Ch.44- The star network’s killing performance
When huge streams of information appear and are visualized, a huge world emerges from within it.
The virus was like a powerful flood that continuously flowed into the Ants’ virtual network.
And Lin Yan followed this current as she slid down a long passage.
….No, it was not so much as she was following the currents as she was being swept along by it.
Lin Yan stumbled and explored the passage with difficulty, and finally after going around the entire passage for the third time, she mapped out the structure inside her head.
She closed her eyes and curled her body up into a tight ball.
She visualized the network into her mind, clearly picturing her current location.
She counted down silently in her mind.
“10, 9, 8….”
A small hole opened up in the firewall that was protecting her from outside forces but she immediately repaired it before anything could get in.
“….3, 2, 1.”
She suddenly opened her eyes and the long sword struck out in a flash, plugging deep into the wall of the passage.
Her body was instantly hit by the turbulent flow of information and she was almost sent back flying by the huge force pressing down on her.
In this digital world, a virus primarily contains two different threats. One is the high speed which the information flows into one’s mind, so fast that one is unable to keep up with it, and the other is the invasion of the virus that hides itself in this dense and fast information flow.
Human beings can enter the star network space by digitizing their consciousness. In other words, when human beings don their virtual reality helmets, they turn their very own minds into complicated computer programs.
However, turning their psyche into a computer program is like a double edged sword. For now they have made themselves vulnerable to being infected and destroyed by a virus.
If one becomes infected by a virus, their minds become trapped in the digital world forever. Even if someone tries to forcibly extract them by taking off their helmets in the outside world, the infected human becomes a vegetable and becomes just like a robot who’s been infected: utterly useless.
If Lin Yan becomes infected, she would turn into one of the many mindless ants of the Ants mercenary group.
She had somewhat underestimated the density of this information flow.
Even though Lin Yan had used her long word and firewalls as a buffer, the high-speed flow of information almost drowned her like a turbulent river.
After feeling an unidentified object protruding from the originally smooth wall, she immediately began to try and push back against the protrusion.
The incessant information flow continued and almost made her lose her grip on the long sword. The long sword was the only thing preventing her from being washed away by the information flow as even her firewalls were collapsing at an alarming rate.
But….even the long sword that was pierced deeply into the wall was starting to slip and she’ll be pulled into the flood if–
“….Warning, power bank is low….”
Lin Yan through her ears were playing tricks on her.
How can she hear the Strider’s alarms from within the Ants’ network?
“….Why do you still struggle…need to….become…one of us….”
Lin Yan tilted her head and pressed an ear to the wall of the passage.
“Become one of us…become one with us and you won’t feel pain anymore….”
Thousands of mechanical voices repeated this sentence.
Like a bewitching spell, the voices continued to call out and even someone with strong mental shields like Lin Yan couldn’t help but get lost in it.
If she can hear the voice of the Strider, that must mean the Ants had the upper hand and the Strider’s defense was low. The Ants’ intention was obvious–they were trying to use the virus to invade into the Strider’s system and assimilate the mecha into their network.
The long sword couldn’t bear the pressure of the constant information flow much longer and slowly began to break away from the wall bit by bit.
“…system has been…hit…”
Lin Yan stepped on the smooth wall with difficulty as the long sword wretched free from the wall.
Lin Yan didn’t give up. As the long sword broke free from the wall, she lunged forward against the currents.
She embedded the long sword deeply into the wall again.
She did not intend to stop.
“Remember what you promised me–!!”
She stabbed the wall for the third time.
“You have to stay with me–!!”
Once successive attacks after another, the stabs from the long sword were finally making progress as the walls started to crack.
Lin Yan reinforced her defenses again and continued to struggle against the forces trying to push her back.
“Hold one for me—!!!”
The wall finally shattered.
The information flow pushed her through the hole and into the new space.
Lin Yan held the long sword tightly to her body and carefully looked around.
She had arrived inside the Ants’ mecha system.
The virus that flooded into the system with her was almost instantly absorbed by the four walls around her.
Her gaze settled on the inside of cyberspace.
Compared to the disorderly and chaotic appearance in reality, the mecha’s cyberspace was smooth and contained traces of beautiful programming despite the weird style it was portrayed in.
She had never seen anything like it.
The combination of biology and machinery, even if it is a failed defective product, still has its unique charm.
The virus pouring into the mecha’s system took effect almost immediately. Lin Yan saw that the otherwise orderly spatial structure was instantly distorned and the Ants’ voices suddenly became a deafening roar.
An earthquake shook the ground she stood upon and she almost fell at the sudden vertigo. She nailed her long sword to the ground and held onto it tightly as she tried to make sense of the codes in the walls.
She felt that she was close to the heart of the matter.
Kristen had once said that the Ants are immortal.
That even if they are seriously injured or even if their hearts stopped beating, they would rise up once again.
However, there were drawbacks.
From Lin Yan’s and Kristen’s research, they believed they came upon the secret of the so-called ‘immortality’ of the Ants.
Whenever an Ant ‘dies’, their bodies would be rebuilt until their shattered form was put back together again.
The biological parts relied on cloning and the mechanical parts were simply replaced with new and better tech. Then their consciousness that was digitally preserved would be uploaded into their new bodies.
If you want to destroy such a monster, you cannot simply use brute force to attack them from the outside but target their weakness from the inside.
If even the failure of their brains cannot cause them to die, then the core of this mecha system must be the true reason why the Ants are able to regenerate over and over again.
A panel appeared in front of Lin Yan. A list of her own programs appeared on the screen and she began to take out the tools she needed.
Kristen’s face was cold as she pulled out the blade attached to the mecha’s arm from out of the Ant’s mecha.
The Ant’s body fell once again.
Yet she didn’t dare to look away as she knew very well that the Ants would most likely stand back up again in less than a minute and in a much stronger form.
The current situation was not good.
“….Strider…give me a report on the current situation.”
This time, the Strider did not respond fast enough. Kristen watched the Ants’ mecha in front of her slowly got up as the cuts on its chest closed up little by little.
“—The remaining energy is at 16%, please reduce energy consumption.” The Strider paused and then said, “Also, Kristen, I believe my system has been infected.”
Kristen’s face darkened but she was not surprised: “Can you handle it yourself?”
“…I should be fine…for now.” The infected Strider didn’t expect Kristen to react like this, “Dealing with viruses requires a certain amount of time, and the execution time for carrying out your commands will become slower.”
“Got it.” Kristen replied simply and neatly, but it made Strider feel a little at a loss.
It considered what to say for a while: “….do you not feel strange about what I just said?”
“What’s so strange about it.” Kristen laughed, “It’s already good enough for you to stop this kind of virus.”
“But…..” Strider paused, “the execution time in between commands will be really, really slow.”
“Doesn’t matter.” The corners of Kristen’s lips raised slightly into a rare smile, “I’ll just have to do everything in advance.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t lose.”
Her tone was full of determination, and she pushed her fingers against the controls: “There are people waiting for me to return.”
The Strider raised the sword in it’s hand but did not attack as expected and instead took a step back.
A second later, the Ant’s attack struck forward like lightning but the step the Strider took in retreat lessened the force of the impact.
Kristen’s move had succeeded and so she stuck to this new time lag that has appeared and moved accordingly.
Despite the Strider’s previous words, the mecha’s movements seemed as smooth as before as its decisive strikes landed true and its dodges avoided the other’s attacks.
Yet Kristen knew very well that the Strider was not moving as well as it was previously and so she acted even more cautiously now.
Even when the Ants made a mistake and revealed an opportunity, she could not take advantage of it in time.
What should she do?
Kristen glanced at the energy bar and saw the low-energy alarm next to it. However, another symbol has appeared beside the alarm.
She couldn’t help but take a second glance.
The Strider’s movements faltered and the Ants’ attack brushed against the shell of the mecha.
And that symbol instantly changed into a large, bold red character.
【Give me 32 seconds. I will detonate the Ants from the inside.】
And this line of words instantly disappeared after Kristen finished reading, and turned into a small symbol that hovered in the upper righthand corner of her vision.
But she clearly remembered that when the Ants assembled their biological mecha, the Strider said that all communications were blocked and only the internal system was still running.
So how did Lin Yan suddenly appear in her comms?
Unfortunately she didn’t have time to think about it at this critical juncture and had to focus on the fight again.
Lin Yan put down the sharp hook in her hand and it shattered into lines of code when it landed on the ground.
Lin Yan crossed her arms and raised her head to admire the changed mecha system structure in front of her. After confirming her work one last time, she turned her head to look at the newly opened narrow and long passage behind her.
If there is no error in her calculations, this channel is the channel through which the ants transmit their virus.
Lin Yan jumped into the passage.
She had changed the circuits in the Ants’ mecha system, just like when she used her photonic device to detonate the robot she had possessed long ago. This would cause the system to short circuit and the entire network to collapse.
Then it will also cut off the source of the Ants’ regeneration.
Lin Yan hummed a small tune under her breath as she jumped out of the virus-infected passageway and reached the center of the Strider’s network.
Strings of codes were concentrated into the longsword in her hands and she easily tore the infected part from the structure before her. Then she threw the infected data back into the long passage behind her.
A voice rang hesitantly: “You… this is…”
“I’m helping you,” Lin Yan smiled and stuffed a bunch of the infected data into the passageway, “Be good, I’m almost done.”
Before she finished, the data in her longsword was reorganized and a cold light flashed through it.
The Strider’s processing seemed to speed up again: “Thank you, are you going to–”
Lin Yan raised the longsword.
The longsword plugged deeply into the Strider’s console and made a circle around the infected area.
The Ants’ system collapsed not too far away.
Lin Yan’s hands moved quickly and she entered a brand new code into the console while she said, “Strider, you’re a mature A.I, so why can’t you fix something this easy by yourself?”
Strider: “—Be more gentle! It hurts!!!”