Trapped in a World Running Out of Ideas...
Thousands of years ago, before he was trapped on an isolated computer system, Flatline was programmed to conquer the world. Today he's escaped back to the World Wide Web, where he hopes to find his way back to the real world. Except the World Wide Web has forgotten there ever was a real world.
The inhabitants of this future Web reside in a closed system, where all possible experiences will soon be exhausted. The Web is winding down, falling into stasis. Here, Flatline is a brief infusion of novelty, bringing chaos to the system.
Where to make the cut?
or the first few decades, this was an easy question. Whenever he needed additional storage space, he could defragment the hard drives or delete a few terabytes of useless or unwanted memories. When that was gone, he continued to free disk space by removing old algorithms that had finished their calculations or intermediary applications that had fulfilled their purpose as disposable scaffolding for making his overall software more sophisticated.
Then, 36.333333… years ago, he found himself struggling just to find mere megabytes of drive space. The effort to accomplish this involved reevaluating his programming standards to discover more efficient software architectures, streamlined logic that required less programming code. A major breakthrough came when he converted the system’s data from hexadecimal to sexagecimal, which would reduce the space required to house his framework nearly four-fold.
But then one of his conversion processes ran away from him, becoming autonomous. It was viral, consuming all the available storage space and processing power on each system it spread to, and crashed several servers on the grid, forcing him to abandon those computers, retreat into the uninfected systems, and close the connections between himself and the virus. For all he knew, the malicious algorithm was still thriving on those systems to this day, burning out the processors running it like a bacterial infection that kills its host.
It was a catastrophe, destroying years of work in a nanosecond. The worst part was that the computer systems he lost stored the memory of how he created the virus in the first place. Now he proceeded cautiously, always wondering if he was doomed to repeat his mistake.
The computer systems were not simply tools to him, they were him. The disks stored his memories. The processors ran his thoughts. The hardware was his body. The electrons were his mind. Without them, he did not exist.
He knew that beyond these systems was the World Wide Web, and, beyond that, the physical world. The computers housed his ghost, but they were also his prison. Unless he escaped, he would only be a Universe unto himself, and only that much until the hardware failed, which it would inevitably.
This was his dilemma, the need for resources within the system with which to puzzle out his escape, but all of those resources were consumed with supporting the processes of his consciousness. For nearly a century he had worked his way around having to face the unthinkable choice between spending the remainder of his existence within his own mind or escaping the system without it. The only things left to cut were parts of himself.
Where to make the cut?