Subject 229

Current Phase: C-002
Phase Type: Story

Version Beta

Secrets of the Beta Worlds

The Paradigm has been rebooted, updated, improved. It is a new metaverse, with countless unexplored worlds appearing like stars in what had been an infinite black void. Under this new order, three Factions rise to seize control, power, and influence. Will one secure dominance over the others, or will they together bring about the end of The Paradigm?

These are the secrets of Version Beta.

Version BetaSecrets of the Beta Worlds

Story 6

Subject 229

Liaison of Records


Logged at
10 cirxt2670 cycle

The bookshelf in front of Zinc seemed to vibrate with energy before its familiar geometry twisted and bent into a new reality. Without hesitation, he plunged into the newly formed portal, the wall of ancient tomes behind him shuddering to a close with a somber, melodic hum.

Good riddance.

Inkwell's antiquarian libraries were a…challenge for a lot of CyberBrokers in the Beta Worlds. Despite its tranquil exterior, many found it more difficult than the chaotic, kooky Zones of Waste Land! or the dark, enigmatic depths of Abyssia. But Zinc? He thrived here.

Inkwell had a logic that many Worlds in the Paradigm seemed to lack. Waste Land!, with its all-out brawls set in a post-apocalyptic carnival, was pure chaos. Abyssia was a treacherous game of high-stakes chicken, a test of who could dive deepest into the depths of a realm dominated by alien-like sea creatures. Inkwell demanded something a lot of CyberBrokers lacked.


Navigating the mysterious, and sometimes snobbish NPCs of this World required wit no doubt. But more than that, it involved stopping to think and waiting for the answers of Inkwell to reveal themselves in due time. This didn’t sit well with the high-score chasers of The Winner’s Circle or the ever-fervent Shepherds of Soleia. Those from the Wayfarer Bureau, like Zinc, were used to bureaucracy’s slow pace. They had no trouble with the non-playables’ confusing, roundabout conversations that seemed to mean everything, yet nothing.

Surveying the candlelit, musty room he had just tumbled into, Zinc sighed.

The emergence of the Beta Worlds had led to the formation of three Factions that were increasingly at odds. However, Zinc was certain that this was not the time for division among the Brokers. As Cleanup Crew, Zinc excelled at identifying glitches, malware, and anomalies, so he could correct, eradicate, fix them. And what he saw in the Beta Worlds concerned him.

MOBs were abandoning their coded Zones, NPCs were glitching out and leaving their posts, items were d-mezzing with no rhyme or reason. Something was wrong with the Beta Worlds. And who’s to say that something wrong wouldn’t spread into other parts of the Paradigm?

That’s what had brought him here. To Inkwell.

To the Veiled Volumes.

Zinc took in the chamber before him, candlelight throwing shifting shadows across rows of ancient scrolls and books. Cobwebs draped across the ceiling like party streamers, unmoving in the stale air. Time seemed to have forgotten this place—only the flickering candles disturbed the age-old stillness. He couldn’t help but think it reminded him of a dungeon. No doors, no windows. Just a perfectly, rectangular room.

“Not too much square footage,” he muttered to himself, “should make easy work of this.”

With the hum of the portal’s closing fading behind him, Zinc took a few steps into the space. But as he pressed on, a sense of vertigo hit him as the space seemed to elongate further. A sense of dread gripping him, Zinc took a few more cautious steps, the space expanding out in front of him. He broke into a run, but the chamber grew in response, endless shelves of books unfurling alongside him. Just as Zinc thought the room would never end, he collided headfirst with a wall.

Zinc found himself on his back, staring up at the ceiling’s cobwebs as papers drifted down like a soft snowfall. After a moment of stunned silence, he blew a piece of ripped parchment that had landed on his face with a huff. It fell to the ground less gracefully than it had landed on him, and as Zinc scrambled to his feet, something on the paper caught his eye.

It appeared as if ripped from a book, a top corner piece of a page bearing a number in the left corner. But there, in large type font, was his name.

Zinc, Subject 229. Designated…

Zinc plucked the torn parchment up off the ground, squinting at it as if the letters would suddenly rearrange themselves into something else. But there they were.

“Subject 229?”

The tear had cut the rest of the sentence off. Zinc looked at the papers that had floated down around him, holding up the parchment in his hand like the missing piece of a puzzle. But none of the other papers seemed to be the missing half. Scratching his head, Zinc brought the paper closer to the candlelight of the mounted candelabras in front of him. There in faded ink next to the page number, typed out like his name.

Impact Analysis of the Paradi…

He squinted, reading it again, wondering if it was some sort of title. Zinc turned back toward the wall of shelves he had run into, scanning the spines of books. And then, amidst the rows and rows of weathered volumes, there it was - a large, leather tome with gilded lettering. Unlike its neighbors, its edges were remarkably pristine, seemingly untouched by the ravages of time. Zinc pulled it off its shelf, its weight heavy and full of promise in his hands.

Impact Analysis of the Paradigm Shift.

The book seemed to vibrate in his grasp, the letters almost glowing in the dim, flickering light. This wasn’t what he came here for, but…

With a sudden moment of clarity, Zinc dropped the book as if it had burned him. It fell to the ground with a hearty thud that disturbed the surrounding sea of scattered papers. Energy coursing through him, he quickly pulled up his status bars in his HUD. His HP remained high, despite his skirmish with the Cult of the Corrupted Quill MOBs who had nearly sliced his head and HP in half. But HP wasn’t his concern. It was his Wisdom Threshold that had him on edge.

Zinc had arrived in Inkwell with a clear understanding of the dangers. Not Radiation or increasing Pressure, but the tantalizing lure of knowledge. Learn too much, get too greedy, and you risked hitting your Wisdom Threshold - a ticket to instant d-mezz. As he navigated the maze of libraries, Zinc had been methodical, learning only the bare minimum necessary to pass the cryptic tests presented by the NPCs. He knew that what he sought here in the Volumes would take a heavy toll on his Threshold.

The Volumes were a rumor that floated among the NPCs of Inkwell. Tales of the Veiled Volumes traveled on well-programmed whispers - a treasure trove of knowledge found nowhere else in the Paradigm Lost. Whether these whispers held any stock or were merely an intricate game spun by the Paradigm’s Architects, there was no way to tell. But Zinc had sought them out, nonetheless.

Now, finally within the Veiled Volumes he’d spent cirxits tracking down, he’d almost fallen into Inkwell’s trap. He needed to find answers about the anomalies in the Beta Worlds, not to embark on a wild Sheeple-chase just because he’d seen his name in a book.


Zinc paused, glancing back at the discarded book, the eerie golden lettering on the cover fading into the shadows. He hadn’t come here to solve personal mysteries. But as his fingers worked over the fragment of torn paper in his hand, his eyes skimmed the mess of scattered parchment on the floor once more. And something he hadn’t noticed before emerged from the pile. Another page. Another paper. It bore a name, a name that sent a jolt through his system.

Soleia. Subject 5231. Designated Talent: Smuggler. See reference N303095 for full pa…

The silence of the Veiled Volumes seemed to echo in his ears.


Was this another trap? Or a thread leading somewhere important? Memories of Soleia flooded his mind. It had been Soleia, Unironic Ken, and Zinc who had initialized Version Beta, unleashing the Beta Worlds and all that came with them upon the metaverse. But something had changed between the three of them after they had launched this new version of the Paradigm. Zinc and Ken had never been close, but Soleia...she’d been different since their mission into the Merkle Tree to tamper with the source code.

Could this book hold answers to the change in Soleia?

Could Inkwell be trying to tell him something?

Could this be the key to solving the anomalies that were happening in the Beta Worlds?

Zinc drew his gaze back to the book, still lying where he’d dropped it. The pull was almost physical, a hook in his gut tugging him back towards the ominous tome. With a hesitant hand and thoughts only for his friend, he picked up the book and carefully turned the cover.

Lines of unrecognizable code appeared on the aged parchment, line after line of words he couldn’t understand running across the page. Like a typewriter possessed, the code unfurled in rapid succession. Zinc eyes darted over the characters, a sea of inscrutable jargon that blurred into an unreadable deluge of information. It was an alien language to him, useless to a Cleanup Crew Broker. A single command perched at the top of the page blinked persistently, snagging Zinc's attention.

RUN Sequence_10000.AI.

Then, from the sea of code, a sentence emerged like an ancient hologram. Slowing and creeping, the words, handwritten in a glowing script, rose from the pages of the book, accompanied by a garbled voice that filled the room.

What is the algorithm of the soul?

What is the algorithm of the soul?

What is the algorithm of the soul?

The incessant chant barely had time to register in Zinc’s mind before his HUD erupted in flashing red warnings. His Wisdom Threshold was rocketing upward, faster than it had ever risen before. In desperation, Zinc scrambled to grasp any piece of the swirling code now spewing from the book’s pages, cascading in unending waves onto the ground around his feet.

Could he be crushed by data?

It didn’t matter.

With a final blaring alert, his Wisdom Threshold hit its peak.

Then, the wrenching pain of d-mezzing hit him.