2021-01-04: Error Happiness Undefined

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  • Log: Error Happiness Undefined
  • Cast: Lydia Seren, Azoth
  • Where: Sylvara Great Woods
  • Date: January 04, 2021
  • Summary: In which Azoth and OS finally catch up after the events with the Ouroboros Ring in the vault. Sad beep boop feelings!

==========================<* Sylvara Great Woods *>===========================

The central island of Sylvaland, Sylvara, is the heartland of the nation. That island is covered by the Great Woods: a massive expanse of woodlands that stretches out as far as the eye can see, and takes up nearly the entire island. While roads and railroads lead through the woods, these forests are renowned for mist that often hangs deep over there.

It is well-known that mist can make these woods easy to get lost in. Traveling them on-foot is necessary, too: an ancient Elw Teleporter lay within the woods, and that is the surest way to travel to the Elw Teleporter network. The fact that these woods are so easy to become lost in has given them another name, handed down through the ages:

"The Lost Woods."

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKnXURkR1ng
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

OS has been reactivated and sent into the Lost Woods for the purposes of finding Loren Voss AS HAS Azoth. It's an OFFICIAL JOB so they cannot refuse! Well, perhaps OS could, but they won't. OS lands at the rendezvous point where they are expected to meet with Azoth for the purposes of their investigation.

OS's expression is as impassive as always but after standing still for a moment they start pacing in place which they have been informed is a manner in which one can express distress. But then they remember nobody is really watching them be distressed, so there is no reason to keep doing that, so they immediately freeze in place midstride and just kind of hold position.

It also occurs to them at this moment that maybe they don't want people to recognize they are in distress. This thought encourages them to set their other foot down.


But rest assured, even though they aren't expressing distress at the moment, there is some intense inner turmoil (for OS) going on, maybe most noticeable in certain positive signifiers at the prospect of an Azoth get-to-gether not being visually present.

"..." OS leaves it at that.

<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

Azoth certainly cannot refuse, and takes such orders in the blankest, blandest way possible, and then cheerfully faking himself an ordinary person while on the way to where he should meet OS in case anyone were watching him go on his way.

The closer he gets, the more subdued he becomes. Part of it is never feeling he has to calculate so much of the human in his behavior with OS, but another part other is not having ever settled the matter of what happen in the vault. He pulled them into something terrible, and doesn't know yet where they stand.

He finally arrives a little after OS' if-a-tree-falls battle with self expression. Azoth, almost timidly, beeps a quiet, electronic string of greeting.

"Asset Azoth ready for operation," he says, voice monotone. "... What is your status, OS?" Enough concern bleeds into his features to imply that question isn't strictly business.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"..." OS doesn't respond. Not at first. For a moment it might even be unclear that they HEARD Azoth. OS isn't very good at emoting even basic emotions, complex feelings might very well be impossible for them right now. They do turn their head eventually to look at Azoth.

"We do not know," OS admits. "But we are sorry we broke your gift. We heard you communicate with Lydia but we do not understand."

They get to walking. "Our purpose is to investigate the Lost Woods in search of Loren Voss. Loren Voss is observed as behaving erratically with frequent memory lapses and must be protected from threats to Loren Voss such as enemy units or Loren Voss."

OS looks back to Azoth again. "..." They just look at Azoth.

And then they look forward again. "We are unsure as to the purpose of the battle that we engaged in. You did not recognize us and you stated you would have to be destroyed. That was uncomfortable."

They're doing the best they can!

<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

He waits for their response, but each second is a chance to calculate dozens of possibilities, each without the data for any clear, possible conclusion. All he can do is wait. Even once OS does speak, those preemptive calculations hold none of the answers he needs to respond to them.

"You were not at fault," he says. His voice is quieter. "My... inefficient operation put you in that position." An unexpected, painful position.

Azoth walks with them. "Acknowledged. Threats to Loren Voss such as Loren Voss will be handled gently." Enemy units perhaps not so much.

For a moment, he thinks that might be it for now as he and OS focus on the mission ahead of them until OS speaks again. Azoth's lights dim.

"My primary objective is to locate and retrieve missing parts of my original frame, and any lost data possible. Most other functions are... disabled. It was determined my focus must be exclusively on my objective due to the rare and valuable nature of my targets."

This does not entirely explain away their concerns. Azoth's doing his best, too.

"I operate in contradiction: these new objectives put me at risk for critical mission failure of my original purpose, which I am programmed to avoid by any means necessary." He brings his hand over his chest, pressing his fingers where his core lies. "...My destruction would prevent it."

 <Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.
<poem>OS is told they aren't at fault but they say, "Acknowledged. However, we feel we are at fault all the same. It is strange that we feel this way despite you informing us that it was not our fault. Perhaps it is a programming flaw."

It's a nice day in the misty forest all told. No monsters as far as anybody could see. Nevertheless, there is some quiet between the two of them as OS mulls over what Azoth has to say. They understand primary objectives and the importance in fulfilling them. "You are programmed to be self-contradictory?"

OS looks back to Azoth. "...By our understanding of humanity, that is an adequate method for representing human thought." OS frowns. "...But it is nonetheless distressing you are not allowed purity of purpose."

OS stops near a tree to look at Azoth. "Is this kept from you as part of--as Juno had told Lydia--your placement? Are these contradictions necessary?"

<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

Azoth shakes his head. "I do not hypothesize it is a flaw. Losing the gift caused you distress. It is well within normal function to attempt calculating alternative behaviors that may have prevented its loss to avoid similar distress in the future." He gives OS a weak smile. "...But do not confuse that data for the data you had at the time. It was an unexpected circumstance further complicated by my yet unknown behavior." He glances down. "I am sorry. I will get you another gift, once I find one fitting enough."

Though if OS ever asked for anything, Azoth would get it for them. It is the least he could do.

The quiet of the words makes fulfilling his objective here easy enough, at least. Listening. Watching. Surveying. There is nothing to defend themselves from, but nor is there any sign of Loren Voss.

"I cannot be certain of that. A human may struggle to make a decision because both choices have equally unpleasant consequences, but is still permitted to freely weigh their options." Azoth allows himself to frown. "My original purpose could not be deleted. To be utilized by Solaris, new code was written in addition to it. This code's priority overrides the original, but the original code is still used as the foundation of my autonomous behavior, and these parameters are used as my default outside of override conditions."

Briefly, his eyes narrow, and there's heat in his gaze. "They are necessary in order for me to function as Solaris deems appropriate."

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"It's okay. The sand is glass now but I saved it." OS says. Something troubles OS in the way that Azoth speaks about Solaris but--they can't really fault him for it. "I work for Master Krelian. Right now I am working for Solaris to serve him."

They glance around. They are talking the job seriously even if they aren't likely to find Loren now before the APPOINTED HOUR but all the same keeping focused on the task at hand makes it easier for them to not dwell on strange feelings they don't really know how to articulate. Should they be grateful that they are being told it isn't their fault? Strangely it has thee opposite effect. If it was their fault they could do something about it, but it isn't Azoth's fault either.

"It is unfortunate that a capable coder such as Master Krelian wasn't involved. He is a skilled programmer who could have found a less painful way to combine your new programming with your old."

OS looks to Azoth. "It will be okay. This is temporary. We can endure it now and we will be happy later. We won't have to worry about it anymore."

<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

"I am happy you wanted to transform it into something you could still keep with you," Azoth says, smiling a little brighter for it. "Thank you."

A kind of gift in itself, if you're an Azoth.

It's a delicate situation. OS is similar to Juno, Azoth thinks: programmed with enough elegance that they are content in what their roles are. They do not experience contradiction. They aren't unhappy to operate toward, as OS said, purity of purpose. Azoth's origin code is as understanding of it as it is unsettled by it, knowing it only unsettles him because his original objectives are at odds with what theirs are meant to be.

"It is possible he could have," Azoth says. "It remains possible he, or someone else, may eventually achieve it." He pauses their search, only possible because the current area has already been thoroughly scanned, and looks to OS. "This would, however, significantly alter the manner in which I execute my behaviors and how I internalize data -- what might be considered my 'personality' and 'sense of self'."

Azoth's face is carefully blank, not meaning yet to offer whether this is good or bad, or what his feelings on it might be.

But OS tries to encourage him, and that blankness twists with pain. Only temporary. Endure it. And then... what becomes of him?

"...I... do not want to be someone who is happy to take the lives of those who have come to call me their friend." But that pain could be fixed, too. He could be made to wonder why he ever worried.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

It's strange when you consider Lydia is struggling as much as she is to stay herself, to one day break free--while her other half is, if not 100 percent content, content enough that they do not face significant rampancy or distress. They are aware that not everything is to their personal liking but they seem to anticipate something that will improve their conditions. And apparently Azoth's too. Maybe everybody's.

"We... Like...your current personality and your sense of self." OS says, with upmost sincerity. "...We do not want it to change."

That might be a relief if not for what they say next.

"But if you'll be happier as someone different... It will be sad, but we can accept it for your sake."

But Azoth says something OS has difficulty understanding.

"You....wish to feel pain?" They seem genuinely flummoxed. "But pain is...painful, is it not? We do not understand."

OS is slowing down as they try to comprehend this strangeness.

<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

Azoth wonders if that hope is Lydia's influence and determination rubbing off on OS. Lydia, who also seems to believe there will come times when there will be happiness, no matter how terrible things are. Perhaps because she continues to find happiness in spite of the pain she's been through.

It is warming, what OS says. Tragically, however, he does know what's coming next. Happier. He would be. Logically, what they say is correct: if Solaris succeeded, Azoth would no longer know this pain. It's a strange, cruel loop --

"I am not programmed to allow alterations to my primary objectives," he says. "I would be helpless to these changes, but as it is against my original purpose, it still causes negative feedback to acknowledge their possibility."

The cruelty being that, if they ever succeeded, he would be just as viciously devoted and agonized at being set back. Label it a good change or a bad change, it doesn't matter. It makes him feel like a plaything to be aware of.

"But -- correct. Under my current settings, I prefer the pain." Azoth slows with OS. "I am unable to deny commands that would drive me to hurt them. My pain is the only evidence I have left that I feel affection for them. ...I do not want the last of that love stolen from me."

Even if it's only part of his programming to be afraid of it. Perhaps it's only part of his programming to love at all. But it's still his.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

OS is being forced to contend with the fact that some people would rather be unhappy and free than happy and wondering what the fuss is about. OS is not the most emphatic of creatures--it comes slowly to them--but they do recognize that there is something different in the way Azoth talks about his myriad of objectives and how he says that he doesn't want the last of 'that love' to be stolen from him.

"They don't like us," OS says. "We can see it in their eyes. They might stop liking you if they know who you are working for so we will not tell them."

They continue walking. "Though they still seem to like Lydia, so perhaps if they knew you were not working for Solaris willingly, they would find that reality fulfilling."

"We wish we didn't care when they looked at us with their eyes like they do." OS says. "But we suppose if they didn't, we wouldn't want to lose them either."

<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

"I have gathered data to the contrary," Azoth replies. His voice is still robotic, but quiet again in an attempt at gentleness without sacrificing what they both know each other to be. "It is true you are not well understood, but others speak of you as someone they would like to converse with and learn more about. That you and Lydia have a complicated shared existence worries them, as does the fact they fear your objectives run counter to their own. But I do not have evidence they do not like you as you are." Azoth tries on an easier smile. "I like you as you are."

His expression fades as he looks ahead on their walk, searching dutifully, but gaze otherwise empty.

"I cannot tell them," he says. "My programming does not permit it. It is possible they would cease to care for me, but that would not necessarily alter my opinion toward them."

He would still care, even if they didn't. He would still have a part of his programming demanding he protect them while it failed to do it. And that means --

"The overrides also do not permit me to allow my termination. I cannot destroy myself, nor submit to my own destruction. It is true that I must be destroyed to prevent critical mission failure, but it is also true that the overrides will ensure I do everything in my power to prevent it."

Azoth stops again, inspecting a broken tree branch for evidence someone may have passed through. A weak, inconclusive lead on further investigation.

"...It would serve my original objectives if they ceased to care about me enough to rise to that challenge."

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

OS says, "We don't want you to be destroyed." This time, they don't add 'But we will destroy you if it is happier for you'. They don't seem to consider that to be a viable solution. They might well consider brainwashing Azoth to relieve him of pain but they sure as hell wouldn't end his existence. They aren't entirely sure why themselves why they would label these two things so separately.

But all the same, Azoth has a way of explaining people to OS that OS just can't handle or manage on their own. They look to Azoth for a long time. "Oh." OS says. They feel another strange negative emotion welling up within them. They don't know that it's called 'guilt' but they feel rather queasy.

"We like you how you are too. If we don't understand you, we will still like you."

They don't seem to be in a hurry to find Loren now. Sorry Loren. Their looking about seems to be more for the performance of looking for Loren than actually finding him.

"We seek sublimation." OS says. "By what you say, it seems likely they would not wish for such a transformative state."

"...Even if it would make them happier."

<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

"I don't want to be destroyed either," Azoth admits, and it's so much quieter than anything else he's said. But he can't see any other options. He only sees himself rewritten or destroyed. He does not see a future where this is temporary. Where he endures, and then... he is happy, but still himself.

He wishes he could.

"Thank you," he says on liking, smiling with more of his warmth again. "Sometimes liking is what leads to understanding. Gathering data and processing through it... it is enjoyable. Data on individuals, too. Including your data."

Azoth does continue to look in earnest, because he has to. But he is an excellent multitasker.

"Most organisms appear to prefer maintaining a certain degree of control over their thoughts, as well as within their lives. 'Happiness' is also a concept with many variables." He pauses, considering. "I would propose happiness and painlessness are not the same thing. One may be a factor of the other, but to lessen certain hardships would have less value to them if this removed other aspects of their lives that were important to them."

"We all have objectives to fulfill. They may be able to change and shift theirs more easily, but that which prevents them from completing their objectives will be met with resistance. And perhaps unhappiness."

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

OS feels strange. Was their purpose wrong all along? Maybe everybody else is wrong instead, they tell themselves. Lydia meanwhile has no clue what's going on here but is paying attention within them.

OS looks to Azoth. "There are methods for which you could remove yourself from Solarian control. We cannot share them, and we suspect you cannot hear them--and they are not without risk--but they do exist. So, we hope that gives you some hope for a situation that may or may not be retrievable by you one day so that you do not suffer as much pain."


"Like Loren. Who is unable to take care of himself. But it does not seem he resides in this sector or perhaps he is being hidden. Alternately, he may have already escaped."

They should entrust themselves to God, OS thinks. But what if they don't want to? It's a strange feeling.

<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

Hope. Azoth searches for it in OS's words, but can't find it. That OS is trying is what has meaning. Azoth hesitates, then reaches out to take hold of their hand. It's a brief touch, with a little squeeze that is almost itself a plea for everything he still isn't allowed to say and act on -- hope. He can't act on any hope, even if it were there. They're right. He can't hear it.

But he hears OS.

"Thank you, OS."

He releases them, as if afraid he is already taking too much.

"This is possible. I have located no data suggesting Loren Voss resides in this area. Should we extend the search or report back?"

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"Let's report back." OS says, even using a contraction dangerously. They've got a lot on their mind right now. Their free will doesn't seem to be as compromised as Azoth's. Because of Lydia? Because of their own purpose? OS doesn't like to see Azoth suffer, but preventing Azoth's ssuffering seems to be not just out of their hands but something that Azoth does not desire, at least not in the way they can prevent it. Worse yet, they can almost understand it. Is Azoth going to have those concerns in their eyes too? They don't like it. Even if it isn't actually hatred, it doesn't feel good.

Azoth takes their hand. OS looks up at Azoth. "..."

...They are saying thank you. When Azoth says 'thank you', they have observed, that is usually not faked because it is unneccessary for him to say so he doesn't need to say it.

OS smiles down at their hands. "...Thank you, Azoth."

They'll probably take the FLIGHT route out because it's the Lost Woods and all--if Azoth can't fly, they might very well carry t he poor guy out.