Chapter 1082: Network Security

I sat in my office, reading through the reports that had been delivered by Lifre. It had now been three weeks since her discovery of the black stone, so she had taken both Petra and the local World Spirit on an adventure. Throughout the process, they documented six different sets of black stones, the spirit noting that these appeared to be all of the stones on the floor.

Of the six stones, none of them led to the same destinations, nor did any of them lead to either a uppermost or innermost floor, meaning that this would not allow for the convenient exploration of other planets in Fyor. Additionally, none of these stones went to the same planet as the one that they had been exploring, as all of the stones only connected to lower level floors.

However, upon exploring these other floors, they found one that possessed mana stones. According to Lifre’s speculation, as this was the only other floor where they found such a material, it was likely to be the next step of James’s original path, but this couldn’t be confirmed. After all, without the World Spirit able to join them on the other side of each set of stones, they were unable to confirm whether or not there were any other, similar materials in any of the six locations.

Regardless of this, Lifre was happy to conclude her investigation there. I was worried that she might try to trace his path through the mana core, but she didn’t go that far. Even Lifre was wary of the dangers posed by the creatures that resided within this area.

While Lifre was having her adventure, there was little else of note. The second wave of test engines failed, though this time they had the foresight to send unmanned ships. Because of this, there was still no reliable method of exploring outside of the Hyperlane Network yet.

Additionally, Aznod had worked to popularize a new cooking method, modified from how the Hajit prepare their street food. These new ‘flavored energy’ packs were circulating primarily around Deckan, but were starting to make themselves evident in other worlds too. I even tried it for myself, and found that it was exceptional. Tsubaki had begun practicing to make it herself.

On an unrelated note, I had received the list of proposed trades from Bellarose, and had taken the time to review it. For the most part, I didn’t see anything that I thought was important. They had a few interesting inventions, but nothing really that seemed worth paying a large amount of points for. If anything, just the idea of the inventions would be enough for some research teams to create them..

Perhaps the most special item on the list was a memetic monitor. According to the trade list, this was a refined system that could be uploaded into a large-scale network, and would constantly be on the lookout for any ‘infected information’. Once such information was found, it would be promptly censored, with an alert sent to relevant authorities.

This reminded me of the divine abilities that Lavender had developed, but on a much larger scale. After seeing this on the list and realizing what it meant, I sent him a message to ask more about it. Thankfully, he seemed rather inclined to share.

According to Bellarose, the memetic monitor was created due to a large-scale void outbreak on his world, which led to numerous void beasts attacking various planets. At the time, his Fallen Gods were unable to mobilize on a large enough scale to deal with the threat, so there was chaos for quite a while. To prevent such an event from happening again, he created this, which he claimed was capable of detecting memetic influence from both void beasts and more local sources.

Additionally, it could interact with cameras that were hooked up to the same system as it, hiding any dangerous information from being spread. However, he did include a warning with the detailed description, and that was that the system had to be replaced once every year, with its past data wiped and reinstalled.

In truth, the system could maintain normal functions for at least a century before any corruption set in. However, if the load on the system was especially heavy, whether due to an excessively large system or the appearance of numerous entities that had to be censored, this lifespan could shorten drastically. To ensure safety, the one-year timeframe was created. After all, there was no way to properly monitor the corruption rate of the system without risking the person doing the inspection themselves becoming infected.

Only allowed on

I had to admit that I was quite tempted when I saw this item. I knew that Bellarose was a Keeper that had ‘retired’ at the highest point of the Fourth Rank. Because of this, he had access to a lot of methods related to the void. Something like a filter to censor out infected information was a welcome addition.

Afterwards, I asked if there were any notable downsides of the system, to which he admitted that there were two. Because all infected information is equally censored, it simultaneously prevents the spread of beneficial memes and at the same time allows people to communicate by infecting the information with harmless memetic influence.

The former case could prevent the ruling power from spreading a calming effect to the populace, or even an anti-meme to counter a widespread infection. In order to do so, the entire system had to be temporarily taken offline. As for the latter case, the most that could be known was that a group of people were communicating via infected information, but the contents of their conversations would be completely unknown.

As for the price of this system, he offered it to me for a full one hundred thousand points. This was… a large sum of points. Admittedly, I had the points, but I would need to discuss with the others on whether I wanted to get the system from him, or if Chelsea and the others thought that they would be able to create it on their own.

I told Bellarose that I would let him know my decision with plenty of time to spare before the deadline, preparing to shift my attention to other matters. There had still been no new purchases for Ashley’s latest game, unfortunately, so it seemed like this project had operated at a net loss. Thankfully, she was undeterred, and had already set up an office from which she could work together with Galahan in real time. I wasn’t sure at first how she would manage to do this, but the results actually surprised me. Because Ascension had a rather small playerbase, she recruited the artificial intelligence behind the game, known as Mary.

Mary, being a unique type of entity that could connect to both the Admin Room and the mortal world without any delay, was capable of real-time communication. From this office, she could send any requirements from Galahan to the workers in the Admin Room, and vice versa. Moreover, because she was the primary spirit of Ascension, she was uniquely suited to help them create the NPCs in that game.

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Udona had been keeping a careful watch on the reports coming in through her office, wary for anything that might have led to the scenario that Phisher had previously foreseen. From what she could tell, there didn’t seem to be any continuing problems, no sudden interest in memetic research.

She had even checked to make sure that it had nothing to do with the food that Aznod brought back from the Hajit city, confirming multiple times that the food had absolutely no relation to memetic properties. Everything that she found pointed towards the cause having been the universal language that she had squashed when Phisher gave his initial report.

Of course, she couldn’t be certain that was the case. After all, Phisher did not show a guaranteed future, but rather only a possible one. It was possible for the universal language to be created without any risk of mutation, but the future that he saw changed that. Either way, his predictions had saved the world more than once, so she was inclined to prepare for the worst. Especially when ‘the worst’ could very well lead to the extinction of all life on the planet.

As she let out a sigh of relief, Aznod opened the door, making his way into the office. “Is everything alright?” He asked curiously, to which Udona nodded her head.

“I’m fine. Just dealing with the usual stuff. Were you able to get anything interesting on your end?” She asked, knowing that Aznod had briefly tried the new Ascension game. He always tried the new games at least once, just to see if there were any unique cooking insights that could be gained from them.

Aznod simply shook his head, moving to sit next to Udona. “Unfortunately, not. The world economy within the game is still too new. They’ve only just developed their first few cities, so there isn’t really a food culture or anything there yet. Perhaps in a few more years, or even a decade or two. However, I’m not hopeful when it comes to that.”

Udona nodded at that, leaning over against his shoulder. “At least there’s still plenty for you to discover in Fragments of Acidia?”

Aznod couldn’t help but chuckle when he heard that. As that game was an entire galaxy of life, there were many sights there that the two of them had yet to see, even before the game’s forced restart. “I suppose there is. In that case, you’ll need to join me when you get the chance.”

Udona smiled, looking forward to that. Just as she was about to speak up, an alert on her terminal startled her, making her glance over. Part of her was dreading that this could be the alarm for the memetic attack that Phisher had mentioned.

Instead, what she saw on the screen was a report from Ashtanu’s local observatory. Because of the new barrier around the systems, their ability to function had been greatly reduced. However, they still had their ability to monitor the system that they were in, and so they busied themselves with doing just that.

Udona arched a brow at the report, opening the message. “Let’s see… in the early morning, just before nine o’clock, a significant spike was detected within the planet’s dimensium energy signatures. Similar spikes were reported from other observatories across their Hyperlane Network. Cause unknown, effects unknown.”

Udona pursed her lips when she read this. Dimensium was a material unique to Deckan, as well as the golem world that was created as a ‘twin’ of Deckan.  For the most part, this material didn’t give off any powerful fluctuations, the energy it released serving as little more than background radiation that enabled the use of card magic.

“Have you noticed any problems with your cards today?” Udona asked Aznod, who read over the message himself.

Aznod shook his head, but then paused. “To be fair, I haven’t had the chance to really use any today. However, if there was a problem with the cards, you would have been notified of it long ago. If anything, I would suggest checking with the Metong and the March. Perhaps they would have more information about what such a pulse meant.”

Udona let out a small sigh, agreeing that such was the right thing to do. Waving a hand, she sent out a communication request with the High Mother, who answered surprisingly quickly. On the other end of the video call, the liquid metal golem that served as the highest ruling power of the Metong smiled at Udona. “Is there something that I can do for you, Lady Udona?” She asked politely.

Udona didn’t feel like beating around the bush, so she got straight to the point. “Earlier today, our scans detected a wide-scale pulse in the background dimensium energy, all across the Hyperlane Network. You and the March have done more studies on dimensium than we have, so I wanted to ask if you had any ideas as to what would be the cause.”

Udona was still rather relaxed, but she noticed the High Mother’s face falling for a moment, before returning to her normal smile. “That’s… unusual. Normally, dimensium energy doesn’t fluctuate on such a large scale. However, we experienced something similar, both the March and our own race.”

“Unlike your response, though, the dimensium energy within our world was greatly depleted for roughly ten seconds earlier in the day. This was rather troubling, so I quickly consulted with the March King to confirm that the situation was present on his side as well.”

Udona’s eyes widened slightly, sitting up straighter in her seat to pay more attention to the call. If this was true, she had no idea what it meant. She just couldn’t imagine it leading to anything good.

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