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.
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.