VENT: The Digital Hydra

by Andrew 'Dee' Harding and Chris Cotgrove

Historically, DN have always had a major advantage over SLA: the development of the digital media that SLA have deliberately restricted and stunted to keep 'safe'.

When the Chrome Age came to a sudden halt, large groups of developers found themselves jobless and resentful. DN capitalised on this and went on a vast recruitment drive, gaining many specialists in supposedly 'defunct' areas. Over the years, these groups of individials worked behind the scenes to subvert their own technology into much more interesting forms.

One such project involved the eventual development of an AI called Virtual Entity, or VENT. It was intially designed to act as a remote agent handling DarkNight communications and electronic terrorism pretty much autonomously, working by itself to weaken SLA Industries whilst acquiring secure data that might prove beneficial to DarkNight. But DarkNight learnt that no-one can achieve such a level of development without a few mistakes.

In developing VENT, they had created a number of viruses and limited artificial intelligences. These rogue AI's, like Karma's failed products, had been dumped into the SLA network infrastructure to cause problems, and much like those projects, they had eventually become uncontrollable, harmful to the organisation that had created them. DarkNight systems were being infected and disrupted by their own viruses and an initiative was decided upon.

As a final test of its capabilities, VENT was set the task of cleaning them all up and was left to do its job. After a few years, VENT claimed success and the heads of DarkNight were happy to leave it at that. Indeed, things would have been much more simple if it had ended there.

But during one of DarkNight's many checks on VENT, it became clear it had rather exceeded its design specifications, winding its way into almost every sector of the SLA telecommunications arena in its search for the rogue AI's.

It was discovered that in doing this, VENT had split and diversified into several distinct entities, each designed for a specific function, whether it be information retrieval, hacking, or the total destruction of systems. Each was an individual, but all were controlled by the central VENT intelligence.

This was too good an opportunity for DarkNight to pass up.


DN renamed this insurgent arm of VENT "Dragon" and not even DN members know of the mistakes that spawned it. Essentially, Dragon started out as a hunter/killer AI-born program, an AI in its own right, not as intelligent as VENT, not as complex, not as adaptive – but far, far more vicious and effective at what it did.

Now it is more of a younger twin to VENT which feeds it data and processing power depending on necessity. Its basic personality is vicious, nasty and very 'inquisitive'. It will quite happily destroy a whole system partially responsible for security just to get at its prey. Generally speaking, it hunts through SLANet of its own accord, occasionally getting pointed at tastier prey by VENT, which itself is a digital leviathan, unfathomable in complexity and size. Dragon is just a part of it.

Dragon was born out of duties above and beyond, and high level DarkNight operatives fear that VENT may well pull the same trick again, producing another more savage or destructive variant that even it cannot control.


Vent is the insidious polymorphic retrovirus that was introduced to the World of Progress by DarkNight. It was originally designed to aid hacking into SLA telecommunications channels to broadcast anti-SLA, pro-DarkNight propaganda; however, somewhere along the way, Vent mutated.

t is now one of the largest hazards for the online community in the World of Progress – an artifically intelligent virus that can alter its appearance to evade detection, adapt to destroy most anti-viral software, and is adept at hacking into encrypted secure systems.

It is very curious, and driven by a quest for new knowledge to assimilate into itself. It has been known to strip entire systems clean, like a swarm of digital locusts, before moving on into the shadowy reaches of the SLANet.

It is still used by DarkNight to monitor and hack into secure communications to acquire tactical information, transmit undetectable broadcasts of Channel Resistance, and to relay messages between otherwise separate cells of Insurgents and Interceptors.

However, it now has goals and ambitions of its own, beyond the parameters originally set by DarkNight, and is virtually immortal. It has backups of itself stored throughout a number of networks and can create 'spores' of itself as well – these are small packets of data roughly equivalent to human memories.

These are designed to appear as data-files containing unambiguous, otherwise innocent information, such as subsidiary stock information, or an Operative's diary. However, when the central data-core of Vent is destroyed, a random spore will blossom into an exact replica of Vent, and the AI rises reborn from its digital ashes.