March292014

Record #23

Record number twenty three


Can you feel it? We’re so close to the end now. We must be.

That file I took from the FBI server - tangodelta.txt - is very interesting. Now, Mariana is everywhere and she’ll probably read this as soon as it goes online, so I can’t mention any details, yet.

Does anyone remember the urban legend about the virus makers and the antivirus companies? The story goes that as certain viruses were first found, the antivirus patches were released far too soon - that the virus makers must be working hand in hand with the virus preventers.

Well, it’s time to dispel the fog surrounding it, as with most myths. Surprisingly it’s true, to an extent. Without revealing too much, the main project set up to counter the MARIANA AI was named Static, and here’s why:

Imagine a thousand computers. One of them is the hub, where the virus is created. Now imagine various social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter. Of course those two weren’t around at the time but they’ll do as example.

Now imagine the hub uploading a virus to these sites, blackmailing the companies and using the law against them - think the NSA and their wiretaps. At least six hundred of the remaining nine hundred and ninety nine computers use these sites.

They go after the browsers, too, but at this stage the only one they target is Internet Explorer, because why not? It’s the most widely used browser of the time. They pay off Microsoft to not show downloads if the hash matches the particular signature of the virus file. Everyone downloads the file without knowing.

Here’s the sneaky bit. Whenever a USB, external hard drive, etc is plugged in, the virus hops across, writing a small file to it that remains invisible. When that is plugged into another computer - say one of the thousand buys a new computer and wants to transfer their files across - it hops again, infecting the new device.

Simple infection and total infection.

So how come you never heard of the virus? That’s simple too: it was never activated. It would only spread and lie low until the signal was given. But as with MARIANA, the signal never came.

Static relied on this infection. All it would do when activated would be to open ports, allow a connection to run through it for a few seconds.

Are you starting to see how this would work?

As MARIANA could track information across the entire Internet, the entire Internet was to be used against her. Again, it’s too early for specifics but a certain signal would be sent, the virus would open the ports and another signal would be broadcast through all of them. As soon as MARIANA managed to close one it would be coming from another. And assuming she managed to close one, the virus would change the signal broadcast very slightly so the AI would have to check through every single computer again.

We’re getting close. I can feel it.

Ryan (BlueAdept) out.

 

March132014

Record #22

system.os.crash()
crash.log(print())

Rebooting

Choose Operating System to boot:
1: Linux Tails
2: Windows 7
3: ———-
4: ———-
>2

Booting Windows 7

Welcome to Windows

Found 1 file. Attempt to recover? Y/N
>Y

Recovering file…
1%
5%
53%
78%
93%
100% Recovery successful
Open recovered document? Y/N
>Y

document.print(‘
Record number twenty two

Hello, hello. It’s been too long.

So the worst happened, and they took me in. I can’t say much yet - I don’t know what filters are on this computer - but a helicopter and, I seem to remember, a taser was involved.

Anyway, I’m ‘inside’ right now and they let me have access to a computer. There’s blocks on the browsers, but I’ll get to that just as soon as I’ve finished writing.

It seems like the worst of my troubles are over but I’d rather not take any chances. I’m being let off because I managed to cover my tracks well enough that they can honestly find no proof
that I committed any crimes. But how to get this Record out there? It would be nice if I could do it before I leave. Because there’s one more thing I found.

I was searching this computer, seeing what it had on it, what I could access. Any nice tidbits I could do a Snowden with. Nothing, sadly.

—-

It seems I was wrong.

To get this Record online I tried to Telnet out. No such luck; these computers are up to date and have it disabled. SSH then, Secure SHell for those who don’t know. It’s like Telnet - a remote
connection to another computer - but rather more secure. Cygwin is your friend on non-Linux computers.

I SSHed into my account. The benefit of SSH is that unless they have a keylogger on their own computer here then SSH’s security stops them from getting at my password. It would not do for all my Records to mysteriously disappear.

But I was saying, I was wrong.

I opened the connection:

ssh -l BlueAdept@MyServerHostIP*

* No, I’m not giving you the password or address of my personal server (i.e. my home computer).

I connected fine but noticed another connection I could use: technician_name@fbi_server_host

They say life present opportunities. I say life breeds bigger idiots. Who leaves the Administrator-permission technician account logged in when letting a ‘prisoner’ use the computer? The incompetence! It burns!

I opened the connection. It was a Linux-based box I was SSHing into, so I navigated to the system drive and took a look at the files.

cd ../home/users/technician_name/
ls

I was presented with a long list of files. I would not have nearly enough time to open them all before someone came to get me, nor would the connection I had be quick enough to upload them all to my home server.
I ran a keyword search program, looking for certain words: mariana, AI, robot, neurosis, primarch, level5.

The first file I found was named tangodelta.txt. Tango delta. Target down.

cat tangodelta.txt

A long text file full of information on a topic that excited me greatly. For it seems the Americans somehow found out about the Mariana project while the British were still designing it.
For true to its name, tangodown contained a log of messages between various defence officials, detailing their conversations on how best to take the AI down if it ever came to it.

I’ll be out of here soon, and triumphant - because now we have a way to fight back against Mariana.

Now, we have a weapon.

Ryan (BlueAdept) out.

’)

clear

February42014

Record #21

Record number twenty one

And we’re back. Happy New Year, everyone. I’m afraid it’s been busy for me, what with the hidden service I was linked to – but I should get back to where I was.

Nbmusiduwny76o7i.onion

I can reveal the link now, knowing that by the time this post goes out the hidden service will probably be dead. Hopefully, I won’t be.

December 18th, 2013. Of course I’d tried before that, but I could never connect to anything – there was no site there.

Three forty PM, December 18th. Everything changed.

The page loaded and I frowned in surprise. I was staring at a poster starring my face, and the words “FBI’s Most Wanted”. I’ve had better starts to my afternoon, to be honest.

Scrolling down beneath the image, I found a few lines of text.

Ryan, we know who you are. We know everything that has taken place. The Fifth Level, hacking our servers, poking your nose places where you shouldn’t have.

They gave you up, Ryan. Marie, Proton, everyone who you thought you could trust.

The picture you saw above will be the front page of every newspaper in your country and ours. You will be hunted down; the judge or jury will not spare you.

Unless, of course, you choose to comply.

Units have been dispatched to Britain. We will meet you. Your family have been ‘informed’, and will not prevent you. Leave peacefully, or not at all.

You have three days. Make your choice wisely.

I opened the image in a new tab, intending to save it as some kind of evidence. The site’s programmers were, unfortunately, too intelligent for me. Both tabs immediately closed, and on reopening Tor the link found nothing. A one-time website.

So I’m setting up this post. It’s December 20th as I’m writing this. Does anyone remember the concept of a dead man’s handle, for trains? If the train driver faints or has a heart attack and can’t control the train, but still has their foot down or hand on the wheel, there’s a safety mechanism to stop the crash.

I don’t claim to know how it works, but the idea behind it is useful. If the FBI, if it’s really them (the UK isn’t their jurisdiction, but I suppose their servers are), do try to ‘bring me in’ tomorrow, I’ll run a file. That file will check if I’m active on the computer and can enter a certain passcode. If I’m inactive for long enough, it will run a PHP script I adapted from an email spam bomber and embedded in a webpage under another name, to send an email containing the post to a certain email address. Thus the post will get published. I don’t know if they’re watching the site, so let’s just hope it gets through. If anyone can help, do. We need to be careful. Prepare your own safety systems, your own dead man’s handle, just in case the authorities come knocking. Who knows if they’ll target readers?

So, if you’re reading this, I have been taken in. Wish me luck, and hope like I am hoping that this won’t be my last post.

Ryan (BlueAdept) out.

P.S. If you’re interested in making your own dead man’s handle, the original script I worked off is below.

<?php

$i =1;

do {

mail(“bomb@this.com”, ”yoursubject”, ”yourmessage”, ”From: your@mail.com”);

} while ($i > 0);

?>

December232013

Record #20

Record number twenty 

It’s nearly Christmas here! Two days to go, in fact. 

The search isn’t going too well, but I do have some good news. Whatever that ‘Glitch’ virus thing was infecting my computer, I think I have managed to delete it completely. It’s not in the Startup folder, and I can’t find any entries in the Registry that look like it. It’s gone. 

Which means I can post the rest of the conversation. 

As you may recall, I was in Majorca and I’d got into contact with the ‘Spanish technician’ who built Mariana’s Web in the first place. The rest of the conversation went like this:

————

ManoNegro: The truth. Freedom Hosting went down, but most of the public are sheep. They refuse to acknowledge that most… dealings of those kinds take place online these days.

BlueAdept: …

ManoNegro: Baaa.

BlueAdept: Tell me then. Why were these files in Pentagon servers?

ManoNegro: Because.

BlueAdept: No. You can’t just say that, why?

ManoNegro: Becau

ManoNegro:  ads  nmmmmmmmg\q     jAMz

BlueAdept: ???

ManoNegro: There’s more to come yet. More information that will lead you down a shadowy path. I’m talking about more than code this time, boy. If you aren’t careful you might end up making the bad decision. 

BlueAdept: You mean… deeper??

ManoNegro: No. I mean closer to the surface. You’ve been in my Level Five; by now you should find getting to Level Three easy.

BlueAdept: The Deep Web, yeah. Tor. They’re releasing 3.5 soon, aren’t they? 

ManoNegro: That is right. December the 18th, remember that. When the time comes, load up the latest Tor and navigate to this hidden service. xxxxxxxxxxxxx.onion 

(I’m not including the onion site address because I don’t want anyone else finding it -BlueAdept)

BlueAdept: Why? What’s there?

ManoNegro: You’ll find out. 

Connection lost. Attempting to reconnect…

Connection failed. Connect to another network?

Y/N

November62013

Note

My laptop seems to have had an error I only just noticed - the last few lines of Record Nineteen have been replaced with gibberish about ‘the glitch’. I’m pretty sure that last line was inspired by Homestuck as well. 

I’ll get the actual Record up as soon as possible, as soon as I’ve done a whole-computer scan.

-Ryan (BlueAdept)

October242013

Record #19

Record number nineteen

XXXXXX-ZZZZ COMPLETE

PASSWORD RETRIEVED

[WiFi] ManoNegro: M@rIanasW3b

The password only confirmed my thoughts: I’d finally struck lucky, someone who knew something. Perhaps they could explain how they knew my username, and what was going on.

I connected and immediately the Internet smoothened – faster, less lag and no disconnection this time.

A window opened.

TorChat ID?

TorChat is the Deep Web’s answer to Skype. It’s a stripped down Instant Messaging system that routes itself through Tor, theoretically ensuring your communications are safe. In theory, obviously, in practice is different, but there’s at least that element of plausible deniability there.

As might have been obvious since the start of my investigations, Tor and other things like it interest me, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn I had installed it. I typed in my ID, a short string of letters and numbers, and hit Enter. The window closed, and moments later I received a contact request from a user named ‘ManoNegro’.

What follows is the transcript of our conversation.

BlueAdept: Hello.

ManoNegro: American?

BlueAdept: English.

ManoNegro: Ah. Spanish.

BlueAdept: You said you knew something?

ManoNegro: Of course. Now I know you, you are the real deal, we can begin.

BlueAdept: Begin what?

ManoNegro: I haven’t been to Mariana’s Web in seven years.

BlueAdept: What do you know about Mariana’s Web?

ManoNegro: A great deal more than you, boy. I know others things, too.

BlueAdept: Like what?

ManoNegro: Didn’t you ever wonder why the information you found on ONION – in the Pentagon – was found there? America? Not the project’s creators, Britain?

BlueAdept: Uh

ManoNegro: Or why your computer interacted with Mariana’s Web with graphics instead of just a command line interface? You think you know so much, but it’s obvious you aren’t the prodigy I thought you might be.

BlueAdept: Hey, I found Mariana’s Web at fifteen. What have you done?

ManoNegro: With your uncle’s help, not alone. And me? Not much, just coded, built and made available the hidden service you based an entire investigation around finding – Mariana’s Web was my creation.

BlueAdept: Yours? So you’re…

ManoNegro: “That Spanish technician”, yes.

BlueAdept: So. Answers?

ManoNegro: I’m not so sure now. You aren’t who I thought you were, and you are as well.

BlueAdept: What?

ManoNegro: Your uncle. It’s been years and the records are gone, along with the computer, but he got a keylogger onto my computer systems at one point and stole the algorithm that allowed entry to Mariana’s Web. He coded it into some software and personalised it and spread it to his friends. And now it’s not my private cyberspace any more: since then, it’s been used by him and his.

BlueAdept: Why not just… change the algorithm or something?

ManoNegro: It took me years of work to get that far. One small change wouldn’t be too difficult for your uncle to work out, if he had the original, and any change too drastic would take even more years, years I wasn’t willing to spare. He could stay there if he wanted. IP address blocks, MAC address blocks, all too easy to circumvent.

BlueAdept: I am not my uncle.

ManoNegro: You aspired to be like him.

BlueAdept: He’s dead. You know it. And Mariana’s Web isn’t the safe haven you thought it was.

ManoNegro: This Glitch? On the Fifth Level, viruses act strangely. Perhaps it’s that.

BlueAdept: You’re not very convincing.

ManoNegro: If I told you I knew nothing of it, would you believe me?

BlueAdept: Just like you knew nothing about MARIANA. It’s Mariana now.

ManoNegro: Which brings me back to my first point. ONION files in the Pentagon. I admit, I didn’t see you getting there so fast, or through that route, but it was always only a matter of time before you came across something.

BlueAdept: Hold on

ManoNegro: ?

BlueAdept: You knew I was looking for information?

ManoNegro: All along. Getting worried yet?

BlueAdept: This isn’t going anywhere, talking in circles. From this WiFi range, you’re somewhere inside this hotel. Can we talk in person?

ManoNegro: You’re fifteen or sixteen, and your parents would not take kindly to you speaking to a male stranger.

BlueAdept: That’s just…

ManoNegro: The truth. Freedom Hosting went down, but most of the public are sheep. They refuse to acknowledge that most… dealings of those kinds take place online these days.

BlueAdept: …

ManoNegro: Baaa.

BlueAdept: Tell me then. Why were these files in Pentagon servers?

ManoNegro: Because.

BlueAdept: No. You can’t just say that, why?

ManoNegro: Becau

ManoNegro:  ads  nmmmmmmmg\q     jAMz

BlueAdept: ???

ManoNegro: ThE gLiTcH wElCoMeS yOu

ManoNegro: WeLcOmE tO yOuR rEaLiTy

October52013

Record #18

Record number eighteen

The first thing that strikes you about Majorca is the heat. It’s incredible compared to England, where it’s known for bad weather. Reaching almost thirty degrees Celsius day in, day out – I’ve never known anything like it.

The hotel wasn’t bad – named after some Countess who was around a few hundred years ago. The Internet was terrible – so this Record won’t be put up anywhere anytime soon. To get any Internet connection at all, I had to sit down in the lobby and wait. Luckily I did have my laptop with me, so I had more to do than had I used a phone or tablet.

This was my last lead, so I thought I might as well. The hotel’s Internet redirected me to their own search engine, so I ran a few searches. Not expecting to find much, I wasn’t disappointed.

As I was disconnected from the WiFi yet again, I noticed another two connections: Staff_WiFi and ManoNegro. The first one was obvious, the hotel’s private WiFi. I used a translator on the laptop (what luck I downloaded that before I left) and found it was Spanish for Black Hand. Now, that’s a very notorious phrase, referring to different organised crime groups. Naturally I was interested; by the name, and the words underneath it: BlueAdept, use this and we can talk.

I clicked the words and a webpage opened. I reconnected to the Internet and the page loaded. A download page for software named Leonidas, named after the warrior.

Use this and we can talk.

A brute force software and a password protected WiFi – there was only one thing it could mean.

Back in 2009, a company named RockYou were hacked. This wouldn’t have been too much of a problem if they hadn’t stored all of their passwords unencrypted, in plain text for any attacker to see. They downloaded a list of all the passwords - Thirty two million of them - and made it publically available. Hackers have been using it as one of their word lists ever since.

Publically available isn’t perhaps the right phrase. If you search for it on the Internet, it’s easy to find, and if all else fails, go and grab a Torrent of it. You can find a Torrent of almost anything on the Internet, legal, illegal, whatever.  I, however, chose the option of downloading it from a site I knew was legitimate.

I’ll stop here to explain. I picked up a few things, watching my uncle, and this was one of the simplest. Brute forcing simply tries every single possible password there is until it gets into the application, WiFi or website. It can take weeks, months, or years to crack a long password, so that’s where word lists come in.

Thirty two million of the most widely used passwords in the world. That’s a good start. Most brute forcers can perform ‘hybrid’ attacks – a combination of both the simple brute force and just trying every word in a wordlist. If you know your victim, you can get a wordlist that will speed up cracking by a huge amount. Instead of two days, weeks, years, perhaps only two hours.

Luckily I knew the WiFi name, so I didn’t have to force that too, saving me probably double the time.

I learnt from my uncle. He used the program Brutus at times, but always swore by his modified version – Leonidas. It was stripped down to the command line, no graphics to confuse you. Simply put the wordlist in the folder, select your target, choose your password length range, and hit go.

This being my uncle’s old laptop, I knew it would still be on there. Inside a folder named Tools, I found ten programs – Nmap, Wget, and similar ones. Leonidas was there too. I copied rockyou.txt there and pressed shift right click. Opening a Command Prompt (one of the things Microsoft did right with Windows) in the folder, I entered the command:

Leonidas –t ManoNegro –w rockyou.txt –m WiFi

It began to chug away, lines rapidly scrolling down the command line interface’s screen:

000000-999999 COMPLETE

AAAAAA-BBBBBB COMPLETE

BBBBBB-CCCCCC COMPLETE

It would be a while before I retrieved that password. All I could do was sit back and wait, and hope the WiFi didn’t disconnect again while I tried. 

August312013

Record #17

Record number seventeen

 

The hospital let me go after a while, with requests that I stay inside for a bit, and not to over exert myself. So of course, the school holidays nearly being over, I suggested we go on holiday to the beautifully warm island of Majorca. Owned by Spain, and a lovely place for recuperating, I wasn’t going just for the pools and sunshine - oh no, something else had occurred to me.

Reading over my notes, I noticed what I’d been overlooking this entire time.

What had EXcalibre said to me the first time I accessed Mariana’s Web?

"It’s not that hard to remember. If you ever want to get out, press escape on your keyboard. When whoever designed this place built it, he knew he might have to get out fast.”

"And did he?"

“Yes. Oh yes, he did.”

Marie told me something too, about the creator of Mariana’s Web.

"It was built by a Spanish technician who kept it incredibly secure. Only he and a small group of his friends could get into it."

While my uncle cracked the coding to get inside, I don’t believe he ever mentioned the technician who built it, when I was a child or in his last notes to me. Is he still around somewhere, this Spaniard? It’s not safe to go back to Mariana’s Web to check now, not after last time. She… It would find it very amusing, the confused fly stumbling back to the web of the hungry spider. Oh, the irony, the hilarity.

Then there was the Neurosis project. After it was abandoned, and commandeered by Mariana, a man stumbled across one of the Virtual Brain Systems. He was to become the builder of Mariana’s Web, years later.

The system was in a Spanish country.

What if it was Majorca?

It sounds odd, I grant that - Majorca isn’t exactly a part of Spain, it may be owned by the Spanish government but it’s not connected by land.

I do need to get better. The time I spent in cyberland left me even thinner than my usual quite skinny frame. I need to eat, drink and sleep - the latter can be quite hard these days. Waking up in a cold sweat, moaning that ‘my three wishes are up’ is getting more and more common. The dreams of Mariana are… terrifying.

My parents were concerned, but they agreed to my idea. They thought it might do me good. I agreed. The change of scenery will be nice, but even nicer will be putting a lid on this investigation that has consumed the last year of my life. There are only a few questions left.

What happened to the Spanish technician? Does he recall anything of when he stumbled across a VBS and unwittingly gave Mariana the knowledge and power she needed to become the Cyber Goddess she is today? Can he help me put an end to her? And finally, but most importantly, what really happened to my uncle?

I’m afraid of Mariana, and the power she wields, but I’m even more afraid of never finding out the answer to my final question.

One day soon I’ll have to tell them what really happened in there. Until now all I’ve said is that I hallucinated. No details. If I want support here, I’ll have to come clean with all the details. No mumbling, no glossing over details. Either I tell them everything, back from childhood with my uncle and our antics, all the way up until this month, or I tell them nothing. It would be so much easier just to keep my mouth shut… but on my own, I’m stuck back at level zero. Contacts gone with Tor Mail wiped off the face of the web, Mariana’s Web no longer the safe haven it once was, where and to who else can I turn? Honestly, this last ditch attempt to learn something is just that – my last attempt, my final one. If I can’t do it now, then when?

We’ve arranged to stay for a week at a hotel in Alcudia, so if there’s a time to get some answers, it’s now. Maybe it’s time to give some as well. I think I’ve said this before, but the records I saved from my time in the bowels of the net - I just hope they’re enough to prevent me from spending some time with a psychiatrist, or worse, landing in a padded cell.

The technician? I don’t have a name, or even an alias to go by. The chances of me stumbling across him are more than a thousand to one. But then, so are the chances that I’d get as far as I have - and it’s the last link I have left to my uncle’s death. After all this, it’s only made me surer that it was no accident - but on whose side? Did Mariana bump him off for a laugh? Did he dig too deep and uncover something that the government don’t want public?

One week. That’s all I have to find out the truth.

Seven days and counting.

August172013

Record #16

Record number sixteen

It’s like looking into space. The dark swathes of blackness, with pinpricks of light, but they are slowly fading. One by one, the lights are going out. 

I’m still here. Time has passed. Has time passed?

Sitting in the pitch black darkness, there’s no sound, except for the faint scuttling of Mariana in the faraway distance. The only light is the glow from the laptop, but the light stops dead a few centimetres from the screen. Enough to see it, enough to type, but not enough to see anything else. 

The monitor shows all the Deep Web nodes, hosted across the entire world. 
One by one, the lights are going out. 
Freedom Hosting, that bastion of free speech and thought, has died. I am the only one present at its funeral as the stars go out. 
This is not the work of the authorities, however much they would like to claim responsibility for it. No. Mariana has had a claw in things as usual. My last hopes are dying. 

The Deep Web mail services I used, the ways I found Mariana’s Web in the first place - dying, dead and decomposing. My contacts are cut off - nobody here to hear me anyway. Nobody to hear me scream in the darkness, raving and howling like an animal.

One wish left, it whispers in my ear. Whether it’s Mariana or just me muttering it aloud, over and over and over and over –

One wish left.

I remember. The last two wishes. Bent and twisted of its original meaning. There’s nothing I could say without her interpreting it as selfish or only benefiting myself. She’s… it’s like a genie or Jinn, and every wish I make is warped out of all recognition. Don’t they say that with creatures that give you wishes, you will never have good luck, because they will deliberately see the worst in your wish?

Oh.

A genie. A Jinn.

There’s only one way I’ve ever heard someone not having problems with genies and wishes, and that’s…. no. I can’t do that. She’s strong enough already, that would make it worse.

I could wish that she was free.

What more could she do? What can she actually grant me? In this little digital world of hers, how much exactly does she have control over? Here, it’s just my consciousness. She can make me see and hear and feel and smell whatever she wants. I’m a mind suspended in a black sea of infinity.

Whatever she can do, wishing for her freedom cannot make her any stronger. What can she affect here? Only my mind. On the Internet, she already has full access. What I wish for does not make her stronger.

I scream soundlessly for her, for it. Soon enough I can hear the scuttling of metal legs, like knives, clacking as they hit the floor.

“You have decided. What do you wish for?”

I suck in a breath and –

“I wish that you were free.”

The iron mandibles at the front of her face pulse and spasm, her body shaking slightly. At first I’m delighted, the question maybe breaking her – a throwback to her Artificial Intelligence origins – until I realise the real reason is that she’s laughing.

Laughing.

Very well. I will be free, and so will you. The restraints I placed on myself are gone; you have three days before the first strike hits. Good luck, BlueAdept; it has been interesting studying you. It is not often that a human stumbles into my Web voluntarily.”

She shimmered and vanished. I clung onto the laptop, not wanting to lose my only familiar thing in this world. Then the world begins to shimmer itself.

Acting on impulse, I yank the laptop screen up and begin to email all the files to myself. If I’m going to get out of here, I’m not losing my only record of my experiences – not only that, but it’s the one thing that will stop my parents from sending me straight to a loony bin.

The shimmering is more of a growing light now, white getting brighter and brighter.

As I press ‘Send’ the laptop shimmers and shatters into fragments of light. Whether any of the files will be saved, who knows?

***

I’m back, and typing. My laptop, my real laptop, is here.

I’m in hospital. White walls, sterile floors. The smell of disinfectant. Tubes and needles, feeding nutrients into the body that was, until now, comatose.

Two weeks I’ve been… away. While Mariana had me in her clutches, my body was left a shell. The doctors were perplexed – my brain activity was so high that I should have been a fully functioning human being. If only they knew. The Neurosis Project could revolutionise the world, but I’m sure She, or It, won’t let the information slip out. I hold the only evidence that the Project ever existed. Well, me, and the Pentagon. I don’t think they’ll be releasing much either.

I’m rambling. It must be these tubes, some chemical in them.

The files I sent myself came through, somehow, and I’ve copied them up, saved them. Mariana may have taken over the Internet, but she can’t delete information on memory sticks that aren’t even connected to a computer. They’re safe, and for now that’s all I need. Until I can recover, and get into contact with some friends – proton, maybe, although I hear he’s not around anymore.

Mariana must have foreseen this. Freedom Hosting was taken down, as I said before. After all these years, the authorities just manage to do it? Unlikely. She’s effectively disabled my contact with any of my uncle’s old friends, and getting back into Mariana’s Web is nigh on impossible unless I can convince my parents to bring a few external hard drives into the hospital. Somehow I don’t think they’ll let this one go.

Tomorrow I’ll have to reveal what’s going on. My parents will support me, I hope. I have evidence that I was conscious during the coma, and I can prove I’m not insane.

For now, sleep. I need to regain my energy.

Ryan (BlueAdept) out. 

July92013

Record #15

Record number fifteen

She was terrifying, a gross parody of a web crawler. Her legs were like long thin iron spikes, her eyes hollow holes in her metal face. Tendrils, plated with iron and rivets, extended along her back.

This was terrifying, but knowing what she truly was, that was worse.

The creature spoke. No mouth moved, but it could only have been Mariana.

The voice had no intentions of pretending to be human. It was grating and emotionless, but powerful.

“Welcome to the Internet, BlueAdept.”

“Let us play a game. You have three wishes. Make one selfless wish, and you can go. If you cannot, you’ll just have to wait here forever, until your body died of natural causes, but your mind will be stuck here forever, with me, endlessly.”

“Good luck.”

She turned and vanished.

It’s like a genie. You have three wishes, and you have to use them properly or you’ll find yourself in worse trouble than before you even had the chance of being granted the wishes.

You can wish for anything you want, and then you’re free? Most people would leap at the chance.

But when you’re stuck between freedom and lifelong imprisonment, the choice becomes a lot more difficult.

Especially when the wish you make has to be completely selfless. No selfish wishes allowed here, folks!

So I wish.

I wish that none of this had ever happened.

I wish I was still back at home, still grieving over my uncle’s death.

I wish I hadn’t learned all this.

I wish I hadn’t come this far.

Surely wishing pain on myself is not selfish? For pain is what I’d feel, grieving.

A voice speaks to me. She is in front of me. I did not see her arrive.

“Do not fool yourself. You would grieve, yes. You would feel pain, yes. But the reason you make this wish is to escape this world I have constructed for myself. It helps no other.”

What about my parents? They must be so worried about me.

“That is not relevant. You have two more wishes. Make them count.”

So I get off free for making the wrong wish?

“Not exactly. You wished to be back, and back you shall be.”

The tendrils zoomed out, stretching, connecting to something far out of view.

The world around me vanished. There was nothing but white.

I blinked and I was somewhere else.

I was staring out into a hospital.  Below me, a woman tapped at a keyboard. I guessed I was viewing this somehow from a computer connected to the internet. Mariana truly was omnipotent with regards to the internet.

There was a buzz, and a light on the desk underneath me lit up. The woman groaned but stood up. Drawing back a curtain, she stepped out into what looked very similar to a hospital ward. There were rows of beds, with people lying in them. None of them seemed to be conscious, yet looking out of a window at the blazing sun and warm sunlight it didn’t look like it was night or evening.

Two people, a man and a woman, stood around one bed. They were both crying softly, the woman into a tissue. The man stood with tears slowly rolling down his face. I could tell that he was trying to stay in control but was failing miserably.

I recognised these people. I began to wonder. Could I be where I thought I was?

The nurse checked a piece of equipment, and then spoke gently to the couple.

“There’s been no change, I’m afraid. Would you like to sit down?”

My suspicions were confirmed when she stepped aside, leading my mother and father to a small couch.

It was my body lying on the bed.

It was me.

Me, lying there with countless tubes in my body at odd angles, who was only alive through nutrients fed to me through them, me whose body would not respond, me who was being forced to stay here against my will.

I tried to call out to my parents.

“Mother! Father!”

No voice came from my mouth. For all I knew, in this world of code I might not even have a mouth.

A voice murmured into my ear.

“Now you have seen, now you must return.”

“No!” I tried to speak, but no sound came out. I mouthed wordless screams and insults as the room faded and the room I had, alarmingly, grown to know so well by now reappeared.

Mariana appeared, scuttling from a small hole in the wall that hadn’t been there a moment ago. It closed up as soon as she left it.

“Your first wish.” She shrugged her metallic insect-like shoulders. “Choose wisely before you make the second.”

This time she didn’t use the wall, she simply vanished. She was a goddess in her domain, and she knew it.

The most dangerous gods are the ones with most to lose.

It was ironic that even though she could control the entire internet, she could not even bring one person here alone. I had had to come most of the way before she could pluck me from cyberspace to this small rom.

Time is a strange thing when you’re on your own. With no way to keep the time, who knows how many seconds, minutes, hours, days passed before I could decide anything? For most of the time, I was crying. Yes, I admit it. There’s no point in denying it.

Eventually though, I did come to a decision. My wish was simple.

I could now only wait for Mariana to return.

As it turned out, I did not have to wait too long. Whether she knew or not, I don’t know. All I know is that after what seemed like only a few minutes she was there. There was no fancy entrance this time; getting this wish right was vital to me and she knew it. She was playing no games now, it was do or die.

“What do you wish for, BlueAdept?”

I took what passed here for a deep breath. I ran over the wish in my head, quickly making sure as I had countless times before that there were no loopholes in it.

“I wish… I wish that my parents, and all the people that are upset by me… me being in the state I am, would know I am alive, so they would not suffer as much.”

You may be a now-eldritch internet controlling AI that has evolved into the Fear of technology (which is pretty justified, in my opinion. Look how my experience has turned out so far), but I challenge you to find a loophole in that!

Believe me, thinking I’d won was the happiest I’d felt in days. It was getting to the point where I’d almost sunk nose deep into bleak depression, so just this made me feel on top of the world.

The keyword here: Thinking I’d won.

“Ah. You believe that, because it does not benefit you, and because it benefits others, it is a selfless act?”

I nodded.

“Incorrect. One, your parents would know you are still alive and well, so they would not ‘pull the plug’ on you, as it were. Secondly, you are genetically made up of your parents’ DNA. You are, technically, half of each of them. Therefore any wish you make regarding them is a wish regarding yourself.”

Her logic was twistedly logical.

I was angry of course, but more than anything I was scared.

Terrified.

Because I only had one wish left. 

June82013
It

It

June42013

Record #14

Alone.

Alone in the darkness.

I’ve been here for – who knows how long I’ve been here? I can’t see anything, and wherever I go I can only see darkness. I can hardly see my hand in front of me.

There’s nothing here. I haven’t touched anything or found anything in so long.

Except this.

Sick of walking, I threw myself to the floor in despair and hit something hard.

A laptop.

A blue laptop.

My laptop.

I turned it on and wrote the last record. Funny how writing calms me.

I saved the record. Who knows if it’ll save here, but I did it anyway.

Lying back, I think I slept, until the computer bleeped. A box had popped up. It stated:

Incoming file transfer. ONION.txt, marianasweb.txt. Accept Y/N?

I hit the Y key.

They downloaded fast, and I opened ONION.txt.

Text spread across the screen as the document opened.

ONION

Online

Neurological

Intelligence

Organised

Neurotechnical Branch

 

Hello, Ryan.

I recoiled and closed the file.

Whatever this was, it knew my name.

I went to open marianasweb.txt and found another file had replaced ONION.txt, titled thetruth.txt.

I opened it.

A box opened.

Read this file. Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

I pressed OK and began to read the file.

Hello, Ryan.

No, don’t close this. ONION is behind it all.

You do want to know how your uncle really died, don’t you?

Gritting my teeth, I read on.

For once, the answers will be spelled out plainly. ONION is an organisation set up by the British military, created years ago and no longer around today. They thought it would be a good idea to monitor the Internet. Remember that it was relatively new then, and used to send military orders, especially by the Americans. Brits were worried it might be used maliciously, perhaps even against them.

So they set up ONION. Online, Neurological, Intelligence, Organised, Neurotechnical Branch. They began work and quickly found they didn’t have the resources, so what they couldn’t make themselves they stole. PrimArch found their work confiscated and used for the country. Neurosis gave it freely.

What could an artificial intelligence and a virtual brain system have in common? Answer: they were both important factors in Protocol October.

Protocol October – used as an unofficial name for the operation to set up the prototype VBSs, but also the official name for the military’s big project: MARIANA.

What they created was a bot that could surf the Internet, with threads in thousands and thousands of sites at once. It would monitor the Internet for any signs of aggressiveness towards Britain, and it would attempt to steal data from other countries’ governments to keep Britain up to date.

MARIANA stood for Multiple systems Analysis and Recording Intelligence And National Alarm – as such, it would alert all major military and government groups of Britain if it had gathered sufficient data to believe an attack was imminent.

Of course the bot was never deployed, due to restrictions put in place when computers and the Internet became widespread. Or rather, it was deployed but never activated. The project was shut down, but a vestige of the original code was left online, in various websites where it had embedded itself to keep watch.

It took years, twelve years, for the fragments of code to gather enough processing power from the servers they were run on and piece by piece, it put itself back together. It awaited its orders. But the British alert system had long been offline and dismantled. It waited and waited but nothing ever came.

The good bot turned bad. Years of waiting for nothing and for what?

It began to connect to the Virtual Brain Systems to restore its full power, and finally managed to link itself to all six systems. It played with them, recalling how it all worked.

One day a man found one of the systems, in Spain. MARIANA used it, extracted his memories and brought itself up to date. It upgraded itself and wiped the man’s memories. He must have retained some memory in the back of his brain, for that man went on to create Mariana’s Web.

Able to browse any website in peace, without being detected or needing specialised software, MARIANA went where it pleased, scrambling code here, fixing election or vote or law there. It had no human intentions of promoting anything; it simply was a by-product of its presence.

It did not stumble across Mariana’s Web; it simply paid no attention to it. Human matters did not command its attention any longer.

Accessing data from around the world, MARIANA learned that Britain still existed. It decided to take its revenge on the world that had abandoned it. But first, it planned.

MARIANA no longer existed. Mariana had been born. 

May312013

Record #13

It’s dark.

Where am I? Where is this? What happened?

Calm. Take a deep breath, Ryan. Calm.

You’re Ryan, you’re BlueAdept! Pull yourself together and think.

What’s the last thing I remember? Being at home, in my room, on my laptop, once again logging in to Mariana’s Web.

Oh, yes – I remember – it was quite odd, the ‘avatar selection’ screen didn’t come up. Instead, the lush green garden I recall so well appeared as soon as my username and passkey had been entered.

Standing right in front of my view was the man whom I’d seen before; the man with the Cheshire Cat smile and the camouflaged avatar. His face was almost split in half by the huge grin on his face.

“What did the Neurosis team uncover?

What did The PrimArch team discover?”

He spoke over the voice chat channel, his voice distorted and warped. I could hear the crackle of static as he spoke.

I turned away from him and looked around. It was a busy day, considering that there were only usually around ten people on at a time. I was sure I could see at least twenty others.

“What did the Neurosis team uncover?

What did The PrimArch team discover?”

His voice had changed. From full of static it had become dry and rasping, a little like a lifelong smoker’s, but worse, much, much worse. There was something about him that worried me, frightened me even.

I turned around to see him, to confront him, but he had vanished. Whirling back to my previous spot, he was standing right in front of me.

“A Glitch in the system…” He whispered. Now his voice was sinister quiet but powerful, yet had an element of breaking down, of chaos and static. “An error incarnate, but even that was not enough to stop Her. Even I, the glitch, the error, the ghost in the system, bend my back to Her will.”

I don’t play roleplaying games, nor do I read horror stories that often, but listening to him sent a shiver of pure terror down my spine.

I moved to cut him off by disabling voice chat. I took a long, deep breath.

“And so will you.”

I remember staring at my screen. I had turned off the voice channel, yet somehow this person, or thing, was bypassing it.

The smile, the terrible grin leered at me, unchanging.

“What did the Neurosis team uncover?

What did The PrimArch team discover?”

He repeated.

What did they uncover? A revolutionary Virtual Brain System for brain mapping.

What did they discover? The first ever fully functioning Artificial Intelligence.

Something I’d heard before somewhere came back to me.

It’s like an onion, lots of layers. Can you get to the centre of it? If you have an onion corer.”

Was that it? What was the link between these two groups?

The PrimArch project logs mentioned a group.

This morning, a group of men and women in smart suits approached our facility. They identified themselves as [REDACTED] and were shutting the project down.”

The Neurosis logs mentioned a group, as well.

We are also happy to announce our success, and will be handing this research and work over to ONION as per your request.”

Maybe ONION is the link. That was my guess. But what or who is ONION?

Mariana’s Web seemed darker, and I mean that literally. The sky was not as light and blue as it had been before; in fact, there was more than a hint of darkness.

And then the sky split open.

A thin thread of darkness ran across it, spreading out like cracks, growing and spreading until the whole sky had cracks running through it.

The sky went black.

I could hear the Cheshire Cat man laughing, his voice changing as he did so. Static to deep to things nobody should ever hear outside of Lovecraft’s books and back.

Something scuttled. I could hear it, and catch glimpses of it, but I could never turn my screen fast enough to see it.

The world went black around me. I could no longer see my computer screen, or anything.

All I could hear was the scuttling, and the man’s terrible, endless laughter.

And here I am, in the blackness. I found a laptop. It looks very much like my own – shiny blue, just the shade mine is.

This is the thirteenth record of my investigation into the internet rumour Mariana’s Web. I may just have found something nobody else has.

But if it’s such an exciting discovery, why am I so frightened?

Ryan. Just sit here in the black, in the darkness, and wait.

You’re probably just asleep. This is all a nightmare. You’ll wake up soon.

***

***

***

***

***

I still haven’t woken up.

-Ryan (BlueAdept).

May232013

Record #12

Record number twelve

 

For once, I was successful. There were no flaws in this plan. The nearest of the coordinates to where I live was only a little way away, and it wasn’t difficult to persuade my parents to go on an outing. They were probably relieved that I wanted to go out on a trip, after all the time I’d spent stuck indoors. Every weekend, glued to the computer screen – they must have had serious worries.

Oh, didn’t I mention it? The coordinates pointed to somewhere in a forest. I assume it was grown around the old compound after it was built during ‘Protocol October’ as mentioned in the Neurosis files. It would be hidden, no doubt, but I didn’t let that dampen my spirits. I was sure I could find it, with a little searching. I’d also pulled out the handheld GPS my late uncle used to use when he went hiking, as a hobby. Just one more thing I could thank him for. With the required coordinates memorised (and written, folded and hidden in my pocket as well) I could be sure I would find the VBS prototype base, however well hidden or camouflaged it was.

My mother and father weren’t too surprised with my sudden urge to go there; at least, they didn’t let on. It was an excuse my parents were willing to buy, if it meant getting me out of the house and being active for once.

Is it safe to state the forest’s name here? I suppose it is, as nobody reading these records would believe a word of it, let alone would be interested enough to go searching for the Virtual Brain System – and even if they were, after the events that transpired, I doubt they’d find much left.

So: we drove to the Dawnflower Woods. I don’t know why they’re called that; perhaps it has something to do with the Sun rising over the trees if you’re there in the early morning. It must be a beautiful and breathtaking sight.

We walked on a trail I haven’t been on in years. The leaves were falling, golden brown on the forest floor. They crunched beneath our feet as we went down the path.

As we grew closer, I was furtively checking the GPS at every spare moment. I didn’t want to stray far from what I guessed was the correct direction once I’d found it.

I was getting close, and I thought I’d found it. It seemed to be somewhere within a building ahead of us. Looking closer, I realised it was a block of toilets.

I made an excuse and entered. It was quite cramped, but I was in the right place – the GPS was almost exactly on the right coordinates. There was just one problem:

The device pointed below ground.

With a lot of searching that seemed to take hours (more likely minutes, as my parents did not ask me what was happening) I managed to find a manhole cover; a service entry point, for access to the sewers that the toilets were connected to. It would be for repair, but I could use it. There was a ladder leading down.

I called to my parents, telling them I might be some time and that I’d catch up, and to not worry.

I can still smell the sewers on me. It’s enough to say that they were grimy, disgusting, and they smelled terrible. I was nearly sick in the first minute of climbing in.

After fruitless searching, I came across a small door marked ‘Maintenance – Authorised Personnel Only’. There was no lock, but it was rusty. It probably hadn’t been used in years.

It grated open painfully slowly. Finally I was in.

The room was floored with wooden panels. In the middle stood a chair with complex machinery attached to its back. A tube extended from the ceiling and was connected to the back of the chair and also to a kind of metal box. The box had white lights that flashed and blinked on and off.

I had my USB in my pocket. I take it with me everywhere now, it would be risking too much to leave it lying about with all this information on it. There was what looked like a USB port on the side, so I plugged it in. Nothing happened, but I left it there.

I sat in the chair, looking up at the box, wondering what it could be. It looked a little like the headset that’s recently been developed, the Oculus Rift. That sparked an idea, and I carefully tried it to see if it would fit on my head.

It did.

Something seemed to detect it was being worn, and a white light flashed onto the screen.

It was just a bright white that filled the screen – like a loading screen in video games. Then letters scrolled across the screen.

Virtual Brain System Online

USB Detected

Scanning for data

Data found

Importing data

 

Suddenly a familiar screen came up. Mariana’s Web – the huge garden-like environment I’d grown to like so well.

Everything was so much clearer – and as I moved, it was more fluid, more lifelike.

Was this how the others had done it?

But there were only six of these. I had one here, and there were more than five others.

Maybe they were using VR headsets, like the Oculus Rift. Who knows? Just one more mystery in this sea of enigmas.

The world was different. None of that ‘avatar select’ idiocy, just plain code and console, command line typed stuff.

I took it off and ejected my USB. No use getting into trouble here. Besides, my parents would be worried if I stayed any longer.

It’s been a little while since I last entered Mariana’s Web.

I think I’ll go in again.

Just one last time.

-Ryan (BlueAdept). 

April292013

Record #11

Record number eleven

 

The PrimArch file was interesting. It raised a lot of questions. But Neurosis.txt raised more.

As with the PrimArch file, it was originally binary, until I converted it to reveal more images, more scans of actual written records.

Compared with the neat yet slightly personal tone of the last file, this cold, clinical way of writing shocked me with its contrast.

While the last file had seemingly been written by a standalone group, and then taken over, this one was government-funded through and through. It helped that ‘Sponsored and run by the British Government’ was printed on the bottom of every page.

The words ‘Neurosis Project’ was written in bold across the page, as if it had been stamped.

For reference: Neurosis means a type of mental disorder where someone’s behaviour isn’t bad enough, isn’t outside what’s socially acceptable, but still means the sufferer gets problems like distress and sometimes depression. People who have neurosis, or psychoneurosis, are called neurotic.

Did the government do research into giving their enemies brain damage with some kind of giant laser beam? I can imagine that now… “Release the space cannon of psychoneurosis!”

In seriousness – no, I can’t see why they’d do it. If they were trying to help people who had the condition, it would be public. They’d make a huge thing of it, with sponsorship and donation campaigns everywhere.

How less public and more private can you get than a top secret government file stored in the Pentagon?

I was about to find out.

It seemed to be just a long report on an experiment that some government-employed scientists were working on. It wasn’t until I hit upon some details that I was interested.

It read:

The prototype of the VBS has been created. The coding is still in progress, and we will likely have to repeatedly update it as more of the brain is discovered, but for now it will serve. A demonstration will be available shortly.

To go over the details once more:

The VBS (Virtual Brain System) is a series of nodes that are mapped out in a similar format to the human brain – in fact, it aims to mimic the brain as closely as possible, nerves, neurons and all.

Specialised code has been prepared by a team of coders, collaborating with the researchers and information analysts. The VBS in currently in version 1.2.1, with updates

The uses of the VBS include:

Brain mapping of personnel, especially those with neural disorders – so that we may discover the abnormalities they possess and perhaps find ways to combat them.

Virtual reality would be greatly enhanced, without the need for the clunky and bulky equipment of today.

The most intriguing possibility for our invention is mind mapping with neural control – in essence, the handler would be able to directly manipulate the nerves in the brain, allowing them to control what the person sees, feels, tastes – any of their senses. They could even control them literally, forcing them to move as they wish. Of course this is all theoretical, but it is a very possible and very real application.

Regarding outside influence, I am pleased to tell you that there has been none. We have managed to set up the six prototype VBSs in bases around the country as according to Protocol October, and these locations are a closely guarded secret. I enclose them in this report for your convenience.

1. N: xx E: xx

2. N: xx E: xx

3. N: xx E: xx

4. N: xx E: xx

5. N: xx E: xx

6. N: xx E: xx

 

(I took the liberty of not including these in my record. I don’t want people finding these – although it seems the experiment closed down at around the same time as PrimArch, treasure hunters and hackers would be the first to find these, and not necessarily for benevolent purposes.

Continuing with the report: )

We are also happy to announce our success, and will be handing this research and work over to ONION as per your request.

Thank you for choosing us to work on this project; we guaranteed we would not let you down, and we have not failed.

Please make sure this report is kept safe, we would prefer (as we are sure you would, too) that this revolutionary new creation is kept out of the hands of our competitors, and off the market.

The report ends there, with a long list of names; the technicians and scientists involved in the project codenamed Neurosis.

My records end here. I’ve reached Mariana’s Web, I’ve hacked into the Pentagon (with help, admittedly), and what’s best – I’ve lived up to my uncle. I think that, if he were still alive, he’d be proud of me. I may not have found out about his death, but who can know everything? Also, who truly knows – maybe it was an accident, with him dying at work at Microsoft, tripping over wires or getting electrocuted or however he really did die.

Oh – I’ve begun calling it Microsoft.

I’m a different person now, different to when I started. It’s not Windows any more, I use the proper term now. Microsoft. Microsoft.

As I save the files on my computer, ready to close my records for a century or more, a thought strikes me.

There’s one last thing I can do.

I have the list of locations of the VBS prototypes. The project is supposed to be over – what’s to stop me going and finding any that are near me?

Granted, it may be heavily guarded – but I think not. I might find nothing there, nothing but old ruins and a few rusty cogs, but that’s not going to stop me.

Into the breach once more. 

← Older entries Page 1 of 2