Record number seven – part two
A featureless avatar sidled up to me. Its face was of wood, but I could only tell because of the wood grain pattern. The avatar was a shop mannequin, styled in wood. When they spoke, it was with text and not speech.
“I hear you’re new? Let me introduce myself. I am Woodruff, and I am Mariana’s Web’s resident mythos guide. Allow me to go on.”
Reading his words, I almost laughed at how overly formal he was. I sent a reply.
“Of course I’d like to hear, please carry on.”
The mannequin nodded, as if pleased.
“Would you switch to voice chat, please? It is easier for me to just say this rather than type it. Simply select the default male voice; you can personalise it later.”
I did as he requested. I also selected the ‘Record Voice Chat’ option so I could write this later. It is how I can remember his long speeches word for word; there’s no way I could have otherwise.
Signalling that I was ready, he began to speak. His voice was gender neutral and robotic, but not emotionless as I had expected. As he typed, so he spoke, with his extremely formal manner.
“I assume you know about the rumours of Mariana’s Web, also known as Level Five. If you did not, you would assuredly not be here. I can also deduce that you are not what we call ‘black hats’ or even a grey or white hat. In fact, it is my firm belief that you are not a hacker at all. Now don’t worry,” He said, as I was about to type an angry response. “I for one do not associate myself with those dirty crackers. No, I am something much more pure. I consider myself a guardian of the web. It is my sworn duty to defend it at all costs, lest the new world order may take it for their nefarious schemes.”
A guardian of the web? What is this, some cyberpunk game set in the future, with virtual reality and ray guns?
“Now, there are levels to the Deep Web as I’m sure you’re aware. You use Level One and Two daily, and Level Three can be reached with TOR or similar applications. Level Four, it’s mainly the same. Level Five, though, as you have learned since arriving here, is not legend at all but rather a very real factual location on the internet. It is as real as you or me, as solid as the rocks that make up our great earth, its future as bright as the most beautiful of rainbows…”
His long monologues were starting to bore me, so I hurriedly changed the subject.
“I know all about these levels, but what are you implying? That there are further levels beyond this?”
Woodruff stooped abruptly, and looked at me almost pityingly.
“I had forgotten you knew nothing of crackerlore. I shall have to remember.” He went on. “In 2002, a team of specialists were attempting to work out just how much information was stored on the Deep Web. What they found was not what they were expecting.”
He paused for effect.
“Their scans came back and they found something big. Something huge. The scan reports indicated that they had detected a gargantuan space in the internet. It was simply immense, titanic even. Even with the size, it could have been nothing but old office files, stored online and no longer used. But this was no ordinary files.”
He paused. I swear I could almost see a smile on his blank face, slyly uncurling.
“One month after the scans, something else was picked up. This anomaly was sending out commands every so often, not on any routine they could discover. The commands could not be edited or even intercepted, no matter how hard they tried. Next, they tried to observe them. What they found was impossible.
These commands were slowly changing the internet, making changes to its very infrastructure.”
“But that’s impossible!” I burst out.
“Not so, not so. At least, not according to this legend – for remember, BlueAdept, that may be all they are. Most likely we shall never know. For can you not think back to the time when chain mail in email was prevalent? All these Bloody Mary and Amanda-down-a-sewer stories, designed to shock the reader into forwarding the email to others to prevent a fake ‘curse’ or the like being placed upon them. Well, this that I call crackerlore is just the same. Every culture has urban legends; why not the internet communities? Hackers, crackers, call them what you will, they are just as big a part of the internet as any company is.”
He had a good point, but I wasn’t interested. I had bigger things to think about.
“So,” I began slowly. “So this… this anomaly is sending things to the internet which is making it different, yes?”
“Yes.” He confirmed.
“Well… is there anything else?”
“Funny you should mention that, actually.” Woodruff said thoughtfully. He had really configured his voice so that while it was robotic, it communicated emotion wonderfully.
“There is one thing. Have you heard of the Six To Eight legend?”
I assured him I had not, and anyway I would be delighted to hear it.
“The governments of the world are supposed to be working on very powerful computers that can use quantum computing.”
There was that word again, quantum. I haven’t done enough research into it. I really must.
“This will allow the user access into the seventh level. From there, there is apparently a layer of code, bugs and viruses. Simply vile, if you ask me. It is to stop anyone from reaching the eighth level before anyone can figure out a way to reach it, a delay tactic if you will. In my opinion, it is just a place for all and sundry to spread their virii filth.”
“There’s an eighth level?” I pressed.
“According to this myth, yes. If it is reached, the first person to reach it will somehow take control of it and become in control of the entire internet. Rather like Greek mythology in some ways.”
“Let me guess – this anomaly you mentioned earlier is believed to be whatever’s in Level Eight?”
“Simply put, yes.”
I had another question for him.
“Have you ever heard of something called the Neurosis team or the PrimArch team?”
He froze. His voice went down to a hiss.
“Don’t talk about them. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself – ahh!”
He was pulled into the air, his limbs twisted at odd, unnatural angles. He stayed stock still, and I only barely caught the message, it was so quiet.
“Don’t talk about it. Don’t think about it. I can tell you only one thing – it’s the core of whatever’s happening. Good luck, Blue.”
He vanished. I stood, shocked by what I had just seen, and even more shocked that nobody had tried to help.
A woman strolled up to me, her lips twisted in a smirk. She wore a black pirate hat, with a dark red thread pattern around the sides.
“What is there to laugh about?” I demanded. “Something just happened to my friend, and he could be hurt!”
She laughed prettily, and answered me with an American accent. Her voice had an amused tone.
“Blue, is it? He’s not dead, not hurt, not even a scratch. That you just saw was a file displacement – the servers that run this place temporarily messed up or jammed, and it did that. Don’t worry, he’s fine. The system has glitches, any big system does.”
I was relieved but still suspicious.
“I think he was trying to tell me something, something important.”
“Out with it, then,” The woman drawled. “What’s so secret the system itself will kill you for it?”
The way she put it, I felt ridiculous. I spoke anyway.
“He was going to tell me about the PrimArch system.”
“Oh, that piece of junk? It’s old rubbish, an old British military experiment that didn’t fly. From what I’ve seen, it didn’t even get off the ground.”
“How do you know this? What have you seen?”
She shrugged, very realistically.
“I’m a hacker, honey, it’s what I do. I’ve had my share of hacking the Pentagon. We’ve got a love-hate relationship. They hate me, I love their files. Eh, they don’t really mind now. They just move their files to somewhere more secure and let me get all the old and boring ones. Oh, you were talking to Woodruff. That over formal baboon, I bet you he was going to try and tell you that his fabled Level Eight is, in fact, the PrimArch system or something. It’s hacker legend, the key word being legend.”
I pointed out that Mariana’s Web was only legend.
“Not any longer, darlin’!” She checked a virtual watch. Her avatar froze for a few seconds, so I guess that she was checking her real watch.
“I’ve got to fly, but if you want to chat another time just ask for me. The name’s Marie; I’ll be around.” She waved and vanished.
After this I just wandered about. There was a clump of trees, so I sat underneath them, hoping the virtual shade would ease my frazzled nerves.
Right next to me, the ground moved. I started, and realised it was an avatar with skin and clothing the exact same colour as the ground. He or she (I had no way to tell) smiled at me and started speaking.
“What did the Neurosis team uncover?
What did The PrimArch team discover?”
He disappeared, grinning, like the Cheshire Cat, except there was nothing left, not even his smile.
For some reason this left me feeling very uneasy, so I hit the Escape button to find my computer shutting itself down. This did not leave me in a particularly good mood, but eventually I turned it on and loaded up Windows, and this is the record I wrote. Much joy may it bring me when I read it again in a few years’ time.
Ryan (BlueAdept) out.