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 alt.binaries.pictures.* 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.