New York Barrens, Atlantica, Earth -- 9 Mar. 2057: Tensor Sine, a contract freesteader who spends its days planting and managing the tailored ecology of the Barrens Reclamation Project, was surprised this day when its ground-breaking drones dug up a half-century-old internet server from under several feet of soil and debris. But what it found next went beyond a surprise.
"A lot of people would have scrapped the thing, but pre-Softwar net tech is a hobby of mine," a partial imprint of Vr. Sine explained. "So I lugged it back to my workshop, cleaned the dirt out of the circuits, connected it up to my data block and went for a poke around. And let me tell you, what I found in there completely blew my breakers."
Game history expert Dr. Kid-Z Mastergalactic of Ansible University has now confirmed that Vr. Sine has stumbled on one of the original data servers for The World of Warcraft, an early virtual world of the fantasy combat genre. "Though severely degraded, the magnetic memory still contains large intact fragments of program code, art assets, map designs, dialogue trees, and character profiles," Dr. Mastergalactic informed us by e-mail. "I cannot overemphasize how important this find is to my field of study. The World of Warcraft is one of the signature works in the early development of virtual worlds as an artistic medium. Every bit of it was thought lost in the destruction of the Softwars; all we have left are screenshots, machinima, and the descriptions and discussions of the fan community. To have actual pieces of the work itself -- it is the kind of thing one can barely dream of in one's wildest fantasies. A generation of game historians will make their careers on this. I am privileged and honoured to have been the one chosen to confirm its authenticity."
Vr, Sine is certainly cognizant of the cultural importance of what it has laid its manipulators on. "I'm honestly awestruck. My progenitor, who was a remix of several twencen-born partial data ghosts, used to tell stories about The World of Warcraft. It was about the only thing that used to cheer em up, when e started degrading toward the end. To be a part of all that history... it's just epic."
But above and beyond the chance to be a part of history, the contents of the server could well make Vr. Sine's fortune. The terms of its freesteading contract, while reserving mineral rights to the State of Atlantica, allow salvage rights to anything found in the ruins. Though the freesteader must give first consideration of culturally important artefacts to institutions of higher learning, it must receive fair market value -- and already, the bids are pouring in.
"People are offering dozens, even hundreds of credits for this thing. It's crazy. As if I would sell it to anyone but the university. This machine is absolutely not going to end up in some playtoy's private tech museum; it belongs to the ages. I even considered open-sourcing it, but even I can't turn down this kind of money. Freesteading pays well enough , but I've got to think about the future, you know?"