--Chapter Nine: Random Data
In the glow of the flashlights, Aeris and Leo could make out the shapes of their captors, though neither cat could believe what they saw: at least a hundred little walking zeros and ones led them through the corridor until they stopped in a wide open space in front of a second firewall.
The zeros walked about more or less aimlessly—and no wonder, since they had no eyes, only little hands and feet to aid them as they stumbled across the floor. The ones did have sight, though each was a cyclops.
Ten ones led the cats through a crowd of what must literally have been millions bunched together on a vast plain. Meanwhile, a one and a zero chatted with each other on the side...
Zero: Well this is random...
One: Tell me about it; there were never any ones or zeros in any of the comics, but here we are in the story! You know what this is: originality in fanfiction! What next? A decent odd-numbered Star Trek movie?
Zero: That’s not what I meant... I’m sensing some weird data input...
One: Oh, well that’s because The Patrol just caught two intruders to our realm.
Zero: Ooh! What do they look like?
One: (turns to face Zero) Why would it matter to you? You’re blind.
Zero: I’m just curious if they’re zeros or ones.
One: They don’t look like either... And they have two eyes, each of them.
Zero: Like Master!
One: No, they are not Masters... At least, I don’t think so. But The Patrol’s bringing them to the Master, anyway, since they came in as intruders.
(Another Zero comes up to them.)
Zero 2: Hey, you guys notice anything weird in here? I’m sensing some odd input...
One: Well, The Patrol just caught two intruders...
And so, the situation would be explained again. In fact, ones were explaining it throughout the room to all the millions of blind zeros in their midst. Leo and Aeris were very much aware they were the center of attention, but neither knew why.
Thought Aeris, Ones and zeros... How droll. We’re clearly in some server or system, but why didn’t we see any of these guys before? All the data in the world has to be in ones and zeros, and if this server has them... She looked to her right at the enormous firewall ...Then why are they only here?
Evidently, Leo was thinking the same thing. He, however, was naïve enough to voice his question out loud.
“How come we didn’t meet any of you guys at the City Hall server?” he asked.
Though none of the ones leading them slackened their pace or grip on the cats’ arms, the one in front answered Leo courteously.
“This is not a server,” answered the number. “It’s a mainframe computer, and you two hacked pretty deep into its operating source code. You don’t belong here, so we’re kicking you out to the desktop for inspection.”
“Why are you telling us this?” asked Aeris.
The one looked confused. “Because you asked,” it said. “No one gets this far into the code and doesn’t get any information, after all.”
Before the cats could ask anything else, though, the numbers backed off suddenly, and the ground rose like an elevator, leaving the ones behind. The elevator stopped in a room completely black except for a faint glow from above.
Aeris: Does this make any sense at all to you?
Leo: No, but at least we’re in the right place.
Aeris: How do you even know that?
Leo: Look up.
Aeris looked, and there in the sky were pixel images of two faces. One was a rather ugly human she did not recognize, wearing glasses and a lab coat. The other was easy to recognize: Krug, with goggles and a lab coat. In the middle of the image was a cursor under the words, “Enter password to start.”
Leo: A shame this adventure in the Internet couldn’t have been more fun; I mean, here we are at the destination, and the only people we’ve met are friendly. The way Scott described this place, you’d think we were in for a real adventure, with enemies and battles and whatnot.
Meanwhile, the computer in Dr. Van Kruglor’s lab was supposed to be on standby, but it needed more than just the picture on its own screen to keep it from total boredom.
Computer: (singing along to an .mp3 just finishing) ...and it opened up my eyes, I saw the sign! (just talking now) Oh, Ace of Bass... I love you so. (computerized sigh) Well, Kruglor’s late... I think I’ll play an emulator. (various lights flash) Ooh, this one looks interesting: the latest release from Japan’s “Super Giant Monsters of Doom” series. I’ll play that...
(The room lights up around Leo and Aeris, and suddenly both are facing a 16-bit pixel Godzilla.)
Leo: (smiling) Now THAT’S more like it!
Aeris: (wide-eyed, worried) You IDIOT, let’s get out of here!
Leo: Aw, you’re no fun.
(Godzilla roars and charges past the cats, not paying attention to them.)
Aeris: Good. While it’s going that way, let’s run.
Leo: Wait, I think that guy might need help.
(A sprite hero is battling Godzilla behind them. He wins after several strokes.)
Leo: Woo! Nevermind, he’s good enough on his own.
(After Godzilla disappears, the Hero sprite approaches them)
Hero: (Computer’s voice) Who the AO-Hell are you? NPCs, or enemies?
Leo: NPC, I guess.
Aeris: Look, we’re not supposed to be here. Can you show us a way out of the game?
Hero: Wait a minute... You’re those two spies my security picked up on.
Leo: (gasp of realization) Then you’re the Master?
Hero: Hold it, no more information for you until I’ve had you virus scanned. (holds out a hand, touches Leo’s forehead) Hm, little hackers, eh? Brainwaves say you’re searching for a location of Krug’s hideout and maybe “master plans” of some sort.
Leo: (looking up at the hand) I feel violated...
Hero: Well, I’m afraid you don’t belong here.
(The Hero unsheathes his sword and slices for the neck.)
(A news Reporter, Mary-Anne Smith, stands in front of Toronto City Hall next to the Commissioner. In the background, police officers carry out several mini-Krug-sized body bags to be put in a paddy wagon.)
Reporter: Hello, Commissioner. We understand that the situation in City Hall is finally under control?
Commissioner: We have successfully retaken City Hall and freed the mayor, who is safe and sound, although this is clearly not over yet, because the one who calls himself Dr. Van Kruglor is on the loose. Toronto Superhero, Pants Man, had him contained, but he escaped, and we are as of yet trying to determine just how.
Reporter: How large a role did Pants Man play in this success so far?
Commissioner: He set up a distraction that was simply invaluable. Don’t know how we could have done this without him.
Reporter: Is he available for comment right now?
Commissioner: (emphatically) NO! Er, that is to say, he’s still working to find Dr. Van Kruglor.
Reporter: Understandable. Well, I know you still have work to do, so I wish you luck, on behalf of all Toronto’s citizens.
(From inside City Hall, Pants Man’s voice yells, “PARTY! WOO!”)
Commissioner: Thank you and goodbye for now.
Reporter: (to the camera, while the Commissioner runs back into City Hall) Mary-Anne Smith, reporting for News Canada. You heard it here first, folks. The only station with the balls not to evacuate Toronto when it’s overrun with flesh-eating monsters.
(In the middle of the City Hall rotunda, where the battle was earlier...)
Commissioner: (to several police officers, all looking up) Have you gotten him under control yet?
Officer 1: Nope. He’s still on the chandelier.
(Above, Peter Pantsless swings from the lights, singing.)
Commissioner: Dammit! Pants Man, get down already!
Peter Pantsless: (sings) Oh no it’s the COPS! What ya gonna do! Whatcha gonna do when the come for you, bad boys bad boys...
Commissioner: (to the police) It’s gonna be just like the New Years party all over again. If only there were something to reverse the effects of vodka cooler on a superhero...
Peter Pantsless: I would walk five hundred miles and I would walk five hundred more...
Commissioner: Wait a minute, I think I’ve got it! Get me a ladder that’ll reach the chandelier and a full pot of McDonald’s coffee. Quick!
Officer 1: (raises an eyebrow) Sir?
Commissioner: Don’t ask, just do it.
Officer 1: Yes, sir.
(He and a few others leave.)