Tangling with the Old

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This is a companion fluff story for the /tg/ homebrew game Server Crash.

"I found it. Two pages from here. Let's do this."

My heart was beating like crazy as I followed him through the link. This was the biggest thing we had ever done, likely bigger than anything we would ever do after this. It was bigger than Google: We had entered it and survived, several others had, but who before us had ever even thought about the idea of controlling an Old? Well, not so much controlling - I think it's impossible - but directing, guiding its wrath to where we want it to go.

A few more links, and... There it was. Beyond the thick data mist, I could see a black shadow moving. Three small, red dots were glowing at its top: The eyes. It was truly an impressive sight: The first time I had ever really observed one. We had seen an Old before, once, but that time we just concentrated on getting away from it.

"Is the bait ready?", I asked Jake, our surfer, though I knew the answer. We had been planning this for weeks, after all: This thing had been sighted a month ago, rampaging, getting dangerously close to human settlements and smaller webforts. We had been sent by Something Awful to help in fending off the creature. We had met with Jake around here - a weird guy, but you'd have to be, if you preferred wild web over webforts - and come up with a nice cunning plan to send the Old into someplace safer to fuck up things.

The beast was moving. It had discovered our bait, and had the intention of destroying it. The bait would be living humans: A couple other experienced surfers, trolling and flamebaiting the thing to follow them, then using prepared escape routes to get the hell out of there, while our crackers would shut down the links with firewalls. By the time the links opened again, the creature would hopefully have gotten bored about us, and gone searching for other stuff to destroy.

Our Instant Messenger crackled up: "We see it, it's coming!", a calm voice said from the other side. "It's almost time now..." The Old was running away from me now, and fast: I could barely see it anymore. Everything was working as plann-

It stopped. "Wait, it stopped," the IM said.

"What's it doing?", I asked. It was hard to see from here.

"Looks like it's...hesitating. Why would it hesitate?"

"I think it's on to us," Jake said. His face, normally so calm and collected, was full of fear and concern. "We should abort. We should get the hell out of here."

"No!", I protested. "This is way too important. Countless people's lives are on the line here..." "It's moving again!"

I looked: They were right. After a moment of hesitation, the thing was on the move again, heading towards our baits. "Okay...almost time now...now!", the IM told me. "Wait..."

"What? What's wrong?"

A silence. Then, a whisper: "The link's gone." "What?!"

Neville the cracker looked back, towards our escape link. "Here, too!" I looked too, and caught his eye: All color had flushed away from his face. "We're trapped."

Trapped. Here, on a small website, alone with an Old. "Since when could Olds shut down links?" The Instant Messenger was filled with whimpers and screams of help. Then, one last scream cut short, and silence.

"We have to get out of here!"

"Neville!"

"On it!"

There wasn't much time. The shadow in the mist, having slaughtered the poor surfers, had turned its red gaze towards us, and was running. Closer, closer. "Come on!"

"Not enough time!", Neville cried out. "I'd need minutes to open one!"

"Can you open to Google?"

"Yes, but-"

"DO IT!"

Opening a link to Google only took some seconds, but there were the obvious, very real and very dangerous hazards. Still, it was only an uncertain death, infinitely better to the certain demise at the hands of an Old. When the link opened, we jumped through in an instant, and ran. The Old was so close now, there would be no time closing the link, or even shutting it with a firewall. It followed us.

It was a constantly shifting void, full of links opening and closing randomly, inhabited by monsters from our worst nightmares. Our hacker, May, put up the strongest firewall she had, and we barely managed to slip past the few creatures that happened to be right at the other side when we entered: They gave chase at first, but then the Old appeared, and apparently they decided it would present a much more delicious target. As they swarmed over it, we jumped through the first link we found, and May firewalled it before anything could follow.

The mission was completed...adequately. The Old was now trapped in Google: Even those nightmare things probably couldn't stop it, and it would sooner or later find its way out, but hopefully it would do so in some safe place. As for us, we had popped out straight to yet another dangerous, unexplored part of the deep web. How we got out, that is a story for another day.