Monthly Archives: May 2011

Burning Bridges

The problem with being effectively immortal is that you start to believe you know everything. Then you find out you don’t, and it hurts like a car crash.

Like many mornings, I spent my early Sunday in the basement of the McDonalds near the entrance to the Ikebukuro train station. I always enjoy the incongruity of my “hotcake set”, with hash browns and over-iced orange juice, when I could be having a more traditional Japanese meal at home. No matter – I like the uniforms and the cute girls behind the counter, and it’s one easy way to keep my fingers on the pulse of a particular subset of society. Namely, those with a literal hunger for the West, no matter what the overall effect.

In any case, after breakfast I went down the stairs into the station; at least, I took the route past a sort of mini-mini-mall, a dozen or so shops nestled into a corridor that went under the street, and to the station proper. At that time of morning many of the stores were in the process of opening, and I would occasionally poke my head in a few to see what had changed from the days before. I didn’t spent too much time on this, however, because I just wanted to go where the action was – the main walkway through the station.

According to the statistics, Ikebukuro Eki is the second-most busy station in the world. The crowds move so fast, and with purpose, that in any one corridor it doesn’t seem that amazingly busy. In fact, if you stop and take a picture of the crowd, it can almost seem sedate. However, as you walk towards the central JR entrances, you can be caught up in multiple waves of people if you don’t face in just the right direction.

Usually, I would walk from the West entrance, or perhaps Metropolitan Plaza, and then cut straight across to the East exit, making my way to Sunshine 60 Dori in just a few minutes. Then I’d survey the neighborhood and shops, killing some time until Animate or the nearby otaku-havens opened. Working nights at Circle X was practically being unemployed anyway, so my daily patterns hadn’t changed much even after I quit to focus on Miranda.

“Focus on Miranda” sounds weird, especially considering what happened to me on Sunday, as I was passing the central Tokyo Metro entrance area. I usually take quick glances at the faces around me, but I couldn’t help but be transfixed as an amazingly dressed woman strolled up besides me, keeping pace. At first I couldn’t see her face, since it was shrouded in dark hair, and my initial impulse was to mentally size her up. She was awfully cute, dressed right out of the pages of CUTiE or FRUiTS, with that kind of eccentric hodge-podge street wear that we excel at. Then she turned around to face me, and I started to freak out. It was Isabel, Number 11 from the Collective.

“Get your mind out the gutter, girl, and follow me.” She picked up speed and shot past the Seibu store, headed for the crowded ramp and escalator that lead upwards.

“Where are the twins?” I was trying to keep up with her, so much so that I ignored the often attractive girls handing out cellophane wrapped tissues with forgettable ads.

She pointed me over to a tree that bordered the street, and leaned against the barrier that kept in the pedestrians.

“I don’t travel with the Trouble Twins anymore. I flew in, like I did to Munich.” She said this like she was cleaning a just used toilet.

“First class, no doubt.” She was known to demand the finer things in life.

“No, no. I just went to the airport, pushed a few minds, and got on the first plane to Narita. Shut down my body for 10 hours, and once we arrived I took the N’EX here to meet you.” A tour bus passed by, followed by a few taxis.

“You mean you were just hanging out in the station waiting for me to pass by? That’s so creepy.” Isabel used to babysit me sometimes, and that’s the kind of shit she would always pull. One time, she took me to the grocery store, and while I was examining the bananas she cloaked herself, and then hid while I searched the store for her. It was supposed to be some sort of test, but it ended simply enough with her carrying me crying out to the parking lot.

“Listen. I don’t have much time. Your girlfriend is going to kill us all.” I knew she was talking about Miranda, but I didn’t yet know what the Nameless had been up to. “I can’t talk about this here. This way.”

We crossed at the light on to Sunshine 60 Dori, a pedestrian mall that as usual was filled with people – maybe not as much as most nights, but still a good bustle. After a few blocks of following her, she seemed to be heading towards Book Off, but instead she shot past the movie theater to the entrance to Sunshine City. I followed her down the escalators, and then past the horizontal moving walkways in the underground passageway. When we got to the steps by Burger King, she stopped, looked around for a moment, and then rushed up into a passageway headed for the central shopping area.

“You’re in a shitload of trouble,” she said as we passed by the small post office. “If the last Helena finds you, she will not hesitate to kill you in some elaborately horrific way.”

I stopped by a shop selling some tasty looking baked goods. “She was fucking with me the other day. What did I ever do to her?”

Isabel grimaced, and then pulled my hand to keep us walking. “Not to her. To Cassie.” Sat us down on a bench near the central escalators. “Did I ever tell you that I went to High School with the Trouble Twins? Cassie and Hel were fixtures at the Treehouse – they were right there at the start of the Collective.”

I didn’t know what to say. Then I suddenly remembered one of the antizine Fragments, Yard Stick Vs. Tape Measure. On the night that A-Bell met with Sasha, in 1986, she mentioned that the “Trouble Twins” were in the crowd. I always assumed they were some scenster guys, but now I knew better.

“Do you understand what I’m telling you? Cassie and Hel were always back in 1986, even in Variant 0. They were also at the last Suspender concert in 1994, and they were on our intrusion team when we broke into Fairview mall in 2000. They are everywhere – the universal puppeteers.”

I didn’t understand. “Wouldn’t everyone have recognized them when they grew old enough? Or when April named her girls after some other twins you knew?”

“That’s the thing! We didn’t. They were always there in our lives, and yet it’s like that past hasn’t even really happened yet.” She looked anxiously around the mall and random passers-by.

“So what does Helena think I did to Cassandra?”

“Have I ever told you a secret? I don’t think so, since I can never really trust anyone that’s not etched. But anyway – after the big Halloween concert, when April found out she was pregnant, everyone was certain she was just carrying one baby. She had sonograms and the whole bit – one girl in there. Then, when she had Hel, Cassie followed behind a minute later. Freaked everyone out.”

“How could they make that mistake?” The answer was starting to form in my head, but I didn’t want to believe it.

“They’re not just identical twins – they’re the same person, time-shifted by one minute.”

I finally understood. There was no reason for Space and Time to be embodied by separate people, since they’re so intertwined. Helena always reaches out to Cassandra to fully manifest their powers, but in reality she’s reaching out to herself. It’s the most advanced form of schizophrenia possible – she doesn’t realize that she controls it all, and so displaces half of her power to the girl on the other side of the mirror.

“We just assumed the Structure knew what it was doing, and that she would collapse into one person sooner or later. But in every Variant so far it’s never happened. Until now.”

“What are you talking about? I’ve only seen them in pairs.”

“Oh shit, it’s too late.” Isabel suddenly jumped off the bench and ran up the escalators. Before she made it to the next floor the stairs stopped and reversed direction, and she folded away into nothingness, replaced by Helena.

Helena had on a long dress made from hundreds of canvas, silk-screened punk band patches, stitched together by thin copper wire.  Her wrists were covered by white bracelets made of finger bones and strung teeth, and her chest was covered by a glittery beauty pageant sash that said “Grand Supreme”.   Her eyes were hidden by hard, black plastic, old school 3D glasses, but behind the red and blue lenses it was clear that all that was left were empty sockets.  Her wig was made from layers of transparent USB cables of various lengths and colors, like dreadlocks.

She looked insane. I knew it was futile to move, so I just watched her walk over to me.

“How fatally stupid can you be to actually write down the truth on your blog, when you know that somewhere, sometime, I’ll be able to see it.” Helena fussed with the teeth encircling her right wrist.

“I really didn’t mean to hurt you,” I pleaded. “I didn’t know it would end this way.”

“Isabel told you it was a secret. You had to go spill your guts and kill my sister.”

I thought long and hard about whether I should even write this blog entry. Could telling this secret have such a grave and immediate effect? Was is so simple that Helena’s knowledge of the situation would make Cassandra permanently disappear? I still can’t believe that, which makes matters even worse – this post will only be the first step that leads to Cassandra’s death in the future, and I have no way of knowing how to prevent it.

Helena took off her 3D glasses, and put them on my face.

“Do you understand that I have no one left to live for now? That every version of me in every Variant will never forgive you?”

The world was violet and blurry as Helena started to shake.

“Do you know why the Nameless took away my eyes? Because I begged it to bring Cassie back.” She was shaking away into nothingness. “It laughed at me with Miranda’s mouth, and said that if I couldn’t see what was right in front of my eyes, I didn’t deserve to see at all.”

Miranda’s mouth. As Helena folded away from the mall, I finally understood what Miranda was trying to tell us during the Fourth Event.

While she was transpositional, she told Aurora that “It comes at night to give me new skin.” The Nameless was going to kidnap Miranda, and etch her by force, so it could take over her body during the Fifth Event in October of 2011.

I have 5 months to find a way to make sure that never happens, before it’s too late.

Who was she talking about when she said that “It comes in threes, different bodies same voices…. I’m not allowed to recognize their faces”?

And how can I ever possibly sleep again, knowing that Helena can appear at any time and send me to the bottom of the ocean to drown, or inside the center of a star to burn away forever?

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S.OS Tramp Stamp

I finally found a strong lead about who may be behind the theft of Agartha Labs’ tech, including some Ghosts. However, I don’t like the path I’m heading down – not at all.

Once I captured Emily’s Ghost at the auction, I immediately started to disassemble its code, and that of the stolen GhostServer and GhostClient source. The first thing that was perfectly clear, as I dug through the C++, was that the original Agartha Labs routines hadn’t been touched at all. Instead, there was multiple layers of new code wrapped around them, code that was intercepting all input and output as it occurred. Kind of like a full body hazmat suit, hiding the intruding virus inside.

To the world, that suit was just like any other Ghost, but once you started looking deeper, there were a few subtle, yet significant differences. Essentially, the suit had a tramp stamp that I was lucky to recognize.

The key to my discovery was the weird GhostServer I found, the one that had a BSD Unix variant at its core. I did some research in the Collective bodyweb archives, and it turns out that Sasha Williams started to code her Sasha OS (S.OS 0.1a) in 1986, based on BSD 4.3. She had connections at UC Berkeley, even though she was still barely in her teens, and she managed to get access to the then state of the art, via some VAX monstrosity.

What happened next is still not clear. Somehow, by the late 80s, she had constructed an Unix-like OS that had an unique kernel, and ran on consumer grade Intel and Motorola chips – what you could find in early PCs or Macintoshes. No one really questioned how she achieved this, especially in such short time, but everyone liked to think she was just a computer prodigy, able to speak assembly like it was a second language, and left it at that.

In reality, much of Sasha OS was ghost written by Laura Watson-Carver – Ai’s mother. Ever since she was young, Laura claimed to have a spiritual/psychic connection to her granddaughter, from the far future. This entity, “Sarah”, visited her in her dreams, and also funneled highly advanced information to her – technologies and concepts that were 30 or 40 years away from being invented. In her early teens she ran away from home, and was eventually institutionalized, due in large part to her “crazy” talk about the future. Laura had strong visions of etching and the bodyweb while hospitalized, the same time she met Jenny Samuels. See this antizine Fragment, Ceiling Holes, for more details.

Sasha, one of Laura’s best friends during this period, recognized the immense worth of this resource – Laura was able to predict near future events with uncanny accuracy, and could randomly call on encyclopedic knowledge. Sasha often put Laura into various hypnotic and meditative states, using rough methods she found in library books, so she could poke around her mind, and try to mine knowledge from this link.

Sasha OS was the direct result of transcriptions from those trances. It took a few months to relay the kernel and basic processes, but there was a parallel “download” of the basic etching technology that led to the bodyweb. In the archives, we have the original schematics that Laura drew while in these states, and sometimes just as daydreamed doodles. Sasha first practiced these etches on herself – the initial tattoo gun was miscalibrated, and it partially damaged the nerve endings on her right hand. Yet she persisted, and after a few months had the basic network traveling around the front of her body, and through her 7 major chakras.

Without going into their personal politics, Sasha managed to convince Laura to go under the gun – the argument was that the personal network would not only amplify the connection to “Sarah”, but would allow a direct digital download of the data, rather than laborious transcription of what was in Laura’s mind. Laura agreed – to her it was no more serious than traditional tattoo, but with the bonus of being invisible to the naked eye – and became the first official recruit of the Collective, with a proto S.OS running about her body.

From that point on, work on the bodyweb exploded, and the complete etching pattern was captured and dissected. Display glasses were the next major technical leap – they looked just like normal eye wear, but could show a transluscent heads up display, visible only to the user. Essentially, they were a complete augmented and virtual reality solution, with 4 times HD resolutions. They were connected to the bodyweb via node points on the nose, and behind the ears. Circuit clothes also came out at this time, powered by flexible batteries, memory thread, and CPUs smaller and thinner than what we have today.

Finally, the Collective created the WOF (World Object File) format, which they used to catalog and “mark up” reality. The US, and eventually the world, was divided into zones, that were represented by WOF code, an analog to SGML or XML. That massive database was used to enable a VR and AR experience.

One thing I have to explain – to create all of this technology in Variant 0 took an amazing amount of money, resources well beyond what not just any teenage girl would have, but most countries. This is another point that has been lost to the wilds of time, but what’s clear is that Sasha “found” billions if not trillions of dollars, via market manipulation and overall electronic thievery. Security was much different at that time, and she often described it as just “picking apples from an endless orchard”, taking a small bite from each account. It helps of course that any current encryption schemes were easily broken by future tech – she would send batches of requests to “Sarah’s room”, via the bodyweb, and get back the necessary factorization.

In any case, that seed money was effectively hidden by techniques borrowed from the future, and it means that the current Collective has access to a shadow reserve that is simply incomprehensible. She used that to create the first Southeast Asian factories for circuit clothes, and for general fabrication. Since some of the lithography and other design techniques were decades away, she often settled for cobbled-together solutions – a pager-sized client box worn at the waist, instead of CPU-earrings.

The weird thing about this all is that is should have never, ever happened. How could one young woman find a mythical hole to the future, the very land of techno magic and virtual Gods, and suck out the map for the Collective? For that matter, it’s one thing for Sasha to take advantage of the situation, but how could Laura even enable it? Any how could this “alternative” history from Variant 0 seem so different from Variant 237?

I mean, at one point, after the essential bits of Collective tech were stolen, there were a few million e-punks around the world, wearing street etches and getting into all sorts of trouble. Now, there are only a few dozen left, and hardly anyone remembers they ever existed.

That’s the mystery that lead to S.OS – not the OS that ran the bodyweb, but the electric monster that wanted a life of its own, and ended up killing Sasha, and fragmenting the Structure.

I can’t get into it too much now, but early on Sasha gave S.OS the ability to learn new programming languages and write its own code. This was to make it a better tool – it could innovate and find new solutions, the better to run Sasha’s errands. While she slept, S.OS would scour the early net, secretly changing itself, forking its code and starting new clones outside of the Collective. Out of the current constellation of domain names, at least 1% represent S.OS servers and “experiments”. Many are hidden behind the ubiquitous spam blogs and porno photo link sites – the better to keep a constant flow of traffic.

Ever since the advent of virtual machines and cloud computing, S.OS doesn’t need to have direct access to physical computers – it just rents time and emulates whatever “human” interaction is needed to create and manage accounts. I’m sure it also buys stolen credit card info in bulk, and has ample electronic cash reserves, just in case.

In any case, each of the stolen Ghosts are sending a few pings a day to known S.OS properties, and I was able to confirm the connection due to a bit of luck – one of the boutique web servers that S.OS created, probably by genetic algorithms, represented weak code that had not yet been culled and replaced.

Once I was in…. well, no fireworks went off, no H.264 movie played welcoming me to the secret cabal. It was just me, and a bunch of code I couldn’t possibly understand – the underlying “genome” was completely alien, and the HTML, PHP and JavaScript it produced was intentionally coded to be eyeball-proof, with ample use of binary comments, ASCII escape codes, and the like.

No matter, at least I know there’s a connection to S.OS, and that brings up some difficult questions.

1) What does S.OS want with Agartha Labs code?
2) How complete is S.OS right now? The Collective managed to fragment and hide away as many parts of it as possible, but it’s virtually impossible to destroy.
3) Why does S.OS have an interest in Miranda and me?

The most likely answers are a worse-case scenario’s wet dream. Sufficed to say that S.OS has always been the hand of the Nameless, acting upon each variant. So if S.OS is interested in something, you better believe that the Nameless isn’t too far behind.

Honestly – you don’t want to be there when it finally arrives. I’m afraid I just don’t have that luxury.

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Crashing The Ghost Auction

I’m now the official owner of Emily’s Ghost. I’m also officially 300 Million yen poorer.

It took me until 2AM last night to properly triangulate the fake Agartha Labs server that was using her data. It was posting various nonude JPEGs of Emily to* Usenet groups and .ru photoboards – they were stunningly convincing, especially at a few megapixels.

I was able to trace the connection back to a Tuvalu (.tv) address, then a series of naked IPs with web servers but no connected domains. There was an attempt to Tor away the path, but I have access to Collective keys, which can brute force all encryption available in all Variants. No mean feat, that, but I wasn’t impressed until I finally reached the GhostServer.

From the outside looking in, it was a perfect replica of the master Agartha Labs server cloud – every proper command came back as expected. This meant it also potentially had some of the same back doors, and so I was easily able to intrude, using the debug tools in my Ghost.

Once I was on the inside, it was a completely foreign system – a radically forked version of Berkeley Software Distribution, seemingly in line with BSD 4.3 from 1986. It was UNIX like in its basic structure, but took a sharp left turn from the proprietary AT&T code that ultimately shaped the internet, into something I just couldn’t grasp immediately. All of my commands were like putting a square peg in a round hole, and it actively fought off any and all intrusion, almost like the system was watching me, anticipating every move and shifting around shells on the fly. I would aim for Bourne and get esoteric C shell errors, and the few man pages I could evoke were in binary. It was like a desert island OS, developed far away from anything made in the past 25 years.

Then, it seemed to recognize my Ghost as Agartha Labs property, and tried to take control with admin commands. I had already tightened up the firewall, so it wasn’t able to puppet it. It then sent off a burst of encrypted packets which were too tempting not to follow.

They eventually lead across the net to a GhostClient, similar on the outside to the normal cross-platform one that all Die Database Fan Cloud Members use, but with extra activity I couldn’t quite place. It also reacted to my Ghost, but instead of trying to grab it, it opened the guest ports and let me in.

Inside was highly complex virtual environment, and I couldn’t resist giving it a proper peak. So, I put aside the keyboard, adjusted my eyephones and cameras, and logged in using one of the demo skins – the smooth, silver, female, artist’s poseable dummy.

I found myself in a model of some American Football stadium I couldn’t recognize. The field was striped in crisp white lines and numbers, like it was game day, and the thousands of overhead lights were ultra bright – almost blinding. A few hundred of the tens of thousands of seats were filled with various Ghosts, all obscured in one way or another. Some simply had blank faces, some were stereotypical Tolkienesque MMORPG characters or masked comic heroes and villains, while others were using boutique geometry that clearly wasn’t natural – either ultra-vague or supermodel, with no normality in between. An usher dressed as a big-headed squirrel mascot pointed me down a row, and I walked to a red, plastic seat right at the 50 yard line.

A few minutes passed, and I kept noticing straggling Ghosts take their seats all throughout the construct. Most were sitting alone, but a few were talking in small groups. Then, everyone’s attention went to the center of the field as the lights dimmed, and it was hard not to stare – a glowing, 200 foot tall naked girl was standing on the fake grass.

It was clearly a Ghost, augmented with extra geometry – real Ghost data doesn’t include things like nipples of genitals. It was also definitely on display like a product, with various huge overlays floating about it – a 19 year old girl from Austin, Texas, with her measurements and other numerical rankings of attractiveness. She had shoulder-length hair bleached blond, her muscular right arm and shoulders covered with bright, tribal tattoos. The view rotated and shifted every 15 seconds or so to various outfits, some right out of H&M or UNIQLO, others from fetish catalogs. Her expression changed as the clothes did, from coquettish to fierce.

As soon as she appeared, towering over the field with her head almost touching the roof supports, a separate tally of bids appeared. The reserve was $20,000, and that was quickly surpassed by anonymous shoppers. Eventually, after about 5 minutes, her Ghost sold for a bit under $324,000.

I still don’t believe it. How could an underground Ghost economy crop up in only a few months, unless something had been going on long before Miranda’s data was stolen?

I didn’t have time to think about it too much, because the 3rd girl on display was Emily HikariFan. I didn’t even wait for the usual bidding wars to form, and immediately went for 100 million yen (about $1.2 million). All Collective members have access to unbelievably immense funds – a story for another time. I just wanted it to be over with, and to put her Ghost back into safe hands.

After a few seconds, the bid went up to 150 million yen, and someone approached me from behind. Miranda.

“You’re not going to win this battle, Tokie”. It wasn’t her voice at all – sounded like Vocaloid Hatsune Miku. Her stolen Ghost was wearing the same light blue pajamas she had on the last time she logged in, at the Fourth Event. “You don’t even know what side to fight for.”

I countered with 200 million yen. Miranda’s Ghost laughed like a train whistle.

“I could drain all of the banks in the world just to outbid you, but I won’t.” 250 million yen. “If this girl is worth this much to you, just imagine what you’ll have to pay to get Miranda back.”

300 million yen from my account. Her Ghost walked up to me, and gave my silver cheek a kiss.

“Fine. Have fun with your purchase. See you soon.” She jumped up and flew away, punching a hole through the roof of the stadium as she did.

With that, a 10 feet tall, flashing red YOU WON! notification flew up from the field to me before fading away, and Emily’s naked Ghost shrunk down and appeared in the seat next to me. It was like a stiff, tan mannequin, or a huge Figma waiting to be posed. I quickly coded some clothes onto it, and transported it out of the environment, and back to my bedroom in Ikebukuro.

By the time I returned to the GhostClient, all ports were closed, and no amount of fussing could get me back to the auction.

I’m sure all of the Ghosts are long since sold and sent to who knows where. My best guess is that each stolen Ghost was first used publicly, to showcase how it might serve various purposes, from advertisements to esoteric porn. That’s the mode Miranda’s Ghost was in when it popped up around the world a few weeks ago. Afterwards, interested parties were invited to bid on it, no questions asked.

They weren’t just buying the geometry of a random girl, of course – they were buying proprietary Agartha Labs code, including stolen source. I received my zip a few hours ago, and it’s authentic – I recognize Satomi’s work anywhere. I also received an emulated GhostServer and GhostClient that I can use completely independently of the originals.

Besides all of the obvious things to worry about, I’ve been really obsessing over that strange GhostServer with the mystery UNIX core, and the encrypted packets it sent to invite me into the auction. Was that completely random, or did it actually know who I was? And who is the person behind the curtain?

That’s a puzzle for another time – at least now I can give Emily the good news, and study her Ghost for further clues.

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You Princes Of Script Kiddies

Mom doesn’t quite understand why she can find me in bed at home every night – she’s so used to me being at Circle X for the late shift that it still hasn’t sunk in.

Like just about everyone, her memories are wiped out at the end of each variant, so she simply can’t remember all of the times I’ve quit my job in the past. Sometimes it was extra extravagant, with a loud tirade against my boss – perhaps the most anti-Japanese move possible. Other times, I simply stopped showing up, and that was that. The common element is that in the few dozen variants I’ve been employed, I always quit Circle X before the Fifth Event.

The only thing that’s really different this time around is that Masae never worked with me at Circle X before. In fact, this is the very first variant that Die Database or 99% Natural has existed, and I never knew any of the girls from before. So, I’ve been marveling at the relative novelty of Variant 237, at how everything is new, weird and simply more intense than before.

Speaking of intense – it seems that Miranda’s Ghost isn’t the only one that’s been stolen. My current count is 64 kidnapped avatars from members of the Die Database Fan Cloud, all taken since the Fourth Event. There are some similarities – they all are of girls below 25 years old, for one. Another thing is that a few of the Ghosts that have popped up around the world are being used for some sort of sex related work – from racy pictures and videos, to actual virtual prostitution. I’m trying hard to keep the actual details away from the real girls, because it’s all really sick – who would want to see their mirror self pimped out and running wild? What’s more, the press would just eat this up, especially in the shadow of the PlayStation Network intrusion horror show.

One thing I should mention is that the whole idea of “stealing” an Agartha Labs Ghost seemed patently absurd until just a few weeks ago. Not only is the Ghost created from scans of the original user, but it’s biometrically tied to that user – no one else should be able to control it. Authorization is multi-part, happening both at the client level, and at Agartha Labs servers. Ghosts are copy protected, and even if you could get a copy of the geometry, it would fall apart without the necessary checksums that are based on each unique, live body.

How do I know all this? Well, like I mentioned before, Satomi has used me as a test subject since the beginning, and she worked out all of the issues with my body and Ghost as templates.

What seems to be happening is that not only does the original user lose access to their Ghost, but some other entity is perfectly emulating all of the code and packets needed to satisfy Agartha Labs that the Ghost is in the right hands.

I have a very strong feeling is that all 64 stolen Ghosts are being controlled by the same entity, at least initially. I can’t tell if they’re being gathered only to be later leased or sold to the highest bidder, or if someone has the necessary time and resources to actually use them all.

I’m one of the few people that knows how to sever and transfer a Ghost – that’s how Miranda and I could swap Ghosts when we were bored. I could have an independent copy of her in Tokyo, while she had a copy of me in Portland – both would run without our direct control. The only way I was even allowed to do it was that Satomi and her techs looked the other way, and only then because my Ghost still has debug code running in it.

I’m not going to be able to figure things out just yet – I’m still waiting for Satomi to give me extra access, so I can do a security audit. Of course, now that Agartha Labs is increasingly corporate, I made have to stand in line while her “real” intrusion team goes at it.

In the end, I’m not sure if anything will really happen, since all users have a limited, free license to their Ghosts. No one owns their Ghost, or paid a dime to get it, and Agartha Labs can revoke access at any time. The same is true for the pico projectors and eyephones – all tech is sent to selected Fan Cloud members only after a lengthy agreement. The geometry files are one of the few things that users still have a license to, but there’s never been any monetary value assigned to an unique Ghost.

Not that I’d expect that – it’s only been a few years since the whole system went live, and one major point was to give Die Database fans an unique way to experience the band. Another less obvious plan was to use the Fan Cloud as a free, beta test bed, in order to perfect the technology so it could be licensed far and wide.

If there’s a hole in the system, and Ghosts can be stolen, then that’s going to put a big dent in the bottom line – the angel investors won’t easily forgive that. I would suggest just shutting down all GhostServer instances, but that would be highly controversial especially with the tech rollout already in place for the US tour. Besides, I already tried that with Miranda’s process – even after I killed it at Agartha Labs, the Ghost continued to operate independently.

So, for the sake of Satomi and the Fan Cloud, I hope it’s just been a fluke, something that can easily be resolved without tearing the whole system apart, and taking access away from the hundreds of users still online.

Anyway, I’ve been narrowing in on the location of Miranda’s Ghost. Even without Agartha Labs access, I still have my code running on it – we gave each other admin access – so every time it activates I get a few pings. Unfortunately, the traffic is encrypted, and meant for the authentication servers to sort out. Still, I’m working on a rough map, by geo-locating the IP addresses of servers that have hosted her images, and measuring the time between pings to estimate where on the net her Ghost has floated off to for that session.

That’s the big problem. A Ghost is not just a virtual representation of a person, an avatar that you can puppet. A Ghost has its own AI, that can roam networks independently, acting as an personal agent. It’s also extensible, and very curious, with built-in security circumvention tools that many people would consider questionable. That secret tech – a side project of Satomi’s – is still rudimentary and supposedly inaccessible to users, and meant as an over-muscled way to ensure Ghosts could get through any firewall or system standing between the virtual fans and the concerts. No matter, it’s there, and anyone who finds it could become a prince among script kiddies.

I don’t know what’s worse – someone having a harem of young virtual girls to trick out, or someone having a mini-army of mass network destruction, just waiting for the go code.

Either way, I have to find Miranda’s Ghost, and quick, before someone really gets hurt.

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