“Fuck,” Brad Lee finally broke the silence of the room after several long seconds, voicing the shock that everyone in the room felt. He turned his palms up and raised his shoulders as he shook his head, gesturing to the office that he was at a loss for words and wasn’t sure how to proceed with this new information.
“So-,” George stretched the word to a full second as he collected his thoughts. “We can’t shut it down or delete content without potentially killing people, and we can’t leave the EmVee running without exposing people to- whatever the hell it is inside that’s spreading this… is infection the right word?”
“It’s the only word we have, right now, until we know more,” Terrance answered.
“So, what are our options?” George asked.
“Everything inside the EmVee,” Terrance leaned forward in his seat to rest his elbows on the table. “Every file, every program, everything, exists as an interactive object inside the game; nobody programs like they used to.” He took a deep breath and sighed. “Whatever this virus is, it has to have an in-world avatar of sorts; no program or file will run in the EmVee without an associated graphics file. We can gather a team together to find the person, object, whatever it is, and-“
“We can’t send players to go find and fix this code, anyone who confronts the virus risks infection, and we don’t know if fixing the virus will cure the people,” Lawrence said, interrupting Terrance. He gulped as Terrance looked at him. “Sorry.”
“No,” Terrance shook his head. “No, you’re right. We can’t risk more people trying to fight this. We don’t even know what this is yet.” Terrance sat back in his seat, sinking into the cushions. He pressed his fingertips to brow and groaned.
“I,” Lawrence began to speak, reconsidered, then pushed on. “I might have an idea.”
Every eye in the room turned to look at Lawrence again. His stomach sank as they watched him. He felt his heart racing as he second-guessed his plan.
“Out with it,” Brad Lee said when Lawrence failed to continue.
“We give the SAAI to an NPC.”
Lawrence’s words had no immediate effect, but slowly it came to settle in the minds of Brad Lee and Terrance. Terrance pushed his seat away from the table, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees and set his chin in his palms. Brad Lee’s brow knotted as he thought and considered the possibilities of Lawrence’s idea. The others in the room gradually seemed more and more confused as the silence built.
“Intriguing,” Brad Lee said as he entwined his fingers together and poked his forefingers against his chin.
“What?” George said, shaking his head. “What does that even mean? What’s an NPC?”
“It’s a Non-Player Character, George, shut the fuck up,” Terrance said as he jumped up from his seat. He looked at Lawrence. “That’s fucking genius.”
George was taken aback by Terrance’s demand. His eyes went wide and his jaw went slack. He looked back and forth between Terrance and Brad Lee sever times as if expecting Brad Lee to leap to his defense.
“You’re just going to le-” George began but Brad Lee raised a hand and shooshed him.
“Elaborate,” Brad Lee said, looking to Lawrence. “For our less technically informed friends.”
“Oh, okay. Yes, well,” Lawrence shifted on his feet. He was thrown off by Terrance’s outburst, but his approval bolstered Lawrence’s courage. “We have the SAAI program,” he noticed the expression on George and the other investor’s faces and stopped for a second. “We have the Self Aware Artificial Intelligence program. It’s currently in testing stages. We can,” Lawrence paused for a moment. His eyes darted from side to side as though reading something only he could see. “We can introduce it to some of the NPCs already inside the EmVee. Grant a few of them artificial awareness and consciousness, then-“
“Then,” Terrance jumped in, speaking faster than Lawrence. Either excited by the idea or too impatient. “We would have agents inside the EmVee who can get close to this virus, investigate it, fix it, and who are incapable of being infected themselves.”
“With no real-world controller that could die should anything go wrong,” Brad Lee adds.
“Yeah,” Lawrence concluded.
A second of silence passed before Brad Lee spoke.
“Can we do that?” Brad Lee looked to Terrance for an answer. Terrance shrugged and looked at Lawrence. Lawrence looked from Terrance to Brad Lee.
“Uh, I think so? The SAAI program has been in development for a future update to improve NPCs in the EmVee, to introduce a massive boost to their intelligence and personalities to make them more realistic than they already are. I think we can connect a prototype of it to an NPC by transferring a file to them with a command to load it into their personality.”
“Alright,” Brad Lee nodded. “Do it… But, only one for now. Until we know how they react to this I don’t want more than one. The last thing we need is an NPC uprising on top of our current issues.”