Tolbana Inspection

Zorin is visiting Tolbana to discuss the new clinic being built there.


Tolbana had come a long way from when it was first liberated. Repairs were underway, and quite a few Landers had moved in. Many of the Landers were immigrants from Ezzo looking to start a new life. It is also a busy hub for adventurers, both those looking to gather resources on the first floor and those climbing further up.

As the Captain of the Guard, Zorin had a vested interest in the continued prosperity and protection of Tolbana. Prophylaxis had been a prominent leader in the settlement and was working towards building a new clinic which could have many benefits for SEA as a whole.

Now in town Zorin is at the designated construction site. So far only resources are being gathered and the area cleared before the construction fully starts. Standing off to the side of the construction site Zorin inspects the few workers currently moving around resources, waiting to meet with Prophylaxis.

The restoration of Tolbana has been a long time coming. All it really needed was someone dedicated to the task, a few greased palms and at least one global catastrophe. But thanks in part to the collapse of the Ezzo Empire and the swarms of refugees fleeing the badlands like it was a nuclear hellscape that hungered for their very souls, the town is finally looking like a place that people are able to live in again.

Of course, that means that a majority of the manpower available in town is dedicated to essential tasks like getting food production, walls and other necessities online. Prophylaxis' own pet project has yet to really get fully off the ground as a result. There just aren't enough carpenters to go around!

That doesn't mean he's not still hard at work. Operating out of a medical tent whenever his official role as overseer gives him opportunity to do so may not be ideal, but it's what he's got. "Take one pill in the morning and another after dinner, and if it doesn't get better in a week, come back and see me again," he says to a patient, before stepping back out of his makeshift clinic and into the light of day. "Oh, Zorin," the good doctor says upon seeing the other Player. His hands slip into the pockets of his coat as he strolls over, "Fancy seeing you here. You come to check out our progress so far?"

After seeing Prophylaxis immerge from the nearby tent Zorin smiles warmly at the doctor and gives a small bow, "Doctor, good to see you again." And then nodding he continues, "I heard that you've been having some difficulties with getting things fully started on a full clinic." He looks around at the few adventurers moving supplies around. "It does look like you are a bit under equipped, but how are things going? Did I arrive at a quiet time? Or is this really it so far?"

"It's going well as can be expected, I suppose," Prophylaxis heaves a shrug and gestures with a nod toward the piles of supplies. "We've actually got most of the raw material that we need ready to go for the clinic, but the problem is a lack of skilled labor. Most of the Landers we brought in are busy handling other business around town, and the ones who have already rebuilt their homesteads have started working on clearing and cultivating the land. I can't exactly demand that they drop doing what they're doing and work on the clinic, you know?"

He shakes his head slowly and sighs. "It's just the way of things. We'll get it going, once work elsewhere clears up. It's just too bad that so few of our players took up woodcraft as a profession, or I'm sure it'd all be well-underway by now."

Nodding in understanding Zorin gazes out at the construction site while he considers the situation, then after a bit of time passes he turns to look at Prophylaxis. "I've come to find that the AI algorithms for the Landers improved a bit with the expansion. By acting in a way the system recognizes you can trigger quest flags and also there seems to be a more robust kind of assistance system." Looking back at the construction site Zorin waves his hand, "Right now it seems like we are going to be building this mostly from scratch ourselves, but as you say without adventurers with the associated professions it is going to be slow progress."

Zorin crosses his arms casually, "We might be able to offset some of that using the game's assist system. I bet if you posted up some notices requesting Lander carpenters, or even tried to find some to hire directly, so long as the price was appropriate for whatever the game requirements are you could get some assistance. Maybe not even Landers from here in Tolbana, but some looking purely for work in the Town of Beginnings." Raising one hand he rubs his fingers together in the symbol of coin, "It would cost more, and might even take some negotiation, but I bet we could overcome the shortage of skill that way. It might at least be worth a try. What do you think?"

"Hah, AI algorithms you say? That sounds more like basic economics than something someone programmed in," Prophylaxis chuckles and sets himself down on a conveniently placed workbench. "I'm not so sure anymore if there are algorithms at play, and if there are, whether they're any less complex than the ones that we operate by. Once they become so advanced that they are no longer meaningfully distinguishable from our own thought processes, can we even really call them 'AI' anymore? But I digress."

"It's not a bad plan," he says on the possiblity of hiring help from elsewhere. "Even if all we could do is buy the interior work- benches, operating tables, furniture and such- it'd speed things along considerably. At that point it's just a matter of refurbishing a building and getting some structural work taken care of. I'll look into it; thanks for the idea!"

Zorin raises an eyebrow as Prophylaxis shares his thoughts about the AI, "I suppose that is an interesting thought. If AI is sufficiently advanced then does it matter if it is considered AI? I kind of think it does still." And he shrugs, "This is just a simulation. The NPCs are just that, no matter how advanced they act. There is still programming and algorithms going on." Then he waves his hand dismissively, "Don't get me wrong, you kind have to act like they expect for the system to work, that's what I mean by triggering flags. I guess it is all a matter of perspective, and not as significant so long as you can make this game system work."

Then Zorin smiles warmly again, "It's just brainstorming. Some of my ideas or useful and others.. less so. I just figure that whenever there is an apparent roadblock there is also going to be a possible detour around it. You just have to find it." He then looks out at the construction site and the nearby town. "Still, what you are doing here is going to help us out a great deal down the road I think. I've been working to start create facilities we can use to help us level up and train new skills back at Castle Reach, but I bet you could expand the clinic to have a research wing if the original design doesn't already?" He ends the statement on a hanging question, unsure of the full scope of what the completed clinic will have.

"Hmn. Maybe it's just the medical professional in me talking, but..." Prophylaxis taps his chin thoughtfully as he glances back at the medical tent. "I had a Lander come in who was suffering from a mild cold. Another had sprained an ankle. Another had been nicked by a monster out in the field. Each and every time, the pain and discomfort they were feeling seemed real. If the Landers are able to express emotions, then how different are they from us really? NPC just means they're not 'players,' but what difference is there aside from origin? If this world is a simulation, and we are all presently just living in a database, then what difference is there from the lines of code that make up our character avatars and that of the Landers'? If a computer is able to simulate a person to the point that they are indisitinguishable from a 'human player,' then how can we say that they are not people?"

"Fundamentally, it is my job to alleviate suffering, to heal wounds and to cure sickness. If a patient is suffering, then regardless of who they are, I must do what I can for them. But part of that means actually identifying who's suffering and who's just trying to get out of work, and if they're just acting, then these Landers are sure as hell doing a good job of fooling me, at least."

He shrugs again. "Well, anyway. I guess my point is that, even if they were NPCs once and this IS a simulation, if the 'update' somehow elevated them to human or near-human intelligence, then we should treat them as such. If not just for moral reasons, then because it would be unwise to underestimate their intelligence and influence."

"A research branch wouldn't be a bad idea, however," Prophylaxis says after a moment. "I can see the applications. But I'd want to have someone who can take my place here at the Tolbana Clinic first, before I go about having to set up and lead an entire R&D department."

Zorin looks thoughtful, "It is true that many of the Landers seem to act as if they have emotion and personality now. Perhaps I am a bit biased from all the time playing before, but I still see them giving mostly scripted responses. Still even if they are a near perfect simulation of people, they are machine whereas we are still controlled by our real human brains back in our bodies. We-" and Zorin points to Proph and then himself, "are processing things in our organic human real world selves. And all this-" he waves his hand out around the town, "really is just ones and zeros in a database in the end."

"Don't get me wrong, I think you have a strong point about how to act towards them." And he pauses for a moment, "I think I still do act a bit stiff with Landers, even trying to act in the way I think they should respond to me. I might try to consider them more like human simulations rather then just pure script quest givers." Then he gives a bit of a wry smile, "Even if I still do consider them ones and zeros."

Then he looks at the doctor with an approving gaze, "Still, you're concern and willingness to help others speaks to your character. I'm glad to have people like you in the alliance. I really do think it is the quality of character of our members that makes us stand out and will lead us to success." A wistful look crosses his eye, "We will get out of here, and hopefully save all the rest along with us as well."

"Are you sure about that?" Prophylaxis asks, arching a wry brow. "That we're still being controlled by our brains, that is. I've seen no evidence to suggest one way or another, myself. While it's probably a safe assumption to make, it's also very possible that each and every one of us has somehow been drawn into the game-world, whether by replicating the mechanisms of our brains and using that data to run digital avatars that simply think that they are 'human' on the outside, or by straight up sorcery. Consider this: If we are all still being 'run' by our brains in the 'real' world, then why is it that none of us have yet 'died?' You would think that, especially since none of us have actually been able to get up and eat or drink, statistically speaking it would be a miracle for the government and the health care community to be able to keep *all* of us alive. And that's just counting the healthy people. How many logged into this VRMMO /aren't/ healthy? How many are suffering from preexisting conditions that would make them especially vulnerable to spontaneous cardiac arrest, stroke, or other causes of sudden death? And yet, to my knowledge, nobody has 'stopped functioning' yet. Strange, isn't it?"

Prophylaxis shrugs again, because his own brain is clearly running on overdrive and still hasn't found a meaningful conclusion of its own. "I'm glad you were able to get something from our chat, though. I think it's important, given that we're living through extraordinary circumstances, to suspend all biases whenever possible. This is a strange situation, and working on old assumptions could be dangerous, you know? Like with the Second Floor Boss. If we'd run in thinking it was just like how it was in-game before, we probably would have wiped hard."

"Anyway, I think that being able to assess your own behavior and change accordingly is a sign of good character myself," the doctor says with a smile. "I'm hoping that you're right, that we can all get out of here in one piece. I also hope that those of us who really are living a better life in here than outside can have the option to do so. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, yeah?"

Zorin looks a bit startled at first but then considers it a bit more, "From my perspective it has seemed like no one has died in the game, and while I'm sure you have a much greater understanding of the medical requirements, couldn't we be put on something like an IV? We could be treated like coma patients. But the volume of people.." and in frowns notably, "Could our emergence response really handle this volume? I'm not sure." Then raising an eyebrow, "If someone in the real world did die, would their character just vanish?" Then Zorin gestures and pulls up his friends list on the UI "It looks like everyone that was online before is still online, but if someone just vanished and they weren't on someone's friends list, would we even notice? It's kind of a scary thought. And an even scarier one is the rumours about people losing their memories. If someone dies, could our very memories be altered to forget them?"

Zorin is looking rather grim after this discussion, "This is definitely concerning. I feel like I have to hold out hope that it really is me that is here." He motions to himself. He looks as if he is about to continue but then raises a hand to his ear and tilts his head a moment before responding on the chimlink, "Roger that, get the report to Misa. I will head over there right away." And then lowering his hand he says, "I really do need to get going, but keep me posted for how things go with the Clinic. Alright? And until we find definitive proof, I do think it is in our best interest and the morale of our members to consider ourselves still.. us.. Anyway, take care of yourself Doc and I look forward to speaking more with you next time." Then with a last bow Zorin leaves waving over his should as he departs.