered a wrench would be required. There being wrenches in the kiosk, Mike promptly requisitioned one by way of Joe. A bot or two may have been taken down at this point. (Beast by Mike?) Mike then changed his request to Max, asking for a bunch more security guards _with_wrenches_, but almost immediately, eight wrenchless guards showed up, and struggled to restrain some bots, managing only three between them.
The team special-ordered some GPS-enabled tags ASAP. A bunch of wrench-bearing guards arrived. Fifteen bots had managed to get out of sight before the tags arrived. The team rapidly tagged the most distant still-visible bots while taking down and shutting off as many less distant ones as possible, but fifteen were loose. Chris still was at a loss for what hell the bots were doing. However, he had discovered why the initial emergency cut-off hadn't worked: the emergency cut-off code was inappropriately "ifdef DEBUG"ed, so that code was accidentally(?!) omitted in the release version of the bots, but not the one they'd tested.
The team began forming search parties to locate the remaining fifteen, leaving the tagged bots on the loose for now. Search efforts were hampered by the uselessness of asking "Have you seen a Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Snow White, Scrooge McDuck, Goofy, Aladdin, or any of the seven dwarfs go by here recently?"
Several security guards were detailed with following two of the tagged bots, just so the team would get some idea what they were up to; meanwhile Indiana Joan devised search strategies and fed then to Mike, who applied his considerable people skills to keeping the searchers organized and on their toes.
Then one of the bots being followed, Goofy, got on a public access internet terminal and began running queries. Phillip, who was taking point on this monitoring, relayed this to Mike, who relayed it to Max and suggested that since the bots were in activity far beyond their programming, and given the risk of industrial espionage, to shutdown guest access to the Internet temporarily. Either SSMK blindly trusted the judgement of its new employees on the scene, or made some internal evaluation, but guest access was cut off. Phillip spotted activity on the wifi--the bots were communicating with each other. Well. (Meanwhile, the other bot being tailed--another Goofy(?)--was picking flowers.) A request was submitted to Max for a thorough background check on everyone on Chris Hess' team.
Indiana Joan wasn't at the base devising search strategies; she was out in hot pursuit herself; the eight security guards accompanying her she'd fanned out to search on their own. Applying her tracking skills, she started hearing reports of a Snow White who could be one of the bots. She'd felt she was closing, but no visual contact yet, when, suddenly, out of a staff-only break room, emerged a Snow White. No, not Snow White. Five Snow Whites. Thinking quickly, she produced her security tag and shouted, "Hey, Snow White! Wait there for just a second," to which four of the Snow Whites stopped. She then requested that they apprehend or at least block the other Snow White, but they replied that that sort of demeaning work wasn't in their contract. Fortunately, the Snow White bot wasn't in any particular hurry, nor seemingly concerned about "escaping", so Indy was still able to run right up to her. Snow White wasn't fond of having her back panel toyed with while she wasn't in maintainence override mode, but Indy managed to distract her with imagined golf duties for long enough to shut her down.
Around then the team began receiving reports of autonomous animatronic Disney characters walking into the ocean from the beaches of Magic Island. Further data collection and analysis indicated six bots, four aimed at Leisure Island, and one each maybe at Santa Marja and Wilderness Island. Mike put out a request that all staff members should restrain any Disney characters from walking out into the water. Consultation with Chris revealed that while this activity was well-outside the bots' mission parameters, they were probably water-tight and would survive it fine. He begged us not to go over his head at Imagineering; he was sure he could figure things out and get it going again.
And about then the primary Goofy had found himself a staff-only terminal in a staff-only room and was running searches. Phillip and Mike debated, and Mike put in a request that Disney "batten the hatches"--block all net traffic in/off island--until such a time as the team had a better clue what the bots were up to. This was gained rather quickly as the security guards doing the tailing got close enough to take a look (the bot didn't care), and determined that Goofy was looking through the guest database for "Sarah Connor".
(*Note: the GM explained that the in-joke here should be understood strictly OOC; we were in a universe where The Terminator was utterly forgotten, or maybe even a universe where it had never been filmed.)
Phillip jumped to a conclusion about the missing, sick employee Sarah and suggested sending a security team to check up on her. Mike immediately verified with Cheryl that Sarah's last name was Connor. And the Goofy who'd been looking her name up in the guest database managed to get access to a staff database and was looking her up there too. And soon after, the wifi network showed another burst of bot intercommunication.
Soon the rogues were down to five in the water and one (Jasmine) loose, plus one tagged bot in the water, and the security forces switched from searching to taking down the tagged bots. Goofy was on the road again, but Mike recommended not taking him down in case he was the "leader" bot and taking him down might warn the others. Goofy noticed his tag, pulled it off, took a look at it, and put it back; the team gave a collective sigh of relief.
The team's inventory of Sarah Connor revealed several on Leisure Island, one on Wilderness Island (on "retreat", so incommunicado), and the one staffer we knew about. One of the Leisure Island targets was under 18, so she had a GPS-enabled badge; her location was trivially known. The others would have to be tracked by their most-recent use of their tag. The team requested squads of four for each of the Sarah Connors to tail them and watch for the seven known-at-large bots. (Although they still had a lot of water to cover.) Mike requested that staff on the target islands be alerted to watch for soaking-wet Disney characters emerging from the surf and to detain them upon so spotting.
Indiana Joan encountered and ably took down the rogue Jasmine, and the takedown of the tagged bots proceeded apace, until all that remained were the six in the water and the three that were being actively tailed. At this point, Phillip became fed up with the utter failure on Chris' part to determine what the heck was going on in the code, and started trying to arrange to get an outside Imagineer or a Secret Service hacker to take a look at things. Chris protested that no, no, he was on top of it, he'd figure it out, he was just having trouble, please don't go over his head. Phillip was having no more of Chris' incompetence. Fortunately, Mike and Phillip and Chris were all still together in the kiosk, and Mike took his attention away from his cell phone conversation with Max for long enough to overhear this conversation, and to determine that Chris was, if not lying, covering something up; he knew more than he was saying.
Joe was handy, and handy at restraining Chris; at which point Mike struck a very threatening attitude and made it clear that Chris' only hope for avoiding trouble with ECD (Ethics, Conduct, and Discipline, a division of the Human Resources department) was to come clean now. Wonder of wonders, Chris did come clean! He hadn't anticipated the possibility that Sarah would be sick today. If she'd been here, everything would be fine! The bots are harmless! They're just persistent. A little more persistent than anyone expected. They're just looking for her, trying to find her. "What will they do when they do find her?" Oh, well. The ECD stick was waved at him a bit. They're just supposed to corner her... And?!? They'll just ask her out on a date, in his name. Then when she says yes, they'll get back to work. "What if she says no?" No clue.
Word came: Goofy was heading for the monorail station. Phillip began working out how to fake a transmission from one of the bots to the others reporting that the date has been successfully made. Mike grabbed a handy tag, took it to a tag programming machine, and had it reprogrammed to claim to be Sarah Connor. He hops on a handy bicycle and sets off in hot pursuit of Goofy.
Word comes: The under-18 Sarah Connor had just boarded a monorail heading from Leisure Island to Magic Island.
Mike got to Goofy. "Hi, Goofy! It's me, Sarah Connor," he added, stepping back just in case.
"Hi Sarah!" Goofy replied, then burst into song, complete with accompaniment. A sadly scary sort-of love song entitled "You Don't Love Me Yet". At the end of which he, indeed, asked Mike for a date. Mike wisely agreed, arranged a time and place to be picked up, and then... Goofy agreed, paused--a burst of wifi bot traffic went out--and turned around and started heading back maybe towards Mickey & Minnie Golf.
And that was it but for the cleanup.
Later reports indicated that one bot reached Leisure Island right on an actual golf course, where it made a nuisance of itself issuing irrelevant warnings and instructions, like "you don't have to swing so hard!"
At debriefing, Charlie expressed some concern over the public takedowns of the animatronic characters, and the need to comp so many people for their loss of Internet access--not to mention all the comps for the people at Mickey & Minnie Golf when the bots had first stopped. Still he couldn't fault any of the team's choices, which had been made in the interest of avoiding possible physical harm to guests (or possible theft of valuable IP--something the team had been explicitly charged to prevent), especially as the team had gotten into something a lot messier than anyone'd imagined.
Chris Hess had obviously made inappropriate use of Disney property, as well as abusing the trust implied by his position. The team felt strongly that Chris was less suited to the construction of animatronic attractions than he would be to the construction of license plates, but such decisions would have to be left to ECD.
[The GM then explained that the title of this adventure was "The Stalkinator".]