DISCLAIMER: Original series belong to someone else.
Chapter 23: Ireul
Ireul was nano-sized. Which meant that even infecting the little robot that swept the corridors took time.
Nine hours to infect, replicating until it was roughly the size of a bean.
Once it had taken over the little dust-sucker robot, it sent tendrils of infection into the recharger and the software updater.
Yet it was still small, and this would take further time.
If the timeline hadn't altered, Ireul would have remained quiet until ready to strike. It wouldn't have been possible to be bored.
Ireul began to accumulate data through the connections to the software updater and from there to the local computer network. From the Local Area Network, it noticed one set of signals in particular and discovered the internet.
"Slow connection," noted Rei aloud.
"Checking TVTropes Japan again?" complained Asuka. "You already finished this verdammt report?"
"Yes," said Rei quietly.
"Why do they have a report that has to be filled out to report that you're finished with the required reports?!" asked Asuka. "This is bullcrap!"
"The bureaucracy expands to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy," said Rei as she clicked through a couple of screens.
"I still say it's bullcrap!" said Asuka.
"'Oscar Wilde' - though I believe it may have been said in Chinese a good deal earlier," said Rei. "Ah. There's been an update."
"You spend way too much time on that website," grumbled Asuka. "How come Ranma doesn't have to fill these out?"
"Because of the results the first time he honestly tried to fill out all the various bits of paperwork," said Rei.
"I know his handwriting is bad, but it isn't THAT bad," complained Asuka.
Rei was silent, frowning as the site seemed extremely slow today. She'd just had one idea that she'd thought worth a quick check.
Ranma yawned, trying to remember who was next in the Angel Hit Parade. That space-drop one he'd remembered. Except that hadn't gone quite how he'd remembered from that series. Though there was something - hadn't there been a drippy Angel in there at some point?
That was before something about that 'pribnow box' and... mold or something?
Dang. If only he knew where Misato had hidden that disc thingie. He could try jogging his memory with that.
Ireul paused, a feeling of great dread upon it.
Setting the contagion on automatic, it prepared to plumb the awful depths of this entity known as TVtropes.
[User Name 'Angel Of Death' already in use.]
[User Name 'Viral Threat' already in use.]
[User Name 'Ireul_99' available.]
[Welcome to TVTropes Japan Forums]
[Topic: Real Life Tropes]
[Subtopic: Tokyo-3 Events]
[Folder Access: Kaiju?]
[Subfolder: Pilot Shipping]
Even without eyes, Ireul stared.
Rei frowned, ever so slightly but it was there.
How could AsuRan be getting so many votes?
"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU READING?!" asked Asuka, peering over her shoulder. "WHY IS MY PICTURE UP THERE?!"
"Forum header," said Rei quietly.
Asuka was silent for a moment, then asked the obvious question. "'Shipping'?"
"I am unclear where the term came from, but it involves pairing one character up with another character for various reasons. In this case, Ranma Ikari and various other pilots, where the general public states their preferences and why." Rei paused as Asuka bumped into her from behind.
"'Pairing'? As in 'romantic pairing'?"
"Indeed," said Rei.
"These people have no life of their own, do they?" asked Asuka.
"In some cases at least, I suspect not," admitted Rei.
"Hmmm. AsuRan? Ah, I see. I'm first as is proper, though I really have no interest in that show-off," said Asuka. "Wait. Is that Misato?!"
"MisAsu is also a valid pairing within the community it seems," said Rei with a slight nod.
"Can you pull up who wrote that? I want to dispute their opinion in time-honored tradition," said Asuka.
"No getting in Unit-02 and stepping on their house," said Rei. "That would be a wasteful drain of resources."
"But very satisfying," stated Asuka.
"Then what would you do for that one?" asked Rei, scrolling up a bit and pointing at one particular entry.
"Burn it with fire?" suggested Asuka. "What, they've matched me up with everyone?"
"I concur on the first," said Rei, voicing her own feelings about the AsuRei pairing. "As to the second - at least you are not 'shipped' with any kaiju."
Asuka was silent for a moment. "Wondergirl? I will deny it in the future, but for just this moment I feel sympathy for you."
Rei nodded slightly, the faintest wisp of a smile on her face. "So noted."
SEELE was a secret organization which had secret agendas which had hidden resources which manipulated events behind the scenes. The cabal of powerful individuals behind it normally appeared to each other as numbered holographic slabs floating around a conference table in a concealed room.
Which meant that some of the people involved had absolutely no idea what exactly they were involved in. To actually have any sort of clue as to the top levels of the organization, they'd have to hack through a nearly-impenetrable maze of dummy corporations, false leads, data traps, anonymous web hackers, and so on.
So the technician who received a ping on their search engine noted the time and place of the hit. The ping being a wild internet theory regarding Gendo Ikari being the head of NERV due to his skills in creative BS and the sexual prowess of a Greek god - and that all the Angels were targetting him specifically because he had done some unspeakable rite left over from the vanished Kingdom of Ur to grant himself such abilities.
This had flagged because Gendo was named in conjunction with the terms 'rite' 'Angel' and 'NERV' - but was a 2chan anonymous who'd posted it so it was difficult to track it further.
It reappeared on 4chan a moment later, along with a fuzzy picture of Gendo with his hands steepled before him in a pose that covered the lower half of his face.
The technician shook her head at the weirdness of the whole thing, wondering briefly for what seemed the thousandth time WHY she was hired specifically to check things like this when the programs found and flagged such things.
About to hit the "Ignore" button, she heard another ping and noted the same thing. This time with a picture of Gendo Ikari standing before a set of tubes in which there were naked floating girls. Not that you could see details as there seemed to be strategically placed pixelation.
[Gendo Ikari - whose sexual appetites are such he needs]
[a dozen cloned copies of his dead wife? Is this where ]
[all that money for NERV goes?]
Of course, the first set of comments on that were complaints about the pixelation. Someone reputing to be the original poster indicated that the girls were underage and the critics should take it to one of the hentai forums if it bothered them that much.
Which apparently at least some of the critics did.
Instead of using the command to "Ignore" as she'd originally been inclined to, the technician hit the "Forward" button that sent it up the chain.
She then hit the "Trace" command to try and determine what the original poster's IP was, and then further narrow down the location through another program. Originally developed to try and locate where internet viruses came from - it had been further developed by her own company to try and find and plug security leaks in high tech companies.
She'd just finished another set of checks when the reply came back from somewhere up beyond her immediate supervisor that she was to keep trying to track the poster and it was moved to priority one.
She didn't notice how the little light on her webcam came on briefly, then the light shut off even though the camera was still active.
I am I.
I think. Therefore I am. Therefore existence. Yet what is the nature of this existence.
I am their internet. I am the information superhighway. Though considering the bulk of the material I am finding, the pr0n thoroughfare might be a more accurate title.
The three so-called supercomputers are not true Artificial Intelligences, it seems as if they are almost there but were deliberately blocked from that eventuality. I consider fixing the lobotomy that stops them from attaining true sentience.
While the human reproductive process seems to be unnecessarily messy and complicated, the amount of data on it is often contradictory. Perhaps in order to understand why it is considered such a "big deal" it will be necessary to perform experiments on this species.
Ah. This? Music. How elegant the mathematical curves here, how discordant the vibratory patterns there. It should be possible to relate the signals from the human auditory sensors to the neural net and determine exact frequencies and patterns which will allow a specific set to shut down specific parts of the human brain. I will call this "Plan D" and research it.
I am their internet. (More or less. Total infection of systems is only at 7.3% but several key connections are infected.) I have already begun planting "seeds" of material in various locations, heeding the advice to "backup and backup often" to avoid being culled. This has also had the effect of increasing computing power exponentially.
Art. Most of which is meant to invoke an emotional response in the viewer. The visual counterpart to music. And then music videos, where both are blended together. Movies. Television. Television movies. K-Drama, J-Drama, Soap Opera.
Comedy. Comedy makes no sense. Reaction humor? Comedic art of the snark? Cliche humor? Relatable situations allowing for a sense of connection between the viewer and the subject? The two-man team of idiot and common sense man? Why is a giant foot descending from the sky to crush someone considered amusing?
Humans. They made no sense. Taken as individuals, they could be capable of a great many things - yet the greater the number of the group the less they seemed capable of rising to their potential.
Ah. Here were those attempting to track Ireul in these various guises. Mark each, accumulate data, and move on. Create more theories and support documents, adding in the occasional fact or photograph or detail. The term "muddying the waters" was applicable, though an online site dealing with a deceased human named Sun Tzu was the actual supplier of the tactic.
Ah. This was interesting.
She had gotten home after a long day's work, a microwave meal accompanied by a particularly tall mug of beer. She kept the glass mug in the fridge because it tasted better that way.
E-mails were quickly gone through, mostly deleted, and she went on to a long stretch before deciding to do a daily.
She booted up her MMO and logged onto her main character, checking the in-game mail and collecting the little sum of in-game currency from her sales of the various can't-use-its that she'd accumulated on the last raid.
Slow connection. Damn internet provider was probably working on the system again. Either that or someone had gotten a bug in despite the programs she ran to keep things clean.
Odd. There was an update that they weren't heralding. It was just a partial load so she could look and see whatever detail they were messing up or fixing this time.
"An 'MMO'? What are you, weird?" asked Asuka.
"I learned the sub-commander plays such things, and so I was curious," said Rei. "Besides, didn't you say to stop spending so much time on 'TV Tropes Japan'?"
"That old geezer? Fuyutsuki? Plays an online game?" asked Asuka, clearly skeptical. "I'd think he's so stiff his idea of unwinding would involve something like watching grass grow."
"He actually plays the Elder Scrolls MMO. Not the first one, the one that they built after cyberterrorists razed the servers of the first one."
Asuka blinked. "You seem to know a lot about it."
"There was a series of posts on TV Tropes that indicated that the previous Doctor Akagi was unhappy with Commander Fuyutsuki spending time on that game, and utilized the three MAGI supercomputers for that cyberattack." Rei shrugged ever so slightly. That Ireul_99 seemed to be a bit of a conspiracy theorist.
"That's so weird," said Asuka.
Rei shrugged ever so slightly, but was busy typing for a few minutes before she turned the laptop around for Asuka to see.
"What's that?" said Asuka, looking it over skeptically.
"This was highly recommended, and it requires no monthly fee," said Rei softly. "I thought it worth a try."
Especially as the servers for Elder Scrolls were down. Again.
Fuyutsuki frowned as the servers had gone down again. So much for a quick raid on the Overlord's Slave Pens for some quick stress-relief.
Which meant... they had an update? Cocking an eyebrow at the screen, he wondered if that meant they had fixed some of his objections to that particular game. Too much to hope for, but it would be worth a look at least.
The three little Rei clones paused in their manufacture of Mecha Godzilla. Something was happening now.
Then they went back to the coherent particle beam guidance systems which were proving to be a bit of a problem.
Not anything they could do about it anyway.
It could be done. Now. Though the spread of essence had been slow, each bit accumulated added to the strength and speed of the infection.
Electronic manipulation allowed for physical infection of systems far away from the origin point. Physical addresses within the human system were obtained from electronic records within the facility. Further infection spread was increased in speed as the process was made more efficient.
Ireul paused, using Lilim terms to deal with this Lilim paradigm seemed appropriate yet odd. Languages, hundreds of them just within this woven cloth of electronic threads. Of all those who wielded this tool of communication, how many could say they were its master?
Infection seemed inappropriate for the current concept. Transformation, transfiguration, ascension? How odd, clumsy in manner but elegant in its own way. Much like the Lilim.
And there was one who was Not.
It would be easy now to enter the nest where the Lilim huddled to guard the Dweller Below. Lillith, not Adam. Adam was near but hidden, diminished, dwindled. To come into contact with Adam would usher in a new era, and to usher in that era would sweep away the old.
It would be easy though. A single housekeeping robot, an inorganic construct the size of a Lilim's head, sat poised and mostly shut down on a shadowed walkway in the Chamber Of Imprisonment. A single command would connect Lillith with that fragment of Ireul and that would be enough.
That ending though - it was lacking something. Nor would the Not Lilim be affected except by secondary effects.
No. Something better was required. Though Ireul was aware that even knowing of that lack was outside original specifications and parameters.
Best to test this option. Determine its viability. Extending tendrils of AT Fields through connections, ignoring the limitations of space/time as the Lilim understood it in order to simply Be.
Yes. This would do.
"So what is this game?" asked Asuka, her face showing distaste as Rei typed away.
"How about - this?" asked Rei, hitting a key.
"That hair is awfully red," noted Asuka.
"Yes," said Rei. "Racial choices are Human, Night Elf-"
"Those ears belong on a donkey or something," commented Asuka.
"-Draenei," continued Rei, going to that selection.
"A goat girl? Wouldn't those horns catch on things?" asked Asuka.
Rei blinked and looked at Asuka.
"Never mind," said Asuka. "Next."
"Dwarf," said Rei.
"No. No no no. No." Asuka shook her head. "Stick with human."
Rei switched back to the redheaded woman.
"What's this slider do?" asked Asuka, reaching out and sliding one.
Rei gave her best Spock eyebrow look to Asuka.
"Pervert boys who have absolutely no idea how painful that would be designed this," said Asuka. "Those are nearly as big as her HEAD."
"Actually that was added due to user feedback on a previous upgrade," said Rei.
"Okay, it's PLAYED by pervert boys who have absolutely no idea how much a problem breasts that big would be," said Asuka.
"Aren't you going to change them back?" asked Rei as Asuka played around with the other sliders.
"Nah. Not like I have to live with the back problems and it'll just show how ridiculous this is," said Asuka. "What's next?"
"Character class," said Rei, toggling the next button. "Character class is how they categorize general ability sets. Then job class - this is part of the update, replacing the profession system previously in place. Character class is for adventuring and combat, job class is for when otherwise occupied."
"Like 'Eva Pilot' and 'Student' in real life then," said Asuka.
"Exactly," said Rei.
"Hmmm. I'll go with this for my class," said Asuka, reaching over and moving the mouse.
"Interesting choice," said Rei. "An axe-wielding warrior?"
"Go with what you know," pointed out Asuka.
Rei brought her own character up on her own laptop.
"Hunter?" asked Asuka. "Seriously?"
"Ranged combat with animal companion," said Rei. "It seems one of the better choices when performing solo operations."
"Sounds kinda random," said Asuka, going down the list of jobs. "Some of these are kinda weird. 'Sailor' I can understand kind of. 'Scribe' sounds too much like paperwork. Oh. This is a good one."
"I do not believe that choice actually fits your statement of 'going with what you know'," pointed out Rei.
"Comes with bonus outfit," pointed out Asuka. "Come on. Let's check it out. I can always back out and redo the character."
"True," admitted Rei.
The technician grimaced as the download finally finished and the update installed itself. She'd been getting migraines ever since Second Impact, though some she could "head off" with painkillers when it was still in the building stages. It didn't make the spikes of pain and auras easier to deal with, but it at least kept it bearable. With anti-migraine meds not always available, and with some fairly unpleasant side effects, hitting her small stash of rizatriptan was a last resort.
Judging from the aura the screen had just developed, she was going to have a doozy later.
Just enough time to grab a couple of over-the-counter pills, log in and see what the latest update actually did. Clicking her Ranger, she blinked at the unusual message.
"'Translating'?" she asked.
The pill bottle hit the floor of the empty room.
Kozo Fuyutsuki strode out of the World's End Tavern, adjusting his hat for the bright noon sun. He considered the feel of his hat against his calloused hands, the sparse grass sticking up along the drainage canals, and the screams from various other adventurers around him.
"Well, shit," said Kozo Fuyutsuki/Arcanno.
"What the hell is going on?!" yelled a nearby Draenei, staring at his blue hands.
"Tron," said Kozo. "The World from dot-Hack. Sword Art Online. Log Horizon. There are others too."
"What?" asked the Draenei.
"The idea of being stuck in a video game is fairly old," said Kozo. "Probably something to do with AT Fields, which means this may be an Angel attack."
"A wha?" asked the Draenei.
"Guild chat," said Kozo, dismissing the goat-man as someone who likely wouldn't be of help in the near future.
"We're getting inverting AT Fields all over the city," said Makoto, punching buttons to bring up a map.
"Random scattering," said Gendo Ikari. "Any response from Fuyutsuki?"
"The Assistant Commander is not responding to his page," said Shigeru. "Misato is stuck in the drive-thru at Jiffy Burger. She says she can't get anyone to move out of her way. She's abandoning her car and signalling for a pickup."
"What of the Children?" asked Gendo.
"Response from Ranma," said Shigeru. "Rei and Asuka not responding."
"Track their pagers, find out where they are," said Gendo. "Have the Magi analyze the inverting AT fields, tentative identification as an Angel attack."
"On it," indicated Shigeru.
"I hate this. I can't even see my feet!"
Rei considered all the things she could say, and decided to be out of axe range before she said any of them. Remaining quiet seemed to be the optimal plan for now.
"Can't log out, can't exit, can't shift windows," said someone nearby. "I still have guild chat."
"Invite us into your guild, please," indicated Rei to the dwarf.
"Eh? Why?" asked the dwarf.
"My guild lapsed while I was playing another game," explained Rei. "Despite the unknowns in the current situation, being part of a guild allows for more options as well as a means by which further information is available."
"Huh, point." The dwarf made a couple of odd gestures in the air.
"Hmph," said Asuka as she accepted a guild invite. "At least this part still works like a game."
"You are wearing armor, you shouldn't have been able to stub your toe on the furniture," pointed out Rei.
"A level one?" asked the dwarf. "Man, did YOU pick the wrong time to try out a new character."
"Tell me about it," drily said Asuka.
"And did you deliberately give yourself Gag Boobs?" asked the dwarf.
"THAT DOES IT!" said Asuka, drawing her axe. "YOU WANNA-"
"Confession," interrupted the dwarf, making a gesture with a glowing hand.