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Xenoseptic Fountain

During the two to four yearcycles following the Waxy_Disaster several decades ago, there was a distinct lull in Communist and Secret Society activity. In hindsight, we know that they were simply laying low and replenishing their resources, but that the time, there was an over-optimistic consensus that many citizens had repented, quietly renouncing any treasonous Secret Society associations after seeing the great evils that could come of their misguided ways. Along with several sightings of threats from outside the Complex (including the first potential sighting of Wyrms), this produced a shift in focus - for a time, defense against outside threats was considered a more critical priority than vigilance against the enemies within the Complex proper. The Xenoseptic Fountain project had its origins in that time, although actual development work was held up for many yearcycles due to to jurisdictional issues.

The primary purpose of the Xenoseptic Fountain was to entrap and destroy would-be invaders and infiltrators of Alpha Complex, with stated secondary benefits of (a) composting; and (b) fluid delivery. Its core was located near the heart of Alpha Complex, with tubes, conduits, and pipelines extending therefrom all the way to Outdoors, in every direction. Many of these tubes and conduits were seemingly disused, and easily large enough for a foreign invader to consider the idea of using them to penetrate beyond Alpha Complex's exterior defenses. According to the official R&D specifications, those invaders would then "be really surprised when they get whooshed down the tube by a big wave of acid or something".

The remaining pipelines and conduits contained various and sundry fluids, used for:

...and so forth.

Not wanting to waste the effort required to run these fluid pipelines all over the place, many of said pipelines were given secondary uses - for example, supplying B3 canning facilities, pressurizing small-scale hydraulic systems, and/or use as emergency fire sprinklers & drinking fountains. This is where things first began to go wrong - a Complex-wide piping system for even a single thing (say, Cleansing Agent #9G) is complicated and failure-prone enough; when you then interlace that with the operation of fifty-two other Complex-wide delivery systems, you're going to have interaction problems. Honestly, I'm surprised how long it took for major problems to manifest; VPR_Sector's VPRWare division may have actually been vaguely competent.

Eventually, the inevitable occured: several piping systems which should have been mutually exclusive were activated simultaneously. The resulting backpressure caused valve failures throughout the Fountain, killing most of the team working on it at the time, and mixing all sorts of chemicals that really shouldn't be mixed. (For example: chlorine dioxide, Cleansing Agent #9G, Galvanic_Accelerant_Dip, and RhinoKleen). The Xenoseptic Fountain ruptured in numerous places, causing overflow alerts in 28% of the Sectors in the Complex. The entire fiasco is recorded in several Documentaries, including Developing_A_Better_Complex.

Once the problem was solved and cleanup was complete, the question of whether to rebuild the Fountain arose. It was deemed that while the objectives of the Fountain were worthy, that it was impractical - so few invaders were trapped by it that it had chronic difficulty sustaining its composting reactions, requiring it to be "fed" with deceased citizens just to keep it running (see Reconstitution_and_Recycling). Many of its constituent parts were re-used, however: fluid piplines were converted into more isolated, localized systems; snare conduits were turned into walkways and (occasionally) widened out to become new Transbot routes; and some of the composting sub-chambers were renovated into INFRARED, RED, and ORANGE-clearance barracks.

As regards the Toothpaste Disaster, the Xenoseptic Fountain has three lessons:

  1. The general lesson: when you've got enough pipes connected to each other, something's going to break eventually.
  2. The practical lesson: as mentioned in Developing_A_Better_Complex, much of the wreckage from the Xenoseptic Fountain Overflow was similar in nature to that from the Toothpaste_Disaster. Policies and procedures developed by CPU in the wake of the Fountain Overflow resulted in an estimated 37.4% improved cleanup rate after the Toothpaste Disaster; the figure would have been even higher had not so many recently-developed chemicals been involved.

  3. The dark, dark trail of treason: there were several individuals who requested records on the Fountain Overflow during the yearcycle prior to the Toothpaste Disaster - between them, nearly every document pertaining to the precise mechanisms of system failure. One was Halle-B-RTN-4. Another was Rasp-U-TIN-1. The third was Paul-U-LEG-5.

Paul-U worked on the Xenoseptic Fountain, of course, so his interest in its failure would not be terribly noteworthy on its own. If one takes the time to dig down, though, one discovers the interesting fact that these three citizens examined virtually none of the same data, even though between the three of them they looked at nearly every systems failure filing on record.

One possible explanation for this is that they were dividing up the work between them.

Were you working with them, Paul-U? Neither's treasonous proclivities were known at the time, so it would not necessarily make you complicit in their subsequent acts. If you were working with them, I suggest you confess it now, and divulge what information you have on the topic; if you were not, I am interested in hearing your explanation for this coincidence.

References: B3, Developing_A_Better_Complex, Documentaries, Galvanic_Accelerant_Dip, Halle-B-RTN-4, Rasp-U-TIN-1, Reconstitution_and_Recycling, RhinoKleen, VPR_Sector

-- Err-U-DYT-9


Excellent research as always, Err-U! Though I must wonder as to your ongoing obsession with Cleansing Agent #9G. You've already written three monographs on the stuff! It's not like it's used for anything other than paint stripping.

-- Jan-U-ARY-31

Truly, it was my happy duty to write those monographs, at ORANGE, ORANGE, and GREEN clearance, respectively. However, during my research (and re-research, and re-re-research), sufficient details on Cleansing Agent #9G were ground into my head that the substance tends to leap to mind as an example whenever it might be relevant.

Fortunately, it's not used for anything other than paint stripping (at least, if you don't count the utter failure of the Experimental Beverage Development Center), so it doesn't come up that often. And I even managed to break myself of the habit of constantly humming its advertising jingles before I hit INDIGO.

-- Err-U

I don't recall working with those two individuals. My main reason for calling up the Xenoseptic Fountain archives in the year before the Disaster was to check on possible similar problems when VPRWare was contemplating a competing prototype for the ATTIC system (which turned out to be wasted effort, as ATTIC was already in service). I had little to do with things by the time they started using the Fountain system for carrying everything they could fit in the pipes, so I wanted to check on that beforehand. I was unaware that the others were accessing the records, though given it's present non-use, I'm not surprised there wasn't a security flag on it at the time.

-- Paul-U-LEG-9

If you didn't work with either of them, and have no alternate explanation for the coincidence, it seems likely that they did not download the documents that you did because they were able to access your files somehow. I suggest you re-check your security measures, as whatever vulnerabilities they used might still be present.

(You may also wish to guard against spying by your VIOLET_Supervisors - another possible vector of information leakage.)

-- Err-U


2013-06-13 14:00