Chapter 240 V-Parasite
"It's a shame, really," said Aldrich. "The reason I'm contacting you so often is because I see great potential in our partnership."
"And I do not, unfortunately," responded Desmond.
"What about a relationship as a client? Z could manage that with me. How about for you? I could appreciate buying some information here and there."
"I cannot do that."
"Any reason why?" Aldrich gave Desmond a pointed gaze. "The only reason I can think of for an information broker not selling me information - your livelihood - is because you already have a client working against me."
"Against you? Are you questioning my trust?" Visible annoyance showed on Desmond's face.
"Am I now? You tell me."
"Anything said among allied nomads is strictly confidential. For now, that includes you," said Desmond. "I will warn you, though, once this day passes and we all go our separate ways, that will no longer apply.
I would trust my words carefully if I were you, Mr. Vane. You might find it quite inconvenient to have spiders crawling around your room."
"Am I hearing this right? Is this a threat? Why so hostile, Desmond?" Aldrich remained calm. Collected.
"Not a threat. A possibility. One I'm sure you would like to avoid." Desmond's gaze narrowed, his pale grey pupils thinning almost impossibly. "I entertained your call now because I wanted to give you a lesson in person.
My spiders and I are of one mind. One network. And I have many spiders, Mr. Vane, crawling across every little corner of the Net.
Surfacenet or Darknet - my webs spin across all of them.
You do not want to get caught up in those webs.
I am telling you this now because there has to be balance.
Just like how the overworld maintains balance with the AA and the Panopticon, the Underworld must also maintain balance.
I saw it in your eyes.
Good to have, but like all things, in moderation.
If your ambition seeks to overturn the balance of things now, you will find many eyes, many hands, against you."
Aldrich eyed Svetlanna, and she lifted up one finger for him.
One minute until she was done uploading her bug. Faster than she had originally estimated.
Good. That meant Aldrich could start talking back instead of acting nice to reel Desmond in.
"If eyes and hands are the only things standing against me, then I'm quite unworried. I've crushed enough of both." Aldrich cracked his knuckles. "And I just got done crushing a few bugs, too, if you're concerned about whether I'm scared about spiders."
"…" Desmond stared at Aldrich with tense eyes before he chuckled. It was not a friendly one. More amused than anything else. "Now YOU are threatening me?"
"Oh, so you WERE threatening me. Good to see you admit it." Aldrich shook his head. "No, like you said, it's only a 'possibility'. I've afforded you three chances to work with me.
I'd have liked your skills on my side, but with all this talk about balance and sucking up to the Dark Six, I'm beginning to think that maybe you're not so neutral after all, Desmond.
Maybe you have backers already. Backers that the other nomad chiefs would be quite displeased to learn about."
"I don't want to hear you question my trust. Not from a plump city rat like you, donning your expensive suits. I will not betray my brothers and sisters." Desmond glared at Aldrich. "But if I need to convince them to get rid of a tumorous growth, I will."
Aldrich saw in his peripheral vision that Svetlanna gave him a thumbs up, indicating the bug was planted. "I appreciate your concern, Desmond, but I intend to make my cooperation with the chiefs a long term one. I only hope you don't make any mistakes in the future.
They might end up costing you."
Aldrich waved his hand, and Svetlanna cut off the channel. Desmond leaned back in his dark chair as his image crackled and snapped out from the monitor.
"Bug planted?" asked Aldrich.
"Yeah," said Svetlanna. She raised three fingers. "And three bugs from Desmond's crew taken out."
Aldrich raised a brow. "He was that bold?"
"No, these were very discrete bugs. I doubt he thought I would catch them. An ordinary techno wouldn't have caught them. Not even Spybird," said Svetlanna. "You really are lucky to have me around, you know.
If you used a letter grade to rank me compared to other technos, I would put myself nicely at a fat S."
"For that, you'll have to impress me a little more," said Aldrich.
"Pshh. Hard to please, aren't you?" Svetlanna pouted. "As for the bug I planted, it's one I've personally made called a V-Parasite.
Adapted from the Z-Parasite, if you know what that is."
"You know the 2077 Corpowar?"
"I know of it. Not all its details."
"Right, a lot of it is under wraps. Well, you know how the Corpowar ended, yeah?"
"Yeah. Mega corporations scrapped against each other, sending out assassins and mercs and villains.
Unlike the first Corpowar, most of the fighting was 'cold', not involving civilians.
Ended with a fourth of Neo-Paris in ashes after a series of experimental bombs were detonated, forcing Vanguard to step in personally and end things.
One of the last times Vanguard did much of anything in his older age, too."
"Right, right. Those experimental bombs were Saber tech. The top dog military company of the time, having a nice and pretty seat on the Fortune Council. Meaning they had top of the line net security. The best technos and infrastructure in Cyberspace that credits could buy.
But you know what armed and detonated those bombs, blowing up half of Saber's armories and headquarters?
It was a bug. The Z-Parasite. It infected Saber's networks and stayed dormant, digging deeper and deeper until it finally got to the bombs hidden in the depths of their security."
"…" Aldrich made the connection. "I'm assuming Z is the creator of that bug?"
"Yeah. And I, her all so talented student, took that bug and made it my own with a few twists," said Svetlanna. "It's even harder to trace, though a little bit less effective penetration wise. In other words, you really don't have to worry.
Relax and kick back. I'm leagues ahead of Desmond."
"What do you think you can get out of this bug?" said Aldrich, his mind immediately racing into possibilities.
"What happened to relaxing?" Svetlanna sighed. "You'll burn yourself out at that rate. Well, let me see, my V-Parasite's security penetration isn't that deep, so I figure I'll be able to snoop around in any calls or chats that Desmond has on his communications channels."
"But can you get inside his base?" said Aldrich.
"No, not yet. His base has some thick security. Think of it like a castle gate. Once you get behind the first gate, it gets easier to storm the castle. Still hard with guards and sealed doors everywhere, but easier.
I need someone to open up that main gate for me."
"And how do you think you can get that to happen?"
"If I'm being honest, I can't. But that's the thing about my V-Parasite. It can self replicate and latch onto anyone that goes in and out of Desmond's comms channels.
Eventually, I figure we'll find someone that has a closer relationship with Desmond, and they'll unknowingly bring that bug into Desmond's castle."
"Interesting. What if that doesn't happen? What if Desmond doesn't let anyone in his castle walls other than those he truly trusts?"
"It's a possibility. At that point, you'd have to use force, and you're much better at that than I am."
"Force is meaningless unless it has direction."
"Right. And we have plenty of direction, don't we? You could kidnap one of his technos and force them carry the bug. Or I could try and infiltrate them myself, but they don't seem to ever leave their castle."
"It's a possibility, but it's too straightforward for now. I can't harm Desmond or his technos as long as he's still technically allied with the other chiefs.
If one of his technos goes missing for even a little while, I'm sure he'll know."
Svetlanna nodded. "Then we wait. I'll keep an eye out on who my V-Parasite bugs. If they're anyone important, I'll let you know."
"Got it," said Aldrich. "I'll be on my way out, then. Good job, Svetlanna."
"Just call me V. It's easier."
"Then good job, V."
Aldrich turned around, ready to leave.
"One thing," said V.
"Hm?" Aldrich paused.
"I know you want to make it big. You want to be a superpower in this world, and I'm real excited to be a part of that. But what's the end goal? What are you planning with all that power?"
"That's hard to answer, because to be honest, I don't know exactly myself," said Aldrich. "I want to make things right.
What that really means or how it ends, I don't know. But what I do know for sure is whatever path my goals take me, I'm willing to follow it to the very end."
"That's pretty dramatic. But pretty cool as well." V smiled and waved Aldrich off. "Go get some brooding time. I'll be here managing this whole thing all by my lonesome self while Spybird gets drunk to the seventh dimension."