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.